Thoughts on a threefold social order:
The social spirit – pneumatism
The social soul – psychomatism
The social body – organism
An essay by Jon Geelmuyden
Translated by William Forward
Rudolf Steiner's thoughts – the human being is the model 6
Social three-folding – body, soul and spirit 8
The social soul 9
The social spiritual sphere 11
The social body 13
Schooling – social capital formation 14
Anthroposophical community building 16
Create cultures – take initiative 17
Addendum – diagrams 18
In January 2000, the Social Therapy Working Group – a committee of the International Conference Circle for Curative Education and Social Therapy, based in Dornach, Switzerland – once again organised a conference on social therapy in Dornach itself, an event that took place every other year at that time. For a long time there had been a question as to where Social Therapy belonged: in the Medical Section together with Curative Education, or in the Social Science Section in the School of Spiritual Science? Since opinions were divided on the issue and each perspective had its merits, we used to arrange things so that the leaders of the respective Sections would take it in turns to give the opening or closing lecture of an event. On this occasion, it was Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, the leader of the Social Science Section, who was to give the introduction and Michaela Gloeckler, the leader of the Medical Section, who was to give the concluding address at the conference.
Schmidt-Brabant began his lecture – and thus the whole conference – by saying that a diary entry had recently been found in the main archive that followed a conversation that someone had had with Rudolf Steiner at the beginning of the year1919 – i.e. at the height of the activity around social three-folding – in which Steiner had said something like: “We shouldn't just talk about the social organism, we should talk about the social psychomatism and social pneumatism as well; but we shall not get to that now, we shall have to deal with it later.” – After that, Schmidt-Brabant went on to talk about altogether other things and this piece of information was “left hanging in the air” and virtually forgotten. The word organism after all means body. What Steiner said was that they shouldn't just deal with bodily aspects of the social order but also its soul and spirit aspects.
But he never got to that before he was obliged to drop the whole three-folding project. Whilst it is true, that he had used the concepts psychomatism and pneumatism before, in a lecture that was in a completely different context and with a completely different meaning (GA 151, Berlin, 21st January 1914). Later, (GA 181, Berlin, 16th July 1918) he used these concepts again and indeed in a social context, but it was like a little parenthesis to a completely different train of thought (the understanding of history) and they were not used again, least of all in connection with social three-folding. This shows once more that Steiner was engaged with these thoughts and would probably have dealt with them more thoroughly at a later stage had the opportunity presented itself.
What he says in the later lecture is that it is all well and good that someone has had the idea of describing the community as an organism rather than a mechanism, as something living, rather than as a machine or simply a structure, but that it simply will not be sufficient for a true understanding of human community building if one is merely talking about the bodily and completely ignoring the spiritual and soul aspects.
I am very aware of the large amount of work that has been put in by various groups over the years to try to work with Steiner's thoughts on the social question. There have been and still are groups who have delved into all kinds of texts from that time and have developed methods for use in organisational leadership and pioneering work, which are really admirable. Great progress has been achieved in the areas of consultancy work and crisis management around the world, particularly with businesses concerned with the production and distribution of goods and services (e.g. Deutsche Bahn, Phillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Amsterdam's airport Schiphol etc. and likewise anthroposophical enterprises like Weleda). It has proved much harder to do in schools (Steiner and others) or institutions in the field of curative education and social therapy, i.e. which are working directly within social life and in the field of human relationships.
“This is due to the effect of idealism among the co-workers” in the words of a very experienced consultant in this field (Dr. Bernard Lievegoed, NL, the founder of NPI inter alia). My own view is that it is down to the lack of acquired insight into what the soul sphere in society looks like and how it functions and likewise the lack of awareness of the spiritual sphere in society. In these areas, it is simply not enough to improve organisation, to develop methods for motivational work, which lead to better decision-making processes and better information and feedback structures. These are absolutely necessary, of course, but something more and different is needed to make space for what belongs to the soul. Moreover, the intentionality of an institution, the very impulse to found a school or a caring community and to develop it and take it further tends to end up on the back burner if one is concentrating only on structural questions.
The topic of this essay is an attempt to make a break-through in this area, starting from Manfred Schmidt-Brabant's announcement on that winter's day in the year 2000.
Kassjö, New Year 2020
There are many ideas about the structure and aims of a community. Likewise thoughts about what a human being is. The two belong together, naturally, dependent as they are on each other.
What is at work behind the forming of a community? Is it the yearning to be part of the flock? Is it the wish of individuals to perhaps be able to dominate others? Is it the dream of warm closeness and security? Or the need to disappear in the crowd, not to stand out, not to be visible at all?
For myself I am convinced what lies behind it is the basic need people have – to meet. A need with many faces:
Necessary meetings. One meets colleagues at work, customers, clients, administrators, agents, – or visits them in the course of one's duties. Brief, down-to-earth meetings, there is a job to be done. That's it. – Or countless variations of the same thing.
Casual meetings. One meets, exchanges a few words, and moves on. Was it an important meeting? Who can know that immediately? If there was anything substantial in it, it will become apparent soon enough...
Friendly meetings. We spend time together. More or less deep conversations, more or less routine fellowship, perhaps the superficiality dominates. But also really deep friendship, conversations never empty. And that blessed quiet in each other's company. Why does the friendship last? What does it consist of? What is it based on? What are its implications?
Destiny meetings. One just knows. Perhaps a feeling of déjà vu – that one has met before. Or there is a direct sense, and we just get on with what we know we have to do together. Like getting together and starting a family. Or starting a project or an enterprise. Or we have inexplicable feelings for each other, perhaps even negative ones. But we know that we belong together somehow.
We have our meetings – but how do we know what kind they are? And do we know how to manage the meeting either immediately or in the longer term? When is it necessary to cultivate it, to be true to it, hold to it? And when is it time to let it go, let it die away – perhaps before it develops into its opposite? Friendship becomes enmity, love turns into hate?
Within various anthroposophical places of work, like Steiner schools, curative education settings, social therapeutic communities, biodynamic agriculture, various craft workshops, companies that make anthroposophical medicines and cosmetic products, hospitals and clinics run on anthroposophical lines etc. etc. throughout the world, people have found inspiration in Rudolf Steiner's ideas on the social organism. People have sought guidance in Steiner's writings and lectures on the subject in order to deal with questions around power structures, allocation of responsibility, distribution of resources, wage levels and so on. With varying outcomes.
Rudolf Steiner's thoughts – the Human Being is the model
When the First World War drew to its conclusion, it was clear that all the old social forms were literally blown to bits. The old power blocks in Europe – imperial rule and the empires – didn't really exist any longer; the Austro-Hungarian Empire, France, Russia, Prussia, the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire had all been broken up and had lost their power base. They had lost their role as holders of power in a balancing act between each other and were now bringing to an end each one's means of exercising power in the form of military and economic resources.
Everyone was wondering how the future would look. How could one build up a Europe with some hope for the future for the broken down and disillusioned peoples involved? Was it going to end up with a tug of war between egoistic forces? End in total anarchy and lawlessness? Were the forests going to grow up densely throughout Europe and its peoples return to life as hunter-gatherers?
In Russia, the Bolsheviks had seized power and murdered the Tsar and his family, and were now involved in a bloody civil war that was spreading across the whole of that huge realm. Was that an example to follow? Hardly. Would it be better to do as they had in the USA, where the capitalists and industrial magnates had made enormous sums of money from the war and had given themselves free rein, and where the battle for existence was playing out in a seemingly civilised setting but hardly in a civilised manner? Not that either. So what were the alternatives?
In this clearly hopeless situation Rudolf Steiner set forth a proposal which he called “Die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus” – “The three-folding of the social order” as it has been translated – often referred to simply as “Dreigliederung” or “Threefolding”. Some centrally placed figures in the corridors of power were given direct access to Steiner's thoughts and a number were very taken with these thoughts. When the war finally ended in 1918 the question really came to life and banner headlines in German newspapers put it thus: ”Dreigliederung oder Bolschewismus?” “Three-folding or Bolshevism?”
Many wished to hear Steiner's ideas directly from him and lecture tours were arranged. Very many came to listen and from time to time, it was necessary to change to bigger auditoriums, halls that could accommodate up to 5000 people. Soon Steiner did not have enough time to do it all himself and sought help from his co-workers to take the information campaign around the German-speaking area.
But there were other forces working into this political chaos and Steiner noticed that his ideas were not being taken sufficiently seriously by leading politicians; he then broke off his efforts to influence the course of events in this way, early in 1919. As he put it, people were not ready for these thoughts and one would have to start by bringing up children towards being free individuals first before it would be possible to found a community built on the true nature of the human being.
For that was his idea: The community is for people and must therefore be shaped in accordance with the nature of the human being, as an image of the whole human being.
He had after all already described the three elements of the human body: the nerve-sense system, the metabolic-limb system and the heart-lung system. This was in itself a completely new way of looking at the human being, but no longer an unknown one; many educated people of his time were thoroughly familiar with his writings on this theme. Even though it was really at odds with the usual natural scientific perspective – where the body was seen as twofold, with the nervous system on the one hand and the metabolism on the other, in which the senses were merely an integral part of the nervous system and the muscles simply belonged to the metabolic system – there were nevertheless many who could see the rightness of the idea that there was a third element between these, the rhythmic system with the pulse and breathing which could bridge the gap between the polarities and harmonise them in a functional whole.
Steiner now described how in the social structure there are also three areas: the economic life, the cultural life and the rights life (which also incorporates politics and the administration). He compared these three with the three functional areas of the body:
The economic life consists of production, distribution and consumption. All these three are equally important for a functional economy and have to be balanced with each other. If one of these functions is not in sync with the other two, chaos quickly ensues, which could lead to collapse, resulting in starvation and distress for the people and over a period of time even lead to war against each other. If something is too one-sided or out of balance it can even lead to natural disasters like for example climate change or pollution catastrophes. This requires planning and consultation with feedback – logistics.
The cultural life consists of all those things which human beings need to be able to have a cultural life: school buildings with desks, books, writing materials, blackboards (or whatever their contemporary equivalent is) maps, posters, globes and other visual aids, computers with internet access; universities with laboratories, libraries and auditoriums, intranet and scientific publications; theatres with sets and curtains, lighting, costumes and cloakrooms, cafes, toilets, ticket offices and seating for the public; concert halls with musical instruments, music stands and sheets of music; all this and much more. In addition, there is art in public spaces, open to all, and festive days that have been agreed upon to mark the cycle of the year and celebrations of important events in the shared history of the community.
The word culture means cultivation. In agriculture that implies providing optimal living conditions for plants and animals such that they can yield more than nature would unaided and occasionally to simply change their characteristics so that they can yield something completely new for our use. In the fellowship of human beings – the community – it is a matter of providing people with the optimal conditions for the development of their ideas and the ennoblement of their nature and from time to time enabling them to bring forward completely new impulses for the benefit of the whole community.
The rights life encompasses all the agreements and understandings, which govern our interactions both in everyday life and in special circumstances. Who should go through the door first? This is quickly decided by a silent agreement. Are we in accord? We set up an agreement and sign it together. We formulate laws to avoid conflict and we regulate protocols for dealing with anyone who breaks laws or agreements. Rudolf Steiner occasionally used the expression The sphere of agreements for this area. That is what it was and nothing else, he emphasised, when describing this sphere.
Social three-folding – body, soul and spirit
When Rudolf Steiner formulated his thoughts about how society should be structured he was actually only describing the social organism, the bodily aspects of the being of society, nothing else.
This has not always been understood by all those who have made efforts to realise some of these thoughts in their own everyday life. Efforts were made to deal with problems that arose by finding new words and concepts, which were to extend what Steiner had expressed so as to encompass things that were not included in his original descriptions. Alternatively some “took the initiative” to weave other concepts and thoughts into Steiner's own, despite the fact that they really did not fit there – like a square peg in a round hole.
An example of the latter is the concept – admittedly Steiner's own – of “the free spiritual life” used as if it were synonymous with “the cultural life”. Steiner does after all depict the cultural life as consisting of buildings with fittings and furniture and other technical and practical equipment, which represent the preconditions for an eventual free spiritual life. But to characterise the cultural life in the social organism as synonymous with the free spiritual life is simply not correct; in doing so one is mixing apples and pears, as they say, and that often leads to the drawing of false conclusions and in the worst case scenario making decisions and acting on them in the wrong way. For example, this way of thinking drives the development of the cultural life in the direction of ever-greater demands for performance and perfection, and in doing so towards ever more cultural consumption – instead of enabling the individual to freely reveal himself and his inner life to others. We engage in mass consumption and become increasingly uniform in our cultural consumption, instead of celebrating our differences, our imaginativeness and our creative capacities, where all this may feature in the sphere of the cultural life of the social body, but by no means always does.
Another frequently occurring phenomenon is that the social “rights sphere” - that is, the “sphere of mutual agreements” - is renamed the “social sphere”, plain and simple. This leads on to personal problems for individual co-workers or between co-workers being handled within the framework of this sphere, with support, comfort, advice etc. All this is very good and admirable in every way but now it is no longer simply a question of entering into agreements, of regulating relationships, of achieving consensus, but involves so much more, such as how one relates to one's own life, the ability to take hold of one's own karma, one's own development – and the help and support we human beings can give each other in this area.
The latter developments belong in the deepest sense to the soul area in the human being's life and there is no question here of casting doubt on the treatment of them in itself. But it is not right that they are incorporated within the sphere of the social organism, since this is only concerned with matters relating to the social body. They must be dealt with within the social soul sphere and this has its own processes and rules, which clearly distinguish it from the bodily sphere. If we deal with them within the social bodily sphere, we tend to want to organise “solutions” to problems and questions of the soul, to steer interactions between people with more or less compelling rules and directions from above down. It then becomes harder and harder to exchange at a human level, particularly in the workplace. This is something one can perhaps accept in the case of industrial processes, for example, or in construction.
However, in places of work involving people with special needs, or at a school, it is quite wrong and even counterproductive. A community among all the people in that setting cannot then arise.
The social soul
What do we imagine the social soul sphere might look like? If we are looking for the core phenomenon here, at the source of everything else in this sphere, we shall soon discover that it must be something quite different from its equivalent in the bodily sphere. There, the lowest common denominator is that we are dealing with concrete things, outer, earthly phenomena; in the soul sphere, it gets much more subtle, less tangible.
To get a little closer to the issue we are dealing with here, we can focus on a primal phenomenon with which we are constantly confronted: we look at ourselves and say “I”; next we see someone else and say “you”; later we might see several other people and then we say “we”, “you (plural)” or “they”. The first person, the second person and the third person they are called, but we are dealing with core phenomena, namely the phenomena of relationships: How do I position myself in relation to others?
That is something we can quickly determine, but then the question arises: What do I do with it? What do I do? What do we do? Well, we meet! People meeting each other is the basis of every community building process. The human encounter encompasses karmic relationships, which lead to initiative being taken and actions carried out. Human beings meet in a variety of different ways, as I set out in my introduction. In our use of language this is captured in the difference between the I-sphere, the YOU-sphere and the THEY-sphere – in the first, second and third person as we learned at school a while back. Three fundamental and essentially distinct aspects of the relationships between human beings.
In my experience, the most interesting thing in connection with community building is what happens in the YOU-sphere. That is where the central question arises in the form of: “What can I do for you?” This question arises spontaneously out of the feeling of wanting to engage with the other person, to do something either for or with the other person. And the other person makes himself available for this. As a rule, this is where mutuality holds sway. As a code word for this, I have chosen “Work”. Not very felicitous, perhaps, and therefore in inverted commas. But the thought behind it is that it leads to actions either with or for each other, to something getting done – and already there lies the beginning of a community building process (and also it leads to an economic sphere and a sphere of agreements).
Now, when community building is well under way, meetings come about – spontaneously or as part of a plan – which take the form of rituals. For instance, a communal meal, where people gather round a shared interest or a common goal in a more or less formed manner, a ritual, more or less strict, in which the focal point is the food. Or Nature which has provided it, or the God who has provided for us, or something else, something over and above the group itself. This is the THEY-sphere. I have chosen the code-word “Religion” for this, likewise in inverted commas. I am thinking of the literal meaning of the word: re-union. A community can find its way together, back to a variety of sources of its existence by developing shared rituals and by together ritualising many everyday events. A further deepening dimension can be added if a genuine religious element can find its way in here, a spiritual aspect.
When we are dealing with the I-sphere, it is of course a little difficult to see what we have in common there. Nevertheless it is true that when people meet there is a dimension that is highly personal and yet decisive for community building: the question “Who are you?” Every individual has a life motif, something which becomes evident time after time in the meeting with the other, independently of education, tasks at work, up-bringing and station in life, often cutting across these factors and in spite of them. These life motifs contribute to the process of community building, sometimes strongly, sometimes less so, sometimes in surprising ways. But they always turn up when people meet. The human being bears his past within him and his future goals, what we call karma, in his relationships. Here karma should be understood literally, as “deed”, something one wants to do and will do, precisely in the encounter with the other. I have chosen the code-word “Calling” for this and here too I am thinking of the word's actual meaning: to be actively called to do something. But I am also taking the liberty of using inverted commas to keep it open to interpretation.
The meeting is thus the central element in every act of community building, and of course, also in the social soul sphere. But then the question arises, whether there is not also in this sphere a threefold aspect, a threefolding, just like in the social organism, in the bodily sphere.
The individual human soul can go two ways in every interaction with others, like a kind of Janus head: Janus was a figure in Roman mythology with a head which had two faces, looking in two different directions at the same time: both-and, not either-or. On the one hand, the soul is learning something in the encounter, in time developing faculties, experiences and skills, which are in parity with the actual meetings – it becomes more and more professional, more and more able to take on responsibility for what is to happen in the meetings. Professionalism refers to the capacities, skills and talents which a human being has and which are seen and recognised by his surroundings, often in the form of an examination or reference after a formal training, but at least as often as a result of proven experience, that one has shown that one is capable in a way that is convincing to one's surroundings.
At the same time, the path to these capacities, experiences and powers is a lonely one, something one has to achieve oneself, in one's own inner being. Different people can undergo something together, have exactly the same experience; but what happens inside can vary, from no reaction at all to a deep and far-reaching development of their knowledge. The individual human being must teach himself, either by means of study – formal or informal – or by practice or experiences or by questing. All this has to do with developing oneself, improving oneself, striving to become a better human being. We are talking about schooling, and that comes from within, one's own initiative. What a possible teacher or guide can contribute, is as a role-model and with motivation and to some extent leadership, if needed, where motivation is the central issue, whilst being pushed into it often leads to the opposite effect.
Thus in the social soul sphere it is the meeting that matters, which demands and supports schooling and leads to a necessary professionalism. These are the central elements of any event in community building.
So we can see the threefold nature of the social soul sphere – the meeting, schooling and professionalism – where the tools of the soul: thinking - feeling – willing, each have their own field of action: thinking in the professionalism, feeling in the encounter and willing in the schooling.
In the schooling, the free spiritual life will then appear – and in the encounter, the social sphere will come into being.
The social spiritual sphere
But now the fact is that the original impulse for a community building process is neither organised, constructed, thought out nor simply arises spontaneously from one or other human encounter; there is always an underlying idea. This idea can be very vague or very clearly formulated, it can be a presentiment, a kind of deep yearning, or a strong impulse, a powerful resolve to do something in one individual or in a group. Whichever it is, it is an idea.
Where does an idea like that come from, how does it arise and where is it found? It is to be found in thinking, in feeling and in willing, in the human soul. But it is of a different nature from them. It is not thinking, but a thought – not the process, but a content. It has the nature of being, consisting in itself. And this comes from outside and takes up residence in the human being. Inspiration does after all literally mean breathing in, and that is something we connect with ideas, that the spirit comes into us. This is after all what the spirit is, the spiritual – the sphere of thoughts and ideas. My view is that it is reasonable to think that when ideas are to be found outside us, that they then have the nature of being, that they belong to beings that have a higher consciousness than ours, and which have another form of existence. But here on earth their ideas can only be realised through us, who exist on this earth and are connected both with the earthly-material through our bodies and with the spiritual in our consciousness and our thoughts. We are neither the one nor the other, we are a third entity: soul beings. We are soul beings, which have a body and a soul. That is why we can realise the spiritual on the earth and mediate the earthly to the spiritual, see and understand the idea behind the phenomenon. We are alone in being able to do this. We can take the past into our experience of the now and can sense the consequences of what is happening now in the future. A really awakened soul can also see the consequences of what is happening simultaneously in other contexts. We can thus incorporate our ideas into larger contexts more or less successfully. That gives us a responsibility, both in time and in space, a responsibility for the earth, for everything that lives, for all other people and for the world's development. It is we, who through our deeds and omissions decide how the world will be in the future, whether it develops as it was meant to, or not.
As I see it, the idea is an expression of an intention. It creates an intention in the individual or the group that receives it, but is in itself the expression of the intention of the higher being or beings that have given it. This original intention deserves a more formal name, I shall call it the intention. Those who have apprehended such an intention don't pick up anything other than a general feeling that “there is something or someone there” behind the idea, so I am choosing to call the perception of these beings the intentionality. Behind every impulse to found a community, there is thus an intentionality, the primal impulse itself, which reveals itself in the idea for community building.
Meanwhile for the realisation of this intentionality there will be a need for many different ideas, many flashes of inspiration and solutions to countless questions and requirements. These in turn must be met with multiple possibilities and resources in the form of ideas, indeed, but also people, probably money, a suitable place, and much more. The source for all these possibilities becomes a kind of “account” for the community in question, something that really everyone has access to and the possibility to draw from. It functions like a kind of collective capital, and particularly so at the beginning, before too much has been able to become established on the earthly plane, it is busily drawn on. And it seems almost inexhaustible.
What is drawn from the capital must then be worked on in order to be transformed from ideas pure and simple to real solutions if something is to come about, acquire existence. And here too I see the need for code words and have chosen “Capital” - “Labour” - “Product”. These are fundamental principles, which are not only valid in the field of economics. If I translate them to the words “Potential” - “Transubstantiation” - “Existence” it becomes clearer. If I go further and translate them once more to “Possibilities” - “Transformation” - “Presence”, what I mean becomes almost comprehensible. A point of departure, a precondition is transformed, worked on and realised. A fundamental process, which is at the same time an over-riding principle. A spiritual reality, which is reflected in the earthly processes which we human beings set in motion here.
These spiritual principles are realised in a community in such a way that the “Capital” shows itself in the cultural sphere, “Labour” shows itself in the sphere of the sphere of rights and “Product” shows itself in the economic sphere.
In the cultural life is revealed what possibilities the community has, its potential. Here the individual human being strives to reach ever higher, to develop their capacities and to show the others that it is possible to improve oneself. In the rights life it is true that one is concerned to protect existing agreements and understandings, but one is also striving to develop them further, to adapt them to a changing reality. For the reality of a given community is not static, it changes every time someone joins it or leaves it, but also when individuals mature, grow and get older, and then the agreements also have to be reworked, if they are not to get in the way of development. In the economy the key thing is meeting needs, everything there must come to a conclusion, to a realisation by means of all necessary steps and processes. The products must appear, be distributed and serve their purpose. (The world of finance doesn't really belong here, doesn't even really belong in the social organism, it is a pure thought-process, which unfortunately mixes with reality from time to time and causes disturbances.)
The social body
The social body – the organism – is thus a result, a fruit of what the spiritual brings about in the life of the soul. It is not possible to create a real human community beginning with the bodily aspect, by organising the social organism. And experience shows that it is also not possible to maintain such a community by tinkering with its organisation – that has certainly been tried many times before. Of course, it is possible to keep an enterprise going that way, but a human community cannot be kept alive, conflicts cannot be avoided and the potential of the individual cannot really unfold if one is focused on the social organism alone.
There is a spiritual principle that says that if only the right ideas are found, then the money needed to realise them will also be found. This says that the ideas must come first, then the meetings follow which can then result in an economic life, a rights life and a cultural life arising. The bodily aspect forms itself as a result of ideas and activities, not as their basis or point of departure.
If we try – as in fact we have done excessively for a long time now – to build a community by organising or constructing an economic life, a rights life and a cultural life, setting them all out in order, organise all the necessary facilities and furnishings and all the equipment that is usually in place, and then “press the start button” and expect that a community will arise – then we shall certainly be extremely disappointed.
For this economic life leads us into a grotesque and boundless consumerism with the aim of supporting steady growth, by for example maximising profits, which leads into a speculative economy and the consequent uneven distribution of returns; the rights life develops into politicising and a so-called “democracy”, where the aim is not to reach agreement but to defeat your opponents; the cultural life is reduced to pure consumption by steadily improving performances by individual, systematically developed super-talents, and less and less individual activity, and where the products of the super-talents have to achieve their greatest possible extent, which is measured in terms of economic profit. Entertainment instead of development, dominance instead of community, consumption instead of caring nurture through fraternal sharing.
The social organism is in itself something that has a tendency in a certain sense to “enslave” the individual human being, to force everyone into behaviour which in fact serves the social organism, instead of the social organism enabling and creating a vessel for social dealings with each other in a genuine human fraternity. This might well be due to our distortion of the meaning of the possibilities for fraternity, equality and freedom implicit in the economic life, the rights life and the cultural life:
– Fraternity should imply that we develop our unavoidable dependence on one another to a virtue, something we strive for.
– Equality should imply that we highlight others' equality with us, treat the rights and needs of the other as being equal in importance to our own.
– Freedom should be our striving to create space for the other to show what she bears within her, to develop our desire to learn from what the other can reveal into a need.
Schooling – social capital formation
At the beginning of a community, when it is formed, we can experience how rich our shared life is, how it is bubbling with ideas and initiatives, how quickly all its members develop themselves and how willingly each and every one contributes to the realisation of the impulse that underlies the community's foundation. This is called the pioneer phase, which may well be experienced as a little crazy, but full of life and positivity. The individuals find their respective roles and positions in relation to the others and tendencies towards conflict may well be developed into new impulses or reallocation of the various tasks.
As the activity the community has gathered round begins to grow, buildings go up and are furnished, functions are further developed and lead to new possibilities and tasks, new people arrive, new relationships are formed – an atmosphere of constant learning for all –, it gradually becomes more and more apparent that there is a growing problem with this constant growing, developing and renewing. More and more functions have to be fine-tuned, made more professional and – not least – administered. Stabilisation begins to take hold, there is no more building – we do after all have to maintain what we already have –, there are not so many new impulses as there were and those that do appear are not so warmly welcomed as before.
And now one understands the need for training, to meet the requirement for professionalism and the demands of regulatory authorities and others, and start work on large training projects. This raises new hope – for a while. But after a time we begin to feel our own inadequacy (we are not so young any longer either) and we begin to look for new co-workers – no longer members – who have “the right competencies” to be able to deal with the substantial tasks we have taken on and the huge business we are responsible for...
Then the question will often arise: What has happened to the original impulse, the original intentionality? Does it still exist? Has it perhaps become obsolete, lost its relevance? Do we actually have to look for a new impulse, a new idea? Many will devote quite a lot of time and thought to this quest, without it leading to anything. Meanwhile the negative development will continue, towards increasing organisation instead of development coming from within.
At the level of social spirit, I used the code-word “capital” above for the possibilities in the realm of ideas. One aspect of this way of thinking is the insight that capital is not unlimited, it must be replenished. It may happen that a surplus can arise in the enterprise itself, which can be “capitalised”, can replenish the capital? Another possibility at the economic level is what we describe as a “new issue”, but that does not work in a social community. So the question becomes: How can we create a “surplus” at the social level, or in some other way replenish the social capital?
Much thought and research has led me to the insight, that what can renew the social capital is that the members of the social community engage in working on their own development. It seems that it doesn't matter what kind of inner exercises one pursues, e.g. from learning to play a musical instrument to advanced meditative work or something in between, the point is that one practises. This must happen without any direct links to any demands from outside, it must not be necessary, it must proceed entirely from one's own free will. Rudolf Steiner for example describes this very clearly in his book: “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, and how to attain it”. It is a question of developing free powers of the will in one's soul for the benefit of one's own wealth of ideas, one's own inventiveness, attentiveness and endurance. But at the same time also for the benefit of the community's pool of ideas and capacity for creative activity. This happens when the individual – consciously or not – places these free powers of the will at the disposal of the community out of love for, and commitment to the community as a whole, to its idea and intentionality.
Here it is very important to understand the difference between schooling and training, two concepts that are easily confused. The goal of training is to achieve a result, to gain professionalism and formal competence. The evaluation of whether the result has been achieved or not is carried out externally, from the surroundings, not by the individual concerned. Schooling is a process that comes from within, it is directed entirely by one's own free will. One decides oneself what one wants to engage with, one sets one's own goals – or not. One decides oneself whether one has achieved anything or not. What matters here is not the result but the path taken to achieve it, the effort one has made. If one is not able to keep up with the work, one notices that one has not realised one's intentions and then it is only a question of starting again – and again – and again. It is the work itself, the effort itself that counts. In this way openings arise, incomplete processes, which liberate will forces. These do not have any goal of their own, they can be available both for one's own subconscious and for the community of which one is a part.
This is topping up “the capital” at the level of the social spirit. And when the “capital” is there, it is always possible to draw on it.
But one can still never organise the schooling and the resultant topping up of capital and its possibilities, nor the fetching of ideas and impulses from this sphere.
Organising as a process counteracts this possibility, tends to get in the way of, takes up the time allocated for being able to be inspired out of the spiritual sphere, eliminates the individual's – the community member's – openness by wishing to exert control over how the individual thinks. There seems to be a perceived advantage in getting everyone to reason in the same direction, in a similar way. Surely then the organisation would function in the smoothest possible way? Even if it is then at the expense of creativity and openness to new impulses and people with new and different ideas.
Anthroposophical community building
The Primary Social Law – often called the Fundamental Social Law – was formulated by Rudolf Steiner in 1906 in an article in the journal “Luzifer-Gnosis”, which he edited. It reads as follows:
“The well-being of a community working together will be greater, the less the individual claims the proceeds of his work for himself.” Then he added by way of explanation: “– i.e. the more of these proceeds he hands over to his fellow-workers, and the more his own needs are satisfied, not out of his own work but out of the work done by others.”
This way of thinking seems at first quite peculiar and topsy-turvy – but if one looks at the purpose of community building, not to achieve the best possible result or the greatest possible effectiveness, but to give the members the possibility of meeting and of realising their destined encounters with each other, to develop together and create something new, then the truth of this law becomes clearer and clearer over time.
Anthroposophical community building's real purpose, the very reason for it, is to create a possibility for living out and developing an awareness of what Rudolf Steiner called Karma.
That is the foundation, the starting point. But then there will also be a need for concrete tasks, which are in accord with the fact that we live on the earth and are developing here together. Here we are dealing with the creation of added value, i.e. to improve the earth and refine plants and animals in as fruitful an environment as possible, or to take a substance from nature and transform it into something completely different, pottery from clay, textiles from various fibres, metals from ore, furniture and houses from wood and so on. We bring thoughts into earthly matter. This is of course an engagement with what we call the economic life, and it creates the preconditions for us to be able to live in a bodily environment. This is the bodily sphere.
In the spiritual sphere, what is required is that we develop capacities and insights, which encompass both earthly nature, the human life of the soul, and the way of being that belongs to the world of ideas and the spirit, and that we transform this capacity into deep, all-encompassing love – that is pure will.
In the soul sphere what matters is that we see each other and are seen in our process of constant developing, that we engage with each other's potential, each other's possibilities, that we support and carry each other in times when that is needed and allow ourselves to be carried and supported by others in gratitude. To meet, to commune with others, to see the human being in the other, irrespective of how he looks or what his manner is, to strive to raise up the other and stand by him in his development. To care for the other out of unconditional love, to comfort and support him, listen to his innermost being. Feeling, compassion and empathy need to be practised and developed here.
Culture creation – initiative taking
As already indicated, it is not possible to organise into being, this qualitative element in community building. It has to grow forth, develop out of itself. At the same time it must not be hindered from outside. The individual human being must not only have the opportunity to work at his own development, but must be encouraged to do so. The members of the community must take an interest in each other's inner work, not just in their own. This must be elevated to become the very means by which a community is built, it needs to be developed into a culture. The word “culture” means nurture, to cultivate is to nurture, to raise something up by systematic and enduring work. If a community develops a culture, which consists of supporting its members' – each other's – will and capacity to pursue an inner path of development, these members will eventually seek for opportunities to take initiatives. This can be the case in the cultural life, which of course relies on the individual's taking the initiative, for example to perform or present something. Or it can apply to the economic life, where for the sake of renewal, initiatives are always needed, to develop new products, new production methods, or new opportunities for distribution or consumption, to break habitual patterns and create improvements. Or in the rights life, for example by incorporating new demands from regulatory authorities and others and to develop ways of clarifying routines and directives.
This is how the process of topping up capital streams from inner development, through creating a culture of taking an interest in the other, towards initiative in the economic life, the rights life and cultural life – starting from the community's intentionality. This builds the foundation for the community and the individual members' opportunity and desire to develop themselves as human beings, to love the earth they are caring for, towards the idea of the intentionality in itself and to the fellow human beings just as they are. Not because it is so cosy and comfortable to live in the community and the enterprise, but in order to be able to meet the challenges and difficulties, both in the outer life and in one's own inner work, supported by the community. And the world will become a little more good, beautiful and true – which has to be worth the effort!