Being human today
Bioregion (also ecoregion)
Development & Development practice
Essential elements of the human being
Karma & Destiny
Practice of Thinking
Three-folding of the social organism
Anthroposophy is derived from the Greek words “anthropos” (human) and “sophia” (wisdom) and means “the wisdom of human kind”. The term anthroposophy was coined at the beginning of the 20th century. Dr. Rudolf Steiner, a Hungarian-born philosopher and spiritual scientist, founded what was for that time a modern form of spiritual science.
Spiritual science is understood as the knowledge of making spiritual laws, which form the basis for all living and non-living beings on earth and in the cosmos as comprehensible and understandable.
The development of humanity takes place in different stages and cultures and should ultimately lead to an individual higher consciousness. This can eventually be penetrated by working through one’s own biography in individual steps to new insights and impulses in the life of each person. (see biography work)
ISDP brings anthroposophy to life, sees itself as an educational initiative of applied anthroposophy.
In the German language – the language of humanism – a distinction is made between human and inhuman behaviour. Human behaviour distinguishes us as humans; inhuman behaviour distinguishes us as inhumane creatures.
Someone who attacks the dignity of a human being degrades himself. In fact, humans can only dehumanise themselves. One can never dehumanize someone else.
ISDP promotes the confrontation with humanity as it is possible in our times and in distinction from the inhumanity that flares up again and again.
Biography work is essentially about the individual and her/his life. It is an active practice for the development of self-knowledge. Biography work is based on the work of Dr. Rudolf Steiner (see also Anthroposophy). In Biography Work, the human being (microcosm) is understood as part of a larger organization (natural environment, earth, and cosmos). Biography work focuses on the present life and the development of the individual according to human development.
Biography work is a deepened and structured process that aims to anchor the individual in his or her individual age as well as in what it means to be human in these times. It can also pursue various individual goals, such as recognizing one’s own destiny, finding resources for shaping one’s life, consciously shaping transitions and developmental steps, expanding one’s own scope of action, and facing critical life events differently. In this sense, biography work is a path to self-empowerment and to increasing individual self-efficacy.
A better understanding of human development can also lead to greater social understanding and a deeper, genuine interest in fellow human beings. Communities—as social organisms—must give space to individual human development in order to be current and relavent.
ISDP links individual development to the development that unites us as human beings.
A bioregion is an eco-organism (land and/or water area) whose identity is defined by geographic boundaries of human communities and ecological systems rather than by nation-state borders. The understanding of bioregions extends the concept of nation-states.
A bioregion must be large enough to maintain the integrity of an ecosystem and its biological communities as habitats of a region while also being able to support important ecological processes (such as water flows, food and waste cycles). Considering habitat requirements and the key and indicator species involved, human communities use a bioregion with respect to biodiversity and natural resources. Thus, a bioregion implies a certain size but is small enough for the inhabitants to consider it their home.
ISDP is committed to the development of autonomous and interdependent bioregions that provide homes for its habitants be them humans, animals and plants living within it.
The term commune encompasses all organizational forms of human coexistence that go beyond the family unit (e.g. communities, neighbourhoods, parishes). A commune includes the dimensions of a geographically defined area (see also bioregion), social ties, and the cooperation of its inhabitants as an act of common culture for a common good and common goal.
A commune is a social organism—a living entity—and as such requires a dynamic structure to meet the needs of its various parts and the tasks they are called upon to perform. These parts can best be understood by looking at the various organizations of the human body. A commune is never an end in itself but must facilitate individual human development (see also Social Three-folding).
a.o. “Quality characteristics of community-oriented work in the district centres of the Association of Vienna Youth Centres”, Vienna, 2003 and
ISDP sees future communes as communities that express a conscious common will and emerge from initiatives.
Community development refers to the development of local or regional areas (see also bioregion) by the inhabitants themselves; as an independent cultural act; or as a corrective to politics, power, and the market, with the aim of participatory building and strengthening of civil society.
Further goals of community development are the empowerment to self-help and self-organization through the reintroduction of the commons. This can include the promotion of social capital to ensure social integration, sustainable use as well as the protection and sustainable management of natural resources, the establishment and maintenance of network structures and cooperative infrastructure for the bioregional / local economy, the decentralization of administration as well as its accessibility according to democratic principles (see also democracy) and the development of a needs based socio-economic sector (according to the principle of fraternity) on the basis of availability, supply and work security for the inhabitants.
Other aspects that add and obtain local and regional values are food, water and energy sovereignty and waste management (recycling of the generated waste as in the circular economy). In addition, communities address the use of regional currencies, land use and land rights issues, and the protection of (regional) ecosystems.
Community development mobilizes the potentials of a given bioregion and its stakeholders and finds synergies and solutions to problems and complex situations.
In order for communities to be understood as living social organisms that also have a universal purpose: namely, to enable the inherent human beings to develop as individuals and as human beings, IDSP empowers people to shape their community accordingly in a three-folded way.
The term democracy comes from the Greek—where democracy in ancient Greece has been defined by Aristotle—and is composed of the terms demos (gr. the people) and kratos (gr. authority/power). Democracy thus means rule by the people (only free men, no slaves and no women were allowed to rule in the democratic era in ancient Athens).
The so-called ‘representative democracies’ should correctly be called republics. Republic and democracy, however, are not the same. In a republic, citizens are allowed to choose who is to govern them from among a set of people placed before them. Republics are based on election. In a democracy, however, the citizens themselves govern. Elections—the current criterion for democracy—were actually not considered democratic at all by Aristotle. Any restrictions on the participation of citizens in governance were considered undemocratic.
Today, in many places around the world, there are initiatives that understand democracy correctly and try to implement it in the form of mini-publics. As such, when we talk about democracy, we are talking about forms of self-governance.
a.o. https://www.newdemocracy.com.au/ and https://participedia.net/
ISDP helps to correctly understand and develop democracy as a form of organizing a legal life that is appropriate for human beings.
While growth is an expansion, or something that simply happens, development requires will; in this case the will to develop, to bring forth something that is ‘wrapped up’ and therefore not yet revealed.
Both are processes in time. Growth refers to a quantitative increase (an increase in volume) while the structure (the system) remains unchanged. In nature, growth happens by itself. It is in the “nature” of living things.
Development, on the other hand, means a change in quality (an individualisation but also a separation). It exposes something and thereby makes the ‘wrapped up’ apparent and lifts the ‘being’ from one level to the next higher. Developmental practice thus represents a change in both essence and form of a system or an organism (a process of individuation), whether in an individual or in a social grouping, by bringing forth an essence that would otherwise remain hidden without the developmental process.
To ensure that development does not unleash destructive forces but develops individual, creative potential, it must be oriented towards humanity and future viability and have an understanding of the potential demons that are released! (s. Essential Elements of human beings: shadow and double)
Development practice is a new professional field and is based on the understanding that a distinction must be made between growth and development, and that other conscious paths must be followed for development (see also professional profile).
Inspired by Allan Kaplan’s “The Development Practitioner’s Handbook” Pluto Press, 1996.
For ISDP, development means the release of human-creative potential in all members of a community (based on Manfred A. Max-Neef). Nothing less corresponds to the task of development practitioners.
The I is the spirit carrier and spiritual core of the human being, which makes us autonomous, individual personalities capable of developing consciousness and the capacity for liberty (reflecting our thinking), through the aptitude for observation and cognition. The I is also the seat of self-consciousness and spiritually creative qualities. To the human organisation, this element has in present times only a briefly binding—and immediately dissolving—relationship. There are three levels of the I: 1) Everyday self, 2) the higher self (the actual I), and, 3) the Christ self (the I of the new, spiritually directed human being after the Mystery of Golgotha).
The self denotes the personality acquired in a lifetime with all its attributions (from outside) and the roles into which we are placed by our present life. Since this formation begins very early, we cannot escape it and therefore develop a self as a consequence of our being (e.g. as a woman or a man) and in response to it. The self also refers to the ‘lowest’ level of the I.
The shadow symbolises the most general understanding of the unconscious, perceived as threatening and, thus, all that we cannot consciously grasp and process in our lives. Therefore, it falls to the unconscious. As such, the unconscious has a threatening quality and is activated by fear triggering experiences. That is when our shadow personality reacts. Unresolved shadow themes become the nourishment of the double.
The double is described in anthroposophy as elements of the human soul (the unconscious) still unresolved at the end of life; the astral corpse of a human being that unites with the new astral body during re-embodiment. Experiencing the double often occurs spontaneously, usually triggered by a preceding strong mental shock or in the case of a strong restriction of consciousness. In the double we encounter our own present karmic guilt and the unredeemed of past lives which has developed over all incarnations into an independent, etheric super-ego that appears like our current physical body. The double feeds on repressed, unconscious, and unresolved soul elements.
The ISDP goal of human individuality development is ‘Man know thyself’ (Oracle of Delphi) – as a human being and as an individual. Development practitioners should learn to look at themselves from ‘the outside’, learn to experience the three lower elements of their being and develop a strong feeling for these elements in order to be able to direct and redeem these lower ones through their highest individual element of their being: the I.
The Economic life unfolds on the basis of usable land in the cycle of production, distribution (trade), and consumption. It is to be regulated according to the principle of fraternity by associations.
Fraternity means the ability to relate to the other; to put the other at the centre of one’s actions and to be generous.
The economic life also includes the contracts between the economic agents which regulates the production, trade ,and consumption of goods and services and is controlled by common judgments as obtained in the associations.
ISDP develops economic circuits based on a real need (instead of artificially generated by marketing) and thus condition a turn to the other, opening up not waste but new resources and opportunities; according to the principle of less is more and with the aim of building and maintaining regional values.
Holistic development links the development of individuals with the development of communities (see also Development & Development Practice). This means that in order for the development of a community to become time related and viable (and thus sustainable), the dimension of the individual development of the inhabitants must be included.
Furthermore, holistic development requires the understanding of a community as a living organism – consisting of different organisations (see also three folding of social organisms) – in order to be able to properly develop each of the organisations according to its basic needs.
Holistic individual development brings individual life into harmony with the ‘universal’ development of human life.
Holistic development occurs to the extent that the development of a community benefits the development of its members as much as the development of individual members benefits the development of the community.
ISDP empowers humans to work with groups for individual and human development and to incorporate this into the development of social organisms.
The term inclusion is rooted in Latin and is derived from the verb includere which means to ‘let in’ and ‘to imbed’. The noun inclusio means inclusion.
As a sociological term, the concept of inclusion describes a society in which every person is accepted and can participate r on an equal footing and in a self-determined manner; regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age or origin, religious affiliation or education, any disabilities or other individual characteristics.
In an inclusive society, there is no defined normality that every member of this society has to strive for or fulfil. Normal is only the fact that differences exist. These differences are seen as enrichment and have no impact on the self-evident right of individuals to participate. It is the task of society to create structures in all areas of life that enable the members of this society to move within it without any barriers.
ISDP prefers the term inclusion to ‘integration’. The task of the individual is to engage with life in the place of arrival and the task of the local society is to help newcomers to be included.
The term innovation means more than just “new.” Innovation requires thinking beyond the system with its fixed parameters. One must disregard natural limits and seek creative ways to live within the natural limits in every area – primarily consumption and economics but also in regard to individual life and all other areas of community life (see also democracy and tripartism of the social organism and development practice).
Innovation is based on an expanded perception of values and important issues. Innovation promotes human and community development in a holistic and sustainable way.
For ISDP, innovation is neither fashion nor trend and is not a goal in itself but the ability to shape future worlds.
When something falls out of balance, it must be rebalanced so that a forward process (and thus development) becomes possible. We humans constantly create imbalances in our lives. To balance these, we require karma. The term comes from Sanskrit and means to do, to make, to act, and to have an effect.
Karma refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect. Where all conscious and unconscious intentions and actions of an individual (as causes) disturb spiritual-cosmic order and also one’s own soul-spiritual integrity. They then rebound on the individual him/herself (as effect); influence the future of this person and must of necessity be balanced (karma law). Understanding of karma requires an understanding of several incarnations as a human being on the planet Earth.
Conventionally, the terms ‘karma’ and ‘destiny’ are often used interchangeably. We distinguish. Karma refers to the past of every human being for which every human being creates her/his compensation. In karma we are not free. It is different from destiny, the future of each person, that we can freely create. Unconscious doing and acting causes unfree karma. Conscious shaping of destiny makes us free humans.
ISDP presumes the understanding of several lives to develop as a human being. One manifestation of our individuality is found in our karma. Our freedom as human beings is revealed in the shaping of our destiny.
The legal life includes the administration of a society and regulates the relationship of human beings to human beings in which we meet each other as equal beings based on the principles of equality in laws that apply equally to all. In contrast to our different talents and abilities, we are all mature human beings equal among equals (the powerful are not above the others).
The legal life includes a democratic form of judgment (see also democracy), which includes all laws and regulations in a broader sense (with the characteristic of contingency); essentially, what should NOT happen in a society. The regulation of work by type, measure, and time is also part of legal life.
ISDP promotes an understanding of so-called ‘state life’ as the realm of democracy – the equality of humans amongst humans – and the will to develop legal life from one of expectation to one of responsibility.
The world is based on thoughts. Therefore thoughts can be extracted from the world. Who wants to really understand thinking must understand that thoughts can only be extracted from a world which contains thoughts. (according to Rudolf Steiner)
The problems of our times are connected to the present thinking mode (linear, one-sided, and abstract thinking). To be fit for the future we need to adopt a new and different thinking practice. Our thinking practice can be rethought in regard to thinking contents as well as on thinking modes. For life-related thinking, the abilities for both networked (holistic) as well as practical thinking play a vital role.
Life-related thinking means being able to think in terms of contexts, relatedness, references, and interactions and is also called ‘holistic thinking’. The basis of such a thinking practice is the realization that all that exists is related and interrelated. Our brain – our very individual ‘harbour’ for our thinking –is aligned in such a way that when we think in a ‘living’ manner, connecting impulses are generated in our brain cells. It is, therefore, equipped for networked thinking.
Life-related thinking is as close to representational things as possible.
ISDP promotes the practical training of life-related, networked and lateral thinking in all contents in order to strengthen the ability to critically reflect and examine.
The term resilience was introduced in health promotion and refers to an individual’s ability to adapt as successfully as possible to life’s tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse life conditions.
In community development, resilience refers to the ability of communities and regions (or institutions) to take the necessary actions to secure resources and infrastructure and protect the natural, social, and cultural structures needed to face the challenges of the present and future to in turn thrive despite external challenges (such as climate change). This means implementing and improving measures to cope with influences that threaten a community or region (e.g., ecocide) and to adapt to the effects of real, challenging events, with the goal of ensuring the environmental, social, economic, cultural, and spiritual viability of a community or bioregion with the aim of increasing the robustness of the social organism.
a.o. Campanella, T., Vale, L.: “The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover From Disaster,” New York, 2005.
Resilience is two-layered and has an individual as well as a community level. ISDP helps to develop both levels, i.e. to live the strengths that are revealed in being human and to be able to face the community challenges with foresight.
The spiritual life is based in the form of judgment of the free (because without knowledge and truth there cannot be a truly free vote), as well as free advice, instead of law.
The spiritual life includes education, spirituality, religion, the arts, health, science and research, jurisdiction in private and criminal law, as well as individual talents, which we should develop freely and according to the human being.
Spiritual life is based on freedom and cannot be regulated by the state.
ISDP is committed to a free development of the spiritual life (and its areas) because only through a free spiritual life can the future be properly grasped and shaped. Moreover, as an educational institution, ISDP is part of the spiritual life and as such is free from inappropriate interests.
Eurythmy originated at the beginning of the 20th century—inspired and guided by Dr. Rudolf Steiner († 1925)—in the search for the healing art of movement that involves the whole person: body, soul, and spirit.
Social eurythmy was developed for the social aspects of work in order to be used where innovative ideas and creativity are required. Social perception is to be refined and one-sided habits are to be balanced. As vital-eurythmy, it provides movements that everyone can practice on their own in everyday life to keep themselves fresh and alive.
ISDP uses the community-building power of social eurythmy and incorporates it into the social-creative experience.
The term sustainability was coined by the WHO-Brundtland Commission in 1987 and refers to the “development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Although both the term and definition are quite questionable, we do not know the needs of future generations. The lack of knowledge, with the assumption that the needs of future generations will be the same as ours, it should be listed here because the regenerative capacity of natural systems (see also bioregion) is assumed and the term has been borrowed from forestry, which describes precisely such an occurrence.
None of the systems—neither the ecological, nor the social, nor the economic—should be exploited, i.e. used beyond their regenerative capacity or played off against each other.
Natural resources should be used only to the extent that they can regenerate, while preserving habitats and biodiversity. Non-renewable resources should not be used if possible, or only if this can be done without harming humans and the environment and they can be reused without danger (according to the principles of circular economy).
Resources that are used economically should benefit the local or bioregional inhabitants. Over-exploitation of resources for purely commercial interests of particular groups and to satisfy supra-regional needs is not sustainable.
Who lives uses resources. ISDP promotes the understanding of what resources actually are and how they can be used in a way that promotes life and that they can be renewed or revitalized whenever possible.
The three-folding of the social organism or the Social Three-Folding a general orientation for social order and development, was designed and elaborated by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in the years 1917-1922. It is based on the understanding that the human organism consists of interdependent organizations that perform different tasks to keep the whole human organism alive.
The Social Three-Folding describes the ideal structure of society in which the social life processes are not governed by a central state or a leading elite, but are instead three areas of social life: spiritual life, legal life, and economic life. These three areas in turn administer themselves and follow their own functional principles relatively autonomously.
This understanding is the basis for an up to date saturation of human community and bioregional development that is both holistic and sustainably invigorating. It is based on the understanding that today’s human beings live freely, equally, and fraternally so that a development suitable for humans is possible.
The Social Three-folding is not a program. ISDP teaches people to grasp the Social Three-folding thinkingly and to perceive it perceptively in order to be able to give the right impulses in the right area. The resulting triad – of I, You and We – is the basis of the community design taught at ISEP.