As a lurker, I've watched with fascination the interaction between Cleric and Eugene, as well as Ashvin. I admire and am grateful for all your passion, intelligence, and patience ().
In general, I read some of what Eugene says and very little of Cleric and Ashvin. I just got the (incorrect) impression that the latter two gentlemen were on their own mission and that their agenda was perhaps different from others here. I apologise for that.
Not to make an excuse, but the term "Thinking" put me off. Clearly Thinking with a capital "T" is different from thinking without capitals, and Cleric understandably is wanting to use the word as the technical term as Steiner defined it. But there was so much back and forth about it, even with Eugene, which now surprises me, and I got the wrong impression.
I discovered my error because I decided to just sit down and go through the "The Central Topic" thread in all its (current) 21 pages. Not exhaustively, of course, but stopping to read intensively understand some of the conversations taking place.
Of course, I read Cleric's first post multiple times. I must admit to being quite shocked. And the reason for being shocked is that, from my point of view, Cleric and Eugene seem so close on the opening post.
Now, I had read something similar before from Ashvin, and I had even commented on it (probably my only other post on this forum):
My response:1 - Why do we find no discussion of this infinitely self-deepening nature of Thinking activity which Steiner discusses below:
The reason why we generally overlook thinking in our consideration of things has already been given. It lies in the fact that our attention is concentrated only on the object we are thinking about, but not at the same time on the thinking itself... The observation of a table, or a tree, occurs in me as soon as these objects appear upon the horizon of my experience. Yet I do not, at the same time, observe my thinking about these things. I observe the table, and I carry out the thinking about the table, but I do not at the same moment observe this. I must first take up a standpoint outside my own activity if, in addition to observing the table, I want also to observe my thinking about the table.
This is apparent even from the way in which we express our thoughts about an object, as distinct from our feelings or acts of will. When I see an object and recognize it as a table, I do not as a rule say, “I am thinking of a table,” but, “this is a table.” On the other hand, I do say, “I am pleased with the table.” This is just the peculiar nature of thinking, that the thinker forgets his thinking while actually engaged in it. What occupies his attention is not his thinking, but the object of his thinking, which he is observing...
The reason why we do not observe the thinking that goes on in our ordinary life is none other than this, that it is due to our own activity... I am, moreover, in the same position when I enter into the exceptional state and reflect on my own thinking. I can never observe my present thinking; I can only subsequently take my experiences of my thinking process as the object of fresh thinking. If I wanted to watch my present thinking, I should have to split myself into two persons, one to think, the other to observe this thinking. But this I cannot do. There are two things which are incompatible with one another: productive activity and the simultaneous contemplation of it.
- Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom (1895)"
But there, that last paragraph of the quote from Steiner, which seemed (and still seems) so opposite of what came before it, spawned a whole conversation unrelated again.I don't agree. On the contrary, I find "productive activity and the simultaneous contemplation of it" not only achievable, but in fact necessary, to understand the role of consciousness. It's the basis of Buddhist Mindfulness, Krishnamurti's Choiceless Awareness, Advaita as per Rupert Spira, Ramana Maharshi, and many others, and Gurdjieff and Ouspensky's Self-Remembering.
Anyway, as always happens , The Central Topic also went its own way, and Martin tried to set it straight on page 15:
Ok, I already took up a lot of space setting the scene, so we need to move on. I am ending off with a long quote.My interpretation of the central topic was: "Let's start with observing our thinking and see what we can say"
We came to the point where we saw that thinking (using small 't' here) isn't fully free. It's operating in something what could be described as a funnel, and the nature/state of this funnel, and in some sense also our thinking's position in this funnel, affects what we think.
That's how far we got, as I remember it.
Disclaimer: I'm purpously using simple words here, in order to not cause any wider associations. (Higher / Lower, etc) In no way whatsoever is my intent to imply any kind of dualism at this point.
So, as I'm seeing it, The Central Point starts precisely with the experience of "productive activity and the simultaneous contemplation of it". Without the experience, and again I emphasise experience, as opposed to an intellectual acknowledgement of it, we can get nowhere. We remain within the tunnel of our intellect as opposed to the funnel of full experience, as per Cleric's first post.
Once we have established that experience, we can move onward. But what that onward is, is completely irrelevant and unknown, until we establish that experience.
And the problem is that trying to even talk about that onward to someone who is still in tunnel mode is counter-productive. It gets seen as unprovable at best, irrational at worst.
I want to bring forward two things about tunnel mode and funnel mode:
1) These modes are not exclusive in a person. Tunnel mode is easy and "natural", funnel mode is very hard to even grasp and recognise, and it requires an effortless effort (per Krishnamurti).
2) Some people are just not able to get the distinction. I say this from personal experience over many years of trying to explain it.
I'm not posting this to be another voice going off in his direction. What came to me instead after reading the whole thread is to present the following quote, which explains in the clearest way I have found, about tunnel mode and funnel mode.
The quote is from Gurdjieff, who was a contemporary of Steiner. If you google both their names together, you'll see that they have quite a bit in common.
The quote is from a book called "In Search of the Miraculous" by P.D. Ouspensky, who was a pupil of Gurdjieff. This quote appears at the start of chapter 7. You can download a free PDF of this book should it interest you.
Just one more heads-up, Gurdjieff uses the word "consciousness" in his own way. It's perhaps not so different from Thinking with a capital "T". So when he says that consciousness comes and goes, please don't make it into an anti-idealism thread .
If you've read this far, I thank you. Take the plunge and read the quote below.
RegardsON ONE occasion while talking with G. I asked him whether he considered it possible to attain "cosmic consciousness," not for a brief moment only but for a longer period. I understood the expression "cosmic consciousness" in the sense of a higher consciousness possible for man in the sense in which I had previously written about it in my book Tertium Organum.
"I do not know what you call 'cosmic consciousness,' " said G., "it is a vague and indefinite term; anyone can call anything he likes by it. In most cases what is called 'cosmic consciousness' is simply fantasy, associative daydreaming connected with intensified work of the emotional center. Sometimes it comes near to ecstasy but most often it is merely a subjective emotional experience on the level of dreams. But even apart from all this before we can speak of 'cosmic consciousness' we must define in general what consciousness is. How do you define consciousness?"
"Consciousness is considered to be indefinable," I said, "and indeed, how can it be defined if it is an inner quality? With the ordinary means at our disposal it is impossible to prove the presence of consciousness in another man. We know it only in ourselves."
"All this is rubbish," said G., "the usual scientific sophistry. It is time you got rid of it. Only one thing is true in what you have said: that you can know consciousness only in yourself. Observe that I say you can know, for you can know it only when you have it. And when you have not got it, you can know that you have not got it, not at that very moment, but afterwards. I mean that when it comes again you can see that it has been absent a long time, and you can find or remember the moment when it disappeared and when it reappeared. You can also define the moments when you are nearer to consciousness and further away from consciousness. But by observing in yourself the appearance and the disappearance of consciousness you will inevitably see one fact which you neither see nor acknowledge now, and that is that moments of consciousness are very short and are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical working of the machine. You will then see that you can think, feel, act speak, work, without being conscious of it. And if you learn to see in yourselves the moments of consciousness and the long periods of
mechanicalness, you will as infallibly see in other people when they are conscious of what they are doing and when they are not.
"Your principal mistake consists in thinking that you always have consciousness, and in general, either that consciousness is always present or that it is never present. In reality consciousness is a property which is continually changing. Now it is present, now it is not present. And there are different degrees and different levels of consciousness. Both consciousness and the different degrees of consciousness must be understood in oneself by sensation, by taste. No definitions can help you in this case and no definitions are possible so long as you do not understand what you have to define. And science and philosophy cannot define consciousness because they want to define it where it does not exist. It is necessary to distinguish consciousness from the possibility of consciousness. We have-only the possibility of consciousness and rare flashes of it. Therefore we cannot define what consciousness is."
I cannot say that what was said about consciousness became clear to me at once. But one of the subsequent talks explained to me the principles on which these arguments were based.
On one occasion at the beginning of a meeting G. put a question to which all those present had to answer in turn. The question was; "What is the most important thing that we notice during self-observation?"
Some of those present said that during attempts at self-observation, what they had felt particularly strongly was an incessant flow of thoughts which they had found impossible to stop. Others spoke of the difficulty of distinguishing the work of one center from the work of another. I had evidently not altogether understood the question, or I answered my own thoughts, because I said that what struck me most was the connectedness of one thing with another in the system, the wholeness of the system, as if it were an "organism," and the entirely new significance of the word to know which included not only the idea of knowing this thing or that, but the connection between this thing and everything else.
G. was obviously dissatisfied with our replies. I had already begun to understand him in such circumstances and I saw that he expected from us indications of something definite that we had either missed or failed to understand.
"Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you," he said. "That is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves." (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) "You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, 'it observes' just as 'it speaks' 'it thinks,' 'it laughs.' You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still 'is noticed,' 'is seen.' ... In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself" (He again emphasized these words.) "Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by self-remembering. Otherwise you yourselves do not exist in your observations. In which case what are all your observations worth?"
These words of G.'s made me think a great deal. It seemed to me at once that they were the key to what he had said before about consciousness. But I decided to draw no conclusions whatever, but to try to remember myself while observing myself.
The very first attempts showed me how difficult it was. Attempts at self-remembering failed to give any results except to show me that in actual fact we never remember ourselves.
"What else do you want?" said G. "This is a very important realization. People who know this" (he emphasized these words) "already know a great deal. The whole trouble is that nobody knows it. If you ask a man whether he can remember himself, he will of course answer that he can. If you tell him that he cannot remember himself, he will either be angry with you, or he will think you an utter fool. The whole of life is based on this, the whole of human existence, the whole of human blindness. If a man really knows that he cannot remember himself, he is already near to the understanding of his being."
All that G. said, all that I myself thought, and especially all that my attempts at self-remembering had shown me, very soon convinced me that I was faced with an entirely new problem which science and philosophy had not, so far, come across. But before making deductions, I will try to describe my attempts to remember myself.
The first impression was that attempts to remember myself or to be conscious of myself, to say to myself, I am walking, I am doing, and continually to feel this I, stopped thought. When I was feeling I, I could neither think nor speak; even sensations became dimmed. Also, one could only remember oneself in this way for a very short time.
I had previously made certain experiments in stopping thought which are mentioned in books on Yoga practices. For example there is such a description in Edward Carpenter's book From Adam's Peak to Elephanta, although it is a very general one. And my first attempts to self-remember reminded me exactly of these, my first experiments. Actually it was almost the same thing with the one difference that in stopping thoughts attention is wholly directed towards the effort of not admitting thoughts, while in self-remembering attention becomes divided, one part of it is directed towards the same effort, and the other part to the feeling of self.
This last realization enabled me to come to a certain, possibly a very incomplete, definition of "self-remembering," which nevertheless proved to be very useful in practice.
I am speaking of the division of attention which is the characteristic feature of self-remembering.
I represented it to myself in the following way:
When I observe something, my attention is directed towards what I observe—a line with one arrowhead:
I ————————————————> the observed phenomenon.
When at the same time, I try to remember myself, my attention is directed both towards the object observed and towards myself. A second arrowhead appears on the line:
I <———————————————> the observed phenomenon.
Having defined this I saw that the problem consisted in directing attention on oneself without weakening or obliterating the attention directed on something else.
Moreover this "something else" could as well be within me as outside me. The very first attempts at such a division of attention showed me its possibility. At the same time I saw two things clearly. In the first place I saw that self-remembering resulting from this method had nothing in common with "self-feeling," or "self-analysis." It was a new and very interesting state with a strangely familiar flavor.
And secondly I realized that moments of self-remembering do occur in life, although rarely. Only the deliberate production of these moments created the sensation of novelty. Actually I had been familiar with them from early childhood. They came either in new and unexpected surroundings, in a new place, among new people while traveling, for instance, when suddenly one looks about one and says: How strange! I and in this place; or in very emotional moments, in moments of danger, in moments when it is necessary to keep one's head, when one hears one's own voice and sees and observes oneself from the outside.
I saw quite clearly that my first recollections of life, in my own case very early ones, were moments of self-remembering. This last realization revealed much else to me. That is, I saw that I really only remember those moments of the past in which I remembered myself. Of the others I know only that they took place. I am not able wholly to revive them, to experience them again. But the moments when I had remembered myself were alive and were in no way different from the present.
I was still afraid to come to conclusions. But I already saw that I stood upon the threshold of a very great discovery. I had always been astonished at the weakness and the insufficiency of our memory. So many things disappear. For some reason or other the chief absurdity of life for me consisted in this. Why experience so much in order to forget it after-'wards? Besides there was something degrading in this. A man feels something which seems to him very big, he thinks he will never forget it; one or two years pass by—and nothing remains of it. It now became clear to me why this was so and why it could not be otherwise. If our memory really keeps alive only moments of self-remembering, it is clear why our memory is so poor.
All these were the realizations of the first days. Later, when I began to learn to divide attention, I saw that self-remembering gave wonderful sensations which, in a natural way, that is, by themselves, come to us only very seldom and in exceptional conditions. Thus, for instance, at that time I used very much to like to wander through St. Petersburg at night and to "sense" the houses and the streets. St. Petersburg is full of these strange sensations. Houses, especially old houses, were quite alive, I all but spoke to them. There was no "imagination" in it. I did not think of anything, I simply walked along while trying to remember myself and looked about; the sensations came by themselves.
Later on I was to discover many unexpected things in the same way. But I will speak of this further on.
Sometimes self-remembering was not successful; at other times it was accompanied by curious observations. I was once walking along the Liteiny towards the Nevsky, and in spite of all my efforts I was unable to keep my attention on self-remembering. The noise, movement, everything distracted me. Every minute I lost the thread of attention, found it again, and then lost it again. At last I felt a kind of ridiculous irritation with myself and I turned into the street on the left having firmly decided to keep my attention on the fact that I would remember myself at least for some time, at any rate until I reached the following street. I reached the Nadejdinskaya without losing the thread of attention except, perhaps, for short moments. Then I again turned towards the Nevsky realizing that, in quiet streets, it was easier for me not to lose the line of thought and wishing therefore to test myself in more noisy streets. I reached the Nevsky still remembering myself, and was already beginning to experience the strange emotional state of inner peace and confidence which comes after great efforts of this kind. Just round the corner on the Nevsky was a tobacconist's shop where they made my cigarettes. Still remembering myself I thought I would call there and order some cigarettes. Two hours later I woke up in the Tavricheskaya, that is, far away. I was going by izvostchik to the printers. The sensation of awakening was extraordinarily vivid. I can almost say that I came to. I remembered everything at once. How I had been walking along the Nadejdinskaya, how I had been remembering myself, how I had thought about cigarettes, and how at this thought I seemed all at once to fall and disappear into a deep sleep. At the same time, while immersed in this sleep, I had continued to perform consistent and expedient actions. I left the tobacconist, called at my Hat in the Liteiny, telephoned to the printers. I wrote two letters. Then again I went out of the house. I walked on the left side of the Nevsky up to the Gostinoy Dvor intending to go to the Offitzerskaya. Then I had changed my mind as it was getting late. I had taken an izvostchik and was driving to the Kavalergardskaya to my printers. And on the way while driving along the Tavricheskaya I began to feel a strange uneasiness, as though I had forgotten something.—And suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten to remember myself.
I spoke of my observations and deductions to the people in our group as well as to my various literary friends and others. I told them that this was the center of gravity of the whole system and of all work on oneself; that now work on oneself was not only empty words but a real fact full of significance thanks to which psychology becomes an exact and at the same time a practical science. I said that European and Western psychology in general had overlooked a fact of tremendous importance, namely, that we do not remember ourselves; that we live and act and reason in deep sleep, not metaphorically but in absolute reality. And also that, at the same time, we can remember ourselves if we make sufficient efforts, that we can awaken.
I was struck by the difference between the understanding of the people who belonged to our groups and that of people outside them. The people who belonged to our groups understood, though not all at once, that we had come into contact with a "miracle," and that it was something "new," something that had never existed anywhere before.
The other people did not understand this; they took it all too lightly and sometimes they even began to prove to me that such theories had existed before.
A. L. Volinsky, whom I had often met and with whom I had talked a great deal since 1909 and whose opinions I valued very much, did not find in the idea of "self-remembering" anything that he had not known before.
"This is an apperception." He said to me, "Have you read Wundt's Logic? You will find there his latest definition of apperception. It is exactly the same thing you speak of. 'Simple observation' is perception. 'Observation with self-remembering,' as you call it, is apperception. Of course Wundt knew of it."
I did not want to argue with Volinsky. I had read Wundt. And of course what Wundt had written was not at all what I had said to Volinsky. Wundt had come close to this idea, but others had come just as close and had afterwards gone off in a different direction. He had not seen the magnitude of the idea which was hidden behind his thoughts about different forms of perception. And not having seen the magnitude of the idea he of course could not see the central position which the idea of the absence of consciousness and the idea of the possibility of the voluntary creation of this consciousness ought to occupy in our thinking. Only it seemed strange to me that Volinsky could not see this even when I pointed it out to him.
I subsequently became convinced that this idea was hidden by an impenetrable veil for many otherwise very intelligent people—and still later on I saw why this was so.