Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom
Written in 1894 (CW 4)
“The realms of life are many. For each, specific sciences develop. But life itself is a unity, and the more the sciences busily immerse themselves in separate realms, the farther they move away from seeing the living wholeness of the world. There must be a kind of knowing that seeks, in the separate sciences, the elements that lead human beings back to full life again. A scientific specialist wants to become aware of the world and how it works through his or her insights. In this book, the goal is philosophical: science itself is to become organically alive. The separate sciences are preludes to the science attempted here.” — Rudolf Steiner (preface to the 1st edition)
Of all of his works, Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path is the one that Steiner himself believed would have the longest life and the greatest spiritual and cultural consequences. It was written as a phenomenological account of the “results of observing the human soul according to the methods of natural science.
This seminal work asserts that free spiritual activity—understood as the human ability to think and act independently of physical nature—is the suitable path for human beings today to gain true knowledge of themselves and of the universe. This is not merely a philosophical volume, but rather a warm, heart-oriented guide to the practice and experience of living thinking.
Readers will not find abstract philosophy here, but a step-by-step account of how a person may come to experience living, intuitive thinking—“the conscious experience of a purely spiritual content.”
During the past hundred years since it was written, many have tried to discover this “new thinking” that could help us understand the various spiritual, ecological, social, political, and philosophical issues facing us. But only Rudolf Steiner laid out a path that leads from ordinary thinking to the level of pure spiritual activity—intuitive thinking—in which we become co-creators and co-redeemers of the world.
“When, with the help of Steiner’s book, we recognize that thinking is an essentially spiritual activity, we discover that it can school us. In that sense—Steiner’s sense—thinking is a spiritual path” -Gertrude Reif Hughes
Introduction by Gertrude Reif Hughes
Preface to the Revised Edition, 1918
PART 1: THEORY: THE KNOWLEDGE OF FREEDOM
1. Conscious Human Action
2. The Fundamental Urge for Knowledge
3. Thinking in the Service of Understanding the World
4. The World as Percept
5. Knowing the World
6. Human Individuality
7. Are There Limits to Cognition?
PART 2: PRACTICE: THE REALITY OF FREEDOM
8. The Factors of Life
9. The Idea of Freedom
10. Freedom—Philosophy and Monism
11. World Purpose and Life Purpose (Human Destiny)
12. Moral Imagination (Darwinism and Ethics)
13. The Value of Life (Pessimism and Optimism)
14. Individuality and Genus
FINAL QUESTIONS: The Consequences of Monism
This volume is arguably the most essential of Steiner’s works. The thoughts in this book establish the foundation for all of Anthroposophy.
Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path is a translation from German of Die Philosophie der Freiheit (GA 4).
Other translations: The Philosophy of Freedom and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. German edition: Die Philosophie der Freiheit.
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Gertrude Reif Hughes, PhD, is Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies at Wesleyan University, where she served as Chair of her Department and of the Women’s Studies Program. The author of Emerson’s Demanding Optimism (1984), she has published essays on American poets, including Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, H.D., and Adrienne Rich, as well as essays on Rudolf Steiner and feminist thought and on Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul. A lifelong student of Anthroposophy, she is a former chair of the Board of Anthroposophic Press (SteinerBooks) and former President of the Rudolf Steiner (Summer) Institute, where she taught meditation for many years and served on its board. She is a member of the board of Sunbridge College and one of the core faculty of The Barfield School Masters Program at Sunbridge. Her degrees are from Yale University and Mount Holyoke College. As a child, she attended the New York City Rudolf Steiner School.
Michael Lipson, PhD, the author of Stairway of Surprise: Six Steps to a Creative Life (2002) and Group Meditation (2011), is also the translator of Rudolf Steiner’s Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom and of numerous books by Georg Kühlewind. After working with children with HIV/AIDS for nine years in New York City’s Harlem Hospital, he moved with his wife and two children to the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Dr. Lipson conducts a practice in Clinical Psychology and teaches meditation internationally. He is a frequent host of the radio call-in show Vox Pop on WAMC, a local NPR affiliate station in Upstate New York.