The Spirit of Philosophy

I am passionate about philosophy not because I desire answers to arbitrary questions or explanations of abstract problems. My passion arises because life, as given–as it at first appears to my everyday consciousness–is incomplete and unaccounted for. The reason for my existence has never been self-evident, and yet discovering this reason is the prerequisite of selfhood, of knowing who and what I am.

As far back as my conscious memory will reach, I’ve known with certainty that there is more to my earthly experience than I can as of yet perceive. My certainty is no more than a knowing that I do not know of what exactly this moreness consists, and it is in this “learned ignorance,” as Nicholas of Cusa put it, that my longing for wisdom finds its source. I do not desire an answer so much as the wisdom to ask the proper question.

Perhaps it is here that the hubris of our scientistic age has been lead furthest astray. The human spirit has gone into hiding not because of the supposed answers to long standing questions that materialistic science has brought, but because of the shallow form of questioning that it has forced upon us. It is relatively easy for any sufficiently rigorous thinker to dismiss reductionistic physiological explanations of consciousness, but once rejected, these same thinkers seem unable to devise a line of questioning that might free us from the aporia of the “hard problem.”

Einstein is often credited with the remark that “a problem cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created it.” How right he is. The sense-bound intellect, so successful at mastering the mechanisms of the inorganic material world, is powerless in the face of the higher order phenomena of biology, psychology, and spirituality. If our thinking is dead, it is no wonder that life and consciousness remain beyond our comprehension. The proper question is not “how does the brain produce consciousness”; it demonstrably does not (you will never find qualia–blueness, sweetness, sadness–in neural tissue). The question is rather “how are we to resurrect our thinking so as to become adequate to supersensible phenomena?”

It is this question that lead me to Rudolf Steiner‘s spiritual science. As an interpreter, Jonael Schickler, has described it, Steiner’s is a metaphysics as Christology. His prescription for our fallen age is radical, and no doubt will leave many materialistically oriented thinkers in disbelief, if it does not also evoke downright derision. Steiner demands that we widen our line of questioning to the extent that Christ becomes an ingredient of any adequate account of human and cosmic existence.

For Steiner, Christianity is not a religion, but the embodiment of a world-historical fact. He finds truth in all of the world’s spiritual traditions, and is well aware of the seeming exclusivity of his claims. It is for this reason that he often avoided the title “Christ” when articulating his vision, because it is merely a culturally constructed label which has been chosen to represent a principle that lives in all of humanity and is at work in cosmic evolution itself. A more apt label for this principle might be the “I am.” It is eternal: that which was in the beginning and will be in the end. It is also that which works in the time between through love in order to redeem the world. But it is less a “what” than a “who,” because this spirit lives within the soul of every human being, more you than the limited personality you at first appear to be. From Steiner’s perspective, the question is not “what is the truth?”, but “who is the truth?” The answer is “I am.”

If philosophy is to become relevant in our world once again, such a spiritual principle must be at its root. It cannot be a belief accepted as dogma, but the result of an experience of the unconditioned Absolute underlying all things, seen and unseen.

The natural world may remain a mystery to me, but in knowing that I do not know, I have already found myself.

Who am I?

I am.

All else will follow in time.