In the last few centuries cultural life, for Steiner, has been cultivated under conditions that allowed it to exercise only the smallest independent influence upon politics or the economy. One of the most important aspects of culture, education, was shaped by governmental interests. Two different currents arise within cultural life. One of them draws its waters from political rights and the other from economic life, and both are thereby occupied with the daily requirements each imposes, trying to devise systems to meet these – without, however, penetrating to the needs of our spiritual nature. All this does is to impose external political and economic systems on our internal nature and culture, and harness (wo)men into them, ignoring what our inner nature has to say about it. It reveals to us nothing of what lies in cosmic processes with which human nature and culture is interwoven. For such knowledge as this needs a worldview that unites both the human world and the world outside the human.

Those forces that hold sway in our innermost cultural and spiritual being are not the same forces that are at work in external, political and economic reality. Scientific thinking cannot penetrate down to those forces when it merely elaborates "natural law" intellectually out of external experience. Yet the worldviews that are founded on a more religious basis, according to Steiner, are no longer in touch with those forces either. They accept the traditions that have been handed down without penetrating to their fountainhead in the depths of human nature. Instead, for him, culturally and spiritually laden ideas are able to carry within them the force of reality when they offer themselves as guides to social – political and economic – action.


Spiritual insight that penetrates to the essence of human nature, and culture, then, in one particular society or another, finds there motives for action that are immediately good in the ethical sense as well. The impulse toward evil arises within us only because in our thoughts and feelings we silence the depths of our nature. Accordingly, social ideas that are arrived at through the sort of spiritual concepts indicated here must, by their very nature for Steiner, be ethical ideas as well. Since they are drawn not from thought alone, but from life, they possess the strength to take hold of the will and to live in action.

This kind of spirituality can thrive, however, only when its growth is completely independent of all authority except that derived directly from cultural life itself. Political and legal measures for the nurture of the spirit sap the strength of cultural life, while a cultural life that is left entirely to its own inherent interests and impulses will strengthen every aspect of social life. A person brought up and educated within a free cultural life will certainly, through his very initiative, bring into his calling much of the stamp of his or her personality. Such a person will not allow himself to be fitted into the social machinery like a cog into a machine. In the end, however, what he brings into it will not disturb the harmony of the whole, but rather increase it.

What goes on in each particular part of the communal life then will be the outcome of what lives in the spirits of the people that work there. People whose souls breathe the atmosphere created by a spirit such as this will vitalize the institutions needed for practical economic purposes in such a way that social needs, too, will be satisfied. Institutions devised to satisfy these social needs will never work so long as people feel in their inner nature to be out of harmony with their outward occupation. For institutions of themselves cannot work socially. To work socially requires socially attuned human beings working within an ordered legal system created by a living interest in such, and with an economic life that produces in the most efficient fashion the goods required for actual needs.

Every institution, for Steiner then, that has arisen within communal life had its origin in the will that shaped it; the life of the sprit as contributed to its growth. Only when life becomes complicated, as it has under modern technical methods of production, does the will which dwells in thought lose touch with social reality. We withdraw in spirit, and seek in some remote corner the spiritual substance needed to satisfy our souls. Individual wills can expand unfettered if, alongside the economic sphere, there is a legal-political sphere where the standard is set, not by any economic point of view but only by the consciousness of rights, and if, alongside both the economic and legal spheres, a free cultural life can find its place following only the impulses of the spirit.

The experiments being made, in the 1920s for Steiner just as is the case in our new millennium today, to resolve the social, and now also environmental, issues we face, seek to find the solution in economic and technological, if not also political, transformation. We fail to recognize that these transformations can only come about through forces that are released from within human nature, and culture, in itself, that is in the revival of cultural as well as legal-political realms, independent of, though interdependent with, the economic. Further to such, we now turn from Steiner and Edmunds, based hitherto in Central and Western Europe, albeit with an affinity for the "East", to their contemporary Asian counterpart, the Philippine social philosopher and activist Nicanor Perlas.

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