In Steiner’s cosmology, human consciousness is the place where observation (of the percept) and thinking meet. Human consciousness is the mediator, the only mediator in the cosmos, between observation and thinking, between percept and concept.
This is the eureka moment in Steiner’s philosophy, because it gives a direct answer to the existentialist question with which I opened this pilgrimage - ‘what am I?’ Rather than being the creator of the Universe, à la Gentile, I am the mediator through which the fulness of reality is realised. Only in human consciousness is the cosmic fulness of reality realised.
Being the cosmic mediator means that our mental capacity is not to produce thoughts from nothing, creatively so to speak, but rather to channel the thought content of the cosmos. Being universal, the cosmic thought pool drawn upon by the mediating ‘I’ is single and eternal. Having established this critical point, the awe-inspiring step that Steiner takes, and invites us to follow, is to draw intuitively upon the cosmic pool of thoughts without first referring to an externally given percept.It is in this pure intuition, pure conceptual thinking, that freedom isto be found.
Contrary to the Coleridgian third level state of existence, where the creative imagination creates something out of nothing, Steiner is tapping into a cosmic thought that already exists. Steiner’s point is that the cosmic pool of thoughts needs the free individual I as its means of expression.Free in Steiner's sense does not mean that I can think what I like, or create what I like. To him such a view would be no more than a libertarian fantasy. To be free in Steiner’s sense means that my actions are not guided by necessity, i.e. by the limitations of the perceptible world, culture, the state, matter, instincts, nature etc. Instead, I call directly upon the spirit world, or the cosmic fulness of reality. The intuitive ability to draw upon the cosmic pool of thoughts is a capability of the free individual I, which means that a process of individuation must have occurred first, which brings his work fruitfully into a relationship with Jung’s.
Nevertheless,Steiner’s point, expressed in The Philosophy of Freedom, is that everything is knowable. He did, of course, dismiss the passive looker-on of Lockean naive realism. But much more importantly, Steiner offered as his major breakthrough a means of getting beyond the Spinozist residue in Kant’s philosophy, without resorting to a simple upending of Spinoza, substituting one unquestioned presupposition for another, the absolute Substance for the absolute I.
Steiner went beyond Kant, in that he went beyond the unknowable external agent, the thing-in-itself, but also beyond Fichte and the Romantics; not creating reality, but rather intuiting the emergence of reality.
Let us at this point consider this ‘reality’. Steiner was not referring to the everyday reality of the things around us to which we respond with instinct and feeling. If the conceptions we formulate are merely responses to these things, then we are most certainly not individuated and not free.
The free individual me is not the body that I occupy…
The individual element in me is not my organism with its instincts and feelings, but rather the unified world of ideas which reveals itself through this organism.
Itis the intuitive capacity that enables the ‘unified world of ideas’ to emerge. Steiner is vague about where this capacity comes from, arguing that it is something that resides deep within us. Nevertheless, it is the essential component of freedom.
Only let us not assert that such a man can rightly call his actions his own, seeing that he is driven to them by an external force. But in the midst of all this network of compulsion, there arise free spirits who in all the welter of customs, legal codes, religious observances, etc., learn to be true to themselves. They are free in so far as they obey only themselves; unfree in so far as they submit to control. Which of us can say that he is really free in all his actions? Yet in each of us there dwells something deeper in which the free man finds expression.
Only the individual can reach into these deeper capacities for himself. It is a process of self-transformation that Steiner equates with being fully human as a free individual.
The plant transforms itself in growth, because of the objective law of nature which is inherent in it. The human being remains in his undeveloped state, unless he takes hold of the material for transformation within him and develops himself through his own energy. Nature makes of man merely a natural being; Society makes of him a being who acts in obedience to law; only he himself can make a free man of himself.
It was by arguing that the individual must develop the capacity to gain access to the ‘unified world of ideas’, this cosmic pool of thoughts, a realm of pure spirit, detached from objects perceived through the senses, that Steiner rationalised himself into esotericism. He gave us permission to consider the occult as a means of answering the grail question - ‘what am !?’ He also permitted us to make a cosmic reversal - to upturn Spinoza and Marx - by establishing the working principle that matter originates in spirit.
© John Dunn.