Lecture and Workshop
2006 , Barrie, Ontario.
Right Speech; the art of shared humanity
(Notes taken by Treasa O'Driscoll)
Why is there more than one human being on earth?
No such thing as ‘one’ because we live in a universe
where everyone and everything exists in a weaving connective
element of meaning and interrelationship. It is important
to explore the right role of speech and its eternal source
as Word in the beginning.
Holderlin remarked: We are a conversation that can eventually
become a song….
The Tower of Babel fell and the separation into languages
began. People had implicit understanding of one another before
fall out of perfect relationship is a fall into language.
Words can connect us.
Words can separate us.
Words have both a meaning and a sign side. Meaning is not
synonymous with sign.
Hamlet having decided to kill Claudius, came upon him praying
and postponed the deed, lest he send his wicked uncle to heaven.
But Claudius was only appearing to pray and could realise
that “ Words without thoughts never to heaven go…”
That meaning can grow makes a renewal of language possible.
At Pentecost, meaning became so intense that everyone could
understand the apostles regardless of language barriers. We
exist in a world of meanings whether we know it or not.Question:
How do we recognize one another after death?
Rudolf Steiner(in a lecture given on Nov.14, 1923) spoke about
the way in which discarnate souls reveal the unique essence
that each one is, entering and opening to one another in a
process of wording that reveals and distinguishes the essential
nature of each one, a speaking of what one really is…
we do not have a concept of something we cannot recognize
it. An anthropologist gave a wheelbarrow to outback people
in Australia—they could not use it having no concept
of its function, same thing after eye surgery for one who
was blind, a blooming buzzing confusion until differentiating
word sense awakens.
We think we live in a world of things-we even see one another
as such, walking automatons. Prejudices are excited by how
people appear to us. We settle for lower level meaning and
do not perceive the spiritual magnitude of each person.
(Michael interjected a Hassidic story about a Rabbi and his
son who are approached by a bridegroom asking for money. The
rabbi parted the man’s wedding garment with a stick
and saw that the man was wearing a funeral shroud underneath.”
You are dead and do not know it”, he told the visitor
and the ghost disappeared. The son asked ‘How do we
know we are not dead as well?”
‘That you can ask that question proves you are here”,
his father replied.Word power performs healings. The power
of intention can be so powerful it is palpable.
To realize this power entails a dissolution of soul forms,
characterized by Georg Kuhlewind as islands of unfreedom in
us. The Buddha taught that to be attached to form is to suffer.
Our inner life is essentially addictive, habit bound…
We must develop capacities, not acquire new attachments to
new forms as in some modern psychological practices. Right
Speech is a salient feature of the Buddha’s Eightfold
A native elder remarked after a silent Quaker meeting ;”
It was good to spend some time in the place where words come
The goal of meditation is to become conscious in the zone
from which all good things come.
“If I knew where the great songs came from I would go
there more often”, remarked Leonard Cohen.
do the good songs come from? Emerson wondered….Jesus
came into Phillipi (in the gospel of Matthew) asking:”
Who do men say that I am?”
“Some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah…”
who say ye that I am?’
“ Thou art the Christ.” Peter said.
recognized that God spoke through Peter and declared “
Thou art Peter and upon this rock” etc. Later he remarked
to Peter “ Get thou behind me Satan” when Peter
spoke out of his lower nature. When we speak out of the spiritual
authority of truth we are like the ‘rock’ for
which Peter was named.
Two annunciations are described in Luke’s gospel, one
to Mary and one to Zacharias , an old man whose wife, Elizabeth,
was old. “ Whereby shall I know this?” he queried
am Gabriel that stands in the presence of God,” and
Zacharias was struck dumb and only spoke again when the boy,
John the Baptist, was to be baptized, saying authoritatively;
His name will be called John!”
If your attention is so focused that you are not troubled by memory then your attention, the heaven of the soul, can grow. This attention is limitless. Your attention is more rigorously challenged if you attend
to something dull, like a pin, cup, nail, paper clip…
If your focus is intense enough it calls all the beings around
it into resonance, the miracle of attention is that it connects
us with the heavens. I must decrease, it must increase…As
my self-feeling diminishes, attention increases.
When Rudolf Steiner entered university he enquired-“
Who is the most boring lecturer…?’ He would deliberately
attend the lecture and listen, not because it was interesting,
but as an exercise in attention. Then he would go away and
write it all down from memory.
Novalis was a genius of the Word and knew that speaking was
about itself, not about the world, as a master of play and
improvisation he loved to banter, countering the serious and
ponderous style of other speakers of the day…Emotions
are the deeds and sufferings of meaning…
keep silent. Who has kept more
touches the roots of speech.
Some day each sprung syllable
Will be for him a victory
Over what is not silent in silence,
Over mocking evil;
That he may untie himself without a trace
The word was shown to him.
began with 30 seconds of silence
Veronica Jackson presented an appropriate and inspired musical
introduction to the theme of the day--IN BEGINNING WAS THE
WORD-- an improvisation in song in which every voice was heard
and a tone of reverence sounded.
Referring to the verses quoted above, Michael recommended
we reach for the silence that precedes the thoughts and words
that circle around in our heads while sitting in silence.
How do we reach the matrix out of which all things arise?
The proper translation from the Greek original is: In beginning…
in many languages ‘the’ is left out though not
in the common English version)
St Jerome translated into Latin as In principio….implying
a guiding principle, not a temporal starting point but original
source of all meaning and Being.
We want to be where the sentence originates. When we contemplate
this first line of the Gospel of St. John, we consider the
meaning of every word until the words disappear. Our clever
thoughts are the runway that conveys us towards the source.
We can have moments of grace in everyday life when we experience
a heightened awareness or communion with someone or something.
In meditation we consciously call forth such a gracious moment.
It requires a strongly receptive mode of willing, not a ‘let
go and let God’ but a specific receptivity that guides
the soul towards a particular state of being. Michael characterized
the grasping will as the Findings Basement Will, recalling
the frenetic reaching after bargains that he remembered from
childhood shopping expeditions…
After 10-15 minutes of meditation we would report details
of our experience, words, phrases, images, memories that were
called up. We should however use the report time to continue
the meditation while others were speaking-every report should
help us deepen this experience of the source. Nothing that
anyone would report would be regarded as irrelevant-this brought
about a sense of freedom in the participants sharing. The
lines of the prologue are not ‘about something’,
the language here is not derivative, but primal, archetypal
A direct translation from Greek was written on the blackboard:
…Through him all became
And without him became not one
What became was life in him
And the life was the light of men…
Michael pointed out that the ‘not one’ means ‘everything
that is not in unity’ ‘. Meaning is Being. There
is no such thing as the physical world, Rudolf Steiner said,
since it is the endpoint or shadow of macrocosmic Being and
Meaning-the greater life that encompasses and is reflected
in, the physical.
The time for asceticism is over-our time calls for a deeper
sensuality, a renunciation of the world in all its qualities
of non meaning, a deeper presence in and for the world through
all our senses is required. Angels are referred to as substances
in Latin. The verb substare means-to understand. The real
substance and underpinning of experience is meaning….
'A poem is an imaginary garden with a real toad in it,’
writes Marianne Moore.
We paired off to take turns relating our recollection of an
incident when we were guilty of wrong speech. We listen to
one another without judgment, afterwards reporting on the
experience to the group.
“I worry about my clothes until I have something to
do…” Henry Thoreau
(I could also say;” I worry about your clothes until
we have something to do together…”)
When I face another person I am aware at first of the physical
impression, then the thoughts come-this is a waking up. When
the flow of meaning increases I forget myself…. Imagining
a cocoon that is not spacial around me and another-an infinite
flow of meaning connects us that is independent of our spoken
told a Zen story about a woman who leaves the window of her
apartment open and calls aloud to her ‘husband’
so that all can hear:” Go fetch water”, “
Sweep the floor’ “ Light the fire” etc.
But she has no actual mate. However the commands are signals
to her lover and have a special meaning for him. The connection
she has with him is of a larger reality than what her neighbours
can know about her.
You can sometimes be with a person who is so intensely present
that there is nothing that could be spoken between you that
would be equal to the impact of that presence.
“ The soul has a logos that augments itself.”
of Ephesus, 600 B.C.)
tend to grow if nothing is done about them, they can get worse
and worse. On the other hand the work of an artist can get
better and better. We cannot remain static because of this
facility the soul has, to grow of itself. Faust was translating
the prologue to the St. John Gospel and distorted the first
line to read ‘ In the beginning was the deed…”At
that moment a black poodle that roamed the vicinity, transforms
into Mephistopheles….. Non- meaning had entered. Will
is always meaningful or it is not worth having, will without
significance releases the devil. The Logos is fundamentally
orientated towards meaning. Meditation should begin with a
mood of gratitude and a desire to help one another to develop
“ The content of my consciousness has an inner logos
that augments itself.”
The meditation was followed by a report while our central
focus was maintained.
Sitting in pairs, one describes a current transition point.
The other listens silently but actively in three ways:
1)critically( I’m not surprised–you have only
yourself to blame…)
2)biographically( thinking-I remember when that happened to
3) Empathetically(an unprejudiced listening)
(Then switch places and report back to the group at the end.)
Luke Gospel: Take no thought of what ye shall answer or what
ye shall say for the Holy Ghost will answer what ye should
To be able to improvise we must we must become aware of our
own patterns and soul forms so that we can drop them.
Michael recited Risk , by Rilke, from memory:
As nature abandons her creatures
To the risk of their dull urge
And specially protects none in den or nest,
We are no dearer to the primal ground
of our being: it dares us. Only we
still more than plant or beast
go with the dare, want it, sometimes even,
(and not from self-interest)are more daring still
than life itself is; a breath more daring.
This makes for us, beyond any protection,
A kind of surety, there where the gravity’s at play
Of the pure forces. And what finally secures us
Is just our unprotectedness, and that we turned it so
towards the open, just as we felt it threaten.
So as somewhere, at the furthest circumference,
Where the Law grazes against us,
To say to such unptotectedness,”Yes.”
‘ The Self is that which can become everything without
changing.’ (Steiner?) Goethe also remarked on how nature
was always changing yet always remaining herself. The Logos
in every one of us makes the democratic operation of Christianity
possible…! This was Michael’s last word as I remember
it. Thank you Michael and please come back in the Fall—this
was the unanimous request of the group of 15 people present.