the Political Anthroposophist, and Social Michaelic Courage

by Joel A. Wendt

Rudolf Steiner was an organic and pure thinker (1).  He “modeled” for us how to think, more than what to think.  Recall please that his original impulse was not to have his lectures recorded and later published.  All the same it turned out people were going to do it anyway, so he accepted this.

He did suggest at the Christmas Conference (I seem to recall) that “politics” was not the mission of the Anthroposophical Society, meaning (I imagine) that the Society should not get behind political agendas and pursue a course, as a Society, of seeking legislative actions.

His ideas on social life, such as pointing to the Cultural Sphere, the Political-Legal (Life of Rights) Sphere, and the Economic Sphere, did not mean (again I imagine) that anthroposophists were not to be actors in the Life of Rights, although we might well mainly be workers and contributors to the Cultural Life.  We are also citizens - members of the State - and in the ways many of us individually act out our own sense of responsible citizenship, we are contributors to that Sphere as well.

To sum up, a bit: collectively as a Society it is not our business to advocate for specific political-legal agendas.  As individuals, who happen to be culturally anthroposophists, there are at the same time no limits on our freedom of expression.  I suspect Steiner’s concern was that if people approached the Life of Rights, naming themselves as “anthroposophists”, this collective action would harm the Movement and the Society, probably much the same way that the self-identified Christian Right today makes a lot of other Christians appear to be out of touch politically, when in fact they are not.

In my experience Anthroposophy has a very healthy and rare card it can play in the Life of Rights:

This concerns how we think, more than what we think.  If we just do what we think, then anthroposophists generally get up and going on about the Threefold Social Order, and that can  become a kind of oddly interesting spiritual ideology.  It says: “Hey, we have this great idea about how things would be better if they were just organized this idealistic way”.  Then, of course, we have to explain it, which is frankly complicated, and hard for a lot of people to grasp.

If instead, we focus on how we think, we first have to be able to actually consciously think, in the manner modeled by Steiner.  Many of us strive to do that, although as an action it too is not so simple.  For Americans there is an advantage, to which Steiner pointed: 1) to the workman at the Goetheanum he said, in 1923, that Americans came to Anthroposophy naturally, meaning (again I imagine) that we come instinctively toward the new thinking-cognition through just being American; and, 2) in Challenge of the Times, he said that English speakers were instinctively in the Consciousness Soul in their Life of Rights.

For evidence of this, I would offer the dramatic television works of two Americans:  David E. Kelley, who gave us: L.A. Law; Picket Fences; Ally McBeal; the Practice; and finally Boston Legal - all shows quite frequently involving taking social and political questions, and framing them in such a way that their relative merits could then be argued in a court of law.  In addition, Aaron Sorkin, who gave us seven seasons of the West Wing, where he placed us inside the center of American political life and illuminated its hopes and its failures in the form of remarkable dramatic art.  Currently Sorkin is writing The Newsroom for HBO, where he is examining the failures and potentials of television media, again in a pointed and astute fashion.   Both of these writers won many awards, as did the actors who said their words.

The fact is, of course, that many anthroposophists in America are trying to “think” about what to do to heal the dysfunctions they perceive in our social/political life.  No one should doubt their own impulses here.  Some Emerson: “In self-trust all virtues are comprehended”.

For my part, here is what I wrote for anthroposophists, in 1991, in my little essay: Threshold Problems in Thinking the Threefold Social Order (2):  Media, if its present condition is clearly understood, is young; i.e. it is still undergoing formative developments, and functions today with a kind of moral or spiritual immaturity. In this sense Media may take one of two different courses of future development. It may become a kind of moon center, rigid, arid, not light originating, but rather only able to reflect those impulses which come to it from the outside. Or, it may become a sun center, a source of warmth and understanding, a medium of creative forces flowing into the social order and carrying both in deed and in word a true image of man as a being of soul and spirit.  I imagine then, Media becoming a sun, a true heart of the heart of the social organism, so that the common understanding of the People will find a renewed vision of the State. In Media a song can yet be heard, the song of the truly free man, the moral man.

For the general public I have done a lot of writing (and videos - seem my website), but around the time of the Arab Spring and  Occupy Wall Street (2011), I wrote this booklet (3): Economic and Social Rebellion - a money debt owed bankers is merely a number ... while what lives in the hearts of a People is a spiritual currency of infinitely greater value.

These are my contributions out of a renewed how of thinking to our public life, which Steiner called the Life of Rights.

To give a further example, let me move this piece in a more pragmatic direction with some “thinking” about the gun issue in America, which has recently acquired a lot of attention.

As a practiced “organic” (Goetheanism) thinker of the social-political world, my experience is that we always need to keep in mind the history, or the stories of a situation.  America seems to have won its independence with guns; guns played a major role in the winning of two world wars; and, in some sense we won the cold war by having too many guns.  I say “seems” because as most all anthroposophists believe, something called karma plays a role here that is often hard to understand.

Also in America part of our story has been mythical in the best sense, and has been especially displayed in the film and television dramas we call: the Western, concerning which I wrote about in the 2009 summer-fall issue of our newsletter: Learning to Perceive the American Soul. (4)  There I wrote: Let’s consider for a moment the basic plot structure of the Western (and somewhat, of the detective story). First there is in the community the presence of evil. This evil evokes fear, and thus paralyzed, the community is unable to act. Then enters the lone stranger, who at sometimes great personal cost makes individual sacrifices that result in the removal (or taming) of evil. Often the community will not be grateful for this service, and the lone stranger (if he survives) might be rejected by the community. There are, of course, many variations on this basic theme.

What the “stories” of America require of us, in thinking about this “gun" political issue, is to understand that the gun is an iconic archetype of dramatic power (along with the car which has replaced the horse). There are few other places in the world where so many ordinary people drive around in powerful pickup trucks (whose engines are rated in terms of horsepower), often with rifles and shotguns displayed in gun racks in the back.  Keep in mind that in the truck-bed tool boxes (saddlebags) there most often are many different kinds of tools.  Men and women who make things drive these trucks: farmers, carpenters, masons, veterinarians, road builders, and so forth.  Plus, the SUV (suburban utility vehicle) is a more “home” oriented version of the pickup truck - a “home-maker” often drives the SUV.

Each People and Nation has “temples”, where they devote themselves to that which they love.  If we wish to understand the “other” - the Thou - we need to appreciate the “temples” that have arisen in phenomenological manifestation of the individual folk-nature.  Some manifestations are common, for many large cities world-wide have financial districts, with high rise banking and commercial buildings, piercing the sky, - virtual earth-like heavens from which those who believe they are socially dominant look down on those who are below.  Keep in mind that those who would be first, often are actually last.  The world, as it is, is a divinely ordained picture of reality and organic and pure thinking need only imagine it as living and in movement to begin to grasp what is written in plain sight.

As a consequence we should realize that fixing “gun violence”, among a People with this kind of “story” as part of their soul-history, would not be simple.  We can’t, if we want to think clearly, just assume that because Americans are the most armed People on the planet this means we are in some manner defective.  To correctly assay the causal relations of social and political realities requires quite careful thinking, whatever Nation and People we want to understand.  Politicians, as is their usual practice, frame the “gun issue” in America in whatever way will win them votes - they are forced by their profession to accept the iconic elements of their political base.  Our core problem is that many of us are like the “community”, which the soul-myth of the Western portrays as paralyzed with fear. 

Some fears drive us to doomsday preparation, and other fears drive us to joining fundamentalist Churches, even the Church of the New Atheist.  Out of fear we demand of our political leaders actions, and new laws.  We want from those we conceive of as our leaders new impulses of will, but often hypocritically cannot bring ourselves to change our own behaviors.  America, being a kind of democracy, produces so many points of view that all we often get is arguments and a lot name calling.  Yet we might ask, following the Myth of the Western, where’s the stranger - the one who overcomes his fear - who is going to come to our rescue?

Is there wisdom in Anthroposophy, that we as individuals could offer, that might heal the situation?  If what we offer is only an Idea (such as threefolding), my view is that we would just end up taking a side (our own) in the arguments.  Plus, we really need to act as individual citizens, not just as partisans from some mostly unknown edge of the spiritual spectrum of human thought.

The fact is that as an individual all I have is myself.  If I want politics to evolve or change that is only going to happen from my participation.  I might have to put down my Steiner books for a time, and find something useful that my “I” can do, right in the intense middle of the political-legal life.  Yet politics is a “we” process after all, not an “I” process, and perhaps my interest in the other - the Thou - which Anthroposophy is waking up in me, will enable me to participate as a small part of a whole.

I know for some readers the above idea may seem kind of slight or weak, because we all want human society to become instantly “better”.  There are a lot of people urging quite grandiose and unrealizable goals in politics - do we want to join that?  But perhaps our public life already is what it needs to be, because part of what it is drives me out of myself and into engagement with others, who are not like me.   Which is, of course, what a lot of anthroposophists are already doing - going out into the world and meeting the Thou.

At the same time, in practice and in politics, this can cause one to be a bit frightened.  How much of my truth can I give, without creating a backlash or some harm.?  Do I ride in on my white horse, or do I just come into town, as a stranger-other, and see what of my own strength and courage I can give?  Attending a city council meeting, or a school board meeting, can be intimidating until we figure out how it works and who are the players and in what ways we might be able to help.

At a fundamental level the Life of Rights takes place locally.  Think globally, act locally.  This is a social realm where persistence pays off.  Only those who show up get to make real changes.  The Religious Right consciously took over school boards all over America, when no one was really looking.  The reason various States are dominated today by Tea Party and Far Right conservatives is because those folks showed up at a local level.  Where then are there  individuals that have the courage to go to these places and try to mediate and moderate these often furious and divisive political arguments, without taking a side or having a side, as is suggested in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Right now the American conversation in the realm of politics suffers from a loss of the basic questions.  Everyone wants to talk about “issues”, such as gun violence, or whether GMO food should be labeled; and, what about the coming crisis as regards water? (5)  Organic and pure thinking about public life in America discovers something more fundamental to talk about.  The fact is that there has been a loss to the public dialog in America of an authentic knowledge of Civics, and this causes great harm.  In reality America is an Idea - a profound and powerful Idea. (6)

The core Idea as regards America is that it is/was an experiment in self-governing.  Power was wrested from the elites of blood - the English aristocrats - and then seen as belonging only to the People (“We the People” ... “do ordain and establish”, begins the Constitution).  The American government, to skip over a lot of confusion here, exists only as a limited grant of power from the People to a federal or central government, via a “contract”.   Which prompted the American creators of the movie V for Vendetta  to write the line:  People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

Power thus granted can be taken back, and that act doesn’t even require an “amendment” to the Constitution, being a power we retain under the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”.  It was that “We power” Idea which originally made possible the first Constitution, i.e. “We the People” ... “do ordain and establish”.

At the time of the creation of the U.S. Constitution there was in the background thought of the Founders an awareness of the idea of the Social Contract (7).  This term, “the social contract”, was recently mentioned by Elizabeth Warren during her campaign for Senate.  The Constitution is, in fact, an attempt to take part of the commonly understood social contract and render it into words, although with the 9th Amendment, the Founders acknowledged that not all that could be said, had been said: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Another common Idea to the Founders was the recognition that by creating the Constitution they were agreeing, as part of this “contract”, to all being bound by the same rule of law.  The rule of law was also mentioned recently by Chris Hedges, a “liberal” writer on matters political.  This Idea of the “rule of law” is well known, but what is seldom - if ever - talked about is what happens when a particularly powerful group decides to no longer follow the rule of law, which is what has led to the current economic crisis unfolding now world-wide.  What happens when government is corrupted by money, and laws are passed that violate the Declaration of Independence’s insight that the only just laws come from the consent of the People?  Many laws today come from what has to be called: manufactured consent.

Nor is it understood in what way the “law” and the “moral” are distinct from each other.  A lot of people, many calling themselves Christian, want to impose the moral through the application of “law”.  Christ knew better, and indicated the need for a separation between the State (Caesar in His time) and God: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” Matthew 22:21

The Founders also knew about banking, far better than we do today.  Thomas Jefferson wrote, when bankers had succeeded in maintaining their special position after the Revolution and the Original Constitution:

The country is headed toward a single and splendid government of an aristocracy founded on banking institutions and monied incorporations and if this tendency continues it will be the end of freedom and democracy, the few will be ruling and riding over the plundered plowman and the beggar . . . I hope we shall take warning from the example of England and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to trial and bid defiance to the laws of our country. I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.

Around 1790, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (a well known banker of that time), was said to have stated: “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”   That’s where we are today, with the Federal Reserve, a private bank (one among many central banks common now over the whole world) having been unconstitutionally (manufactured consent) granted this power.  In fact, the U.S. Constitution grants (from the People, remember) to the Legislative Branch “the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.”  The Constitution doesn’t say this power, granted by the people, can be passed over to a private bank.

Right now banks get to create (coin) money when they loan it out (8).  Before that it doesn’t even exist, contrary to the myth most of us believe, which is that the loaned money is already on deposit.  The Fed also controls interest rates (regulate the value thereof).

Giving away this power over money to banks is sort of like giving away the power to make war to arms manufacturers (Dick Chaney and George W. Bush were creatures of the arms industry and the oil industry).  These things only happen because the government has been corrupted in some fashion (mostly by money, as campaign finance reformers try to fix), which is obvious if one is honest about who actually benefits from modern legislative actions.

What’s the point?

Right now the American people are lost in a Media-Storm of divisive issues (9), whereby are completely masked the more fundamental questions of: the social contract; the rule of law; the difference between the legal and the moral; and the real significance of what banking is (recall Rothschild: “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”).

If one or two or more individuals were to go into their local public dialogs and suggest we get back to fundamentals, and find through the discussion of basic Civics and the reality of banking what unites us rather than divides us, - now that would be a social deed full of Michaelic courage.

To dream ... the impossible dream ...

To fight ... the unbeatable foe ... (10)

(1) GA 2 (“The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception” - 1886); GA 3 (“Truth and Knowledge” - Steiner’s dissertation - 1892); and, GA 4 (“The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity” - 1894)

(2) Threshold Problems in Thinking the Threefold Social Order

(3) Economic and Social Rebellion

(4) Learning to Perceive the American Soul

(5) The American novelists Frank Herbert (Dune) and Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land) wrote presciently about water shortages and the sacred nature of water all the way back in 1961.  Both wrote in these same works about the dangers of a cooperation between politics and religion, with Herbert writing in Dune: When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way.  Their movement becomes headlong - faster and faster and faster.  They put aside all thought of obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until its too late."

(6) Keep in mind that an Idea, in the platonic sense, is the outer ethereal garment of a spiritual being.

(7) (1762) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

(8) The American natural anthroposophist, Rich Kotlarz, has penetrated the confusion in this realm (money) with great skill.

(9) Dividing people up is sort of Ahriman’s favorite thing.  See my Outrageous Genius,which is the story of Ahriman’s Incarnation into American public life, beginning with his birth in America on Christmas Day, 1950:

(10) The Impossible Dream from “Man of La Mancha", music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion.

Joel Wendt’s latest book is called: The Art of God: an actual theory of Everything. []