I never used the words "perfect" or "infallible". In the World of
Ideas, this kind of comparative thinking would be completely irrelevant.
Thinking in Ideas, or what is sometimes called "pure thinking" isn't
pure in some kind of moral or perfect or infallible sense, but rather is
thinking which only has "experience" of the mobile and light filled
realm which lies in between Spiritual Beings and and incarnate "I am".
This thinking isn't about the world of the senses, but rather the it is
about the relationships of the object or content of the "thinking" to
all that lies within and around the context in which the object lives.
So in "thinking" about the social, one isn't creating ideas, but
"seeing". If there is a creative act in this cognitive process, it is
after the "seeing" and during the "expressing", when the objective is to
render the experience of what has been "seen" into words. This involves
a certain degree of craft and art (creativity), given that the words on
the page have little relationship with what has been seen.
In pure thinking, there is an element like "breathing". One doesn't
always remain in the realm of Ideas, but rather breathes in and out of
this "state", while at the same time the relevant Spiritual Being also
"breathes". Nor do we have to experience this Being directly to know
its Presence, because its activity has an effect which we experience -
its breathing helps sustain our own activity.
John 3:8 "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with
every one who is born of the Spirit"
When we breath out, the Ideas fall away into words, kind of like an
after effect. When we breath in, the wording ceases and one is just
What we know as threefolding, in the sense of all the words Steiner
wrote, is something else to pure thinking. The words are an attempt to
describe something at once quite real, and at the same time very
complicated. It takes a lot of effort to sustain one's consciousness in
this complexity, and frequently one only gets bits and pieces - we kind
of nibble at "understanding" what we are "seeing".
Of course, the use of the analogy "seeing" can be misleading, because
the pure thinking experience is not like our visual sense experience. In
our visual sense experience we have our "I am" as something over against
some apparent "object", which is out there - separate from us. The
"seeing" in pure thinking is more "felt", because we are to a degree
"with" the object of our cognition. When I "think" about the social, I
am "with" it, not observing it. I "enter in" to its nature. This
"uniting" gesture comes from love - I can't really understand what I
don't love. So because of the love element, and the "felt" element,
people with experience are more and more speaking of "heart thinking".
Steiner was certainly able to maintain "contact" for extended periods
of time, and we know from his notebooks (see the lectures on Color) that
what he frequently noted when he put matters into words was more poetic
and fragmentary, than what he wrote when it was time to create a long
textual construction,such as his books. Explaining something to another
person is a quite different activity than the "thinking" that precedes
If we want to try to go where the author was before they wrote, then we
have to lovingly live into the words on the page, and try to breath into
the ideas living above the words. Steiner wrote many of his books
precisely in a way that could help our practice in this regard. We can
read, for example, Theosophy in two different ways. In one way we just
gather isolated concepts and definitions - the Sentient Soul means this,
the Intellectual Soul means that. The other way is to enter into the
stream of ideas, to try to connect (unite) with what arises in our
consciousness when we "read". We trust the author to take us "up", and
in fact make ourselves open to in-the-moment "respiration" with higher
worlds. The intention in "reading" is everything.
So with Steiner's social writings. If we "fight" them, that is if we
are thinking during the reading that since this idea on the page is
different from our own understanding, and that there are better
understandings (our own, another's) we don't really experience what was
written. We have to give ourselves up to what is there, and then when
we have "entered in" to it, we have a different experience.
Of course, it is entirely possible that something written is really not
for us, either in the immediate sense, or perhaps ever. If that is the
case, we should trust that impulse. We don't all have to drink from the
On Fri, 2003-05-02 at 21:42, Evert Hoff wrote:
> Hi Joel,
> If you are suggesting that the process that Steiner followed in getting
> ideas is perfect and infallible, then I think you are wrong. Although
> the process that he followed is very good, it is not perfect, and
> Steiner himself told us that even after we get ideas we must still keep
> our minds open to further alternatives and possible new understanding.
> If we remain open-minded our thoughts will improve over time, and at any
> moment in time our thoughts might be the best that is possible at that
> stage, but we should never be tempted to consider our ideas as perfect.
> With regards to the triangle, remember that there are two types of
> thinking - the one is to describe something that exists and the other is
> to create a new idea. In the book Theosophy Steiner describes what
> already exists, while Threefold Social Order is a creative work. In
> reading these two books it is very clear that Steiner followed entirely
> different processes with each book.
> The concept of a triangle already exists because the Higher Being who
> was responsible for creating the first triangular shape in the universe
> has created the idea of a triangle. Every subsequent Creator or thinker
> has simply "tuned in" to that idea.
> With regards to social and political thought we are dealing with new
> ideas that need to be created. And in the process of creativity Steiner
> could have either invented his ideas as something completely new or he
> could have expanded and improved on the best ideas that he could find. I
> don't know which path he followed, but both are good.
> I am convinced that with social and political thinking it is a creative
> process that is necessary. You won't find the perfect idea for a social
> order hanging around in the spiritual world somewhere waiting for
> someone like Steiner to pick it like an apple. Someone needs to create
> the idea first and that is what Steiner did. Thereafter, the idea for
> threefolding would exist and others could tune into it and describe it.
> But, just because Steiner created the idea and it is now available in
> the spiritual world doesn't mean it is perfect.
> Just because you are directly tuning into ideas that exist in the
> spiritual world, doesn't mean that you are tuning into the right idea.
> For example, assume that the answer to the social question was a shape -
> it could be a triangle or a circle or a pentagon or whatever. The ideas
> for these shapes all already exist, so just because you are tuning into
> some existing idea, doesn't mean you are tuning into the right idea. It
> requires thinking and creativity to try to create or find the best
> answer. It is a fallible process and the margin of error can be reduced
> by the instructions that Steiner gave, but not eliminated.
> But, the solution to the social question is not a clean geometric shape
> like a triangle or a circle. It is likely to be a more organic shape,
> like the shape of an animal. And we know that there isn't a perfect
> shape for an animal - all animals look different but they are all OK.
> The best shape for any animal is the best shape for its circumstances.
> And so too, as the circumstances of human social life changes, so the
> solutions to the social question must also be evolved.
> In terms of Threefolding I want to stress that Steiner's ideas on the
> subject are just the beginning - it is not a completed work. He showed
> us how to think about social issues but he hasn't done all the thinking
> and creativity for us. We need to learn from the thinking process that
> he followed and continue with it, expand on it, and even correct it
> where necessary. I am sure that Steiner would have been the first to
> tell us that his writings on Threefolding should not be regarded as the
> ultimate final answer, but that the ideas should be continually reworked
> and improved upon. We need to continue the creative work that Steiner
> started - and we don't have to wait until we are initiated before we can
> do it, we just need to follow the guidelines on thinking that Steiner
> gave us. We won't find the perfect solution, but we don't have to, as
> long as we remain open to better ideas.
> On Fri, 2003-05-02 at 21:40, Joel Wendt wrote:
> > On Fri, 2003-05-02 at 13:45, Adam wrote:
> > > Even though Steiner is able to form his threefolding ideas from whole
> > > cloth, he starts with von Humboldt's Limits of State Action, and
> > > perhaps Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, but I've only come across
> > > a couple titles that deal with the intellectual history of Steiner's
> > > political ideas, and how von Humboldt's ideas should develop further
> > > through Steiner.
> > >
> > > (Many modern political thinkers take von Humboldt and Rousseau as
> > > their starting point as well, so it is very interesting how many of
> > > them use or subvert these works to espouse their views.)
> > Dear Adam,
> > I'm not sure your observations are accurate if you mean to suggest that
> > Steiner took in and then worked from the ideas of others, as is the
> > assumption of the conventional view of "intellectual history". This
> > view seems to assume that ideas move from one mind to another in a
> > social horizontal way, through reading or listening.
> > Steiner certainly worked in a quite different way, one more vertical in
> > orientation, where Ideas are meet in their own realm, and the fact that
> > one mind in one place and time draws forth something similar to what
> > another mind does in a different time and place does not mean the
> > latter's thinking is derivative of the former.
> > In my own work I find all manner of Ideas where they exist in
> > themselves, that I on prior (or later) occasions have found expressed by
> > others. But in no way are my "thoughts" derived, although in some cases
> > I have arrived in the World of Ideas at a "territory" pointed at by
> > another thinker.
> > This is quite similar to the problem pointed out by Steiner in his "A
> > Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception", where
> > Steiner suggests there is only one Idea of a triangle, that is
> > apprehended by different minds through their independent processes of
> > cognition. I find the same true with regard to political and social
> > thought - what is true has an independent existence of the perceiving
> > minds.
> > I hope I have been able to express myself adequately here, and that I
> > did not mistake what you said for something else. If I did mistake your
> > meaning, I apologize.
> > warm regards,
> > joel
> > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy
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