Preface to the Revised Edition, 1918

The Philosophy of Freedom
Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path, Lipson translation
copyright © Anthroposophic Press, 1995
Audio by Dale Brunsvold
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Preface to the Revised Edition, 1918

[1] Everything discussed in this book is organized around two root questions of the human soul. First, can we understand human nature in such a way that this understanding serves as the basis for everything else we may meet in the way of experience or science? (For we have the sense that what we meet in this way cannot sustain itself, because doubt and critical thinking can drive it into the realm of uncertainty.) Second, can we human beings, as willing entities, ascribe freedom to ourselves, or is this freedom a mere illusion that arises because we do not see the threads of necessity upon which our willing, like any other natural event, depends? This is no artificial question. It proceeds naturally from a certain mood of soul. We even feel that the soul would be less than it should be if it never earnestly came face to face with these two possibilities: freedom or necessity of the will. The purpose of this book is to show that our inner experiences of the second question depend upon how we view the first. I try to present a view of the human being that can support all other knowledge. I also attempt to show how this view fully justifies the idea of freedom of the will, provided that one finds the region of the soul where free will can develop.

[2] Once achieved, this view can become part of the very life of the soul itself. But no theoretical answer is given that, once acquired, is simply carried as a conviction preserved by memory. Such an answer would have to be an illusion, according to the style of thought underlying this book. Therefore no such finished, closed-off answer is provided here; rather, reference is made to a region of soul experience in which, through the soul’s inner activity, the question answers itself in a living way, always anew, whenever a human being needs it. Once we have found the region of the soul where these questions unfold, really perceiving this region gives all that we need to answer these riddles of life. Thereafter, we can journey further through the depths and breadths of this life of riddles, as need and fate provide. Indeed, with this region of soul experience, we seem to have located an insight that finds justification and validity through its own life, and through the relationship of this life to the whole life of the human soul.

[3] This is how I thought about the content of this book when I wrote it out twenty-five years ago. Today as well, I must characterize the book’s key thoughts in the same way. At that time, I limited myself to saying no more than is connected in the strictest sense to the two root questions described above. If anyone is surprised to find nothing here about the world of spiritual experience described in my later writings, it should be borne in mind that I did not want at that time to discuss the results of spiritual research; rather, my purpose was first to lay the foundations on which such results can rest. This “philosophy of freedom” does not contain specific results of that kind, any more than it contains specific results from natural science. But what it does contain will be indispensable, in my opinion, to anyone striving for certainty in such knowledge. What the book says might also be acceptable to many who, for whatever reasons of their own, want nothing to do with the results of spiritual-scientific research. Those who are drawn to these results may also find significant my attempt to demonstrate how an unprejudiced consideration of simply the two questions characterized above, which are fundamental for all cognition, leads to the view that human beings live within an actual spiritual world. In this book, I try to validate cognition of the spiritual realm before one enters spiritual experience. Hence there is no need to cast furtive glances toward the experiences that I put forward later on, as long as one is able or willing to enter into the style of the discussion itself.

[4] Thus this book seems to me quite separate from my actual spiritual-scientific writings. On the other hand, it also seems to be connected with them in the most intimate way, so that now, after twenty-five years, I can republish the text essentially unaltered. I have, however, made additions of some length to a number of chapters. Misinterpretations of what I had said made such extensive additions seem necessary. The only passages I have rewritten are those in which, a quarter century ago, I expressed myself poorly. (Only people of ill will would take these changes as proof that I have changed my fundamental conviction).

The book has now been out of print for many years. I feel that the same things need to be said today as twentyfive years ago; nevertheless, I hesitated long over the completion of this new edition. I asked myself again and again whether I ought, in this or that passage, to confront the numerous philosophical views that have come to light since the appearance of the first edition. In recent years, involvement in purely spiritual-scientific researches prevented me from doing this in the way I would wish. Yet I have convinced myself, after the most thorough survey I could make of current philosophical work, that such discussion does not belong here, tempting as it might be in itself. What seemed necessary to say about the latest philosophical tendencies, from the point of view taken in Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom, can be found in the second volume of my Riddles of Philosophy.*1

April, 1918
Rudolf Steiner

[1] NOTE: As an aid to readers wishing to follow the text in German, the numbers that appear in the margins indicate Rudolf Steiner’s original paragraphing in the German edition.


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