Steiner's Philosophy--Pt. 1
- First, before I get into the anthroposophic books, a little description of Steiner's philosophical work.
The Philosophy of Rudolf Steiner: "Die Philosophie der Freiheit. "
The Philosophy of Freedom (or, as Steiner said it should be titled in English, the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) is divided into two parts: the first part deals with questions of knowledge and the second with free will. The first part could be said to embody, "Ye shall know the Truth..." and the second part, "and the Truth shall make you free."
In the first part, Steiner explains that the attitude one takes towards knowledge will determine the position one takes about free will: that we can choose to do this or that does not mean we are free, because we may be pushed to do something by unconscious motives. So, we can only say there is such a thing as free will IF we believe it's possible to KNOW WHY WE ACT. The question of freedom is thus dependent on the question of knowledge: if we believe our knowledge is severely limited, as most people do today, it's impossible to think we truly know our inner selves and are conscious of our motives for acting and therefore are truly acting freely.
Steiner then leads the reader through the process of knowing, step by step. This is the whole first half of the book, and going through it has a different effect than just reading a summary such as is given here. He begins, not with perception (as so many do), but with our thinking, since we KNOW without doubt it exists (unlike perceived things), because we PRODUCE it.
One is led in the book to experience how thinking is not limited but universal in nature, and that we actually draw pure Ideas from the ideal (spiritual) world by Intuition. In Ch. 5: "Our thinking is not individual like our sensing and feeling; it is universal. It receives an individual stamp in each separate human being only because it comes to be related to his individual feelings and sensations.... There is only one single concept of 'triangle'.... To match up, to unite the two elements, inner and outer, is the task of knowledge... Intuition is for thinking what observation is for the percept." (All quotes are from Michael Wilson's 1964 translation.). Ch. 9: "Intuition is the conscious experience ---in pure spirit---of a purely spiritual content."
This is only a restating of Steiner's ideal philosophy given voice in every other philosophical work of his; for instance, from "Goethe the Scientist":
"Whoever recognizes as an attribute of thinking its capacity of perception extending beyond apprehension through the senses must necessarily also attribute to thinking objects existing beyond the limits of mere sense perceptible reality. But the objects of thinking are Ideas. As thinking takes possession of the Idea, it merges with the primordial foundation of the world; that which works without enters into the spirit of man; he becomes one with objective reality at its highest potency. Becoming aware of the Idea within reality is the true communion of man. Thinking has the same significance in relationship to Ideas as the eye has for light, the ear for sound; it is the organ of perception." And again: "Thinking is the flashing up in consciousness of that which objectively constitutes the world. What is essential in the idea, therefore, is not what it is for us, for our consciousness, but what it is in itself. For it is by reason of its own essential nature that it underlies the world as Principle. Thinking, therefore, is a perceiving of that which is, in and of itself. Although the idea would not come to manifestation if there were no consciousness, yet it must be so conceived that not its being conscious constitutes its character but that which it is in itself, what lies in the idea itself, to which the consciousness adds nothing."
The Ideas & concepts which pure thinking gains through intuition we then match to each perception of an object, gained by observation, and the result of this is what he calls by the German "vorstellung", a representation or mental picture, which is a concept related to specific perceptions. Ch. 6:"A mental picture is nothing but an intuition related to a particular percept...the mental picture is an individualized concept."
IDEAS SPIRITUAL (IDEAL) THINKING
REPRESENTATIONS I MENTAL
OR MENTAL PICTURES I PICTURING
PERCEPTS PHYSICAL PERCEPTION
Observation with our senses gives us 'percepts'; we draw concepts from the spiritual world by intuition; and then we match each percept to our concepts. A middle entity is created by this pairing, the vorstellungen, literally "represention" or mental picture.
For instance, the physical lion I see with my eyes, the concept "lion" is the pure idea of one I draw by intuition from the ideal world---and my mental picture of "lion" is the middle ground.
Lastly, our feeling of ourselves makes the whole cognitive process an individual one. Ch. 6:"Feeling is the means whereby, in the first instance, concepts gain concrete life." Feeling is individual, not universal like thinking.
In Steiner's philosophy there are thus 4 Levels of consciousness:
1. Pure thinking in ideas & concepts---gained through intuition;
2. Mental pictures or individualized concepts---gained through imagination;
3. Perceptions----gained through observation;
4. Feeling of all this as personal---gained as a secondary result of sensation.
To Be Continued....