Reflections on the Current World Crisis – Inner Development for World Development

Sarah Hearn interviews Lisa Romero during the time of the initial COVID-19 outbreak across the world. Lilipoh issue #99 spring 2020

We would hope that out of this shift, all of us are taking the responsibility to move what we can towards a healthier, connected society, where all peoples are considered and regarded, and our financial system and our healthcare systems are actually a reflection of that…

Could you share some initial reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic?

If we try to look at the essential aspects of this process, not the details in the sense of all the possible explanations in the material world, but at its heart, what is it asking of us, we can see, all the way from one’s individual life right through to the collective, from one country to the whole of humanity, we are being called upon to change. This is a very important and significant opportunity if seen in this light: that as a humanity we have this opportunity to change the trajectory we were taking, and to look at and reflect upon where we want to be heading. What was true for our path of evolution as human beings, and what isn’t true? The pandemic crisis is revealing these realities in various forms. For example, in each individual’s life, we can ask ourselves, “Has the way I’ve met this shown me something about myself?”And at the community level, various circumstances are showing us the weaknesses of our social structures, and the imbalances and the inadequacies, that have always been present, cannot be ignored.

…we are being called upon to change. This is a very important and significant opportunity if seen in this light.

What’s extraordinary is that it is a humanity-scale shift, and yet each country and each individual, will have to make certain shifts for themselves. However, we are constantly influencing each other, or affecting each other. The situation is asking for change and I think many people are aware of that and they’re aware of that in their own spheres of interest or influence. The change that is being asked for could only be understood by what and how we each perceive as needed. For example, there will be people who really recognize the change that needs to take place for greater equality for people of color in America, with all the obvious disparities that have been revealed through this crisis, how could that be ignored? And then there will be people who recognize the change that needs to take place in the economic structures, and how the wealthy fare so much more easily during this world event. One can certainly recognize many needs on this level. There will also be people who may recognize the change that needs to take place in their own household. There are numerous areas that need change.

…at the community level, various circumstances are showing us the weaknesses of our social structures, and the imbalances and the inadequacies, that have always been present, cannot be ignored.

Whatever the outward changes may be that we see as imperative, we are all being pushed back upon ourselves through this current crisis, amplifying the reality that it’s not, as they say, the events of life that show us who we are now, but it is how we meet the events of life now. Can we now also ask ourselves, “What are the changes that need to take place inwardly?” It is a very confrontational thing in one sense, because we’ve been thrown back upon an encounter with ourselves and our inner resources or lack there of through this outer crisis. And one thing about this crisis is that it is not the same as an environmental catastrophe, where there is no choice but to just survive and to be in the right place at the right time or not survive. In this crisis there is this possibility of making adjustments, if we would choose to do so, if we would work together — if we can take up this opportunity.

There are so many strong and understandable concerns and points of view arising in relationship to current events – many of them polarizing  – public health, civil liberties and many more. How can we understand and work with these different points of view in a truly progressive way?

If we were to try to dig in deeper to what is behind these questions, then what seems to be at stake here has something to do with true freedom. But unfortunately freedom has become an understanding that is based, in the vast majority of ways, on an outer concept, or a materialistic concept, of what liberty or freedom is. And it’s very difficult to dig into this deeper understanding of how essential freedom is. However, as a pillar of inner development “the love of inner freedom” has to stand higher than any so-called materialistic ideas of freedom. The freedom to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, the freedom to not have to follow certain outer forms, for example, these are all significant if they are impressing upon true inner freedom. But unfortunately what happens for the majority of us is that any threat of outer freedom links to an inner unfreedom that reacts to it and that inner unfreedom is the lens through which we view the world. So, for example, if you’re a ‘conspiracy theory person’ your inner unfreedom sits there no matter what takes place in the world — it will look through the lens of that orientation, viewing and experiencing the world through this particular lens. If you believe in certain systems, or you don’t believe in certain systems, these become veils through which we perceive outer events. And we can continue to just perceive the outer events through the veils of what we may acknowledge as an inner unfreedom. However, for most people they have no idea that they are unfree, as it is a veil that is so deeply a part of their way of thinking and feeling about the world that they have no idea that the construct of that veil itself is altering their ability to perceive the path towards truth.

On the path of inner development, we are always holding the quest for truth as standing higher than anything else. Now of course the moment we hear those words “the truth standing higher than anything else” one may think “oh, well, we need someone to tell us the truth” or “well, we may never hear the truth,” but it’s not about a material fulfillment. It has to be something more than that. And in a certain sense this is truly the catastrophe that faces us. Rudolf Steiner said that the greatest catastrophe facing us in these times is our disconnect from the spiritual world, and in that sense our disconnect means that we are content with the veils of our unfreedom, because that’s what keeps us most disconnected.

How do we take this moment of change to not just be about changes in the outer sense of the word, but a change towards a deeper connection to a life that is deeply imbued with spiritual life.

How do we take this moment of change to not just be about changes in the outer sense of the word, but a change towards a deeper connection to a life that is deeply imbued with spiritual life. And for us to do that we have to come back to those parts of our being that are disconnected from the spiritual world and actually bring them back again, to make ourselves whole. Unfortunately, the veils which color how we look out at the world around us are our greatest unfreedoms, and yet we will potentially not see that, and only try and make something change outside of us in the world, and call that our freedom.

“As above, so below” “as within, so without.” There is but one world and one law, when we look at the material world and how it is imbued with spiritual realities. The more we are restricted outwardly, shows us, actually, the great extent to which we are actually restricted inwardly. And we have to dig there – not just put it outside of ourselves and think that the correction will occur outside, because it will never occur in the outer world for all if there is not an internal change process that’s taking place in various individuals. Change may occur in the outer world, but only for a particular group. So for some people, vaccinations make them feel like they’re living out their freedom and for other people vaccination feels like they’re living out their unfreedom. But unless we are prepared to push through to the truth, we can’t all be free. And so in the heart of spiritual development the truth stands higher than anything and the truth does “set us free,” but that doesn’t mean the truth of the so-called materialistic science nor does it mean the “truth” of someone’s opinion, and it certainly doesn’t mean the “my truth” of the veils through which we perceive life.

So you’re suggesting that what really needs attention and is of primary importance in this current crisis is a change in our trajectory, of the outer world being disconnected from the spiritual world in the way we live our lives. What are some of the risks and concerns of so much of life being cancelled, quarantined, or moved to the internet, and what are the possibilities of these circumstances?

One of the battles that we face in our age is that our interior world, the inner life of our thinking, feeling, and will, is stimulated primarily from the outer world around us, meaning the content of our inner life is being built by the constructs that we have put in place in the outer world. And on the one hand, of course, that is natural, it’s part of the way that we learn: we perceive something in the outer world, we take it in internally, and it becomes a part of our growing inner life and capacities. The difficulty that we are facing however, is that more and more of our inner world is being taken up by outer stimuli and we are losing the capacity to have an inner life that is built in and out of itself, out of the realm of soul-spiritual activity, and instead, we have an inner life that we build out of a relationship to the external sense world. And more and more of our inner world is overrun by what is presented to us externally, instead of what we can build and create inwardly.

…more and more of our inner world is overrun by what is presented to us externally, instead of what we can build and create inwardly.

Now we know in anthroposophy, that the next faculty for us to be developing, which is very possible for us as a humanity now, is imaginative consciousness: to be able to see the picture inwardly, the spiritual life that is behind the outer expression of all things externally. Now that requires a ground of an inner life that is enriched and cultivated out of itself, and not only entirely out of impressions that come from the sense world. And so in this crisis, if we are being pushed back on ourselves as we are, those in a position to do so could take this opportunity to build inner capacities. Even in a child, to support their inner life by them not seeing their classmates on a screen, but to actually have a relationship that comes from their inner world. And not to have to see their teacher on a screen — but to start building an inner space that used to just happen in childhood. However, since this consciousness has been taken over by the screen it is even less of a capacity for a human being today, to even have the space to build an interior world that is free from the stimuli and input that is given to it. Unfortunately, that stimuli and input that is constantly being presented to the interior world and is not out of one’s own making — weakens capacities for imaginative consciousness.

In this time in which some are given an opportunity, not everyone, of course, but for many there is an opportunity of resetting how we are going in this life.

In this time in which some are given an opportunity, not everyone, of course, but for many there is an opportunity of resetting how we are going in this life. We could use this reset to actually understand that the faculty of imaginative consciousness actually requires a ground which is the rich substance of an interior world that is created out of that interior space. And that opportunity is being lost because we are so dominated by the trajectory that we have put upon the human being, and what it means to have a “good life” by the material world’s standards. We are weakening our resilience, our capacities, our possibilities in our interior life, to actually meet the world differently. It’s the strength of our interior world that actually allows us to find the positive in the conflict, in the struggle, in the crisis. And what if we don’t have inner strength, if we are relying on outer stimuli — outer stimuli that has learned to create fear, and to create dependency, because that’s how it keeps us hooked. Where is the investment in our interior world becoming stronger and developing towards inner capacities? The next faculty, one which a computer could never have, is not being given the opportunity to be developed. The opportunity that we are missing here is to take up, to build upon, an interior world that will be stronger from this event. We are looking at an outer world that can manage another pandemic, but we need an internal world — what’s required inwardly to manage world crisis, struggle and suffering? It’s not that someone does it for us, but that we have resources within. So there is a battle that’s taking place where the imaginative consciousness is being pulled out of our hands and is being given to more and more screen time.

Could you also say something more about how we can best support children during this challenging time, in how we hold ourselves inwardly, and how we respond to their needs and questions?

It’s a time to be creative. Around children we need to be creative with how we meet this situation. We need to be resourceful in the way that we know we want the future to unfold. This is an opportunity to actually let them build a world of imagination, let them find an inner world that’s not just stimulated by an outer world. Set up opportunities to help them find an inner life that can give them resilience.

It’s a time to be creative.

We know from the evidence, that children who have a sense of meaning in things vs. if something feels arbitrary, or is just there to take them down, are more resilient. And it’s those qualities that we carry around us, with us, if we are following a path of inner development: we know the events of life are not purposeless.

So what does the work look like, to begin to engage in this way, or to deepen one’s engagement in this way?

Inner development has different pathways for different people. For some it’s about self-development, and self-development, in a certain way, means taking holding of your interior world and growing and building, or transforming, what you see that lives in this inner world. Others use the pathway of meditation. Meditation in its nature is helping us to be conscious in realms in which we would otherwise be unconscious. So, it feeds the soul world with the verse that it gives us, a verse of truth, truth that belongs to the spiritual world, but it also trains us to have direct experiences of different states of consciousness — and that has a huge effect on the interior world — because when you glimpse these states of peace, or of true quietness, or you resource in an experience of the consciousness being far vaster than this everyday personality, it really does build the inner world. The third way is through a relationship with the spiritual world. Now, when I say that I mean a very active relationship to the spiritual world, the way of always seeking the spirit in the world, in our daily engagement with life. Anthroposophy has brought these three pathways together dynamically, because they really do exist together. However, individually, people may find their way to inner development primarily through one of these pathways. Each will lead to an experience and an understanding of the truths that make us truly human.

Quiet I bear within me,
I bear within myself
Forces to make me strong.
Now will I be imbued with their glowing warmth.
Now will I fill myself
With my own will’s resolve.
And I will feel the quiet
Pouring through all my being
When by my steadfast striving
I become strong
To find within myself the source of strength
The strength of inner quiet. 1

Although I’ve written many books on meditation and inner development, I’ve tried to really bring these pathways together actively in a new correspondence course that has recently been released by EduCareDo called Inner Development for World Development, to support one’s awakening or deepening inner work, and our understanding of how the individual’s evolving affects the world’s evolving. The first month’s lesson is available for free on the website for people to explore. And the EduCareDo format, as a self-directed learning course, includes practical exercises on inner development, meditation, and spiritual growth, while deepening the understanding of the inner development pathways offered in anthroposophy and through the esoteric training articulated by Rudolf Steiner. We decided to offer it earlier than intended as a support to all who may want to connect to this work as they may find it helpful in the present world crisis.

…when we come out of this we may find that there are more and more individuals who recognize that life has to have a new meaning to it.

This event is not devoid of spirit. You could say that we are being supported to make a change that will change the actual future of humanity. It is very difficult and yet it is also a necessity and when we come out of this we may find that there are more and more individuals who recognize that life has to have a new meaning to it. If we can recognize this we will feel that this struggle has actually brought about a renewal of our human potential and in so many ways, it’s been spoken about by so many people, we knew we were going too strong and too fast in the wrong direction, as a collective — individually one might not feel that. And yet, it is the collective that determines the outer trajectory. We would hope that out of this shift, all of us are taking the responsibility to move what we can towards a healthier, connected society, where all peoples are considered and regarded, and our financial system and our healthcare systems are actually a reflection of that, because they are indeed a reflection of what we as a collective community carry inwardly, and if we want to know what lives inside the collective of humanity, we can look outside to how we build the world we share. It’s for all of us to take another step towards what is possible and we must all play our part.

SARAH HEARN is a complementary health practitioner working out of anthroposophy, and with Developing the Self (www.developingtheself.org). Sarah offers workshops as part of Developing the Self’s Care and Development of the Senses program and co-facilitates the Gender and Sexuality in-school curriculum for 5-12th grades. She is also the New York administrator of the Y Project, supporting young people in her community ages 16-26.

LISA ROMERO is an author of inner development books, a complementary health practitioner and an adult educator who has been offering healthcare and education enriched with anthroposophy since 1993. Since 2006 the primary focus of her work has been on teaching inner development and anthroposophical meditation. Through the Inner Work Path (www.innerworkpath.com) Lisa offers lectures, courses and retreats for personal and professional development, in communities and schools worldwide.

1 Steiner, Rudolf. Verses and Meditations. Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004, p. 187.