Basic maxim of free people

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The basic maxim of free people was formulated by Rudolf Steiner in his «Philosophy of Freedom» thus:

"Living in the love of action and to let live in the understanding of the will of others is the basic maxim of free men."

This basic maxim of free human beings will have to be observed by every human being striving spiritually in the modern sense, and it applies especially to the way in which anthroposophy should be represented before the world. Anthroposophy can only prove its true value in practical action, in the love of action out of spiritual insight and out of the fruits of life that result from it, and it must be put before the world free from coercion and all dogmatism.

„Free is only man in so far as he is able to follow himself at every moment of his life. A moral deed is only my deed if in this conception it can be called a free one. Here we speak first of the conditions under which a willed act is felt to be a free one; how this purely ethically conceived idea of freedom is realised in the human being will be shown in what follows.

The action of freedom does not exclude the moral laws, but includes them; it only proves to be superior to that which is dictated only by these laws. Why should my action serve the general good less if I have done it out of love than if I have done it only for the reason that I feel it my duty to serve the general good? The mere concept of duty excludes freedom because it does not want to recognise the individual, but demands subjection of the latter to a general norm. Freedom of action is only conceivable from the standpoint of ethical individualism.

But how is it possible for people to live together if everyone only strives to assert his or her individuality? This is an objection of misunderstood moralism. It believes that a community of people is only possible if they are all united by a jointly determined moral order. This moralism does not understand the unity of the world of ideas. It does not understand that the world of ideas which is active in me is no other than that in my fellow man. This unity, however, is merely a result of the experience of the world. But it must be such. For if it were to be recognised by anything other than observation, it would not be individual experience but general norm that would be valid in its sphere. Individuality is only possible when each individual being knows of the other only through individual observation. The difference between me and my fellow human being does not lie in the fact that we live in two completely different spiritual worlds, but that he receives different intuitions from the world of ideas common to us than I do. He wants to live out his intuitions, I mine. If we both really draw from the idea and do not follow any external (physical or spiritual) impulses, we can only meet in the same striving, in the same intentions. A moral misunderstanding, a clash, is impossible in morally free people. Only the morally unfree, who follows the instinct of nature or an assumed commandment of duty, repels the neighbouring human being if he does not follow the same instinct and the same commandment.

Living in the love of action and letting live in the understanding of the will of others is the basic maxim of free men. They know no other will than that with which their will is intuitively in harmony; how they will will in a particular case will be told to them by their faculty of ideas.

If the original reason for compatibility did not lie in the human being, it would not be implanted in it by any external laws! Only because human individuals are of one spirit can they live side by side. The free man lives in the confidence that the other free man belongs with him to a spiritual world and will meet with him in his intentions. The free person does not demand agreement from his fellow human beings, but he expects it because it is in human nature. This does not refer to the necessities that exist for this or that external institution, but to the attitude, to the constitution of the soul, through which the human being, in his experience of himself among fellow human beings whom he values, does the most justice to human dignity.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 130)


  • Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The Basic Features of a Modern World View. Results of Soul Observation Arrived at by the Scientific Method, translated from the German by William Lindeman, Anthroposophic Press 1986, ISBN 0-88010-156-3
  • Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Freedom. The Basis for a Modern World Conception, translated by Michael Wilson, Rudolf Steiner Press 1964
  • Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The Basis for a Modern World Conception, Introduction by Hugo S. Bergman, Ph.D., edited, and with Notes by Paul M. Allen, translated from the German by Rita Stebbing, Rudolf Steiner Publications, Inc. 1963, ISBN 62-22389
  • Rudolf Steiner: Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Fundamentals of a Modern World Conception, Sixth edition, based on the original authorized Translation by Prof. and Mrs. R. F. Alfred Hoernlé, revised and amended by Hermann Poppelbaum, Phil.D., Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, London 1939


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.