Rudolf Steiner Archive 



(Part 3)

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THE inner excellence of the stage of imaginative cognition is attained through the fact that the soul meditations described are supported by what we may call familiarizing oneself with sense-free thinking. If one forms a thought based upon observation in the physical sense world, this thought is not sense-free. It is, however, not a fact that man is able to form only such thoughts. Human thought does not need to become empty and without content when it refuses to be filled with the results of sense-observations. The safest and most evident way for the student of the spiritual to acquire such sense-free thinking is to make his own, in thinking, the facts of the higher world that are communicated to him by spiritual science. It is not possible to observe these facts by means of the physical senses. Nevertheless, the student will notice that they can be grasped mentally if he has sufficient patience and persistence. We are not able to carry on research in the higher worlds without training, nor can we make observations in that world; yet without higher training we are able to understand the descriptions of spiritual researchers, and if someone asks, “How can I accept in good faith what these researchers say since I am unable to perceive the spiritual world myself?” then this is completely unfounded. For it is entirely possible merely by reflecting on what is given, to attain the certain conviction that what is communicated is true, and if anyone is unable to form this conviction through reflection, it is not because it is impossible to believe something one cannot see, but solely because his reflection has not been sufficiently thorough, comprehensive and unprejudiced. In order to gain clarity in regard to this point we must realize that human thinking, when it arouses itself with inner energy, is able to comprehend more than is usually presumed. For in thought itself an inner entity is already present that is connected with the supersensible world. The soul is usually not conscious of this connection because it is accustomed to developing the thought faculty only by employing it in the sense world. It therefore regards communications from the super-sensible world as something incomprehensible. These communications, however, are not only comprehensible to a mode of thinking taught through spiritual training, but for every sort of thinking that is fully conscious of its own power and that wishes to employ it. — By making what spiritual research offers increasingly one's own, one accustoms oneself to a mode of thinking that does not derive its content from sense-observations. We learn to recognize how, in the inner reaches of the soul, thought weaves into thought, how thought seeks thought, although the thought associations are not effected by the power of sense-observation. The essential in this is the fact that one becomes aware of how the thought world has an inner life, of how one, by really thinking, finds oneself already in the region of a living supersensible world. One says to oneself, “There is something in me that fashions a thought organism; I am, nevertheless, at one with this something.” By surrendering oneself to sense-free thinking one becomes conscious of the existence of something essential flowing into our inner life, just as the characteristics of sense objects flow into us through the medium of our physical organs when we observe by means of our senses. The observer of the sense world says to himself, “Outside in space there is a rose; it is not strange to me, for it makes itself known to me through its color and fragrance.” One needs now only to be sufficiently unprejudiced in order to say to oneself when sense-free thinking acts in one, “Something real proclaims its presence in me that binds thought to thought, fashioning a thought organism.” But the sensations experienced by observing the objects of the outer sense world are different from the sensations experienced when spiritual reality manifests itself in sense-free thinking. The observer of sense objects experiences the rose as something external to himself. The observer who has surrendered himself to sense-free thought feels the spiritual reality announcing itself as though it existed within him, he feels himself one with it. Whoever, more or less consciously, only admits as real what confronts him like an external object, will naturally not be able to have the feeling, “Whatever has the nature of being in itself may also announce itself to me by my being united with it as though I were one with it.” In order in this regard to see correctly, one must be able to have the following inner experience. One must learn to distinguish between the thought associations one creates arbitrarily and those one experiences in oneself when one silences this arbitrary volition. In the latter case one may then say, “I remain quite silent within myself; I produce no thought associations; I surrender myself to what ‘thinks in me.’ ” Then one is fully justified in saying, “Something possessing the nature of being acts within me,” just as one is justified in saying, “A rose acts upon me when I see its red color, when I smell its fragrance.” — In this connection, there lies no contradiction in the fact that the content of one's thoughts is derived from the communications of the spiritual researcher. The thoughts are, indeed, already present when one surrenders to them; but one cannot think them if one does not, in every case, re-create them anew within the soul. What is important is the fact that the spiritual researcher calls up thoughts in his listeners and readers that they must first draw forth out of themselves, while the one who describes sense reality points to something that may be observed by listeners and readers in the sense world.

(The path is absolutely safe upon which the communications of spiritual science lead us to sense-free thinking. There is, however, still another path that is safer and above all more exact, but it is also more difficult for many human beings. This path is presented in my books, A Theory of Knowledge Based on Goethe's World Conception, and Philosophy of Freedom. These writings offer what human thought can acquire if thinking does not give itself up to the impressions of the physical-sensory world, but only to itself. It is then pure thought, which acts in the human being like a living entity, and not thought that merely indulges in memories of the sensory. In the writings mentioned above nothing is inserted from the communications of spiritual science itself. Yet it is shown that pure thinking, merely active within itself, may throw light on the problems of world, life, and man. These writings stand at an important point intermediate between cognition of the sense world and that of the spiritual world. They offer what thinking can gain when it elevates itself above sense-observation, while still avoiding entering upon spiritual research. Whoever permits these writings to act upon his entire soul nature, stands already within the spiritual world; it presents itself to him, however, as a world of thought. He who feels himself in the position to permit such an intermediate stage to act upon him, travels a safe path, and through it he is able to gain a feeling toward the higher world that will bear for him the most beautiful fruit throughout all future time.)

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