Motivated by the interest given by this site to my partial (working) translation of Herbert Witzenmann's valuable exposition on the POF, I updated my introduction, improved the already translated text and translated the first paragraph of the second chapter today, which can be found underneath as well as on


The unity of form and content as meditative soul guidance/ The compositional basis of the two parts/ The “word” character of the “Philosophy of Freedom”/ The merit and nature of psychic observation or introspection/ The compositional arrangement of the two main parts of the work.


First a summary will be given of the afore-going indications that are now to be substantiated in detail. The composition of the “Philosophy of Freedom” does not follow the rules normally applied to literary constructions. The value of such rules is not to be denied and for this work they are of secondary importance as well. Compositionally of essence for the subject of this study, however, is the coincidence of its form and its content in a third factor, which does not appear through the means of expression but only in the experience of the reader. This factor, which is not representable by letters but only to be evoked, receives its living strength from the correspondence between de structure of what is presented and its content. The content of this book is on the one hand the nature of reality, and on the other hand the nature of the human being whose calling is to become free. It describes the emergence of freedom and reality from the same root.

From this embracing compositional principle proceed also the individual parts of the presentation. Though this formal attribute is not explicitly indicated as such in the expositions of the content, it ensues from the content itself, the arrangement of which it determines. The formal characteristic of the chapters emerges all the more clearer from their conceptional interrelationship. This is therefore not just a logical one; the mere logical train of thought could also take another course. Instead, logical and aesthetic principle intersect each other in the composition of the work, since both are subservient to the superior principle of its reality- and spirit-based organization. By virtue of the fact that the author, through this art of presentation, offers the reader the possibility to participate in the gradual unfoldment of the text as a happening that does not only belong to the subjective representations of the author, but that represents reality itself through its structural-compositional correspondence  with it, all factors of the soul life of the one thus approached (next to mentally representing also his feeling and willing) are addressed and set in motion. The reader is being confronted in the totality of his humanity with the natural as well as his own reality and invited to enter into their realm. The reading thereby becomes an exercise in meditation, and this all the more so as the inexpressibility of the expression in its inner reenactment becomes conscious. The thus experientially achieved reunion with reality that in the mentally representing faculty of the present-day human being has faded into a schema, is the eye-opener for the higher spiritual world above which the world of the senses spreads its veil. In which way the “Philosophy of Freedom” as aesthetic-meditative soul guidance, as a conceptional work of art is the most reliable and trustworthy guide to the threshold where essence and appearance part, that is what now shall be gradually developed. 


This contemplation first turns to the two main parts of the “Philosophy of Freedom”. The compositional significance of the other parts shall be viewed later.

Information about the viewpoints under which the main content of the work in both main parts “Science of Freedom” and “The Reality of Freedom” are arranged is given above all by the Preface to the New Edition (1918) and the First Addition to its third part, “The Consequences of Monism”, in the new edition, i.e. remarks placed at the beginning and at the end of the whole text.

The preface to the new edition points to the two “basic questions of the life of the human soul”, towards which everything is directed what is to be addressed by this book. One of these basic questions concerns the search for a fixed point within the human being, the other concerns that most essential of the manifestations coming forth from such a point, if the latter exists. “One is: Is it possible to find a view of the essential nature of man such as will give us a foundation for everything else that comes to meet us — whether through life experience or through science — which we feel is otherwise not self-supporting and therefore liable to be driven by doubt and criticism into the realm of uncertainty? The other question is this: Is man entitled to claim for himself freedom of will, or is freedom a mere illusion begotten of his inability to recognize the threads of necessity on which his will, like any natural event, depends? […]This book is intended to show that the experiences which the second problem causes man's soul to undergo depend upon the position he is able to take up towards the first problem. An attempt is made to prove that there is a view of the nature of man's being which can support the rest of knowledge; and further, that this view completely justifies the idea of free will, provided only that we have first discovered that region of the soul in which free will can unfold itself.”

In the first addition to the third part of the book “The Consequences of Monism” the following words are found: “The second part of this book (“The Reality of Freedom”) finds its natural support in the first part. This presents intuitive thinking as man's inwardly experienced spiritual activity. To understand this nature of thinking by experiencing it amounts to a knowledge of the freedom of intuitive thinking. And once we know that this thinking is free, we can also see to what region of the will freedom may be ascribed. We shall regard man as a free agent if, on the basis of inner experience, we may attribute a self-sustaining essence to the life of intuitive thinking. Whoever cannot do this will never be able to discover a path to the acceptance of freedom that cannot be challenged in any way. This experience, to which we have attached such importance, discovers intuitive thinking within consciousness, although the reality of this thinking is not confined to consciousness. And with this it discovers freedom as the distinguishing feature of all actions proceeding from the intuitions of consciousness.”

These two indications characterize the relation between both main parts of the work. The first main part describes how the human being emerges from reality and what sort of relation he can assume with regard to it. The second main part describes how the human being can produce out of himself a self-induced reality and what significance this has for the evolution of the world.

There is thus an inverse relationship between both parts; the first part describing the emergence of the human being from existing reality, the second part a new reality arising out of the human being.

From a knowledge of the text and also in view of the afore-mentioned, it may be objected that the theme of the emergence of reality out of the human being, namely its origin in the human act of knowledge, is already to be found in the first part. This objection is only justified, however, in so far as it concerns the ideational-functional intertwining of both parts; it concerns furthermore two different sorts of reality. The cognitional reenactment of the real through the union of percept and concept becomes conscious of reality with the knowledge of each thing or being. In this way, however, the human being also becomes conscious of his own emergence from reality. For cognition gives insight into the natural foundations of human existence, the origin of his physical organism out of matter and processes derived from the kingdoms of nature. Knowledge in its acts, however, is at the same time self-realization. For in the co-formation of reality the human being forms himself as a spiritual being, thus experiencing also the spiritual part of his being in its emergence from the real. This genesis is at the same time, however, also the origin of his faculty for ideational intuitions, from which the new reality sphere of his freedom arises. In that realm the human being moreover also experiences the continuing influence of the original nature-like reality-forming powers. For it is from them that he creates his libertarian being, yet in such a way that he reshapes them in his own being and thereby imparting them a new form-of-being. Thus the formation of reality and freedom interpenetrate each other in both main parts of the work, yet in a different manner.  By the characterization of these parts, it is therefore good to turn one’s gaze, on the one hand, upon  the emergence of the human being from reality, and on the other hand upon the emergence of reality from the human being.

Even though both parts of the “Philosophy of Freedom” unfold their presentation task in a manner that every time, although from different points of view, blends the whole realm of human existence, it is nevertheless in both cases another mode of expression of the total human being that determines the basic character of its remarks. The conceptional development about the “Science of Freedom” in the first part is directed towards the willing human being, that about the “Reality of Freedom” in the second part of the book towards the knowing human being. Both ideations therefore run absolutely counter to a literal superficial understanding of the text. The basic stance of the first part is very clearly marked by the passages already cited: that a “complete justification” for the idea of the freedom of the will can be attained, “if only first the realm of the soul is found, on which the free will can be unfolded”, and that the first part of the work describes “intuitive thinking as inward spiritual activity of the human being.” The basic thought that runs through these deliberations is one of productive-coproductive cognition that is not confronted with a ready-made pre-given reality (either reproducing or even only affected), but that lets this emerge in its process under its own co-emergence. This presentation appeals to the willingness to observe and think and is therefore a schooling of the will, suited to a modern mode of consciousness, a path of training on the meditative culture of spiritual activity. The second part of the work dedicated to “The Reality of Freedom” turns on the other hand to the cognizant human being.  It gives an overview about the motivational structure of volition and how a new cultural impulse arising out of free deeds can be integrated into the old nature-like and nature-based world. Such a situational knowledge is required by the human being, who is developing  his cognitional practice, if he does not wish to wind up on detours or false paths.

 That the chapter about “The Idea of Freedom” belongs to the second part of the work is consistent with this characteristic. The chapter about “The Human Individuality” that corresponds with it (according to the symmetry of the textual construction developed in the following pages) is found on the other hand in the first part of the work. The through his cognitional practice self-realizing human individuality becomes fully conscious of the essential features and significance of its deeds when it apprehends the idea of freedom in a world and man overlapping overview.

What is noteworthy by both afore-mentioned cited attributes, which Rudolf Steiner himself has given about the relation between both main parts, is the symmetry of his remarks. The statement in the preface to the new edition at the beginning of the text  corresponds with the second addition that Rudolf Steiner added to the third part of his work. After the remarks in the preface to the new edition about the two fundamental questions  that determine the arrangement of the content and composition of his work, he proceeds to indicate its relation to the spiritual world of experience. He designates the task that he gave himself as the proof “to show that open-minded consideration simply of the two questions I have indicated and which are fundamental for every kind of knowledge, leads to the view that man lives in the midst of a genuine spiritual world.” He who strives for certainty in the realm of the spiritual world of experience will not be able to do without this justification.

In the second addition that Rudolf Steiner placed at the end of his book, this remark corresponds to the following, “In intuitively experienced thinking man is carried into a spiritual world also as perceiver. Within this spiritual world, whatever confronts him as percept in the same way that the spiritual world of his own thinking does will be recognized by him as a world of spiritual perception. This world of spiritual perception could be seen as having the same relationship to thinking that the world of sense perception has on the side of the senses. Once experienced, the world of spiritual perception cannot appear to man as something foreign to him, because in his intuitive thinking he already has an experience which is purely spiritual in character. Such a world of spiritual perception is discussed in a number of writings which I have published since this book first appeared. The Philosophy of Freedom forms the philosophical foundation for these later writings. For it tries to show that the experience of thinking, when rightly understood, is in fact an experience of spirit.” 

(To be continued)

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© Tom Last 2017