Initiates of Despair

Posted: October 22, 1998

With 6 new subscribers in the last 2 weeks and the approach of All Saints' Day in 9 days, I thought it would be the proper time to address what Steiner98 is all about and how it came to be.

It began as a private list on Jeffrey Mishlove's Intuition Network in February of this year, but it was inspired by what happened in Denver last November 12, the event we've come to call the "Denver Tragedy." On that day, Matthaeus Jaehnig, age 25, son of the late Christian Community priest, Rev. Diethart Jaehnig, killed Denver policeman Bruce Van der Jagt with an AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle, then took Bruce's service revolver and killed himself with it.

Beyond the normal shock we feel at any report of a murder-suicide, there was the deeper, more disturbing shock to those of us who knew Diethart and/or his widow Ina personally. Beyond that was the question: how could this happen to a family and a community so devoted to Rudolf Steiner's legacy through the Waldorf Movement and the Christian Community?

What could any of us do about it? What is the effect of such an event on us? On the Jaehnig family? On the Denver community? On the world at large in which we are all striving to make some kind of transcendent sense?

This tragedy shows us the deep and dark abyss that lies between the ideals of anthroposophy and the reality in which we live. What is the nature of that abyss? What does a human being find when he or she walks closer to the edge of that abyss? In a word: despair.

What is the nature of despair? Is it all bad? Can anything good be said about despair? Is it simply the opposite of hope? Or is there a deeper spiritual significance to the experience of despair that may lead us to a deeper spiritual knowledge? The only "operational definition" I can come up with is that despair is the relentless consciousness of our separation from the spiritual world.

According to Rudolf Steiner, despair is a definite primary experience of living in this the Consciousness Soul Age, the 5th Post-Atlantean epoch, which is just entering its 2nd quarter, so to speak, since its beginning 6 centuries ago. And he indicated that especially after the end of the 5,000 year Kali Yuga or "Dark Age" in the year 1900 AD, that we would all, like Dante at age 35, enter the vestibule of hell with the sign over the gate that reads: ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.

He even pinpointed the year 2000 as the time when what he called a "world-karma disease would sweep the Western world especially. The phrase he used I remember as either: "mass epidemics of insanity" or "epidemics of mass insanity." It would break out, he said at the turn of the Millennium. Its ultimate cause would be despair in the face of the despiritualized world.

But that very despair is also the necessary prerequisite for the appearance of the etheric Christ. As I read what Steiner tells us about the return of Christ in the etheric, the sentence that keeps resonating is: "when you are in the depths of despair, at the end of your rope, so to speak, then the etheric Christ will appear and speak words of comfort to you."

As we approach the Celtic "cross-quarter" day of November 1 (the midpoint of autumn), we begin to notice that the veil separating the dead from the living gets thinner and thinner, until at the time of Halloween- All saints Day - All Souls' Day, it is the time of the most accessible communication with those who have died with whom we feel connected.

On Sunday evening, Nov. 1, Sarah and I will be hosting a solemn celebration of the Day of the Dead, where we will set up 100 or so small votive candles on a table and each person will come up to light a candle while speaking the name of the deceased whom they wish to remember. It is a most solemn festival, especially at the end when 100 candles are burning and maybe 10 to 12 people are sitting in silence. I always picture a circle of the souls we have summoned hovering outside --- as if making a nest for those of us sitting in the room.

Last year, I brought the celebration to Oklahoma City, where Joe and Elsie "Nat" Glosemeyer live on a very charming suburban farm in Choctaw, a few miles east of OKC. Joe is a former priest and Nat a former nun, who found each other, married and became anthroposophists. The gathering last year on November 8 was especially powerful for Nat and we discussed its celebration in the future.

Just a month ago, on September 18, Nat died of cancer and so this year I will dedicate the celebration to her. If you have a copy of "The Correspondence," from the Central regional Council of the ASinA, Vol. 4, #3, Michaelmas '98 issue, you can read Joe's article on Etheric Geography, which he dedicates to Nat.

If Nov. 1 is the time of year of the closest accessibility of the dead to the living, then the opposite time of the year is the time of the "thickest veil" between the two realms. There, the progression goes from Walpurgis Night, April 30, to May 1 and I believe the Celtic Festival of Beltane is celebrated on May 5 or 6.

At any rate, some of you may remember the suicide on May 1 that affected many of us deeply. Saundra Richter, who lives in Austin, had a 28 year old son Christopher, who was actually a childhood playmate of Mattheaus Jaehnig in Denver. Christopher killed himself in Houston, Texas the same way that Mattheaus did, with a handgun under his chin.

And also, Paulina suffered the suicide this past summer of a close business colleague in Kansas City.

I do not claim that such souls are here on Steiner98, but I do claim that the spiritual darkness and emotional despair that a suicide experiences is in many ways similar to the darkness and despair we experience using Ahriman's Internet. But the fact that we might tune into this consciousness now while still alive is a form of initiation experience for us all. I thus believe we are all called upon to become literal "Initiates of Despair." What I experience spiritually on the Internet is a challenge to become stronger than the darkness of the medium, to create an organ of perception that not only perceives this spiritual darkness and despair, but also learns to shine a spiritual light on and through this spiritual oblivion.

There is no one here but us humans in this despiritualized cyber kingdom. Nobody here but us humans incarnated who may decide to face this abysmal reality.

For myself, I face it mainly through my use of language. I do use language that is fierce, harsh, cruel, obscene, disgusting, even blasphemous. But I don't do it for show, or for jest, or for my own ego's sake of sarcasm and cynicism, or because I am a cruel sadist; no, I use it because I hear it as the language of despair wailing in these depths. As ugly and nasty and disgusting as it is, nonetheless I hear it as if cried out blindly in this medium. It is the language of spiritual despair.

In the same way that an emergency room physician must desensitize himself to the normal human emotional reaction to the blood and gore of his injured patients, so do I feel that I must desensitize myself and you to our normal human reactions to terrible language. I make no excuses or apologies for my use of language. I do it because this is my task as an anthroposophist right here and now in 1998. It is my experiment as a spiritual scientist, and the experiment, in Goethe's words is the mediator between subject and object.

I cannot prove any of these assertions because my own subjectivity is at least half the essence of the experiment. As for the nature of proof, consider what Rudolf Steiner writes about proof in the first Chapter of "Outline of Occult Science."

"Anyone who occupies himself with an exposition of occult science will soon see that through it, concepts and ideas are acquired that he did not possess previously. Thus he also acquires new thoughts concerning his previous conception of the nature of 'proof.' He learns that nor an exposition of natural science, 'proof' is something brought to it, as it were, from outside. In spiritual scientific thinking, however, the activity, which in natural scientific thinking the soul employs for proof, already lies in the SEARCH FOR FACTS. These facts cannot be discovered if the path to them is itself NOT ALREADY A PROOF. Whoever really travels this path has already experienced THE PROVING IN THE PROCESS. Nothing can be accomplished by means of a proof applied from outside. The fact that this is not recognized in the character of occult science calls forth many misunderstandings."

(Page 10 Monges' translation)

As far as "proof" goes, the closest I can offer to you is to read the first of my 16 sonnets in my folio called "Post-Existential Sonnets." I wrote them all in 1987 in the Elizabethan form and JoAnn is in the process of putting most of them up on the website. My sense is that the form off the sonnet itself is a window looking into the realm of the dead.

This particular one I will recite at the opening of our Day of the Dead festival on Nov. 1. What does it evoke in you? That is all the proof I can offer.



My labor over life's enormous span

was interrupted by a sudden death.

I hope for people to recall what man

they knew before his last recorded breath.

I speak the language that I always spoke,

but not too loudly, more with feeling here.

I spend my time among the simple folk

I overlooked before. They still stand near.

I know the purpose and the meaning of my life!

I hover, ever watchful of your mood.

The light and darkness here reflect your strife.

I long to feed you with this special food!

Be seen and heard by all your dead! We live!

We walk the path with you, and we forgive.

from "Post-Existential Sonnets," Folio I
by Tom Mellett, Austin, Texas, 1987

Post-Existential Sonnets, Folio I

Further Pontifications of Father Tom

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