such points-of-view, Dr. Steiner opposes the following account
of cognition: — “In knowledge, we are concerned
with questions which arise for us through the fact that a
Sphere of Percepts, conditioned by time, space and our
subjective organisation, stands over against the Sphere of
Concepts, pointing to the totality of the universe. Our task is
to reconcile these two spheres, with both of which we are
well-acquainted. There is no room here for speaking of ‘Limits
us examine this statement, piece by piece: —
“A Sphere of Concepts,
pointing to the totality of the
we consider our conceptualising, we find ourselves pointed to a
cosmic background wherein there is a ubiquitous and perpetual
tendency towards the forming of greater and greater wholes.
Every item gets to itself context upon context, background upon
background. Fact links itself with fact, occurrence with
occurrence; ever-larger groupings become apparent; and we find
ourselves at last in the presence of the totality of the
universe, of world-oneness.
Modern Physical Science thinks of a Law of Nature as
subjective. It says to itself: — “This law is not a
self-existent entity; it does not really exist; it cannot
really exist.” To a science accustomed to regarding every
item of knowledge through physical eyes there is nothing in a
Law for Nature which it can make real to itself. When Science
speaks of “Laws,” these are only man-made
hypotheses or conjectures. The only things that for Science
have genuine existence are the individual sense-perceived
objects, — (e.g. the single tulips). “Laws,”
are merely a convenient subjective way of provisionally lumping
together a number of things or occurrences of the same
Steiner affirms that “things exist and act on one another
according to laws which can be discovered by thinking;”
that “things exist in indivisible unity with laws.”
He insists that the Laws of Nature — these groupings
— these wholes — are objective realities.
They are not visible to physical eyes: they are not tangible to
physical fingers: they are nevertheless completely actual and
factual. ... And unless we can come by thinking-intuition to
see them — or at least to realise that we must
postulate their self-existence — we shall never be able
to make sense of what takes place in the knowledge-process.
“A Sphere of
Percepts, conditioned by time, space and our subjective
was once travelling alone in a compartment of a non-corridor
railway train; I lay down on the seat and went to sleep: I was
awakened by a thump on my side. Of what had taken place I could
for the moment give no explanation. This was pure percept. ...
In one of his absurd stories Chesterton tells of a man who
heard in the passage outside his study an extraordinary medley
of noises: — rifle-shots, running water, whirring
machinery; he could for a time give himself no intelligible
account of what they were. Here again we have pure percept.
actuality, this sort of thing is all the time taking place with
us. The reader can observe it easily enough for himself. By
means of our sense-organisation, we get a percept. For a very
brief space of time, it is only percept. Then — as a
rule, more or less spontaneously; but sometimes after an
appreciable time-lag — it ceases to be a mere empty
percept and gets lit up from within by the relevant
the lower level, at the first stage of cognition, what we get
is blobs of colour, noises, etc., — mere unintelligible
items of sense-experience. They are mere indications (in and of
themselves without content or meaning) of the Wholes or Laws
which we have just been describing. Things themselves
undergo no change; it is we who are at fault. As
creatures of time and space; conditioned by our subjective
organisation; we are able to apprehend only fragments of
reality — specialisations, exemplifications, particulars.
We have the power to see only a mere aspect or hint of the
actuality. What we thus get is in and of itself only enigma and
illusion. “Through sense-perception,” says Goethe,
“objects appear separately.”
“My task consists
in reconciling these two spheres.”
order that I may reconcile these two spheres, I must let them
come together again. That they may take on intelligibility I
must allow the percepts to enter into groupings, contexts,
laws, wholes. This reconciliation is effected by Thinking.
speak of ‘Limits of
Modern Thought sees in Percepts a world altogether alien to our
thinking and declares it to be “inaccessible to
knowledge.” ... Dr. Steiner asks us to make crystal-clear
to ourselves the function and significance of thinking.
Thinking is simply Things realising themselves within
us. Only in a very circumscribed way can we say —
“I think.” When we have learned our manners
as cosmic citizens, we shall say — “The World
thinks in me.” What we call our thinking is
merely the assertion within us of the patterns, the
relationships, the wholes, which are the substance of what we
get with our senses. Thinking is subjective only in the sense
that our head is the stage on which it appears; in itself, it
is objective through and through.
cannot all at once plunge into omniscience, into world-vision.
We are required to overcome the limitations of time and space.
On our long evolutionary journey, we are subject to all manner
of temporary hold-ups to knowledge. But as soon as we
comprehend the nature and function of Thinking, we see that any
absolute limits to knowledge are inconceivable. Relying
upon our sense-organs, we are on the outside of things; as soon
as we begin to think, we get inside. Man as constituted by his
thinking is free of all the secrets of the universe.