criticism

“The student is impervious to all influences which would divert him from the goal he has set himself, as long as he can regard it as the right goal. For him, obstacles contain a challenge that impels him to surmount them, but never a reason for giving up. …
“The student suppresses all superfluous criticism of everything that is imperfect, evil and bad, and seeks rather to understand everything that comes under his notice. Even as the sun does not withdraw its light from the bad and evil, so he, to, does not refuse them an intelligent sympathy. … He does not consider the opinions of others merely from his own standpoint, but seeks to put himself into the others position.” ~Rudolf Steiner

Impervious to Influences

To be honest, I think that very few students and adepts reach a stage of development where they are entirely impervious to those influences which would turn him away from the path of spiritual growth. After all, Satan made an attempt to influence Jesus, which indicates it was possible. Satan failed with Jesus, but has succeeded with others.

We live in a time when there are many influences that can pull us off the Path. Satan and his demons are certainly one of the greatest of them. There is also, in this materialistic world, the need to have a job, the need to have a place to live, and so on. Then there are the diseases and other health problems caused in large part by our diet and lifestyle that tends to limit physical activity. Beyond those are the natural forces that control this dimension. Without getting too detailed, there is a force that encourages us to grow and to develop our spiritual self. There is also a force that tends to pull us deeper and deeper into matter.

So we are never truly impervious, but we can get close. We can remind ourselves regularly of our spiritual goals. We can remind ourselves why those goals are important. Also, we can join a spiritual community so that we can protect and encourage each other.

Growth Plan

Like an athlete in training, we must see those influences as challenges to overcome rather than give in to. Even more, we must realize that the demons won’t bother us if we are not moving away from them, so if they are trying to stop us, we are doing the right thing.

Nearly two years ago, I got a Fitbit device and started walking regularly. Some other people I know ask how I can possible walk 25 or 30 thousand steps a day (12 to 14 miles), and sometimes more. They say “my feet hurt after ten or fifteen thousand steps.” So do mine. But I don’t stop just because my feet hurt. I keep walking as much as my leg muscles don’t give our, and I have time to do it (being retired helps).

We have to think like that with spiritual development as well. It is all too tempting to skip our practices for a day because we are busy, or feeling a bit ill. But what happens when we start skipping for a day is that we soon think it’s OK to skip two days, then three. Before long, we are not doing the practices at all, and not growing at all.

Superfluous Criticism

Most of us can agree with Mr. Steiner that “superfluous criticism” is undesirable for a spiritual student. The problem comes in deciding what is superfluous and what isn’t. Rather than arguing about it, the best policy is to try to avoid criticism entirely.

On a personal level, this is not that hard to do. If a friend is wearing an unattractive dress, instead of saying “that dress is ugly,” say something like “I think I like the blue dress better.” Instead of saying “You drive like your drunk and blind,” say something like “I’m glad to see your driving is improving.”

In the United State, we are going through a difficult period right now. We can’t understand the people who have somehow managed to get into political office, particularly President. It is easy to criticize. It s easy to share those mean, but often funny, memes on social media. Or to insult those who voted for them.

But the spiritual person must avoid getting too involved in these worldly matters except when they are directly repressing spiritual rights. We are now seeing many fingers pointing to Russia for undue influence on this past election. But the real influence most likely came from Satan and his demons. He knows that when things like this happen, it tends to turn people away from the spiritual and toward the material. So we can’t let his get his way. We must resist the urge to engage in criticism when it really serves little purpose. Criticism of those who disagree with you almost never convinces them to change.

On the other hand, when people criticize us, we should not get angry. If we think the person is someone reasonable and intelligent, we should at least listen to what they say and give it due consideration. It is one way to learn and grow. If the critic is not reasonable or intelligent, we should still politely listen, but ignore it.

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