The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
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.