Beginning in January, 2017, purchases made on this website, as well as all our other book sales, will go through SteinerBooks and will be mailed out by Books International in Dulles, Virginia.

For bookstore or other bulk or special orders, call 703-661-1594 or place your order by emailing: Steinermail@presswarehouse.com

Social Self, an initiative of Adonis Press, is carried by:

Social Self works in close collaboration with the Center for Social Research, which, like Adonis Press, is a branch of the Hawthorne Valley Association in Ghent, NY.

For the past 15 years Adonis Press has focused on publishing books that take a phenomenological, participatory approach in the natural sciences. While these publications continue, we are now responding to the mounting social problems of our time with this Social Self website and a new series of books that take a similar approach to social life and derive much of their inspiration from the insights of Rudolf Steiner.

Goethe’s Method

The German poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) developed a phenomenological, participatory method of scientific inquiry that combined rigorous scientific observation with artistic sensitivity and creative imagination. A prime example is his study of plant metamorphosis:

After exact, thorough observation of an annual plant throughout the stages of its life cycle, he went on to inwardly recreate its growth and unfolding in what he called “exact sensorial imagination.” By thus participating in the formative movements of the unfolding plant, he became aware of the fact that the plant is constantly engaged in a process of metamorphosis and that all its organs – from the seed, through the succession of its green, vegetative leaves to the formation of the flower bud – then, in the flower, from sepal to petal to stamen – and finally from ovary to fruit and back to seed – can be seen (imaginatively) as the continuous transformation of one and the same organ as it expands and contracts in three successive stages: in the green leaves, the blossom, and the fruit. Goethe’s method thus proceeds from the observation of the sense-perceptible phenomena to exact imaginative participation in their unfolding in time, and finally to a concrete, intuitive perception of the active, creative principles that shape them. (Adonis Press has published a number of books on Goethe’s science.)

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) developed Goethe’s method further and applied it to human development and social life, which led to the insights underlying Waldorf education, and to such insights into social life as that of the threefold nature of social life.

Rudolf Steiner arrived at the following insights

If we apply the phenomenological, participatory method to human social life as a multifaceted, multilayered whole, we can distinguish three different spheres of activity:

1. Cultural – everything involving the growth and expression of the human spirit: education, art, science, religion, journalism and publishing

2. Legal/political – involving human rights and relationships between people and organizations

3. Economic – having to do with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services

When we observe these three realms and internalize their activity until the driving forces working within them reveal themselves, we come to see that:

1. Cultural life thrives when it can unfold in freedom. When all aspects of cultural life have been liberated from governmental control and economic pressures, individuals will be empowered to take their development into their own hands and to actively shape all aspects of society.

2. This sense of inner empowerment will motivate people to limit government to its essential role in upholding the equal rights of all citizens.

3. It will also motivate people to take the economy into their own hands. All economic stakeholders – consumers, distributors and producers – will begin to shape their economic relationships so that the inherently (functionally) altruistic and cooperative nature of economic activity comes to the fore.

Human society, Steiner claimed, will only flourish if these three spheres are recognized and each is organized according to its own inherent principles, dynamics and ideals. He realized that these ideals were the driving forces behind the French Revolution: freedom (liberte), equality (egalite), and brotherhood or altruism (fraternite).

In his historical novel Les Miserables, Victor Hugo put it this way:

Citizens, no matter what happens today, in defeat no less than victory, we shall be making a revolution. Just as a great fire lights up all the town, so a revolution lights all mankind. And what is the revolution that we shall make? I have already told you: it is the revolution of Truth. In terms of policy, there is only one principle, the sovereignty of human beings over themselves, and this sovereignty of me over me is called Liberty. Where two or more of the sovereignties are gathered together, that is where the State begins. But there can be no withdrawal from this association. Each sovereignty must concede some portion of itself to establish the common law, and the portion is the same for all. The common law is nothing but the protection of all men based on the rights of each, and the equivalent sacrifice that all men make is called Equality. The protection of all individuals by all others is Fraternity, and the point at which all these sovereignties intersect is called Society.
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, Part V, Book I. (1862).

Since the French Revolution, the economy has increasingly come to dominate human life. While it has brought high standards of living to many, this has come at great environmental and human costs. It is becoming obvious that its exploitative tendencies need to be replaced by a sense of stewardship and service and that this can only be achieved if all involved – consumers, distributors, and producers – cooperate in shaping it.

Our original American national anthem ends with the prayer for our country:

God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

If this is to be realized, the capitalist profit motive will have to be transformed into the will to serve. As Henry Ford stated in his autobiography,

Putting profits before service is putting the cart before the horse.

We have a long way to go, but it is a wonderful challenge!