Three things

By Mathias Maurer, December 2019

Threefoldness is a structural principle of living things. No development would be possible without a third element, everything would rigidify in polarities.

Human beings are constituted such that they are located in a dynamic balance of forces of body, soul and spirit the “needs” of which are all different and which are engaged in a constant balancing motion. 

We all know the often-quoted words of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: learning with head, heart and hands. We learn not just intellectually as thinking but also as acting and feeling beings. The whole person wants to be addressed holistically. If it fails to happen, they become unbalanced. They might think in the right way but take the wrong action if they fail to take hold of their will. Or they act differently from the way they feel. Or feelings determine their thinking, and so on. This discrepancy can easily be observed in ourselves and others. 

All forms of activity in our existence take place in our thinking, feeling and will. They have their physical foundation in the poles of the nervous as well as the metabolic and limb system which have the rhythmical system as their intermediary. The social world, too, to the extent that we want to give it harmony, has to be guided by this human blueprint. If it fails to happen, society becomes unbalanced: when the cultural life and education system become subjugated to the state or economy; when the intellectual life forces an ideological superstructure on the economy; or when politics and the law violate the intellectual and spiritual life. 

It is Rudolf Steiner’s great achievement to have set out these structural and functional principles with regard to human beings and society and to have applied them productively to education. Every “system” follows its own functional principles but is nevertheless dependent on collaborating with the other “systems” to keep the organism as a whole in a healthy state. 

From a “human” perspective: all thinking has to be penetrated by feeling and the will, every feeling made accessible to the thinking und grasped by the will, all – mostly unconscious – volition raised to consciousness and experienced in the feelings. 

From a “social” perspective: all economic activity must be examined for its fraternity, all cultural life for the degree to which it is really free, and every law for its equity. 

If the human soul forces become messed up, people are under threat of losing their “universal humanity demanded by life” (Steiner); we are at risk of wallowing in emotions (feelings), striving for wisdom in a cold and loveless way (thinking), and violence (will) – forces which in their extremes have a destructive effect on community.


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