Our conference began on the Sunday evening with a play called “This War is Not Inevitable” written and performed by Michael Burton, along with Ryan Kouroukis. It tells of the beginnings 100 years ago, during the First World War, of Rudolf Steiner’s vision of a threefold social organism that could rescue Germany from the devastation it was experiencing. Here is an excerpt from the programme that accompanied the play:
Rudolf Steiner launched the idea of the Threefold Social Organism (Threefold Social Order) in 1917 in the hope that this would help to shorten the war and prevent another great conflagration from breaking out at a later date. The times were against him then and he was unsuccessful, but the question of the hour is: “Did what Steiner attempted to do in those years plant a seed that has waited a hundred years in order to come to maturity in our own age?”
Steiner focused on the key role played by human creativity in our society. The activity of free individuals is the counterbalance to much that is wrong with society today. Social three-folding, by countering both excessive state power and the tyranny of raw economic forces, brings harmony into society. That it should come into existence in the world, working in different ways in different countries, is an important precondition for world peace.
The Threefold Social Organism is deeply relevant to all people concerned with the future of humanity. Meeting together to witness this performance event can be a catalyst to positive social change or work some social magic upon a community.
Michael Burton’s play did indeed spark a wonderful outburst of creativity and discussion amongst the thirty members of the community who took part over the following three days.
Monday morning began with a talk by Marjan called “Exploring the Economic Sphere”. She spoke about how economic matters, beginning in ancient theocratic societies where the cultural sphere dominated, through communist/socialist states and into our present capitalist system, have provided the strongest forces in our society. She went into great detail about how our economy revolves around the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, with all this activity centred on the search for profits. Rudolf Steiner foresaw that the only way to heal the unfairness built into such a system was to not see our labour as a commodity to be bought and sold, but given freely, producing goods together and sharing the profits, abolishing wages and concentrating on the love for one’s work, an ideal inherent to Camphill communities.
The talk was followed on each of the three days by discussion groups, centring on the three spheres, while in the afternoons there were artistic activity groups, based on movement, with eurythmy and folk-dancing, on drama (with Michael and Ryan) and painting. These were greatly enjoyed, ending in a social evening on the last day to show off what everyone had been doing, completed by the whole conference doing exuberant Hungarian folk dances with Kati in the auditorium.
On Tuesday Jonas spoke of the Social sphere, the sphere of rights and equality. This realm is concerned with the laws that govern the behaviour of all adults equally, of human rights and obligations in a political domain that are not regulated by business corporations - the sphere of rights where economic forces should play no role. These rights and laws, once established, should give society the power to enforce them, with policing powers belonging to the legal domain. Equality in all three spheres is a major problem of our time and Rudolf Steiner’s ideas can bring a healing message to anyone willing to listen.
On Wednesday Thomas talked about the Cultural/Spiritual sphere, starting with the question “What is freedom? To do what we want? Say what we want?” He looked back to models from the past, to ancient India and Egypt, where all freedoms were given to those at the top of society, leaving those at the bottom in slavery; also to the British class system, which continued this inequality. He spoke about the Christ Event as a liberation, allowing everyone to have a direct relation to the spiritual world. As Rudolf Steiner said: “Our highest endeavour is to develop free human beings who are able to impart purpose and direction to their lives.” This is especially the case with Waldorf education, as well as our commitment to lifelong education and personal development in Newton Dee. As he said in conclusion, our real self is dangerous to the powers that be, to the state, to tradition, because when we know our real self we become free individuals.
Overall, this was a very inspiring and enjoyable little conference. Perhaps it is only the beginning of our study of this fascinating and important idea that began 100 years ago at the end of the terrible catastrophe of the First World War, as we stand today on the brink of another world-wide conflict, chaos creeping up on us. The knowledge and power inherent in the cry for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity has never been more needed than it is today.