“Observation and thinking are the two points of departure for all the spiritual striving of man, in so far as he is conscious of such striving. The workings of common sense, as well as the most complicated scientific researches, rest on these two fundamental pillars of our spirit. Philosophers have started from various primary antitheses: idea and reality, subject and object, appearance and thing-in-itself, “I” and “Not-I”, idea and will, concept and matter, force and substance, the conscious and the unconscious. It is easy to show, however, that all these antitheses must be preceded by that of observation and thinking, this being for man the most important one.
“Whatever principle we choose to lay down, we must either prove that somewhere we have observed it, or we must enunciate it in the form of a clear thought which can be re-thought by any other thinker. Every philosopher who sets out to discuss his fundamental principles must express them in conceptual form and thus use thinking. He therefore indirectly admits that his activity presupposes thinking.” ~Rudolf Steiner
Thought and Creation
A basic premise of creation is that a thing must be thought of before it can be created. This seems logical and obvious to most, but many forget it. They ignore the creative power of thought, except on certain occasions when that want to create something. But the creative power of though cannot be turned on and off light a light bulb. When you are thinking, you are creating, period. Just as it is impossible to create without thinking, it is impossible to think without creating. But when we are thinking without the intent to create, what is the result? What is created under those conditions?
Observation and Thinking
Another side of this is the relationship of observation and thinking. Steiner says that we have a chicken-and-egg relationship in observation and thinking. We can look around us at any time and unless you are in something like an isolation chamber, there will be many things to observe. Steiner is saying that there is two level of observing. Level one is just seeing the thing and recording it in our memory. The second level is to really think about what we are seeing. Why is it there? What is its relationship to other objects? On a more spiritual level, what is it behind the mask it is wearing?
Some think that the first level of observation doesn’t involve thinking at all, but it does. It may be entirely subconscious thinking, but that is still thinking. Yet some will argue that the thing was there without us thinking about it, and we could not think of it if it didn’t actually exist. Many disagree with that philosophy. Here’s why.
Remember the old question, “If a tree falls and there is no one around to hear it, does it still make a noise?” In a more general way, that question is really asking, if a thing exists without being thought of by man, can it actually exist?” The answer is yes. The tree does make a sound which Nature hears, and Nature can create without the thoughts of humans. But here is where it really gets complicated. Some would even say weird. The Gaia mind that control Nature on Earth is made up mostly of the thoughts of humans, both dead and alive. Therefore, Natures mind is also a form of human thinking.
Whether you call them principle, beliefs, or experience, we form opinions about the things we observe quickly because we make certain assumptions about them. We have seen many trees before, so when we see what appears to be a tree, we can make certain assumptions about it. We have seen how wild bears behave in real life or on television so we know that we shouldn’t try to pet a wild bear. These are thought principles. This type of principle is a shortcut to having to analyze every new thing in-depth.
The negative side of this is that sometimes we assume too much. We give our new girlfriend a box of chocolates which all our previous girlfriends loved. Then we discover that she is allergic to chocolate. We assume that because one dog bit us, all dogs are dangerous. Worst of all, though, is the assumption that matter is all that exists because we have never seen anything else. In short, too much assumptions and beliefs based on past experience often prevents us from learning new things.
Zen Thought Principles
The Zen masters tell their students that their tea-cup cannot be filled until it is first emptied. This is a symbolic way of saying that the mind must be emptied of beliefs and presumption in order to learn anything new.
But then we have the catch-22 of spiritual thinking. If we forget all beliefs and assumptions, we forget all that we have learned about the physical world and must start from scratch. That is not really an improvement.
forgetting everything we have learned in the past is not necessary. We just have to be open to learning new thing, even about subjects we thought we already knew. We can accept that the thing that looks like a tree is a tree. But we must also accept that all matter is illusion and the reality of that tree—like all other trees—is different than what we were taught in materialistic institutes. It is a tree, but it is not a solid thing of matter. The reality is that It is light, energy. It is part of the great hologram that is the physical universe. A hologram that is manipulated by our individual and collective thoughts. That is why thought itself needs to be observed and thought about. We need to understand what we are creating every time we think.