Guest Post by MICHAEL SPENCE
Part 1 of 3
On a recent Saturday, the anthropopper made his way to Rudolf Steiner House in London, where he and other members had been invited to meet the Vorstand from Dornach (the Executive Council of the Goetheanum) as well as many of the general secretaries from the European national societies and the Council of the ASinGB. The meeting was a rare opportunity for conversation on topical and important issues concerning anthroposophy and the future direction of the world Society. We had been asked to send in questions in advance on topics that we wished to discuss. Bearing in mind that Rudolf Steiner had said that, following the failure of his threefolding initiative at the end of the First World War, another opportunity to gain a hearing would not arise until one hundred years had passed, it seemed to me and several others that this is exactly the time when the Society should be seeking a wider audience for these ideas.
So it was serendipitous that on returning from what, from my perspective, was a disappointing meeting, I had an email from Michael Spence with the following essay attached. Michael is a former bursar of Emerson College, who was closely involved with Francis Edmunds in developing the college, where he carried responsibilities for finances, administration and the campus. He also ran study groups and lectured on the threefold nature of social life. He has written an excellent history of the college (The Story of Emerson College) as well as a truly inspiring book (After Capitalism) calling for a fresh look to solutions to our present social, environmental and economic crises. He has kindly given me permission to publish his essay here as a guest post in 3 parts. Parts 2 and 3 will follow in due course.
Part 1 – The Question
When one looks at all that has been achieved and that is still being developed within the fields of work initiated by Rudolf Steiner one can indeed be truly impressed. In education, agriculture, the many forms of art, medicine, therapy, Christian Community and others there are people deeply committed to the work and to taking further what Rudolf Steiner gave. But next to all this there seems to be one glaring exception – the Threefold Social Order. In this there has been minimal, if any, achievement. In fact it seems to have been largely forgotten or ignored.
In 1917, towards the end of the First World War when Europe was in chaos, and for the next four years Rudolf Steiner dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy to promoting the ideas of the threefold social order. He gave very many lectures to members and to the public, he wrote articles and a book and also touched on the subject when lecturing on other subjects. He met and discussed these ideas with leading people in government and business. He saw it as important, and not just because there was an opening at that time for new ideas. Humanity had reached a point in its evolution of the consciousness soul when the form of its earthly social structure had to be given a form more appropriate to its needs. As the newly emerged butterfly requires a different environment in which to unfold its wings than the caterpillar from which it emerged needed, so the individualised free human spirit seeks an environment different from that required by the group soul from which it has emerged. That environment is the threefold social order. Without this and held back in old forms of social structures originating in the theocratic group soul societies, the emerging individualised consciousness soul feels cramped, unfree and unable to fulfil itself.
Since Steiner gave us the threefold social order, money and the financial system have grown even further beyond the reach of human intelligence and control. This is made clearly visible in, for example, the inability of any government or independent organisations to come to any practical idea of how to halt the continuing widening gap between the rich and the poor, between those who have immense wealth and those who cannot provide for themselves even the basic necessities for a life worthy of a human being.
One of the main causes of the increasing wealth of the few, and of the power of money itself, is the fact that today our present legal system makes it possible for certain matters, properly belonging to the sphere of rights such as land, labour and shares in a business, to be owned and treated as economic products, which they are not, and sold on the market at ever increasing profit for the holder without any actual reciprocal economic value being created. Anyone who observes life as it is today, and understands something of what Steiner pointed to as the threefold nature of society will see other such distortions creating similar social aberrations.
But, despite all the huge commitment of time and work Steiner gave to it and the importance he placed on it, what has been achieved in this field? Is there anywhere where something of what he gave has been brought to practical expression? It seems that now, despite the very great and urgent need for it, we have nothing to show or give the wider world.
I was privileged to work with Francis Edmunds at Emerson College where I met and began working with these ideas in 1967. When he founded the College, he did not consciously set it up on the basis of the threefold social order. In later discussions with him I came to recognise that in all his wisdom he did not have much more than a fairly rudimentary knowledge of it, but he did recognise its importance. He had been one of the leading teachers at Michael Hall School in England. He set the college up intuitively on the foundation of his deep understanding, out of anthroposophy and his experience of young people, of the needs of the human being as a threefold being living at this particular time in human evolution – the time of the awakening of the consciousness soul. In doing this he, and those who worked closely with him, could not help arriving at a form for the social structure and the practical administrative side of the college that was, at the same time, true to the inherent threefold nature of human society. (I go into this in more detail in my book The Story of Emerson College[i])
In later years, as I worked more deeply into the threefold social order, I came to recognise the inner necessity that in striving to place anthroposophy as the foundation of every aspect of an organisation or community of work, particularly into its social structure and its practical affairs, then, so long as one is able, with a certain amount of courage, consciously to step aside from the conventional and generally accepted way of doing things, one must arrive at a form of threefold social order.
From my observations I am convinced that there are in the world at large many people destined for, or already in, positions of leadership and influence in, for example, business, politics and government, trade unions and law, who are seriously looking for new ways to order human affairs. Many of these will have brought with them through birth a strong impulse to bring healing to the social life of humanity. Some will already carry within them, just below waking consciousness, a picture of what is trying to come into being within the being of earthly humanity. I met mature young people at Emerson who instantly recognised the reality of what Steiner gave as the threefold nature of human social life. Why do these people not find the anthroposophical movement? Where in the anthroposophical world does a wider imaginative picture of the threefold nature of human society and of what it is striving to become, live? Where has this been a dynamic in the forming of, and can be experienced in, an anthroposophical organisation and institution? To where or to whom can people seeking the true form of human social life, that which actually wills to come about, turn?
Clearly the present world social order cannot continue indefinitely. A social order that is a true expression of the threefold human being of today and of the future must come about and is the only one that can enable humanity to overcome much of the present social chaos and suffering. That is why, after I retired from Emerson College I wrote and called my book “After Capitalism”[ii]. This was written as my attempt to contribute something of the threefold social order and of economics and money which Rudolf Steiner had given us – so far as I then understood them – in a form acceptable and capable of being understood by the wider public, particularly of the Anglo-Saxon world of the 21st century. It was written mainly for the wider public, particularly for those in business, government and social affairs. So it does not include the more esoteric aspects of the threefold social order. I sensed that amongst such people, rather than amongst anthroposophists, there would be many who, out of the experience of their practical work, would recognise the sense of much of it. The question for me was how to reach them.
This book was based on some 25 years of study and on striving to understand what became for me, as bursar of Emerson College, the practical foundation of my work. In carrying responsibility for the financial, legal and economic matters in a form true to the cultural purpose of the college I had to strive to make sure that decisions on these matters were based on the same spiritual truths as was that which was taught in the classrooms and experienced in the Christian Festivals and in the social life of the college.
I came to realise that in the wider anthroposophical community interest in the threefold social order was declining. Too many of those former students with whom I worked in study groups when they got into their work of teaching, farming or other such important work, though still interested, gave all their energy to doing their best in the profession they had taken up. When I first tried to find a publisher for After Capitalism no anthroposophical publisher to whom I sent it was interested. Sevak Gulbekian of Rudolf Steiner Press said to me “You run a bookshop; who will buy this book?” (At that time, after retiring, I ran the Emerson College Bookshop) When I thought about it I had to recognise that he was right, hardly any anthroposophists would buy it. A leading non-anthroposophical publisher commented that while they found the ideas expressed in the book interesting, booksellers were reluctant to stock books that covered such a wide variety of subjects in the one book. Eventually, in 2014 Adonis Press in the USA published it. From this and other observations I came to the question: why is there so little interest in the threefold social order? In all other areas of the work inspired by Rudolf Steiner remarkable progress has been made in deepening and spreading what he gave. In almost all areas the anthroposophical work, time and again, leads the way in the world rather than just touching the edges, or following behind what others in the wider world are doing.
As a first step towards finding an answer to my question I decided to look more closely at the website of the Social Science Section of the School of Spiritual Science and particularly at the monthly newsletters. I looked to see what there was in these letters that, on the basis of the threefold social order, could help people to a perception of what actually underlay the financial crisis. And, further, was there anything there that pointed a way to healing the discords and deep social injustices, poverty and suffering arising from the chaotic state of human social life?
I do not speak German but looking through about ten of the recent English translations of the newsletters I found virtually nothing. It was predominantly reports and articles by people or organisations, most probably sympathetic to, but with little or no connection to anthroposophical spiritual science. Reading many of them I found myself questioning their relevance or connection to what I imagined the work of the social section could be. The threefold social order was almost never even referred to in any form. It was almost as though Steiner had never written the books and articles nor given the many lectures that he did give – or that what he gave then is of little importance in our time, as though it was only relevant for that particular time.
Yet it is only on the foundation of what Rudolf Steiner put so much of his time and effort into that any sense can be made of the deepening human social chaos of today. The basic nature of the threefold social order he pointed to is just as real and relevant today as is what he gave of the threefold nature of the human being. Only on the foundation of this is it possible to come to a real and penetrating perception of what underlies the social disorder and conflicts of today and to find a way to a more equal, just and truly human world social order that can and will include all humanity.
I am not trying to point to any failing of the newsletter itself nor of the people who obviously put so much work into it, but to what one can see there as being an indication of a sort of gap, an emptiness, in the work and consciousness of the wider anthroposophical movement. The newsletter seems to me to be a fairly true reflection of the state of anthroposophical understanding of the threefold nature of human society today.
From my experience it seems that in most anthroposophical institutions there are serious splits between what, in schools for example, we can refer to collectively as the office and the classroom. In the work in the classroom there is, certainly in the great majority of Waldorf Schools a serious commitment to founding the work on anthroposophical spiritual science. But there is seldom any such serious anthroposophical basis to the work in the office. Whereas it is often merely difficult to get sufficient teachers for the work of the classroom, it is almost impossible to find people with a similar level of understanding of the threefold social order so as to bring anthroposophy also into the practical organisation of the school. Even if such a person is found there is too often a lack of support, if not actual resistance from the teachers, for the changes in the organisation and procedures that will probably be needed in the school organisation. Conventional procedures are often thought of as more “professional”. If such a person is found he or she will often find that the teachers look down on his or her work as unspiritual.
We understand the meeting of the child with the teacher as having its roots in earlier lives, as a working of karma. The teachers understand this and take it deeply into their teaching. But in the office too often there is little or no consciousness of the working of karma, that on a deeper level the teacher is doing what he does out of karmic necessity, not in order to earn money. What he is paid enables him to live, it frees him to fulfil his life’s work. In the office conventional established procedures tend to be followed and the teachers treated as being employed to do certain work as laid down by the employer and described in job descriptions. According to the contract they work for a salary consistent to the work they do and their particular experiences and qualifications. The salary is payment for the work, it is a purchase. In such an arrangement there is no recognition that karma lies behind their coming to this particular work – work they actually do because only in the doing of it will they find inner fulfilment to their lives. So there is a lie, an untruth, within the being of the school, and this has its effect. The discord that then exists in the environment of the school is felt or sensed, even if unconsciously, by more people than is generally recognised.
There is, of course, still good work being done. There are many different aspects of the threefold social order that have been and are taken up and worked with. But people appear to concentrate on particular questions that relate to their work or that especially interest them. Discussion groups often take certain questions or problems and try to understand them in the light of particular current situations. But where has all this study and discussion manifested in practical expression?
Rudolf Steiner referred to the economic sphere of activity as the “social sphere” or as the underlying area of the “social problem”. Anyone who can put aside the usual perceptions and judgements of economic life commonly held today by virtually all of us, and look quite objectively at the realm of economic activity as described by Steiner in his lectures World Economy[iii], will recognise that the economic activity of production and distribution is, in its essential nature, a social and moral activity. Neither the rights nor the cultural sectors can properly be called social in the same way.
(Parts 2 and 3 to follow)
[i] The Story of Emerson College – published by Temple Lodge, UK in 2013 – ISBN 978 1 906999 44 5
[ii] After Capitalism – published by Adonis Press in USA in 2014 – ISBN 978-0-932776-45-7. Earlier version translated and published by Remedium Kft in 2012. Now also published in French by aethera pour Triades in 2016
[iii] World Economy, GA340 14 lectures given in Dornach 24/7 to 5/8/1922 – published in 2013 by SteinerBooks in USA as Rethinking Economics.
26 responses to “The Threefold Social Order – has it been forgotten? (Part 1)”
Philosophy always comes on the scene too late to give instruction as to what the world ought to be. As the thought of the world, it appears only when actuality is already there, cut and dried, after its process of formation has been completed. When philosophy paints its grey on grey, then a shape of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated by philosophy’s grey on grey; it can only be understood. It is only with the fall of dusk that the owl of Minerva spreads its wings. Hegel, Philosophy of Right
Rudolf Steiner began to formulate the Threefold Social Organism in 1917 during the midst of the ghastly war. It was rejected. Over 17 million people were killed and 20 million people were injured. Rudolf Steiner passed through the gates of death in 1925 and his intense work on the Threefold Society evidently was ignored as world war two started in 1939 and over 60 million people were killed. This is a shocking amount of death. In 1917 Rudolf Steiner said addressing the problem of evil is the task of the present time.
In 1919, while articulating Threefold Social Organism, he stated:
What has brought humanity to the present state of affairs in the civilized world is that during the last few centuries the three spheres the economic life, the political life and the cultural life have in many respects grown together into a single, unified state. The cause of the present unrest is that an enormous number of people are struggling (while unconscious of the real nature of their striving) toward a delimitation of these three spheres of life into separate systems of the social organism so that the spiritual-cultural life may be free to shape itself according to its own spiritual impulses; that the sphere of rights may be built up democratically through the interaction (direct or representational) of people on equal terms; and that the economic life may extend solely to the production, circulation and consumption of commodities. (GA23)
100 years has passed since the words of wisdom were formulated. 100 years! How much pain has the world gone through since then? As the younger generation may very well ask: why was the formulation of the Threefold Society ignored then especially when the understanding of the necessity was clear before the horror of world war two?
As Hegel said: It is only with the fall of dusk that the owl of Minerva spreads its wings.
The following is a compilation of the Threefold Society lectures:
The Challenge of the Times, By Rudolf Steiner, GA 186
The Threefold Social Order, By Rudolf Steiner, GA 23
The Social Future, Six lectures by Rudolf Steiner, given at Zurich in October, 1919 http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA332a/English/AP1945/19191024p01.html
The Renewal of the Social Organism, By Rudolf Steiner, GA 24
The Fundamental Social Demand of Our Times, By Rudolf Steiner, GA 186
Social and Anti-Social Forces in the Human Being, A lecture by Rudolf Steiner, Bern, December 12, 1918, GA 186
Reordering of Society, Requirements of Spiritual, Social and Economic Life, An Essay By Rudolf Steiner, GA 24
World Economy, The Formation of a Science of World-Economics, by Rudolf Steiner
Fourteen lectures given in Dornach,
24th July to 6th August, 1922
Translated by A. O. Barfield and T. Gordon-Jones, GA 340
Thank you, Caryn, for your thoughts and those links. I would ask you the same thing I’ve asked Frank: what do you think of Michael Spence’s question – has threefolding been forgotten?
What did the Vorstand have to say on that question? It sounds like you came home disappointed. If they can’t even remotely take responsibility, then who can? This blog has acknowledged the importance of threefolding again and again, and especially since the Brexit vote. Now, please consider that opportunity.
Rudolf Steiner formulated the threefold social order for the purpose of actually seeing that the “Great War” would be the war to end all wars. Yet, the second great war of the twentieth century was already being formulated in the planning stage by 1921. And that is why he largely ditched discussing the subject after the lecture-course, “Spiritual Science as the Foundation of Social Forms”, GA199, in August-September 1920. Steiner would begin to transfer his attention to those forces working against threefolding in his next course, “The New Spirituality and the Christ Experience in the Twentieth Century”, GA200.
And herein is where he reveals the western involvement in undermining threefolding by way of the destruction of the Trinity. Of course, this all goes back to the Eighth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Church, c. 869, in which the decree was proclaimed that excluded the Spirit member, and thus making mankind a mere duality of mind and body. Steiner would acknowledge this act of the church as the first external influence of Sorath, who had broken into earth evolution in 666, ref. GA184.
So, any honest effort to threefold society is met with the rather entrenched worldview that is based on duality, which is mere left and right, and excludes the middle term, which is the true resolving factor.
As long as Spirit is left out of the equation, according to the so-called “Powers That Be”, then threefolding will be accordingly disabled in its effectiveness. Of course, we anthroposophists already know this, and why this might be a good comment to start the discussion here in Part I of this discourse of Michael Spence.
Steiner (1924) warned the priests for an intellectual threefold division of humanity (cloud, rainbow and fiery feet people), ’burying any kind of cosmopolitanism’ (p.200) and asked them ‘to work against the seduction of Gog and Magog’ (smaller and larger groups) in the ‘threefolding of the social order’ (p.255).
See: The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest (1924), XPPqRlWa_HAC
What Rudolf Steiner conveys here in his last course, is how the present orientation of east-centre-and west is configured as such:
1) Cloud-men = thinking from the Asian and Russian mind-set
2) Rainbow-men = feeling from the Central European zone
3) Fiery-footed men = willing from Western Europe and America
“What lives strongly in our time appears before the clairvoyant eye of the Apocalypticer as a figure that forms out of the clouds, has a face like a sun, goes over into a rainbow, and has fiery feet, of which one is planted on the ocean and the other on the earth. One could say that this is really the most significant vision that the present-day human soul should look at. For the thoughts that belong to spirit land are in the face which is born out of the clouds above. The rainbow is the feeling world in man’s soul which belongs to the soul world. What is contained in the bodies of men who belong to the physical world is in the fiery feet that get their strength from the power of the earth which is covered by the ocean.
One could say that this points to a real cultural secret of the present, which is that there are three kinds of men, and not that each man is split into three parts. One can see this very clearly today. We have cloud men who can only think, whereas the two other parts — rainbow and fiery feet — remain stunted.
We have rainbow men where the main development is in the feelings. They can only grasp Anthroposophy with their feelings and not with their minds. However, this type is also present in the outside world and not just in the Anthroposophical Society. They can only grasp the world with their feelings. These people’s feelings are well developed but their thinking and will are stunted. Then there are people today who act as if they only had a hypertrophically developed will; their thinking and feeling are stunted; they charge like bulls and act in accordance with direct, outer impulses, — they’re the fiery footed men.
The vision of John the Apocalypticer depicts these three kinds of men which we meet in life. We should become aware of this secret of our present-day civilization so that we can look at human beings in the right way. One can also discover them if one looks at larger world events.
Just look at what is, happening in Russia…..”
It’s a sad reflection on how little effect Steiner’s social (and especially economic) thinking has had over the past 100 years that so many appeals to revisit it have come from people who appear to have no working relationship to the real economy. Why is this? Why do not bankers or greengrocers or estate agents or builders, or even the unemployed, find solace – for the ills that others claim for them – in these remarkable lectures and books from the time of WWI?
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Paul, it is because the common worker in the economic systems of today, all around the world, does not even know that anthroposophy even exists to address these problems.
“When we set out today to speak about Anthroposophy and the Threefold Movement with its various consequences — which indeed arise out of Anthroposophy, and must really be thought of as arising out of it, — then we must first of all hold before our souls that it is difficult to make oneself understood. And, without this feeling — that it is difficult to make oneself understood — we shall hardly be able to succeed as speakers for anthroposophical Spiritual Science and all that is connected with it, in a way satisfying to ourselves. For if there is to be speaking about Anthroposophy which is appropriate, then this speaking must be entirely different from what one is accustomed to in accordance with the traditions of speaking. One has often fallen into the habit of speaking also about anthroposophical matters in the way one has become used to speaking in the age of materialism; but one is more apt thereby to obstruct the understanding for Anthroposophy, rather than to open up an approach to it.
We must now make clear to ourselves that primarily it is the feeling for the central issue of the threefold order that must at first be stirred in our present humanity. It must after all be assumed that an audience of today does not begin to know what to do with the concept of the threefold order. Our speaking must slowly lead to the imparting first of a feeling for this threefold order in the audience.”
GA339, lecture II, 12 October 1921
Maybe one shouldn’t refer to people as “the common worker” – I’m sure they would not listen very carefully if one did – I wouldn’t anyway.
This might be an example of why Threefolding has not succeeded. It has become too tightly bound up with Anthroposophy and its in-built elitism. That was not Steiner’s original intention. I do not think it is necessary to know (or even know of) anthroposophy to appreciate the reality of what Steiner’s threefolding ideas point to. The very existence and partial success of Steiner’s 1917 “Memoranda” *** are clear evidence of that. Steiner was famous enough on the world stage in 1920/21 for his visit to Britain to be reported on the main news page of “The Times”.
*** English versions in Steiner, R; “Social and Political Science”; Sophia Books, 2003.
You’re not paying attention, Paul. Threefolding has failed precisely because it has lost its seminal connection to anthroposophy. If you think you [and others] need to be pampered by being considered “uncommon workers”, then go look again. Seize the day. It is not that difficult.
I’m sorry I spoke Steve. You are clearly one of those internet contributors with whom it is unwise to tangle. And by the way, I am (or was) a “common worker”.
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No, Paul, I did not mean to give that impression. But, you talk about anthroposophy and its built-in elitism as being the cause of the failure of threefolding, and here I read and quote again and again that threefolding has lost is connection to its source in anthroposophy. That is why we are having these adroit discussions; to point out the necessary relationships.
I too was a common worker, yet extraordinary in my attempts to apply threefolding in the workplace. It does really work, and especially when Michael’s powerful sword is utilized with faith and courage – fire and enthusiasm.
So, it is a welcome to talk with you.
Thank you for a great article and interesting comments.
I am working on a two-person play about the birth of the TSO. One question I have is that in place Steiner called it the Threefold Social ORGANISM. I personally like this much more than “order” which is very static. Have others met this use of the word? At present I’m using it in my play.
Here is a blurb of what is in the play. It’s written for a tour of New Zealand (I’m a kiwi) which is the way I’m going to begin to perform this, but later it will come to Europe – possibly performed by two English actors but possibly by myself and another anitpodean. Write to me at if you have a venue where this could come to.or other ideas for who would appreciate it.
THIS WAR IS NOT INEVITABLE
A play for two actors
by Michael Hedley Burton
concerning the birth of the idea of the
Threefold Social Organism
It is 100 years since Rudolf Steiner first described his vision of the Threefold Social Organism. His efforts in 1917 to rescue Germany from a devastating World War failed. However his description of the way that society needed to be restructured at that time is as relevant today as it was then.
Steiner focused on the key role played by civil society which, when it is strong, is able to keep economic powers and the power of the state separate from each other, ensuring that each is limited to its rightful activity. The action of free individuals is the counterbalance to much that is wrong with society today. Social threefolding, by countering both excessive state power and the tyranny of raw economic forces, brings harmony into society. That it come into existence in the world, working in different ways in different countries, is an important precondition for world peace.
Michael Burton’s play has one actor playing Rudolf Steiner and another actor taking on various other roles. The audience enters into the situation of Germany at her time of great crisis. By understanding what was attempted then, we can perceive how social threefolding can become a force for the good in our own time. The breakdown of society that we see taking place everywhere today is the shadow side of new opportunities starting to appear that need to be taken hold of. This play is an excellent way to become informed about the ongoing relevance of social threefolding and what each individual can do in order to assist it to come about.
“This War Is Not Inevitable” will tour New Zealand and Australia in April and May this year. Can you help us to come to a venue in your area? In contrast to the new mystery drama (out of which this play arose) this is a very flexible and lightweight show, and we are willing to travel anywhere. We would like at least 40 people in an audience, but the show is something that can be done in small or large venues, with or without stage lighting.
The Threefold Social Organism is deeply relevant to many aspects of our time and needs to be understood by all who are concerned with the future of humanity. Meeting together to witness this event can be a catalyst to positive social change or assist in the launching of a particular initiative your community may be carrying. If you can coordinate a performance in your area or offer any kind of assistance, please contact Michael Burton at:
Email michaelburton – AT – clear.net.nz
Mobile: +64 29 123 0717
This play is interesting for the fact that Rudolf Steiner gave a lecture-course in October 1921 concerning “The Art of Lecturing”, and wherein the TSO was to be his theme of presentation. As such, he says that speaking from the lectern, or speaking in any other venue to an audience, whether a play, or writing discussion commentary on a blog, must refrain from being too intellectual because the audience isn’t interested in thinking, and it must refrain from expressing too much of the will-force, because this annoys the audience. Rather, it is the feelings that have got to be gotten with the audience. Only feelings resonate the heart and soul of an audience.
So, by tapping the feelings of those listening, then thinking and will can be brought about as an indirect means to get to the essence of such an issue as Threefolding, and what it truly means. Steiner does an extraordinary job here in conveying just how much Threefolding is indebted to its source in Anthroposophy, and yet, people today seem to want to find a better way without it. Go figure. But, I hope your play sees these elements, with the emphasis on touching the feelings of the audience to the cause.
Regards, and wishes for great success
Hi Steve. Yes, that’s one of the reasons art is important – the head is involved but primarily the words and gestures go direct to the heart. There’s lots of will there too, of course, but, by putting will into characters arguing with each other – rather than sending their impulses direct to the audience, that makes it OK. In a play you can have a very forceful character saying something exactly the opposite of what the playwright actually believes. The audience isn’t overpowered by this but sits back and comes to understand different viewpoints.
One of the main things I want to convey is how everything was against Steiner and yet he kept going, with a sense of what is possible at any given moment, changing tactics and what he was putting out into the world as the times changed. If such a time of possibility opens up to us again, will we be ready for it and flexible enough to respond in accordance with what the world is asking for?
A stage performance of the Threefold Organism sounds like a good idea. The vision of having two characters and not three is great as the economic life cannot be represented by a person because it is an item.
It would be interesting to hear more about the script as it has got me thinking:
An economic item represented by a sun and imagination.
The seat of wisdom with a rhythmic group of people represented with a moon and intuition.
A human being representing the earth and inspiration.
There would have to a fourth character as well representing the mixed metals collapsed in a heap (a static character would portray this best)
I have been thinking over the dialogue and I am coming more to the thought there should not be any dialogue. The performance would be eurythmic.
Under the moonlight, this serious moonlight”
That sounds like it would be a very interesting performance. A different play from what I’ve written (which does have dialogue) but it would be good to work with such ideas.
The new play has come out of my attempts to write a script of a followup to the four mystery dramas. The TSO is a very strong theme in that. As an artist, I’d not really been very aware of the TSO before. Now I see it as being totally fundamental to Anthroposophy. There are scenes in the new play where characters appear who are like a further stage in the incarnation of the four kings in Goethe’s fairy tale. In the spiritual world they work harmoniously, but in the crisis scene of a boardroom meeting, three of them clash terribly because they are coming out of their one-sidedness and are not yet able to have a sense of the whole.
Hi Michael (Burton)
An interesting idea, unfortunately I will not be able to see it as I now live in Wagga Wagga, Australia, nearly three hour drive from the nearest anthroposophical centre. But a few points on your announcement.
I see no problem with “organism”. I personally tend to vary my words for describing it to avoid getting fixed ideas from any one particular description. I often use the term “the threefold nature of human society”.
Also, I do question your describing it as the birth of the threefold social organism. Society has always had something of a threefold nature. It has evolved with, and alongside, the evolution of the human being. Much of our social structure today, for example, is a continuation of what was appropriate for the ancient theocratic societies, but not right for our time. Steiner points to its origins in different early cultures. What he gave was an attempt to lead people to an understanding of it as it is appropriate for our time.
But my main concern is the use of the term “civil society”. The use of terms such as “civil society”, “government” and “business” have come periodically to be used to describe the threefold nature of social life. Steiner, as far as I know, never used these three terms. He pointed to the “cultural” life as that sphere in which each individual human being brings to expression and works out of his individual impulses and needs, such as in art, science, religion or education. I cannot find any expression of this in the term or description of “civil society”. In my opinion that term would be much more appropriate for what must come to be the sector or sphere with sole responsibilities for what will eventually remain of our present government when all cultural and economic activities have been separated off from it. Only that part will be left, totally different from our present “government”, in which each citizen’s opinion is of equal value and each has an equal say. This would fit far better into the term of “civil society”.
The term “business”, rather than ”economic” which Steiner used, in my mind points to just that part of the economic sphere of activity which has been made egoistic. It ignores all the many people who actually do the productive work in, for example, the factory, the mines or in the construction and building industries. That is the basic activity described by Steiner as the “economic” sphere or sector. Much, though certainly not all, of what we see today as “business” is what has come to be a parasitic growth on it. If we are thinking of human society in its totality we must include the activity of the actual production and distribution of all that we have and use of the products that have their origin in nature. These, stated rather briefly, are some of the reasons why I think these three terms can cause considerable confusion in many people’s minds.
I hope you find these comments helpful.
Dear Michael Spence,
I find it uplifting that you have chosen to weigh-in on the comments, goals, and motivations ensuing after your well-thought renditions on the 3fold society. Personally, I feel that Steiner was doomed at the time in encouraging a threefold commonwealth simply because it was brought forth during WWI, and then further encouraged after the war, when the aftermath brought the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, as well as the reparation payments demanded from the United States throughout the decade of the 1920’s. This created the hyper-inflation condition of a very unstable economy. As well, the Weimar Republic, responsible for the legal-rights order, was in constant turmoil, and the spiritual-cultural aspect was stunted as the consequence of war.
So, Steiner’s vision of a Threefold Social Order was designed to be an Ideal Model of a future time in which it could be applied. Today’s world situation is that time for implementation. The world scene has been assessed in every aspect of its demographic, social, and economic situation, and threefolding is available to be applied everywhere in the world.
The only one who is in a position to apply threefolding today is Donald Trump, President of the United States. As a capitalist, he is looking at all resolutions involving economic disorder, and how prosperity can be achieved. What is refreshing about him, and his approach, is that he sees politics itself as the biggest obstacle to achieving goals. What he wants to do is leverage the playing-field throughout the world, and make every country accountable and owing to its own productivity potential. That is why TPP is out, and NAFTA is being re-evaluated. Trump is a realist, and not a politician. Politicians are wafflers, esteemed for their rhetoric.
What Trump lacks, of course, is the fine nuance of Steiner’s vision of a total plan for threefolding, based on spiritual science. How this could be communicated to him is the question and concern. I do believe that he has the right ideas in mind. The reason I say that is because as an anthroposophist I would be doing much as he is in dealing with the economics first, and then meeting with the leaders of the various countries in order to assuage their positions and goals for a trustworthy legal-rights order in the middle. This is already happening.
So, I feel that something very important is starting to take place, and I keep my fingers crossed for it, and especially because of all this negative reactionary mind-set that we are seeing, and most of it coming from America itself. Go figure why. He touched the nerve of the anti-establishment, seeking a new establishment. What is it? Threefolding!
It is nice to be in touch with you again – haven’t seen you since Emerson 1979! And you are in Wagga Wagga! I’ve just moved from Sydney where I’ve been living for five years – now in Auckland. But we will be taking the show to Australia so it’s not for certain that we can’t meet – maybe if we drive between Sydney and Melbourne.
About your comments, and especially, “my main concern is the use of the term “civil society”. I’ve taken that from Nicanor Perlas and also from current ideas regarding “cultural creatives”. Nicanor’s picture of tripartite society basically uses that as a word for the spiritual-cultural life. Deeper in the play I do define things more – I have Steiner saying to the other character, “You can call it what you will – whatever name it is given, this sphere represents the collective life of ideas throughout civil society. Yes, this is the realm that is key to the health of society. If it is strong and independent it will naturally form a wedge between the politicians and the leaders of business, and genuine threefolding will be able to take place.”
I see I use the “civil society” term again.
In a few cases I’ve borrowed directly from Steiner such as a short quote I very much like (rather relevant to what Mr Trump is trying to do): “The political sphere can do no other than destroy economic life when it takes control of it; and the economic sphere loses its strength and vitality when it tries to become political… ” but mainly it’s my own words because I feel this is the only way I can make it relevant to people today. It’s got to breathe today rather than be a period piece. However I’ve probably made some mistakes in this and it’s on my agenda to get the play checked. Would be willing to send you a copy if you would be willing to read it through.
Best wishes, Michael
Dear Michael and Michael,
I would like to draw a particular attention to this article, written back in the year 2000, when a world global initiative concerning the threefolding of the social order apparently existed as a palpable entity, and wherein Nicanor Perlas was cited for using the term, “cultural creatives”, and which the author, Joel Kobran, called a ‘philistine neologism’.
As well, I would like to highlight what Michael Burton has just said, in relation to Steiner and Trump. If I understand it correctly, Michael is approving of the Trump initiative in excelling economics over politics in his early days as POTUS. I cite:
“In a few cases I’ve borrowed directly from Steiner such as a short quote I very much like (rather relevant to what Mr Trump is trying to do): “The political sphere can do no other than destroy economic life when it takes control of it; and the economic sphere loses its strength and vitality when it tries to become political… ” but mainly it’s my own words because I feel this is the only way I can make it relevant to people today.”
Click to access Michaelic%20Millions.pdf
Social threefolding with its shadowy proliferations is actually taking place on a global scale (see comments above). A play could address an audience of fiery-feet men (Western Europe) and rainbow men (Central Europe) differently. E.g. Steiner’s lecturing course is called Swiss Orientation Course.
1979 was a long time ago. We are both a lot older now, and I hope a bit wiser.
The sentence that you have Steiner say in your play: “…this sphere represents the collective life of ideas throughout civil society” actually does in a certain way confirm what I said. Surely here “civil society” can only mean society as a whole, not just those ideas within one sector of it, that is, within the cultural sector. What about those ideas arising in the economic and rights spheres of activity?
You are a man of the “word”. Can the word “civil” be used to include only those members of the community who are active within what Steiner referred to as the cultural spiritual sector of society, or must it include all members of society? It is the work of those active within the cultural sphere of society that nurture and foster in all the individual members of society that which then arises as the “collective life of ideas throughout society”, that is, including those in the economic and rights spheres of society.
I am not just being pedantic. There is considerable confusion about what Steiner pointed to as the threefold nature of human society and it is urgently necessary that it become clear. And I really do believe that such alternative perceptions and descriptions of the different spheres is partly responsible for this confusion. How can we expect the world at large to take an interest in what we have to say if we present different pictures, many of which people, in the depths of their souls, do not sense as true to the world they experience.
If you really feel it would help I would be happy to read through your play. But I do not want to get in the position of judging a person’s work. I do believe freedom is essentially important and a person must be free to create what he feels coming to birth within him. I would only say if I thought anything you were presenting would bring unnecessary harm to what Steiner brought, or what I have come to understand as true.
Best wishes Michael
Why do the Michael’s, who once knew each other in England, c. 1979, now live in the easternmost regions of the world? Auckland and Wagga Wagga. Does it mean they have their own boats to take, whenever they choose, or does it mean they reside most close to the southern Sun?
God bless this day, in either, or both cases. The Play will be made, and the Threefold Order will be expressed.
Hi Michael – would be great to have the play checked. You’ll find my email address on my website http://www.wordrenewal.org (it’s out of date – has me still in Sydney and nothing on the new play project yet but the email address is correct.)
Since you’re interested in the threefold social order I just wanted to ask if you’ve read Hjalmar Hegge’s book “Freiheit Individualität Gesellschaft”? If so, what did you think about it? It’s the source of most of my knowledge on the threefold social order and I never actually read anything by Steiner on the matter.