Module 1.0 Question Of Freedom

Science Of Freedom Workbook
"The Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner
Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action


1.0 Question Of Freedom
[1] Is a human being free in thought and action, or compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law? Few questions have been the focus of so much ingenuity. The Idea of freedom has many enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents.


Moral zealots accuse anyone of being narrow-minded who can deny so obvious a fact as freedom. They are opposed by scientific thinkers who regard it as the height of ignorance for anyone to believe the uniformity of natural law to be suspended in the field of human action and thought. The same thing is as often called humanity's most precious possession as its worst illusion. Endless distinctions are used to explain how freedom can be compatible with determinism in nature. Man, after all, is a part of nature. No less effort has gone into explaining how this delusion could arise.

The importance of the question of freedom for life, religion, conduct, and science is felt by anyone with any depth of character.

Mood Of Occultism
In Rudolf Steiner's Human And Cosmic Thought lectures he describes 12 worldviews or standpoints. Steiner goes on to show that in addition there are 7 principal soul moods with which one may color one's foundation. These are more concerned with the way one actively pursues knowledge rather than the ground upon which one stands. Each chapter in The Philosophy Of Freedom expresses one of these 7 moods which is clearly indicated in the chapter introduction.

Steiner describes the mood of Occultism this way:
“The essential nature of things is beyond the range of ordinary human knowledge.”
“One may experience red or blue, or this or that sound, ever so intensely; nothing of this expresses the hidden being of the thing. My perception never makes contact with this hidden being.”
"the standpoint that in external sense-appearance, in Maya, the essential nature of things does not find expression."
“This world is Maya, and one must seek the inner being of things by another way than through external sense-perception and the ordinary means of cognition.”
"the scientists are occultists when they talk of “atoms”. The atom remains in the occult."
Rudolf Steiner, Human And Cosmic Thought lectures

In the mood of Occultism, the pursuit of knowledge diverges from conventional methods reliant on external sense-perception and standard cognitive processes. Instead, it emphasizes what is considered to be hidden from ordinary human understanding. This viewpoint suggests that what we perceive through our senses or understand through standard cognition is merely the "surface" or a facade, often referred to as "Maya" in this context. In this mood the "inner being" or the "essential nature" of things is hidden.

In this perspective, things like color or sound, though intensely experienced, don't touch upon the hidden, deeper aspects of reality. They are not considered expressions of the thing's intrinsic nature. Thus, traditional scientific methods, which often rely on measurements, observations, and other forms of external sense-perception, are deemed inadequate for acquiring a deep understanding of the world's essence.

In this mood, the pursuit of knowledge may involve unconventional methods such as meditation, introspection, or other forms of inner exploration. The idea is to transcend the limitations imposed by relying solely on sensory perception and ordinary cognition, aiming to touch upon the deeper, hidden aspects of existence. For example, "The Philosophy Of Freedom" is based on introspective observation of the mind, going beyond ordinary sense perception and ordinary cognition to reach a deeper level of scientific research.

So, the mood of Occultism, as a way of actively pursuing knowledge, departs from empirical or analytical methods based on sense perception and seeks alternate routes for understanding the fundamental nature of things. It's a perspective that elevates the hidden or "occult" aspects of reality as the true subject of intellectual and spiritual inquiry.

Chapter 1 Mood Of Occultism
Chapter 1, "Conscious Human Action," expresses the mood of Occultism by exploring questions that seem to evade answers through conventional methods. Each chapter topic raises questions about hidden unconscious compulsions that show our freedom to be an illusion, gradually moving deeper toward hidden aspects of reality that challenges our ordinary ways of understanding the fundamental nature of human existence, including the enigmatic concept of freedom.

Chapter 1 explores the intricate concept of freedom by referring to the words and books of prominent philosophers as "another way" to guide understanding. This can be seen as an expression of the occultist sentiment that "one must seek the inner being of things by another way than through external sense-perception and the ordinary means of cognition." The chapter presents the views of thinkers known for their exceptional intellectual ability to reach deeper levels of understanding. In this context, the philosophic texts serve as an alternative pathway to grasp the elusive and multi-layered nature of freedom. Rather than relying solely on your own personal experiences or empirical observations—considered "ordinary means"—the chapter directs the reader toward a deeper, intellectual inquiry facilitated by the contributions of thinkers who have delved into the subject. This encourages the reader to go beyond the superficial layers of understanding and seek a more profound grasp of freedom, aligning with the occultist aim to understand the "inner being" of things.

The whole of Chapter 1 is in the mood of Occultism, particularly the 1.0 introduction. Here are three quotes from topic 1.0 Question Of Freedom as examples of how the chapter introduction expresses the mood of Occultism in the way it pursues knowledge.

"Is a human being free in thought and action, or compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law?"

Topic 1.0 Question Of Freedom suggests a classic dualism that is foundational to the human experience—freedom vs. determinism. It raises the question of whether human beings can be genuinely free in a world that appears to be ruled by natural laws. This dualistic inquiry aligns with the occultist world-conception by implicitly questioning the adequacy of ordinary human knowledge to grasp the "essential nature of things," including human freedom. If human action is guided by hidden or 'occult' factors beyond mere physical laws or determinism, then we're in a territory that standard sense-perception cannot fully elucidate. This results in numerous theories of freedom without the evidence or arguments that is able to bring consensus.

"Moral zealots accuse anyone of being narrow-minded who can deny so obvious a fact as freedom. They are opposed by scientific thinkers who regard it as the height of ignorance for anyone to believe the uniformity of natural law to be suspended in the field of human action and thought."

The second part of the text expands on the controversy between "moral zealots" and "scientific thinkers," each of whom have distinct perspectives on human freedom. This part resonates with occultism by exploring the limitations of both morality and scientific inquiry in comprehending the nature of human freedom. According to the occultist viewpoint, the essential nature of things—like human freedom—would not be fully captured by either moral or scientific approaches, as these are based on "external sense-perception and the ordinary means of cognition.

Science relies on empirical evidence and logical reasoning, which are considered ordinary means of cognition. Moral zealots, in declaring freedom to be an "obvious fact," also appear to rely on a form of cognition that is grounded in observable phenomena and perhaps social or cultural consensus, also categorized as "ordinary."

In the context of the occultist perspective, both of these approaches would be seen as limited in their ability to fully grasp the "essential nature of things." Science might provide an incomplete picture because it's bound by what can be empirically observed and logically deduced. Moral arguments, while perhaps touching on deeply held human intuitions or beliefs, would also fall short of tapping into the hidden or "occult" aspects of reality, according to this viewpoint.

So, while moral zealots and scientific thinkers might believe they are accessing fundamental truths, the occultist perspective would suggest they are both confined to a more surface-level understanding, incapable of reaching the deeper, hidden layers that lie beyond ordinary perception and cognition.

The mention that "Man, after all, is a part of nature," implicitly questions if our standard ways of understanding nature can ever wholly encompass human behavior or thought. If humans are indeed part of nature but are also capable of actions that seem to defy deterministic laws (like acts of free will), this could challenge our conventional understanding of both human nature and the natural world. Thus, the statement prompts us to wonder whether our typical methods of understanding nature—largely based on external observations and cognitive reasoning—are adequate for explaining the complexities of human thought and action.

"The importance of the question of freedom for life, religion, conduct, and science is felt by anyone with any depth of character."

The third part of the text emphasizes the deep-reaching implications of the question of human freedom. It isn't just a philosophical or theoretical issue; it has ramifications for various aspects of human existence including life choices, religious beliefs, ethical conduct, and even scientific research. These complex, multi-layered issues may exist in a domain that ordinary perception and cognition are not equipped to explore. This multi-layered significance again echoes the occultist perspective by suggesting that the quest for understanding human freedom requires a form of inquiry that transcends ordinary methods.

The term "depth of character" in this context suggests a deeper sensitivity to the profound implications of the question of freedom. This idea resonates with the occultist perspective, which advocates for delving deeper into the "inner being" of things beyond ordinary perception and cognition. A person with "depth of character" is more likely to appreciate the intricate and far-reaching ramifications of freedom in various aspects of human life. The focus is on moving beyond superficial understanding to seek a more profound, comprehensive grasp of the subject at hand.

MODULE 1.0 Question Of Freedom

□ Chapter Theme 1.0 From the illusion of freedom, to questioning freedom.

One of the most profound questions facing humanity is that of freedom. Do we act out of free will or are we mere products of deterministic forces? This polarity pits moral idealists against scientific realists, each group staunch in their perspectives.

One of the most poignant debates in modern education is how a teacher perceives their students – as free beings with innate potential or as empty vessels awaiting content. Some educators, valuing individuality, view students as free beings with innate potential, fostering an environment of open exploration and debate. In contrast, others might see students as "empty vessels," imposing a specific worldview or personal political agenda, which can risk confining students to a preset mold. This dichotomy between nurturing individual freedom and enforcing cultural determinism underscores the vital responsibility educators hold in shaping informed, autonomous thinkers for the future.

In Module 1.0 Question Of Freedom, we delve into this complex issue, exploring the illusion of freedom to a more nuanced questioning of freedom. This is a pivotal step towards making the transition from mere belief to known action.

The illusion of freedom is a state characterized by an uncritical acceptance of freedom as an undeniable fact. It represents a level of consciousness where the complexities of deterministic forces—social conditioning, genetic makeup, environmental influences—are either overlooked or summarily dismissed. Individuals in this state may feel that their decisions are entirely their own, neglecting the multifaceted web of influences that actually shape thought and action.

In contrast, questioning freedom is a state that signifies a willingness to probe deeper into the very nature of human thought and action. It takes into account the deterministic elements that scientific thinkers argue are ever-present. By scrutinizing the notion of freedom against the backdrop of natural laws, one begins to form a more nuanced understanding that straddles both free will and determinism.

Simply believing in freedom as a self-evident truth may satisfy our emotional or philosophical needs, but it falls short of "known action." Known action implies that our deeds are rooted in a cognitive process that takes into consideration both internal and external variables. By questioning the state of our freedom, we apply critical thought to our choices and actions. This opens the door for a type of freedom that is both intellectually substantiated and emotionally satisfying.

The transition from the illusion of freedom to questioning freedom is not merely a change in perspective; it's a cognitive evolution. It adds layers of depth and complexity to our understanding of freedom, thereby enriching the quality of our actions and decisions. Focus on this transition underlines the importance of questioning as a tool for spiritual and intellectual growth, steering us toward the freedom of knowing why we act.

Illusion of Freedom: The naive belief that one's actions are solely the result of free will, ignoring the influence of external factors and deterministic forces.

Questioning Freedom: A critical exploration of the nature of an act of will, considering both free will and deterministic elements to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of why you act.

Known Action
Known action undertaken with full awareness and understanding of the motives and reasons behind it, as opposed to acting on impulse or external influences. In Chapter 1, Conscious Human Action, you begin the process of becoming master of your conduct by fully knowing why you act. "Known Action" refers to the conscious awareness and understanding of the hidden motives, or reason, for acting. A known action is one where we fully grasp the reason behind the act. When our actions are driven by unconscious motives, they remain obscured, resonating with the occultist perspective that there are hidden forces at play in human life. These unconscious motives can exert influence over us in a manner akin to natural impulses, yet they remain concealed from our ordinary perception and cognition. Therefore, to truly act freely would mean not just understanding one's motives in a superficial sense but also unveiling any hidden influences or "occult" forces that might be at play, thus bringing them into the realm of "Known Action."

Scenario: Artistic Style
Stage 1 - Illusion of Freedom: An artist prides themselves on their unique style of painting. They believe their art style, a form of cubism, is a free expression of their individual creativity.
Stage 2 - Questioning Freedom: The artist studies art history and realizes that their style is heavily influenced by great cubist artists like Picasso and Braque. They begin to question whether their artistic style is genuinely their own choice or merely the product of the cultural conditioning they received during their art education.

Scenario: Disciplined Diet
Stage 1 - Illusion of Freedom: An individual prides himself on being exceptionally disciplined with his diet, attributing his consistent healthy eating to his strong willpower and personal choice.
Stage 2 - Questioning Freedom: He learns about research suggesting that gut bacteria can influence dietary choices and cravings, prompting him to question how much of his eating habits were truly his 'free choice' and how much might be driven by biological factors beyond his conscious control.

Scenario: Political Ideology
Stage 1 - Illusion of Freedom: A university student develops a strong belief in a particular political ideology, thinking that he has rationally evaluated different political theories and freely chosen the one that resonates most with him.
Stage 2 - Questioning Freedom: After graduation, upon reflection, he recognizes that his professors primarily held and actively promoted the same political ideology. He begins to question whether his adoption of the ideology was a free choice or the result of academic conditioning and a desire to fit in or to succeed academically.

Scenario: Fashion Choices
Stage 1 - Illusion of Freedom: A young woman believes she freely chooses to follow the latest fashion trends due to her interest in fashion and desire to express her individuality.
Stage 2 - Questioning Freedom: After reading about the psychological and social mechanisms used by the fashion industry to influence consumer behavior, she begins to question whether her 'choices' were truly her own or manipulated by external forces.

Scenario: Math Achievement
Stage 1 - Illusion of Freedom: A young man excels in academics, especially in areas like mathematics and physics, which he attributes to his relentless hard work and discipline. He feels a sense of pride in his achievements, believing that his intelligence is the result of his free choice to study tirelessly and his commitment to learning.
Stage 2 - Questioning Freedom: As he learns more about genetic influences on cognitive abilities, he starts to question the role his genetic predisposition might have played in shaping his intellectual abilities. He learns that studies suggest a significant genetic contribution to variations in IQ.

Scenario: Quantum Questioning
Stage 1 - Illusion of Freedom: A scientist strongly believes in a deterministic universe, viewing every event as a necessary consequence of preceding events based on laws of nature.
Stage 2 - Questioning Freedom: After delving into the uncertainties in quantum mechanics, he starts questioning his deterministic outlook, realizing that the universe might not be as rigidly determined as he once believed. This realization forces him to reevaluate his understanding of freedom and determinism.

"The importance of the question of freedom for life, religion, conduct, and science is felt by anyone with any depth of character."

The establishment of a science of freedom based on Rudolf Steiner's "The Philosophy Of Freedom" would be nothing short of revolutionary. It would bring an empirical lens to the age-old debates about free will, making it as quantifiable and testable as any other scientific field. This would profoundly affect how we understand ourselves and the world around us. Its impact would reverberate through various sectors of human life, making the question of freedom indispensable for anyone with "any depth of character."

Importance To Life: Understanding the mechanics of freedom through this new scientific field would offer individuals a solid foundation for making life-altering decisions. Consider an individual deciding on their career path. The concept of freedom may influence whether they view their choice as solely their own or as being influenced by external factors like societal expectations or familial pressures. They could use principles from this science to weigh the implications of their decisions in terms of their long-term personal growth and freedom, taking more personal responsibility for their life. Parenting styles might shift from authoritative to more collaborative methods, fostering an environment where children are raised in a manner to cultivate freedom.

Importance To Religion: By developing a model where God's omniscience and human free will can coexist, this new field of science could revolutionize not just our interpretation of religious texts but also our understanding of morality and ethics. If one is to be held morally responsible, it presupposes that the individual had the freedom to choose between right and wrong. A 'science of freedom' could help reconcile theological doctrines about predestination with the idea of free will. For instance, in Christianity, the concept of sin and redemption could be reframed to take into account the complexities of human freedom. In Islam, the idea of Qadr (divine preordainment) might be revisited to allow room for human agency. In Eastern religions like Buddhism, the concept of Karma could be examined in light of individual freedom and choice.

Importance To Conduct: A science-based approach to human freedom could revolutionize ethics, giving us tools to understand moral decisions. Implementing this new science in ethics could make moral education part of standard curricula, emphasizing the importance of making conscious choices. Are individuals entirely responsible for their actions, or are they significantly influenced by their environment, upbringing, or perhaps even genetics? This question impacts how we develop laws, assign responsibility, and administer justice. Society might develop new tools for restorative justice. For example, a judicial system influenced by the 'science of freedom' could implement rehabilitation methods that empower individuals to make better choices, rather than simply punishing them.

Importance To Science: In scientific research, particularly in fields like psychology and neuroscience, the question of freedom is vital. Are our actions determined by the firing of neurons in our brains, which follow the laws of physics, or do we genuinely have free will? This question shapes theories of mind, learning, personality, and behavior. Understanding this could revolutionize treatments for mental health disorders or approaches to cognitive enhancement. New models in neuroscience could emerge, taking into account not just the physiological but also the cognitive factors that contribute to decision-making, essentially marrying the disciplines of psychology and neuroscience in a novel way.

Objective: Experience the joy of soaring into the realm of concepts.
On what basis do you believe in free will? Is it an empirical observation, a rational argument, or more of a faith-based conviction? Is it possible to live as if free will exists, while intellectually accepting a deterministic universe? What would be the practical and psychological implications of such a stance? Is it possible for individual free will, which may seem chaotic and unpredictable, to coexist within a framework that suggests an orderly, predestined plan for the universe? If so, how?

John, a university student in his mid-twenties, firmly believed he was the captain of his own ship. Each morning, he chose to have oatmeal for breakfast because he believed in a healthy start. He chose to major in Humanities because he believed in the power of understanding the human condition. Most of all, he chose to marry Emily, his high school sweetheart, guided by his unwavering love for her and the principles of fidelity instilled in him by his religious upbringing. In John's world, freedom was as real as the air he breathed.

John's belief in human freedom was challenged in his university classes. As living things we are obviously a part of nature. This raises serious questions of freedom. "Are we really free to choose, or are our choices pre-written in our DNA?" Professor Lewis posed the question after a lecture on biological determinism—how genetics and biochemical processes predetermined behavior. John felt his convictions waver for the first time. Could love, fidelity, even his choice of breakfast be coded into him?

In Psychology class Professor Anderson spoke about unconscious biases, social conditioning, and the myriad environmental factors that shape human behavior. John felt the ground of his beliefs turn into quicksand. The idea that external forces might be influencing his 'free' choices unnerved him.

Sociology class discussed how societal norms, economic conditions, and laws limit individual freedom. "Think about it, how many of your choices are truly yours, untouched by society's invisible hand?" Professor Harris asked. John felt his doubt deepen. The question of freedom was unraveling in complexity with each class he attended.

Late one night, John found himself questioning the foundation of his moral compass. Was his decision to be faithful to Emily truly his own, or was it the result of societal and biochemical programming? Was his true nature that of a natural being, fulfilled only by satisfying a variety of natural urges? Was he, in essence, hardwired to pursue multiple women, not just one?

John attended a university-related social gathering. Amidst the crowd, he locked eyes with Sarah, an attractive woman from his Sociology class. Sarah seemed to reciprocate his interest. The subtle exchange of glances and smiles reached a silent crescendo. John's thoughts spiraled. Was this a test of his lifelong belief in free will, or was he at the mercy of his biochemical makeup, his environment, and his society?

John stood at a crossroads, his choices, or the illusion thereof, stretched out before him. Was his desire for Sarah a biochemical impulse, devoid of moral weight, or a genuine test of his character? He thought about Emily, his love for her, and how this moment could irrevocably change everything.

As Sarah made a subtle gesture suggesting they could leave together, John was locked in a moment of intense contemplation. His academic learnings clashed violently with his ingrained beliefs, and for the first time, John felt truly uncertain of what he'd do next.

Objective: Adopt an individualistic attitude aligned with principles of freedom.

  • Characterization Of An Action: Recall a recent chosen action, whether it's what you ate, who you interacted with, or tasks you completed. Identify the reasons for taking action, including less obvious or even unconscious influences. You may begin to see patterns and influences you weren't aware of before.
  • Conduct a Freedom Audit: Evaluate the true range of your options in various aspects of your life: career, relationships, lifestyle, etc. Are you in your current job because it's what you're trained for, or because it's what you truly want to do? The audit can reveal areas where your freedom is more limited than you thought.
  • Challenge Social Norms: Identify and question the societal expectations that impact your sense of freedom. Pick one social norm or expectation that you follow but don't necessarily agree with. Consciously try to act against this norm. Does it feel liberating or cause anxiety?

The journey from the illusion of freedom to questioning freedom is not just an intellectual exercise; it is a transformative experience that shapes our understanding of what it means to know why we act. When we begin to probe the intricacies of freedom and determinism, we peel away layers of social, psychological, and biological influences that affect our decisions. In doing so, we move closer to the concept of Known Action, an action that is deeply understood and consciously decided upon, rather than one that is a mere product of various unseen forces.

Someone who has never earnestly questioned the dual prospects of freedom or necessity lacks an essential depth of character and a full understanding of the human condition. Such a person might go through life accepting the superficial appearance of free will or the deterministic laws of nature without grappling with the complexities that lie beneath. Without this vital interrogation, one's actions remain partially unknown to oneself. Only through rigorous questioning can we hope to understand the true nature of our actions and attain the kind of freedom that is both deeply felt and intellectually justified.

To fully grasp the concept of known action, one must first go through the crucible of questioning freedom. Doing so not only enriches our individual lives but also deepens our understanding of the interplay between freedom, necessity, and human agency.