1851. Thoughts beyond objects.

From Lewis Mumford The Condition of Man.
Condition of Man 

With Thales and Anaximander natural science is born: in Parmenides and his successors, logic. Sport lifts the trammels of material necessity even in thinking: the mind has its own Olympic celebration; and for a moment the highest good lies not in making or in doing, but in quietly seeing: theory and esthetics are the dominant modes of Greek experience. Theory means reflective contemplation; esthetics, ordered perception. Over all spread the new doctrines of logic: an attempt to bring the order of thought and the order of being into a single realm. Kalakogathia, beautiful goodness, is the Hellenic expression for this unity.


From Etymology on line dictionary.

aesthetic (n.) 1798, from German Ästhetisch (mid-18c.) or French esthétique (which is from German), ultimately from Greek aisthetikos “of or for perception by the senses, perceptive,” of things, “perceptible,” from aisthanesthai “to perceive (by the senses or by the mind), to feel,” from PIE *awis-dh-yo-, from root *au- (4) “to perceive” (see audience).

Popularized in English by translations of Kant and used originally in the classically correct sense “science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception” [OED]. Kant had tried to reclaim the word after Alexander Baumgarten had taken it in German to mean “criticism of taste” (1750s), but Baumgarten’s sense attained popularity in English c. 1830s (despite scholarly resistance) and freed the word from philosophy. Walter Pater used it (1868) to describe the late 19c. movement that advocated “art for art’s sake,” which further blurred the sense. As an adjective by 1798 “of or pertaining to sensual perception;” 1821 as “of or pertaining to appreciation of the beautiful.”

[doug] note how aisthanesthai morphs is to the modern  anesthetic.

theory (n.)
1590s, “conception, mental scheme,” from Late Latin theoria (Jerome), from Greek theoria “contemplation, speculation; a looking at, viewing; a sight, show, spectacle, things looked at,” from theorein “to consider, speculate, look at,” from theoros “spectator,” from thea “a view” (see theater) + horan “to see,” possibly from PIE root *wer- (3) “to perceive” (see ward (n.)).

Earlier in this sense was theorical (n.), late 15c. Sense of “principles or methods of a science or art” (rather than its practice) is first recorded 1610s (as in music theory, which is the science of musical composition, apart from practice or performance). Sense of “an intelligible explanation based on observation and reasoning” is from 1630s.

[doug] There is an implied realm a state of mind and being, where contemplation and perceiving find their object, not as an object but as a mood, a sense, presence of the all, “Alone with the all” I think is a Sufi expression.

Imagine that we slowed down, experience more deeply that combination of meditation and perception and thought. Not forced, but allowed to happen.

Charles Taylor in his Secular Age does well at trying to describe the objectless object of such thought.
A Secular Age

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