Saturday, October 06, 2007

Rudolf Steiner on Alcohol

During the Greco-Latin Cultural Epoch - which began in the 8th century B.C - (Fourth Subrace),  wine began to be treated as a holy substance. In the past, water was considered holy and used in the mysteries. Note that for women of childbearing age in Ancient Greece, wine was still forbidden except during the Bacchanalia.

From some notes on the Origin and Meaning of Wine by Rudolf Steiner:
"In the Persian Race we get the description of the beginning of the vine culture. But still wine was something quite worldly. Gradually it was applied to the Dionysian cult."

Back to the Doctor:

"Wine was that which separated man from everything spiritual. He who takes wine cannot arrive at the spiritual. He can know nothing of Manas, Buddhi, Atma. The whole course of humanity is one of descent and ascent.
"Man had to go own once to the lowest point. That he might thus go down to the lowest point, there arose the Dionysian cult.
Formerly there was a strict rule for priests, forbidding wine. They could experience Atma, Buddhi, Manas. There had to be a religion which could come quite down to the physical plane, one that changed water into wine. Later on the wine will be changed into water. If water had not been changed into wine, man could not have taken with him all that is below in the Vale of Earth."
Self-Portrait as Sick Bacchus (Bacchino Malato) (1594)
Apart from the direction alcohol guided us - downwards - there is also the fascinating connection it has with the Self.

Here's the quote from the Gospel of John Lectures 23rd May 1908:

"In future, people will be able to say in the most literal sense that it was the task of alcohol to pull man down into the material world so far that he would become selfish, and that alcohol would lead him to demand the use of his self for his own purpose, so that it would no longer serve the whole nation... Alcohol has removed man's capacity to feel at one with the universe in the higher worlds."

After the Incarnation the use of alcohol became decadent. It was Christ who was to bring the gift of the independent Self:

His mission consisted of bringing man the full power of the Self, the inner independence of soul.
-St John Lectures

"He who seeks initiation must achieve the utmost calm. This includes the avoidance of all stimulants, especially alcohol."

-The Gospel of St. John, Second Lecture, 26th February, 1906

Alcohol prepared the way for the independent Self but now it creates a separate self of its own.

The Self manifests itself on Earth by the agency of the ethereal warmth:

The effect of ethereal heat permeates the total is the medium through which man's spiritual self can come into contact with the living, physical body.
- Bernard Lievegoed
Alcohol acts like an interior imitation of sunshine. Through this separate warmth organization, it now interferes with the Self - the Self is disrupted:

We may therefore say that to take alcohol is to produce a counter-ego in oneself. For it has the effect of influencing action that should spring freely from the resolution of the ego: alcohol thinks, feels and acts in the ego's place. A person in this situation lets a purely external, material ego dictate to him. Alcohol prevents his own ego from acting, thus making him its slave.

- Bernard Lievegoed

This is "Big Al's" game and purpose now - slave-driver. Rudolf Steiner from The Problems of Nutrition:

It would take too long to explain the spiritual scientific reason showing that alcohol produces physically and in an external way out of the plant, just what a man should develop physically within himself through his ego being centered within him. It is a fact inwardly perceived through Spiritual Science that when a person drinks alcohol, it takes over the specific activity that otherwise belongs wholly to the person's ego. A person who drinks much alcohol needs less food and his body will require less nourishment than is normally required in the process of combustion.

It calls forth forces that otherwise would be called forth by the ego's inner penetration. Thus, a person can externalize the activity of his ego by infusing his body with alcohol.
Consequently, alcohol imitates and copies the activity of the ego, and you can understand why it is that people turn to it. To the extent, however, that a man replaces his inner self with such a substitute, to that extent does he become its slave. If otherwise qualified, a man will be better able to unfold the best forces of his ego when he abstains from alcohol altogether. By drinking alcohol an inner hindrance is created behind which something takes place that actually should and would be accomplished through the activity of the ego itself if the hindrance had not been produced.
Memory of past lives blocked:

"There were ages in the history of man when wine was not known. In the days of the Vedas it was practically unknown.
"In the ages when there was no drinking of alcohol, the idea of previous existences and of many lives was universally held; nobody doubted its truth. As soon as man began to drink wine, however, the knowledge of re-incarnation rapidly faded away, ultimately to disappear entirely from the consciousness of man. It existed only among the Initiates who took no alcohol.
"Alcohol has a peculiarly potent effect on the human organism, especially on the etheric body which is the seat of memory. Alcohol obscures the intimate depths of memory. 'Wine induces forgetfulness' — so the saying goes. The forgetfulness is not only superficial or momentary, but deep and permanent and there is a deadening of the power of memory in the etheric body. That is why, little by little, men lost their instinctive knowledge of reincarnation when they began to drink wine.
-An Esoteric Cosmology, Lecture 7, Dr. Steiner

"Alcohol is something very peculiar in the kingdom of nature, and it turns out to be not only dead weight in the human organism but, in fact, acts directly as a counterforce on it.
"When we observe a plant, we find that it develops its organization up to a certain point. The grapevine is an exception in this regard. It develops beyond this point. Everything that other plants reserve solely for the seed, the vegetative power—that is, all of the vegetal germinating power usually reserved for the seed, which does not enter into the rest of the plant—in the grape, flows into the fruit as well.
"Thus, through what is known as fermentation, the transformation of what in the grape itself has been activated to the maximum, something is produced in the plant that has a power that (in an occult sense) can be compared only to the power of the human I over the blood. In the making of wine and and the production of alcohol, therefore, what the human being must create when the I affects the blood is created in another kingdom of nature.
"We know that there is a close relationship between the I and the blood. This is expressed externally when the I experiences shame and a blush suffuses the human countenance, or when the I experiences fear or anxiety and the person turns pale. This effect of the I on the blood, which is a normal process, is similar to the effect produced when the vegetal process becomes reversed through the process of transforming the fruit of the grape—indeed, whatever arises from the very nature a plant—into alcohol.
"The I creates a process in the blood, as a matter of course—and here I am speaking from occult insight, not from chemistry—that is very similar to the process produced in the grape by reversing the process of organization through the purely chemical action of making alcohol. Consequently, alcohol introduces into the organism something that acts just as the I acts on the blood, but from the outside.’
"In other words, when we consume alcohol, we introduce an anti-I into our being, an I that directly opposes the actions of our spiritual I. We may say that, compared to how the I acts on the blood, alcohol acts on it from the opposite side. Thus, an inner war is unleashed, and when we place the antagonist inherent in alcohol in opposition to the I, we condemn to impotence everything that proceeds from the I. This is the situation from the occult viewpoint.
"The person who abstains from alcohol ensures the possibility that the I can work freely on the blood. An individual who drinks alcohol behaves like someone who, wishing to demolish a wall, hammers on one side, while at the same time placing on the other side people who hammer in opposition. Consuming alcohol eliminates the I's activity on the blood in exactly the same way.
"Those who make anthroposophy the cornerstone of their lives, therefore, experience the action of alcohol in the blood as a direct attack upon the I. It is thus very natural that true spiritual development progresses only when one avoids this conflict. From this example we see how equilibrium, normally present in the physical body, experiences a transformation in the anthroposophist and how that altered equilibrium also becomes perceptible."
  - The Effects of Esoteric Development, Rudolf Steiner, 10 Lectures, the Hague; March 20-29, 1913 (CW 145), Additional lecture, Berlin February 3, 1913
"Even in the Bible it is pointed out that Noah who, in a certain sense was the progenitor of his race in the post-Atlantean period, was the first wine-drinker, the first to experience the effect of alcohol. Then we come to a chapter which may be really very shocking for many people. In the post-Atlantean period an extraordinary cultus arose; this was the worship of Dionysos.
"You all know that this worship was connected with wine. This extraordinary substance was first introduced to human beings in the post-Atlantean period and produced a certain effect upon them. You know that every substance has some effect upon the human creature and alcohol had a very definite action upon the human organism. In fact, in the course of human evolution, it has had a mission.
 "Strange as it may seem, it has had the task, as it were, of preparing the human body so that it might be cut off from connection with the Divine, in order to allow the personal “I AM” to emerge. Alcohol has the effect of severing the connection of the human being with the spirit world in which he previously existed. It still has this effect today.
"It was not without reason that alcohol has had a place in human evolution. In the future of humanity, it will be possible to see in the fullest sense of the word that it was the mission of alcohol to draw men so deeply into materiality that they become egoistic, thus bringing them to the point of claiming the ego for themselves, no longer placing it at the service of the whole folk.
"Alcohol performed a service, the contrary of the one performed by the human group-soul. It deprived men of the capacity to feel themselves at one with the whole in the spirit world. Hence the Dionysian worship which cultivated a living together in a kind of external intoxication, a merging into the whole without observing this whole.
"Evolution in the post-Atlantean period has been connected with the worship of Dionysos, because this worship was a symbol of the function and mission of alcohol. Now, when mankind is again endeavouring to find its way back, when the ego has been so far developed that the human being is again able to find union with the divine spiritual powers, the time has come for a certain reaction, an unconscious one at first, to take place against alcohol. This reaction is now taking place and many persons today already feel that something which once had a very special significance is not forever justified."

"No one should interpret what has been said concerning the mission of alcohol at a special period of time as, perhaps, favoring alcohol, but it should be understood that this has been stated in order to make clear that this alcoholic mission has been fulfilled and that different things are adapted to different periods.
"In the same period in which men were drawn most deeply into egotism through alcohol, there appeared a force stronger than all others which could give to them the greatest impulse for re-finding a union with the spiritual whole. On the one hand men had to descend to the lowest level in order that they might become independent and on the other hand a strong force must come which can give again the impulse for finding the path back to the Universal. The Christ indicated this to be His mission in the first of His signs.
"In the first place He had to point out that the ego must become independent; in the second place, that He was addressing Himself to those who had freed themselves from the blood relationship. He had to turn to a marriage where the physical bodies came under the influence of alcohol, because at this marriage wine would be drunk. And Christ Jesus showed how His mission had to proceed in the different earthly epochs.
"How often we hear extraordinary explanations of the meaning of the changing of water into wine. Even from the pulpit one hears that nothing else is meant than that the insipid water of the Old Testament should be superceded by the strong wine of the New. In all probability it was the wine-lovers who always liked this kind of an explanation, but these symbols are not so simple as that.
"It must be kept constantly in mind that the Christ said: My mission is one that points toward the far distant future when men will be brought to a union with the Godhead — that is to a love of the Godhead as a free gift of the independent ego. This love should bind men in freedom to the Godhead while formerly an inner compelling impulse of the group-soul had made them a part of It."
-The Gospel of St. John, Lecture 5

There is a lot more in From Comets to Cocaine: Answers to Questions.

Some lectures in the above describe alcohol’s effects in relation to human reproduction:
By harming the offspring, all the descendants are thus harmed.
See from page 180. 

See also. See also: Question on Alcohol


Michael said...

The student must not feel duty to be an oppressive power to which he unwillingly submits, but rather something which he performs out of love. His task is to develop a free soul that maintains equilibrium between body and spirit, and he must perfect himself in this way to the extent of being free to abandon himself to the functions of the senses, for these should be so purified that they lose the power to drag him down to their level. He must no longer require to curb his passions, in as much as they of their own accord follow the good. So long as self-chastisement is necessary, no one can pass a certain stage of esoteric development; for a virtue practiced under constraint if futile. If there is any lust remaining, it interferes with esoteric development, however great the effort made not to humor it. Nor does it matter whether this desire proceeds from the soul or the body. For example, if a certain stimulant be avoided for the purpose of self-purification, this deprivation will only prove helpful if the body suffers no harm from it. Should the contrary to be the case, this proves that the body craves the stimulant, and that abstinence from it is of no value. In this case it may actually be a question of renouncing the ideal to be attained, until more favorable physical conditions, perhaps in another life, shall be forthcoming. A wise renunciation may be a far greater achievement than the struggle for something which, under given conditions, remains unattainable. Indeed, a renunciation of this kind contributes more toward development than the opposite course.

Michael said...

Michael said...

Alcohol only arose after the Atlantean epoch to help men to become individualized. It closes man off from his higher capacities and encloses him in himself.

But now all civilized people have reached that stage so that alcohol is an unnecessary evil today. Through its use one loses the ability to get along with others and to understand them. Alcohol is especially harmful for esoterics since its use changes all developed higher forces into forces of the personal ego, repeatedly locks it into itself.

By consuming alcohol one prepares a fertile soil for hosts of spiritual beings, just as a dirty room gets filled with flies.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes:Esoteric Lesson – Stuttgart, 8-13-1908

MartinIsti said...

You are very thorough, thanks for collating all this information together and posting them in a factual, non-offending way (at least for me it reads like that!) I appreciate it.

Michael said...

"What we eat has a tremendous influence on the heart. For example, if we drink alcohol this passes unchanged into our blood and can be measured exactly. This alcohol circulates through our entire body as a foreign substance. This substance imposes something on the heart. Red wine for instance has the effect of opening the capillaries to the head. Thus more blood comes to the head so that it, in a minor way, is illuminated. People have more life in their head, so they get a lot of ideas and have warm feelings. If they pat you on the shoulder at such a time, you do not take it seriously, because you know that it is simply that these capillaries have been opened. On others, it has other effects; for instance, Goethe liked a little red wine and wrote some very good poetry when he had had it."
-Ehrenfried Pfeiffer

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Anonymous said...

Very good article. I will be facing many of these issues as well..