And finally it would be necessary to indicate in which direction one should look for the insights to be gained and their practical application in education and medicine. Manifestations Of Vital And Thinking Activity And Correspondences Between Them Below, some characteristics of vital and thinking activity will be compared to establish how far they correspond. Readers are asked to let these examples come alive in their minds to the best of their ability and complement them with their own observations and thoughts on vital and thinking processes.
If this should raise questions, or if a suggested correspondence does not convince or cannot be found, the author would be pleased to enter into dialogue with the reader. It is in the nature of Anthroposophical spiritual research that one must become active oneself in soul, mind and spirit in order to understand things. It is not enough simply to take note of the findings made in this science. They do in fact challenge individuals to gain self knowledge and go through further development. An outstanding feature is that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Thus a biochemical reaction which is quite simple in itself has its significance in the life of the whole organism only because of the context in which it occurs. At the biological level, all functions are interactive and have mutual feedback, and the same holds true for thinking activity. Thinking is very much an activity where one thing relates to another, derives from another, refers back to another. Food, air and light are taken in from an environment that goes as far as the stars; they are processed and then eliminated in a different form.
Digestion and metabolism are the most obvious signs of vital functionality. Sunlight, for instance, is responsible not only for the production of the green chlorophyll pigment in plants and vitamin D in human organisms. The biorhythms also take their orientation from sun and moon as cosmic time setters. Thus the moon with its changing phases is a major time setter for many rhythms connected -with reproductive behavior, above all among lower animals. For every law of nature is in some way connected with man and his environment. The body is built according to these laws, interacts with them - and all this also exists in abstract form in our thinking.
This also marks the crucial difference that exists between vital and thinking activity, in spite of all correspondences: Vital processes are apparent to the senses, they take place on the physical and material level in space and time.
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They are subject to an unconscious control inherent in them. In thought activity, vital activity is emancipated from body function, has been lifted out of intervention in metabolism and hence also out of space, and it depends on conscious control or guidance provided by the human being. Conscious attention given to the rhythms of day and night, of the week, the month and the year can thus give positive support to the life of thought and memory.
This is part of the approach used in Waldorf kindergartens, for example. The human thought organism shows itself to be an open system corresponding to that of the vital processes. The degree of their activity is to a major extent determined by their temperature level. Remarkably, the typical manifestations of the states of aggregation and the warmth of solids, liquids and gaseous matter are also apparent at the thought level.
Thinking takes quite a different form when it is in concepts.
To think the concept of a circle, for instance without forming a visual image - is only possible if one uses pure, image free relationships independent of all sensory perception. A circle may thus be defined as the geometric location of all points that are at the same distance from a center, or the geometric location for all points for which the ratio of their distances from two different points is constant. To illustrate one of the definitions by drawing an example on a blackboard would give an idea, an image of the concept but not the concept itself.
This can only be grasped as an extremely mobile thought element -pure concept, free from mental images. Here concepts show themselves to be the source springs of potential ideas, with the power to generate innumerable ideas, all of them possible. Their essence lies in relation and reference per se, without any content that can be grasped in a mental image. So here we have the mediating, mobile, fluid element at thought level.
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There are also thoughts the dynamics or specific nature of which correspond to those of air - good or bad ideas or notions seem to flash into ones mind, wafting on the wind, like the light in the air. They may vanish as quickly as they came unless one holds on to them, makes a note or remembers them in some other way. It is also worth noting that such inspired ideas cannot be made to come. Nor can they be systematically evolved the way concepts or a nexus of mental images can. The specific nature of warmth shows itself in our thinking in the form of ideals.
Ideals have the same ordering and regulating role in the thought organism as warmth has in the living organism. Warmth is present throughout the organism, co-determining its activity and chemical processes. New and strange ideas are taken in, processed, perhaps subjected to critical analysis, taken apart, individually considered and then integrated in ones personal thought complex.
In the organism, analytical processes occur in digestion in which food substances are taken apart into their individual elements. Having passed through the intestinal wall they then provide material for the organism to create its own substance. Correspondingly we have analytical and critical as well as synthesizing and constructive thinking activity as characteristic modes of thinking. What is more, all thoughts that have not proved useful are eliminated from the thought world of anyone who has a healthy thinking life as inappropriate or at variance.
Every thesis has its antithesis. Both are taken beyond themselves through mediating synthesis. Dialectic thinking is the basis of opinion or judgment forming in our thinking. In forming an opinion, we weigh rhythmically between a possible Yes, with everything in favor of this, and a possible No, considering everything that militates against a particular issue one wishes to judge before coming to a decision. This rhythmic activity in our thinking involves weighing things more or less rapidly as we form an opinion.
He is also able to reproduce, or produce, whole thought complexes of his own accord. The regenerative and indeed healing power inherent in thinking is particularly remarkable. Goethe spoke of this in one of his late poems:. Day by day and night by night I thus praise the lot of man; Eternally thinking to find the right way He is great and good for ever.
To be able to think something through, set it right, resolve misunderstandings, bringing movement into the rigid positions taken by others - that is regenerative, healing activity. Using them we are able to bring etheric power into effect in ourselves and for others. Thinking also has an element that corresponds to the immune system. For it means no more and no less but that a man has the generative potential of the female organism at his disposal, powers that have not been brought to realization in his physical organism, and conversely a woman has the powers of mind that at the physical level represent male potency.
Rudolf Steiner spoke in a number of lectures about women having a male ether body and men a female ether body. If one considers embryology, however, it is evident that the etheric powers manifest in thinking which cannot come to physical expression due to differentiation into male and female sexual characteristics.
To consider this in more detail: It is known that up to the 6th or 7th week of pregnancy; male and female embryos look exactly the same externally and both have bisexual primordia known as the indifferent stage of gonad development. The etheric organism is thus fully human, having the generative principles of both the female and the male organism.
From week 7 , sexual differentiation laid down in the chromosomes causes the opposite sex to go through involution. It means that the primordium of the female sexual organs goes through involution in a male embryo, and vice versa see Fig. It is interesting to note that this happens at exactly the time 7th week when the primary cerebral vesicles develop, marking the beginning of development for the cerebrum or the cerebral cortex as the organ for reflective thought activity; Vestiges of the primordia of the other sex persist, however, as shown in the Figure 1.
Figure 1: Schematic drawings illustrating development of the male and female reproductive systems from the primitive genital ducts.
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Vestigial structures are also shown. A reproductive system in a newborn male. B female reproductive system in a week fetus.
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C reproductive system in a newborn female. From Moore, KL: Embryologic. Lehrbuch und Atlas der Untwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen S. Stuttgart These vestiges of reproductive organs belonging to the opposite sex show that the etheric laws generative powers of the opposite sex remain a potential for the rest of a persons life, even though the actual organs do not develop.
They are thus wholly available for thought activity. The male thought organism visible to Rudolf Steiner, the spiritual scientist, thus showed itself to have female dynamics, while the female one had male characteristics. With some dosages, the secondary sex characteristics of the opposite sex may develop to some degree as an undesirable side effect. A woman may grow facial hair, her voice may break and there may be signs of a male pattern of hair growth.
What differences exist between the typical thinking dynamics of men and women, leaving aside individual variations? To understand this and think it through oneself, one must first of all bring to mind the functional dynamics of the reproductive organs of both sexes at the physical level.
Male reproductive activity involves the outward-directed, quasi effervescent process of semen production and ejaculation with great variation in intensity, frequency and volume. The functional dynamics of the female reproductive organs are utterly different. Month by month an ovum matures with beautiful regularity, entirely governed by the organism itself and beyond volition or external influences. The uterine mucosa is at the same time prepared to make nidation possible and allow the embryo to grow.
Continuity, calm, a certain element of being closed off and of solidity are characteristic of the process. Characteristically, the great philosophical works of world literature are almost without exception written by men. Men are inclined to let thoughts mature and create whole edifices or complexes that have the quality of organisms.
Men have the gift of considering their purchases in advance, if there has to be a shopping trip, and then going straight for those items so that they will be home again as soon as possible, having acquired the necessary items. It is of.
Mental images have the tendency to be out of date when the life situation has changed; a bunch of flowers I have been able to visualize in full flower just yesterday is already fading today, and the image formed yesterday needs to be corrected. And, of course, a world to be seen in mental images must actually be there first, before one can have those images of it.
It is always the world that already is, having gone through the process of becoming, that we perceive with the senses and can visualize accordingly. It is different with inspired ideas and with ideals.