The following is a book-review written for the German edition of Cognitive Yoga: How A Book Is Born by Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon published in Ereignis Verlag. The English edition on Temple Lodge can be purchased here.
This book is a real gem, a living and shining magical ‘stone’ that builds new worlds. And this is also its essential ‘content,’ as the full title reveals: Cognitive Yoga: How a Book is Born. Heavenly Jerusalem and the Mysteries of the Human Body. It tells of how a spiritual experience relating to a research problem helped the author proceed in the development of Cognitive Yoga. It tells this story as a way to understand the intimate soul-nature of spiritual research in general and how it involves a co-creative communication with the spiritual world.
Despite its tiny volume (70 pages), with its easy flowing language it contains a wealth of wisdom valuable for the practitioner on the spiritual path. Through the central imagination of the book, we are being invited to join the author on a sacred journey, a modern Christmas nativity tale that took place during the holy days and nights of 2012. But this window into his spiritual experience is given in such a way as to stimulate our own capacity for spiritualization and creativity. Never in Ben-Aharon’s work will you find images and pictures that can be passively received. There persist in his writings always this element of ‘problematization’ which stimulates the reader such that the reception is transformed into a self-conscious activity and practice. Thus, the inspiration and wisdom that is contained is always penetrated with a spiritual scientific approach and consciousness. Indeed, these are also things that Ben-Aharon goes into explicitly in the book.
The book begins by giving an overview of some of the central aspects and beings of the evolutionary task of individualizing the Christ-impulse in our time. This is related also to Ben-Aharon’s previous work and his own spiritual biography. Ben-Aharon’s work began with a spiritual experience of the Second Coming of Christ, and he has deepened and explored this mystery in all his subsequent work. The present booklet invites us to see into his process of deepening this mystery with regard to the sleeping virginal forces in the bodies, and how it relates to the present Christ-impulse and the macro-cosmic forces of the Nathanic Jesus. Thus, already in this short introduction we are given a powerful image of the task of spiritualization of the whole human being.
After this introduction the first chapter presents the four seasons of spiritual research. These four pages are full of stimulating and inspiring thoughts that can be very helpful in each person’s individual research and study.
In the springtime of enthusiastic, youthful study, the researcher is exploring topics from his or her perspective and life, “carried by intentional building up of our spiritual forces and faculties, growing from below upwards” (10). But when the research enters the summertime of research, it means an “intensifying crisis, in which a major problem emerges and ripens, which refuses all efforts of intentional solution for a long time” (11). As can be seen from these few references, already here we are given a clear and dynamic picture of the spiritual research process. It highlights how the problem and its research must develop if it is to truthfully grow and open itself to the spiritual world as opposed to remain ideas in our subjective consciousness. The next phase is the soul-autumn of ‘involutive’ spiritual pregnancy in which “the spiritual researcher regains his spiritual activity, but now in the reversed direction … He must learn how to turn his or her activity inward to becomes a ‘spiritual-soul mother’ of the growing and developing being of the research” (12). The last phase is the winter Christmas event, the birth in the physical world in the form of a book, an initiative, an artwork etc.
Chapter two presents us with “The Mystery of Conception” as it relates to spiritual work. In the research calendar this is the summit of high summer when the spiritual sun fertilizes the seed-problem of the researcher:
Now the following must be emphasized: fertilization and conception take place only if the spiritual world offers them freely as a loving act of grace. The ripe problem must fully release itself from the soul and be transformed into an independent spiritual being that opens and offers itself in loving surrender to the higher worlds and beings. (18-19)
In the book, Ben-Aharon’s study of this mystery is also depicted in some detail, but I leave it to the reader to explore and work with this imagination in the book.
Chapter three describes “An Insurmountable Problem.” This directs us to the central research problem, which in short consists in the process of inhaling the etherized sense-perception into the body in order to spiritualize it all the way down to physical matter.
The general backbone of the whole yoga process is the constant purification, spiritualization and exhalation of thinking by means of the Philosophy of Freedom, and the specific path of developing the faculty of Imagination – which was my main task – is concentrated on the etherization of sense perceptions and their inhalation into the bodies. (24)
This inhalation of etherized perception by means of the cognitive breathing of pure thinking and perception belongs to the Michaelic impulse of spiritualizing also the bodies. But the deeper this process goes, the more it will also have to encounter the deeply unconscious and instinctual forces. Here one comes up against an astral-bodily point where the Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces have a stronghold and create an impasse. This diaphragmatic threshold as it is also called in Cognitive Yoga, is described also by Steiner as it relates to the organization of the 12 senses. It is a sedimentation of the middle senses of smell, taste and touch on the bodily senses of balance, movement and life (30). When one reaches this far in the development of Michaelic yoga one must “confront the Ahrimanic, instinctual side of the intellect if one would find the way, armed by the etheric Christ impulse, to the virgin, pure Adamic forces in the unconscious depth of the body” (31).
Coming in his spiritual biography a second time to this impasse, now as an insurmountable problem, Ben-Aharon “couldn’t but become conscious of the fact that my teacher took special interest in the progress of this problem” (31).
In chapter four – “Some Soul Experiences on the Threshold” – we learn much about the dialogue between spirit and soul, and how the spiritual world writes signs and letters into our physical embodied life. The ability to discover and read this occult script is a ‘test’ of wakefulness that the researcher must connect with:
When a research problem becomes imprinted deeply enough in the spirit, soul and body, and I feel a prompting and intimation from the other side, I know it signals that an occasion may be approaching in which a new collaborative venture with my colleagues in the spiritual world may become possible. In such a time I foster a special ‘soul vigil’ that I have developed through the years, which allows me to sustain an unobtrusive, subtle, yet heightened awareness also during my daily life and chores, to make myself available – day and night – to the advent of the moment of the event, and to do so without altering or impairing my daily duties. (35)
This chapter gives many wonderful descriptions of how soul-life is heightened and how the reading of the occult script can take place. This is then followed by the central chapter which describes “A Co-creative Journey.” In a sense this is the heart of the book. It presents the spiritual journey into the mysteries of future humanity and the earth in whose centre stands the becoming of the free and creative cosmic human being. The chapter begins with some essential preliminary remarks on challenges and requirements both with regard to the spiritual researcher and the creative reader who receives the fruits of his research. The co-creative journey must not stop, it must be re- and co-created in each soul because as advanced as this spiritual research is, it is also something that we can participate in: “mortal humans like us must grow and have the courage to participate in this great work – through many small and great deeds of love and sacrifice” (54).
As we follow Ben-Aharon on his co-creative journey with the colleagues and masters in the spiritual world, the imagination grows and we come closer to the mystery of a spiritual stream of many beings that is yet one central stream of becoming.
As this imagination [of Heavenly Jerusalem] was shown, I could now see the birth of the free spiritual being of humanity since last century, as an offspring of many bigger and smaller sacred events in the whole spiritual evolution of humanity since the most primeval ages to the far distant future times. But above all, three dramatic cosmic-earthly breakthroughs, three major recent spiritual events stood out, and the third of them, the great cosmic event of the beginning of the twentieth century, was demonstrated to be their offspring. First it was seen in the lightning and thunder of Mount Sinai, through the eternal flames of the Burning Bush, in which, in the fiery letters of the sacred script, God’s true name, dwelling in Christ, could be expressed in the earthly world: Eheje Asher Eheje, I AM that I AM; secondly, it was seen as the central event of earthly evolution as a whole, in the physically incarnating Christ, the fulfillment of the meaning of the earth and humanity, conceived in Jesus in the baptism in Jordan, and born as the sun spirit of the earth in the Mystery of Golgotha; and third, the first purely human offspring of this event, was born as a creation of humanity’s cosmic becoming. This world-changing event took place in the above referred to Christmas Foundation Conference of 1923-4, during which the new cosmic human being was born, whose essence was expressed in the Foundation Stone Meditation. (52-53)
This cosmic-earthly human being is the bridge between the earth and the spiritual worlds. It was realized as a fully human act by Rudolf Steiner, but after his departure and the apocalyptic events of the 20th century, humanity fell into the abyss, and its evolution began to spiral in two opposite cosmic directions. (This is part of the research that Ben-Aharon published already in 1994 as The Spiritual Event of the 20th Century.) Therefore a new bridge had to be forged in the heart of the earth, and this Spiritual Event is the work which Ben-Aharon brings to the world. The imagination of the Heavenly Jerusalem and it’s “teaching” showed Ben-Aharon that this etheric heart-bridge was now ready to be “multiplied and born in each single human being, in our active and creative free cognition and loving social life on the earth.” (54) Thus, the breakthrough in the evolution of Ben-Aharon’s spiritual scientific work, incarnating the Christ-impulse into the forces of the physical body, now coincided with a ripening of this impulse for a communal development and incarnation. (This is the central issue of the later book “The Twilight and Resurrection of Humanity”)
The two last chapters return to the autumn and winter seasons of the creative process. “The Author is Pregnant” describes intimate aspects of the nourishing and parenting process of what has been conceived. This is a pregnancy that is cared for from the spiritual world as well as by the spiritual researcher, and the research activity is now about this inward development. In the last chapter “A Book is Born” Ben-Aharon gives an extraordinary interesting picture of how he incarnates and gives birth to the true substance of his spiritual work. Here we can assimilate intuitions about soul procedures and combined states of consciousness, and also learn of how etheric forces flow and metamorphose into the active will of the physical body as the final birthing event of ‘writing’.
In this way a full circle of creative life is given to the reader. A cosmic-human process of spiritual scientific work and grace that “transform the spiritual human being in its entirety, penetrating also into the physical body itself” (68). This little book then gives us help and understanding in how “we may rightly feel that we are taking part in the realization of the present, second, Michaelic revelation:
‘The Word becoming flesh is the first Michael revelation; the flesh becoming Spirit must be the second Michael revelation’ (RS, GA 194).” (70)