Spiritual Research has become a kind of
idol or icon in the anthroposophical vocabulary. Some have
apparently taken to reducing it from the clear indications of Steiner,
by suggesting that we do research when we spend enormous amounts of
time with the lectures and books. This is completely bogus, and
perhaps even criminal in a moral-spiritual sense. Steiner clearly
meant by spiritual research the use of clairvoyant abilities applied to
the study of reality across the
threshold, and nothing else.
Again, such thinking arises because anthroposophists have not made a
personal connection to the epistemologies, and therefore do not know
how to think about, with or within, or how to place a self chosen moral
impulse at the root of their thinking - all matters learned on the Path
of Cognition. Let's look a little more closely at this Path, and
see if we can widen our understanding of its potential.
In Lowndes book, Enlivening the
Chakra of the Heart
, we have this quote which Lowndes took from
the end of the fifth chapter of Steiner's Occult
Science - an outline
The path that leads to sense-free
thinking by way of the communications of spiritual science is
thoroughly reliable and sure. There is however another that is
even more sure, and above all more exact; at the same time, it is for
many people more difficult. The path in question is set forth in
my books The Theory of Knowledge
Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.
These books tell what man's thinking can achieve when directed not to
impressions that come from the outer world of the physical sense but
solely upon itself. When this is so, we have within us no longer
the kind of thinking that concerns itself merely with memories of the
things of the sense; we have instead pure
thinking which is like a being that has life within
itself. In the above mentioned books you will find nothing at all
that is derived from the communications of spiritual
science. They testify to the fact that pure thinking, working
within itself alone, can throw light on the great questions of life -
questions concerning the universe and man. The books thus occupy
a significant intermediate position between knowledge of the
sense-world and knowledge of the spiritual world. What they offer
is what thinking can attain when it rises above sense-observation, yet
still holds back from entering upon the spiritual, supersensible
research. One who wholeheartedly pursues the train of thought
indicated in these books is already in the spiritual world; only it
makes itself known to him as a thought-world. Whoever feels ready
to enter upon this intermediate path of development will be taking a
safe and sure road, and it will leave with him a feeling in regard to
the higher world that will bear rich fruit in all time to come.
With this in the background, I would now like to share some thinking
about this thought-world
based upon my own experiences.
We can have as the object of our thinking: anything at all. Any
subject can be the object of thinking, even thinking itself. I,
for example, spent 25 years thinking about the social-political
world. I also thought about how to think in this way, and began
thereby to realize that: Thinking
itself can be a Sacramental Rite
. I can become the active
conscious priest of my own inwardness, which itself is connected to the
spiritual world (First Leading Thought: Anthroposophy is a path of cognition from
the spiritual in man to the Spiritual in the Universe
Here is what I wrote, first in the 1980's and then revised somewhat in
the 1990's regarding such work.
Preparation: these are
exercises, such as those
practices in control of thoughts, developing inner quiet (meditation
plays a role here) and so forth. Its like the stretching one must do
beginning serious physical exercise.
Sacrifice of thoughts:
letting go preconceptions;
overcoming habitual patterns. Nothing will prevent new thoughts from
as easily as already believing one knows the answer.
the question: the
moral atmosphere, why
do we want to know; fact gathering and picture forming. It is an
activity. What moral color do I paint my soul, what factual materials
I gather as I prepare to form an image - i.e. think in all that that
acknowledging Presence, and
not needing an answer. One practitioner (Valentin Tomberg) urges us to
learn to think on our knees.
as a spiritual
Eucharist: receiving and
grace. We do not think alone. It thinks in and with me (Steiner).
Attitude: sobriety and
We have in the Mass, most other Christian Rites, and in the Rite of
Consecration of Man, the model for this inner sacrament.
From the beginning, the Rite should be individual and as elaborate or
brief as one wants. The general transformation that occurs over
time is that the soul (astral body) more and more becomes purified in
described in Lecture 12 of the Gospel of John lectures as: kartharsis
. We can begin to
realize that the division, of Western Civilization into the sacred on
the one hand and the profane on the other, is false. All is
sacred as America's First Nations Peoples well understood - even our
darkness, our shadow. Nothing lies outside the Creation or is
Most anthroposophists, having absorbed indiscriminately the lectures
and books of Steiner, spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about
percept-less concepts, or matters about which they have no experience
but only the concepts and pictures they have generated in their own
consciousness from reading. If the mind is passive during this
reading, and in the present or later does not actively think the
imaginations Steiner is presenting, darkness instead of light is laid
into the soul. The point here is to recognize that knowledge is
the union of percept and concept and the seeming created by reading is
, although it
can be understanding.
Understanding is what Steiner gives us through his reports of spiritual
research. We acquire through this reading a more accurate
understanding (generalized world view) of earthly and cosmic matters,
but if we wish to have knowledge, we must go that path which increases
our experiences, so that we then have the percept (experience) to go
with the concept (thought).
To become a priest in one's own soul is to take a step that cannot
otherwise be ignored, without consequences we may well not have desired.
Thinking in a sacramental way then can take up any subject/object,
which is what a Goetheanist does. They think with
subject/object, and Goetheanism need not be confined to Nature.
Barfield was a Goetheanist of language (read his Speaker's Meaning
). I have
struggled to be a Goetheanist of the social-political. We can be
a Goetheanist of the history of our own anthroposophical Branch, and
surprising insights can arise if we learn to think the biography
of social forms, through
building up a series of pictures, from the beginning, through the past
and into the present.
Whatever the interest of our I, thinking can engage it on a deeper
level through approaching it sacramentally.
One method I have found quite useful is to write, whether long hand or
on a keyboard, at the same time as I think. I think, then pause
and record, and then think some more. In this way, I begin to
enter the thought-world and discover that it is a landscape
all of its own. The
more I practice, the longer I can, with concentration of intention and
attention, live in this landscape of the thought-world. In the
present, I can usually write an essay in one sitting, or if I become
I will rest and then return to thinking about the object/subject of my
interest. I have, on occasion, written for several hours in this
Sometimes, we will think for a moment, perhaps when driving a car,
about some subject which interests us deeply, and have then a
particular insight. I have often just stopped the car, or even
from bed, and written down what was thought, for here we begin to
inwardly sense the presence of Fullness and the fullness of
Presence. It is the moral impulse behind the thinking which draws
the wind: 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
The roots of this essay, for example, were first found during the
Conference, when I, on about the second day, began to let go of
(sacrifice) the preconceptions that I had brought with me.
Thereafter, all I had to do was live out of my conscience in my
interaction with others, and the deeper matters of the Conference began
to unfold before my thinking I, sometimes in the morning as we all
know, and other times in the moment. The idea of the Three Wishes
and of Healing Materialism came from the life of the Conference itself,
and do not represent anything I brought with me. I have in this
essay fleshed out these intuitions, but otherwise they were born in the
living spiritual atmosphere engendered by the whole community of those
attending. In a very real sense I would not have come to them
otherwise than through the Conference and the special social atmosphere
co-created by all who attended.
Let us now consider some other features of the thought-world.
As a general rule the thought-world responds to what we bring to
it. If we bring already-thought-knowing, then there is little it
can add, for our attitude precludes the co-operative element, which is
essential. Further, the already-thought-knowing is dead, and its
ability to participate in the living landscape of the thought-world is
near impossible, because there is no natural harmony between our
activity and the thought-world's own nature. This is, of course,
what happens when we go into the thought mode of Rudolf Steiner
said. We enter memory, and the living potential of our own
activity is diminished in favor of the already dead thoughts.
So, again - what happens depends upon what we bring with us, for the
thought-world is like a mirror - it reflects back to us what we are and
what we bring, the most essential element of which is our moral nature.
The reason the analogy is made that gives rise to the use of the term landscape, is because the
thought-world is very much a
place. In the modern projective geometry of dual
polar-space - the co-joined earthly and cosmic spaces, the
thought-world is the etheric, or a term which I prefer, after an
indication of George Adams - the ethereal. I prefer the term
ethereal because the vowel sounds are more alive than in the term
etheric, with its ending of a more material consonant nature.
This landscape then is the
ethereal aspect of the thought-world.
When we record while thinking about the subject/object of our interest,
we practice concentrated attention. We follow what ordinary
language calls a train of thought, but now we recognize it as a trail
in the landscape. This trail appears due to our moral intention,
which we have prepared in the soul through our sacramental rite
there. Our ability to follow the trail in the thought-world then
is the mirror of our attention and intention.
As Steiner describes elsewhere, everything here happens out of our own
activity and appears to us in full consciousness - completely
transparent to our I.
This landscape can be pictured, although many will in the beginning
follow the trail as if they were going from one abstract concept to
another. The picture element again is produced by us,
initially. We, for example, following on Geothe's example of
picturing the movement of the leaf forms, bring to the thought-world
these pictures. So we make pictures of what has become the
subject/object of our interest, and we stay with the pictures as they
unfold according to our already naive understanding of the
subject/object. What is the wonder, is that when we have more or
less exhausted what we have brought, the thought-world responds with
Now this can happen with a long meditative-like contemplation of a
theme (as described in Kuhlewind), or it can happen in a moment.
We actively picture think, perhaps making a kind of speaking ending in
a question, and the thought-world, being the Garment of the Divine
Mystery, responds (ask and you shall be answered, seek and you shall
find, knock and it shall be opened unto you).
In the first stage, with the abstract thinking trail, we seem (as
near as I can tell) to begin the Michaelic gesture in thinking (I use
such a name, because it is the only concept that seems to go with the
percept - the experience). Perhaps our moral intention is to more
deeply know another human being, and our sacramental thinking first
sacrifices what we have already assumed we know, to be more open to
their real truth. We are here mostly thinking in word-concepts,
not pictures, but our moral intention has changed the nature of what
can happen in our soul, and so now we are thinking Michaelically.
By this means we apprehend the thought-world's ethereal nature.
With the picture thinking we are thinking in a Sophianic manner (again
the name-concept is used to be in harmony with the
percept-experience). This is, of course, the whole world of
imagination, which while not the clairvoyant Imagination (which I have
experienced, but here distinguish), nonetheless demonstrates a
qualitative aspect of the landscape of the ethereal thought-world.
Now, when we travel in this landscape in the thought-world it appears
as pictures. And, with this apprehension of the thought-world as
pictures we come to what seems to be its astral nature. That is the
ethereal landscape is penetrated by astral elements, which with our
mutual picturing thinking (our thinking and the thinking of the
community of inspiration) results in co-created mobile pictures.
Then we come to the final feature of the thought-world - its Logos
Nature, or what Steiner tried to point our thinking toward in
suggesting we keep awake to the logic of a thought. The
thought-world has a Michaelic ethereal aspect, a Sophianic astral
aspect and a Christic
I-AM aspect. In apprehending the Christic or Logos Nature of the
thought-world we come to its essential I nature. In the natural
logicality of thought we meet the Christ (e.g. I am the Way, the Truth and
the Life etc.).
Our thinking can then become a kind of breathing, wherein we breath in
and ascend through the abstract conceptual element, to the picture
element and then to its logical organism or Logos Nature. After
which we breath out and return the same way, until we act in the world,
either recording our experience in words by writing, or sharing through
speaking, or in the case of a moral dilemma, through action.
This leads us to another ways of seeing the thought-world - as
It is possible to read something and to live in the connective element
of the words, sentences and paragraphs - to think with the content the
writer has produced. Sometimes it will be fairly obvious that
something strikes us as wrong or out of order, and we have then the
problem of whether this reaction is taking place in that arena of the
soul where sympathy and antipathy arise. Here we have to have
some self knowledge.
Once we have been able to make clear to ourselves that we are awake to
our natural subjectivity, then it becomes possible to seek to feel with
the thinking the musical structure of the concepts and their perhaps
related ideas (the Garments of Beings). Does one theme naturally
lead over to the next? Within a single sentence does it make its
own whole? Do the paragraphs develop the theme, or does the whole
texture just jump around?
In feeling the structure of the flow of the themes, we have an
experience of to what degree the Logos Nature of the thought-world has
been incorporated. Is there dissonance or harmony? If we
sense disharmony, then we can examine more carefully the logic
itself. We can trust ourselves to read in an awake fashion and
only have to puzzle out the exact logic, if our thinking-feeling senses
One of the more common dissonances will be the degree of ego
presence. If there has not been enough sacrifice of thoughts,
then we get too much self reference, as in: I did this, and then I did
that. We are, by the way, not judging here, but just being
to the degree to which the writing and speaking reflect the speakers
Some have noticed, particularly in The Philosophy of Freedom, that
Steiner's sentences seem to have a certain structural relationship to
each other. A paragraph might contain fifteen sentences, with the
last seven being the mirror image of the first seven, with one
transitional sentence in the middle. I believe this is not so
much conscious on Steiner's part, but rather represents what his
thinking experienced in the thought-world while constructing the
text. The structure we perceive is the structure already present
in the ethereal landscape as regards that theme due to the presence of
the Logos Nature of the thought-world itself. As thinkers we
report what has been thought in
us, and the accuracy of our reporting then reflects that which we have
There is some indication in the experiences of the thought-world that
we encounter different communities of beings, depending upon the
subject/object we seek to think about. This again is a felt
experience of the thinking. It is as if there were different
tastes or textures to the themes. Our soul is itself not a unity
but a diversity. Depending upon the nature of the impulses we
bring in our questions, the responses will accordingly vary.
Now because we often have before us questions regarding various
lectures of Steiner, we might try to pose those questions in the
thinking, for example: Was Mary Magdalene the apostle that Jesus
loved? The problem here is that we do not have the percepts
(experiences) to go with such a question, so that pure thinking or
clair-thinking cannot really answer this for us.
What this means is that we have to understand that this kind of
thinking gesture is not about becoming another Steiner, another
initiate researcher into spiritual realities. Yet, at the same
time, this thinking enables us to engage the world of our biography in
a fully awake and free way, open to all manner of spiritual insight.
What this also means is that we cannot leave the shadow or
double-complex outside of our inner observation and thinking
perception. The luciferic double will urge us to questions too
grandiose and outside our real need, while the ahrimanic double will
push us into a calculated analysis, with no heart in it. All of
which brings us to the core element of the new thinking - the
clair-thinking: knowledge of the Good in the Age of the Consciousness
What exists for us as students of spiritual knowledge in this Age is
the possibility to think the world of experience - to find the
conceptual content to go with the perceptual content of the soul
(thanks again to Steve Burman for lending some additional clarity
here). We have the experience and then think its meaning.
Above I have mentioned several times the need for a moral gesture to
exist prior to thinking about a specific subject/object in which we
have an interest. Now this inner moral gesture is something like
a cultivated mood of soul. We self define the Good, which is the
why we have decided to think sacramentally about the particularly
subject/object. At the same time, most of us are also involved in
all manner of outer moral dilemmas. So we have two kinds of moral
actions - one inner and one outer.
With the outer one we confront our karma, fate and destiny. This
initiation by fire is the task of the biography in the Consciousness
Soul Age. We are confronted by moral questions, and no longer
able to fall back on old textual rules. Even where fundamentalism
exists, many are confronted with agonizing life choices. There is
no hiding place, only the rock.
At the same time Moral Grace exists, which means that if we honestly
frame the question (moral imagination), honestly listen to our higher
selves - conscience - answer (moral intuition), and carefully act in
outer or inner
life upon the answer (moral technique), we have the promise fulfilled
of moral certainty. We can know the Good, and know we know the
Good - that is the Eternal.
This knowledge of the Good is a threshold experience, which is part of
why Steiner described the present time as involving everyone crossing
the threshold, many unconsciously. Because it is a threshold
experience there is then a direct encounter with the double-complex in
its role as the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold. We will try to
seek knowledge of the Good, but bring something with us (remember the
mirror aspect of the thought-world) that cannot pass by the
double-complex. At the same time, if we again and again
authentically seek to know the Good we will come to this knowledge, for
Christ will not deny our need.
The principle defect we bring before the Lesser Guardian is the act of
will to actually act upon the moral knowledge we seek. Our
seeking to know the Good is prefaced with a lack of trust in ourselves
and our ability to act on the knowledge when we apprehend it. All
the same, it is quite like learning to ride a bicycle. Much
falling down and pain in the beginning, but after a time we start to
get it right, and confidence builds in such a way that what was clumsy
in the beginning becomes skill, then craft and finally art.
Now this does not mean - when we do know the Good - that we will be
perfect, or always get it right, or that nothing ambiguous will remain
even after we act. Life is not to be that simple in this
time. But we can trust that we have this capacity, and if we
start to exercise it, then all manner of other results began to unfold
in the soul, because by this activity real purification begins to
occur, which is why the Hopi Prophecy calls this time the Day of
Purification, and has for centuries looked to the rising sun for their
true white brother to come and inaugurate this Day. For a deeper
appreciation of the Hopi Prophecy, read: The Mystery of the True
White Brother. I have also written of these themes from
another direction, again in the Way of the Fool.
In this way - by learning to know and act upon the Good, we become a
light bridge between the spiritual world in its thought-world garment
form, and the world of the senses in which we live in our
biographies. We stand in between, and freely relate one to the
other. In a very real sense we become the balance point
between. We think, and receive the gifts of meaning from within -
through a co-creative art with spiritual communities, which we then
share among each other through speech and writing, that is with
incarnate communities of human beings.
One of the matters, toward which Steiner has pointed concerning active
thinking, is suggested by the idea that human consciousness inserts
itself in between the sense object (or the object of experience) and
its idea. In reality, he has stated, the two are united - the
thing in itself and its inner being or idea. When we wake up to
the new cognition - to clair-thinking - we discover how to reunite what
is only apparently divided.
Taking a sense object as a typical example, it is our senses that
experience the outer aspect of the object, and our thinking that can
potentially experience its inner nature - its fundamental
reality and meaning. This condition is itself the consequence of
evolution leading to the Ahrimanic Deception, or what others call: the
on-looker separation. Only by taking up the new thinking, out of
our own choice to seek re-integration (or final participation), can we
bridge the gap between our I (as a spirit) and the true reality of
existence in the inwardness of experience (the Spirit in the Universe).
Blessed are the poor in spirit (engaged in the sacrament of the
sacrifice of thoughts), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (the
presence of Fullness and the fullness of Presence).
a few final comments
We need then to distinguish between clairvoyant spiritual research and
the newly born clair-thinking
(Carl Stegmann's term for what Steiner called pure thinking) with its
ability to experience the spiritual world as a thought-world. In
the former the object of our activity is to deepen the understanding of
the spiritual, by acquiring direct experiences of the Divine
Mystery. Most of us realize that such is a rare gift, while the
fruits of clair-thinking can begin to arrive once the Path of Cognition
is fully entered as a personal sacrament.
In point of fact, it appears likely that the 20th Century was only
meant to give us the return of just a few true initiates - the Kings
(Steiner, Tomberg* and Ben-Aharon - see my book the Way of the Fool -
the Fourth Stanza of the Section on Love), as a starting help.
They help us see the right Path and we start to travel it, each in our
own individual Way. With the new clair-thinking (as against
needing to become a full initiate - a form of consciousness no longer
really necessary) we can best go forward, for any subject/object of
interest can be thought using this method of entering the ethereal
landscape. One can start thinking this new way right from the
beginning, using the texts (Theory and the Philosophy) as a map to the
territory now being explored through a disciplined (scientific, or
"some results of introspection
following the methods of natural science") introspection out of
impulses of our own I.
The best training for this is found in the study of projective
geometry, which helps the thinking gesture to learn to follow
qualitatively and exactly the living forms in the ethereal
landscape. My favorite book on this is Olive Whicher's Projective Geometry: Creative Polarities
in Space and Time, a text which should never be out of print ,
but due to the lax nature of understanding in the higher circles of our
movement, has been allowed to disappear.
Yet, what do anthroposophical publishers, reprint over and over again -
Steiner lectures, while the truly helpful and essential texts waste
away in Ahriman's "preserving jars".
*As to Tomberg: The whole problem here begins with comparing
apples (Steiner) to oranges (Tomberg), and assuming that Tomberg
represents a danger to Anthroposophy. Once we start there,
thoughts will come that can be used to suggest a wrongness. We
need to start in the right place, which is to ask the question: Would
the Christ only support one teacher to meet the varied needs of human
beings in the Age of the Consciousness Soul? The answer to that
will always be no. In which case then our thinking needs to
sacrifice its assumptions and read in the script of the
social-political world who Tomberg has served and why. It is not
about there being one pure and only Way to go into the future, that
fits all human beings and all biographies. It is about Christ's
Love which speaks everywhere and to everyone, via those human resources
that have offered themselves so as to be in His Service.
As to the Three Wishes: It is entirely possible the Vorstand and
Councils in America, as well as most anthroposophists, will fail to
understand the need and/or fail to act. At the same time, where
ever any individual decides to work in the way described above,
materialism can be healed. The main point to realize is that as
individual seekers we need to not only free ourselves from dependence
upon our teacher, but we also need to avoid transferring that
dependence to Councils, Vorstands and even the writers of essays and
books. It is from out of our own I that the light of
transformation will enter the next phase of human Civilization.
Such truths are captured everywhere, but most especially in this modern
folk wisdom: think globally, act
locally. Have the deepest and widest understanding, but
apply this knowledge directly to what appears within our own
biographies - ourselves and the world of our immediate experience.