Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Soul Life & the Worthlessness of Mere Thinking

In 1911 and 1912, Dr. Steiner gave the lecture series "World of the Senses and World of the Spirit". There,  he says the basis of good thinking is grounded in :
(a) Wonder
(b) Veneration/reverence
(c) Feeling oneself in wisdom-filled harmony with the laws of the world
(d) Devotion/self-surrender

"As long ago as in ancient Greece it was known what the healthy human mind must take for its starting point if it hopes one day to reach reality. And the same statement that was uttered in ancient Greece still holds good. It was said: All human enquiry must proceed from wonder! That statement must be received in a perfectly positive way, my dear friends.

 In actual fact, in the soul that wants to penetrate to truth, this condition must first be present: the soul must stand before the universe in a mood of wonder and marveling. And anyone who is able to comprehend the whole force of this expression of the Greeks comes to perceive that when a man, irrespective of all the other conditions by which he arrives at the study and investigation of truth, takes his start from this mood of wonder, from nothing else than a feeling of wonder in face of the facts of the world, then it is in very truth as when you drop a seed in the ground and a plant grows up out of it. In a sense we may say that all knowledge must have wonder for its seed......

  For all real knowledge, that hopes to have a chance of coming to grips with the riddles of the world, must grow out of the seed of wonder. A man may be ever so clever a thinker, he may even suffer from a superabundance of intelligence; if he has never passed through the stage of wonder nothing will come of it. He will give you a cleverly thought-out concatenation of ideas, containing nothing that is not correct — but correctness does not necessarily lead to reality. It is absolutely essential that before we begin to think, before we so much as begin to set our thinking in motion, we experience the condition of wonder. A thinking which is set in motion without the condition of wonder remains nothing but a mere play of thought. All true thinking must originate in the mood of wonder.

Nor is that enough. We must go a step further. Even when thinking originates in the mood of wonder, then if a man is predisposed by his karma to grow sharp-witted and clever, and quickly begins to be proud and take pleasure in his cleverness and then perhaps gives all his energy to developing that alone, the wonder he felt in the beginning will no longer help him at all. For if, after wonder has taken hold in the soul, then in the further course of his thinking a man does no more than merely “think,” he cannot penetrate to reality.

 Please let me emphasize here that I am not saying a man ought to become thoughtless and that thinking is harmful. This opinion is often widespread in our circles. Just because it has been said that one must proceed from wonder, people are apt to regard thinking as wrong and harmful.....

 After the mood of wonder must follow the mood of veneration, of reverence. And any thinking that is divorced from reverence, that does not behold in a reverent manner what is proffered to its view, will not be able to penetrate to reality. Thinking must never, so to say, go dancing through the world in a careless, light-footed way. It must, when it has passed the moment of wonder, take firm root in the feeling of reverence for the universe.....

 You are bound to appear foolish in the eyes of present-day scientists if you venture to say that research into the nature of objects, and even thought about objects, ought never to be divorced from reverence, and that one ought not to take a step forward in thought without being filled with the feeling of reverence for the object of one's enquiry. Reverence is, however, the second requisite on the path of knowledge.

But now a man who had attained to a certain feeling of reverence, and then, having experienced this feeling of reverence, wanted to press forward with mere thought — such a man would again come to a nothingness, he would not be able to get any farther. He would, it is true, make some discoveries that were quite correct, and because he had gone through these first two stages, he would with his correct knowledge have also acquired many clearly and firmly established points of view. But he would inevitably, for all that, soon fall into uncertainty. For a third condition must take hold in the soul after we have experienced wonder and reverence, and this third mood we may describe as feeling oneself in wisdom-filled harmony with the laws of the world. And this feeling can be attained in no other way than by having insight into the worthlessness of mere thinking.

These things are explained in "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds":
"It is not easy, at first, to believe that feelings like reverence and respect have anything to do with cognition. This is due to the fact that we are inclined to set cognition aside as a faculty by itself — one that stands in no relation to what otherwise occurs in the soul. In so thinking we do not bear in mind that it is the soul which exercises the faculty of cognition; and feelings are for the soul what food is for the body. If we give the body stones in place of bread, its activity will cease. It is the same with the soul."

Living thinking is dependent on a living soul firstly. Thinking is not cognition but a tool of cognition.

The Mission of Reverence

More still:

Conscience and Wonder as Indications of Spiritual Vision in the Past and in the Future

1 comment:

888 said...

I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher, for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. He was not a bad genealogist who said that Iris (the messenger of heaven) is the child of Thaumas (wonder). But do you begin to see what is the explanation of this perplexity on the hypothesis which we attribute to Protagoras?