It is said that there was a time when people were so ashamed of themselves that they clothed the legs of their grand pianos. They couldn’t bear the thought that they had, well, certain things that were to do with legs. Whilst the rumour was stronger than the occurrence, for the Victorians, it was normality to dress their ladies down to the ankle.
But then, we are modern and don’t look at our own society in that kind of way, do we?
“I will make strongest
The being of my soul
With all hardening salt
Wereby the Earth with loving care
nurtures the root.”
This, as mentioned in the verse, speaks of Salt. Not just your table salt: the alchemical process known as salt, which in my terminology (following that of Goethe) is termed Blue. Blue is, after all, darkness lightened, and as such stands as a metaphor for consciousness. I have spoken at length about the nature of consciousness and how one can advance one’s abilities in this realm; but today I want to look the other way, as it were. To look at what ‘salt’ is. That is to say, not to look at blue as darkness lightened, but to look towards blue and that which blue emanates from: darkness itself. Continue reading “The Nurturing Of The Root.”→
Dementia, is classed as a degenerative disorder; and most of us are familiar with not only the idea, but the realities of what dementia does to someone. Now it is easy to understand that with so many people suffering from dementia, modern medicine is busying itself with treating the condition. Their aim is to prevent it during the early stages. The problem is extremely subtle, in that a degenerative disorder has to start from somewhere, and that starting point will of necessity be all but imperceptible.
Not only that, it will be different for each individual.
It would be last week that I was speaking with a friend, and he mentioned his behaviour towards a common acquaintance. The fact was, he’d been teasing this person and afterwards, did feel a little guilty for his actions. He said that he felt as if he’d smacked a child across the face.
In fact, he added: “I felt lower than a snake’s belly”, because he felt so incriminated for his actions. Now it has to be said that I have engaged in this form of activity too.
“Even if modern physics or other branches of science declare that behind the colours there is vibrating etheric substance, it soon becomes obvious that what is thus assumed to lie behind the colours is something added by thought. Nobody can actually perceive what physics declares to be vibrations, movements, of which colour is merely an effect; nor can anybody say with certainty whether there is reality in what is alleged to lie behind the sense-impressions.”
Modern Times, As Seen Through Ship Design, Part 6.
From looking out of the ship to the stars by which the crew would navigate, we now turn to look inside. Whilst this may seem an obscure element to include in this series, the impact of the flintlock was far beyond any other change in warship design save the introduction of the ship-board cannon itself. Continue reading “The Effect Of The Naval Flintlock.”→
I posted something around a year ago about the effects of our subconscious activities. If we are even interested in coming to understand our subconscious, it means dealing with a number of paradoxes, the first of which is that it exists at all! Most people live their lives as if it didn’t exist, which truth be told, is a reasonable assumption, given what one can see of the subconscious. That is to say, nothing.
Modern Times, As Seen Through Ship Design, Part 5.
Whilst this is not an official part of the design of a ship, it had a dramatic effect on the way people used them. Because for an empire as large as the British Empire was, the need to police with a navy was absolute.
There was but one problem: people didn’t know where they were. They would see land, and knowing it for one spit of land, base their decisions upon it.
The year is 1707, Queen Anne sits on the throne and in Europe, the wars of the Spanish Succession are in full cry. As part of this, Britain is defending its port of Gibraltar with its usual tenacity.
Part of normal manoeuvres is the dispatch of a squadron of ships that should return to England. In doing so, it met with severe storms, and was blown out into the North Atlantic. They had no idea of quite where they were, and no way to find out. Until the coming of the GPS in very modern times, it was impossible to determine one’s exact position without knowing where the sun was.
The gales having abated, the squadron headed East and entered the mouth of the English Channel. The admiral thought himself near Ushant, an island off the north coast of Brittany. A sailor stated that they were not; the admiral did not take to this insolence and being the gentleman that he was, had him hanged from the yardarm.
The same day the squadron foundered on the Manacles. A particularly treacherous breed of rocks, and four of the ships were wrecked including that of the Admiral himself. Some two thousand other men also lost their lives.
To this day, it stands as the Royal Navy’s worst peacetime disaster. The squadron was off the Scillies, not Ushant. The upstart seaman was correct, but it cost him his life. This is the tale of another man whose life was lost to agroup of people equally obdurate as that Admiral.
In the wake of this disaster, the parliament under Queen Anne wished that no ship in future should founder for the lack of proper navigation. In 1714 the sum of £20,000 was offered as a prize to the person who could offer a practical solution. The question was: how to do achieve this end.
John Harrison was a carpenter, but as with many carpenters, was a clever chap. Not only that, but the cleverer the craftsman, the finer are his skills. Harrison turned his interest to clocks. Indeed, one of his early clocks at Brocklesby Park in Lincolnshire is still running, allowing for someone to pull the weights down each week. Not only that, but Harrison’s use of carefully selected species of wood has meant that not only has it kept time for three hundred years, it has never needed oiling.
How is it that Harrison knew that his clocks were accurate? Well, by the heavens of course. He knew that the star we call Sirius would disappear behind a chimney pot that he could see from his house window, and reappear three minutes and fifty-one seconds later. Knowing a little astronomy meant that he knew the exact time every day. Indeed, at London, he saw that the Royal Institution’s clock was a little slow…
Harrison was not just a fine mind, a fine carpenter, but a fine scientist too. All qualities of a mind willing and able to meet the rigorous challenges of our modern times.
It was he who realized that if a ship knew the time of day, it could work out its position to a reasonable accuracy, day or night. This required sightings and calculations, a process known as Dead Reckoning. On a vessel at sea, the inaccuracies of the reckonings would compound to form serious errors. Harrison’s idea meant that it would be possible to identify the position of the ship with a degree of accuracy, and independently of anything else. But it relied on the presence of a rigorously accurate timepiece, something that would retain its accuracy irrespective of barometric pressure, movement or salt water.
Harrison set about making his clock. To make a clock with the tools available to someone in the 18th century is hard enough. To make an accurate clock is all but impossible. Harrison achieved the impossible: the clock known today in true modern and as abstract fashion as possible, as ‘H1’.
Every part of that clock was made by hand. All I can say is that when I saw it, I was overwhelmed. Everything is balanced and has a counter-balance, every spur gear, pointer and spring was perfect. On land it performed perfectly, it was the most accurate timepiece constructed up to that point in history. There was a problem: in the weeks it took to sail to Lisbon, the clock lost six minutes. The return voyage saw it lose no time at all. This was a very serious problem, and nobody knew what was going on.
Harrison was a scientist, and in the succeeding months, determined what the problem was. His two successive clocks were improvements to H1, but did not take this problem into account. Harrison knew that it was the gyroscopic motion of a vessel turning at sea that would affect the clock’s pendulums. (If you want to experience this for yourself, take a bicycle wheel by its axle and spin it gently. Then, try to turn it a quarter turn. It is possible, but only if one allows the axle to form a curve in space. The one hand will be forced outwards – according to the motion of the wheel, of course. Turning a direct quarter turn invokes immense forces that only the strongest of men could overcome.)
Harrison’s fourth clock was a small chronometer, and looked like a large pocket watch. It had jewelled bearings of ruby and diamond, and in a passage to the West Indies that lasted 81 days, lost one minute and fifty seconds. Today, my grandfather’s clock in my living room will lose two minutes a day. Harrison had solved the problem of gyroscopic inaccuracies.
Even with this mound of evidence, the board of Longitude – the people overseeing the prize money – were not happy. Well, they wouldn’t be: Harrison was to them, a peasant and an outsider. In short, the members of the Board of Longitude represented a group of people who had not accepted the challenges of the times they lived in. To them, heritage was everything and ability nothing. The British establishment were, as they are today, a close-knit lot. Nor did they harbour democratic feelings amongst themselves.
So, they did what any honest group of people would do in the circumstances: they changed the rules. After all, they were the Scientists, they had the power and they didn’t want any upstart to have more money than they did. They made demands of Mr Harrison and his now grown son, that in all fairness, were simply daft. They wanted to watch him take his clock apart and whilst re-assembling it, be able to ask questions of any part of his clock at any time. Imagine having to describe how to make and anneal the steel spring of a clock to a person who can’t saw a piece of wood? Leave alone be able to saw it clean and straight.
Harrison had spent his life trying to meet their needs, and in his late seventies, was confronted by people who arbitrarily changed the rules – and the law of the land – to suit their own purposes.
It’s not as if the board were even serving the needs of the Royal Navy in their machinations, but that is why Britain needed a navy in the first place! Self seeking people will seek to fulfil their own ends, and in doing so, dishonestly make others shoulder their burden. The above story is a case in point. Not just Mr Harrison, but every man a ship of the Royal Navy. Indeed, many sailors would lose their lives because of the board’s selfishness. But then, that is what happens when people do not accept the challenges they are faced with.
(This is an edited version of my original post, “A Visit To Harry’s Place”).
Rudolf Steiner spoke of museums as ‘Places of the Dead’, because all that lies within the museum is dead. The world of the dead includes everything that has transpired, that is to say, all that lies in the past. If you have followed my reasoning in other posts, this must include evidence – and any thinking that is subsequently based upon it.
It isn’t that the dead can be brought back to life, after all, blue can never be yellow. The two are as distinct and as qualitatively different as to be chalk and cheese. The one can never be the other. But that doesn’t mean that humanity can’t spend enormous amounts of time trying to bring the dead back to life!
Museums are halls given over to the past, only with a twist. Because modern minds are active in bringing the past to live. We are so clever that we think we know how the ancients thought, bring them back to life as if they were modern people: they were dull and stupid, and life was nasty, brutal and short. Well, it’s nicer to think that way because it makes the concrete brutality of our modern world a little easier to stomach, doesn’t it? Because the reality for Cro-magnon man was very different from the imaginations the modern intellectual have of it.
To us, the life led by a primitive culture would have us screaming to be let out within the hour. But then, as modern intellectuals, we possess a sharp awareness that primitive people lack. Well, such dim awareness allows the person to live in a world where things just happen. It’s a little like the mediaeval stone carver who has never done anything else in his life. How could it be any different? He’s lived in Strasbourg his entire life, knows every alley and house. Not to mention those who live in them. Even the cathedral he’s building grows at such a slow pace that it appears the same every day. After all, his father began building it, and his as yet unborn grandchild will complete it. Thus it is that everything is familiar to him, only this familiarity is what lay around him. There was nothing there to point to anything worth thinking about. Life was a continuum.
Our modern awareness is needle sharp, and like needles, penetrate the cloth of reality to seek things that comfort the modern mind. For the modern person, the security of their thinking is paramount because everything in the world around us is changing and new. The village of our childhood is now a suburb: the fields have been made into a highway, the stream boys fished in is now bubbling with pollution from the local factory where a few of them now work in amongst the machines and the vats of poison.
You bought a new car in a new style, you work in a new office block that looks like nothing else on earth, your new house is a blob on stilts and you bought it because it looks new. Either that, or you can’t afford a car, your work is in a tin monolith painted grey and your flat is on the ninth floor of a monochrome housing block where the paint peels from the ceilings in the hallways. Either way, it’s modern and up-to-date. They are warm, a place where winter is a centrally heated summer and night is a fluorescent-lit day.
But these are all the result of modern people recoiling from nature’s challenges. People learn things in the winter that they cannot learn in the summer; we can learn things in the dark that we cannot learn in the light of day. Extending our comfort zone to make winters warm by mechanical means implies that such truths the winter can teach us will never be learned. Only on the bleak occasion of a power-cut will people learn the reality of a winter night, clad as they are in their summer shorts and tee-shirts.
Seen in this light, a museum is the perfect place for such people: it is safe, in that it is fixed and immovable, nor is it polluted. Well, not with chemicals, anyway. So people flock to this museum because it is safe and they aren’t going to meet anything offensive there. That is to say, challenging. Quite as importantly, many of the things are beautiful, well made – but they are also primitive. The one thing that comforts a modern mind is knowing it can’t be any better. That technology, and the thinking that underpins it, is the crowning pinnacle of achievement and will be the solution to all problems.
How else can it be? Do any of the rare creatures that read these posts have any idea what might be different? Because I will tell you this, I most certainly do. But then, that’s why I’m writing this.
One day, humanity will be forced to accept the truths I have reasoned out for myself; these aren’t concepts one can unveil by looking into computers or by using peer-reviewed evidence. All that – and if you consider how much of it there is, how many people are involved in and busying themselves with this kind of thinking – you will get an idea of how many people will have to meet reality head on. And at a time of its choosing, not theirs. It’s how reality works. As mentioned, it’s called a power cut.
Nobody thought about the connection of the central heating boiler, because nobody knew and nobody asked. Not even the fitter! I’ve worked with enough plumbers to know a good one, and they don’t come cheap. My response isn’t to beat the price down, but to ask if I can pay by instalments.
But then, what price is your life worth? Carbon monoxide poisoning is far from pleasant. All I am saying is be careful. Very careful. Those people who know better than me are those who are unable to discern a good plumber by the way he puts his toolbag down. And there is one thing one can say for certain: you cannot tell the quality of a person’s work from the list of their qualifications stated on their CV. A business that does such things is running itself onto the rocks. And they don’t even know they’re doing it. After all, how else can one employ a person? The rocks lie beneath the surface of the water. Only fools put to sea without a chart.
For them, there can be no error, because the evidence is there to prove that there cannot be any error. A perfect circle, then. Well, that is what the modern mind is all about, isn’t it? The comfort of this kind of certainty!
Yet this certainty is built on not knowing. But how can one know what one cannot know? When one employs a plumber who can’t do his work, how can you know if he’s done a good job? Such people wonder why they develop a stomach ache when they use their heating systems. That is to say, their plumber made a mistake and there’s too much carbon monoxide in the exhaust – which he forgot to connect.
Yet our world comforts itself on such certainties, and don’t ask questions because they want comfort. Or cheapness.
Not the truth, the reality.
Oh, and when challenged have two responses: to walk away, or make an excuse and thus divert the conversation back into their comfort zone. Speak with such a person and see just how long it takes for them to divert the conversation away from reality. It’ll teach you a lot about how large their comfort zone is. Or, if they swiftly return to an excuse, how small.
They can comfort themselves by settling themselves down in the library and read books.