Rudolf Steiner on his book The Philosophy of Freedom

Submitted by Jay Harms on Thu, 07/19/2007 - 9:03pm.

Jay Harms

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This is a discussion group about Rudolf Steiner's comments on his book The Philosophy of Freedom. It is also intended as a place to gather more references not found in Palmer's book. Please post references you find and we will do the research to determine if they are new to the existing archive.

Much has been written by students of spiritual
science on The Philosophy of Freedom, but the advantage of discovering what the author himself had to say about this most important and seminal work should be obvious. Not only were the words of the text chosen most carefully, but also its very structure was intended to become a powerful inner experience for the careful reader. In a sense, all of the works that flowed from Rudolf Steiner in the following years were to elaborate on this great work.

Otto Palmer has provided an invaluable service by extracting numerous references from the words of Rudolf Steiner, providing keys to the deeper meanings behind the words of The Philosophy of Freedom, making it more accessible and meaningful to readers.

  • How the Book Came To Be
  • The Book’s Aims and Artistic Composition
  • New Thinking
  • The Sphere of Freedom
  • New Willing
  • New Thinking, New Willing; The Thinking-Will
  • Transition to the Social Problem
  • The Socially Oriented Will
  • Forces at Work in the Contemporary Scene
  • The Book as a Training Manual
  • Confrontations
  • The Book’s Christian Substance
  • Epilogue, Notes, Partial Bibliography, Collateral Reading

  • Otto Palmer received his first copy of The Philosophy of Freedom in 1919 as a prisoner of war in France. While in prison, he began his forty-five-year journey of studying Rudolf Steiner’s works and Anthroposophy. By the time he published his book, Rudolf Steiner on His Book The Philosophy of Freedom, he had spent many years considering and collecting every reference to The Philosophy of Freedom that he could find in Rudolf Steiner’s works and lectures.

    No other book Rudolf Steiner wrote was as often and exhaustively discussed by him as The Philosophy of Freedom. He not only refers to it, he points again and again and yet again, from every imaginable angle, to what he intended this work to accomplish---indeed, to initiate. This list does not pretend to be complete, however. It would have to include many further references to achieve the status of a true archive, but that task can be undertaken at leisure. Meanwhile, the listing in the appended table may be regarded as containing the most basic references.
    Otto Palmer, introduction

    Comment to Rudolf Steiner by Eduard Hartmann

    Submitted by John Ralph on Tue, 09/08/2009 - 9:38am.

    Independent thinking

    Submitted by John Ralph on Fri, 08/07/2009 - 2:59am.

    From a lecture to the Goetheanum workmen -

    "Concepts fall apart in the physical body, and yet human beings do not want to learn to think with the etheric body. They do not want to think independently. Now you see why, in the year 1893, it became necessary for me to write the book The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. It is not the contents of this book that are so important, although obviously at that time one wished to tell the world what was said in it, but the most important thing is that independent thinking appeared in this book for the first time. No-one can possibly understand this book who does not think independently. From the beginning, page by page, a reader must become accustomed to using his etheric body if he would think these thoughts at all. Hence this book is a means of education - a very important means - and must be taken up as such.

    Interest in logical thought sequence rather than feelings for spiritual

    Submitted by Tom Last on Sat, 08/01/2009 - 2:33pm.

    "It is important that we at least have the good will and make the effort to advance to the kind of thinking that is free of emotion—to begin with, free of the emotions we know so well in ordinary life. If the content of The Philosophy of Freedom appeals to people because their feelings incline them to a more spiritual way of looking at things, they have not yet achieved pure thinking. Only those people who take it in because of the thoughts logical sequence and the way they support each other are relating to the book in the right way."

    "When you have come so far as to be able to gradually rid your emotion-filled thinking of its subjective content so that it contains only pure concepts, then divine content, the content that comes from above, can flow in.

    Community life, inner development, sexuality, and the spiritual teacher ...p.75
    By Rudolf Steiner

    Fully Awake Within The Thoughts

    Submitted by Admin on Thu, 07/09/2009 - 9:29am.

    My Philosophy of Freedom is based upon an experience which consists in the understanding of human consciousness within itself. In willing, freedom is practised; in feeling, it is experienced; in thinking, it is known. Only, in order to attain this last, one must not lose the life of thinking.

    While I was working at my Philosophy of Freedom, it was my constant endeavour in the statement of my thoughts to keep my inner experience fully awake within the very thoughts. This gives to thoughts the mystical character of inner perception, but makes the perception like the perception of the outer physical world. If one forces oneself through to such an inner experience, then one no longer finds any contradiction between the knowledge of nature and the knowledge of spirit.

    It became clear to one that the second is only a metamorphosed continuation of the first. Since this appeared thus to me, I could later place on the title-page the motto: "Some results of introspective observation following the methods of Natural Science". For, when natural-scientific methods are followed in the spiritual sphere, they lead one to knowledge of this sphere.
    RS, The Story of My Life, chap. 12

    Fishing for Moral Intuitions

    Submitted by Tom Last on Thu, 07/09/2009 - 12:13am.

    "Into this mood of the age, my dear friends, I sent my Philosophy of Freedom, which culminates in the view, with the end of the nineteenth century, the time has come when it is eminently necessary that human beings contemplate how they will be able to find moral impulses more and more by going back to the being of the human soul itself.

    Even for the moral impulses of everyday life, they must resort more and more to moral intuitions found in the soul, all other impulses will become gradually less decisive.

    This was the situation I faced. I was obliged to say that the future of human ethics depends upon the power of moral intuition becoming stronger with every passing day. Advances in moral education can only be made when we strengthen the force of moral intuition within the soul; when individuals become more and more aware of the moral intuitions which arise in their souls." -RS, Becoming the Archangel Michael's Companions p38

    How can we become more aware of the moral intuitions that arise in our souls? After I began studying The Philosophy of Freedom I became more aware of the feelings, emotions, thoughts, instincts, desires, etc. so I could begin making distinctions. Am I dealing with a fixed ethical principle that happens to be my favorite? I notice the difference between thinking a past thought and experiencing a new thought or renewed realization of a past thought in the moment it occurs. When the intuitions stop coming I have to stop and look at what is wrong; too little sleep, to many mundane thoughts, too busy with duties, and try to change things.

    If I take the time to think about a life situation, raising it into the conceptual and ideal realm, it usually ends with an intuitive impulse, or I continue working it as I am not satisfied or energized until then. (it cures depression and fatigue at least for awhile until you need another boost of inspiration)

    How do you fish for moral intuitions?

    POF spans the abyss

    Submitted by taxmanatx on Tue, 06/30/2009 - 2:47pm.

    "From my 'The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity' you will know that the highest ethical ideas required by us as human beings are given to us when we grasp moral intuitions, and that when we begin to gain possession of these ethical ideas, they are the foundation of our human freedom. On the other hand, you may perhaps also know that for certain thinkers there has always been a kind of abyss between that which is given, on the one hand, by the knowledge of Nature, and on the other hand, by ethical knowledge. The philosophy of Kant is based upon this abyss, which he is unable to bridge completely. For this reason, Kant has written a Critique of Theoretical Reason, of Pure Reason, as he calls it, where he grapples with natural science, and where he says all that he has to say about natural science, or the knowledge of Nature. On the other hand, he has also written a Critique of Practical Reason, where he speaks of ethical ideas. We might say: The whole human life is born for him out of two roots which are completely severed from one another, which he describes in his two chief critical studies."

    Rudolf Steiner - Fundamentals of the Science of Initiation - October 17, 1919

    The Path for our Scientific Age

    Submitted by Admin on Tue, 12/16/2008 - 10:44am.

    Rudolf Steiner comments on The Philosophy of Freedom, The Boundaries of Natural Science VIII

    In my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, I have described an entirely safe path leading to the supersensible, but I describe it in such a way that it applies for everybody, above all for those who have not devoted their lives to science. Today I shall describe a path into the supersensible that is much more for the scientist. All my experience has taught me that for such a scientist a kind of precondition for this cognitional striving is to take up what is presented in my book, Philosophy of Freedom. I will explain what I mean by this. This book, Philosophy of Freedom, was not written with the same intent as most books written today. Nowadays books are written simply in order to inform the reader of the book's subject matter, so that the reader learns the book's contents in accordance with his education, his scientific training, or the special knowledge he already possesses. This was not my primary Intention in writing Philosophy of Freedom, and thus it will not be popular with those who read books only to acquire Information. The purpose of the book is to make the reader directly engage his thinking activity an every page.

    In a sense, the book is only a kind of musical score that one must read with inner thought activity in order to progress, as the result of one's own efforts, from one thought to the next. The book constantly presupposes the mental collaboration of the reader. Moreover, the book presupposes that which the soul becomes in the process of such mental exertion. Anyone who has really worked through this book with his own inner thinking activity and cannot confess that he has come to know himself in a part of his inner life in which he had not known himself previously has not read Philosophy of Freedom properly. One should feel that one is being lifted out of one's usual thinking [Vorstellen] into a thinking independent of the senses [ein sinnlichkeitsfreies Denken], in which one is fully immersed, so that one feels free of the conditions of physical existence. Whoever cannot confess this to himself has actually misunderstood the book. One should be able to say to oneself: now I know, as a result of the inner thought activity I myself have expended, what pure thinking actually is.

    The strange thing is that most Western philosophers totally deny the reality of the very thing that my Philosophy of Freedom seeks to awaken as something real in the soul of the reader. Countless philosophers have expounded the view that pure thinking does not exist but is bound to contain traces, however diluted, of sense perception. A strong impression is left that philosophers who maintain this have never really studied mathematics or gone into the difference between analytical and empirical mechanics. Specialization, however, has already grown to such an extent that nowadays philosophy is often pursued by people totally lacking any knowledge of mathematical thinking. The pursuit of philosophy is actually impossible without a grasp of at least the spirit of mathematical thinking. We have seen what Goethe's attitude was toward this spirit of mathematical thinking, even though he made no claim himself to any special training in mathematics. Many thus would deny the existence of the very faculty I would like those who study The Philosophy of Freedom to acquire.

    Comment by selecting 'add new comment' below....

    Thinking – Pearl – TAO

    Submitted by John Ralph on Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:13am.

    This extract needs its context so the following reference from Steiner is a long one.

    first obtain a true insight into what is in fact our own thinking

    Submitted by Tom Last on Mon, 11/17/2008 - 5:08pm.

    The matters discussed by anthroposophical spiritual science are not drawn out of some blue haze of mysticism, rather the way to reach this particular knowledge can be indicated step by step. It is in no sense an outer way. It is inward in its entire journey, but it is such that it leads to the perception of a truly objective yet supersensible reality. And in that we raise ourselves in this way to real intuitive knowledge, we first obtain a true insight into what is in fact our own thinking, our ideation, that we employ in ordinary life, with which we mix our sense-perceptions. One reaches to full, complete reality when to a certain extent one can create an idea for oneself, an empirical idea, in the way I have attempted to describe in my book The Philosophy of Freedom. There I have tried to make known that pure thinking, that very thinking that can live in us before we have fully united the thinking with some outer perception. I have shown that this pure thinking itself can be perceived as an inner soul content.

    For this spiritual science works through the will, so that it can reach up to what I have described in my Philosophy of Freedom as moral intuition. And its power streams into human life as the moral ideal. The moral intuitions are gradually permeated with what indeed is love, so that we can become men who act freely out of love springing from our individuality. more...

    The Fundamental and Only Enduring Book of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy

    Submitted by Tom Last on Thu, 11/06/2008 - 5:24pm.

    Asked which of his books he would most want to see rescued if catastrophe should come upon the world, Rudolf Steiner replied without hesitation: 'The Philosophy of Freedom'.
    --The Ultimate Communion of Mankind by Karen Swassjan

    In a conversation with Rudolf Steiner that took place in April 1922 in The Hague Walter Johannes Stein asked,
    “What will remain of your work in thousands of years? 
    Rudolf Steiner replied: “Nothing but the Philosophy of Freedom,” and then added: “But everything is contained in it. If someone realizes the act of freedom described there, he finds the whole content of Anthroposophy”.

    May Human Beings Hear It! by Sergei O. Prokofieff

    Rudolf Steiner: "Anyone interested in looking for them will find the basic principles of Anthroposophy already enunciated in this book."

    Awakening out of sleep

    Submitted by Tom Last on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 1:35am.

    Now what kind of approach by the reader did The Philosophy of Freedom count on? It had to assume a special way of reading. It expected the reader, as he read, to undergo the sort of inner experience that, in an external sense, is really just waking up out of sleep in the morning. The feeling one should have about it is such as to make one say, "My relationship to the world in passive thoughts was, on a higher level, that of a person who lies asleep. Now I am waking up."

    It is like knowing, at the moment of awakening, that one has been lying passively in bed, letting nature have her way with one's body. But then one begins to be inwardly active. One relates one's senses actively to what is going on in the color permeated, sounding world about one. One links one's own bodily activity to one's intentions.

    The reader of The Philosophy of Freedom should experience something very like this waking moment of transition from passivity to activity, though of course on a higher level. He should be able to say, "Yes, I have certainly thought thoughts before. But my thinking took the form of just letting thoughts flow and carry me along. Now, little by little, I am beginning to be inwardly active in them." --from Rudolf Steiner's AWAKENING TO COMMUNITY

    Rudolf Steiner: PoF and Eurythmy

    Submitted by John Ralph on Sun, 10/26/2008 - 5:57am.

    Dr Unger
    asked about order in thinking.
    Dr Steiner:
    That would be something more ambitious. It would be good if you would develop how the first chapters of The Philosophy of Freedom could be understood, if you could work out a eurythmical consonantal study; where the chapters go on to “moral imagination”, you arrive at the vowel element. Lead everything to eurythmy.

    From the “Faculty Meeting at the Eurythmeum, Stuttgart, 30th April 1924” (in R. Steiner, Eurythmy: Its birth and development. GA 277a. Anastasi, Weobley 2002. P.142)

    More majestic than the visible stars, gained only through an inward creative process

    Submitted by Tom Last on Tue, 10/21/2008 - 2:06pm.

    To assimilate what spiritual science can give means becoming human, means not remaining a puppet of the sensory world but achieving the freedom which is the element in which human beings should live and work throughout their lives. Indeed, freedom can only be understood in concepts which do not originate in the sensory world. For nothing that is given us from the sensory world can make us free. This is what I had in mind when I wrote my Philosophy of Freedom, where I emphasized how---even without reference to the ideas of spiritual science---the foundation of ethics, of morals has to be seen in terms of moral imagination; that is to say, it has to be discovered on the basis of moral imagination, on the basis of something that is not contained in any sensory world, although of course morals should not be considered as being purely imaginary. The whole chapter on moral imagination is an affirmation that human beings throughout life, in so far as they want to spend it in freedom, have to recognize their connection with something which is not a reflection of the sensory world but which has to arise freely in themselves, which is more majestic than the visible stars, which cannot be gained from the sensory world but only through an inward creative process. That is the intention of the chapter on moral imagination. --Prayers for Parents and Children p.64 by Rudolf Steiner

    POF and and the Will - Christ and the water

    Submitted by Jay Harms on Fri, 09/12/2008 - 8:11pm.

    'It is possible to attain complete freedom in our inner life if we increasingly efface and exclude the actual thought content, insofar as this comes from outside, and kindle into greater activity the element of will which streams through our thoughts when we form judgments, draw conclusions and the like. Thereby, however, our thinking becomes what I have called in my Philosophy of Freedom ‘pure thinking’. We think, but in our thinking there is nothing but will. I have laid particular emphasis on this in the new edition of the book (1918). What is thus within us lies in the sphere of thinking. But pure thinking may equally be called pure will. Thus from the realm of thinking we reach the realm of will, when we become inwardly free; our thinking attains such maturity that it is entirely irradiated by will; it no longer takes anything in from outside, but its very life is of the nature of will. By progressively strengthening the impulse of will in our thinking we prepare ourselves for what I have called in the Philosophy of Freedom, ‘Moral Imagination’. Moral Imagination rises to the 'Moral Intuitions' which then pervade and illuminate our will that has now become thought, or our thinking that has now become will. In this way we raise ourselves above the sway of the 'necessity' prevailing in the material world, permeate ourselves with the force that is inherently our own, and prepare for Moral Intuition. And everything that can stream into us from the spiritual world has its foundation, primarily, in these Moral Intuitions. Therefore freedom dawns when we enable the will to become an ever mightier and mightier force in our thinking.'
    -- Rudolf Steiner ...More inside...

    Free Floating Facts

    Submitted by Jay Harms on Mon, 11/26/2007 - 10:54am.

    POF reference from Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age

    Submitted by Tom Last on Sun, 09/16/2007 - 11:48am.

    Quote from
    Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age



    Submitted by Jay Harms on Tue, 08/07/2007 - 2:35pm.

    Hello - thought I would be the first to post here. This site, Rudolf Steiner on his book The Philosophy of Freedom,  is based on a simple idea