Newsletter on the Mysteries of Technology
Does it seem as though life is accelerating at an ever-increasing pace? One day it’s the beginning of the month and the next it’s the end. Perhaps you’re left wondering where the year went? If so, you’re not alone, it’s an actual phenomenon! The advancements in technology are giving us things and information at such fast speeds that we have reluctantly found ourselves in a race to keep up with the speed at which we are receiving.
Like a rip tide, today’s technology sometimes seems like an irresistible force, carrying us out to sea, leaving us physically and mentally exhausted. We may wonder how long we’ll be able to tread water before we sink. Never mind the shore, but of course that is where we really need to be.
There is much we can do to keep ourselves from being caught up in the undertow of technology. Of course, you may already have daily practices and routines. But you may also enjoy discovering new suggestions and exercises as discussed on mystech.org through many of the study groups, presentations and publications.
MysTech’s mission is to seek to advance humanity’s moral cultivation of technology through Spiritual Science. It hopes to foster a determination in developing one’s own inner nature, in order to cultivate a more human, moral solution to the challenges of technology. This path forward must include all of the arts and sciences but ultimately falls squarely on the individual’s strength of will to achieve this goal. This ‘strength of will’ is best depicted in the Tau which is MysTech’s logo and serves as a symbol of how a more human technological future may be achieved.
“In the future machines will be driven . . . by spiritual force, by spiritual morality. This power is symbolized by the [Tau] sign.”
– Rudolf Steiner, The Temple Legend (1906)
This Newsletter, the first issue of many, will serve as an outstretched hand to the community in helping to inspire the best from us all. Through short articles and book reviews we hope to keep you informed about new paths forged in the trek towards a moral technology. In this first issue, we are focusing on health, healing and the arts. There are many fascinating pieces to this newsletter that I invite everyone to explore for themselves. I hope you will enjoy all its treasures.
Managing Director of CFAE
Healing in a Technological World
By D.L. Katchen, MD
The foundational picture of human health, healing, and well-being in a technological age needs to be presented as a conscious, ongoing process of resurrection.
As an introduction to this picture, one is invited to read Steiner’s lecture GA 1908-04-13, which provides a compelling construct.
We can look back through human evolution and see into humanity’s changes in the life of the soul. With today’s consciousness we alternate between wakefulness and sleep. At night, the astral and ego partially leave the physical and etheric bodies and we become enshrouded by darkness. In the morning, the astral and ego enter back into the etheric and physical bodies. Because the astral dives into the brain and nervous system we make use of our senses to perceive experiences in our physical environment.
Our day/night experience differs from that of humanity during the Atlantean epoch. The etheric body was less connected to the physical. Spiritual impressions by day and night surrounded the Atlantean. He sensed visions, colors, tones, smells, sounds, heat, and cold of the spiritual beings around him. These sensory experiences impressed themselves upon his looser etheric body.
Over the epochs, the etheric body has become firmly interlocked with the physical body. With this, much of humanity gradually lost the ability to see the innermost nature of his surroundings. The spiritual stream must now work upwards from materialism. Steiner notes that in our current stage of evolution we have been and are now undergoing a loosening of the etheric body.
He further states that this is the secret of our epoch. This activity must occur with clear thinking consciousness regarding the impressions we allow to imprint upon this loosening etheric body.
If, during this time, we immerse ourselves “entirely in the materialistic world we are in phantasy and illusion, vain imagination. This shows itself in man’s restlessness, his neurasthenic condition, his pathological fears.”
How, in a world with technology, do we reconcile these concerns?
We need a whole and flexible way to think which allows people the freedom to grow and work with technology in the context of their current lives.
As a family physician, I have found many people use technology to research their particular health concerns or conditions. Online they often find non-contextual information from innumerable sources. They discover various medical systems, diets, ancient practices, and physical modalities, which they hope, if implemented, will be effective in bringing health back to their lives. Often there is some benefit from the remedy they have tried but I have found much of it is short-lived. By the time they to come to my practice for advice and treatment, many people are understandably confused, frustrated, and often have spent significant money in the process. Of course, one needs to see their doctor and may require a thorough medical workup to exclude other medical conditions.*
How can information be contextual, economical, long lasting, flexible, and useful for one’s current life situation?
Given this framework, how do we begin in a practical way?Initially, I suggest walking. Often the response is the person is too busy. In a joking manner, I suggest beginning by walking down the driveway, taking a moment’s pause to see the sky feel the sun and wind. This engages the limbs and will. Almost everyone smiles and says that they can do this and commit to do a bit more. A fifteen-year-old boy came to the office with sleeplessness and anxiety, doing well in school and with good family support. I drew the picture, and we went over the lemniscate. Months later I saw him for a routine physical and I asked how he was doing. He replied he was just fine, he uses the lemniscate. He reduced his use of the phone and computer in the evening, exercised a bit more and found he was able to sleep and his anxiety was less. To understand and use this at age fifteen is wonderful. It will adapt with him over his lifetime. Diet is an unending source of confusion and lack of balance for many people. Changing a dietary life situation abruptly can disrupt family, occupation, relationships, and budgets. When our diets are out of balance the MS is affected which is entwined with the PNS and SNS. If people cannot slow down at mealtime, I ask them to begin with digestible warm foods like soup and stews. Also, I suggest a pause before eating, for gratitude. This engages the PNS and decreases the stimulated SNS to help with digestion. However brief, we need to express thanks for those who prepare and grow our food. It gives way to appreciation for the magnificence of creation which most people understand at some level. Chronic NSS and SNS engagement can cause gastrointestinal gas, bloating, and cramps. The neurotransmitters of the brain parallel those of the gut. One example, among my patients, is a delightful lady, with two young children and a demanding job, who said to me after our meeting, “So to start I simply walk to the end of the driveway and eat minestrone soup.” That was her beginning and she noted she finally felt free. I helped her understand that food serves as remedies incorporating the basic principles of salt, mercury, and sulfur which correspond to the NSS, RS, and MS. She began with soups having more root vegetables (salt principle for the NSS). As she felt better, she naturally desired and added more leaf vegetables (mercury principle, RS) and finally included warming spices (sulfur principle, MS). She became less interested in the media, felt less bloated, began to lose weight, her sleep was more rhythmical, and she had more enjoyment with her family. Walking helps to bring the will system in play and enforces the decision-making process. Most importantly, she took ownership of her life and now uses technology in a more constructive fashion. This is an example of working with the resources one has in their current life situation. An individual has the power to work with and adapt to change. They can use technology as a more liberated, balanced, constructive force in their lives. With this process people will sleep and eat better and become less dependent on technology dominating their thoughts and consciousness. This allows an enlivening of technology as a food for soul consciousness. The vegetablized minerals become part of the process in the wonderful alchemy of food. It becomes a sort of resurrection for the mineral world. Now we can willfully begin to bring morally inspired technologies, that is using technology as a constructive tool for the bettering of oneself and those around us, which will impress upon the burgeoning etheric body in a wholesome fashion. As Steiner notes, this loosening etheric body is the secret of our epoch.
*The intent of the author is only to offer information of an anecdotal and general nature. In the event of using this information personally or for others the author assumes no responsibility for direct or indirect consequences. The reader should consult his or her medical, health, or other professional before adopting any suggestions or drawing inferences from this article.
“That which we seek is not there, it is in our hearts and we need to receive it in the correct way in full sunlight.” -Rudlf Steiner, April 22, 1924.
Debra Katchen has practiced family medicine for over twenty years and has enjoyed her association with anthroposophy for over ten years.
Reflections on the need for art in our times,
or wisdom from a fortune cookie
By Ed Conroy
A young friend of mine recently lost his mother to a sudden, completely unanticipated death, not related to COVID-19 he tells me. He found her at her home on Easter Sunday morning.
I met my young friend and his mother, Gloria Amendola, at a conference on Mary Magdalene in Seattle in 2004, where I was reporting on assignment for the National Catholic Reporter. Gloria had written a play, “Magdalene’s Mind,” that was performed there, and from our initial meeting we became very good friends.
Gloria devoted the last 17 years to exploring the myths, lore and suppressed history of Mary Magdalene and the legacy of the Grail, an interest we developed through correspondence and many conversations.
Gloria became quite well known internationally for her writings about Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and for her tours of France and Scotland. I could think of no better time for her to pass on to the next world than Easter morning.
Shortly afterward, while dining at a Chinese restaurant, Gloria’s son opened his fortune cookie to receive this message:
“More art in your life at this time will help you feel better.”
He posted a photo of that message in a post on his Facebook page.
Naturally, my friend was still in a state of shock when he read that message only a few days after his mother’s death.
When I saw that message on his page, however, I could not help but think it applies to everyone in the world these days, for who has not been shocked by some significant loss, some significant trauma, even the death of family members and friends, in the past year or so?
I agree with the anonymous but very wise writer of that fortune cookie message. I think we could all use a little more art in our lives as we attempt to recover from various degrees of “lock down,” and all of the infirmities, economic disruption, emotional depression, and other anxieties associated with the “coronavirus crisis,” around the world.
Art makes us feel better for many reasons. Art of all kinds, whether “high” or “folk,” “craft” or “contemporary,” reminds us of the things that make us human: our connections with one another in all their complexities, conflict, and beauty; with nature, its creatures, and seasons; and with the sense we are part of something larger than ourselves, from our current civilization to the infinite reaches of the starry cosmos, to the Divine, within us and without us.
Most of all, the experience of art, especially when shared with other live human beings in real, 3-D space, makes us feel better because it brings us joy, and often inspires us to make our own works of art, beginning in our minds and souls and coming into existence—be it a song, poem, or clay pot, through the work of our own hands and bodies. Art inspires us to create—an ability that seems undervalued in our new digital era.
I know what a difference my musical studies made in my life. When my father crossed swords with the Mafia leaders of a midwestern steel town opposed to the work of the nonprofit economic redevelopment organization he led, we lost everything and returned to San Antonio to live, in relative poverty, with my maternal grandmother. She had her piano refurbished for me and I progressed in my mastery of keyboards under patient teachers to becoming the organist for our parish church as a teenager. Music gave me hope, inspired me, and I learned I could inspire others, as well. For that reason, I feel privileged in my professional life to raise funds that provide artistic education for low-income children. I very well know what a difference exposure to art can make!
We could use more art, of course, because with the lockdowns of community venues, schools and businesses, also came the complete cessation of public concerts and art exhibitions.
It was an historically unprecedented event, this global “lockdown,” and I would wager the people living in medical research silos who recommended to politicians that such actions be taken took very little thought for the effect that their policy mandates for the compulsory wearing of masks and social distancing would have upon the human spirit and our mental health.
Promoted as a prescription to secure “public health,” the global lockdown policy, applied with varying degrees of Draconian severity, was an assault upon the free exercise of creativity. The lockdowns made the daily practice of art—something essential for all artistic endeavor—very difficult.
As is evident in so many ways, it also made survival difficult for the thousands of people displaced from their jobs and homes. They are people in need of art and least likely to receive any access to environments in which the making or enjoyment of art might be possible.
Students of all ages who previously made visual art or music or danced in classrooms and studios in the company of other students were left to their own devices at home, with most of them taking instruction digitally for most if not all of each school day, separated physically from their friends-in-art.
And when private philanthropists gathered around the US to give aid for COVID-19 relief through central community foundations, were arts and cultural institutions on the list to receive aid? In general, the answer is “no,” for art—and art-related businesses—were not, in many communities, deemed to be “essential.” That decision is understandable given the tremendous demands made on local food banks overwhelmed by thousands of newly unemployed people, but nonetheless it is very telling in terms of how our civic and business leaders view the arts.
Many US arts and cultural organizations received federal funds in aid through the National Endowment for the Arts and many major foundations and corporations announced special grant programs for the arts last year. Nevertheless, the grants they gave, even though well-intended, were minuscule in comparison with the great financial need wrought by the complete interruption of all forms of their normal revenues, earned or donated.
In searching online for some background information that would help put my comments into perspective, I found a dearth of good reporting and commentary about the US arts and culture industry in most mainstream media outlets. I did, though, find this interesting article by Valentina Di Liscia published on April 14, 2020 on the Hyperallergic website, a nonprofit publication devoted to reporting on the arts.
Here is her lead paragraph:
“4.5 billion: that’s the estimated financial toll of the coronavirus outbreak on the US cultural sector to date, calculated based on data from an ongoing survey by Americans for the Arts (AFTA). To put the figure in perspective, it is 22.5 times the combined $200 million allocated to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the stimulus bill passed by Congress two weeks ago.”
Interestingly, there was only one comment to Ms. Di Liscia’s excellent article, from someone self-identified as Noah Way, published one day later:
“Not to worry, the banks and job creators got $4.5 trillion, and the government is (in)directly (via BlackRock Hedge Fund) buying securities to prop up Wall St. So, you see, everything is just fine, the rich have plenty of money, and when they feel like buying art again, they can get it at massive discounts from starving artists.”
Nevertheless, despite such justifiable cynicism, many artists and arts and cultural organizations proved resilient—as did “ordinary” people outside the established art worlds.
Over the past year, we have seen a proliferation of performances by noted artists and ensembles on Zoom, where musicians, dramatists, dancers, writers, and other artists in different cities have gathered online to perform works of many kinds with amazing skill, demonstrating that we humans adapt readily to living and creating in “virtual space.” I have enjoyed many such concerts online while working from home. I am aware, though, that there are many more people who have not seen such performances because they don’t have a computer or internet service.
There has also been an increase in artwork and exhibitions inspired by dialogues we are having over race and ethnicity in these times, as manifested in the Black Lives Matter movement, and in response to violence against people of Asian descent over the past year. The Asia Society’s Truth to Power exhibition in Houston is notable in that respect, and there are many other examples, as well.
Artists have also organized protests outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As reported by Hakim Bishara in “Hyperallergic” on April 25 this year, they “demand a ‘post-MoMA future’ wherein the interests of communities are prioritized over the desires of billionaire museum donors.” In a Letter to MoMA’s Director, Activists Declare Plan to Protest Inside Museum (hyperallergic.com)
At present, many arts and cultural organizations are endeavoring to work out ways in which they may become more open and welcoming to their constituencies and resume in-person programming while retaining some online programming for those who prefer it. It is not by any means an easy process. Some institutions may not survive the pandemic’s economic effects, and others may survive but with severely diminished capacities to serve the public.
There is a great need for new public reporting on what’s happening now across the US as many people start gathering more openly again with lifting of mask mandates and restrictions on houses of worship by some governors.
Some in the Mystech community are quite well aware that 2020 and 2021 have been years in which the leaders of the World Economic Forum and others aligned with them have declared it is time for a “Great Reset.” By their own declaration, such a “reset” is designed to cure the world’s ills by the transformation of the globe’s societies under a technocratic digital administrative structure, facilitated by the new Internet of Things and a central digital currency. Not surprisingly, such spokespeople for the Reset have had very little to say about the importance of the arts for the future of humanity.
Their silence in that regard is telling. So far, I have not seen any ringing endorsements of their plans from celebrity artists. Nor, for that matter, have I seen much public commentary or work by artists critical of plans for such a societal transformation. From what I see in arts and culture-oriented publications, I would wager that many arts leaders in the US are not yet well informed about this movement and tend not to take it seriously. It will be interesting to see what develops in this regard in the months to come as it becomes more evident the WEF and their friends in Silicon Valley are working in concert and are very much in earnest.
Outside the “art world” though, I see and hear some anecdotal signs and stories from friends around the country that people are taking matters into their own hands and holding small gatherings to read poetry or stories, make music, dance, or share a meal, without masks, in their own homes.
In my case, in the spring of 2020 I was employed by a restaurant owner friend to give lessons in Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Gong to her employees, all young men. I studied Chinese martial arts when I was their age, in San Francisco, and my practice of those arts has transformed my life for the better. I was able to teach them how to cultivate the universal energy, the Chi, in their own bodies and daily lives. It was an inspiring experience and motivated me to put new energy into my own practice of Tai Chi Chuan and other martial arts in a beautiful local park in the mornings.
I was fortunate in being called to serve, to teach and pass on to a new generation an ancient art form, at a time when the normal world was in a state of suspension. I saw my students making progress, and I hope they will remember their first lessons in cultivating the Chi, as I remember mine.
Perhaps you, dear reader, will also be called to serve, to share and pass on to others an artform that you have learned and practice. Or perhaps you may feel an urge to create the conditions in which you will offer your gifts of creativity to others freely and make art flower again in the current desert of creativity.
In either case, I hope that you will answer that call, whether from within or without, with an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Ed Conroy is the Development Director for Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas
IPhone Art by SylllVie
We asked SylllVie to tell us about her artistic approach
I am guided by the colour theory of Goethe, Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual scientific research, and Beppe Assenza’s method. I have been studying this method with Donald Hall, an international artist and former student of Assenza. The aim is to achieve a painting that reflects the action of the living colours- from which chromatic structure, colour perspective and the composition arise. I mostly use watercolors in my paintings, for the living quality of water and the achieved transparency, but in contrast with classical technique veiling of numerous spreads is used, yet maintaining, a living transparency despite reaching unusually great intensifications of tone.
My work of the past few years has resulted in a series of painting exploring the visible and invisible ways we connect with each other, with our environment and often unconsciously with our invisible motives. The ‘shadow of beings’ becomes a theme that appears in the paintings through the movement of colours.
For the past 3 years, I have also been playing with a free digital app (Sketches) on my iPhone using my finger and the few tools provided. This work/play is about spontaneity to find the unexpected, to keep myself inwardly flexible. I have come to experience that the digital colors are not real but my other work with living colours allows me to still feel color interactions, forms and composition. The digital format is ideal for printing this work on cards & canvases or to display them on electronic platforms.
sylvierichard[at]rogers.com , on Instagram at @SylllVie
The Bride, by SylllVie
“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” —Paul Klee
Guardian Angel, by SylllVie
Hearts and Minds
Reclaiming the Soul of Science and Medicine
by Walter Alexander
Lindisfarne Books, 2019
In his book, Hearts and Minds, Walter Alexander’s timing seems quite prescient: publishing in 2019, just before the world entered into an unprecedented biomedical and social change experience. A freelance medical journalist, Alexander sees himself as a generalist whose expertise is in “talking to experts” in order to tease out answers to questions. He describes the course of his career as a “journey from wild enthusiasm for all things scientific to a conviction that some scientific orthodoxies – around what is objective and true and what is subjective and spurious – are erroneous.” Alexander strides forward, addressing the issue of “scientific orthodoxy”, and posing the question: “What makes a scientist a real scientist?” In 2021 we might translate this into the question “what makes an expert a real expert?”
Walter Alexander describes an interview with the director of an integrative medicine program at a renowned cancer treatment center, who denounced all non-conventional cancer therapies and “vehemently denigrated anyone who even entertained the possibility” that a particular alternative therapy might be valid. The woman he was interviewing stated that “certainly no real scientist would” do such a thing. As he listened to this, Alexander was remembering a recent meeting he had attended at which scientists from top research organizations such as Harvard, Stanford, and The Max Planck Institute had been doing just that: entertaining the possibility of validity behind that exact therapy — homeopathy. The age-old question of Truth and Orthodoxy was staring him in the face, as well as the obvious question: what does it mean to be “a real scientist”?
Reading this book now, through the lens of recent experiences and with the pronouncements of medical orthodoxies from the highest levels of our nation ringing in our ears, the reader will benefit from the author’s insight to see more clearly how we got to where we are. Some readers, familiar with Steiner’s warning of looming catastrophe (e.g., if the world did not adopt the organizing principles encompassed in his theory of the Threefold Social Order) will particularly appreciate Alexander’s explanation of how economic motives and governmental intervention affect the cultural realm of science and medicine, as well as the freedom of individuals. But this book is written without direct references to Steiner. Therein is part of the appeal of this book for someone who has taken steps down this path – seeing anthroposophical thoughts expressed in ordinary English. Alexander has applied his knowledge of multiple levels of reality – from matter through science and into the realm of the spiritual activity of thinking – to show us a multidimensional picture. The reader comes away with the feeling of having shared the author’s journey as he comes to understand such things as “the heart is not a pump”, though it appears to perform like one; and that there are simple ways of understanding how physiology (of the eye and neurology) and sense perception play their part in bringing humanity to the brink of the material world. There the walls vanish and the observer finds the realm of consciousness, as described in the language of quantum physics, made accessible by Alexander.
In a statement that sounds very similar to Steiner’s words “there is no matter without spirit, no spirit without matter”, the author says to us: “Are we saying that there is no world out there? No. What we are saying is that there is no world, no vast physical apparatus sitting out there in space independent of consciousness, although we can and do imagine that quite effortlessly. We moderns think abstractly with ease. The problem with that imagining, as always, is that we forget that we are doing it.”
With a wide range of knowledge and warmth of heart, Alexander’s Hearts and Minds invites the reader to move forward on the path to reclaiming the soul of science and medicine. Alexander does this by helping us to activate our own powerful tool of image-formation (imagination) through his illuminating the language of new scientific inquiries alongside common sense, biographical examples, lively stories and revealing graphics.
Walter Alexander is a NYC-based veteran medical journalist, former teacher and fiction writer. He has written for scores of clinical publications and journals, with special emphasis on cardiology, oncology, and integrative medicine. Hearts and Minds reflects his lifelong interests in the life sciences and medicine, astronomy, music, literature, the visual arts, epistemology and consciousness studies.
“The Anthroposophical Society looks full of gratitude to this art of healing (therapeutic eurythmy) that works with the Logos forces, supporting, through the movement of speech sounds, life processes and formative forces within the human organization (for in the form of every organ movement has come to rest and in the form of every substance a process has come to rest). Both are supported by the therapeutic movements of eurythmy therapy. The effectiveness of this therapy has been established in many studies.”
– Matthias Girke, Goetheanum, on celebrating 100 years of Therapeutic Eurythmy
Working for You
We’re working hard to make MysTech open and inviting to everyone and every organization. We put every effort in the design of the website to make it as inclusive as possible. We want to hear from you. If you have comments and suggestions you would like to share we want to hear them. Please email us at: mystech[at]cfae.us. Your feedback is what make MysTech and its website better for everyone.
Over the past 40 years Frank has worked as a Social Worker, a Stone Fabricator and most recently in Technology as a Digital Forensic. For the past five years he has managed the nonprofit Center for Anthroposophic endeavors (CFAE) that oversees the Rudolf Steiner Bookstore, MysTech, Local Commons and Threefold Publishing.
Evan is a regenerative business consultant focused on agriculture through his platform Be Agriculture (www.BeAgriculture.com). He was first inspired towards his work 20+ years ago by Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture Course, and continues in his calling to further Steiner’s work as a MysTech Board member.
Retired from a 42-year career in the computer field in 2013. A co-founder of MysTech, he has served on the board since its inception. His focus has been outreach in building the study groups and their content.
Douglas R. Smith, Ph.D.
Doug is a seasoned scientist and Anthroposophist interested in practical applications of spiritual science. As a leader in the field of genomics, he developed advanced DNA sequencing technologies, contributed to the Human Genome Project, and led many other pioneering genome sequencing projects. He is currently CSO at a company that is applying novel technologies for CRISPR target analysis to improve the safety of therapeutic gene editing.
“From a cosmic being, man has become an earthly being. He has the potentiality to become a cosmic being once again, when as an earthly being he has become himself.”
— Rudolf Steiner, From Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, The Freedom of Man and the Age of Michael, GA 26
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