Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Understanding and learning from the experience of Primary Thinking

Primary Thinking is the term I have devised for what Owen Barfield called Final Participation and Rudolf Steiner the Imaginative Soul - as a state it would also include some examples of Jung's active imagination, Gurdjieff's self-remembering, Maslow's peak experience, and alert types of shamanic, poetic and creative trances.

I regard the attainment of primary thinking to be the main task of modern Man - but clearly, since the state has been so widely noticed, and is experienced by so many people - merely experiencing primary thinking is ineffectual.

This is because primary thinking is firstly nearly-always brief and very intermittent, and secondly the experience of primary thinking nearly-always misunderstood by normal every day consciousness when that state resumes.

Primary thinking ought to be understood as an experience of the divine way of thinking, intrinsically Good and valid - and superior to other and lower types of normal existence. In primary thinking we know - and we know directly - truth, beauty and virtue; and in this state we are intrinsically creative; because primary thinking is that which is divine in us, active within the realm of universal knowledge.

However, most people who experience primary thinking most of the time will misinterpret the experience; or will try to use it for their own worldly expediency. Jung and Maslow, for example, regard it as therapeutic - in effect a branch of medicine, aiming at making people feel and function better. While mainstream New Agers tend to regard primary thinking as a source of pleasure and gratification - part of a satisfying lifestyle.

And of course most of us are substantially evil; so despite that the primary thinking state is intrinsically Good; once they 'snap out of it', people will try to use the knowledge attained during primary thinking for selfish and short-termist reasons, or else for actively-evil purposes - using their knowledge of Good to try and destroy Good.

(This is presumably what devils and demons do: i.e. a kind of inverted black magic.)

Mainstream secular leftist people usually regard primary thinking as a pleasant but foolish delusion - and make fun of, or scorn, those who take it seriously.

So the challenge of primary thinking is not so much to do it, but - when we are not doing it - to 1. understand it correctly, 2. learn from it, and 3. put those lessons into practice as best we can. 

In the beginning was... Participation

In the beginning Men were merely primordial selves immersed in the ocean of universal consciousness; and the history of everything has included the progressive and incremental separation of these selves from the universal primary reality.

We began as immersed in universal reality - joined with everything, and everything joined with us - with permeable selves... We end with a Self that is aware of its own separation from things, from other people, from memories - and even from its own thoughts...

Why? Because separation is necessary for freedom, for agency; we must first be separate in order to be free. And free in order, ultimately, to share the divine status of the Creator - because God is free.


This separation of the self can physically be be imagined as a process of precipitation - of solid bodies coming from gaseous spirits.

Or as a biological analogy; as development. A baby lives at first in the ocean of amniotic fluid, inside the mother; and only gradually, incrementally, does the baby's self become separate from the mother's self - first by birth, then by development and increasing independence... but only in adolescence does the child at some point become existentially separate - an agent.

And once reached, and attained, that cannot be undone - he can get stuck in adolescence, or move on to adulthood; but he cannot return to childhood. Consciousness, separation, can temporarily be obliterated by disease, or intoxication - or suspended during sleep - but is essentially permanent.

(Incarnation is an example. When we became embodied, we could not return to the spiritual state; the preceding spiritual being could not be restored - because our selves are in our bodies, and if the body is then subtracted, what remains is not what there was before. Therefore after death the only alternatives are resurrection - with a renewed body - or else a fundamental change of the spiritual self with loss and distortion.)


So we begin by participating in the whole of reality - that was given. But our selves were only feebly independent, and not sufficiently separate that we could be free agents. Then a process began in the history of the human race, which is recapitulated in individuals - we developed agency by separation of the self from everything else.

At some moment the self is cut-off from everything else - and therefore unfree, because isolated. So there is a step beyond, which is a return to participation with universal reality.

Universal reality is always there - that is, everywhere - we used to be in reality but the future, the destiny, is that we should think reality.

The self now needs to - voluntarily and by an effort - engage with universal reality in a free relationship; knowing that this is happening.

The task or destiny is to re-engage with universal reality - which is everywhere for everybody, as it always has been, in a deliberate, explicit, way. This is not a matter of 'thinking about' universal reality - it is a matter of thinking-universal-reality; in other words, by thinking to become part of it.


But universal reality is everything - does this mean we can know everything? Not exactly and not in practice.

It does mean that there are not ultimate limits to knowledge - excepting other selves, which lie outside the system. But in practice we must navigate through this unbounded and vast world of universal reality - and for our experience to lead to valid knowledge, we ourselves must be Good and the experience we encounter to be undeceptive.

In practice, we navigate universal reality with love. It is love which leads us to the people (and entities) we can learn from; it is love which leads us to the truth rather than the falsehoods and misleadings, the evil entities, which also lie within universal reality.

Love is the cohesion and structure of everything in God's creation. And love is our safe-guard against the possibilities that would emerge is we were motivated by power, or even merely by 'curiosity'.  

Imagine yourself as a self, guided by love, navigating the ocean of universal reality! That is the possibility. It is love which guides us to our Heavenly families and which guides them to us; it is love which guides the great composer to the beautiful music with universal meaning; it is love which guides the real scientist to the intuitive truths about reality...


So participation is given, knowledge is given... but what must be achieved is the autonomy of our-selves; and having been achieved the destiny is to return to participation; to take it up again but not to be inside it, but outside of it while yet part of it.

In a sense, with Final Participation, the vast world of universal reality is experienced as 'within us' - within our thinking. Instead us us being immersed in the ocean - the ocean is, somehow, in our own thoughts! And therefore we engage with the ocean from a place outside the ocean - and our relationship with the ocean is one of self-awareness, purpose and will.

And this is, of course, a godlike state; in the sense that a god is a cause not a consequence; outside the system and not contained-in the system; a creator not that which is created. And that is the whole point! For us to become adult, grown-up children of God, we must become like God in our nature, including our consciousness.

This moving towards divine consciousness can only happen by our choice, as an act from the agent-self.


Therefore, the task is to set-aside nostalgia for the original state of immersive participation: this is now impossible. It is to acknowledge the state of Modern Man as an error - a failure to move-on; a perpetual adolescence in which freedom has reached the absurd and self-refuting point of existential isolation - and got stuck.

Universal reality awlays was and still is there. We have cut-ourselves off from it. This was necessary as a phase - but is lethal as an end-point. We must re-engage with universal reality - and again participate in that universality; but from outside - in purposive thinking from our true selves.

Participation is given, knowledge is given, even love is given; but from where we are now, we need to make the choice and effort to acknowledge then create a new autonomous and free relationship with this reality.

Our task is to re-engage with universal reality in what eventually may become fully divine consciousness, but at first will be a partial, distorted and temporary kind of divine consciousness; which is thinking engaged with universal reality, and guided by love.

(The above is a development of the ideas of Owen Barfield, which were substaintially influenced by Rudolf Steiner.)

What is the divine purpose of Primary Thinking?

Without Primary Thinking there would be nothing but chaos - mere phenomena.

It is by God's thinking that the world of creation was formed from chaos - and it is by Man's thinking that he joins God in the work of creation.

Theosis (a.k.a sanctification, divinisation, spiritual progression) is the purpose of Life on earth - our purpose of Men living beyond mere incarnation and death (and of thereby risking the problems of human life, the danger of us rejecting salvation) is so that we may work towards ultimately becoming full deities - sons and daughters of God on the same qualitative level as God.

This entails attaining divine Goodness (which is well known, and tends to be the exclusive focus of most Christians); but also attaining divine Thinking - so that we may each participate in creation.

If we attain divine Goodness without divine thinking we may choose to inhabit and passively experience creation (like a child - indeed as a spiritual child in our nature)...

Or else we may reject this - we may choose 'damnation' which is to live outwith God's creation.

But to be fully mature children of God - we must be able to co-create with God.

In brief: the primary purpose of Man is Love. God wishes deeply to share his creation with divine children, and this is why men and women are created (made literal children of Heavenly Parents).

But then what? Having established a divine family, what do we all do for eternity? It would not be satisfactory for God's children passively to bask-in creation for eternity...

The only coherent answer is that we need to create - which is endless. And to create like God, actively to participate-in God's creation - we must think as God does: Primary Thinking.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Thinking is the difference between chaos and the creation

See my previous posts on Primary Thinking...

Primary Thinking is creation - and this applies to God's creation.

Without thinking is chaos. There are phenomena, but these are meaningless, incoherent, lacking any relationship or purpose.

Phenomena are incomplete - they are completed by thinking.

Reality was chaos until it was thought by God - it was God's thinking which made creation from chaos.


Creation is ongoing, as God continues thinking eternally. 

When we Men think from our divine-selves (i.e. Primary Thinking) we participate in this creation.

Our thinking (from that little corner of reality that we grasp) changes creation; changes it universally, for everybody who knows and participates-in creation by their thinking (including God).


The primal event that made creation possible was the love of Heavenly parents (their celestial marriage) - this was God.

Together our Heavenly Father and Mother thought, and this thinking was creation; and their shared thought could independently be known by each.

This is why the ultimate reality is Love - because love underpins and permeates all of creation (and outside of love is chaos, no meaning, no cohesion, no relation, no purpose).

Only that which conforms with primal love can participate in creation. All Primary Thinking is within-love and conforms with creation - else it is not Primary Thinking, and does not create.

(And what of ourselves - children of God? Yes, we too were thought from chaos; but there was more than this - because we were more to begin with, being also gods - and there was more done than simply to think us into creation, because we are God children, not only God's creation. But this matter is not clear to me...)

An Inklings portrait

Further details at The Notion Club Papers blog...

Monday, 20 November 2017

The key to doing primary thinking and attaining final participation

I have found Rudolf Steiner's instructions and exercises concerning 'how to do' primary thinking (or, what he terms pure thinking, or his type of meditation) - which is the same thing as attaining Final Participation - to be misleading and indeed counterproductive; since they 'concentrate on concentrating' - on attaining a thought and holding it, expanding it etc...

In the first place, this method splits the mind into that part which is doing the concentrating, and the results of that concentrating. Secondly it is insufficient - from personal experience, I could concentrate in the prescribed manner (e.g. when I was doing theoretical science) long before I could do primary thinking. Thirdly, and consequently, the results of this concentration style of meditation are misleading (because it is easy by concentration to 'force' thinking towards pre-determined conclusions, and thereby create false content).

Fourthly and most tellingly, it doesn't seem to work. After all, this was not how Steiner himself learned to meditate, so there is little reason to suppose that other people could get to where Steiner was by using a different method. Also, the capacity of his exercises to induce 'clairvoyance' in the many members of the Anthroposophical Society who have followed then, seems (to the observer) to be a near-total failure.

If not, then what?

We need an 'external' technique of holding attention - of stopping it being distracted, or sliding around. For me this can be taking notes, reading short passages, drawing 'doodles' - essentially with a pen in the hand. Others would need to find what worked for them.

What to think about? That depends on your motivation, here-and-now. Motivation is one of the keys: it needs to be some-thing that you really want to know, to think-about.

Steiner, by contrast, prescribes arbitrary subject matter for his thinking exercises (this plant, this stone...). This seems like seriously bad advice: ineffective, because the motivation for arbitrary thinking will surely be feeble; and also (in a sense) arbitrary motivation is immoral, because this is trying to use primary thinking for frivolous or expedient purposes (and primary thinking, being in the realm of reality/ truth/ beauty/ virtue, will not - indeed cannot - be so used).  

Once the attention has being controlled by some such external means, the whole of the mind can fill the activity of thinking from the deep and true self. It wells-up. And leads to further notes/ doodles etc. just as a way of holding the line; while allowing it to develop by internal logic.

The key, though, is metaphysical - it is to acknowledge the validity of thinking; the validity of the process, content, findings... We need to internalise the fact that primary thinking is not constrained by what we term 'evidence'; because primary thinking happens in the domain of universal reality, hence it is necessarily true

(This is a delight to observe - in full consciousness: the emergence of truth, quite naturally, spontaneously, fluently, and without boundaries. This is also why the kind of wound-up state of concentration is hostile to the process.)

The content of primary thinking is intrinsically valid in and of itself - so we want to be attentive but relaxed, as it comes-forth.

Of course, summarising, recording, transmitting this primary truth makes the resulting communications prone to all sorts of possibilities of error, distortion and misunderstanding - if we try to use this knowledge.

But the direct knowledge of primary thinking is itself is pure, real, and true.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Seeing spirits - Knowing spirits

In some situations such as a ritual, the entirety of a tribe may see spirits - but the modern Western anthropologist who is also present sees nothing. Are spirits really there?

Most Western people would say no; and they would explain-away the observing of spirits as some kind of group hypnosis, or wishful thinking, or a conjuring trick of the shaman... or something. Because modern people know (or rather assume as a metaphysical certainty) that spirits don't exist - therefore it doesn't matter what people say or claim: there were no spirits.

Yet, of course, everything we know about everything depends on no more than a consensus among people who report it; or perhaps a consensus among people in some restricted category - sensible people, intelligent people, adults, calm people...

Implicitly, therefore, the modern Westerners claim that all people who see spirits are unreliable, and over-emotional, gullible, unintelligent, immature, dishonest - or something of the kind. When whole tribes or societies claim see spirits - then this is exactly how modern Western people actually, in practice, regard them (although of course they are too afraid, or feel to guilty, actually to say so).

Yet there is something different about spirits... The Western anthropologist and the tribe he is studying all see most things in common - they see the huts, the spears, the food, the animals... but when it comes to spirits the tribe see them and the anthropologist doesn't.

There is something different about spirits - are the really there?

One thing than can be suggested is that there has been a change in human consciousness between the traditional Tribal Man and the modern Western Man. Tribal Man may regard stones as alive and plants as conscious... and he sees spirits.

All true - consciousness differs; but since we are not postmodern relativists - we can still ask what is really going-on. When Tribal Man sees a spirit - is there an object there, or not?

My understanding is that the seeing of spirits is an example of what Owen Barfield calls Original Participation. There is a spirit, but there is no object because it is immaterial - and the evolution of consciousness  includes that Modern Man cannot perceive the immaterial...

Why is this? The given answer is that by Not seeing the immaterial, Modern Man is made free.

That which we perceive makes us passive - it is given, we are not free not to respond to it - because the mechanism by which we know it is unconscious. Tribal Man sees spirits, and spirits dominate him in the same way that Modern Man is dominated by whatever he sees.

Where Modern Man goes wrong is is asserting that because he cannot perceive spirits (and neither can he detect spirits with any technology), the spirits are not there: typically, Modern Man claims that the imperceptible does not exist.

The way ahead is to Final Participation; so, what would a Man in Final Participation experience in the situation described? Would he see spirits? No - but he would know the spirits were real. Instead of perceiving, he would know directly.

A Man in Final Participation would consciously know that spirits were present, would know about them (what kind of spirits and where) - but he would not see, hear, touch smell or taste spirits. What is the advantage in that? The answer is Freedom - the answer is Agency.

In Final Participation knowledge is in conscious thinking (i.e. 'primary thinking') - hence all knowledge is thinkable, all thoughts are inter-relatable.

All (primary) thinking (in FP) is real and true.

But the perceiving of Tribal Man is Not real and true - because perceptions are not complete; because all perceptions need to be interpreted. Tribal Man may see spirits, but he must still make sense of what he sees, and there is no guarantee that he will understand spirits correctly - indeed different people in the tribe will probably interpret what they have seen very differently.

Seeing is Not believing; because seeing is incomplete.

It is better Not to see, but instead to know directly - because what is known directly is true. That is why Final Participation is 'final' - because it is true; and it is also Final because it is divine. God knows by Final Participation - once FP is attained, there is nowhere further to go: it is indeed final.