Seek the Light that Rises in the West - Tim Bourke
Having seen this book in our Community’s bookshop, I was intrigued by the title, and even more by Cheryl’s explanation that she had purchased a number of copies on the basis on the basis that a group in Europe had such faith in the value of the book that they were promoting it to Communities and anthroposophically-related groups groups far and wide. And faith is one good word amongst many to use when describing “Seek the light that Rises in the West”. Faith, hope and love are all mentioned, as is beauty. And this is a beautiful book, but here is a warning before you commit to reading it: to really find the beauty in this book requires work. I have to confess, that I cheated on the work side: and re-read Rudolf Steiner’s “Philosophy of Freedom”. I derived much benefit from that book, and continue to do so each time I re-read it, as I have been inspired to do again after reading this book.
As the author herself says in the preface of the original Dutch edition (1994), this book is really only about one central idea, or experience, or perhaps illumination, but the many words in the book are necessary “to make this idea perceptible”. It is about the experience, which all of us can have, of the active, self-sustaining spiritual nature of thinking. It is about the human being experiencing doubt, and about the human being experiencing that which overcomes this doubt as a numbing, deadening force in the soul. To quote Mosmuller from the climactic section of the book (italics are the author’s): “Thus we develop the new faith. This faith is not a consequence of weakness in the thinking process, nor is it a setting of limits to knowledge. The new faith is trust in cognition itself as a boundary crossing activity. The experience of crossing boundaries makes this into a faith that one is sure of, because it is not a faith in mental representations and imaginations, but an event which is as concrete as the experiences of life, and which we have accomplished ourselves as the free deed of the I: it is the first event that happens to us because we accomplish it ourselves. It is a destiny we ourselves wanted. But we can only accomplish this deed of the I if we kindle it in love for pure thinking.”
So… that’s all very uplifting, but let’s go back to the work side. For me, again and again as I read this book, I was filled with joy to recognise how it is written out of the same impulse, the same experience and the same uplifting mood of soul that I have found permeates Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom. And the work involved in reading either book (the Philosophy of Freedom or Seek the Light that Rises in the West) is simply that of being honest with oneself continually as one reads – honest in the sense that the reader must continually ask: do I understand what is being said, and do I agree with it? For this book, like the Philosophy of Freedom, contains many assertions, along with suggestions for self-reflection, soul observation and meditation. And while it forms an organic whole of thinking that one can eventually grasp to do that one must engage with it, challenge it, understand it and work through it out of one’s own soul and spirit experience in order to attain the end result the author is trying to engender in us, the reader. It is not something we can simply summarise intellectually and give our assent to (or indeed dissent from). It is a workbook for the soul to attain.