page contents

Philosophy Of Freedom Translations


Science of Freedom

The Philosophy of Freedom is the result of introspective observation following the methods of natural science.

“I was not setting forth a doctrine, but simply recording inner experiences through which I had actually passed. And I reported them just as I experienced them.”

“What I was really trying to do in The Philosophy of Freedom was to locate freedom empirically and thus put it on a solidly scientific basis.” Rudolf Steiner

The original 1894 edition of The Philosophy Of Freedom has gone through many revisions and translations over the years that have detracted from Steiner's original mood and intention for writing the book. That mood is found in the original preface to the book, The Goal Of Knowledge.

Thank you publishers and translators
I would like to thank all the publishers and translators who have made Rudolf Steiner's "The Philosophy Of Freedom" available to the world. Each translation adds a slightly different perspective of the book allowing the reader to check other translations for help to understand a particular passage.


Note: There are two editions of The Philosophy Of Freedom. The original edition written by Steiner in 1894 and translated to English in 1916 by Prof. and Mrs. R. F. Alfred Hoernlé and the revised edition of 1918. All the available translations are not of the original edition, but rather of the 1918 revised edition, except the 1916 Hoenle.

10 English Translations Of Rudolf Steiner's "The Philosophy Of Freedom"

Translation Summary: The first English translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom was published in 1916 by Hoernle, who was a respected philosophy scholar of that time. This is the only edition sanctioned by Rudolf Steiner himself. After Steiner’s passing, a once head of the Anthroposophical Society, the Hermann Poppelbaum was published, a copy of the Hoernle, except for revising some key terms “from the strictly Steiner point of view”. Poppelbaum’s 1939 translation replaces Hoernle’s clearer philosophy terms with vague spiritual terms like changing “mind” to the vague term “spirit”. This vagueness makes it very difficult to do the inner observations described in the book. All the following translations were heavily influenced by the insertion of Poppelbaum’s “Steinerism”. Steinerism refers to the rigid, traditional beliefs and opinions held by the long time followers of Steiner.

The next 2 translations, the 1963 Stebbing and the 1964 Wilson, are based on Poppelbaum's revised Hoernle. They make minor word selection changes but without really advancing the understanding. Then in 1986 Lindeman produces the ultimate literal translation of the German. It is hard to read but gives insight into the original German. This is followed by the most liberal translation, the more readable 1988 Stebbing. But a few years later in 1992, Stebbing backtracks by removing the liberal parts and replaces them with more traditional wording. It has been difficult to make progress through the many English translations of The Philosophy Of Freedom because when a translator produces a more readable line, it is "corrected" by reverting back to the rigid style that mirrors the awkward German.

Referring to the 1986 Lindeman, in 1995 Lipson’s translation, sold in bookstores today titled Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path, mainly tries to be different by rephrasing and selecting alternate words to use. He also removes gender bias by always using collective terms like “we” and “us”. This seems awkward in a book about individualism. It often has more readable sentences, but by trying to always be “different” the alternative words selected by Lipson are not always the best words. A remarkable translation is the 2011 Graham Rickett. It is buried in another book and has only been half completed. While it is usually not much more readable than the others, it is very good in taking on the difficult sentences in the book. Rickett thinks before he translates, and makes sense of difficult parts others just copy from previous editions. I find the Hoernle, Lipson and Rickett the most useful.

The new translation currently being written is based on the original Hoernle without the later insertion of Steinerism theosophy. But it also includes all of the progress made by a century of translations. The process used is to study all the translations to be guided to the experience Steiner is describing. Then from this experience, refer back to the German and all the existing translations to arrive at the best readable description of this experience. So the new translation is not primarily based on the German, it is based on experience. But it is also grounded in the German by referring to the German and other translations.

1894 Steiner Die Philosophie der Freiheit. Grundzuege einer modernen Weltanschauung. Seelische Beobachtungsrelultate nach naturwissenschaftlicher Methode, by Rudolf Steiner, German language editions: 1894, ISBN 3-7274-0040-4,
1916 Hoernle 1st English edition, The Philosophy of Freedom, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, 1916, translated from the original German edition of 1894 by Mr. and Mrs. R. F. A. Hoernle
1918 Steiner Revised, Rudolf Steiner revises and makes additions to the original Die Philosophie der Freiheit, German language editions: 1918, 1921, 1929, 1936, 1936, 1940, 1947, 1949, 1949, 1955, 1962, 1973, 1978, 1995 ISBN 3-7274-0040-4,
1922 Hoernle 2nd English edition, revised to include Steiner's changes and additions made in the revised second German edition of 1918, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, 1922, 382 pp., translated by Prof. and Mrs. R. F. A. Hoernle, 1932 edition
1939 Poppelbaum 4th edition revisions made  by Dr. H. Poppelbaum to the Hoernle translation of the revised German edition of 1918, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, and Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1939, 260 pp., 1940 5th edition, 1949 6th edition
1963 Stebbing The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Rudolf Steiner Publications, West Nyack, New York, 1963, 1980, 285 pp., translated from the revised German edition of 1918 by Rita Stebbing. This edition is bound together with Truth and Science.
1964 Wilson The Philosophy of Freedom, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1964, 1970, 1972, 1979, 230 pp., translated from the 12th German edition of 1962 by Michael Wilson
1986 Lindemann The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, N. Y., 1986, translated from the revised German edition of 1918 by William Lindemann ISBN 0-88010-157-1, Cloth ISBN 0-88010-156-3, Paper
1988 Stebbing The Philosophy of Freedom: A Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1988, translated from the revised German edition of 1918 by Rita Stebbing ISBN 0-85440-736-7, Cloth ISBN 0-85440-746-4, Paper ISBN 0-85584-000-6, Cloth
1992 Stebbing The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity: A Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1992, translated from the revised German edition of 1918 by Rita Stebbing ISBN 0-85440-736-7, Cloth ISBN 0-85440-746-4, Paper ISBN 0-85584-000-6, Cloth
1995 Lipson Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path, A Philosophy of Freedom, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson NY, 1995,translated from the revised German edition of 1918 by M. Lipson ISBN 0-88010-385-X, Paper
2011 Rickett The Philosophy Of Freedom translated by Graham B. Rickett, (part 1 done).
Rickett's English translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom is found within his translation of G. A. Bondarev's book: Rudolf Steiner's 'Philosophie der Freiheit' as the Foundation of the Logic of Beholding Thinking. Religion of the Thinking Will. Organon of the New Cultural Epoch. (vol 1 & 2 of 3 done)
NEW Translation (currently being written and posted on this website)

Note on the English Translations
Two 1895 Philosophy Of Freedom Book Reviews

Reference Material
Text with Reference Material
1883 Goethean Science  Online  PDF  GA1-EPUB  GA1-MOBI
1886 Science of Knowing  Online   PDF  GA2-EPUB  GA2-MOBI
1892 Truth and Science   Online   PDF  GA3-EPUB   GA3-MOBI

The Philosophy Of Freedom in other languages:

Greek  Online  PDF

La Filosofía de La Libertad
Spanish Online  PDF

Философия свободы
Russian Online

A szabadság filozófiája
Hungarian Online

La Filosofia Della Liberta'
Italian  PDF Part 1   PDF Part 2


Die Philosophie der Freiheit by Rudolf Steiner

Ethical Humanism: The Die Philosophie der Freiheit presents a science of freedom expressed in ethical individualism. It was written for those interested in science who are striving to “live and let live” as free ethical humanists, including those who may not have an interest in Steiner's later spiritualism.

“this book occupies a position completely independent of my writings on actual spiritual scientific matters... What I have said in this book may be acceptable even to some who, for reasons of their own, refuse to have anything to do with the results of my researches into the spiritual realm.”  Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom, 1918 Preface to the Revised Edition

Translations Based On Original Edition (1894) of the Philosophy Of Freedom

The Philosophy Of  Freedom translated by Prof. and Mrs. R. F. Alfred Hoernlé.
Online   PDF   Mobi   EPUB  Purchase

Illustrated Edition
Online   PDF   Mobi   EPUB

Reference: 1894 German
This first English translation of Rudolf Steiner's Die Philosophie der Freiheit is distinct in that it is the only translation actually sanctioned by Rudolf Steiner himself. The joint translators, Prof. and Mrs. R. F. Alfred Hoernlé, were selected for their outstanding qualifications.

“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.” H. Collison, 1916 Editor’s Note, The Philosophy of Freedom

This 1916 Hoernlé translation is based on the original, unrevised German Die Philosophie der Freiheit published in 1894. The other translations, available up to now, are not based on the original Die Philosophie der Freiheit, instead they are based on the 1918 revised edition. Hoernle incorporated the revisions into his 1922 edition.

I have found no evidence in his translation or in his life that Hoernlé had any interest in theosophy or in Steiner's later anthrposophy. R. F. Alfred Hoernlé was trained in philosophy at Oxford and taught it at Harvard. He was familiar with the philosophical issues of Steiner's day. A review of Hoernlé's book Studies in Contemporary Metaphysics (1920) said he had a flexible and assimilative mind and:

“He has had quite exceptional opportunities for seeing contemporary philosophies in the making and for understanding, from personal experience, how far a set of philosophical opinions can bear transplanting from one country to another... a very staunch believer in the truth of the philosophical tradition.” 1921 Oxford University Press

Strength: Translation true to Steiner's original intention using the language of philosophy and science.

NEW 2016 Centennial Edition
          ---work in progress---

New Edition Page

Reference: 1922 Hoernlé English translation and all previous translations.
2016 will mark 100 years since the original unrevised edition of The Philosophy Of Freedom first appeared in the English language (1916 Hoernlé translation). Over the years the translations have drifted away from Steiner's original impulse from a philosophy of life to a supposed basis for research into spiritual worlds. It is time to restore it and publish a new improved edition based on the original intention:"to lay the foundations of ethical individualism and of a social and political life".

This is a online project that intends to improve the readability of The Philosophy Of Freedom with a new revised edition of the 1922 Hoernle English edition.

Strength: Restoration of original mood and intention. Improve readability.


Die Philosophie der Freiheit (Revised Edition) by Rudolf Steiner

1894 German (original edition)  online  PDF
1918 German (revised edition)  online  ?? Hornle's later 1922 English trans. is not based on the content of this edition as obvious 1918 revisions are missing, which creates a mystery. How is this possible?
1962 German (revised edition)  online
1995 German (revised edition)  online

Rudolf Steiner revised the original German text twenty-five years later. The Philosophy of Freedom presents Steiner's ideas and experience from the first period of his life. In 1900 Steiner entered the second period of his life and his work took a new direction. He began lecturing on his clairvoyant research into spiritual realms to the Theosophical Society (later the Anthroposophical Society). This new direction likely led to his 1918 additions and revisions to the book to try and put it into more of a theosophical context.

He also suggested an English name change sounding more spiritualistic; The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity. These changes make sense if the reader is familiar with the terminology of theosophy, but adds a lot of difficulty for those who are not familiar with theosophy or interested in it. The book is moved away from a general public interested in science to a small group of theosophists.

Translations Based On Revised Edition (1918) of the Philosophy Of Freedom

The Philosophy Of Freedom (The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity) translated by Prof. and Mrs. R. F. Alfred Hoernlé
Online  PDF-1  PDF-2

Reference: 1918 German
Hoernlé revised his earlier edition to incorporate the new Steiner additions and revisions. 

The Philosophy Of Freedom (The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity) translated by George Metaxa

There is no Metaxa translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom. There is a PDF online that claims to be such, but it is really the 1963 Rita Stebbing translation. The Index page of the mis-titled PDF is pictured here.

In 1918 George Metaxa was well known in Dornach where he fully participated in the life of the Anthroposophical Society as a eurythmy composer, contributor and leader. In 1923 he worked on the reorganization of the Society and raising funds for the rebuilding of the Goetheanum.

The Philosophy Of Freedom (The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity) translated by Hermann Poppelbaum 

Online   PDF

Reference: 1922 Hoernle
The influence of theosophy continued in 1939 with revisions made to the Hoernlé translation by theosophist/ anthroposophist Hermann Poppelbaum, one time Director of the Anthroposophical Society. While recognizing the excellence of the Hoernlé translation, Poppelbaum's aim was to correct it according to the Society’s developing institutionalization on Steiner thought. Poppelbaum's objective was to,   

“check certain words and phrases from the strictly Steiner point of view." 1939 The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity, Editor's Preface to the Fourth Edition

Strength: Raises awareness to the difficulty in translating "Idee" and "Vorstellung", where Hoernlé mainly used "idea". Idea, representation or mental picture are used to translate "Vorstellung" depending on which translator you read. Hoernle revises the book to try and fit it into theosophy terminology creating confusion and leading it away from science. All following translations by anthroposophists follow his lead. 


The Philosophy Of Freedom (The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity) translated by Rita Stebbing
Online   PDF   DOC

Reference: 1939 Poppelbaum
There appears to be a collaboration between Stebbing and the 1964 Michael Wilson translation. Wilson thanks Stebbing for her translation suggestions in his Introduction. The Stebbing incorporates the revisions in the Wilson and then goes further with more revisions that are more liberal. It seems they worked together to produce US and UK editions. Though they mostly just copied the Hoernle as Poppelbaum did.

Strength: This Stebbing translation seems to be the American version of the Wilson UK translation, Her next try in 1988 is more liberal, where she makes a bold effort to use more plain talk. In the end, her 3rd translation of 1992, she recants these revisions for some reason and replaces them with the traditional translation lines.

The Philosophy Of Freedom translated by Michael Wilson
Online   PDF

Reference: 1963 Stebbing
Michael Wilson clearly explains the task of the anthroposophist translator:

“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.” 1964 The Philosophy of Freedom, Introduction by translator Michael Wilson

Strength: The Wilson, Stebbing and Poppelbaum translations are for the most part copies of the Hoernle with very few revisions. The popular Wilson edition adds more of UK traditional old time English style.

The Philosophy Of Freedom translated by William Lindeman
Online   PDF

Reference: 1918 German
This is a literal translation of text almost “word for word” from German to English, lacks any readability. The translator, as with most anthroposophists, has a strong spiritualistic and Christ centered views in regards to cognition.

"The goal of this translation is to give the reader an experience as close as possible to that presented by the original book." (meaning an experience  as close as possible to the German language in the 1918 revised edition). William Lindeman, Translator's Appendix

Strength: This is the first new translation since the Hoernle. It is the most unreadable since it is a literal translation attempting to be a word for word copy. Its a great reference as it is the closest to the literal German so you can spot where other translators add more or less than what is in the German.

The Philosophy Of Freedom (A Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity) translated by Rita Stebbing
Online   PDF

Reference: 1963 Stebbing
Rita Stebbing has written that the freedom discussed in The Philosophy of Freedom has more to do with one's relationship with the Being Of Christ in her The Philosophy of Freedom As A Path To Self-Knowledge. This is the only bold liberal translation done by anybody, to put it in words the reader can understand and relate to. It likely upset the Steiner literalists so you can't find the book. Stebbing recants this edition and her next 1992 translation is more like her 1963 effort. In the 1992 she removes all the liberal lines and replaces them with the tradition translation lines.   

Strength: This is the most liberal plain talk edition and is the easiest to read. Though her boldness leads to some more controversial interpretations. Boldness and independent thinking does not fit well within the elderly circles of strict traditionalism found in anthroposophy. Rather than improving this edition she abandoned it in 1992.

The Philosophy Of Freedom (The Philosophy Of Spiritual Activity) translated by Rita Stebbing
Online   PDF

Reference: 1963 Stebbing
This is Stebbings third translation. The 1963 has minor revisions to the Hoernle. The 1988 is the most liberal of all the translations. Her 1992 pulls back the 1988 so it again fits in as another traditional translation.

Strength: Stebbing edits out the liberal parts of her 1988 translation bringing it back to the traditional mainstream. At this time the Wilson is the most popular until heavy marketing and distribution by the publisher makes the new 1995 Lipson the dominate translation.


The Philosophy Of Freedom (Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path) translated by Michael Lipson
Online  AudioBook   PDF

Reference: 1986 Lindeman
Zen Buddhist and Anthroposophist Michael Lipson brings a Zen philosophy to his translation by avoiding attachment to words. Lipson's flexibility with words permits him to re-title the book Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path:

“By approaching Steiner through inadequate and changing English terms, we are the more likely to face the inadequacy of all terms, and leap to his meaning.” Michael Lipson, 1995 Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path, Translator's Introduction

Strength: Lipson's translation is new but seems most of all an attempt to be different. Gender neutral translation, written in more modern American English such as replacing "which" with "that" are new. Though I found it impossible to sustain a "we" plural gender neutral style in a book about individuality. When key words are compared to the Lindeman translation, Lipson appears to come up with a different key word in the sentences and he likes to rephrase. By trying to be different his terms and phrasing are a second choice and may not be best. This does make it a good reference as you will likely find he rewords it differently from your current edition. But as I say, he prefers being different more than selecting the clearest and best way, so the book is often difficult to understand.

The Philosophy Of Freedom (‘Die ‘Philosophie der Freiheit) translated by Graham B. Rickett

Reference: 1995 Lipson
Rickett's English translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom is found within his 3 volume translation of  G. A. Bondarev's book:
Rudolf Steiner's 'Philosophie der Freiheit' as the Foundation of the Logic of Beholding Thinking. Religion of the Thinking Will. Organon of the New Cultural Epoch. 

2011  Vol. 1 Chapter 1
2013  Vol. 2 Chapters 2-7
          Vol. 3 Chapters 8-14 (in progress)

Strength: A new independent translation that is uninterested in repeating past translations. Rickett understands this is a science book. Rickett takes on the difficult sentences and patiently with great insight into the meaning finds a way to translate them in a new clear way. Fantastic translation. He also has a grasp of subtle distinctions that are brought to light with the selection of the right word. Though sometimes his translation of many of the easier parts are not as readable.

Rickett has been involved in Rudolf Steiner's work for a long time. He was one of the 11 students in the first class that began Emerson College in 1962.

Note: Gennady Bondarev's 'Organon' is an introduction to Anthroposophical Methodology and a complete analysis of Rudolf Steiner's 'Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity)'. The 3 volumes, taken together, contain a completely new translation of 'Die Philosophie der Freiheit' by Graham B. Rickett.

"Bondarev demonstrates that the methodology intrinsic to Anthroposophy is fundamental and capable of unifying all modern sciences as it describes the monistic sensible-supersensible reality. Through its anthropocentric and ontological character, the methodology's actualization implies an evolutionary change of both the human subject and the process of cognition itself. Rudolf Steiner's fundamental epistemological work is thereby shown to be the foundation for the development of a new kind of 'beholding' thinking - what Goethe began to experience and called 'anschauende Urteilskraft'. "

1918 Rudolf Steiner's Brief Reflections on the Publication of the New Edition of 'The Philosophy of Freedom'

What is Freedom? from Truth And Knowledge Practical Conclusion by Rudolf Steiner

Aha The Cognitive Neuroscience Of Insight PDF by John Kounios and Mark Beeman

Goethe, Kant and Intuitive Thinking in Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Spiritual Activity by Michael Muschalle

Conflict Between Heart And Intellect

Individualism In Philosophy 1899 Rudolf Steiner

Individualist Anarchism 1898 Rudolf Steiner

The Being Of The Internet by Sergei Prokofieff (the silliness of Sergei Prokofieff)

The Boundaries of Natural Science VIII by Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner Thoughts About Theosophists And Spiritualists by Rudolf Steiner

© Tom Last 2017
FORM#xn_bar_menu_search{ display: none!important;}