#1: Ariadne’s thread

Duomo_Lucca_cathedrale_Lucques_labyrinthe(Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The human soul is the gateway to the spiritual world. There is really no one we can call upon to find the way to the spiritual except for ourselves. For my own part that search resonnated with the work (parts at least) of Rudolf Steiner. The need for something spiritual in our life dictates, I believe, that the question of whether there is a spiritual world or not, is of little importance.

First, in my experience, if I “look” for the spiritual in the world, I do find that it is not in the world of my senses. This is obvious in a certain way, because the world appears to me in the form of facts about that world. Another way in which it appears is through the opinions I have about that world. Looking at what is, there is really nothing that could be added or substracted from the world, it is what it is.

When I talk of spirituality however, there’s something to be said about my opinions. It could be the vague feeling that something should be different. It could be the clear thought that something should be different, or it could be the struggle to change my current circumstances.

My previous post was a bit raw in this respect, but it seems clear to me that spiritual striving itself can’t arise without the right circumstances. If I manage to find ways to avoid the lack I experience in the world it seems unclear to me that it should come to a spiritual search at all. Is it perhaps for this reason that spiritual teachers speak of the gratitude we should feel towards all of existence?

This is an uncomfortable thought. If there wasn’t a certain lack in the world around us, wouldn’t we be spellbound? And isn’t it in terms of sleepers that the great poets have spoken of those who were not enlightened? Those who have yet to awaken.

This thought can also be turned on its head. Suppose that there isn’t a lack in nature but an inner richness, an inner excess. This thought appeals more to us, I suppose, but the question can be raised why one interpretation is better than the other. Why wouldn’t nature simply be imperfect, rather than that the human being brings something to life that goes beyond nature?

The argument I’ve found for the fact that this is the case is that there can’t be a lack without there being a consciousness of lack, and it is we ourselves who find our world lacking. Which goes to show us that this problem is clearly a human problem, the human being grapples with his or her world. Naturally, this lack could just be in our nature, there needn’t be any sensible solution to this problem. But the longing to do so is a positive phenomenon and only in so far as this longing can be expressed in sensible terms can we talk about a longing at all.

What we know about the world through science, but also everyday tasks and day to day interactions with others are pointers in this direction. When I look at spiritual longing in relation to my own life and what I know about the world I get the sense that a spiritual longing can’t be just any belief or idea, but that there are certain determined contures. In this sense it seems that there could be a science of the spiritual. Which is to say that our spiritual longing can only be fulfilled by taking on certain concrete forms. Any random desire or idea won’t do, and yet we all have to start from our own whims.

So to come back to what I said in the beginning about the existence of a spiritual world. It really isn’t a question that should bother us too much, because we are here on this earth with concrete desires and ideas that need to adhere to the rules of life and of the world in general. This says little about whether there exists a spiritual world, but it does show that our spiritual striving isn’t entirely blind, rather, to be a sensible striving at all, it must neccessarily become seeing. A spiritual striving that does not make sense, is no spiritual striving at all.

If there is a spiritual world, then we may expect to come to terms with our spiritual striving, our relation to ourselves, the world and our fellow human beings. Should the spiritual not exist, we still have the thread of Ariadne in our soul, that is to say that striving within which in its relation to the world must take on a contured shape. Where that thread should lead us, we won’t know when we do not know whether there is a spiritual world or not. But as far as we are in doubt as to the existence of such a world, we know that all we have is this thin thread that is constituted by the ancient motto: know thyself.

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