For centuries, the enigma of free will has captivated philosophers, scientists, and thinkers. Despite countless debates and discussions, a definitive understanding of human freedom remained elusive. However, a groundbreaking scientific discovery has now provided substantial evidence to validate Rudolf Steiner's profound insights into the nature of free will, potentially converting long-standing philosophical debates into tangible scientific understanding.
In 1894, Rudolf Steiner, in his seminal work "The Philosophy Of Freedom," introduced a revolutionary perspective on free will. Unlike traditional approaches that offered abstract definitions, Steiner focused on a specific region of the mind, a realm where he believed the seeds of free will could flourish. He posited that true freedom of will is accessible only within this particular mental domain stating, "In The Philosophy Of Freedom, I attempt to present a view of the human being that fully justifies the idea of freedom of the will provided one finds the region of the mind where free will can unfold itself" (Rudolf Steiner, 1918 preface to the revised Philosophy Of Freedom). His focus was not on abstract theorizing but on pinpointing a specific region of the mind where freedom originates.
Steiner argued that intuitive ideas, born from within this region, are the wellsprings of truth and inspiration. He emphasized that these insights are more than mere cognitive processes; they are the source of genuine creativity and freedom. This region of the mind is where one's thinking activity can continually provide creative answers to personal queries. "The book points to a region of the mind where the mind's activity supplies a living answer, always anew, to the questions whenever a person needs it," he explained in the 1918 preface to the revised Philosophy Of Freedom.
In a remarkable parallel to Steiner's century-old observations, brain imaging research has shed light on the brain's role in creative insights. The 2015 publication "The Eureka Factor" by two cognitive neuroscientists identified the right temporal lobe, just above the ear, as the epicenter of intuitive insights. This area, associated with conceptual knowledge, is where creative thoughts and ideas coalesce. This discovery aligns with Steiner's idea of 'conceptual intuitions' and 'moral intuitions' arising from the realm of concepts, shaping our understanding of the world and our place within it.
The research uncovered that these moments of insight are marked by surges of gamma brainwave energy, signifying heightened awareness and enhanced thinking. This intuitive impulse improved focus, increased intelligence, and boosts energy. This higher experience results in more tolerance and more compassion.
Steiner referred to these bursts of energy as the 'impulse of freedom,' a phenomenon he sought to establish on a scientific basis. "I wrote The Philosophy Of Freedom in order to give humanity a clear picture of the idea of freedom, of the impulse of freedom. To this end, it was necessary first of all to establish the impulse of freedom on a firm scientific basis," he reflected in 1918. The 'impulse of freedom' now finds empirical support in neuroscience. It is no longer merely an abstract idea but a tangible, measurable phenomenon, experienced as a moment of intuitive insight that can inspire and empower.
According to Steiner this impulse of freedom is not a single event but a two-step process. The normal psychological and physical influences on thinking must first withdraw to create a conducive environment for the emergence of new ideas. This makes freedom possible, allowing us to overcome the psychological and physical compulsions that typically control our thought and action. "The psychological and physical organization withdraws whenever the activity of thinking takes place. It suspends its own activity, it makes room. And the space that has been set free is occupied by thought," Steiner observed in Chapter 9 of the 1918 revised edition of The Philosophy Of Freedom.
The suspension of psychological and physical influences was explained by the neuroscientists. They discovered that preceding the gamma wave burst of intuitive insight there is an alpha wave burst that limits external sensory inputs and suspends cognitive activity. The alpha wave burst prepares the brain to receive the new insight by restricting external information and allowing space for the new thought to appear.
This groundbreaking research validates Steiner's vision and his efforts to empirically ground the idea of freedom. It suggests that the intuitive process, as described by Steiner, has a physical counterpart in the brain's activities. This bridges the gap between philosophical speculation and empirical evidence, paving the way for a deeper exploration of the human psyche and its capabilities. The emergence of a science of freedom heralds a new era in personal development and societal structure, laying the foundation for human evolution and social progress.