May 22, 2013

Rudolf Steiner On Plato, Mathematics, Seekers of Knowledge, And The Truth


Below is an excerpt from Rudolf Steiner's book, "Theosophy: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos." 1994. Anthroposophic Press: Hudson, New York. Pg. 187 - 189.
"Plato required those applying to his school to take a course in mathematics first. Since the strict laws of mathematics are not subject to the ordinary course of sensory phenomena, they make a very good preparation for seekers of knowledge, who must put aside personal arbitrariness and distractions if they wish to make progress in mathematics. Voluntarily overcoming all uncontrolled and arbitrary thinking prepares them for the task ahead. They learn to respond to only the requirements of thinking itself, since that is how they must proceed in all thought activity that serves spiritual knowledge. Their thinking must replicate the undisturbed results and conclusions of mathematics. Wherever they go, wherever they may be, they must always attempt to think in this way. Then the laws of the spiritual world, laws that pass through without a trace when thinking is of the everyday confused variety, can flow into them. Well-ordered thinking leads them from secure starting points to the most hidden truths. (These suggestions should not be taken one-sidedly, however---although mathematics is good practice and discipline for our thinking, it is certainly possible to learn pure, healthy and vital thinking without it.)

Seekers of knowledge must have the same goals for their actions as they have for their thinking---that is, their actions must not be disrupted by their personality, but must be able to obey the laws of eternal beauty and truth, accepting the direction these laws provide. Knowledge seekers who have begun something they recognize as right may not give up simply because what they are doing is not emotionally satisfying. On the other hand, they may not continue with something just because they enjoy it if they discover that it does not conform to the laws of eternal beauty and truth. In everyday life, people let their actions be determined by what is personally satisfying or fruitful; they impose the direction of their own personality on the course of world events. They are doing nothing to bring about the truth laid out in the laws of the spiritual world; they are simply fulfilling their own arbitrary demands. We are acting in harmony with the spiritual world only when its laws are the only ones we obey. Actions proceeding only from our own personality supply no forces that could form a basis for spiritual knowledge.

Seekers of knowledge cannot consider only what will yield fruit or lead to success for themselves; they must also consider what they have recognized as good. They must willingly submit to the strict law that requires them to renounce all personal arbitrariness and all fruits their actions may have for their own personality. Then they are walking the paths of the spiritual world and their whole being is permeated by its laws. They are freed from all sensory constraints; their spirit being lifts free of its sensory trappings. This is how they spiritualize themselves, how they make progress toward the spiritual.  

We cannot question whether it does any good to resolve to obey only the laws of truth when in fact we may be mistaken about what is true. Everything depends on our effort and our attitude, and even people who are mistaken but are aspiring to the truth possess a strength that will set them back on the right track. The very objection that we may be mistaken is in itself destructive belief and demonstrates a lack of trust in the power of truth. The point here is that instead of presuming to decide on our goals from our own self-serving point of view, we should submit selflessly to the spirit and allow it to determine our direction for us. Self-serving human volition cannot dictate to the truth. Truth itself must become sovereign in us, filling our whole being and transforming us into a replica of spirit country's eternal laws. We must imbue ourselves with these eternal laws in order to let them flow out into life. As seekers of knowledge, we must have our will as well as our thinking strictly under control. Then, in all humility and without presumption, we become messengers of the world of truth and beauty. We advance to become participants in the spiritual world and are lifted from one level of development to the next. But we cannot achieve living in the spirit merely by being beholders of it---it has to be experienced."