Citadel, Market and Altar

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* Book: Citadel, Market, and Altar. By Spencer Heath.


Contextual Quote

[page 56]: "The social organism, like its constituent individuals, also has three great and fundamental institutions, the separate functions of which are coercion, coöperation and consecration. Their symbols are: Citadel, Market, and Altar - the department of physical force, a department of services measured and exchanged, and a department of the free and spontaneous life of the individuals. . . . The Citadel repels assault from without, subversion from within. The Market is an outgrowth of the Citadel; the Altar arises from the interaction of the Citadel and Market. In point of function, the Market supplies all service energy to the Citadel."


Bobby Matherne:


"Heath divides the basic structures of the human being into three systems which map directly into the limbic, rhythmic, and neural systems of Steiner.

[page 57] The three basic structures of the individual man are: the mechanical, consisting of the skeleton, muscles, tissues, etc., the chemical, including the nutritional, circulatory, reproductive and internal glandular tracts, and the quasi-electrical or neural system of energy transfers, with its necessary structural parts.

Heath explains that we require a "high differentiation of these structural systems", that even though they depend upon one another, they operate independently within themselves. They have what he calls, "reciprocal relations" within their "functional unity".

[page 57] The nutritional and nervous systems are dependent on the muscular and mechanical for their ponderable means of operations; the mechanical and neural depend for their subsistence upon the nutritional; and the mechanical and nutritional depend upon the neural for their functional coördination.

Why does Heath go to such lengths to describes these three spheres of operation of the human body? For the simple reason that the operation of human society involves a similar division into three coordinated and yet independent spheres of operation: citadel, market, and altar. The Citadel, he says, must stop interfering with the Market; it must rather "engage itself only with the prevention and punishment of force or equivalent fraud, and to accept the advantages of the contractual process in the performance of its public and community services." (Page 62)



"These three names of Citadel, Market, and Altar were first coined by Spencer Heath in Baltimore in the mid-1950s in his book of that name, Citadel, Market, and Altar. Given the lack of English translations of Steiner's works at the time, it is unlikely that Heath was directly familiar with "Towards Social Renewal" or any of Steiner's concepts of a threefold society. And yet Heath in his book describes a "Threefold Nature" of society along the same lines as Steiner did, using analogy to the same three subsystems of the human body. In addition Heath refers to the threefold nature of energy, something Steiner never did, to my knowledge. Here are references in the Index of Heath's book which indicate Heath's use of "Threefold Nature concepts":

[page 259 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] Threefold Nature: of energy, 55, 229; of man, 55 ff, 194, 201; of society, 54-55 ff, 59-61, 201-204, 231, 242; see also Trinity.

In this next passage, note how Heath describes the limbic system (legs, arms, muscles, etc), the rhythmic system (respiration, circulation, etc) and nervous system of the threefold human being similar to the way Steiner did thirty years earlier while using slightly different names for the three divisions.

[page 57 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] The three basic structure of the individual man are: the mechanical, consisting of the skeleton, muscles, tissues, etc., the chemical including the nutritional, circulatory, reproductive and internal glandular tracts, and the quasi-electrical or neural system of energy transfers, with all its necessary structural parts.

For further comparison, here is how Heath describes the threefold social system:

[page 56 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] The social organism, like its constituent individuals, also has three great and fundamental institutions, the separate functions of which are coercion, coöperation, and consecration. Their symbols are: Citadel, Market, and Altar -- a department of physical force, a department of services measured and exchanged, and a department of the free and spontaneous life of the individuals. . . . The Citadel repels assault from without, subversion from within. The Market is an outgrowth of the Citadel; the Altar arise from the interaction of Citadel and Market. By its ministrations to basic necessities and needs, it releases free and spontaneous energies of men to the practice of the intellectual, the esthetic and creative arts — all those sports and recreations of body and mind towards which they freely incline and aspire.

Clearly we can see that Heath and Steiner were describing the same insight each had about how to create a threefold society which will operate better than all the current forms of society extant today. Yet Heath provides us with something Steiner does not — a historical example of a basically free community which thrived for half a millennium. Figure 2 shows "The Basic Free Community" and is found on page 81 of Heath's book. Note the structure of the Citadel (the castle at the top with the flag on it), the Market, and the Altar, and the names of the constituent roles people played in each of the subsystems during that time.

[page 79 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] Nowhere has this transition from tribalism and mere folk organization into the free community pattern been better exemplified than in the social foundations that were laid in England by the Saxon migrants from beyond the German Sea. The basic English community pattern is diagrammatically set out in Figure 2. Here the nucleus of the societal organism is the strong man in his stronghold, like the captain of his ship and crew. Clustered around him are his paid retainers, through whom he defends his community against outside aggression and maintains internal liberty and peace in fulfillment of his covenant of quiet possession in exchange for the rent that maintains him and the services he provides. Thus, under a common defense — a com-munito — the truly societal form of life begins. Its structure is analogous to the physical atom and to the biological cell. For in each there is a central nucleus of great stability to which are gathered peripheral elements in non-collisional, reciprocal relations to it and to one another. And just as the physical or the biological structure disintegrates when these free relations are greatly impaired or destroyed, so must any societal organization cease to function and thus cease to exist when its free and reciprocal processes can no longer be performed.

Unfortunately this form of community came to a screeching halt with the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and the subsequent imposition of Norman control by coercion. The threefold nature of the society collapsed when the free relations were interfered with by the Norman overlords. Over the millennium since that invasion, we have become so inured to the Norman-type of top-down political rulership with its coercion, taxation, and tribute that few today understand the nature of the remarkably successful threefolding of feudal society in England in the five hundred years preceding the Norman invasion. It was a successful society sans coercion, taxation and war, believe it or not.

[page 79,80 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] The Western world has been so long indoctrinated with the Norman and the Classical traditions of political rulership over servile-minded and tribute-burdened populations that any suggestion of molding public institutions to the basic pattern of the proprietary or free feudal communities is almost sure to be decried as a return to slavery and to barbarism itself. Yet history affords the one striking example, already referred to, of proprietary government as contractual services springing up spontaneously out of the merely blood-bonded condition and growing through a half-millennium into a state of freedom and of cultural achievement in sharp contrast to the darkness and degradation that prevailed in its contemporary European world. The Anglo-Saxon community organization culminated in the Alfredian Renaissance. It had its seeds in the Roman evacuation, five hundred years before, to strengthen the hard-pressed legions on the frontier of the Rhine. Into this void came the seaborne Barbarians to build anew in the genius of "men who never would be slaves." For half the dark millennium, the aftermath of Rome, in almost secret isolation, they built their communities on the basis of free men receiving services from and giving services in return to land lords. Once the land was possessed, there was no more offensive war, for there was no public revenue but rent; taxation, like slavery, as an institution, was unknown. After Alfred, the Danish invaders laid taxes for eleven years which were continued until the English Edward, coming to the throne, denounced and abolished them as contrary to Anglo-Saxon custom and law. But Norman ideas and example were having their effects in the discord and divisions that laid England open to the Norman arms and victim to the Roman mode of political administration, based on the seizure of property under which Rome herself at last went down.

Rude as were the ages and harsh the times, the Saxon development of proprietary public service was a magnificent example of a society, unperverted by any ideology of public force or of imperial domination, rising through only five centuries to the premier cultural position of its time through development of the proprietary pattern in which it was born.

Unfortunately such a threefold society as existed in the so-called "dark ages" of 500 to 1066 A. D. exists nowhere today — all examples of public administration extant do so by force, not by proprietary administration, even in the so-called free nations of the world, such as the United States of America. This shows the power of precedent and the inertia to change exerted by the petty bureaucracies charged with this public administration by force.

[page 80, 82 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] The Classical precedent and practice of public administration by force is almost universally accepted. In its milder forms, it is exalted as "democratic" and "free." Where it is more drastic and complete, it is accepted as absolute and ineluctable. Even the possibility of an alternative and opposite mode of administration is widely ignored. And, beyond the basic public service that land owners everywhere unknowingly perform in their contractual distribution of sites and resources and lands, there is no present-day example, on a nationwide scale, of government as a service to the population through a proprietary administration of the community affairs.

The key to understanding where Heath is taking us is the phrase "on a nationwide scale" as we shall see. In another remarkable insight, Heath points to the proprietary administration performed in any large hotel wherever located in the world — defense, accommodations, goods, services, and utilities are provided all on a proprietary basis. Another example of a proprietary microcosm of a threefold society is aboard a cruise ship. Again, all the services of a community are found and are provided on a proprietary basis. On a community scale, I am familiar with a city of about 17,000 residents who reside in a private community of 25 square miles which contains no public property, no public roads, and no public administration, but is run by and for the residents on a proprietary basis exactly as a fine hotel or cruise ship would be run. Accommodations are first class with excellent paved roads, premiere golf courses, recreational facilities, hiking trails, lakes, picnic areas, etc, and all provided on a proprietary basis. Crime is virtually non-existent, and one can find no sign of trash or litter anywhere. The city is Hot Springs Village and is located outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

[page 82 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] In a modern hotel community, however, the pattern is plain. It is an organized community with such services in common as policing, water, drainage, heat, light and power, communications and transportation, even educational and recreational facilities such as libraries, musical and literary entertainment, swimming pools, gardens and golf courses, with courteous services by the community officers and employees. In their common participation in the community services, the inhabitants have no need or desire for common ownership or any other kind of ownership of the community or any responsibility for its proper and efficient operation — except as they may own shares or undivided interests in it. The entire community is operated for and not by its inhabitants. Other than good behavior, they have no obligation beyond making the agreed or customary payment for the services they receive. And what they pay is voluntary, very different from taxation. For it is rational and not arbitrary, and it is limited by custom and consent, by the competition of the market. A proprietary authority, unlike the political, does not have to force and rule in order to protect and serve.

Can you consider how such a proprietary system might work on a nationwide basis? There seems little doubt that it could, but consider this: if the only automobile you knew of growing up was one that was abused by an owner who didn't change the oil, or lubricate the bearings, and ran it without water in the radiator so it stalled constantly, you might prefer driving an antiquated horse-drawn carriage than a new-fangled automobile thereafter. Our newer political systems have been so abused and abusive that we prefer the ancient kind of Roman law systems exactly because they are so old and we prefer to put up with abuses we are familiar with rather than test new systems with abuses we are not familiar with. As a fellow physics major told me in 1961 when I asked what she thought about Castro possibly deposing Batista in her native country of Cuba, "The devil you know is better than the one you don't know,"

[page 82 of Citadel, Market, and Altar] The Anglo-Saxon practice of community service by proprietary instead of political administration is profound in its implications for the modem age. Its institutions were born far in advance of their time, and they were rudely perverted and torn down. But violent capture and the imposition of an entirely alien mode of administration no more disproves the essential soundness of the free feudal form than the improper or destructive use of a finely specialized machine discredits the sound principle of its operation.

We have examined pre-Norman England feudal society as one of the periods in history in which the absence of coercion and taxation led to a remarkably stable and prosperous society albeit it on a modest scale compared to what we would consider prosperous today. One other period of prosperity happened on a large scale for about a century in the 1800s in the United States of America. Greatly increased industrial output and railroads came together with the western expansion of the country to produce unparalleled prosperity arguably due to the absence of onerous taxation and regulations of the businesses in the newly opened territories. As the century neared its end the expansion was waning and coercive bureaucrats with their laws and taxation were reaching the Pacific Coast creating a dampening effect on the economy. This is admittedly a sketchy view of the matter, omitting more than it says as I am no historian(3), but merely an observer of the factors which lead to prosperity and sustain it and as such I can point to the changes in the latter 1800s and the 1900s when the sustaining of prosperity was replaced by large swings between highs of economic activity and lows of recessions and depressions. This is a periodic rise and fall of prosperity in cycles which continues today and will continue so long the post-Norman mode of regulation by law and power are deemed the highest and best way of governing a society."


More information

See: Towards Social Renewal Through Threefolding Society

  • Book: Towards Social Renewal. Rethinking the Basis of Society. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1919