Description of pure experience

Here is the Johannes Volkelt quote describing pure (non-thinking) experience mentioned by Rudolf Steiner in Science Of Knowing.

In our estimation Johannes Volkelt has succeeded admirably in sketching the clear outlines of what we are justified in calling pure experience. He already gave a fine characterization of it five years ago in his book on Kant's Epistemology, and has then carried the subject further in his most recent work, Experience and Thinking. Now he did this, to be sure, in support of a view that is utterly different from our own, and for an essentially different purpose than ours is at the moment. But this need not prevent us from introducing here his excellent characterization of pure experience. He presents us, simply, with the pictures which, in a limited period of time, pass before our consciousness in a completely unconnected way. Volkelt says:

“Now, for example, my consciousness has as its content the mental picture of having worked hard today; immediately joining itself to this is the content of a mental picture of being able, with good conscience, to take a walk; but suddenly there appears the perceptual picture of the door opening and of the mailman entering; the mailman appears, now sticking out his hand, now opening his mouth, now doing the reverse; at the same time, there join in with this content of perception of the mouth opening, all kinds of auditory impressions, among which comes the impression that it is starting to rain outside. The mailman disappears from my consciousness, and the mental pictures that now arise have as their content the sequence: picking up scissors, opening the letter, criticism of illegible writing, visible images of the most diverse written figures, diverse imaginings and thoughts connected with them; scarcely is this sequence at an end than again there appears the mental picture of having worked hard and the perception, accompanied by ill humor, of the rain continuing; but both disappear from my consciousness, and there arises a mental picture with the content that a difficulty believed to have been resolved in the course of today's work was not resolved; entering at the same time are the mental pictures: freedom of will, empirical necessity, responsibility, value of virtue, absolute chance, incomprehensibility, etc.; these all join together with each other in the most varied and complicated way; and so it continues.”

Here we have depicted, within a certain limited period of time, what we really experience, the form of reality in which thinking plays no part at all.

Now one definitely should not believe that one would have arrived at a different result if, instead of this everyday experience, one had depicted, say, the experience we have of a scientific experiment or of a particular phenomenon of nature. Here, as there, it is individual unconnected pictures that pass before our consciousness. Thinking first establishes the connections.

© Tom Last 2017