Science Of Freedom Workbook
Text: "The Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner
Topic 0.7 The Goal Of Knowledge, original preface
0.7 Practice Pure Thinking
 At first the reader is lead into abstract regions, where thought must draw sharp outlines to reach clearly defined positions. But the reader is also led from arid concepts into concrete life.
I am fully convinced that to experience life in all its aspects, one must soar into the realm of concepts. Whoever is limited to the pleasures of the senses misses the sweetest joys of life.
The oriental sage requires his disciples to live a life of resignation and asceticism for years before he shares with them his knowledge. The West no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices to attain knowledge. It does require, however, a sincere willingness to prepare for science by withdrawing oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and entering the realm of pure thought.
Worldview Of Psychism
"ideas are at work in the world, and this implies that there must also be in the world some sort of beings in whom the ideas can live."
"Ideas cannot live just as they are in any external object, nor can they hang as it were in the air."
"ideas are bound up with some being capable of having ideas, ideas are connected with beings."
Rudolf Steiner, Human And Cosmic Thought lectures
Idealism is the worldview that considers ideas as the primary reality or governing force. Idealism suggests that ideas can exist on their own and impact the world. However, ideas alone do not have the power to work. They cannot exist in a vacuum, floating independently of any substrate.
In the "Psychism" worldview, ideas are bound up with beings capable of having those ideas. The idea alone is inert, but in the context of it being thought, it gains the potential for action and influence. Psychism ties ideas to beings, acknowledging that an idea needs a 'home,' so to speak, to have an impact.
In Psychism, the focus is not just on the ideas but on the beings that carry those ideas. It’s a shift from an abstract, almost ethereal understanding of ideas to a more grounded approach that takes into account the psychological or mental entity that holds and processes these ideas. It is about the symbiosis between ideas and the mental frameworks or consciousness within which they exist and operate.
Psychism is a worldview that builds upon Idealism by connecting ideas to beings capable of holding those ideas. It argues that ideas, to have any impact or meaning, must be part of some conscious entity.
Topic 0.7 Practice Pure Thinking suggests that to fully engage with life, one needs to ascend into the realm of pure thought or concepts. The reader of The Philosophy Of Freedom delves into abstract regions of thought to clearly define positions before returning to practical life enriched and deepened.
This approach expresses the worldview of Psychism. In Psychism, the idea is that concepts or ideas cannot merely exist in isolation or "hang in the air." Instead, they are intricately tied to beings capable of hosting and enacting these ideas. In other words, ideas are live entities when tied to a conscious mind capable of grasping them.
In Topic 0.7, the notion of ascending into "the realm of pure thought" echoes this. Pure thought isn't an isolated entity but is framed as a necessary part of human experience. The text asserts that to understand life fully, one has to engage with this level of thinking. The implication here is that in "pure thinking" ideas are connected to the individual who engages in them, and through this connection, these ideas acquire the ability to influence or shape "concrete life."
The practice of pure thinking, then, becomes not an abstract, disconnected exercise but a deeply personal and human endeavor. Ideas are not just abstract constructs but have meaning and force when tied to the person who contemplates them. This is precisely the premise of Psychism: that ideas come to life when connected with beings capable of holding them. In this context, the practice of pure thinking serves to enrich and deepen not just intellectual understanding but the lived human experience. It acknowledges that ideas are bound up with the individual, and this bond transforms both the idea and the individual's approach to life.
MODULE 0.7 Practice Pure Thinking
□ STEP 0.7 From dry abstract concepts, to joy of practicing pure thinking.
In Module 0.7 Practice Pure Thinking, we delve into an essential step on your path to intellectual and spiritual freedom. We confront the divergent approaches to knowledge: one, the rigid and isolating road paved by 'dry abstract concepts,' and the other, the liberating and enriching experience of 'pure thinking.'
In traditional Eastern philosophies, an oriental sage often expects disciples to undergo years of ascetic practices and pious exercises before imparting his wisdom. This approach, while rigorous, often leaves the individual isolated from reality and disconnected from their emotional self. The study of ancient scriptures becomes one of cerebral rigidity, devoid of personal resonance.
In contrast, Steiner's Western approach emphasizes the importance of 'pure thinking' as a means of acquiring knowledge. Far from the austerity and emotional barrenness required by the oriental sage, Steiner's approach calls for a temporary withdrawal from immediate sensory experiences to tap into the richer, more holistic intellectual realm of intuitive insight. Rather than adhering to stiff abstractions, we soar into a realm of concepts that is as dynamic and alive as the reality it seeks to grasp. This shift does more than just alter the intellectual landscape; it transforms thinking into a deeply personal and inspirational experience.
Steiner believes that to 'experience life in all its aspects,' one must engage in this form of thinking. No longer constrained by arid conceptual frameworks, you are free to explore the 'sweetest joys of life' that can only be accessed through the practice of pure thinking.
You don't need years of ascetic discipline to reach the peak of intellectual freedom. All it takes is a sincere willingness to withdraw briefly from the sensory world and engage in the liberating exercise of pure thinking. Your reward is not just knowledge, but a new, enriching way to experience yourself and the world around you.
Dry Abstract Concepts: Refers to the recollection of rigid, lifeless ideas that are disconnected from reality and personal experience.
Joy of Practicing Pure Thinking: Refers to the emotionally fulfilling and intellectually enriching process of grappling with ideas that resonate deeply with both reality and personal intuitive understanding.
The practice of pure thinking is indispensable for achieving sovereign individuality, as it is within the realm of pure concepts that free thinking finds its true expression.
2. LIFE EXAMPLES
Scenario: Math Teacher
Stage 1 - Dry Abstract Concepts: A math teacher finds herself mechanically going through the textbook examples of calculus equations. She knows the formulae, but they feel distant and lifeless, just symbolic manipulations on paper. Her thinking is rigid, limited to the abstract concepts outlined in the curriculum.
Stage 2 - Joy Of Practicing Pure Thinking: One day, she begins to contemplate the deeper significance of calculus in capturing the essence of change and motion. She feels a sudden surge of intellectual energy and improved focus. Her thinking becomes more fluid and she experiences intuitive insights that connect various mathematical concepts. She starts seeing calculus as a beautiful language that describes the world in a uniquely insightful way.
Scenario: Classical Music Critic
Stage 1 - Dry Abstract Concepts: A classical music critic finds himself in a rut, listening to symphonies and jotting down technical observations about the composition, tonality, and instrumentation. The reviews he writes feel stale, composed of dry abstract concepts with no emotional resonance.
Stage 2 - Joy Of Practicing Pure Thinking: While listening to a Bach composition, he begins to think deeply about the universal concepts of harmony and discord that the music taps into. The thought invigorates him, and his focus sharpens. He starts writing a review that explores these universal themes, experiencing increased intelligence in synthesizing diverse ideas about music, emotion, and human experience. He feels intellectually enriched and emotionally fulfilled.
Scenario: Office Worker
Stage 1 - Dry Abstract Concepts: An office worker is given the task of optimizing workflow processes. She reads through manuals about efficiency and time management, but they seem like dry, impersonal concepts that have nothing to do with the lived experiences of her coworkers.
Stage 2 - Joy Of Practicing Pure Thinking: She starts to contemplate the concept of 'time' deeply—how it's both a universal concept and a deeply personal experience. Thinking in these universal terms allows her to intuitively come up with solutions that respect both efficiency and individuality. She feels a sense of increased energy, as if her thinking has broken free from a mold.
Scenario: Philosophy Student
Stage 1 - Dry Abstract Concepts: A philosophy student is initially overwhelmed by the complex jargon and abstract ideas in his textbooks. Concepts like "epistemology" and "ontology" seem to be remote islands of thought, disconnected from any real-world application.
Stage 2 - Joy Of Practicing Pure Thinking: However, as he delves deeper, he starts to relate these abstract concepts to fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, and ethics that have always intrigued him. The dry concepts come alive, and he feels his intellectual capacity expand. His thinking becomes more fluid, and he begins to make intuitive connections between disparate philosophical ideas, feeling a kind of mental exhilaration that he had never experienced before.
Scenario: Contemplative Parent
Stage 1 - Dry Abstract Concepts: A parent is thinking about the abstract concept of "discipline." It's a term they've heard often, but it feels stale and unconnected to their lived experience with their child.
Stage 2 - Joy Of Practicing Pure Thinking: Upon taking time to really think deeply about what discipline means in the context of their unique relationship with their child, the parent starts to experience a profound sense of clarity. Their intuition tells them that discipline isn't merely punishment but a form of guidance. This deep, enriching thought process leaves the parent feeling invigorated and more intellectually prepared for the challenges of parenting.
Scenario: Home Repair Philosopher
Stage 1 - Dry Abstract Concepts: An individual watches numerous tutorials and reads manuals about how to complete needed home repairs, but finding them tedious and uninspiring.
Stage 2 - Joy Of Practicing Pure Thinking: The individual sits down to deeply consider what "home" means beyond the physical structure. The walls, the paint, the repairs—all these take on a different meaning, connected to the safety, warmth, and comfort that "home" offers. This revelation enhances their focus and brings an enriching satisfaction to the very act of making repairs.
3. THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM TOPIC 0.7 QUOTE
To attain knowledge the West requires "a sincere willingness to prepare for science by withdrawing oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and entering the realm of pure thought."
Note: Each module in this Science Of Freedom study course contains reflection questions for the practice of pure thinking. Be encouraged to formulate your own reflection questions that resonate with your unique experience and perspective.
Pure thinking, often referred to as "reason" in philosophy, is the process of thinking about thought, guided solely by the intuitive content of one's thoughts. Unlike empirical thinking, which is grounded in sensory experience, pure thinking deals with universal concepts that have no specific perceptual content. For example, the universal concept of "triangle" is devoid of the specifics that characterize a particular triangle. The term "triangle" would be a more generalized, universal concept that encompasses all the specific types such as "isosceles," "equilateral," and "scalene" triangles.
Engaging in pure thinking allows individuals to step beyond the limitations of sensory perception and corporeal experience, elevating them to a state of thinking that is free from constraints. This form of thinking is intuitive, based on linking thought with thought according to their ideal content, rather than relying on sensory inputs. This is a state of focused attention, free from external influences, sense-perception, or personal biases.
Mathematics serves as a prime example of pure thinking because it derives principles not from sensory perceptions, but from the conceptual framework of thought itself. It's a domain where one is entirely immersed in universal concepts like numbers, geometries, and formulas, which are not dependent on the empirical world for validation.
Pure thinking is an exercise in conceptual freedom, facilitating an exploration of universal ideas and ideals, and it is the sphere where higher-level cognitive activities like philosophical reasoning, logical analysis, and scientific theorizing occur.
Practicing pure thinking regularly involves intentional mental discipline to detach from immediate sensory experiences and focus on abstract, universal concepts. The goal is to engage in thinking that is free from biases, grounded solely in the content of the thoughts themselves.
Here's a simplified guide on how one could practice pure thinking:
1. Willingness: The essential requirement is the sincere willingness to engage in this practice. No extreme measures like asceticism are required, only the commitment to dedicate time and mental energy.
2. Intention Setting: Begin by setting the intention to focus on pure thinking, acknowledging the need for a break from the sensory-based world.
3. Creating Space: Choose a quiet environment where you won't be easily distracted. This physical "withdrawal" helps prepare the mind to retreat from immediate experiences and impressions.
4. Initial Detachment: Take a few moments to detach from current sensory experiences. Deep breathing exercises or short meditations can help in this transition.
5. Focus: Turn your attention inward, to your stream of thought. You're not focusing on what you can see, hear, or feel, but on the process of thinking itself.
6. Objective Analysis: Engage in exercises that involve linking thoughts based on their ideal content. For example, engage in solving a complex problem, analyzing a philosophical question, or understanding a scientific theory without referring to empirical evidence but relying solely on logical and conceptual coherence.
7. Universal Concepts: Try to understand the 'universals' that underlie the specifics. For instance, don't think about a particular kind of tree but try to understand the 'treeness' that is common to all trees.
8. Reflect: After the exercise, take a few minutes to transition back to your normal state of mind, perhaps by jotting down any insights you've gained or simply by taking a few deep breaths.
9. Consistency: The key to making this a regular practice is consistency. Just like any other skill, the ability to engage in pure thinking improves with regular practice.
By making this a regular practice, you not only develop your capacity for pure thinking but also enrich your intellectual life and potentially gain deeper insights into the world. This capacity for pure thinking is crucial for achieving a state of sovereign individuality, as it enables a person to engage with universal concepts and ideas in a way that is unencumbered by personal bias or external influences.
4. REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE PRACTICE OF PURE THINKING
Objective: Experience the joy of soaring into the realm of concepts.
How might the traditional Eastern path of pious exercises and ascetic practices be considered outdated or even counterproductive in our modern, scientific age for achieving true understanding and freedom of thought? What makes pure thinking 'pure'? Is it the content of thinking or the state of consciousness?
5. PURE THINKING - THE WHOLE IS THE UNITY OF THE PARTS
The parts of a whole can be in a spatial or temporal relationship to each other, like pieces of a cake or the hours in a day. In both cases, the whole is the unity of the parts, which is not the same as the sum of the parts: the unity takes into account the specific composition, the specific spatial or temporal arrangement of the parts into a whole. The sum is an external gathering (i.e. without overall composition) of parts without heed to their own determinations. This becomes obvious with more complex entities like the parts of a clock or the phases of a complex movement or process flow (for example, a physical double pendulum, planetary movements, dynamics of planetary configurations, chemical processes) or examples from spatial arts (sculpture, architecture, painting) or temporal arts (music, drama, eurythmy, ballet). Here, every part must be in its proper place - in space and / or time – there should not be too much or too little. Parts are therefore essential components of a whole; it would not be a unity without their presence and without their proper composition. The whole is a concrete composition of parts, not their mere summary or incoherent compilation. Spatial and temporal aspects do not belong, a priory, to the essential determinations for the concepts of partness and wholeness, but can be adjoined to them.
Partness is the universal lawfulness of all individual parts and is distinct from them, as is wholeness from all individual wholes. Partness and wholeness stand in a purely ideal relationship to each other. Partness is neither a part of wholeness, nor a part of any whole. Its content is ideally determined as that which makes an object a part of a whole: to be a part means to be determined as an entity that has a relationship to other parts such that they form a whole. This does not exclude that parts can, in turn, be wholes with other parts, etc. Wholeness is neither the whole of partness nor a whole of parts. Its content is ideally determined as that which makes an object a whole to its parts; to be a whole means to be determined as an entity made up of parts such that they form it as their whole.
What has here been developed, as the conceptual relationship between part and whole, is itself a distinct whole within which whole and part can be ordered next to each other as conceptual parts; one can call this concept something like a ‘part-whole’. Thus, for full clarity of the thought process regarding the determination of part and whole, the relationship between part and whole must be applied to itself.
source: thinking exercise from Jügen Strube's "The Observation Of Thinking"
6. PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF PURE THINKING
Objective: Adopt an individualistic attitude aligned with principles of freedom.
• Conceptualization Of Life Situation: Break down a problem or current life situation into its fundamental concepts and principles, analyze them, and then make your decision based on this conceptual understanding. Over time, you’ll find your decisions are not just reactive but deeply reasoned, offering you greater control over your life.
• Joy Of Contemplation: Set aside a few minutes to engage in pure, focused thought. Choose a universal concept, like 'freedom' or 'love,' and explore it in all its facets, diving deeper into its abstract dimensions. Are you able to soar into the realm of concepts to experience what Steiner calls "the sweetest joys of life"?
• Sensory Association: Assign a sensory experience (a color, a taste, a texture, etc.) to an abstract concept. For example, if you're studying the concept of "harmony," you might associate it with the sound of harmonious chords or tunes, representing the peaceful coexistence of different elements. By creating sensory associations, you can provide a more embodied, enriched experience of these abstract concepts, making them more vibrant and relatable.
Solitude: Deep, dark blue could evoke the depth and calmness of time spent alone in reflection.
Balance: The tactile experience of smooth, symmetrical shapes, like a perfectly round ball or a well-balanced sculpture.
Simplicity: The smooth texture of silk might symbolize straightforwardness and lack of complications.
Courage: The sound of a strong, steady drumbeat, evoking a sense of bravery and forward momentum.
Adventure: Spicy flavors like that of chili pepper could signify the excitement and risk involved in adventures.
7. CLOSING THOUGHTS
The cultivation of individuality is inextricably linked to the practice of pure thinking, a mode of engaging with the world that unlocks some of the most profound joys of human existence. By learning to soar in the conceptual realm, you not only experience a form of pleasure that transcends the limitations and subjectivity of sensory experiences but also lay the foundation for true individuality.
The joy in pure thinking is a deeply satisfying and enriching endeavor because it isn't shackled by external conditions or material constraints. Rather than offering mere momentary gratification, it provides a sustained, transformative satisfaction that deepens over time. It is a form of intellectual and emotional wealth that is universally comprehensible, not limited by cultural or individual biases.
Pure thinking offers a transcendent form of satisfaction, allowing you to connect with universal truths and beauties that resonate on a higher plane than sensory pleasures. This is a realm where your mind can explore freely, unbounded by physical limitations, and where your individuality can genuinely flourish. In essence, pure thinking is a vehicle for achieving a higher form of freedom and individuality, making the joys it offers not only sweeter but also more enduring and fulfilling than those derived from the senses.
Consider the sensory pleasure of savoring a fine meal. The flavors are exquisite, the textures are perfect, and the experience is deeply satisfying but ultimately fleeting. Once the meal is over, the pleasure dissipates, confined to that particular moment and setting. It's dependent on external factors—ingredients, chef's skill, your taste buds—and it's a pleasure you consume passively.
Now, contrast this with the joy of understanding a complex mathematical theorem or philosophical concept. This joy doesn't rely on external factors in the same way. It’s an active pleasure, one that you’ve achieved through your own mental efforts. The satisfaction derived from this intellectual endeavor is enduring, its resonance echoing each time you apply the concept to a new problem or explore it at a deeper level. Unlike the meal, which is confined to the moment, the pleasure of pure thinking extends beyond the immediate experience, enriching your understanding of the world and contributing to your growth as an individual.