ANTHROPOSOPHICAL 
WORK MATERIAL ON 
MAN AND SOCIETY

 

Two of the pictures of the human being and of society that anthroposophy leads you to, are the pictures of the human as a threefold being in a number of senses, and of a society that, reflecting the nature of and interaction between us, in a basic sense therefore also has developed a threefold character.

In society, this reflection of the human being has developed as a differentiation into areas of social interaction, partly regulated in law as a legal life and in the west institutionalised as parliamentarian democracies, developed out of the national state, of an economical life that reflects our relation to and work with and on the earth upon which we live, and a cultural life that reflects our relation to an inner world, the world "above" us, that can be called spiritual.

In the human being this in different ways is based on our empathic abilities towards our fellow men, our ability to think, and our willing capacities.

At the end of last century and the beginning of this century, intense and basic discussion and research took place about the relation of our inner life to the physiology of our body, before the nervous system was decided upon as the essential factor both as the basis of thinking and willing as well as our life of feelings. Most widespread today is the picture based on research by Roger Sperry, describing a difference between the right and the left part of the brain, with the right one being more logically and rationally oriented, while the left part of it is understood as more intuitive, non-verbally feeling-oriented.

The threefold nature of man
The first place where Steiner discussed this specific problem in print, was in an appendix to an obituary essay on Franz Brentano, the teacher of Edmund Husserl, one of the founders of the phenomenological tradition. The essay and the appendix were written in 1917, the year of the death of Brentano, three years after the First World War broke out in Europe and the year of the Russian Revolution.

The essay was published as one of three in "Von Seelenrätseln" (Riddles of the soul) the same year. In 1970, Owen Barfield (1898-1997), a well known English writer, translated and commented extracts from this work. It was published as "The Case for Anthroposophy" by Rudolf Steiner Press.

As they have been out of print since then, I have put part of it here with the kind permission of Rudolf Steiner Press:
- The introduction by Owen Barfield.
- The essay "Anthropology and anthroposophy" by Rudolf Steiner.
- The appendix "The philosophical bearing of anthroposophy" by Rudolf Steiner.
- The appendix "Principles of psychosomatic physiology" by Rudolf Steiner, pointing to the physical basis of only thinking in the nervous system, with the rhythmic heart-lung system as being the basis for feeling and the metabolic-limb system as being the direct physical basis for man´s will. Later, Steiner elaborated extensively on what he put forth for the first time in the appendix.

The threefold nature of society
During the same year; 1917, Steiner also for the first time puts forth his understanding of the threefold nature of human society and its consequences for handling the problem that had lead to the First World War and that would have to be handled at the end of the war, writes a Memorandum on it in July and inspires much social work that tries to create a better base for the future.

The Memorandum is seriously considered by Prince Max of Baden in Germany and the circles around Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary. At the end of the war, the German negotiator with Russia, Foreign Minister Kühlmann, has Steiner´s Memorandum with him in his pocket when he goes to the negotiations in Bretsk-Litovsk in December 1917, but he does not bring them up at the talks and in February 1918 the talks collapse, German troops advance towards Petrograd (now Petersburg) and Lenin is forced to agree to a peace treaty on terms dictated by the Central powers. (Read more on the birth of the movement for social threefolding and the Waldorf school movement in 1917 and the general situation in Europe during 1919-24.)

A site that I warmly recommend, moderated by David Heaf in United Kingdom, on the basic threefold nature of society as a leading picture in handling the future, covers the subject well. It also contains links to probably most other relevant and interesting sites on the net on or related to the subject. Visit it!!

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