Every fact is accompanied by the cutting edge of an epistemological knife, the wielding of which makes worlds.

A New Sacred Geometry Book

Observing the Observer: Exploring a Cybernetic Epistemological Recursion

by Seth on April 15, 2012

All epistemologies are observer-dependent; i.e. there is no single epistemology that applies to all possible observers, because every observer is unique in some way.  The necessary inclusion of the observer in any description of the world is a deeply obvious and yet profound principle.  It was neatly expressed in Heinz von Foerster’s article Cybernetics of Cybernetics, where he builds off of Humberto Maturana’s phrase “Anything said is said by an observer,” by indicating that “Anything said is said to an observer” (2003, p. 283) (figure 1).  This is in contrast to the view that anything said is simply… said, as if into a vacuum.  This older view, championed by the scientific revolution, took up the principle that statements could simply be true or false, and were about the world but not really of the world (the roots of these two views can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle).  Cybernetic epistemology modifies this assumption by re-introducing the observer as a part of the world.

Figure 1: Observers 1 and 2

Figure 1. A cybernetics of description following Heinz von Foerster. There are two different observers involved in any description; observer 1 is the describer, and observer 2 is the one to whom the description is directed.

(Side note: it is important to indicate that perspectives on just what this word “observer” might mean can be helpfully explored also through esoteric methods.  In an significant way a central—perhaps even the central—aspect of esoteric practice involves the closing of the loop of observation.  Esoteric practice in general (always with caveats) can be thought of as the experiential exploration of the cybernetic epistemological injunction that no description of reality can be complete without an integration of the describer in the description.)

While von Foerster links the principle explicitly to the social realm (2003, p. 284) by distinguishing the observer of Maturana’s phrase (a self) with the observer of his phrase (an other), it is important here to point out that it is also possible for these observers to be the same (figure 2). In this case, the observer that initiates the activity of describing is also the one to whom that activity is directed, forming a closed loop.  Of course this is just a way of pointing out that in some sense all description is also a description of the observer, a fact which can be noted—and more importantly, utilized—when the loop is closed and the description is not given only to another, but to one’s own self.

Figure 2: The observer in self-recursion

Figure 2. (Self) description. In this case the two observers from figure 1 are constituted by the same system.

The situations depicted schematically in figures 1 and 2 are simultaneous and not mutually exclusive. The observer that initiates the activity of describing is also one to whom that activity is directed, generating a closed loop, but the second observer is not obviated (a path that would lead to solipsism):

Figure 3: Self and other in simultaneous recursion

Figure 3. A cybernetics of (self) description. Observer 1 simultaneously describes her self in every description to Observer 2, who remains a key part of the complex web of relations unfolding.

It should be noted that the relation between levels of order N and N+1 [see this series of posts for more detail] is active in this case of the Observer (1,2), where the self (1), perceiving itself as other (2) in its own description (importantly, regardless of the content of the description), is a kind of boundary crossing that opens up the possibility of a second-order recursion, indicated by the dotted arrow from Observer 2 (in red) to the 2 of Observer (1,2) (in blue).  This line is dotted because the link is implicit in the nature of the self as other, indicated by the 2 of Observer (1,2). This is all to say that the self as self is also implicitly self as other.

It is precisely this link that is utilized in the Goethean phenomenological method.  In Goethean beholding, the nature of the other as other is incorporated directly into the self, both as self and as other.

Figure 4: Goethean Beholding

Figure 4. Goethean beholding. The other as other becomes incorporated into the self of the observer, simultaneously as self and as other.

But the fascinating result of carrying out this kind of procedure is that the very distinction between self and other undergoes a complex transformation.  The recursive web operationally linking the two observers as self and other is mirrored, such that each observer intrinsically participates both in their own self creation and the creation of the other:

Figure 5: The recursive, co-generative web of self and other.

Figure 5. The recursive web of self and other. Each observer participates directly in the becoming of the other and in their own becoming.

In this way the constructed duality between the self and the other is experientially transformed.  It is not simply dissolved in a mystical sort of oneness or obviated outright, but is rather complexified: the distinction (first order, N) is utilized for its own reorganization and transformation at a higher level (second order, N+1) by virtue of a recursion between those two levels.  Thus the original Observer 1 (simply as self) now complexly includes Observer 2 (self as self-other), while the original Observer 2 (simply as other) now recursively includes Observer 1 (other as other-self).  The whole set of relations recursively crosses the boundaries erected implicitly by the original distinction, but now explicitly; that crossing is the transformation of the original distinction through higher-order self-relation.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Joel A. Wendt April 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Seth,

There are dangers to this level of “abstraction”, which I am using here to mean to abstract or remove something from its context. Once we start manipulating the “abstracted” concept, we can make judgments that would not actually be justified if we were to leave the “arrangement” (self and other etc.) in its context.

You catch this a little bit, when you write (or quote) your first sentence: “All epistemologies are observer-dependent; i.e. there is no single epistemology that applies to all possible observers, because every observer is unique in some way.” As the poet knows, subjectivity can’t be avoided, but rather needs to be embraced.

When you get to your last sentence: “The whole set of relations recursively crosses the boundaries erected implicitly by the original distinction, but now explicitly; that crossing is the transformation of the original distinction through higher-order self-relation.”, the effect of the abstraction process becomes more obvious, because we don’t actually have such an experience – we only think it (conceptualize it) when we abstract it from its context.

This is why the Zen Master slaps the face of his student. Being can’t be separated from Doing, except by mind which enters the hall of endless conceptual mirrors.

In Steiner, this is what he talked about (in part) with such a concept as: “the intellectualization of the Cosmic Michaelic Intelligence.”, the real bogeyman of the Anthroposophical Society.

I know you get this, given your use of the concept recursive. The problem as I see it here is that you need to find a way to write the above as a love poem to the imagined “other”. This will overcome the abstraction process, and return subjectivity to its central role. It is also daring and dangerous and foolish and scary to leave the abstract intellect on the floor and drop your pants so that your soul then becomes naked.

joel a. wendt … social philosopher … and occasional fool.

Reply

Seth May 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Joel, I just wanted to post the beginning of the section in which I introduce Gendlin, which directly follows the post (as indicated in my other comment). You may or may not find it interesting, but it goes like this:

Let us step out of the previous process for a moment, and note that there is a problem with the thoughts being developed so far: they are wrong. The concepts presented here are neither complete nor absolute. They provide a model, a crutch for thinking to transform itself further—it is this “further” that is the real object of the model. Other models exist and might be better, or work better in different contexts. This holds for the entire content of this dissertation, which is provisional, exploratory, and experimental (it is living), but not necessarily of lesser import because of this recognition. The theoretical (and practical) framework through which this work is developed does not assume a goal of finding “the right answer” to any given problem, but rather takes up a search for and implementation of processes that actually attempt to transform thinking. This is in distinction to processes that lead to the creation of new knowledge in ways that structurally and systematically serve to re-generate the limits of the paradigm (by avoiding them) from which the knowledge is produced.

To continue the previous theoretical language (it is important to be aware that this is what is occurring; the theory is being used to develop the theory, recursively), this is a move from a first to second-order level, from content to process, from thoughts to thinking. That failure is inevitable is taken as a given, because the domain in which a model is normally taken to be correct (the first-order domain) is not the domain at which this work aims (the second order domain, and its recursion into the first). But as long as the failures help thinking move creatively forward from its starting point, that is, if they serve the actual transition to a new level of organization/patterning/relating/unfolding, then we can safely move away from the dichotomy of failure/success to a distinction of a higher order (transformation).

The philosophical works of Eugene Gendlin (1997a, 1997b) provide a suitably complex and subtle framework for this kind of approach. Gendlin’s contributions will be explored in detail in the main text, as they provide key points of contact for cybernetic epistemology and anthroposophy. A brief examination of the methodological aspects should be noted here, however, as they contextualize the second-order perspective through which this work is undertaken as whole.

Gendlin has developed a process called Thinking at the Edge (2004), which is a “systematic way to articulate in new terms something which needs to be said but is at first only an inchoate ‘bodily sense’” (Gendlin, 2004, para. 1). The process involves a series of steps designed to newly bring forth language, concepts, and relations that meet the complexity and precision implicit in experience. The philosophical source from which this process springs is developed in Gendlin’s (1997a) book Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (EM; first published in 1962). In it, he begins with the fundamentality of experiencing:

Now, if it is the case that we are really dealing with experiencing whenever we feel something, whenever we mean something, whenever we live in a situation, whenever we think, then experiencing is obviously so ubiquitous and so basic that we must take it to be a very fundamental phenomenon. (1997a, p. 14, original italics)

This point is obvious, as Gendlin notes, but it obviousness belies its significance, which few have taken as seriously as Gendlin. Experiencing is the dark, loamy soil out of which and in the continually present and ongoing context of which all divisions of experiencing into thinking, feeling, willing, believing, knowing, sensing, intuiting, conceptualizing and—importantly—meaning occur. Gendlin’s whole project positively complements the considerations that are at the root of anthroposophical methodology, as mentioned above in the section on Goetheanism. This is because Gendlin’s own approach is deeply phenomenological. It is not too speculative to point out that Goethe’s quote admonishing us against seeking “behind” phenomena, because the phenomena are the theory, carries the same impulse as Gendlin’s statement that he is “against reading concepts back as if they were ‘the basis of’ the process that gives rise to them. That falsifies and hides the process” (Gendlin, 1997c, p. 169).

The basis for Gendlin’s “thinking at the edge” is in working with the felt sense (of one’s experience). The term “felt sense” is simply a way of indicating the nature of experience as directly felt, as present right now, fully, complexly and preconceptually. To “have” experience is to feel it, to sense it, to carry it, to be it—and this having can itself be explored and explicated further. Gendlin’s work can be framed recursively, as the experiencing of experience, which in the language of this dissertation is the distinguishing and subsequent crossing of first and second orders with respect to experience. Gendlin himself explicitly recognizes (1997a) that “content concepts” (p. 29) are inadequate to the task of elucidating the complexity that we actually directly experience, and that we need to work towards a process model, which requires “’process’ categories that attempt to distinguish, not contents, but different modes or dimensions of process” (p. 32).

Yet Gendlin, in a fashion much like a Zen rōshi, continually calls our attention to the difference between our actual ongoing experiencing and our conceptualization, symbolization, and explication of it (the N/N+1 difference), noting that “we cannot expect even a process logic to be fully adequate to experiencing. We must let the concepts refer to experiencing, for they cannot fully represent it” (1997a, p. 33, original italics).

Gendlin is careful to construct a model which is fundamentally open and living, in the sense that it does not lock itself to any specific conceptualization (the style of most philosophy), but which is rather built and developed from the beginning so as to always allow for its own self-exceeding. The model and its attendant concepts are meant to be used to further call forth new ways of conceptualizing, even about the very model itself. The fierce delicacy with which Gendlin self-reflexively handles the difference between first and second order approaches to experience is, in part, what makes his work unique, and he continually attempts to enact his model in his creation and explication of it.

In this work I follow the spirit of Gendlin’s explorations, which I find to be not only compatible with cybernetic epistemology and anthroposophy, but which help ground, re-frame, and bring forward the picture that emerges when these two domains come together. There are two key methodological issues raised by Gendlin that are utilized in this dissertation. The first is to take very seriously the difference just noted between concepts and experience, and to be careful not to replace experience with conceptualizations of experience (to confuse first and second orders), although we will make and cross this boundary many times. Gendlin warns that

Logically specified, symbolized, unique concepts are not felt meanings and do not have the creative characteristics of felt meanings. Our having of concepts involves felt meanings, which can be directly referred to. They make their creative functioning available to concepts without destroying the logical relationships of concepts as uniquely specified products. (Gendlin, 1997a, p. 148)

This means that in addition to forming concepts, space must always be left for their own overcoming, for their potential to shift when brought back into relationship with experiencing, with the felt sense of what is being developed conceptually. As we will see later, this is comparable to esoteric indications for meditative practice.

The second methodological contribution follows from and supports this process, by giving a way of indicating that part of experience from which the new concepts come, and to which they refer, but always incompletely. Gendlin makes the helpful distinction between conceptualization, which represents what is meant, and direct reference, which only refers to what is meant, without binding it in specific, overtly expressed language (Gendlin, 1997a, p. 238). The difference is again that between levels of order, N and N+1, between content-oriented and process-oriented modes of symbolizing experience. This difference plays a vital role in this dissertation, in that it forms a key part of the content as well as guiding both the process of its expression and its initial coming into being.

Purposeful Confusion

Thus my goal is not simply to arrive at concepts whose meaning can be transmitted entirely at the first-order level. (Indeed I don’t think this is possible, though most methods spend a lot of effort to avoid integrating the second-order aspects that always attend their implementation. The differences between methods can even be traced by following the specific ways that this avoidance becomes a guiding systemic principle for the exploration of an inquiry.) Rather, my goal is to stay near the boundary between experiencing as such (and thus all concepts that flow from it) and its symbolization in concepts. The point is not to mark the boundary so as to point out what lies on either side, but to mark the boundary so that it can be crossed repeatedly, in order to make the crossing the “thing” that the dissertation is about. This will require some unusual languaging, meant not to hold the first-order level of the concepts, but to indicate, and thus try to call forth in the reader, the second-order level always at work in their formation, in their coming-into-being and expression. The second-order level is usually unnoticed, ignored, or even actively avoided, and so I must include procedures that are meant to work in reverse of the more normal academic modality, in which the prime direction is one from uncertainty to certainty, from non-specific to specific, from unformed to formed. Ultimately, utilizing processes that work at the second-order level to counterbalance the normal first-order-centric tendencies in thinking form a central thrust of an aesthetic epistemology, and Gendlin’s direct reference helps both demarcate the difference and cross over it.

But this crossing can never be more than indicated; its actual occurrence is always left up to the reader. When such a crossing is indicated but is not taken, not experienced inwardly, then confusion may result. This is helpful in that it will not be possible to point out at every moment when such a crossing is intended; indeed, sometimes its very indication changes the context such that its potential occurrence is minimized. Therefore, the reader is invited to reframe moments of confusion as opportunities to engage differently, to allow the confusion to work as an indication that something more than what is meant is meant, as in this very phrasing. It is far preferable that one experience an actual change in the way one thinks, than to simply grasp what is meant in a way that is “correct.” Experiencing confusion may indicate a doorway into this potential shift, and thus also an invitation to cross the threshold.

Reply

Joel A. Wendt May 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm

A lot of words here … had to go to wikipedia and goolge just to gain some sense of the thread. Almost gave me a headache. My main problem is the high level of abstraction, but given this is a dissertation, and therefore an aspect of the “academic” world, that is understandable (although maybe not really desirable). My own experience is that this level of abstraction is a left over excess of the Intellectual Soul, which still finds a supportive environment in Universities and such places of “to much head” as the Anthroposophical Society. It is no wonder then that the Age of the Consciousness Soul includes this Rite of Passage through what appears to be a post-literate culture, perhaps best understood as a necessary by-product for the death of abstract reasoning, and the rebirth of the imaginative story as the carrier of actual wisdom. Analytic thinking is giving way to picture thinking. The former more full of the death forces, the latter more full of the life forces. Cybernetic epistemology will become better expressed in the future (to my way of “seeing”) when it is simply called: the will-in-thinking, which is then understood not as a concept but as a deed – something we don’t so much conceptualize as much as learn to do (the knowing doer) in the same way we learn to ride a bike.

joel

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Seth May 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Joel, I think we are in basic agreement. It’s funny because I know how all this can be experienced abstractly, but I also have the experience of the same thoughts in a very non-abstract way. What is abstract to one person is not at all to another, and often what is experienced at first as abstract becomes very concrete in a direct experience, when one’s relationship to the concepts change and become more intimate. This is a process that happens to me all the time, and may be another way of speaking about the gesture from intellectual to consciousness soul. So for me the phrase “this level of abstraction” is actually problematic, in that it needs to be problematized in order to get in touch with the ongoing experiencing that generates it (in you as speaker and in me as reader). Basically I don’t take anything at face value; or rather, I try not to when I remember. For me this has to do with utilizing language so that it leads beyond itself when it can. When I am writing, I experience the formation of my words (in part) as an invitation, as an open question, as half of a dialogue. I am trying to form, with language, the specific contexts in which that very language can be understood in a different way; it is a recursive impulse, not a linear one.

In my estimation, abstract reasoning won’t (and shouldn’t) “die” — it needs to be integrated as we move forward. Analytic thinking should literally “give way” to picture thinking, but not in the sense that it removes itself entirely from the picture — it should do it more in the way that when two people approach a door at the same time, one give’s way to the other, but then also passes through. It’s not a mutually exclusive situation, but more a question of “tactfulness”, of appropriateness for a given context and time.

I agree that cybernetic epistemology leads towards the will-in-thinking. Actually this is very explicit in that domain, but “will” (a much more “old-school” philosophical concept) is approached through concepts like “behavior” (will seen from the outside) and autopoiesis (an organism working to generate itself further, recursively). Deeds are already being seen as central to the new way of thinking about mind; the “big thing” now is the theory of mind as embodied, enacted, and embedded. It is a turn towards life, amenable to the transformative processes at work in the esoteric streams. This is why I am bringing anthroposophical concepts into the mix: their esoteric depth really adds the missing pieces to the cybernetic epistemological stream. I find cybernetic epistemology to be a working toward the future evolution of humanity from the past (in its conceptual gestures: a coming to the limits of materialism, and facing “process” more directly), and anthroposophy (and esoteric schools in large part in general) to be working toward the same basic future from the future (in its conceptual gestures: a coming ‘down’ towards matter and material concepts so as to lift them up and re-enliven and transform them). My whole thrust is to pay attention to the boundary of their meeting, to try to help bridge the gaps with many fine threads that together form a bridge that can be crossed in multiple ways, from either side. I want to show that a development of cybernetic epistemological threads leads one right up to the boundary of the spiritual worlds, and that with some bridging, can be seen to naturally lead towards the kind of esoteric considerations that folks like Steiner have been speaking about in “old” language and concepts for a long long time. That old language can’t give us, by itself, the way forward; it too needs to change, and I think that cybernetic epistemological concepts hold a promising start to this.

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Joel A. Wendt May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm

okay, … I believe I understand, although what you do with language puts me off, as it were, I can well see it at the same time works as a ‘bridge” to other streams of approach.

j.

Seth April 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hi Joel. I didn’t state this in the post, but this is a section taken from my dissertation, and so is written in a way that does tend more towards the abstract. So what you don’t see here is the very next section of my dissertation (now posted above) where I address exactly your concern about abstraction through a discussion about Gendlin’s philosophy of the implicit and his techniques developed for “thinking at the edge” (of knowing). These two sections are consciously balancing each other (or that is my attempt at least), but this stood on its own so I posted it here.

Also, and this may be a more contentious point for you (I don’t know), you can hopefully see that what I am trying to move towards is precisely a way of not falling into the old patterns of subjectivity/objectivity by building bridges (“lines of flight” in Deleuze) into the distance beyond that division. I’m not interested in “returning subjectivity to its central role” when that leads to continued utilization and creation of distinctions that don’t actually help bring forth new ways of thinking and being, but rather serve to entrench the ‘old guard’ through reliance on the same structures of thought that give rise to the ‘problem’ (in this case, of abstraction) in the first place.

In other words, I’m longing for a way of thinking that does not intrinsically continue to operate so as to re-produce at a systemic level the very structures that are necessary for the existence and identification of the various ‘problems’ in the first place. I have failed at this. But more importantly, I will continue to fail at it in new ways. I have no real hope of success in the normal sense, but rather am wanting to partake in processes that move me, and that yield avenues for new experiences that couldn’t be otherwise had.

You wisely warn against removing a concept from its context. I’m not at all sure what context you feel I have abstracted from in this case, but what I can say is that you have now helped to create exactly the context for the concepts that I am working with here, in reality, right now, in this very exchange. Here is the laboratory! Here is Self and here is Other! Are we, now, continuing to work through the old paradigm in which these two, and the concomitant duality between subjective and objective, is reconstituted and implemented as the underlying basis for interaction? Wouldn’t THAT be the dangerous abstraction? Wouldn’t avoiding abstraction mean not a love poem to the “imagined other” but to the REAL other, to you, actually? Isn’t this the path towards healing abstraction?

Reply

Joel A. Wendt April 18, 2012 at 1:19 am

the path to final participation, … a song

it might seem, that at the core of my subjectivity
language breaks down

how can I communicate to the “other” if the
individualization of my meanings continues
to grow, …

however,
are not we assuming that individuation can
only produce separation …

yet in projective geometry
parallel lines meet at infinity …

so why then not meaning, once
carried all the way “out there”
by my subjectivity …

will not separation become
unity in the infinity of the
omega point, where/when all
have surrendered to the
uncreated and unformed?

in the meantime,
let us enjoy the ride …

Reply

Seth April 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm

treading the tangent
into deep blue horizon
i meet you again

Reply

Jay Landar April 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

There’s a unique circle within the process of creativity whereby the creative self becomes aware of the inner self through the act of creation, only to discover that the inner self is the one who is guiding the process. I would place this experience on the level of ‘being’ rather than knowledge. At any rate, the observer and the observed become one and the same thing. I think this is what you mean by esoteric practice. Perhaps the most important part of your article is the part in parenthesis.?

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Seth April 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I think the real difficulty is somewhat subtle, having to do with the way in which, when we turn our attention towards our attention we can often have the sense that the loop is actually closed when in some sense we are actually not completely closing the loop, but rather are creating a concept of our attention and attending to the concept rather than to the activity of the attending itself. This is hard to express.

Differently: our normal day-waking habits of thinking “about” things can get unknowingly imported even into this experience of the creative self becoming aware of itself through the act of (self)creation. It is as if, when thinking tries to close itself into a loop, to think itself in its becoming, the old mode of operation where thinking abstracts a part of its own activity into a concept in order to have something it can reflect off of and so perceive, quietly and unknowingly re-inserts itself into the process. This yields an experience AS IF thinking has actually closed the loop, when really it has actually screened itself off from itself in this way that is very difficult to describe.

I think this is what Joel is trying to indicate in his own way as a “danger” — that we take something in our experiencing for granted (naively), that we become satisfied with what from a different perspective could be seen as a representation of an experience, a thought ABOUT thinking, a shadow of a reality, rather than the thinking itself (the process of the process).

Usually this “danger” is not too dangerous, because most thoughts are fine when they stay only “about” the content, rather than trying to close the loop with the activity by which that content is produced. But when we start talking about the thought content of: “thinking thinking”, this potential for unknowingly satisfying ourselves with a facade or shadow of the activity itself can potentially lead us astray, by giving us the sense that our experience is “true” without also carrying with it the processes that could verify its truth (it only carries the image of the processes, the abstraction of their completion, not their real completion).

Joel, does this sound right to you?

Reply

Jay Landar May 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Thanks for your response above which I think is a good one. I didn’t reply because you seemed to waiting for a comment from someone else. Yes, it’s extremely difficult to be certain about things in this area. However, in my remark above I was speaking from my own experience and – subjective or otherwise – it seems authentic to me. At a certain point it becomes superfluous to look for further intellectual proofs. Perhaps this is just the poet in me speaking! I realize you’re trying to establish a very rigorous way of working.

Reply

Seth May 3, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Jay, actually I should be clearer that my response to you was not meant to be specifically about your experience; I can’t really say anything about that, of course!

What I am coming to feel/understand more and more is that the link between “being” and “knowing” is really tight, and that at a very fundamental level they are recursively bound together: being–>knowing–>being–>knowing evolve together as a unity, epistemology and ontology are inseparable. I think in effect, esoteric practice makes this looping more integrally a part of one’s evolution at a more conscious level; we begin to see how our knowing constructs our being and our being constructs our knowing, which actually feels like a process of deconstruction.

It’s all very interesting…

Reply

Joel A. Wendt May 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

My experience was that besides the attention there is the intention … two acts of will at the creative seed roots of thinking. What happens after (again to my experience) is that we pass by thinking-about to thinking-with, then to thinking-within and finally to thinking-as. These transformations are led by the intention, which learns through practice to sacrifice. If I am thinking-about another human being for example, my “feelings” will guide this thinking-about. If I surrender these instinctive uncultivated feelings (beam and mote), thinking-about becomes thinking-with (what Steiner called Goetheanism, or organic thinking). If following on that surrender/sacrifice I add a complete sacrifice of my total world view (become poor in spirit), I now stand with my intention leading my attention to a more pure perception of the object of thought, such that thinking-with becomes thinking-within. I start to know the Other with great intimacy. In the final surrender/sacrifice, I let go the centrality of my own I – I am not there anymore, and the metamorphosis is complete: thinking-within becomes thinking-as. I have transcended my self and fully identified with the Other. Steiner called this “pure” thinking. This whole process then leads, via what Tomberg called “learning to think on your knees” (his expression of the “intention”), to a kind of collapse of the assumed gap between I and Thou, such that we arrive at what Steiner called: “it thinks in me.” The role of the attention determines which objects my thinking approaches, but it is the intention which shapes the growing intimacy between my “self” and the object of thought.

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Jay Landar May 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm

It’s a pleasure to meet people on this site.

The point I was trying to make is that there is something anterior to all of this – something which is the home and origin of both intention and attention and which discovers itself in its own activity. I’m reluctant to say it’s ‘pure being’ or self as that is to step outside the process of thinking which is under discussion here. Nevertheless it is a spiritual current in consciousness which thinking is able to discern – both as its own creative force and the self-awareness resulting from its energy. I’m talking about something which is turned towards the light by virtue of what it is and is unable to lead in a false direction as long as it is active. This current is ‘clothed’ in thinking but not identical with it. It’s not an aberration of observation or ‘wishful thinking’. How does the human being learn to understand anything? Through the magical transference of life between being and knowledge, and vice-versa.

Reply

Joel A. Wendt May 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

We are verbs not nouns. Whatever you want to say in words (nouns), our I most realizes itself in deeds. Being is not Doing, but something passive. A by-product of Doing is experienced as thinking, which for Doing is spiritual activity. Most of us just aren’t awake enough in the thought-world yet to realize it is the spiritual world in the form of its “ethereal” manifestation. Thus, Steiner’s: The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.

Fairoaks May 2, 2012 at 11:36 pm
Fairoaks May 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm

My previous post didn’t work. Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy Of Freedom is a great reference for this topic. A new online “Philosophy Of Freedom Study Course” is available at http://www.philosophyoffreedom.com. Its free and includes videos, illustrations, observation exercises and diagrams to help study the book. In this book Rudolf Steiner gives his principles of free thinking and morality. It empowers one’s life through deepening scientific inquiry and living according to one’s highest ideals.

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Jay Landar May 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

As I’ve been replying above I hope you don’t mind if I comment briefly here – I would be interested to hear what you yourself think out of your own insight and ideas, rather than being referred to an external authority..

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