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Over a century ago Rudolf Steiner presented his ideas for a threefold social order. He felt these ideas were not understood by those around him and it must be asked: do we understand them today? This is not a social theory or doctrine. It is a living, dynamic way of perceiving and working with the human social organism. It calls upon the whole human being, the artistic sensibility as much as scientific clarity; it speaks to the heart.

We live in a time when the storm clouds of crisis gather over human civilisation worldwide. It is ancient wisdom that crisis offers an opportunity for change; the Greek word krisis means a crossroads, a decision. A significant feature of this contemporary crisis is that the political opposition of left and right has become far less significant. Events are pointing us belong this duality. Steiner's indications on the social threefold will yield a way forward - if they are properly understood.

Atelier for the Social Quest is a self-managed study course comprising three units: Nature, Society, Self; it is also a means of linking and presenting the work of independent "ateliers". Atelier here means small or large groups of people who are seeking to make their ideas and perceptions something living and active in the world. Natural science transforms into social art.


The aim is to cultivate the kind of phenomenology which awakens practical imaginative understanding, beyond just theory. In the way the poet Goethe observed natural phenomena, science and art are naturally united. We begin with careful observations of the phenomena around us in nature; this is how we proceed as scientists. Such observations can then become windows to the spirit at work in the world; this calls for the waking up of an artistic form of perception.  Rudolf Steiner spoke of a living picture imagination; Goethe called it a higher beholding.


The Atelier for the Social Quest course can be undertaken solo but is best worked with in a group - this community-building activity is a key to the social quest. Although each topic involves some individual preparation the main work involves observing natural and social phenomena with others and sharing insights. It is not an online course. You are invited to form a real-person, non-virtual atelier. 

Goethe's colour circle (his own illustration)

". . . 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

NATURE explores the fundamentals of Goethe's phenomenology – polarity, intensification, metamorphosis, exact sensory imagination – through engaging imaginatively with plant, animal, colour and human phenomena. At every point artistic insight enlivens scientific perception. 

This is followed by SOCIETY which is a study of the threefold social organism, Steiner’s picture of social renewal for the modern age. Steiner calls his social outlook "a new Goetheanism" (Freedom of Thought and Societal Forces, SteinerBooks, 2008, pp.98-105). Through a developed Goethean phenomenology this unit explores the ideals of the threefold social structure and its stages of development, the nature of capital and labour, the associative economy, the evolution of money and social sculpture, creativity and its education.  


The extension unit is SELF, which develops cognitive imagination at a higher level, looking at the growth and development of Western civilisation understood through key works of art. Here we are dealing with how modern society and contemporary human consciousness was shaped by the past.


The Atelier for the Social Quest course is only a beginning and an orientation. Much can be developed from these beginnings in relation to the needs and potentials of our time. Everything depends on the interests and capacities of those involved in any particular group. A potential role of this website is to connect groups and allow them to share their work so that the threefold social wholeness can be realised in our time and into the future. .

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