The Threefold Order of the Body Social - Study Series II
9 June 1920, Stuttgart
It will be more in keeping with the character of a study-evening, such as this, if I do not deliver a regular lecture, but begin simply by offering a few remarks, which may lead on to as wide a discussion as possible of the particular subjects which the different members of the audience may have more especially at heart, and which may seem needful for the further work of propagating the Threefold Social Order.
It has been intimated to me, that an important question at this moment is that of propaganda; a how and through what means the idea of the Threefold Order can best be propagated during the coming months.
Since I was not present at the last study-evenings, it is possible that what I say to-day may be apart from the general context; but this question of propaganda was represented to me as being of particular importance.
Well, it is hardly very profitable, to-day, to discuss the ways and means in which the propaganda of the Threefold Order should be carried on, unless one is prepared to base anything one may propose to do upon the experiences we have actually had up till now. In discussing a subject of this kind, I must really point out once more, that, in face of the general situation throughout the world to-day, it can really not be a question of how one thinks of arranging every detail in one particular concern, — especially not in the economic field. From any measures on a small scale, one can truly no longer hope for much to-day. To-day we should after all be learning to see, that at bottom nothing is to be accomplished except by treating things on a big scale, as I might say. As regards our propaganda, — I spoke of it last time at one of these very study-evenings, and called attention to the fact, that with our propaganda we have met with very interesting experiences. And the dominant note of our repeated experiences was always this: how very difficult it is really today, even in these times of need, to approach men's souls at all with the very thing which in all respects, — spiritual, political, economical, — one must feel to be absolutely needful.
I pointed out last time, how certain proposed plans had failed, and how we were therefore obliged to fall back upon more or less individual enterprises, which, as you know finally concentrated in our business-undertaking, the Kommender Tag. We are quite well aware, that if our propaganda for the Threefold idea does not succeed in making its way through as a whole, this single undertaking can at best be but a very unsatisfying substitute in every respect. For the thing, above all, which is of importance to-day, — and it cannot be too often repeated, — is, that an understanding of the threefold idea, as an active onward-bearing force, should make its way into as many heads as possible. Unless we have a sufficiently large number of people who really understand this Threefold idea, there is no getting on. This understanding applies to many things, let me say. And here I should like to point to a concrete instance.
When we first started our propaganda here, we began, as you know, by working in the way I have just indicated: by trying to win over as large a number as possible of souls with understanding. And the actual questions of economic life too were practically discussed. There is one very definite question of economic life for instance, which was discussed by me not once but many times: and that was the question of price-adjustment. I have often pointed out, that this question of price-adjustment is a cardinal one; that the fact of the matter is simply, that in the economic process there are of course other questions, but that even such questions as wages, and the like, are not the primary ones to be settled; but that these also must be settled on the basis of the price-question; that a quite definite price for any particular article is the only state of things which can be regarded as a healthy one in economic life. In other words: a definite article must be obtainable for a definite price within any particular set of economic combinations; and this must be the standard to which economic relations are adjusted. There can be nothing more unsound that to look upon prices as something that can be put up and down at convenience; and then begins the endless screw, of adjusting the rate of wages to suit the prices, and then putting up the prices again at convenience to suit the wages; if prices rise, then wages rise, and so on ad infinitum. This is laying hold of the whole matter by the wrong end.
In those days I used to take for discussion a concrete question of this kind from the bed-rock of general economics. What was the result? In those days we used to have meetings which were attended for the greater part by working men only. The middle-class circles held aloof, for they thought that we arranged things only to suit the working classes. Well, in short, we met with some understanding amongst the particular circles who, in those days, listened to us. But this understanding completely dried up. The people gradually left off coming. They produced all their old stock-in-trade of questions from the regulation party shibboleths; and then they gradually stayed away; and one of the cardinal questions simply dried up in this way. I am just picking out one example; there are many others that might be quoted. And I cannot help thinking, in comparison, of an occasion I had, not long ago, to talk with a thoroughly practical business man, who is in the thick of business-life under a state-system which is not the German one; and in the course of our conversation it came out, that, simply from his own experience as a practical businessman, he had arrived at the view, that the most important thing to be dealt with is the problem of price-adjustment. Yes! of this — let me say — I am convinced: with people, who are business people, and at the same time can think, one finds no difficulty. I must confess that, so far, I have met with remarkably few people of this description. I have met with business-people who did not think, but who are under the habit of thought, even today, of regarding it as the all-important matter that one is ‘a practical man,’ and that one is ‘a practical man’ when one takes care that the State — or some other institution — thinks for one: one can leave it to them. — This was the way things were done too in Germany during the war; It must be left to the people above, at headquarters; they must know all about it! — And so, as I was saying, I have not met with many as yet, but when one does meet with such people to-day, who are business-men and at the same time can think, they arrive quite infallibly, through their own practical thinking on business matters, to the same results as you find in my Roots of the Social Question. 1Die Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage published in English under the title of The Threefold Commonwealth. You must not compare my Roots of the Social Question, and test what you find there, with the crazy things in the party-programmes. The party-programmes of the fourteen parties just elected to this impossible Reichstag (it will be a quite impossible conglomeration!) are all alike equally impracticable and impossible. The point about what you find in the Roots of the Social Question is, that it must be compared with a real practice of life, with what the actual facts of life require, — that is to say if one really thinks about actual life, and does not merely go crying the old stock-in-trade and the regulation shibboleths.
But this method of propaganda, as we have seen, makes no headway: the method of really examining what, of course, had to be said on a limited number of pages. For one can't write a whole library off-hand; and it would be only less read than The Roots of the Social Question! But instead of people comparing what is said in The Roots of Social Question with the things one can learn in the factory as a business-man or a practical technician, they go hawking about the old, old party shibboleths and party-programmes; and the real practical thing of which the book is talking, instead of being compared with real practice, is compared with some bee or other, that is buzzing in some particular bonnet, and is supposed to be ‘the practical thing.’
This, then, is the first thing we have to achieve. We must decide to direct our efforts to making people see, that it is really not so easy to settle public affairs. I must say that for me it is a bitter pill, a bitter experience in this respect, that after I tried to write this book at that time from the actual needs of the time, people should now come and demand, that what is written in The Roots of the Social Question should be boiled down into a general mess, and drained off onto a page or two. That is what these people want! They want to have everything laid before them in a couple of pages, — which already in the book is stated as shortly as ever is possible! Or perhaps they would like to have it on a single leaflet for distribution! If you ask me to-day: In what does the trouble lie in our present age? I can only answer: The trouble lies just in this fact, that people can still to-day make such a demand as this; and that they are not willing, even now, to go to the bottom of things. Things that require careful study, they want to have crammed together anyhow on a couple of printed sheets, — such as already have appeared as an abstract of the Roots of the Social Question. So long as this is people's attitude of mind, nothing will be accomplished in the only way in which anything can be accomplished to-day. It is true that I propose very soon to issue a new edition of the Roots of the Social Question, with a special introduction, in which I shall shortly summarise in a couple of pages the contents discussed in the book. 2This Introduction to the 2nd edition of the "Roots of the Social Question" ("Threefold Commonwealth") has appeared (translated) in No. 1 of the present Study Series. But this is only intended to be used as a sort of preparatory introduction, printed as the beginning, by way of preparation for reading the book in full. But if anyone imagines that he can learn from still fewer pages what it is necessary to understand to-day, it simply means that he has no feeling for the things that have actually to be done to-day. This is the very first thing we have to consider, if we are really in earnest about what we may term the propaganda-question.
Just take this concrete fact, that our weekly paper, the Threefold Social Order, 3"Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus," of which the first number appeared in July 11, 1919, and contains, amongst other things, an article by Dr. Carl Unger giving the history (up to that date) of the Threefold Movement. has already brought out 49 numbers: — 49 numbers. Take these 49 numbers, read them through in succession, and you will see what an amount we have collected together in them of practically all the things which it is more immediately necessary for mankind to know about the Threefold question. We have already issued 49 numbers; and really there is to be found in them all that is more immediately necessary to know. Yet what can we only tell ourselves to-day? People still come to us, asking for information about some point or other. They are always asking for information about this point or that. As a matter of fact we have written these 49 numbers of the Threefold Order, and the whole of the material is for the time being flung away. Doesn't it look as though we should be almost obliged to begin over again from the beginning; to give out No. 1 again just as before, and then all the following numbers, just as they appeared before! Having said really a great deal here, which was thrown to the winds, which never made its way into people's heads at all, are we always expected to find something new to say! Well, they can't after all expect too much — the people outside; — they can't expect us always to be finding something new. What is wanted now, would be to set to work and actually propagate the Threefold idea, as it is. Of course there are any number of things in the way of this; but they all reside entirely in the human will. They reside in the fact, that it is necessary that people's souls to-day should wake up; and that they should take the things seriously which are really in question.
There is one question, for instance, which people to-day invariably seek to evade. But it is the one from which the Roots of the Social Question sets out from the very first, and upon which, practically speaking, the whole of the Threefold propaganda must be based, not in substance, but as regards the way of propaganda: namely, the recognition, that in the so-called ‘social question’ to-day, we most certainly are not dealing with what most people talk about under that name. Most people, in talking about the social question, talk about what should be done with this or that institution, about the systems to be adopted in one or other department. Anyone who talks in this way has absolutely no understanding of what is going on in our present age; for the simple reason, that he does not see, that to-day you might make the most splendid institutions — if that were possible! — and that afterwards, when you have made them, you will soon have exactly the same agitation going on as before. As mankind is constituted at the present day, you may have a party, which for a long while has been in opposition; — take for example the Majority Socialists at the present time: the moment these Majority Socialists come into power, another party forms, of the socalled Independent Socialists. If these were to come into power, a new party again would form in opposition, — the Communists. And if these were to come into power, another new opposition party would soon be in the field. The fact we have to recognise is, that we are not dealing to-day with anything that can be touched by any sort of projects for particular institutions, but that the social question to-day is a human question, a question strictly of human worth and human consciousness. And one sees, what the social question really is, if one looks about one in countries, where everything has not yet crashed, but where the crash is still to come. There one may see, on the one side, the classes who formerly held the reins. These people see so far as that all business is coming to a stand-still: that enormous stocks of goods are piling up in the business-houses; that they have difficulty in making enough to pay their workmen, and are beginning to think, that if things go on in the same way, they soon won't be able to pay them at all; that they also won't be able to get rid of the stock in the warehouses. All this they see so far quite well; but they fancy, that some miracle will come about, and then, in a little while, things will be different. And so they sit waiting for the miracle, in order not to have to use their own brains, and think what ought really to be done. And, standing over on the other side, one sees those people who talk a very different language: namely the broad masses of the working class throughout the civilised world. Of what is going on amongst these broad masses, the first description of people have, nevertheless, not the faintest notion. But in these working-classes there exists a will: a will, that clothes its problems in conceptions, in ideas, which, the moment they are actually realised, will mean the destruction of everything we possess in the form of human civilisation: — ideas that destroy everything, everything, — that sweep everything away. And the leading classes imagine, that in a little while maybe things will have gone back again to the year 1913, or the Spring of 1914, and they will begin again whore they left off at that time; — and that then, amongst these broad masses, they will still find people to come quite willingly, and work again as they used to work in those days.
No! to-day it is no question of institutions with which we have to deal, but a question of human beings. And we have to recognise, that amongst the leading classes for a very long time past there has not been the faintest sign of understanding for the task they had to perform. And do you think, then, that from the masses anything could possibly come, except what we experienced to our horror here in Stuttgart, when we started with our Threefold propaganda?
You must consider, that there were two conditions under which the beginning we made, in April last year, might quite well have been carried further. Under two conditions: — the one would have been, that we should have succeeded, regardless of their leaders, in winning over the broad masses of the working classes to a really understanding conception of life. That was on a very fair road to success. And the next thing would have been, on the other side, if the people with some influence amongst the middle-classes — the bourgeoisie — would have held out a hand, would have shown us some confidence; if they had said to themselves: ‘Here is at least an attempt being made to construct a bridge between the working classes and the others.’ — And what actually happened? As you can think, the matter is no easy one to-day; for as to the sort of thing which Stresemann talks, and the like, — or which bears the least odour of any leanings in that direction, — in nothing of this sort will the working classes ever, under any circumstances, place the slightest confidence. But, for all that, we were really in a fair way to appeal to the working classes simply on common-sense grounds; and all that was needed, would have been, that the bourgeoisie on their side should have met us with so much understanding as to say: ‘Alright: we will do our best, and wait and see what you can do. We will admit that amongst ourselves, there are a large number of people who cannot hope to win the necessary confidence, for they have trifled this confidence away; but, by this line of proceeding, it will be possible to bridge the gap.’
But, instead of this, what happened? The people who should have met us with this much understanding, planted themselves down across the path, and declared:iThese people are leading us straight into Bolshevism, — or not far short of it! They are hand-in-glove with the proletariatell Not the least understanding was to be met with on that side. And under these circumstances it then grew too late; so that the leaders of the working class, who should have been left out of it, found it easy to step in and alienate the workers from us again. That is what spoilt the matter for us, and why it came to grief at that time.
But, in the same way, anything we might now do in respect of propaganda, would also inevitably come to grief, if the general kind of view were to be, for instance, as regards the paper: “Yes; but the articles in the Threefold Order are so difficult to understand!” — When anybody says that to me, I look upon it as my duty to tell him, with all politeness (politeness is necessary with such people as a rule); so I politely explain to him, that it is just for this reason, — that people have so long had a tendency to think everything un-understandable which comes from the real practice of life, and have always demanded that one should descend to a lower level when it comes to writing, — that now we find ourselves in trouble. And you — I say — are a representative of the people who have brought us into trouble. And when you demand, that one should write to suit the kind of understanding which passes current with you, you simply show yourself to be a specimen of the detrimentals who have brought us to this present pass. And so long as we are not in a position, (with all due politeness, of course, for the individual instance!), — so long as we cannot find a sufficient number of people with the courage at last to say, ‘A new day will have to come, with new people! There must be a clean sweep of everything to do with these horrible old parties; something quite new must come to life!’ — until we can do this, all discussion as to the most effective ways of propaganda is so much talk for the cat! We are not living to-day in an age when anything whatever can be done by little measures; we are living in an age when it is an urgent necessity, that a sufficiently large number of people, holding the same language and the same ideas, should be capable of throwing themselves actively into the thing, — not merely of being ‘quite enthusiastic’ about it.
I think that many of you must be asking himself, why there should be this continual crescendo in the way of speaking; why the words that I myself use, for instance, should grow ever stronger and stronger? Well, for a very simple reason. Only think for a moment: when one has been trying to induce a part of mankind to wake up; when one has taken the practical steps to enable a part of mankind to wake up; and one sees people falling ever more softly and soundly asleep, — then one's voice too grows louder in proportion, then everything one has to say grows proportionately louder, because one feels the instinctive necessity of overcoming the sleepiness of one's fellow-men! And as regards their conceptions of the urgent social questions of the day, we truly cannot say that the sleepiness of our fellow-humanity has grown any less of late. Things are taken up, even in our own movement, from an utterly wrong end. I delivered a lecture recently on the idea of the Threefold Order, and the necessity of placing the spiritual life upon its own footing. And in reply, somebody said in the most good-natured, well-meaning way: ‘Here, amongst us, there is really no occasion to complain of the lack of freedom in spiritual life. We possess a very considerable degree of freedom in our spiritual life. Amongst us, the State really interferes very little in anything we may choose to do as regards our school-system.’ — Let me say to you, that people who talk in this way are the very best testimony to the necessity of emancipating our spiritual life. People who still have some sense of how unfree they are, are people for whom one can find much more use. But the people, who no longer have even a sense of their own lack of freedom, who take the State-educational ideas, that have been pumped into their heads, to come from their own inner freedom, and have not the faintest notion of how far this public-educational slavery extends, — these are the people really, who are the drag upon everything. It is a question of taking hold of things by the right end. And people who, without knowing it, take slavery for freedom, are the people who, naturally, hinder us from getting forwards.
One may say, therefore, that the first matter above all, is to recognise, that all mutual understanding has been lost between the broad masses and those other people, whose special task for long years past it should have been, to hold such a language in the world, that these broad masses should not to-day be advocating, in their newspapers and everywhere, the kind of views which they are advocating. I read lately — in another country — the Whitsuntide number of a socialist newspaper. They were the queerest Whitsun articles, that were in it! Everything to do with ‘Spirit’ was rejected altogether, and it was pointed out instead, that the only kind of Spirit is the one which proceeds from the broad masses. Well, one really feels oneself wrought into such a state of mind by such Whitsun articles in a socialist paper of bolshevist tendencies, that one begins to say to oneself: ‘Where can I catch it? where can I hold of it, this “Spirit,” which is coming up like a smoke out of the broad masses?’ And then, when one really sets to work to try and form even some conception, let alone to grasp this Spirit of the broad masses, — then I can only say that one has after all the feeling: It is a far worse superstition, than the kind of superstition which sees a hobgoblin or a fairy in every bush and tree. The men of modern times have no notion really, under what forms of superstition they are living as a matter of fact. And what does it all amount to? Well, you know, it amounts after all to this: that people are much too easy-going to give their minds to the necessity of really building up a new spiritual life.
This is an experience which one has had very thorough opportunities of learning for many years past. Directly one approaches people with any appeal for the necessity of building up a new spiritual life, one finds a certain number of people no doubt, who, in addition to their other occupations in life, can make up their minds, — on Sunday afternoons, or Branch-evenings, or for the time they spend on anthroposophical reading, — to devote themselves to this new spiritual movement. But, as to trying to make any connection between this new spiritual movement and their other occupations in life, — this is something which they cannot make up their minds to do.
But there are numbers and numbers of other people, who come to one and say: ‘After all, what you want, is really what the better sort of Catholics, or the better sort of Protestants, want too. Why there was some clergyman, again, whose sermon from the pulpit was quite in the anthroposophical direction! More or less everything that you are aiming at is to be found in this or the other quarter as well.’ — People who would like to make compromises, to the extent of being ready to let Anthroposophy be practically swamped by the sort of thing they are used to, — such people are to be found in plenty. People, who, even in matters that call for resolute will, — such as we spoke of in the public lecture yesterday — nevertheless still follow the principle ‘Wash my fur, but don't wet it by a single drop,’ — such people are peculiarly plentiful in these days. And until we find means to put a clear understanding into as many heads as possible, that what is needed before all else is a new spiritual life, a spiritual life that lays hold on everything, — until we find means to do this, we shall get no further. When we have this new spiritual life, — when we no longer have the senselessness of the intellectuals to contend with, — then we shall once more have something that can speak to men in such a way, that the speaking has power to call forth social facts.
If people would but form a conception of what can be done by the power of the Word! Look over the whole civilised world today, whereever you may travel, by train or by motor-car; everywhere you see towns and villages, and in all these towns and villages churches: churches, that have been built. These churches were none of them there, not so very long ago. In the first centuries of our present, Christian era, all over this Europe, now strewn with churches, there was something very different. Yet they were but a small Few, who went out amongst the people, — though indeed amongst a fresher age of man, less given to sleep. And these small Few it was, who through the power of their words gave Europe the face it wears to-day. Had the people, who accomplished this, been of the same type of mind as — say the sample-dozen leaders of our collective 14 parties, probably not so many as a dozen of these churches would have been built. It is the inner power of the spirit, after all, which must create social facts. But then, this inner power of the spirit must find its carriers in men, who really have courage to carry it. And today we simply have to face the fact, that everything, which in those days was founded on its own inner grounds, can only now be maintained in place by measures of force, by prejudice, by custom, — and that, at bottom, it is not possible to maintain it, if people's minds are true and honest; — that a new spiritual life must be set in its place; — that there is no other possible way for us to go forwards, except by setting a new spiritual life in place of the old. Every sort of compromise is an impossibility to-day. And until people recognise that it will be inevitably necessary to put something entirely new in the place of all these old things, but something which shall draw from the spirit the power to create a new social order, — till then, we shall get no further. — And therefore I must say to you, that I regard it, in a way, as a matter of very minor importance, whether all the petty measures of propaganda are discussed in this manner or that, — whether it is done in this manner or that; it may all, from a certain point of view, be very good, or miserably bad: that is not the important matter; the really important matter, as I have said over and over again in our paper, The Threefold Order, is this: that we should find a sufficiently large number of people who will make up their minds to stand out courageously for our ideas, who will make up their minds not for ever to be wanting to drift back into the old grooves.
At the present moment, as you know, we are busy setting on foot the various businesses, collectively comprised under this Kommender Tag. What strikes me more than anything else about it is, that well-meaning people keep coming and saying: ‘Really, you know, that ought to be done quite differently; you ought to call in a specialist; you ought to call in a practical man.’ — It is the most pitiable experience one can gb through, if one does for once give in and follow the suggestion. For such a suggestion really implies, that the person wants to import the old unpractical groove-drifting amongst us again. What we need, is not to import the old so-called practical men into our institutions; on the contrary, what we need, is clearly to recognise, that the people who may happen to-day to have the best reputation in any department, and know best how to handle the old routine, are the worst people for our purpose. And the best people for our purpose are those who are prepared to do new work from their own quite inner and spontaneous initiative, and who do not plume themselves in any way on what they have learnt under the old conditions. Unless we leave off pluming ourselves on anything we have attained to under the old conditions, we shall in no case get any further. This is what we must clearly recognise to-day.
And in conclusion I would say to you as regards our propaganda: Let us spread abroad in the first place what we have really been endeavoring to do for more than a year past; and don't let us always try to be over-clever and always want to twist round the attempts that have been made, and give them a different shape again; in order then — excuse the expression! — to lick one's fingers over one's own cleverness, and for ever be repeating: ‘They are so unpractical in everything they start! This ought to be done, and that ought to be done!’
Just reflect for a moment what it means: 49 numbers of the Threefold. Order — of our paper — flung away and come to nothing! And why did they come to nothing? The Threefold Order ought really by now to be so far on, that we could bring it out as a daily paper. Why do I say this? Because as a matter of fact today I can still only take the same standpoint as was expressed in the words I used when we first began this thing, in April and May of last year. Do you imagine that it was a form of speech, that it was a phrase, when I concluded a great number of my speeches in those days with the words: we must make up our minds to do whatever it might be, before it is too late! — For many things it is simply too late to-day. By the paths along which we attempted to do all manner of things in those days, we to-day can obviously get no further. To-day it is not in the least our business to enter into any sort of discussion with the old stock-in-trade arguments whether of the creeds or the parties. Our business today, is to stand firm upon the ground of what we have to say, and to introduce it into as many heads as possible. In no other way shall we get forwards. For as a fact, for many things it is now simply too late. And it may possibly very soon be too late also for other things, which it is still possible to do, namely for the spreading of our ideas, — if we are for ever turning our minds to all sorts of secondary matters, instead of going straight for the main thing, which is to spread our ideas.
I said, that this concern we have founded, the Kommender Tag; can after all be only an unsatisfactory substitute. And why? Simply because we are under no delusions that we can possibly be practical without basing ourselves upon practical actions. We are endeavoring to take an active share in practical business-life; and then people come and ask one: ‘How, exactly, ought one to set up a grocery shop, so as to be as much as possible on the lines of the Threefold Commonwealth?’ Of course, we are trying to found business undertakings in the Kommender Tag; but there it is a case of handling them really practically. And how, is one, for instance, to handle the matter really practically to-day, when one can only tell oneself: If I intend to carry on a particular kind of undertaking, then, in order to carry out the thing rationally, I must have another set of undertakings. For a particular set of industrial undertakings, for instance, I must have a particular set of agricultural undertakings. Well, but can you do it? It is all impossible as things are to-day. The State makes it quite impossible for you to make this particular kind of practical arrangement. So great is the external power of the State to-day. It is not a question of any want of practicality; but simply that the thing is made impossible on the other side by external power. — And therefore those persons, who actually now possess a standing in one or other department of economic business-life, should really not spend their time to-day in discussing subordinate questions, but should discuss together instead, how these various ‘business-estates’ of the Body Economic can make themselves free of the political State and everything involved with it, — how they can manage to slip out of it. So long as the technical experts, so long as all these various people are concerned with nothing but how to make arrangements that may best fit in with the life of the existing State, we shall get no step further; — not till they begin to discuss: How can we get free? how can we establish a really free economic life, where things are not ‘organised’ from above downwards, where, instead of ‘organisation,’ there is ‘association,’ in which the different ‘business-estates’ link up together through the actual course of business? — As yet there is not the first, elementary A.B.C. of this in our practical discussions of the Threefold system, but only the same old talk and the same old tinkering round and round, always with a respectful eye on existing conditions. All this roundabout talk leads nowhere to-day. We must be chary of the people who are for ever saying, ‘But how about this, and how about thatl! for the fact of the matter is, that we shall first be able to begin to discuss things sensibly, when we are a bit further on with the separation of the three systems; when we actually have thrown ourselves so completely into the propaganda for the threefolding of the body social, that a sufficiently large number of people in economic life definitely know: ‘Nothing we can say has any sense, so long as we still continue to reckon on the whole of our economic life being arranged for us by the State. Only in proportion as we manage to get free, will discussion begin to have any sense. Until then, everything we may say is nonsense.’ — And, in the same way, there is just as little sense in discussing reforms in the spiritual life, until one is clear, that one can't even begin to converse on the subject, before one is actually living in a free spiritual system. One must at least be fully aware, that so long as one is living in a spiritual system which is dependent on the State, all one may say can have no sense, — that, so long as this is the case, one cannot reform anything.
This, you see, very clearly marks out the point which is the important one: It is a question, not of little things, but of big things; and the more this comes to be recognised, so much more will it be possible to accomplish in the field of practical life.
You will say: ‘What is the use of giving us such a philippic, when what we are asking is, how to carry on our propaganda?’ When you come to think over what I have said however, you will see, that even with what I might call an ‘elevenpence ha'penny propaganda’ (as they say in Austria, where they used to have shops in which every article could be bought for elevenpence halfpenny), that, even so, we shall get no further, so long as, even in our own circles, people discuss every petty detail of ways and means. We shall only begin to get further, when people have hearts and minds for the great motor forces of the world; for it is a question of these great motor forces to-day.
Well, I have said a great deal to the same effect before now, and all in vain; — namely that it is a question of the great motor forces of the world. Still, I shall never grow weary of persisting, in general principle, to decline everything which leans towards the making of compromises to-day. I shall never weary of pointing out, again and again, the necessity of bringing the great world-moving questions of the day really to the comprehension of the very broadest masses of the people. And for this reason too, I always feel myself obliged to deliver the public lectures in the style I did yesterday, and to defy all the over-clever people who say, that one ought to talk more intelligibly to the masses, — meaning as a rule themselves only and their own intellectual niveau. I shall always maintain the view, that it is the people who talk in this way, who are the detrimentals; these are the people whom we have to overcome. And we must come so far as to have the courage to say to ourselves: ‘Yes, indeed! The foundations must be laid of something quite new!’ The truth is — as I wrote lately in our paper, — that the old parties, practically speaking, no longer exist; they only exist any longer as lies and phrases, and are made up of people who, knowing of nothing new, drape themselves with the empty catchwords of the old parties; and all the while, the whole business is nonsense (including what has been going on in these last days), and directly proves how radically something new is needed.
(At the close of a desultory discussion Dr. Steiner concluded as follows:)
It is regrettable that so little has been said about the Threefold idea itself in the course of the discussion, and only about all sorts of other matters. I should like just to bring back the theme a little to the Threefold idea and to the things connected with it. I will therefore pick out several questions that have been raised, and so lead back to the theme of the lecture. One of the questions raised was; What my attitude is — or the attitude of the Threefold idea — towards Syndicalism?
Well, as you know, we have endeavoured, really, to find an attitude towards a great many movements of all kinds. I myself could only say the same about Syndicalism to-day, as I have often said about it before: that in certain circles of syndicalist tendencies one undoubtedly finds a consciousness of how much might be done by means of combining the various business-callings, the various branches of business, and that this, the ‘syndicalist’ idea, might lead in a way to certain fruitful results, at any rate in economic life. All this I am quite ready to acknowledge; — as also, for example, that Syndicalism takes up, in a way, a less slavish position towards the idea of the ‘State,’ than Marxian Socialism does for instance. This I am perfectly ready to acknowledge, and have often acknowledged it before. But all such movements in this direction belong, after all, not to the present day, but to a past one; and only project themselves on into the present day, because the people who adopted the name at an earlier date, have since been incapable of learning new conceptions. One might say really, that the whole set of party-shibboleths have lost their meaning for present-day conditions, — only that the people, who in past days belonged to the things these party shibboleths stand for, have not get made up their minds to label themselves with anything else but old party-shibboleths. Down to the end of 1914, you see, there was still a certain sense in people calling themselves by a party-name, such for instance as v.H.... and L.... still do to-day; but to-day there is no longer any sense in it. And yet people still go on calling themselves by the names of these parties. In the same way, to go on clinging to-day to bye-gone things like Syndicalism, has no real meaning any longer. And so, having made the attempt to approach such people as might be hoped to have brains still plastic enough to get beyond these old party-shibboleths, — so long as the attempt could be made, we made it. But one must learn a little wisdom from the circumstances in this case; — and indeed it is urgently necessary to-day to learn wisdom from circumstances. And therefore I must confess, that to-day I no longer feel any force in the question: What is my attitude towards Syndicalism? I can only assure you, that I have also tried to find an attitude towards Syndicalism; that is to say, I have tried to find people amongst the syndicalists who might be able, by means of a still more plastic brain, to understand the idea of the Threefold Order: — but that too was all in vain. And therefore, to-day, it is necessary to speak as I have spoken to-night, and to say, that our business is to take our stand on the firm ground of the Threefold idea, and not to trouble about anything else. For, what we have to do to-day is, to find a sufficiently large number of people who understand the idea of the Threefold Order; and whether they come to us from this camp or that, from the syndicalist camp, or any other, is to us a matter of complete indifference. We no longer trouble ourselves to-day about what is the attitude of the Threefold idea to the syndicalists; we can wait and see, what attitude the syndicalists will adopt towards the Threefold idea. Anything else would be so much wisdom learnt in vain in the course of the last year; and no one can work effectively to-day who is not capable of learning wisdom.
And then the question was asked: ‘In what way is it proposed to widen out the organisation of the ‘Kommender Tag,’ so that the Threefold movement may spread?’ — Well, here, I must really beg you — especially in the question of an isolated case like this, — to bear in sight, that the Threefold idea, in its whole character, is something eminently practical; that we are dealing with something that is concrete, and not floating in a blue haze. The ‘Kommender Tag’ was founded, because it was recognised that the usual bank-system, as it is to-day, has gradually in the course of the nineteenth century come to be a injurious element in our economic life. I pointed this out when I was here last time, at another of the study-evenings. I showed that, more or less from the first third of the nineteenth century on, money has played a similar role in the economic life of modern civilisation, to that of abstract conceptions in our thinking-process: that it has gradually blotted out all concreteness of aim and effort; that it has spread itself like a cloak over the things that must find their expression in economic energies. And therefore it has become necessary to-day to found something, which is not merely a bank, but makes a centre of concentration for economic forces which are both a bank and, at the same time, engaged in concrete economic activity: — to found, that is, something which combines in itself real, concrete economic activities with the organisation of these special branches of economic activity, — in the same way as is done by a bank, where economic activities are included, but abstractly, without regard to the conditions of actual economy. That is to say, a practical attempt is here being made to overcome the injury done by the money-system.
To-day we have seen all sorts of people, — Gesell, [Silvio Gesell, originator of the Free-Money (‘stable money’) movement. — ‘Gesell’ in German means ‘fellow.’] and other strange ‘fellows’ in life, — dancing around, and talking about ‘free money.’ Those are the utopians! Those are the abstractionists! What is wanted in reality, is to look at practical life, and learn to see where the centres of injury really lie. And one centre of injury lies in the fact, that the bank-system has taken the economic form that it has to-day. The bank-system in our economic life to-day plays the same part as a man's thoughts in the life of his soul, when he translates everything at once into abstractions, and troubles himself no further about the particular, concrete things which one sees and has to do with, but translates everything into lofty abstractions. A man who translates everything into lofty abstractions, — and that is the majority of people to-day, — never arrives at any real understanding of realities. Abstractions of this kind you can hear today on any Sunday from any pulpit. Abstractions of this kind have no longer anything to do with the actual life of the people who find it so thoroughly happy and comfortable to be lulled away from life in this manner for the space of a Sunday afternoon. And what for the individual souls life this substanceless abstraction is, that flies away to its airy cloud-castles, the same for economic life is the bank-system, that lives in the transaction of money. And so it was possible to make an experiment in little, which, let us hope, will grow into something quite big, and in which things could be so arranged, that the money is brought back as it were into the economic activities, and the economic activities carried up into money; so that money, here, again becomes something which serves to make economic activities more feasible and easier to set in motion. Just as our thoughts are not for the purpose of carrying us aloft into abstract sublimities where we feel happy and comfortable, but of enabling us to set in motion the concrete facts of life; so too, with money, the important thing is to bring it down into actual economic industry, to carry on the different branches of practical economy, and not to sit ourselves down in a bank and transact business, in money: — for money-trasactions in themselves are the most injurious element we have in economic life, in the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Here we have then simply a practical idea, taken up and also practically conceived. And until people recognise that it is a case here of quite practically conceiving ideas down into every particular, they will not succeed in understanding the League for the Threefold Social Order.
And now I should like to direct your attention to something which is not unconnected with the general note which I have been endeavoring to strike to-day: to a quarter, namely, which was alluded to by Mr.D.... (i.e. the Jesuits). — And although the cause is one, with which I, truly, will have nothing to do; yet you certainly find things advocated there in a very forceful manner. You may hear continually from that quarter: ‘Thousands and thousands of our followers may fall away; yet, though we should lose thousands and thousands, this matters nothing to us; the thing alone that could matter to us, would be the loss of a single truth!’ You may hear this over and over again from the quarter to which Mr.D.... alluded: ‘Thousands and thousands of our followers may fall away from us; but not a single truth must be let fall!’
Where people speak in this way on behalf of a cause, with which I, truly, will have nothing to do, it is easy to see, that they have here a very forceful manner of propaganda. And this is the thing which is needed7 to have strength to take up the stand, that it matters nothing to have numbers of followers; but that it matters everything to have strength to take our stand on the truths we possess, with no making of compromises, no sidelong glances to one side or another: "Can I get hold of this person? should I make myself agreeable to that person?" That is not what is needed to-day; but what is needed is, that we should win over as many people as possible to the ideas of the Threefold Order, — really not because one is enamoured of the Threefold Order, or because one is set on one's own notions; but because one sees that there is no other may of carrying on further.
Well, it is hardly necessary, I think, to go into the subject raised by Dr.H.... as to the licensed architects, — the State-architects, — and their relations with the legal profession. These are things which were all settled long ago in the most elementary discussions of the League. And you will agree that is quite out of the question, when we are talking on the lines of the Threefold Order, that we should take up a standpoint altogether off Threefold ground. For it would after all, you know, make a curious impression, if when we were talking — say — of the free spiritual life, we were to start a discussion, as to whether it might be advisable, from a certain point of view, to alter the old titles of the heads of the University Colleges and call them "Directors of Studies", or something of that sort! These are all questions which are based on the old forms of the social State. And the same with the State-architects: it really cannot matter, what their relations are with the legal profession; for, the moment one enters upon the Threefold Commonwealth, it is not possible to talk of Government-architects, since one is talking here on the basis of a political State, which is strictly democratic ground, and comprises in its sphere those things in which every full-grown man meets every other full-grown man as an equal; and it really cannot be a question of the line this democratic State would take as regards a person on whom some title is to be conferred, and things of that kind. In short, we must accustom ourselves, altogether, to go rather more into realities.
One meets with so many strange things in life, of which one is so often reminded. For instance, I was in company once with a certain socialistic celebrity — a very sound socialist — and we were discussing a very, very exalted Government official. I held this very, very exalted Government official to be totally incompetent, in fact a hopelessly impossible person; and I said, that I thought really the proper profession for this very exalted Government official would be, to give up his job and take to the business of a road-sweeper. You should just have seen the horror which overcame the socialistic gentleman at the suggestion that this person, with whom he was well-acquainted, could possible become a road-sweeper! Well, of course it was only just an idea; but still it seems to me that this idea was more in the direction of reality than — forgive me for saying! — the one put forward just now in this form, that ‘the gentleman should not look askance at the road-sweeper, nor the road-sweeper at the gentleman. Really, we shall not solve the social question simply by not looking askance at each other! The point of the matter really is, that in our present order of society the gentleman needs the road-sweeper, and so forth, — but, if he merely doesn't look askance at him, the social question will hardly be solved. And whether one plumes oneself on something, or whether one doesn't, are, after all, questions that have nothing whatever to do in reality with the actual business-facts and the grave realities of life at the present day. It really is not the important matter for us to-day, merely to demonstrate to people that the gentleman needs the road-sweeper, and the road-sweeper needs the gentleman. For, in the background, we have still, after all, just a little the notion, that the road-sweeper should remain a road-sweeper, and the gentleman should remain a gentleman, in the position where each happens to be placed to-day; only they should not look askance at each other, — which will certainly be an easier matter for the gentleman than for the road-sweeper! But in my opinion, all these things (which savour rather strongly of moralic acid!) will not help us to a blade of grass to-day; for the urgent matter is not, to-day, that we should merely not look askance at each other, but that we should turn our hands to making things different; and, first and foremost, that we should succeed in coming to an understanding, above and beyond classes. And this understanding will lead to a total reconstruction of the forms of life, — not merely to twisting eyes round from skewness to straightness, but to very different things besides. And if you go through the whole tendency that lies in the Threefold idea, you will see that, here, there can be a question of its leading in actual fact to something which mankind cannot but long for today, in so far as they understand anything of the forces that are striving to realisation in world-history. These are the things upon which we must turn our eyes to-day, and not upon something, which is mere moralising, and yet is linked with those forms of social life which happen to be in force at the present day.
No! to-day we must be clear, that we take our stand on the ground of a new spiritual life, and that we need something that proceeds from this new spiritual life itself. And though in detail the Threefold Movement may have managed things never so badly, yet, nevertheless again and again we must affirm, that this Threefold Movement takes its stand on the ground, that: Only through a change of thinking, only through a transforming of human thoughts and feelings in their innermost depths, can we ever look to reach a better state of things, — and through nothing else.