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The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
GA 26

VIII. The Work in the Society

9 March 1924

Members will have observed that in the public lectures which I give on behalf of the Anthroposophical Society I take every opportunity to refer to such points of knowledge or insight as our age has developed on the subject I am speaking of. I do so because Anthroposophy must not stand before the world like a sectarian belief, conceived in an arbitrary way. Anthroposophy must always bring to expression what it really is, namely the wider outlook on the world, the fuller conduct of life, for which our age is calling.

In my view an anthroposophist who merely repudiates what the spiritual and intellectual life of the time is bringing forth outside of Anthroposophy, completely misses the mark. And if, as sometimes happens, we do this in such a way that an expert will perceive we are insufficiently acquainted with the things we refute, Anthroposophy will make no progress.

The active members in the different Groups must be mindful of this point in future. It does not mean that we must arrange, alongside of our anthroposophical lectures, others in which the various branches of modern learning are dealt with in the same way as is done outside the Anthroposophical Movement. By this procedure we should not attain the desired end, but only succeed in establishing a gap — a very painful one for the anthroposophical members in our audience — between the customary type of modern learning and that which should be the real message of Anthroposophy.

It is bad to open up a subject and create the impression from the very outset that we are only looking for an opportunity to criticise some particular ideas of the present time. We should always consider most carefully to begin with, whether these ideas may not contain healthy and significant points of departure. In almost every case we shall find that they do. This does not imply that we must reserve all criticism. But we should only criticise when we have first given an intelligent and appreciative characterisation.

If this were borne in mind, a thing that has given rise to some difficulties in recent years might fall away from the Anthroposophical Society. We can but welcome in the deepest sense the increasing activity of those among us who are scientists or scholars. And yet, many members have come to feel that this scientific work is ‘not anthroposophical enough’.

In this connection we must mention the attempts which have been made to evolve an anthroposophical conduct and method of life in various undertakings of a practical or external nature. Here again, many members have come to feel that the conduct of these things has been anything but anthroposophical.

Undoubtedly the criticism that has been leveled at these efforts is only partly justified. Those who pass judgment often fail to see the immense inherent difficulties in any such attempts at the present juncture, nor do they appreciate that for proper and adequate realisation everything requires time.

None the less, there is a sound basis to the feeling of many members on these matters. Our first duty as anthroposophists is to sharpen our soul's vision by means of Anthroposophy, so as to see in its true light what the civilisation of our age brings forth. It is characteristic of our age that it produces an unlimited variety of fruitful and promising results, yet lacks the proper soil in which to plant them. Undoubtedly, in many cases, the very fact that we adopt a positive rather than a negative attitude to them, drives us in the end to criticise the productions of our age most strongly.

As soon as we forget this fundamentally positive attitude to the life of our time, we are bound to fall into the danger of fearing, at the crucial moment, to speak in the truly anthroposophical way. How often do we hear it said, just by the scientists in the Society, ‘We shall scare the non-anthroposophists away if we start speaking to them of an etheric or astral body’. But our work remains unfruitful if we merely criticise the non-anthroposophists in their own domain, and yet confine ourselves as we do so to lines of thought which can arise equally well in that domain. It is perfectly possible to speak of the etheric and astral bodies if we truly state the reasons.

We must endeavour to speak of all things bearing on Anthroposophy in such a way that the anthroposophical quickening of our perceptions is everywhere in evidence. Then, too, among the members of the Anthroposophical Society there will no longer be the painful feeling that our scientists speak and our practical people act in ways that are not anthroposophical enough, or that ought not to be expected of members of this Society at all.

We shall have to set our minds and hearts in this direction if the aims of our Christmas Meeting are to advance towards fulfillment. Should we fail to do so, they would remain so many pious wishes.