I may be a bit strange this way; but there are few subjects that excite me as much as thinking!
I have come to regard thinking as an-end-in-itself; indeed probably the highest activity of which we are capable.
Of course, I am immediately compelled to clarify that I certainly do Not mean all kinds of thinking have thus supreme value; nor even most kinds of thinking...
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is possible that many people may never experience the kind of thinking that I am talking about - not least because to experience this highest kind of thinking one must simultaneously recognize its supreme value. One must regard this thinking as intrinsically valid and intrinsically valuable.
And that recognition is very far from the case!
Indeed, for most people, thinking is just a means to an end - and that end is 'action'.
Most people would say that thinking but not doing is just a waste of time; and empty activity. Good thinking is that which leads to good outcomes in the perceptible world...
Most people nowadays would say that unless something is changed in the material, objective, external world - then thinking is a free-spinning-cog: futile, just wasteful of energy and effort.
This seems like simple common sense to the modern, mainstream mind - its ideology and assumptions. To suppose that thinking had intrinsic value or validity is for such Men a kind of delusion; sheer insanity.
For other people; thinking is a kind of illusion; and indeed a wicked illusion.
Thinking is regarded as an aspect of maya: in other words, thinking is one of those snares or nets that keep us trapped in a world of appearance and suffering instead of the blissful reality that lies behind maya.
Many of the influential 'gurus' of Eastern and New Age spirituality emphasize that we should aim to eliminate thinking, instead our striving should be towards not-thinking-being.
We should strive for non-thinking awareness; because (they understand) thinking is what leads to our (false) sense of separation from the world; and the illusion of separateness leads to suffering. If thinking can be eliminated, so can suffering.
For those who regard reality as One, and assume we began as unconscious spirit aspects of that One; our task as going beyond the body and back to pure spirit - and also going beyond thinking to pure being-awareness.
Yet I have the solid conviction that thinking is of primary importance; and that our destiny lies in the direction of 'more and better thinking' - rather than no-thinking, or material-action.
For many years this was an un-conscious and inarticulate conviction - and it only began to reach awareness and clarity by reading the work of Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield. I found both of these authors very difficult to 'get' and spent years tackling them before the penny dropped.
But the penny dropped when reading Steiner's Truth and Knowledge followed immediately by re-reading the later part of Philosophy of Freedom. I then returned to Barfield and was immediately clear what I had been missing.
The excitement of this perspective is now latent - and can be awakened or re-awakened by coming across the same view in these or other authors. For instance, yesterday I was listening (on Rudolf Steiner Audio) to a lecture from early 1914; the opening words of which triggered that joyful lifting of the heart (emphasis added).
Man experiences within himself what we may call thought, and in thought he can feel himself directly active, able to exercise his activity.
When we observe anything external, e.g. a rose or a stone, and picture it to ourselves, someone may rightly say: “You can never know how much of the stone or the rose you have really got hold of when you imagine it. You see the rose, its external red colour, its form, and how it is divided into single petals; you see the stone with its colour, with its several corners, but you must always say to yourself that hidden within it there may be something else which does not appear to you externally. You do not know how much of the rose or of the stone your mental picture of it embraces.”
But when someone has a thought, then it is he himself who makes the thought. One might say that he is within every fiber of his thought, a complete participator in its activity.
He knows: “Everything that is in the thought I have thought into it, and what I have not thought into it cannot be within it. I survey the thought. Nobody can say, when I set a thought before my mind, that there may still be something more in the thought, as there may be in the rose and in the stone, for I have myself engendered the thought and am present in it, and so I know what is in it.”
In truth, thought is most completely our possession.
If we can find the relation of thought to the Cosmos, to the Universe, we shall find the relation to the Cosmos of what is most completely ours. This can assure us that we have here a fruitful standpoint from which to observe the relation of man to the universe.
For me, this expresses in a nutshell a deep and vital truth. Thinking is potentially our most complete and valid form of knowing. Therefore, the big question becomes: How this knowing is related to 'reality' - to divine creation?
If thinking turns-out to be in a direct relationship with reality - and not merely having some kind of indirect, 'translated', representational or linguistic 'communication' with reality - then this is of the greatest possible significance.
We begin to see (as Steiner goes on to articulate later in this lecture) that the distinction between this 'primary' thinking, and the kind of 'secondary' thinking which most people do most of the time (and some people do all of the time) - is related to language.
Most thinking is in words, it is language - therefore secondary; therefore either a means to an end, or perhaps illusion.
(This is the level of all public discourse and most private conversation: language responding to language - and nothing more. Our secondary thinking is no better than this.)
But some thinking may be primary, and not in words or any other symbolism; but thinking 'in' the primary creative essence of reality.
This kind of primary thinking is indeed itself reality.
Thus we can come to know reality.
You see why I regard thinking (of the right sort - primary thinking) an end in itself?