Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

Rudolf Steiner:

"Toward the end of the eighteenth century, under different circumstances than those under which we at present live, a call for a new formation of the human social organism arose from the depths of human nature. The motto of this reorganization consisted of three words: fraternity, equality, liberty. Anyone with an objective mind, who considers the realities of human social development with healthy sensibilities, cannot help but be sympathetic to the meaning behind these words. However, during the course of the nineteenth century some very clever thinkers took pains to point out the impossibility of realizing these ideals of fraternity, equality, and liberty in a uniform social organism. They felt certain that these three impulses would be contradictory if practised in society. It was clearly demonstrated, for example, that individual freedom would not be possible if the equality principle were practised. One is obliged to agree with those who observed these contradictions; nevertheless, one must at the same time feel sympathy for each of these ideals.

These contradictions exist because the true social meaning of these three ideals only becomes evident through an understanding of the necessary triformation of the social organism. The three members are not to be united and centralized in some abstract, theoretical parliamentary body. Each of the three members is to be centralized within itself, and then, through their mutual cooperation, the unity of the overall social organism can come about. In real life, the apparent contradictions act as a unifying element. An apprehension of the living social organism can be attained when one is able to observe the true formation of this organism with respect to fraternity, equality, and liberty. It will then be evident that human cooperation in economic life must be based on the fraternity which is inherent in associations. In the second member, the civil rights system, which is concerned with purely human, person-to-person relations, it is necessary to strive for the realization of the idea of equality. And in the relatively independent spiritual sector of the social organism it is necessary to strive for the realization of the idea of freedom. Seen in this light, the real worth of these three ideals becomes clear. They cannot be realized in a chaotic society, but only in a healthy, threefold social organism. No abstract, centralized social structure is able to realize the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity in such disarrangement; but each of the three sectors of the social organism can draw strength from one of these impulses and cooperate in a positive manner with the other sectors.

Those individuals who demanded and worked for the realization of the three ideas — liberty, equality, and fraternity — as well as those who later followed in their footsteps, were able to dimly discern in which direction modern humanity's forces of evolution are pointing. But they have not been able to overcome their belief in the uniform state, so their ideas contain a contradictory element. Nevertheless, they remained faithful to the contradictory, for in the subconscious depths of their souls the impulse toward the triformation of the social organism, in which the triplicity of their ideas can attain to a higher unity, continued to exert itself. The clearly discernible social facts of contemporary life demand that the forces of evolution, which in modern mankind strive toward this triformation, be turned into conscious will."

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