Steiner's anarchism

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JustinG
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by JustinG »

Cleric K wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 11:02 am
JustinG wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:11 am Sure, but he also believes that 'one clears the way for the most independent people by doing away with all force and authority'. Hence, he (in 1898 at least) is against both external and internal authority
Here we should make a clear distinction. The popular understanding of anarchism is as if human individuals are like free electrons in Brownian motion. They refuse to be aligned by external EM field, for example. We should be deeply aware that this view presupposes the fundamental separation of the particles. Seen in this way, it sounds only logical that such a kind of anarchy can produce nothing but chaos. So in our age anarchy has become synonymous to chaos. And in a certain sense, without deep understanding of human nature, it is inevitable that chaos should result. If everyone submits to their Brownian impulses it is inevitable that collisions and friction will arise.

This is the tragedy of anarchism which is not deepened by self-knowledge. As soon as there's friction, an unsolvable situation is encountered. If two electrons move against each other, they collide. One says "This is my free will". The other says "Well, this is my free will too". If one backs up, he's no longer true to his ideology because he has allowed external circumstances to dictate his behavior.

What is universally misunderstood in PoF is that we begin by questioning the hidden impulses behind our T, F, W. If a person moves in a direction, it is not enough to simply say "This is my will". This is not freedom. Why is our will this and not other? We don't know. So we shouldn't mistake lack of insight for our impulses, with freedom. In this way, someone born in a prison, will apply his will to go round his cell but he has no awareness that his will is already severely limited and shaped by external factors. At the heart of PoF is not some anarchic stubbornness to do whatever we whim while we're ignorant of the constraints within which we operate. Instead it is about the continual unveiling of the deeper 'geometry' within which our spiritual conduct flows.

Returning on the two electrons, if they were truly free beings, they would look deeper for the reasons they go against each other. At that level they'll also find the moral imagination and intuition which will result in the two electrons gently moving around each other without any friction, as if in a superfluid condition. Science has equipped us with powerful observations but people still don't dare to read them.

The greatest barrier for proper understanding is the deeply ingrained self-enclosedness which refuses to investigate the possibility that if we go beyond our limited apertures we'll also find the currents of universal harmony. When electrons remain self-enclosed, the only solution seems to be in a kind of ideology. Some electrons have certain ideas that must be spread as external EM field over other particles in order to ensure some kind of coherency.

Why do we feel that freedom can only lead to chaos? Because it is seen in the narrow sense as indiscriminate Brownian motion. And this is certainly the case at certain stage of evolution. What happens when the teacher leaves the classroom for a while? Very soon the children are all over the place screaming, running. When the teacher returns she entrains the children-electrons through her EM field. Such is the course of evolution. Man had to be cohered through religions, then ideologies.

But today we arrive at a point where each individual can be their own moral agency. This seems as impossibility only if we declare that human behavior is fundamentally weaved of blind disconnected forces to which our T, F, W must helplessly submit. The materialist submits to the laws of physics which drive the brain calculations, of which consciousness is only the final output. The idealist submits to the local vortex flow. But all of these are only excuses. There's nothing fundamental that prevents me to seek higher resolution of a conflict.

What do people fight over? Land, objects, women, etc. It's always a conflict of desires. As long as people don't investigate the nature of these desires, they'll feel that their desire is true and all others are wrong, or they'll assume that all desires are equal but it is through power that we shall dominate ours over others'. In all cases, the common thread is that no one wants to explore the deeper forces weaving into these desires. All of this results into a worldview based on primal egoism. If we go deeper we'll find that these conflicts issue because we're not free. We simply saw the object and we wished for it. It was suggested to us from the outside. We desire for it because it is the only thing we know. And if it is the only thing that also others know, conflict arises. When we move towards freedom through self-knowledge we find that for each one of us there are unique things that we can do for the benefit of the whole - things which no one else can do. In this sense, the solution to conflict is to find the deeper strata of being where we discover what is unique to our perspective and what can be contributed to the Cosmic edifice only by us.

I know that the above will be rejected with great might. It will be said "I don't believe that the universe provides the means for universal musical harmony. Chaos is fundamental. So the best we can do is to gather in groups of interests which are destined for eternal wars with other groups."

The only thing I can say to this is that it is based on a belief which only serves to preserve the sanctity of the ego. It is not believed because of some deeper investigation in the nature of reality but because the ego wants to preserve its imagined apex position - to feel as the highest authority. The ego says "I'm a lone island of order in a sea of chaos. If I find like-minded islands we can gather in a group. But if we meet groups which hold other ideas we'll have to fight to the bitter end."

If the trouble is taken to investigate the inner world it will be found that reality is fundamentally superfluidic - it flows without friction. Friction and conflict issue only when the superfluid has been convoluted several times and the egos desire for conflicting objects because they see nothing else.
Good post. What you've said seems consistent with Steiner's endorsement of Mackay's anarchism.
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by JustinG »

AshvinP wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 12:41 pm
PoF has nothing to do with belief. Belief in the power of anarchism to harmonize human relations, as opposed to the power of capitalism to do so, is still belief nonetheless, and that always serves to limit the individual power to develop spiritual freedom, i.e. to free his thinking, feeling, and willing from the chains of ignorance, and thereby discover genuine moral imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions which are common to us all. This is what is completely misunderstood about PoF and spiritual science alike... none of it is about belief in that sense and actually goes to great lengths to counter that ingrained mindset, which is natural consequence of denying the current limits of intellectual ego along with the concrete possibility of growing into more Thinking degrees of freedom through the depth structure underlying the phenomenal appearances. This was also illustrated to Eugene on the Matrix thread several times. So now Cleric has summarized this entire aspect of PoF on this thread as well, perhaps in even more accessible and illustrative way than Steiner for the 21st century understanding, so the only question is, will you seriously consider it and the possibility you have misunderstood PoF?
I’m not denying that you and Cleric know a lot more about Steiner than me. But so do a lot of other writers, and I believe in the value of exploring different interpretations of a thinker. For example, besides the link in the OP, the anarcho-anthroposophy of Tarjei Straume is another interesting interpretation of Steiner (https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library ... s-anarchos).

I’m also not saying that I necessarily agree with Steiner’s anarchism. I am more interested in how it dovetails with what I discussed in the Bortoft thread about Bortoft's views on incommensurable but complementary ways of knowing reality.

But most importantly, you are not addressing what Steiner himself says about anarchism.

I’ll repeat what Steiner said about the anarchist John Henry Mackay ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Mackay) (note that I’m not suggesting that Steiner was associated with the views Mackay published in his later career):
Steiner wrote:
I have the conviction that we agree, with respect to our views, every bit as far as two natures fully independent of one another can agree.
This certainly suggests that Mackay’s views in 1898 could be a useful, though definitely not exhaustive, interpretive guide to Steiner’s views at that time. Or do you think that in 1898 Steiner had misinterpreted what he had published in 1894?

Perhaps, as a way of moving this discussion forward, you could address any further responses against the specific propositions in the argument in the OP. Here they are again:

1. Steiner’s view in his pre-theosophical period was that The Philosophy of Freedom was consistent with anarchism.

2. Anarchism entails that people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow, and will be capable of doing when free
from coercive authority. This entails religious and spiritual pluralism.

3. Therefore, Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period are consistent with religious and spiritual pluralism and the view that there are many
paths to freedom.

Thus far, I have not found your arguments against proposition 1 convincing.
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AshvinP
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

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JustinG wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 12:58 am I’m also not saying that I necessarily agree with Steiner’s anarchism. I am more interested in how it dovetails with what I discussed in the Bortoft thread about Bortoft's views on incommensurable but complementary ways of knowing reality.

Can you state for us what these "incommensurable but complemetary ways of knowing reality" are in your view, specifically?

But most importantly, you are not addressing what Steiner himself says about anarchism.

I’ll repeat what Steiner said about the anarchist John Henry Mackay ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Mackay) (note that I’m not suggesting that Steiner was associated with the views Mackay published in his later career):
Steiner wrote:
I have the conviction that we agree, with respect to our views, every bit as far as two natures fully independent of one another can agree.
This certainly suggests that Mackay’s views in 1898 could be a useful, though definitely not exhaustive, interpretive guide to Steiner’s views at that time. Or do you think that in 1898 Steiner had misinterpreted what he had published in 1894?

Again, I don't know what the specific argument here is, and I cannot find the quote above at any links you provided. But I did manage to find this relevant passage which mentions Mackay:

Steiner wrote:At that very moment the opportunity of another platform presented itself — that of the socialist working dass. In view of the momentous questions which were stirring the consciousness of the world at the turn of the century, questions with which I was closely associated through J. H. Mackay and Tucker who had come to Berlin from America and with whom I spent many an interesting evening, I was glad of this opportunity of another platform. For many years I was responsible for the curriculum in various fields at the Berlin school for workers' education. In addition I gave lectures in all kinds of associations of the socialist workers. I had been invited not only to give these lectures, but also to conduct a course on how to debate. Not only were they interested in understanding clearly what I have discussed with you here in these lectures, but they were anxious to be able to speak in public as well, to be able to advocate what they deemed to be right and just. Exhaustive discussions were held on all sorts of topics and in widely different groups. And this again gave me an insight into the evolution of modern times from a different point of view. Now it is interesting to note that in these socialist circles one thing that is of capital importance for our epoch and for the understanding of this epoch was tabu. I could speak on any subject — for when one speaks factually one can speak today (leaving aside the proletarian prejudices) on any and every subject — save that of freedom. To speak of freedom seemed extremely dangerous. I had only a single follower who always supported me whenever I delivered my libertarian tirades, as the others were pleased to call them. It was the Pole, Siegfried Nacht. I do not know what has become of him — he always supported me in my defence of freedom against the totalitarian programme of socialism.

When we look at the present epoch and the new trends, we perceive that what is lacking is precisely what The Philosophy of Freedom seeks to achieve. On a basis of freedom of thought The Philosophy of Freedom establishes a science of freedom which is fully in accord with natural science, yet reaches beyond it. This section of the book makes it possible for really independent thinkers to be able to develop within the present social order. For if freedom without the solid foundation of a science of freedom were regarded as real freedom, then, in an age when evil is gaining ground (as I indicated yesterday), freedom would of necessity lead not to liberty, but to licence. What is necessary for the present epoch when freedom must become a reality can only be found in the firm inner discipline of a thinking freed from the tyranny of the senses, in genuine scientific thinking.

But socialism, the rising party of radicalism, which will assert itself even against the nationalists of all shades who are totally devoid of any understanding of their epoch, lacks any possibility of arriving at a science of freedom. For if there is one truth which is important for our epoch, it is this: socialism has freed itself from the prejudices of the old nobility, the old bourgeoisie and the old military caste. On the other hand it has succumbed all the more to a blind faith in the infallibility of scientific materialism, in positivism as it is taught today. This positivism (as I could show) is simply the continuation of the decree of the eighth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 869. Like an infallible and invisible pope this positivism holds in its iron grip the parties of the extreme left, including Bolshevism, and prevents them from attaining to freedom.

This is exactly what Cleric also illustrated above about PoF and the concrete scientific pursuit of spiritual freedom. Granted, Steiner doesn't use the word "anarchism" here, instead focusing on socialism, but it's clear that, for Steiner, any view of "freedom" which denies the role of higher scientific Thinking in freeing us from the 'tyranny of the senses', i.e. which denies the capacity of Thinking to direct our attention and vision to the supersensible spiritual realms, does not promote liberty but "licence".

Justin wrote:Perhaps, as a way of moving this discussion forward, you could address any further responses against the specific propositions in the argument in the OP. Here they are again:

1. Steiner’s view in his pre-theosophical period was that The Philosophy of Freedom was consistent with anarchism.

2. Anarchism entails that people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow, and will be capable of doing when free
from coercive authority. This entails religious and spiritual pluralism.

3. Therefore, Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period are consistent with religious and spiritual pluralism and the view that there are many
paths to freedom.

Thus far, I have not found your arguments against proposition 1 convincing.

1. Not with any anarchism which does not center around Thinking as spiritual activity directed towards supersensible spiritual realms, where we find the higher order flows of our thinking, feeling, and willing, as Cleric and Steiner have shown above. By coming to Know those flows, we also come to free ourselves from the ones which fragment us from our spiritual companions, and instead to harmonize our intentions and goals with them (as indicated in Steiner's PoF quote from Chapter 9 that I shared with you), including both humans and more evolved beings.

2. Yes, all people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow and no coercive authority should have any say in that. As explained before, no one, including Steiner in his Theosophical and Anthroposophical writings, has ever argued differently. (and I am curious if you will also admit this is true of Steiner?)

3. This assertion is too vague to evaluate. What is "religious and spiritual pluralism" in your view? If it means simply the freedom of individuals to choose their own spiritual practices and path in life, then yes of course, and, again, Steiner's views are consistent with that in all of his periods. Not only consistent, but he is downright adamant in all his writings that this is the only way humanity can evolve into free spiritual beings.
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by JustinG »

I'll respond to the points you raised later, but Steiner's letter to Mackay is at the bottom of the page linked in the OP, and can also be found at the RSarchive: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/Anarc ... NETIx.dpuf
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

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JustinG wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 2:52 am I'll respond to the points you raised later, but Steiner's letter to Mackay is at the bottom of the page linked in the OP, and can also be found at the RSarchive: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/Anarc ... NETIx.dpuf
Justin,

Thank you for providing that. The letter is great and is in keeping with the "ethical individualism" which courses through his spiritual scientific writings as well. We should not skip over this part of the letter:
Steiner wrote:Hitherto I have always avoided using even the term “individualist anarchism” or “theoretical anarchism” for my world view. For I put very little stock in such designations. If one states one’s views clearly and positively in one’s writings: what is then the need of also designating these views with a convenient word? After all, everyone connects quite definite traditional notions with such a word, which reproduce only imprecisely what the particular personality has to say. I speak my thoughts; I characterize my goals. I myself have no need to name my way of thinking with a customary word.

This is very important to understand specifically in the context of your argument. Let's visit your points again:
Justin wrote:1. Steiner’s view in his pre-theosophical period was that The Philosophy of Freedom was consistent with anarchism.

2. Anarchism entails that people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow, and will be capable of doing when free
from coercive authority. This entails religious and spiritual pluralism.

Notice what has happened between #1 and #2. You have moved from what is individual to Steiner to what is generic to "anarchism". You are positing that "anarchism" entails something. That is precisely what Steiner is trying to guard against in the letter - "everyone connects quite definite traditional notions with such a word, which reproduce only imprecisely what the particular personality has to say." He is trying to avoid taking what was freely produced from his individual thought and reduce it or bind it to what is vague and generic to some "convenient word". This goes against the entire spirit of "individualist anarchism" as Steiner defined it, since it argues that the mere generic label determines the individual's free thought. And #2, specifically the "entails religious and spiritual pluralism", is the unwarranted premise you use to establish #3.

Justin wrote:Therefore, Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period are consistent with religious and spiritual pluralism and the view that there are many paths to freedom.

#3 only follows from your own generic definition of "anarchism", which you have imposed on Steiner. To be clear, it is only the "many paths to freedom" part which is at issue. The freedom to pursue spiritual practice without coercive interference is agreed on by everyone. The "many paths" could possibly be agreed to, but I suspect you are using that in the sense of, "spiritual scientific inquiries and understanding is not necessary for unfolding spiritual freedom" (keeping in mind here that we are not speaking of SS as abstract intellectual theory, but the active pursuit of spiritual thinking and spiritual sight). If that is accurate, then it is clear to me that nowhere does Steiner suggest such a thing in pre-PoF, PoF, or post-PoF writings, and he states the exact opposite throughout those writings.

Now I have addressed your points very precisely in the context of Steiner's letter. I am open to counter-arguments also based on the letter and what I have argued above. What I really hope won't happen is that this entire response is ignored, like it was never written, and then the same basic claim about Steiner and what his PoF-thought "entails" pops up again somewhere else down the road.
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by JustinG »

AshvinP wrote:
JustinG wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 12:58 am I’m also not saying that I necessarily agree with Steiner’s anarchism. I am more interested in how it dovetails with what I discussed in the Bortoft thread about Bortoft's views on incommensurable but complementary ways of knowing reality.

Can you state for us what these "incommensurable but complemetary ways of knowing reality" are in your view, specifically?
Refer to the OP of the Bortoft thread viewtopic.php?t=744 (to prevent issues becoming tangled up, it would be preferable that any discussion on this issue is continued on that thread).
AshvinP wrote:
... I cannot find the quote above at any links you provided. But I did manage to find this relevant passage which mentions Mackay:
Steiner wrote:At that very moment the opportunity of another platform presented itself — that of the socialist working dass. In view of the momentous questions which were stirring the consciousness of the world at the turn of the century, questions with which I was closely associated through J. H. Mackay and Tucker who had come to Berlin from America and with whom I spent many an interesting evening, I was glad of this opportunity of another platform. For many years I was responsible for the curriculum in various fields at the Berlin school for workers' education. In addition I gave lectures in all kinds of associations of the socialist workers. I had been invited not only to give these lectures, but also to conduct a course on how to debate. Not only were they interested in understanding clearly what I have discussed with you here in these lectures, but they were anxious to be able to speak in public as well, to be able to advocate what they deemed to be right and just. Exhaustive discussions were held on all sorts of topics and in widely different groups. And this again gave me an insight into the evolution of modern times from a different point of view. Now it is interesting to note that in these socialist circles one thing that is of capital importance for our epoch and for the understanding of this epoch was tabu. I could speak on any subject — for when one speaks factually one can speak today (leaving aside the proletarian prejudices) on any and every subject — save that of freedom. To speak of freedom seemed extremely dangerous. I had only a single follower who always supported me whenever I delivered my libertarian tirades, as the others were pleased to call them. It was the Pole, Siegfried Nacht. I do not know what has become of him — he always supported me in my defence of freedom against the totalitarian programme of socialism.

When we look at the present epoch and the new trends, we perceive that what is lacking is precisely what The Philosophy of Freedom seeks to achieve. On a basis of freedom of thought The Philosophy of Freedom establishes a science of freedom which is fully in accord with natural science, yet reaches beyond it. This section of the book makes it possible for really independent thinkers to be able to develop within the present social order. For if freedom without the solid foundation of a science of freedom were regarded as real freedom, then, in an age when evil is gaining ground (as I indicated yesterday), freedom would of necessity lead not to liberty, but to licence. What is necessary for the present epoch when freedom must become a reality can only be found in the firm inner discipline of a thinking freed from the tyranny of the senses, in genuine scientific thinking.

But socialism, the rising party of radicalism, which will assert itself even against the nationalists of all shades who are totally devoid of any understanding of their epoch, lacks any possibility of arriving at a science of freedom. For if there is one truth which is important for our epoch, it is this: socialism has freed itself from the prejudices of the old nobility, the old bourgeoisie and the old military caste. On the other hand it has succumbed all the more to a blind faith in the infallibility of scientific materialism, in positivism as it is taught today. This positivism (as I could show) is simply the continuation of the decree of the eighth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 869. Like an infallible and invisible pope this positivism holds in its iron grip the parties of the extreme left, including Bolshevism, and prevents them from attaining to freedom.

This is exactly what Cleric also illustrated above about PoF and the concrete scientific pursuit of spiritual freedom. Granted, Steiner doesn't use the word "anarchism" here, instead focusing on socialism, but it's clear that, for Steiner, any view of "freedom" which denies the role of higher scientific Thinking in freeing us from the 'tyranny of the senses', i.e. which denies the capacity of Thinking to direct our attention and vision to the supersensible spiritual realms, does not promote liberty but "licence".
I disagree that the part of your statement which I have put in bold was Steiner’s position in 1898. This is evident from the letter to Mackay in which Steiner says things such as:
Steiner wrote:
The individualist anarchist, on the other hand, holds that the best situation would result if one would give people free way. He has the trust that they would find their direction themselves. Naturally he does not believe that the day after tomorrow there would be no more pickpockets if one would abolish the state tomorrow. But he knows that one cannot by authority and force educate people to freeness.’
This implies that while abolishing the state (without the aid of his ‘science of freedom’) would have imperfect results, it is still preferable to not abolishing the state.

The quote you provided is from the later Steiner and is not directly relevant to the argument in the OP. Nevertheless, it does indicate that Steiner changed his mind on the issue of abolishing the state without the aid of higher scientific thinking. But the reference to ‘an age when evil is gaining ground’ suggests that this change of mind could be due to a change in circumstances, rather than a change in Steiner’s philosophy.
AshvinP wrote:
Justin wrote:Perhaps, as a way of moving this discussion forward, you could address any further responses against the specific propositions in the argument in the OP. Here they are again:

1. Steiner’s view in his pre-theosophical period was that The Philosophy of Freedom was consistent with anarchism.

2. Anarchism entails that people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow, and will be capable of doing when free
from coercive authority. This entails religious and spiritual pluralism.

3. Therefore, Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period are consistent with religious and spiritual pluralism and the view that there are many
paths to freedom.

Thus far, I have not found your arguments against proposition 1 convincing.
1. Not with any anarchism which does not center around Thinking as spiritual activity directed towards supersensible spiritual realms, where we find the higher order flows of our thinking, feeling, and willing, as Cleric and Steiner have shown above. By coming to Know those flows, we also come to free ourselves from the ones which fragment us from our spiritual companions, and instead to harmonize our intentions and goals with them (as indicated in Steiner's PoF quote from Chapter 9 that I shared with you), including both humans and more evolved beings.
I disagree that Steiner in 1898 believed that the only form of anarchism that was consistent with The Philosophy of Freedom was one that was centred around ‘ Thinking as spiritual activity directed towards supersensible spiritual realms, where we find the higher order flows of our thinking, feeling, and willing’. This is evident from the following excerpts from his letter to Mackay:
Steiner wrote:
I have the conviction that we agree, with respect to our views, every bit as far as two natures fully independent of one another can agree…I value being addressed by you as like-minded….
If, however, I were to say, in the sense in which such things can be decided, whether the term “individualist anarchist” is applicable to me, I would have to answer with an unconditional “Yes.”…
…. The “individualist anarchist” wants no person to be hindered by anything in being able to bring to unfolding the abilities and forces that lie in him. Individuals should assert themselves in a fully free battle of competition. The present state has no sense for this battle of competition…. [The individual anarchist] knows this one thing: one clears the way for the most independent people by doing away with all force and authority.
But it is upon force and authority that the present states are founded. The individualist anarchist stands in enmity toward them, because they suppress liberty…. That is why he battles against the state, which rests upon force ― and that is why he battles just as energetically against the “propaganda of the deed,” which no less rests upon measures of force.
AshvinP wrote:
2. Yes, all people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow and no coercive authority should have any say in that. As explained before, no one, including Steiner in his Theosophical and Anthroposophical writings, has ever argued differently. (and I am curious if you will also admit this is true of Steiner?)
I have not read anything of Steiner’s which goes against what you say here. From recollection, Berdyaev’s critique was focussed on the authoritarianism of Steinerians, and not Steiner himself. So, yes, I agree with you on this point.
AshvinP wrote:
3. This assertion is too vague to evaluate. What is "religious and spiritual pluralism" in your view? If it means simply the freedom of individuals to choose their own spiritual practices and path in life, then yes of course, and, again, Steiner's views are consistent with that in all of his periods. Not only consistent, but he is downright adamant in all his writings that this is the only way humanity can evolve into free spiritual beings.
Looks like we also agree on the bolded part. See my response to your next post for further elaboration on the other bits.
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

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JustinG wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 3:09 am I disagree that the part of your statement which I have put in bold was Steiner’s position in 1898. This is evident from the letter to Mackay in which Steiner says things such as:
Steiner wrote:
The individualist anarchist, on the other hand, holds that the best situation would result if one would give people free way. He has the trust that they would find their direction themselves. Naturally he does not believe that the day after tomorrow there would be no more pickpockets if one would abolish the state tomorrow. But he knows that one cannot by authority and force educate people to freeness.’
This implies that while abolishing the state (without the aid of his ‘science of freedom’) would have imperfect results, it is still preferable to not abolishing the state.

The quote you provided is from the later Steiner and is not directly relevant to the argument in the OP. Nevertheless, it does indicate that Steiner changed his mind on the issue of abolishing the state without the aid of higher scientific thinking. But the reference to ‘an age when evil is gaining ground’ suggests that this change of mind could be due to a change in circumstances, rather than a change in Steiner’s philosophy.
Justin,

I think there is a simple distinction being missed here. Maybe this will clear it up:

I can say that the state and the church (and temple, mosque, etc.) should have absolutely no role in prescriping spiritual direction to people, and also claim that scientific spiritual Thinking is the only way for people of our current epoch to free their inner T-F-W, with no contradiction whatsoever. I am pointing out that, while free (non-coerced) choice of spiritual path is absolutely necessary for the individual impulse towards spiritual freedom, it is not sufficient. Some freely chosen paths, according to us, will not necessarily unfold the impulse towards spiritual freedom. We have given many metaphors for this before, but I hardly think that's necessary anymore, because we are familiar with situations where freely chosen paths with incomplete information (mistaken for complete information) and lacking Wisdom will go horribly astray.

It's also clear you tend to disagree. But the question is, do you see how those two things are logically compatible with each other and why this is the most reasonable understanding of Steiner's harmonized works, i.e. PoF and post-PoF spiritual science? Again, at all times Steiner maintains his "ethical individualist" (or "individualist anarchist") perspective, if we must choose a "convenient word" (and I still don't understand why we must?), without any sort of logical contradiction.

Justin wrote:I disagree that Steiner in 1898 believed that the only form of anarchism that was consistent with The Philosophy of Freedom was one that was centred around ‘ Thinking as spiritual activity directed towards supersensible spiritual realms, where we find the higher order flows of our thinking, feeling, and willing’. This is evident from the following excerpts from his letter to Mackay:

Steiner wrote:
I have the conviction that we agree, with respect to our views, every bit as far as two natures fully independent of one another can agree…I value being addressed by you as like-minded….
If, however, I were to say, in the sense in which such things can be decided, whether the term “individualist anarchist” is applicable to me, I would have to answer with an unconditional “Yes.”…
…. The “individualist anarchist” wants no person to be hindered by anything in being able to bring to unfolding the abilities and forces that lie in him. Individuals should assert themselves in a fully free battle of competition. The present state has no sense for this battle of competition…. [The individual anarchist] knows this one thing: one clears the way for the most independent people by doing away with all force and authority.
But it is upon force and authority that the present states are founded. The individualist anarchist stands in enmity toward them, because they suppress liberty…. That is why he battles against the state, which rests upon force ― and that is why he battles just as energetically against the “propaganda of the deed,” which no less rests upon measures of force.

Yes, and this should all be cleared up by what I wrote above as well. The simple distinction between what is necessary and what is sufficient for spiritual freedom is being collapsed into one and the same thing in your argument.
Last edited by AshvinP on Thu Jan 13, 2022 3:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
"To think what is true, to sense what is beautiful and to want what is good, hereby the spirit finds purpose of a life in reason.”
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by JustinG »

AshvinP wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 4:11 am
JustinG wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 2:52 am I'll respond to the points you raised later, but Steiner's letter to Mackay is at the bottom of the page linked in the OP, and can also be found at the RSarchive: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/Anarc ... NETIx.dpuf
Justin,

Thank you for providing that. The letter is great and is in keeping with the "ethical individualism" which courses through his spiritual scientific writings as well. We should not skip over this part of the letter:
Steiner wrote:Hitherto I have always avoided using even the term “individualist anarchism” or “theoretical anarchism” for my world view. For I put very little stock in such designations. If one states one’s views clearly and positively in one’s writings: what is then the need of also designating these views with a convenient word? After all, everyone connects quite definite traditional notions with such a word, which reproduce only imprecisely what the particular personality has to say. I speak my thoughts; I characterize my goals. I myself have no need to name my way of thinking with a customary word.

This is very important to understand specifically in the context of your argument. Let's visit your points again:
Justin wrote:1. Steiner’s view in his pre-theosophical period was that The Philosophy of Freedom was consistent with anarchism.

2. Anarchism entails that people should be free to decide for themselves what spiritual practices to follow, and will be capable of doing when free
from coercive authority. This entails religious and spiritual pluralism.

Notice what has happened between #1 and #2. You have moved from what is individual to Steiner to what is generic to "anarchism". You are positing that "anarchism" entails something. That is precisely what Steiner is trying to guard against in the letter - "everyone connects quite definite traditional notions with such a word, which reproduce only imprecisely what the particular personality has to say." He is trying to avoid taking what was freely produced from his individual thought and reduce it or bind it to what is vague and generic to some "convenient word". This goes against the entire spirit of "individualist anarchism" as Steiner defined it, since it argues that the mere generic label determines the individual's free thought. And #2, specifically the "entails religious and spiritual pluralism", is the unwarranted premise you use to establish #3.
I agree that it is important to be clear about what Steiner means by “individualist anarchism”. So, here is some further investigation along these lines (beyond what Steiner has already said in his letter that has been previously quoted):

- Steiner says in response to Mackay’s letter that the term “individualist anarchist” is applicable to him and that he agrees with Mackay ‘as far as
two natures fully independent of one another can agree.’
- In Mackay’s letter, Mackay says that a ‘list of all the writings of individual anarchism’ can be found in Benjamin Tucker’s pamphlet ‘State Socialism
and Anarchism’ (which is available here: https://praxeology.net/BT-SSA.htm )
- In view of the above, I think it is reasonable to conclude that Tucker’s pamphlet provides a useful, but by no means comprehensive or exhaustive,
interpretive guide to Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period.
- Tucker’s pamphlet makes no mention of ‘higher cognition’ being a necessary prerequisite for advancing freedom.

AshvinP wrote:
Justin wrote:Therefore, Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period are consistent with religious and spiritual pluralism and the view that there are many paths to freedom.
#3 only follows from your own generic definition of "anarchism", which you have imposed on Steiner.
No, it follows from Steiner’s conception of individualist anarchism., as elaborated on in his letter and in Tucker's pamphlet.

Intuitively determined action is action self-determined action based on the exercise of the will and guided by reason, free from authority. In short, moral action is action based on reason. No ‘higher cognition’ is required (which is not meant to imply that Steiner in 1898 did not believe that deeper levels of freedom, knowledge and insight could be obtained through higher cognition).

As free and moral actions are based on reason, for the pre-theosophical Steiner, they could encompass a variety of activities including:

- Doing spiritual science
- Doing other spiritual practices
- Not doing any spiritual practices
- ‘battles against the state’ and other political activities.
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by AshvinP »

Justin,

Before I respond below, I hope you can just take a moment to appreciate the situation here. We have one person (Cleric) who is extremely familiar with both PoF and Steiner's writings and lectures on SS and higher cognition, and has arguably developed Imaginative cognition, another person who has become quite familiar at an intellectual level and is pretty rigorous logically (me), yet another person who is very familiar and would agree if he decided to comment (Scott), who all say there is perfect continuity between PoF and SS, what you have labeled "pre-Theosophical" and "post-Theosophical". In order to counter that argument, you have referred to a brief letter written to an anarchist named Mackay (which actually emphasizes resisting any generic categorization of Steiner's thoughts by labels), and are now adding reference to an anarchist pamphlet with zero connection to Steiner, apart from your assertion that Steiner probably would have agreed with it. (it's irrelevant to me whether he would have or not right now... I'm just trying to point out the huge asymmetry of supporting argument for the respective positions at play here).

JustinG wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 3:29 am I agree that it is important to be clear about what Steiner means by “individualist anarchism”. So, here is some further investigation along these lines (beyond what Steiner has already said in his letter that has been previously quoted):

- Steiner says in response to Mackay’s letter that the term “individualist anarchist” is applicable to him and that he agrees with Mackay ‘as far as
two natures fully independent of one another can agree.’
- In Mackay’s letter, Mackay says that a ‘list of all the writings of individual anarchism’ can be found in Benjamin Tucker’s pamphlet ‘State Socialism
and Anarchism’ (which is available here: https://praxeology.net/BT-SSA.htm )
- In view of the above, I think it is reasonable to conclude that Tucker’s pamphlet provides a useful, but by no means comprehensive or exhaustive,
interpretive guide to Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period.

- Tucker’s pamphlet makes no mention of ‘higher cognition’ being a necessary prerequisite for advancing freedom.

I have no idea how that is a reasonable conclusion in bold. Our standards of "reasonableness" must be quite different. BUT, let's say it is a reasonable conclusion.

How does it follow that Tucker's failure to mention 'higher cognition' in the pamphlet has anything to do with Steiner's view that higher cognition is necessary for advancing freedom? Are you arguing that, because Steiner agreed with what was written in the pamphlet, the latter must have exhausted everything Steiner thinks about advancing spiritual freedom? I really hope it goes without saying why that is an unwarranted speculation.

Justin wrote:
Ashvin wrote:
Justin wrote:Therefore, Steiner’s views in his pre-theosophical period are consistent with religious and spiritual pluralism and the view that there are many paths to freedom.
#3 only follows from your own generic definition of "anarchism", which you have imposed on Steiner.
No, it follows from Steiner’s conception of individualist anarchism., as elaborated on in his letter and in Tucker's pamphlet.

Intuitively determined action is action self-determined action based on the exercise of the will and guided by reason, free from authority. In short, moral action is action based on reason. No ‘higher cognition’ is required (which is not meant to imply that Steiner in 1898 did not believe that deeper levels of freedom, knowledge and insight could be obtained through higher cognition).

As free and moral actions are based on reason, for the pre-theosophical Steiner, they could encompass a variety of activities including:

- Doing spiritual science
- Doing other spiritual practices
- Not doing any spiritual practices
- ‘battles against the state’ and other political activities.

-

I think "Tucker's pamphlet" has already been sufficiently addressed in its [lack of] connection with Steiner.

You are using a definition of "Intuition" above that Steiner explicitly rejects in PoF and all other previous writings (like Goethean Science) and subsequent writings.

You add something in bold here which I would like you to expand on. Specifically, what level of freedom can be gained by "reason", and why would that level be sufficient for advancing freedom if there are even higher levels of cognition which lead to "deeper levels of freedom, knowledge, and insight" available to all human beings?

As for the text in red... I'm sorry Justin, there is no just no way to avoid being blunt about it. You are literally claiming here that "free and moral actions" for Steiner could be the result of purely materialist mindset which denies spiritual reality altogether. I think maybe you just misworded that, given how extreme a position it would be, so I won't even comment further on it. Feel free to edit or clarify what you meant there, if it was something other than what it sounds like.
"To think what is true, to sense what is beautiful and to want what is good, hereby the spirit finds purpose of a life in reason.”
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Re: Steiner's anarchism

Post by JustinG »

Thanks for the further comments Ashvin. I thought I made it clear that I don't think Tucker's pamphlet exhausted everything Steiner thinks about advancing spiritual freedom. I was also using intuitively determined action in the sense that Steiner uses it, and disagree that PoF states that higher cognition is necessary for free action. It's good to see that you are now acknowledging that Steiner was an anarchist in the true sense of the word.

Anyway, I have some other things to do, and also hope to try and find some time to reread the latter sections of PoF, so I am going to bow out of this discussion for the time being. Of course, others are more than welcome to continue the discussion in this thread.
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