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RE: Considering the Truth of Steiner's Research

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  • RobertM
    (This is a cross-post addressing some quesions from a wavering Anthro seeker. Maybe this will be useful for some on this list. The original inquiry is here:
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 16, 2013
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      (This is a cross-post addressing some quesions
      from a wavering Anthro seeker. Maybe this will
      be useful for some on this list. The original
      inquiry is here:
      <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/steiner12/message/470>

      To Jessica, who wrote:

      >>-How do you come to consider that the findings
      from Steiner's spiritual research are true?<<

      Robert writes:

      Sorry to take so long to respond. Others here
      were already responding, and I was thinking of
      you as a WC-ite, so I wasn't going to say
      anything. But, on re-consideration, I take your
      questions to be sincere, so I'll respond to the
      "you" questions. (I haven't yet caught up to
      your latest posts.)

      Up to a point, I'd distinguish the "findings"
      from the "path". I'm still, after many years,
      still stumbling over the first few steps on the
      Path, so I haven't confirmed many of the
      "findings" of RS's "spiritual scientific
      research". But I have gotten far enough on the
      Path to have experienced a positive change in
      consciousness, and I do have the feeling that I
      am moving forward, so I intend to keep working
      on the Path. I likely won't get very far in
      this incarnation, but I believe that any
      progress is better than none. And anyway, I
      like doing the "work" in itself -- the part that
      I do, as it is.

      As for the "findings": RS repeatedly said that
      anyone with a normal consciousness can
      "understand" the reported results of true
      spiritual-scientific research, that "unconscious
      knowledge" "flashes up" to meet such reports
      even in someone who is not yet able to carry out
      such research. Indeed, he also repeatedly said
      that "study" of such reports is itself a good
      and necessary early step on the Path of
      Cognition. In this sense, the "findings" are an
      integral part of the "path". For me, the
      experience of "exercises" is more palpable; the
      experience of the "findings" is more delicate.
      (In fact, he even said that a competent
      researcher cannot independently re-discover an
      "occult" fact that has already been discovered,
      unless that researcher first gets information
      about that occult fact through ordinary means.)
      This "flashing up" is possible, in part at
      least, because the thoughts contained in the
      reports are not merely thoughts *about* the
      facts, but in a real sense *are* the facts
      themselves. On this point STEINER SAYS:

      "While reading the communications concerning
      spiritual-scientific knowledge, we live in a
      quite different manner than we do while reading
      those concerning external facts. If we read
      communications from the outer sense world, we
      are reading about them. But if we read
      communications about supersensible facts in the
      right way, we are living into the branch of
      spiritual existence. . . . if we have truly
      absorbed these thoughts we are already within
      this world and have only to become quite clear
      about the fact that we have already experienced,
      unnoticed, what we thought we had received
      merely as an intellectual communication. . . .

      "— Therefore, by first absorbing the
      communications as given in the first part of
      this book [i.e. the "findings"], we become
      participators in the knowledge of the spiritual
      world . . . ."

      (That's from the first chapter of *Occult
      Science*; on this point that chapter especially
      deserves to be read in its entirety -- as does
      the whole book, as well as *KoHW* and
      *Theosophy* in particular.)

      In other words, as RS says over and over, our
      thoughts are really "shadowy" experiences of
      spiritual realities, which are themselves, in
      essence, *beings*. So, when we are thinking
      real thoughts, we are actually living in the
      spiritual realities. The "spirit" is of the
      nature of thought. Again: the thoughts of
      spiritual scientific "findings" are not *about*
      the spiritual facts; they *are* the facts.

      As I say to myself: everyone, deep down,
      somewhere, already knows the Truth. And if one
      is being *real*, is being honest with oneself,
      one can recognize the Truth when one sees it.
      It's no good saying that I don't know, that I
      can't know -- when one actually does know. The
      first time I really got down and read a Steiner
      book (*KoHW*, as it happened), I had the
      experience: I have always known this.

      I might make a comparison to the famous "proof
      of an external world" by the Cambridge
      philosopher GE Moore. (You can google or wiki-
      up all this.) Moore was concerned to "prove"
      (against a plethora of philosophical doubts) the
      existence of an external world. He did this by
      simply holding up one hand and then the other:
      since these "external objects" obviously exist,
      an external world exists; philosophical doubts
      to the contrary are far less certain than the
      plain, obvious facts. (I may be smearing over
      some subtleties in Moore's approach, but I think
      that these few words make the point clear
      enough.) -- My comparison is this case is a
      little less obvious, but in principle the same.
      In the case of reading Steiner's "findings", one
      must ask oneself whether the doubting or the
      knowing is *more real*.

      For me, in most cases, about the big facts
      anyway, the knowing is more real. Of course, in
      the abstract, one can conjure up all kinds of
      doubts, but the fact remains: if I am being
      *real* with myself, the fact is plain that
      somewhere, deep down, I *do* know. And
      sometimes it isn't even all that deep down.

      This is a question that everyone must decide for
      himself. But if one is going to be a skeptic,
      then it seems to me that one should be a *real*
      skeptic: one must be skeptical about one's own
      skepticism. And this means having self-
      awareness, even down into the subconscious --
      and self-awareness sometimes hurts, sometimes a
      lot. It can be a long, painful journey, even
      within ordinary, non-clairvoyant consciousness.
      Ultimately, one must answer the question: if I
      am being real, is my doubt or my belief more
      real?

      Jessica wrote:

      >>-If you're undecided about the truth of his
      information, yet study Anthroposophy, what do
      you think keeps you interested in the study?<<

      Robert writes:

      Well, gosh. Anthroposophy is "about", first of
      all, the big questions of life, the things that
      really matter -- an Anthroposophy treats these
      questions in the most profound way that I have
      seen. How could I not be interested? If I'm
      undecided, it's usually because I haven't
      understood what RS was saying. In that case, I
      try to study and understand more. I've been at
      it for many years, and I still don't understand
      it all. I doubt that many would say that they
      do.

      I do sometimes run into instances where it seems
      that RS might have been flat wrong, but so far
      these have been relatively minor points. For
      instance, right now I'm trying to decide whether
      he was wrong about some dates in the life (or
      lives) of Jesus (or the Jesuses). -- But RS
      never claimed that everything he ever said was
      correct down to the last detail of the
      recordings; in fact he said the opposite.

      Jessica wrote:

      >>-What are your thoughts on Anthroposophy and
      magical thinking?<<

      Robert writes:

      I wasn't very familiar with the term *magical
      thinking* (I gather that it has a specialized
      meaning), so I googled it. Wikipedia says:

      "Magical thinking is thinking that one's
      thoughts by themselves can bring about effects
      in the world or that thinking something
      corresponds with doing it. It is a type of
      causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks
      for meaningful relationships of grouped
      phenomena between acts and events. [etc.]"

      It seems that the term was coined by 19th
      Century anthropologists and psychologists to
      describe a kind of thinking that they considered
      to be primitive or irrational (as compared to
      their own thinking, I suppose). And it seems
      that the usage of this term has continued in
      that vein. I gather that you see, or think that
      you "see", some connection of Anthroposophy with
      irrationality?

      OK: I'd agree that Anthroposophy does at least
      affirm that thoughts can "bring about effects" -
      -- maybe not obviously to the short-sighted, nor
      always efficiently -- but some effects
      nonetheless. If causal relations aren't seen by
      some people, that doesn't imply that those
      relations aren't "there". If some people don't
      see these relations, maybe that's because most
      people don't see as deeply and widely as, for
      instance, Steiner did. (And, for that matter,
      even physical science is catching up to the fact
      that thoughts can have effects even in the
      physical world. See, for example, the work of
      Dean Radin.)

      I won't try to recount all the "thoughts" I
      might have on this subject. For now, I'll just
      say that nothing could be further from the
      spirit of Anthroposophy than fallacious
      reasoning. (And it is plainly fallacious to
      make a dogma of the proposition that thoughts
      can't have effects.) In Anthroposophy the
      thinking must follow from the inherent necessity
      of the thoughts themselves; that is, real
      thinking is an objective process, not a
      subjective one. (That's my terminology; RS
      might say rather that thinking transcends the
      difference between the subjective and the
      objective.)

      Further, Anthroposophical consciousness, as
      Steiner developed it, expands to the point (or
      beyond) of experiencing how thinking produces
      the thoughts. That is, it isn't merely a matter
      of thinking, but of experiencing the process of
      thinking. And one need not be a Steiner to see
      this point: simply by *paying attention* to the
      coming-into-manifestation of one's own thoughts
      as an objective process one can readily reach a
      "higher" stage of consciousness. That' just a
      "baby step", but it's enough to convince one
      that this Steiner fellow was really onto
      something.

      -- I've been very brief myself. And again, if
      you're going to be skeptical, I'd suggest that
      you be a real skeptic: skeptical about your own
      skepticism. And from then on, if you are
      *real*, then you'll, sooner or later, get onto
      the right track.

      Robert Mason
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