|The description of everyday thinking in this post sounds like an example of part 4 in the What Is Knowing? series: LIVING THE UNREFLECTIVE LIFE. A good way to learn about thinking is to observe someone who has undergone training in pure thinking; such as an Engineer, Scientist, or Computer Programmer. -Tom
BLOG: Are you a Romantic?
The Inside of Everything by Jeff Carreira
“Does not the world produce thinking in the heads of men with the same necessity (that) it produces the blossom from a plant?” Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of FreedomIn my post called Out of My Head I described a spiritual experience I had in which my seat of awareness seemed to “fall” out of my head and float freely in space. From that vantage point it became clear to me that my mind was a thought producing machine. Thoughts and feelings spontaneously arise in mind and their arising stimulates the arising of other thoughts and feelings, and so on, and so on. What I have thought of as the “act of thinking” is merely my observation of the spontaneous generation of thoughts.
James commented saying that he found this idea fascinating. He then posed the question that if it’s true that “I don’t think thoughts; they just spontaneously arise in the mind” then what is thinking? By “thinking” I mean what seems to be the deliberate, focused, process aimed at understanding something. Would you say that thinking also arises spontaneously?
We walk into a room and the room contains a plant. As we go into the room and the plant comes into our awareness particular thoughts are stimulated in our brain. Maybe we are in a friend’s house and the sight of the plant stimulates a thought to pop out of our own mind that reminds us that we need to water the plants in our own house. Maybe the sight of the plant pops a thought in our mind that we should buy a plant for our mother for her upcoming birthday. Are we thinking these thoughts? Can we really take credit for them? Thinking when seen this way is not an activity that we engage in, but a growth process that we witness.
Are “we” thinking? Or is thinking happening and we are watching it happen? Let us say that right now I ask you to deliberately think about what you had for breakfast. Watch how you “think”?
When I posed that question to myself just now initially I was blank. The raising of the question wasn’t enough stimuli to make me remember what I had for breakfast this morning. But just asking it did remind me of eating an English muffin recently for breakfast, but that memory was quickly followed by a thought that I had the English muffin yesterday not today. Then I “deliberately” turned my attention to an inner image of the breakfast table where I thought that I had had breakfast this morning. The image of the breakfast table brought into my mind stimulated a thought that I had eaten breakfast with a friend this morning sitting in the grass. Then I deliberately pictured myself and the friend sitting together and that image stimulated an image of the fruit, cheese and coffee that we were having for breakfast together. This all happened in the blink of an eye and I wasn’t even totally aware of my part it in it, but it is fairly accurate of how I “remembered” what I had for breakfast.
If you examine what I have just described you won’t find me “producing” any thoughts directly. What I actually do is call to mind memories in the form of images or past thoughts of different things that are related to the thought I want to have appear. Then I allow those memories to stimulate thoughts until the right one pops out. I keep doing this until I “see” that the thought I was looking for has been produced.