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The Evolution of Consciousness and the Evolution of Freedom, Love and Morality - Part 1

Here we have something which gradually leads to the Physiological concept of freedom. Here we have the physiology of what I have set forth in my Philosophy of Freedom, namely, that one can only understand freedom by grasping it in sense-free thinking – that is to say, in the process taking place in us when we direct pure thinking through our will and orientate it according to certain defined directions.


Rudolf Steiner

Mystery of the Universe

The Human Being, Image of Creation



The Philosophy of Freedom To what extent can the human being, or any creature on earth, be considered free? There seems to be a cultural assumption that human faculties don’t change. Even if we philosophically or scientifically agree that they do, our way of ‘seeing’ the world often needs a nudge from assuming that human beings have always had the same ways of freedom, love and morality. I will establish that self-determined action can be experienced as a consequence of natural necessity and that the intention of evolution is to provide the foundations of free action. Rudolf Steiner’s premise of freedom in his book that he considers to be the most central philosophical argument for his work begins with; Is the human being in thinking and acting a spiritually free being, or are we compelled by the iron necessity of purely natural law? 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.[1] What can we assume then about the necessity of human nature, and following on from that the pure necessity of the nature of any being? In the case of the human being there is a complexity to the necessity of our being as we have been granted knowledge of good and evil and the state of being that appears to give us the capacity to choose which of these two we may do in any given situation. This capacity requires discernment. The crown of human nature is essentially that we can reason. The issue whether we are essentially selfish or essentially good has been superseded by our capacity to determine ourselves which of those we want to bring to fruition within ourselves. We are partly completely determined by our nature, which culminated in our capacity to think, discern, judge and make a choice of action. We are also partly guided, if not determined, by the structures of our societal agreements and bound to learning how to act through society’s methods of curtailing our anti-social behaviour. Now we are at a third stage of our development where ethical individualism starts to direct action outside of those parameters. This leads to another question as to where our ethical or moral action stems from in an age where individualism is so prevalent and sacred. Left to itself it seems we might choose to act in our own self-interest only. Is there anything within our human capacity that can mitigate our selfishness and greed? How do we perceive or assess if an action, or a person, is moral? There are of course layers of freedom, love, and morality in our activity as human beings. In the Philosophy of Freedom Steoiner argues that we can participate in the evolution of society and the human being by acknowledging these three sets of laws that define us. A further impact beyond human and societal change is that we also act upon nature and bring about changes in the


and capacities of animals and the rest of nature in the sense of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans where all around us creation waits with great longing that the children of god to be revealed. (Rom 8:19) At first, there is a level that binds us to natural law such as breathing, metabolism, sleep, and procreation. Then we have followed a progressive ordering of social interaction. We may call this emancipation from nature. Initially, we were bound to nature, we went to sleep when the sun set, and our lives were determined by the seasons of the year. As we developed we began creating technology to assist our lives. Now we can sleep outside the rhythm of day and night and can, to a point, live independently of the cycle of the year. With the technology and infrastructure we have implemented we no longer need to hibernate in winter. We also changed in how we relate to each other. We have grown beyond interacting only in families and tribes and therefore social order has also developed to regulate our actions. In the strictest sense of Steiner’s definition we were not yet free. Maybe in as much that at certain times our nature was determined by blood relations of family, tribe and nation. This, along with natural law, is still a factor determining our actions. The balance between our individual rights and the duty of citizenship plays out in society in ever-increasing tension. The arts are filled with stories where individuals challenge both their determination by nature and society. These reflect the third step in our evolution of love and morality. If at first we would never have even felt the need to love beyond family and embraced the person with whom our culture permitted us to marry, we now see, over several hundreds of years, the emerging expression of both love and ethical behaviour is determined by the person. More and more the right of the individual has grown. The melting pot is between personal rights and duty. It can also be expressed as the emergent moral development grown out of the multi-cultural impulse that comes of necessity through urbanization. The growth of ethical individualism will require a redefining of moral imagination and social forms. The traditional methods of determining ethical and moral action are on shifting ground. We used to be able to say according to the agreed understandings of a group or society that a particular set of mores are the accepted good conduct of its citizens. While in the past a person who did not comply with the family or tribe's rules were put out into nature and left to die through lack of safety through the group, a second step emerged where we needed legal and judicial systems governed on behalf of a society. Societies also developed schooling for their members in treaties, codes and commandments. These codes were seen as the will of the spiritual leadership of that group and by living according to the commandments we were fulfilling the covenant between what the spiritual world inspired us to be as better citizens. Moral development and ethical behaviour were connected with the practice of virtues and values upheld by that society. These too were determined by the group. In this sense a person was free when they acted within the necessities of their nature as a citizen of that culture. The evolution of consciousness plays a role in the emerging qualities of our capacities to know good and evil. In a functional and spiritually integrated culture our development of moral and ethical action were held by society. Now we have come to new age of humanity. Love and freedom, along with morality, have also evolved. Through being able to choose to not do the good, forces of selfishness and greed have become stronger than societal directives. On the other hand people are able to take the path of balancing these selfish dictates in our soul and though moral development chose to do what is in the service of humanity, society and nature. Through individuals acting in ways that possibly now go against social dictates and which are no longer bound into the spiritual guidance, but have become subject to the selfish aims of groups and individuals, new social forms will need to be found to assess the moral and ethical quality of an individual. Moral imagination of a new sort is required if ethical individualism is to reflect the growth of future societies. We are in a time between old established values and principles which still hold society in good stead, those that have become entrenched in serving selfish ends, and the action of individuals changing the norm between the overemphasis on individual rights and calling towards civic duty. Can we develop civil obedience where what we love becomes an obligation or duty to do the best for them? What value would best promote such moral imagination? An appeal to transcendent good might be a place to start. Is what is good determined by human beings, society and codes of moral and ethical behaviour, or is goodness something that is inherent, spiritually, in our humanity, which we can access? I suggest that there is a transcendent good and is inherent in how god directs humanity. We can infer god’s will in evolution and by finding the good for our actions we feel this intention.[2] This goodness, beyond our self, can be accessed regardless of our philosophical or theological framing. At the same time trying to define this good in moral codes is increasingly difficult to formulate and maintain. It might be argued that to define goodness more philosophically or from the standpoint of humanism, without a theological reference to god, is better for the restructuring of society through ethical individualism in the Anthropocene. Sarah Bachelard suggests that, in a Christian context, we can grasp a better shape of reality to the proper background to morals by articulating and elaborating the nature of the transcendent good, so that it makes a difference to our lived experience, if we explore it in the light of the specific theological revelation of the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[3] The moral imagination derived from focusing on life in Christ, a resurrection ethic as a wisdom ethic, is based on: The Apostolic testimony that, the nature of transcending reality experienced in the light of resurrection is inexhaustibly forgiving and hospitable, it is alive in a way that is not shaded by death; loving in a way not shaded by violence. It is self-dispossessing, liberating and reconciling, and offers human beings the possibility of participating in the dynamic and the project of this divine life. It thereby reveals that becoming like and animated by this life is our access to becoming fully who we are.[4] This focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a values shift that is an essential foundation for ethical individualism. If a person can choose to do good or evil then there is a necessary evolution for the individual to undertake a moral development through their own freedom that society and nature used to provide. Traditionally this is called Theosis in Christ and was provided to the faithful in the spiritualties of the churches. It demanded a purgation (kenosis) of the selfish aspects of our desire and then an enlightenment (photismos) to the insights gained through living in relation to the life of the good gained through Christ and finally a union (Theosis) with the divine Good as essential nature of god. This process is a necessity for a philosophy of freedom and has a new gesture of being taken up by an individual. Without it the ethical individualism would have a tendency to degenerate into self-created idolatries and misguided anthropomorphisms.[5] Bachelard suggests that it is an important aspect of moral imagination to shift the values for our ethical choices away from the limitation of trying to avoid death to knowing we live in the life of Christ is that our principles are derived from this perspective. Our principles and values are maintained in the stories we tell ourselves and believe.[6] The story of Jesus Christ frames a moral imagination in that values life, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and hospitality to project this divine life into our world is who we really are. Through Christ ‘the Good’ changes from a distant and unaffected by our strivings Idea, to participating in it as the essence of the living god. Through Christ’s sacrifice god enters our world and invites us to share in the abundance of the divine life.[7] Ethical individualism, moral imagination born of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the capacities that emerge from natural necessity through humanity learning to love through freedom. No longer tribal, blood or affinities through race and gender, but a choice to treat the word ‘good’ as a noun as a motive for our ethical behaviour. [1] The Philosophy of Freedom (the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity): The Basis for a Modern World Conception: Some Results of Introspective Observation Following the Methods of Natural Science, vol. 4 (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), 3,5. [2] Martin Samson, "Developing Epistemological Faculties to Experience God’s Agency and Intention within Evolution without Negating Scientific Knowledge.," (www.Academia.edu2019). [3] Sarah Bachelard, Resurrection and Moral Imagination (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 3. [4] Ibid., 53. [5] Ibid., 55-56. [6] George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis (London: Verso Books, 2017), 6-13. [7] Bachelard, Resurrection and Moral Imagination, 54.


[1] Rudolf Steiner, Mystery of the Universe: The Human Being, Image of Creation, vol. 201 (Forest Row: Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001). 130

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