Misrepresentation of the Philosophy Of Freedom
I found this image on a blog. I see the above quote being repeated everywhere on the Internet. It tells us that freedom “is the sense of being capable of actions motivated solely by love.” It claims to quote Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom (POF). This simplistic feel good conclusion has done much harm by misrepresenting Steiner's meaning of freedom. It is being repeated by leaders in Anthroposophy, Waldorf, and by personal bloggers who have never read the book.
The Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, the guy who claimed to be the return of Christ, quoted “actions motivated solely by love” to show how close Steiner was to their views. I found it in a university dissertation about Camphill, in book reviews of Steiner books, in religious articles equating this love with doing God's will, equating it with anything we love to do like kayaking, and using it to describe Steiner study groups.
All You Need Is Love
If you want a large audience of followers, tell people what they want to hear. All you need is love!
After all, if love solves everything, then why bother with all the other hard stuff, especially disciplined thinking.
What is the source of the quote?
Why is this simplistic misrepresentation being promoted with such certainty? I decided to investigate and tracked it back to the Rudolf Steiner page on Wikipedia that is closely monitored by authoritarian anthroposophists. It is found under the heading Spiritual Research and directly after another often repeated misunderstanding of POF, that “The Philosophy Of Freedom forms the philosophical basis for Steiner's later writings”. Anthroposophy's talking point is incorrect when, as is often the case, it is taken to mean it validates Steiner's later writings. It does not at all. It would be more accurate to say POF brings these writings into question. While there are anthroposophists who are also ethical individualists that gain knowledge and then act on it, many anthroposophists are merely believers in spiritualistic theory, not knowers. Ethical individualists say, "We no longer want to believe; we want to know." POF 0.3 To keep repeating that POF is merely a philosophical basis for anthroposophy hides its true purpose which is to “lay the foundations of ethical individualism and of a social and political life”. (1918 lecture)
The alleged POF quote that “freedom is the sense of being capable of actions motivated solely by love.” was found in this Rudolf Steiner Wiki paragraph:
“Steiner aimed to apply his training in mathematics, science, and philosophy to produce rigorous, verifiable presentations of those (spiritual) experiences. He believed that through freely chosen ethical disciplines and meditative training, anyone could develop the ability to experience the spiritual world, including the higher nature of oneself and others. Steiner believed that such discipline and training would help a person to become a more moral, creative and free individual – free in the sense of being capable of actions motivated solely by love. His philosophical ideas were affected by Franz Brentano, with whom he had studied, as well as by Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, and Goethe's phenomenological approach to science.” -Rudolf Steiner Wikipedia
It is surrounded by philosophy statements giving the impression that it is from POF. The Wiki reference for this statement  is Peter Schneider, Einführung in die Waldorfpädagogik. I could not find an English translation of this book or any further information to support Schneider's statement. Shouldn't there be a POF or other Steiner source for this grand conclusion?
Levels of morality
There is no such POF quote because an action that is “motivated solely by love” is not considered freedom. Chapter 9 (POF 9.4) lists the levels of morality. There are 4 levels of individual motivation, with the motive “love” listed at level 2. Freedom occurs at level 4.
Level 1 Instinctive reaction
Level 2 Feelings which include love (examples given: modesty, pride, sense of honor, humility, remorse, pity, revenge, gratitude, piety, loyalty, love, and duty)
Level 3 Practical experience (remembered thoughts and ideas of how to act)
Level 4 Conceptual thinking (free thinking or reason)
Freedom occurs in the conceptual sphere where free thinking is possible. “Human” motives will always contain thought. This thought will originate within the individual for there to be a free action. An ethical individualist tries to become more conscious of the whole free will process that certainly includes love.
The heart can be a motive, but it can not create a motive
The heart, though, is not capable of creating ideas of action. The heart accepts or rejects thinking’s ideas for action before allowing it to enter its sphere of passion. This is explained here,
“Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for deeds that cannot be explained away with cold intellectual concepts. It is said that here the heart prevails. No doubt. But the heart does not create the motives of action. Motives are present prior to being received into the heart's domain. Compassion appears in my heart after the thought of a person who arouses compassion has appeared in my mind. The way to the heart is through the head.” POF 1.10
Of course we can not be thinking about principles while we are energetically acting. But still the action is not free if the motive is love alone, that is a Level 2 motivation. At Level 2 we do not know the origin of our love. It could be from cult brainwashing! The confusion likely occurs from the following POF quotes that are referring to a specific moment in the free deed process --while we are engaged in the action itself.
Love for the idealistic objective (goal)
Reading POF will not show freedom to mean “motivated solely by love” but it will find “motivated solely by love of the objective (goal)” or “my love of the action”.
“When I, or another, subsequently review my action we may discover what moral principles came into play in it. But so long as I am acting, I am influenced not by these moral principles but by my love for the objective, that I want to realize through my action.”
“It is only when I follow solely my love for the objective, that it is I, myself, who act. At this level of morality, I acknowledge no lord over me, neither an external authority, nor the so-called voice of my conscience. I acknowledge no external principle of my action, because I have found in myself the ground for my action, viz., my love of the action.” POF 9.8
So yes, free action is motivated by love, but to clarify, it is our love for the goal that originated in free thinking as an ethical principle (moral intuition) and was then translated into a specific goal of action (moral imagination). We love it because our greatest joy is to bring our highest ideals into reality. The ethical individualism video, How To Make Better Decisions shows the whole conscious process. Love enters at the 4:15 mark.
Two paths: The Philosophy Of Freedom and How To Know Higher Worlds
Another major point is that a closer look at the definition of freedom found in Wiki clearly proves it is not from The Philosophy Of Freedom. Again, the complete sentence we are discussing is,
“Steiner believed that such discipline and training would help a person to become a more moral, creative and free individual – free in the sense of being capable of actions motivated solely by love.”
The “discipline and training” here is mentioned earlier in the wiki paragraph as being “ethical disciplines and meditative training”. This has nothing to do with the path of the Philosophy Of Freedom. This refers to the renewal of the old Eastern path described in How To Know Higher Worlds (HTKHW).
The How To Know Higher Worlds path begins with assurance that when you are ready your master will appear. The next step is developing devout feelings of reverence and devotion. Ethical disciplines are a requirement for this path "for every step in spiritual perception, three steps are to be taken in moral development." This is not necessary for the POF path because a free act will always be an ethical act. The Philosophy Of Freedom distinguishes itself from Eastern influences here,
The Oriental sages make their disciples live for years a life of resignation and asceticism before they impart to them their own wisdom. The Western world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a preparation for science, but it does require a sincere willingness to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and to betake oneself into the realm of pure thought. POF 0.7 original Chp1 or Preface.
Steiner clarified the difference between the two paths; The Philosophy Of Freedom path for our modern age of science, the path that Steiner himself took, and the Eastern path Steiner attempted to renew that is commonly recommended by Anthroposophists as described in How To Know Higher Worlds.
The Philosophy Of Freedom path is for those interested in science.
The How To Know Higher Worlds path
is for those without much interest in science.
(see The Boundaries of Natural Science VIII)
If you go to an Anthroposophy book publisher like SteinerBooks it will be a walk into the past of old spiritual paths and ideas.
Best thought training is the study of The Philosophy Of Freedom
The recommended practice to become an ethical individualist is to apply the principles of freedom to your life and set aside time for pure conceptual thinking. POF 0.6 - 0.7 The demanding university programs in mathematics, computer science, engineering, and philosophy do an excellent job to discipline thinking. Though the best thought training to fulfill this requirement is the rigorous study of the Philosophy Of Freedom.