The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
of the General Anthroposophical Society at the
Christmas Meeting, 1923, Dornach, Switzerland
13 January 1924
To give the Anthroposophical Society the form most suitable for the development of the Anthroposophical Movement: this was the purpose of the Christmas gathering which has come to an end. A society of this kind can have no abstract rules or statutes. Its real basis is already given in all that insight into the Spiritual World which is Anthroposophy. In this a large number of men and women today already find an impulse which they feel is worthy of their spiritual striving. The union in a society with others of a like mind is what their souls require. For in mutual give and take in spiritual matters, human life unfolds its truest essence. It lies in the nature of the case that those who would make Anthroposophy an integral part of their life, should wish for a society through which to foster it.
Anthroposophy has its root in the perceptions — already gained — into the spiritual world. Yet these are no more than the root. The branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruits of Anthroposophy grow into all the fields of human life and action.
With thoughts that manifest the essence and the laws of spiritual being, the call of Anthroposophy rings into the very depths of the creative soul of man. Artistic powers of the soul are conjured forth, and Art receives incentives on all sides.
Anthroposophy pours into the hearts of men the warmth that is kindled when the eyes of the soul are lifted to the spiritual world. In unfeigned devotion to the Divine in the world, the religious sense is awakened, and true Religion is thus deepened and intensified.
The well-springs of Anthroposophy are opened, for the will of man — strengthened by love — to draw from them. Kindling the love of mankind, Anthroposophy grows creative in moral impulses to action and in the practice of a truly social life.
And Anthroposophy imbues with fertile seeds of spiritual vision Man's penetration into Nature. From the mere learnedness concerning Nature, true Knowledge of her arises.
In all these ways, Anthroposophy begets a multitude of tasks; but these can only find their way into the wider circles of mankind if fostered and developed first in a society.
The responsible people at the Goetheanum issued an invitation — a call to those who believe that Anthroposophy, in the way it is cultivated there, is seeking to be equal to these tasks. Such were invited to a Christmas gathering, where the efforts that have been going on for some time past in the foundation of the various anthroposophical societies should be brought to an adequate culmination.
The response was beyond expectation. Between seven and eight hundred people were present when the ‘Foundation Stone’ of the ‘General Anthroposophical Society’ was laid. Their transactions will be described by gradual installments in the ‘Goetheanum’ Supplement.
It fell to me to open and conduct the meetings. It was with a glad heart that I did the opening. Beside me sat Albert Steffen, the Swiss poet. The whole gathering of anthroposophists were looking towards him with thankful hearts. It was on Swiss soil that they had come together to found the Anthroposophical Society. To Switzerland, in Albert Steffen, they have long owed a leading member to whom they look up with true enthusiasm. In him I had Switzerland before me, represented by one of the ‘gentlest’ of her sons; and my first word was of heartfelt greeting to him and all our friends in Switzerland. My second was to call on him to give the opening address.
It was a deeply moving address. Albert Steffen spoke with his wonderful word-painting, his plastic, picture-forming poetry of language. Eloquent and mighty visions rose before one as one listened to him.
There stood before us the moment when in 1913 we laid the Foundation Stone of the Goetheanum. I cannot find words to describe what I experienced when the ceremony in which I had acted ten years since arose before me once again in Steffen's picture.
Words moulded with artistic beauty called to our minds the building of the Goetheanum — hundreds of devoted hands at work, hundreds of hearts beating in glad unison.
Then — the Goetheanum fire. The whole tragedy of it, the pain of many thousands throbbed again as Albert Steffen spoke. And at length another picture: in the foreground the very Being of Anthroposophy, transfigured in the soul of the poet; and in the background the enemies — not blamed, but simply, quietly portrayed, with all his plastic power of expression.
‘Ten years of the Goetheanum’ — well could one feel how deeply Steffen's words sank into the hearts of those present.
After this prelude, so worthy of the occasion, I had to speak of the form which the Anthroposophical Society should now assume. I had to state what should take the place of ordinary rules and statutes. We need a simple description of what it is that human beings desire to achieve, in that they come together on a purely human basis to form the Anthroposophical Society. It is at the Goetheanum, with its scanty sheds and temporary wooden halls since the fire, that Anthroposophy is being fostered. How the leaders of the Goetheanum understand this task, and what they consider its effect will be on the civilisation of mankind, should be simply stated. Then should follow a description of how they conceive that the work should be carried on in a ‘School of Spiritual Science’.
It cannot be a matter of setting up principles to which one is then expected to declare one's adherence. An existing reality must be described, its character set forth. To which we simply add: Whoever would lend his co-operation and support to the things that are being done at the Goetheanum, can become a member.
As ‘Statutes’ — which are, however, no Statutes, but a description of the society that can result from the purely human and living relationship above indicated:
- The General Anthroposophical Society is meant to be a union of people who desire to further the life of the soul — both in the individual and in human society — on the basis of a true knowledge of the Spiritual World.
- The persons gathered at the Goetheanum, Dornach, at Christmas, 1923 — both the individuals who were present and the groups which were represented — form the foundation of the Society. They are convinced that there is in existence at the present time a real Science of the Spiritual World — elaborated for years past, and, in important particulars, already published. They hold, moreover, that the civilisation of today needs the cultivation of such a science. This is to be the task of the General Anthroposophical Society. It will endeavour to fulfill the task by making the spiritual science of Anthroposophy cultivated in the Goetheanum at Dornach the central point of its activities, with all that results from it, for brotherhood in human intercourse, for moral and religious life, and for the artistic and spiritual life in general, within the being of mankind. [The Society is continuous with the Anthroposophical Society founded in 1912. With the same objects in view which were then defined, the intention is to create an independent point of departure, in keeping with the true spirit of the time.]
- The persons gathered together at Dornach in founding the Society recognise and support the view of those responsible at the Goetheanum (represented by the Executive) in the following particulars: ‘Anthroposophy, as pursued in the Goetheanum leads to results which can be of assistance to every human being — without distinction of nation, social standing or religion — as an incentive in spiritual life. These results can in a real sense give rise to a social life based on brotherly love. The possibility of making them one's own and founding life upon them depends on no special degree of learning or education, but alone on a free, unbiased human nature. The researches however which lead to them and to the power of competent judgment on the results of research, are subject to a spiritual-scientific training which must be acquired step by step. The results are in their way no less exact than those of Natural Science. When they attain general recognition like these, they will bring about a like progress in all spheres of life — not only in the spiritual but in the practical domain.’
- The General Anthroposophical Society is in no sense a secret society, but an entirely public organisation. Without distinction of nationality, social standing, religion, scientific or artistic conviction, any person who considers the existence of such an institution as the Goetheanum in Dornach — School for Spiritual Activity in Science and Art — to be justified, can become a member of the Society. The Anthroposophical Society is averse to any kind of sectarian tendency. Politics it does not consider to be among its tasks.
- The General Anthroposophical Society looks upon the School of Spiritual Science at Dornach as the centre of its work. This School will be composed of three classes. Members of the Society will — on their application — be admitted to the School after a period of membership to be determined in each case by those responsible at the Goetheanum. They thus gain entrance to the first class of the School of Spiritual Science. Applicants will be received into the second or third class respectively when those responsible at the Goetheanum deem them ripe for admission.
- Every member of the General Anthroposophical Society has the right to participate — under conditions to be announced by the Executive — in all lectures, performances, and meetings of any kind arranged by the Society.
- The establishment of the School of Spiritual Science is in the first place incumbent on Rudolf Steiner, who will appoint his collaborators and his eventual successor.
- All publications of the Society will be open to the public as are those of other public societies. [The conditions, too, whereby one enters into the training of this School, have been described in published works and their publication will be continued.] The same will apply to the publications of the School of Spiritual Science; but in regard to these works, those responsible for the School reserve the right from the outset to deny the validity of opinions unsupported by the proper qualifications, namely by the training of which the works themselves are the outcome. In this sense and as is customary in the recognised scientific world, they will admit the validity of no judgment which is not based on the requisite preliminary studies. The publications of the School of Spiritual Science will therefore contain the following notice: ‘Printed in Manuscript for the members of the School of Spiritual Science, Goetheanum, Class ... No person is held qualified to form a judgment on the contents of these works, who has not acquired — through the School itself or in an equivalent manner recognised by the School — the requisite preliminary knowledge. Other opinions will be in so far disregarded, as the authors of the works in question are not willing to take them as a basis for discussion.’
- The object of the General Anthroposophical Society will be the furtherance of research in spiritual regions; that of the School of Spiritual Science the actual pursuit of such research. A dogma in any sphere whatsoever shall be excluded from the General Anthroposophical Society.
- At the beginning of each year the General Anthroposophical Society holds an annual General Meeting, when the Executive shall submit a full report and balance sheet. The Agenda shall be issued by the Executive together with the invitation to all members four weeks before the meeting. The Executive may summon emergency General Meetings and fix the Agenda for such Meetings. Invitations to such Meetings shall be sent to members two weeks in advance. Motions by individual members or groups of members shall be sent in eight days before the date of a General Meeting.
- The members of the Society may join together in smaller or larger groups, on any geographical or relevant basis of activity. The seat of the General Anthroposophical Society is at the Goetheanum, whence the Executive shall communicate to the members or groups of members what it considers to be the task of the Society. The Executive enters into communication with the officials elected or appointed by the single Groups. Membership shall be applied for in writing and can be obtained through admission by the Executive at Dornach; each card of membership has to be signed by the President of the Society. As a general rule every member should join a Group. Only those who find it quite impossible to enter a Group should apply for admission at Dornach as individual members.
- The subscription shall be fixed by the single Groups; each Group shall however send 15 Swiss Francs annually per member to the headquarters of the Society at the Goetheanum.
- Each working Group formulates its own Statutes, but these must not be incompatible with the Statutes of the General Anthroposophical Society.
- The organ of the Society is the Goetheanum Weekly, which shall for this purpose issue a Supplement containing the official communications of the Society. This enlarged edition of the Goetheanum will be supplied to members of the General Anthroposophical Society only. (An English translation — the Anthroposophic News Sheet — is published at Dornach. Subscriptions for this News Sheet should be addressed to the office at the Goetheanum, Dornach.)
In close connection with the opening meeting, was the festivity on the morning of 25 December, entitled ‘Laying the Foundation Stone of the General Anthroposophical Society’. It could only be a question of Laying the Foundation Stone in an ideal and spiritual sense. The soil in which the Stone was laid could be no other than the hearts and souls of those united in the Society. And the Foundation Stone itself must be the attitude of mind which grows when Anthroposophy gives shape to life. This attitude in life, as it is required by the signs of the present time, lies in the will to find — by deepening the human soul — the path to an awakened vision of the Spirit and to a life proceeding from the Spirit. I will now put down the verses wherein I tried to give shape to this Foundation Stone.
FOUNDATION STONE VERSES
[See the volume The Foundation Stone (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, London, 1957).]
Soul of man!
Denn es waltet der Vater-Geist der Höhen
For the Father-Spirit of the Heights holds
Soul of Man!
Denn es waltet der Christus-Wille im Umkreis
For the Christ-Will in the encircling Round
Soul of Man!
Denn es walten des Geistes-Weltgedanken
For the Spirit's Universal Thoughts hold
In der Zeiten Wende
At the turning-point of Time
O Light Divine,
EXECUTIVE (Vorstand) OF THE
GENERAL ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
THE Executive was formed at the Christmas Meeting of persons who through the nature of their connection with the life of Anthroposophy will be able to take the initiative for action in the direction indicated in these paragraphs. They must be persons whose work is situated at the Goetheanum itself. Their relations to the other functionaries of the Society will be discussed in future numbers of the News Sheet. The names of the members of this Foundation Executive or Vorstand are as follows:
Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Second President: Albert Steffen
Recorder: Dr. Ita Wegman
Frau Marie Steiner
Fraulein Lili Vreede
Secretary and Treasurer: Dr. Günther Wachsmuth
It will be desirable for the News Sheet to be published in translation for the Members in the different countries. We ask the General Secretaries or Councils of the various Societies or Groups to make proposals to us on the subject of these translations.
Letters to Members I
20 January 1924
The foundation of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Christmas gathering cannot have its fulfillment in what was done or witnessed by the members who were at the Goetheanum while it lasted. Its real meaning will only be fulfilled if in the future, in all the world, those who are devoted to Anthroposophy can feel the coming of fresh anthroposophical life as they give effect to its intentions. Otherwise the meeting would not have done what it set out to do. Such was doubtless the unspoken language in the hearts of those who took part in it.
For more than twenty years we have cultivated the life in Anthroposophy. Members who have worked together in it in the forms of association which we had till now, need only let their own experience speak and they will understand why the effort was made from the Goetheanum to give rise to a new impulse.
Anthroposophical endeavour grew out of small beginnings. A few people within the framework of the Theosophical Society came together to share in what was then brought forward in the special form of Anthroposophy. All that they wanted to begin with was to learn of Anthroposophy and make it fruitful in their lives. In little circles and unambitious public gatherings we spoke about the Spiritual World, about the nature of Man, and the way knowledge of these things is attained. Scarcely did anyone, outside the circle of those who took part in the meetings, concern himself with what was brought forward there. Many of those who did take part, found what they had been seeking in the deepest longings of their souls. These either became faithful and quiet adherents or more or less enthusiastic fellow-workers. Others, not finding what they wanted, remained away when they felt that this was so. All went on quietly and without disturbance from outside.
So it continued to be for many years. We cultivated the fundamental elements of insight into Soul and Spirit. Indeed we were able to go very far in this. Opportunities could be created for those who had been engaged in Anthroposophy for a long time, to rise from fundamental to higher truths. The foundations of Anthroposophy were laid, not only as a spiritual-scientific system of knowledge, but as a thing of life in many human hearts.
But Anthroposophy goes to the very roots of human life, and there it comes together with all that springs forth in the creative work and consciousness of man. It lay in the nature of the case that its activities extended by-and-by to the most varied spheres of human life and work.
A beginning was made in the sphere of Art. In the Mystery Plays, artistic shape was given to what spiritual sight revealed in the World and Man. To many members it was a source of deep satisfaction to receive again in an artistic presentation what they had hitherto absorbed, without external pictures, through the mind.
Here again, no one outside the circle of those who took part paid much attention.
Then it was that keen and devoted Anthroposophists conceived the plan of building a home of its own for the Movement. In 1913 we laid the Foundation Stone of what afterwards became the Goetheanum, and in the following years this home of Anthroposophy was built.
Something else took place at this time. Men and women, whose life-work lay in one branch or another of science or academic learning, had gradually come into the Society. Their original motive in joining was certainly none other than the widespread and purely human need of the heart and soul. They wanted to find, in their own souls, paths which would lead them to the light of the Spirit. But their scientific training and experience had also shown them how the prevailing scientific ideas invariably fail at the very point where definite knowledge becomes a burning need for man. Here the accepted ideas come to a dead end. Our friends perceived that the different sciences — if fertilised by Anthroposophy — might be carried forward, where, with the methods adopted hitherto, they filter into nothingness. Thus anthroposophical work arose in many spheres of science and scholarship.
Through the Goetheanum and through this scientific work, the Anthroposophical Society was so placed before the world that the peaceful and undisturbed development it had hitherto enjoyed came to an end. The world became aware of Anthroposophy; people outside its circle began to ask what was right and wholesome in it. Inevitably, some came forward who cherished convictions divergent from what Anthroposophy was showing, or whose lives were bound up with things which Anthroposophy revealed in a light which did not please them. They began to pass judgment on Anthroposophy from their own points of view.
For the results which rapidly ensued, the Anthroposophical Society was altogether unprepared. It had been a centre of peaceful work; and in such work by far the greater number of members had found complete satisfaction. This was all they had considered requisite, beyond the duties which were theirs through their place in outer life.
And who can say they were in the least wrong in thinking so? When human beings turn away dissatisfied from other things and come to Anthroposophy, they naturally want to find in it the positive side of spiritual knowledge and spiritual life. They feel themselves disturbed in their search if they must everywhere encounter active opposition and attacks.
A solemn question has indeed arisen for the Anthroposophical Society. How can the true pursuit of spiritual life be continued in the way that spiritual life requires, though the time is past when Anthroposophy was left alone save by those who shared in it and whose interest was positive and sympathetic? Those who are responsible at the Goetheanum have seen one of the questions of the moment in this light: May it not be necessary to admit that the Anthroposophical Society must work to embody even more of Anthroposophy than hitherto? And how can this be done?
Beginning from these questions, I will continue my address to members in the next number.
II. The Right Relationship of the Society to Anthroposophy
27 January 1924
Anthroposophy is there for human beings who are seeking the paths of the soul to conscious spiritual life and knowledge. The Anthroposophical Society, to fulfill its purpose, must be in a position to serve those who are seeking. It must itself, as a Society, find its true relationship to Anthroposophy.
Anthroposophy can only thrive as a living thing. Its fundamental character is life, for it is life flowing from the Spirit. Hence it wants to be fostered by the living soul, by the warm heart of man.
The basic form in which Anthroposophy can appear among men is the idea; the first door at which it knocks is that of insight. If this were not so, it would be without shape or substance — a mere feeling of rapture. The true Spirit does not ‘go into raptures’, it speaks a language precise and full of inner content.
But this language speaks to the whole human being and not only to the intellect. A man who would receive Anthroposophy with his intellect kills it in the very act. He may well come to the conclusion that it is ‘cold and scientific’. He does not see that it first lost warmth and life by the poor reception which he gave it in his soul.
Anthroposophy, to have existence in our time, must use the means which the civilisation of today provides. In books and lectures it must find its way to men. But in its nature it is not of the library shelf. It must be born anew in the human heart whenever a human being turns to the written book to learn of it. This cannot be unless the author looked into the hearts of his fellow-men while he wrote, in order to discover what he must say to them. A man can only do this if he is touched by the living Spirit as he writes. Then he will confide to the dead written word something which the soul of the reader, who is seeking for the Spirit, can feel like a resurrection of the Spirit from the word. Books that can come to life in the human being as he reads — these alone may be called anthroposophical.
Still less than the dead book can Anthroposophy abide the speaking book, where human speech wears the dead mask of life. It often happens in our civilisation that we feel no difference between the reading of a book or article and the hearing of a human being. When we listen to some speakers, we seem to make acquaintance, not with the human being, but with the thoughts he has thought out. We feel that he might just as well have written them.
To be presented in this way is incompatible with Anthroposophy. When we hear Anthroposophy from a fellow-man we want to have the man before us in the full originality of his nature. We do not want a spoken essay.
Therefore, while it must also live in written works, Anthroposophy can be born anew in every gathering of human beings where through the spoken word it finds its way into the souls of men. But this will only be, if it is really the man who speaks to his fellow-men — and not the mere thoughts he has absorbed.
Anthroposophy — for this very reason — cannot find its way through the world by ordinary agitation or propaganda, no matter how well meant. Agitation kills true Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy must come forward because the Spirit impels it to come forward. It must show forth its life because life cannot but reveal itself in existence. But it must never force its existence upon people. Waiting always for those to come who want it, it must be far removed from all constraint — even the constraint of persuasion.
Such is the frame of mind which I would fain bring home to members as a thing most needed. This indeed should grow out of our recent Christmas meeting. We have often met with resistance simply because this frame of mind did not live purely and clearly in our hearts. Often, though we strove to maintain it, we failed to express it in our words. Our very words must reflect, not the propagandist's attempt to persuade, but the pure and single-minded effort to express the Spirit.
Anthroposophy thus felt and practised will indeed be more of Anthroposophy than has often lived in our groups in the past. The Goetheanum itself would work in this spirit and in this alone. The building we have lost was a work of art whose very forms revealed it. Whenever a word went astray there with an agitating, propagandist sound, one felt a jarring discord against the forms of the building. The Goetheanum, when rebuilt, will only be a thing of truth, if the Anthroposophical Society everywhere will bear this living witness to its truth. We must not think — least of all in Anthroposophy — that that alone can be impressive which has purposely been made so. A thing that truly lives out of its own Spirit can wait until the world is ready to receive its influence.
When this frame of mind is alive in every Group of the Anthroposophical Society, then will the Spirit of Anthroposophy work out into the wide world, where it is our task to carry it and represent it. We must not wrap ourselves in tinsel of mysterious pretence; the time in which we live will not suffer it. This time calls for activity in the full light of public life. The true Mystery lies not in the affectation of it, nor the true secret in secretiveness, but in the inner earnestness of the new life which Anthroposophy must live in every heart. This cannot be transmitted by external means. It is only by inner experience that each soul can grasp it. Thus it becomes a secret which must be unsealed anew as we awaken to it, time and time again. When we understand this kind of secret we shall bear the true ‘esoteric’ feeling in our souls.
III. Members' Meetings
3 February 1924
It happened not infrequently that people became members of the Anthroposophical Society for the sole reason that they could thus acquire literature which was not sold outside. Such members then took little interest in the life in the groups of the Society. Having attended the meetings, maybe, to begin with, they soon remained away and said, ‘What goes on in these groups is of no help to me. I shall find Anthroposophy better by working at it alone.’
It cannot be denied that the reproaches made in this way against the members' meetings were not always reasonable. The trouble lay not always in the meetings, but often in the impossible demands of people who could not find their right relation to them.
It is easy to say ‘this or that does not satisfy me’. It is more difficult quietly to observe what is unsatisfactory, and then oneself to make the necessary efforts, contributing towards improvement. On the other hand — and we have no reason to conceal the fact — there is much in the members' meetings which calls for change.
In these meetings a great truth might be established. When human beings are met together, seeking the Spirit with inner singleness of purpose, then they too find the way to one another — the paths from soul to soul.
In countless human hearts today the need to find these paths is deeply felt. They naturally say, ‘If Anthroposophy is the true view of life, this need of the heart must be felt by those who call themselves anthroposophists’. Yet they must witness how many in the members' groups, advancing Anthroposophy as their theoretical conviction, show no signs of this feeling.
Anthroposophical members' meetings must of course make it their task to cultivate the contents of Anthroposophy. The knowledge and insight gained by Anthroposophy is read and listened to. Anyone who does not see that this must be so, is certainly not right. Merely for the purpose of debating on all manner of opinions which one may have just as well without Anthroposophy, we should need no Anthroposophical Society. But on the other hand, if we do no more than read anthroposophical writings aloud, or even lecture on Anthroposophy as a mere teaching, then it is true that the meetings give no more than each of us alone could gain by his own reading.
Everyone who goes to an anthroposophical meeting should have the feeling that he will find more there than when he merely studies Anthroposophy alone. We should be able to go to the meetings because we shall find human beings there, with whom we like to work at Anthroposophy together. In the literature on Anthroposophy, a certain view of life and the world is to be found. The anthroposophical meetings are there for man to find his fellow-man.
However keenly we read anthroposophical literature, we should be able to feel joy and elation as we go to a gathering of Anthroposophists — simply because we look forward to the human beings we shall find there. Then we shall look forward to the meeting, even if we expect to hear no more than we have studied long ago and made our own.
An old member finding a new member in the group which he attends, should not rest content to feel with satisfaction that Anthroposophy has gained a new adherent. He should not merely have the thought, ‘Here is one more whom we can fill with Anthroposophy’. But he should feel and be alive to the fresh human element which comes into the group with the new member.
In Anthroposophy it is the Truths it can reveal which matter: in the Anthroposophical Society it is the Life that is cultivated.
It would be bad — nay, nothing could be worse than this — if there were justification for the idea gaining ground: ‘Valuable as Anthroposophy may be, I prefer to go elsewhere if I want to come near to other men, instead of letting fanatical, self-satisfied anthroposophists hurl their theories and thoughts at my head, with the implication: If you do not think as I do, you are only half a man.’
Much is done on the one hand to give rise to such judgment by the cold didactic impulse to instruct — an easy snare for some when once they recognise the truth in Anthroposophy. On the other side there is that ‘playing at esotericism’, so repellent to a newcomer when once he enters anthroposophical meetings. He will find people who give him to understand with a mysterious air that they know many things which cannot yet be told to those who are not ready. But an atmosphere of levity somehow pervades all this. The esoteric in effect can only do with real earnestness of life. Vain satisfaction which one may draw from idle talk of high and hidden truths, is incompatible with it. This is far from implying that a sentimental reticence, afraid of joy and enthusiasm, should be the life-element in anthroposophical intercourse. But to play at withdrawing from the profane ‘external’ life while one pursues the ‘truly esoteric’ — this the Anthroposophical Society cannot endure. Real life on every hand contains far more that is esoteric than is ever dreamt of by people who repeat, ‘We cannot carry on the esoteric life in such surroundings; we need some separate and special circle’. Undoubtedly, circles of this kind are often needed; but there can be no playing with them. They must be centres of fruitful influence for real life. Esoteric circles so-called, which only arise to disappear after a short time for lack of serious purpose, can only carry disruptive forces into the Society. Far too often, they are but the outcome of a desire to form cliques, the effect of which is to impoverish, not to increase the anthroposophical life in the Society. If we succeed in counteracting the inner falsehood which characterised so much of the talk about the esoteric in the past, then will true esotericism be able to find a home in the Anthroposophical Society.
IV. The Relation of the Members to the Society
10 February 1924
It is natural that different points of view exist among the members about their own relation to the Anthroposophical Society. A person may enter the Society with the idea that he will find in it what he is seeking out of the inmost needs of his soul. In his search and in the finding of what the Society can give him, such a member will then see the meaning of his membership. I have already indicated that no objection can properly be made to this point of view.
From the very essence of Anthroposophy, it cannot be for the Society to bring together a circle of human beings, and impose upon them when they enter it obligations which they did not recognise before, but are expected to take on simply on account of the Society. If we are to speak of obligations in the proper sense, it can only be of those of the Society towards its members.
This truth (it should indeed go without saying) involves another which is not always rightly understood, nay, is sometimes not even considered.
As soon as a member begins to be active in any way in the Society and for it, he takes upon himself a great responsibility, a very solemn sphere of duty. Those who do not intend to be thus active should not be disturbed in the quiet spheres of their work; but if a member undertakes any activity in the Society, he must thenceforth make the concerns of the Society his own, and this he must on no account forget.
It is natural for one who wishes to be a quiet member to say, for example, ‘I cannot concern myself with the statements of opponents about the Society’. But this is changed the moment he goes outside the sphere of silent participation. Then at once it becomes his duty to pay attention to the opponents and to defend all that is worthy of defence in Anthroposophy and the Anthroposophical Society.
It was bad for the Society that this most necessary fact was not always observed. Members have the fullest right to expect that the Society will give them in the first place what it promises to give. It must surely seem strange to them to be called upon at once to undertake the same obligations as those who hold out these promises.
If, then, we speak of the duties of members to the Society, we can only be referring to those members who desire to be active. This question must not of course be confused with that of the duties which belong to man as such. Anthroposophy does indeed speak of duties. But these will always be of a purely human character; they will only extend the horizons of human responsibility in a way that results from insight into the spiritual world. When Anthroposophy speaks in this way, it can never mean obligations that apply only in the Anthroposophical Society. It will mean duties arising out of human nature rightly understood.
Once more, then, for the members who are active in it, the Anthroposophical Society by its very nature involves definite responsibilities, and these — for the same reason — must be taken most seriously. A member, for example, may wish to communicate to others the knowledge and perceptions of Anthroposophy. The moment his instruction extends beyond the smallest and most quiet circle, he enters into these responsibilities. He must then have a clear conception of the spiritual and intellectual position of mankind today. He must be clear in his own mind about the real task of Anthroposophy. To the very best of his ability he must keep in close contact with other active members of the Society; and it must be far from him to say, ‘I am not interested when Anthroposophy and those who represent it are placed in a false light, or even slandered by opponents’.
The Executive formed at the Christmas gathering understands its task in this sense. It will seek to realise in the Society what has here been expressed, and it can do no other than ask every member intending to be active to make himself a helper and co-operator in these matters.
Only so shall we achieve our purpose, and the Society will be equal to the promise which it holds out to all its members — and thereby to the world at large.
To take one example, it is distressing to have the following experience. It sometimes happens that the members in a certain place, who desire to be active, meet from time to time to discuss the affairs of the Society. In conversation with individuals who take part in these meetings, it will afterwards emerge that they hold certain opinions about each other, each other's activities for the Society, and the like — opinions which are not voiced at all in the meetings. A member, one will find, has no idea what those who are often associated with him think of his work.
It is essential for these matters to be guided into better channels, and this should follow from the impulse which the Christmas gathering has given. Those above all who claim and desire to be active members, should seek to understand this impulse. How often does one hear such members say: I really have the good-will but I do not know what is the right line to take. We should not hold an all too comfortable view upon this subject of ‘good-will’, but ask ourselves again and again, have we really explored all channels which the Society provides to find the right line in co-operation, on the strength of our good-will, with other members?