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The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
GA 26

V. Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts

17 February 1924

In future there will be found in these columns something in the nature of anthroposophical ‘Guiding Lines’ or ‘Leading Thoughts’.1See the volume, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, London, 1927). These may be taken to contain advice on the direction which leading members can give to the lectures and discussions in the several Groups. It is but a stimulus and suggestion which the Goetheanum would like to give to the whole Society. The independence of individual leading members in their work is in no way to be interfered with. We shall develop healthily if the Society gives free play to that which leading members have to offer in all the different Groups. This will enrich and make manifold the life of the Society.

But it should also be possible for a unity of consciousness to arise in the whole Society—which will happen if the initiative and ideas that emerge at different places become known everywhere. Thus in these columns we shall sum up in short paragraphs the descriptions and lines of thought given by me in my lectures to the Society at the Goetheanum. I imagine that those who lecture or conduct the discussions in the Groups will be able to take what is here given as guiding lines, with which they may freely connect what they have to say. This will contribute to the unity and organic wholeness of the work of the Society without there being any question of constraint.

The thing will become fruitful for the whole Society if it meets with a true response—if the leading members will inform the Executive at the Goetheanum too of the contents and manner of their own lectures and suggestions. Then only we shall grow, from a chaos of separate Groups, into a Society with a real spiritual content.

The guiding lines here given are meant to open up subjects for study and discussion. Points of contact with them will be found in countless places in the anthroposophical books and lecture-cycles, so that the subjects thus opened up can be enlarged upon and the discussions in the Groups centred around them.

When new ideas emerge among leading members in the several Groups, these too can be brought into connection with the suggestions we shall send out from the Goetheanum. We would thus provide an open framework for all the spiritual activity in the Society.

Spiritual activity can of course only thrive by free unfoldment on the part of the active individuals—and we must never sin against this truth. But there is no need to do so when one group or member within the Society acts in proper harmony with the other. But if such co-operation were impossible, the attachment of individuals or groups to the Society would always remain a purely external thing—where it should in fact be felt as an inner reality.

It cannot be allowed that the existence of the Anthroposophical Society is merely made use of by this or that individual as an opportunity to say what he personally wishes to say with this or that intention. The Society must rather be the place where true Anthroposophy is cultivated. Anything that is not Anthroposophy can, after all, be pursued outside it. The Society is not there for extraneous objects.

It has not helped us that in the last few years individual members have brought into the Society their own personal wishes simply because they thought that as it increased it would become a suitable sphere of action for them. It may be said, why was this not met and counteracted with the proper firmness? If that had been done, we should now be hearing it said on all sides, ‘Oh, if only the initiative that arose in this or that quarter had been followed up at the time, how much farther should we be today!’ Well, many things were followed up, which ended in sad disaster and only resulted in throwing us back.

But now it is enough. The demonstrations which individual experimenters in the Society wished to provide are done with. Such things need not be repeated endlessly. In the Executive at the Goetheanum we have a body which intends to cultivate Anthroposophy itself; and the Society should be an association of human beings who have the same object and are ready to enter into a living understanding with the Executive in the pursuit of it.

We must not think that our ideal in the Society can be attained from one day to the next. Time will be needed, and patience too. If we imagined that what lay in the intentions of the Christmas meeting could be brought into existence in a few weeks' time, this again would be harmful.

VI. The Quest for Knowledge and the Will for Self-Discipline

24 February 1924

In the Anthroposophical Society men draw nearer to one another than they would do in other spheres of life. Their common interest in the spiritual life of the world unlocks their souls. The inner experiences one man undergoes in the course of his spiritual striving are full of living interest to another. A man becomes communicative when he knows that his fellow-man will be attentive and full of sympathy for the inmost things which stir him.

Thus it naturally comes about that members of the Society observe other things in one another—and in a different way—than men do generally. But this at the same time involves a certain danger. We learn to value one another when we meet in this way; we delight in the revelation of the inner life of our fellow-man. The loveliest influences of friendship and friendly intercourse unfold quickly under these conditions. But the same influences may intensify to an overweening and uncritical enthusiasm. This, with all its weaknesses, ought not merely to be met by cold and pedantic indifference, or by the superior attitude of the ‘man of the world’. Unbridled enthusiasm, when it has worked its way through many difficulties to a harmonious balance of soul, opens up the Spirit far more readily than placid equilibrium which passes stiff and unmoved by all that is great in life.

Still, it may easily happen that those who quickly draw near to one another no less quickly fall apart again. When one has learned to know one's fellow-man more fully, since he was unreserved and open, one soon begins to see his weaknesses, and then—negative enthusiasm may ensue. In the Anthroposophical Society this danger is perpetually lurking in the background, and to counteract it is one of the tasks of the Society as such. He who would be a true member should strive in the deepest places of his soul for inner tolerance towards his fellow-men. To understand one's fellow-man—even where he thinks and does things which one would not like to think and do oneself—this should be the ideal.

It need not mean an uncritical attitude to weaknesses and faults. To understand is not to make oneself blind. To a human being whom we love, we may speak of his faults and mistakes. In many cases he will feel it as the greatest service of friendship, whereas—if we lay down the law about him with cold indifference of judgment—he recoils from our lack of understanding and consoles himself with feelings of hatred which begin to stir in him against his critic.

In many respects it would become disastrous for the Anthroposophical Society if the intolerance of other men and failure to understand them—so widely dominant in the outer world today—were carried into it. Within the Society, such qualities grow in intensity through the very fact that men come nearer to one another.

These matters indicate most pointedly how the more vital quest of knowledge in the Anthroposophical Society must be accompanied by the unceasing endeavour to ennoble and purify the life of feeling. An intensified search for knowledge deepens the life of the soul and reaches down into those regions where pride, conceit, lack of sympathy with others, and many qualities besides, are lurking. A lesser quest of knowledge enters these regions only to a slight extent and leaves them slumbering in the deep places of the soul. But a life in knowledge that is keen and vital stirs them from their slumbers; habits which kept them under lose their power to do so. A spiritual ideal may well awaken qualities of soul which would have remained unmanifest without it. The Anthroposophical Society should be there to counteract, by cultivating nobility and purity of feeling, the dangers that are lurking in these quarters. There are indeed, in human nature, instincts which instill the fear of knowledge into man, for the very reason that these connections are felt to exist. But a man who would refrain from cultivating the impulse to knowledge lest it should stir up the uglier feelings in him, fails to develop the fullness of true manhood. It is humanly unworthy to cripple our insight into life because we fear weakness of character. To cultivate the impulse to knowledge and combine it at the same time with another striving—the will to self-discipline—this alone is worthy of humanity.

Anthroposophy enables us to do this. We need only perceive and reach the inherent vitality of its thoughts; for by their living quality the thoughts of Anthroposophy beget power of will, warmth and sensitiveness of feeling. It only depends on the individual whether he merely thinks Anthroposophy or makes it living experience.

And it will depend on the members who come forward actively, whether their way of representing Anthroposophy is only able to suggest thoughts, or to kindle the real spark of life.

VII. The Work in the Society

2 March 1924

In the lectures to the Anthroposophical Society which I am now giving at the Goetheanum, I am seeking to give expression to the root-questions of the inner life of Man. The underlying point of view has been indicated in the first five ‘Leading Thoughts’ published in the News Sheet. My object has been to meet the fundamental need of an anthroposophical lecture. The listener must feel that Anthroposophy is speaking of what he, when he holds counsel with himself most deeply, realises as the essential concern of his soul. If we can thus find the right way of representing Anthroposophy, there will arise among the members the feeling that in the Anthroposophical Society the human being is truly understood.

And this is the fundamental impulse in those who become members. They want to find a place where the understanding of Man is duly cultivated.

When we earnestly seek to understand the human being, we are indeed already on the way to recognition of the spiritual being of the World. For we are made aware that, as to Man himself, our knowledge of Nature affords no information but only gives rise to questions.

If in representing Anthroposophy we tend to lead the soul away from love of Nature, confusion alone is the result. The true starting-point of anthroposophical thoughts cannot lie in the belittling of what Nature reveals to Man. To despise Nature, to turn away from the truth which flows to Man from the phenomena of life and the world, or from the beauty that pervades them and the tasks they offer to man's will: this frame of mind can at most produce a caricature of spiritual truth.

Such a caricature will always be tinged with the personal element. Even if it is not composed of dreams, it will be experienced in a dreaming way. In waking life man lives with other men, and his effort must be for mutual understanding on things of common interest. What one man states must have some meaning for the other; what one achieves by his work, must have a certain value for the other. Men who live with one another must have the feeling that they are in a common world. But when a man is living in his own dreams he cuts himself off from the common world of men. The dreams of another—even his nearest neighbour—may be utterly different from his. In waking life men have a world in common; in dreaming each man has his own.

Anthroposophy should lead from waking life, not to a dreaming, but to a more intense awakening. In everyday life we have community indeed, but it is confined within narrow limits. We are banished to a certain fragment of existence, and only in our inner hearts we bear a longing for life's fullness. We feel that the true community of human life extends beyond the confines of the everyday. We look away from the Earth to the Sun when we would see the source of light common to all earthly things. So too we must turn away from the world of the senses to the reality of the Spirit to find the true sources of humanity where the soul can experience the fullness of community it needs.

Here it may easily happen that we turn away from life instead of entering it more fully and more strongly. The man who despises Nature has fallen a victim to this danger. He is driven into that isolation of the soul, of which ordinary dreaming is a good example.

Let us rather educate our minds by contact with the light of truth which streams into the soul of man from Nature. Then we shall best develop the sense for the truths of Man, which are at the same time the truths of the Cosmos. The truths of Nature, experienced with free and open mind, lead us already toward the truths of the Spirit. When we fill ourselves with the beauty, greatness and majesty of Nature, it grows in us to a fountain of true feeling for the Spirit. And when we open our heart to the silent gesture of Nature revealing her eternal innocence beyond all good and evil, our eyes are opened presently to the spiritual world, from whence—into the dumb gesture—the living Word rings forth, revealing good and evil.

Spirit-perception, brought up in the loving perception of Nature, brings to life the true riches of the soul. Spiritual dreaming, elaborated in contradiction to true knowledge of Nature, can but impoverish the human heart.

If one penetrates Anthroposophy in its deepest essence one will feel the point of view here indicated to be the one from which all anthroposophical descriptions should take their start. With this as our point of departure, we shall come into living touch with the reality, of which every member will say, ‘There lies the true reason why I entered the Anthroposophical Society’.

It will not be enough, for the members who wish to be active in the Anthroposophical Society, to be theoretically convinced of this. Real life will only enter their conviction when they unfold a warm interest in all that goes on in the Society. As they learn of what is being thought and done by active individuals in the Society, they will receive the warmth they need for their own work in it. We must be filled with interest in other human beings, to meet them in an anthroposophical way. The study of ‘What is going on in the Society’ must gradually form the background of all our activity in it. Those above all who wish to be active members will stand in need of this.