December 23, 2014 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine

In experiencing the “aha” moment, when we suddenly understand something, we sometimes say, “The light bulb came on.” There is a reality in this idiom – we live in light, in the light of our consciousness.


While we have physical organs that sense the material world around us, it is in the act of cognizing these sense experiences that we are present. A hissing sound we hear in the dark can be disconcerting, until we realize that it is coming from a raccoon near the walkway. Now, with the spark of recognition, our knowing separates us from the sound and we have our bearings again. Our memories of “raccoon” begin to inform us.

When a baby stares at her moving hands at about four months of age, in a sort of “finger ballet,” she is mesmerized by the movement. She does not at first realize that she affects the situation by her actions. She is not yet thinking. However, the light of awareness begins here, through her attentiveness to what she sees.

As adults, with every encounter in our waking lives, we are growing and elaborating concepts. If I meet a coyote, up close, in the lane, I might discover that it is bigger than expected: at the same time more dog-like AND more wolf-like with its pointed ears and long tail. My concept of coyote is changed through my focus on the one coyote in front of me. “Coyote” means something different now.

We must be fully awake to find meaning in our sense perceptions. It is in the act of conceptualizing this experience that we are uniquely human. The brain is the physical organ for this soul activity of thinking through which we become creative participants in earthly as well as universal realms.

Thinking is special among the soul capacities of thinking, feeling and willing in that we can become aware of our thinking as we do it. We can reflect on our experiences and gain understanding, but we can also strengthen our thinking “muscles” to become aware of thinking as it happens. We can “think” thinking, where thinking is both the object and the action.

This is not possible with feeling and willing. Only thinking happens in awake, day consciousness. Willing, by contrast, lives in a sleeping, night consciousness. Watch a baby begin to crawl. He sees something he desires. His limbs begin to move. He explores movement by trying all sorts of things, putting his toes down and pushing off – only to raise his bottom up – but not move forward at all. Through experiencing and then realizing how his limbs work, he is illuminating his experience with cognition.

As adults, we can strengthen our thinking through concentration and meditation exercises. We can become aware of the difference in logical thinking, which finds the inner lawfulness of the natural world, and imaginative thinking that participates in the creative activity of the present moment. Through thinking we can develop imaginative capacity and ultimately become conscious thinkers in spiritual realms.

A good place to start is with concentration. Pick an unfamiliar statement and focus your attention on it. Rudolf Steiner suggests using: “wisdom is in the light.” Try to be aware of your attention at the same time. Is it wandering? Rudolf Steiner describes this path with many exercises, and the expected effects of the exercises in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment.

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Rudolf Steiner, Study of Man, Lectures 6-9,

Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment,


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