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on 29 May 2013
Every other translation published since 1916 in this language have had the first chapter removed. Even the first English edition had this chapter physically removed.This happened during the war. This renders Rudolf Steiner's philosophy incomprehensible since the foundations have been taken away from it. The first chapter of any philosophy book is the foundation It seems that the German Military censor removed it from the second edition in the german language at publication in 1918. Since that time translators of this book in the english speaking world have translated the second censored edition of Rudolf Steiner's book. It seems the author did not check the second edition of his book in the german language since he was too busy to do so.
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on 4 November 2009
Steiner first published this book in 1894 and then later in a revised edition in 1918. There are several different translations of the original and I am told that the most recent US translation is quite good, but I personally find Wilson's translation highly accurate and relatively easy to understand. Steiner apparently was once asked in an interview what of his work would remain in a thousand years time? His answer was 'my Philosophy of Freedom"! And while superficially it might be thought that his later works on spiritual beings and so forth is a sharp departure from this rational treatise, close reading and long-term engagement will show that the Philosophy of Freedom provides the very key to entry into spiritual worlds.

I have read and reread this many times and recommend it without hesitation to anyone who is seriously intrigued by this life of ours and who does not shy away from giving some serious time and effort to understanding it. What Steiner does in this book is absolutely phenomenal. In his previous book (A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception) he showed that Goethe's scientific method provides a solid path towards an understanding of the natural world. In Philosophy of Freedom it is as if Steiner takes us by the hand and applies Goethe's method to an investigation of the human condition itself.

In the 1918 preface Steiner wrote: "The book will not give a ready-made self-contained answer [...] but will point to a field of experience in which man's inner soul activity supplies living answers". So what are the question posed by Steiner? So, while it is possible to summarise the contents, doing so in effect separates content from process. It is the very process of deep engagement with the questions and exploration in this book that will lead the reader onwards, not an abstraced set of ready made answers.

The same preface says: "There are two fundamental question in the life of the human soul towards which everything to be discussed in this book is directed. One is: Is it possible to find a view of the essential nature of man such as will give us a foundation for everything else that comes to meet us [...]?" And: "Is man entitled to claim for himself freedom of will [...]?"

(Steiner means "human beings" when he uses the word 'man')

The first part of the book is dedicated to exploring these questions in detail, from different perspectives and in the light of mainstream philosophical ideas. The second part discusses in some depth the implications for life in general of the view developed in part one. I cannot claim to understand either part one or two completely. All I can claim is the following two experiences:

1. A strong feeling that what Steiner offers here is leading to truth and therefore provides a strong motivation for coming back again and again to the text to try and fully understand it.
2. A very clear sense that on each reading I understand more and am now at the stage where I can fairly clearly see how indeed this book provides a portal to the spritual worlds.

I think the essence of the book in a nutshell, is that the nature of thinking provides the key to life. If we can learn to observe our own thinking in detail and without bias, we come to the conclusion that it is a self-sustaining activity, located as it were at the foothills of the spiritual worlds. I experience my thinking as purely spiritual, matter-less. I then see that many of the questions about spirit and matter, many of the dualistic perspectives, dissolve into nothing, as they are all the result of a kind of thinking that does not yet understand itself. The challenge lies in really coming to live in this insight and apply it in our daily living in such a way that we become co-creators with the 'All-World-Being' and entirely free as human beings.

Not sure this is helpful, but hopefully sufficiently intriguing to inspire you to buy and study the book!

September 2010: I have now written an introduction to Steiner's book, that may help new readers to get an overview of the key ideas. Key to Life: An Introductory Sketch of Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom
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on 26 May 2009
A discovery into Rudolf Steiner's work and mindframe. Pushing the limits of understanding, of world view, consciousness and... Thinking. Highly recommended for those wanting to get their teeth into somethinng that they will not necessarily understand.
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on 2 January 2015
Just what was required
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on 18 January 2015
amazing, but intense
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