A response to: “Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: The Web as Will and Idea” – Can Digital Media be Redeemed?
The following is my response to a recent article by Eugene Schwartz entitled “Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: The Web as Will and Idea”, which is Eugene’s response to an article by the renowned anthroposophist Sergei Prokofieff, who wrote a remarkable article entitled “The Being of the Internet”, in which he argued that the digital media are carriers of such darkness that they are unredeemable. The following will make the most sense if Eugene’s article (and ideally Prokofieff’s as well) is read first, but can still stand on its own as my opinion.
Eugene has written a timely and well-considered article. As someone who has “grown up” (at the time of this writing I’m currently 33) watching and participating fully in the birth of the internet (I had an email address years before the world wide web existed), I am disheartened when anthroposophists shy away from what I consider to be an important task: the appropriate usage of these new kinds of technology.
By appropriate, I mean utilizing the technology as a means of furthering a progressive human development. Of course what constitutes “progressive” or “development” can be hotly debated, but for me this involves not just empowering people through providing access to information of an esoteric nature that they might not otherwise have, but in providing the context for the shared creation of meaning in ways that are dynamically capable of leading towards real transformation.
The ahrimanic nature of the internet lies primarily in the way that supports the decontextualization of meaning-making from the soul lives of its human participants. It allows us to abstract too easily, to decontextualize parts of ourselves in ways that challenge a healthy development. But at the same time the internet is the potential carrier of both luciferic impulses (getting willfully lost in online environments, expressions of rage, rampant self-satisfaction seeking opportunities, etc.) and Christ impulses as well.
As always, the Christ-like impulses are a bit more subtle, a little less oriented towards appearing with a particular veneer, but no less powerful for all that. I am speaking of how the internet is used to help bring groups of people together in ways that fosters both community and action, and which promote love and change. This occurs not merely through sharing information, but in the literal creation of an in-between space which can be filled with the soul-activity and spirit-light of individual wills. This, I think, is what it looks like to “redeem” the internet. It happens when people are given tools to become active participants in the dynamic creation of meaning that fosters transformation and love.
The challenge, as with the bringing into one’s heart of any Christ impulse, is that it occurs not by default, and not by control, but through a conscious surrendering of one’s will to a higher will, which is experienced both as a suffering and a redemption. Ahriman, I imagine, would like us to use the internet to manipulate and control so that we forget the much greater power available through this kind of conscious suffering, while Lucifer would be happy if we continued to use the internet to satisfy our desires and create infinite personalities for ourselves.
The alchemists understood that nothing could go untransformed if the magnum opus is to be achieved. Their saying “As above, so below; as below, so above” was not an academic one about correlation; it meant that in order to reach the highest potential available to us, we had to transform our lowest aspects. This applied too to the outer world: nothing could ultimately go unredeemed, and if we ever decide to “write off” some aspect of reality as beyond hope, beyond action, and beyond transformation, then the forces of darkness will claim a victory.
We must work together to build the world we wish to live in. It is a horrible mistake to try and divorce technology from morality, and to claim that “it’s all in how it is used.” Some technologies are more evil than others, but the internet is not an atomic bomb. The development of the internet, although beginning as a defense-oriented technology (not incidentally as a technology to help counter the potential effects of nuclear weapons), almost immediately was taken up and used for other means; primarily education. There are countless ways in which both the development and usage of the internet fosters healthy development of human beings–in ways not completely without strings, of course, but also not in ways that make its usage “unredeemable.”
What we cannot do is let the regressive impulses have their way with the internet and co-opt the minds and souls of human beings for their own uses without a Michaelic challenge, a challenge for the creation of spirit-based groups of individuals (which are different than just ‘groups’), a challenge to permeate the spiritual spaces of the internet with transformed will, with conscious sacrifice, with love of transformation and a transformation of love.