THE WAR YEARS AND
THE THREEFOLD SOCIAL ORDER
It was mentioned briefly in the last chapter that Rudolf Steiner, Marie von Sievers, and a party of friends were returning to Dornach from Germany when the war broke out. Passage over the frontier into Switzerland might have proved embarrassing, or worse, if the frontier had been organized as it was later. Marie von Sievers, as a Russian citizen, might well have been taken into custody by the Germans as an enemy alien before she could cross the border although the Swiss authorities would probably have raised no objection to her entry as long as her papers were in order.
The incident, however, was a serious warning to Steiner that it had become urgently necessary for Marie von Sievers to become an Austrian citizen like himself if he were not to lose the services and indispensable aid of his principal collaborator in the work of Anthroposophy. Thus it came about that after many years during which Marie von Sievers had been looking after Steiner’s material needs she became his wife in a civil ceremony on December 24th, 1914. No outward change was visible in their lives. She continued to aid her husband and the anthroposophical work no less devotedly than before, but because of the war more work fell on her shoulders than ever. The after effects of a bad accident sustained in her youth combined with overwork to take such a toll of her strength that she became a cripple. By the end of the war she had had to resort to a wheel chair, and for the remaining thirty years of her life her legs had to be encased in splints. Nevertheless she continued to work as hard as ever, and the postwar development of Anthroposophy, especially its artistic side, would have been impossible without her selfless dedication.
In later years Rudolf Steiner was to explain how the European statesmen without exception had been lulled to sleep in the years immediately preceding the war by the hindering forces, the enemies of mankind, who alone desired it. None of the statesmen involved made conscious efforts to bring about the war, but their actions were such that in time it became impossible to avoid it, thus playing into the hands of the hindering powers. Steiner was greatly saddened by the war, but for at least the first two years he could play no direct part in world events. Although he could no longer travel beyond the borders of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland he continued to give lectures as before, but it became his custom to open them with a special prayer for those who had recently died and for those who were in danger. He continued to express the hope that something noble and good might yet arise for mankind out of all the suffering and sacrifice. The meditative verse that he also gave soon after the outbreak of the war, and with which he concluded so many of his wartime lectures, expresses this hope:
From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood on fields of battle,
From the grief of the bereaved,
From the people’s sacrifices,
Will arise the fruit of spirit,
If souls, spirit-conscious,
Turn their minds to spirit-realms.
An incident in which Steiner played a part early in the war became rather famous when later it became known. At a time when war seemed imminent but was not yet certain, Colonel- General Helmut von Moltke, chief of the German General Staff, had asked Steiner to pay him a visit as soon as he could, as he was anxious for an intimate talk with him. Although Frau von Moltke had been a theosophist for many years and was a founding member of the new Anthroposophical Society, her husband was not a member, but was an intimate friend of Steiner’s, and had often sought his advice. In many ways he was temperamentally unsuited for his position as Supreme Military Commander with full responsibility for the conduct of the war. Sensitive and introspective, he had been seriously humiliated just before the outbreak of war by the Kaiser, and the incident had badly undermined his self-confidence.
As it turned out no meeting between the two men could be arranged before August 27th, by which time the German offensive was already more than three weeks old. During this period von Moltke had been compelled to make numerous decisions on the basis of insufficient information, and some of these were obviously faulty. As a result his field commanders were already losing confidence in his judgment. On the very day of August 27th when Steiner visited him in the German staff headquarters in the little Rhineland town of Coblenz, he was faced with a particularly agonizing decision, which in fact turned out to be wrong, in that he ordered a general offensive for which the armies he commanded were unsuitably placed.* It is now generally accepted by historians that the German offensive, in spite of appearances to the contrary, was already by August 27th in deep trouble; and the great decisive victory for the sake of which the offensive had been launched, and the neutrality of Belgium violated, had now become extremely unlikely, if not impossible. The French army, unlike in 1940, had been defeated only in small and unimportant engagements and was still in the field—as was evidenced by its counterattack two weeks later at the Marne.
When Steiner arrived at Coblenz the Kaiser and his court, as well as General von Moltke were in the town, whose atmosphere was not improved by the Kaiser’s customary somewhat hysterical behavior, including his rapid changes from overconfidence to the depths of pessimism. It is not known what Steiner discussed with von Moltke, or if he was able to give the General any spiritual comfort. In an interview after the war with a Parisian newspaper Steiner told the reporter that only personal matters had been discussed. Even if von Moltke had asked him for military advice—which is in the last degree unlikely—Steiner would never have given it, or if he had, whatever he had advised at that moment could have had no appreciable effect on the eventual failure of the offensive. It was the earlier failure to destroy the Belgian, French and British armies in the field that determined the final outcome; and it is certain that von Moltke himself was at least in some measure responsible for this failure. At 66 he was old and tired and already in poor general health (he died in 1916), and the anthroposophical convictions of his wife and his own intimacy with Rudolf Steiner cannot be blamed for these things—still less for the loss of the war by Germany.
Nevertheless, when the meeting became known, as it soon was to the French and later to the Germans, Steiner was blamed by nationalistic Germans for the defeat at the battle of the Marne, and he was accused of having used his ”magical powers” on General von Moltke. It may be admitted that a visit to the General at this moment lent itself to this kind of charge. But, as we have seen, Steiner never refused a personal appeal of this kind, especially when it concerned a friend whose emotional and intellectual difficulties were no doubt known to him. But it remains true that the military decisions made by von Moltke on August 27th and then eight days later, when the decisive mistake was made, did lead to the failure of the great offensive and ultimately to the loss of the war. We cannot know how seriously this charge was really taken by Steiner’s adversaries after the war, but it was certainly used by some of them to impugn his patriotism and arouse feeling against him and his work.
His position in other respects was very difficult at this time. He was no doubt grateful to his destiny which had led him to Switzerland, which remained neutral throughout the war, sparing him the necessity to take sides openly in the conflict. But as is usual in such circumstances he was criticized by both sides for his failure to do so. His French friend Edouard Schuré regarded Steiner as too nationalistically German, while the leader of the English anthroposophists, Harry Collison, for a short time took the same position. When they understood Steiner’s absolute impartiality as they did later, they both repented of their excessive patriotism. The citizens of seventeen different countries who were engaged all through the war in helping to build the Goetheanum shared a common belief that they were working for the future of humanity. Several of these countries were at war with each other, but the collaborators on the Goetheanum, under the leadership of Rudolf Steiner, remained in almost complete harmony. Any other attitude on Steiner’s part than total impartiality would have alienated them. His wartime lectures in Dornach tended to stress world history and human evolution as a whole, and he gave numerous lectures on art in connection with the work being done on the building. The common humanity of the fighters on both sides was emphasized, and all lectures, as we have seen, began or ended with meditations for those who were involved in the fighting. Marie Steiner, meanwhile, was training a small band of eurythmists and preparing actors for performances of Faust by Goethe. During the war different scenes from Faust were given under her direction while Rudolf Steiner spoke on the significance of the drama at frequent intervals. Indeed Faust lent itself excellently to lectures on the nature of evil, a subject most appropriate during these years.
In Germany the situation was more delicate. Steiner did not abandon his lectures in the warring Central European countries. The annual series of public lectures in the Architects’ House in Berlin that he had been giving for many years were continued until 1917, when the lecture hall was commandeered by the military. He gave his public lectures then in a different hall, and never thought of abandoning them. By this time, as we shall see, he was becoming rather well known in Germany, attracting more supporters but at the same time more, and more virulent enemies. He occasionally lectured also in Austria during the war years. At all times Rudolf Steiner emphasized that Germany was not alone responsible for the war, as Allied propaganda made out; nor were the Germans exclusively guilty of atrocities. It seems to have been one of his main purposes to give the German people, in so far as he was able to aid in this, a renewed confidence in themselves, and particularly, a recognition of their true mission as a people—something that no one else in Germany was stressing at this time. Only Steiner was in a position as a result of his knowledge derived from the science of spirit to speak impartially of this mission at a time when other Germans and Austrians were totally unable to view the struggle except from a partisan point of view.
Steiner had indeed always been deeply interested in the tasks of the different nations, especially the European nations. Whenever he visited a new country in the course of his lecture tours, he made it part of his task to investigate its spiritual background and he often used to explain the esoteric meaning of the country’s national legends or epics. In 1910 he gave a detailed cycle on The Mission of the Folk Souls in the Norwegian capital of Christiania (Oslo), a cycle that for once he personally revised for publication when Prince Max of Baden, who later became Chancellor of the German Empire, asked him for a copy. In this cycle he explained how each nation was guided from the spiritual worlds by a higher being of the rank of an archangel, who was indeed the folk spirit of that nation. Each nation thus had a mission to fulfill. Immediately after the beginning of the war he took up this subject again in his lectures within Germany, especially the public ones in Berlin, which bear such titles as ”The Enduring and Creative Power of the German Spirit,” ”The Rejuvenating Power of the German Folk-Soul,” ”German Idealism,” ”The Evolution of the German Soul,” and the like. A lecture available in English, entitled ”The Spirit of Fichte in our Midst,” shows clearly that he was trying to draw the attention of the German people to their true spiritual mission, as exemplified in the great figures of German idealism, Fichte, Hegel and Schelling, whom he had always admired—to say nothing of Goethe, whose connection with idealism he emphasized in a lecture given in Berlin on December 2nd, 1915 to which he gave the title of ”Goethe and the Cosmic Conception of German Idealism, in respect of the Sentiment of our Critical Times.”
According to Steiner, the German task in world evolution is to develop within man’s being the ”I” itself, which, as explained in Chapter 6, works through the three different souls, the sentient soul, the intellectual or mind soul, and the consciousness soul. Different European peoples have the task of developing the different souls, for example the Italian and Spanish peoples the sentient soul, the French people the intellectual soul, and the English speaking peoples the consciousness soul. But the I itself could be truly developed in the way it ought to be especially by the German speaking peoples. No other people had showed itself so deeply interested in this development. No other people had developed such a philosophy as German idealism, and philosophers from other nations did not write books such as those of Fichte, with his emphasis on the ”absolute ego” which he equated with God, or Max Stirner, with his book The Self and its Property, briefly discussed in an earlier chapter. No other people had produced a Goethe, whose Faust was scarcely an individual at all but rather an embodiment of the human I as it strives eternally in our striving age.
Within the twentieth century world it was, in Steiner’s view, the task of the German speaking nations, Germany and Austria, to maintain the balance between East and West, between Russia on the one side and Great Britain and America on the other. If Germany should be destroyed, then there would be only the two extremes, and nothing to hold the balance. Steiner indeed likened the role of Germany to that of the rhythmic system within the human organism, which holds the balance (as we shall see later in more detail) between the head and senses system and the metabolic and limb system. The rhythmic system belongs in part to each of these, the blood circulation being attached more to the metabolic system and the breathing system to the head. However this may be—and it was and is a most important part of Steiner’s teachings, and lies at the basis of anthroposophical medicine—the German role had to be performed by some nation or nations, or, in Steiner’s view, chaos would ensue. It is certainly arguable that he was and is right. But he was in his lifetime very careful indeed not to approve any of the policies adopted by the German Reich, and he had no use whatever, as was clear, for the German imperial policy or for the Kaiser, the German warlord. The task laid upon the German people was laid upon it by the spiritual worlds, and it was a great and terrible responsibility, not a cause for self satisfaction or reason for self assertion. As the individual human I when developed onesidedly can lead to all kinds of ”selfish” aberrations, so could the egotism of nations lead to all kinds of exaggerated nationalism, even to the German racism of Adolf Hitler and his followers. These things as yet constituted only a potential danger, and as yet there was no need to criticize German nationalism above the nationalism of other warring nations. It was Steiner’s endeavor always to place world concerns above those of any nation, and especially when he was at home in Dornach he continued to speak not only about these concerns but about general Anthroposophy, as he had done since the beginning of his public mission in 1900.
Just before the beginning of the war there appeared a new edition of his book World and Life Conceptions of the Nineteenth Century, originally published in 1900. When Steiner wrote it, it was his purpose to show what kind of soul-condition had been responsible for the kind of philosophy that appeared in the nineteenth century, and how this philosophy culminated in an entirely materialistic manner of thinking in the later part of the century. Now he renamed the book The Riddles of Philosophy, Presented in an Outline of its History, and he added another part, not quite as long as the older book itself, covering the history of philosophy in a brief manner up to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The emphasis now was on philosophy from Greek times to the end of the nineteenth century as a picture of the changes in human consciousness during these centuries. His emphasis was on how philosophers had thought, what problems they were dealing with, rather than what they had thought, which was of lesser interest to him. The book therefore cannot in any way be regarded as history of philosophy. It would be more accurate to describe it as a history of human consciousness as this is reflected in the history of philosophy.
During the war years Steiner also was able to find the time to write two other major books, The Riddle of Man (1916) and Riddles of the Soul (1917). It was in the last named book that he presented for the first time his teachings on the three ”systems” of the human organism. In addition, for the first time since 1894 and 1897 he was able to bring out new editions of his Philosophy of Freedom and Goethe’s Conception of the World. Both books now could look toward an assured, if limited, public, as could Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Attained? which also appeared in the same year in its second edition, revised by Rudolf Steiner for the first time. It had never been out of print and continued to sell regularly, in view of its special character as a guide to higher development. So its appearance in a newly revised edition was not such an important event as was the new edition of the Philosophy of Freedom, which in its original edition had not even sold a thousand copies and had been long out of print, even though Steiner constantly referred to it in his lectures.
While Marie Steiner was working with the eurythmists in preparation for the time when eurythmy could be introduced abroad on a wide scale, Rudolf Steiner when in Dornach continued to work on the Goetheanum and supervise the work of others. Since none of the other artists could fully understand his intentions if he were not there to aid them, it was he who did most of the painting on the cupolas. However, the most taxing of his artistic tasks was the carving of a huge group of figures which was to have been placed at the rear of the space beneath the small dome in the completed Goetheanum. When the building was opened in 1921 this carving was not yet ready, nor was it entirely finished by the time of Steiner’s death in 1925. Since it had not yet been removed from the Schreinerei at the time of the fire, it was saved from destruction. In its still slightly unfinished state it is now kept in a special room in the present Goetheanum, and may be seen by anyone who wishes to view it.
The group, which is carved out of elm, is of an enormous size, needing a scaffolding nine meters (about 29 feet) high. The original model, which was the same size as the final sculpture, was largely made by the English sculptress Edith Maryon in accordance with Rudolf Steiner’s instructions. Several other sculptors in addition to Miss Maryon worked on the wooden Group itself, once the huge pieces of elm had been glued together and were ready for the mallet and chisel. Steiner sometimes left this original sculpture as they had left it, but more often he added a few essential touches to make the figures conform fully to his intentions. The figure of the Representative of Humanity, or the Christ, the central figure of the Group, was in the end almost entirely his own work, although in this case also Miss Maryon prepared the way. Her own conception of the figure of the Christ, which she carved first, was beautiful in the Greek style, but far from being as Steiner had pictured Him. Teasingly he told her that her Christ was too much of the English gentleman! In the sculpture in its Final form the Christ, the central figure in the Group, has one arm raised, while He points downward with the other. By the sheer force of the Christ Being Lucifer, above Him on the left, destroys himself, while below Ahriman is held fast by his own self-knowledge. These two forces, the traditional tempters, are thus held in balance, or rather, hold themselves in balance, not because of the power of the Christ, but simply through His presence.
It was Steiner’s original intention to have only these three carved figures in the Group. In the course of the work he decided otherwise, and added a smaller Lucifer and a smaller Ahriman to the right of the Christ; while at the top left, looking down on the whole sculpture, is a somewhat enigmatic figure, who was called by Rudolf Steiner a ”Rock-being.” Artistically he balances the entire sculpture, and the viewer may decide that that is a sufficient reason for his presence in the Group. In any event such beings, according to Steiner, do exist and are visible to supersensible perception. His presence therefore, in the last analysis, does not have to be justified at all any more than it is necessary to justify the presence of the angels in a Renaissance painting, who are just there, whether or not they are also doing something, and serve a visible purpose in the picture.
By the beginning of 1917 the armies of the warring powers, at least in the West, were close to exhaustion, while the Russian army was openly mutinous. No early decision could be expected in the West, whatever happened in the East; and the only new move the Germans could think of was to institute unlimited submarine warfare in the hope of forcing Britain to her knees, or driving her out of the war—even though the cost was virtually certain to be America’s entry into the war on the Allied side. All through 1916 President Woodrow Wilson of the United States had been making somewhat half-hearted attempts, especially through Colonel House, to bring the war to an end by means of mediation, and at the end of the same year he made a series of more definite proposals himself. The Germans showed themselves willing to negotiate and authorized Wilson to enter into contact with the Allies. But their own proposals were too severe for the latter, since they still expected, with the aid of the Americans, to win the war outright. From almost the beginning of his reign in 1916 the new Emperor Karl of Austria tried to make peace, with or without the consent of the Germans. The possibility of a negotiated peace and an end to the fighting seemed to be in the air, but the statesmen seemed to have no idea of what kind of terms they really wanted; and it was difficult to translate Wilson’s vague generalities and talk about self-determination of people and the rights of man into concrete proposals. At the same time, after his re-election in November, 1916, it was abundantly clear that when peace came to be made he would be the most powerful political figure in the world, whether or not his country became an active belligerent.
It has sometimes been difficult for anthroposophists, especially American anthroposophists, to understand just why Rudolf Steiner was so antagonistic to Woodrow Wilson. Even before the war while he was a simple peacetime president, Steiner had spoken about Wilson’s particular style of thinking, criticizing it unmercifully as typically ”professorial” and ”schoolmasterly.” Though Wilson set himself up as an idealist, his ideals and ideas were dead, abstract and thought-out, lacking any relation to true social realities, as Steiner saw them. His taste for moralizing and preaching little sermons evidently greatly irritated Rudolf Steiner, while his thoughts about nationalism and self-determination were spoiled because of their failure to take into account the actual conditions in the world, all his knowledge of which he had acquired second hand or from books. In a word, Wilson, according to Steiner, in spite of appearances, never at any time thought with his heart, while the thoughts of his head were wholly inspired by Ahriman. None of this might have mattered if his position had not been so powerful and if so many of his hearers had not thought in just the same way and therefore admired him and followed him with abject docility.**
By early 1917 few if any thinkers of any substance, if one excepts the Marxists who were trying to apply the ideas of their master to the situation in their own countries and in Europe as a whole, had given any serious thought to the possibility that major changes in the social order might become necessary after the war if the world were to return to a truly peaceful way of living. No ”peace-aims” of this nature seem to have been studied in any of the warring countries, and at this time it seems to have been taken for granted, at least in circles where policy was made, that after the unfortunate aberration of the war peace would be made much as it had been made after previous wars, and the world would settle down as it always had done before. It occurred to very few to suppose that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the social, political and economic structure of the world.
The last two years of the war radically changed this viewpoint, and after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in February, 1917, followed by the Bolshevik Revolution of November, more statesmen began to be afraid that other revolutions might break out elsewhere, even in their own countries. Woodrow Wilson’s speeches also undoubtedly contributed to the general unrest. His praise of democracy, and his insistence on self-determination for peoples who were at present oppressed by their governments, gave new hope to numerous ethnic minorities in the European national patchwork. These peoples began to organize, and determined that they would not accept a peace that failed to give them satisfaction, even if a revolutionary struggle were necessary before they could attain their ends. Yet, in just the same way as at the beginning of the war, no statesman arose with any new ideas, no one seemed to be able to give leadership to the peace-seeking forces of Europe, with the result that as the nations had drifted toward war they now drifted toward peace.
Count Otto Lerchenfeld, a member of the Bavarian State Council, who was also an anthroposophist, shared Steiner’s concern over the European situation in the early months of 1917. He was aware of Steiner’s lectures being given at Dornach in which he voiced his apprehensions after the beginning of the Russian Revolution and the entry of the United States into the war. He was especially interested in a cycle called Truths in the Evolution of Man and Humanity in which Steiner explained the increasing feebleness of human thinking as the result of certain spiritual changes in man, which had the effect of preventing him from reaching maturity in the same way as in the past. In his memoirs published later, Count Lerchenfeld tells how truly barren of ideas all his contemporaries were showing themselves to be, with the single exception of Rudolf Steiner. As a result of his conclusions he made the decision to approach Steiner to ask him for his thoughts on how it would be possible to build a lasting peace, with the intention of presenting these to his friends and acquaintances in high places. When therefore Steiner paid a visit to Berlin in June 1917, the Count called upon him and explained the gist of his own thought. Steiner, in reply, laid before him the outline of those ideas which were later to be embodied in more detail in what is usually called in English speaking countries the Threefold Commonwealth or Threefold Social Order. Although obviously he had already given very much thought to these ideas, he told Count Lerchenfeld at this first interview that it had been his opinion that not only did the outline need still much elaborating, but also it should have been available for study by all classes of society before it could be presented as a real plan of action by their leaders.
After two days’ discussion the Count’s entire mood was changed, and from deep despair he became full of enthusiasm. For three weeks, day after day, he and Steiner worked together over the ideas that he had outlined until the entire organic structure for a new social order had been built up, answering every question that could be put by either of them. At this point, on July 10th, Count Lerchenfeld sent a telegram to a close friend of his, also an anthroposophist, whose brother was the chief councillor of the Emperor Karl of Austria. This friend, Count Ludwig Polzer-Hoditz, then came to Berlin and joined in the work for the last week. At the end of that time Count Lerchenfeld asked Rudolf Steiner to incorporate their developed ideas in a memorandum which could then be circulated among the leading statesman of Europe. Later, perhaps, it might be presented to the Allied leaders as the Central European counterproposal to the tired old thoughts of President Wilson.*** A few days later Steiner presented the Count with the Memorandum, and the effort began to interest the statesmen of Europe in a new social structure for their countries, for which they had as yet perceived no need. How to win the war or save themselves from losing it was unhappily the first priority in such thinking as they could undertake while in the midst of the turmoil of war. Steiner himself was scarcely optimistic about the results of the effort, but he had done what was asked of him, as usual, and, as Count Lerchenfeld wrote later, he was convinced that ”everything must be done in order that the idea of the Threefold Social Order should sink into the conceptual consciousness of the time.”
As for the Austrian Count Polzer-Hoditz, he returned to his country with the intention of giving the memorandum to his brother, who would then place it before the new Emperor. This brother was not himself an anthroposophist, nor was he particularly in sympathy with either Theosophy or Anthroposophy. But he conscientiously examined the document, and came to the conclusion that it was by far the most interesting series of proposals that he had yet seen. But he did not think the time was opportune to present it to his master, preferring to hold it in reserve until the right moment. In fact, what happened was that some months later he decided, for various reasons, to resign his position as chief councillor to the Emperor. It was only at the moment of his resignation that he at last felt free to present the memorandum that he had received several months previously, to the Emperor Karl. Thereafter nothing further was heard of it, and it is not even certain that Karl ever read it. In any event he did nothing about it, but continued to pursue his own plans for a negotiated peace, which of course came to nothing.
The other statesman of importance who certainly had the Memorandum with him at a crucial moment of history, though how much he had studied it is unknown, was Richard von Kuhlmann, foreign secretary of the German Reich, who bore the chief responsibility for negotiating the peace with the Russians after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which he negotiated in March 1918, was the bitterest possible disappointment to Rudolf Steiner, who believed that the Central Powers by agreeing to a magnanimous peace might well have undermined Lenin’s position at home. In accordance with the ideas put forward in the Threefold Commonwealth the various European minorities, especially the Ukrainians, whose country became a virtual German protectorate under the treaty, could have enjoyed a limited but real independence. This was an option open to the Germans at that time, and in Steiner’s view it would have been a truly positive step toward a lasting peace.
Although Rudolf Steiner did not publish his book on the Threefold Social Order until 1919, the ideas on which it was based, namely, the threefold (or, more correctly the three-membered) nature of the social organism, were already put forward in their essentials in the summer of 1917 when he prepared the Memorandum for the statesmen of Europe. In the autumn of the same year he published a book in which the threefold nature of the human organism was explained by him for the first time—although he was later to tell an audience of anthroposophists that he had been able to grasp the central idea many decades before, adding that only ”during the storms of war was I able to bring it to maturity.” Since both ideas were first expressed in the period covered by this chapter and they belong together, we shall here give a brief outline of the fundamental idea of the threefold bodily nature of man, as first expressed in Steiner’s book Riddles of the Soul, following this with a discussion of the threefold, or three-membered, nature of the social organism, as explained in 1919 in his fundamental book entitled The Threefold Social Order or The Threefold Commonwealth.****
In Section VII of Riddles of the Soul Steiner almost casually introduces the notion of the threefoldness of man’s organism by relating the three essential human soul powers (or faculties) of thinking, feeling and willing, to three separate ”systems” in the human organism. The bodily basis of thinking is essentially to be found in what he calls the head and senses, or head and neural system, the feeling or emotional life of man has its bodily basis in what he calls the rhythmic system, which includes the blood circulation, while the metabolic and limb system provides the bodily basis for human willing. As we are most conscious in our nerves and senses, so are we more conscious in our thinking than we are in either our feeling or our willing. In our feeling life we are partly conscious, with a consciousness similar to that of our breathing that continues in its own rhythm without effort on our part; and in our will we are asleep, as we are asleep in our digestive system which we cannot modify at all by any conscious act of ours. The threefold system is also to be found within each of these systems, as, for example in the head, whose upper part contains our brain, linked to thinking, in the middle is our nose which is our organ for breathing, and below is the mouth which is linked to our digestion. If one system impinges on another, illness results, as when we suffer from a headache as a result of disorder in the digestive system. The three systems in the human organism are separate and distinguishable from one another, but they are all an inseparable part of the human being, who needs to have all functioning effectively together if he is to lead a healthy life. Thus the systems, though distinguishable, are not divisible. All these ideas were later to form the basis of anthroposophical medicine, which will be discussed briefly in a later chapter, but do not need to be elaborated further here, where our concern is with the threefold nature of the social order, not the bodily organism.
According to Rudolf Steiner the social organism is composed of three separate domains, which he calls the ”spiritual-cultural” domain, the political or jural domain, and the economic domain. It was the same kind of thinking and observation that led Steiner to distinguish these three separate domains as led him to distinguish the three domains or systems in the human organism. He always insisted that there was nothing arbitrary in these distinctions. ”By means of this cognizing which the human being exercises in connection with this view of the threefold natural human organism,” he said, ”one arrives also at a true cognition of the social organism in its threefold nature.” This kind of cognizing we have elsewhere referred to as Goethean or ”living” thinking—that kind of thinking that alone is capable of comprehending the living organism.
In Steiner’s view a particular kind of social organism should be striven for in the age of the consciousness soul. It was not to be regarded as a utopia in any sense of the word, nor would it last for all time. It should be striven for, not because it was the will of the spiritual world but because the social order itself was tending toward it of its own accord. ”The present crisis,” Steiner was to write in 1919, ”demands the development of certain faculties of apprehension . . . From now on it is necessary that the individual should be trained to have a healthy sense of how the forces of the body social must work in order for it to live.” The social order would eventually evolve in the long run in the direction he foresaw and urged, because it was demanded by the conditions of the time. Though it could be impeded by men who tried to preserve the old system because it suited them, the old system nevertheless was in fact doomed in the long or the short run. Conversely, when enough people saw the necessity for the kind of changes demanded by the times, their combined activity might succeed in bringing the new order into being. The chaotic conditions that would necessarily come about at the end of the war, and the inability of the responsible statesmen to decide on peace terms in keeping with the needs of the time, made it worthwhile for Steiner to express his ideas, and later, after the war, to make a personal effort to bring them to realization.
According to Steiner, the correct ideas had been, so to speak, ”in the air” at the time of the French Revolution. But they had not been really understood by anyone, with the result that in the end very little was changed by the Revolution. However, it had left behind it the slogan ”liberty, equality, and fraternity,” a slogan that expressed exactly what was needed if only it had been understood. Steiner now explained that the word liberty should have been applied to the spiritual-cultural domain alone, equality to the domain of rights, the political state, and fraternity to the economic realm. If the attempt should be made to apply these ideas in realms inappropriate for them, trouble would immediately ensue. The idea of equality cannot be applied to the realm of human freedom, of thinking, because we all think differently. The attempt to make all men think alike leads to tyranny. In the political domain what is needed is equality of rights, enforceable by a government freely elected by universal suffrage. No other freedom is needed in this domain. In the economic life we must all co-operate like brothers if we are to produce what we all need for our living. Steiner, of course, did not use these ideas as slogans for his own Threefold Order. All he was trying to do at this stage was to point out how beneath the surface the ideas appropriate for the times were already finding expression, but no one had the wisdom to understand them in their true meaning.
In the same way that thinking, feeling, and willing are intermingled in the human being, and each of these three soul powers plays a part in our every act, so do we play a part in each of the three domains of the social order. We partake at all times in the spiritual-cultural life of our country and the world, we expect to have our rights respected by others as we respect theirs, and for this purpose we elect or should elect a body to which we delegate powers sufficient to enable it to enforce these rights; and as consumers and perhaps also as producers we are vitally interested in the production and distribution of those goods which we consume every day of our lives. But there is no need whatsoever, so Steiner held, for the political organization, the state, either to interfere in the production and distribution of goods—a task which belongs properly to the economic and not the political domain—nor in education, which belongs exclusively to the spiritual-cultural realm, and should be provided by those people who are active in this realm and wish to contribute their cultural knowledge and insight to others. In the spiritual-cultural realm we are concerned only with the individual; in the political realm the natural unit is the state, which may be quite small since its tasks are limited; in the economic realm the natural unit is the world, since all goods should circulate freely without any hindrance from any source outside the economic domain itself.
Steiner, as may be imagined, did not content himself simply with making observations, and offering ideas regarding the present functioning of the social organism. He also suggested social and institutional changes which would take account of the separateness of each domain. Since all production of goods, for example, belongs to the economic domain it is necessary for this domain to generate a surplus which will be used to finance the activities of those whose work lies primarily in other domains. But it should not create unneeded surpluses, goods that can be sold only through mendacious and tendentious advertising; nor goods that will lie unsold in warehouses (as happened so often in the earlier years of the Soviet Union). The organization proper to this domain is therefore an association between producers and consumers, with the latter constantly feeding the necessary information to the former. These associations will be left strictly alone by the political domain, with the single exception of its duty to impose a minimum wage, calculated on the basis of what is needed for human subsistence—this being a right to which all men are entitled. By contrast, the spiritual-cultural domain will be expected to pour new ideas into the ears of the managers of the economic associations, and these ideas will be adopted or rejected on the sole basis of their utility. If production costs are reduced by making use of an idea, and if the consumers agree that the quality of the product is no lower than before, or if they wish to have a new product that can be made with the aid of the idea, then this idea will be regarded as a valuable and productive one, and the inventor will be duly remunerated and encouraged to think up further useful ideas. Thus the spiritual-cultural life will fertilize the economic life directly, as it indirectly fertilizes it by educating the populace in such a way that educated workers are always available to play their part in the economic sector of the social order.
It is certain that if such a Threefold Order were to come into being numerous changes would be required in the existing order. Within the spiritual-cultural domain education would have to be taken out of the hands of the state, and associations of teachers would provide education thereafter. The surplus from the economic realm would have to be channelled directly to them or through the medium of the parents, without the intervention of state bureaucrats who, now just as much as in 1917, use the authority of the government to collect taxes from the economic domain to pay the teachers and school administrators. Parents would choose those schools for their children that pleased them, and associations of teachers who could not attract the parents (let us hope that this means they were bad teachers and not merely exacting ones) would not be able to keep their schools open. Obviously such a scheme would disturb numerous vested interests. In the economic domain joint stock companies would be replaced by associations of producers, distributors and consumers as described above—thereby, among other things, putting an end to the power and influence of financiers, banks and big business, while the associations would no longer look to the state for support or special privileges.
The state, thus losing so many of its current tasks, would find itself reduced in power and authority. Thereafter its task would become solely to maintain and enforce the rights of all citizens of the state. Having no role to play in the management of the economy nor in providing education, it would still have the duty to defend the people against external aggression, and could call upon them for armed aid if so authorized by the parliamentary body elected by all citizens. But it was thought by Rudolf Steiner that the other arrangements of the new order would remove most of the causes of war. In particular, since the economy would be world-wide and national economies would disappear, no impediments to world wide trade would ever be imposed; presumably raw materials would belong to no particular nation but would be used by all for the benefit of all. It follows that the boundaries of the various states would no longer be of vital importance. There would be no rich states and poor states, only ”rights-bodies” maintaining the rights of the citizens who had elected them to office. In principle there would be no reason why each ethnic group that desired it should not have its own rights-organization, and thereafter all states could really be too small to think of waging war, even if there were any reason for it. It is perhaps scarcely surprising that politicians and bureaucrats who owed their living to the existing system should have felt themselves personally threatened by even the idea of such a new social order.
Thus powerful opponents could be expected from all three domains, and those who might prefer such an order to the existing one were not those who currently wielded power and authority. The postwar history of the movement for the Threefold Social Order showed that it had indeed many potential supporters, but that these were not to be found in high places. Steiner therefore in 1919 after the founding of the movement was quite right in making his appeal directly to the people, and to enlightened industrialists and other individuals who could be convinced by his ideas, and not so much to the established leaders of postwar Germany. But in 1917, when the memorandum containing his basic ideas was circulated to other influential leaders by Counts Lerchenfeld and Polzer-Hoditz, it was surely too much to expect that it would be heeded. Most of the men who read it found some of its details interesting, even practicable, but rejected the document as a whole—especially, no doubt, those parts that affected them personally and threatened their position.
Yet every item in the memorandum was intimately linked with every other item, and this continued to be the case even after the war. The Threefold Social Order was not a thought-out plan, as the Soviet state system so largely was when it was imposed by Lenin and Stalin. It could not be imposed by any authority, however well disposed; and Steiner was at all times totally opposed to making the attempt. It must, he thought, come about more or less by itself, through men and women who understood it and would themselves do what was necessary in their own field of activity. He put forward the ideas in 1917 only because he was asked for them, not because he believed that the leaders of the warring nations could or would accept them, nor that the Threefold Social Order would be brought into being overnight if they did. What he did hope was that the leaders on both sides would give some thought to them, and that when it came to negotiating and making peace they, or some of them, would keep the ultimate goals in mind, and take some steps toward attaining them. His opposition to President Woodrow Wilson, the most powerful and influential of these leaders, thus becomes entirely comprehensible. The most definite and concrete of Wilson’s ideas was undoubtedly that of self-determination for minorities. But such self-determination would make matters much worse if each of the new countries were to try to administer a national economy. Only if a world-wide ”international” economy were already in operation and were maintained after the peace could the peacemakers afford to grant self-determination to the minorities who would thereafter possess effective self-government in the form of national ”rights-bodies,” while their economies would form part of the larger world-economy.
Rudolf Steiner was especially shocked by the action of the German military in helping Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries to return to Russia, an action that led directly to the Bolshevik Revolution. Thereafter he began to lose hope that anything constructive would come out of the war. With his spiritual vision he was able to perceive how the forces of evil who were opposed to the goals for mankind willed by the spiritual world were beginning to rage unchecked, and from Michaelmas 1917 he began to give several series of lectures to those members in Dornach who he felt were able to bear the truth. He explained in particular how from 1879 onwards certain Ahrimanic spirits were driven out of the spiritual worlds and began to haunt men, and how certain occult brotherhoods allied themselves with the forces of evil in order to gain power over other men. This was no legend, Steiner insisted, but the actual truth visible to spiritual sight. Moreover, the numerous violent deaths during the war had greatly disturbed relations between the spiritual and earthly worlds, and this increased the power of those occultists who could make use of the dead for their own ends. For this reason early in 1918 Steiner once more gave a key cycle to the Berlin members (Earthly Death and Cosmic Life), in which he spoke again about the need to keep in contact with the dead, and how to help them through their own thoughts and feelings toward them. In October and early November he gave another long cycle, this time to Dornach members, with the German title of Historical Symptomatology, translated into English under the title From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, which is full of insights into the entire age of the consciousness soul, concluding with a discussion of contemporary history.
Immediately after this last cycle was completed Steiner began a series of three separate cycles, of which the first lectures were delivered just before the signing of the Armistice. The titles of these cycles Foundations for Social Thinking in the Evolution of History, In the Changed Conditions of the Time, and The Fundamental Social Demand of our Time, demonstrate clearly enough that Rudolf Steiner was prepared to educate the members on the realities of the Social Order as he saw them. His social ideas were not altogether unknown to older members. As early as 1905 and 1906 he had published three articles in Luzifer-Gnosis entitled ”Theosophy and the Social Question,” in which may be seen the outlines of the Threefold Social Order. But at that time he was evidently not interested in making his views widely known, and indeed they may well not yet have come to maturity in him. Now, as the war was ending, he was ready to make his ideas known, in spite of the failure of his effort to reach European leaders through Count Lerchenfeld. No other European statesman seemed to have any new ideas. The only leader who was making any real attempt to consider world issues and place them above national interests remained President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, and, as we have seen, Steiner was thoroughly distrustful of his kind of thinking and feared the worst if he were to have his way. The other victorious allied powers, considering that the Central Powers had been decisively defeated, had no intention of taking their wishes into consideration in the making of peace.
By contrast Steiner, as he was to state later in his Appeal to the German People and the Civilized World, soon to be discussed, was of the opinion that the German point of view should be put forward to the victorious powers, and that this should be based on spiritual impulses that had hitherto not been able to be heard ”above the thunder of cannons.” Wilson’s Fourteen Points, on the basis of which the Germans claimed they had laid down their arms, had been enunciated, Steiner claimed, from a purely American point of view. ”Wilson,” he said, ”was confronted by a Germany that had nothing to say for itself,” and he, for one, was not prepared to let the German case go by default. But, in his view, only a new kind of Germany, with a new social order based on the separation of the three domains of society, could properly negotiate with the winners.
These views by the end of 1918 had not yet been made public by Steiner, but some of his collaborators had come to feel that his ideas were so important that they should be widely known. In particular two anthroposophists, Dr. Roman Boos, a lawyer from Zurich, and Emil Molt, an innovative industrialist from Stuttgart, were anxious not only to make his ideas known but to do something positive themselves, taking advantage if possible of the chaotic conditions of the immediate postwar period to effect some radical changes. Roman Boos, as a Swiss, thought that his fellow-countrymen, even though they had not taken part in the war as belligerents, might be ready for a new social order if the idea were to be placed before them, while Molt was ready to see what could be done among his fellow-industrialists. Others also asked Steiner for his advice and help. As a consequence he decided to issue a special appeal to the Germans and to the entire civilized world, intending that it should, in effect, be the German answer to President Wilson, who, when the Appeal was launched in February, 1919, was already in Europe and engaged in the early stages of peacemaking. In order to make the Appeal as representative as possible, Steiner insisted that as many signatures as possible should be collected from representative Germans. When eventually it was published, it contained the signatures of many notable personalities, very few of whom were anthroposophists. The list included Gabrielle Reuter, the authoress whom Rudolf Steiner had met and admired in Weimar, and—no doubt much better known today—the distinguished novelist and later Nobel prizewinner, Hermann Hesse.
The Appeal to the German People and the Civilized World, as prepared by Rudolf Steiner, and signed by so many representative personalities, was the first salvo in the movement to establish the Threefold Social Order, and it was followed two months later by the publication of Steiner’s long awaited book, published in three centers simultaneously—Dornach, Stuttgart and Vienna—under the title The Threefold Commonwealth, or, more descriptively, ”Basic Issues of the Social Question,” the subtitle the book bore in German speaking countries.***** The world into which it was launched was indeed a rapidly changing and extremely chaotic one, though this fact did not prevent the book from selling over eighty thousand copies in its first year. But from a practical point of view it is scarcely thinkable that its ideas could have been adopted in toto anywhere even in the chaotic conditions of 1919. Almost no one was willing to admit as yet that the social order was in need of a thorough overhauling. Even so, if the circumstances had been even slightly different, at least the main idea in the international realm—the separation of the state from the economic organization—might have been applied to the Austrian Empire, with results far better for the world than the actual settlement imposed by the victorious allies. In the economic realm a customs union could have come into being within the entire territory formerly ruled by the Dual Monarchy, allowing free trade within the area, while each minority could have had its own ”rights-body” with limited powers, with an equally limited central government made up of representatives from the component bodies, whose task would be to administer the former empire as a whole. The Austrians might then have been ready to look eastward rather than toward the Germans in the west, and truncated Austria might well never have been swallowed up by Hitler’s Third Reich in 1938.
In Germany itself during the first half of 1919 a very weak central government under Socialist auspices was trying to function in Berlin, following the abdication of the Kaiser. This government backed by the army which in this instance was willing to obey it, had already put down a rebellion of left wing Socialists and Communists, while in Bavaria Kurt Eisner, an independent Socialist leader, had proclaimed a republic to replace the former monarchy. A relative moderate, he was assassinated in the same month that Rudolf Steiner launched his Appeal; and at the beginning of April a Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Munich, which lasted for almost a month before being in its turn suppressed bloodily by troops obeying the orders of the Berlin government. All through these months the Allied blockade of Germany, instituted during the war, continued, and was used as an instrument of pressure to persuade the German government to accept the proposed peace treaty on the terms of which it had not been consulted. The treaty of Versailles was finally agreed to after the Socialist Government of Philipp Scheidemann had resigned in preference to accepting it. The blockade was lifted, and German life gradually returned to almost normal until the era of uncontrolled inflation which began in the summer of 1922. In the light of hindsight it seems now clear that it was only during the few months of virtual anarchy while the blockade was still in progress that wide support could have been won for Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Commonwealth movement. Once the peace treaty had been signed on June 28, 1919 the vast majority of Germans accepted docilely the return of the old social order. The Kaiser had gone into exile in Holland, and was not greatly missed, while the always rather feeble republican governments did their best to cope with the problems resulting from the German defeat, within the framework of the institutions they had inherited from the defunct Empire. The Weimar Constitution, adopted on July 31st, 1919, substituted an elected president for the Kaiser, and modified the former system of voting in such a way that it would be virtually impossible to avoid coalition governments. In other respects it changed nothing, and numerous groups of Germans, especially rightwing nationalists, were disgusted with it. But no doubt the vast majority of Germans felt at home with it, at least for the time being, and turned their attention to the problem of making a living, eschewing all revolutionary ideas, including those of Rudolf Steiner.
But in April, 1919, when the Threefold Commonwealth was launched, there still seemed to be hopeful signs that the German people were ready for radical change. This seemed to be especially true of the Swabians in the former kingdom of Württemberg, whose capital was Stuttgart. It was in that city that Emil Molt had his tobacco factory, which bore the name of Waldorf-Astoria, and it was above all in Stuttgart that Molt was able to find other industrialists interested, like himself, in the Threefold Order. But neither Molt nor Boos nor, indeed anyone else among the small hand of anthroposophists, possessed enough knowledge or authority to lead the Threefold movement. So, if such a movement were to be brought into existence, there was only one possible leader for it, and that was Rudolf Steiner himself, in spite of the enormous demands on his time and energy that such leadership must involve. Whatever his misgivings must have been, he took up the burden, and as soon as he could escape from his pressing commitments in Dornach he paid a visit to Stuttgart, where he delivered a long awaited lecture to the group of enthusiasts who had been discussing for weeks the Threefold Commonwealth and its ideas, and were ready to do whatever they could to help bring them to realization. His first public lecture on April 22nd excited a tremendous enthusiasm, and numerous members of the audience asked him to address them and explain his ideas further. He did his best to respond to these requests, and even met with groups of workers in their smoke-filled taverns, apparently to the detriment of his voice, since he himself had long before given up smoking. It is, however, reported that, though he usually started his talk in a somewhat muffled voice which amounted to little more than a croak, he was soon able to overcome his temporary disability, and before the end of his talk he was able to speak with his customary warmth, clarity and strength. For several months he remained in Stuttgart, devoting himself whole-heartedly to his new task, organizing the work and expounding the threefold ideas to individuals and groups, to industrialists and trade unionists, wherever a suitable audience presented itself. He did not return to Dornach until August. The Threefold movement in Germany was given a formal organization in May under the name of the Union for the Threefold Social Order, and at the same time Roman Boos founded a Swiss Union for the Threefold Social Order in Zurich. A new weekly periodical was launched in July under the title of the Threefold Membering of the Social Order, to which Steiner contributed over thirty articles, while Boos founded a similar monthly in Switzerland.
The political effectiveness of the Union was perhaps less than it would have been if it had been backed by a political party, or if the Union had itself become such a party. Nevertheless, it will be clear from a study of the principles of the Threefold Order outlined earlier in this chapter that it never was at any time possible—and still is not possible today—to bring about the threefold membering of society through political pressure. When members of the audience spoke, as they often did, of ”introducing the Threefold Order” Rudolf Steiner invariably replied that no one could introduce the Threefold Order, but individuals could and should work in every possible way to bring some elements of it to birth. If it ever came into being it would be as the result of the untiring efforts of individual men and women. If this seems to be at variance with his Memorandum of 1917 in which he made it clear that the Central Powers ought to adopt the Threefold Social Order through action by their rulers and with his willingness to have the Memorandum submitted to leading statesmen in Central Europe, it must be remembered that it was originally drawn up at the request of Count Lerchenfeld, and Steiner himself had little hope that it would be accepted, much less put into effect by fiat from above. He wished above all to launch the idea, and have men of influence think about it. It might then become part of the peace program of the Central Powers, in this respect forming an answer to the abstract Fourteen Points of President Wilson.
Nevertheless, it remains possible that a political party which accepted the desirability of the Threefold Order and placed it at the center of its programme could indeed have won several seats in the Reichstag in Berlin under the new system of proportional representation, and thereafter used the Reichstag as a platform for spreading Threefold ideas. This was not tried, but the movement did all the same make a marked impact in Germany, where Rudolf Steiner himself became a figure of national importance, an unusual position for a spiritual leader who had sought nothing of the kind. It thus became inevitable that he should also arouse antagonism as well as winning new supporters, and, as we shall see, his new opponents proved to be very serious enemies prepared to stop at nothing to silence him. At the same time many of those who now formed part of the Union and did their best to further his social ideas never had the time or opportunity (and sometimes not even the inclination) to become fully fledged anthroposophists, and were often enough, even when they became members of the Anthroposophical Society, quite imperfectly acquainted with Anthroposophy itself, of which all the Threefold ideas were in fact an integral part. The differences between the new adherents of Anthroposophy who came into the movement because of the Threefold work, and the older members, especially those who had at one time been theosophists, were always latent in the Society, and became accentuated as time went on, never becoming fully resolved even long after the Threefold Movement had become part of history.
Rudolf Steiner during these months in Stuttgart spent himself untiringly. The years during which he had lectured to the Berlin workers in the Liebnecht Working Men’s College at the turn of the century had prepared him to speak directly to the workers in a manner uniquely his own, and that no other anthroposophist could match. Time and again he pointed out to them that their real grievance was that their work was bought and sold like any other commodity, and that this was contrary to their dignity as men and women. He told them that it was cultural deprivation from which above all they suffered, because they were forced to enter economic life at about the age of fourteen without ever having received an adequate education capable of preparing them for a full life as adults. He criticized the Marxist solutions unmercifully as irrelevant to the real problems. The state being, as Steiner held, totally incompetent to manage industry, there would be no point in widespread nationalization of private enterprises. If state functionaries were brought into industry as managers they could do nothing except behave like ordinary industrialists. Even the division of profits among the workers would not solve the problem of their cultural deprivation. Least of all would the Bolshevik expedients now being tried in Russia lead to any solution. But if the economic sector ceased to tyrannize over the state and the state ceased to try to regulate industry, then a place would appear for the worker to make his vote effective in a democratic system, in which the state would have but a limited role to play.
It goes without saying that such talk greatly displeased the workers’ leaders who belonged to either the Socialist or Communist parties, both of which were Marxist in their ideologies; and after a brief period during which they tolerated Steiner’s lectures and discussions with their fellow-members, they began to exercise party discipline and forbade them to attend—an experience similar to that of the early part of the century, when it was the members of the executive of the Social Democratic party who stopped Steiner’s popular lectures at the Working Men’s College in Berlin. In just the same way as before the union leaders decided that Steiner was a danger to their party aims. Without the full support of the unions as well as the employers it was impossible to bring into being, at least in a unionized company, the economic associations which, according to the Threefold ideas, were to take the place of the ordinary joint stock or privately owned companies that were the norm in the economic domain. Nevertheless Steiner’s efforts with the workers were far from fruitless as, at least in some industries in which they had not been deeply indoctrinated with Marxism, the Associations did come into being with the support of both workers and employers. In some workplaces also the dedicated Marxists were heavily outnumbered by those who wished to try something new, and the union leaders were sometimes worsted by Steiner’s capacity for laying bare the incongruities and inconsistencies of their arguments.
An incident reported by Dr. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, the Protestant pastor whose book on Rudolf Steiner we have quoted earlier, was no doubt typical of many. ”In a discussion with workmen at that time,” he reports, ”I saw Rudolf Steiner from a new angle—amazingly quick and alert as always, but at the same time imposingly active and energetic. His counter-arguments poured down with devastating force on those who were opposing him. One of the lesser leaders, a man not without some knowledge of his own, but who made a conceited little speech, was so flattened by Rudolf Steiner that he left the hall and wept in the vestibule. ‘It would not be exactly a pleasure to come up against him here,’ I thought to myself. ‘But to see him like this is a real joy!’”45
It has already been noted that the central idea of the Threefold Social Order was the separation of the three domains, the spiritual-cultural, the domain of the state and human rights, and the economic domain; and that the basis for the economic life in future ought to be an association between producers, distributors and consumers. Since only the economic domain was the actual producer of consumer goods, it was evident that those whose working lives were devoted to the other two domains would have to receive their subsistence from the economic domain, that is to say, from the Associations. In order to enable them to obtain their subsistence the cultural workers and state functionaries would receive money, as they do now. But this money would differ in a marked manner from money as we know it today. Rudolf Steiner had a great deal to say on the subject of money, but most of this lies outside the scope of this book.46 Here it is necessary to mention only a few important features of his teachings on the subject. To Steiner money itself was not a reality; it was simply a token of value, and showed that some commodity had been produced. It was, therefore, a medium of exchange only, and could not be treated as if it were a commodity itself. Above all it ought not to be accumulated. It should be based on some real commodity (such, for example, as wheat) which would in due course be consumed. The money, so Steiner held, should also be cancelled in the same way. But just before its life-span came to an end it should be given away to the spiritual-cultural realm, which would spend it for the last time. This gift-money, as Steiner called it, should always be used to pay for cultural and not material goods, and the entire cultural realm should be supported by such money, now called profits, since they represent the surplus from the economic domain. Thus the economic Associations, as envisaged by Rudolf Steiner, would always produce a surplus which would not be re-invested in order to produce more—capital for investment would always be new money—or used in ways we today consider productive. The surplus would pay for the relatively few workers in the rights domain, and for the many expenses in the cultural domain, especially education. Once the money had been spent in these areas it would go at once out of existence.
It might be thought that the workers, who had so little to lose, would be more favorable to the Threefold ideas than the employers. But in fact Rudolf Steiner interested a fair number of employers, some of whom, especially in Württemberg, were already anthroposophists, including, of course, Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf Astoria tobacco factory. Several leading industrialists in Stuttgart asked Steiner to talk with them and with their workers, including managers of and owners of such businesses as Bosch and Daimler. When it became clear that the Threefold Social Order as such would not come into being in all Germany, the work of the Union for the Threefold Order was mostly concentrated on organizing some Associations in a few industries, whose leaders were willing to convert to this new form of organization. At the same time efforts were made to form cultural councils in the spiritual cultural realm. In the economic realm councils made up of all the newly formed Associations were also brought into being. Anthroposophists themselves organized businesses both in Germany and Switzerland which were expected to function on Threefold principles.
Very few of these pioneer ventures were successful for any length of time, and in due course had to be liquidated, most of the failures being due to the inexperience of the enthusiastic founders, many of whom, as might be expected, came from the ranks of the idealistic young. Emil Molt’s factory was in a different category. This was already a going concern, led by a warm-hearted but thoroughly competent industrialist. In his factory at Stuttgart Rudolf Steiner made one of his first major addresses on the Threefold Order, and was asked the crucial question: How can we overcome our cultural deprivation? What can we do so that our children do not suffer as we have suffered? To this Rudolf Steiner answered that it would be possible to have a new kind of school, in which all their children could be educated in a new way.
So as early as April, 1919, the fundamental decision was taken to create such a school, and Emil Molt proposed to devote the surplus of his factory to financing it, thus making this surplus into gift-money for the cultural domain, in accordance with the principles of the Threefold Order that he personally had accepted. So came into existence the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, the first of more than a hundred and fifty at present operating throughout the world. The story of this school will be considered in the next chapter.
*For a good modern account of these events and the role played by von Moltke in the German failure, see, for example, Corelli Barnett, The Swordbearers (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1964). Barnett’s story is endorsed by two of the best British military historians, Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, and Captain B.H. Liddell Hart.
**For a more detailed discussion of Woodrow Wilson and his ideas of nationalism and self determination see my Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy pp. 325-331.
***The Memorandum does not exist in English, but it was published in German as recently as 1961 in a work entitled Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des Sozialen Organismus (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag.)
****For a longer discussion of the threefold bodily nature of man see my Man and World . . . pp. 296-301. An excellent little book on the subject has recently been published, Walther Bühler, Living with your Body (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979).
*****This fundamental book, published in German under the title Kernpunkte der Sozialen Frage in den Lebensnotwendigkeiten der Gegenwart und Zukunft has been translated in its three English editions under three different titles, none of them much resembling the sesquipedalian German one. The three titles are The Threefold Commonwealth, The Threefold Social Order, and the latest one, published in 1977 in a translation by Frank Thomas Smith, bears the simple title Towards Social Renewal, with the subtitle coming close to the German, ”Basic Issues of the Social Question”. Here we shall use the first title as the one most familiar to anthroposophists.
Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch