‘Spiritual science’ is a term coined originally by Rudolf Steiner to mean the systematic way to approach/understand the spiritual universe with the same integrity and coherence, as one would approach the natural universe through natural science.
This post is a reflection on the emotion of anger, from the perspective of spiritual science.
Let’s start with Google’s definition of the word anger:
“Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.”
Google is being very avant-garde and modern by stating that anger is a completely normal and usually healthy human emotion. Certain spiritual circles hold the belief that anger is a completely negative emotion and should be banished from human souls.
In all truth, Google’s definition resonates more with the perspective of spiritual science on anger, than the belief that anger should be banished from our souls entirely.
Angry people are, deep down, people who care very much about justice and about things being fair. This is part of their coloring as human beings, part of the personality that makes them unique. To banish anger completely from their soul would be like cutting off a metaphorical limb from their personality, or making themselves more bland on purpose; less in tune with their present soul expression.
People who suffer from anger or are more prone to angry reactions should view it as an opportunity to perfect themselves, should view their anger as a teacher, rather than something entirely negative or something to be feared or feel guilty about.
There are different types of anger: Righteous and unrighteous. Righteous anger is born out of Love, and unrighteous anger is born out of selfishness.
Righteous anger manifests within us whenever we are rightfully angry about something, as the name indicates. If we grow angry over someone treating another person cruelly, about the state of affairs of our world, about exploitation of others, about torture, about injustice towards the weak and the poor… this anger, in reality, is born out of the Love we feel towards others and towards the world.
If we were to be indifferent to all these things, we would also be limiting the Love our hearts are capable of feeling. In a way, we would grow distant and disinterested in the suffering of others.
So how do we cultivate righteous anger?
First, we have to observe ourselves when we react in anger, and learn to differentiate righteous from unrighteous anger. Sometimes we grow angry because somebody does something we dislike. This anger is born out of our emotional sympathies and antipathies, and should be disregarded.
Any reaction born out of the nature of our sympathies and antipathies anchors us to ourselves and turns us more egoistic, or egocentric: I am angry because I dislike him. I am pleased because she amuses me. It’s all about me, and how I feel, and how other people make me feel… me me me.
This feeds the negative parts of our ego, and these types of reaction should in reality be evaluated as selfish and unrighteous, and treated as such. The way to overcome this type of reaction is not to fight against them, but to become overall more selfless, more interested in the welfare of others, more attentive on how I can serve others rather on how they can amuse me. This growing selflessness will keep negative reactions in check, and soon they will disappear on its own.
Indeed, unrighteous anger is cured by selflessness.
Besides learning to identify unrighteous anger and work on transforming it into selflessness, we can also train ourselves on how best to express the righteous anger that is born out of Love.
In our communications towards others, we should always seek to cultivate at least two things: Tact and gentleness. This is a way of not only honoring and serving others, but also of honoring and serving ourselves.
This also goes for the expression of righteous anger. When we feel angry about something unfair or unjust, we should by all means express it, but with tact and gentleness. This is possible when we place the feeling of Love at the center of our being, rather than the feeling of anger. We can feel angry, but we can choose to focus on Love and express ourselves through Love.
Through these two exercises, the increase of selflessness and the expression of Love, our angry reactions will become transformed into something more noble than it previously was.
This way, we do not lose part of our personality, but transform it into something Higher.
Thus, anger can become the teacher for the transformation into true Gentility of Soul, instead of something to be feared, avoided, or banished from our personalities.