Changing yourself and the world through training mindfulness
Fri, 06 Nov 2020 | By NNA correspondent Cornelie Unger-Leistner
A conference in Stuttgart dealt with the life’s work of the consciousness researcher and meditation teacher Georg Kühlewind: revolutionising the idea of the I as a necessity of our time.
Consciousness research and meditation were the great life themes of the Hungarian scientist and anthroposophist Georg Kühlewind (1924-2006). A conference in Stuttgart from 9 to 12 October, organised by the Akanthos Academy with speakers from Vienna, Klagenfurt, Udine and Stuttgart, was intended to show the topicality of Kühlewind’s thinking and the meditation practice he developed, as NNA correspondent Cornelie Unger-Leistner reports (see also the NNA interview with Wolfgang Tomaschitz “Exploring the topicality of Georg Kühlewind’s thinking”).
STUTTGART (NNA) – Eighty participants had come to the conference entitled “Acting in truth, the meditation impulse in the work of Georg Kühlewind” which took place at Rudolf Steiner House in Stuttgart. With COVID-19 in mind, the organisers had notified participants of the hygiene concept at the conference which provided for a limited number of participants, the obligation to wear masks in the building as well as distancing rules.
The meeting had been planned to take take place in March but was postponed due to the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown. Both organisers and participants were relieved and pleased that the meeting could still be held on the new date in view of the rising numbers of corona infections throughout Europe.
Against this background, the meeting turned into something of a special event – a kind of meditative island in the turbulent events of the day. Joint practice groups, in which the meditating participants exchange their experiences, have always been part of Georg Kühlewind’s concept, even at a time when this was viewed with some scepticism in the anthroposophical movement. At the Stuttgart conference, too, a large part of the conference time was devoted to practice based on the concept of the “Kühlewind school”, which focuses on human mindfulness.
In their lectures, the speakers kept emphasising the importance and urgency of coming to a changed experience of the I through training mindfulness. Be it in changing our attitude towards nature or in orienting ourselves in the information flood of digital media – in the end it is the human I and its view of the world which – as conference organiser Andreas Neider emphasised – also constitutes this world.
Revolution of the I
Salvatore Lavecchia, professor of the history of ancient philosophy from Udine, Italy, attested to Kühlewind’s work a “revolution in the idea of the I”, in which the I is not seen as a dark centre of the personality driven by the world but as the possibility of a spiritual centre and as a source of spiritual warmth and light capable of constant renewal.
Organisational consultant Rudi Ballreich from Witten/Herdecke related Kühlwind’s meditative research methods to the force field between I and You in the philosophy of Martin Buber. Accordingly, his exercises focused on the encounter with the You.
Wolfgang Tomaschitz, secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Austria, underlined in his remarks that Kühlewind’s thinking can be linked to academic consciousness research, the philosophy of mind. Andreas Neider of the Akanthos Academy also emphasised in his concluding contribution the importance of Kühlewind for dialogue both within the anthroposophical movement and externally with other spiritual currents (see also the interview with Wolfgang Tomaschitz).
“Manifestation of a free human being”
Kühlewind student Prof Laszlo Böszörmenyi, a computer scientist from Klagenfurt, had opened the conference with a lecture on the biography of Georg Kühlewind in which he noted that any enumeration of biographical facts can only represent the surface of a person’s development. He described the course of Kühlewind’s life as the “manifestation of a free human being” and began his presentation with the last years of Kühlewind’s life, when his students noticed a “tremendous kindness” in his character: “You entered an elevated world when you met him”. Besides intensity and seriousness, cheerfulness was always part of Kühlewind’s charisma.
Born as György Székely on 6 March 1924 in Budapest, Georg Kühlewind grew up in an assimilated Jewish home. Kühlewind’s father was a doctor and his childhood must be imagined as Stefan Zweig described it for Vienna in his novel The World of Yesterday: a wealth of culture and education and full of musicality, Prof Böszörmenyi explained. Three languages were spoken fluently in the family – although Kühlewind himself always regretted that he had never really got very far in Hebrew.
In his youth, music was at the forefront of his interests and for a long time – also under the influence of Béla Bartók – he thought of becoming a pianist. Early on he became involved with the thinking of his time, reading Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung and Karl Marx at an early age. Through his occupation with psychoanalysis, Kühlewind came to the insight that consciousness is decisive for human and also social development – his encounter with the cultural scholar Karl Kerényi propelled him further in this direction.
Kühlewind also became acquainted with Annie, who subsequently became his wife, at an early stage. When the Nazi regime occupied Hungary in March 1944, Kühlewind stayed in his hometown Budapest and as a twenty-year-old witnessed the cruel persecution and deportation of Hungarian Jews. During this time he kept a diary. Kühlewind was subsequently imprisoned together with his father and spent a year in the Buchenwald concentration camp. After the war he studied chemistry. “The way of thinking of science became important for his spiritual development”, Prof Böszörmenyi highlighted.
Kühlewind had also come into contact with anthroposophy at a young age when he discovered a box of books in an attic which contained, among other things, the books Goethe’s World View and Truth and Konwledge by Rudolf Steiner. While reading the latter, “something ignited”. Kühlewind studied Rudolf Steiner for ten years and attended the branch in Budapest.
When he finally wanted to turn his back on anthroposophy, a dream encouraged him to continue his work. Due to contradictions in Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom – thinking cannot be observed and yet it is in the end – he came to the conclusion that an examination of the activity of thinking must begin with human mindfulness. Through training this could be raised to another level beyond everyday consciousness.
The law in Hungary meant that the chemist Kühlewind could retire as early as 1958 – so he had many years left to work on his texts and meditation training. He wrote a total of 23 books and 30 notebooks, some of which have been published posthumously.
At the time of the Iron Curtain, Kühlewind was always crossing the border between East and West – but also spiritual frontiers. He studied the meditation practices of Zen intensively and his thinking offers starting points for dialogue – as was emphasised repeatedly at the conference. “Georg always had an interest in deep spiritual experience, he didn’t care about its dress,” Prof Böszörmenyi summarised the attitude of Kühlewind.
The striving for truth thus appears in Kühlewind as a continuous process which also knows no mental fear of contact. The lecture revealed that he had meditated on the prologue from the Gospel of John throughout his life.
The awareness of the logos as the determining structure of the world; the possibility of perception through feeling; wordless understanding in human communication; light and emptiness in consciousness are further central themes in the work of Georg Kühlewind.
From 1979 onwards he was a lecturer at the Seminar for Waldorf Education in Budapest, he gave lectures and courses in almost all European countries as well as in the USA and South East Asia. Kühlewind died on 15 January 2006 in Budapest. Exercise groups among his students were set up in many places where he worked, they continued his life’s work.
The lectures at the conference in Stuttgart were recorded on video and can be accessed here on YouTube.
The last paragraph and Links of this item were amended on 16 November 2020 to insert the link to the recordings of the lectures on YouTube.
Item: 201106-03EN Date: 6 November 2020
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