At this point, I have read through chapter three of Wilson’s book. So far, aside from Thought, Inspiration, and Intuition, there has been no real mention of how Steiner believed we could cross the threshold and the enter the realm of Imagination. He has spent his time, so far, on a biographical sketch, which is certainly important. Wilson is tracing Steiner’s intellectual development.
There was a brief description of Steiner attending the lectures of Franz Brentano. According to Wilson, the idea that impressed Steiner the most was Brentano’s assertion, “. . . there is no such thing as an unintentional mental act.” Brentano was a major influence on Edmund Husserl, who came close to describing a way into higher worlds with his transcendental reduction. Husserl incorporated this idea into his theory of phenomenology. Steiner highly approved of this, as is evident in his book, The Philosophy of Freedom. He believed humans possess freewill, contrary to what materialism claims. One can intentionally bring about higher states of consciousness, if one is willing to do the mental work required to get there.
Steiner moved to Weimar in 1890 to work on the Goethe’s scientific manuscripts. Soon after arriving, he gave a lecture called, Imagination as a Creator of Culture. If only we had the transcript! Wilson says, “From what Steiner says of his colleagues in Weimar, we may infer that it was received with bemused incomprehension.”1
There is evidence now that Steiner’s view of the spiritual world is similar to mine. As I said in my previous article, I see the spiritual world as really part of this world, just not accessible via the physical senses. In my view, both are actually one, it’s just that the higher world operates at a vibrational level that is hidden from everyday consciousness. Wilson quotes Steiner as saying,
I tried to show in my book that nothing unknowable lies behind the sense-world, but that within it is the spiritual world. And I tried to show that man’s idea-world has its existence within that spiritual world. Therefore, the true reality of the sense-world remains hidden from human consciousness only for as long as man is merely engaged in sense perception.2
So, one must make the decision of one’s own freewill to transcend mere sense perception and intentionally begin doing certain things that develop one’s latent abilities to see into the spiritual world, or the realm of Imagination. Those “certain things are what we need to discover. If we are to believe William Blake, there is a vast universe in a grain of sand, if we only knew how to look into it.
I kept expecting Wilson to launch into a description of Steiner’s practical method of gaining entrance to the realm of Imagination, but it never came. Suffice it to say that Wilson’s own ideas, along with those of Husserl and Whitehead, are much more philosophically interesting that Steiner’s.
Steiner seems to have had good intentions, but in our day his books and lectures are tedious and much too thick. Also, his association with the Theosophists tainted his work to some extent, even though he eventually broke with them and distanced his movement from them. As a thinker, Steiner would have been better off if he had not shared his occultic meanderings and would have remained the philosopher who wrote The Philosophy of Freedom.
Wilson, Colin. Rudolf Steiner: The Man and his Vision. Aeon: London, 2005.
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