Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Readings: Thinking About Thinking

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Below are more excerpts from Rudolf Steiner's seminal work, The Philosophy of Freedom. While contemplating his words about our perceptions of the outside world, it is important to keep in mind that we, ourselves, are objects of the world outside. We know ourselves directly and initially only as percepts, just as we know trees, tables, sunlight, and the starry sky first as percepts. Everything that Steiner says here also pertains to you as an existing being:



In thinking we have that element given us which welds our separate individuality into one whole with the cosmos. In so far as we sense and feel (and also perceive), we are single beings; in so far as we think, we are the all-one being that pervades everything. This is the deeper meaning of our two-sided nature: We see coming into being in us a force complete and absolute in itself, a force which is universal but which we learn to know, not as it issues from the center of the world, but rather at a point in the periphery. Were we to know it at its source, we should understand the whole riddle of the universe the moment we became conscious. But since we stand at a point in the periphery, and find that our own existence is bounded by definite limits, we must explore the region which lies outside our own being with the help of thinking which projects into us the universal world existence.



[…]



In contrast to the content of the percept which is given to us from without, the content of thinking appears inwardly. The form in which this first makes its appearance we will call intuition. Intuition is for thinking what observation is for the percept. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge.



[…]

To explain a thing, to make it intelligible, means nothing else than to place it into the context from which it has been torn by the peculiar character of our organization… . A thing cut off from the world-whole does not exist. All isolating has only subjective validity for our organization. For us the universe divides itself up into above and below, before and after, cause and effect, thing and mental picture, matter and force, object and subject, etc. What appears to us in observation as separate parts becomes combined, bit by bit, through the coherent, unified world of our intuitions. By thinking we fit together again into one piece all that we have taken apart through perceiving.

By thinking, we also, then, fit ourselves together again as integral parts of the cosmos which is the context from which we have torn ourselves through the self-creation of that suffering personality which we know as "ego."
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