Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922: Part 11

Christ, Odilon Redon, ca. 1907

The Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922 and Its Present Significance


By Christoph Strawe*
(translated by Edward Udell)

Part 11 (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10)

The Upper Silesian Action


In November 1920 the anthroposophist Moritz Bartsch of Breslau asks Steiner what his stance is toward the idea of undertaking a large threefolding initiative in Upper Silesia. The Versailles Treaty had established that a referendum was to be held over the nationality of the region. Whatever the result would be, it had to lead to the oppression of a minority and thus work in a malign fashion. (The vote on 20 March 1921 led to the division of Upper Silesia. Although 60% voted to remain with Germany, the greater part was added to Poland.) In this conflict point, toward which the eyes of the world are directed, Rudolf Steiner sees a chance, through a campaign, to work toward a social form that would permit two cultures to develop freely next to each another. An appeal appears, a course for speakers is held, and a campaign begun. However, this attempt to prevent the nonsensical vote collides with massive opposition especially from circles on the Right, who see the campaign as treason against the fatherland. In the Völkischer Beobachter [a Nazi Party newspaper], there appeared at that time an article from the pen of Adolf Hitler, in which threefolding is designated as “thoroughly Jewish,” and defamed as a machination for the destruction of the normal state of mind of the people. On 15 May 1922, at a lecture event, Rudolf Steiner just barely escapes an assassination attempt by circles of the radical Right.

The End


At a large Pentecost Congress of 1922 in Vienna, the so-called West-East Congress, Rudolf Steiner again supports the threefolding idea before the broad public, but must have recognized that the movement had initially failed. He treats the theme for the last time in a lecture in Oxford on 29 August 1922, a few weeks after giving a special course, from 24 July to 6 August 1922, on questions related to the renewal of economic science. In the course, conclusions were drawn with regard to the development of world economy. Leaving the threefolding theme, he now concentrates his work energies entirely on the renewal of individual cultural areas (art, pedagogy, religion, medicine, agriculture). After the first Goetheanum is destroyed by arson on New Year’s Eve 1922/23, R. Steiner at the 1923 Christmas conference gives the Anthroposophical Society, through its new constitution, a social form that shows the way forward toward a modern society living entirely out of the free interplay of initiative and social resonance.

Further Development up to the Present


In the ensuing years the development of the whole society took a fateful direction: in 1933 the complete counter-image of a free social constitution was able to establish itself: cultural life was forced entirely under the political dominion of a totalitarian, inhuman government that trampled democracy under foot. On the other hand, from 1917, among other portents, a similar monolithic system established itself in the form of Stalinism.

After R. Steiner’s death (30 March 1925), internal disputes initially hindered a strong further development of anthroposophical social impulses. Then came the National Socialist barbarism, and bound up with that, the suppression of anthroposophy in Central Europe. After World War II, the East-West conflict in many ways blocked the search for new social forms. Within the anthroposophical movement after the war, the rebuilding of institutions stood in the foreground more than activism in the wider world. Only the movement of 1968 brought renewed interest in “threefolding.” The European upheaval of 1989, and the new, open historical configuration, revived such impulses again. However, the forces that could have brought about a real renewal proved too weak. Unlike dialectical-historical materialism or the market economy system, threefolding does not concern itself with mechanisms and automatisms, but is based completely on the insightful free action of the human being. Whether the possibilities offered by historical situations are grasped depends only on the knowledge, capacities, feelings, and will impulses of human beings.

In any case, after 1989, it is to be noted that threefolding movements experience a certain invigoration, if only of a modest kind: the formation of the “Netzwerk Dreigliederung” [Threefolding Network] initiative, the development of ongoing further training in the social field, and strengthened cooperative endeavors in the sense of an associative economy.

[The 12th (and final) part is here.]



* Dr. Christoph Strawe has kindly given me permission to post my translation of his article. I have divided it into Parts 1, 2, etc. Words in brackets [ ] are my insertions. Apart from this note, the footnotes are from Dr. Strawe's article. The original German version can be read here. Dr. Strawe manages the Initiative Network Threefolding (Initiative Netzwerk Dreigliederung). The Initiative Network's English-language website is here.  The German-language website is here.  The Initiative Network Threefolding is part of the Institute for Present-Day Social Questions in Stuttgart (Institut für soziale Gegenwartsfragen e.V. Stuttgart). A biographical paragraph (in German) about Dr. Strawe can be found by scrolling near the end of this webpage. - transl.

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