Intuitive Thinking As a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of FreedomRudolf Steiner, Michael Lipson
This seminal work asserts that free spiritual activity - understood as the human ability to think and act independently of physical nature - is the suitable path for human beings today to gain true knowledge of themselves and of the universe. This is not merely a philosophical volume, but rather a warm, heart-oriented guide to the practice and experience of living thinking.
Readers will not find abstract philosophy here, but a step-by-step account of how a person may come to experience living, intuitive thinking - "the conscious experience of a purely spiritual content."
During the past hundred years since it was written, many have tried to discover this "new thinking" that could help us understand the various spiritual, ecological, social, political, and philosophical issues facing us. But only Rudolf Steiner laid out a path that leads from ordinary thinking to the level of pure spiritual activity - intuitive thinking - in which we become co-creators and co-redeemers of the world
front Black i Conscious Human Action I NTUITIVE THINKING AS A S P I R I T U A L P AT H A Philosophy of Freedom i front Black ii ii THINKING CL ASSICS AS A SPIRITUAL PATH IN AN TH RO PO S O PH Y The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity Theosophy How To Know Higher Worlds front Black iii Conscious Human Action I NTUITIVE T HINKING AS A S PIRITUAL PATH RUDOLF STEINER A Philosophy of Freedom Translated by M IC H A EL L IPSO N ANTHROPOSOPHIC PRESS iii front Black iv iv THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH This volume is a translation of Die Philosophie der Freiheit (Vol. 4 in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961) published by Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach, Switzerland. The previous translation of this text in English was published as The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity by Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, N.Y., 1986. This translation copyright © Anthroposophic Press, 1995. Introduction copyright © Gertrude Reif Hughes, 1995. Published by Anthroposophic Press, Inc. RR 4, Box 94 A-1, Hudson, N.Y. 12534 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Steiner, Rudolf, 1861–1925. [Philosophie der Freiheit. English] Intuitive thinking as a spiritual path : philosophy of freedom / Rudolf Steiner ; translated by Michael Lipson. p. cm.—(Classics in anthroposophy) Includes index. ISBN 0-88010-385-X (pbk.) 1. Anthroposophy. I. Title. II. Series. BP595.S894P4613 1995 95-7753 299'.935—dc20 CIP Cover painting and design: Barbara Richey 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical reviews and articles. Printed in the United States of America front Black v Conscious Human Action CONTENTS Translator’s Introduction vii Introduction by Gertrude Reif Hughes xiii Preface to the Revised Edition, 1918 1 PA RT I : T H E O RY The Knowledge of Freedom 1. Conscious Human Action 5 2. The Fundamental Urge for Knowledge 18 3. Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 27 4. The World as Percept 49 5. Knowing the World 73 6. Human Individuality 97 7. Are There Limits to Cognition? 104 v front Black vi vi THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH PA RT I I : P R A C T I C E The Reality of Freedom 8. The Factors of Life 127 9. The Idea of Freedom 135 10. Freedom-Philosophy and Monism 163 11. World Purpose and Life Purpose (Human Destiny) 173 12. Moral Imagination (Darwinism and Ethics) 180 13. The Value of Life (Pessimism and Optimism) 194 14. Individuality and Genus 225 FINAL QUESTIONS The Consequences of Monism 231 Appendix 1 & Appendix 2 (1918) Bibliography 259 Index 263 TRANSINT Black vii Translator’s Introduction vii TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION Michael Lipson The real heartbreak of translation does not come from the distance between German and English, but from the gap between spiritual and word-bound consciousness. It was Steiner’s life-long sacrifice to engage in this translation, the constriction of spirit into speech. Whether the language he had to use was philosophical, theosophical, or any other, he remained painfully aware of the impossibility of his task.1 In each year of his life after 1900, Steiner continued to recommend this book (formerly called simply The Philosophy of Freedom) as well as his other epistemological works to his students.2 He insisted that his later “occult” communications presupposed, as a first step to 1. Georg Kühlewind, Working with Anthroposophy (Hudson, NY: The Anthroposophic Press, 1992). See Rudolf Steiner, Der Tod als Lebenswandlung, GA 182, Lecture of 16 October 1918, Zurich. 2. Otto Palmer, Rudolf Steiner on his book The Philosophy of Freedom (Spring Valley, NY: The Anthroposophic Press, 1975). TRANSINT Black viii viii Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path understanding them, the radical change in thinking consciousness for which this book can serve as a partial training manual. A transformation of consciousness appropriate to our age begins with the intensification of thinking as we know it in ordinary mental life; it moves beyond, but never denies, the achievements of Western philosophy. Yet Steiner was capable of calling the book a “stammering”—not in false modesty, but to acknowledge that what we say about higher kinds of cognition is inevitably partial and easily susceptible to distortion. A book like Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path can incite or goad us into inner practices, but it does not even attempt to deliver a fixed content for us to possess. Further, as Steiner emphasized in one lecture, “I surely know that this Philosophy of Freedom bears all the pockmarks of the children’s diseases that afflicted the life of thinking as it developed in the course of the nineteenth century.”3 It therefore has both intrinsic, and cultural /historical, grounds for a certain incompleteness. It is an incompleteness we, the readers, are called upon to remedy. For Steiner approached the problem of spiritual expression in a supremely tactical way. Instead of establishing a fixed terminology to give his meaning a specious uniformity, he took the opposite course. Without fanfare, he used ordinary words, like “thinking,” “feeling,” and “willing,” to denote processes of cosmic proportions. Without indicating his shifts, he used such 3. Rudolf Steiner, Lecture of December 19, 1919 (GA 333). TRANSINT Black ix Translator’s Introduction ix words now in the humblest, now in the most exalted sense. And he was content to use several different words, at different times, to express similar meanings. The cumulative effect of these maneuvers is to encourage the reader to develop an especially active style of reading: “How does he mean this?” is a question we should often find ourselves asking. At the end of Chapter 7, Steiner gives explicit prominence to the question of vocabulary, and puts us on notice that he will use language with a rare sense of license. He thus anticipates the constructivists and hermeneuts of our own day, by setting the responsibility for the effects of the book on us, his readers. The current translation attempts to make the text as contemporary in sound and style as possible while preserving accuracy. This effort owes much to the editorial assistance of Christopher Bamford and Andrew Cooper, as well as an enormous debt to all previous translations, especially that of Michael Wilson.4 Many happy formulations have been simply lifted from that book, because I could not match, much less improve them. Interested readers should also refer to Wilson’s helpful notes on some of the words that present difficulties of translation and interpretation. Among these are Geist, here most often rendered as “spirit”; Vorstellung/Vorstellen, here most often “mental picture/mental picturing”; Erkennen, here “cognition” or “cognizing”; Wollen, “wishing,” “wanting,” “willing”; Begriff, “concept”; and Wahrnehmung, “percept.” These especially thorny words, like others, are given variously 4. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963. TRANSINT Black x x Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path in English depending on the meaning they take in each passage. Of these, only “cognizing” for Erkennen represents a real break with previous translations. I use “cognition” and “cognizing,” despite their Latinate, alienated quality, because they convey the mind’s active grasp of specific meanings in a way that “knowledge” or “knowing” do not. The act of “cognizing,” rather than the relatively passive “knowing,” fits better to a text Steiner originally hoped would bear the English title, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.5 By suggesting an alternate title in English, Steiner again proved himself flexible regarding terminology. We have taken this as permission to retranslate the title and we have called it, this time, Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom. The new title emphasizes the unique focus of Steiner’s work, among all the spiritual movements of our time, on the development of thinking consciousness into something altogether different from its manifestation in ordinary mental life. The thinking appropriate to an understanding of the perceptual world necessarily includes a development in how we perceive, and so we could also have used some such title as Intuitive Thinking and Perceiving as a Spiritual Path, if it were not both awkward and hard to understand. It is clear from Steiner’s emphasis on the two “directions” from which experience comes to meet us that both thinking and perceiving are susceptible of infinite exercise and development. 5. Cf. Wilson, p.xiv. TRANSINT Black xi Translator’s Introduction xi Despite terminological fluidity, Steiner was exact in his use of the words wahr (true) and wirklich (real). Truth, as a feeling, applies to our sense of the world of thinking; the real, as a feeling, applies to our sense of the world of perception. Cognition of the kind Steiner points to in this book brings us to a new world of “true reality” that involves both the evidentiary clarity of thought (truth) and perception (the real). I have therefore tried to translate these terms consistently, even when it does some violence to English usage, to underscore the precise duality Steiner indicates and overcomes. I have also tried to preserve Steiner’s implicature. He had many ways of hinting, rather than declaring— subtly alerting us to knowable, if elusive, sources of the known world. One technique was his frequent use of the outmoded “that which” (dasjenige, was) construction (as in, “that which we can form mental pictures about.”) 6 I have resisted the linguistic pressure to collapse such constructions and dry out their suggestiveness. They bear a lineal and substantive relation to the great “that which” of I John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life . . . .” 6. Cf. Dokumente zur Philosophie der Freiheit (Dornach, Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1994) pp. 40 and 90 et passim, where Steiner’s 1918 revisions to the text emphasize the importance of just this construction. TRANSINT Black xii xii Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path We should recall that Steiner’s goal was to stimulate the exercise of a thinking independent not only from words, but from the physical body and brain.7 In keeping with this goal, we are well justified in re-translating Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path into English from time to time, both to reflect evolving understandings of the book and to liberate ourselves from a nominalistic equation of words with concepts. In this way, we have an advantage over German-language readers, who are tempted to imagine their version of the text as final. By approaching Steiner through inadequate and changing English terms, we are the more likely to face the inadequacy of all terms, and leap to his meaning. 7. Rudolf Steiner, GA 163, Lecture of August 30, 1915. intro Black xiii Introduction xiii INTRODUCTION Gertrude Reif Hughes Rudolf Steiner’s study of human freedom is really a study of human ways of knowing. Steiner made knowledge a key to freedom and individual responsibility, because he discovered that the processes of cognition, which he usually just called “thinking,” share an essential quality with the essence of selfhood or individuality: each could, in some sense, know itself. Accordingly, his “philosophy” of freedom is actually a meditation on human capacities to know and on individuality as a basis for socially responsible action. These three elements—freedom, thinking, and individuality—interweave in Steiner’s work like three strands of a single braid, uniting through their dynamic cooperations the subtle interconnections of a complex and powerful vision. Steiner’s argument may sound technical, as though one needs to be particularly competent in epistemology or the history of philosophy to follow him. In fact, expert knowledge may be a hindrance. His book is designed to stimulate more than to instruct. If it is read responsively intro Black xiv xiv Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path but without the distractions of either assent or dissent, it arouses confidence in the possibility of human free will and a desire to work toward developing it. Steiner is interested in freedom as a creative force. Instead of focusing on the various legal, biological, or cultural conditions that foster or inhibit freedom, he presents it as a potential for human beings to realize more and more fully in their personal and interpersonal lives. Every chapter of his book calls us to become free by recognizing and developing the spiritual nature of our human cognitive powers. In his preface to the revised edition of 1918, published on the book’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Steiner emphasized the centrality of thinking, apparently because early readers had missed its significance. If you want to investigate the limits that biological or social conditions place upon human freedom and responsibility, he recommended, first try to settle a prior question: Can absolute limits be set to human knowledge? He showed that such limits make no epistemological sense because, in the very act of identifying something as unknowable, our thinking renders it known. Enormous consequences for human freedom follow. If there is no theoretical limit to what humans can know, then we cannot authorize our actions by claiming that some unassailable dogma allows them. Demonstrably the authority for any human action must derive from what human beings can, at least in principle, understand for themselves. Nothing need be taken on faith. Readers sometimes find it daunting to have to consider such matters closely. Steiner, however, was not just devising an elegant argument against determinism, he was intro Black xv Introduction xv sounding a challenge to live responsibly with urgent questions about the conduct of life. He wanted to awaken in his readers a disposition to act both independently and constructively. His book speaks to us if we seek the basis for human freedom in an understanding of human thinking and knowing so that our moral decisions can be based on knowledge, not just on belief. Thinking has a bad reputation with many people, perhaps especially with those who incline toward a spiritual path. Steiner’s emphasis on it sets him apart from other writers who concern themselves with soul life. Compared to the warmth of feeling and the visibility of action, thinking seems cold and remote. “No other activity of the human soul is as easily misunderstood as thinking,” he says in his 1918 addition to Chapter 8, “The Factors of Life.” He uncovers the reason for this misconception by contrasting “essential thinking” with merely remembered thinking. Usually only our remembered thinking is evident to us; we notice only what we’ve already thought, not what processes are occurring right now as we think those thoughts. When we merely remember our thinking, we remember it as much less vital than our emotions and desires. But “whoever turns toward essential thinking finds within it both feeling and will” in their deepest reality. As distinct from merely remembered thinking, “essential thinking” consists of the unique property that Steiner discovered: thinking can notice itself. Simple to say, the phenomenon is hard to experience because it is so comparatively subtle and because we are not disposed to pay attention to it. intro Black xvi xvi Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path When we do notice our thinking—not our thoughts but the processes that produce our thoughts—what do we notice it with? The very same activity that we call thinking. “Essential thinking” is an exceptional case of knowing in the same way that the pronoun, “I,” is an exceptional case of pronoun reference. Just as “I” always refers to the sayer of “I” and to no one else, so, in the special case when thinking notices itself instead of anything else, observer and observed are identical. Hidden in this obvious yet elusive property of thinking lies a long list of powerful implications for personal and social life: that thinking is essentially intuitive, that it is neither subjective nor objective, that we as individuals can undertake to cultivate its intuitive nature and so develop moral insight, and that our moral insights, though individually achieved, can serve rather than alienate our fellow human beings. To appreciate what these interconnected implications mean for the practice of freedom, it is helpful to turn first to the other strand in the threefold braid, individuality. Like thinking, individualism has a bad reputation, particularly among socially concerned people. Once prized and still valued for its entrepreneurial power, individualism is now also widely regarded as the cause of sexual, racial, and economic injustices. How, then, can individualism enhance freedom, and what does either of them have to do with thinking or cognition? Answers to both questions evolve from Steiner’s view that human beings can practice an “ethical individualism” as he sometimes called it. intro Black xvii Introduction xvii When Steiner speaks of “ethical individualism” he means that it is communitarian rather than antisocial. Instead of conceiving individuals and society at one another’s expense, Steiner notes that social arrangements are produced by individuals for the benefit of individuality. Codes of law and morality do not exist independently of human beings, to be restrictively imposed upon us. We ourselves create the codes and we ourselves can change them. “States and societies exist because they turn out to be the necessary consequence of individual life. . . . [T]he social order is formed so that it can then react favorably on the individual,” who is “the source of all morality.” Of course, individualism may provoke conflict, but it can also create a matrix for mutual understanding. Instead of competing with you selfishly, I can use my selfhood to recognize yours. When human beings manage to respond to individuality rather than to type, they are most likely to achieve social harmony. When we view one another generically we cannot hope to understand one another. The real opposite of individual is not “society” but “genus” or type. Steiner devotes an entire chapter, “Individuality and Genus,” to this point. To illustrate, he uses misunderstandings and inequities based on gender: We are most obstinate in judging according to type when it is a question of a person’s sex. Man almost always sees in woman, and woman in man, too much of the general character of the other sex and too little of what is individual. Generalizing or generic thinking erases individuality. When sex is constituted as a genus, individuals of either intro Black xviii xviii Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path sex tend to become invisible as individuals. This is particularly true of women, at least when they are considered to be the second sex and men the first, as is usually the case. Steiner continues: The activity of a man in life is determined by his individual capacities and inclinations; that of the woman is supposed to be determined exclusively by the fact that she is, precisely, a woman. Woman is supposed to be the slave of the generic, of what is universally womanish. The opposition between the individual and the generic also produces a useful way to counter the standard fear that individualism creates anarchy. When I perform a criminal act, Steiner says, I do so not from what is individual in me but from shared instincts and urges that I have accepted uncritically without deciding consciously whether they are appropriate for me: Through my instincts, my drives, I am the kind of person of whom there are twelve to the dozen; I am an individual by means of the particular form of the idea by which, within the dozen, I designate myself as I . Far from being in conflict with freedom, individualism as Steiner presents it is the expression of freedom. In this more profound sense, a free society requires of its members not less individualism but more. But individualism will express freedom, and freedom will accommodate all individualities, only if motives can be brought to a certain level. Steiner’s discussion of motives brings his findings about thinking to new heights of intro Black xix Introduction xix individual responsibility and liberty. At this high point of Steiner’s increasingly powerful exposition, the activity of thinking—in the form of an intuitive understanding of motive—takes on its full significance as the starting point for a path of spiritual development. The argument, which centers around the scope and nature of intuition, goes like this: To identify a motive for action that can be freely chosen by a particular individual in a specific situation requires a particular kind of cognition, the ability to intuit. Intuition knows without arguments, demonstrations, or other discursive means. For Steiner, the intuitive is not the instinctual or dimly felt but that which is directly knowable, without mediation. In a classic description, he calls it “the conscious experience, within what is purely spiritual, of a purely spiritual content.” Then he links intuition to the activity of thinking: “The essence of thinking can be grasped only through intuition.” In other words, thinking and intuition overlap because of a simple but subtle fact that Steiner discovered about the “essence of thinking”—that thinking can “know” itself intuitively. Because it knows itself intuitively—that is, without the intervention of anything other than itself— thinking, like all other intuitions, qualifies as an essentially spiritual experience. Other intuitions may be beyond our ordinary powers, but by learning to notice our own thinking activity, not just its results, we become aware that thinking itself constitutes the very cognitive experience, intuition, that Steiner describes as “conscious experience, within what is purely spiritual, of a purely spiritual content”—something qualitatively different from a mere intro Black xx xx Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path addition to our store of informative ideas, something essentially spiritual. In its intuitive essence, thinking is a universal human capacity. Its intuitive (that is, spiritual) essence exists as a potential. It awaits our attention. When, with the help of Steiner’s book, we recognize that thinking is an essentially spiritual activity, we discover that it can school us. In that sense—Steiner’s sense—thinking is a spiritual path. We set out on it when we start learning to concentrate at will and begin to feel both need and desire for this willed focus. If we can free our attention from its habitual modes and associations, and if we can focus it at will as we ourselves decide, then we can have, without entering a trance or invoking mystical aids, a conscious experience of a spiritual content. Steiner sometimes called it pure thinking—will-filled or body-free thinking—and he presented it in a style designed to stimulate it in his readers. Steiner stressed that thinking is not to be viewed as merely personal or subjective, even though it usually feels like a private experience. He firmly refutes the widely held, unexamined assumption (not to say dogma) that thinking must be subjective: “Thinking is beyond subject and object. It forms both of these concepts, just as it does all others.” Developed in one’s own unique way by each individual who undertakes to do so, the thinking capacity can become reliable intuition, allowing one to find the motivation for what one “must” do and to choose it freely. In such choices, individuality and cognition unite to produce freedom, freely undertaken actions that are both fully individual and socially constructive. intro Black xxi Introduction xxi No outside authority, however benign or exalted, can motivate a free deed. Steiner emphatically rejects obedience. It is not an appropriate motivating force for free individuals. If my moral decisions merely conform to social norms and ethical codes, I am just “a higher form of robot.” Instead of trying to obey, I should strive “to see why any given principle should work as a motive.” Even the most highminded obedience is not free unless I have first decided for myself why this code should govern me at this moment. General standards, no matter how admirable, can perhaps help one develop an inclination toward responsible actions, but they cannot authorize free deeds. Habit, inertia, and obedience are all anathema to free action. It can come only from individually discovered motivation that is prompted by warm confidence in the rightness of the deed itself, not by a desire for its outcome, not even by a concern for its beneficiary. According to Steiner’s lofty yet practicable ideal, conduct worthy to be called “free” has to be motivated by a particular person’s own intuitions as to what she or he should do in any particular case. A free being asks, What can I myself do and how do I know what it is right for me to do in this particular situation? If it is cultivated, the essentially intuitive nature of thinking can bring answers. At this level of insight and morality, what motivates is not duty but something like love, a warmly interested yet unselfish desire that cannot be coerced but can arise in us as an intuited intention. “Free beings are those who can will what they themselves hold to be right.” intro Black xxii xxii Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path Steiner designed all his books to discourage passive collecting of information and to encourage instead conscious pondering and questioning, particularly of hitherto unexamined notions. Like Steiner’s other writings, Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path offers a mode of inquiry rather than a set of creeds, pieties, or doctrines. His style makes us practice a more active thinking so that we can become aware of its power, vitality, and essentially spiritual nature. His work stimulates our soul’s own activity, stirring our latent powers and strengthening them so that we may eventually become able to think his insights ourselves. We need to awaken to the functioning presence of spiritual realities in our lives. They are much more subtle, less sensational, more delicate, less crude, than we may expect. Consequently they are easy to overlook. One hundred years ago, at the close of the nineteenth century, Steiner gave to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries a new understanding of an ordinary human capacity— thinking. He showed that it is essentially a spiritual activity. At the close of the twentieth century, we can become more receptive to the existence of this commonly held, if ordinarily dormant, human ability by developing it. If we don’t use it, we will lose it. Intuitive Thinking shows how and why to begin. Middletown, Connecticut, 1995 preface Black 1 Preface 1 Preface to the Revised Edition, 1918 Everything discussed in this book is organized around two root questions of the human soul. First, can we understand human nature in such a way that this understanding serves as the basis for everything else we may meet in the way of experience or science? (For we have the sense that what we meet in this way cannot sustain itself, because doubt and critical thinking can drive it into the realm of uncertainty.) Second, can we human beings, as willing entities, ascribe freedom to ourselves, or is this freedom a mere illusion that arises because we do not see the threads of necessity upon which our willing, like any other natural event, depends? This is no artificial question. It proceeds naturally from a certain mood of soul. We even feel that the soul would be less than it should be if it never earnestly came face to face with these two possibilities: freedom or necessity of the will. The purpose of this book is to show NOTE: As an aid to readers wishing to follow the text in German, the numbers that appear in the margins indicate Rudolf Steiner’s original paragraphing in the German edition.  preface Black 2 2   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path that our inner experiences of the second question depend upon how we view the first. I try to present a view of the human being that can support all other knowledge. I also attempt to show how this view fully justifies the idea of freedom of the will, provided that one finds the region of the soul where free will can develop. Once achieved, this view can become part of the very life of the soul itself. But no theoretical answer is given that, once acquired, is simply carried as a conviction preserved by memory. Such an answer would have to be an illusion, according to the style of thought underlying this book. Therefore no such finished, closed-off answer is provided here; rather, reference is made to a region of soul experience in which, through the soul’s inner activity, the question answers itself in a living way, always anew, whenever a human being needs it. Once we have found the region of the soul where these questions unfold, really perceiving this region gives all that we need to answer these riddles of life. Thereafter, we can journey further through the depths and breadths of this life of riddles, as need and fate provide. Indeed, with this region of soul experience, we seem to have located an insight that finds justification and validity through its own life, and through the relationship of this life to the whole life of the human soul. This is how I thought about the content of this book when I wrote it out twenty-five years ago. Today as well, I must characterize the book’s key thoughts in the same way. At that time, I limited myself to saying no more than is connected in the strictest sense to the two root questions described above. If anyone is surprised to find preface Black 3 Preface 3 nothing here about the world of spiritual experience described in my later writings, it should be borne in mind that I did not want at that time to discuss the results of spiritual research; rather, my purpose was first to lay the foundations on which such results can rest. This “philosophy of freedom” does not contain specific results of that kind, any more than it contains specific results from natural science. But what it does contain will be indispensable, in my opinion, to anyone striving for certainty in such knowledge. What the book says might also be acceptable to many who, for whatever reasons of their own, want nothing to do with the results of spiritual-scientific research. Those who are drawn to these results may also find significant my attempt to demonstrate how an unprejudiced consideration of simply the two questions characterized above, which are fundamental for all cognition, leads to the view that human beings live within an actual spiritual world. In this book, I try to validate cognition of the spiritual realm before one enters spiritual experience. Hence there is no need to cast furtive glances toward the experiences that I put forward later on, as long as one is able or willing to enter into the style of the discussion itself. Thus this book seems to me quite separate from my actual spiritual-scientific writings. On the other hand, it also seems to be connected with them in the most intimate way, so that now, after twenty-five years, I can republish the text essentially unaltered. I have, however, made additions of some length to a number of chapters. Misinterpretations of what I had said made such extensive  preface Black 4 4  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path additions seem necessary. The only passages I have rewritten are those in which, a quarter century ago, I expressed myself poorly. (Only people of ill will would take these changes as proof that I have changed my fundamental conviction). The book has now been out of print for many years. I feel that the same things need to be said today as twentyfive years ago; nevertheless, I hesitated long over the completion of this new edition. I asked myself again and again whether I ought, in this or that passage, to confront the numerous philosophical views that have come to light since the appearance of the first edition. In recent years, involvement in purely spiritual-scientific researches prevented me from doing this in the way I would wish. Yet I have convinced myself, after the most thorough survey I could make of current philosophical work, that such discussion does not belong here, tempting as it might be in itself. What seemed necessary to say about the latest philosophical tendencies, from the point of view taken in Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom, can be found in the second volume of my Riddles of Philosophy.*1 April, 1918 Rudolf Steiner *All footnotes are the publisher’s notes, unless they are identified as the author’s notes. 1. The Riddles of Philosophy (Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1973). 1chap Black 5 Conscious Human Action 5 PART I : THEORY The Knowledge of Freedom CHAPTER 1 CONSCIOUS HUMAN ACTION Is a human being spiritually free, or subject to the iron necessity of purely natural law? Few questions have excited so much ingenuity. The idea of the freedom of human will has found both sanguine supporters and stiffnecked opponents in plenty. There are those who, in their moral zeal, cast aspersions on the intellect of anyone who can deny so obvious a fact as freedom. They are opposed by others who see the acme of unscientific thinking in the belief that the lawfulness of nature fails to apply to the area of human action and thinking. One and the same thing is explained equally often as the most precious possession of humankind and as its worst illusion. Infinite subtlety has been expended to explain how human freedom is consistent with the workings of nature of which, after all, human beings are also a part. No less effort has gone into the attempt from the other side to explain how such a delusion could ever have arisen. All but the most superficial thinkers feel that we have to do here with one of the most important questions of life, religion,  1chap Black 6 6  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path conduct, and science. And it is among the sad signs of the superficiality of contemporary thinking that a book intending to coin a “new belief” from the results of recent scientific research—David Friedrich Strauss’s The Old and New Belief—contains nothing on this question but the words: We need not here go into the question of the freedom of human will. The supposed freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty phantom by every philosophy worthy of the name, while the moral valuation of human conduct and character remains untouched by the question.1 I cite this passage, not because I think the book from which it derives has any special significance, but because it seems to me to express the opinion which the majority of our thinking contemporaries have been able to achieve on this question. Today, everyone who can claim to have outgrown scientific kindergarten appears to know that freedom cannot consist in choosing arbitrarily between two possible actions. There is always, so it is claimed, a quite specific reason why a person performs one specific action from among several possibilities. This seems obvious. Nevertheless, present-day opponents of freedom direct their principal attacks only 1. D.F. Strauss (1808–1874), Der alte und der neue Glaube (1872). A German theologian and philosopher, David Friedrich Strauss developed a Hegelian theory of Biblical interpretation. He caused a storm with his historical-critical Life of Jesus, in which he called the Gospels “a historical myth.” 1chap Black 7 Conscious Human Action 7 against freedom of choice. After all, Herbert Spencer, whose views daily gain wider acceptance, says: That anyone could desire or not desire arbitrarily, which is the real proposition concealed in the dogma of free will, is refuted as much through the analysis of consciousness as through the content of the preceding chapter [on psychology].2 Others also proceed from the same point of view when they combat the concept of free will. Their arguments can all be found in germinal form as early as Spinoza. What he presented with clarity and simplicity against the idea of freedom has since been repeated countless times, only generally sheathed in the most sophistic theoretical doctrines, so that it becomes difficult to recognize the simple course of thought on which everything depends. In a letter of October or November, 1674, Spinoza writes: Thus, I call a thing free that exists and acts out of the pure necessity of its nature; and I call it compelled, if its existence and activity are determined in a precise and fixed manner by something else. Thus God, for example, though necessary, is free, 2. Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), The Principles of Psychology (1855). German edition Dr. B. Vetter, Stuttgart, 1882. Spencer was an English philosopher, friend of Huxley, Tyndall, George Eliot, and John Stuart Mill. He attempted a comprehensive, systematic (materialist/dualist) account of all cosmic phenomena, including mental and moral principles.”The spirit in our present civilization is the spirit which John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer have already worked into their philosophies.” Rudolf Steiner, A Modern Art of Education (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981). 1chap Black 8 8   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path because he exists only out of the necessity of his nature. Similarly, God knows himself and everything else freely, because it follows from the necessity of his nature alone that he should know everything. You see, then, that I locate freedom not in free decision, but in free necessity. Let us, however, descend to created things, which are all determined to exist and to act in fixed and precise ways by outside causes. To see this more clearly, let us imagine a very simple case. A stone, for example, receives a certain momentum from an external cause that comes into contact with it, so that later, when the impact of the external cause has ceased, it necessarily continues to move. This persistence of the stone is compelled, and not necessary, because it had to be established by the impact of an external cause. What applies here to the stone, applies to everything else, no matter how complex and multifaceted; everything is necessarily determined by an outside cause to exist and to act in a fixed and precise manner. Now please assume that the stone, as it moves, thinks and knows that it is trying, as much as it can, to continue in motion. This stone, which is only conscious of its effort and by no means indifferent, will believe that it is quite free and that it continues in its motion not because of an external cause but only because it wills to do so. But this is that human freedom that all claim to possess and that only consists in people being aware of their 1chap Black 9 Conscious Human Action 9 desires, but not knowing the causes by which they are determined. Thus the child believes that it freely desires the milk; the angry boy, that he freely demands revenge; and the coward flight. Again, drunkards believe it is a free decision to say what, when sober again, they will wish that they had not said, and since this prejudice is inborn in all humans, it is not easy to free oneself from it. For, although experience teaches us sufficiently that people are least able to moderate their desires and that, moved by contradictory passions, they see what is better and do what is worse, yet they still consider themselves free, and this because they desire some things less intensely and because some desires can be easily inhibited through the recollection of something else that is familiar.3 Because this view is expressed clearly and definitely, it is easy to discover the fundamental error in it. Just as a stone necessarily carries out a specific movement in response to an impact, human beings are supposed to carry 3. Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677). Marrano-Dutch philosopher of Jewish-Portuguese parentage. Expelled from the Synagogue, he supported himself by grinding lenses and devoted himself to philosophy, especially Cartesianism, deriving a kind of “rational pantheism” from it. See Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy. “Spinozism is a world conception that seeks the ground of all world events in God, and derives all process according to external necessary laws from this ground, just as mathematical truths are derived from axioms (p.161).” Spinoza was important to Goethe and to German Romantic idealism generally. See Yirmiyahu Yovel, Spinoza and Other Heretics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).  1chap Black 10 10 Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path out an action by a similar necessity if impelled to it by any reason. Human beings imagine themselves to be the free originators of their actions only because they are aware of these actions. In so doing, however, they overlook the causes driving them, which they must obey unerringly. The error in this train of thought is easy to find. Spinoza and all who think like him overlook the human capacity to be aware not only of one’s actions, but also of the causes by which one’s actions are guided. No one will dispute that a child is unfree when it desires milk, as is a drunkard who says things and later regrets them. Both know nothing of the causes, active in the depths of their organism, that exercise irresistible control over them. But is it justifiable to lump together actions of this kind with those in which humans are conscious not only of their actions but also of the reasons that motivate them? Are the actions of human beings really all of a single kind? Should the acts of a warrior on the battlefield, a scientist in the laboratory, a diplomat involved in complex negotiations, be set scientifically on the same level as that of a child when it desires milk? It is certainly true that the solution to a problem is best sought where it is simplest. But the lack of a capacity to discriminate has often brought about endless confusion. And there is, after all, a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I do something. This seems self-evident. Yet the opponents of freedom never ask whether a motive that I know, and see through, compels me in the same sense as the organic process that causes a child to cry for milk. 1chap Black 11 Conscious Human Action 11 Eduard von Hartmann, in his Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness, claims that human willing depends on two main factors: motive and character.4 If we consider all human beings as the same, or at least see their differences as negligible, then their will appears to be determined from without, namely by the circumstances they encounter. But if we consider that different human beings make an idea or mental picture into a motive only when their character is such that the idea in question gives rise to a desire, then human beings appear to be determined from within and not from without. But because we must ourselves make an idea that impinges from without into a motive of action in accordance with our character, we imagine that we are free, that is, independent of external motivation. But, according to Eduard von Hartmann, the truth is that even though we ourselves first raise ideas into motives, yet we do this not arbitrarily, but according to the necessity of our characterological organization; that is, we are anything but free. Here, too, no consideration is given to the difference between motives that I allow to affect me only after having permeated them with my consciousness, and those that I follow without having a clear knowledge of them. 4. Eduard von Hartmann (1842–1906), Die Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins [Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness] (1879). Von Hartmann combined the views of Kant, Hegel, and Schopenhauer into a doctrine of evolutionary history based on the conflict of unconscious will with unconscious reason. He was a major figure of the time and influenced many subsequent thinkers, including C. G. Jung.  1chap Black 12 12       Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path This leads immediately to the standpoint from which the matter will be considered here. Can the question of the freedom of our will be posed narrowly by itself? And, if not, with what other questions must it necessarily be linked? If there is a difference between a conscious motive and an unconscious drive, then the conscious motive will bring with it an action that must be judged differently from an action done out of blind impulse. Our first question will concern this difference. The position we must take on freedom itself will depend on the result of this inquiry. What does it mean to have knowledge of the motives of one’s actions? This question has been given too little attention, because we always tear in two the inseparable whole that is the human being. We distinguish between the doer and the knower, but we have nothing to say about the one who matters most: the one who acts out of knowledge. People say that human beings are free when they obey reason alone and not animal desires. Or they say that freedom means being able to determine one’s life and actions according to purposes and decisions. Nothing is gained by such claims. For the question is precisely whether reason, purposes, and decisions exercise control over human beings in the same way as animal desires. If a reasonable decision arises in me of itself, with the same necessity as hunger and thirst, then I can but obey its compulsion, and my freedom is an illusion. Another turn of phrase puts it thus: to be free does not mean being able to will whatever one wills, but being able to do what one wills. In his Atomistics of the Will, the 1chap Black 13 Conscious Human Action 13 poet-philosopher Robert Hamerling expresses this idea incisively: Human beings can certainly do what they will— but they cannot will what they will, since their willing is determined by motives. They cannot will what they will? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they contain any reasonable meaning? Must freedom of the will then consist in being able to will something without having grounds, without a motive? But what does willing mean other than having grounds to do or attempt this rather than that? To will something, without grounds, without motive, would mean willing something without willing it. The concept of motivation is inseparably linked to the concept of the will. Without a determining motive, the will is an empty capacity: it only becomes active and real through the motive. Thus it is quite correct that the human will is not ‘free,’ inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But it is absurd, in contrast to this ‘unfreedom,’ to speak of a conceivable ‘freedom’ of the will that involves being able to will what one does not will.5 5. Robert Hamerling (1830-1889) Atomistik des Willens (Volume 2, p. 213 ff.) Hamerling was an Austrian poet, philosopher, dramatist, and schoolteacher in Vienna, Graz, and Trieste. He was an acquaintance of Rudolf Steiner. See “Robert Hamerling, Poet and Thinker” in The Presence of the Dead (Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1990). See also Rudolf Steiner, An Autobiography and Karmic Relationships, vol. II (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974). 1chap Black 14 14    Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path Even here, only motives in general are discussed, without considering the difference between conscious and unconscious motives. If a motive acts upon me, and I am forced to follow it because it proves to be the “strongest” of its kind, then the thought of freedom ceases to have any meaning. Why should it matter to me whether I can do something or not, if I am forced by the motive to do it? The first question is not whether I can or cannot do something once the motive has operated upon me, but whether there exist only motives of the kind that operate with compelling necessity. If I have to will something, then I may even be utterly indifferent as to whether I can actually do it. If, because of my character and the circumstances prevailing in my environment, a motive were forced upon me that my thinking showed me was unreasonable, then I would even have to be glad if I could not do what I will. It is not a question of whether I can execute a decision once it is made, but of how the decision arises within me. What distinguishes humans from all other organic beings rests on rational thinking. Activity we have in common with other organisms. Seeking analogies for human action in the animal kingdom does not help to clarify the concept of freedom. Modern natural science loves such analogies. And when science succeeds in finding among animals something similar to human action, it believes it has touched on the most important question of the science of humanity. Paul Rée’s book, The Illusion of Free Will offers one example of the misunderstandings to which this opinion leads. On page 5, Rée states, with regard to freedom, 1chap Black 15 Conscious Human Action 15 It is easy to explain why it appears to us as if the movement of the stone is necessary while the donkey’s will is not. The causes that move the stone are, after all, external and visible. But the causes by which the donkey desires are internal and invisible: between us and the site of their activity there lies the donkey’s skull. . . . One does not see the causal determination and therefore imagines that it is not present. The will, we say, while it is the cause of the donkey’s turning around, is itself undetermined; it is an absolute beginning.6 Here, too, is an utter disregard for human actions in which the human being has an awareness of the reasons for the action, for Rée explains, “between us and the site of their activity there lies the donkey’s skull.” We can see from these words alone that Rée has no inkling that there exist actions (not a donkey’s, but a human’s) for which there lies, between us and the action, the motive that has become conscious. He proves this again a few pages later when he says: “We are not aware of the causes by which our will is determined, and so we imagine that it is not causally determined at all.” But enough of examples proving that many fight against freedom without at all knowing what freedom is. Obviously, my action cannot be free if I, as the actor, do not know why I carry it out. But what about an action 6. Paul Rée (1849–1901), Die Illusion der Willensfreiheit. Rée was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Lou Andréas Salome and an influential “alternative” thinker of the time.   1chap Black 16 16  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path for which the reasons are known? This leads us to ask: what is the origin and the significance of thinking? For without understanding the soul’s activity of thinking, no concept of the knowledge of anything, including an action, is possible. When we understand what thinking means in general, it will be easy to clarify the role that thinking plays in human action. As Hegel rightly says, “Thinking turns the soul, with which beasts too are gifted, into spirit.” 7Therefore thinking will also give to human action its characteristic stamp. This is by no means to claim that all our actions flow only from the sober deliberations of our reason. I am far from calling human, in the highest sense, only those actions that proceed from abstract judgment alone. But as soon as our actions lift themselves above the satisfaction of purely animal desires, our motives are always permeated by thoughts. Love, pity, patriotism are springs of action that cannot be reduced to cold rational concepts. People say that the heart, the sensibility, comes into its own in such matters. No doubt. But heart and sensibility do not create the motives of action. They presuppose 7. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften (1817, second edition 1827). The quotation is from the Preface. See also Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy. For instance, “[Hegel] wanted to express clearly and poignantly that he regarded thinking that is conscious of itself as the highest human activity, as the force through which alone a human being can gain a position with respect to ultimate questions. . . . Hegel is a personality who lives completely in the element of thought.” (p. 169). 1chap Black 17 Conscious Human Action 17 them and then receive them into their own realm. Pity appears in my heart when the mental image of a person who arouses pity in me enters my consciousness. The way to the heart goes through the head. Love is no exception here. If it is not a mere expression of the sexual drive, then love is based on mental pictures that we form of the beloved. And the more idealistic these mental pictures are, the more blessed is the love. Here, too, thought is the father of feeling. People say that love makes us blind to the beloved’s flaws. But we can also turn this around and claim that love opens our eyes to the beloved’s strengths. Many pass by these good qualities without noticing them. One person sees them and, just for this reason, love awakens in the soul. What else has this person done but make a mental picture of what a hundred others have ignored? Love is not theirs because they lack the mental picture. We can approach the matter however we like: it only grows clearer that the question regarding the nature of human actions presupposes another, that of the origin of thinking. I shall therefore turn to this question next.  2chap Black 18 18 Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path CHAPTER 2 THE FUNDAMENTAL URGE FOR KNOWLEDGE Two souls, alas, dwell within my breast, Each wants to separate from the other; One, in hearty lovelust, Clings to earth with clutching organs; The other lifts itself mightily from the dust To high ancestral regions. Goethe, Faust I, 1112  With these words, Goethe characterizes a trait deeply based in human nature. As human beings, we are not organized in a fully integrated, unified way. We always demand more than the world freely offers. Nature gives us needs, and the satisfaction of some of these she leaves to our own activity. The gifts allotted to us are abundant, but even more abundant is our desire. We seem born for dissatisfaction. The urge to know is only a special case of this dissatisfaction. We look at a tree twice. The first time, we see its branches at rest, the second time in motion. We are unsatisfied with this observation. Why, we ask, does the tree present itself to us now at rest, now in motion? Every glance at nature engenders a host of questions within us. 2chap Black 19 The Fundamental Urge for Knowledge 19 We receive a new problem with each phenomenon that greets us. Every experience becomes a riddle. We see a creature similar to the mother animal emerging from the egg, and we ask the reason for this similarity. We observe a living creature’s growth and development to a certain degree of perfection, and we seek the conditions of this experience. Nowhere are we content with what nature displays before our senses. We look everywhere for what we call an explanation of the facts. That which we seek in things, over and above what is given to us immediately, splits our entire being into two parts. We become aware of standing in opposition to the world, as independent beings. The universe appears to us as two opposites: I and world. We set up this barrier between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness lights up within us. But we never lose the feeling that we do belong to the world, that a link exists that connects us to it, that we are creatures not outside, but within, the universe. This feeling engenders an effort to bridge the opposition. And, in the final analysis, the whole spiritual striving of humankind consists in bridging this opposition. The history of spiritual life is a continual searching for the unity between the I and the world. Religion, art, and science share this as their goal. The religious believer seeks the solution to the world-riddle posed by the I, which is unsatisfied by the merely phenomenal world, in the revelation meted out by God. Artists try to incorporate the ideas of their I in various materials to reconcile what lives within them to the outer world. They, too, feel unsatisfied with    2chap Black 20 20 Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path the merely phenomenal world and seek to build into it the something more that their I, going above and beyond the world of phenomena, contains. Thinkers seek the laws of phenomena, striving to penetrate in thinking what they experience through observation. Only when we have made the world content into our thought content do we rediscover the connection from which we have sundered ourselves. We shall see later that this goal is reached only when the tasks of scientific research are understood much more profoundly than often occurs. The whole relation between the I and the world that I have portrayed here meets us on the stage of history in the contrast between a unitary worldview, or monism, and a two-world theory, or dualism. Dualism directs its gaze solely to the separation that human consciousness effects between the I and the world. Its whole effort is a futile struggle to reconcile these opposites, which it may call spirit and matter, subject and object, or thinking and phenomenon. It feels that a bridge between the two worlds must exist, but it is incapable of finding it. When human beings experience themselves as “I,” they can do no other than think of this “I” as being on the side of spirit. When to this I they then oppose the world, they ascribe to the latter the perceptual world given to the senses: the material world. In this way, human beings locate themselves within the opposition of spirit and matter. They do so all the more because their own bodies belong to the material world. The “I” thus belongs to the spiritual, as a part of it; while material things and processes, which are perceived by the senses, belong to the “world.” All the riddles, 2chap Black 21 The Fundamental Urge for Knowledge 21 therefore, that have to do with spirit and matter must be rediscovered by human beings in the fundamental riddle of their own essential being. Monism directs its gaze exclusively to unity, and seeks to deny or erase the opposites, present though these are. Neither monism nor dualism is satisfactory, for neither does justice to the facts. Dualism sees spirit (I) and matter (world) as two fundamentally different entities, and therefore it cannot understand how the two can affect one another. How could spirit know what is going on in matter, if matter’s specific nature is altogether foreign to spirit? Or, given these conditions, how could spirit affect matter so that intentions translate into deeds? The most ingenious and absurd hypotheses have been proposed to answer these questions. Yet, to the present day, things are hardly better with monism which, until now, has attempted three solutions: either it denies spirit and becomes materialism; or it denies matter, seeking salvation through spiritualism; or else it claims that matter and spirit are inseparably united even in the simplest entity, so that it should come as no surprise if these two forms of existence, which after all are never apart, appear together in human beings. Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with one’s forming thoughts about phenomena. Thus, materialism starts with the thought of matter or of material processes. In so doing, it already has two different kinds of facts on hand: the material world and thoughts about it. Materialism attempts to understand the latter by seeing them as a purely material process. It believes that  2chap Black 22 22  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path thinking occurs in the brain in the same way as digestion occurs in the animal organism. Just as it ascribes mechanical and organic effects to matter, materialism also assigns to matter the capacity, under certain circumstances, to think. But it forgets that all it has done is to shift the problem to another location. Materialists ascribe the capacity to think to matter rather than to themselves. And this brings them back to the starting point. How does matter manage to think about its own existence? Why does it not simply go on existing, perfectly content with itself? Materialism turns aside from the specific subject, our own I, and arrives at an unspecific, hazy configuration: matter. Here the same riddle comes up again. The materialist view can only displace the problem, not solve it. And what of the spiritualist view? Pure spiritualists deny matter any independent existence and conceive of it only as a product of spirit. If they apply this view to the riddle of their own human existence, they are driven into a corner. Over against the I, which may be placed on the side of spirit, there suddenly appears the sensory world. No spiritual point of entry into it seems open; it has to be perceived and experienced by the I through material processes. As long as it tries to explain itself solely as a spiritual entity, the “I” cannot find such material processes within itself. What it works out for itself spiritually never contains the sense world. It is as if the “I” has to admit that the world remains closed to it unless it puts itself into an unspiritual relationship to the world. Similarly, when we decide to act, we must translate our intentions into reality with the help of material stuff and 2chap Black 23 The Fundamental Urge for Knowledge 23 forces. We are thus referred back to the outer world. The most extreme spiritualist, or perhaps the thinker who, through his absolute idealism, presents himself as an extreme spiritualist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte.1 Fichte attempted to derive the whole world structure from the “I.” What he in fact succeeded in creating was a magnificent thought picture of the world, but one without any experiential content. Just as it is impossible for the materialist to declare spirit out of existence, so the spiritualist cannot disavow the external material world. When we direct our cognition to the “I,” we initially perceive the activity of this “I” in the development of a world of ideas unfolded through thought. Because of this, those with a spiritualist worldview sometimes feel themselves tempted, in regard to their own human essence, to acknowledge nothing of the spirit except this world of ideas. In such cases, spiritualism becomes one-sided idealism. It does not arrive at the point of seeking a spiritual world through a world of ideas. It sees the spiritual world in the idea-world itself. Its world view is forced to remain fixed, as if spellbound, within the activity of the “I” itself. 1. Fichte (1762–1814). A disciple of Kant, Fichte went on to develop his own powerful system of transcendental idealism. His influence reached from the Romantic philosophy of Novalis and Coleridge to Rudolf Steiner. Steiner returned again and again to Fichte, beginning with his Inaugural Dissertation, “The Fundamentals of a Theory of Cognition with Special Reference to Fichte’s Scientific Teaching” (1891), published as Truth and Science [Knowledge] (1892). See Autobiography and, for instance, The Riddle of Man (Spring Valley: Mercury Press, 1990).  2chap Black 24 24   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path A curious variant of idealism is the view of Friedrich Albert Lange, as represented in his widely read History of Materialism.2 Lange takes the position that materialism is quite right when it explains all world phenomena, including our thinking, as products of purely material processes, while, conversely, matter and its processes are themselves a product of thinking. The senses give us effects of things, not faithful pictures, let alone the things themselves. But these mere effects include the senses along with the brain and the molecular vibrations within it. That is, our thinking is produced by material processes, and these are produced by the thinking of the “I.” Lange’s philosophy is thus nothing but the conceptual version of the story of the brave Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.3 A third form of monism sees both essences, matter and spirit, as already united in the simplest entity (the atom). But here too, nothing is achieved except that the question, which actually originates in our consciousness, is 2. F. A. Lange (1828–1875) was Professor at Marburg where he established a long-lasting tradition of Neo-Kantianism. Lange introduced Darwinism and philosophy of history into Germany. See also Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy, pp. 323–330. 3. Baron Münchhausen (1720–1797) was a German soldier who served with distinction in the Russian campaign against the Turks. A noted raconteur, famed for exploits and adventures, his name became associated with absurdly exaggerated stories. A collection of such Münchhausen tales was published in London in 1785 by Rudolph Erich Raspe (1737–1794), himself a scholar and adventurer. 2chap Black 25 The Fundamental Urge for Knowledge 25 displaced to a different arena. If it is an indivisible unity, how does a unitary entity manage to express itself in a twofold way? In regard to all these points of view, we must emphasize that the fundamental and primal opposition confronts us first in our own consciousness. It is we who separate ourselves from the native ground of nature and place ourselves as “I” in opposition to the “world.” Goethe gives this its classical expression in his essay, “Nature,” even if his style initially appears quite unscientific: “We live in her (Nature’s) midst and are strangers to her. She speaks with us continually, yet does not betray her secret to us.” But Goethe also knows the reverse aspect: “All humans are within her and she in them.”4 It is true that we have estranged ourselves from nature; but it is just as true that we feel we are in her and belong to her. It can only be her activity that lives in us. We must find the way back to her again. A simple reflection can show us the way. To be sure, we have torn ourselves away from nature, but we must still have taken something with us into our own being. We must seek out this natural being within ourselves, and then we shall also rediscover the connection to her. Dualism fails to do this. It considers the inner human as a spiritual being, quite foreign to nature, and then seeks to attach this being to nature. No wonder that it cannot find the connecting link. We can only find nature outside us if we first know her within us. What is akin to her within us will be our guide. 4. Goethe, Fragment über die Nature, Fragment on Nature.    2chap Black 26 26   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path Our way is thus mapped out for us. We do not wish to speculate about the interaction of nature and spirit. We wish to descend into the depths of our own being, to find there those elements that we have saved in our flight out of nature. The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the riddle. We must come to a point where we can say to ourselves: Here I am no longer merely “I.” There is something here that is more than “I.” I am aware that some who have read to this point will not find my explanations correspond to “the present state of science.” I can only reply that up to now I have been concerned not with scientific results but rather with a simple description of what we all experience in our own consciousnesses. Diverse statements about attempts to reconcile consciousness with the world also entered the stream of argument, but only to clarify the actual facts. For this reason, too, I attach no value to using the individual expressions, such as “I,” “spirit,” “world,” “nature,” and so forth, in the precise way that is usual in psychology and philosophy. Everyday consciousness is unfamiliar with the sharp distinctions of science, and up to this point, my intention has been to survey the facts of everyday life. What concerns me is not how science until now has interpreted consciousness but rather how consciousness experiences itself hour by hour. 3chap Black 27 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 27 CHAPTER 3 THINKING IN THE SERVICE OF UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD When I observe how a billiard ball, once struck, transfers its movement to another, I remain completely without influence over the course of this process. The direction of motion and the velocity of the second ball are determined by the direction and velocity of the first. As long as I remain a mere observer, I can say something about the movement of the second ball only after it has actually begun. But the situation is different when I begin to think about the content of my observation. The purpose of my thinking is to form concepts about the process I observe. I connect the concept of an elastic sphere with certain other concepts of mechanics and take into consideration the particular circumstances prevailing in the given case. Thus, to the process that plays itself out without my participation I seek to add a second process, which goes on in the conceptual sphere. This sphere depends on me, as is evident in my being able to content myself with observation, renouncing any search for concepts, if I have no need of them. But if this need is present, then I am satisfied only when I have  3chap Black 28 28  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path brought concepts such as “sphere,” “elasticity,” “movement,” “impact,” “velocity,” etc. into a certain connection with each other. To this interconnection of concepts the observed process then stands in a particular relation. Certainly the process that I observe completes itself independently of me. Just as certainly, however, the conceptual process cannot play itself out without my participation. Whether my activity is really an expression of my independent essence, or whether contemporary physiologists are right in saying that I cannot think as I wish, but rather have to think as the thoughts and thought-connections currently in my consciousness determine1—this will be the subject of later discussion. For the time being, we wish merely to establish that, with regard to the objects and processes given us without our participation, we feel compelled continually to seek concepts and conceptual connections that stand in a certain relationship to those objects and processes. For the moment, we shall leave aside the question of whether this activity is really our activity, or whether we carry it out in accord with unalterable 1. Compare Theodor Ziehen, Principles of Physiological Psychology, Jena, 1893. (Author’s note) Ziehen (1862–1950) was a German psychiatrist, physiologist, and psychologist. Cf. Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy and Science (Spring Valley: Mercury Press, 1991): “ Ziehen undertook to explain mental life in such a way that he replaced it by brain activity. His explanation is essentially the following: he contemplates mental life; he then considers the brain and nervous system anatomically and physiologically (to the extent that present empirical research permits) and shows which processes, in his opinion are present in the brain for a particular mental activity (including memory).” (pp 81ff). 3chap Black 29 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 29 necessity. Certainly, it is unquestionable that it initially appears as our own. We know perfectly well that the corresponding concepts are not given with the objects. That I am myself the active one may depend upon an illusion; nevertheless, that is how immediate observation portrays the matter. Therefore the question is: what do we gain by finding the conceptual counterpart to an event? There is a profound difference, for me, between the way in which the parts of an event relate to one another before and after the discovery of the corresponding concepts. Mere observation can follow the parts of a given event in succession, but their connection remains obscure until concepts are brought in to help. I see the first billiard ball move toward the second in a certain direction and with a certain velocity; I must wait to see what will happen upon impact and, even then, I can only follow what happens with my eyes. Let us suppose that, at the moment of impact, someone conceals from me the area where the process goes on. As a mere observer, I am then without knowledge of what happens next. The situation is different if, before the process is concealed from me, I discover the concepts corresponding to the constellation of relationships. In that case, I can report what happens even if I can no longer observe it. By itself, a process or object that is merely observed suggests nothing about its connection to other processes or objects. The connection only becomes evident if observation is linked to thinking. Insofar as we are conscious of it, observation and thinking are the two points of departure for all human spiritual striving. The workings of both common human   3chap Black 30 30   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path understanding and the most complicated scientific investigations rest on these two pillars of our spirit. Philosophers have proceeded from various primal oppositions— such as idea and reality, subject and object, appearance and thing-in-itself, I and Not-I, idea and will, concept and matter, force and substance, conscious and unconscious—but it can easily be shown that the contrast between observation and thinking precedes all of these as the most important antithesis for human beings. No matter what principle we wish to establish, we must either show that we have observed it somewhere or we must express it in the form of a clear thought that anyone can rethink. When philosophers begin to speak about their first principles, they must put things in conceptual form and therefore they must make use of thinking. Thus, indirectly, they admit that their activity presupposes thinking. Nothing is being said yet about whether thinking or something else is the chief element of world evolution. But it is clear from the start that, without thinking, philosophers can gain no knowledge of such an element. Thinking might play a minor role in the origin of world phenomena, but in the origin of a view of those phenomena, it surely plays a major role. As for observation, we need it because of the way we are organized. Our thinking about a horse and the object horse are two things that arise separately for us. And the object is accessible to us only through observation. Merely staring at a horse does not enable us to produce the concept horse, and neither will mere thinking bring forth the corresponding object. 3chap Black 31 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 31 Chronologically, observation even precedes thinking. For we can become aware of thinking, too, only through observation. At the beginning of this chapter, when we showed how thinking lights up in the face of an event and goes beyond what it finds given without its assistance, this was essentially the description of an observation. It is through observation that we first become aware of anything entering the circle of our experience. The content of sensations, perceptions, views, feelings, acts of will, dream and fantasy constructions, representations, concepts and ideas, illusions and hallucinations—the content of all of these is given to us through observation. Thinking differs essentially, as an object of observation, from all other things. The observation of a table or a tree occurs for me as soon as the objects enter the horizon of my experience. But I do not observe my thinking about the objects at the same time as I observe them. I observe the table, and I carry out my thinking about the table, but I do not observe that thinking in the same moment as my observation of the table. If I want to observe, along with the table, my thinking about the table, I must first take up a standpoint outside my own activity. While observation of objects and processes, and thinking about them, are both everyday situations that fill my ongoing life, the observation of thinking is a kind of exceptional state. We must take this fact properly into account if we are to determine the relationship of thinking to all other contents of observation. We must be clear that, when we observe thinking, we are applying to thinking a procedure that is normal when we consider all the rest of our   3chap Black 32 32   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path world-content but that is not normally applied to thinking itself. Someone could object that what I have noted here about thinking applies equally to feeling and other spiritual activities. The feeling of pleasure, for example, is also kindled by an object, and I observe the object, but not the feeling of pleasure. This objection is based on an error. Pleasure does not at all stand in the same relation to its object as the concept formed by thinking does. I am definitely aware that the concept of a thing is formed by my activity, while pleasure is created in me by an object in the same way as, for example, a falling stone causes a change in an object on which it falls. For observation, pleasure is given in exactly the same way as the process that occasions it. The same is not true of concepts. I can ask why a specific process creates the feeling of pleasure in me. But I certainly cannot ask why a process creates a specific number of concepts in me. To do so would simply be meaningless. Thinking about a process has nothing to do with an effect on me. I learn nothing at all about myself by knowing the concepts corresponding to the observed change that a hurled stone causes in a pane of glass. But I learn a great deal about my personality if I know the feeling that a specific process awakens within me. If I say of an observed object, “This is a rose,” then I express nothing at all about myself. But if I say of the rose, “It gives me a feeling of pleasure,” then I have characterized not only the rose but also myself in relationship to the rose. As objects of observation, then, thinking and feeling cannot be equated. The same conclusion could easily be 3chap Black 33 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 33 derived for the other activities of the human spirit. Unlike thinking, these can be grouped with other observed objects and processes. It is part of the peculiar nature of thinking that it is an activity directed only to the observed object, and not to the thinker. This is clear from how we express our thoughts about a thing, compared to how we express our feelings or acts of will. If I see an object and recognize it as a table, I do not generally say “I am thinking about a table,” but rather “This is a table.” Yet I could certainly say, “I am pleased with the table.” In the first case, I am not concerned with communicating that I have entered into a relationship with the table; but in the second case it is precisely this relationship that is significant. Furthermore, with the statement, “I am thinking about a table,” I have already entered into the exceptional state mentioned above, in which I make into an object of observation something that is always contained within my spiritual activity but not as an observed object. This is the characteristic nature of thinking. The thinker forgets thinking while doing it. What concerns the thinker is not thinking, but the observed object of thinking. Hence the first observation that we make about thinking is that it is the unobserved element in our normal spiritual life. It is because thinking is based on our own activity that we do not observe it in everyday spiritual life. What I do not produce myself enters my observational field as an object. I see it as something that arose without me. It confronts me; and I must accept it as the prerequisite for my process of thinking. While thinking about the object, I am    3chap Black 34 34    Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path occupied with it and my gaze is turned toward it. My attention is directed not toward my activity, but toward the object of this activity. In other words, when I think, I do not look at my thinking, which I myself am producing, but at the object of thinking, which I am not producing. I am in the same situation even if I allow the exceptional state of affairs to occur and think about my thinking itself. I can never observe my present thinking; only after I have thought can I take the experiences I have had during my thinking process as the object of my thinking. If I wanted to observe my present thinking, I would have to split myself into two personalities, one that thinks and one that looks on during this thinking, which I cannot do. I can observe my present thinking only in two separate acts. The thinking to be observed is never the one currently active, but a different one. For this purpose, it does not matter whether I make observations about my own earlier thinking, follow the thought process of another person, or, as with the movement of billiard balls, suppose an imaginary thought process. These two are therefore incompatible: active production and contemplative confrontation. The first book of Moses already recognizes this. In the Book of Genesis, God produces the world in the first six days of creation; only once it is there is it possible to contemplate it: “And God looked at everything he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The same holds true of our thinking. It must first be there if we are to observe it. It is impossible for us to observe thinking as it occurs at each moment for the same reason that we can know our 3chap Black 35 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 35 thinking more immediately and intimately than any other process in the world. Precisely because we ourselves produce our thinking, we know the characteristics of its course and how it occurs. What can be found only indirectly in other spheres of observation—the appropriate connections and the relationship of individual objects— we know in a completely immediate way in thinking. Without going beyond the phenomena, I cannot know why thunder follows lightning for my observation. But I know immediately, from the content of the two concepts, why my thinking links the concept of thunder with that of lightning. Naturally it is not a question of whether I have correct concepts of lightning and thunder. The connection between those that I do have is clear, by means of the very concepts themselves. This transparent clarity we experience in relation to the thinking process is completely independent of our knowledge of the physiological bases of thinking. I am speaking here of thinking as given by observation of our spiritual activity. I am not concerned with how one material process in the brain occasions or influences another when I carry out an operation in thought. What I observe about thinking is not the process in my brain linking the concepts of lightning and thunder, but rather the process enabling me to bring the two concepts into a specific relationship. Observation tells me that nothing guides me in combining my thoughts except the content of my thoughts. I am not guided by the material processes in my brain. In a less materialistic age than our own, this observation would of course be completely superfluous. But today—when there  3chap Black 36 36 Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path are people who believe that once we know what matter is we will also know how matter thinks—it must still be stated that one can talk about thinking without immediately running into brain physiology. Most people today find it hard to grasp the concept of thinking in its purity. Whoever immediately counters the view of thinking developed here with the statement of Cabanis that “the brain secretes thoughts as the liver does gall or the salivary ducts saliva” simply does not know what I am talking about.2 Such a person wants to find thinking through a mere process of observation—wants to proceed with thinking in the same way as we proceed with other objects of the world content. But thinking cannot be found in this way, because precisely as an object of world content thinking eludes normal observation, as I have shown. Those who cannot overcome materialism lack the capacity to induce in themselves the exceptional state that brings into consciousness what remains unconscious during all other spiritual activity. Just as one cannot discuss color with the blind, so one cannot discuss thinking with those who lack the good will to place themselves in this position. But at least they should not imagine that we take physiological processes to be thinking. They cannot explain thinking because they simply do not see it. 2. Pierre-Jean-Georges Cabanis (1757–1808). A French physician and philosopher, Professor of Hygiene (1794) and legal medicine and history of medicine (1799) at the Medical School of Paris, who evolved radically mechanistic and materialistic theory of biology. The phrase is from “Rapports du physique et du moral de l‘homme” (1799, published 1802). 3chap Black 37 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 37 But for everyone who has the capacity to observe thinking—and, with good will, every normally constituted human being has this capacity—the observation of thinking is the most important observation that can be made. For in thinking we observe something of which we ourselves are the producers. We find ourselves facing something that to begin with is not foreign to us, but our own activity. We know how the thing we are observing comes about. We see through the relationships and the connections. A secure point has been won, from which we can reasonably hope to seek an explanation of the other world phenomena. The feeling of having such a secure point caused the founder of modern philosophy, René Descartes, to base the whole of human knowledge on the sentence, “I think, therefore I am.”3All other things, all other events, exist without me, but whether as truth or as fantasy and dream, I cannot say. I am absolutely certain of only one thing, for I myself bring it to its secure existence: my thinking. It might have another source for its existence. It might come from God or somewhere else. But that it exists in the sense that I bring it forth myself—of that, I am certain. Descartes initially had no justification to ascribe a different meaning to his sentence. He could only claim that, in thinking, I lay hold of myself in the activity that is, of all the world’ s content, the most my own. What the tacked-on therefore I am 3. René Descartes (1596–1650). French philosopher and mathematician. Author of the famous Discourse on Method (1637). See also Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy.   3chap Black 38 38  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path might mean has been much disputed. But it can be meaningful only under one condition. The simplest statement that I can make about a thing is that it is, that it exists. I cannot immediately say how the existence of anything entering the horizon of my experience might be characterized more precisely. To determine in what sense an object can be described as existent, it would have to be examined in relation to others. An experienced event can be a series of perceptions, but it can also be a dream, a hallucination, and so forth. In brief, I cannot say in what sense an object exists. I cannot derive its existence from the experienced event itself, but I can learn it when I consider the event in relation to other things. But there, too, I cannot know more than how it stands in relation to those things. My search finds firm ground only when I find an object the meaning of whose existence I can draw out of itself. As a thinker, I am myself such an object. I endow my existence with the definite, self-reposing content of thinking activity. From there, I can now proceed to ask whether other things exist in the same or in a different sense. When we make thinking into an object of observation, we add to the rest of the observed world-content something that normally escapes our attention, but we do not change the way in which we relate to it, which is the same as to other things. We increase the number of the objects of our observation, but not our method of observing. As we observe other things, a process that is overlooked intermingles in world events (in which I now include the act of observation itself). Something is present that differs from all other events, and is not taken into consideration. 3chap Black 39 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 39 But when I observe my thinking, no such unconsidered element is present. For what now hovers in the background is itself only, once again, thinking. The observed object is qualitatively the same as the activity that directs itself toward it. And this is again a special characteristic of thinking. When we make thinking into an object of observation, we are not compelled to do so with the aid of something that is qualitatively different to it; we can remain within the same element. If I weave into my thinking an object that is given without my participation, I go beyond my observation, and the question will arise: What gives me the right to do so? Why don’ t I simply allow the object to work upon me? How is it possible for my thinking to have a relation to the object? These are questions that all who think about their own thought processes must ask themselves. But they fall away when we think about thinking itself. We add nothing foreign to thinking, and thus need not excuse ourselves for such an addition. Schelling says, “To know nature is to create nature.” 4 Anyone who takes these words of the bold na4. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1855). German idealist philosopher. After being a fellow student with Hegel and Hölderlin at the Tübingen Stift or Seminary, Schelling was Professor at Jena (1798), Würzburg (1803), Münich (1827) and Berlin (1841–46). Breaking free first from Fichtean (1801), then from Hegelian (c. 1807) idealism, Schelling, much influenced by the theosophy of Jakob Boehme, finally created a unique dynamical philosophy of nature, myth, creativity, and freedom. The phrase is from Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie (1799).   3chap Black 40 40   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path ture philosopher literally must renounce forever all knowledge of nature. For nature is simply there, and to create it a second time, one would have to know the principles according to which it arose. One would first have to look at the conditions for the existence of nature as it is, in order to apply these to the nature one wished to create. But this “looking,” which would have to precede any creating, would be to know nature already, even if, after successfully looking, one did not then go on to create. The only kind of nature that one could create without previously knowing it would be a nature that did not yet exist. What is impossible with nature—creation before cognition—we achieve with thinking. If we waited, before thinking, until we already understood it, then we would never get to that point. We must think resolutely ahead, in order later to arrive by observation at a knowledge of what we have done. We ourselves create the object for the observation of thinking. The presence of all other objects has been taken care of without our participation. Someone could oppose my proposition that we must think before we can observe thinking with the proposition that we also have to digest before we can observe the process of digestion. That objection would be similar to the 5. Blaise Pascal (1625–1662). French mathematical prodigy, physicist, philosopher, and mystic. He wrote an original work on conic sections at sixteen; studied infinitesimal calculus; solved the problem of the general quadrature of the cycloid; developed the differential calculus; originated (with Fermat) the mathematical theory of probability; invented the first calculator, etc. 3chap Black 41 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 41 one Pascal5 made to Descartes, claiming that one could also say, “I go for a walk, therefore I am.” Certainly, I must also go ahead and digest before I have studied the physiological process of digestion. But this could only be compared with the contemplation of thinking if afterward I did not contemplate digestion in thinking, but wanted to eat and digest it. It is, after all, not without reason that digesting cannot become the object of digesting, but thinking can very well become the object of thinking. Without a doubt: in thinking we hold a corner of the world process where we must be present if anything is to occur. And this is exactly the point at issue. This is exactly why things stand over against me so puzzlingly: because I am so uninvolved in their creation. I simply find them present. But in the case of thinking, I know how it is done. This is why, for the contemplation of the whole world-process, there is no more primal starting point than thinking. I will mention a widespread error regarding thinking. It consists in saying that thinking, as it is in itself, is nowhere given to us. The thinking that links the observations of our experience, interweaving them with a conceptual network, is said to be not at all the same as that which we afterward scoop out of the objects and make into the object of our contemplation. What we first weave unconsciously into things is said to be something completely different from what we then extract from them consciously. Those who reason like this do not understand that they 5. As a philosophical, mystical thinker he was the author of the famous Pensées and Lettres Provinciales.    3chap Black 42 42   Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path cannot escape thinking in this way. If I want to look at thinking, I cannot leave thinking behind. If we distinguish preconscious thinking from later, conscious thinking, we should at least not forget that this distinction is quite external and has nothing to do with the matter at hand. I in no way make a thing into something else by contemplating it in thinking. I can imagine that a being with altogether different sense organs and with a differently functioning intellect would have a very different mental picture of a horse than I do, but I cannot imagine that my own thinking becomes something else because I observe it. I myself observe what I myself produce. The issue is not how my thinking appears to an intellect different from my own, but how it appears to me. In any case, the picture of my thinking in a different intellect cannot be a truer one than in my own. Only if I were myself not the being who thinks, and this thinking confronted me as the activity of a being alien to me, only then could I say that although my image of its thinking arises in a certain way, I cannot know how its thinking is in itself. For the moment, however, there is not the slightest reason for me to regard my own thinking from a different standpoint. I contemplate the rest of the world with the help of thinking. Why should I make an exception for my thinking? I believe I have now justified beginning my consideration of the world with thinking. When Archimedes had invented the lever, he thought that he could use it to lift the whole cosmos on its hinges, if only he could find a secure point to set his instrument. For this, he needed some- 3chap Black 43 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 43 thing that was supported by itself, not by something else. In thinking, we have a principle that exists through itself. Starting with thinking, then, let us attempt to understand the world. We can grasp thinking through itself. The only question is whether we can also grasp anything else through it. Thus far I have spoken of thinking without giving account of its vehicle, human consciousness. Most contemporary philosophers would object that there has to be a consciousness before there can be thinking. According to them, we should therefore proceed from consciousness and not from thinking, since there would be no thinking without consciousness. To this I would have to reply that if I want to understand the relationship between thinking and consciousness, I must think about it. Therefore I presuppose thinking. One can certainly still reply that, if a philosopher wishes to understand consciousness, then he or she makes use of thinking, and presupposes it to that extent; yet, in the normal course of life, thinking arises within consciousness and therefore presupposes the latter. If this answer were given to the creator of the world, who wanted to make thinking from scratch, then it would doubtless be justified. Naturally, the creator could not let thinking arise without first having consciousness come about. For philosophers, however, it is not a question of creating the world but of understanding it. Hence they do not need to seek a starting point for creating the world, but rather one for understanding it. I find it very peculiar when people reproach philosophers for concerning themselves in the first place with the correctness of their prin-  3chap Black 44 44  Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path ciples and not immediately with the objects they want to understand. The creator of the world had to know how to find a vehicle for thinking, but the philosopher has to seek a secure foundation from which to understand what already exists. What good does it do to begin with consciousness and subject it to a thinking contemplation, if before we do so we do not know whether thinking contemplation can offer insight into things? We must first consider thinking completely neutrally, without reference to a thinking subject or a thought object. For in subject and object we already have concepts that are formed through thinking. We cannot deny that, before anything else can be understood, thinking must be understood. Those who deny this forget that, as human beings, they are not the first but the last link in the chain of creation. To explain the world through concepts, we cannot proceed from the earliest elements of existence. Rather, we must proceed from the element that is given to us as the nearest, the most intimate. We cannot, in a single bound, set ourselves at the beginning of the world and begin our study there. Instead, we must proceed from the present moment and see whether we can rise from the later to the earlier. As long as geology spoke of imagined catastrophes to explain the present state of the earth, it groped in the dark. Only when it made its starting point the investigation of those processes that are still active on earth today, and reasoned backward from these to the past, did it win for itself a secure foundation. As long as philosophy assumes all kinds of principles—such as atoms, movement, matter, will, and the unconscious—it will hover in the air. 3chap Black 45 Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World 45 Only when the philosopher regards the absolutely last thing as the first can the goal be reached. But this absolutely last thing achieved by world evolution is thinking. Some say that, even so, we cannot know for certain whether our thinking in itself is correct, and therefore that, to this extent, the point of departure remains a doubtful one. This statement is just as reasonable as to entertain doubts about whether a tree in itself is correct. Thinking is a fact, and to speak about the correctness or falsehood of a fact is meaningless. At most, I can have doubts about whether thinking is used correctly, just as I can doubt whether a certain tree gives the right wood for a certain tool. The task of the present work is precisely to show how the application of thinking to the world is right or wrong. I can understand someone doubting that thinking can know something of the world, but it is incomprehensible to me that anyone could doubt the intrinsic correctness of thinking itself. Addendum to the new edition (1918) The preceding discussion points to the significant difference between thinking and all other activities of the soul, a fact that reveals itself to truly unprejudiced observation. Anyone who does not strive for such unprejudiced observation will be tempted to make such objections as: “When I think about a rose, this thinking expresses only a relationship of my “I” to the rose, just as it does when I feel the beauty of the rose. A relationship exists between the “I” and the object in thinking just as it does, for example,   3chap Black 46 46 Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path in feeling or perceiving.” This objection fails to take into account that it is only in the act of thinking that the “I” knows itself as one being with what is active in all aspects of the activity. With no other activity of the soul is this completely so. For example, when pleasure is felt, subtler observation can easily distinguish to what degree the “I” knows itself as one with what is active, and to what degree something passive is present within it, with the result that the pleasure simply arises for the “I.” And the same is true of the other activities of the soul as well. But we must not confuse “having thought-pictures” with working out thoughts by means of thinking. Thought-pictures can emerge dreamily in the soul, like vague suggestions. But this is not thinking