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Self Observation

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Self Observation

On-line since: 31st October, 2016



We have learned that man is at heart a being that seeks increasing knowledge; that realises itself by enmembering itself more and more in the World-whole. We see that to be successful in the study we are undertaking, we must orientate ourselves to such an expansion of our consciousness. In this Third Chapter of his book, Dr. Steiner urges upon us the claims of Thinking as “The Instrument of Knowledge” ... Is he justified in making such claims? Does not present-day Science rely rather upon “experimental verification?” Is trust in our own mentality practicable?

Normally, our Thinking is turned outwards upon other objects. We are now asked to turn it for a while inwards upon itself.

Immediately, as we take up this unusual attitude towards ourselves, we begin to see vaguely how mysterious and how basic this Thinking of ours is. Nothing is more common-place than to say: — “This is a table;” — but if we can enter fully into the implications of such a deed, we shall have gone far to solve the problems raised in this book... We are really saying: — “By means of Thinking I stand in a mysterious, basic relation to the table, which enables me — though it is outside me and alien to me — to make this confident assertion about it.”

H. G. Wells made great play with a phrase “Scepticism of the Instrument.” He asserted that we cannot trust our Thinking; that the only final criterion for scientific work is some sort of “verification by facts. He is expressing what is felt by 99 scientists out of 100. ... But if we examine such an instruction, we at once sense that it is unworkable. How do we become “sceptical of the instrument?” Are we not being asked in effect to doubt our thinking by means of thinking? Thinking, by the laws of the Universe, must be left with the last word. “When me they fly, I am the wings.”

Let us turn upon ourselves all the light we can find! Let us turn ourselves inside out and then look at ourselves! Do we not find that in every tiniest activity as well as in every special effort to solve a problem, Thinking is antecedent, ubiquitous, underlying, instinctive, assumed? Do we not increasingly discover with Descartes that to be a human being means to be a being that thinks and that the more we think, the more fully do we become a human being? Thinking is what we essentially and ultimately are. To doubt the legitimacy of our thinking is as ridiculous as to doubt the legitimacy of the living and growing of a tree.

To be a human being means to rely upon Thinking. We are seeking in this book for the secrets of our selfhood; only if we understanding^ rely upon our thought-process can they be found.

Our habit hitherto has been to place reliance upon all manner of treacherous supports; henceforth we determine to rely upon that alone which will unfailingly bear us up.

We will be believers in Thinking.

“There bubbles up within me a pure primal fountain of wisdom. Of this alone will I consent henceforward to drink.”

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