Moral evolution and the translumination of the will with consciousness

One common theory of the colour is arrived at by attempting to discover the physical correlates of various colours. This is usually achieved by mapping the visible rainbow onto the electromagnetic spectrum. The visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum spans from red, roughly corresponding to a wavelength of 700 nanometers, to violet, at roughly 400. Wavelengths longer than red correspond to such electromagnetic phenomena as infrared, microwaves, and radiowaves, while wavelengths shorter than violet correspond to ionising radiation as ultraviolet, microwaves, and gamma waves. 

I have presented this rough sketch of the electromagnetic theory of colour in order to explore what it might disclose, through analogy, about moral evolution. Suppose we imagine a spectrum of will in parallel with the familiar rainbow. It would be possible to elaborate a theory of moral evolution in which red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet corresponded to gradients of the will’s translumination by consciousness. We might set forth a spectrum ranging from instinct at one pole to resolution at the other. Thus, the seven-toned will-spectrum might look something like this: instinct, drive, desire, motive, intention, wish, resolution

Outside of instinct is will that is devoid of any consciousness and thus might rather be thought of as “physical laws” or mere “force.” On the yonder side of resolution are configurations of consciousness without physical manifestation. This might be thought of as “pure ideation.” In other words, infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum corresponds to matter and motion while ultraviolet corresponds with mind and consciousness. Moral evolution can be thought of as the permeation of the one pole with the other such that one’s material deeds become increasingly shot through with the light of consciousness. 

Comparing instinct with resolution, it is clear that in the former case, the material deed will appear before its cognition while ideation is a sine qua non for a resolution as such and therefore cognition precedes instantiation in this case. Again, outside of “the visible spectrum” as I have portrayed it in this analogy, the will undergoes a metamorphosis into something that we do not recognise as will. Thus instinct and resolution are limiting cases. These limiting cases are very much akin to the Scholastic doctrines of universalia post res and universalia ante res while the body of the spectrum relates to universalia in rebus. In an instinctual action, an understanding of its reason must be derived post factum in an act of abstraction. Ergo, univeralia post res. In an action born of a resolution, the universal must precede the deed in the form of the resolution to carry it out. Thus, universalia ante res. In the span between instinct and resolution can be discovered various degrees of universalia in res as force continues its transformation into will and its transfiguration in the light of consciousness. 

Finally, it may be noted that the transformation of the will outlined above is the magnum opus that is the esoteric plot of every individual biography. It is also the esoteric plot of history. “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” as it has been said. People who do things for reasons of which they are not conscious lend themselves to the vicarious influence of retrogressive spirits.

Next I will explore the insights that Goethe’s colour-theory may provide into this question. 

Thanks to Rudolf Steiner for providing the conceptual scaffolding that makes explorations such as the above possible. This lecture also treats the will spectrum: in light of Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom.

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