Solving Burning Conflicts through the Separation of Culture and State: by Travis Henry

Solving Burning Conflicts

Through the Separation of Culture and State

by Travis Henry, 2014

The Old Bridge over the river Neretva. It was destroyed during the Bosnian war, and has since been rebuilt.


Oj Savice tija vodo ladna, tija vodo ladna, prevezi me tamo i ovamo. I u selu najlepsa djevojka.

“Oh Sava, carry me across your quiet, cool water. There is my dear village, and in that village, the prettiest girl.”

—a Croatian folk song


Introduction: A Kingdom Without Bridges

Once upon a time there was a kingdom which had no bridges. Through isolation, or a quirk of destiny, the art of bridge-building had never developed in this land. The people blithely waded across all streams. The sound and odor of squishy wet feet was ubiquitous. There were many slips and falls into the creeks, resulting in drenched clothing at best, and broken bones at worst. And the wide and deep river which ran through the middle of the kingdom was a daunting obstacle. If family and friends lived on the other side, people simply swam across. Of course a country which has no bridges, has no boats either. No other way was known.

Commerce between the two halves of the valley was minimal, because only a small sack of goods could be carried by a single swimmer. Though the people of this kingdom were relatively adept at swimming, as human beings they were not impervious to the natural force of fast-flowing, turbulent waters. Even with their admirable swimming skills, every year there were drownings. The prevailing wisdom always blamed the deaths on human shortcomings or the cruel indifference of nature, with her treacherous undertows and eddies. Those who drowned were often derided: “It’s their own fault: they didn’t practice swimming enough. They were out of shape. Their own laziness is what killed them.” The more melancholy or cynical took it even further: “The laziness which results in drowning is just human nature.”

There had always been drownings, but in one century, whole masses of people drowned in particularly treacherous currents. This led many of the people to despair and become jaded, saying to themselves: “There is no meaning, higher purpose, or good direction to the world. How could there be any good destiny if so many of us are allowed to nightmarishly drown in the water?” The learned scholars of this kingdom agreed: “That’s just the way it is.”

The idea of a “bridge” had actually been briefly voiced a few times in the past couple centuries. When drowning deaths reached catastrophic proportions, there was one loremaster who spoke repeatedly about the idea, and had even attempted to gather a circle of people to make such a thing. But their nascent attempt failed—their unpracticed hands didn’t get the pylons secured before they were washed away. Then they were blocked by the king’s guards from continuing with this effort. After that, no one really took the idea up. It never made it into people’s heads at all, much less their heart and will. The idea was only fleetingly mentioned in a few scattered journals or dusty books.

Then nearly a hundred years later, one of their people was trying to figure out how to reach his friends in the various villages of the kingdom, including his dearest friend who lived on the other side of the great water. He tried various methods to make a better way to cross the water—wrapping oiled bags around his feet, using a reed to breathe through when he fell into the deep parts, and other half-baked methods. None of them worked very well.

Then one day he found a forgotten book from the old loremaster, long since dead. In one short paragraph, there was described the idea of a bridge: sink some pylons into the ground and lay something flat on top for people to walk on. People wouldn’t have to swim across the water. That would be a big change.

From then on, the man was devoted to making a bridge—not only across the small creeks and streams—but across the great river of the kingdom.


The Bridgeless Kingdom: A Metaphor for our own Reality?

Treacherous currents in human history. The singer of the Croatian folksong can cross the quiet water to reach the girl in his own dear village. His song evokes the richness of a blossoming ethnic culture, serenely at peace within itself. But if a Croat tried to cross over the river to his sweetheart in a Serb village, wild currents of ancient resentment and fear might sweep him away. Such powerful currents have separated cultures for centuries while, within this separateness, they developed their own rich identities. Nevertheless, over time, cultures have geographically spread and intermingled. The strongest amongst them, however, adopted their own national political identities. Cultural identity became infused by, and confused with, allegiance to a state with its economic interests and military might. National rivalry between the powerful nation-states in Europe finally led to the First World War. A raging, treacherous river of warfare, fueled by propaganda, separated one national community from the other and swept countless individuals into its depths. Ever since, similar conflicts have been raging unabated throughout many parts of the world.

Are these conflicts really just “the way things are”? Or are we missing—simply not seeing—the obvious solution to this problem? Are we as incapable of realizing what is needed as the people of that fairytale kingdom?

Our century. Our kingdom. The many thousands of traditional cultures, and the 193 internationally-recognized state-based nations, must find a way to not only coexist, but to flourish. In our age of global communication and global travel it is a sad anachronism to see our contemporaries pitted against each other in deadly conflict, with backing from one political power or another, and to see traditional cultures rise in terrible rebellion against the nation-state system itself. But the bridges which conventional statecraft offers, are of little avail when it comes to authentically spanning what divides the heart of humanity.

“People who are not properly trained for bridge building will soon be enlightened as to their deficiencies when it comes to actual practice. They will soon show themselves to be bunglers and find their services generally declined. But when people are not properly trained for their work in social [=political] life, their deficiencies are not so readily demonstrated. A badly built bridge breaks down; and then even the most prejudiced can see that he who built it was a bungler. But the bungling that goes on in social [political] work is not so directly apparent. It only shows itself in the suffering of one’s fellowmen. And the connection between this suffering and bungling is not one that people recognize as readily as the connection between the breakdown of a bridge and the incompetent bridge builder.”

—Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy and the Social Question

It was the social architect Rudolf Steiner who pointed out 100 years ago that the human, social bridge uniting our divided human kingdom needs to be built upon the structural separation of nation and state—the structural differentiation between cultural identity and political identity. This bridge would free individuals as well as cultural and ethnic groups all over the world to pursue their cultural inclinations unimpeded by government interference.

Governments would no longer define culture but would focus on ensuring the safety and equal rights of all their citizens. Cultures could thrive side by side, geographically interpenetrating one another, as each peaceably follows the star of its own aspirations. Governmental hindrance or co-opting of deep cultural yearnings would no longer whip up the roiling waters of nightmarish conflict and destruction. To realize this vast improvement in societal and global conditions, human beings would not have to become “better people”—except in the sense of understanding and desiring that culture be freed from the strictures of the state.

What’s the difference between “nation” and “state”? In short, the “nation” is the cultural identity of a country. The “state” (a.k.a. the government) is its political identity. Presently, all countries are “nation-states,” that is “national governments.”

“Americans—because of [our] peculiar historical circumstance—often confuse the terms state and nation […] a state is a sovereign political entity […] a nation is a group of people who share—or believe they share—a common culture, ethnic origin, language, historical experience, artifacts, and symbols.”

—Colin Woodard, American journalist, American Nations, 2011

For example, a relatively small change could resolve the war which has begun in Ukraine—without the Novorossiyans and Ukrainians having to become “better people.” The political borders of Ukraine could remain unchanged. But everyone within those borders would be free to follow their own cultural inclinations: to speak their own language and follow their own religious, educational and artistic aspirations, regardless of whether these tended more toward Ukrainian, Russian, or other traditions. The reasons for the present conflict would no longer exist. Lasting, humane bridges between groups with differing cultural identities would soon be built.

Wonder about the current situation in Ukraine and Gaza? For further details on the necessity for the separation of nation and state, you’re welcome to download the complete booklet here, or to read on.

This is an essay about the necessary separation of culture from the state as a precondition for addressing some of the most burning issues of our time, such as the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the former Yugoslavia, the current conflict in Ukraine, the revolutions and counter-revolutions which are tormenting the Arab world, and the long-festering wounds in the Holy Land.

Table of Contents


Part I: The Evolution of Human Consciousness and the Nation-State

Part II: What Happened in Yugoslavia

Part III: Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian ViolenceA Curse of the Nation-State System

Part IV: Cultural Freedom Requires Freedom of Education

Part V: Humanely Ending the Chaos in Ukraine

Part VI: Israel, Palestine and the Holy Land

Part VII: Implementing the Separation of Culture and State

Part VIII: Into ActionProspects for Manifesting the Idea

Appendix: Other Voices for the Separation of Nation and State


Part I: The Evolution of Human Consciousness and the Nation-State

To understand these conflicts and the conditions for their resolution, it is necessary to understand the broader trajectory of the historical evolution of human social structures as an expression of the gradual emancipation of the human individual. This trajectory can be seen in the transition from theocratic societies governed from the top down by divine, religious direction, such as ancient Egypt and China—to the emergence of human-centered citizenship in Rome—to modern democratic government, with its separation of church and state and its preponderance of economic special interests—to the demand for total equality before the law and complete freedom of cultural life in our time. This evolutionary trajectory, driven by the increasing autonomy of individual human beings, now requires that the powers of the state be limited to ensuring equal rights for all citizens and that it relinquish all vestiges of control over cultural life.

Beyond the separation of church and state. The separation of church and state and the right of freedom of speech, established through the Third Article of the Bill of Rights, are jewels in America’s crown. It’s a good thing we initiated the separation of religion and state, which has since spread throughout much of the world as a service to humanity that will continue to bear fruit. Though there are still many places where this separation of powers has not yet been fully implemented, it’s now a widely shared feeling that our human dignity is offended when we are forced by political powers to adhere to a certain religious confession, or vice versa, compelled to instill an anti-spiritual worldview into our children.

“The Thirty Years War was fought to make it clear to modern humanity that religion is a matter of free individual confession, and that I cannot depend on the entry of a cavalry patrol into my village whether or not I shall remain thereafter for my whole life long a Protestant or be obliged suddenly to become a Catholic, while the next day perhaps other riders will appear on the scene, and I shall have to change again and declare something else to be the one and only truth. In religious matters, mankind today understands this; in political [=national], we are not yet so far advanced. Yet by the end of the present century we shall at long last be making this discovery; we shall awaken to the full use of individual liberty in these matters. Membership of one or another nationality will then be a matter of free choice and confession on the part of every individual. Dr. Steiner was a hundred years or more ahead of his time; in his memorandum all these and other things were contained.”

—Walter Johannes Stein, one of the teachers at the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany,
“Reminiscences of Life as an Aid to the Understanding of Our Time” (emphasis added), 1936

Superseding the nation-state idea. This is a separation of powers which has not yet been understood. It has hardly even been imagined, much less voiced or enacted. Yet when it is taken up, it will be as healing as the separation of church and state which the American people initiated in 1791. This change will be the separation of nation and state. The sooner it is understood and implemented, the sooner will the wounds of this passing century be healed, and the sooner will the looming wounds of our coming century be deftly side-stepped.

“As long as national independence and the sovereignty of the state … are equated, not even a theoretical solution of the problem of war is conceivable.”

—Hannah Arendt, American political theorist, Crises of the Republic, 1972

Nationality is part of cultural life. What do Aboriginal Australians, American Indians and Canadian First Nations, Basques, Catalans, Chechens, Corsicans, Greenlanders, Indigenous Hawaiians, Kurds, Maoris, Puerto Ricans, Quebecois, Scots, Sicilians, Tamils in Ceylon, Tibetans, and Zulus all have in common? What condition do these peoples, and thousands more, from A to Z, share?

They are distinct cultures which do not correspond to a fully-sovereign political state. They’re nations without states.

“We Eskimo are an international community sharing common language, culture, and a common land along the Arctic coast of Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Although not a nation-state, as a people, we do constitute a nation.”

—“ICC’s Beginning,” from the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Alaska

logo © 2014 Inuit Circumpolar Council

logo © 2014  Inuit Circumpolar Council

National identity is itself a cultural phenomenon, in the same way that education, religion and spirituality, science, art, music, literature and sports are fields of culture. National identity is usually, though not always, centered on a distinct language.

“The common language of a nation, and all that goes along with this, constitutes such a field of spiritual [cultural] life. National consciousness itself belongs in this field.”

 —Rudolf Steiner, “The Core Points of the Social Question”
in Life’s Necessities of the Present and Future, 1919,

Political scientists clearly distinguish “nation” from “state.” Nation is the cultural identity. The State (the Government) is the political identity. Thus we can distinguish between “nationality” and “citizenship”; though in current international law, a “national” is simply a synonym for a “citizen.” For example, “an American national” is another way of saying “an American citizen.”

“It is traditional […] to distinguish nations from states—whereas a nation often consists of an ethnic or cultural community, a state is a political entity with a high degree of sovereignty. While many states are nations in some sense, there are many nations which are not fully sovereign states. As an example, the Native American Iroquois constitute a nation but not a state, since they do not possess the requisite political authority over their internal or external affairs.”

—Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010

Because we are used to associating nations with states, it requires conscious effort to re-associate the concept of “nation” with the culture that is the heart and soul of a particular people.

To see the difference between cultural substance and the political state, consider German culture and its association with statehood. Until the last half of the 19th century, Germany politically consisted of many small kingdoms, principalities, and independent cities. And German culture with its great thinkers, poets, musicians and scientists was a stateless culture, a nation without a state. The unification of the German nation-state under Bismarck led to the nationalistic economic and political-military competition that ultimately burst into the nightmare of the First World War.

From a systemic perspective, this nightmarish trajectory was predictable. Since the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s, national identity has become more and more fused with political identity. The great and terrible war which began in 1914 destroyed the last of the old plurinational (“many-cultured”) states which were held together by a personal monarchy.

“Through the participation of many ethnic groups in its state structure, Austro-Hungary’s historical mission may well have been above all to develop a healthy social organism. This mission was not recognized. It was this sin against the spirit of historical evolution that drove Austria-Hungary to war.”

—Rudolf Steiner, The Core Points of the Social Question, 1919

Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey, and Tsarist Russia were divvied into political jurisdictions whose new borders were roughly based on the geographic spread of ethno-linguistic groups. These fused cultural-political entities are called “nation-states” or “national governments.” From a systems perspective, they are cultural-political prison cells.

“The complete break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire … was a cardinal tragedy. For centuries this surviving embodiment of the Holy Roman Empire had afforded a common life, with advantages in trade and security, to a large number of peoples … There is not one of the peoples or provinces that constituted the Empire of the Hapsburgs to whom gaining their independence has not brought the tortures which ancient poets and theologicians had reserved for the damned.”

—Winston Churchill

I myself have talked with a very elderly woman who grew up in this plurinational society. She was a Jew by ancestry, a Hungarian by language, a citizen of the Dual Monarchy, and lived in what is now the Romanian nation-state. She expressed to me her remorse that Austria was dismembered into national states.

“The Austro-Hungarian monarchy encompasses—let me use my fingers to help me count—Germans, Czechs, Slovenes, Slovaks, ‘Serbo-Croats,’ Croats, Poles, Romanians, Ruthenians, Magyars, Italians and Serbs; as you see, many more than Switzerland has … Among the Germans in Austria there are very many who consider that their own well-being would be served by the individuating of the various Slavic nations in Austria, that is, by finding a form in which they could develop independently and freely. Obviously such things need time to come about; but such a movement certainly does exist … I am mentioning only the more important subdivisions, for I too can only work these things out gradually.”

—Rudolf Steiner, The Karma of Untruthfulness, 1917

America’s propagation of the nation-state idea. For much of the passing century—since President Wilson proclaimed the “self-determination of nations” in 1918—the American people have been the champion of this nation-state idea. Why?

One reason is that the United States is mainly a country of immigrants comprised of many different ethno-national groups. Unlike most national cultures, the American nation and the United States government coalesced at the same time, as a single thing. Our cultural substance is relatively youthful, and is largely defined by political and economic ideals, such as democracy and free markets. Through the “melting pot,” ethnic origin becomes secondary; cultural homogenization occurs; civic nationalism can even take on a religious character. Since we have experienced relative stability and prosperity through this form—becoming the most materially powerful nation and state in the history of the world—we seek to shape all human communities in our own image.

Other national cultures extend into the mists of time, their foundational substance having coalesced long before the modern state system. These ancient cultures need to have conditions where they may develop side by side in freedom and mutual tolerance toward other cultures, as peers, unencumbered by government strictures, and culturally subordinate to nothing but their own guiding star. The political self-determination of such a culture, however, will tend to favor its own interests. States inevitably comprise geographic areas that also include cultural minorities whose cultural aspirations will therefore be repressed. Freedom of culture—its disentanglement from the state—is therefore a necessity.

To the extent that the United States can achieve cultural freedom—its separation from the state—it could become a prototype for the rest of humanity in the sense that all the myriad national cultures would be welcomed and celebrated here, where they would achieve cultural autonomy, rather than political independence—a distinction which has never before been realized. As individual human beings, however, all would enjoy equal rights as citizens of the state, which wouldn’t interfere with their culture, except where basic human rights overrule a cultural tradition. The political state would become a more perfect melting pot, while the cultural sector would become a more vibrant and nuanced kaleidoscope of nationalities and tongues. Political unity combined with cultural diversity (e pluribus unum) is an American ideal.

However, if the various cultural groups within the United States were to follow President Wilson’s proclamation and establish their own nation-states, then endless conflicts, even ethnic cleansing, would result. The “American” principle of the self-determination of nations (as nation-states) actually runs counter to the ideal underlying American society.

A conceptual flaw crystallized in social structures. The nation-state is a conceptual flaw crystallized in outer structures. Those structures are so pervasive, it is hard to perceive them, because one’s own perception and way of thinking have been shaped by those structures. Whether one identifies as progressive or conservative, the idea of national governments seems to be as much a “given” as the land and air. The actual power that a Nation-State can evoke in the perception, emotions, and will of its citizenry is akin to that of a “god” in ancient times.

“Particularly notions like the unity of state and nation serve to transcend the material political structures and are, as such, reminiscent of the pre-state unity with God. They have been put in the place of the divine … The nation-state is a centralized state with quasi-divine attributes that has completely disarmed society and monopolized the use of force.”

—Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish Worker’s Party
“The Nation-State Can Never be a Solution,” 2013



Part II: What Happened in Yugoslavia

Through the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the term “ethnic cleansing” entered into general consciousness. When and how did this happen?

Before the nation-state idea descended on Southeastern Europe, the territorial homelands of the various cultures overlapped. The map on the following page shows not only the actual extent of these geographically interlaced cultures, but also their ideal expanse if political and economic hindrances were not an issue.

Croats map

Early Serbian aspirations hoped to cultivate the Serb identity among all South Slavs and to encompass the widest boundaries of the medieval Serbian Empire. Serbs also had a presence as settlers within two areas of the Russian Empire, in what’s now Ukraine. At times, the Croatian leadership aspired to cultivate the Croat identity among Bosnian Muslims and Slovenes as “Muslim Croats” and “Mountain Croats.” The aspirations of surrounding national cultures, such as Bulgaria, Greece, and Hungary, likewise overlapped in much of this region.

What we witnessed in the 1990s as the breakup of Yugoslavia was merely the fourth of five rounds of political-cultural delineation which that patch of earth experienced in the 20th century. When the Allies forcibly broke up the Austrian monarchy in 1918, they artificially lumped the traditional nationalities into a single nation-state—the U.S.- and British-sponsored “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.” As the war closed, the Serb, Croat, and Slovene national councils, which had been separate organizations, made a joint case before President Wilson.[*] These three distinct national cultures had loosely co-operated before the war in an attempt to turn the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy into a triple monarchy with the South Slavs as the third kingdom. After the war, they continued to make common cause because it was an “unquestionable” assumption that a larger nation-state and national economy would be more materially powerful than three small nation-states with three national economies. Even more unquestionable was the nation-state idea itself. Political and economic motives were entangled with cultural aspirations from the start.

[*] See for example: “Delegation of Jugoslavs to Woodrow Wilson, 4 July 1918” archived at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library:

A decade later, in an effort to further subsume the cultural nationalities into a unitary state, the monarchy adopted a new name: the “Kingdom of Yugoslavia” (Land of the South Slavs). New royal provinces were delineated into shapes which purposely avoided traditional cultural lines. Soon these provinces were scrapped and larger regions, “banovinas,” were delineated which were named after natural features such as rivers. There was really no great love for the “Yugoslav” ideal—it was assumed as a perceived necessity in light of the political and economic circumstances. However, a crack appeared on the map when in 1939, two of the banovinas were merged to form the Banovina of Croatia in a last-ditch attempt to satisfy Croat cultural aspirations by forming a culturally-based political administrative unit.

The second round of nation-state delineation occurred during the National Socialist occupation of the Second World War, when royalist Yugoslavia was dissolved by the German military. The fascist Independent State of Croatia expanded and delineated new counties, while the rebel communist Temporary Government of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia was brutally suppressed. As the war ended, the nationalist Croat populace was likewise brutalized.

The third era of line-drawing occurred when the victorious Allies recognized the rebel government, which soon renamed itself the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It jettisoned the pre-war monarchist provinces and drew new internal political boundaries which roughly followed ethno-cultural lines, which was Marxist policy. The Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was delineated as a sort of internal “buffer state” between the Socialist Republic of Croatia and the Socialist Republic of Serbia, with the relatively small populace of Muslims as its core. The political might of the socialist Yugoslav nation-state was able to suppress the traditional cultural aspirations of the Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Slovenes, Kosovar Albanians, and (the newly invented) Macedonian identity by establishing a political ideal—socialism—as the national “god.”

Under this politically imposed identity, the various nationalities were able to live in relative harmony, and formed many practical, familial relationships…until that political ideology fell, and Yugoslavia broke into several nation-states. This opened the door to ethnic cleansing.

Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia declared independence as nation-states, while Serbia and Montenegro tried to hold onto the prestige of the federal Yugoslav identity, and continued to call themselves the “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”—though now as a Serb-dominated nation-state. Furthermore, within those incipient nation-states, the Serbs in the Croatian nation-state, and both the Croats and Serbs in the Bosnian nation-state, themselves declared and delineated their own Autonomous Regions. An outlying pocket of Muslims even allied itself with the bordering Croatian nation-state and initiated a new “Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia” as a separate identity, opposed to the Bosnian national government. At first, like the Novorossiyans in southeastern Ukraine, these three groups of rebels asked only for Bosnia to become a Federal Republic—a federal nation-state, like the American Republic. Though the Muslims in Bosnia, and a few inter-ethnic families, were about the only ones who had any interest in Bosnia existing as a centralized nation-state, Western support for even this relatively small constitutional change was not forthcoming.

The Western leadership had no way to conceptually navigate this complex fusion of cultural and political aspirations, and wavered in passivity. In Western media the exact territorial claims and actual lines of control of these various entities were hardly reported or understood, much less their deeper cultural aspirations. Then the conflicting territorial claims turned into armed skirmishes, and degenerated into full-blown warfare. The various self-recognized Autonomous Regions declared independence as nation-states in their own right, with close support from their established namesake nation-state. During the war, various schemes were offered by diplomats and academics, all of which assumed the structural fusion of culture and state as a given. The prevailing wisdom was that the conflict would be solved by re-grouping the internal political districts in a way that would be satisfying or acceptable to all three nationalities.

When this failed, the U.S. and NATO finally resorted to a military solution. The West supported the debellation of the rebel Serbs in Croatia (who, remembering the horrors of fascist Croatia, fled en masse to the Serbian nation-state) and recognized the paramilitary lines of control as the new internal political provinces of the Bosnian nation-state. These federal “entities” made for a fifth round of boundary delineation. In the absence of clear thought and will, it was left to “pragmatic” military violence to shape society:

“In fact, the map negotiation, which always seemed to me to be our most daunting challenge, is taking place right now on the battlefield, and so far, in a manner beneficial to the map. In only a few weeks, the famous 70 percent-30 per cent division of the country has gone to around 50-50, obviously making our task easier … The map negotiations are taking place on the battlefield right now … It would help the negotiations greatly if these towns fell.” 

—Richard Holbrooke, President Clinton’s special envoy to the Balkans, 1995
quoted in “Apartheid Cartography: Identity, Territory and Co-existence in Bosnia” by David Campbell:

A similar nation-state-based, military solution was then imposed in Kosovo. Through an EU-friendly revolution in Serbia, the Yugoslav nation-state was laid to rest and Montenegro and Serbia became separate nation-states.

Maybe it goes without saying, but the military solution always involves destroying things and human beings, the propagation of further resentment, and the further inculcation of the myth that the nation-state idea is a god to kill for. The tragic slaying of humanity always reveals that events are outstripping the power of comprehension.

“…Especially [in] Southeastern Europe, an immediate application of the principles of the ‘Threefold State’ [the separation of culture, state, and economy] is imperative. It will be recalled what Bismarck said about the Balkan problem: ‘There is only one man who completely understands the Balkan muddle, but he, unfortunately, is confined in an institution.’”

—Henry Powell Spring, author, educator, and lecturer, The Peace Aims of Humanity, 1943$b184262?urlappend=%3Bseq=167 



Part III: Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian Violencea curse of the nation-state system

What is ethnic cleansing? The word “ethnic” is a watered-down word for “national.” Ethnos is simply the Greek word for “nation.” The ancient Greeks distinguished a nation (ethnos) from a state (kratos or polis). From what is an ethnos being cleansed? An ethno-national culture is being physically expelled from a political jurisdiction. A culture is being removed from the boundaries of a state. The removal is sometimes by death. Because most ethno-national groups traditionally affiliated with a particular religious denomination, ethno-national conflict often takes on the character of an inter-religious conflict.

Many examples from the passing century could be named. To offer only a few:

  • The tragic Armenian losses in the incipient Turkish nation-state. Having experienced how the newly independent Christian nation-states of Serbia, Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria had expelled their Turkish Muslim populace, the Turkish populace in the Anatolian heartland resolved to likewise physically remove the Armenian culture from their midst so that it could not become the basis for further political-territorial shrinkage.
  • The Allied-directed “compulsory population exchange” of Greeks and Turks of 1923 when the Ottoman Empire was whittled down to become the Turkish nation-state. The Norwegian diplomat who arranged for this culture-based deportation was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The catastrophe experienced by the Jewish citizenry of Germany came about after the wide, cosmopolitan Central European realms of the early 1800s had been compressed into several petty nation-states with locked-down, policed borders. German culture had made itself a prisoner of the nation-state idea. Then it tried to kill the other prisoner in its cell.
  • The retaliatory expulsion of the ethnic German citizenry from the Eastern European nation-states in the late 1940s.
  • The gigantic Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh displacements which occurred from 1947 to 1957 when the Indian subcontinent was divvied into the Indian and Pakistani nation-states.
  • The Vietnamese boat people from the 1970s to 1990s, who were portrayed by Western media as political and economic refugees, but who were largely ethnic Chinese citizens of the Vietnamese nation-state who were being targeted by the state because of their ethnicity.
  • The havoc between the Hutus and Tutsis in the Rwandan and Burundian nation-states in 1972 and 1994.
  • The strangely nightmarish story on the island of Ceylon from 1983 to 2009 where the Sinhalese Buddhist identity of the Sri Lankan nation-state was maintained at all costs.

Why does the nation-state evoke sectarian strife? From a systemic perspective, the reason is not incomprehensible. Though the emotional conditions for sectarian violence are rooted in the long inventory of inner wounds, hurts, and resentments which have built up over decades and centuries of political-cultural feuds, the structural conditions for sectarian violence are crystallized within the nation-state itself.

When a state is named after a nation, and when all of life is packed into a single symbol and single social structure (regardless of whether that structure is centralized or nominally ‘federal’) so that the national flag represents not only the power of the government, police, and military, but also the power of national sentiment (nationalism), along with the national economy (expressed by the national flags flying over businesses, such as gas stations and car dealerships) and when a particular language is propagated by the state, then it’s obvious that only one national culture is fully welcome in that political jurisdiction—the “statal” nation. There is little to no room for other cultural identities and aspirations to continue in a living way. These identities either submit to the state institutions and allow their children to be assimilated by government (public) schools, and thereby become, at most, a “hyphenated” ethnic flavor; or they resist, in hopes they will achieve a nation-state of their own, with their own government (public) school system. Failing this, the formation of an “ethnic autonomous region” or “devolved government” is sought—a half-measure which simply shifts the same fusion of culture and state to the next lower level of political administration.

The desire to transmit and propagate its cultural substance is an inherent and legitimate desire of every national culture. Otherwise it dies. On the other hand, it is inherent in every political state to equalize whatever it touches. Equalization of basic human rights is the proper role for the political state. Yet when the state is pervaded with a particular national-cultural identity, then its compulsory power of equalization becomes a systemic engine of cultural assimilation, at best, or, at its worst, an engine of cultural destruction.

This phenomenon continues to arise. To list some examples during this decade:

  • 2010: Kyrgyz versus Uzbeks in the Kyrgyz nation-state.
  • 2011: The expulsion of Black citizens from the Libyan nation-state during the civil war.
  • 2012: Rakhine Buddhists versus Rohingya Muslims in the Burmese nation-state, which expanded in 2013 to country-wide Buddhist versus Muslim violence. A recent article in The Economist voices that “the ‘plural society’ remains key” to healing the race and religion problem in South-East Asia. The structural separation of culture and state is the key to that key.[1]
  • 2012: Immigrant Muslim Bengalis versus indigenous Bodos in the northeast of the Indian nation-state.
  • 2012 to present: Muslim ethnic groups versus Christian ethnic groups in the little-known Central African Republic nation-state.
  • 2013 to present: the Dinka people versus the Nuer people versus the Murle people within the recently independent nation-state of South Sudan. South Sudan was established with great fanfare as an American-sponsored project. The quick fall into civil war is evidence that the Americanist nation-state idea is just plain tired and worn out.
  • Ongoing sectarian conflict in the Iraqi and Syrian nation-states between Alawites, Armenians, Christian Syriacs (Arameans, Assyrians, and Chaldeans), Druze, Kurds, Mandaeans, Melkites (Catholic Arabs), Shabaks, Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, and Yezidis.

    [1] “Race and religion in South-East Asia:The plural society and its enemies”, August 2, 2014: society-remains-key

In each of these cases, it is the state power and state identity which is being wielded or sought by a particular national-cultural group. The phenomenon of sectarian violence arises largely because culture and state are fused. There is no separate sphere of life wherein the cultural nationalities could unfold freely, and so cultural groups scramble to grab as much state power as possible.

Nationalism and fascism arise when a culture is identified with and determined by a state. When a particular culture dominates the state, or when the state itself invents and shapes the national culture through governmental power, the beauty of traditional culture is trampled on, and the nuanced potential in each individual human being is genericized. The nice modern words for nationalism are “national interest” and “national security.” These are only partly human impulses, and are often hindrances to authentic “human interest” and “the security of humanity.”

“The people of one language-area do not come into [war, unnatural conflict] with those of another, so long as they do not try to make their national culture predominant by the use of their state-organization or their economic power.”

—Steiner, The Core Points of the Social Question, 1919

Happiness and paradise are not enough. The fusion of culture and state even mars what are viewed as “paradisaical” countries by the West. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is renowned as “the World’s Happiest Country.” Few people know that the “happy” Buddhist police of the Bhutanese nation-state expelled 100,000 ethnic Nepalese from the country during the 1990s and stripped them of citizenship—because it was feared they would disrupt the cultural-political makeup of Bhutan: the Buddhist mon-archy, presided over by a particular ethno-national lineage. Having lived in refugee camps for years, they are now being parceled out to other countries as political immigrants, where they will begin a new life.

And during the past thirty years, the island paradise of Fiji has suffered from four coups d’etat concerning the political rights and cultural freedom of the Indo-Fijians (whose ancestors came from India to work on British plantations) versus the indigenous Fijians. Happiness is not enough to overcome the conceptual flaw in the nation-state.

Why can’t they just get along? From the North American perspective, it is easy to say that sectarian brutality only occurs in “developing” countries. Why can’t they just “work together” and “get along”? The pervasive Western perspective is that it’s unquestionably good for human beings to give up their traditional culture by being shaped into a nice, “multi-ethnic,” civic nation which is identical with the government. But even if a nation-state identity is “multi-ethnic,” it’s still a nation-state, and insofar as culture is still influenced by the government, it is more or less unhealthy. From the perspective of the humane future, all nation-states are backward, “developing” countries.



Part IV: Cultural Freedom Requires Freedom of Education

Every one of the 193 sovereign political states is also a nation, since each uses the compulsory power of government to shape the culture of the individual human being. Every nation-state has a national anthem, national Olympic and World Cup teams which serve as very potent cultural memes…and a governmental (public) school system. Thus every human being now grows up in the grip of a governmentalized national identity. The U.S., Belgium, Canada and Switzerland do their “ethnic cleansing” not so much by police and military force, but through the economic compulsion to attend government (public) schools.

The liberal version of nationalism is where all children—except for those from families whose position in economic life affords their freedom to opt out of government schools by paying tuition twice—are legally compelled to be socialized by government schools. Multi-ethnic civic nationalism, as purveyed through government schools, is nicer than the old dictatorial style of nationalism, but it is still an intrusion of the state into cultural freedom.

State bureaucracy-run, centrally-planned education is counter-productive. Like a centrally planned economy which stifles the initiative of business entrepreneurs and restricts the selection of products for consumers, a government school system stifles the creativity and ingenuity of teachers and drastically narrows the options for parents and children. The rightful task of the state is not to own and operate schools, but to ensure that all children have the means to attend an independent school of their family’s choice. In cultural life, freedom needs to hold sway. The fact that the Belgian government and some Swiss cantonal governments subsidize what had hitherto been independent schools, and the fact that the U.S. and Canadian public charter school movement is beginning to provide some cultural and linguistic leeway in educational choice, does not really address the deeper structural issue of governmentalized education.[2]

[2] See for example the effect of government funding in the Waldorf school movement in Belgium: “Learning goals versus educational freedom” worldwide/teil-2/belgium.html

The awareness of “he who pays the piper is apt to call the tune” is poignantly felt by the original nations of North America, which have been subsumed by the sea of English-speaking humanity. The Mohawk nation (on the New York-Canada border), the Lakota nation (in South Dakota), and the Hopi nation (in Arizona) voice the effect of U.S. government (public) schools:

“The Akwesasne Freedom School (AFS) was founded in 1979 by Mohawk parents concerned with the lack of cultural and linguistic services available in local public schools. As an independent elementary school, AFS has existed on a shoestring budget for over 25 years. In 1985, the parents who administer the school made a historic decision to adopt a total Mohawk immersion curriculum. It was a historic decision. AFS was the first to implement this curriculum and did so without approval or funding from state, federal or provincial governments. By focusing on our young people, we reverse the assimilation process and ensure that the Mohawk people do not lose their language, culture and identity.

“The school continues to immerse its students in levels Pre-K to 8 in the Kanienkeha (Mohawk) language and culture. All instruction, as well as recess periods, outdoor activities, field trips, meals and extracurricular activities are conducted in the Mohawk language.”

“For history, our students learn the Onkwehonwe leaders of our nation, instead of the presidents and senators of the United States.”

—Akwesasne Freedom School website, © 2012:

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) flag of the Mohawk Nation

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) flag of the Mohawk Nation


“In the government schools, which are referred to as public schools, Indian policy has been instituted there, and it’s a policy where they do not encourage, in fact, discourage, critical thinking and the creation of ideas in public education. After finishing twelve or sixteen years in public school, your ability to creatively think is very limited because that’s the way it’s been designed and that has been perfected in Indian education. ‘Indian policy’ is to turn out non-thinkers and non-doers and make people a lot easier to control.”

“I suppose I’m a ‘cultural nationalist.’ I work first with my people, the traditional Lakota people, because we hold a common worldview and share an immediate struggle.”

—Russell Means (1939-2012), the Lakota leader who served as spokesperson
during the 1974 Wounded Knee Incident where the Oglala Lakota Nation declared
“continuing independence” from the U.S. nation-state, and who later initiated
the supersessionist Republic of Lakotah.

Republic of Lakotah

logo © 2014 Republic of Lakotah


“Just as predicted, the Bahanna (whiteman) Government came to Hopi land with good intentions. Armed with a proposal of education for the children, with promises of many good things for the Hopi and for their children’s future. After meeting over it, leaders from all the villages rejected the education, saying: Bahanna school is not good. It will not fit into their needs or blend with their religious ceremonials — that they will teach their children their own ways, as in the past.

“The religious leaders foresaw it as trickery devised to destroy the minds of children. They foresaw the danger that the children would lose their traditional culture and identity. Lose even their language and become the tool of the Government. They foresaw that they would destroy themselves and lose the Hopi way of life.

“The government wanted all of the Hopi children to be put into schools. They said it would do us good, but we knew that this ‘good’ would only be on the surface, and that what was under it would destroy the Hopi cultural life.

“Maybe they thought that with an education the children might be able to help the old people, but we knew this would not be so, because they would learn to think as white men, so they would never help the old people. Instead they would be indoctrinated and encouraged to turn against us, as they are actually doing today. So in order to be good according to the Great Spirit’s instructions, we refused to put our children into the schools.

“So almost every week they would send policemen, many of them. They would surround the village and hunt for the children of school age. We could not be happy because we were expecting trouble every day. Fathers who refused to cooperate were arrested and imprisoned. Inhuman acts were imposed upon us, starvation, insults and humiliation, to force us into submission.

“Still, over half of the clan leaders and religious society leaders refused to accept anything from the government. Because of this we were mocked and treated as outcasts by those who had already submitted. The Bahanna system is destroying what was once beautiful and good.”

from Techqua Ikachi issues #36 and #4,
the newsletter of the Traditional Hopi faction,
and from Dan Katchongva’s Hopi Prophecies.

 The emblem of the Traditional Hopi

The emblem of the Traditional Hopi.



Part V: Humanely Ending the Chaos in Ukraine

Even without the full-blown separation of nation and state, it would be possible to partially implement these principles. For example, it is within the bounds of human imagination and will for the Russian government and the Ukrainian government to offer their national school systems and other cultural services throughout each other’s territories. On maps, both could show their cultural territory as extending beyond their political territory. As long as there is clarity that there’s a structural difference between culture and government, both nation-states could show their national homelands as freely overlapping with each other, and with other nation-states. All of Ukraine was traditionally a part of Russia until the Soviets delineated political boundaries based on the Marxian nationalities policy. Kiev is the mother city of Russian civilization. Likewise, there are Ukrainian cultural regions in Russia (known as “wedges” in Ukrainian), such as the Kuban region east of the Black Sea (“the Crimson Wedge”) which, in 1918, briefly united with the Ukrainian State; and the far-flung “Yellow Wedge,” “Gray Wedge,” and “Green Wedge” where Ukrainians settled along the Volga River and in central and eastern Siberia. As cultural-educational territories, Russia and Ukraine could completely overlap with each other.

For the cultural territories to overlap would require that the leadership of at least one of those societies understand and desire the idea. Even this relatively small measure would have prevented the war which has begun in Ukraine. When war starts, unpredictable, harmful things happen, and the beauty of humanity is destroyed.

The ethnic Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine is bound to fail, for this reason: the Russian people and leadership do yet hold a moral idea which would humanely supersede and outgrow the Nation-State Idea. If the idea of structurally separating culture and state were understood, voiced, and enacted, it would bring a genuine healing effect, with a satisfying ending for both national communities.

The map below depicts such a humane conclusion.


The Green Wedge-Green Ukraine


Part VI: Israel, Palestine, and the Holy Land

“Nationalism is not a political, but a cultural concept. Its fundamental purpose is to humanize.”

—Mordecai M. Kaplan, rabbi, essayist, and educator, Judaism as a Civilization, 1934
quoted in Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn by Noam Pianko 

“The separation of nation and state, conceived of along lines not dissimilar to the separation of church and state will allow the flourishing and co-existence of multiple nationalities.”

—Ariella Azoulay, Israeli cultural theorist, & Adi Ophir, Israeli philosopher
The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine, 2013

The situation in the Holy Land is another current, persistent, and terribly difficult theme, the details of which cannot be dealt with here. But the following illustration shows what that society could look like through the separation of nation and state. Palestine and Israel would become two non-governmental cultural organizations whose service areas extend to their widest claimed extents. As NCOs, the word “state” in their formal names (“State of Israel” and “State of Palestine”) would become a cultural title, rather than a political title. Those two national cultures could then freely unfold completely heedless of political borders. The other traditional cultural identities in the Holy Land, such as the Domari (“gypsies”), Druze, and Maronites, could likewise emerge from the concrete. Only a state-free culture enhances and beautifies our humanity. Governmentalized culture mediocritizes and destroys humanity.

And there would be an anational (nation-free) Rights Governance where all citizens have equal rights and obligations, completely regardless of their cultural nationality.

Trisector Israel-Palestine

“[The political leaders’] habit of thought admitted of no other conception than that the boundaries of state must also be the bounds of national community. They could not understand, how cultural organizations could be formed, cutting across state frontiers, comprising the school system and other branches of cultural life. It was against all their habitual conceptions. And yet this “inconceivable” thing is what international life demands in the new age. A really practical thinker ought not to be held up by apparent impossibilities, and assume that the obstacles in the way of doing what is requisite are insurmountable. He must simply concentrate on surmounting them.”

—Rudolf Steiner, The Core Points of the Social Question, 1919



Part VII: Implementing the Separation of Culture and State

It’s not that hard. Structurally, the separation of nation and state would be simple. Take all the cultural assets which are presently owned by the National Government, and transfer them to a non-governmental organization which would embody the national culture. That’s it. Yet a full-blown separation of cultural identity (nationality) and political identity (citizenship) would look something like this:

  • Freedom of Ethno-National Association: Individuals would be free to initiate non-governmental, non-commercial National-Cultural Organizations (NCOs) which embody a national identity. These NCOs—like religious organizations—would freely determine their membership criteria. NCOs would be legally incorporated as a kind of non-governmental/non-profit organization.
  • Internationally-Recognized Cultural Independence: All widely-recognized NCOs (stateless nations) would be admitted to international cultural forums, such as the Olympics, World Cup soccer, and UNESCO (the UN cultural organization).
  • Overlapping National Homelands: NCOs would draw the map of their cultural service area (“national homeland”) however they wish, completely heedless of political borders. National (cultural) homelands will then freely overlap with each other in the same way that ecclesiastical provinces have been free to overlap since the separation of religion and state. The political borders (in other words, police and military service areas) would remain the same.
  • Individual Freedom of Nationality: Individuals would be free to choose to participate in one or more NCOs, limited only by the membership requirements of those NCOs. Likewise, individuals would be free to formally participate in no Nationality at all.


Every individual must choose his nationality with the same freedom with which he chooses his religion.”

—Walter Johannes Stein, “King Arthur and the Problem of East and West”, 1932

Some might ask: “What are you talking about? I can’t just choose to become French.” In a society where culture and state were structurally separate, children would of course still grow up with the language and culture of their family and of their schooling. But whether they and their family formally participate in any NCO would be their own private affair. And any national culture in the world would be free to incorporate within that society as an NCO, in a similar way that nearly every religious denomination in the world is presently incorporated within the United States. A citizen of the U.S. political republic would be free to participate in the cultural activities of the Alliance francaise (the French national-cultural organization) and to go through the formal cultural process of becoming a French national (not a French citizen), without even having to move to the French homeland. An individual’s French cultural nationality would have no effect on their political citizenship. The French NCO would be free to develop French-language elementary and high schools, colleges, French heritage sites and national parks, and other cultural services throughout the U.S. political jurisdiction, as would every other nation.

  • Separation of Schools and State: The Government would not own, operate, or determine the professional practices of any school. Besides the family, schools are the main vehicle of cultural identity, and even the most well-meaning government school subtly shapes the individual child into a particular nationality—the “statal” nation. The NCOs would be free to develop schools and other cultural offerings across political borders. All child-citizens within a political jurisdiction, regardless of their cultural nationality, would receive a tuition subsidy (the same amount per student which is presently being funneled into government schools) to attend any school of their family’s choice. All schools would become “independent schools.” The present-day government schools would become non-governmental, independent, secular community schools. These “community schools” would be free to continue to fly and pledge allegiance to the national flag if they wished.
  • The Civic NCO: The cultural assets of the Government (state school system, national museums, national parks, national monuments) would be transferred to an NCO which embodies the national identity of the formerly “statal” nation. This body would retain the national flag as its organizational symbol.
  • Other NCOs: Besides the divested “statal” nation, all the aspirant nationalities, “ethnic groups,” “minorities,” immigrant diasporas, indigenous peoples, deposed monarchist houses, alternative civil identities (such as the Zapatistas in Mexico) would be free to incorporate as NCOs. Instead of the dichotomy of “statal nations” and “stateless nations,” all nations would become state-free NCOs.
  • National-Cultural Symbols: Though currency and postage is a part of the economic realm, widely-recognized NCOs could sponsor the minting of commemorative coins and stamps with their national symbols, as cosmetic variants of the currency. This would be similar to the various national-cultural emblems on the back of the euro coins. There could be optional “vanity” license plate designs displaying national-cultural symbols, as is presently the case in the UK, where each individual can choose whether their plate shows a British, Scottish, English, or Welsh flag. There could be a right of individuals to address letters in their own language (like the Maori recently achieved in New Zealand) and to write the name of their national homeland (such as HAUDENOSAUNEEGA or IROQUOIA) at the bottom of the mailing address. International post offices already recognize several ways of addressing mail to the British nation-state, such as UNITED KINGDOM, SCOTLAND, or ENGLAND. And each NCO might sponsor its own internet domain, like the recent .cat domain for Catalan culture.

A nation-less government. Regardless of their cultural nationality, individuals would all remain citizens of a united political governance having the same political boundaries as the nation-state from whence it sprang. By divesting itself of all culture-shaping powers, the government would become a truly human-centered state—known in political science as a “rights-state” or “rule-of-law state.” Rather than a “democratic republic” pervaded with multi-ethnic civic nationalism, an authentic, humane state becomes literally anational (“without a nation”). The governance of civic rights and laws would be affiliated with no nation at all.

For this to be realized, a genuine rights-state would be omni-lingual. Though there could be a common working language within rights agencies for use among their hired civil service personnel (for example, English in U.S. governance agencies), a citizen could serve in any elected office completely regardless of whether they speak the common language or not. And those rights organs which interface with the public would accept being addressed by a citizen in any language of humanity and receive correspondence in that language. In this day and age, it is possible for translation to be provided for all public rights services and elected service positions. Such omni-lingual services are already provided to defendants in the U.S. judicial branch, and would be extended to the public interface of the legislative and executive branches. Because the political governance would not be especially affiliated with any language or nationality at all, the rights-state would need a name and flag which is distinguishable from the name and flag of the nation from which it was birthed.

“Certainly the divergent forces of its many nationalities contributed a great deal to Austria’s disintegration. It is equally certain, however, that a rights organization functioning alongside the economy would have enabled the development of a form of society in which the co-existence of the various nationalities would have been possible.”

—Rudolf Steiner, The Core Points of the Social Question, 1919

Our world needs the healing which will come from achieving cultural independence for all the ten thousand aspirant nationalities. What the world doesn’t need, is another nation-state or national economy.



Part VIII: Into Action—Prospects for Manifesting the Idea

As a private citizen with limited resources, I continue to share the idea in small ways, as opportunities arise. For example, I sent a brief outline of the idea to the member nations of the UNPO—the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization based in the Netherlands, which is composed of aspirant nationalities, such as the Tibetans and Kurds. Of the 46 UNPO members, the Venda people are the ones who responded.

Venda flag and map

The Venda are a nationality whose traditional homeland straddles the political border of the South African and Zimbabwean nation-states. Tshifhiwa Makhale, the Venda representative, corresponded with me and I crafted a booklet which depicts what this separation of powers could look like in the Venda traditional territory. Makhale then authored a request for the Venda to achieve cultural independence, which was transmitted to the government of the South African nation-state, stating:

“First and foremost we would like to request for formal acknowledgement and recognition of the Vhavenda-Vhangona people as aborigines or natives of the area known as Venda.”

“Secondly we also hereby apply for cultural independence in terms of a Trisector model.”

This request lingers in the filing cabinet of some government agency.

Another prospect came from corresponding with Amjad Jaimoukha, a prominent Circassian writer. The Circassians are a people from the eastern shore of the Black Sea, in the Russian nation-state. In regard to the separation of nation and state, Jaimoukha says:

“I am intrigued and challenged by the concepts involved. I think this is a basic framework for negotiation between the Circassians and Russians, as the Circassian issue is becoming more prominent at the international level and the Russian Duma is trying to co-opt the diaspora Circassians in the lead-up to the Sochi Olympics. I will spread the word about the scheme, for it presents interim solutions for many of the problems that are facing the Circassians nowadays.”

In America, there have been responses from Brian Schweitzer and Kirkpatrick Sale. Schweitzer, then-governor of the State of Montana, whose vast political territory overlaps with the cultural territory of ten or more American Indian nations, says:

“Your idea is very interesting, but would require a complete re-write of the Montana Constitution.”

What it would require is a constitutional amendment which articulates the separation of culture and state, and the willingness to carry that out.

Kirkpatrick Sale is the director of the Vermont-based Middlebury Institute for the Study of Separatism, Secession, and Self-Determination, a think tank which is examining the possibility of forming a Vermont nation-state. In regard to the separation of culture and state, Sale responds:

“An interesting idea, but not quite the political solution that secession implies…”

Second Vermont Republic citizens’ network and think tank

logo © 2014 Second Vermont Republic citizens’ network and think tank.

There are several organizations which, like the UNPO and Middlebury Institute, are devoted to the national field of culture. An obstacle is that this devotion is nearly always politicized.

What can be done? The destiny of every individual has been, and continues to be, affected by the fusion of culture and state. You or anyone could share this booklet wherever you feel it’s appropriate to do so. This text is released into the public domain so that it can be freely reproduced.

If you’re in a position where the question of ethnic culture and state power are a burning issue, you could look for opportunities to voice and enact these ideas, even in a small way.

You’re welcome to read and understand the new threefolding books which describe this proposed separation of culture, state, and business. Besides Michael Spence’s excellent book After Capitalism there are my two new books: The Idea and World Wide Trisecting ( There’s a whole chapter about the separation of nation and state, and many examples of what it could look like in various countries.

You’re welcome to sign up for my OnWord Way e-newsletter ( We could stay in touch about efforts to make a way from here to there.

You could join our nascent Impulse for the Renewal of National and Folk Culture ( We’re hardly active yet, but we’re building up something which could be taken off the shelf someday. Right now, its existence is mostly symbolic.

If a nation with which we identify has done something harmful which is weighing on our conscience, we could write a little letter of apology or remorse to a representative of those who were harmed.

Those are personal-scale steps which could be taken toward a separation of powers which has hardly been conceived by any political scientist or statesman, but which is crucial to repairing humanity’s world.




Appendix: Other Voices for the Separation of Nation and State

Here, in chronological order, are some of the few voices who have ever articulated the need and possibility for a separation of nation and state:

State and nation should not be confounded

“The state constitution and the national community, however closely they may be interwoven with each other, should not be confounded together.”

—Wilhelm von Humboldt, Prussian educational reformer and linguist,
On the Limits of State Action, 1792.
Humboldt’s work is especially esteemed by libertarians.


A backwards step

“The creation of all kinds of national states and petty national states at the present time, is a retrograde step that inhibits the evolution of humanity.”

—Rudolf Steiner, “From Symptom to Reality in Modern History”, 1918


 Cultural affinities are the historic cause of political and economic communities

“Ethno-national affinities, together with other natural impulses, are the historic cause of the formation of political and economic communities. However, the forces by means of which these various peoples grow must develop with a reciprocity which is not hampered by relations between political states and economic cooperatives. This will be achieved when the ethno-national communities have implemented their social triformation to the extent that each of the sectors can cultivate independent relations with other social organisms.”

—Rudolf Steiner, The Core Points of the Social Question, 1919


Squeezing nations into the political state

“There are nationalists, chauvinists and so forth; everything we call nation, national, chauvinism, it’s all incorporated into the framework of the state. Nationalism is added and the concept of the ‘nation-state’ is construed. […] In some Protestant circles the idea has arisen that the Church is only the visible institution, that the essence of religion must take root in people’s hearts. But this degree of human development has not yet arrived in respect to the political state, otherwise we wouldn’t be trying to squeeze all kinds of nationalisms into political boundaries.”

—Rudolf Steiner, “The History and Actuality of Imperialism”, 1920


 Those who domineer over you

“I did not start home till midnight, and walked with Charles Williams part of the way, when our converse turned on the difficulties of discovering what common factors if any existed in the notions associated with freedom, as used at present. I don’t believe there are any, for the word has been so abused by propaganda that it has ceased to have any value for reason and become a mere emotional dose for generating heat. At most, it would seem to imply that those who domineer over you should speak (natively) the same languagewhich in the last resort is all that the confused ideas of race or nation boil down to.”

—J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy author, Letters of JRRT, #84 (emphasis added), 1944


Phillip the Fair

“Where can we find the origin of the national states? Just as the centralized state* has its origin in the Anglo-Saxon countries, so also has the national state its origin in one single place in Europe—and that is France. Nowhere else. Already in the 14th century under Phillip the Fair who enticed the pope to come to France, to Avignon, and kept him there as a prisoner, who stamped out the great international organization of the Templar Knights, already at that time arose the idea of nationalism. This idea then developed under the various rulers of France … this is nothing but a national state coming into being which came to a remarkably great bloom under Louis the Fourteenth and which attempted under Napoleon the First to transform the whole of Europe into national states.”

—Karl Konig, co-founder of Camphill Communities
for persons with special needs, from an unpublished translation of
“The Failure of New Social Endeavors: Meditative Images for a Deeper Understanding of Threefolding”, 1964,
otherwise published in Becoming Human: A Social Task

* (Author’s Note: ‘centralized state’ in this context means ‘mercantile state’—a government which is largely directed by commercial interests.)


The Napoleonic idea

“What were Woodrow Wilson’s intentions? He wanted one thing: somehow he had realized that the centralized state was finished and something else would have to take its place. And—without either realizing or intending it—he took up the Napoleonic idea of the national state. This was the worst thing imaginable, that nationalities should form states!”

—Karl Konig, an unpublished translation of “The Historical Context of the Threefold Social Order”, 1964, from Becoming Human: A Social Task


Imagining a worldview

“A world view in which there is a separation of nation and state can easily be imagined; but the twentieth century has been supportive of the position that national ideals should have outlets in the organizations of governments and states.”

—Monroe E. Price, American social theorist,
Television, the Public Sphere, and National Identity, 1995


Separation of culture and politics

“The most significant consequence of globalization is, for me at least, the possible separation of nation and state. Or it is perhaps the separation of nation and state which makes globalization possible … This separation of nation and state is thus in part the separation of culture and politics … So with the separation of nation and state, we see (around us, everywhere) the emancipation of cultural identity and the spread of transnational cultural communities (nations).”

—Darren J. O’Byrne, British sociologist and human rights specialist,
The Dimensions of Global Citizenship: Political Identity beyond the Nation-State, 2003


The raw people in cultural terms

“By ‘people’ is meant something close to a nation in cultural rather than political terms: for example the Welsh or the Basques. That is to say, an identifiable group that enjoys or expresses or seeks a degree of autonomy from the nation-state it is otherwise supposed to be part of. The point is that, since the Treaty of Versailles nations can have an arbitrary status. Red lines in the desert delineate sheikdoms, for example. Many boundaries have been created or moved, as have whole peoples. If there is to be a choir of cultures, the point at which a people feels itself to be one needs to be identified, but not in strident, political terms. Deeper yet, recent history has seen peoples lost beneath all manner of ideological overlays or, on first release from oppression, referring to some ancient image of themselves. What is meant here, however, is the raw people, especially as defined by the future they see for themselves.”

—Christopher Houghton Budd, English economic historian,
Finance at the Threshold: Rethinking the Real and Financial Economies, 2011


 So speaks a collage of voices for a separation of powers which has hardly been conceived by any political scientist or statesman, but which is crucial to repairing the world.


About the author.

Travis Henry lives in Columbia County, New York. He’s done masters-level work in American Indian Studies at Montana State University. For further images of a healthy society, including maps and flags, you’re welcome to visit the Threefold Now website:

Thanks to editor John Barnes.

The cover photo is attributed to “Ramirez HUN” under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The entire booklet except for the cover image and logos (Inuit Circumpolar Council, Republic of Lakotah, and Second Vermont Republic), which are the copyright of others, is freely released to the public domain. The author welcomes the sharing and reproduction of this text.

“People in some of the most important positions in society, when they begin talking about present social demands, often appear to those who know, as individuals who wish to begin building a bridge over a rushing stream without having the most elementary knowledge of mechanics. They may well be able to put up a bridge, but it will collapse at the first opportunity. It seems with social leaders or with those who look after social institutions, that their plans will be shown to be impossible; for the things of reality demand that we work with them, and not against them.”

—Rudolf Steiner, “Social and Anti-Social Forces in the Human Being,” 1918