Problems of Society: An Esoteric View, from Luciferic Past to Ahrimanic Future
10 lectures, various cities, February 4–November 4, 1919 (CW 193)
“Whatever turbulent outward events occur in the world, whatever form is taken by things seeking to work their way out of the depths of human evolution, we only really hearken to the true, underlying nature of these events…if we observe the world from a spiritual perspective.” —Rudolf Steiner
In seeking to heal the many social crises of our time, Rudolf Steiner urges us to turn away from “fixed principles, theories, or social dogmas” and to rediscover the true nature of the human being. This inner reality—which cannot be understood in materialistic or deterministic ways—is the only basis on which society can be truly founded. Nevertheless, Steiner tells us that it is not enough to speak of well-meaning ideas, unless we also actively work for change—change that begins with each of us.
In 1919, a year marked by strong social and political upheavals, Steiner was deeply concerned with social questions. Having published a book on the subject (Towards Social Renewal: Rethinking the Basis of Society), he embarked on a major campaign to publicize his “threefold” ideas for society. In addition to public lectures, however, Steiner also sought to deepen the subject in a series of talks to members of the Anthroposophical Society. Those lectures, gathered in this volume, reveal the “inner,” or “esoteric,” aspects of the social question. They complement Steiner’s very practical efforts to realize threefolding in the historical context of his time.
Whereas Steiner’s suggestions for social change may seem counter-intuitive to pragmatic thinkers, they will strike a resonant chord in many of those who seek deeper answers to the social problems of our time – problems that politicians seem unable to remedy. Among the many themes that Rudolf Steiner discusses here are nationalism as a retrograde tendency; the tasks of Central Europe and Britain in relation to the East; the incarnation of Ahriman in the West, and the historical incarnation of Lucifer in the third millennium BC.
This volume is a complete translation from German of Der innere Aspekt des sozialen Rätsels. Luziferische Vergangenheit und ahrimanische Zukunft (GA 193). Four lectures appeared previously as The Esoteric Aspect of the Social Question: The Individual and Society.
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Matthew Barton is a translator, editor, teacher, and poet, and taught kindergarten for many years at the Bristol Waldorf School. His first collection of poems was Learning To Row (1999). He has won numerous prizes for his work, including an Arts Council Writer’s Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship.