The Esoteric Aspect of the Social Question - Rudolf Steiner

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The Esoteric Aspect of the Social Question - Rudolf SteinerThe Esoteric Aspect of the Social Question -The Individual and Society
(previously The Inner Aspect of the Social Question)
Four lectures by Rudolf Steiner

The Esoteric Aspect of the Social Question consists of four lectures by Rudolf Steiner in which he describes the spiritual basis of his concept of the Threefold Social Order. Not only the cosmos but the human being's place in the cosmos is rooted in this threefold aspect of existence. For the organising powers in society to deny or remain ignorant of what could be called 'the natural arrangement of a social organism' results in a wide variety of confusions and struggles which are caused by human dissatisfaction, alienation and mistrust. It is in fact the equivalent of a diseased state in a living organism with comparable symptomatic phenomena manifesting on a human social scale. Bringing the various functions within the social organism into their natural relationships will do much to correct this ongoing strife.

Steiner's description of the threefold aspect of society can only be understood by close re-examination of our habitual, and possibly entrenched, ways of viewing these three areas: cultural/spiritual, political/legal rights administration, and economics. By 'cultural' is meant everything within the arts, science, religion and education. The political-legal sphere concerns everything which guarantees each human beings rights as a member of society. This is rooted in the concept of social equality. Economics is everything that is directly involved with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services - all of those things which engage us in the physical world and are necessary to maintain our physical survival. Though it is obvious that none of these spheres can function in exclusion of the others - for each must dovetail and interact with the others - Steiner's argument is that each is derived from a different sphere and must function according to it's own laws or dynamics without being confused with and compromised by the others.

The spiritual basis for this is that each sphere has its own source and from this it's own directives. The spiritual/cultural sphere is a reflection of all that the human being experienced in a purely spiritual state before birth. This has a powerful enlivening effect on the whole of personal and social life and can only do so when it is not dictated to by other forces. The polar opposite to this is the economic sphere, an activity which threatens to drag human dignity below its true stature. This however is also related to the spiritual realm, but in this case it is related to what we carry with us through the gate of death. The challenge of economics is one of raising it through inner conscious activity to one of fraternity rather than letting it draw the human being downward through isolated self-seeking. This conscious activity only shows its fruits in the spiritual world after death. Thus it is a kind of polar opposite to the spiritual/cultural sphere in its dynamics and its orientation. The middle ground is the political/legal rights realm which only concerns what the human being is as a member of human society between birth and death and is unconnected with the spiritual sphere. This sphere guarantees, for example, that one person is not exploiting another in the realm of economics, or that one person or group cannot suppress another person's right to practice their religion in the cultural/spiritual sphere. Steiner fills these concepts out considerably to show their relevance to our personal and community life.

Much more is described in these few lectures which have a bearing on healthy social functioning but also is significant in its own right - for example the relationship of Christ to communities and groups and the two ways to approach Christ through one's own inner activity in life.

These lectures are recommended for those who want to get to grips with the foundation of the threefold social concept.

Rudolf Steiner Press
4 lectures, 4 Feb - 9 March 1919, Zurich & Berne, GA193
paperback; 95pp
ISBN: 1-85584-064-2

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The Esoteric Aspect of the Social Question - Rudolf Steiner  - GA 193