Towards Social Renewal

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been reading Rudolf Steiner’s book Basic Issues of the Social Question. Published in 1919, it was written just after the calamity of the First World War, and that catastrophe weighs heavy upon it. That is the same year in which W.B. Yeats’ penned his ominous poem The Second Coming.

What Steiner has to say about the fundamental problem in society that led to the World War(s) is worth paying some attention to. It is available as a e-Book at the Rudolf Steiner Archive, and you can retrieve it by clicking here.

I have to admit, I find it opaque in parts — which is why I am reading it again. The most important point he makes here about the necessary tripartite restructuration of society is his insistence that the autonomy of the cultural-spiritual sphere of life from both politics and economics (or state and corporation) is absolutely essential for the future survival of society. In that respect, his thinking resembles that of Jean Gebser, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, and perhaps Ivan Illich in Deschooling Society and in the pedagogy of Paulo Friere, as well as the late American educator Neil Postman.

Although Steiner’s book is almost a century old, and its sense of urgency might be somewhat blunted by the fact, its themes are still fresh and relevant for our times. I sense, for example, in the Occupy Movement, or in the present massive student rebellion in Quebec, something of the same demands for the autonomy of the cultural-spiritual life and education from the interference of both politics and economics, state and corporation, that Steiner then considered mandatory for healthy social life. This demand has echoes in Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s insistence on the method of “pure teaching” as an antidote to the anti-social tendencies of an abstract metaphysics and a defective rationality that had now become death-dealing at our “end of history”.

You can read something of Rosenstock-Huessy’s concerns, in this respect (and his justifications for a sociological science realised through “pure teaching”) in the first essay of his book Speech and Reality, which essay is called “In Defence of the Grammatical Method”. Thanks to Google’s teaser “google books” project, the bulk of this important essay is reproduced here. I would recommend reading it in conjunction with another of his most important essays called “Farewell to Descartes“, which I have had occasion to mention many times in The Chrysalis as exemplifying what the cultural historian Jean Gebser referred to as the “deficient rationality” of Late Modern Man (or, what I’ve called “Epimethean Man”).

As you can tell from reading Steiner’s Basic Questions, there are many parallels between this and the thinking of Rosenstock-Huessy and Jean Gebser, both. All three are urgently engaged in what must transpire at this stage in society’s evolutionary history to ensure the founding and survival of a truly human and humane society, which none of them apparently feel is far from guaranteed, the alternative being a descent into the inhuman.

Steiner’s vision of a tripartite reformation of society into three autonomous, but cooperating, spheres is sensible even if the details of how this threefold model of society might be effected and brought about seem unclear. Rosenstock-Huessy has a fourfold model of social order — his “cross of reality” — that is probably more functional but not that much different from Steiner’s except in this respect: Steiner has made the cultural-spiritual one realm of social activity or community. In Rosenstock-Huessy, these are distilled and precipitated out as art and religion separately. Steiner does not treat them separately. Otherwise, their mutual concerns are shared ones.

It is just one more reason to consider lending our support to new movements like Occupy and to participate by suggesting consciousness and direction (or concentration) for its creative and wonderful energies. Such movements may be our last chance to effectuate a new movement toward a truly world-wide human and humane social order fitting for the Planetary Era we are now entering upon…. some of us willingly and gladly; others kicking and screaming.

21 responses to “Towards Social Renewal”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I would like to point out something that Steiner writes in the 4th Preface to the German Edition, dated 1920.

    Any attempt to organize economic forces into an abstract world community is erroneous. In the course of evolution private economic enterprise has, to a large extent, become state economic enterprise. But the political states are not merely the products of economic forces, and the attempt to transform them into economic communities is the cause of the social chaos of modern times. Economic life is striving to structure itself according to its own nature, independent of political institutionalization and mentality. It can only do this if associations, comprised of consumers, distributors and producers, are established according to purely economic criteria. Actual conditions would determine the scope of these associations. If they are too small they would be too costly; if they are too large they would become economically unmanageable.

    I wanted to cite this passage as an example of how relevant and fresh Steiner’s thinking is here for our times, even though he’s writing in 1919, for he has already foreseen both neo-liberalism as the attempt to “organise economic forces into an abstract world community” as “erroneous” as well as the tendency to reduce nations and countries to “economies” and human behaviour to merely economic “rational” self-interest — the thrust of what is called “economism” presently. He also foresees what is to become the debate about appropriate scale or “Small is Beautiful” (or Buddhist) economics of E.F. Schumacher and the problems of gigantism and “Too Big to Fail” mentality.

    Isn’t this foresight quite remarkable for a man writing in 1919?

    • LittleBigMan says :

      Indeed, a visionary passage. There’s a lot to ponder here.

      I think the governments of late to post modern era, or perhaps it would be more accurate if I say governments that rule more than a single city or province, have a long way to go before maturing. This form of government has shown itself to be the least accountable to the grievances of the populace responsible for its creation.

      • Scott Preston says :

        (I think WordPress’s new rules for posting comments is probably discouraging some people from doing any commenting. I certainly find it inconvenient to have to log into something first).

        Anyway, Steiner’s remarks reminded me this morning of an article I saw in The Guardian recently that also addresses the problem, an interview with an external auditor,

        “Nobody at a major bank can have a complete overview any more. It’s simply become too large. A lot of the people I talk to don’t really understand where they fit into the bigger picture. By the way, a lot of non-financial companies are like this, too. People in an office context have this security zone, they know where the boundaries are, and they stay within them, do what they have to do and that’s it.”

        His comments and observations are mighty interesting given that it raises the obvious question: if no one has complete overview and oversight of the operation, doesn’t it mean that the machinery of the enterprise has become virtually autonomous? A kind of golem? This is the situation I wrote about in earlier posts, mostly around the Fukushima nuclear meltdown but it also pertains to the “too big to fail” attitude — a large part of what Gebser calls our “deficient rationality” is simply the fact that the mental-rational structure of consciousness is no longer adequate to master its circumstances, and this is a key observation in Steiner, as well, and his critique of what we might call “legacy thinking” that is no longer in touch with its reality. Today, that manifests as the divorce between what is called “virtual” economy and “real” economy – this dilemma or dichotomisation of the mind.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          I, for one, though, don’t have to log in before posting a comment. I just type the comment, fill in the “details” as it asks, and click on “Post Comment.” Also, I remember back in the TDAB days, a good proportion of those who would comment on your blog were those who also commented on the Guardian. I remember back then, you told people that you had a blog and anyone interested in reading more about anything you were talking about should visit it – and that’s how I found TDAB. I too wish more would comment and participate.

          The “too big to fail” phenomenon is definitely a problem. I’m afraid we have discovered that absolute monarchy isn’t the only way ‘power’ can subjugate the masses.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Well that’s a surprise! I didn’t realise you drifted over to TDAB from the Guardian. Actually, that was an experiment on my part. I wanted to check out in that particular thread on The Guardian how many people were actually reading the comments section. To properly understand that post I wrote, I set it up so that readers would have to click on my website link to complete the thought. Then I counted the hits.

            There were only 12. That’s when I realised that there probably weren’t as many readers following the raging debates on CIF as some thought. In fact, revisiting CIF these days, I see many of the same old monikers still posting under the old names.

            Re-reading some of Steiner’s comments in The Preface, I think it’s probably fair to say that for Steiner the error of socialism is that the state directs the economy, and the error of capitalism is that the economy directs the state, while the third realm — the cultural-spiritual — suffers for this in any case. In Steiner’s terms (which very much resemble Gebser’s “deficient rationality”) the false exclusive dualism of Capital and Labour ends up, either way, proletarianising the teacher, who should be autonomous of both corporation and state. The rest of the book is pretty much a discussion of this situation and how we extricate ourselves from it.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    Lol! That’s hilarious. So, I was hooked on TDAB after your experiment :)))))

    Well, it was very fortunate on my part to be one of the 12 who clicked on the link. I remember before you took TDAB down, you took off like a Porsche and wrote like two articles a day and I couldn’t keep up reading them and fell behind. Even now I’m having trouble keeping up. So, months later, when I could make some time, I went back to TDAB and noticed that it was taken down and you had left a note that for a while you had to “tend shop”. I always thought you’d revive the old TDAB and I was waiting for it to come back.

    But when TDAB didn’t come back, I went back to Guardian to see if you’re commenting there. During this time, by some coincidence, I found that all former comments on Guardian by anyone can still be found in their online archives. I found the collection of your comments there as well and started reading them with great enthusiasm. A lot of times, I would find phrases and words that I couldn’t understand and would search for them on the internet. After about 6 months, I reached page 25. On this page, you had mentioned something about “Newtonian frame” and I didn’t quite know what that meant. As usual, I did a google search to learn more about it – and the miracle happened and I found: The Chrysalis. Like TDAB, an absolute gem. It was one of the links, if not the topmost link that came up after the search, that led me here.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Well… that’s quite the story, but I’m certainly glad you found your way back to The Chrysalis.

      What I should explain about part of that experiment on The Guardian is that I was recruited after a few early postings on CIF into a “collective” of sorts of about 25 posters that had organised to engage in mental combat against a seemingly well-organised group of trolls that had invaded Comment Is Free for the purpose of spreading propaganda, not for real debate. After a while, I grew a little skeptical that we were engaged in a cosmic life-and-death struggle against the powers of Mordor invading CIF, although the collective was quite right — there was indeed an organised disinformation campaign (at the time of the Iraq War) being waged by some organised group of trolls against anti-war posters on CIF. It was just that — not very many people were paying attention to to this great cosmic combat between Gondor and Mordor at all. That’s why I launched that experiment, and it proved to my satisfaction, at least, that no one was paying much attention to it anyway. So troll hunting and troll “search and destroy” seemed to be a waste of time. So, I sort of drifted away from the collective and the great cosmic struggle, but also got fed up feeling that I had to respond to every piece of mindless idiocy that was directed my way — the death of a thousand pin-pricks, as it were. Although I have to say, some of the exchanges on CIF that weren’t just troll search and destroy missions were very gratifying.

      I still occasionally post to CIF, but very infrequently. I do so now under the name “fourfoldvision” rather than “longsword”.

      I’m very surprised that you tracked down all longsword’s posts.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Thank you, it’s terrific and a real honor to be able to follow your work again on The Chrysalis.

        I certainly wasn’t aware of the battles that were brewing underneath the pages of CIF at the time (and I will come back to this further down below). But this that a group of organized trolls were mounting a campaign of misinformation during the Iraq war is fascianting – and perhaps the beginnings of cyber warfare in the “age of information.” I think your suspicion of “powers of Mordor invading CIF” is spot on. I, personally, would not have suspected anything else.

        I can’t quite remember how I found Guardian CIF, given that I live in America and knew nothing of the journalistic tradition in Britain. But debating individuals on CIF (beginning in 2006 or 2007) was the single most important factor in changing my perceptions and understandings of the world and people around me for the better. For that reason, I’m extremely grateful to all of those who banged me over the head when I made some stupid comment. I needed it. The most important impact on me was that CIF just obliterated all my prejudices.

        Because I was so ignorant when I first began commenting on Guardian, it’s embarrassing for me to admit now that my first comments were made under the moniker “khajeh.” After a while my moniker was banned because I commented on an article that was about atrocities being committed against Congolese women. In the comment that got me banned from the CIF I said that the United Nations was a useless organization and couldn’t do a darn thing against the Congolese army and that the Congolese women should be instead given guns and the training to defend themselves rather than be expected to wait for the UN peacekeepers to arrive to help them after many decades. Unbelievably, this comment got me banned from CIF, even though, here in America, if a stranger walks into any house without permission, the house residents can shoot and kill the intruder as self-defense. Why couldn’t a Congolese woman do what any woman can do in a similar situation living in a Western country – I wrote and protested to the editor about this, but didn’t get any results and my moniker wasn’t reinstated.

        After that incident I became somewhat distressed with CIF for banning me for no good reason, but I still created a new account with them and began posting more comments under the moniker “khajeh2” for a while and then stopped. When I look back to that time, I’m always grateful that I found CIF and I’m grateful for the way it changed me for the better. On the whole, interacting with commentators on the CIF rendered my mind more malleable to new ideas – which wasn’t the case before.

        CIF was also where I first got to read from and about the work of the one and only brilliant “longsword.” No one that I know of or read from (including the authors of the books you recommend) reflects and writes about philosophy, consciousness, perception, history, events of the day, etc. with as much lucidness and clarity as you do , Sir. Most importantly, it’s your willingness to share these understandings with the rest of us that is divine.

        I am ecstatic that you are still commenting on Guardian. I will try to follow and learn from “fourfoldvision” for as long as I can.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Thanks for the kudos. I’m intrigued that CIF made such an impression on you. It seems you have that rare quality that, these days, seems to be absent in many others — the ability to change one’s mind rather than take one’s stand in a narrow “point of view” and insist upon it despite everything.

          I’m also intrigued that you don’t have to sign into some WordPress, Facebook or Twitter account in order to post a comment here. I can’t even post a comment to my own blog without signing in and signing out. Bit of a pain.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    This is an intriguing bit of news to me (surprising if true): a correspondent informs me that Steiner’s model for social reformation and post-WWII recovery was officially contemplated, and came in as second choice. If that’s the case, the model that was first choice was Keynes’ and the Bretton-Woods system. I’ll have to do some research on that, because I wasn’t aware at all that Steiner’s model for social renewal was officially considered.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    Thank you. And I think you are absolutely right. I don’t mind changing my views at all if I’m proven and shown they are not right – and that’s what happened during the first, I would say, 6-8 months of commenting on the CIF when I first started back, I believe, in 2006. I’m not proud at all about comments I made on CIF during those first few months as ‘khajeh”. One typical position I used to take on blogs about the Palestinian/Israeli issue, for example, was: “Too bad, Palestinians weren’t awake when foreigners showed up and grabbed their land and so, in this world, if you don’t fight for what you’ve got, you’re going to lose it. Why should the rest of the world cry for them, now?” I mean, I get very embarrassed when I remember I used to believe in this kind of stuff. I’m glad people on the CIF straightened me out with their informed and logical comments. BUT, having said that, I wish the comments for “khajeh” were still up there (they’ve taken’em down, I presume, because the moniker was banned) – because over the course of the 2 years which I commented under that moniker, if you compared the beginning comments with the ones made a few months before it was banned, you could clearly see the change in my attitude, thoughts, and even consciousness. To use the terms you use as metaphor sometimes, which I always greatly appreciate because it helps my understanding, I began commenting on CIF as an “Epimetheus man” and ended up somewhere close to, I think, the “Prometheus man.”

    BTW, after posting my last comment here, I remembered something a commentator once told me on CIF regarding my first moniker being banned. After I got a new account with “khajeh2”, in a CIF piece, someone asked me what happened to the “khajeh” moniker. I responded by telling what had happened. Then, someone told me very nicely that the real reason I was banned was because my comment was categorized as a verbal insult against the author of the piece, who himself was a man from Congo. And CIF had policies against that. I thought I mention this, since I forgot to mention it above.

    Also, regarding logging and commenting here, I thought that’s how everyone else commented here: by writing their E-mail and the moniker and then writing up their comment and that’s it. In fact, as I’m writing these words right now, those fields are already filled in from last time I opened a browser. So, I don’t even have to type those again. But I do remember that when I was trying to sign up for an account, it kept telling me that my moniker “LittleBigMan” was already taken by someone else, and because I didn’t want to change my moniker, I gave up on signing up for an account.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Here’s something of the justification that Steiner gives for why the autonomy of the cultural-spiritual sphere from the political and economic is mandatory. It’s a lecture — part of a lecture — delivered at The Hague around 1922… about 3 years before his death in 1925. Given his views expressed here, it’s obvious why education cannot be adequate when controlled either by political or by economic interests.

    Click to access RB13_1steiner.pdf

  6. Alex Jay says :

    Oh my wonderful Scott … didn’t we sort this out with Fichte (the Hegelian rubbish ages ago), so here I am back from the land of the dead (my Osiris moment) to ask why you still state: “Given his views expressed here, it’s obvious why education cannot be adequate when controlled either by political or by economic interests.” But you know! It’s not an accident. The agenda is crystal clear. I remember Infinite Warrior (lovely lady) taking me to task about “social engineering” being some sort of conspiracy theory, when the evidence is legion. You might want to check this out, even though I’ve (We) have known it in practice or intuitivley. The educational system has gone down the drain since we’ve discarded the Greek Trivium-Quadrivium system, which taught students “HOW” to think for the contrived servile Fichtian (however you spell it) “What” to think social engineering project that the informed lady in the link will graciously elucidate:

    Click to access DDDoA.sml.pdf

    It’s not a mystery …

    Oh by the way: Is Mr. Keck still waiting for Barry Obama to stop smoking his “hopium”?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Well, Alex. Long time no hear from. I’ll give your “deliberate dumbing down” a read, but I’ve already glanced through the preface and can tell you frankly that Ms. Iserbyt does not understand dialectics and the nature of dialectical (or mental-rational) consciousness, for thesis and anti-thesis is an essential factor in the art of reasoning called “discernment”, and is otherwise known as “compare and contrast”, which is an essential function of all healthy reason. What Ms Iserbyt is doing is promoting anti-reason under the guise of being something else. Dialectics has its roots in Socratic dialogue, where the process of question and response/answer later became abstracted as thesis and anti-thesis. Socrates method is therefore a democratic and responsible one, and rooted in real world process. The give and take of conversation, argument, and debate leads to an agreement or consensus that is now called “synthesis”, assuming both interlocutors are united by a common desire to realise the truth (the essential meaning of the process to begin with).

      The problem of deficient rationality emerged when one and the same mind was expected to be both speaker and listener, or put the question and also answer it, too. That leads into Cartesian metaphysical dualism from which both Hegel and Marx are descended as this “thesis” and “anti-thesis” in terms of abstract idealism and historical materialism, as the mind’s attempt to work out the subject-object dichotomies raised by metaphysical dualism and contemporary rationalised consciousness.

      And from there you get “social engineering” of the Fichtean or Marxian flavour, as the new Capitalist Man (after Ayn Rand) or Socialist Man, each claiming to be “democratic” (the fascists claimed as much, too) and each claiming to be based on rational or scientific principles rooted in the assumption that the individual mind begins as “tabula rasa” and therefore must be imprinted, acculturated, or socialised to function as an individual within a particular socio-cultural milieu.

      “Social engineering” is no more than a technical-rational translation and implementation of what was earlier practiced as induction or, in the Christian era, “bringing the soul to Christ”. It is the same process practiced by different means. In the Christian Era and the Age of Faith, “indoctrination” didn’t have the pejorative sense it has acquired today, when the mental-rational consciousness and the Age of Reason turned instead to classical Greek (Renaissance) rather than Judeo-Christian sources of authority and thus passed from the mythical to the mental-rational structure of consciousness (not without much bloodshed, revolution, and persecution, it will be noted) and the emphasis shifted from “soul” to “mind” or intellect (Ego).

      The Age of Reason came to an abrupt and ignominous end during and after the First World War, and this is what Steiner, Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, amongst others are pointing out. The Lost Generation, the Beats, the Hippies and Yippies of the 60s who shouted for “relevance” in education were trying to emancipate the cultural-spiritual realm from subservience to an already obsolete and discredited mode of consciousness that persisted, zombie-like, despite the new post-War realities. It is typical of the inertia of human thinking and consciousness that it persists despite reality, lingering about as a lost cause. Socrates was executed because an older structure of consciousness already in decay, the mythical structure, tried to preserve itself against a new structure representing the future, the mental-rational structure. Giordano Bruno was executed by the Inquisition, and Galileo persecuted, for the same reasons. “Renaissance” means the rebirth of the Greek Mind after centuries of laying dormant (like Merlin allegedly in his cave), and it demonstrates how a new structure of consciousness can be abortive.

      “Social engineering” emerges during and after the First World War, and the justification for it is given precisely in Bernays’ 1928 book Propaganda and in the wonderful documentary series The Century of the Self. By this time, the decay and degeneracy of the mental-rational structure (or Reason) is in full display, as Rosenstock-Huessy describes it in his important essay “Farewell to Descartes”, which was written roughly at the same time. Bernays and Rosenstock-Huessy therefore might be considered the “thesis” and “anti-thesis” of that time, but actually, it is a polarisation of past and future. Reading these two works together by way of “compare and contrast” is very instructive of the emerging conflict between those anxious to preserve their own structure of consciousness and identity (the mental-rational), and the newly emerging structure of consciousness (the integral) that Rosenstock represents. “Social engineering”, which actually represents a perversion and decay of the mental-rational structure, is a reactionary response to the irruption of the integral structure by people claiming to be themselves a kind of “illuminati”.

      Now, Bernays, who is the exemplary type and also authority for this “social engineering”, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud as well as the founder of “Public Relations”. Even this term “Public Relations” represents the Ego-It dualism that Rosenstock denounces in “Farewell to Descartes” as the ultimate degeneration of metaphysical dualism which, by the way, early Christianity had forestalled by declaring (Manichaean) dualism a heresy and anathema. In any case, Bernays saw social engineering as a way of preserving the mental-rational structure against what Freud had feared as “the black tide of mud” of the occult, and which he considered characteristic of the “masses”. “Social engineering” is in Bernays’ mind, a defence of the mental-rational structure of consciousness, now located only in an elite, against the emerging nihilism of the masses after the World War and in that sense, a kind of self-defence strategy.

  7. Alex Jay says :

    “What Ms Iserbyt is doing is promoting anti-reason under the guise of being something else.”
    Hardly fair and out of context — Throwing back one of your favourite quotes (paraphrased): there’s a fine line between truth and falsehood. The Socratic dialectic – fine-tuned by Hegel – can/has devolved in it’s deficient mode to “problem-reaction-solution”. I think that is what Ms Iserbyt has in mind? The purpose, after all, is to expose an orchestrated agenda of diminishing the Self (anti-Narcissistic, which I thought you would support) into a collective serfdom consciousness; ie education vs. indoctrination.

    Ms Iserbyt is a rare special woman. She is linked by blood to “the masters of the universe” in that her father was a chum of Prescott Bush (no relation with the Prescot bit, I hope) the patriarch of the Bush mafia through the infamous Skull & Bones (Yale Uni) CIA fraternity, and had the cajones (some women have bigger one’s than men – metaphorically speaking) to let the cat out of the bag of what these privileged Galtonian Social Darwinist scum bags were all about. Brave – to reveal the family skeletons in the closet – and still alive at 80 plus years old.

    Furthermore, I think you give Mr. Bernays far more intellectual lee-way than you should. As far as I’m concerned, he is no more than a corporate pimp that used his illustrious uncle’s dubious head-shrinking regressive animal instinct perspective (I prefer Jung) for the purpose of mental manipulation. The upshot of which has produced some of the 20th century’s greatest control freak disciples like Joseph Goebells (my spelling sucks), the NY Times, Washington Post, (any corporate media junk – and yes, I include your favourite rag – the Guardian). Bernays was a nasty piece of work and in my top 5 of the people that the 20th century would have been better off not enjoying his existence.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Ms. Iserbyt is not conscious, and fails to understand even one very simple thing about dialectics, which she gets totally wrong. From there, then, its all downhill. In fact, I’ld say she even gets it willfully wrong and then proceeds from that foundational and preliminary error to devise a kind of Rush Limbaugh history of everything. Moreover, she seems seldom to actually cite primary sources for her views, but always someone else’s views of the primary sources, meaning she’s not really engaged in thinking herself, only in rationalising preconceived views.

      First fact to consider, again, is this: dialectics is not some insidious “socialist/fascist” programme. Dialectics is the self-consciousness of the reasoning process and of the mental-rational structure of consciousness with its rules of logical relation just as grammar is the self-consciousness of language and the rules of articulation. Thesis and anti-thesis are logical abstract terms that stand in for dual-pair relationships like “future and past” or “subject and object”. If we want to consider the dialectical relationship in its most direct application to the interpretation of physical reality as a structure of two times and two spaces then it appears to us in these terms. In socio-historical terms pertaining to the temporal dimension of society, thesis could mean conservative (or reactionary) and anti-thesis the progressive (or revolutionary). Thesis and anti-thesis represent the contradictory manifestations of time and space in process of attempting to reconcile themselves within a unity (synthesis). In terms of the reasoning process, thesis and anti-thesis represent the positive and negative poles of a battery. They look like absolute opposites, but without their cooperation, no energy flows.

      It’s actually Ms. Iserbyt who equally represents the breakdown of dialectics into dualism, when she pits “national” against “globe”, or “individualism” (the private) against “collectivism” (the public), or “truth and absolutes” against “consensus” (as if these are necessarily opposites at all!). This kind of dualism represents the inner division of a mind in the throes of disintegration, for she must also necessarily (which she does) pit past against future, and subject against object.

      All this is not just nonsense, it’s dementia.

      Let’s get to the roots of the matter: Our dialectical (not dualistic) relationship to physical reality has its beginnings just after birth, when the organism previously an integral part of the mother’s body, suddenly discovers desire (need, want) and at the same time, the resistance of time and space to the fulfillment of that desire. As long as the organism was in the womb, no sense of conflict between desire and its satisfaction were experienced. Gratification is instantaneous and therefore desire or want or need never arises. Only after birth does the organism suddenly feel the sense of separation and distance between desire and gratification of the desire. Welcome to the world of space and time.

      This is the beginning of the sense of a subject-object divide. It is the beginning of an awakening to the formal structural realities of physical existence. To satisfy desires now requires a strategy to overcome the resistances of the world to satisfying those desires. Initially, it is through often deficient means (crying, throwing temper tantrums, attention-seeking behaviours, etc). It might even lead to magical techniques like spell-casting or wearing amulets and lucky charms or perhaps performance of certain rituals (perhaps of a superstitious nature) designed to overcome the resistance of all that is not-self (the strange) to the self (the familiar). In the mental-rational structure, it takes the form of dialectical reason by which the mind attempts to overcome the divide between the “I” and the “It” (or subject and object realms now represented abstractly as “thesis” — the familiar — and “anti-thesis” — the strange and stranger) by reason, rather than by prayer (mythological consciousness) or magical spell-casting (magical consciousness) or even by violent and aggressive attempts to subdue the resistance of the outer reality to the satisfaction of desire, want, or sense of neediness.

      Reason is, therefore, a fact of our biology, and is rooted in our organism, as an attempt of that organism to survive in a world where desire arises along with resistance to the satisfaction of that desire, even if the desire is simply “to know”. Reality presents itself to consciousness as a challenge. This is what Heraclitus meant when he observed that “strife is the father of all things”. That “strife” has often been translated even as “war” by people ignorant of the meaning of the word — eris — but eris has some connection with the word for desire eros

      Iserbyt is just as symptomatic of “deficient rationality” as those she criticises.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Might observe about Ms Iserbyt’s views also, that she really has a “secret agenda”, strongly critical of the New Left critique of “the authoritarian personality”, and her antipathy towards dialectical reason, (which is the basis of democracy too in terms of “peer review” or “I object your honour” and the very judicial process of prosecution and defence) — her views lean toward authoritarianism, and not democracy. The reason she has such antipathy to dialectics is because the method of dialectics undercuts the virtue of obedience. The “anti-thesis” is dissent, protest, and even rebellion. She, on the other hand, values obedience, which leads into patriarchy of the Hosni Mubarak variety — the “father of the nation” mythology and citizens as obedient children. Pharaohism or caesarism in that respect. It’s just “dictatorship of the proletariat” in reverse.

        She is in error, from the crown of her foot to the root of her head.

  8. abelardo19 says :

    Hi everybody,
    I’ve recently discovered Rosenstock-Huessy and consequently this blog, in which I’ve read some interesting posts over the Rosenstock.Huessy and some other interesting authors like Rudolf Steiner. I knew about the tripartite articulation of society in his works, but I don’t know where to find the bibliographic reference of the fourfold model, not very different from Steiner’s idea of society, of social order in Rosenstock-Huessy. Can you help me?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Scott Preston says :

      The quadrilateral (or cross of reality) is brought up in a number of Rosenstock-Huessy’s works, but the basic introduction to it is found in Speech and Reality, particularly the first chapter “In Defence of the Grammatical Method”.

      • abelardo19 says :

        Thanks Scott,

        I’ve read some exerpt from “Speech and reality” and other sources about his quadrilateral plan to be achieved, leaving from the study of “the inner, the outer, the backward, and the forward front”.
        But I can’t find where he deals with a social articulation where, as you write about Steiner, there’s an autonomy of the cultural-spiritual sphere from the political and economic ones.

        • Scott Preston says :

          ERH doesn’t fully endorse Steiner’s tripartition of society in that way, in keeping with his quadrilateral model based on grammar, which provides the common matrix for all the “fronts” of society. So “culture” for ERH is a fourfold affair of Politics, Science, Art, and Religion, which map to the four fronts of the cross of reality. Politics deals with the future front, Art with the inner front, Science with the outer front, and religion with the traditional or past front, or prejective, subjective, objective, and trajective aspects of the fourfold cross of reality.

          So, these are all seen as aspects of “culture”, rather than culture being a separate, autonomous aspect of Steiner’s tripartition.

          ERH’s approach thus seems more satisfying and complete than Steiner’s tripartition since now we see, in relation to the cross of reality, the roles of Jung’s four “psychological functions” of thinking, feeling, willing (or intuiting) or sensing, as well as the significance of Blake’s “four Zoas” and “fourfold vision”.

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