Freedom or Necessity?

Work Methods in Biographical Counseling According to R. Steiner’s Book: 

“The Philosophy of Freedom”

Cp.1: Freedom or Necessity?

By: Orna Ben Dor

According to the teachings of Zvi Birger

This summary is based on the research of Steiner’s writings, conducted by Tzvi Birger, my spiritual teacher, as it was summarized and presented his teachings.

 “Is man in his thinking and acting a spiritually free being, or is he compelled by the iron necessity of purely natural law?”

Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom, Cp. 1

We will attempt to follow Steiner’s footsteps and try to investigate our personal biography and our degrees of freedom as human beings.

Freedom or Necessity?

The freedom to act from the pure necessity of its nature

“I call a thing free which exists and acts from the pure necessity of its nature, and I call that unfree, of which the being and action are precisely and fixedly determined by something else.”

Steiner, (quoting Spinoza) Philosophy of Freedom, Cp. 1

Steiner relates freedom only to someone who acts out of ‘the I’ through conscious awareness.

In the course of the passing years, the environment and education shape the growing baby and instill in him\her certain behaviours through reinforcements and punishments; thus, already at infancy the toddler’s behaviour starts to be conditional and lacks freedom. In the educational process of a baby and the molding of his behaviour one may find two extreme and hence problematic conditions:

  • Parents that allow their children to do whatever they want without setting any boundaries
  • Parents that deprive their children the freedom to act according to their true nature, and oppress them in one way or another. [1]

Most people do not deprive a baby’s right to express itself and its needs freely, and consent to them. This does not hold true in the reciprocal relationships of adults. As adults, we tend to denounce the freedom of others to behave ‘according to their true nature’[2], especially when their freedom negatively affects us in one way or another.

We are not supposed to let others hurt us without defending ourselves if required. But we must ask ourselves the following question: “do I acknowledge the right of the other to behave freely according to his true nature, even if he hurts me?”

For example – does he have the freedom to insult me, to reject me, not to include me in something, etc.? deep inside, do I confirm the right of the other to choose ‘evil’?

The consent should be in principle rather than in deeds. We will obviously not let anyone do us harm, but perhaps we might grant him the freedom of will – the will to hurt us or do things that are not aligned with our moral compass. This is the freedom of the other to ‘behave according to his true nature’ – even if his nature stands in contrast to mine or to my views. On the other hand, we also have freedom. We are free to cease being in a relationship with the person that hurts us.

In chapter 3 in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve are described as disobeying the divine directive not to eat from the tree of Knowledge, following the tempting act of the snake (Lucifer). The introduction of the snake to the Garden of Eden, the introduction of the temptation and the possibility for sin have been granted since the dawn of human existence. The meaning of freedom of choice also entails the ability to choose evil. God granted man the freedom to behave according to his true nature – even at the risk of error and evil.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ Genesis 3

Biographical Event [3]

In one of the years of biographical training at our school, two study groups were joined together, due to some technical constraints. At the summarizing discussion at the end of the year, Meirav said that at last she feels comfortable with the members of the other group and that the sense of estrangement has disappeared. Michaela, a member of the second group, spoke directly afterwards, and expressed a completely opposite position; she hurled harsh words at Meirav and another student, how they take over the physical and mental space and not allow the members of the other group to join in and unite with them. Meirav then ‘blew up’ with anger and said:”Just now, when I soften and open up, you find it appropriate to throw such harsh words at me and my group?”.

In this case, it is apparent that Meirav did not enable Michaela to feel emotions that were opposed to hers, and thus express her freedom; since the words Michaela said hurt her, she denounced (not only in action, but mainy internally) Michaela’s freedom to be ‘evil’, or as Meirav put it ‘ungrateful’.

***

Often, denying the freedom of the other is tied to the degree by which his free act hurts us

Steiner quotes another philosopher who dealt with the question of freedom, David Friedrich Strauss from his book entitled: ‘The Old & New Faith’ 1872.

” With the question of the freedom of the human will we are not concerned. The alleged freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty illusion by every philosophy worthy of the name. The moral valuation of human action and character remains untouched by this problem.”

Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom, Cp. 1

Strauss rejected the existence of free choice and regarded the acceptable moral as a standard for valuing man’s deeds. Unlike him, Steiner claimed that while the moral question indeed exists, a man who chooses to act in a given situation in a manner that is considered morally acceptable in society, is not a truly free man. We will call such behavior – automatic morality.

On many occasions, when we denounce others their right to hurt us, we do so in the name of the acceptable moral standard, the automatic morality.[4]

The Freedom of ‘The I’

A person is composed of mental-physical envelopes[5]

and ‘The I’. While the envelopes are subjected to the force of nature, karma, conditioning, desires and urges – ‘The I’ is the only part that is free in man.

‘The I’ of a child is not yet in his possession. Starting from the age of 2-3 – the age in which a child addresses himself as ‘I’ – up to the age of 21, the I gradually develops and reaches its full expression as ‘earthly I’ (unlike ‘the spiritual I’, ‘ the authentic I’ , that will be expressed starting from the age of 42).

During childhood the child finds his ‘I’ in his significant parent – usually the parent that awakens his respect and trust; such parent serves as a role model for him and carries his ‘I’. Later on, in the 2nd and 3rd (7-21) cycles, the child ‘transfers’ his ‘I’ to other people: teachers, instructors in youth movements, and other admired and significant figures.

As long as the child’s ‘I’ ‘resides’ with the significant adult, the latter determines the moral values and influences the child’s self-image. When the child grows up, he tends to act upon those values.

Many times during life, a person that evokes trust and respect in us is subconsciously granted a status of a parent. In addition, had we not been fortunate to have a respected and admired parent, we will search for such a figure already during childhood – either a real one, or a hero drawn from books or movies – one that would awaken in us such sensations. That person will carry for us our ‘I’ and will serve as a moral authority.

When the parent or the substitute figure hurts the child, such act causes great pain and suffering, due to the full trust the child has had in the parental figure. Usually the damage is accompanied with surprise on the child’s part, since the child loves the adult and relates to him noble characteristics and high moral standards (the attributes of the ‘I’). In addition, the child depends on the adult’s love. Transferring our ‘I’ to another person may also take place at a later stage in life. As adults, when we are surprised and disappointed from others, that hurt us – that is a sign that our ‘I’ is not fully possessed by us – we have transferred our ‘I’ from us to them. From an archetype perspective, we have regarded the other as a parent, an older sibling, a leader, or some other authoritative figure. Quite often this may happen with our spouse.

The child hands over his ‘I’ to the beloved and worshiped parent. He ascribes to him omnipotence and a doing ability that is executed out of free choice, even when the adult is acting out of his low urges of his astral body.

This may happen again later in life. When we are hurt by an authoritative figure and feel that it acts immorally toward us, we ascribe to it freedom of action, namely, we believe that it chose to hurt us.

Only an act that is executed by ‘The I’ is a truly free act! We ascribe to that figure an act from ‘The I’, while most people act from the soul (the astral body) and not from ‘The I’.

The more the child is spiritually inclined, the more spiritual and of high moral value will be the figure he will choose to carry his ‘I’. Often, being hurt by such a lofty figure will be experienced by him as arbitrary and puzzling and he might go through a breakdown.

As he grows older, a person with a spiritual calling will aspire to connect with a person that represents lofty traits – high intelligence, great beauty, high moral values, idealism, etc. Being hurt by such a person will echo the original damage caused by the admired figure in childhood, and will be experienced in a similar intensity.

***

Each time we are hurt by someone, it is a sign that we have ‘transferred’ our ‘I’ to that person, and regarded him in the same manner that a child regards a parent

As stated above, when we project our ‘I’ onto another person we assume his actions were done out of free will. When we reclaim our ‘I’, we acquire the possibility to grant the other his freedom to behave from a free-less position, namely – the freedom to behave according to his astral nature.

***

By connecting with our ‘I’ we cease to deposit it in the hands of another person

‘The Authentic I’ & Freedom

In man – as in the entire cosmos – there are two entities: Spirit and Matter.

  • In its essence, the spirit is active, always in motion, creative, and unique
  • In its essence, matter is passive, formational, and familiar

‘The I’ is a spiritual entity and hence, always active. In contrast, the soul belongs to the material entity; emotions rise passively in response to external influence. The soul responds in sympathy or antipathy to events and people it encounters.

It is only through the creative and active force of ‘The I’ that the soul may be educated. By observing the passively and automatically arising feelings in response to a given event, such as – insult, ache, inferiority, etc – without letting them take over. To do that, one needs will power.

Will is the power of ‘The I’. In order to strengthen the ‘I’ we need to be active. Different people have varying degrees of will power. Usually, people with strong will power have a strong ’I’.

It is possible to strengthen will power through designated exercises. For example, one may consciously execute sensual will exercises: listen attentively to surrounding sounds, sensing our foot on the ground, feeling the touch of fabric on our hand. Namely, learn to connect impression, sensing and thinking (Steiner dedicates a whole chapter to that in his book “How to Acquire Knowledge of Higher Worlds”!).

***

Emotional dependence and vulnerability indicate that some parts of our ‘I’ are external to us.

‘The I’ connects (makes the connection) between thinking on the one hand, and impression and sensation, on the other hand. When we grasp the environment through our senses, ‘The I’ connects between the impression and the concept(s) that are appropriate to it. That is how our internal mental world gradually builds up.

 Slaves / Michael Angelo 

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1 Often such parents were raised in a similar extremely deprived environment.

2 This is usually the low astral nature of the other

3 All the names appearing in the biographical events are pseudonym. In addition, some details were changed in order not to reveal their identity

4 Automatic morality is the one that is acceptable by society which people tend to follow without having the real freedom to choose case by case the right thing to do. People use such morality in order to patronize others – this state turns morality into moralism.

5 The human bodies are: the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body. The souls are: the sentient- soul, the intellectual-emotional soul, and the consciousness-soul. For more details see: Steiner “Body, Mind & Spirit”.

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