Why is criticism so prolific in our thoughts and conversations? Criticism knocks other people down as Steiner explained to his esoteric students in 1912:

“When an esoteric (student) applies forces to his inner development, he’ll notice that certain bad qualities had become more manifest. One of these is criticism, but an esoteric should realize how this desire to knock other people down arises. We heighten and intensify our egoity through the exercises, and criticizing is a desire to assert oneself, a wanting to be something special, a need to separate oneself. An esoteric loses interest in many outer things that he paid a lot of attention to previously. This goes so far that some esoterics have the feeling they can’t see as well as before.”

To counter the motive to criticise others we can become the interested observer. The interested observer develops in us as we connect with our higher I, our I Am. Then we can have impartial criticism, rather than negative and destructive criticism.

Steiner spoke of the need for an open mind when he encountered ideas that criticised Goethe. “Only too often is that necessary quality absent — an open mind — permitting us to sink into and fathom the uttermost depths of Goethe’s genius, before mounting the pulpit of criticism.”

He also spoke about criticism arising when we directed our intellect purely to the outer world.

“At the time of this struggle, a time in which, as I have indicated, the spirit of criticism was to reign on earth — the intellect directed purely to the outer world — it was necessary to instill into the human being at least an experience, a feeling, that there is a spiritual world surrounding man.” Rudolf Steiner, Individual Spirit Beings and the Undivided Foundation of the World: Part 2, 19 Nov 1917

As with many human qualities, especially fear and criticism, they arise within us so that we can consciously direct them differently – the key is to be conscious.

The Crowning of Thorns by Teresa Thorman

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