Introduction - Olin Wannamaker


Introduction to The Philosophy Of Freedom

Olin Wannamaker
In chapter 33 of The Course of My Life, Rudolf Steiner emphasized even more intensely the only way in which The Philosophy Of Freedom can truly be read. There he declared: "But the book is intended to be taken up in inner experience. Then by stages a form of understanding comes about. This may be very weak, but it can and should be present. It should be an awakener of spiritual life in the reader, not a certain quantity of information imparted. The reading of it should not be a mere reading; it should be an experiencing, accompanied by inner commotions, tensions, and releasings."

In the preface to the edition of 1918, the author said that this book occupied a position completely independent of his spiritual-scientific writings. Is it, then, not to be considered as a revelation of supersensible truth.

The content of this book was by no means intended to be mere theoretical, inferential philosophical reasoning. Many later references of Rudolf Steiner to this particular philosophical volume indicate that this book was composed in a manner totally different from that characterizing speculative philosophy. Already in this pre-anthroposophical work he had created a work which bore within itself a power to illuminate the mind of the true reader. Here the reader is challenged to meet the writer with corresponding activity of the inner being, and the promised reward is of the same character.

Indeed, Rudolf Steiner made explicitly clear in later references this special character of his fundamental work. In The Limits of the Knowledge of Nature, he declares: "The intention in my  my Philosophy Of Freedom is that the reader must lay hold with his own thinking activity, page by page; that the book itself is only a sort of musical score, and that one must read this score through inner thinking activity in order to progress continually, out of his own resources, from thought to thought. In this book, the reader's cooperative effort is counted upon; and, furthermore, what the soul becomes when it shares in such thinking activity is also taken into account. One who does not avow to himself, when he has completed the study of this book, that, through the thinking effort of his own mind, he has laid hold of himself in an element of the life of the soul in which he had never before grasped himself, who does not sense that he has in a manner been lifted above his ordinary way of thinking into a thinking free of the sensible and that he moves altogether in this, so that he feels that he has become free in this thinking from the limitations of the corporeal nature, ---such a person has not really read in the true sense of the word this Philosophy Of Freedom. One who cannot make this avowal has not understood it in its essence. It must be possible to say to oneself: 'Now I know, through this effort of my mind in thinking, what pure thinking really is.' "

In still another reference to the volume, in The Gospel of St. John Rudolf Steiner again used the metaphor of a musical score even more vividly. He declared that the student's mastery of the volume must be like that of a musician who masters another musician's composition so perfectly that he can render it out of himself. And in connection with this metaphor he then declared that The Philosophy Of Freedom, thus mastered, can lead to a catharsis: “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.”

Understanding of The Philosophy Of Freedom must surely come by gradually deepening stages. There are many depths of meaning in this work. Assuredly, it is possible that certain types of minds may sense a great depth of meaning without having mastered completely the language in which the work is composed, but full comprehension is just as certainly not possible except by way of this gradually deepening grasp. Furthermore, even the most superficial meaning of such a work is difficult to lay hold upon. Viewed simply as an exposition of certain ideas ---apart from the living realization of those ideas by the reader in actual experience--- the book must be truly battled with. Not otherwise can even the surface meaning be grasped. Moreover, beyond this following of the significance of statements, sentence by sentence, the reader must perceive clearly the logically convincing sequence of these ideas. He must so clearly perceive the chain of reasoning that he can retrace this orderly operation of the mind of the author in his own review, in memory, of the presentation he has followed.

This struggle of the mind, stage by stage, toward a comprehension of what the author is saying can become a ladder for the ascent to that higher level of consciousness in which understanding is transformed into knowledge.

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