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The social quest is at the core of human existence. It is the quest for a form of social life which is good, which is beautiful, which is true to the dignity of the human spirit. Every human being should be able to flourish and find fulfilment through social life.


Rudolf Steiner’s key insight is that the way to social renewal in our time is not a revival of socialism, not an elaboration of capitalism, but an entirely new way to think our social situation. The eye of the spirit can learn to perceive that every society has a threefold form, in different states of realisation. Atelier for the Social Quest is the quest to perceive the threefold social archetype and realise its potential in all areas of life.

Goethe's colour circle (his own illustration)


Atelier for the Social Quest is not conducted online primarily. Although not so convenient, it is intended for people to be together in person and to work together. And it is more than a study group; it is best to think of a group, large or small, as a social art studio or atelier. To use the expression of Rudolf Steiner, we are seeking to awaken the "social will" - not as abstract ideas, not by means of new sociological theories, but through a living social thinking, an intense social imagination. Just as visual artists and poets develop their ideas through feeling and creative will, so it is with the social artist.

How does one cultivate such a living social will? Perhaps surprisingly, following the indications of Steiner, a key way is to study colours, plants, animals and human physiology, with many artistic exercises involved. This is not the usual method of studying nature - it is a study which enters with exact feeling and will into living form, which experiences the gestures and dynamic qualities of forms as "imaginations" in order to know them, in the manner of Goethe's artistic science. This is the thinking of the whole human being, a non-abstract, living thinking. 

Each atelier is a seed of a new form of university - a university which still does not exist but is a potential of our time. This university will not be a top-down government or economic initiative; it will be the creation of all those with the understanding and living social will to bring it into existence. It is not necessary to have the university as one's aim in order to undertake the Atelier for the Social Quest, but for school leavers and older people who are seeking an entirely new direction in their learning, this is a key aim of the course.



With the advent of AI a certain kind of human thinking is rapidly transforming human social life. AI will be the key to the coming-into-being of smart cities. This digital age altogether is a powerful intensification of a form of human intelligence which has had a long cultural development. This is a strictly logical thinking, the thinking which gave rise to modern analytical science and all forms of modern technology. In this course it is called a "solid" or "Earth thinking" for reasons which are explored in the Nature unit.

For all its gifts to human society, this logical "solid thinking" is only one aspect of human intelligence. As the digital world becomes all-pervasive, its limitations and dangers to human freedom and human imagination become ever more apparent. As the German lyric poet Hölderlin declared: "Where there is danger, there the power to save also grows". Atelier for the Social Quest takes its start from the need to bring forth the human capacity for a living, imaginative form of thinking.


Atelier for the Social Quest develops through four modules: Nature, Society, Economics, Self. Each of these modules is shaped according to the following principles:

". . . a spiritual contemplation of nature will provide means for the kind of training in thought which, among other things, makes it possible to comprehend the social organism".

Rudolf Steiner, The Renewal of the Social Organism

FROM THE WHOLE TO THE PARTS: Goethean whole-plant and whole-animal study

develops the ability to see each social phenomenon, each social event, each decision, in terms of the social whole, the threefold unity.


EXACT IMAGINATION: Goethe observed colours, plants, animals with what he called “exact sensory imagination”; this trains the exact perception of social phenomena – an open-hearted, reverential way of seeing.


POLARITY: Goethe called polarity “one of the driving forces of all creation”. We experience polarity in the realms of colour, plant, animal and human form. True polarity is a threefold – two poles and the linking or mediating principle. This is how we can learn to experience the threefold archetype as expressed in the social realm.


METAMORPHOSIS: polarity drives the creative process of metamorphosis. Goethean

observation involves cognitively experiencing metamorphosis in colours, in plant, animal and human form. Many metamorphic process shape the human social order – for example in economics, the transformation of Earth substance into spiritual potential (capital).


INTENSIFICATION: what is hidden, in potential, visible only to the spiritual eye, comes to concrete expression through intensification or heightening. Goetheanistically we follow the growth of a plant toward the revelation of the flower. Likewise we follow the gradual revelation of the threefold social order through civilisations over centuries, perceived through key works of art.


The new university is dedicated to the thinking of the whole human being, a being of thinking, feeling and willing; a truly living, imaginative thinking in which the scientific and artistic are equally active; a phenomenological approach which discovers how the physical forms and processes of the natural and human worlds are in truth expressions of creative spirit.

If you would like to register your interest please click the button below; you will receive periodic newsletters. In these newsletters topics such as the following will be presented, discussed and developed:

  • the role of Goethean science/phenomenology in an orientation course within the new university, in all years of study and in relation to all faculties.

  • the use of the different arts in the teaching of Goethean phenomenology.

  • the form and function of the new university as an expression of the threefold social life.

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