|Mathematics and 'Control of Thinking'
By Lori MacKinder, M.A.
The heart chakra, a 12-petalled lotus flower, is the chakra of our current time to develop. Although we commonly associate the heart as the center of our love, our compassion, and the warmth and coolness of our soul it is also the chakra of a new organ of perception: Heart-thinking. Heart thinking is an organic and “living” thinking vs. the linear thinking associated with our head. Heart thinking is not “feeling- thinking”, it is moral imagination brought forward into life.
Florin Lownders, author of Enlivening the Chakra of the Heart, The Fundamental Spiritual Exercises of Rudolf Steiner, (2005) shares that the six basic exercises given by Rudolf Steiner embody a means for developing and strengthening this mentioned organic and “living” thinking and the heart chakra.
According to the writings of Rudolf Steiner, six of the twelve petals of the heart chakra were already actively present within past evolutionary stages of humanity. Thus, we do not have to develop those six petals to encourage our Heart-Thinking maturity; they appear on their own and begin to rotate when we start working on the remaining six. (How to Know Higher Worlds, 1994, pg. 118)
Control of Thinking
This article will focus on the first step: Control of Thinking. When most of us think of math, we cringe and quickly dispel the idea of a daily practice of mathematics with comments such as, “I was never good at math” or “that is what calculators are for” and the like. However, control of thought is the first of the exercises given by Steiner to kindle the development of the 12 petalled lotus flower and Heart-Thinking.
To expound further Steiner explained,
“Controlling our thinking processes develops the 12 petalled lotus flower (heart chakra). Thoughts that flit about like will-o‘-the-wisps and follow each other by chance rather than in a logical, meaningful way distort and damage the form of this flower. The more logically our thoughts follow one another and the more we avoid all illogical thinking, the more perfectly this organ develops its proper form.” (Pg. 120)
Steiner recommends holding our attention for 5 minutes per day on a simple man-made object, such as a paper clip and contemplating its origin and process of becoming to kindle this type of controlled thinking. Mathematics offers a more supported path for logical thinking than a paper clip however, and cultivates the will in thought just as prominently.
When performing a mathematical equation correctly, one must move in a proper sequence. Within this action, it is as if the thinking is supported, keeping the thoughts contained and focused within the task at hand. Math equations offer instant feedback for our thinking when a problem is solved correctly (or incorrectly), informing us that we followed logical thought (or not). In lower school, long division is used. Multiple steps in a sequence must be performed to arrive at a correct answer, and can then be checked for accuracy. In middle school, solving algebraic equations for a variable using the solve-and-check method exercises this muscle of will in thought. Finally, in high school, all the higher levels of mathematics further the student in this thought training. The steps of a geometric proof, advanced algebraic equations and trigonometric identities are all a valiant kindling for this chakra and control of thinking. Focused controlled thinking is the key in this first step of kindling Heart-thinking.
In a time when many Waldorf schools are cutting back on math in the curriculum and touting the benefits of the study of humanities and art, perhaps a reminder needs to be observed. A daily dosage of mathematics is where will in thought is created and helps the children of today start to develop this important chakra. It is a form of meditation, in a way. Any of us can adopt a rhythm of 15 – 20 minutes of clear thinking and will in thought that strengthens and imbues heart thinking through daily mathematics.
When the Waldorf teacher holds this higher reason to perform mathematics in their daily lesson with fun and praise, they work diligently with their students toward awakening the forces within. In this way, as the students embark into the world upon graduating, they are fortified and enlivened for their individual destiny with the beginnings of Heart-Thinking already present and aroused. As adults, taking up the study of mathematics as part of a personal growth path, can reignite control of thinking, lead one towards Heart-Thinking, and ultimately will provide numerous benefits to the student of life.