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Rudolf Steiner on Education and the Threefold Social Impulse

Lecture 1, August 9th, 1919. In R. Steiner, Education as a Force for Social Change (formerly Education as a Social Problem). Click here


Abstract: Children up to about the seventh year, are actively engaged in “true imitation”. Through imitating what is wholesome the child learns that the world is good and this plants the seed of freedom (cultural-spiritual sphere). In the middle school, from the seventh to the fourteenth year, teaching should be practiced through “true authority” which educates equality. This implants in children what can become a sense of the inalienable rights of the human being, of what is equal for all and not open to argument (the political-rights sphere). In the upper school, around the age of fifteen to twenty years, the young adult should learn intellectual judgement in a way which is infused with love. Only through such teaching will fraternity develop and thereby prepare the student for healthy existence in the economic sphere.  

R. Steiner, Towards Social Renewal, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1999. A foundational text on the nature of the threefold social organisation (an earlier edition entitled The Threefold Social Order).

Abstract: Education belongs to the cultural-spiritual sphere of the threefold social organism and the ideal of the sphere is freedom. From the preface: "No one who is not fully involved with teaching should dictate what a teacher ought to do - not parliament, not even someone who was once a teacher but is no longer". "Nothing can become truly practical that derives from an education dictated by so-called "experts" and delivered by teachers divorced from reality". From Chapter 3: Ideally, places of education should be free of state control. This cannot happen "tomorrow morning"; the main thing is seeing the validity of this idea and striving in this direction. 

"The Social Pedagogical Significance of Spiritual Science", Lecture 5, November 25th, 1919. In R. Steiner, The Spirit of the Waldorf School. Click here

Abstract: Modern intellectual life has become abstract, thinking has become ideology. The idea of the threefold social organism does not come from a new social programme but from a new spiritual direction, a new thirst for the spirit, a spirit that is in reality, that is one with material life. The teacher finds this spirit by entering into the stages of child development, by working with the developmental powers, building from everyday scientific cognition towards the capacities of imaginative, inspired and intuitive cognition.


“Individual and Society”, Lecture 6, 7th June, 1922. In R. Steiner, The Tension Between East and West. Click here.


Abstract: In a true art of education a child is given living (non-intellectualistic) concepts, these continue to live unconsciously within the growing child and reemerge productively decades later. These living concepts prepare the mature human being for true social life and for the experience of freedom in another human being. The aim of the Waldorf school is not to “stuff concepts” into a child but to draw out capacities which are in potential in the child. In this way moral social impulse in the human individual can manifest in complete freedom.  Through such education the human being is guided to ascend to the spirit as something effective in social life – not as abstract social ideals but a living, fruitful spirit in human action and relationship.


 “From Monolithic to Threefold Unity”, Lecture 10, 11th June, 1922. In R. Steiner, The Tension Between East and West. Click here.

Abstract: When the Towards Social Renewal was first published (in 1918) it was completely misunderstood. It was taken to the utopian and idealistic. The social will of individuals has in the past been bound up with social class and the belief in the power of the unified State. In the cultural-spiritual sphere, everything which can become fruitful for the whole social order must proceed from the individual human being (in the economic sphere from collective judgements). In schools what really matters is for the individual teachers as complete human beings to realise individual capacities, not to follow orders issued by the State or abstract social programmes. In the threefold integration of the social organism will come about the healing of chaotic conditions in the spiritual, political and economic life.



Steiner Education Centenary Revival

A booklet of specially selected excerpts from Rudolf Steiner's thoughts on education and the threefold social order. All proceeds are donations to the Education for Social Renewal Foundation. Click here to make an order. 

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