Whilst Einstein is a name familiar to all as that of a 'genius', the name Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) has for decades been unmentionable in academic and scientific circles. No greater insult can be afforded to a great thinker than for him to be ignored. The refusal of the academic and scientific world to make even a passing reference to his role in the history of philosophy and science is equivalent to the way in which the figure of Trotsky was erased from all photographs of revolutionary leaders in the Stalin era. It was Rudolf Steiner, who amidst the clash of materialism and spiritualism, science and religion, Western-based philosophies and Eastern-based theosophies that so characterized the culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, first clearly formulated the concept of a 'spiritual science' or 'soul science' that could lay the foundations for a new understanding of the material world and physical phenomena. But Steiner went further even than this, being the first to define, develop and apply specific methods of spiritual-scientific research that acknowledged a fundamental distinction between intensional and extensional reality - between soul-space, soul-forces and soul-qualities on the one hand, and physical spaces, forces and quantities on the other. He understood spiritual-scientific research not simply as psychology in the limited, modern sense of this word but as inner psychical research into outer physical phenomena, as objective research into subjective dimensions of reality as such. Like Marx, Steiner envisaged a single 'fundamental' science that would unite the natural science of man with a human science of nature. Steiner called this unity "Anthroposophy". Marx called it Scientific Socialism. And just as Marx had linked science with social transformation, and saw socialist thinking as something deeply scientific in character, so also did Steiner see Anthroposophy as something deeply social in character - planting the seeds of social transformation. Marx had seen in humanity's formative relationship to nature the basis of human relations. He understood the essence of human nature itself as sensuous activity embodied both in creative labour and in creative and recreative activities of all sorts. Steiner understood the essence of human nature as spiritual activity manifest in thought but rooted in a direct feeling cognition of the inwardness of outer phenomena.
Today there is no longer any scientific understanding of the way in which personal feeling, if followed, can lead into pre-personal and trans-personal dimensions of feeling cognition that open our awareness to pre- and trans-physical dimensions of reality itself. Therefore nothing is more foreign to science than the idea that our life of feeling should have any role to play in the quest for knowledge of the universe - for it is identified with the realm of the purely personal. The scientist must thus be someone who sacrifices individuality and personal feeling to a coldly impersonal and dryly intellectual rationality and to universal standards of clinical objectivity. The results are all too clear. In medicine and psychiatry the individual patient is reduced to a statistical case of some generic disease following its own genetic laws. In what passes as 'scientific' the feeling life of the human being is reduced to an object of psychometric testing and quantification. In psychoanalysis it is reduced to an archaic underworld of unconscious libidinal passions, desires and impulses. The idea of an impersonal universe governed by universal laws is reflected socially in a fetishism of impersonal laws of the market and the imposition of an impersonal rule of law necessary to deal with the unwanted disruptions of the social order stemming from personally motivated crimes and misdemeanours. This is a society, in which, as Marx so clearly pointed out, impersonal relations between things - technologies and impersonal market 'forces' - dominate relations between people. It is also an inherently unstable society in which the protection of impersonal economic, political and scientific laws is required to contain and subjugate the human subject - the source of unruly personal passions and impulses.
At the heart of the scientific and social rejection of feeling cognition and its substitution by manipulation and control, is a fundamental confusion between feeling as such and personal feelings - the latter being seen as 'things in themselves'. The word 'feeling' is first and foremost a verb and not a singular or plural noun. To feel something or someone is to be in direct contact with them. In holding a mug of coffee the way I feel the mug itself in my hand is not reducible to a passive and purely 'personal' feeling in my hand as it holds the mug. But the way the mug itself feels does indeed depend on the way I hold and feel it. Intellectual cognition is a representation of relationships between things or between people. Feeling cognition has to do with our own active relation to things and to people - the depth and breadth of our direct feeling contact with them.
Someone deprived or incapable of warmth of feeling cannot at first feel this warmth in another. Steiner's spiritual-scientific world view and research methodology was founded on the recognition that the active cultivation of feeling cognition was a necessary precondition for its scientific application. His genius lay in recognizing that the very subjective faculties necessary for spiritual scientific research must bear the same fundamental nature as their objects. Thus a coldly impersonal science cannot, by his or her very nature, obtain a feeling cognition of inner warmth. An individual scientist dominated by a cool, clinical approach to a particular object of investigation, cannot transform the heat of passionate personal interest into the warmth of soul necessary for genuine feeling contact and cognition with that object. Nor can they transform this feeling contact and cognition, borne of inner warmth, into a lucidity of thought that still bears, like sunlight, this warmth within it. It is the self-imposed separation between the clear light of intellectual cognition on the one hand and inner warmth of feeling cognition on the other - a separation that has its source in the very person of the scientist - that, paradoxically, lends science its impersonal character. The impersonal character of the scientific intellect disguises in other words its own deeply personal source in the split personality of the scientists. But a psychologically split personality cannot be the source of a unified science. Hence the emphasis that Rudolf Steiner laid on the unification of three quite distinct but nevertheless inseparable modes of cognition - thinking, feeling and willing, and on the cognitive processes necessary to link these modes.
The world today is characterized by an uncentred polarization of the repressed fire of authentic spiritual will impulses burning in Islam and the cold light of scientific technologies employed by the West as an instrument of manipulation and control, commercial gain and military-economic power. Steiner identified the uncentred or heartless polarization of unfeeling intellect and unfeeling will as the essence of 'evil'. It cannot be overcome by a sentimental Christianity of the heart that does not recognize the scientific and social significance of feeling cognition. For evil's ultimate source is not the evil intents of individuals but their spiritual-scientific ignorance. That is why Steiner saw the development of spiritual science as something that should be the concern of everyone and not just scientists or those with an interest in science. For its essence lay in enabling the individual to transform spiritual values and will-impulses, through the warmth of soul embodied in the heart, into clear-headed thinking. And vice versa, to transform otherwise cold and impersonal scientific concepts, through a warmth-filled feeling cognition, into spiritual deeds. Spiritual science meant the acknowledgement of feeling cognition as the centre of two fundamental cognitive processes that together constituted a cognitive cycle. One process leading from the will to the warmth-filled word or signifier and the other leading from the word or signifier to warmth-filled worldly deeds.
The psycho-social issues that Steiner tackled, and the cognitive processes he saw as necessary to tackle them, are echoed in all manner of ways in the theory and practice of psychotherapy. Within the culture of psychotherapy, however, individual therapists tend to see themselves first and foremost as qualified professional practitioners - there simply to apply whatever methods and models were handed down to them in their professional training. Whilst working at the cutting edge of psychology, they do not see themselves as psychologists - that is to say, as scientists of the psyche. A true psychologist is first and foremost a scientist - someone whose every experience of themselves and of other human beings can affect and alter their general understanding of the human soul or psyche. To be a psychotherapist without being a psychologist - without being a genuine scientist in this sense - is indeed a contradiction in terms. It means to reduce the psychotherapist to the status of a cult follower - the 'professional' practitioner of an institutional culture built around its own fixed models, methods and metaphors. Since Freud, psychotherapy, despite its cult nature, has become an accepted part of social culture. Rudolf Steiner on the other hand, is seen only as the founder of a theosophical cult (Anthroposophy) and of a specific mode of education (Waldorf education). This is indeed a paradox, given that what Steiner himself taught was what it meant for an individual - any individual - to become a genuine scientist of the soul, and in this sense a true psychologist rather than a cultist.
Traditionally, theosophy has had in common with science and theology a tendency towards a literalistic interpretation of its own language, one which implies a one-to-one relation between words and pre-given things, between verbal signifiers and the phenomena they signify. Rudolf Steiner was not immune to this tendency, for in order to simplify the results of his own spiritual-scientific research he spoke constantly of the relation between the four basic 'members' that made up the human being: the 'physical body', 'etheric body', 'astral body' and inner being or 'ego'. In doing so he made use of an existing theosophical terminology but was also forced to deviate somewhat from the basic principles of his own anthroposophical world outlook. To describe the characteristics of three distinct bodies, without, as Heidegger did, questioning and refining the fundamental concept of bodyhood as such, is to fall into what I call 'adjectival thinking'. It contrasts with Steiner's own call for a dynamic thinking of the sort that Heidegger made use of, one which found expression in his understanding of bodyhood not as a thing but as a dynamic process of bodying. Steiner himself was well aware of the tendency amongst theosophists to objectify their own concepts with the result that spiritual or intensional reality was represented in material or extensional terms. Above all, he emphasized the social and scientific significance of establishing a personal relation to the otherwise impersonal concepts of science, one through which their intensional meaning and spiritual significance could shine through. Like Heidegger in other words, he recognized that a deepened inner relationship to the world went hand in hand with a deepened inner relationship to the word. Following Heraclitus, Heidegger understood this new relationship as a listening relationship to language, one through which words themselves could speak to us in a new way, and reveal inner relationships and resonances that transcended their formal reference.
Fundamental Science is a modern field-dynamic and field-phenomenological articulation of the principles and practice of spiritual science as Rudolf Steiner understood it. The difference between Fundamental Science and Anthroposophy lies only in the greater emphasis it places on the semiotic dimension of spiritual knowledge, and in particular on the researcher's own relationship to language. I must emphasize however, that Rudolf Steiner was personally well aware that there were fundamental questions to be asked surrounding the relation of language and sign systems to inner knowing and intensional reality, and himself suggested answers to these questions which are fully in resonance with those offered by Fundamental Science.
The research methodology of Fundamental Science is founded on a demystification and demythologization of the distinction between extensional and intensional reality, physical signifiers and their psychical sense. Physical phenomena such as warmth, light, gravity and electromagnetism are understood as physical signifiers of psychical phenomena - material metaphors of inner warmth, light, gravity etc. The latter in turn are understood as different inergetic dimensions of feeling tone. For just as physical tones can have qualities of lightness and darkness, warmth and coolness, so can feeling tones. Feeling tone is not a 'thing in itself' but the very medium of interrelatedness between beings. Fields of awareness are fields or planes of interrelatedness - not between bodies in extensional space but between beings. Feeling tones are the patterned tones and intensities, directions and flows of awareness that constitute such fields of interrelatedness. Research into psychical phenomena such as sensed inner warmth, light and gravity therefore has itself a necessarily relational character.
The principle method of Fundamental Research is the use of the field between two or more people to enter and explore the intensional fields or planes of awareness that unite them as beings, and in this way enter the different 'inergetic' tonalities and textures that constitute these fields or planes of reality. But Fundamental Science, like Spiritual Science, has another dimension too. That is the understanding of physical phenomena and energetic fields as phenomenal signifiers or material metaphors of psychical phenomena and fields of awareness.
Diagram 1 shows the relation of verbal signifiers such as 'warmth' and 'coolness' to the physical phenomena they refer to as a relation between two types of phenomenal signifier: verbal signifiers on the one hand and physical or physiological signifiers on the other. It represents the actual physical phenomenon - warmth or coolness for example - as a physical signifier or material metaphor of its intensional or psychical counterpart, of sensed inner warmth or coolness. This sensed psychical phenomenon in turn may be verbally signified in many ways - as 'inner warmth', 'warmth ether', 'vital fire' etc. What is important is that these psychical signifiers are not taken either literally or metaphorically - neither reduced to impersonal forces (material or spiritual) nor seen simply as metaphors of purely personal feelings.
Both verbal signifiers (the word 'warmth') and physical signifiers (the physical phenomenon of warmth) have a sensed psychical significance. The sensed significance of physical signifiers - for example physical sensations of warmth and coolness - lie in the way they evoke or reflect, correspond or contrast with inner psychical warmth or coolness that the individual feels, or does not feel within themselves. The psychical significance of verbal signifiers is sensed through their inner resonance. Not just the words 'warmth' and 'coolness' but any words or chain of signifiers may carry a specific resonance that induces a felt sense of warmth or coolness. This sense may find phenomenal expression in both physical and verbal signifiers, both waking and dream experiences Thus a warm feeling of security and well-being or a cold feeling of abandonment may be signified through a dream experience of a warm tropical beach or a cold and empty building. It may also be signified through an actual waking experience of such a beach or building, or simply through physical sensations of warmth and coldness as such. It can convey itself verbally and physically through the warmth or coldness of a person's words and their physical tone of voice. Finally, in dreams, physical signifiers may symbolize verbal signifiers - as in the metaphorical word-image or 'rebus'. Thus a person may dream of a kettle going 'off the boil', using this physical signifier to signify an inner sense belonging to this verbal expression - a felt loss of passion or heat of involvement with something or someone.
Diagram 1 Back To Text
What is the essence of 'warmth'? Is it an experience, a form of physical energy or, as it was originally understood in both East and West, a primordial element? The idea that the essence of warmth is 'inner warmth' - the intensional warmth of a being rather than of an extensional body is reflected in Rudolf Steiner's direct association of the element of warmth with the inner human being. Our warmth-being, for Steiner, is our inner being. Any being is essentially a warmth entity. But since warmth, light, gravity and sound are all, from the point of view of Fundamental Science, different tones and textures of awareness, we can also understand Rudolf Steiner's reference to a warmth 'ether' as a basic medium of interrelationship between beings. Fundamental or essential warmth, as psychical or inner warmth is something we can gain a feeling cognition of through our own warmth-being - our nature as warmth entities inhabiting a non-physical warmth medium or ether. Similarly fundamental or essential light is something we can gain a feeling cognition of only through our own nature as beings composed of inner light and inhabiting a light ether.
Following the model presented in Diagram 1, our felt sensation of particular physical phenomena and the felt resonance of the verbal signifiers attached to them lead us to their sensed psychical significance. Through it we experience both physical and verbal signifiers as expressions of primordial psychical qualities. But sensed significance or felt sense is a gateway to direct feeling cognition of these qualities as dimensions of our own being - dimensions of the felt self. The latter is a field self composed essentially of feeling tones. It is the sensed qualities and textures of these feeling tones that bestow them with a quasi-sensual character - an 'energetic', 'etheric' or 'elemental' character.
Through sensual awareness of light, darkness and colour we also sense their inner psychical counterparts. The felt meaning of light and darkness and colour as we experience them through a dull, grey sky is in resonance with verbal expressions such as 'feeling dull'. But we could not feel a personal 'subjective' relation between a felt sense of dullness within us and the greyness of the sky above us were they not in some way both expressions of a trans-personal reality - the sensed and sensual qualities of psychical light and darkness.
The path of Fundamental Research is a path that leads from personal experiences of nature and personally felt resonances of language to something far deeper - to a direct feeling cognition of an 'etheric' or 'elemental' world manifest in our field states and felt tonalities of awareness.
If somebody were to detect a dull or dark mood within us and ask us to 'lighten up' or 'brighten up', this is something we will feel uninclined to do - feeling it as a demand to put on a superficial and inauthentic mask of brightness and cheer. And yet we each do possess the capacity to lighten or brighten up in an authentic way - to use our own intent to alter the felt tone of our being, in a similar way that we do when we brighten or lighten our tone of voice. We do so using our own human organism - the instrument or organon with which we modulate tones of feelings - the inner music of the soul. What Rudolf Steiner calls our 'warmth organism', 'fluid organism', and 'air organism' are not separate bodies or 'members' of our own organism so much as elemental ways of sensing our own organism - for example sensing it as airy and porous, fluid and watery, or dense and solid. But these sensed organismic states are in turn elemental and energetic qualities of an inner music - the music of feeling tone that link us 'etherically' to our inner selves, to others and to the world around us.
For Fundamental Science, it is awareness, not extensional space, that constitutes the basic medium of existence. Awareness however, is imbued with its own felt tonalities, and fields of awareness consist essentially of patterned flows and figurations of feeling tone. There is no more ludicrous an expression of the physical-scientific world outlook than the idea that the enjoyment of music is a result of subjective feelings induced by mechanically generated tones - vibrations of air molecules. All previous attempts to create a psychology or phenomenology of musical experiences have floundered through their failure to comprehend a single fundamental principle: namely that feeling tone is something more primordial than either psychical feelings or physical tones. Feeling tone is the primordial source of musical composition and that which is embodied in music making. It is also the very medium of musical resonance. The expression of feeling tone in the form of mechanically or vocally generated tones not only gives it audible vibratory form but sets up an amplificatory resonance between patterns of musical tone and the patterns of feeling tone that are their source. The outer tones that are produced in music making serve only as the medium of a direct inner resonance with the inner music of feeling tones that is its source. These are not just matters of interest only to musicians, musicologists or music lovers. The inner universe is fundamentally a musical universe. Inner field-patterns of awareness, as patterned tonalities of awareness - patterns of feeling tone - are the music of the inner universe. Conversely, the experience of music as we know it is itself the most direct expression of the nature of the inner universe - the nature of intensional reality.
Extensional bodies, including the molecules of air set in motion by music, are governed by laws of movement in extensional space - by momentum and inertia. Movement in intensional space has a quite different character. It is not governed by relationships of momentum and inertia but by the relationships of flow and form. Movement or kinesis in the original Greek sense is metamorphosis. Intensional movement is not change of place but change of form - transformation or metamorphosis. The flow of music is a metamorphic or morphodynamic flow - consisting of changing forms or figurations of feeling tone. From out of a sea of flowing tonalities of awareness emerge whole landscapes of feeling tone, which may be perceived, visualized or dreamt as extensional, natural landscapes. Patterned flows and figurations of feeling tone are the musical infrastructure of the inner universe. Feeling tone as such is the basic 'ether' or medium of awareness, of which these flows and figurations are composed. Just as physical sounds have their own felt qualities of warmth and coolness, brightness and darkness, lightness and heaviness, softness and hardness, angularity or roundedness, harmony and dissonance, colour and shape, so are all actual qualities of the physical world as we experience it expressions of inner or intensional sound - shaped expressions of feeling tone.
Form is stabilized flow, in resonance with its own inner field-patterns of tonality. Any phenomenal form whatsoever is essentially a flowform. But flow itself, as in music, is essentially a fluid transformation or formflow - the dynamic metamorphosis of one formed expression of feeling tone into another. When we are in resonance with music, our own awareness flows into its form. That is to say, our own felt tonalities of awareness are not only echoed in the musical tones but take on the flowing forms of the music itself.
Rudolf Steiner defined three basic modes of spiritual or intensional cognition which he named Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition respectively. His understanding of these three key terms is related to, but also transcends their conventional signification. It can most easily be understood through reference to musical cognition as the morphodynamics of feeling tone. Steiner's understanding of 'Imaginative' cognition for example can be compared to the images evoked by music - not actual music but an inner music that is felt without actually being heard. What he called 'Inspiration' corresponds to what happens when we pass from the realm of imagination, dreams and memories to a direct awareness of the feeling tones to which they give form. Intuition, on the other hand, is comparable to what happens when our awareness flows into and along with those tones, itself taking on different forms. The latter may in turn be experienced once again through Imagination, but a type of Imagination in which our own awareness is within the 'images' we behold. Intuition is essentially movement in intensional space, understood as a movement through feeling tone. In listening to a piece of music there is a sense in which the music flows through us. But there is another deeper sense in which it is we whose awareness flows not only 'with' the music but through the tones of feeling echoed in it. In life too, there is an essential difference between experiencing different moods or tones of feeling as they pass through us, and consciously passing through one mood or tone of feeling to another. This in turn depends on our capacity to experience feeling tones, not as emotions or sensations that we find within us, but as basic moods that we find ourselves within - permeating and colouring our entire field of awareness, inner and outer.
There is an almost pre-Copernican naivety to the belief that only human beings or the 'higher' animals possess intelligence, and in the scientific quest to discover whether there are other planets in the universe where intelligent life exists. The scientist of today carries with them the conviction that, unless there is physical proof to the contrary, human beings are uniquely endowed with an intelligence that enables them to understand the laws of the cosmos. There is no sense whatsoever that human intelligence is but the limited human expression of a cosmic intelligence behind those laws - an expression moreover, that is limited by its own largely unquestioned laws, its own intellectual logic and languages. It is as if a musicologist were to come across a score of a great symphony and to analyze its structure and 'laws' without for a moment considering that that score might be the work of another intelligent being - not to mention an intelligence greater than their own. The modern scientist refuses to even consider that the known universe is the universe of our current human awareness, that there might be beings whose awareness of the cosmos is deeper and broader than our own, and for whom what appear to our limited human intelligence as fixed laws have no more universal validity than the grammatical rules of a particular language. Rudolf Steiner's belief in the existence of beings of higher intelligence than our own is treated by science as something no less heretical and offensive to human dignity as the Copernican proposal that the earth might not, after all, be the centre of the physical cosmos. Still more challenging is the idea that such 'extra-terrestrial' beings are not to be sought on other planets in space but inhabit an intensional space composed of intensional fields or planes of awareness.
The relation between the human scientist and larger, trans-human intelligences can be compared to the relation between a performing musician and a great composer - not the person of the composer or even their music alone, but that entity whose intelligence weaves itself both in the music and in the person of the composer. All true intellectual cognition of intensional or spiritual reality can only derive from their feeling cognition of its inner music. But this feeling cognition reaches only so far as the individual's capacity to (a) feel their own personhood as one expression of this music (b) feel their own intellectual cognitions as single strands or patterns within the fabric of a larger intelligence inhabiting a larger field or plane of awareness. By immersing themselves in the music of a great composer or the language of a great thinker, we gain more than just an understanding of the personality of this thinker or composer. We gain an understanding of their personality essence as an intelligent entity in its own right - the soul of the composer or musician. This intelligent personality essence or soul entity finds expression in the fundamental tone and inner signature of a composer or thinker - an underlying tonality and an underlying field-pattern of awareness whose trace can be found in their every work, however different these may seem to be. The Fundamental Researcher's ability to follow their own personal feelings into different inner fields or feel-ds of awareness, to gain a felt sense of different elemental or 'etheric' flows and figurations of awareness, inevitably leads to a transformation in their felt sense of self. For through what Rudolf Steiner describes as Intuition, this itself takes on the form and feeling tone of all that they experience within these deeper or broader fields of awareness. As a result, the Researcher becomes ever more familiar with the fundamental tone and inner signature of their own soul entity, whilst at the same time learning to mix and merge its inner music with that of other entities with a quite distinct tone and signature.
© Peter Wilberg 2002