Monday 8 June 2020

More on heart-thinking from Rudolf Steiner

Excerpted from the ninth of a 1910 lecture series entitled Macrocosm and Microcosm (GA 119). I have made cuts indicated... and added italics for emphasis:

...In ordinary life we have the feeling that we think with the head. That of course is a pictorial expression, for we actually think with the spiritual organs underlying the brain; but it is generally accepted that we think with the head... We have a quite different feeling about the thinking that becomes possible when we have made a little progress. The feeling then is as if what had hitherto been localised in the head were now localised in the heart...

This thinking of the heart is very different from ordinary thinking. In ordinary thinking everyone knows that reflection is necessary in order to arrive at a particular truth. The mind moves from one concept to another and after logical deliberation and reflection reaches what is called ‘knowledge’. It is different when we want to recognise the truth in connection with genuine symbols or emblems. They are before us like objects, but the thinking we apply to them cannot be confounded with ordinary brain-thinking. Whether they are true or false is directly evident without any reflection being necessary as in the case of ordinary thinking.

What there is to say about the higher worlds is directly evident... This is the characteristic of heart-thinking.

There are not many things in everyday life that may be compared with it but I will speak of something that may make it intelligible.

There are events which bring the intellect almost literally to a standstill. For example, suppose some event confronts you like a flash of lightning and you are terrified. No external thought intervenes between the event and your terror. The inner experience — the terror — is something that can bring the mind to a standstill. That is a good expression for it, for people feel what has, in very fact, happened...

Experiences which arise when an action or inner state of mind directly follows the first impression are the only kind in everyday life that may be compared with those of the spiritual investigator when he has to say something about his experiences in the higher worlds. If we begin to reason, to apply much logical criticism to these experiences, we drive them away. And furthermore, ordinary thinking applied in such cases will usually produce something that is false.

Essential as it is first of all to undergo the discipline of sound, reasoned thinking before attempting to enter the higher worlds, it is equally essential to rise above this ordinary thinking to immediate apprehension... With ordinary intellectual thinking we are incapable of judging rightly in the higher world, but equally we are incapable of judging rightly in that world if we have not first trained our intellectual thinking in the physical world, and then, at a suitable moment, are able to be oblivious of it...

In the ordinary life of today man experiences — or can at least experience — these three stages. — The majority of people are at the stage where in their normal consciousness an immediate, innate feeling tells them: this is right, that is wrong; you ought to do this, you ought not to do that... That is the first stage of development.

At the second stage, man begins to reflect. More and more people will be prone to abandon their original feeling and to reflect about the circumstances and conditions into which they have been born. This is why there is so much criticism today of creeds and of sacred traditions from the past. All this criticism is the reaction of the intellect and the reasoning mind against what has been accepted out of feeling and left unproven by the intellect...

Thus there are these two stages in the development of the human soul. In respect of what a man accepts as true he may be at the stage where he is guided by primitive, undeveloped feeling, feeling that is inborn or has been acquired through education. A second factor is what is called intellect, intelligence.

But anyone who has a little insight into the nature of the soul knows that a very definite quality of this intelligence is that it has a deadening effect upon the emotional life... Hence those who out of certain primitive feelings — which are entirely justifiable at one stage of development — incline towards this or that truth are reluctant to let these beliefs be affected by the withering and devastating effect of intellectuality. This reluctance is understandable.

If, however, it goes so far as to make people say that in order to rise into the higher worlds they will avoid all thinking and remain in their immature emotional life, then they can never reach the higher worlds; all their experiences will remain on a low level.

It is inconvenient, but necessary, to train the power of thinking — which is of course invaluable for life in the external world, although for those who aspire to reach the higher worlds thinking serves merely as a preparation, as training. The validity of truths of the higher worlds cannot be established through logic.

The thinking that is applied to machines, to the phenomena of outer nature, to the natural sciences, cannot be applied in the same way to experiences connected with the higher worlds... Without intellect we could not construct machines, build bridges or study botany, zoology, medicine, or anything else; its use in those domains is apparent inasmuch as it is applied to the immediate objects. For higher development, intellect has approximately the significance that learning to write has in youth. Learning to write is the exercise of a faculty that must be behind us when it has to be applied; it has significance only when we have got beyond it...

So it is too, with thinking. Anyone who wants to undergo higher development must for a certain time also undergo training in logical thinking and then discard it in order to pass over to thinking with the heart. Then there remains with him a certain habit of conscientiousness with regard to the acceptance of truth in the higher worlds. Nobody who has undergone this training will regard every symbol as a true Imagination or interpret it arbitrarily; but he will have the inner strength to draw near to reality, to see and interpret it rightly.

The very reason why a thorough training is necessary is because we must then have an immediate feeling as to whether something is true or false. To put it exactly, this means that whereas in ordinary life we use reflection, in the higher worlds our thinking must previously have been developed sufficiently to enable us to decide spontaneously about truth or falsity.


Other thoughts on heart-thinking can also be found described under the categories of primary thinking, direct thinking and Final Participation. It is the basis of Romantic Christianity


Sean G. said...

This was very elucidating. What sparked my conversion was a realization that my head thinking was woefully inadequate, and my subsequent emphasis on heart thinking. It became obvious that Christianity was beautiful and good and led me to marry and have kids.

This did however leave me confused as to where reason fit into my spiritual practice so I simplified by leading with my heart, which I trust has access to all of my reasons, to use in whatever way it might do so. So for me, the hierarchy was critical.

This doesn't seem too dissimilar to Steiner's point though perhaps a more childish way of looking at it and without the emphasis on training your logical thinking. I'm glad you shared this.

lgude said...

Very helpful for me becauseI have been struggling to understand why I find myself caught up in head thinking even though I have become aware of heart thinking which immediately makes me see that the intellectual projects dear to me are castles built in the air. Lego arrangements of conceptual thoughts, interesting, perhaps beautiful and even deeply explanatory of important truths. They are all those things at best, but they are not being. Steiner's explanation is the best understanding I have encountered of why the discipline of logical thought is necessary to developing thinking with the heart. It is often presented as its enemy - and that is a trap. Thank you Bruce.