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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.

IX. Individual Formulation of Anthroposophical Truths

16 March 1924

I have written the above thoughts for members in the hope that they may give rise to further thoughts among anthroposophists everywhere. I think it will be well for the active members of the Society to take these thoughts as a starting-point, so that, in connection with them, they may lift all the members to a common consciousness of what the Anthroposophical Society truly is.

It is certainly right that the discussion of Anthroposophy and its application to life should be the main thing in the activity of our Group Meetings. And yet in many a Group Meeting there is surely room for the discussion of such things as have been indicated in these columns—no matter how small a portion of the time is allotted to it. If this is done, it will be found that many a member is stimulated to become a true representative of the Anthroposophical Society even in the non-anthroposophical external world.

It will not do to imagine that the essence and the task of the Anthroposophical Society can be contained in a few statutes, rules, or paragraphs. Not only does Anthroposophy carry its impulses deep into the thinking, feeling, and willing of man, but for this very reason Anthroposophy itself is strongly influenced by the inner life of the human being. Certainly its main substance can be described in general statements, principles and the like, as is done in so many spheres of spiritual life. But necessary as this may be, we must not stop short at this. Our general statements will be made alive and richly coloured when each one who bears them in his heart and mind is able to express them out of his own experience of life. Every such individual expression will contribute something of value towards an understanding of the truths of Anthroposophy.

If we attach the right importance to this fact, we shall make a discovery; we shall find ourselves continually becoming aware of fresh aspects revealing the real nature of the Anthroposophical Society.

Every active member in the Society will often enough find himself in the position of being questioned about one thing or another. The questioner hopes to receive instruction through the answer he expects. But he who is asked may also look to receive instruction by the way the questions are put to him. We should not be heedless of this latter kind of teaching. For by questions above all we learn to know the fullness and variety of life. Often the particular concern that underlies the question will emerge, and we should always be grateful when our questioners can speak to us in this way. Their help will enable us to grow better and better in the manner of our answers. The feeling, above all—the note which we strike in our answers—will grow better; and this is essential in the imparting of anthroposophical truths. The point is not merely what we say, but above all how we say it.

After all, from a certain point of view anthroposophical truths are the greatest of all things that men can communicate to one another. To impart such things to a fellow-man without a deep inner feeling of what one is imparting is in fact already to distort them. Now this inner feeling is deepened when we perceive, in a whole variety of human beings, the background of real life from out of which they ask their questions. We need not make ourselves examiners, psychological vivisectors of one another; we can be perfectly content with what the questioner of his own accord puts into his questions. But no active member of the Anthroposophical Society should ever be content to answer all questions by a hard and fast, ready-made scheme.

It is often emphasised, and rightly, that Anthroposophy must come to life in mankind and not remain a mere teaching. But a thing can only come to life when it takes a perpetual stimulus from life.

If we cultivate such conduct in Anthroposophy, Anthroposophy will become a stimulus to human love; and indeed all our work in its sphere should be steeped in love. Anyone who has kept his eyes open in the Anthroposophical Society will know that many people come into it because, when the truths of life are presented to them in other quarters, they miss the fundamental note of human love. The soul of man has a fine sensitiveness to perceive this note in what is spoken; and this in the very highest degree becomes a medium of understanding.

It may perhaps be said, Why should love be brought into a description of the evolution of the Earth? But when we have once come to understand that the evolution of the Earth and of the Universe is only the other side of the evolution of Mankind, we shall no longer doubt that the soul of these truths too is love.

X. On how to present Anthroposophical Truths

23 March 1924

There will be the more life in the imparting of anthroposophical truths the more they are presented from the most varied points of view, in the most manifold descriptions. For this reason, active members in the Society should not be afraid of treating the same subject again and again in their Group meetings. Only they should always approach it from different directions. We shall be led to this quite naturally if our attitude to the questions of others is as I described in my last letter. Along this line we first gain a real insight into the livingness of anthroposophical knowledge. We feel how every thought or picture in which we clothe it must needs be incomplete. We feel that what we bear in our soul is infinitely richer than what we can express in thought; and as we grow aware of this more clearly, the reverence for the spiritual life increases in us. Now this reverence must be present in all anthroposophical descriptions. It must be one of the fundamental notes. Where such reverence is absent, there is no power in the discussion of anthroposophical truths.

As to this element of power—we should never try to bring it by external means into our talk on Anthroposophy. We should just let it evolve out of the living feeling which we have towards the truths of Anthroposophy, realising that as we grasp them in our soul we approach the reality of the spiritual world. This will give a certain mood to our soul; for certain moments, our soul will feel itself absolutely given up to the thought about the spiritual world. In such moments the reverence for the Spiritual is born in a perfectly natural and unconstrained way.

The beginning of all true meditation lies in the development of such a mood. Whoever is unable to love it will in vain apply the rules for attaining knowledge of the spiritual world. For it is in this mood that the Spiritual, which lies in the depths of the human soul, is called into consciousness; Man thereby unites himself with his own spiritual being, and it is in this union alone that he can find the Spiritual in the World. It is only the Spirit in Man that can approach the Spirit in the Universe.

If the active members in the Society can gain these deep moments of feeling then when others come to them for advice they will find in themselves an increased power to perceive what their fellow-man is really wanting. Often it is hard for a man to explain clearly what it is that deeply moves his soul. All too easily he who is asked will miss the real need of his questioner; and the latter will rightly feel that after all he has not received a proper answer. But if he is in the condition of soul that comes from such inner feelings as above described, he will have the power to loosen the tongue of his questioner. The latter will gain that true and deep confidence which gives life to the communication of anthroposophical truths. Something will then enter in, enabling the questioner to take the answer he receives as a starting-point from which he can proceed independently in the quest of his spiritual needs. He will perhaps have the feeling that though the answer may not contain all he was looking for, he will now be in a position to help himself along the way. An inner feeling of strength will come into his soul in place of the powerless or helpless feeling which was there before. And this feeling of strength was what he really wanted when he came to ask his questions.

We should not imagine that the answers to burning questions of the soul can be found in mere feelings or without clear thought. But a thought evolved in cold seclusion and indifference to feeling can find no path into the human soul. On the other hand we should not be afraid that our feeling might mar the objective nature of our thought. For it would only do so if it had failed to enter, through the above-described mood of the soul, into the deep spiritual being that lies hidden in each one.

XI. On the Teaching of Anthroposophy

30 March 1924

In most cases the stimulus to take up Anthroposophy will come from this: the looking out into the world external to man becomes a source of dissatisfaction, and the human being is thus impelled to turn his thoughts to his own human nature. He has a dim feeling that the riddles which life sets him cannot be illumined by looking out upon the restless working of the world, but rather by gazing into the inner life of man. Thus the striving for world-knowledge is changed into the striving for self-knowledge.

The members who wish to be active in the Anthroposophical Society will have to bear this in mind. Then, on the one hand, they will learn to have the right feeling for their task, while on the other hand they will recognise the dangers it involves.

Only too often the striving for self-knowledge, if wrongly led, grows into a special form of selfishness. Man may take himself too seriously and thereby lose interest in all that goes on outside him. In fact, every right striving can lead astray if it becomes one-sided.

One can reach no real conception of the world if one does not seek it by a perception of Man. For the most ancient truth that Man is a microcosm—a true world in miniature—will again and again be the most newly discovered. Man has all the secrets and the riddles of the great world, the macrocosm, concealed in his own nature.

If we take this in the right sense, then every time we look into our inner human being, our attention will be directed to the world outside us. Self-knowledge will become the door to world-knowledge. But if we take it in the wrong sense, our study of ourselves will become an imprisonment, and we shall lose our feeling for the world.

This must never happen in Anthroposophy. Otherwise the complaint, ‘How selfish, after all, are the thoughts of anthroposophists!’ which we hear from so many who newly enter the Society, will not be silenced.

If a man strives to know himself, what he gains in self-knowledge should first quicken his vision to perceive how all that is there in himself meets him too in his fellow-men. We can feel what another man is undergoing if we have experienced the like in ourselves. So long as our own experience is lacking, we pass over the experience of another without really seeing it. Yet on the other hand our feeling may become so fettered by our own experience that we have none left for our fellow-men.

If they will pay heed to these dangers, members who are active in the Society will make their activity in this direction right and helpful. They will prevent self-knowledge from degenerating into self-love. Rather will they come to work in that spirit which leads self-knowledge over into human love and sympathy. And once a man has an interest in his fellow-men, he will certainly not lack an interest in the world in general.

When friends have asked me for an autograph I have often given them the following:

If thou wouldst know thine own being,
Look round thee on all sides in the world;
If thou wouldst truly see and understand the world
Gaze into the depths of thine own soul.

The teaching of anthroposophical knowledge must always be in the spirit of this saying. Then we shall avoid the danger above-mentioned, and our discussion of the inner being of man will not give rise to self-absorption.

It certainly has a repellent effect on the newcomer if the first thing that strikes him in anthroposophists is that they always want to be concerned with themselves. One will sometimes find people who have been members of the Anthroposophical Society for a certain time, perpetually complaining that their life gives them no time or opportunity really to go into Anthroposophy. We have found this most often among those who have made the Anthroposophical Movement itself their life-work. They feel themselves over-burdened with the external work, imagining that this prevents them from meditation, from the reading of anthroposophical literature and so on. But the love of anthroposophical knowledge must not prevent our glad devotion to the needs of life. If it does so, our work in Anthroposophy will never have the true warmth it needs, but will degenerate into cold selfishness.

It will be necessary for those members who wish to be active in the Society to permeate themselves most fully with this insight. Then they will be able to strike that note in their work which will conquer dangers that can so easily arise.

XII. Concerning Group Meetings

6 April 1924

For some time there has been considerable debate among the members of the Anthroposophical Society over the Group Meetings, as to whether it should be the rule to promote in these, by reading and discussion, the general knowledge of the existing anthroposophical literature, or whether preference should be given to lectures by members, where those who desire to take active part in the work of the Movement speak freely on whatever they have to say.

If we give careful thought to the conditions under which the anthroposophical work goes on, it will be clear to us at once that neither in the one nor in the other direction must we be active in a one-sided way, but that, in so far as opportunity allows, activity in both directions must find place. We have in the anthroposophical literature that which shows us the way, introduces us, into the Society. Its purpose is to form a basis for all that the Society is and does. And if a knowledge and understanding of the literature is promoted in the Group Meetings, it will give to the Society that character of unity which it needs if it is to have true content and substance.

Let no one object: Whatever is in print, I can read myself at home; I do not need to have it given me in the Group Meetings. The error of this view has already been pointed out in these columns. We should see significance in the fact that we receive the spiritual treasures of Anthroposophy together with those who are united with us as members of the Society. This feeling of being together and of receiving the Spiritual together, is not to be viewed lightly as having no meaning or value.

It is also necessary that the members who want to take an active part should be interested in making the anthroposophical literature the spiritual property of all the members. It is not right that many members who have been for years in the Society hear nothing in the Group Meetings of matters concerning which definite knowledge has been given in the literature.

On the other hand this must be said: The life in the Society would suffer serious harm, if as many active members as possible were not to bring forward within the Society what they had to say from out of their own impulse and thought. This kind of activity can quite well be brought into harmony with the other. It has to be borne in mind that Anthroposophy can only become what it should become when more and more human beings take part in its development and cultivation. We should not rule it out, we should rather be glad when members who are taking an active share in the Movement give information in the Group Meetings on the work they have been doing.

One often hears it said about what many members thus bring forward, that ‘it is not Anthroposophy’. The verdict may in individual cases have its justification. But whither should we go, if we sinned against the truth that in the Anthroposophical Society everything should live that pertains to the spiritual heritage of mankind? A certain matter will be brought forward because it may form a basis for anthroposophical reflections. Another will be imparted for the purpose of later elucidation by anthroposophical points of view. So long as the fundamental anthroposophical character is preserved in the Society's work, a narrow limitation should not be set against whatever may be brought forward by individual members.

The object should not be to exclude anything that the group in its meetings might do, but it should rather lie in harmonising and tending the literature that is to hand, and in bringing forward whatever separate members may feel prompted by their own individuality to say.

It is not by uniformity but by variety that we shall reach the goal of the Anthroposophical Society. We should be heartily glad of the fact that we have in our Society so many members who out of their own personality have something to give. We should get accustomed to recognising such members. There can only be a true life in the Society when the activities within it are properly valued. Narrow-hearted refusal or ‘turning down’ should be the rarest of faults in the Anthroposophical Society. Much more should one develop the enthusiasm to learn as much as possible of what the one or the other in the Society has to say.

XIII. The pictorial Nature of Man

18 May 1924

It is most important that it should be understood through Anthroposophy that the ideas which a man gains by looking at outer Nature are inadequate for the observation of Man. The ideas which have taken possession of men's minds during the spiritual development of the last few centuries fail to realise this fact. Through them men have grown accustomed to thinking out natural laws, and to explaining by means of them the phenomena which are perceived by the senses. They then turn their attention to the human organism, and think that that too can be explained through bringing the laws of Nature to bear upon it.

Now this is just as though, in considering a picture which a painter had created, we only took into account the substance of the colours, their power of adhering to the canvas, the way in which these colours were applied, and similar things. But such a way of regarding the picture does not reveal what is contained in it. Quite other laws are active in the revelation contained in the picture than those which can be perceived by considering such points as these.

It is a question of realising that in the human being also something is revealed which cannot be grasped from the standpoint of natural law. If anyone has once thoroughly made this conception his own, then he will be able to understand Man as a picture. A mineral is not a picture in this sense. It reveals only what is directly evident to the senses.

To a certain extent when regarding a picture we look through what the senses perceive to its spiritual content. And so is it also in the observation of the human being. If we truly understand the human being in the light of natural law, we do not feel that these laws bring us into contact with the real man, but only with that through which he reveals himself.

We must experience spiritually that when we regard a man only from the point of view of natural law, it is as if we stood before a picture seeing only ‘blue’ and ‘red’, and quite unable through an inner activity of the soul to relate the blue and red to that which reveals itself through these colours.

When viewing things from the standpoint of natural law we must perceive the mineral in one way, the human being in another. In the case of the mineral it is, for the spiritual understanding, as if we were in immediate touch with what is perceived; but in the case of man it is as though we could only come as near to him through natural laws as to a picture which we do not see clearly with the eye of the soul but only touch and feel.

When once one has gained the perception that man is a ‘picture’ of something, one will be in the right mood of soul to progress to that which manifests in this picture.

The pictorial nature of man does not manifest in one way only. An organ of sense is in its nature least of all a picture, and mostly a kind of manifestation of itself like the mineral. The human organs of sense approach nearest to natural laws. Let one but contemplate the wonderful arrangement of the eye, which by natural laws one is able to comprehend. It is the same with the other organs, though not often so clearly evident. It is because the sense organs, in their formation, show a certain compactness. They are arranged in the organism as complete formations, and as such assist in the perception of the outer world.

But it is otherwise with the rhythmic actions in the organism. They are not complete, but evanescent, the organism in them continually forming and then declining. If the sense organs were like the rhythmic system, we would perceive the outer world in a perpetual growth.

The sense organs are like a picture on the wall. The rhythmic system is like the scene that unfolds itself if canvas and painter are imaged by us at the conception of the picture. The picture is not yet there, but it comes more and more into being. In studying the rhythmic system, we have to do with a perpetual process of becoming. A thing that has already come into existence remains in existence, for a time at any rate. But when we study the human rhythmic system we find the process of becoming, the upbuilding process, followed directly and without a gap by the passing out of existence, the destructive process. In the rhythmic system a picture manifests itself coming into existence, but never finished or complete.

The activity which the soul discharges in conscious devotion to what is brought before it as the finished picture, may be styled ‘Imagination’. On the other hand ‘Inspiration’ is the experience that must be unfolded in order to comprehend a growing picture.

But this is different again in the contemplation of the metabolic and limb system. Here it is as if one was before a bare canvas and unused paints, and an artist not even painting. To get a perception of the metabolic and limb system, one must get a perception that has as little connection with the senses, as have the bare canvas and unused paints with that which is afterwards the artist's picture. And the activity that is developed by the soul in pure spirituality out of the metabolic and limb system is as when, upon seeing the painter and an empty canvas and unused paints, one experiences the picture to be painted later. In order to understand the metabolic system and the limbs the soul must exercise the power of ‘Intuition’.

It is necessary that the active members of the Anthroposophical Society should concentrate in this way on the essential and fundamental nature of anthroposophical study. For it is not only the knowledge one gains by study but the experience achieved thereby that matters.

XIV. What is the Tone which should prevail in the Group Meetings?

25 May 1924

By learning to observe a man in the way spoken of in our last number, the presence and effect of soul and spirit within the physical and etheric being of man will be recognised as a fact. When it has become clear that what the senses perceive of man is a picture, it will readily be understood that something more is at work within the picture than is contained in the material substance of it. Recognising man as a ‘picture’, we shall approach him with quite a different attitude of soul than we would if we considered only his material nature and constitution.

There is an awakening force in this attitude of soul and feeling. Through a vivid realisation of this difference of feeling within himself, a man becomes aware that soul-forces are awakened which in ordinary life are slumbering. Much depends upon whether a man, in the very reception of Anthroposophy, already perceives that other powers of cognition are slumbering in the human soul than those of which he was conscious before coming into Anthroposophy.

When he knows that he has a picture before him, he fixes his mind on what is not perceptible to the senses. The result is that, as in the life of external perception he is affected by what is perceptible to the senses, so now he is affected by something which is not perceptible to the senses.

If members of the Anthroposophical Society who give lectures at the Group Meetings become attentive to such things as these, anthroposophical teaching will acquire a really anthroposophical tone.

This tone, called forth by the real facts, will be the chief means of producing the spirit which ought to prevail in the Group Meetings. Those who take part will then feel that Anthroposophy does not merely contain theoretical communications about the spiritual worlds, but that it is in itself something vigorous and real which leads to the experience of the spiritual.

It is for the active members to think out in every positive way how this experience of the spiritual life can be attained in the anthroposophical work.

For only by this means can those who take up Anthroposophy without themselves being capable of direct spiritual investigations, be helped to overcome the feeling that they are only allowing themselves to be told theoretically what others, more advanced, can experience. If communications about what is experienced in the spiritual world are given in the right way, those who listen are able to share in these experiences.

If in the Group Meetings there is this spirit of sharing in spiritual experiences then everything built up on an unjustifiable feeling of authority will be dispelled. The opponents of Anthroposophy continually contend that anthroposophists profess obedience to authority in what is imparted to them. If in the Anthroposophical Society the right spirit were maintained, this contention would lose its meaning: for those who come to our meetings would not get the impression that a thing is so merely because someone has said it. They would learn the fact that consent is not enforced in one's own soul but that it arises from the experience itself.

When one meets a well-disposed person, one does not get an insight into his character because of some authority, but because the soul feels immediately influenced by his kindly disposition. So too one can become aware of the truth of Anthroposophy by the way in which it is communicated, by perceiving its real character.

In order for Anthroposophy to be able to work in this way, the leaders of Groups should do what is necessary. They should keep alive the spirit so noticeable at Christmas—not by the summoning up of feelings that things are being discussed which are mysteriously secret; for this is not essential to the esoteric nature of an anthroposophical meeting. Esotericism depends on the above-described deepening in the communication of truths; in this deepening one should see something of the impulse that the Christmas Meeting wanted to bring into the Anthroposophical Society. The never-ceasing intention of keeping our will alive and watchfully in tune with that Meeting, will enable the blessings of those days to be showered more and more on the Anthroposophical Movement.

XV. Something more about the Tone which is necessary in the Group Meetings

1 June 1924

The study of Anthroposophy ought not to lead to a depreciation of external life. True, in the case of many people it is the hard blows of fate, or a perception of the contradictions of external life, which lead them to a deepening of feeling and incline them to a spiritual understanding of existence.

But as the physical nature of man has need of sleep if, when awake, he is to be fit for life, so too, in order that he may stand rightly in the spiritual world, it is necessary that he should take an interest in physical experience if he is to develop firmness and assurance of soul. For the filling of man's inner being with spiritual knowledge means an awakening out of the life of sense-reality, and out of the impulses with which this reality animates the will.

Those of us who are working actively in the Anthroposophical Society should always bear this in mind. To those who seek to apprehend the inner by under-valuing the outer life, we should indeed give of the inner life in fullest measure. But it is necessary that at the same time they should learn to value the outer life and to be efficient in the fulfillment of its claims.

It should always be a matter for reflection that human life on earth, looked at from the standpoint of the whole range of human existence in its passage through births and deaths, has its own significance. During earth-life the human spirit is embodied in the material.

It is given up to an existence in matter. In no form of existence within the spiritual worlds can the spirit experience what belongs to the material life on earth.

Life in the material world is, for man, that stage of existence in which he can perceive the spiritual in a picture outside of its reality. And a being who is unable to experience the spirit even in a picture-form cannot come to desire the spirit freely, out of his own inner nature. Those beings also, who do not embody themselves in matter after the way of men, pass through stages of life in which they have to surrender their own being to another element of existence.

There lies in this surrender the foundation for the development of the love-impulse in life. A being who has never known what it is to withdraw from its own self, is unable to cultivate that devotion to another which reveals itself in love. And the apprehension of the spiritual by man can easily harden into lovelessness if in a one-sided way it is connected with a disdain for what is revealed in the outer world.

True Anthroposophy does not seek for the spirit because it finds nature devoid of spirit, and therefore worthy of contempt, but rather because it desires to seek the spirit in nature and can only find this by anthroposophical means.

This kind of spirit must permeate all that is done in our Group Meetings, then will the experience of members in these meetings be in harmony with the demands which life in its entirety must make of each of us. The remoteness from life which, like an unhealthy atmosphere, can only too easily enter our anthroposophical work, will be removed.

This too is one of the elements which should bring about a right feeling in the work of our Society. Members will not have spent their time in the Group Meetings in the right way if they feel a gulf between what they receive of Anthroposophy and what they experience in their outer life. The spirit that holds sway in the Group Meetings must be a light which continues to shed its rays even when members are immersed in the external requirements of their life. But if this spirit does not hold sway, Anthroposophy might make members not more efficient but less so in their outer life, which also has its just claims and rights. And if this were to be so, many of the reproaches which outside people make against the Society would be justified, in which case the Anthroposophical Society would be doing Anthroposophy much harm.

XVI. Something more about the Results of the Christmas Meeting

6 July 1924

As one of the results of the Christmas Foundation Meeting, those who take upon themselves to work actively in the Society should make increasingly plain in the eyes of the world the real nature of Anthroposophy, what it is and what it is not. The following is frequently heard: Ought not this or that anthroposophical truth to be introduced here or there without frightening people by saying it is Anthroposophy? So long as such a question is still a matter for discussion, much in the Society will fail to have the effect it should.

Now it is most important to strive for clarity in this matter. There is a difference between advancing, in a sectarian spirit, something which one has laid down for oneself as dogmatic Anthroposophy, and the straightforward, open, unconcealed and unembellished standing for the knowledge of the spiritual world which has been brought to light through Anthroposophy in order that men may be able to reach a relation to the spiritual world, worthy of humanity.

It is the task of the Executive at the Goetheanum, unceasingly to carry on the work of Anthroposophy with this understanding. Moreover this task in its peculiar nature must be fully understood by those members who undertake to work actively in the Society. As a result of the Christmas Foundation Meeting, Anthroposophy and the Anthroposophical Society should become ever more and more united. This can never be the case as long as the seed continues to flourish which has been disseminated through continual distinction being made in anthroposophical circles between what is ‘orthodox’ and what is ‘heretical’.

Above all one must know what the true standard and content of Anthroposophy should be. It does not consist of a sum of opinions which must be entertained by ‘anthroposophists’. It ought never to be said amongst anthroposophists, ‘We believe this’, ‘We reject that’. Such agreement may arise naturally as the result of our anthroposophical study, but it can never be put forward as an anthroposophical ‘programme’. The right attitude can only be: ‘Anthroposophy is there. It has been acquired by persistent effort. I am here to represent it, so that what has thus been acquired may be made known in the world.’ It is still much too little felt in anthroposophical circles what a difference—indeed as between day and night—exists between these two standards. Otherwise the grotesque remark would not be heard continually: ‘The Anthroposophical Society holds this or that belief.’ A remark of this sort is absolutely meaningless, and it is most important that this should be realised.

Were a person to ask—with the intention of obtaining a clear idea of Anthroposophy—let us say, the following question: ‘What is the opinion or standard of life of some particular member of the Anthroposophical Society?’ he would be taking quite a wrong direction to arrive at the nature of Anthroposophy. Yet many would-be active members act in such a manner that this question is bound to arise. Rather should the thought arise: ‘Anthroposophy really exists in the world, and the Anthroposophical Society provides opportunity to become acquainted with it.’

Each one entering this Society should have the feeling: I enter simply in order to learn about Anthroposophy. The normal development of this feeling can be effected by the attitude of the would-be active members. But as things are, something quite different is often produced. People are afraid of joining the Society because, from the attitude of the would-be active members, they receive the impression that they must subscribe with the inmost core of their soul to certain dogmas. And naturally they shrink from this.

The good-will must be developed to efface this impression. Many would-be active members think that if people are received into the Society merely in order that they may become acquainted with Anthroposophy, they will leave again when they have learned what they desired, and we shall never have a compact Society.

But this will never happen if the Anthroposophical Society is rightly comprehended by its would-be active members. It will however come about if we try to make membership of the Society depend upon the acknowledgment of even the smallest dogma—and in this connection every point in a ‘programme’ is a dogma. If the members of the Anthroposophical Society are simply directed to become acquainted with Anthroposophy by virtue of their membership, then, whether they remain in the Society or not will depend upon something entirely different, namely on whether they feel they can hope to continue learning more and more in the Society.

That again will depend upon whether the kernel of the Society is really alive or dead, and whether in the circles of the Society the conditions exist for the living kernel not to die away when it tries to expand into the Society. It is the concern of the Executive at the Goetheanum that the kernel should be alive. The Executive does not administer dogmas; it feels itself solely as the vehicle of a spiritual possession, of the value of which it is fully aware, and it works for the spreading of this spiritual possession. It is happy if anyone comes and says, ‘I wish to share in what you are doing’. As a result of this, the Anthroposophical Society will have a living form. And this will be kept alive if the general attitude and way of working of all the would-be active members is in unison with the Executive of the Goetheanum.

All that one is justified in calling ‘confidence’ in the Society can only flourish on such a foundation as this. If this foundation exists it will not happen again and again that the Anthroposophical Society appears to the world as something quite different from what it really is.

I know quite well the judgment that will be passed by many would-be active members when they read the above. They will say: ‘This we cannot understand; now we really do not know what is wanted.’ But to say this is the worst prejudice of all. The above words only require to be read exactly, and it will then be found that they are neither indefinite nor ambiguous. To catch their spirit does indeed require a certain sensitiveness of feeling; but this ought surely not to be absent in those who wish to be active in the Anthroposophical Society.