The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
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.