What is consciousness? Does it exist? Many scientists and philosophers say that consciousness is ‘nothing but’ a product of the brain. But there is another school of thought that thinks otherwise. For them, consciousness is not produced by neurons and atoms, but is an irreducible reality in itself. It is also not limited to the ‘everyday’ consciousness we ordinarily experience, but can open onto states of extraordinary depth and expansion. In this three-part series, based on my book A Secret History of Consciousness, I will look at some of the alternative accounts of consciousness that form a counter-tradition to the school of ‘nothing but-ism’.
Possibly the most influential figure in the tradition of an evolution of consciousness was Madame Blavatsky, whose Theosophy presented a vision of human evolution on a cosmic scale. From it emerged practically every major school of esoteric thought in modern times. Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy offered a westernised version of Blavatsky’s ideas, wedded to the epistemological insights of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet, scientist, and, on occasion, alchemist. My talk will look at how Steiner dovetailed Blavatsky’s cosmic history with Goethe’s ‘active imagination’ to form an important vision of the evolution of consciousness.
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