Spiritual life

From AnthroWiki

A free spiritual life, based on the individual abilities of man, should develop today, according to Rudolf Steiner's ideas on social threefolding, as an independent member of the social organism alongside economic and legal life.

„The spiritual member in the threefold social organism comprises science, art, religion, the entire educational system and the judicature. All these spiritual-cultural factors can only fulfil their task and fertilise social life in the right way in complete freedom from state intervention. Spiritual life, culture, must develop out of the free co-operation of all spiritual-creative individual personalities and give itself its own administrative bodies.“ (Lit.:GA 24, p. 473)

Free spiritual life

„Into everything that is produced by economic life and legal consciousness in the organisation of social life, there influences what comes from a third source: from the individual abilities of the individual human being. This field includes everything from the highest spiritual achievements to that which flows into human works through the better or less good physical aptitude of the human being for achievements which serve the social organism. What comes from this source must flow into the healthy social organism in quite a different way from that which lives in the exchange of commodities and that which can flow from state life. There is no other way of bringing about this absorption in a healthy way than to let it depend on the free receptivity of men and on the impulses which come from the individual faculties themselves. If the human achievements arising from such abilities are artificially influenced by economic life or by the organisation of the state, they are largely deprived of the true basis of their own life. This basis can only consist in the power which human achievements must develop out of themselves. If the receipt of such services is directly conditioned by economic life or organised by the state, free receptivity to them is paralysed. But it alone is suitable to let them flow into the social organism in a healthy form. For the spiritual life, with which the development of the other individual faculties in human life is also connected by an immense number of threads, there is only a healthy possibility of development if it is placed on its own impulses in its production, and if it stands in an understanding relationship with the people who receive its achievements.

What is being pointed to here as the healthy conditions for the development of spiritual life is not seen through at present, because the right view of it is clouded by the fusion of a large part of this life with the political life of the state. This fusion has come about in the course of the last centuries and people have become accustomed to it. One speaks of "freedom of science and teaching". But one takes it for granted that the political state administers "free science" and "free teaching". One does not develop any feeling for how this state thereby makes intellectual life dependent on its state needs. One thinks that the state creates the places where teaching takes place; then those who occupy these places can develop intellectual life "freely". By becoming accustomed to such an opinion, one does not consider how closely connected the content of spiritual life is with the innermost being of man in which it unfolds. How this development can only be a free one if it is introduced into the social organism by no other impulses than those which come from spiritual life itself. Through the fusion with state life, not only has the administration of science and that part of intellectual life which is connected with it received its character in recent centuries, but also the content itself. Certainly, what is produced in mathematics or physics cannot be directly influenced by the state. But think of history, of the other cultural sciences. Have they not become a reflection of what has emerged from the connection of their bearers with state life, from the needs of this life? It is precisely because of this character which has been imprinted on them that the present scientifically oriented ideas which dominate intellectual life have had an ideological effect on the proletariat. The latter noticed how a certain character is imprinted on the thoughts of men by the needs of state life, in which the interests of the leading classes are met. The proletarian thinker saw a reflection of material interests and struggles for interests. This created in him the feeling that all intellectual life is ideology, a reflection of economic organisation.

Such a view, which desolates the spiritual life of the human being, ceases when sensation can arise: In the spiritual realm there is a reality that transcends the material outer life and carries its content within itself. It is impossible for such a feeling to arise if the spiritual life does not freely develop and administer itself out of its own impulses within the social organism. Only those bearers of spiritual life who stand within such an unfolding and administration have the power to give this life the weight it deserves in the social organism. Art, science, world-view and all that is connected with them require such an independent position in human society. For in spiritual life everything is connected. The freedom of one cannot flourish without the freedom of the other. Even if mathematics and physics cannot be directly influenced in their content by the needs of the state: What is developed of them, how people think of their value, what effect their cultivation can have on all the rest of intellectual life, and much else is conditioned by these needs when the state administers branches of intellectual life. It is a different matter when the teacher caring for the lowest school level follows the impulses of state life; it is a different matter when he receives these impulses from a spiritual life that is left to its own devices. In this field, too, Social Democracy has only inherited the habits and customs of thought of the leading circles. It regards it as its ideal to include the spiritual life in the social body built on economic life. If it achieved this goal it had set itself, it could only continue along the path on which spiritual life has found its devaluation. It has unilaterally developed a correct sentiment with its demand that religion must be a private matter. For in a healthy social organism, all spiritual life must be a "private matter" vis-à-vis the state and the economy in the sense indicated here. But Social Democracy, in assigning religion to the private sphere, does not proceed from the opinion that a spiritual good is thereby created a position within the social organism through which it will come to a more desirable, higher development than under the influence of the state. It is of the opinion that the social organism may only cultivate through its means what is its vital need. And religious spiritual goods are not such a need. In this way, one-sidedly excluded from public life, one branch of spiritual life cannot flourish if the other spiritual goods are fettered. The religious life of the newer humanity will develop its soul-bearing power for this humanity in connection with all liberated spiritual life.

Not only the production but also the reception of this spiritual life by humanity must be based on the free need of the soul. Teachers, artists, etc., who in their social position are only directly connected with legislation and administration arising from spiritual life itself and who are only supported by its impulses, will be able, through the nature of their work, to develop receptivity for their achievements in people who are protected by the political state, which works on its own initiative, from being subject only to the compulsion to work, but to whom the law also gives the leisure which awakens the understanding for spiritual goods. People who think of themselves as "practitioners of life" may believe in such thoughts: People will squander their leisure time, and one will fall back into illiteracy, if the state provides for such leisure, and if attendance at school is placed in the free understanding of the people. Let such "pessimists" wait and see what will happen when the world is no longer under their influence. This is all too often determined by a certain feeling which whispers quietly to them how they use their leisure, and what they have needed to acquire a little "education". They cannot reckon on the igniting power which a spiritual life really set on its own has in the social organism, for the fettered one they know has never been able to exert such an igniting power on them.

Both the political state and economic life will receive the influx from spiritual life that they need from the self-governing spiritual organism. Practical education for economic life, too, will only be able to develop its full power through the free co-operation of the latter with the spiritual organism. People who have been suitably educated will enliven the experiences they can make in the economic field through the strength that comes to them from the liberated spiritual material. People with experience gained from economic life will find the transition into the spiritual organisation and will have a fertilising effect on that which must be fertilised in this way.

In the field of the political state, the necessary healthy views will be formed through such a free effect of the spiritual good. Through the influence of such a spiritual good, the craftsman will be able to acquire a satisfying sense of the position of his work in the social organism. He will come to realise that without the leadership which organises manual labour according to its purpose, the social organism cannot support him. He will be able to assimilate the feeling that his work belongs together with the organising forces which come from the development of individual human abilities. On the soil of the political state he will form the rights which will secure him a share in the proceeds of the commodities he produces; and he will freely grant to the spiritual goods which come to him that share which makes their creation possible. In the sphere of spiritual life, the possibility will arise that its producers will also live from the proceeds of their achievements. What a person does for himself in the field of spiritual life will remain his most private affair; what a person is able to do for the social organism will be able to count on the free compensation of those who need the spiritual good. Whoever cannot find what he needs within the spiritual organisation by such compensation will have to pass over to the field of the political state or of economic life. The technical ideas which come from the spiritual life flow into the economic life. They come from spiritual life, even if they come directly from members of the state or economic field. Hence come all the organisational ideas and forces which fertilise economic and state life. The compensation for this influx into the two social spheres will either also come about through the free understanding of those who are dependent on this influx, or it will find its regulation through rights which are formed in the sphere of the political state. What this political state itself demands for its preservation will be provided by tax law. This will be formed by harmonising the demands of legal consciousness with those of economic life.

In addition to the political and the economic spheres, the spiritual sphere, which is set up on its own, must function in the healthy social organism. The direction of the developmental forces of modern humanity points towards the threefold structure of this organism. As long as social life was essentially guided by the instinctive forces of a large part of humanity, the urge for this decisive division did not arise. In a certain dullness of social life, what basically always came from three sources worked together. More recent times demand that people consciously place themselves in the social organism. This consciousness can only give a healthy shape to the behaviour and the whole life of human beings if it is oriented from three sides. Modern humanity strives for this orientation in the unconscious depths of the soul; and what lives itself out as a social movement is only the clouded reflection of this striving.“ (Lit.:GA 23, p. 80ff)

„For just consider something that is connected with the social observations we have been making for months. They are aimed at proving the necessity of separating spiritual life from merely economic life, alongside legal or state life. Above all, they aim to create relations beyond the world, or at least - that is all we can do for the time being - to regard relations beyond the world as the right ones which establish an independent spiritual life, a spiritual life which is not dependent on the other structures of social life, such as our present spiritual life, which is completely immersed in economic life on the one hand and in political state life on the other. Either the present civilised humanity will have to make itself comfortable to accept such an independent spiritual life, or the present civilisation must go towards its downfall and something future for humanity must arise from the Asiatic cultures.“ (Lit.:GA 191, p. 211f)

The school in free spiritual life

„The above explanations show that all pedagogical art must be built on a knowledge of the soul which is closely bound to the personality of the teacher. This personality must be able to live freely in its pedagogical work. This is only possible if the entire administration of the school system is autonomous in itself. If the practising teacher only has to deal with practising teachers in relation to the administration. A non-performing teacher is a foreign body in the school administration, just like a non-artist who would be responsible for pointing the artistic creators in the right direction. The nature of the pedagogical art demands that teachers divide themselves between educating and teaching and the administration of the school system. In this way, the overall spirit, which is formed from the spiritual attitude of all individual teachers united in a teaching and educational community, will fully prevail in the administration. And in this community only that will be valid which results from the knowledge of the soul. (...) A spiritual life which receives its directives from the political administration or from the powers of economic life cannot cultivate a school within its bosom whose impulses emanate entirely from the teachers themselves." (Lit.:GA 24, p. 273f.)

"Look at the universities in earlier times: they were free corporations, and they placed themselves quite independently within the human social structure. The man of the earlier age, if he wanted to become an eminent lawyer, went to an eminent law university, so let us say to Padua; if he wanted to become an eminent physician, to Montpellier or to Naples; if he wanted to become an eminent theologian, to the university in Paris. That did not belong to any state, that belonged to humanity, for that placed itself as an independent member in the social organism.“ (Lit.:GA 188, p. 165)

Integration of private law and criminal law into the free spiritual life

„Everything that does not belong to public law, which belongs to the second area, but to private law and criminal law, belongs to this third area. I have found many people to whom I have been able to present this threefold structure of the social organism, and they have understood many things - they could not understand that public law, the law which relates to the security and equality of all human beings, must be separated from that which is law in relation to a violation of law, or in relation to that which is the private relationship of human beings, that these must be separated from each other, and that private law and criminal law must be counted as belonging to the third, spiritual member of the social organism.“ (Lit.:GA 328, p. 39)

„And I have already drawn attention to the fact that to this spiritual member of the social organism must now also be counted what will now also appear paradoxical to many today, the real practice of private and penal judgement. Strange as it may sound, there is already a tendency in modern life which is not judged in the right way. What has been claimed more and more for jurisprudence by a psychology that has just failed is what tends towards a principle, not yet recognised but necessarily to be recognised, of the incorporation of private and criminal law activity into the spiritual limb, which in turn stands with relative independence, also stands with relative independence vis-à-vis all the life that develops as the narrower political life, that develops as the life of public law, of legislation. Certainly, in the future, in a healthy social organism, the criminal, for example, will have to be sought from what arises in the second limb, in the political limb. But when he is sought, he will be judged by the judge whom he faces in an individual human relationship.

(...) [In Austria] one could observe what would have resulted if free jurisdiction had existed across purely linguistic borders; if, despite the linguistic borders, the Bohemian living in a German territory could have chosen the neighbouring Czech or Bohemian judge over there, and the Bohemian inhabitant in turn could have chosen his judge in the German territory. We have seen how beneficial this principle has been in the efforts of the various school associations, which have unfortunately remained in their infancy. Therein lies something which, I would like to say, still rests like a heavy nightmare on the soul of those who have experienced this Austrian life, that this Egg of Columbus has not been found: the free choice of the judge and the living cooperation of the plaintiff, the judge and the accused, instead of the judge from the centralised political state, which can only be authoritative not for the administration of justice, but for finding and delivering the criminal or then for the execution of the sentence.“ (Lit.:GA 328, p. 92f.)


  • Perlas, Nicanor: Die Globalisierung gestalten. Zivilgesellschaft, Kulturkraft und Dreigliederung, mit einem Vorwort von Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Info3-Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3924391262, Inhaltsangabe und Rezension
  • Heyer, Karl: Freies Geistesleben (I), in: Beiträge zur Dreigliederung, Anthroposophie und Kunst, Nr. 40/41 (Sommer 1994), S. 7 - 13, PDF
  • Heyer, Karl: Freies Geistesleben (II), in: Beiträge zur Dreigliederung, Anthroposophie und Kunst, Nr. 42 (Winter 1994/95), S. 9 - 22, PDF
  • Strawe, Christoph: Freiheit: Gestaltungsprinzip des geistig-kulturellen Lebens, I. Teil: Zur Begriffsbestimmung des Geisteslebens (Rundbr. 3/03), II. Teil: Freiheit und Selbstverwaltung (Rundbr. 4/03), 2003 Teil 1 PDF Teil 2 PDF
  • Brunner, Thomas: Der Begriff "Zivilgesellschaft" und Rudolf Steiners Begriff "freies Geistesleben", 2001, Text
  • Bracher, Andreas: Was hat die Dreigliederung Markt / Staat / "Bürgergesellschaft" mit der Dreigliederung im Sinne Steiners zu tun?, 1999, Text
  • Thomas Meyer: Dreigliederung und Civil Society. Ist die Civil Society die Verwirklichung des freien Geisteslebens? Überlegungen zu Thesen von Nicanor Perlas, 1999, Text
  • Harrie Salman, Christoph Strawe, Nicanor Perlas, Wilhelm Neurohr u.a.: Trisektorale Partnerschaft, Zivilgesellschaft und Dreigliederung, Rundbrief Dreigliederung Nr. 1 / 2001, PDF
  • Kafi, Bijan: Anthroposophie und Zivilgesellschaft, in: Die Drei, 5/2011, PDF
  • Hjalmar Hegge: Freiheit, Individualität und Gesellschaft. Eine philosophische Studie zur menschlichen Existenz, Reihe Logoi, Bd. 10, 1992, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, ISBN 3772511112 (überarbeitete Fassung der Habilitationsschrift "Frihet, individualitet og samfunn")
  • Roland Kipke: Warum eigentlich freies Geistesleben? Eine Frage an die Idee der sozialen Dreigliederung. In: Anthroposophie, Vierteljahresschrift zur anthroposophischen Arbeit in Deutschland, Michaeli 2019, Nr. 289, S. 216 - 222
  • Valentin Wember: Warum freies Geistesleben? In: Anthroposophie, Vierteljahresschrift zur anthroposophischen Arbeit in Deutschland, Ostern 2020, Nr. 291, S. 24 - 33
  • Michael Heinen(-Anders): Freies Geistesleben und Wissenschaftstheorie. In: Anthroposophie, Vierteljahresschrift zur anthroposophischen Arbeit in Deutschland, Ostern 2020, Nr. 291, S. 70 - 76
  • Rudolf Steiner: Die Kernpunkte der Sozialen Frage, GA 23 (1976), ISBN 3-7274-0230-X English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
  • Rudolf Steiner: Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und zur Zeitlage 1915 – 1921, GA 24 (1982), ISBN 3-7274-0240-7 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
  • Rudolf Steiner: Der Goetheanismus, ein Umwandlungsimpuls und Auferstehungsgedanke. Menschenwissenschaft und Sozialwissenschaft, GA 188 (1982), ISBN 3-7274-1880-X English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
  • Rudolf Steiner: Soziales Verständnis aus geisteswissenschaftlicher Erkenntnis, GA 191 (1989), ISBN 3-7274-1910-5 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
  • Rudolf Steiner: Die soziale Frage, GA 328 (1977), ISBN 3-7274-3280-2 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
Steiner big.jpg
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.