Freedom vs. Freehood

Many years ago I was introduced to the term “freehood” and how it relates to “freedom” as we usually think of it. In short, freehood is about being free as an individual, from inside oneself. “Freedom” is about having a free environment.

The term comes from Rudolf Steiner an Austrian philosopher from the late 19th, early 20th century and founder of the Waldorf Schools (one of which I attended for 1st and 2nd grade). He wrote a book entitled Die Philosophie der Freiheit which was published in English as The Philosophy of Freedom.

But Rudolf Steiner is said to have taken issue with that translation of the title. He said that the German word “Freiheit” is not the same as the English word “freedom” (and not just the fact that the German word, like all German nouns, is capitalized). He said that “freedom” refers to ones environment or domain, as in the words “kingdom” and “serfdom”. In contrast “Freiheit”/”freehood” refers to a state of being like “childhood” and “adulthood”.

Now, I think that you could look closely at the English (and German) language and find some problems with that analysis. Still, I think the distinction is very important and I value the creation of a distinctly new word for the English language.

Also, I got a great interpretation of the word from a man named Tony Ten Fingers. I took a workshop he led about mentoring young people, drawing upon his upbringing and his Oglala Lakota traditions. I told him about the word “freehood” and he liked it. He said he imagined “freehood” as a cloak with a hood you can wear personally.

(Tony Ten Fingers often talked about the importance of wearing ones “regalia”. I guess he thought a “freehood” was an good addition to that. I told him about the word over ten years ago. This year I friended Tony Ten Fingers on Facebook and I noticed him still using the term. He often gives short status updates as a form of “microblogging”. They can be inspiring, beautiful, and wise comments on balance, mentoring, ancestors, the environment, climate change, ritual, and so on. Some give glimpses into everyday life on the Lakota Reservation where he teaches at Oglala Lakota College.)

Back to the word itself: suffice to say, I like the word and the distinction it makes.

So often in our world we concentrate on what we are allowed or prevented from doing. People get angry about being told what to do and having any restrictions placed upon them. But I think often most of the restrictions we face are internal and self-imposed.

We prevent ourselves from doing many of the things we truly want to do. One of the main ways we do this is by not knowing what we truly want to do!

I’ve referred to this quote multiple times but I’m going to do it again because it illustrates so well the point I’m trying to make:

Men are not free when they are doing just what they like…. Men are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes, and there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving. –D.H. Lawrence

(Especially since I have referred to this quote so many times I want to give credit: I found it in a book of quotes compiled by Barb Lundgren who runs the Rethinking Everything Conference.)

A lack of basic freedom in ones surroundings is of course a very real problem as well. And when we lack freedom around us that can lead to internalizing it and our lack of freedom becomes a lack of freehood. But once the struggle is over for freedom, personally, I’ve found that’s not the end. I’ve found myself with freedom in my environment, but still a struggle to be a free individual, to have freehood.

So! I was inspired to try NaBloPoMo when I found out it existed from fellow blogger and grown unschooler, Elisha Burkett. I’m a little late and I can’t promise I’ll write something every single day, but I will try. I’m just very happy to have an excuse to write. Thanks for reading.


One Response to “Freedom vs. Freehood”

  1. […] had the freedom to wear the same socks a couple days in a row. But she didn’t have the freehood to question that convention. ”Really? Don’t you have to wash them every […]

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