Its Necessity and Dangers 

David Tresemer, PhD 

First published Winter 2021 


The fate of humanity is to grow and mature. “Hurrah! Amor fati! (Love of fate!),” exclaim many, recalling the pains of adolescence with relief not to have to revisit those trials. Yet most people also harbor a secret desire to return to the warm embraces given to younger children—stroked by a grandmother, blankly staring, warm, cozy, and well-fed. Rudolf Steiner’s verse that begins, “The stars once spoke to humanity,” can be expanded to, “Once upon a time, heavenly beings—presences, powers, intelligences—cared for each and every human being—cared for you!—holding in warm embrace and guiding every step of the way.” Can we go back there, to this warm bliss? Try as we might to doze in grandmother’s embrace through difficult times, something in us is always waking us up. 


Steiner’s verse continues, “It is world destiny that the stars are silent now; to be aware of that silence can be pain to earthly humanity.” Pain is not experienced by the sleeper; pain is experienced by those who are awake. It is this waking up to the world and to one’s own personal existence that, with the loving guiding beings gone silent, feels like abandonment.  


Yet new pleasures arise, “I exist! I stretch out my arms! The world is my oyster!” How wonderful the individual who can stand on their own two feet, stand tall and proud, savoring abundant streams of sensory stimulation, able now to differentiate between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.” (That is an obscure reference to a comment made by Steiner that alcohol helped establish individualism . . . though that was long ago, and we are past that. Darn!) 


In the same way, two-year-olds will glory in their independence and stride off into a crowd. Watch closely. At a certain point, the toddlers will turn to affirm the rebellion will be noticed by and impact the caregivers. If the caregivers are close by, the toddler may stamp a foot, stand tall, as if to say, “This is I!” If the parents aren’t so close—watch these moments—an anxiety passes over the face, and the toddler runs back. If parents cannot be seen, then panic. These dynamics are repeated in a more subtle way right into adulthood by an individual and by humanity.  


When one finds one’s individuality, one finds glory in a new awakeness, as sense of agency, the ability to think and act on one’s own. One finds sovereignty. And one finds intense loneliness.  


The existentialists better described this aloneness not in their written philosophies but through their dramas—Sartre’s chilling No Exit (much more accessible and terrible than his Being and Nothingness) or Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. 


This aloneness, optimistically named individuality, is an early part of the development of what anthroposophy calls the consciousness soul. On the way to direct and personal awareness of spirit and conversations with those once silent stars, one awakens to the I on its own, taking a stand, exciting and intimidating in one’s own power. Only later does one look back and realize one was never alone on a desert island, or even alone in one’s thoughts. The warm tutoring of other people past and present, angelic care, and sustenance of the earth (its air and waters, even its gravity, giving a place to stand), interpenetrate everywhere always. The illusion of alone against the world is part of the trial of growing up. 


Dangers lurk in this early stage of the fated development of humanity. A gathering of descriptions of individualism’s dangers has been termed the Dark Triad: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The first two are often cited as examples of each other. In brief, Niccolo Machiavelli advised “the ends justify the means.” The ethics of whatever one may do on the way to a goal doesn’t matter if the ending is a happy one, according to Machiavelli. One could even nod affirmation at this, if the outcome were a saner and advanced earth or humanity as a whole. For a Machiavellian, however, happiness is measured only in personal terms, which is often degrading to the earth and to everyone else. This is where narcissism comes in; the only relevant reference is oneself, one’s own survival, comfort, wealth accumulation, sense of power. Well-being to a narcissist refers only to number one. Though a defined personality disorder in modern psychology (DSM 301.81), narcissists almost never come in for help. In their loneliness, everything else is cold object; their manipulation of objects becomes a desperate attempt to ensure comfort and, importantly, affirmation of their concept of how the world works. This is where psychopathy comes in; in the absence of real relationship to others (all beyond themselves being objects), their ideas are not tested in reality. The wildest fantasies rise unchecked in the mind of the Machiavellian narcissist. 


Other phenomena tag along with the Dark Triad. Paranoia insinuates its cold invisible fingers into every cranny. The Dunning-Kruger effect identifies people who think they are smarter than everyone else; evidence to the contrary is taken as proof of the stupidity of others. A Need for Drama index has been developed by Scott Frankowski et al which relates closely to the Dark Triad.  


Many have tried to lure us out of this cocky posture underlain by the anxieties of being alone. When John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself,” it seems he was lecturing people in this early stage of individualism. In the original, “island” was spelled “I-land,” magnifying the point. Martin Buber wrote Ich und Du (I and Thou—I prefer Thou to You as it sanctifies the sense of the I of the other) in 1923, contrasting a relationship between I-I (full respect for the sacred individuality of the other person) and I-it (other as object), and hinting I-it eventually becomes it-it. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), Paolo Friere lays out a framework compelling to narcissist and victim alike. These articulate presentations are meant to penetrate the walls of the early individualist. Sometimes they are successful. 


One can mention examples in public life of deranged individualists, then ask, “Why do those destructive persons have followers? Why would someone cheer narcissists who do not care about them?” and conclude the supporters are other people struggling with their own early individualism. Sycophants feel the insecurity of isolation, even if they wield power as a perceived team. 


On our way to mature consciousness soul, everyone grapples with these dramas. Here is an example: in dialogues about race, gender, and any other differentiation one might make between people (though one cannot call them dialogues, as listening is not happening; these are often serial monologues) one can hear the declaration, “you can’t know what I have been through.” This is a statement of isolation, spoken from an I-land. An isolated individual feels the gulf between a personal self, striving to express in the world, and all the other yammering people who are experienced as objects.  


But when you open to the idea and then actual experiences of past lives, indeed past experiences in relationship with the person to whom you declared they cannot know who you really are, you begin to awaken to the selfhood of others. Your I perceives their I. Life warms up. You begin to feel, “we are in this Project Humanity together.” You can feel, “actually, I do know what you have been through as I have been through it too.” Speaking this too early is delicate, as, more than anything, the person saying, “you cannot know” is vulnerable, a newborn I. The newborn I seeks expansion from the moated castle of the abandoned self, expansion into the verdant countryside of inspirited human relationships.  


David Tresemer, Ph.D., teaches in the certificate program in Anthroposophic Psychology (, and about the 12 Senses, Astrology of Plagues, and New Astrology at the StarHouse in Boulder. the