Each chapter in The Philosophy Of Freedom begins with a chapter theme followed by 12 viewpoints of that theme. There is an order to this thought-structure. It can be found in Rudolf Steiner's lectures called "Human And Cosmic Thought". If you are unaware of the viewpoint and the shift point from one viewpoint to another the book becomes confusing. While we can experience all the viewpoints, each of us a a predominate one. When Steiner expresses a particular viewpoint, he is speaking to someone who thinks in that way. So truth is expressed 12 different ways. These viewpoints are indicated in the text on this website by a numbering system and topic headings.
Steiner mentioned an organized thought-structure:
“For in the case of a book like this, the important thing is so to organize the thoughts it contains that they take effect. With many other books it doesn’t make a great deal of difference if one shifts the sequence, putting this thing first and that later. But in the case of The Philosophy of Freedom that is impossible. It would be just as unthinkable to put page 150 fifty pages earlier as it would be to put a dog’s hind legs, where the front ones belong.”
"My Philosophy of Freedom presents the wide range of human standpoints, often masquerading under such strange philosophical names, in a way that leaves the reader free of attachment to any particular approach and able to let the various concepts speak for themselves, as though each were a photograph of one and the same object taken from many different angles."
7 World Outlook Moods
Each chapter begins with an introduction (0). This opening introduction is 1 of 7 world-outlook moods (described below). It begins with Occultism in chapter 1, then Transcendentalism in chapter 2, then Mysticism 3, Empiricism 4, Volunteerism 5, Logicism 6, and Gnosis 7. Part II of the book beginning with chapter 8 is Gnosis again as the order reverses itself to chapter 14 Occultism.
12 World Outlooks
After the introduction, 12 views are presented of the introduction. They follow the same order in each chapter and are numbered in the translations that appear on this website as topic headings. They begin with the view of Materialism (1), then Spiritism 2, Realism 3, Idealism 4, Mathematism 5, Rationalism 6, Psychism 7, Pneumatism 8, Monadism 9, Dynamism 10, Phenomenalism 11, and Sensationalism 12.
The above diagram shows the thought structure of The Philosophy Of Freedom. Within this diagram are the major world views. Each view has a truth value within a particular domain of reality. For example Materialism has a value for understanding the laws of the material world where Idealism has a value for understanding the world of ideas.
The outlooks are found in Human and Cosmic Thought by Rudolf Steiner
There are people so constituted that it is not possible for them to find the way to the Sprit, and to give them any proof of the Spirit will always be hard. They stick to something they know about, in accordance with their nature. Let us say they stick at something that makes the crudest kind of impression on them—Materialism. We need not regard as foolish the arguments they advance as a defense or proof of Materialism, for an immense amount of ingenious writing has been devoted to the subject, and it holds good in the first place for material life, for the material world and its laws.
Again, there are people who, owing to a certain inwardness, are naturally predisposed to see in all that is material only the revelation of the spiritual. Naturally, they know as well as the materialists do that, externally, the material world exists; but matter, they say, is only the revelation, the manifestation, of the underlying spiritual. Such persons may take no particular interest in the material world and its laws. As all their ideas of the spiritual come to them through their own inner activity, they may go through the world with the consciousness that the true, the lofty, in which one ought to interest oneself – all genuine reality—is found only in the Spirit; that matter is only illusion, only external phantasmagoria. This would be an extreme standpoint, but it can occur, and can lead to a complete denial of material life. We should have to say of such persons that they certainly do recognize what is most real, the Spirit, but they are one-sided; they deny the significance of the material world and its laws. Much acute thinking can be enlisted in support of the conception of the universe held by these persons. Let us call their conception of the universe: Spiritism. Can we say that the Spiritists are right? As regards the Spirit, their contentions could bring to light some exceptionally correct ideas, but concerning matter and its laws they might reveal very little of any significance. Can one say the Materialists are correct in what they maintain? Yes, concerning matter and its laws they may be able to discover some exceptionally useful and valuable facts; but in speaking of the Spirit they may utter nothing but foolishness. Hence we must say that both parties are correct in their respective spheres.
There can also be persons who say: "Yes, but as to whether in truth the world contains only matter, or only spirit, I have no special knowledge; the powers of human cognition cannot cope with that. One thing is clear—there is a world spread out around us. Whether it is based upon what chemists and physicists, if they are materialists, call atoms, I know not. But I recognize the external world; that is something I see and can think about. I have no particular reason for supposing that it is or is not spiritual at root. I restrict myself to what I see around me." From the explanations already given we can call such Realists, and their concept of the universe: Realism. Just as one can enlist endless ingenuity on behalf of Materialism or of Spiritism, and just as one can be clever about Spiritism and yet say the most foolish things on material matters, and vice versa, so one can advance the most ingenious reasons for Realism, which differs from both Spiritism and Materialism in the way I have just described.
Again, there may be other persons who speak as follows. Around us are matter and the world of material phenomena. But this world of material phenomena is in itself devoid of meaning. It has no real meaning unless there is within it a progressive tendency; unless from this external world something can emerge towards which the human soul can direct itself, independently of the world. According to this outlook, there must be a realm of ideas and ideals within the world-process. Such people are not Realists, although they pay external life its due; their view is that life has meaning only if ideas work through it and give it purpose. It was under the influence of such a mood as this that Fichte once said: Our world is the sensualised material of our duty.* The adherents of such a world-outlook as this, which takes everything as a vehicle for the ideas that permeate the world-process, may be called Idealists and their outlook: Idealism. Beautiful and grand and glorious things have been brought forward on behalf of this Idealism. And in this realm that I have just described—where the point is to show that the world would be purposeless and meaningless if ideas were only human inventions and were not rooted in the world-process—in this realm Idealism is fully justified. But by means of it one cannot, for example, explain external reality. Hence one can distinguish this Idealism from other world-outlooks:
We now have side by side four justifiable world-outlooks, each with significance for its particular domain. Between Materialism and Idealism there is a certain transition. The crudest kind of materialism—one can observe it specially well in our day, although it is already on the wane—will consist in this, that people carry to an extreme the saying of Kant—Kant did not do this himself!--that in the individual sciences there is only so much real science as there is mathematics. This means that from being a materialist one can become a ready-reckoner of the universe, taking nothing as valid except a world composed of material atoms. They collide and gyrate, and then one calculates how they inter-gyrate. By this means one obtains very fine results, which show that this way of looking at things is fully justified. Thus you can get the vibration-rates for blue, red, etc.; you take the whole world as a kind of mechanical apparatus, and can reckon it up accurately. But one can become rather confused in this field. One can say to oneself: "Yes, but however complicated the machine may be, one can never get out of it anything like the perception of blue, red, etc. Thus if the brain is only a complicated machine, it can never give rise to what we know as soul-experiences." But then one can say, as Du Bois-Raymond once said: If we want to explain the world in strictly mathematical terms, we shall not be able to explain the simplest perception, but if we go outside a mathematical explanation, we shall be unscientific. The most uncompromising materialist would say, "No, I do not even calculate, for that would presuppose a superstition—it would imply that I assume that things are ordered by measure and number." And anyone who raises himself above this crude materialism will become a mathematical thinker, and will recognize as valid only whatever can be treated mathematically. From this results a conception of the universe that really admits nothing beyond mathematical formulae. This may be called Mathematism.
Someone, however, might think this over, and after becoming a Mathematist he might say to himself: "It cannot be a superstition that the color blue has so and so many vibrations. The world is ordered mathematically. If mathematical ideas are found to be real in the world, why should not other ideas have equal reality?" Such a person accepts this—that ideas are active in the world. But he grants validity only to those ideas that he discovers outside himself—not to any ideas that he might grasp from his inner self by some sort of intuition or inspiration, but only to those he reads from external things that are real to the senses. Such a person becomes a Rationalist, and his outlook on the world is that of Rationalism. If, in addition to the ideas that are found in this way, someone grants validity also to those gained from the moral and the intellectual realms, then he is already an Idealist. Thus a path leads from crude Materialism, by way of Mathematism and Rationalism, to Idealism.
But now Idealism can be enhanced. In our age there are some men who are trying to do this. They find ideas at work in the world, and this implies that there must also be in the world some sort of beings in whom the ideas can live. Ideas cannot live just as they are in any external object, nor can they hang as it were in the air. In the nineteenth century the belief existed that ideas rule history. But this was a confusion, for ideas as such have no power to work. Hence one cannot speak of ideas in history. Anyone who understands that ideas, if they are there are all, are bound up with some being capable of having ideas, will no longer be a mere Idealist; he will move on to the supposition that ideas are connected with beings. He becomes a Psychist and his world-outlook is that Psychism. The Psychist, who in his turn can uphold his outlook with an immense amount of ingenuity, reaches it only through a kind of one-sidedness, of which he can eventually become aware.
Here I must add that there are adherents of all the world-outlooks above the horizontal stroke; for the most part they are stubborn fold who, owing to some fundamental element in themselves, take this or that world-outlook and abide by it, going no further. All the beliefs listed below the line have adherents who are more easily accessible to the knowledge that individual world-outlooks each have one special standpoint only, and they more easily reach the point where they pass from one world-outlook to another.
When someone is a Psychist, and able as a thinking person to contemplate the world clearly, then he comes to the point of saying to himself that he must presuppose something actively psychic in the outside world. But directly he not only thinks, but feels sympathy for what is active and willing in man, then he says to himself: "It is not enough that there are beings who have ideas; these beings must also be active, they must be able also to do things." But this is inconceivable unless these beings are individual beings. That is, a person of this type rises from accepting the ensoulment of the world to accepting the Spirit or the Spirits of the world. He is not yet clear whether he should accept one or a number of Spirits, but he advances from Psychism to Pneumatism to a doctrine of the Spirit.
If he has become in truth a Pneumatist, then he may well grasp what I have said in this lecture about number—that with regard to figures it is somewhat doubtful to speak of a "unity". Then he comes to the point of saying to himself: It must therefore be a confusion to talk of one undivided Spirit, of one undivided Pneuma. And he gradually becomes able to form for himself an idea of the Spirits of the different Hierarchies. Then he becomes in the true sense a Spiritist, so that on this side there is a direct transition from Pneumatism to Spiritism.
Now there is still another possibility: someone may not take the path we have tried to follow to the activities of the spiritual Hierarchies, but may still come to an acceptance of certain spiritual beings. The celebrated German philosopher, Leibnitz, was a man of this kind. Leibnitz had got beyond the prejudice that anything merely material can exist in the world. He found the actual, he sought the actual. (I have treated this more precisely in my book, The Riddles of Philosophy.) His view was that a being—as, for example, the human soul—can build up existence in itself. But he formed no further ideas on the subject. He only said to himself that there is such a being that can build up existence in itself, and force concepts outwards from within itself. For Leibnitz, this being is a "Monad". And he said to himself: "There must be many Monads, and Monads of the most varied capabilities. If I had here a bell, there would be many monads in it—as in a swarm of midges—but they would be monads that had never come even so far as to have sleep-consciousness, monads that are almost unconscious, but which nevertheless develop the dimmest of concepts within themselves. There are monads that dream; there are monads that develop waking ideas within themselves; in short, there are monads of the most varied grades."
A person with this outlook does not come so far as to picture to himself the individual spiritual beings in concrete terms, as the Spiritist does, but he reflects in the world upon the spiritual element in the world, allowing it to remain indefinite. He calls it "Monad"—that is, he conceives of it only as though one were to say: "Yes, there is spirit in the world and there are spirits, but I describe them only by saying, ‘They are entities having varying powers of perception.’ I pick out from them an abstract characteristic. So I form for myself this one-sided world-outlook, on behalf of which as much as can be said has been said by the highly intelligent Leibnitz. In this way I develop Monadism." Monadism is an abstract Spiritism.
But there can be persons who do not rise to the level of the Monads; they cannot concede that existence is made up of being with the most varied conceptual powers, but at the same time they are not content to allow reality only to external phenomena; they hold that "forces" are dominant everywhere. If, for example, a stone falls to the ground, they say, "That is gravitation!" When a magnet attracts bits of iron, they say: "That is magnetic force!" They are not content with saying simply, "There is the magnet," but they say, "The magnet presupposes that supersensibly, invisibly, a magnetic force is present, extending in all directions." A world-outlook of this kind—which looks everywhere for forces behind phenomena—can be called Dynamism.
Then one may say: "No, to believe in ‘forces’ is superstition"—an example of this is Frits Mauthner’s Critique of Language, where you find a detailed argument to this effect. It amounts to taking your stand on the reality of the things around us. Thus by the path of Spiritism we come through Monadism and Dynamism to Realism again.
But now one can do something else still. One can say: "Certainly I believe in the world that is spread out around me, but I do not maintain any right to claim that this world is the real one. I can say of it only that it ‘appears’ to me. I have no right to say more about it." There you have again a difference. One can say of the world that is spread out around us. "This is the real world," but one can also say, "I am clear that there is a world which appears to me; I cannot speak of anything more. I am not saying that this world of colors and sounds, which arises only because certain processes in my eyes present themselves to me as colors, while processes in my ears present themselves to me as sounds—I am not saying that this world is the true world. It is a world of phenomena." This is the outlook called Phenomenalism.
We can go further, and can say: "The world of phenomena we certainly have around us, but all that we believe we have in these phenomena is what we have ourselves added to them, what we have thought into them. Our own sense-impressions are all we can rightly accept." Anyone who says this—mark it well!—is not an adherent of Phenomenalism. He peels off from the phenomena everything which he thinks comes only from the understanding and the reason, and he allows validity only to sense-impressions, regarding them as some kind of message from reality. This outlook may be called Sensationalism.
A critic of this outlook can then say: "You may reflect as much as you like on what the senses tell us and bring forward ever so ingenious reasons for your view—and ingenious reasons can be given—I take my stand on the point that nothing real exists except that which manifests itself through sense-impressions; this I accept as something material." This is rather like an atomist saying: "I hold that only atoms exist, and that however small they are, they have the attributes which we recognize in the physical world"--anyone who says this is a materialist. Thus, by another path, we arrive back at Materialism.
7 World-Outlook Moods
Human and Cosmic Thought by Rudolf Steiner
Seven World-Outlook Moods
A man can be so attuned in his soul—for the present it is immaterial by which of these twelve “mental-zodiacal signs” his soul is illuminated—that the soul-mood expressed in the whole configuration of his world-outlook can be designated as Gnosis. A man is a Gnostic when his disposition is such that he gets to know the things of the world not through the senses, but through certain cognitional forces in the soul itself. A man can be a Gnostic and at the same time have a certain inclination to be illuminated by e.g. the mental-zodiacal-sign that we have here called “Spiritism”. Then his Gnosticism will have a deeply illuminated insight into the relationships of the spiritual worlds. But a man can also be, e.g. a Gnostic of Idealism; then he will have a special proclivity for seeing clearly the ideals of mankind and the ideas of the world. Thus there can be a difference between two men who are both Idealists. One man will be an idealistic enthusiast who always has the word “ideal”, “ideal”, “ideal”, on his lips, but does not know much about idealism; he lacks the faculty for conjuring up ideals in sharp outline before his inner sight. The other man not only speaks of Idealism, but knows how to picture the ideals clearly in his soul. The latter, who inwardly grasps Idealism quite concretely—as intensely as a man grasps external things with his hand—is a Gnostic in the domain of Idealism. Thus one could say that he is basically a Gnostic, but is specially illuminated by the mental-zodiacal-sign of Idealism.
There are also persons who are specially illuminated by the world-outlook sign of Realism. They go through the world in such a way that their whole mode of perceiving and encountering the world enables them to say much, very much, to others about the world. They are neither Spiritists nor Idealists; they are quite ordinary Realists. They are equipped to have really fine perceptions of the external reality around them, and of the intrinsic qualities of things. They are Gnostics, genuine Gnostics, only they are Gnostics of Realism. There are such Gnostics of Realism, and Spiritists or Idealists are often not Gnostics of Realism at all. We can indeed find that people who call themselves good Theosophists may go through a picture-gallery and understand nothing about it, whereas others who are not Theosophists at all, but are Gnostics of Realism, are able to make an abundance of significant comments on it, because with their whole personality they are in touch with the reality of the things they see. Or again, many Theosophists go out into the country and are unable to grasp with their whole souls anything of the greatness and sublimity of nature; they are not Gnostics of Realism.
There are also Gnostics of Materialism. Certainly they are strange Gnostics. But quite in the sense in which there are Gnostics of Realism, there can be Gnostics of Materialism. They are persons who have feeling and perception only for all that is material; persons who try to get to know what the material is by coming into direct contact with it, like the dog who sniffs at substances and tries to get to know them intimately in that way, and who really is, in regard to material things, an excellent Gnostic. One can be a Gnostic in connection with all twelve world-outlook signs. Hence, if we want to put Gnosis in its right place, we must draw a circle, and the whole circle signifies that the Gnosis can move round through all twelve world-outlook signs. Just as a planet goes through all twelve signs of the Zodiac, so can the Gnosis pass through the twelve world-outlook signs. Certainly, the Gnosis will render the greatest service for the healing of souls when the Gnostic frame of mind is applied to Spiritism. One might say that Gnosis is thoroughly at home in Spiritism. That is its true home. In the other world-outlook-signs it is outside its home. Logically speaking, one is not justified in saying that there could not be a materialistic Gnosis. The pedants of concepts and ideas can settle such knotty points more easily than the sound logicians, who have a somewhat more complicated task. One might say, for example: “I will call nothing ‘Gnosis’ except what penetrates into the ‘spirit’.” That is an arbitrary attitude with regard to concepts; as arbitrary as if one were to say, “So far I have seen violets only in Austria; therefore I call violets only flowers that grow in Austria and have a violet color—nothing else.” Logically it is just as impossible to say that there is Gnosis only in the world-outlook-sign of Spiritism; for Gnosis is a “planet” which passes through all the mental-constellations.
There is another world-outlook-mood. Here I speak of “mood”, whereas otherwise I speak of “signs” or “pictures”. Of late it has been thought that one could more easily become acquainted — and yet here even the easy is difficult — with this second mood, because its representative, in the constellation of Idealism, is Hegel. But this special mood in which Hegel looks at the world need not be in the constellation of Idealism, for it, too, can pass through all the constellations. It is the world-outlook of Logicism. The special mark of Logicism consists in its enabling the soul to connect thoughts, concepts and ideas with one another. As when in looking at an organism one comes from the eyes to the nose and the mouth and regards them as all belonging to each other, so Hegel arranges all the concepts that he can lay hold of into a great concept-organism — a logical concept-organism. Hegel was simply able to seek out everything in the world that can be found as thought, to link together thought with thought, and to make an organism of it — Logicism! One can develop Logicism in the constellation of Idealism, as Hegel did; one can develop it, as Fichte did, in the constellation of Psychism; and one can develop it in other constellations. Logicism is again something that passes like a planet through the twelve zodiacal signs.
There is a third mood of the soul, expressed in world-outlooks; we can study this in Schopenhauer, for example. Whereas the soul of Hegel when he looked out upon the world was so attuned that with him everything conceptual takes the form of Logicism, Schopenhauer lays hold of everything in the soul that pertains to the character of will. The forces of nature, the hardness of a stone, have this character for him; the whole of reality is a manifestation of will. This arises from the particular disposition of his soul. This outlook can once more be regarded as a planet which passes through all twelve zodiacal signs. I will call this world-outlook, Voluntarism.
Schopenhauer was a voluntarist, and in his soul he was so constituted that he laid himself open to the influence of the mental constellation of Psychism. Thus arose the peculiar Schopenhauerian metaphysics of the will: Voluntarism in the mental constellation of Psychism.
Let us suppose that someone is a Voluntarist, with a special inclination towards the constellation of Monadism. Then he would not, like Schopenhauer, take as basis of the universe a unified soul which is really “will”; he would take many “monads”, which are, however, will-entities. This world of monadic voluntarism as been developed most beautifully, ingeniously, and I might say, in the most inward manner, by the Austrian philosophic poet, Hamerling. Whence came the peculiar teaching that you find in Hamerling's Atomistics of the Will? It arose because his soul was attuned to Voluntarism, while he came under the mental constellation of Monadism. If we had the time, we could mention examples for each soul-mood in each constellation. They are to be found in the world.
Another special mood is not at all prone to ponder whether behind the phenomena there is still this or that, as is done by the Gnostic mood, or the idealistic or voluntary moods, but which simply says: “I will incorporate into my world-conception whatever I meet with in the world, whatever shows itself to me externally.” One can do this in all domains — i.e. through all mental constellations. One can do it as a materialism who accepts only what he encounters externally; one can also do it as Spiritist. A man who has this mood will not trouble himself to seek for a special connection behind the phenomena; he lets things approach and waits for whatever comes from them. This mood we can call Empiricism. Empiricism signifies a soul-mood which simply accepts whatever experience may offer. Through all twelve constellations one can be an empiricist, a man with a world-conception based on experience. Empiricism is the fourth psychic mood which can go through all twelve constellations.
One can equally well develop a mood which is not satisfied with immediate experience, as in Empiricism, so that one feels through and through, as an inner necessity, a mood which says: Man is placed in the world; in his soul he experiences something about the world that he cannot experience externally; only there, in that inner realm, does the world unveil its secrets. One may look all round about and yet see nothing of the mysteries which the world includes. Someone imbued with a mood of this kind can often say: “Of what help to me is the Gnosis that takes pains to struggle up to a kind of vision? The things of the external world that one can look upon — they cannot show me the truth. How does Logicism help me to a world-picture? ... In Logicism the nature of the world does not express itself. What help is there in speculations about the will? It merely leads us away from looking into the depths of our own soul, and into those depths one does not look when the soul wills, but, on the contrary, just when by surrendering itself it is without will.” Voluntarism, therefore, is not the mood that I mean here, neither is Empiricism — the mere looking upon and listening to experience and events. But when the soul has become quiet and seeks inwardly for the divine Light, this soul-mood can be called Mysticism.
Now the soul may be so attuned that it cannot become aware of what may arise from within itself and appear as the real inner solution of the riddle of the universe. Such a soul may, rather, be so attuned that it will say to itself: “Yes, in the world there is something behind all things, also behind my own personality and being, so far as I perceive this being. But I cannot be a mystic. The mystic believes that this something behind flows into his soul. I do not feel it flow into my soul; I only feel it must be there, outside.” In this mood, a person presupposes that outside his soul, and beyond anything his soul can experience, the essential being of things lies hidden; but he does not suppose that this essential nature of things can flow into his soul, as does the Mystic. A person who takes this standpoint is a Transcendentalist — perhaps that is the best word for it. He accepts that the essence of a thing is transcendent, but that it does not enter into the soul — hence Transcendentalism. The Transcendentalist has the feeling: “When I perceive things, their nature approaches me; but I do not perceive it. It hides behind, but it approaches me.”
Now it is possible for a man, given all his perceptions and powers of cognition, to thrust away the nature of things still further than the Transcendentalist does. He can say; “The essential nature of things is beyond the range of ordinary human knowledge.” The Transcendentalist says; “If with your eyes you see red and blue, then the essential being of the thing is not in the red or blue, but lies hidden behind it. You must use your eyes; then you can get to the essential being of the thing. It lies behind.” But the mood I now have in mind will not accept Transcendentalism. On the contrary, it says: “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.” Anyone who speaks in this way speaks very much as we do when we take the standpoint that in external sense-appearance, in Maya, the essential nature of things does not find expression. We should be Transcendentalists if we said: “The world is spread out all around us, and this world everywhere proclaims its essential being.” This we do not say. We say: “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.” Occultism! The psychic mood of Occultism!