I was chatting with a friend the other day, and he mentioned something to do with thinking. Well, it’s not hard, there are few conversations which I engage in that do not touch the nature of thinking from one direction or other. It reminded me that Rudolf Steiner had spoken of thinking as a flowering in man, that is to say, humankind.
Over the next few days after the conversation, I considered this image, mostly in its material manifestation. After all, we are able to think because we have a physical body: that thinking need not be attached to our bodies is an important point, but the foundation of our ability to think still lies in the physical. Indeed, without this physical restraint, our ability to think can easily fly away from us.
The physical structure of the human is focussed on the head, and with good reason: without it, we’d not be able to live at all. Chop off the odd arm or foot and the human can still function; remove the head and all is lost. Yet, for all its importance, the head is not the largest part of our body. The limbs and our abdomen are far bigger. Nevertheless, we’d not have a brain without the organs to supply our body with that which is necessary to keep our entire body alive.
The point here is that our ability to think is founded on our being complete humans. Complete in physical terms, that is to say, alive.
Inside Our Head.
The head itself is given over in part to the material senses – the eyes, ears, nose and tongue are all able to detect material phenomena of one kind or another. They also take up a goodly amount of the volume in our head. The physical head weighs around 10 pounds, 5 kiloes. The brain itself weighs around three pounds – around 1500 grammes. Of our material existence, there isn’t much that is given over to our ability to think, yet it is that very ability that makes all the rest worthwhile.
An interesting phenomenon is that our heads don’t feel as if they are carrying around this lump of intellectual putty. If you have one to hand, try putting a telephone directory on your head. It’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about here.
Because this is an important note for the materialist, who believes that the brain is the be-all and end-all of thinking, what with its supposed electrical activity that is undertaken by neurons. It is true that the neurons do affect electrical equipment in this way, but that does not mean that thinking is created through this activity. It is more that it is a side-effect of material, earth-bound thinking and its application in electrical machines. Even so, this lowly level of thought would not be possible were the brain to press on the base of the skull with the full force of its weight. The brain is too tender an organ, for all its modest size.
The fact is that the brain is cradled in the spinal fluid that sits in the lower half of the skull. The weight of the brain is displaced through the fluid by the principle established by Archimedes, and the fluid the brain sits in carries the weight down into our abdomen through the medium of the spinal fluid.
We really wouldn’t be able to think without our physical bodies!
Beyond Material Thinking.
The purpose of humankind in our current age is to develop an activity of thinking that is not bounded by the material world – that is to say, free thinking – this does not mean that it happens that often. One can think of this as being the flowering of one’s thoughts, and the rest of one’s thoughts, that have to do with our daily lives are more like the stem and the leaves of the plant that the flower develops out of. Just as the flower could not exist without the previous organs of the plant, the roots and leaves, our ability to think freely has to be developed out of that which supports it.
Thus material thinking is essential if one is to progress. Indeed, that which brings forth atavistic clairvoyance are actually forms of thinking that have not been sufficiently materialized and intellectualized. This may sound strange coming from me, the ultimate antagonist to intellectual thinking, but the intellect is an extremely powerful tool when wielded by the conscious mind. That means it is applied properly and in full consciousness. The fact that this clairvoyance is atavistic implies that it is not the result of conscious thinking.
The problem with the intellect is that when it’s left to itself, it’s not very intelligent: it really doesn’t know how to discern its own preferences. And yes, this is subjective, but that is the entire point of free thinking: it is subjective. The key here is that one understands one’s own proclivities to the point where they can be recognized and isolated when it comes to making a decision that is not made on the basis of material facts or material stimuli. ‘Recognized and isolated’ means that one is conscious of them.
Nevertheless we need our intellect to do the donkey work for us, just as we leave our feet to do the walking for us when we want to enjoy an afternoon’s walk in the park. Our intellect is as much a servant as our limbs are when we’re enjoying the summer sunshine outside with the senses that our material bodies are furnished with. That very enjoyment is a subjective experience, and as such, is as real as any pencil mark made on a piece of paper and deemed to be a fact by the intellectual.
In this respect, our free thinking is there for us to use as and when the opportunity or the necessity arises. What was it Albert Einstein said? “A problem cannot be solved with the same thinking that created it”. That is to say, one has to step above the material facts in order to solve a problem that arises as a result of them; thankfully, problems are not that common save in the most troubled of lives.
It is when a problem does arise that one will be thankful for the ability to think freely whilst still retaining one’s sanity. That is where we have the capacity to deal with the problem and not give ourselves over to panic. That is when we imagine the countless number of possible and impossible situations that the mind can create when unleashed from the immediate reality of the situation. Panic in this respect is what one can term a ‘threshold’ experience – that is beyond the scope of this public blog. The problem for the person panicking is that they simply cannot discern what is real from what they have imagined is real… and that very ability to discern is in and of itself a subjective capacity.
It cannot be otherwise: these problems, these challenges are one’s own and nobody else’s. Hence they are subjective, even if they have general qualities to them – but to the person in a panic, the problem is both very, very real and very, very personal. It’s made worse by the fact that if there are any facts to base one’s opinion on, there’s no time to decide which are the pertinent ones. But then, one’s choice of facts is actually a subjective decision in itself. Knowing oneself, knowing one’s own subjective choices is the first step to being able to deal with problems. Some people call it “out of the box thinking”.
In this respect a person’s problem is actually the gateway to the worlds of the spirit: for if a problem can only be solved through higher thinking, then a person’s problem is actually a gift in disguise. It is when in conversation with someone – as was the case yesterday morning on the platform of Bayreuth station – that a problem can be clarified. For someone like me, that process of clarification will both unveil that person’s challenge and their capacity to deal with it. If the person is over the age of thirty, it is more than likely that they will discover an excuse whereby the problem doesn’t need solving.
If they are under the age of thirty, there is a reasonable chance that their brain and their thinking hasn’t formed a hard crust. If I can put it so inelegantly. But that is the truth of the matter: if left unattended, the thinking forms a skin, a barrier to the potential for change that problems bring. It is a natural defence to the pain that dealing with insurmountable problems requires. That is the key to understanding how habits and habitual thinking leads to the onset of progressive conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
What’s The Point?
Which is a fair enough statement to make. However if one thinks about how Britain has a government deficit of nearly 8%, that serious problem could have been solved by meeting one or two challenges. It always takes a little courage to think beyond the facts, or put better, to choose the facts that are pertinent to the situation rather than those that allow one to make an excuse the problem – the challenge – to one side. A deficit of 8% implies that for several years the British government have not been meeting their challenges. Their usual excuse is that they are in charge of their currency and thus can print money to pay for the government’s spending.
But there’s a problem with this, and it is that this borrowed money still needs paying for. Even with a government that can reduce its interest rates as it pleases only shows that they have avoided problems from another angle too.
This could continue indefinitely; the real issue here is that the government have no real experience of dealing with problems. Small problems. Pushing things aside means one does not develop the capacity to recognize when a problem needs handling and when it does not. It means all problems are pushed aside and left to rot. The point here is that there is no flowering of the thinking, no capacity to deal with the unexpected.
Because life is filled with unexpected happenings, many of which are simply brushed off because the government has (in this case) the ability to deal with its own affairs. However, in the case of a person, it leaves them utterly defenceless when an insurmountable problem arises. In common parlance we call this a ‘nervous breakdown’. In esoteric terms, it’s called ‘being up a creek without a paddle’.
To train oneself to think beyond the mere facts of a situation is to give you the ability to firstly realize that paddle is lying in the canoe. The other part is to actually use it whilst there is still time to turn around.
Letting one’s thinking flower is perhaps the most important thing one can do in this life. After a decent breakfast, that is.