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?