Karmic Dynamics: Self-Transformation as Service to the Cosmos

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The converging crises of the present can be thought of as the fruition of karmic seeds planted into the soil of history; contemporary conditions are rooted in the deeds of the past. It seems that the problem we humans face today -universal death and destruction – has been generated by subtle elements embedded within the fundamental socio-cultural structures of civilization that infect individual souls with negatively oriented cognitive and volitional patternings. But an awareness is arising amongst civilizationally affected individuals recognizing that when a collective way of existing in the world is predicated upon an exponentially increasing unilateral extraction and consumption of resources, the structures generating and supporting this mode of being are destined for an eventual collapse. The colloquialism "Don't shit where you eat" comes to mind. When "natural" sources of sustenance and nourishment are related to in such a dominant, abusive, and unconscious manner, these complex systems of living beings will ultimately crumble under such extreme pressure. Once the living systems of Earth begin to collapse, every human construct that is unappreciatively dependent upon them for sustenance will not take too long to follow.  

Consumer culture, predicated upon an unconscious inculcation of subtle ideas transmitted from the collective to the individual, subtly inculcates us with a naïve worldview. Based upon materialism and dualism, the mainstream worldviews of Euro-American culture generate a mode of consciousness that is simply not adequate to face the present challenges we face as a planetary whole. Philosophically, consumer culture, rooted in scientific materialism, suggests that sense perceptions are comprised of an influx of randomly occurring phenomena that possess no inherent value or meaning and that human cognition is merely an arbitrary, subjectively constructed projection of coherence between these empty sense perceptions. Such an implicit notion implies an irreconcilable mutual exclusivity between perception and cognition. Such a worldview suggests that humans, beings whose knowledge is limited, can speculate and make assumptions about reality but never perceive its true nature. In other words, materialistic/dualistic worldviews suggest that human cognition is unable to perceive the archetypal foundations of existence, the Wisdom underlying reality. Because of this obscured perception, which results in a retreat from an embedded understanding of the world and a lack of respect for nature, the idea that there is only “stuff” to be chopped up, traded, and consumed has become the prevailing impulse of Western civilization, with plunder, rape, and pillage as its logical outcome.

  Regarding the world as merely or nothing but a randomly occurring collision of objects limits the perception of complexity and depth. The reason that such views are called “reductionist” is because they actually reduce the scope of the individual’s consciousness, restricting perception and cognition to the grossest aspects of phenomena. Thinking that is focused solely on quantitative sensory information, discounting all qualitative aspects as subjective projections and removing the perceiver from the field of knowledge, is necessarily materialistic and dualistic and therefore, problematic.  
  As an absolute ontological statement about the quality of thinking itself, materialism/dualism fails to recognize a fact put forth by transformative esoteric traditions throughout history: thinking can be transformed through training and discipline into a “higher” organ of perception. Rudolf Steiner, in his Ph.D. work on Goethe’s scientific writings, articulates:

“Thinking… is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear.  Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.”

Such a conception about what cognition actually is suggests nothing less than that the human psyche is potentially an instrument which activates the human capacity to “see through the veil of phenomena” to the dynamic play of archetypal forms. However, the actualization of this ideal cognitive state depends solely on the consciously directed will of the individual. In this way, the human being cultivates the capacity to perceive and cognize the Wisdom of the Cosmos. 

    This perspective can be considered an "integral" worldview, which acts as a counteracting impulse, an antidote, to the detrimental and destructive conditioning that is the modern human’s birthright. An integral worldview suggests that the inherent meaning or value embedded in sense perceptions, the Wisdom informing or underlying phenomena, is obscured by ignorant and delusional projections. Such a worldview, elucidated in ancient Greece by Plato, in modern Europe by Goethe, Rudolf Steiner and Carl Jung, and in countless other times and locations by many unnamed (r)evolutionaries, points to the necessity of an individual evolution of consciousness that must occur in order for a collective transcendence of and liberation from the limitations imposed by the psycho-socio-cultural conditions of civilization to be catalyzed.

    Generating a “disenchanted” worldview, modern industrial civilization renders the subtle depth, complexity, and nuance of reality imperceptible, i.e., unconscious. The only way to “re-enchant” sense perceptions is through the cultivation of a participatory epistemology (i.e. consciously cultivating a way of knowing the Cosmos) that transmutes the aforementioned dualistically separated relationship of perception and cognition into one in which sensing, feeling, and thinking become mutually beneficial and harmoniously engaged, motivated by wonder, awe, surrender, receptivity, devotion, and love, teleologically oriented towards the goal of knowing the estranged other. Western esoteric traditions have called this process the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage, of self (cognition, perception, volition, etc.) and other (experienced phenomena, the meaning of phenomena, effects of volition on phenomena). Rudolf Steiner calls this process imagination to elucidate the supplementation/complementation of perception with cultivated knowledge, i.e. cognition. Such a way of being in the world generates an intimate, mutually beneficial and harmonious relationship between the Wisdom that is the human being and the Wisdom that is the rest of the world. 


We, as beings who have the potential to become aware of the nuances and complexities of ourselves and our surround, exist in the flow and thus, as the flow of the apocalyptic process of bio-socio-cultural death and decay. When we recognize this transpersonal process as an integral aspect of psycho-social reality, we deal with its inner and outer dynamics consciously rather than being overwhelmed by them, impelled towards unconscious thinking and behavioral patternings. We are not separate from the process of death and destruction. In fact, we are inextricably linked to it. We embody its qualities while being embedded within it. There are inner and outer aspects to this process. It subtly saturates every aspect of our experiences in the world. However, it is precisely this mysterious intimacy between soul and society that affords us the opportunity to actually change the present circumstances.

The felt experience of civilization's explicit precariousness opens up the possibility for a perception of the true workings or inner dynamics of the military-industrial-media driven consumer capitalist system. The mechanisms of the matrix are unveiled for all who "have eyes to see" because they have become so blatantly erroneous; that is the esoteric meaning of Apocalypse. Our task is to integrate the cold, hard facts of modern existence so that we can begin to consciously engage in the  process of psycho-societal transformation.

Recognizing the nature of the chaotic and precarious conditions I was born into, I remember thinking to myself as a child, "Since the world is flawed, and I exist within the world, then I must be flawed too." In other words, if the consumer capitalist mode of being is inherently destructive and detrimental and I am a product/member of that collective mode of being, then I carry within my psyche all of those flaws. Erich Neumann elucidates the relationship of individual psychological complexes to collective socio-cultural structures:

"An individual's shadow is invariably bound up with the collective shadow of his group, and as he digests his own evil, a fragment of the collectiveevil is invariably co-digested at the same time."[2]

Evil doesn't exist solely "out there" but also within the depths of my soul. The depth psychological perspective inaugurated by Jung points to an introjective approach to dealing with evil:

"If you imagine someone who is brave enoughto withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. He lives in the "House of the Gathering." Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day."[3]

I am a wounded microcosm, imprinted with destructive, self-serving cognitive and volitional programming. Therefore, to enter into a process of healing the system that inflicts soul wounds necessarily involves a self-motivated quest towards healing the wounds of one's own soul. As Jung points out when referring to thefuture "Aquarian" age:

"It will then no longer be possible to write off evil as the mere privation of good; its real existence will have to be recognized. This problem can be solved neither by philosophy, nor by economics, nor by politics, but only by the individual human being, via his experience of the living spirit…"[4]

Outer spiritual work begins with inner soul work; I cannot begin to manifest lasting changes into the world until I have sustained changes within myself. Matthew 7:3-5 elucidates the relationship between the inner and outer dynamics of healing:

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.[5]

And, as Christ says in Luke 4:23 "Physician, heal thyself!" In other words, we as individuals are not acting with full capacity if we only look for the effects of the flawed system "out there". In doing so, we are dualistically projecting out of our inner wounds (the shadow, in Jungian terminology) onto external objects and events, unconsciously enacting detrimental cognitive and behavioral modalities that perpetuate a system oriented towards degradation and destruction of Earth.

Realizing that we as a society are sick, we naturally seek a cure. Spiritual antidotes and remedies for the effects of this exploitive, delusion-inducing system have been articulated and described by a whole cast of revolutionary individuals throughout SpaceTime. Rudolf Steiner and Carl Jung are two of them. Jung describes liberation from the inhibitive psychological effects of externally imposed socio-cultural systems as a process of "individuation". This is a path that involves self-development through consciously recognizing, engaging, and integrating the hidden wounded dimensions of the soul as an individual existentially differentiates from a collective. We undergo change through a process of encountering and re-membering, i.e. bringing to consciousness, aspects ofourselves that have been banished and buried deep within the recesses of "the unconscious". However, as the present planetary crises make apparent, individual psycho-spiritual death and rebirth, individuation, defeating the"evil" inside myself, etc., is only half the battle. 

As Rudolf Steiner goes to great lengths to indicate, "evil" still exists outside in the world at large. He suggests that the evil "out there" generates the evil "in here"[6]. In other words, the informative influences of impulses manifesting from "malevolent" beings as destructive and inhibitive psycho-socio-cultural forms is the true nature of the supersensible phenomena pointed to by the concept"evil". If this is true, then people will continue to go on destroying, plundering, and raping regardless of how "enlightened" isolated individuals become.[7] Therefore, those who desire for positive change to come to fruition must band together, in order to birth new socio-cultural forms that are infused with love, engendering healing, health, and harmonious development and prosperity for the benefit of all beings.

  The dynamics of the redemptory process of degeneration and regeneration embodied by the individuation process was elucidated by the Buddha millennia ago: desire and attachment leads to delusional ignorance brought about through suffering. Acting out of delusional ignorance has karmic consequences, generating what can be called “sin” and “error.” However, while obviously manifesting destructive effects, these seemingly negative phenomena provide us with the opportunity of working through or working out the karma we have wrought through an active engagement with it in time. This is a causal process that we recognize with the colloquialism: What goes around comes around. We must recognize that, as humans, our cognition, perception, and volition are impelled by certain “unconscious” factors, a state named by Christians as the “sinful” or “fallen” state.  

    Realizing my condition as a “wretched sinner” brings the complex dynamics of such to consciousness, opening up the possibility for engagement and ultimately, integration of the sin-generating shadow. This process of recognition, engagement, and integration is metanoia organically manifesting in the soul of the individual who realizes his/her sinful state. Living becomes a perpetual meditation that alchemically transforms one’s conditioning into a conscious reorientation towards healing, growth, and development. If societal reorientation is to be initiated, the process of metanoia must occur within individuals who then must collectivize to birth new socio-cultural forms. Recognizing that the depth and scope of one’s perception, cognition, and volition is limited and shaped by socio-cultural conditioning can catalyze a desire to deepen and expand one’s capacity and range of consciousness, a desire that can be actualized through the spiritual path. 
  Through transformative esoteric practices, e.g., contemplation of spiritual teachings and meditative concentration, the individual actively self-cultivates modalities of perception, cognition, and volition that are based on direct experience rather than passively receiving prepackaged modes from the collective. As the inner effects of these practices begin to manifest, as their spiritual content is digested or integrated into consciousness, thinking and feeling are transmuted into organs of archetypal perception, the spiritual eye and ear gradually flower open and are able to directly perceive and cognize the Wisdom embedded within and embodied as phenomena. This evolutionary process hinges upon a reconnection of human consciousness with the consciousness of the universe, each of which are manifestations of the being known as Sophia, the active, benevolent, generative Wisdom underlying and informing all cosmic phenomena. The connection to inner and outer Sophia was gradually severed by the delusional ignorance generated by the imperial patriarchy that is human history. The archetypal Wisdom behind or within subjective, internal phenomena (thoughts, emotions, behaviors, speech, feelings, etc.) and objective, external phenomena (perceptions through the “lower” and “higher” senses) has been rendered unconscious and unknown. We are unable to attribute adequate meaning to our perceptions. This is the essence of the disenchanted worldview.  
  As each of us brings our idiosyncratic conditioning, the inner affects of the imposition of the disenchanted worldview to consciousness, we grow in our capacity to manifest love, peace, and harmony into the world. This is the process of “knowing thyself,” as indicated long ago on the temple at Delphi in ancient Greece, and it points to self-knowledge as the prerequisite for other-knowledge. We must learn to perceive and cognize reality as it is, only then can we harmoniously embody and embed what Abrahamic traditions call the “will of God” in spacetime. But for this to occur, we must see ourselves as we are, as beings whose given ability to perceive and cognize reality is intrinsically inadequate due to ignorance and delusion generated by the violence and oppression of contemporary civilization. Only then will true redemption ensue.


New structures are born from the decaying remnants of the old. To catalyze this process in human history, we as individuals must cultivate the capacity of "culture hacking", learning to "see through" the various inner and outer aspects of the wound-producing socio-cultural matrix in order to zap the effects of its inhibiting forces with the truth-filled ray of spiritually informed consciousness. We must trace its historical development back to its origins so that we understand its inner nature as a counterfeit-reality generator.

"A true understanding of karma and destiny is the important development that must spread over the earth. It must take hold in legislation and in the formation of political parties; it must provide the very foundation of society." (Steiner – The Reappearance of Christin the Etheric, p. 232)

When we are able to perceive karma, to witness in the conditions of the present the spatio-temporally reverberating causes of the past, we are able to situate ourselves consciously in a stream of development oriented towards liberation of self and other from suffering. When we are able to re-cognize the rooted lineage of our perceptions, we become consciously aware of the complex, interpenetrating, interdependent web of intermingling beings and forces that comprise the activity present in the field of consciousness. If approached lovingly, reality becomes a teacher and friend, guiding our thoughts and behavior towards appropriate and adequate activities. Only when we understand the logic of history can we enter into it as conscious and positively efficacious beings so as to guide its unfoldment away from pain and torment, towards harmony and peace.

Consumer culture seems to feed off of behavior motivated by rigid thinking: the world "out there" has become a collection of discrete objects to be manipulated and exploited; the "things" comprising the world are conceived of as either are source or an asset, to be chopped up, used and/or owned. Rudolf Steiner called this quality of thinking "ahrimanic" to indicate the spiritual beings informing such phenomena. We become stuck in a mode of consciousness that is purposefully constructed and contrived into being by groups of people who seek to manipulate the human psyche to perpetuate the system that they feed solavishly and excessively off of. According to Steiner, these groups of people are not acting out of impulses that stem from their own being but instead their actions are directly inspired by spiritual beings whose aim it is to lord over human consciousness in order to establish control of Earth. In this passage from the Fifth Gospel, Rudolf Steiner articulates the nature of two classes of beings who act as "tempters" of humanity throughout history, Lucifer and Ahriman:

For the rest of Earth evolution, up to Vulcan, the higher hierarchies will not be able to drive Ahriman completely from the scene of their activities. It will never prove impossible to overcome inner temptation by Lucifer – the wishes, desires, passions, pride, arrogance and presumption that arise in us. If Lucifer attacks on his own, spiritual effort will overcome him. And if Lucifer and Ahriman attack together from inside a human being, spiritual means will again lead to victory. If, however, Ahriman comes by himself, he anchors his powers in the material processes of Earth evolution and he cannot be entirely removed from the scene. Ahriman, Mephistopheles, Mammon – these terms mean the same – is to be found in money, in everything connected with our natural egotism on Earth. Because human life must inevitably always have some external material aspects, human beings have to reckon with Ahriman. To give real help to humanity on Earth, the Christ had to allow Ahriman to have an influence. Ahriman, material nature, must be part of Earth evolution to its very end. The Christ had to accept that the struggle against Ahriman must continue until Earth evolution reaches its end.Ahriman had to remain. (p. 225, emphasis added)

The imposition of worldview from the powerful to the powerless is the essence of civilization itself, an essence colored by the qualities of Ahriman. Such dominance generates a dialectical struggle between individuals wishing to be free and the psycho-socio-cultural structures which render them unfree. A perception of the archetypal nature of civilization allows one to see the influential forces of the adversaries, Lucifer and Ahriman, at work in the unfolding narrative of human history.

The civilized worldview that reifies a counterfeit image of reality into existence has been generated through the workings of these beings into human consciousness. The civilian populace operates out of a worldview that obscures and distorts the true nature of reality, one that only exists in the abstract, having no correlation to actual facts of existence. [8]Consequently, the psychological lives of civilized individuals have become a chaotic conflation of desire and necessity. We have no idea what we need to form healthy human systems (individual and collective) so we settle for what we want, most of us oblivious to the fact that primal desires (e.g. sex and power) are deliberately amplified, exploited, and manipulated by groups of people with particular self-serving agendas. We are spiritually marooned as a people who have inherited a socio-cultural system that generates detrimental cognitive modalities and destructive behavioral patternings. Ours is a nation of wounded people abused by a deranged system. We are in the clutches of Lucifer and Ahriman. How has this come to be?

[1]    Rudolf Steiner – 10/28/1918 – Supersensible Aspects of Historical Research.

[2]   Neumann, Erich: Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 130.

[3]   Carl Jung: "Psychology andReligion" (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. p.140

[4]    Carl Jung: Aion, p. 87.

[5]    New American Standard Bible

[6]    "…the things that have happened in our time and have led to chaos are not merely human actions, but above all the actions of ahrimanic spirits seeking to gain access by reducing human awareness…after the present catastrophe (WWI) broke on the world I pointed out that when we speak of the origins of this catastrophe in time to come, we must not do so on the basis of written records; instead we shall have to point to real facts through which ahrimanic spirits gained access to the stage of human events."(Steiner – The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness, p. 23)

[7]    "Inner attacks by Lucifer and by Lucifer & Ahriman together can be overcome by us. The struggles in the external world of matter have to be fought through to the end of Earth evolution." The FifthGospel, pp. 224-225).

[8]    Steiner: The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness, p. 84: "The institutions and ideas, especially the social ideas people have today, are abstract and crude; they are clumsy in the face of the complexities lying ahead. And because people are not able to have ideas or concepts about the true nature of things, they are sliding more and more deeply into chaos – current events make this quite clear. Chaos is arising because reality has changed; reality is becoming fuller and richer than anything people are able to think of or create in their heads. And we shall have to be clear in our minds that we are faced with a choice: To go on beating each other to a pulp, shooting at one another, in the way we do now, because we do not know how to bring order into the world – or, start to develop concepts and ideas to match the complexity of the situation."

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