Submitted by Tom Last on Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:44pm.

Return to Rudolf Steiner Video Playlist

The Philosophy Of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
Chapter 2 The Desire For Knowledge
What is a the Origin of Thinking? (World View)

Absolute Ignorance Of External Things
[8] A curious variant of Idealism is the theory which Friedrich Albert Lange has presented in his widely read History of Materialism. He takes the position that the Materialists are right in declaring all phenomena, including our thoughts, to be the product of purely material processes, but, conversely, Matter and its processes are for him themselves the product of our thinking.

“The senses give us only the effects of things, not true copies, much less the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves together with the brain and the molecular vibrations which we assume to go on there."

That means our thinking is produced by the material processes, and these are produced by the thinking of our I. Lange's philosophy is thus nothing more than the story, in philosophical terms, of the brave Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

Indivisible Unity
[9] The third form of Monism is the one which finds even in the simplest entity (the atom) both Matter and Spirit already united. But nothing is gained by this either, except that the question, which really originates in our consciousness, is shifted to another place. How does the simple entity manifests itself in a two-fold way, if it is an indivisible unity?

Contrast Ourselves With The World
[10] Against all these theories we must emphasize the fact that we encounter the basic and primary opposition first in our own consciousness. It is we ourselves who break away from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as "I" with the "World".

Goethe has given classic expression to this in his essay Nature, although his manner may at first sight be considered completely unscientific: "Living in the midst of her (Nature) we are strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays none of her secrets." But Goethe knows the reverse side too: "All humans are in her and she in them."

Nature's Activity Within
[11] As true as it is that we have estranged ourselves from Nature, it is just as true that we feel we are in her and belong to her. It can only be her own working that pulsates also in us.

Know Nature Within
[12] We must find the way back to her again. A simple reflection can point this way out to us. We have, it is true, torn ourselves away from Nature, but we must nevertheless have taken something of her with us into our own being. This element of Nature in us we must seek out, and then we will find the connection with her once more.

Dualism neglects to do this. It considers the human mind as a spiritual entity totally alien to Nature, and then attempts to hitch it on to Nature. No wonder that it cannot find the coupling link. We can find Nature outside us only if we have first learned to know her within us. What is akin to her within us must be our guide.

This marks out our path of inquiry. We will not engage in any speculations about the interaction of Mind and Matter. We will rather probe into the depths of our own being, to find there those elements that we saved in our flight from Nature.

Something More Than “I"
[13] The investigation of our own being must give us the solution to the riddle. We must reach a point where we can say: "Here we are no longer merely 'I', here is something which is more than 'I'."

Clarification Of Facts
[14] I am aware that many who have read this far will not find my discussion "scientific", in the sense of today’s meaning of the word.

I can only reply that, so far, I have not been concerned with scientific results of any kind, but only with simple descriptions of what we all experience in our own consciousness. A few sentences about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World have been included only to clarify the actual facts.

Record Facts Without Interpretation
I have, therefore, also made no attempt to give words such as "I", "Mind" and "Spirit", "World", "Nature", the precise meaning that is usual in Psychology and Philosophy.

The ordinary consciousness ignores the sharp distinctions made by the sciences, and my purpose so far has been solely to record the facts of everyday experiences. I am concerned, not with how science, so far, has interpreted consciousness, but with the way in which we experience it in every moment of our lives.