Individual – Nation – World

This article was first published in New View magazine Issue 84 Summer 2017

One of the major features of human development over the past 100 years has been the relationship between nationalism and what is variously called ‘internationalism’, ‘supranationalism’ or ‘cosmopolitanism’. First, the difference between these latter three terms should be clarified. Internationalism simply organises cooperative relations between nation states while recognising that the basic unit remains the nation state. The League of Nations, founded in 1919, and its successor, the United Nations (1945) are examples of this. But among the founders and ardent supporters of those two organisations there were already those, however, who believed that the age of nation states is past and that we should be moving to merge nation states into a supranational order of states on a continental basis and eventually, a single world state. The EU represents such a project; it has become the model for other such continental ‘unions’ and blocs – the North American Free Trade Area (1993), the African Union (2001), the South American Union (2008).These are currently international organisations, but the direction of travel is towards supranationalism. In a speech in 1947 (14 May, London) Winston Churchill made it clear(1) that he regarded a  “United States of Europe”, as the “indispensable first step” towards an “authoritative, all-powerful world order”, an “effective World Super-government”. In a supranational order, the nation states are no longer be fully sovereign and independent; they surrender full sovereignty for the sake of the perceived advantages of belonging to the larger collective. The third term, ‘cosmopolitanism’ (from the Greek kosmos and polis) is less narrowly political than the other two; it does not refer only to states and is more cultural and wide-ranging. It recognises that within a certain geographical or even mentally conceived area there is a diversity of views, behaviours and lifestyles rather than a homogeneity.

Over the last 120 years or so there has been considerable tension between advocates of nationalism, internationalism and supranationalism. Extreme nationalists (super- or ultra-nationalists) reject both internationalists and supranationalists and any attempt to weaken national sovereignty; they are even suspicious of cooperation between nations. Internationalists reject nationalists as outmoded; some think the time is not yet ripe for supranationalism and others look forward to moving from internationalism to supranationalism; while others again believe supranationalism to be a utopian delusion. Convinced supranationalists reject nationalism outright and consider internationalists are too timid and conservative though they may be prepared to work with them in order to draw them over to supranationalism. Extreme supranationalists would like to see a One World government as soon as possible. In recent years, in response to the phenomenon of economic ‘globalisation’, which has been driven especially by supranationalistically-minded people in transnational corporations who put their own or their companies’ economic interests before their own nationality, there has been a widely recognised resurgence in the form of populist or (neo-) nationalist movements. Meanwhile, against this historical background of developments since approximately 1900 and in contrast to narrowly political and economic developments, what could be called a cosmopolitan mood has steadily been growing across the world, especially in the cultural sphere of life, the arts and sciences, the media and so on.

The Growing Child

To try to understand all this, it may first be helpful to look away from the abstract  ‘isms’ and towards an analogical process that happens in the life of the young human being. The young child is completely dependent on his parents. They structure his life and to a large extent may form his view of the world. Their religion, philosophy, or way of understanding the world becomes his. If they are sports fanatics, he too may well become one. He is with his parents almost all the time; they constantly watch over him, keep him safe, and tell him what to do and what not to do. The family is the centre of his world; we can say that it is his cosmos, and that its principle is oneness (assuming the parents do not divorce and the family breaks up when the child is still young, which is sadly an all-too common experience. But from the age of 5 or 6 when his parents first take him to school, or (worse) when his parents already give him his first mobile phone, he is suddenly exposed to a very different ‘environment’ which has its own structure and explicit rules. His world and his mind are suddenly expanded; he is now subject to different authorities – those of the teacher or of the system of online networks and Internet companies. His world bifurcates; there is now home and not-home: the authority of parents and of teachers, or the ‘authority’ of the Internet. He has entered into a state in which the principle is that of twoness, duality, and the growing child has to find his way though this. The result is that by degrees, very slowly in most cases, though faster in others – for example, where his family breaks up, his remaining parent becomes addicted to drugs and he, at the age of say, 10 or 12, has to become the pillar that holds the family together – the child begins to move from being a member of group, and subject to the authority structures of that group, to becoming an autonomous individual. Society tells him that at 18, he is legally autonomous and that his parents have no further claim over him. He is no longer subject to them. But he is now, as it were, fully subject to the State: amongst other things, the State now legally recognises his right to have sex, procreate, marry, be employed, establish a business, drive a car, have his own passport, fight for the State and vote in elections that select the government of the State. Having left his family, as it were, already when he entered the State-sponsored and supervised school he enters into a complex relationship with his country and with its State. He now has a ‘stake’ in society.

In the meantime, however, our young person has become – it is to be hoped – not just a legally autonomous person, but an inwardly autonomous person in that she has developed her own ideas, learned to think for herself and to decide on the values that she chooses to uphold. Our modern society assumes that by 18 a child has become an adult, an individual. In fact, however, in various ways, this legally autonomous young person may not yet be truly autonomous but may still cleave to group affiliation in certain ways. She may still live with her parents and still feel inwardly dependent on them; she may still be a devoted member of the church in which she was brought up; she may still be a keen supporter of the football team her father introduced her to at the age of 8; she may be an ardent fan, along with millions of others,  of a certain pop celebrity or  equally, she may be a fanatical member of a radical political group that provided her with a psychological support system when she was alone in her first year of university. In other words, in her late teens and early twenties, she still has one foot in the former world of ‘oneness’, of the group collective, and one foot in the new world of individual autonomy. This is a further development of the state of ‘twoness’ into which the young person entered when he or she first started school education.

Often, as the twenties go on and pass into the thirties, the young person moves increasingly out of the former group affiliations and more fully into the new world of individual autonomy, but as a society, as a culture, though we pay lip service to this individual autonomy, we can by no means say that this movement has truly become the norm. Many people still go through their adult lives without parting from the old affiliations they made in their childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Many remain more or less fixed, as it were, where they were around the age of 18-21. Their political views, their artistic and cultural choices, their attitude to life in general may not change much after that. They may think, at, say, 35 or 50, that they are autonomous adults, but in fact, in various ways, they have not moved on from that state of advanced ‘twoness’ or duality that they were in around the age of 21.

In late adolescence and especially when young people leave home, it is often the case that their idealism changes and their former religious or political worldview, which may have been based on their parents’ religion or political convictions changes and expands to become something much broader that takes in more global concerns, especially today when technology enables young people to make contacts around the world and to gain information so easily. They may become passionately concerned about the global environment, for instance, about solidarity with developing countries, or with the work of the United Nations. These concerns may reflect their own expanding consciousness as a result both of leaving home, coming into a larger environment such as a big city, a university or company, and of developing their own thinking or responding to their own feelings. But the young person is still in a form of ‘twoness’ -  the polarity of point (the ever stronger sense of self) and periphery (the awareness of global issues and needs). Many young egos of the more idealistic nature expand in such a way that they want to identify with the entire world; their natural egotism embraces the world; this was once expressed by the rock musician Jim Morrison of the American band The Doors who said: “We want the world and we want it now!” Rather than just hedonistically wanting to experience all that the world and life has to offer, which is probably what Morrison had in mind, many young people today feel the urge to serve the whole world or humanity in some way. This can be admirable but it can also lose sight of the third element that is missing between the individual point and the global periphery. This third element is the local or national community.

Nationalism and Individualism

To return now to where I began – nationalism and cosmopolitanism – when we look at the broad span of historical development, we can see that over the past approximately 10,000 years since the last Ice Age human social organisation unfolded from what we could call the small, all-embracing, all-determining cosmos of family, clan and tribe through the stage of kingdoms based on the family model (royal bloodlines) and then ever larger empires derived from those kingdoms. Those empires, which were larger cosmoses, were still based on the principle of oneness (e.g. the empires of the Pharaohs, of Persia, Rome, China, Japan, Byzantium, and Mesoamerica).The Emperor in China, for example, was regarded as the Son of Heaven, in effect, a demigod and his people lived within the impulses that rayed out from the imperial throne; their entire lives were framed by these impulses. In most cases, however, these old empires eventually decayed and broke down. In Europe, the last great empire of the old type of oneness or universalism, was that of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519-1555), who ruled much of Europe and the Americas. In his lifetime, however, the new principle of nationalism was emerging, symbolised by Charles’ two main foreign rivals, king Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) and king Francis I of France (1515-1547). Whereas Charles and subsequent Holy Roman Emperors remained faithful to the universalist Roman Catholic church, its precepts and objectives, the rulers of England and France increasingly went their own national egocentric way to the point where, in the Thirty Years’ War of the 17th century (1618-1648) French foreign policy was guided for decades by two Catholic Cardinals, Richelieu  and Mazarin, in opposition to the interests both of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy; Europe witnessed the spectacle of Catholic Cardinals directing French armies into battle against the Catholic forces of the Catholic Empire. This was done in the name of the French state, but it actually expressed a new French national consciousness, at least among the upper echelons of society. A form of Catholicism even emerged in France, called Gallicanism, that was coloured by this national consciousness. It was “the notion that national customs might trump Roman (Catholic Church) regulations”(2) (and it was the closest that France came to the separation from Rome of the Anglican Church of England.

This new nationalism reflected the breakdown of the old universalist cosmic order of kingdoms and empires and the rise of individual consciousness since the late 15th century. Explaining this development is a complex matter but suffice it to say that it reflected the fact that Europeans had passed through what can be called the puberty crisis of their own culture (14th and 15th centuries) and had entered the first stage of late adolescence; they had entered that stage which in the individual young person is seen around the age of 16 when young people begin to separate inwardly from their parents. Nationalism, national consciousness accompanied and helped to birth the new age of individual consciousness that emerged in Europe out of the Middle Ages. It represents an intermediate stage as individual cultures became self-conscious vis-à-vis other cultures and affirmed themselves egocentrically (the word is used here descriptively and not pejoratively) against the ancient universalist authority of Pope and Emperor, who provided what can be described as the ‘parental’ framework for European civilisation. The ‘parents’ of this ‘Christian’ Europe were the Emperors and the Popes, and we see at the very beginning of this process in the Christian world, Christ Jesus standing condemned between an ‘emperor’ and a ‘pope’. Pontius Pilate was the representative of the Roman Emperor, and Caiaphas was the ‘pope’ of the Jewish religious life of his day, a representative of ancient Asian spiritual life. From the 15th century onwards, Europeans (e.g. the Lollards in England, the Hussite proto-Protestants in Bohemia, and Martin Luther and the other German-speaking reformers) began to rebel against these ‘parents’, the Emperor and the Pope, and insisted on going their own way; each one wanted to become the ‘Emperor’ or ‘Pope’ of his own life. Out of this rebellion would come nationalism and individualism.

Rudolf Steiner describes this complex process in his lectures published in English under the title From Symptom to Reality in Modern History (GA 185, especially lectures 1-3). Nationalism and individualism accompanied each other, but Steiner points out that they came from different places. Individualism is that which stems from the individual human soul, “the inmost depths of [man’s] being”; Steiner links this with “the impulse of Christianity”, meaning not the Christian church as such, but the Christian spirit, the impulse and model of Christ Jesus. This new sense of the young assertive egoic personality can perhaps best be felt in the giant portraits of themselves that rulers and the wealthy commissioned in the late 16th and throughout the 17th centuries. Such bombast had rather gone out of fashion by the 19th century. Even portraits of Napoleon do not have that lofty haughtiness  that is so often in seen in portraits of ‘bigwigs’(3) about a hundred years earlier.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is a modern, usually abstract and intellectualised form of the old naturalistic group heredity impulse: “as a member of a national group, man creates nothing of himself; he merely underlines the fact that, in a sense, he has developed naturally like a plant, like a member of the natural order”(4), a product of ‘blood and soil’, as it were. Nationalism is a hangover from the old cosmos of group identity that has appeared as an intermediary between the old social unitary cosmos and the new culture of individualism. Steiner shows that the relationship between nationalism and individualism took different forms in France and England, a difference which would have a huge impact on subsequent world history, through colonisation and imperialism, because “like the trade winds, the national impulse flowed from West to East”; the colonised peoples would imbibe this new modern nationalism from their colonisers. In England, says Steiner, the national element was predominant and in France the personal. This led the national element in France to turn inward; in France, “the national element tends to transform the inner being of man, to make him other than he is” whereas “in England [and by extension we can perhaps say also ‘in the English-speaking world’ - TB] the personal element transcends nationalism and seeks to embrace the whole world and to promote everywhere the development of personality. The Frenchman wishes rather to develop the personal element in the soul , the Englishman to extend the principle of personality to the whole of mankind…In the one case the national element turns inwards, towards the individual soul; in the other it is directed outwards, towards the soul of mankind.”(5)

However, a more literal English translation of the penultimate sentence in the above quote from Steiner differs somewhat from the German original, which is: Der Franzose will mehr zum Erzieher des Persönlichen in der Seele werden, der Engländer will zum Kolonisator der ganzen Menschheit werden mit Bezug auf die Einpflanzung der Persönlichkeit: “the Frenchman wants more to become the educator of the personal [element] in the soul; the Englishman wants to become the coloniser of the whole of mankind in regard to the implanting [or instilling] of personality”. In other words, the French national element leads the French to educate the personal element in their own souls, while the English national element leads the English to seek to colonise the world with personality. This contrast of ‘educator’ and ‘coloniser’ is instructive. The French national element seeks to change the personal within the soul, and within France itself. This helps to explain the strong French affirmation of their national culture with which they feel so personally identified and which fortifies their resistance to what they l’anglo-saxonisme  or l’anglobalisation. The English national element seeks not to change the personal but to expand it out into the world. A question that arises here is: are the English (and Americans) concerned to project personality as such out into the world or to project their own individual personalities out into the world? The Englishman who does the former learns to respect and affirm the personality of foreigners in foreign cultures as well as the unique characters of foreign cultures; the Englishman who does the latter remains an expat abroad, learns little and seeks to have foreigners adopt English ways.

Empire and Cosmopolitanism

Many readers will recognise that the age of nationalism, which first began to show signs of itself in the later Middle Ages in France, Switzerland, England, Bohemia, Spain and Italy, reached a kind of peak with the First World War, which erupted when nationalist, imperialist and capitalist impulses exploded in an almighty clash. But this is already to mention two new impulses – capitalism and imperialism. Capitalism began to emerge in the 17th century with the early forms of the modern economy, such as the company, global trading companies, central banks, stock markets and early industrial developments. The urban economic sphere of society was unfolding in its own right, slowly asserting itself vis-a-vis religion and the State. This new capitalism financed colonisation, which was also made possible by the new scientific and technological developments that had been prompted and stimulated by translations of ancient writings since the Renaissance. At first, colonisation, especially in the Protestant countries, was a matter largely of seeking individual profit, but by the early 19th century this more self-centred motivation was giving way to something more idealistic under the impact, especially in Britain, of an earnest Evangelical religious revivalism which led men to combine British nationalism with a sense, after the defeat of Napoleon, that the British must have become ‘the Chosen People of God’. The prudent and pedantic middle classes of urban Victorian Britain decided that mere profit and greed were not suitable motivators for imperial ventures. Macleod Wylie wrote in his Bengal as a Field of Mission in 1854: “When the contrast between the influence of a Christian and a Heathen government is considered; when the knowledge of the wretchedness of the people forces us to reflect on the unspeakable blessings to millions that would follow the extension of British rule, it is not ambition but benevolence that dictates the desire for [control of] the whole country. Where the Providence of God will lead, one state after another will be delivered into his stewardship.”(6) The mid-Victorian social thinker John Stuart Mill “saw the cultural transformation of the non-European world as inextricably linked to its economic transformation. These twin currents of the Evangelical desire to convert India to Christianity and the Liberal desire to convert it to capitalism flowed into one another, and over the entire British Empire.”(7)

Empire now came to be seen not just as something immensely profitable and good for the personal and national bank balance but as good for the individual and national moral ‘bank balance’, with the heavenly afterlife very much in mind. British culture was here at the stage of the young adult in his late teens driven by both egotism and an ever expanding idealism. These contradictory motivations are still with us today. How often have we not heard our politicians speak of intervention in another country’s affairs that will be of benefit to that country but also in our own national self-interest? In the last quarter of the 19th century other, less religiously ‘exalted’ Britons peered into the future and, influenced by the fashionable new creed of Social Darwinism and its dogma of ‘survival of the fittest’, felt that the country would only survive and compete with giant states such as the USA and Russia if it turned its empire into a single federated union. Natural science now ruled the minds of the educated, and science was based on quantity and numbers; size was what counted – large economic units. By 1900, thinking was global in all fields, in science, economy, philosophy, the arts and media. The books and newspapers  read by the literate readily directed their readers’ attention here and there across the world to the aerial achievements of the Wright Brothers, the philosophies of Nietzsche, Vivekananda and Karl Marx, the art of Gauguin and Picasso, the novels of Joseph Conrad, the ground-breaking work of Marie Curie or Gregor Mendel. It was the new cosmopolitanism, and yet, just as the burgeoning age of individualism had been coloured by the new spirit of nationalism in the 17th century, so was this new age of cosmopolitanism and empire on the eve of the 20th century also thoroughly permeated by the egocentric nationalist spirit, a spirit which had grown since 1600 to become omnipresent throughout European and American culture and was already spreading to Asia. This powerful nationalist wave now seemed to culminate; driving imperialism into a fatally arrogant, militaristic cul-de-sac, it crashed upon Europe in the form of the world wars of the 20 century, and seemed to crush the new nascent cosmopolitan spirit. After the apparent defeat of Fascism and Nazism in 1945, nationalism in Europe fell into quiescence, frozen by the Cold War, though in the colonial empires in Africa and Asia which had been less devastated than Europe by the two world wars, the momentum of nationalism continued until those empires were overwhelmed by it; one by one they gave way before demands for independence. These nationalist struggles in the developing countries began to inspire young people in Europe and America who were exasperated by the rigidities of their own societies in the Cold War period. Causes which had seemed long dead, forgotten or quiescent, such as civil rights for black people in the USA, Celtic nationalism, the struggles of the native peoples of America or the New Zealand Maoris, quickened into new life. In the 1960s interest was rekindled in ancient forms of art, culture and music in the West and in other such forms outside the western world. Signs of frustration with the conventional western political system and with the established form of capitalism became widespread; there was a huge revolt of the young in the 1960s across the world, a resurgence in extreme politics on both the Left and Right, and the beginnings of the feminist and environmental movements. The 1960s saw the beginnings of what we today call ‘identity politics’, in which people, especially younger people, focus on specific issues with which they feel personally identified or attached to, rather than on more general pan-social political issues as with the conventional political parties and themes of the first 60 years of the 20th century. In our time, with the growth of the Internet, this identity politics has rapidly spread around the world, especially in relation to gender and environmental issues, and more recently, in opposition to Donald Trump. Just as new technological changes played a key role in the development of colonialism in the 17th century, as mentioned by Rudolf Steiner in 1918 (see above), so have they facilitated the growth of this identity politics, from the globally synchronised Band Aid concerts of the 1980s in aid of famine in Africa and concerts in support of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela to the global scale of the anti-inequality ‘Occupy movement’ of 2009-2012.

Through these movements and especially via the Internet, many young people have come to see themselves as sharing global and cosmopolitan perspectives. The same slogans, masks, costumes, banners, chants, styles of protest and levels of   appear all over the world. This would seem to be ‘cosmopolitan’, but in fact most of them originate in the USA. Business practices, police and military techniques, pop music styles and Internet practices are now also increasingly broadly similar across the capitalist world, but again, many of them have their origins in a single country – the USA, so we can ask ourselves: how genuinely ‘cosmopolitan’ is all this? Yes, our supermarkets are full of products from all over the world, and we can pick and choose whatever food and drink we want and whatever music we want for our playlists; we can range across countless global TV stations and vicariously travel the world in near 3D quality without leaving our sofas, but how real and again, how genuinely ‘cosmopolitan’ is all this? Is cosmopolitanism merely a matter of quantity and consumer options? Eight out of the world’s ten leading media companies are actually based in the USA.(8) Our big cities may have districts or ghettos in which mostly first-, second- or third-generation immigrants from various countries live, but how much do the indigenous population personally interact with those people except at work, where they are obliged to do so? Nevertheless, there is no doubt that compared to 100 years ago, the West has indeed become much more ‘cosmopolitan’, at least in the big cities. Thanks to the revolution in communications technology since the appearance of the world wide web just 24 years ago, we are much more ‘globally aware’ than we used to be – if we want to be. From the old small scale cosmos of family, clan and tribe, then, social order has evolved through the old kingdoms and empires to state-nations and then nation states and new cosmopolitan empires or cosmopolitan nation states with larger or smaller immigrant communities and also to newer forms such as the European Union, which could be described as a new form of cosmopolitan ‘empire state’, in which states are created, or, in the case of the EU, are in the process of being created gradually by the elites that run them, by melding  nation states together with differing histories, cultures, religions, and languages. This is of course the difference between the USA and the USE that is under construction in Europe: the USA has a single history and language.

Individual – Nation – World

Rudolf Steiner pointed out that such is the nature of things in a world governed by dualism, the principle of twoness, that developments in one direction are invariably accompanied by those in the opposite direction. For example, after the French Revolution, when the old aristocracy of blood and family gave way before the democratic spirit in which individuals of all classes insisted  on being treated with dignity and justice as individuals, politics based on democratic parliamentary majorities gradually appeared all over Europe, but equally, a new form of aristocracy also began to emerge – that of the plutocrats of money, and this has come to the point today where a tiny percentage of the world’s population, the ultra-rich, a few billionaires, own well over half of the wealth of the entire world. People are losing confidence in the democratic system of parties and majorities; they sense that it changes nothing essential because the ultra-rich can buy influence through all kinds of leverage and lobbying behind the scenes, which the so-called democratic mainstream media avoid examining. Similarly, the cosmopolitan spirit was indeed growing around the turn of the 20th century (see above) but it was almost immediately being penetrated by special interests. For example, supranationalist organisations such as the League of Nations and later the United Nations were conceived and devised largely by people who served the interests of elites in a particular culture, namely, the Anglo-American. I have written about this in previous articles in New View. The cosmopolitan idealism and goodwill of many people was utilised and channelled in directions that served the particularist aims of these elites. The wars of the 1990s were an example of this, in the Persian Gulf (1990-91) and former Yugoslavia when the UN and NATO were used to attain certain Anglo-American aims. Rudolf Steiner said of these new, so-called cosmopolitan or supranational organisations:

“With the Wilsonian League of Nations institutions are created which are bound to lead to mischief and constant suffering, when abstract human desires are imposed on  facts;… when one frees up something that is free it must lead to peaceful development; if it is unfree, it must lead to warlike conflicts. One cannot create the future condition of humanity through institutions, as Wilson and the Entente want to do; it will arise when one frees up the facts through which it can emerge….”. It was not the unitary national states assembled together in the League of Nations that could realise a lasting post-war order, because they had been the very states “which had led mankind into this dreadful catastrophe.” Rather, through the threefold ordering of the social organism a foundation for inner liberation and development in a universal-human sense had to be experienced. “The liberated human being alone would be able to lay the foundation for the ideas, feelings and acts of will which have to be operative in a modern League of Nations.(9)

Only free autonomous individuals acting within the three separate autonomous and interrelating spheres of modern human life – culture and spirituality, politics and law, and the economy – can liberate their societies, Steiner insisted; their societies and States can never truly liberate them. By “autonomous and interrelating” here is meant in the same sense in which the three physiological systems of the human organism are both separate and yet interrelate – the nervous system, the circulatory system and the metabolic system. This understanding, which is already an operative reality within the microcosm of the human organism, takes us to the third level of social organisation, which is actually coming about at the present time, but very slowly, and through great tribulations, as human beings learn only slowly in social affairs and can show great resistance and rigidity when faced by what is coming at them from the future. It is the level of Threeness. We have moved from the old cosmos of oneness and uniformity (the stage of the ancient empires) through the phase of duality and twoness, when nationalism and the egocentric individual emerged (1500-2000), to the  incipient third stage of the threefold society in which science, research and the arts will be open to the rest of the world (without it they wither and stultify), as will economic activity, since it is self-evident that we all depend on each other in the modern world economy: if there were to be no coltan(10) from the Congo, there would be no mobile phones) but politics and law within countries will be a matter for national communities, respecting and reflecting the evolution of the historical conditions of social life in individual countries. Culturally, we belong to the cosmos of the mind; politically, we belong to the feelings of the national community; economically, we belong to the body of the world.

The new social macrocosm, especially in a region as variegated as Europe, should not be a great unitary soup, either global or regional – a larger version of the unitary nation state, because, as Steiner pointed out, it was precisely such unitary nation states, in which culture, politics and economy were all mixed up and mutually interfering, and were above all subject to interference by the State itself, that “had led mankind into [the] dreadful catastrophe” of the wars of the 20th century. The ‘European Association’ of the future must first be one in which the three spheres of culture, laws and economy are separate and interrelating within each country and in which the spheres of culture and economy in each country are free to relate to their counterparts in the other countries in the Association (during the Cold War this was either impossible or very difficult) but in which each country’s legal/political  sphere will be sovereign in that country; here the national element must be preserved. This would mean, for example, that mass migration, as currently provided for and even encouraged by the EU economic principle of ‘freedom of labour’ in order to create the economy of a centralised unitary United States of Europe governed from a single political centre, would not be allowed, as it would radically alter and affect the social and political life of a member of the European Association. It should not be allowed that the egoism of economic agents should be permitted fundamentally to alter a country’s socio-political nature. But in any case, the essential reshaping of economic life in a threefold society would tend to forestall any tendencies to such economic egoism, as it would be realised that the purpose of economic activity is to cooperate in the service of one’s fellows’ needs and not just to maximise profits for oneself and one’s family or company.

No-one valued the cultural contributions of particular peoples and nations more than Rudolf Steiner and at the same time, no-one affirmed the importance of cosmopolitanism and mutual understanding between cultures as much as him. He pointed out as long ago as 191011 and never tired of repeating it thereafter that it is precisely in an increasingly cosmopolitan age like ours that we should take an ever keener interest in the national element, in other nations and cultures, as well as in our own because these are realities, just as individuals are realities and the world as a whole, humanity as a whole, is a reality. If we fail to be interested in this national element and neglect to pay attention to it, it can turn sour and negative. We saw the consequences in 1914 and in the 1930s, and we have seen them again since. Extreme nationalism (Fascism) and extreme cosmopolitanism (Communism, radical Islamism) are dangerous delusions in their different ways. The one would bind us to the unconscious instincts of the past in attachment to ‘blood and soil’; the other would seek to force us into a utopian, rigid system of super-rational principles governed by an all-knowing elite (the Party, the mullahs). There are those, either fearfully obsessed with the errors of the 20th century, or dreamers of a utopian world government, who would do away with nations altogether and dissolve them into ‘soupranational’ organisations. But this is not the healthy way forward, and would only create a new dualist polarity of point and periphery – the individual point and the abstract global periphery.

Individuals, nations, and the world – the interrelationships between these three are the fundamental facts of social life today. The true social revolutionary idea which Rudolf Steiner brought forward exactly 100 years ago this year – the threefold social organism – and the thoughts and actions which follow from it, are rooted in these facts.

1. The Cause of a United Europe, booklet published by  Conservative Group for Europe, London, 1996,
2. Professor John McGreevy, University of Notre Dame, USA
3. ‘Bigwigs’ is a term that has been applied to men of wealth and authority since the period 1660-
   1730 when it was fashionable for such men to wear long wigs, following the example of King Louis
   XIV of France. British chief justices, high court judges and Queen’s Counsel barristers still wear
   such wigs.
4. Lect. 1, GA 185 18.10.1918
5. See n. 4.
6. Niall Ferguson, Empire – How Britain Made the Modern World (2003), p.116.
7. Ibid., p. 141.
9. Markus Osterrieder, Welt im Umbruch – Nationalitätsfrage, Ordnungspläne und Rudolf Steiners
   Haltung im Ersten Weltkrieg (2014), p. 1402f. Transl. – TB.
11.R. Steiner, 17.6.1910 in The Mission of Folk Souls  – in connection with Germanic-Scandinavian
   Mythology (1989), p.145.