From Phoenix, we drove north to Flagstaff, Arizona. Arriving into the town center, we found a bustling culture with multiple coffee shops and the buzz of life. All walks of life could be found. Beat culture, young families, blue-collar workers, and journeymen wove together. A heavyset man toting a book casually raised his middle finger to a passing car which had turned in front of him as he strode across the side street by the café where we planned to meet Mike.
Dottie knew Mike from years back in anthroposophical discussion groups online where they joined together as the Pirates to defend Waldorf education and Rudolf Steiner from slander. Yesterday was the first time she met him in person. Dottie considers Mike and Tarjei Straume her brothers in the work. Tarjei was with us in Dornach, the first time he and Dottie met in person. We were struck by the similarity between Mike and Tarjei in their physical appearance and also in their Michealic thinking and their Christ-filled heart forces. Both have a strong love for freedom. When Mike came walking down the street, Dottie knew who he was immediately.
Mike found his way to the Center of Research and Enlightenment (Edgar Cayce) in his early 20s. There he ended up meeting a Waldorf teacher who told him a story about an acorn and a seed, the first story anyone had ever told him. He and this teacher began a written correspondence. Later when his stepdaughter was experiencing kindergarten burnout, he remembered the Waldorf school and moved to New Hampshire. After two weeks in the Waldorf kindergarten, Mike’s stepdaughter was thriving. Her previous school wanted her on medication, but her new teachers said there was nothing wrong with her and offered her a seat on a one-legged stool. Mike soon made several other one-legged stools for the class. He also volunteered to lead woodworking projects in the middle school. He was amazed by the students he met, who were truly alive and looked him in the eyes. When the seniors invited him to their graduation ceremony and he experienced the depth living in them, he knew this was the work for him. Mike enrolled in the Waldorf high school teacher training at the Center for Anthroposophy in New Hampshire, where me met fantastic and committed mentors like Meg Gorman.
Due to life changes, Waldorf teaching did not come to pass for Mike, but the work of Rudolf Steiner stayed with him. He has worked most closely with Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom. Mike described being struck by Steiner’s mention of the Exceptional State, which is an intuition with no judgment at its source. “Living thinking lives in the question.” There is a story about Rudolf Steiner that, when asked what would remain of his work after 500 years, he responded with the Philosophy of Freedom. Mike brought up a consideration of a correspondence between the Philosophy of Freedom and the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word…” This is an idea we would like to explore further.
When we asked what he loves, he said, “ I love waking up in the morning, being alive, and being human! I love life, but we are liquidating the planet!” How can we turn things around? Mike suggested that most people are afraid of their lives. His question for us to carry forward was “How do you alleviate and dissolve the fear?” Remembering Steiner’s sculpture of the Representative of Man, Mike described the element of humor having been added last. With humor, he said, the fear in people’s hearts breaks open.
Another question he raised was a pondering of what Original Sin has to do with the Guardian of the Threshold described in Steiner’s work, such as How to Know Higher Worlds. We can look to working out of consensus within a group as living from the Christ Impulse. But it is difficult to work from the Christ Impulse if people are stuck in the stage of the Lesser Guardian. Where we find common ground, we find the Christ Impulse. Mike said that conversation is the best teacher he’s ever had.
We can find strength in the seemingly simple activity of focusing our attention inward, an example of human freedom. We have the capacity to choose direct our own thinking, but often people allow their thoughts to drift about as unconsciously as their breathing. Mike offered a question about the Ruckschau exercise, in which one reviews his day backwards from the perspective of the other. Can we look further behind the happenings in our day? What is working there? Can we delve deeper?
Currently, Mike has returned to school where he is studying alongside students much younger than himself. He is also working on two books. In Letters to a Timeless Friend, he is writing direct correspondence to Henry David Thoreau. He is also creating a story about a future with no poverty and a soft economy. Having gone back to school, Mike is considering a Master’s degree at Rudolf Steiner College.
Encouraged by Mike’s work and striving, we urged him to look further into Steiner’s considerations of a threefold social order. He had just shared a link yesterday on his site pertaining to a “Gift Economy,” and sure enough it is a young man working in Steiner circles out of a threefold impulse. We could hear echoes of this threefold impulse sounding from Mike’s words. What a fabulous collaborator he would be!
Mike is inspired by the Urban Homestead may have an opportunity of delving into organic farming. Out of the conversation, he now thinks he’ll turn his consideration to biodynamics with an interest in working together with others. He is also interested in the possibility of taking the work further by opening it up to others through events and lectures. We let him know about our friends at Blossom’s Farm in Santa Cruz and hope he can connect with them.
We were moved by the conversation and the chance to take up our questions with Mike and to hear his. We were touched by his words this morning that our discussion had rekindled his faith in the essence of Rudolf Steiner’s life’s work! Wow! He has also helped stoke the fire of our work to keep striving as we make our way across this continent seeking honest conversation with open hearts and deep penetrations into the social questions of our time.
Mike’s final thoughts from this morning’s follow up: “I really want to accentuate the idea of ‘the exceptional state,’ especially its simplicity, in light of how arduous and complicated the Philosophy of Freedom can seem. I think it is the perspective from which all great works, ‘deeds of love,’ are created. Like Thoreau’s work, and Emerson’s too.”
You can find Steiner’s consideration of the exceptional state in the third chapter of Philosophy of Freedom where he describes the spiritual activity of reflecting on our own thinking: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA004/English/RSP1964/GA004_c03.html
For some of Mike’s work in progress, check out his writing, Economy is Best Created by Culture, here: