The following is a translation by David Ecklund of the otherwise unavailable Chapter IV of G.A. Bondarev’s monumental work on Anthroposophy’s methodology, ‘Die ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ von Rudolf Steiner als Grundlage der Logik des anschauenden Denkens. Religion des denkenden Willens. Organon der neuen Kulturepoche’ (Basel, 2004)
English edition ‘Rudolf Steiner’s ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ As the Foundation of Logic of Behlding Thinking. Religion of the Thinking Will. Organon of the New Cultural Epoch. An Introduction to Anthroposophical Methodology.’ VOLUME I; VOLUME II
IV Overview of the Literature
In occupying ourselves with methodological concerns and practical exercises on the basis of the text of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, it is not without practical use to know of the, so to speak, literary ‘ecology’ in which our work proceeds.
On the theme of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ a fairly significant number of books and articles have already been written. The common intention of penetrating into the secret or secrets of this book appears in the majority of them. Its mysteriousness is sensed by many; many feel a wholesome, ordering effect on the soul merely by reading it without fathoming the structure of the text or its spiritual-scientific secrets. But where one strives to discover the method of working with the book people come together in working groups.
The first attempt of this sort took place already at the end of the 20’s. Carl Unger, a student of Rudolf Steiner’s, organized at that time a small circle of philosophically-thinking anthroposophists and in their work together they succeeded in comprehending that the book possesses substance, that when one employs certain procedures while studying it, it promotes the practical development of the power of judgment in beholding. Indeed it was already felt by Carl Unger that there is one more distinguishing characteristic of the book: that it produces an ethical effect on the reader and is in some manner accordant with the Holy Scriptures. Heinrich Leiste, a student of Unger’s, wrote about the primary goal that the working group which Unger led had set before itself. It was through “processing certain philosophical and anthroposophical insights of Rudolf Steiner’s to attain to an epistemology of imaginative consciousness.”[i]
Due to his tragic, premature death, Carl Unger was not able to develop his direction of spiritual-scientific research, and it unfortunately simply extinguished over time. How much more satisfying was the discovery one day that the fundamental questions of our research, having been formulated in another time, in a completely different cultural, social and even ethnic environment is, in essence, a direct continuation of these decades-old beginnings.
In Middle Europe in the work on the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ the intellectual direction gained the upper hand. This took place, first and foremost, due to the permanent neglect of the methodology of spiritual science; in such a case, thought begins to turn in a closed circle of the reflective mode of thinking which had already been completely exhausted at the end of the 19th century. In Anthroposophy this is told of in the most comprehensive way, yet, nonetheless, attempts to cross the boundaries of the intellect with the help of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ are undertaken merely intellectually. With this we do not at all intend to deny anyone the right to a formal-logical or historical-philosophical approach to this book. We are merely emphasizing the primary importance of the transformation of the quality of consciousness, without which the book will always remain an ‘open secret’. We fully share the concern expressed by Otto Palmer in his book in which he gathered together most of the statements Rudolf Steiner himself made about the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. He writes that “this book is in danger of being treated in the same way as one treats other philosophies. In this sense school philosophy demonstrates a much more loyal instinct through not paying any attention to this book at all. Indeed, in a certain sense, it represents the end of philosophy and creates the transition to something completely new.”[ii]
How it creates this transition and where the latter leads cannot be recognized without a systematic study of the methodology of Anthroposophy. But seeing as not much of anyone wishes to occupy themselves with this work, the result of the search for this transition are less than humble; one continues to study the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ like “other philosophies”. A certain service, it is true, is also provided by this. For example the book by Michael Kirn, which he conceived as a many-volume work, is a witness for this. In it he sequentially analyzes, chapter for chapter, the entire ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. He sees his own task to be carrying its content into a broader historical-philosophical context, the necessity of which was not contradicted by Rudolf Steiner. Such a “widening” of the content of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, according to Kirn, uncovers the universality of its content.[iii] Reading Kirn’s book we receive the possibility not only of enriching our knowledge of philosophy, but also of experiencing how broad and significant the philosophical context is out of which the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ grows, how very complex the sphere of the battle of human conceptions over the definition of the truly human principle within the human being is. To our own undoubted benefit we practice in this our capacity for intellectual concentration, through which we prepare our mind for beholding.
With respect to Kirn’s attempts to bring the content of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ into connection with the latest scientific theories and discoveries – with the theory of information science, with atomic theory – its organic wholeness which opens outward and is conditioned naturally and archetypical-phenomenologically is not at all contradicted by this either. If the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is not a particular case of of the elaboration of scientific ideas of a certain kind, but rather the foundation of the methodology of science, then its realization will advance by measure of the progressive development not only of science, but of civilization as a whole.
Similar in intention as well as in content to the book by M. Kirn is the many-volume monograph which was written by a collective of authors and published by Thomas Kracht. It is called ‘The Experience of Thinking’. [iv] Its merit consists in its bringing the fruits of group work with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ before the judgment of the anthroposophical public. In it one can discern the intention to work in the spirit of the beginnings of Carl Unger: the composition of the chapters are pondered, content is recapitulated in small summaries, etc.
As the most significant of all that has been written up to the present time about the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, one must acknowledge Herbert Witzenmann’s book ‘‘Die Philosophie der Freiheit’ as Foundation of Artistic Creation.’ [v] The question of the freedom of the human soul is doubtlessly conditioned by the capacity for free creation in thought, for which reason Witzenmann’s intention to present the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ as the fruit of thinking which is rooted in the artistic-creative foundations of the soul is fully justified. In his book he devotes much attention to the style and composition of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, to its being permeated with an aesthetic element. Several attempts were made to bring its analysis into the plane of esoterics and to demonstrate its being rooted in Christianity as well. The many-membered human being and the Goethean principle of metamorphosis were also not forgotten. But in all of this Witzenmann unfortunately goes no further than to make mere conjectures—albeit extremely interesting ones which stimulate us to deeper work with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. The blame for this can be laid on Witzenmann’s inattentiveness to the methodology of spiritual science. He undoubtedly possessed a philosophically-trained thinking and had the potential for independent philosophical creation. But work with what has been created by Rudolf Steiner requires deep study of the methodology of his creation, if we wish to understand it.
In Witzenmann’s book we do not find systems; its theses, even if true, lack systematic spiritual-scientific substantiation, and therefore it is difficult to distinguish objective truth from mere opinion in them. The followers of this philosopher could object, saying that even if Herbert Witzenmann didn’t pursue the methodology of Anthroposophy, at the least its methods of cognition occupied the primary position for him; he wrote in the introduction to the book under consideration: “What is presented here rests upon the methods employed by Rudolf Steiner…” (p.25).
In our turn we must say in response to such an objection that in the foundation of the “Philosophie der Freiheit” a whole system of methods is laid. Indeed it constitutes the fundamental work on the methodology of Anthroposophy. Witzenmann refers to what stands on the title page of the book, that in it “results of soul observations according to the method of natural science” are given. The very same method, in Witzenmann’s opinion, consists of the fact that “the formation of mental representations … takes place not though the judging subject, but rather only through the perceived object” (p.44). That this definition does not completely correspond to the principles of spiritual science is a separate matter. But being taken as given it is utterly inadequate for accomplishing such a task as a structural analysis of the book which has as its goal penetrating to its essence. The definition of the method given by Witzenmann in a passing remark with reference to his other works robs the work being considered of its foundation. This mistake revenges itself soon enough: analyzing the structure of the book, Witzenmann more than once came to judgments (mental representations), that had been formed exactly “through the judging subject”, which we will shortly show.
Anthroposophy as a science occupies a special position. Its methods are inseparably merged with its content and they have not been identified or comprehended by its adherents as a system whole unto itself. Sporadic remarks on method do not offer anything to the attempt to study Anthroposophy as spiritual science. Judgments are drawn from the object in other sciences as well; the natural scientific method is also used by materialists, among them psychologists. Besides this, it is not altogether true that the formation of a mental representation is possible without “the judging subject”, but rather only “through perception” and in addition to that “in the guise of acceptance, i.e., of the individualization of the concept that has been offered to the perception”! (p.44) Nothing but questions and a certain bewilderment are aroused by such formulations. And certainly to no extent are they sufficient to begin the cognitive-practical work with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. We state this not without grounds, but rather relying, in actuality, on the whole content of our book which is capable, in our opinion, of proving the thesis: without the systematic study of the methodology of spiritual science the essence of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is impossible to comprehend; the book remains in that case a secret with seven seals.
Yet we are prepared in advance for those not wishing to reckon with all that we are positing in our book. In such a case let it suffice for them to turn their attention to the fact that we are not alone in our conclusions. Here, for example, the opinion of Andrei Bely – a personal student of Rudolf Steiner’s, a brilliant artist of words, a man of broad philosophical erudition who has shown his capability for thinking philosophically independently – about the question being discussed. At the end of his life, already summing up the meaning of his experiences with Rudolf Steiner and trying to understand his system of knowledge, he wrote: “I studied the material of his texts; and I know: being in contact with them is the most immense work which requires one to distinctly reveal his methodology (emphasis G.A.B.), his epistemology; in them with unexampled, logically unassailable daring we have been given a basis (emphasis G.A.B.) of an enormous system.” And further: “A new page of his activity: the very theosophical scheme in its classical sevenfoldedness in Steiner’s interpretation of the idea lays the foundation of an unprecedentedly original philosophy of history and culture, inside of which we find the same gnoseological framework. … And in it in a new way Hegel resurrects with his dialectical method; he (R. Steiner) reveals the dialectics of threefoldedness in sevenfoldedness, for his sevenfoldedness is two threefoldednesses which are bound-up in one unique, fourth whole – how ever one names this whole: philosophically, Pythagorically, arithmetically, or theosophically; the theological, microcosmic triangle ‘plus’ the dialectical threefoldedness; in the connecting point of uniqueness in the whole which is revealed as the ‘I’ of man and which in the anthroposophical conception constitutes a new teaching about the human being, in the Hegelian sense a synthesis, as a symbol of the whole, and in the theological sense a teaching about the fourth, so to speak, hypostasis of divinity, as the ‘divinity’ of man, and not only ‘God-man’ (in the rhythm of eternity as Logos), or only ‘man-god’ that is opposed to divinity; from here anthroposophy arises – as an original theology, history, phenomenology of the spirit, anthropology, philosophy of culture, of which the root is at once a logically invulnerable epistemology and an agreement with all its conclusions (of the theory of perceptions, meaning, reality). … The special characteristic of Rudolf Steiner’s teaching about the ‘I’ consists in the fact that on the one hand you cannot separate it from the biogenetic triad (mineral, plant and animal nature), from the historical triad (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) or from the triad of capacities (reason, feeling and will); and on the other hand, you cannot separate it from the theological and gnoseological eternal triads; both triads intersect in the ‘I’ and revolve in the ‘I’: 3+3+1=7. And this very teaching is revealed in culture as a teaching of seven stages… All historical and angelological right and left threefoldednesses of the sevenfoldedness (3+1+3) are concluded a priori from the teaching about the ‘I’ which is revealed as a theory of consciousness never before seen in history.” [vi]
Thus, a strict spiritual-methodological orderliness and originality distinguishes Anthroposophy from other, known sciences. And this originality has so far not been fully recognized by anybody, which necessitates that every person wishing to develop these or those anthroposophical questions begin his research starting from the exposition of methodological prerequisites and conditions. Otherwise he risks turning up in the world of arbitrary judgments.
Witzenmann wishes to prove that the principle of symmetry is present in the structure of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. He considers that the first and second parts of the book stand across from each other as mirror-images, i.e., that between them runs an axis (or a plane) of symmetry and that in relationship to it the chapters are not merely “reflected”: the 1st in the 14th, the 2nd in the 13th, etc., but rather their content “turns inside out”. Whether here metamorphosis is meant Witzenmann does not directly say, but what else could it be?
Thus Witzenmann attempts to rely upon the laws of symmetry and metamorphosis in his research. The intention in itself is legitimate, but in order to realize it one must put forth one’s own view of the nature and effect of these laws. Metamorphosis in its Goethean understanding is a system, a wholeness which possesses a set of elements and connections as well as the system-forming principle. The elements in such a system should be no more than seven. If one takes Witzenmann’s position that the first part of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ metamorphoses into the second, then we have a system of 14 elements, and with the axis of symmetry (it does, after all, participate in the metamorphosis) – 15. Whether such systems of metamorphosis are possible and how they would come to be is as of yet unknown to anyone, one would need to investigate, but Witzenmann does not wish to. He gives an analysis of the content of the chapters and in this way hopes to prove that they are symmetrical and that they “turn inside out”, but his entire analysis is strained interpretation (in such a manner the opposite could also be proven). And besides this, it turns out that metamorphosis is not a law of nature and thought, but rather something similar to the forms made by moisture on a wall: one person sees them this way, another that way.
But no, metamorphosis is a lawful and living whole which is rooted in the integral whole of the evolutionary cycle. And it is not only seven-membered, but rather is also strictly structured in a three-membered way, possesses a triunity of parts: an original, a new formation and a transition part, the latter realizing the principle of symmetry as well. In the cycle of metamorphosis the phenomenon undergoes a transfiguration: it is denied, canceled, and yes, turns inside out, but in correspondence with a series of natural laws, every one of which it is necessary to know. There is nothing of the kind in Witzenmann’s book. He simply proceeds on the assumption that a conceptual parallelism between the foreword to the second edition of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ and the first appendix to it were to exist, and thus sees himself as having the right to speak of a symmetry between the two first parts (p.31 f.). In addition, he asserts that both parts are “in a inside-out relationship” to each other. But which one exactly? “The first part describes the emergence of man from existent reality, the second a new reality from the human being” (p.33).
It is truly not necessary to prove that a “new reality” emerges from the human being – from the author of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, and from the reader, too – in the first part as well. Nor that in the second man, ascending to intuition, emerges “from existent reality”. By the by, Witzenmann himself gives yet another definition of the parts a page later which nullifies the first. He writes that the first part is “a path of exercises of the meditative culture of spiritual activity”, and the second “is directed to the cognizing human being” (p.35 f.). That these two statements are impossible to combine, that the path of exercises is also given in the second part, and that the first part is directed “to the cognizing human being” to the same degree – all this is self-evident to anyone studying the text of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’.
Finally, concerning being inside-out: if we are speaking not of the content of the chapters, but of the human being, it wouldn’t hurt to turn our attention to what Rudolf Steiner said about this subject: “Man continually sends his moral, intellectual and aesthetic aura into the world…” (GA 155, 7.16.1914). Such is the reality which emerges from the human being. The ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ in both of its parts shows how one may learn to direct this reality and why one can become free within it. For this purpose the book offers not so much a “path of exercises of meditative culture” as much as a method, with the help of which it is possible to metamorphose consciousness, to ascend from reflection to beholding, i.e., develop the power of judgment in beholding which Witzenmann for some reason does not mention in his book. When we read from him: “If thought activity is exerted, but only in order to hold one back within oneself, i.e., to withhold oneself from the transition into thought content and the world of perception that through it become penetrable, then there appears the so-called thought-view, observation or attention, i.e. a consciousness that is reflected into itself” (p.43), then we don’t know what to think in this respect. Is he describing here the transition to beholding or to something else? If it is the transition to beholding, than there can be no kind of “reflection into oneself” at all. “Reflection into oneself” is introspection; beholding on the other hand implies the canceling of reflection, which Witzenmann himself admits, as he shortly thereafter writes that “soul observation is looking thinking” (p.43).
H. Witzenmann believes the two parts of the “Philosophie der Freiheit” are connected with the human being of body, soul and spirit; in this the first part corresponds to the body and the second to the spirit while the soul stands between them. And so it turns out that the body is symmetrical to the spirit on account of the presence of the soul between them, but then in the book it corresponds to a blank page between the parts. Seeing as real, i.e. spiritual-scientific grounds for such connections are not given, then we might as well, and even with a certain right to it, state, for example, that the intellectual soul corresponds to the first part, and the consciousness soul to the second, and the symmetry between them is formed by the “I”. But all of these versions do not have the right to exist as long as we define the object of cognition, originating not from it, but from ourselves. Witzenmann declared the inadmissibility of such an approach, and then in spite of this acted according to it.
Beyond any doubt the understanding of monism which he gives in the book constituting the subject of our analysis is also superficial. He writes: “… the world is a spiritual unity, therefore the world-conception which originates in genuine cognition is monism” (p.56). No, the monism of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is the world-view of ideal-realism, and the unity of the world is sensible-supersensible. But we have already had and will again have occasion to speak of this, and thus will not linger here to clarify this concept.
The artificial complexity of terminology to which H. Witzenmann resorts – “copulate” (Kopulieren), “innateness” (Inhärenz), “(the) evoking” (Evozierung), “transgredience”, etc. – which is not justified by the tasks of the research contradicts the Goethean principle and character of cognition. All of this unnecessarily weighs down thinking with intellectualism and abstractness which we – right in the process of work with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ – have the task of overcoming, metamorphosing.
And Witzenmann’s declaration that he will consider contradictory to his work the “zealous search of further compositional elements of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’”, in which one risks harming “the spiritually living form” through intellectualism, and losing the “soul-observing view” (p.206), is illogical and inadmissible. To seek out further compositional elements does no harm at all if they turn out to be elements of a living spiritual organism which was not recognized by H. Witzenmann; the essence of ideal perception, i.e., beholding, was also not recognized by him. However, his failure is not a tragedy. It is a legitimate step on the path of the further scientific quest. [vii]
We became acquainted with the work of H. Witzenmann after the first version of our book was already written. And then it turned out that all that has been discovered and described by us in the field of the methodology of spiritual science forms a large, detailed antithesis to Witzenmann’s book, if it is given a full critical analysis. So work the outwardly invisible spiritual interconnections in the process of cognition.
The complex of problems which have been brought up by H. Witzenmann in his book in his attempt to penetrate to the profound essence of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ took on a defining role for other researchers who came after him. But inasmuch as they inherited the insufficiencies of Witzenmann’s approach as well, none of them were able to advance farther than he did. Here rather we observe only mere regression, which, for example, the book by Frank Teichmann bears witness to, which appeared under the significant title ‘Resurrection in Thought’. [viii] It constitutes a kind of branching-off of the group work of which the fruits appear in the book published by T. Kracht.
F. Teichmann considered extensively and set forth all the preliminary, necessary conditions for solving his stated aim. Practical work with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, he writes, “cannot in any case be substituted for by intellectual insight”; here it is necessary “with the help of preparatory exercises to be made attentive to the inner movements and forms” (p.12). He cites a series of Rudolf Steiner’s key statements about the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ as well, which help one to look for a qualitatively different approach to it. Teichmann rightfully notes that the morphological character of thought is inevitably connected with the law of the organic world and with the entire evolution of the world, that for example, the laws of number, in the first place sevenfoldedness, define the development of the world, of man, and of thought. “Membering into seven is a conspicuous, predominant formative principle” (p.68), – he justly writes. His conclusion that the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is “an organism of thought, a spiritual artwork of the most beautiful form” (p.110) is also remarkable.
Such is the, so to speak, preamble of F. Teichmann’s work, but it is as if he forgets about it as he set off on the analysis of the structure of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. He uses the principle of sevenfoldedness mechanically and abstractly and completely artificially divides each chapter of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ into seven parts. He briefly formulates seven theses which ostensibly every chapter contains within itself but when you read them you understand that you could also formulate five, or ten, or twelve theses with the same degree of success. Teichmann apparently does not see at all that sevenfoldedness is the structure of the system, and a system has elements, connections and the system-forming principle. To speak of sevenfoldedness having not ascertained this is senseless. Thus Teichmann’s statement – that allegedly every one of the seven parts which he has defined in the third chapter corresponds to one of the seven chapters of the first part of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, as well as the seven chapters of the second part to the seven parts of the ninth chapter – is without any basis whatsoever. All of this, we must say, is nothing more that an arbitrary mental game.
It behooves us as well, speaking of the sevenfold structure of thinking, to resort to analogies with other spheres of existence with caution. Yes, one can make out the sevenfold being of man behind the seven chapters of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, but only in the sense of certain laws, and for this reason one cannot directly assert that the fundamental idea of the third chapter – as Teichmann briefly defines, “the understanding of the concept” – is connected with the astral body, and of the fifth chapter, “the truth of the concept” with the Spirit-self, etc. (p.95). In each individual case, including the definitions of the essence of the chapters’ content, we are justified in posing the question: why? And argumentation of the type, “one can plainly see”, does not satisfy us in the least.
The main inadequacy of Teichmann’s book is rooted in its, we would even say, antimethodologicality. He asserts: “the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is neither a ‘doctrine of science’ (Wissenschaftslehre), nor an ‘epistemology’; it is a work about the being of thought.” (p.67). Alas, the fact of the matter is the exact opposite, which Teichmann himself partially admits in the second part of his statement. And we go on to ask the author: and what is to be done, for example, with Rudolf Steiner’s theses such as: “But one will be incapable of understanding anything about the possibility of cognition so long as one has not answered the question about the what of cognition himself. Thus: what is cognition? becomes the first epistemological question.”; cognition can “find no being outside of thinking…”; “our epistemology is the science of the function of all other sciences” (GA 1, p.143, 157, 165)? It follows that if also the teaching of the “being of thought” is conceivable outside of epistemology, then it is only in the aspect of the physiology of thinking, but it is hardly possible that F. Teichmann considers the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ merely in this aspect. Besides this, if we agreed with Teichmann, immediately before us would stand the question: and what is to be done then with ‘Truth and Science’? Reject it the right to be the prologue to the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’? No, both these books contain within themselves both a doctrine of science and an epistemology, only the boundaries of the latter are extraordinarily broadened in comparison with their traditional forms.
* * *
Turning to the language of images, you may compare the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ to a kind of fortress with vertical walls as smooth as glass and as hard as steel. The newly heralded “paladins” of intellectualism, having sharpened their lances of rationality and made a short charge, throw themselves into the assault in the hopes of breaching the walls. Other than broken lances and damaged intellects,[ix] nothing can come of this. It is necessary here to develop a very special ability “to walk” up the vertical, smooth (like the mirror of our brain for the intellect) walls. The method for the development of such a skill is given, but the “paladins” do not venture to trust it. They approach it, thrust a few times with their lances and then depart, shrugging their iron-clad shoulders. This is why setbacks and stagnation have appeared in their midst. Stagnation should not be present in such matters, inasmuch as they have a relationship to the core of world-becoming. This is the reason an “Egyptian darkness” has spread over them.
We will now set about discussing the book of the title ‘Awakening Heart Thinking”.[x] The author named on the title page is Florin Lowndes, however he himself writes in the foreword that the “heart of the work presented here” is “the fruit” of the work of the American anthroposophist George O’Neil, who did not succeed in publishing his work by reason of his “temperament”, as well as due to the “insufficient interest in it” in anthroposophical circles. This task was taken up by his student of many years (i.e. Lowndes), since, as he goes on to write, “through my own life’s destiny I recognized his work very quickly from the depths of my heart” (p. 9). After he had taken over O’Neil’s archive after his (and his wife’s) death, Lowndes set to the work in which he himself, “like a dwarf on the shoulders of a giant… discovered [a few] as yet invisible regions”. All the same, he stresses, “O’Neil should have actually written this book… The task of a written elaboration was passed on to me after his death”.
Such being the preamble, a series of perplexing questions are raised. First of all, what does it mean to produce a “written elaboration” of the views of another person? Secondly, what can come of this, originating as it does from the connection between a “dwarf” and a “giant”? Let us consider for a moment that Hegel left behind a mere rough sketch of his system, and, let’s say, Paul Rée produced a “written elaboration” – what would have been the result in such a case? Further, if O’Neil himself didn’t publish his own work, could that not signify that he considered it incomplete? Perhaps he felt that he had only made it half-way down the path? The “insufficient interest” in serious research among anthroposophists is universal, but he who arrives at significant results in his scientific work does not write books merely to gratify current trends. Finally, if one man describes the views of another, then the book in such a case is given a different title, for example: ‘The Views of G. O’Neil on the Subject of the Awakening of Heart-Thinking’, and then further the author being studied must be thoroughly cited, placing his thoughts in quotation marks. These are the elementary rules of scientific propriety.
These are the kinds of thoughts and perplexities that the first contact with Lowndes’s book calls up, and further they simply grow. Within the book they are a series of fragments where a thought is presented coherently, logically and supported by numerous citations from Steiner’s works. But around these fragments reigns a chaos of arbitrary thoughts which condense like a fog that would at once disperse with the first ray of spiritual-scientific examination. In many places in the book citations are piled up in heaps without the author’s thought having analyzed them, or even brought them into order. And at every step it turns out that in the citations one thing is being talked about, and by the one publishing them, another, and at times about things in direct contradiction to each other. And so one involuntarily asks oneself: what in this belongs to O’Neil, and what to Lowndes?
In the larger part of this book – where the chaos is – the language, style and presentation reminds one of the works of parapsychologists. The fact that we have one book which George O’Neil had published[xi] allows us to draw the conclusion that the author of the parapsychological chaos is Lowndes. For parapsychological writers and pseudooccultists of the old persuasion it is characteristic to strive, through the conglomeration of all kinds of information and absurdities, to create the impression that they are persons of great erudition, and, having suppressed the reader’s critical thinking, to draw him into their power. We find this very thing with Lowndes. By towering citations before us he hopes to convince us that he has fundamentally mastered Anthroposophy, and parallel to that he offers, for example, a formula (which he calls a “symbol” for some reason), in which he goes about adding and dividing laws of nature (!) (p.60).
|Metamorphosis (M) =||Growth (S) + Polarity (P) + Inversion (U) + Rhythm (R)
Continuing in this spirit, one could add the law of gravity to extension in space, divide by 2 or by 20 and thus create an upheaval in physics, or more exactly, in physicists.
Lowndes has many similar “slights of hand”, but the main problem consists nonetheless not in them, but rather in the desire to turn the fundamental premises of Anthroposophy upside down. He states – and this is the main “zest” of the book – that Rudolf Steiner’s “central discovery” is “heart-thinking”. As proof he cites the verse given by Rudolf Steiner, in which it is said:
“In the heart weaves feeling,
In the head lights thinking…”
(GA 40, p.21)
As we see, in this case the logic is the same as in the formula above. About the discovery – made not by Rudolf Steiner, but by Lowndes – of “heart-thinking”, the latter writes, that “as a basis it does not have the brain at all, but rather the heart as its physiological (emphasis G.A.B.) organ” (p.79). And we are supposed to believe that the method of such a “heart-thinking” proposed in the book that is brought into connection with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is not an invention of the author, but is rather “Rudolf Steiner’s method” and was discovered by O’Neil (p.124 f.). And yet more of this: “Living thought (needs) completely different thought-processes – physiologically considered – … it (uses) the heart as its actual organ” (p.72 f.).
However, both in Rudolf Steiner’s method and communications something else entirely is contained. Let us begin with what he said in one of his lectures about a very special relationship between the physical and etheric bodies in the chest area of the human being. Here a kind on inversion takes place, and the etheric heart is located to the right in the human being, while the etheric body of the brain penetrates the physical brain (see GA 109/111, 6.5.1909). Therefore, even while approaching it purely outwardly, doesn’t it contradict this to speak about “living” thinking, in distinction from “dead”, head thinking, and to connect it with the material heart? Yet it is also said about head thinking in the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ that the entire human organization “For it [the human psycho-physical – G.A.B.] does not affect in any way the essential nature of thinking, but withdraws when the activity of thinking begins; it sets aside its own activity and makes a space free; and in this vacated space thinking arises” (GA 4, Ch. IX, para. 4, in Volume III of this work).
In one of his lectures, while explaining what “pure thought” is that still preserves a connection with conceptual activity, Rudolf Steiner says that already in this case a will-nature is inherent to it, but nowhere does he state that a will lives in the human heart. Working with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ we develop precisely the will-nature to begin with in pure, and then later in beholding thinking. And already the former “struggles free at first from the chest, and then from the entire human body… It is as if you were drawing this thinking out of the last cellular fiber of your big toe. … you feel that a new inner human being in you has been born that can bring about an unfolding of the will out of the spirit” (GA 217, 10.12.1922).
Rudolf Steiner does, it is true, speak of a sort of etheric heart as an organ of thought. He says that in the process of the new initiation, when one comes to the the opening of the lotus flowers, outside of the human heart “something similar … to a kind of etheric heart” develops, “but one must not insist that the human being, so to speak, with the heart that he has in his body, (emphasis G.A.B.) is present in spiritual-scientific cognition …” (GA 161, 5.1.1915).
We should take note that F. Lowndes’s entire character of thought is inclined to materialism and materialistic occultism (which is again inherent to parapsychologists). In the philosophical scheme of things one could number him among the formal-linguistic reductionists of positivism, although they themselves would most likely say that he merely parodies their views. In giving practical recommendations of how one should meditatively work with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, he writes: “Meditative work should lead to a first result, namely, that the text on the pages of Rudolf Steiner’s book here concerned with its printed, black, typographical tint becomes an image that one beholds, and in which every sentence, every paragraph, every passage and so forth are members possessing equal rights” (p.138).
This provokes us to immediately pose a question: and what will become of the meditative process if the text is printed with green ink or if it is read from the monitor of a computer? But, we admit, we are not in the mood for laughing, for with the help of such techniques Lowndes wishes to bring people directly to the opening of the “heart chakra”. But we know, that the principle distinction of the path of initiation which Rudolf Steiner gave precisely for the modern human being from the old and even traditional paths consists in the fact, that first the two-petaled lotus in the region of the forehead should be developed. Opening the twelve-petaled (heart) lotus first leads to misfortune, for it turns the human being into a visionary, an occult fantasist.
In the book ‘How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds?’ (GA 10) Rudolf Steiner writes of the necessity of forming and developing a certain center in the etheric body with the help of corresponding exercises. It merely lies close to the physical heart, though it does not constitute its repetition in the etheric body. The twelve-petaled lotus flower stands in a “particularly close relationship” to it (p.141). But what is especially important for us to know: it is necessary to begin to develop this etheric center not in the region of the heart, “but rather in the head. It reveals itself to the clairvoyant as a point of origin for movements” (ibid., p.142). For this it is necessary to practice thinking in a special way, to free it from all impression of the external senses, to develop the power of judgment in beholding, and not to meditate on the typographical tint of the text.
The clairvoyant does not dare lose control of his super-sensible perceptions, and therefore earlier he must learn to rule over the experience of thought and perception with his ‘I’. If in our time the opening of the lotuses doesn’t proceed from the top (from the head) down (to the Kundalini), but rather in reverse, he is in danger of being drowned in the unconscious and of quite simply going mad, which will have an effect on his karma for a thousand years. However it is to this exactly that Lowndes is urging. He refers to the complex of six exercises given by Rudolf Steiner (Nebenübungen). But they were given by him not for the opening of the “heart chakra”, but for the necessary preparation of the twelve-petaled lotus for opening when its turn comes: after the opening of the two-petaled and the sixteen-petaled lotuses. And Rudolf Steiner speaks of this completely unambiguously.
Precisely for the development of the two-petaled lotus and also for what follows on the path of initiation further on, it is necessary to form an etheric center, an “etheric heart”, but in the region of the head. Rudolf Steiner clarifies this idea with a drawing (Fig.45) and says that when thought (thanks to beholding) begins to rely upon the etheric body, the latter expands in the region of the head (inside of the astral aura). And what is of special significance here is that the human being, growing out in this way from his own body, develops “a kind of ‘etheric heart’” outside of himself (GA 161, 1915.5.1).
This elucidation by itself is sufficient to reduce all of Lowndes’s fabrications to dust. But here is something simply astonishing: he also presents – it is true, in a different book of his – this very same picture! But, of course, in the general scrap heap of citations and, very likely, without understanding what is being said in them; or is he perhaps counting on the stupidity of the reader?
Rudolf Steiner, further developing his thought, tells us: “In clairvoyance we fashion for ourselves … an organ higher than our brain. As our ordinary brain is connected with our physical heart (through blood circulation, and not through “thinking” with the physical heart – G.A.B.), so is what is being developed as thought outside, in the astral body, connected with the etheric heart (in the region of the head – G.A.B.) That is higher clairvoyance: head-clairvoyance” (!) (ibid.). It is fundamentally distinct from visionary clairvoyance which has arisen due to various anomalies of development, among them the premature “awakening” of the “chakra of the heart”.
F. Lowndes, in developing his inventions, recommends: behold a black-printed page of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ like a garden, paragraphs – like garden beds, sentences – like flowers, and your thinking will become “alive”, your “heart chakra” will open up. – This is all absurd nonsense, and nothing else!
It is possible that a serious reader, having lost his patience, will ask us not without sharpness, for what we so scrupulously occupy ourselves with obvious imbecility. – We were not able to pass by Lowndes’s book on the grounds that it is successful in the anthroposophical milieu, that groups already exist in which its author helps “esoteric kamikazes” to start up the “heart chakra”, using for this purpose the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. In the anthroposophical press there appear reviews full of praise, or that even apotheosize it. So writes former general secretary of the Finnish Anthroposophical Society R. Vilenius in the central weekly paper of the AAG: “This book is a trailblazer in the central anthroposophical field of research.” [xii] Well fine, a “trailblazer” – into voluntary feeblemindedness.
Anthroposophy does not at all insist that while thinking we have to deaden our hearts. To the contrary, the participation of the heart in thinking is attributed special importance. Rudolf Steiner says: “Intellect and reason are mere intermediaries for the understanding of the heart.” And elucidating what he intends to say with that, continues: “Through intellect and reason one penetrates into divine thought. But if one has thoughts in this way, he must then learn to love them. Man learns step by step to love all things. That doesn’t mean that he should take everything that comes to meet him to heart without judgment. … But when one makes an effort to research a being or thing in its spiritual foundation he begins to love it as well. … And if the heart searches for the love of truth in all beings, then the ‘spirit’ lives ‘in the heart.’ Such love is the clothing that the soul should always wear. Then she herself weaves the divine into the things” (GA 266/1, p.61).
The work of the heart creates the necessary conditions for beholding the object of cognition. The perception of ideas through beholding presupposes the identification, the total merging of the subject with the object. Such perception is only possible with love for the object of cognition. Then “in the things” the divine ideas are revealed that were “before the things”; truth is revealed in and through the subject. The methodology of spiritual science has the participation of the heart in the process of cognition in mind in precisely this sense. In the first chapter of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ it is said that “the way to the heart is through the head”, that those have no love who do not have a “sufficient representation”. The “etheric heart” in the region of the head is something completely different. By measure of the development of the lotus flowers, i.e. the attaining of higher levels of consciousness, it descends to the region of the twelve-petaled lotus. This process takes place in the most harmonious and safest way if it has been prepared through the consciousness-work on the basis of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. Indeed we are actually dealing with the “central anthroposophical field of research”, and for this reason no one should be allowed to distort, falsify or parody it.
It is still left for us to decide what is to be thought of the researches of George O’Neil himself. We have had the opportunity to read a typewritten copy of one of his manuscripts with colored drawings that he had drawn by hand. It is titled: ‘A work-book on Rudolf Steiner’s ‘The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity’’. We did not find a single word on the opening of the “heart chakra”, on thinking with the physiological heart. To the contrary, one has the feeling of a serious, responsible relationship to the concepts of spiritual science. In distinction from Lowndes, there wasn’t the assertion to the effect that the structure of thinking in the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ is not seven-membered, but nine-membered. O’Neil characterizes “living” thinking in the following way: “… thinking becomes a seeing, a seeing that at the same time is thinking.” [xiii] As to that which concerns his structural analysis of the text of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, with a division into four levels giving in result a seven-memberedness it deserves serious study, but in Lowndes’s portrayal it is hardly possible to do so, seeing as the latter as an author does not inspire confidence.
* * *
In the history of philosophy of the twentieth century there are two cases where philosophers, having been stimulated by Rudolf Steiner’s ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, have written their own works on the theme. One of these attempts belongs to Nikolai Berdyaev, the other to Nikolai Losky.
Berdyaev’s book is also called ‘The Philosophy of Freedom’. [xiv] Its writing was due to the fact that Berdyaev, considering himself the true philosopher of freedom, saw a kind of personal challenge in Rudolf Steiner’s book. He supposed that he would thus make clear the true state of affairs which had not be comprehended by Rudolf Steiner. Berdyaev’s conception, however, suffers two hefty inadequacies which render it unsound. The first of them is his categorical conviction that an epistemology “cannot be built without presuppositions”, it is “secondary” (p.46). He writes: “From the very beginning I cut off any conversation of a purely gnoseological basis because I reject this basis itself. I consider the first word of gnoseology already a lie…” (p.45). In this sense N. Berdyaev’s conception is actually the radical antithesis to what Rudolf Steiner takes as the foundation of freedom, and thus the more Rudolf Steiner’s conception of freedom wins, the more Nikolai Berdyaev’s loses. A fruitful dialogue would only have been possible between them if Berdyaev would have been able to read Rudolf Steiner’s epistemological works without prejudice, first and foremost ‘Truth and Science’. But Berdyaev suffered from a peculiar form of subjectivism (characteristic of many Russian intellectuals) which is accompanied by a hearty supply of fanaticism; it renders a thinking person blind in relation to ideas which he does not wish to accept.
The fanaticism of Berdyaev the philosopher was rooted in his view of the relationship between occultism and religion. He laid this as the foundation of his conception of freedom – his second fundamental error. He rejected Anthroposophy on the general grounds that, as he believed, “in contemporary ‘theosophy’ there is the same rational impotence as in the old heresies … for ‘theosophy’ there is no faith, are no miracles, no reunion and transubstantiation, for it everything is rational and naturalistic, everything is divided and not full” (p.228). And anyways, occultism is “an intellectual sectarianism” (p.232). But the philosophy of freedom is the “philosophy of the miracle, freedom is miraculous; it is not naturalistic, it is not the result of development” (p.233-234).
Berdyaev, in spite of being acquainted with a number of Rudolf Steiner’s books in which the fundamentals of his system of knowledge are given, and even having attended several of his lectures as well as knowing Andrei Bely’s book in which he defends Rudolf Steiner’s epistemology and Goethean works from E. Metner’s attacks (‘Rudolf Steiner and Goethe in the Contemporary Worldview’), did not turn out to be capable of pausing even for a moment at the thought of how different the theosophy of Rudolf Steiner is from the theosophy of, say, Leadbeater and those of his ilk, that there is all that which in his conception of freedom he attributed to the church, which “demands” “the transubstantiation of the whole world, of all flesh” (p.288), and that in it there is nothing of that which he has accused it, of that which he has accused Rudolf Steiner.
Berdyaev writes: “The remarkable modern theosophist and occultist R. Steiner” “disintegrates the human being into a series of shells which lie one on top of the other, and deduces all these shells from the evolution of other planetary worlds. The secret of the personality – unique and inimitable in the world – of integral personality in which there can be nothing disjointed, drowns in the naturalistic evolution of the Universe which is expressed in terms of planetary theosophy. The entire theosophical teaching of the migration of souls is a consequential form of naturalistic evolutionism that knows no overcoming of nature through miracle and grace. The destiny of personality … is super-rational, super-natural, catastrophic” (p.233).
We shall not waste time on the refutation of Berdyaev’s empty and even nonsensical accusations. They crumble into dust if one merely reads a book or two by Rudolf Steiner. Then it becomes perfectly clear how very much Berdyaev sends his reproaches “to the wrong address”, disparaging Anthroposophy and its philosophy of freedom. The only thing that Berdyaev is right about it that there is actually no “catastrophicality” in it, with which, as a child of the “silver age”, he tormented himself. And these very torments of his are indeed of interest to us. They were the tortures of hopelessness in the face of total spiritual crisis, the way out of which was shown by Rudolf Steiner: on the path of the “transubstantiation of the whole world, of all flesh”.
Contrary to Berdyaev, Losky understood this perfectly well. In his “Freedom of the Will” he finds a way, thinking in the spirit of Rudolf Steiner’s ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, of creating an original, self-sufficient work in which he concludes the monistic position of his “concrete”, “organic” ideal-realism as the synthesis of the polar opposition of determinism and absolute indeterminism (the position N. Berdyaev was defending).
For the reason we have pointed to above, Losky did not openly proclaim himself a proponent of Anthroposophy. In those circles of Russian intelligentsia which he frequented as an emigrant, one could either keep silence, or only speak poorly of Anthroposophy. He understood as a good psychologist how senseless it is to provoke fanaticized subjectivism and a luciferized, ecstatic relationship to ecclesiasticism. Yet for the “knowing” and “comprehending” he gave an original, identifying mark in his ‘Freedom of the Will’. In order to decipher it one must compare the beginnings of the first chapters of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ with those of Losky’s book. They are astonishingly similar. We are already familiar with the beginning of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’. Losky’s book begins thus: “The problem of freedom has been discussed in European philosophy approximately from the times of Aristotle. A grandiose literature has been dedicated to it, perhaps more extensive than that of any other philosophical question. And it is unsurprising: the fate of the highest values and sanctities are tightly bound up with such a principle as freedom. Thus there are philosophers who passionately fight against the teaching of the freedom of the will because, in their opinion, freedom is incompatible with the conditions of the possibility of science. Conversely, other philosophers vindicate freedom of the will with no less fervor, for they suppose that without freedom morality, rights, the religious idea of sin, the explanation of evil, etc., would all be impossible.” [xv]
Such a stylistic and conceptual kinship can in no way be accidental. Losky created it consciously. At the same time, in his book Losky reveals himself to be an independent thinker of high degree who is capable of carrying on a fruitful dialogue with the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ and of finding new approaches to it. One becomes more and more convinced of this the deeper one studies his book, and eventually you come to the thought that it is a wonderful propaedeutic prologue to the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’.
 Yet for those who have attained to the methodological fundamentals of that book it becomes absolutely clear that in the formation of mental representations the subject is not done away with. He remains even in the canceling (Aufhebung) of the lower ‘I’ in beholding, he remains, as thought becomes imaginative, etc. The individualization of thought-perceptions is a fruit of his efforts, his offspring.
 If someone should wish to raise the objection that the heart as the “physiological organ” of thought and the material heart are different things, allow him to demonstrate that physiological processes do not bear a material character as well.
[ii] Otto Palmer. ‘Rudolf Steiner über seine ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’’. Stuttgart 1966, S. 17 (English: ‘Rudolf Steiner on his book ‘The Philosophy of Freedom’’, Anthroposophic Press 1975). As concerning this book we would like to note that it belongs to an ever dwindling sort of anthroposophical literature created by people who have been able to appreciate Anthroposophy and who have found a rich content for their own lives on the search for truth. Today anthroposophical books are often written with the aim of attracting attention to oneself without even considering the integral elaboration of a complex of ideas of some kind. Without mentioning the title, we would like to speak of one book, the author of which, having filled up a great quantity of pages where he also speaks of the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’, finally suggests that the reader himself should bring into a unity everything he had disjointedly flung about. The anthroposophical public suffers from a dearth of scientific critique. It follows that science in the anthroposophical milieu, with a few exceptions, takes on a more and more dilettantish character.
[vii] It has become the norm among anthroposophists for people to gather around this or that persona, turning him into a kind of banner. Herbert Witzenmann has also failed to escape this bitter fate. For this reason we are obliged to say that we categorically reject all cliques of this kind. The clique is a relapse into group consciousness which is destructive for anthroposophical work like nothing else. The members of a clique consider every word of scientific criticism directed at their idol a heresy and react correspondingly. For us the book in question is a phenomenon of science possessing both merits as well as inadequacies. In order to be able to create further a critique of it is necessary. For the new edition of his book in 1998, the blind followers of Witzenmann used for advertising purposes the book review written by a certain Prof. L. Udert, who writes: “No one to my knowledge in the present has achieved something more significant than Herbert Witzenmann in the striving to show Goethe as the ‘Copernicus and Kepler of the organic world’. This role of Goethe’s, to the detriment of the world, has remained unrecognized.” But after all it is quite broadly known that Rudolf Steiner did this! (See GA 1, p. 107: “Goethe the Copernicus and Kepler of the organic world”.) The “students” of Witzenmann couldn’t have compromised him in a worse way.
[ix] Below the walls of the stronghold astounding “heroes” are to be found, at the sight of which one becomes petrified, as in an encounter with an alien. Having sharpened their libido, they throw themselves in the attack with admirable tenacity year after year, in which they, like ghosts, pass through the fortress. And yet some kind of trace is left behind: in they who observe their “battle”. It reminds us of a place in the Revelation of St. John, where is it said: “So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy…” etc. (Revelations: 17:3-18)
[xiii] And O’Neil goes on to write: “In contemplating the totality of a living thought-organism, correspondences and symmetries, previously unseen, begin to emerge, each illuminating the other. Meanings come forth, never before expected, revealing interdependences and mutual support. The whole is experienced as a web of interrelationships. An Idea is experienced as weaving interplay of single thoughts, each reflecting the whole as experienceable from its single aspect.” This is how G. O’Neil conceives of the thought with which the ‘Philosophie der Freiheit’ was written. And in this we can only agree with him.
[xv] N.O. Losskij, ‘Svoboda voli’ (‘Freedom of the Will’), In the book (Selected Works), pg.484. There are other references to Rudolf Steiner’s “Philosophie der Freiheit” in this work of Losky’s as well. For example, in polemicizing against Theodor Lipp’s view of moral freedom, Losky writes: “The freedom of the will coincides with moral freedom, i.e., it exists only where desire (Wollen) and decision (Entschluss) are completely conditioned by the ideal essence of the human being, i.e., do not depend on his sensible nature” (pg. 501). Such is Rudolf Steiner’s conception of ethical individualism! We will yet make a more thorough presentation of this.