Consciousness and its Transfiguration (3): The Reversal of the Will and its Apotheosis

A third stage of enhancement of consciousness consummates the reversal of the will that was discovered as a possibility in the last post. At that time, the will was largely regarded implicitly. It was conceptualised as the active force that lent life and purposefulness to the activity of thinking. Now, however, the roles of thinking and willing are to be exchanged in emphasis. One may imagine a foreground-background shift. Thus, thinking is to assume a supporting role of illumination while the willing of this thinking is to stand forth as the prime focus. Specifically, thinking is to provide the condition for awareness of the will’s dynamics, without which would operate below the threshold of awareness. At the same time, the will is to provide the dynamics.

Let us briefly characterise the typical condition of consciousness before moving on the manner by which it may be enhanced. Pictorially speaking, for ordinary experience, the will emanates centrifugally from a central point. The latter we experience as “the self” or “the soul” or “the ego” simply “me.” Often in mundane consciousness, “me” is considered to be identical to one’s body. We feel bodies to be the center of our deeds. Psychologically, we feel ourselves as subjects who operate upon a world of objects. For ordinary consciousness, this condition is taken as a matter of course and therefore, if it is noticed at all, is assumed to be the only possibility.

Following the inner reversal introduced in the last section, however, the will would now be felt to originate from outside of the mundane ego and to stream inwards. Such a reversal is the esoteric meaning of the phrase “…not mine, but Thy will be done.” This is to say that a transcendental world-will would begin to educate and direct the soul’s own being. We would see how ordinary consciousness appropriates a modicum of this will for its own purposes and overlooks this fact of appropriation. By contrast, in the stage of consciousness under present consideration, the soul itself would no longer feel itself to be the creator, the origin, or even the minister of its willing. Instead, the soul would become an object upon which a super-personal world-will would work. This is the esoteric meaning of the words, “…nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” To ordinary consciousness, the ego is taken for granted as the prototype of what is given to consciousness. The enhancement that we have characterised, however, would consist in an inversion of the mundane condition. As a result of the third enhancement of consciousness, therefore, the soul-ego-self would constitute the not-given. The given, by contrast, would consist in this transcendental world-will, which works upon the soul. If the I could divest its identification from the wrought (operata) and identify itself instead with this active working (operans), it would die to its lower nature and be, in a higher one, reborn. This is the condition for love that is true and not merely a pretence, since love that is self-referential is not love but egoism, no matter how cleverly the latter is disguised. Love consists, foremost, not in a feeling, but in the sacrifice of our own egos as the primary locus of value and the bestowal of the same on another being. 

Insofar as the I can recognise its own being in this world-will, it will have achieved the condition for spiritual love. It will have won through to true self-knowledge, which is simultaneously world-knowledge.* At the same time, it would look on the lower self, with which it was formerly identified but from which it has now distanced itself, as own its creation. This is the esoteric significance of the “Great Work,” or magnum opus of the alchemists. The world-will becomes the given and the soul the not-given, as artist to his canvas. This awakening leads to the self-experience in its true nature: the floodgates of lower self are burst. The higher self streams in as the world-will of the entire macrocosm. Put another way, the identification of the transcendental will is simultaneously to experience the reality of karma. Because the lower self is a product of what transcends it, the former appears as a creature of this higher being. What we call “life” is revealed as the continual sculpting and moulding of the lower self by the world-will. Rilke conveys this sentiment in the most exquisite manner in “Der Schauende,” a translation of which we will offer below to conclude this three part investigation into the evolution of consciousness

Whoever was beaten by the Angel,
(Which so often declines even to fight)
Goes away upright and rightened
Made greater by the hardest hand,
That formed him to transform him.
Winning is no temptation.
In this, his evolution: to be conquered
By beings of ever greater might.**

*Rudolf Steiner captures this experience in the following verse, a translation of which is offered below the original:

“Willst du deinen Selbst erkennen
Schaue hinaus in der Weltenweiten
Willst du die Weltenweiten durchschauen
Blicke hinein in das eigene Selbst.”

“If thou wouldst know thyself
Look outward into cosmic spaces
If thou wouldst fathom cosmic spaces
Look within thine inmost self.”

**Rilke’s original German:

Wen dieser Engel überwand,
welcher so oft auf Kampf verzichtet,
der geht gerecht und aufgerichtet
und groß aus jener harten Hand,
die sich, wie formend, an ihn schmiegte.
Die Siege laden ihn nicht ein.
Sein Wachstum ist: der Tiefbesiegte
von immer Größerem zu sein.

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