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The Threefold Social Order
GA 23

IV. International Aspects

The internal structure of a healthy social organism makes its international relations also threefold. Each of the three spheres will have its own independent relations with the corresponding sphere of the other social organisms elsewhere. Economic relationships between countries will arise without the relations between their rights-states having a direct influence upon them.1Author's Note: It may be urged that the rights relations and the economic relations form one indivisible whole in actual reality. This, however, misses the point of what is meant by the threefold membering. Of course, in the mutual intercourse and exchange, taken as a total process, the two different sets of relations (between the rights systems and the economic systems) work together as a single whole. But it is a different matter whether one makes rights regulations to suit the requirements of economic intercourse, or whether one first shapes them by the common sense of right and then lets the result of this affect the economic process. Conversely, the relations between their rights-states will, within certain limits, develop in complete independence of their economic connections. This independence of origin will enable these two sets of relationships to act as a check upon each other in cases of disputes. Such a close interweaving of interests between the individual social organisms will develop as will make territorial frontiers seem negligible as far as real communities of human beings are concerned.

The spiritual organizations of the different countries will be able to enter into mutual relationships that stem only from the common spiritual life of mankind. Detached from the state and placed on its own footing, the spiritual life will develop all sorts of connections that are impossible when recognition of spiritual services rests with the state rather than with the administration of a spiritual body. In this regard, there is no difference between achievements of science, which are frankly international, and those of any other spiritual field.

The common language of a nation, and all that goes along with this, constitutes such a field of spiritual life. The national consciousness itself belongs in this field. The people of one language-area do not come into unnatural conflict with those of another, so long as they do not try to make their national culture predominant by the use of their state-organization or their economic power. If one national civilization spreads more readily and has greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should spread. The process of spreading will be a peaceful one, provided it comes about solely through establishments of the spiritual organisms.

At present the keenest opposition to the three-folding of the social organism will come precisely from those groups that have developed out of the fact of their possessing a speech and national culture in common. Such opposition will, however, collapse because of the common goal, of which all mankind will have to become increasingly conscious just out of the very necessities of modern life. Mankind will come to feel that each of its parts can only lead a life worthy of their common humanity by uniting in a vital manner with all the other parts. National affinities, along with other natural impulses, are among the causes that led to the historical development of communities in rights and of economic communities. But the forces through which nationalities grow require free mutual interaction that is not hindered by any relationships that develop between the States and the Economic Associations. This will be achieved if the various nations bring about the internal three-folding of their own body social in such a way that every one of the three branches can develop its independent relations to the other social organisms.

In this way people, states and economic bodies become interrelated in formations that are extremely varied in shape and character. These link every part of mankind with every other part, in such a way that each is conscious of the life of the others pulsing through its own daily interests. A League of Nations comes into being out of basic impulses that correspond to actual realities. There will be no need to “institute” one based on one-sided legal theories of right.2Author's Note. Whoever thinks such things are “Utopias” fails to see that actual life is really struggling toward the very kind of arrangement that seems to them so Utopian, and that the mischief going on in real life is due precisely to the fact that these arrangements are nowhere to be found.

An important thing, in terms of the realities, is that while the social aims presented here have value for mankind as a whole, they can be put into practice by any single social organism no matter what the attitude of other countries may at first be. If one country shapes itself into the three natural spheres, the representatives of these can enter international relations as a single body to deal with others, even if these are not yet ready to adopt the Threefold Order themselves. Whoever leads the way with the Threefold Order will be furthering a common goal of all mankind. What has to be done will come to pass far more through the strength produced by an aim that is rooted in actual human impulses than by way of diplomatic agreements or schemes drafted at conferences. This aim is conceived in thought on a basis of reality and is to be pursued in all the activities of life.

Any observer of the peoples and states during recent decades could see how the historically-developed state-structures, with their blending of spiritual, rights and economic life, were becoming involved in international relations that were leading to a catastrophe. At the same time it was equally plain to see that opposite forces, working in mankind's unconscious impulses, were tending towards the Threefold Order. It will be the remedy for those convulsions that have been brought about by the mania for unification. The “leaders of mankind,” however, were not able to see what had for years been slowly developing. In the spring and early summer of 1914 one still found “statesmen” saying that thanks to the exertions of the governments, the peace of Europe was, as far as could be humanly foreseen, assured.

These “statesmen” simply had not the faintest notion that all they were doing and saying had absolutely lost touch with the course of real events. Yet these were the people who were looked up to as “practical.” Whoever, during those last decades, developed ideas contrary to those of the “statesmen” was regarded as a “crank.” I refer to ideas such as those expressed by the author of this book months before the war-catastrophe, speaking to a small audience in Vienna—a large audience would certainly have laughed him down. He spoke of the danger in more or less these words:

“The tendencies prevailing in present-day life will go on gathering strength until they end by annihilating themselves. One who looks at social life with the eyes of the spirit can see everywhere, the ghastly signs of social tumors forming. Here is the great menace to civilization, apparent to anyone who looks below the surface of existence. This is what is so terrible, so depressing. In fact, even if one were able to repress all interest in obtaining knowledge of life's events by means of a science recognizing the spirit, these signs alone would impel one to speak of the means of healing in words forceful enough to arouse the world. If the body social goes on developing as it has, it will become full of cultural sores that will be for it what cancers are in man's natural body.”

Over the surface of these subterranean currents, which they could not and would not see, the ruling circles undertook measures they should not have taken; never any that would have established confidence between the various human communities.

Anyone who thinks that the social needs of the time played no part in causing the present world-catastrophe should consider what direction political impulses would have taken in the states that were rushing into war, if the meeting of these social needs had been included among the aims of the “statesmen.” How much less inflammable material would have been piled up if people had, instead, worked at meeting these social needs.

It was the one-fold form of the state, which the leaders were determined to preserve, that ran counter to healthy relations between the peoples.

If the independent spiritual life could have evolved beyond the frontiers of Austria and Serbia in a fashion that harmonized with the goals of these peoples, then this conflict (rooted in the spiritual life) need not have burst into a political catastrophe. Yet the habits of thought of the “statesman-like” thinkers in Austria-Hungary could not conceive of state boundaries not coinciding with national cultural communities. They could not understand how spiritual organizations could be formed that would cut across state frontiers and form the school system and other branches of spiritual life. Yet this “inconceivable” thing is what international life demands in the new age.

What about the German Empire? It was founded at a time when modern demands for a healthy social organism were struggling for realization. To have accomplished this would have given the Empire a historical justification for existence. Here lay the task for those who were at the head of its affairs. Instead, they were satisfied with “social reforms” arising out of day to day needs. The state-structure they had in mind could only rest on military force. The one demanded by modern history would have had to rest on the realization of the impulses for a healthy social organism. German policy had, in 1914, reached a dead point and was bound, from sheer lack of inner content, to collapse like the proverbial “house of cards.”

What has now resulted from the war-catastrophe has created a new situation. It is possible for the social impulses of mankind to influence this new situation in the sense conceived in this book. These social impulses should arouse a sense of responsibility throughout the civilized world. Some countries were able to stand aloof from the points at issue in 1914. From the social movement they cannot stand aloof. This is a question that admits of no political adversaries and no neutrals. Here there must be one human race working at one common task, willing to read the signs of the times and to act in accordance with them.