Practical training in thought  

True practice in thinking presupposes a right attitude and proper feeling for thinking. How can a right attitude toward thinking be attained? Anyone who believes that thought is merely an activity that takes place within his head or in his soul cannot have the right feeling for thought. Whoever harbors this idea will be constantly diverted by a false feeling from seeking right habits of thought and from making the necessary demands on his thinking. He who would acquire the right feeling for thought must say to himself, “If I can formulate thoughts about things, and learn to understand them through thinking, then these things themselves must first have contained these thoughts. The things must have been built up according to these thoughts, and only because this is so can I in turn extract these thoughts from the things.”

It can be imagined that this world outside and around us may be regarded in the same way as a watch. The comparison between the human organism and a watch is often used, but those who make it frequently forget the most important point. They forget the watchmaker. The fact must be kept clearly in mind that the wheels have not united and fitted themselves together of their own accord and thus made the watch “go,” but that first there was the watchmaker who put the different parts of the watch together. The watchmaker must never be forgotten. Through thoughts the watch has come into existence. The thoughts have flowed, as it were, into the watch, into the thing.

The works and phenomena of nature must be viewed in a similar way. In the works of man it is easy to picture this to ourselves, but with the works of nature it is not so easily done. Yet these, too, are the result of spiritual activities and behind them are spiritual beings. Thus, when a man thinks about things he only re-thinks what is already in them. The belief that the world has been created by thought and is still ceaselessly being created in this manner is the belief that can alone fructify the actual inner practice of thought.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 108 – Practical Training In Thought – Carlsruhe, January 18, 1909

Translated by Henry B. Monges in 1949, and revised by Gilbert Church, Ph.D. in 1966

Previously posted on March 11, 2018


Spiritual scientific insights / Practice of everyday life

The quest for insight only for the sake of gaining insight would be egotistical. Whoever searches for cognizance in order to acquire vision of higher worlds is acting selfishly. But he who wants to apply this insight directly in the practice of everyday life is working on the continuation of the evolution of future mankind. It is very important to learn how to transform spiritual scientific insights ever more energetically into practical deed.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 99 – Die Theosophie des Rosenkreuzers – München, 5 juni 1907 (page 150)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on October 12, 2015


Mobility of thoughts

I was overjoyed recently when I read that there are still people who, going beyond the ordinary routine of life, have already perceived the practical life as something important. Recently a news item spread through the world, describing how Edison tested the people he wished to prepare for some sort of practical work. It did not interest him at all whether or not a merchant was able to keep books. That, he said, can be learned in three weeks if one is a reasonable, intelligent person. None of these specialties interested him at all; these one can learn. 

When Edison wished to know whether people would be of any use in practical life, however, he tested them by asking them questions like, “How large is Siberia?” Thus when he wished to discover whether someone was a good bookkeeper, Edison did not ask whether he could conduct an audit properly, but he asked, “How large is Siberia?” or “If a room is five meters long, three meters wide, and four meters high, how many cubic meters of air are contained in this room?” and similar questions. He posed questions like, “What is standing at the place where Caesar crossed the Rubicon?” and so on, just general questions. And according to the extent to which a person could answer such questions, Edison hired him as a bookkeeper, or whatever. He knew that if a person could answer such a general question this was a proof that his schooling had not been in vain, that as a child he had developed mobile thoughts, and this is what Edison demanded.

This is how practical life really should be conducted, whereas in recent times we have steered precisely in the opposite direction, succumbing more and more to specialization, so that finally one could really despair of finding the people needed for practical life. It is impossible to get anyone to do something outside the pigeonhole into which he wants to fit. Already today it must be said that in this way too we must work toward the mobility of thoughts. If there is such a working toward the mobility of thoughts, then these thoughts will not harden, and Ahriman will be in a difficult position.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 205 – Therapeutic Insights: Earthly and Cosmic Laws – Dornach, July 3, 1921

Translations by May Laird-Brown, Alice Wulsin and Gerald Karnow

Previously posted on January 18, 2020


Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

This alone is able to heal

No matter how much people may talk of the fact that a new age must arise out of an ethical element, out of a vivification of religiousness, and so forth, nothing can, in reality, be attained through this, for in so doing we merely serve the hypocritical demands of the epoch. 

We should indeed realise that something must penetrate into the human souls, something which spiritualises the human being, even as far as his moral impulses, his religious impulses are concerned, which spiritualises him in spite of the fact that, apparently, it speaks in a theoretical manner of how the Earth has developed out of the Moon, the Sun and Saturn. 

Just as in the external world it is impossible to build up anything merely through wishes, no matter how excellent these wishes may be, so it is also impossible to build up anything in the social world merely through pious sermons, merely by admonishing people to be good, or merely by explaining to them what they should be like. Even what exists to-day as a world-destructive element, has not arisen through man’s arbitrary will, but it has arisen as a result of the world-conception which has gradually developed since the beginning of the fifteenth century. 

What constitutes the opposite pole, what is able to heal the wounds which have been inflicted, must again be a world-conception. We should not shrink in a cowardly way from representing a world-conception which has the power of permeating the moral and religious life. For this alone is able to heal.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 206 – Human Evolution, Cosmic Soul, Cosmic Spirit — II – Dornach, August 6, 1921

Previously posted on January 13, 2020


Abstract truths have magic power

We must remind ourselves as part of our endeavour in spiritual science that what may seem to us abstract truths have in them magic power which has only to be released for clear light to pour over the whole of life. And wherever we are placed, as scientists or practical workers in whatever sphere, however small our part, if we know how to quicken into life, for whatever that sphere may be, the abstract truths we take in during our meetings, we shall be fellow-workers at the greatest tasks of our time.

And our souls will then be filled with a gladness which is not superficial good cheer, but has its part in the life-giving seriousness that increases our strength; and instead of allowing life to degenerate into a mere excuse for enjoyment makes of us true workers in life. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 168 – How Can the Destitution of Soul in Modern Times Be Overcome? / Social Understanding – Liberty of Thought – Knowledge of the Spirit – Zurich, October 10th, 1916