How to Enliven Anthroposophical Study Groups
Why can't you just read a Steiner
book aloud in circle?
Because Rudolf Steiner
said it is not written like a cookbook!
Steiner's books were written with living ideas. Each paragraph represents a member of a thought-form. The pattern used was organic and has, as a rule, four levels. It is a qualitatively different type of thinking. The reader must sketch the chapter out and rethink the paragraphs according to their levels, qualities, and interdependence in order to access their power. Reading aloud is a necessary first step to grasping a whole chapter as if the paragraphs were notes in a musical score or patterns on an artistic canvass.
How to conduct a study
group wisely and organically
That is the short answer to the why question! But how do you organize your study group so that you can get the most out of it? The goal of the study group is of course to enjoy learning a new type of thinking by mastering the form and content of a Steiner book.
The first step is choosing a book such as one of Steiner's early works Goethean Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy of Freedom, Theosophy, Knowledge of Higher Worlds.
The second step is to checking to see if the paragraphs and sentences match a pre-1925 original GERMAN edition. This can be a lot of work especially if you can't read German. For those wanting to study the Philosophy of Freedom or Theosophy, you can use the corrected editions available on this website or contact me directly. Some translators, such as Lindeman of Mercury Press, kept most of Steiner's paragraphs and sentences in good order and nearly identical to the German original. But otherwise, it is very difficult to have an honest study group with the Steiner translations in circulation.
The third step to make a goal and tempo of the group. Will there be homework? will the group meet once a week, once a month? How long will the meeting be?
Here are the basic guidelines for an organic Study Group:
Step 1: make synopses of each paragraph of the whole chapter. Try to keep your synopsis about one
sentence long. Chapter One of the
Philosophy of Freedom has 19 paragraphs. The group should share their synopses and explain any complicated passages. Once the group a list of the 19 synopses, it can start to
interrelate the paragraphs.
Step 2: Try to find the form of Chapter One. Look at the parts of the chapter. In chapter one there are three
chapter breaks (paragraph 1-7-13-19) which the group can break down into three synopses: paragraphs 1 thru 7, 7 thru 13,
and 13 thru 19. Thus the group reflects on the main section of the chapter and how the 19 paragraphs build a series of three wave
Step 3: Look at each curve or wave from the point of view of enhancement (what? paragraph 1. how?
paragraph 2. why? paragraph 3. who? paragraph 4.), polarity (paragraph 1 vs. 7, 2 vs 6, 3 vs, 5) for each group of seven paragraphs. Look at how each curve inverts at the apex (paragraphs 4, 10,
and 16). For a more in-depth understanding of these relationships read A Study Guide for Rudolf Steiner's Heart
Step 4: What does it mean to think organically? It means your thinking moves through the levels of what? how? why? and who? and thinks in polarity. That is why Steiner wrote his books in this fashion.
Are you able to move freely through all 19 paragraphs, seeing them in your mind's eye? Can you feel the polarity between paragraph 1 - 7 - 13 -19? Recall the whole chapter as if you wrote it! See if you can write a seven-paragraph essay answering the questions what? how? why? and who? and match each paragraph with polar paragraphs. These are the types of practices that lead to a mastery of Steiner's organic-living thinking.
Why do we study this way?
Steiner wrote his books in organic forms resembling the seven-fold human being or the archetypal plant.
Organic thinking is way of organizing your ideas and objects so that the compositional form resembles a
natural process. Rudolf Steiner, the clairvoyant scientist and reformer, used this method of organic thinking in the writing of his books and lectures, pedagogy, and artistic projects. Steiner
taught that if we based our work on the archetype of the human being, and other organic thought-forms, our lives, creations, and even social interactions would be enhanced.
There are two models Steiner made as the basis of all organic forms. In his early career, Steiner talked about Goethe’s archetypal plant. And later he presented the four-fold human being in its various manifestations: 9-fold, 7-fold, 3-fold etc. Steiner believed that this new thinking would be added to logical thinking, thereby creating an altogether new way of seeing the world.
According to Steiner, everything has at least four perspectives or levels.
In order to understand an organic or creative process, we function in the levels represented by the four-fold human being: Everything that exists or is created can be seen through these perspectives.
A lamp consists of a: physical level (metal, glass, plastic, wood);
a life level (electricity, on and off switch);
a feeling level (design, purpose, beauty);
and a thinking level (name, inventor, idea).
None of these perspectives alone is the lamp and thus it requires us to see all of its level in order to know its true concept. Organic thinking expands consciousness and does not get stuck in limited perspectives. When we create, we start with the Thinking or idea level. For example, a house starts with an architect’s plan or idea. Then we go to the physical level and gather the necessary building materials. We combine these materials according to plan and we call this process building, which takes places on the life level. In order to insure our process is going according to plan, we check the work against the original plan and codes of building and live in the feeling or consciousness level. (We often move between the life and feeling levels.) Finally, when the building is complete we have completed the circle and have returned to the Thinking level: the finished plan.
The building process in short form:
Who? Finished Plan
Why? checking the process
How? the building process
What? the materials
Steiner used this type of organic thinking in the writing of his books. The archetypal plant and seven-fold human being serve as introductions to this new thinking. Everything Steiner wrote follows the four questions of what? how? why? and who? and imitates this organic growth. In addition to these questions are the organic inter-relationships of polarity and inversion. In the diagram of the archetypal plant we see the laws of growth that all plants follow: seed, leaf, bud, flower, pistil, fruit, and new seed.
There is also the seven-fold human model based on the seven-fold human being, which has the same stages as the archetypal plant. Steiner created about fifty different schema which writers could use for their work. Although this website is not exhaustive, below are examples of these archetypes which writers can use for their work. It helps to study the Philosophy of Freedom which gives flesh and blood to these skeletons of organic thinking.
Steiner called this process heart-thinking
because he believed organic-living thought-structures engage our heart-chakra.
Another View of the New Thinking
The New thinking, (also called "organic thinking," "etheric thinking," and the "Logik of the Heart," "Michaelic Thinking) is a creative and formative way of thinking that flows in rhythm and symmetry. Logical thinking, first systematized by Aristotle, served humanity's ability to think abstractly, to coordinate the physical world and as well as construct sound arguments. Purely logical thinking is the shadow side of the logik of the heart.
Logical thinking is the static, dead aspect of the Logik of the Heart. Heart logik grows one thought out of another organically; logical thinking forces relationships between unrelated elements by way of analysis and synthesis. Heart-logik is a slow and objective process while normal logic is hasty and arbitrary, and tends to be subjective. Logical thinking connects thoughts in thought-webs; heart-thinking develops ideas in symmetrical, harmonious gestalts.
There has been very little written on the Logik of the Heart, its origins and usage. We do know from Steiner that Egyptians were heart-thinkers and the connections between their hearts and their heads were more harmonious than modern human beings. When humanity was given independent powers of thought starting in 700 B.C., we always ran the danger of losing our heart-connected thinking in favor of purely logical thinking of Aristotle, which can be brain-based and amoral. Some scientists are still suffering from a merely logical thinking having brought the near destruction of our planet. Environmental problems cannot be solved by linear thinking alone.
There are consistent attempts by great cultures and authors to reintroduce again and again the forms of heart-thinking in terms of a healing architecture, literature, music, and art. Could the Italian Renaissance have been an attempt to heal the split between the human heart and brain by reintroducing a main source of heart-thinking in Plato? Was Thomas Aquinas not trying the same when he brought a Realist philosophy to counter the Nominalist currents bubbling in the monasteries of the day. We see in German Idealism the attempts of Hegel and Goethe to introduce a living philosophy and science to overcome the materialistic thinking of England and France.
Although many of these cultures and individuals worked in dynamic ways, the Logik of the Heart was never spelled out directly as a way of thinking. Logical thinking was clearly understood and has three acts of the mind: 1) name the object, 2) judge the object, and 3) syllogism. The Logik of the Heart works in levels and inter-relationship, and is therefore a qualitative process thinking, while logic is subject to our personal preferences.
The Logik of the Heart can be defined as a logic which has four levels or questions what? how? why? who? In addition to these questions there are symmetrical relationships, or polarity, between the levels. The mid-point of any Heart-logik sequence is called the "inversion" as the form moves inwards. There are many possible forms of the heart-thinking. Florin Lowndes pointed out that the ribbons seen with messages written on them in the Renaissance paintings or Hegel's Logic are some of the early manifestation of the Logik of the Heart.
When the Bible is judged from the point of view of a critical logical type of thinking, it can be a disaster since the
Bible has borrowed tales from other cultures (Old Testament), and the Gospels have well over 200 clear contradictions and inaccuracies. When the Bible is seen from the perspective of the Logik of
the Heart, it appears as a carefully constructed document with an inner harmony and poetry. (See Bullinger's Companion Bible) If the stories were borrowed, then they were given a Heart-logikal form to enhance their
The inner structure of Plato's writings and the Bible have served humanity by providing a way of thinking that opens the heart forces of the reader. Inspired works, both good and evil, have access to this higher wave-like thinking that engages more than the head and logical mind. The advertising industry has utilized this thinking in their specially written scripts and in their four-color diagrams and boxes that seem to appear every where on TV and logos.
Although Rudolf Steiner consciously and deliberately used the Logik of the Heart in his writings, lectures, architecture, and Waldorf school lesson plans and curricula, his contemporaries never discovered it. Steiner remained tongue-tied until asked a question, however this never stopped Steiner from hinting at it. During his career he practically begged his followers to discover his method and even challenged people to rewrite his books and paint his Philosophy of Freedom. Such absurd requests only make sense in light of discovering his method, or at least to provoke discussion about how he wrote his books.
The discovery of Rudolf Steiner's method of thinking was made by an American George O'Neil. It was never explained to me how exactly he figured it out except that he had read Mortimer Adler's How To Read A Book and had gotten some very basic clues from some of Steiner's close associates. (More about George in the section on George O'Neil.) Since Steiner left no indications on how to approach the Logik of the Heart, we have O'Neil to thank for the present form and diagrams of the Heart-logik.