the New Clair-Thinking in Practice

It is common among many anthroposophists (those who find themselves to be students of Rudolf Steiner) to conceive of one supposed product of initiation: Imaginative Consciousness, as involving a kind of inner supersensible picture-like symbolic intercourse with the spiritual world.  Between ourselves - our own I - and the world of spirit there comes to be a kind of dialog taking the form of pictures or images.  For the old clairvoyance this was true.  For the new thinking clairvoyance this is not exactly true.

The place to start, in terms of understanding this, is with Steiner’s observation that the insertion of the human being into earthly reality, splits that reality into two components.  This is why he calls The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (GA 4) a monism.  The point of this particular kind of study of the our mind (and/or soul) is to learn how to reunite what appears to us naively in the first instance in the form of two kinds of experience. 

In A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception (GA 2), Steiner expressed this division as experience on the one hand and thought on the other.  In The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity he called these two components: percept and concept.  So percept and experience are essentially similar, as are concept and thought.

These facts are part of the background to there arising, in the systems of anthroposophical thought, two Paths or Ways.  The Path of Knowledge of Higher Worlds (GA 10) works through the study of the nature of our activity related to sense experience.   The Way of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (GA 4) works through the study of the nature of our activity as a producer of thought.  These Ways are distinguished in Steiner’s Occult Science: an Outline (GA 13), by his saying that while the former Path will lead to its goals of supersensible knowledge, the latter Way is not only more sure (as a Path), it is as well more exact.

In GA 10, the exercises are sense-based exercises.  We use the imagination in order to deepen our ability to appreciate what underlies sense experience.  GA 10 also contains many admonitions as regards moral or character development.  It is a Path through the sense world.  In GA 4, we are to face the question of thought experience.  As to the moral or character development matters, we are given in GA 4 specific instructions for our introspective observations and disciplines regarding: moral imagination; moral intuition; and, moral technique.   In GA 13, Steiner has pointed out that the Way through the thought world, the world of concepts, is a path which begins already in the world of spirit.  When my total organism underwent the change of egos around 1970, I woke up in this spirit/thought-world, but had no concepts from the prior ego’s experience in which to note what had happened.  I was awake enough to know soon thereafter that as a materialist I had somehow to justify to my conscience the use of my intuition (thought) as it related to my experience. 

Beyond that I was as lost as are the rest of the folks experiencing ordinary consciousness.  My world view, in the Age of Science, took no proper account of the meaning of thoughts and concepts at all.  If I was to learn something, I assumed and was taught that those experiences and concepts would be poured into my mind from the outside via teachers and books, but my own intuition simply lacked the right basis as a vehicle of knowledge.  We have the same problem in the Society when people are encouraged to surrender their own intuition to the Great Initiate.  We do this because we have not yet understood the reality of monism, or just what a gift to the future is hidden in GA 2, GA 3 (Truth and Knowledge) and GA 4.

Let us shift our discussion now, to the sense world itself, yet as seen from the point of view of the world of thought.

It is frequently stated that the sense world is a world of maya - of illusion.  This is a half-truth, maintained in large part because of its connection to ancient Eastern spiritual traditions.  The reality in the Age following Christ’s Incarnation is that the sense world is part (one half) of the Embodiment of the Word.  Now with the change of consciousness to modern times  the real nature of monism, when fully practiced, is to find that the thoughts and concepts (the other half) correctly belonging to the sense world are a kind of Speech.  There is divine order in the sense world, and it is the task of the human being to find the correct thoughts belonging to this world.  It may be maya in one sense, but it is not at all empty of Meaning.

The means for appreciating this was given to us by Steiner in GA 2, and its development over time of the idea and practice of Goetheanism.  In Goetheanism we no longer just think about the Natural World, or the Social and Political World (which has emancipated itself from Nature to a degree), but we learn to think with what comes to us through not only our senses and the results of our conceptual thinking as well.  Goethe learned to read the Book of Nature, and I have learned to read the Book of the Social-Political World.  To think with requires that we surrender antipathy and sympathy and just accept the what-is, for that what-is is the distributed* Christ Embodied speaking to us His truth via our very own mind (as the creator of concepts).  The human being is to overcome the split in the world between thought and experience by reuniting them out of our own free cognitive activity.

[For details on the *distributed nature of the Creator forces - or the Christ Impulse - see my book: The Art of God]

One of the difficulties is that for Goethe he only had to recreate in his imagination the exact nature of what the world of Nature did - to think with Nature’s activity.  For us to read the Christ’s (the Creators) speech in the Social-Political World requires that we do more, for our concepts of this latter world are not part of what Steiner called in GA 2, the necessary given.  Our understanding of the social-political comes not so obviously as a necessary given as does the shape of a leaf, which we see with our eyes.  We don’t see with the eyes a family or a community or the evolution of consciousness.  We only behold it with the thinking activity.

In order then to think with the social-political world we have to take full responsibility for the very concepts themselves, which we create.  This picture-like concept-creative activity is discussed in GA 3, Truth and Knowledge (or sometimes Truth and Science)

The disciplining of thought on the Way of GA 4 is the key to much.  This sure and above all more exact (GA 10) thought-creative activity is central to the healing (monism) of the split between experience and thought into which we are thrust while incarnated on the Earth.  Perhaps now we can appreciate what Steiner pointed toward in Awakening to Community, lecture three, in speaking of the consequences of failing to read GA 4 in the right way:  “The way it should be read is with attention to the fact that it brings one to a wholly different way of thinking and willing and looking at things....The trouble is that The Philosophy of Freedom has not been read in the different way I have been describing.  That is the point, and a point that must be sharply stressed if the development of the Anthroposophical Society is not to fall far behind that of anthroposophy itself.  If it does fall behind, anthroposophy’s conveyance through the Society will result in its being completely misunderstood, and its only fruit will be endless conflict!”

 If the Anthroposophical Society does not renew deeply its relationship to the problem of knowledge, as expressed in GA 2, GA 3 and GA 4 - Rudolf Steiner’s true legacy, namely how to heal the split between experience and thought, will be lost to the whole of the Third Millennium.  Learning to think in the new Ways - to clair/clear-think with rather than merely about - is the first step that leads to understanding the World.  To see (as in think) our experience, our percepts, as the Embodiment of the Word, is itself a Living Imagination appearing directly to the senses and the awake thinking when coupled together in ordinary consciousness in the right way.  Keep in mind that Americans do this in a natural way - it is embedded in our ordinary consciousness, and the biography is meant to lead us into an awakening as to this form of new cognition.  It is not about learning to do something new.  Its about learning to see what you already actually do; that is,  to take something out of instinct, and by seeing that, then raise it into full consciousness.