a commentary on Scott E. Hicks' remarkable essay:

Spiritual Beings Dwell in the Ground of Propositions*

Brentano, Husserl and Steiner on the Content of Thought

by Joel A. Wendt

This Link no longer works:  Here is a link to obtain a PDF document copy of Hicks' essay.  The PDF document can no longer be found at this link, the author having withdrawn it as part of apparent efforts at more research.  I was told that this essay below did not influence that decision. Sorry, but this then makes the essay below somewhat superfluous.  That essay should be read before reading this commentary, other wise the below loses an essential context.

The first point I'd like to make is that I intend to confirm a great deal of what Hicks has written.  At almost every point I was able (eventually, see below) to find agreement with Hicks exposition.  I did, however, have a constant experience such that I would have often emphasized a slightly different nuance (especially when he was writing of the experiences of thinking we all share).  That said, and while the overall situation is a bit complicated, perhaps even tricky (so to speak), I remain hopeful what is written below will, in any event, be useful to others.  As a general matter, this commentary is not so much directed at repeating what Hicks has offered, or at criticizing its apparent limits, but rather the effort here is to place Hicks' work in a wider context, for he (and Brentano, Husserl and Steiner) are not the only ones to take an interest in these questions.

- some preliminary considerations -

I have read Hicks' essay several times.  I found reading this essay difficult for a number of reasons.  In the beginning, it seems he was trying to separate his work (and ultimately Husserl's) from current thinking in such fields as linguistic analysis, and perhaps even postmodern thought, yet without expressly doing so.  This made a lot of sense in a way, and I could see that the essay would have become something else if he had tried to make these distinctions more explicit.  Once past that threshold problem (so to speak) he then entered deeply into the specialized and distinct language conventions he was creating, and this I found helpful and confusing simultaneously.  In trying to understand why this was so, I eventually discovered that I had to use some different (made-up to a degree) terminology in order to approach the situation carefully, while remaining true to the concepts discovered - to the content of thought that went with seeking to understand the underlying riddle posed by the difficulties I had during reading this text.

These somewhat made-up terms are: ordinary consciousness; meditative consciousness; introspective consciousness; and, initiate consciousness. 

Having read the works of many different writers - some familiar with Anthroposophy as well as other spiritual disciplines, in commenting on Hicks work I discovered that I needed to make distinctions that made sense of the fact that these different writers often seem to disagreed in certain respects in spite of either being familiar with the works of Rudolf Steiner, or with other spiritual Ways or Paths.  To give definition and shape to the above terms - these distinctions, I also will borrow certain indications of Steiner that I hope will be helpful.  The reader should, however, consider this idea of definition and shape as not involving an effort to define or make rigid their conception, but rather to point a finger in  certain directions as regards the possible different ways in which experience and thought (or percept and concept) can be in relationship to each other.

For example, in what I am calling ordinary consciousness the I (in its current stage of the evolution of consciousness) basically sleeps through whatever its relationship is to these realms (experience and thought).  In what I am calling meditative consciousness, the I creates special moments of concentrated and focused inner activity, after which certain forces then flow into what was previously ordinary consciousness such that a kind of inward waking up slowly arises - experience and thought can over time be seen to draw nearer to each other in a way. 

In what I am calling introspective consciousness, the I regularly practices a kind continuous and ongoing waking up through careful self observation, such that the will-in-thinking slowly develops inward skills that people who do not practice this art cannot even imagine.  These purely cognitive skills create certain forces (capacities of the will) that then flow into not only ordinary consciousness, but meditative experiences as well.  Over time experience and thought draw closer and closer to each other, so that when introspective consciousness matures, what Steiner wrote of as thinking which has life in it, or it thinks in me, becomes a general ongoing experience (ordinary discursive thinking undergoes a metamorphosis into living thinking).

What I am calling here initiate consciousness involves the full development of clairvoyant abilities (not just momentary experiences that can arise in ordinary consciousness, in meditative consciousness or introspective consciousness), which clairvoyance is then afterwards continuously present.  The I can attend to its clairvoyant experiences, or other more ordinary, mediative or introspective experiences at will.  These clairvoyant capacities, however, as described by Steiner, are varied.  I'll leave to his works the descriptions of the differences and similarities, except to point to his remarks in the last preface to his book A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, where he points out that in clairvoyance (supersensible perception) experience and thought arise simultaneously in the soul, whereas (by implication) experience usually precedes thought in time in the other forms of consciousness.

A lot more detail could be gone into here, but the point being made is not about these terms, but rather to set up the concepts behind the terms for their later explanatory power when considering what Hicks has offered, and why in certain circumstances his perceptions and thoughts will be different from the reports of others.  Essentially I am suggesting that there are different paths one can take, and that these paths can be loosely divided according to these terms (ordinary consciousness etc.) in such a way that we will then find that among those reporting the results of their inner work, the differences can be explained in large part by the general characteristics of the approach which they individually took.

In addition, it is clear that for some individuals, who are students of Rudolf Steiner, that they will be combining, in different degrees, aspects of both a kind of meditative consciousness and an introspective consciousness.  I am not sure, for example, that this mixing is always a good thing if it results from trying to follow the path laid out in Theosophy, then Occult Science and finally Knowledge of Higher Worlds, at the same time as the quite different path that was laid out in A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception and The Philosophy of Freedom. My view is that the processes and soul forces involved in these two paths are quite distinct, and that it may be better to concentrate on one path to the exclusion of the other.  Everyone, of course, will have to make their own choices here.

One final small caveat: It is possible sometimes for people to read the works (ideas and thoughts) of a highly developed personality, such as Rudolf Steiner, and as a result make too complicated their view of the present.  Steiner has given us much that belongs actually to our farther future states of consciousness, and if we import some of these ideas into our present in such a way that we judge this present by this future potential, we will make it harder to realize what actually is possible in this present.

The spiritual researcher engages in a delicate art when they bring to our present what really belongs to our future, and Steiner even pointed this out with respect to the Being he called Ahriman - that Ahriman (according to Steiner), in that he was or did evil, did so because he brought things ahead of their time.  We make a mistake, for example, if we look to such a personality as Steiner and believe they make no errors, and that every judgment they make is perfect.  Steiner still makes karma, otherwise he would never have been able to join his karma to that of the members of the Anthroposophical Society.

For example, it is possible to come to think that we need to do in this incarnation that which  really belongs to a later time, because a spiritual researcher has told us of this later in time  possibility.  This is particularly present today in the Anthroposophical Society and Movement concerning the relationship between the Consciousness Soul and the Spirit Self.  It is possible to try to skip past the tasks of the Consciousness Soul inadvertently, in part because Steiner could only speak of it in the language of the Intellectual Soul.  With respect to this possible confusion, it has helped me over the years to keep in mind the following:

Christ is Love.   As Love He does not put any barriers between us and Him.   Any barriers we discover are those we ourselves create.  Part of what this means is that we don't have to become different or practice meditative consciousness, or introspective consciousness or even initiate consciousness in order to be near to Christ.  Ordinary consciousness is just fine.

Do we believe, for example, that Christ is only to be met on the path of Anthroposophy?  Why would the Divine Mystery place such obstacle-like tasks in front of any human being?   Christ participates in our ordinary consciousness all the time.   We just don't notice it because it comes as Grace, and unannounced.   He doesn't even say hi (although we can learn to feel his Presence) - He just keeps his promise: I will be with you unto the ends of time.

As ordinary thinkers often say: We are all going to the same place, even though each individual journey is certainly different.  This is not to imply that work by such as Husserl, Steiner and Hicks has no meaning, just that its meaning is ultimately meant to serve others, not just our own assumptions as to its significance.   Spiritual research serves the development of future culture, and needs not be done by everyone, any more than everyone ought to become a theoretical physicist in order to benefit from discoveries in that field of research.  Below I will go into certain details. 

 - Hicks discovery -

After his preliminary discussions, Hicks defines the territory of his inquiry in this way (page 2, column 1 of the PDF document):  "...when a person investigates the reality of meaningful thought with  a keen sense and an open mind, by attending to the deeper conceptual processes linked to the sounds and symbols with full consciousness, an entire realm of living thought forms becomes apparent.  This is a pure realm of meaning without representations in either imagined pictures or a particular language."

Others have made this journey, and I have tried to suggest above that while we might assume that our experiences are fully universal (that for everyone they would be the same), this turns out not to be the case.  It is in fact quite difficult to separate out clearly our universal perceptions from our individualized and subjective perceptions.  The above quoted statement is true, but when we read the next sentences where Hicks tries to express his actual experience metaphorically ( ...imagine bursts, flashes, and lines of colored light shining in the air... page 2, column 2) we wander into the more dangerous subjective territory.

The reason I say discovery is that while Hicks next proceeds with an analysis of the writings of Brentano, Husserl and Steiner, he eventually shifts his approach back for a while to his own subjective experiences at a certain point, and then relates his thoughts about his experiences, to their ideas.  However, for reasons I hope will eventually make sense to the reader, I'd like to skip past that aspect of Hicks essay, and start near the end of his essay first.  I am assuming the reader of this has read that essay, and if not they should leave this aside and do so, otherwise they might get quite confused.  If the reader needs to, they might even reread Hicks essay before continuing here, for it grows inwardly with multiple readings. 

Near the end of his essay, Hicks creates a diagram, by which he hopes to lay out a kind of ladder of experience, leading from ordinary thinking to finding (discovering/confirming) that spiritual beings dwell in the ground of propositions, or the meaning of the content of thought.

Here is the ladder, represented in a horizontal form, rather than a vertical (as Hicks has done, page 13 column 2), going from the top down: 1) Meaning-Fulfillment: Angelic Being dwelling inside Essence - Spiritual World; 2) Dynamic Archetype in the Substance of Flowing Susceptibility - Astral World; 3) Husserlian Essence (Eidos) - A reflection of Dynamic Archetype - Etheric World; 4) Pure Meaning Shapes in Life-ether - Etheric World; 5) Linguistic Propositional Shapes in Tone-ether - Etheric World; 6) Husserlian Noemata - reflections of Pure Meaning Shapes (4) Etheric/Physical World; 7) Meaning-Intention: Dull Mental Images/Representations - Physical World; 8) Dull Sense of Inner Speech centered around the Larynx - Physical World.

I need here to make a couple of critical observations.  First, I am not sure the term "dull" is useful, because ordinary consciousness is quite special from the point of view of the Divine Mystery, and perhaps a term with less pejorative implications would be better, such as yet necessarily incomplete.  In other places in his essay, Hicks makes (or implies) similar negative judgments of the content of ordinary consciousness, such as when he uses the term "emptily" or writes that "She barely considers the concept of snow at all, and it is only dimly contained in the course of her conversation.".  Both Hicks and Husserl appear to make value judgments of ordinary consciousness to the extent that it is not as awake as are they, or lives as fully in the realm of concepts as they do.  The whole story in the essay of the woman observing the snow seems a bit dismissive of her state of consciousness, and if this is so, then I find this troubling.

Later (page 6, column 3) Hicks writes of hallucinatory fantasy or puerile daydreaming (whether these are just his terms or Husserl's is not clear), distinguishing this from a more disciplined imaginative process.  Granted such is true in a certain sense (Goethe's exact sensorial phantasy) - namely that the disciplined imaginative process is better suited to science, but the role of fantasy and daydreaming in a healthy human soul life (psychology) is not to be so easily dismissed.  For example, to a qualitatively oriented introspection, one can distinguish fantasy, daydreaming and reverie as somewhat distinct states of consciousness.  They are semi-conscious aspects of an instinctive picture thinking, and much goes on in this realm that serves the needs of ordinary consciousness.

Reverie is more heavenly in its content, while fantasy is more earthly.  The former is more symbolic and less ego-centric.  Fantasy is more concrete and more focused on the ego's wants and desires.  Daydreaming mediates between the two states, and moves often from one or the other (fantasy to reverie and back again) under the instinctive wise guidance of the I.  Introspection will find in the content of these states of instinctive picture thinking a reflection of aspects of the astral or desire body.  There is fruitful self-knowledge to be gained by confessing to ourselves the nature and personal meaning significance of this content.  Not only that, but these states of inward relaxation are often a quite necessary antidote to the demands placed on the thinking by ordinary life.  A mind too engaged in one to the exclusion of the other (whether an excessive daydreaming disengagement from life, or a too rigorous obsessive worried thinking about life) reveals an absence of inward balance and can be a sign of psychological disturbance.

The second thing we need to notice is the obscure and arcane kinds of language being used (including this in the title: "ground of propositions").  During my multiple readings I had to often go quite slowly in large part because I had to continuously write down several definitions for various terms, just to not loose the thread of the discussion.  Here is a typical and problematic  sentence that can be found deeper into the text (page 6, column 2): "One might argue that because concepts and (especially perceptual) noemata are often imagistic in nature, this would suggest that such noetic or psychological features must also be endowed with something akin to profiles."

In an earlier version of this commentary I lamented that this essay seemed not to be written at all for an ordinary consciousness, so frequent was the use of unusual terminology.  Part of the reason for this is obvious, however, in that Husserl in particular (who is the main object of most the middle section of this paper) himself used a specialized language.  Hicks even comments that he is doing this: "... I want to examine these ideas ... in order ... to build up a special vocabulary (with its corresponding conceptual apparatus)" (page 4, column 1).   This problem* aside, if we look at the ladder, Hicks has highlighted for us the fundamental question/riddle he is exploring by having put in bold two stairs of the ladder: 1) Meaning-Fulfillment and 7) Meaning-Intention.  We could say that he is seeking the causal realm of the meaning of the content of thought, which we experience in different ways in our consciousness (soul).

*[We would have a much longer and quite different essay if Hicks had gone the other way, which is to unfold the special vocabulary and relate it to Brentano, Husserl and Steiner, and then set that special vocabulary aside and create thought-forms (word phrases on the page) out of which ordinary consciousness would be able to grasp what was being offered here.  For example, in the phrase quoted above that begins "One might argue...", it is possible to not use the terms: noemata, imagistic, noetic and profiles, but rather ordinary language which might then help the ordinary consciousness to look at itself in a new way.  Here is this quote, rewritten by me to remove the specialized language  (don't expect much improvement, the task to retrieve the meaning hidden by the arcane language is arduous):  One might argue that because concepts and (especially perceptual) [noemata =] specific idea-forms are often [imagistic =] picture-like in nature, this would suggest that such [noetic =] inwardly perceived idea-like (or psychological features) must also be endowed with something akin to [profiles =] sense world space-like changes in perspective.

I am not, by the way, at all satisfied with the above, but I did hope by merely trying to translate this statement, I can shed light on this problem of arcane language.  To not use arcane language is possible, and this is actually the example set in Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom; and, which I tried to emulate in my first effort to illuminate my own experiences born in an effort at introspective science: "pragmatic moral psychology" - http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/stgfr5.html]

As part of this quest (and perhaps because of this), Hicks has undertaken to look into the written works of Steiner, Husserl and Brentano, to see what they were thinking about meaning, and whether there was any interconnection between the thinking of these three personalities.  As he works with this question, Hicks invites us to also observe our own thought processes.  The matter is made complicated, in large part because this is a realm of inner experience few thinkers seek to penetrate, so for most readers of his essay the territory will be mostly unknown.

At the same time as I read, I often wrote in the margins various comments wondering whether Hicks knew of other writers' works that had considered similar questions (for example: there are  the works of Owen Barfield, such as: Poetic Diction: a study in meaning; Speaker's Meaning; and in particular Saving the Appearances: a study in idolatry).  When Hicks writes of what Husserl called the pre-linguistic field, I wondered whether this was similar to Barfield's idea of figuration, or to any aspect of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Primary and Secondary Imagination.  

Someone else will have to see if that is the case, but this should be said here: the problem really comes from the fact that Husserl (and Brentano and Steiner) were all investigating a field of inquiry, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, which few others had been able to penetrate with their thinking, much less even recognize as being able to be a subject of scientific observation and investigation (our interior life as regards thought and meaning).   Husserl in particular explored this very carefully and it is his language with which Hicks has had to deal.  Hicks then, having as one object the explication of Husserl's thought in relationship to Brentano and Steiner is compelled (as it were) to remain true to Husserl's language conventions.

Now I am not going to try to restate Hicks' work here, for given the basic difficulties and limits made necessary by these language conventions, created to describe what can be observed in human psychology as regards the origin of meaning in the content of thought, Hicks' essay itself is the best rendering possible.  Rather I am going to try to describe some limits (or edges) to these observations I believe Hicks ran into, that flow in part from his necessarily partially subjective and individualized approach to such inner work, coupled to what Husserl had himself discovered.

Hicks does on a number of occasions try to suggest that Steiner's own writings on introspective psychology are similar to Husserl's conclusions, and this I think is not as exactly the case that Hicks wishes it were.  But even a discussion of those problems would be difficult, and perhaps pointless, because we don't want to analyze (take apart) what Hicks has rendered, so much as confirm as much of it as possible.  We (who work at what I'd like to call here: the early stages of a new science of introspective psychology) all enter a territory filled with a lot of detail, and each of us will approach this realm carrying different biases, assumptions and other pre-thought conclusions that make our various ways of representing the riddles of meaning and the content of thought appear in different kinds of terminology.

Husserl expresses things one way, Brentano another, Steiner a third, Barfield a fourth, Coleridge a fifth, Emerson a sixth, Kuhlewind a seventh, myself an eighth and Hicks himself to a certain degree another.  This is why I laid out at the beginning some attempted observations about ordinary, meditative, introspective and initiate consciousness.  Again, keep in mind that I am assuming the reader of this commentary is familiar with Hicks' essay.

For example, I think if we were to lay along side each other these various ways of representing the study of meaning and the content of thought, moving Westward from Central Europe, through England and then into America, we would find that a different kind of emphasis arises, because each of these geographical areas produces differently oriented conditions of soul.  Hicks, having delved into the Central European way of looking at things, will not use the same terminology as Barfield or Coleridge (Englishmen), and as myself or Emerson (Americans).  The subjectivity of the thinker, and their own soul (inner psychological territory), will contribute to biases and assumptions, and readers of each should then not be surprised that the investigation of these matters results in a significant variety of expressions, representations and terminology.

Let me give a few examples.

If one takes a word-search program to the PDF file of Hicks' essay, one will find that the word moral is mentioned only twice - once in the first paragraph and once in the last.  We will also find the frequent use of such terms as attention and intention (or their variations).  In Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom, the term moral has considerable significance, as in: moral imagination, moral intuition and moral technique.

As someone who has practiced introspective psychology for over 30 years, these terms have a great deal of significance, although my use of them doesn't have to be the same use as that of other thinkers.  In my experience and practice, the term attention is used to refer to that act of my I by which it focuses its thinking activity on a particular object, be it an object in the sense world, or an object in the psychological (soul/spiritual) world.  The term intention, in my way of seeing these matters, refers to the moral impulse, or the causal why the attention is focused in a certain way.  Experience teaches that the meaning or content of thought that arises will vary according to the moral quality with which the thinker's intention imbues its attention.

Barfield, for another and different example, in Saving the Appearances, distinguishes three kinds of thinking/meaning creation: figuration, and what he calls alpha and beta thinking.  Figuration he describes as the instinctive thought content (meaning) of the world which appears to our ordinary consciousness in that we know the names and the principle significance of a whole host of objects that come before our perception both inward and outward.  Figuration is born into us through our acquisition of language - it is the inherent cultural meaning of the familiar world into which we are raised

Figuration would appear to be possibly related to Husserl's pre-linguistic field, but of this I have no certainty.  And the moral (as an independent reality from the I) may be related to the supra-linguistic field (again a term used by Husserl and Hicks).

Alpha thinking is the kind of thinking done in science, and it produces theories about its objects.  Barfield doesn't want to confine such thinking to science, however, but would include history (theories about the past) and such as additional examples of alpha thinking.

Beta thinking is reflective, and could include thinking about thinking, or thinking about perception.  Most of Husserl's thought seems to be beta thinking about objects in our interior life, which seeks (according to Hicks) a distinctly phenomenological orientation (no theory, just pure observation).

To further illuminate the possible different ways of seeing (reflecting upon) some of the same things, let me add this from Emerson: Nature is a thought incarnate and turns to thought again as ice becomes water and then gas.  The world is mind precipitated and the volatile essence is forever escaping into the state of free thought (from his essay: Nature, written at age 33 in 1836).  Fifty years later, in 1886, Steiner was to write at age 25 in his book A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception: Thought is the last of a series of processes by which Nature is formed.

Here is Coleridge on Primary and Secondary Imagination: The Imagination then, I consider either as primary  or secondary.  The primary Imagination I hold to be a living power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation of the infinite I Am.  The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the former in the kind of its agency and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation .  It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify.  It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

Each of these, including Hicks ladder which ends up with referring to "1) Meaning-Fulfillment: Angelic Being dwelling inside Essence - Spiritual World", relates the act of thinking (meaning and content of thought creation) to what we generally call the spiritual, or in Spiritual Science: the spiritual world.  At the time Husserl was thinking and writing, natural science was living in a world view which had come to presume a disconnect between thinking and the world, and further that science and religion had little to say to each other.   So Hicks, in telling us the story of Husserl's efforts to penetrate with scientific observation into the interior or psychological realm, reveals Husserl as an early explorer who sought to remain within the scientific attitude or spirit, albeit with an emphasis on the phenomenology of the psychological.

Hicks also is able to confirm Husserl, when he (Hicks) begins his description of his own introspective/meditative work in this way: "First, after closing the eyes, one can orient a primary ray of attention to the lower region of darkness in the field of the mind's eye, while a weaker second ray of attention is simultaneously oriented toward a 'higher' region.  This higher region is expressing the concepts that one is thinking by means of unclear images.  These vague images, which often have a character determined by the impressions of memory, are experienced as unfolding outside the field of inner vision, in a sense, 'behind' or 'beyond' the primary ray of attention." (page 7, column 2)

Hopefully the reader can now see the variety of ways in which one can approach these riddles and questions, both in an observational sense, and a cognitive (meaning-descriptive) sense.  For example, Tomberg (often irrationally vilified by some anthroposophists) describes a way of inward seeing for which he uses the idea of two inward seeing eyes one above the other in a vertical array, instead of the two eyes of the face that lie in the horizontal.  This would seem to relate to Hicks' description of the two different rays of attention, one above the other.

In my own work, I have experienced meditatively four fields of soul phenomena, related to the crown chakra, the eyebrow chakra, the throat chakra and the heart chakra, each contributing to the "impression" made by the object of thought.  The I can focus on each field individually, or two or more together, with each experience (each summation of the rays of attention) resulting in different inwardly sensed experiences.  Some experiences are quite unusual, for example when the throat chakra is made very quiet (no discursive or inner dialog allowed), after which, when a certain rest point is achieved, one discovers that inner silence in this chakra (soul location) also "sounds".

Again, I am not suggesting that one or another way of describing or cognizing these experiences is superior, but rather pointing out how individually unique each is.  And, more important, once we recognize these individual approaches, we can work at seeing their similarities and mutual confirmation, while at the same time not letting the differences in terminology come to mean one is wrong and the other right.

This is not to say, however, that there are no problems those doing research in this area can and should point out to each other.  Anthroposophy is meant to be a science, and in the field of science a critical examination of each others offerings is an essential process.  In this regard then, Hicks essay displays two additional problems to my thinking (additional to the arcane language used, and the possible negative presumptions regarding ordinary thinking - both mentioned above).

In the first, to my way of approaching these questions, Hicks wanders into a kind of weak or speculative territory when he adds a great deal of "Steiner said" to what he wants to comment on. This in particular with the evocation of Steiner's ideas on the different kinds of ethers (tone, life etc.) that become part of the ladder.  This concerns the problem that the Italian practitioner of The Philosophy of Freedom, Massimo Scaligero, calls the pre-thought thought (as does, I believe, Kuhlewind).

When we bring prematurely, into our attempts at a psychological phenomenology, a concept borrowed from another thinker (such as Steiner), we have in essence a pre-thought thought derived from the reading of a text.  The question then arises whether the perception (the phenomenological observation) is determined by the borrowed concept, or arises directly from the experience of the phenomena itself.  With the pre-thought thought we will tend to see and experience what we expect to see and experience.  The pre-thought thought becomes an assumption (or what Barfield calls: an idol) in the soul, and like a kind of ghost obscures the actual perception/experience.  Anthroposophists, for example, tend very much to idolize what Steiner said.

The second problem I find very interesting.  Particularly beginning in pages 5 and onward, starting with section III. Profiles, Eidetic Reduction and Ideality (there's that arcane terminology problem again), it seemed to me that the scientific (observational/phenomonological) approach (an intention) itself began to disturb the field of observation itself.  That is the I, as a thinking perceiving subject, has an effect upon the field or objects which it is observing by its acts of attention and intention (something the quantum physicist has observed in his work).

Observation establishes (and this from many different writers on this subject) that there is a kind of co-participation that goes on in spiritual experience.  This is a subtle problem, and reveals that it is worth spending considerable time in quiet reflection on such riddles.  For example, is the inner world similar or different with respect to the nature of "outness" which the I experiences concerning sense experience?  Is a thought (or meaning) over there, so to speak, in the same way we find (or believe) a tree to be over there in sense perception?  Hicks comes at this a bit with his discussion of profiles, however, I want to suggest here that this is a much deeper problem in a way (See Owen Barfield's book: What Coleridge Thought, in particular the Chapter on "Outness".)

When we attend over time to certain aspects hidden beneath the surface of our inner life, we eventually will begin to run into the activity of other Beings.  This is, of course, where Hicks wants to end up, with what he calls in the title to his essay: Spiritual Beings Dwell in the Ground of Propositions.  It seems to me, once one begins to notice the existence of what I have sometimes called other-presence, that at this stage of inner experience one has left the realm of purely objective science and wandered into a territory where religious feeling is called upon to play a larger role.

This last point I now want to link to the discussion above regarding the absence of some reflection in Hicks essay on the moral element of our inward intentions.  Steiner has asked of the scientist that his laboratory needs to become an altar, and if our science is focused on introspective observations, then our own psychological interior perhaps ought to also become a temple where sacraments are practiced, in addition to a place of observation and perhaps experimentation.

Because of this fact, I think it is unnecessary to reference Steiner's thought on the different ethers (life, tone etc.).  One only has to recognize that in our interior life we have come to the threshold or perhaps a gateway or even a rite of passage, and that a basically religious attitude has to be added to our scientific impulses.  Not only that, but an artistic attitude as well.

It is not just that spiritual beings dwell in the ground of proposition (i.e. that the meaning inherent in the content of thought arises out of intercourse with invisible Beings), but that we have two other tasks here in addition to being scientific in our introspective psychology.  One is the cultivation of reverence, and perhaps even an understanding of the significance of surrender.  The other is that our expression (representation in words) of these encounters has to include an effort to create beauty.

As a scientist, I seek inwardly the Truth.   As a religious person I also seek inwardly the Good.  As an artist, I also need to feel/see the inherent beauty of the whole experience, which I then come to render into language.  For a period of time in my own development, I rendered this experience as other-presence.   Then as it became more and more living in me, I began to render it as the delicate and subtle presence of Fullness and fullness of Presence.  Then ultimately I found I needed to render it as a communion,  or the Second Eucharist in the Ethereal, all made possible by the presence of the true Second Coming of Christ in the Ethereal.  The meaning or content of thought, or ground of propositions, becomes then an aspect of a sacrament in which I am not the only participant.

Hicks has approached this, and I think wants this.  Husserl apparently couldn't step outside his need to be purely scientific.  But to go the final steps up the ladder does require something in addition to a scientific observation of inwardly noticed facts of experience.  And that something (for me) is to realize, with humility, that within ones soul we stand in the presence of Mystery.  It certainly is a crucial fact of this kind of experience that it isn't just we who seek to encounter the Mystery, but that the Mystery Itself seeks also to encounter us.

One of the differences, between my own work and that of Hicks (and Husserl), has included meditative work on individual concepts.  When Hicks writes of the ground of propositions he seems to be referring to a what lies behind what we usually call: a train of thoughts, and Hicks defines a proposition as an "individual line of thought" (page 1, column three).  At the same time, Hicks spends a good portion of the essay trying to get his readers to step away from inner vocalization (what others call: discursive thinking - the spirit speaks, the soul hears), and to recognize thereby that meaning lies outside (behind or beyond) the spoken and written language of the thinker.  Thus his use of the Husserlian terms pre-linguistic field, and supra-linguistic field.

The reason I point toward this experience of individual concepts (as against an "individual line of thought"), is because it is possible to isolate single concepts and meditate on their meaning in such a way that they unfold from within themselves cognitive substance (meaning) that to my experience can't be otherwise obtained.  For example, I have worked for several years now with the Prologue to the Gospel of John, following an indication of Steiner's in Lecture 12 of the John Gospel cycle.  In deep meditation on this "line of thought", each individual term can be made to stand alone and become a subject all in itself.  "In the Beginning was the Word..." expands under such contemplation, and each single word/concept is significant, with "Beginning" leading to a contemplation of the idea of Time, and the term/concept Word opening out into a seven-fold array, such that in our time we are mostly focused on that first aspect of this seven-fold rainbow of meaning (what Steiner calls: the Christ Impulse), which first aspect can be represented by the idea of "choice".   This leads one to know that for modern human beings in the Age of the Consciousness Soul, that we could say, in recognizing our true spirit (microcosm) as itself unfolding this rainbow over time: "In the Beginning was the Choice ...".   The Creation begins with the Choice to create, and if one is attentive to the representations of insightful people in the present, we will come upon the crucial nature of this single concept with respect to our expressions of freedom, out of our own spirit.  Our whole present time weeps with the dilemmas and pains of Choice.

Steiner, in his book A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception describes ideas as a complex of concepts.  In his The Philosophy of Freedom Steiner distinguishes mental pictures from concepts and concepts from ideas.  He says further that we need to recognize that we have to confront an idea and experience it, otherwise we will fall into its bondage. 

In my own work, I make distinctions between the mental picture of a particular book, the generalized concept of books collectively, the pure concept of bookness which can be used to think metaphorically of the Book of Nature for example, and the idea of "book" or "bookness" as an independent reality (see Steiner's discussion in A Theory... that there is only one concept for a triangle, which all thinkers will encounter).

My experiences have lead me to conceiving of ideas as the ethereal garments of Beings.  This is something of a Platonist conception, and as such is more common today than many might think.  We should keep in mind, however, that we need to let the experience speak, and not just come toward it out of the mood of a pre-thought thought.

Kuhlewind recommends in some early writings that one meditate on the individual parts of speech, learning thereby to notice subtle distinctions between nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, propositions, articles etc.  There can be found a kind of ladder of abstraction, moving from the very concrete nouns and verbs to the highly abstract articles.  Franz Bardon recommends one meditate on individual concepts, seeking to know whether one or another is more related to the different elements, such as fire, air, water and earth.   Tomberg wants us (in his book Meditations on the Tarot) to practice creating small statements (trains of thought) toward which one can go through the process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

Barfield considers the true poet and the true philosopher to be creators of new meanings, and that language evolves through this process whereby terms constantly shed old meaning and acquire new ones (see his History in English Words).

My experiences have lead me to thinking of the world of pure concepts (which Steiner describes as a thought-world) as having certain qualities, which at its lowest level can be described as similar to a landscape (ones thinking can move around in it), and at its highest level as musical (Individual concepts and ideas are in varying degrees of mutual harmony or disharmony, which thinking then feels - in a sense we touch an idea with our thinking, in the same way we react out of feeling to music which we enjoy.  See, for example, the highly abstract little booklet of Irene Diet: Imprisoned in the Spiritual Void, where she laments the absence in much anthroposophical work of the application of finer feelings to the reading and inner recreation of Steiner's lectures.). 

When Hicks writes (page 9, column 1): "...in the psychological or noetic sphere one experiences different noemata, different images, different constructs of meaning, and different associations of feeling, nevertheless, the eidetic proto-structural processes that compose the ideal or spiritual world are always the same.", I have to disagree.  There are no processes without the will of spiritual beings.  Nor are all spiritual beings are the same.  Where Hicks goes next after this statement, by ultimately importing* Steiner's ideas of the ethers (tone, chemical etc.), - in this Hicks is just accepting Steiner's personal definitions, meanings, associations etc.  The content of spiritual science, absent religious and artistic feeling, often misses out on connecting to the Beings, whose will stands behind it all.  We won't get that connection in an intellectual way from Steiner, however much we read.  We only get that connection through our own inner efforts and experiences.

*[In this part of this essay, Hicks does not claim personal experience, but relies entirely on his (Hicks') interpretation of Steiner's names for the different levels of activity that end up comprising steps (or levels) 5 and up, perhaps including level 2.  In Level One he does get to Beings.  This returns us to the problem mentioned above of the pre-thought thought, or the interpretation of experience in order to conform it to a concept gained from the reading of a text by another thinker, and assuming that this connection (between our idea based on the text, and our experience) is justified.  We would have to say that from this point (page 9, section IV: Formative Forces, Recognition, and Memory) on, Hicks' essay is a decent representation of Hicks' theoretical understanding of Steiner's thought, but does not to Hicks himself represent personal knowledge and experience.  Hicks admits this (page 13, Column 3): "I am certainly not claiming any spiritual authority, I just mean that I have practiced eidetic variation with success, and have received impressions indicating the correctness of Steiner's deeper insights, which I have tried to assimilate logically and explain thoughtfully in the course of this article.".  For details on this problem see my essay-review of Prokofieff's book Anthroposophy and The Philosophy of Freedom.]

Let me now make a kind of brief summary:

Hicks has investigated a question which in the late 19th Century Central Europe was approached scientifically by only a few (such as Brentano, Husserl and Steiner).  This question might be stated in a couple of ways: What lies beyond or behind that activity of thinking, which appears to the naive consciousness as a stream of inner wording?  Or, if we carefully observe inwardly our mental pictures and other thought-like activity, where does meaning or the content of thought come from?

This question remains with us today, although main-stream science (and even such fields as linguistic analysis and postmodernism) hardly recognize that such a question can even be asked, or answered.  Hicks has done a wonderful service by bringing this question alive again in our time, and by adding to it his own research.  Hicks has also done a service by bringing the thoughts of Rudolf Steiner into a deeper relationship with this question.

That others, who do similar research, don't write about it the same way as has Hicks, does not at all diminish what Hicks has contributed, for if we are careful in our appreciation of this work, we will realize that there are many pathways to doing research in this field of inner experience.  What is called for is more research, and hopefully Hicks' essay will find over time its true audience and inspire them to deeper contemplations of the nature of thinking, the questions of meaning and what really lies behind the content of thought.

At the same time, please keep in mind the limitations imposed on the essay by its descent into obscure, arcane and specialized forms of language representations.  Anyone - scientist, philosopher, saint, or housewife, is necessarily confronted by their own thinking.  We can't escape it, although we can learn to manipulate it, even transform it.  Even the doubter only casts doubt by his thinking.

The question asked by Hicks, Brentano, Husserl and even Steiner, is on one level: What does thinking mean?  The answer, in an existential postmodern sense is: It can only ultimately mean itself.  This is the freedom given to us by the Creation.

In the 19th Century, when a certain kind of triumph of the solely rational occurred, it seems that  Husserl and Steiner wanted to use this hyper-rationality itself to remove any doubt about the meaning of thinking and the thinking of meaning.  I would describe this impulse of theirs as a kind of disease of consciousness.  I know anthroposophists have a hard time believing Steiner could be so spiritually inspired and still on occasion make an error of thought, yet in this impulse, to move the hyper-rationality of pure science toward a capacity to explain all Mystery, I find a fundamental weakness.  This weakness is one that bothered Valentin Tomberg* and led him to believe Anthroposophy could never be a science, because the authentically spiritual contains too much magic, mysticism and mystery to ever be explainable using hyper-rational modes of thought.

*[I don't agree with Tomberg by the way, but so few anthroposophists are familiar with the results of actually reproducing the content of Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom in their own soul life, that this makes it very difficult to explain why Steiner's work can justly be called: a Science of the Spiritual.  Tomberg did not follow Steiner's own path (described in The Philosophy of Freedom), but rather that path laid out in the sequence of books Theosophy, Occult Science and Knowledge of Higher Worlds.  This path, so common in practice today, is not (according to Steiner in Occult Science near the end of Chapter 5) as sure and not as exact as the path of The Philosophy of Freedom.  It is that exactness, then made possible through the metamorphosis of thinking undergone by the achievement in the work of The Philosophy of Freedom, that enables us to take the experiences of the spiritual, with all its sublime and delicate magical, mystical and mystery qualities, and render that into a science.  Tomberg had not experienced this possibility.]

To me this weakness becomes a problem of language (and ultimately of meaning), and the fact is that Steiner, in adopting many conventions of Natural Science, ended up confusing his followers far more than he intended.  He split off from his lectures his more poetic statements into the Calender of the Soul, the Four Mystery Plays and finally into the aborted (unfinished) lessons of the First Class.  By this separation of the magical, mystical and mystery aspects of the Universe and of human nature (which poets of far greater gift than Steiner clearly know), from the lecture-language (as distinct from the poetical) of Spiritual Science in the forms of a thought content adapted to the Intellectual Soul (see my essay on Prokofieff's book: Anthroposophy and the Philosophy of Freedom), Steiner students can lose a connection to the mystery and virtues of ordinary consciousness.

There are multiple ways of expressing these Mysteries (neither is better than any other, and perhaps it is - for the reader - useful to see all as contributing something unique to their - the reader's - own investigations):

Here is part of the conclusion to Hicks essay (the last sentence, page 14, column 1): "Therefore, in the new awareness of enlivened thinking, there is not simply a manipulation of Spiritual Beings into typical boxes of abstract expression or practical verbalization by the human being alone, but there is a deep interaction between Active Beings of Ideal Thought and the human thinker."

Here is the John Gospel, on the same idea, with perhaps a more magical, mystical and mystery orientation: 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.

Or me, from my essay: The Meaning of Earth Existence in the Age of the Consciousness Soul:

"The outer world is but a seeming, and what is brought by the Culture of Media mere pictures of the Stage Setting for the World Temple that is home to our biographies.  When we think away this outer seeming - this logos formed and maya based sense world, and concentrate only on the Idea of the moral grace (Life filled holy breath) we receive and then enact out of the wind warmed fire of individual moral will - as individual law givers, as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets - we create this Meaning of Earth Existence.  Every act of moral grace, given greater Life within in the deepest intimacy of our life of soul, is an ethereal communion with Christ, even though we may only experience it as what to us is a mere thought of what is the Good at some moment of need in the biography.

"Christ gives us this Gift, by Grace, freely out of Love, and with no need that we see Him as its Author.  We hunger inwardly to know what the right thing to do is, and when this hungering is authentic, we receive Christ's Holy Breath.  This does not come so much as a thought-picture of the Good in response to our questing spirit, but rather as the contentless breathing substance of Christ's Being.  We are touched (inspired) by Love, and at this touch we shape that Breath into the thought that we then know. The nature of its application and form in which we incarnate this thought is entirely our own.  We shape the thought completely out of our own freedom - our own moral fire of will, for only we can apply it accurately in the individual circumstances of our lives.

"As the Age of the Consciousness Soul unfolds accompanied by this Second Eucharist, the Social World of human relationships begins to light and warm from within.  For each free act of moral grace rests upon this Gift of Christ's Being to us - an ethereal substance received in the communion within the Temple of the own Soul, freely given in Love whenever we genuinely: ask, seek and knock during our search for the Good.  Our participation in this Rite, this trial by Fire leavened by Holy Breath, leads us to the co-creation of new light and new warmth - the delicate budding and growing point of co-participated moral deeds out of which the New Jerusalem is slowly being born.

"This co-creation is entirely inward, a slowly dawning Sun within the macro Invisible World of Spirit.  Moreover, we do it collectively (as humanity).  While each of us contributes our part, it is our collective conscious celebration of the Second Ethereal Eucharist (creating the Good) that begins the transubstantiation of the collective (presently materialized and fallen) thought-world of humanity into the New Jerusalem."

Too much Steiner harms more than it supports.  Hicks essay suffers the same problem.  We must enrich our reading from as many sources as possible, and in America this includes film and television.   The wisdom (present day inspirations of the Divine Sophia) of the world is distributed - that is it is everywhere.  It doesn't just come from single sources (such as Steiner), because all true thinking is an effort at engagement with true and ultimate meaning.   Stand-up comics and cartoonists (see, for example, the works of George Carlin and Bill Waterston) in America are often deep philosophers of the mysteries and enigmas and riddles of human existence.  In fact, it will be our immersion in the language of the ordinary consciousness that will give us the best vocabulary in which to express our spiritual understanding born in our work with Anthroposophy.

I, personally, am also grateful that Hicks' essay was published by John Beck in the spill-over page, and thus made available thereby to wider aspects of the anthroposophical community.  Eventually, I suspect,  we will need a journal that is not just for anthroposophists, but which is open to all manner of neo-platonists, postmodern thinkers and instinctive Aristotelians.  There needs to come to be a vehicle where all these kinds of similar thought activity encounter each other in a way that is disciplined (criticism is expected and supported) and at the same time mutually confirming.

In this regard, Hicks' essay is a bold excursion into this territory, and should not be left to stand alone.