The Philosophy of Freedom
Study Course Article
Thinking, Freedom, And The Human Predicament
Recent news headlines:
Harsh Iraq Report Offers No Solution
Palestinian-Israeli conflict: The one thing everyone agrees on is that there is no solution
Global Warming Policy is No Solution
AIDS in Africa—What’s the Solution?
Darfur Continues to Defy a Solution
Freedom From Compulsive and One-sided Thinking
Recent headlines depict the failure of world leaders to resolve the difficult global issues we face today. The inability to negotiate solutions or change behavior is not surprising considering the entrenched positions held. People cling to views that have become obsolete, one-sided, irrational, or simply stupid and no longer sustainable. Thoughts expressed are often not thought at all but only the continuing pursuit of traditional opinions and habits.
We have a natural adaptive ability to acquire the habitual patterns of thinking and conduct of our social circle according to ethnicity, gender, family, nation, politics, religion, etc. These social communities are held together by common instinctive behavior or communally fixed moral order. Is freedom and social harmony possible if everyone is merely a programmed advocate of the particular group they happened to be born into or aspire to?
Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom is a clarion call for the exact opposite of the group thinking and conformity of today. It is a call to an ethical individualism. Among all of the physical urges, social customs, political platforms, legal codes, and religious commandments, what actions can we call our own? But from within all of this compulsion arise individuals who obey only themselves. This is made possible through the power of intuition. By reaching up with our feelings into the universal nature of thinking, the region of the ideal, individual ethical aims are grasped intuitively. The activity of pure conceptual thinking suspends the compulsive urges and conditioned thoughts providing a place for the intuition to appear. Then our action is not stereotyped or the result of an external authority. It is determined purely by its own ideal content.
What is individual in us is our intuitions. We are free in so far as our action springs from the ideal part of our individual being. To express these intuitions in deed is the
highest standard by which we can live and is our highest pleasure. We are empowered by our love for the deed.
But how can we have community if each one is only striving to assert their own individuality? We are united through a common world of ideals that we receive our intuitions from. We are different in that we receive different intuitions from which we base our action on. But if we follow our highest ideals rather than lower instincts or group conformity to fixed principles we will be united in common intention through the unity of pure ideals. Rather than separating us, our particular group characteristics become a medium in which to express our own individual being.
“A moral misunderstanding, a clash, is impossible between people who are morally
free. Only the morally unfree who follow their natural instincts or the accepted commands of duty come into conflict with their neighbors if these do not obey the same instincts and the same commands as themselves.” -R. Steiner, Philosophy of
Freedom, Chapter 9.
Freedom Requires The Capacity For Intuition and Self-Awareness
An action is free if the reasons for it are from the ideal part of our individual being. It feels free because it springs from our own intuition. This requires the capacity for intuition. The Philosophy of Freedom is a step by step account of how a person may
come to experience living, intuitive thinking. It is a comprehensive examination of freedom without being a doctrine to be memorized and followed. Instead, it is a recording of the inner experiences of Rudolf Steiner on his path of freedom. By recognizing within ourself the introspective descriptions given in the book we acquire greater self-awareness of our own cognitive activity. If we do not know why we act we obviously are not free. When we gain knowledge of the reasons for why we act we will know if these reasons are taken from the realm of our ideals. If they are the action is free, because only we determine it.
There are many obstacles to freedom. In order to gain freedom from all of the inner and outer influences that may force our activity it is important to know what freedom is, and just as important-- what it is not. Many mistakenly believe they are already free without having undergone any training. Being fooled in this way is the result of lacking self-awareness and knowledge of what freedom is. Why strive for freedom if one believes they are already free?
Reading The Book Is A Thought Training
Freedom is not a natural occurrence. Things of nature are compelled by the laws of nature. Often a persons view-point is the product of feelings expressing a persons natural disposition and mental habits. We all know how difficult it is to convince another person of anything with logical reasoning. The wish is often the father of thought. It takes a love of factuality and objectivity for logical thinking to be important to us. Being reality based with knowledge of the laws working in life’s
events requires objectivity without being swayed by our wish for a particular outcome. Just as one is trained in logical thinking through the study of mathematics and the reading of philosophy, intuitive thinking can be developed by the proper reading of The Philosophy of Freedom. This is more than just the development of
rational thinking. Intuitive thinking is not a chilly abstract thinking but a warm luminous thinking based in reality.
“The primary purpose of my book is to serve as thought training, training in the
sense that the special way of both thinking and entertaining these thoughts is such as to bring the soul life of the reader into motion in somewhat the way that gymnastics exercise their limbs.” –Rudolf Steiner on his book The Philosophy Of Freedom, by
Otto Palmer, P. 82
This is not a book for the passive collection of information but instead encourages questioning, contemplation, and a heightened thinking activity in the reader. The thoughts are arranged in a special evolving sequence which move through a wide spectrum of view-points each presenting a different perspective of the whole. The various view-points presented each speak for themselves in a way that leaves the reader free from being directed to any particular approach. The intuition of the reader is called upon to complete the reading experience. If enough effort is put into working through the sequence of thoughts a new way of thinking and feeling is acquired. If this does not happen it means the reader ―has not read it correctly or
worked hard and thoroughly enough.‖
“That is the reason why it is not exactly popular with people who read a book for information only. It was intended to involve the reader, page by page, in the actual activity of thinking, to serve merely as a score read with inner thought activity as the reader advances on his own from thought to thought.” –Rudolf Steiner on his book The Philosophy Of Freedom, By Otto Palmer, P. 90
A “New Thinking” Is Needed
Advertisers and politicians have developed a ―science of manipulation‖ that can control a conditioned reactive mind by triggering emotional responses to sell products or short sighted government policies. This has threatened our very existence with unhealthy consumption, ecological disaster, war, and human rights abuse. A free independent thinker cannot be manipulated.
It will require a ―new thinking‖ if we are to find a solution to the major ecological,
social, political, and philosophical issues of our time. Intuitive thinking is the basis for free individuality, social cooperation, and a clear vision of reality. Rudolf Steiner laid out a path in the study and practice of his Philosophy of Freedom that leads from
ordinary thinking to the level of pure intuitive thinking through self-awareness and thought training.
This book is not for the traditional conformist who takes pride in upholding the standards of the norm or dutifully obeying the orders of others but rather for those individualists who no longer want merely to believe and follow but have a need to know and act, each in their own way. The author dedicated the book to those who strive to order their life in this way.
The fundamental maxim of a free spirit is:
“To live in love towards our actions, and to let live in the understanding of the other
person's will.” -R. Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 9.