Cyril Coetzee offers a possible solution to the, Subjective vs. Objective-Perspective, ParadoxStephen Farah
I recently had the privilege of joining a study group, led by Cyril Coetzee, reading Theosophy. The book, by the founder of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, is described as, An introduction to the supersensible knowledge of the world and the destination of man.
To open the bottle by breaking its neck, let me state the heart of the matter and amplify it from there.
In his exegesis of the text Mr. Coetzee made the following point on the issue of the subjective vs. objective perspective. (A concept which has its origins in Germen Idealism.)
The subjective perspective is also objective, meaning that thoughts and ideas are as objective as the observable objects of the world around us.
The model which Steiner gives us is one where the overarching reality is the reality of ideas, which he refers to as Spirit. This is a very well known concept in philosophy which dates back to Plato and his image of the Platonic Ideal. This is the concept that beyond or prior to the phenomenal world there is a world of perfect ideas.
Plato uses the analogy of a cave wherein on the wall of the cave the observers, inside the cave, see the shadows of something outside the cave. The shadows he compares to our observable phenomenal reality and the ideas, of which the shadows are but reflections, are noumena, un-manifest, perfect, universal, abstract and belong to the world of spirit.
Jung uses the term archetype (literally first type) very much in the same sense. The Jungian mathematician, Robertson, uses the term prime-imprinter as an alternative to archetype. An archetype is an apriori pattern of cognition. A method of perceiving, understanding and interpreting which is universal, collective, objective and innate.
Returning to Steiner’s model, this world of spirit or ideas links the subject and object. The idea exists before, over and after to put it in romantic terms, or if you prefer something a bit more rational it exists outside of time and space bound phenomenal reality. It is the essence of both object and the subject’s idea about the object, or to use Cyril Coetzee term’s the essence and connection of both the precept (sense perception) and the concept (phenomenal idea).
This is a very liberating proposition. The moment we treat our inner world with the same objectivity and subjectivity as our observable world then in quite a profound sense the dichotomy of trying to distinguish or weight inner from outer truth is relieved.
Does this proposition solve our Paradox?
The paradox is not however completely circumnavigated by this model however as it does not do away with you as subject or an ideal platonic reality as object. But notwithstanding this it does crack the outer-inner egg quite nicely. So this is simply saying that we remain unique, individual subjects and as such are still subjective ‘we colour that which we think and that which we see.
I gather that the ideal for Steiner is a dispassionate observation of inner and outer which traverses the divide from personal and subjective to universal and objective, to the world of spiritual science to use his terminology.
My own thoughts on this proposition?
Well I think that the proposition has to be split into two components:
1) The idea that an overarching truth/reality/(insert any suitable term here) which ties personal to collective, which weights them equally in an absolute sense (this is me not Steiner)in terms of their truth. That connects thoughts (small phenomenal ideas) and sense observations to a greater ideal idea a kind of transcendent truth.
And this rings true, it resonates. It is incredibly liberating and blindingly obvious, embarrassingly so for me who failed to make this very obvious connection, despite a decade of Jung and a lifetimes study of philosophy, albeit the study of an autodidact.
Does that mean it’s true? No of course not, but it works a lot better than the Cartesian duality, which I was unconsciously operating from.
One last thought (okay two:-)): this model has been known to mystical traditions for thousands of years; the best example that comes to mind is the Kabalistic model of man as the microcosmic orbit mirroring the cosmos as the macrocosmic orbit.
And we need to amplify this micro-macro model with the knowledge that in any part of a holographic model the information of the entire image is contained.
2) The second, more problematic, proposition is that of the Platonic Ideal or Archetypal Truth. And I capitalise the terms here intentionally and differentiate them from the same terms written in lower case. The difference being that one is Transcendent and other is simply transcendent.
Is there a universal, perfect, ideal and Transcendent truth which contains guides and oversees us? Personally I think not, for reasons which are too lengthy and diverse to enumerate here. However one very convincing argument and the one which I think would be proposed by material science is Darwinism.
Darwin’s model proposes random (non prescribed) mutation of the species over time. This suggestion contradicts Plato’s/Steiner’s/Jung’s kind of idealism.
On the other hand, is there a convergent pattern of cognition which transcends the particular and unites the universal?
Yes I think so, it rings true for me, and furthermore is an idea well supported by deduction and empirical observation.
What do you think?