Do not think too much

The first ground rule for the study of man is that one does not have to think too much. That will seem strange at first, but you will soon understand what I mean. By thinking about something a man does obviously not learn particularly much about anything. If he only broods on what he saw, he will as a rule not make much sense of it.

Thus If one wants to learn about the world, one should not expect too much from thinking; It is not so important to think about something. When one needs to consider the facts, one must of course do that. But one must not consider this to be the main purpose. It does not bring any knowledge to brood on things afterwards. One has to look at other things, compare them and find the coherences. The more one looks for the coherences, the more one becomes aware of nature. Those who only think about nature find nothing more there than what they already knew.

If someone is a materialist, then he also talks about nature in a materialistic way, because that is how he stands in the world. He discovers nothing new. If someone talks about nature in an idealistic way, he does that because he already is an idealist. One can always find that by thinking, people find only what they already knew beforehand. Proper thinking arises only when one is led by the facts.


Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 348 – Über Gesundheit und Krankheit – Dornach, January 10, 1923 (page 237)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

 Previously posted on February 23, 2018

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Connection of freedom with pure thinking and moral impulses

I laid stress in my Philosophie der Freiheit which was written in the early nineties, on the connection of the experience of freedom with what I called “pure thinking”. […] When we permeate pure thinking with moral ideas and impulses — that is, with ideas and impulses that are not associated with desires, or with sympathies and antipathies, but solely with pure, loving devotion to the deed that is to be done — when we do this and allow the impulse to quicken in our soul to action, then the action we perform is truly free.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA number unknown – The Threshold in Nature and in Man – Basle, February 1, 1921

Translated by Mary Adams

Previously posted on December 23, 2019

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Imaginative perception

To discover the true significance of thinking, to find the real truth — that thinking has cosmic significance — it is necessary to progress to imaginative perception, as described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. Stripping our thinking of the abstract nature we consciously associate with it, and entering into that ocean of weaving thoughts, we encounter the necessity to have not only the abstract thoughts in there that we have as citizens of the earth but to conceive images in it. For everything is created from images. 

Images are the true or origins of things; images are behind everything around us; and it is into these images we enter when we immerse ourselves in the ocean of weaving thoughts. Those are the images Plato spoke of; they are the images all who have spoken of spiritual primary causes had in mind, the images Goethe had in mind with his archetypal plant. These images are to be found in imaginative thinking. This imaginative thinking is a reality and we become immersed in it when we enter the billowing world of thoughts that move with the stream of time.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157 – Destinies of Individuals and Nations: Lecture 14: The Cosmic Significance of Our Sensory Perceptions – Our Thinking, Feeling and Will Activity – Berlin, July 6, 1915

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By David Newbatt

In essence, thinking is certainly not a brain-process

Nothing of what man experiences on earth can be experienced without the support of the bodily nature. We might easily imagine, for example, that thinking is a purely spiritual act, and that in the way it comes about on earth in the human soul it has nothing to do with existence in a body. In one sense this is so. But spiritually independent as human thinking is, it could not take its course here in earth existence were it unable to have the support of the body and its processes. I may avail myself of a comparison which I have often used here on similar occasions. When a man is walking, the ground he walks on is certainly not the essential part of his activity; the essential part is inside his skin; but without the support of the ground he could not get along.

It is the same with thinking. In essence, thinking is certainly not a brain-process, but without the support of the brain it could not take its earthly course. In the light of this comparison one gets a right conception of the spirituality as well as of the physical limitations of human thinking In short, my dear friends, here in earthly life there is nothing in man that does not depend on the body for support. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 218 – MEMORY AND LOVE – Stuttgart, 4 December, 1922

Previously posted on October 29, 2019

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This instrument of murder for the real development of human forces

We must strongly develop the forces that can be developed in a child’s soul, so that later on he can harvest the fruits of his childhood learning. Today he looks back and feels what his childhood was and cannot gather anything from it because nothing was developed there. Our educational principles must be fundamentally changed if we want to do the right thing for children. Above everything we must listen very carefully to much that at present is highly praised and considered especially wholesome.

So, it is necessary that, without undue strain and exertion but through an economy of educational effort, children acquire concentration. This can be achieved, in the way modern man needs it, only by abolishing what is so greatly favored today, namely, the cursed curriculum of the schools; this instrument of murder for the real development of human forces. Just consider what it means: From 7 to 8 A.M. arithmetic, from 8 to 9 grammar, from 9 to 10 geography, from 10 to 11 history. Everything that has moved through the soul from 7 to 8 is extinguished from 8 to 9, and so on.

Now here it is necessary to get down to the bottom of things. We must no longer think that subjects exist in order to be taught as subjects. On the contrary, we must have clearly in mind that in children from the seventh to fourteenth year, thinking, feeling, and willing have to be developed in the right way. Geography, arithmetic, everything must be employed so that these faculties can be properly developed.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 296 – Education as a Social Problem: Lecture II: The Social Structure in Ancient Greece and Rome – Dornach, August 10, 1919

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