Friday, 12 January 2018

"Strengthened" thinking and Steiner

The path of attaining to Rudolf Steiner's objective of Pure Thinking, or alert and aware clairvoyance (what Barfield terms Final Participation and I have dubbed Primary Thinking) is something I have often seen described as a practice of 'strengthening' our thinking.

This is usually approached by a series of exercises devised and prescribed by Steiner - which amount to exercises aimed at single-mindedness, concentration and broadening of subject matter.

But, the history of Anthroposophy - including its failure to build on Steiner's clairvoyant ability, the tendency to regard his pronouncements as-if a vast infallible scripture, and to treat the man himself as wholly-well-motivated and wise - suggests that these exercises are a failure. At the very least; the results are slow and modest - and they seem not to lead to a transformation of thinking.

This is because any kind of strengthening can only strengthen what is already-dominant; and the essence of Primary Thinking is to allow the dominance of the thinking of the Real Self. The Real Self may be, perhaps usually is, utterly buried under the thinking ('cognitive processing') multitude of superficial and false selves; inculcated and entrained by modern culture including the need for efficiency and expediency in context of a positivist-materialist society.

I would advocate discarding the language of strengthening, and indeed any 'effortful' attempts at deepening thinking; because the effort is almost-inevitably coming-from and directed-at the wrong thing/s.

There is no need for strength, there is no need for concentration; Primary Thinking is quite natural, it is always going-on - we 'merely' need to attend to it... That 'merely' is in fact usually very difficult to do, but this is not the kind of difficulty that can be overcome by conscious-striving; more by 'allowing'...

Allowing the Real Self's thinking to come to awareness and deciding that its natural and spontaneous thinking is valid. Is - indeed - direct knowledge of reality.

For this there is (sadly?) no 'method' - although motivation is clearly crucial. One who is motivated to attain Primary Thinking for the right reasons, with the right aims, will be able to do so.

It seems to me that emphasis on strengthening, striving, focusing, concentrating etc. almost-always encourages the wrong motives, or perhaps it arises-from the wrong motives in the first place: motives of power and gratification especially.

Direct knowing is available only to one who loves creation and wishes to participate in loving-creation.


  1. I see the Anthroposophical community as something analogous to the human physical body, who's existence is essential for certain outward manifestations to occur.

    But to mistake the body (Anthroposophic doctrine) for the spirit, is essentially a form of idolatry - and sadly one doesn't need to look far to find the practice of idolatry rampant in the Anthro scene where one is encouraged to just take Steiner's word for it, to leave all the thinking to him.

    So I agree, the language of "strengthening, striving, focusing, concentrating" all too easily serves the "wrong" motives. Unless of course, these qualities are genuinely coming from the individual's own love for the truth. Anyone can tell the difference, if only they are truthful with themselves. But for that, love of truth must already exist - which then just begs the question, what good are all the exercises? Although Steiner recommends the practice of self detachment by viewing oneself as one views a complete stranger, this is of little help surely if the ORIGINAL motive is self aggrandisement, or some expected REWARD, such as the future ability to "know higher worlds".

    At the end of the day, the only egoic motive that is able to transcend the ego is love. Is there a method for love? Like creative inspiration, when it happens it seems more like grace.
    Then again, we seem to be able to recognise what sort of outer arrangements are and are not conducive for inspiration to flow, and the same is true for not the character of final participation just that we must consciously participate in the allowing of love to make its appearance, and to not simply rely on grace? Perhaps this was the intention behind the exercises, the methods. (?)

  2. @Ama - I continue to find great value in Steiner, but I also continue to find *most* of his work misguided or foolish.

    While I regard Steiner as a great genius, and his basic ideas absolutely essential to the future of Man; I find the vereration of the Anthroposophical society for his person to be very unhelpful - although I am delighted that his work has been made so readily available online, and in print.

    I very often read or listen to Steiner - but it is a matter of sifting dross for gold. For example I came across this lecture yesterday in a collection about sleeping and dreaming:

    The Presence of the Dead on the Spiritual Path
    Presence of the Dead: Lecture One: Understanding the Spiritual World (Part One) Berlin, April 18, 1914

    This is an absolutely stunning, brilliant lecture - with insight piled upon insight - very much a continuation of Philosophy of Freedom.

    Having read it twice, I then read the second part of this lecture, and other lectures on the theme and the recommended reading from Threshold of the Spiritual World, and several other things... all of which were at a much lower level: over-systemised, over-specified, over complex; contaminated with numerology and theosophy and guru posing... After a while I found I had lost my grip on the original lecture - and I will need to go back and refresh it.

    This is my experience with Steiner - at best he is as good as anybody ever. But there is a lot more which is poor, distracting, annoying. Yet the brilliant stuff is scattered unpredictably throughout... We simply must be selective - and indeed *very* selective after c. 1900.

    As I have written before; I regard the modern Anthroposophy movement as thoroughly subordinated to modern New Left politics - hence subverted and poisoned.

  3. Thank you for those links, I will be sure to check them out as I am not familiar with those lectures.
    I find Steiner utterly frustrating for those very reasons, and regularly fall out with him.

    Your idea of New Left subordinating Anthroposophy is very interesting, especially when I hear that many people now want Waldorf education "without the Steiner" - that is, they want to make Waldorf more secular. But "Secular Anthroposophy" is a contradiction in terms, so I think you are right in pointing it out. Out of interest, where would you place Steiner's social threefolding ideas - dross or gold... or to-be-decided?

  4. @Ama - I'd have to say I find Threefolding dull and wrong - very much a product of its time. The idea is out of sympathy with Steiner's best thinking, and seems to oppose Final Participation. I also think it was a large misjudgment that Steiner got involved in trying to promote Threefolding politically.

    (Last year, I tried to engage with a modern advocate, Terry Boardman, who has a few lectures and articles on threefolding on his web pages - - but again I found it boring and unconvincing. There are some other very interesting things on Boardman's pages, however.)

    I haven't been much impressed with Waldorf so far. I was a bit negatively prejudiced by the 'products' of the system I came across - who were extremely materialist people. But in general, the idea seems to have become extremely 'formulaic' - and, as a teacher (college teacher) the hyper-organisation and rigid principles seem utterly suffocating to excellent teaching.

    The Camphill homes for mentally handicapped seem excellent - I visited one many years ago, before I knew about Steiner, and it was very impressive.

    In general, you have probably realised that I believe the situation has changed in the past century, so that now we need explicitly and upfront to adopt a new metaphysical framework before anything overall-useful can be done - and that this needs to be Christian/ Christ-centred in some significant way - if we are to have the strength and motivation we need.

    The reason can be seen in this amazing lecture, which I have blogged about - the first part (before it goes off after Tertullian)

    Query - Aside from Tomberg and Barfield - do you know of anyone who has independently developed Anthroposophy ('beyond' Steiner) in a helpful fashion?

    BTW - Ama, are you based in the UK (you seem to have an English accent)?

  5. As it happens, I myself am a Waldorf "product", and would hope that I wasn't classed as a materialist if you met me. But who knows! At any rate, I know plenty of instances where such a generalisation would be pretty accurate.

    I know of Terry Boardman and regularly keep up with his lectures and articles. My view on threefolding is that it is useless to try and implement it outwardly, it must come from within. Only that way would it be in sympathy with final participation - though I find myself reverted back to that previously mentioned paradox.

    Yes, I grew up and have been living in the south east for most of my life, but have just moved to Germany for a year to train for a carrier change - and to improve my German.

    I don't know of anyone else who is "going beyond Steiner". But I do enjoy the philosophy of Freedom website and youtube channel where the creator goes to great lengths to separate it from Anthroposophy and justify the book on its own grounds.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to all my questions.

  6. @Ama - I recently discovered the PoF website, and some useful summary videos - and signed up for it a few days ago.