It can be said that "faith precedes all knowledge".
In order to come to knowledge of reality, the following conditions must be fulfilled, according to Dr. Steiner:
- Thinking must be possessed of wonder
- It must have learned reverent devotion to the world of reality
- Know oneself to be in wisdom-filled harmony with the phenomena of the world
- Rise still further and enter the region described as a condition of surrender
Now this surrender is only to be attained by making the resolute endeavour again and again to face for ourselves the inadequacy of mere thought. We have to take pains to stimulate and strengthen within us a mood that may be expressed as follows. It must be as though we were constantly saying to ourselves: I ought not to expect that my thinking can give me knowledge of the truth, I ought rather solely to expect of my thinking that it shall educate me....
If we had active divine thinking, if our thinking had something to do with reality, then a false concept would have the result that we should, as it were, stimulate inside us a drying up process in some part or other of our body, a hardening process. You will agree, it would be important to make as few mistakes as possible; for it might not be long before we had made so many mistakes that our body would have become quite dried up and would fall to pieces. We should, in fact, soon find it crumble away if we transformed into reality the mistakes in our thinking.
We actually only maintain ourselves in real existence through the fact that our thinking does not work into reality, but that we are protected from the penetration of our thinking into reality. Thus we can make mistake after mistake in our thinking. If later we correct these mistakes we have thereby educated ourselves, we have grown wiser, and we have not at the same time committed devastation with our mistakes.
As we strengthen ourselves more and more with the moral force of such a thought as this we learn to know the nature of the “surrender” of which I spoke and we come at last to a point where we do not at critical moments of life, turn to thinking, in the hope to gain knowledge and understanding of external things.
- The World of the Senses and the World of the Spirit by Rudolf SteinerHere's a bit of advice we were given:
"We have discussed this many times of course - that the ego of a man may incorporate accordingly as the being of a man ventures out to that 'common' ground, common space, before returning with the experience gained. We are well to be reminded constantly of this process, as the complexities of actual thinking and the narrowing down therewith, are impartial to the success or failure of a man and his ability to protract out from himself sufficiently, to enable greater knowledge.
For the thinking that a man entertains may have little or nothing to do with true knowledge.
Thinking of itself requires containment, thought by thought, and each clings to a man once drawn. The thoughts, like molluscs, attach and congregate in the respective communities and are stubborn to actually make way for the adoption of new and varied thoughts to be brought in.
So a man may labor under the very pressure of those which have amassed and grown as prevalent as weeds. Very simply, one may alleviate this compression by the conscious recognition of this being so, and desire for otherwise knowing that wanton thoughts shall and will be ejected - with time.
They are empowered by our vitality we do give to them by our concentration and use thereof. They are given importance by our employment and are loathe to dissipate, without correction. These thoughts (or more correctly thought-forms) are the eager servants to men and never intentionally injurious. How a man prefers to think directs the nature of those provoked to him; and it is by the essential quality and nature of the man himself that shall direct his thoughts accordingly.
However, there becomes a great blessing should a man come to inquire, to call for such thoughts which are distinctly enlivened by soul-qualities, pertaining to the divine aspects. For then it happens that the benefits are twofold: one being that the former thoughts are loosened, having been disassociated from self as the vitality is directed elsewhere; and the other beneficial aspect is that the more refined and higher a thought the greater its gifts are to Man. In other words, there will be an accentuation from the practice of this thinking, as opposed to the mundane contemplations only bringing more of the same to a man."
'The Sorrowing Soul Between Doubt and Faith' by Elihu Vedder
Here are a couple of papers on the gleaning of knowledge.