The Three Crises and Developments in Today’s Communities

When we try to structure and direct organizations, we have two principles symbolized as a pyramid – cultures of the Sentient Soul and the Intellectual Soul. Since the beginning of modern times, we have been living in the Consciousness Soul’s culture, so it is necessary to ask what the appropriate forms of work are today that correspond to the new abilities of the soul.


I assign the effective authority of role models to the principle of the Sentient Soul, while the Intellectual Soul follows the rules and concepts of collective living. At the third level, the Consciousness Soul, communal coherence arises out of the insights of the individual human being.

How must an organization be led and structured so that the individuals can shape their actions out of their I’s? That is the big question that moves all organizations today – at least unconsciously. As early as 1905, Rudolf Steiner said that it must be made possible for everyone to voluntarily do what they are called to do, according to their abilities and strength.

I want to outline three developments and three crises. First, the crisis and the development of leadership; second, the development of cooperation between people in everyday working life; and third, the development of the community.

Traditionally, leadership often takes place in such a way that people are obliged to do something against their will or without their consent, either by rules or authorities. Of course, authorities, rules, and concepts play a valuable role in organizations. That is, leadership has a goal in mind and intervenes directly in people’s actions to realize the goal. Contemporary leadership, though, is aimed at people’s consciousness. The goal should lead the person, not the boss! The manager has the task of maintaining dialogue and understanding at eye level, and the employees have the right to self-commitment in the sense of Kant. Dignity is the right to be committed to oneself. The influence of managers is directed at people’s thinking. First and foremost, one must be aware of the institution’s mission. According to Rudolf Steiner, the whole should be filled with a genuine spirit in which everyone participates.

Do We Have the Courage to Be Guided by Mission?

According to Steiner, the whole must have a spiritual mission, and each individual must want to contribute to the fulfillment of this mission. Today we are talking about purpose. Many organizations strive for this purpose. They know how important it is. Here, conflicts arise with traditional forms. A mission cannot be effective if authorities and rules are all-powerful. Here lies the question: Do we have the courage to be guided by the mission in action?

Two examples from the community hospitals Havelhöhe and Herdecke illustrate this mission: For both hospitals, the patient is responsible for determining the mission from which cooperation is derived. Havelhöhe: «The recognition of patients as responsible partners presupposes that employees develop forms of work in which they themselves work together as responsible partners.» Herdecke’s mission statement: «Targeted work on everyday tasks and future projects arises primarily from the insight and initiative of those responsible.»

Contemporary leadership is aimed at people’s consciousness. The goal should lead the person, not the boss!

Formulating such missions requires courage! Of course, there is always a difference between aspiration and reality. If you make such statements, then you make yourself vulnerable. You say how you want to work. It is easy to say that you are not living up to this demand. That’s true. But opening a space for dialogue is a courageous act, and few models formulate clear sentences directed at the people’s will. Of course, there are other levels and forms of this insight, this dialogical understanding. The great crisis of leadership, which has been ongoing for decades, is between the appeal to the insight of free human beings and the demand for an external obligation to authorities and rules. For leadership culture to progress, a second development must occur simultaneously: the development of cooperation. This includes the fallibility of human beings. Every human being is fallible, even the most experienced. That’s why we need feedback. We need cooperative criticism from our colleagues. Otherwise, there will be no development. This is also a question of having the courage to report to each other how we experience our work between professional groups and departments. This development must be advanced. Otherwise, leadership cannot let go of power.

Intellectual Soul

Answering to Each Other

How is an organization supposed to function when people act freely? There is a lot at stake: profitability is at stake, as is the social climate. The mission itself is also at stake. Is the service high quality, or does it decrease if everyone acts voluntarily? Of course, the best thing is to trust that everyone wants the best in their cooperation. But fallibility thwarts our plans. And fallibility refers primarily to the unconscious – unconscious inabilities and unconscious egoisms. It is about people working together to answer collegially to each other. Experience has shown that it is even more difficult for many people to answer to colleagues than to managers. We are traditionally used to answering to managers, but now it is colleagues to whom we are accountable, regardless of hierarchy. Can we also keep ourselves receptive to critical feedback?

What worries me about my work? How do I feel? It’s about being honest, speaking from the soul, and showing something about yourself.

A word about freedom: freedom does not mean doing what I like, but freely doing what is necessary. So freedom is connected with responsibility. Otherwise, it is not freedom. Only a free human being can be held responsible for an action. Otherwise, a person can always retreat to a rule or an authority. Only free human beings can answer for themselves, and at the same time, free humans have to answer for their fallibility. I developed a model for this development work in organizations in dialogue with customers. I call it the culture of responsibility model. A culture of obedience works through orders, rules, and control. If one wants to overcome this, then one’s own initiative takes the place of order and rule, and control becomes mutual responsibility.

But people also have their own ideas, sometimes ‹arbitrary›. They refuse to be held accountable. Then a culture of wantonness, of arbitrariness, threatens. I have taken the liberty of assigning spiritual principles to the culture of obedience, namely the Ahrimanic principle because it has to do with power, and the culture of wanton the Luciferian principle, because it has to do with self-aggrandizement, with arrogance. The culture of freedom and responsibility is the realization of Christian culture in the Anthroposophical sense.

Because this development towards a culture of responsibility has not yet progressed so far, it is advisable to introduce it in an organization from the top down. This means that the managers, who are also part of the cooperation, should start with this mutual responsibility. What managers decide has a significant impact on many people. Here is an example: At Havelhöhe Hospital, the management committee was appointed for five years. For this purpose, this circle has 60 to 70 people from all areas and professional fields of the organization, also from different hierarchical levels. Of course, many expressions of gratitude came, but also critical things from people subordinate to you. It is an unusual spiritual movement and not a grassroots democracy. The management committee is therefore appointed by the foundation’s board of directors but also based on encounters with the clinic’s various professional groups and hierarchical levels.

Then I come to the third development. I call it the development of the community in a strict sense. How do we work together? What do we do well, and what do we not succeed in so well? What could we change? Moving these questions to larger communities is challenging. Many traditional organizations shy away from this idea. They say: «People are not capable of this. That’s what the managers have to do.» Yes, of course, managers can play a decisive role here. But in the sense of the threefold order, one can also say that here people come together who work in different professions and also at different levels. And they talk together about their work, their roles, their processes, their structures, their sufferings, and needs, about their hopes. I would describe this as a development conference that is best held rhythmically. So, for example, monthly or twice a year, for two days. There are different forms.

In any case, the how of community building is important, namely that a special spiritual atmosphere unfolds there. Rudolf Steiner: «In today’s time of consciousness, human beings want to connect with the purely human of the other.» A meaningful statement that is worth deep exploration. This need for purely human encounters is high. And this human encounter does not simply take place ‹humanly›. Especially in complex organizations, we often hide behind roles and masks.

Now to the what, to the content of such development conferences. In my opinion, the organization of the Consciousness Soul is not predefined. There is no template. As Bernhard Lievegood once made clear, standardized models and concepts are all made for the Intellectual Soul. That is the essence of the concept. The organization of the Consciousness Soul cannot be planned. It arises through creative co-creation. «You do not organize an organism – it grows,» says Rudolf Steiner. «It is the essence of an organism that it does not have to be organized, that it organizes itself.»

Consciousness Soul

Feel the Sole of Your Foot

Therefore, such development conferences are the organs the social organism creates to perceive itself and get ideas and impulses on how it wants to shape itself further. Intuitive abilities play a role, and they come from unexpected corners. In my profession, I often lead such organizational development workshops. Looking at how people behave, one senses that some are reserved, others open, some are happy, and others are skeptical. Some feel uncomfortable because others are in the room. Some seem somewhat traumatized by previous events that have frustrated or bored them. So the mood is anything but optimal – most of the time. That’s why I started doing preliminary exercises. One of the easiest exercises is to invite people to feel the soles of their feet and maintain this feeling for as long as possible. You then notice that, at some point, you have stopped feeling. It’s so simple but true: When people feel each other, they are more in their center, and something changes for the better. It’s a hands-on experience.

A physical therapist explained to me that the cerebrum cannot feel the soles of the feet and that by focusing on sensation, you activate other brain areas, and thus, the consciousness becomes more holistic. In any case, the atmosphere improves when people feel themselves, form an attentive space, and become more aware of themselves.

Judgment should acquire a selfless character so that the group becomes the organ of consciousness for the social organism.

I then try to practice such exercises as well: In partner exercises, one person listens and feels the soles of his or her feet. And the other person should now simply show him- or herself as a human being. Questions can be, for example: What has kept me busy in my work recently? What worries me about my work? How do I feel? It’s about being honest, speaking from the soul, and showing something about yourself. And the other person has this mindfulness, this awareness, this calm being in one’s own center. And after ten minutes, you can switch. After such a preliminary exercise, the atmosphere is improved.

I also recommend, when we sit in a circle, that people continue focusing on their senses. Sometimes I ask people to step up to the window to perceive the sunlight. And I ask people to describe what is happening in their souls. Then people say that it expands their souls; it gives them peace and quiet. And then, I ask people to take this inner light with them into their joint work. Sometimes I have to stop work and do such an exercise again. It has been shown that investing time in such things pays off. Afterward, the group can work quite differently because this quality of the encounter is set forth from person to person. As a result, the group has better judgment. The power of judgment turns either to the cognitive side in understanding things and processes, or it turns to the will side. Which initiatives and ideas would be helpful for further development? This power of judgment should acquire a selfless character so that the group becomes an organ for the social organism, an organ of consciousness for the social organism.

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

A vital question of the company that can be discussed is, for example: Where will investments be made next year and where not? Naturally, quite personal self-interests speak up. Here it becomes a trial by fire whether one has the strength and selflessness to look at the entire social organism and to want to hear different, perhaps polar voices. Where is development more important now? Is it possible to push one forward and postpone the other? Would people be willing to understand this? If the atmosphere is right and this encounter is encouraging compassionate awareness, then experience has shown that most people are willing to judge selflessly. They can do it, they want it, and they understand it. It is then a kind of lived Anthroposophy, practical Anthroposophy, which reaches not only the people undergoing inner training but also others who do not explicitly see themselves as Anthroposophists.

If the atmosphere is right, most people will judge selflessly.

For example, I’m coming to a development conference, and we really have big plans. We have decisions to make, and I see the people in the room and realize that something has happened. They seem frightened and excited, and nervous. And then they tell me: Yes, the night before, they were already in the hotel, then an old argument broke out with tears for one and anger for the other. They actually meant well, but it didn’t go well. In such a case, if the doppelganger, this shadow of a group, is so attached to the community that it is best to take the bull by the horns. And then, I do the preliminary exercises in such a way that I invite people to exchange ideas on the following question: What have I done or not done recently? What am I sorry for from today’s point of view? What would I no longer do? What am I ashamed of in the organization? I then ask people to choose a partner with whom they either do not have so much to do or perhaps even have a difference or a conflict. Again, the exercises on the sole of the foot or the exercises on the light follow. Then you can continue in the big round, and at least some put this very personal, fallible in the round. And when you do that and talk openly about these doppelganger experiences, it’s like having a magic wand in your hands. The conflict in the group now appears to be a stroke of luck because the dispute raises the intensity of the encounter to a high level.

Talking openly about these doppelganger experiences is like having a magic wand in your hands.

This is once again an essential step, whether such a self-revealing conversation takes place in private or one expresses oneself in front of a large group. When individual people overcome themselves here, other people understand: «Ah, I suffer from this person or from their doppelganger, but at least they see them.» There is self-distancing. They don’t want to be identified with that at all. Maybe they succeed, or perhaps they don’t succeed for long, but it builds trust when you hear someone talk about their doppelganger. This is, again, a practical exercise I developed out of necessity, and it works.

‹Grabbing the bull by the horns›

Now I would like to come to a topic that is personally a matter close to my heart and that I have not yet explored. The point is that in Anthroposophical therapeutic communities, there are always those who are explicitly very close to Anthroposophy and also others who are not, who may have come into contact with it here and there and find it quite interesting, but are not closer in touch, sometimes distant and sometimes skeptical. And I have noticed that those who do not have explicit affiliation sometimes suffer mentally, silently, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously.

An executive once told me how much she suffers from this non-affiliation that penetrates her between the lines. A person who tries to spend all their energy on the organization and wants the best for it is identified and gets signaled: «You don’t really belong to us.» Such exclusion can lead to crises. It can lead to deep self-doubt, even unconscious pain, and perhaps also to psycho-somatic illness.

I am fundamentally impressed by how well the interaction of these two groups works. I often don’t recognize who is who. I don’t ask. I don’t even want to know. So at first glance, the therapeutic exercises do it wonderfully. At second glance, I think there is still suffering, there is pain, and there are development opportunities. And I now take the liberty of putting forward an idea here from the Anthroposophical community building from the lecture on March 3rd, 1923, in which Rudolf Steiner spoke about the Christian Community and the Anthroposophical Society. I’ll expand upon it. He said: Every human being has two community-building desires. One is the longing for origin. Usually, this is within language, memory, and a common childhood. Memory can also refer to the prenatal. So there is a sense of community within memory. Rudolf Steiner then pointed out with a certain seriousness that there had been a second form of longing, especially since the end of the 19th century, and that raising awareness of this longing was essential. It manifests itself in shared idealism and ideals. Ideals are the ordering forces of the life of the will, of the impulses for the future. I am firmly committed to taking this community building even more seriously in the direction of a shared future will. I think every working community is a community of idealism, a community of common will, and a shared future.

And this is, above all, what should take place in such development conferences, the heart organ of the organization. «The change in the world of work requires that people’s horizons be broadened, that people be called out on a plan on which they will meet their fellow human beings in large circles to develop an interest in people as human beings. This must happen so that even the one who works in the most hidden corner on a single screw feels like a worthy link within the circle of his fellow human beings.» This is how Rudolf Steiner describes this longing of every single human being.

In summary, the three great crises are the loosening of leadership from the principle of power for the principle of free insight. In cooperation, loosening from the all too personal, antisocial imprisonment in oneself to the increased interest in other people and the willingness to listen to how they experience my work, as well as their desires. The third crisis is the loosening from the community of origin towards a sense of community of shared ideals and joint projects.

Three Crises as One Challenge

These three developments should therefore interact in the social organism. Leadership expects – one could also say, demands – responsibility in cooperation, this joint responsibility to each other. In return, cooperation then does something the leadership has done till then. Therefore it supports leadership and relieves the leadership. But of course, there are many problems and questions, especially about how to work together as free people. These issues can be brought to development conferences, where solutions are created, and trust is built. These development conferences, in turn, should be valued by the leadership. Space must be created for this; resources must be freed up so people can also spend time learning together. So – leadership makes this community possible. And again, from the community, there is this backflow of trust and ideas that helps leadership again – just as in the human organism, the nervous system is connected with the cardiac and regenerative systems.

Every working community is a community of common will, a shared future.

From the Community to the Community of Communities

There is one development that I did not address because, in my opinion, it would have been overwhelming to carry this Consciousness Soul culture beyond the organization. My colleague Friedrich Glasl called it the culture of association. He has placed a fourth phase next to the three I presented here. Sometimes I also have a little to do with it, through the umbrella organization of Anthroposophic Medicine in Germany or at the Anthromed. Different organizations are working together and could work together much more closely. They could enter into many more connections, make many more agreements, and act with more coordination. These future developments are again a separate topic.


All drawings by Adrien Jutard, charcoal drawing, 2022 – Translation: Monika Werner

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  1. Thank you for sharing new ideas for a new future. I have experienced a type of group work similar in some ways to what you describe, here in Canada. I will never forget how fruitful it was for our group to bond and work together in trust. Since then the idea of creating dynamic connections in working groups so that members trust each other and connect on a deeper, more human level, beyond the superficial “persona” has enthralled me.

    Also, in these times of change and crumbling of old systems, I am happy to discover new ideas for new ways to organize our lives popping up all over the place. And many of them, whether consciously or not, bring out Rudolf Steiner’s ideas and concepts before the community of seekers of how to move forward. This is exciting. I always wondered how Anthroposophy would spread to a wider circle of people and produce desired changes in society and to see it happening in real time is exhilarating. And this essay is a big part of that process!

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