Correct thinking and right judgment does not always lead to the truth

In the world outside, in so far as this world is ruled by external science, when people speak of knowledge, you will always find them say: Yes, of course, we arrive at knowledge when we have formed right judgments and exercised correct thinking. I recently cited a very simple example to illustrate how great an error is involved in this assumption that we are bound to arrive at truth when we make correct and reasonable judgments; and I would like to relate it again now, to show you that accuracy of reasoning need by no means lead to the truth.

There was once a small boy in a village who was sent regularly by his parents to fetch bread. He used always to have ten kreuzer, and bring back in exchange six rolls. If you bought one such roll it cost two kreuzer, but he always brought back six rolls for his ten kreuzer. The boy was not particularly good at arithmetic and never troubled himself as to how it worked out that he always took with him ten kreuzer, that a roll cost two and yet he brought home six rolls in return for his ten. One day a boy was brought into the family from another part and he became for our small boy a kind of foster-brother. They were of about the same age, but the foster-brother was a good arithmetician. And he saw how his companion went to the baker’s, taking with him ten kreuzer, and he knew that a roll cost two. So he said to him, “You must bring home five rolls.” He was a very good arithmetician and his reasoning was perfectly accurate. One roll costs two kreuzer (so he reasoned), he takes with him ten, he will obviously bring home five rolls. But behold, he brought back six. Then said our good arithmetician: “But that is quite wrong! One roll costs two kreuzer, and you took ten, and two into ten goes five times; you can’t possibly bring back six rolls. You must have made a mistake or else you have pinched one …” But now, lo and behold, on the next day, too, the boy brought home six rolls. It was, you see, a custom in those parts that when you bought five you received an extra one in addition, so that in fact when you paid for five rolls you received six. It was a custom that was very agreeable for anyone who needed five rolls for his household.

The good arithmetician had reasoned, quite correctly, there was no fault in his thinking; but this correct thinking did not accord with reality. We are obliged to admit the correct thinking did not arrive at the reality, for reality does not order itself in accordance with correct thinking. You may see very clearly in this case how with the most conscientious, the most clever logical thinking that can possibly be spun out, you may arrive at a correct conclusion and yet, measured by reality your conclusion may be utterly and completely false. That can always happen. Consequently a proof that is acquired purely through thought can never be a criterion for reality — never.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 134 – The World of the Senses and the World of the Spirit – Hanover, 27th December 1911

Previously posted on January 20, 2019

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Ethical Impulses & Physical Health

In all our intercourse with the world outside, we make use of the body as an instrument, and according as we use it skillfully and well, or badly and clumsily, we occasion, at any rate in part, the events that befall us. And then, in the further lives that follow, come new compensation and balancing-out. Thus in the spiritual world we find the formative forces that belong to our moral life. The moral world becomes for us a reality.

We see how an ethical impulse cannot in one earth-life effect a change in the physical body, but when it passes over into the next life on earth, can work there quite definitely as a health-giving influence, no less truly than heat works in the physical world, or light, or electricity. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 231 – Spiritual Knowledge: A Way of Life – The Hague, November 16th, 1923

Translated by Mary Adams

Previously posted on September 1, 2018

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Thinking in accordance with reality

Unless we acquire the faculty for the perception of truth in this physical world we shall never be able to unfold it in regard to the spiritual world. The capacity to find our true bearings in the spiritual world must be developed here in the physical world.
It is for this purpose that we are placed in the physical world, where it behoves us to seek agreement between idea and objective reality, in such a way that this may become natural to us, may become a habit and a faculty which we then carry with us into the spiritual world.
But in these days there are so many who make statements with utter disregard of their conformity with objective fact, simply out of their feelings and emotions! This tendency is the very reverse of what is needed for the onward progress of humanity.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 170 – Memory and Habit: III – Dornach, 28th August 1916

Previously posted on June 23, 2018

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Maya/Real world/Mirror

Between death and a new birth, we learn to read the conditions here on earth in relationship with the spiritual world. Try to realize this, try to imagine these conditions. Then you will have to confess that it is, indeed, deeply significant to say that the world which we first learn to know through our senses and our understanding is an illusion, a Maya. As soon as we approach the real world, we find that the world that we know is related to this real world in the same way in which the reflection in the mirror is related to the living reality before the mirror, which is reflected in it. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 179 – Historical Necessity and Freewill: Lecture 4: The Rhythmical Relationship of Man with the Universe and with the World of the Dead -Dornach, December 11, 1917

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Previously posted on March 28, 2018

Sense for Reality

For a sound understanding and a healthy vision, it is imperative that we learn to see things as they are; because that is what we have lost most. We prove how things should be; but we do not look at how they are, because looking at reality is undoubtedly more difficult than proving that things are like this or like that. Some of the assertions that are being made in the social field these days can only be accepted if one proves them to be valid. If, however, one looks at the world in an uninhibited way, one cannot come to such assertions. Thus, it hinges above all on true perceiving, on looking at the reality of things as they indeed are.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 191 – Soziales Verständnis aus geisteswissenschaftlicher Erkenntnis – Dornach, October 18, 1919 (page 148)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on October 3, 2019