Why a new translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom is needed

Submitted by Tom Last on Sun, 12/05/2010 - 11:49pm.















































































































Why A New Translation?

Rudolf Steiner's teaching consisted of two distinct periods, his cognitional training for the scientist (pre-1900) and his teaching of theosophy (post 1900), later called anthroposophy, based on his clairvoyant perceptions of the spiritual world. One can find great value in Steiner's science period without having a need to embrace his theosophy period.

In the first decade of the 20th century, August Ewerbeck got word that there were intimate circles in which Rudolf Steiner gave special esoteric training to those admitted to them. So he asked his teacher whether he too might be allowed to attend, and received the astonishing reply: “You don’t need to! You have understood my Philosophy of Freedom!”

The Philosophy Of Freedom is complete in itself standing independent of theosophy.

"You will find nothing at all in The Philosophy of Freedom that is derived from clairvoyant communications of spiritual science. It is written for the express purpose of disciplining thinking without any mention of theosophy." 1906 Rudolf Steiner

The reason why The Philosophy Of Freedom must remian independent of theosophy is mentioned by Steiner in the 1918 Preface,

"What is said in this book can also be acceptable to those who, for reasons of their own, will have nothing to do with the results of my research into the spiritual realm."

The danger of bringing theosophy into the book is that it may no longer be acceptable to those who have no interest in Steiner's later work. Potential readers who are not members of the Theosophical or Anthroposophical Societies comprise .99998% of the population.

Today the book's independence is threatened by translators who want to promote theosophy or Eastern spirituality. Even Rudolf Steiner himself inserted some theosophy phrasing when he revised the book 25 years later. A new translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom is needed today because theosophy has crept into the book.

It is hoped that by restoring the Philosophy Of Freedom to its original independent nature the words within it will speak more clearly to our scientific age.


Rudolf Steiner (science period 1861-1900)
Anthroposophical Society: Not formed yet. 1897 Steiner writes article indicating dislike of non-scientific theosophists and spiritualists.
"It also proves advantageous to the Theosophists that they are able to stay on good terms with the Spiritualists and other off-beat, like-minded seekers of the spirit. But they are not above walking hand in hand with the Spiritualists when they deem such an alliance to help them wage war on the unfettered science, the straightforward science of the modern era, which is solely supported by reason and observation."

Interest: Mathematics, science and philosophy. This was his path to freedom culminating in the publishing of the Philosophy of Freedom in 1894.

The objective of the author of The Philosophy Of Freedom: Results of the observation of the mind by the scientific method.




R. F. Alfred Hoernle  (1880-1943)
Translation: 1916 Philosophy Of Freedom
Anthroposophical Society: No evidence of membership.
Interest: Philosophy
Philosophy titles: 1907 Image, Idea and Meaning, 1923 Matter, life, mind, and God, 1930 Idealism as a Philosophy.

The first English translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom was published in 1916 by a philosophy professor who taught at Harvard and Oxford and his wife, Prof. and Mrs. R. F. Alfred Hoernle and edited by Harry Collison. This was based on the original German edition of 1894 and was not influenced by theosophy/anthroposophy. This is the only translation sanctioned by Rudolf Steiner himself.

Translator's Objective:
Collison writes about the Hoernle's, "their thorough knowledge of philosophy and their complete command of the German and English languages enabling them to overcome the difficulty of finding adequate English equivalents for the terms of German Philosophy."


Theosophy Enters The Philosophy Of Freedom









Rudolf Steiner (theosophy period 1900-1925)
Theosophical Society: 1902 General Secretary of the German Theosophic Society.
Anthoposophical Society:
1913 Founded Anthroposophical Society with a group of theosophists.
Interest: Mysticism
25 years later after its first publication Steiner revises The Philosophy Of Freedom:
1918 Revises The Philosophy Of Freedom adding some theosophy terminology.
1922 Recommends new English title, The Philosophy Of 'Spiritual Activity'.

After 1900 Steiner chose to join the Theosophical Society to lecture on his clairvoyant experiences happening to him since childhood. Before that, Steiner seemed willing to speak to any group, but after 1899 he started to give talks regularly to the members of the Theosophical Society. From then on he spoke in the language of theosophy that was in vogue at that time in Germany.

Even after immersing himself in theosophy, Steiner continued to point to the importance of the Philosophy Of Freedom, saying it was his only work that would endure over time. Theosophists shrugged their shoulders at science preferring the Eastern paths to truth. In order to help them relate to the book Steiner made some revisions. In 1922 he recommended "spiritual activity" replace "freedom" in the title and in 1918 he added some theosophy phrasing.

For example, the original Philosophy of Freedom begins with the question, “Is man in his thinking and action free...”

In 1918 he revised this sentence by replacing the word “free” with “spiritually free being”, a phrasing more suitable to theosophy.

The opening sentence now begins with a preconception of the existence of a "spiritual being": “Is man in his thinking and action a spiritually free being...”













Hermann Poppelbaum (1891–1979)
Translation: 1939 The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity.
Anthroposophical Society: Chairman of the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society
Interest: Natural Science according to anthroposophy
Titles: He graduated in the natural sciences with an experimental thesis on Studies in androginomórficas butterflies.

Translator's Objective:
His stated objective for revising the Hoernlé translation was to check certain words and phrases from the,

"strictly Steiner point of view".

Steiner had passed away 14 years earlier. Now Hermann Poppelbaum and the Anthroposophical Society would be the authority to define 'the strictly Steiner point of view” often referred to today as Steinerism.

Poppelbaum went to work by expunging every use of the word Mind and replacing it with the word Spirit. Here is an example:

Chapter 2 Hoernlé translation:
The Dualist sees in Mind and Matter two essentially different entities, and cannot, therefore understand how they can interact with one another. How should Mind be aware of what goes on in Matter, seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Mind? Or how in these circumstances should Mind act upon Matter, so as to translate its intentions into actions?

Poppelbaum revision:
The Dualist sees in Spirit and Matter two essentially different entities, and cannot, therefore understand how they can interact with one another. How should Spirit be aware of what goes on in Matter, seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Spirit? Or how in these circumstances should Spirit act upon Matter, so as to translate its intentions into actions?

Michael Wilson (1901-1985)
Translation: 1964 The Philosophy Of Freedom
Anthroposophical Society: Co-Founder of the Science Group of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain
Interest: Curative Education, Goethe's color theory
Titles: Goethe's Colour Experiments

Translator's Objective:

“Any work describing Steiner's point of view in terms of English philosophy would have to deal with the mind as a central theme, but here our task is to introduce readers to Steiner's concepts of spirit and soul.”












Michael Lipson
Translation: 1995 Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path
Anthroposophical Society: Lipson was selected by the Anthroposophic Press to produce a new official centennial translation of the book. The Goetheanum website now refers to this new title.
Interest: WAMC Radio Psychologist who teaches Buddhist meditation
Titles: Group Meditation

Translator's Objective:
In Lipson's translator notes: "By approaching Steiner through inadequate and changing English terms, we are more likely to face the inadequacy of all terms, and leap to his meaning."

The Zen Philosophy Of Freedom? The Eastern path of Zen Buddhism holds that to attach words to Zen is to defeat its whole meaning. Therefore, Zen provides  examples of a thought or experience that is linguistically inexplicable. "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"

Lipson, a practicing Zen Buddhist, has a translation objective that is certainly not a Western scientific approach. Is it to confuse the reader so that they will understand? Steiner selects his words very carefully as any philosopher would. Lipson's confusion is his inability to recognize the points when Steiner shifts to another viewpoint.

"Without indicating his shifts, he used such words now in the humblest, now in the most exalted sense."

Lipson's disregard for the meaning of words led him to replace Steiner's title with his own. Why not, words don't matter.

"By suggesting an alternative title in English, Steiner again proved himself flexible regarding terminology. We have taken this as permission to translate the title and we have called it, this time, Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path."




Sergei Prokofieff
Anthroposophical Society: Chairman of the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society
Titles: Numerous books on anthroposophy.

Anthroposophy and the Philosophy of Freedom
Writer's Objective:
Book Review: In considering its multi-faceted 'cosmic-human dimension', the author discusses The Philosophy Of Freedom in relation to the Mystery of the Resurrection, the Working of the Hierarchies, the Being Anthroposophia, the Fifth Gospel, Steiner’s Path of Initiation, the Rosicrucian and Michaelic Impulses, the Life Between Death and Rebirth, the Foundation Stone, the Christian Mysteries of Karma, and the Science of the Grail.

Prokofieff's book is an example of the desire of Anthroposophists to connect The Philosophy Of Freedom with Steiner's later clairvoyant communications of spiritual science.

Characterizing The Philosophy Of Freedom as just another Steiner theosophy book may draw the interest of theosophists, but it may also alienate the rest of humanity who have no interest in theosophy from ever reading the book.