The Path of Rudolf Steiner
You have discovered a website for those striving for the realization of Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom, whose fundamental principle of the free human being is "Live and let live." Our work is to introduce and help with the study of Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom to a wide audience.
Path For Our Age
Rudolf Steiner's Path of Freedom
How will we attain the “new” thinking and “empowered” community activism required to understand and transform the various spiritual, ecological, social, and political crisis confronting us today? Rudolf Steiner presented an answer over 100 years ago. To this day it is little known. Even if you have heard about Rudolf Steiner he is usually depicted as an occult mystic of some sort. Actually, his education was in mathematics, science, and philosophy that provided him with a training in scientific thinking; especially mathematics, which opened the door for him to what he later called "pure thinking", essential to his freedom philosophy. He applied this scientific training to do introspective research into understanding the human being. What he learned, under the guise of philosophical views, is described in The Philosophy of Freedom, "some results of introspective observation following the methods of natural science."
Rudolf Steiner began a revolution of mind in 1894 with his book The Philosophy of Freedom. This revolution did not need volumes of books to tell us what to believe or what to do. That is up to us. Part I lays out a philosophy of science based upon individualistic truth, Part II describes a humanist philosophy of life based upon ethical individualism expressed through moral intuition, moral imagination, and moral technique.
“It is no longer enough merely to believe, we want to know.” RS chp 1, POF
“Morality is a specifically human quality, and freedom the human way of
being moral.” RS, chap 11 POF
Philosophy of Freedom Period
1879-1899 Steiner's Path To Freedom (age 18-39)
Undergraduate studies at the Vienna Institute of Technology; Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Rostock, Germany; concluding with the Publication of The Philosophy of Freedom. The book was written in a way to challenge the reader to think. Unfortunately, the challenge exceeded the effort of the readers.
Incomprehensible!…. Baffles the experts!….. You’ll never finish it!….. It’s a tangle of thought!…. These are Rudolf Steiner’s comments on the disappointing experience of readers when he first published The Philosophy of Freedom in 1894.
Biographer Gary Lachman describes that time: "Steiner seems to have enjoyed hobnobbing with the bohemians; his acquaintances included poets, playwrights, novelists and political activists. In fact, his reputation among the demi-monde caused academics to cancel their subscriptions, and Steiner also earned the distinction of having a periodical banned in Czarist Russia, because its editor was known to socialize with anarchists."
In 1897, he bought the literary journal Magazin für Literatur, where he hoped to find a readership sympathetic to his philosophy. His work in the magazine was not well received by its readership, including the alienation of subscribers following Steiner's unpopular support of liberal Émile Zola and anarchist writer John Henry Mackay.
With the public failure of his book and now the magazine, Steiner turned to the only people who seemed interested in hearing him —the theosophists. It may have been that in the 1890's the Philosophy of Freedom was ahead of its time. His philosophy was based on introspective experience confusing rational scientists and reasoning philosophers who lack this experience while any philosophy at all that required thinking was too dry and difficult for the spiritualists. Finally, his rejection by the scientific community pushed him to the opposite polarity --the spiritualist community. Before this he showed little interest in theosophy.
He made this comment in his Magazin für Literatur about 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. Oh, sure, they [the theosophists] contend that these spiritualists treat the phenomena of the spirit world as external; whereas, they themselves [the theosophists] seek to experience such phenomena as strictly within as well as totally spiritual. 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." Rudolf Steiner
1900-1925 Public Lectures On His Clairvoyant Perceptions of the Spiritual World (age 40-61)
While an Ethical Individualist of the Philosophy Of Freedom is more likely to be concerned with the thought-process, Anthroposophist's tend to be more concerned with upholding the thought-collective of the group formed around the later work of Rudolf Steiner. It wasn't until 1900 that Steiner decided to "go public" with his ongoing stream of experiences that he claimed were of the spiritual world. He had been willing to speak to any group, but at this time he began giving talks regularly only to the members of the Theosophical Society. Theosophy and Esotericism were in vogue in Germany and Austria during that time, making it easy to draw many people to lectures on the themes of theosophy. The theosophists were entranced by his lectures on his clairvoyant perceptions of the spiritual world, and he quickly gained a large following. Steiner became head of the German Section of the Theosophical Society in 1902 and estranged himself from other groups. The German Section grew rapidly under his leadership.
Steiner didn't undergo some special mystic training so he could become clairvoyant —he was born clairvoyant. His aim was to apply his scientific training to these unusual experiences to try and sort out truth from fantasy. The Philosophy of Freedom contains nothing of these clairvoyant perceptions.
He went on to form a branch off the Theosophical Society called the Anthroposophical Society, producing a library of books and lectures based on his clairvoyant perceptions of the spiritual world (40 books, over 6000 lectures).
In the Philosophy Of Freedom, Steiner asserts a unique humanist world-view that human morality, like human knowledge, is conditional upon human nature. It empowers one's life by deepening scientific inquiry and living to one's highest ideals. A firm grounding in humanist thought can prevent one from turning Steiner's Anthroposophy into vague spiritualism, instead, one's life is empowered by deepening scientific inquiry and living according to one's own highest ideals.
The act of knowing described in the Philosophy Of Freedom reveals the true reality of sense perceptions when thinking adds the corresponding thoughts. The same thinking approach applies to spiritual perceptions, making the Philosophy Of Freedom an essential foundation for someone seeking spiritual experiences. Steiner explains in the Theory of Knowledge Notes to the New Edition, 1924:
“This first activity of ours . . . can be called pure experience” It is evident from the whole bearing of this epistemology that the point of its deliberations is to gain an answer to the question, What is knowledge? In order to attain this goal we looked, to begin with, at the world of sense perception on the one hand, and at penetration of it with thought, on the other. And it is shown that in the interpenetration of both, the true reality of sense existence reveals itself. With this the question, What is the activity of knowing? is answered in principle.
This answer becomes no different when the question is extended to the contemplation of the spiritual. Therefore, what is said in this book about the nature of knowledge is valid also for the activity of knowing the spiritual worlds, to which my later books refer.
The sense world, in its manifestation to human contemplation, is not reality. It attains its reality when connected with what reveals itself about the sense world in man when he thinks. It is no different for spiritual contemplation. When this arises—through soul processes that I have described in my later book "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment" — it again constitutes only one side of spiritual existence; the corresponding thoughts of the spirit constitute the other side.
It is true to say that in none of my later books have I diverged from the idea of knowing activity that I developed in this one; rather I have only applied this idea to spiritual experience.
Renewal of the World
The Philosophy Of Freedom presents a way to integrate scientific knowledge with ethical freedom by means of pure conceptual reasoning and then, by means of imagination, to translate this intuitive insight into practical action to transform the world. With a foundation in The Philosophy Of Freedom, Steiner's later ideas can be critically examined, and then imaginatively applied to specific fields to bring renewal.
Steiner's research produced fundamental holistic principles on how to advance education, farming, medicine, art, spiritualism etc. For example, theosophy has been advanced through the Anthroposophical Society, Waldorf schools are a renewal of education, and Biodynamic farming is a renewal of agriculture. Rather than being accepted on faith, the acceptance and application of the principles given by Steiner is properly done with the same scientific standards appropriate for any other theory.
Other Paths Given By Steiner
In The Boundaries of Natural Science VIII Steiner explains how The Philosophy of Freedom is the modern "path into the spiritual that conforms to the needs of Western civilization" and is particularly suited to develop a new spirituality out of the scientific road taken by humanity.
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!” (from a short obituary by Karl Koller) Enlivening the Chakra of the Heart P177 by Florin Lowndes
Still, his interest was to help as many as he could by providing a variety of other methods and paths for human development.
Steiner's Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment —along with various Eastern or religious paths of development— are paths that are best suited for those who are "not" engaged in the cognitional striving of today's age of science.
Steiner's daily and monthly exercises from Guidance In Esoteric Training are another example of an alternative path often recommended today, but these exercises were originally put together by Steiner to meet the needs of early 20th century German theosophists when Steiner was a member of the Theosophical Society and later released by Marie Steiner as a counter to a growing interest in "decadent" Indian and Tibetan Eastern methods.
Steiner gave the "proper" study of The Philosophy of Freedom as the appropriate thought-training exercise to further advance today's scientific thinking.
“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
The Philosophy of Freedom is unique among his other works. When asked which of his works he would most want to see rescued if catastrophe should come upon the world, Rudolf Steiner replied without hesitation: "The Philosophy of Freedom" . When asked which of his works would endure over time he said, "Nothing, but The Philosophy of Freedom." Steiner's other lectures and numerous books on spiritual science will fade away and eventually disappear while The Philosophy Of Freedom will remain, in the end, as Steiner's legacy. This is because The Philosophy of Freedom is about the "method" of gaining knowledge and being ethical while his later work is Steiner's own "result". While the method endures the results will change over time. As a path of development it is also complete within itself in that it contains all the fundamental principles of freedom. Its study is a thought-training exercise to develop the new thinking sought in our age.
"History cannot show one pioneer who is worth the digesting of absolutely everything. Isaac Newton won't be remembered for his speculations about the Apocalypse of St. John. Steiner is not interesting because of his faults, but because of his project: To create a bridge between insights that until now have been reserved for religion and faith, and modern scientific reason. He wanted to rescue the individual and its humanness from drowning in foggy spiritualism as well as in stiffened materialism." Peter Normann Waage
Much of Steiner's work after 1900 is culturally dated to specific people at a certain point in time, and may not have even been intended for the general public 100 years later for this reason, but the Philosophy of Freedom is meant to endure if Steiner's legacy is to endure. This website is dedicated to informing the world of Steiner's realization, that human morality, like human knowledge, is conditional upon human nature. It is a humanist path to freedom, that has potentially wide appeal from atheists to religious, from individual to community, from thinker to doer.
While the loss of interest in theosophical terminology, promotion of outdated spiritual paths and practices, New Age kookiness, lecturing based on blind faith in Steiner (Steinerism) and authoritarian governance has lead to declining membership in the Anthroposophical Society, interest in the Philosophy of Freedom grows and maintains respect, even from Steiner's fiercest critics. The Philosophy of Freedom awakens a person to realize that lionized teachers and authoritarian leaders "are just human beings as weak as themselves".
"The trouble is The Philosophy of Freedom has not been read in the different way I have been describing. That is the point, and a point that must be sharply stressed if the development of the Anthroposophical Society is not to fall far behind anthroposophy itself. If it does fall behind, anthroposophy's conveyance through the society will result in its being completely misunderstood, and its only fruit will be endless conflict!" Rudolf Steiner
Without a strong foundation in the science and pure conceptual reasoning described in The Philosophy of Freedom, a seeker of truth may be tempted to submit to some assumed universal will, be drawn to the comforting warmth of yesterdays feeling mysticism, or become lost in the speculative metaphysics now being associated with Steiner. For examples of how anything today is called "anthroposophical" look through the book catalog at SteinerBooks. I'm not sure whether to call it New Age or a journey backward into bygone religion and mysticism.
"Too many seeking experience in all sorts of unclear paths, nebulous mystical approaches, attached themselves to what anthroposophy was trying to achieve in clarity. This group of people attracted the attention of a lot of ill-disposed persons who now attack what people with whom I have no connection whatsoever have been saying. But in these attacks they attribute to 'me' what these vague mystics have produced as their own twisted version of something intended to meet the urgent needs of our modern culture. What is needed is the brightest clarity in everything that has to do with thinking, not vague mysticism.” Rudolf Steiner
The 21st Century
Has the age of The Philosophy of Freedom finally arrived? Young people today have shown a great enthusiasm for the ideas found in Steiner's freedom philosophy. It is a generation with scientific interest and spiritual instincts attracted to the principles found in The Philosophy of Freedom such as ethical individualism, individualistic truth, humanist ethics, intuitive insight through clear reasoning, acting out of love for the deed, self-determination, open-mindedness, "live and let live", and free community without the control of authoritarian leadership.
What is “special” about the book's thoughts and thought structure?
”For in the case of a book like this, the important thing is so to organize the thoughts it contains that they take effect. With many other books it doesn’t make a great deal of difference if one shifts the sequence, putting this thing first and that later. But in the case of The Philosophy of Freedom that is impossible.”
“Within this book thinking is experienced in a way that makes it impossible for a person involved in it to have any other impression, when he is living in thought, he is living in the cosmos. This relatedness to cosmic mysteries is the red thread running through the book.”
What is the "proper" way to study this book?
”Now what kind of reader approach did The Philosophy of Freedom count on? It had to assume a special way of reading. It expected the reader, as they read, to undergo the sort of inner experience that, in an external sense, is really like waking up out of sleep in the morning.”
“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.”
“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.”
What results can be expected from study?
”The book is a structured organism, and to work one’s way through the thoughts it contains is to undergo an inner training. A person to who this has not happened as a result of study need not conclude what I am saying is incorrect, but rather he has not read it correctly or worked hard and thoroughly enough.”
“Catharsis is an ancient term for the purification of the astral body by means of meditation and concentration exercises. If a reader takes this book as it was meant and relates to it in the way a virtuoso playing a composition on the piano relates to its composer, reproducing the whole piece out of himself, the books organically evolved thought sequence will bring about a high degree of catharsis.”
Who is Involved
This website began in 2005 and is independent of the Anthroposophical Society or any other group. The sites content is determined by those who make the effort to contribute to it. All are welcome to post something. If you would like a more active role use the contact form and create a role for yourself. Early developers were Tom Last, illustrator; Lori Perry; organic farmer; Jay Harms, anthroposophical physician; and webmaster Luke Last.
What Does This Website Offer
Rudolf Steiner has been recognized by many as "the initiate of our age" and the Philosophy of Freedom has been called a "modern temple where self-knowledge may be found", yet it is largely unknown, has been ignored or misunderstood. To help get the word out about Rudolf Steiner and his path these projects have been supported:
- Online Community
- Production of Videos
- Philosophy of Freedom Educational Comics
- Work toward a new English translation based on the original Philosophy of Freedom
- Free Philosophy of Freedom Study Course
- Online Self Study Group
- Online Live Voice Study Group
- Local In-person Study Groups
How Can I Get Involved
- Train your mind by studying The Philosophy of Freedom
- Register to the website.
- Get involved in current projects
- Contribute work by producing videos, writing Journals, opening an online Art Gallery, or organizing a study group.
- Become a featured writer with regular Journals about POF.
- Report corrections or website malfunctions
- Propose a website staff position for yourself
- Spread the word to your friends through email or by posting links
- Make A Donation
- Use the “contact” email or call to discuss your ideas.
Fair Use Notice
The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.
For more information go to: law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.
Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and Anthrophilosophy
theosophy: divine wisdom (God)
anthroposophy: human wisdom (Guru)
anthrophilosophy: human love of wisdom (Individual)
Anthroposophy is powered by the intuitive insight of Rudolf Steiner as a Guru who answers the questions of others.
Anthrophilosophy is powered by the intuitive insight of the individual, individualistic knowledge that answers the questions that arise within the individual. The Philosophy of Freedom points to the experience of the path of knowledge, the individual question and answer process overcomes our separation and integrates the individual into the world.
Rudolf Steiner's work appears in two phases; as a free spirited philosopher he struggled to answer the questions that arose within himself on his path to freedom, and later as a mystic and guru who was to guide others. This website is focused on Steiner's path to free himself (18-39 age, up to 1899), before he converted to theosophy. (1900-1925).
Nature, society and of course the individual himself contribute to human development. Nature makes us a natural being, society makes us a law-abiding being, but it is up to each one of us to make ourselves a free being. Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy is more concerned with the first two, working with nature and social institutions. Using his gift of clairvoyance as an instrument for science, Steiner was able to discover fundamental lawfulness applicable to many established fields. These laws of nature and spirit fill the vast anthroposophical library ready to renew the institutions of society: agriculture, art, education, medicine, science, religion, government etc.
Anthro-philosophy is focused on free individuality, the pursuit of freedom leading to the self-determined individual who creates his own laws. Nothing in nature or society can give us freedom. This is something we can only give to ourselves. The brief outline within The Philosophy Of Freedom presents a philosophy of life empowered by ones own intuitive insight.
For example, the anthroposophist Waldorf teacher will strictly apply Rudolf Steiner's principles of education. The anthro-philosophist educator is not limited to these principles, but will select, according to his own intuitive insight, from all the principles of education he is aware of and may even develop his own principles.