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The Renewal of the Social Organism
GA 24

Preface to the First Edition

In the beginning of March 1919, my Appeal to the German Nation and to the Civilized World 1See Appendix. was published. Its purpose was to state briefly what is necessary in order to bring healing forces into our declining life situation, one that revealed its symptoms of decay in the worldwide catastrophe of the war. Many Germans and Austrians, and a number of Swiss, signed their names to the Appeal. Thereby, they testified that the proposals it puts forward point to vital necessities for the present and the immediate future.

These proposals were further elaborated in my book, Toward Social Renewal. 2Towards Social Renewal, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1977 To give them permanent representation and carry the movement into practical life, a League for The Threefold Order 3Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus was founded in Stuttgart and in Switzerland. Among other steps taken to bring about this practical realization was the founding of a weekly paper, The Threefold Order, 4Dreigliedernng des Sozialen Organismus which was published in Stuttgart. The following studies formed the lead articles I wrote for that paper during the summer and winter of 1919–1920. They can be treated as supplementary expositions of the principles established in Toward Social Renewal, or may serve equally well as an introduction to these principles.

Everything I published both in Toward Social Renewal and in these studies is not merely the elaboration of theoretical premises. For over thirty years I have followed the most varied ramifications of European spiritual, political and economic life. In so doing, I believe I have gained insight into the tendencies this life has itself brought forth in trying to effect its own cure. I believe the thoughts expressed here are not merely the private thoughts of one individual: they voice the unconscious will of Europe as a whole. Owing to the special conditions of present-day life that I frequently mentioned both in Toward Social Renewal and in these studies, there have not been enough people who have manifested this will clearly, consciously, and with a desire to make it a reality. One could say the tragedy of the present is that countless people obstruct their insight into actual necessities with illusions as to what is worthy of this striving. Thoroughly outdated party lines shed a dense mental fog over these vital necessities. These views result in all manner of unrealistic and impracticable tendencies. What they actually undertake is hopelessly utopian, while they dismiss as utopian suggestions that come from actual life experience. This is what we have to contend with; in what follows, we will meet it with a fully conscious stance.

Such impulses still govern foreign relations throughout the world today. Versailles and Spa are further steps in the same direction. Few recognize that such steps are leading more and more to the downfall of our civilization, which has already demonstrated through the catastrophe of the Great War its incapacity for further progress. To be sure there are individuals, among both the victors and the vanquished, who recognize this today. However, their number is not large enough; moreover, the majority of even these people view what is really necessary as utopian.

If the League for the Threefold Order is regarded by many as an association of impractical people, it is, in my opinion, just because “the many” have lost touch with all reality and mistake their daily routines and party illusions for that reality. However, we shall never succeed in healing our civilization until the actual will of the age, so deeply hidden beneath the underbrush of impractical and illusory party schemes, is raised to full consciousness.

For one who knows only too well that he is not suffering from foolish delusions it is hard to write what, among many today, will earn him the reputation: “He thinks himself wiser than all those actually engaged in practical life, who have therefore won the right to a voice in such matters.” Nevertheless, the author believes that the false reproach contained in such words should not prevent him from expressing what he holds to be necessary. This is especially so if one believes that one's inner vision has been guided to this necessity through more than three decades by a special relationship of one's life situation to present-day life.

At any rate, it is my conviction (acquired through an observation of life that shuns all theory and keeps only the practical in view) that the will of the times is pressing toward this “threefold division of the social organism”; and that all the signs of decline and degeneracy now making themselves felt have arisen because public opinion in Europe has attempted to pursue old way of thinking that are no longer viable instead of turning to this new impulse.

One group of people (from which the leaders came before the war, and from which many of them still come) continue to hold the same views that have led to the downfall; they do not want to see the connection between this downfall and their views. They attempt to fashion new life from the same forces that have led to death.

The other group pursues a mode of thought born of negative criticism. They refuse to see that all this can do is cobble together an illusion of a social order out of the ruins of the past. Its existence can be only transitory, and is thus necessarily destructive. This group keeps to the old by contraries, but has no seeds of a new.

Midway between these two groups lie the forces that are striving to bring forth this “threefold order of the social organism,” buried under the rubble of the past, out of the real and present will of this age. The bearers of this impulse feel they possess what the present hour needs.

Rudolf Steiner
Mid-July, 1920