The Christmas Conference
Part II. The Proceedings of the Conference
XVI. Open Discussion of Swiss Delegates
31 December 1923 2:30 p.m.
My dear friends!
AT 2.30 in the afternoon of 31 December a meeting of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society took place in the Architects' Office. Herr Aeppli had called this meeting and had asked Dr Steiner to be present and take the chair.
Members of the Vorstand of the General Anthroposophical Society present are: Dr Steiner, Albert Steffen, Fräulein Vreede, Dr Wachsmuth. Later also Frau Dr Steiner.
Herr Aeppli greets Dr Steiner and requests him to take the chair.
Dr Steiner opens the meeting called for the purpose of a free discussion at the request of the delegates of the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland:
I thank Herr Aeppli most warmly for his kind words. Now let us begin the meeting. Who would like to make a contribution to this open discussion? Would anyone wishing to speak please do so.
Frau Professor Bürgi, Bern, requests Dr Steiner to become the Chairman of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society.
DR STEINER: I am somewhat surprised by Frau Professor Bürgi's suggestion. For — at least in the long run — we cannot very well depart from the stipulation of the incompatibility of the offices of the central Vorstand with other offices. Thus I too would not be able to take on any other position in some part of the Anthroposophical Society in the long run. But quite apart from that, if we are to enter into a provisional arrangement for the time being, would not Herr Steffen be a better choice as General Secretary for Switzerland? It seems to me that if we are going to enter into a provisional situation, then Herr Steffen would be the right person. Of course it is entirely up to you to have a discussion about it. But it seems rather a problem, or indeed senseless, for me to assume the position of Chairman of the Swiss Society when the only reason preventing Herr Steffen is the fact that he is a member of the central Vorstand. I am in the very same position. Perhaps you would speak further on this.
HERR STEFFEN: I would want to decline. It does not seem to be fitting.
DR STEINER: But my dear Herr Steffen, why not? Since it is to be provisional, I cannot see why not! But perhaps there is another way of getting out of this fix. Perhaps we can achieve both ends, dear friends: bringing about a Swiss leadership for the Swiss Anthroposophical Society and, arising out of the local situation, creating a close link with the central Anthroposophical Society. Or ought it not to be possible for there to be a close link between the central Anthroposophical Society, which has its seat here in Switzerland, and the Swiss Anthroposophical Society? Perhaps we can get out of this fix by seeing to it that we in principle maintain the incompatibility while you express it by choosing a kind of General Secretary apart from us yet at the same time confer on both of us the chairmanship as members of the Vorstand of the central Anthroposophical Society. It would then be that the Swiss Society comes to the resolution, arising out of this meeting of its delegates, that it is an obvious thing for the central Vorstand to be regarded also as the head of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society. And the Swiss Anthroposophical Society then appoints an acting General Secretary. If we were to do it like this, it would not have to be provisional, for it would be an expression of the very best of all situations: The Swiss members have no fear for their independence in that they simply take into their bosom the whole of the Anthroposophical Society. This is how I think we could solve this problem. Herr Steffen and I together will take on the chairmanship in our capacity as Presidents of the Anthroposophical Society.
DR HUGENTOBLER: Truly we could not have come up with a better solution!
DR STEINER: Would anyone else like to speak?
Herr Keller suggests that the choice of General Secretary be left to the Vorstand.
DR STEINER: It is of course rather difficult for the Vorstand to make this choice if the matter is not discussed first. I am sure I am not giving away esoteric secrets by saying that it is extremely difficult to discover which individual is so popular all over Switzerland as to be generally accepted as the administrator. Perhaps a little discussion on the matter might contribute to achieving a result. The office will then be exercised in close contact with Herr Steffen and myself. And then what Frau Professor Bürgi said would probably no longer apply in the way it would have done had an independent General Secretary been chosen. What she said was that the Swiss Society was in an exposed position through being so close to the Goetheanum and so on, and that therefore it would be important for the office to be exercised in a suitable manner. But now, since you have been so good as to chose us to take on this office, these arguments may not apply quite so sharply any longer. I rather think that now the person's popularity will be all that matters. But would anyone else like to say something?
Dr Grosheintz believes that it is perhaps not necessary to have a General Secretary in addition to the present Vorstand.
DR STEINER: Would not people prefer that a person be nominated by the meeting so that the various administrative tasks can be better carried out? Surely people would prefer this? I would like to hear what people think.
EDGAR DÜRLER: We of the ‘New Generation’ branch suggest Dr Oskar Grosheintz.
DR STEINER: Dr Oskar Grosheintz has been suggested. Are there any other suggestions?
Herr Thut would like further clarification of the duties incumbent on this person.
DR STEINER: Now that we are making a new beginning, should we not start afresh with new arrangements and disregard the old ones? Could we not give up the old ways and reorganize things starting from the roots? From an objective point of view I don't think there is anything against the Swiss Anthroposophical Society being constituted in such a way that its main representation lies with the General Anthroposophical Society in the way we have just decided. However, on the level of feelings I do want to avoid a sense possibly arising later on that the Swiss Anthroposophical Society is being patronized in any way or treated as a second-rate child. In actual fact this would not be possible, for by embracing it in the first place it is shown to be a first-rate child. This would indeed have to be the case. But nevertheless, a hint of a feeling could arise somewhere that the Swiss Society is only an appendage of the General Anthroposophical Society. Tact also has a part to play in this, and in practice I don't think it would happen. But if anyone here does have a hint of any such feeling in his heart, then please do express it now, so that we can really come to a conclusion on this matter. Otherwise it would probably be best with regard to Switzerland simply to make allowances for the old ways to which people are so attached and to carry out the general administration ourselves. In this case Herr Thut's suggestion would be the right one: simply to let the Swiss Anthroposophical Society be administered along with the General Anthroposophical Society. And for any constitutional matters having a substantial inner significance for the Society we would then call a meeting of whatever representatives the different branches wished to send. By doing this from time to time we would be expressing what people have become so attached to in Switzerland, namely the democratic element. I think that would then be the best way to get on. We would always call on the individual members. This would be possible in Switzerland because it is such a small country, but it would not be possible in any other national Society. It would also not be necessary for these meetings to take place always at the Goetheanum. They could be in different places since it is so easy to get everywhere. In fact it would be quite a good thing if these meetings of members were what are usually called wandering meetings. Having meetings from time to time in Bern, Zurich, Olten and so on, always combined, presumably, with one of my lectures, would be the best way of managing our affairs in Switzerland.
HERR THUT: It was not my intention to cling to this old organization at all costs. I merely wanted clarity about which aspects would remain and which would not, so as to be as clear as possible about how the things that are still in question would work.
DR STEINER: In that case I would consider that Herr Thut, and probably most of you here, would prefer it if the representation of the Swiss Society were carried out here by the General Anthroposophical Society? Routine matters can easily be attended to by the administration and no special secretary would be needed for this. And then, in order to keep in contact with the different parts of Switzerland, it would be best if we could nominate, as an advisory group for the Vorstand here, three, four or five men and women who would be trustees, to whom we could turn when necessary and with whom we could hold the wandering meetings. These would not have to be so very frequent, but the group of trustees would give us contact with the different parts of Switzerland. Perhaps this is what people would like?
HERR STORRER: If this were to be the case, then of course the ‘New Generation’ group would withdraw its suggestion.
DR STEINER: Would anyone else like to speak?
Dr Usteri asks a question.
DR STEINER: Your question refers to the Programme. But this is a matter of the agenda each day. You said that you arrived this morning and found the meeting in the hall was not what you expected? Was it not? Well you see we have had to depart from the Programme because it was not possible in the plenary gathering to speak in depth about all the questions that need discussing unless we had constantly adjourned the meetings and had had a running agenda for the members' meetings. That is why I myself departed in the daily agendas from the original Programme. But the agenda for the following day has always been announced in detail the day before. Thus the meeting of doctors in question took place this morning. What a pity that you did not have a chance to ask someone who was here yesterday. Any member would have been able to tell you that there was going to be a meeting of practising doctors in the Glass House at 8.30 this morning.
For you see: We wanted to make this particular Christmas Conference as fruitful as possible and do as much as we could to prevent everything from being watered down in general discussion. That is why medical matters were to be discussed among practising doctors only; so they were removed from the general meeting and are to be dealt with in three meetings of which the first took place this morning at 8.30, the second tomorrow and the third probably also — the time is yet to be announced. Thus the things announced in the Programme are in fact being dealt with in an even better way than had originally been made known. A general discussion amongst all the members would not have led to any better outcome. I have even made sure that all the meetings which do not concern all members but only particular groups have also been announced in the general meeting, so that those not concerned with a particular meeting nevertheless know that it is taking place. That you did not find this out was probably due to the fact that you did not arrive before 8.30, when you would have had an opportunity to ask someone. I don't think a General Secretary would have been able to inform you any better than any of the members if you had got there this morning. In House Friedwart you could have obtained exact information.
But of course there could also be very good reasons for nominating a General Secretary. This is something we could discuss further. There was no vote about it, but I should like to take a vote on this. Would those friends who are in favour of Albert Steffen and myself continuing as chairmen of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society please raise their hands. (They do.) Would those who are against also please raise their hands. (Nobody does.) So, the suggestion has been adopted. Now it is a question of whether we decide to let the administrative office of the General Anthroposophical Society take over the routine administration of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society and whether we set up a group of elders, or for that matter younger people, to whom we can turn from time to time when necessary or when something has to be decided.
Dr Usteri supports this suggestion.
Herr Geering supports Dr Usteri.
Herr Thut asks whether representation by a General Secretary would not be more advantageous than that by the representatives of the groups.
DR STEINER: I think it would be best if the individual branches were to suggest their delegates to us. The group of delegates can be as large as the number of branches that exist. The disadvantage hitherto has been that the group of representatives of the branches has at the same time been seen as the council. A council like this is no good for anything. But here — perhaps I am boasting, but this is what we intend — if the administration is firmly taken in hand by the leadership of the Anthroposophical Society, then it will be up to this leadership to take the initiative and call the delegates of the branches together for a meeting. In such a case a rather large group of delegates would probably not pose any particular difficulty. So I think it will be quite manageable for every single branch to nominate a representative for this circle. This, it seems to me, will be the best way. But if any branches wanted to join together to send a delegate, that would also be possible. But it is not necessary for this to be done today. It would perhaps be better to have a thorough discussion in the branches themselves and let us know who has been chosen sometime during the next two or three weeks. Then our administration will be entirely democratic, which is much favoured in Switzerland.
Now I would like to ask whether there is anything else you wish to bring up. I cannot imagine that you do not also have other wishes, urges, longings on your mind.
Herr Aeppli would like to know whether the question of the administration has now been settled.
DR STEINER: The meetings would take place anyway, and as for the purely administrative matters, they would be reported to this group so that the administration would be relieved of the responsibility if the council would accept the responsibility. Would anyone else like to speak?
DR USTERI: Now that there has been such applause, I presume that a formal vote on the two points is not necessary.
DR STEINER: Actually, I would ask you to vote once there is no one else who wishes to speak. Now does anyone else wish to speak on the matter of this group or on what I have said about the group relieving the administration?
HERR STORRER: I should like to suggest that the small branches send one and the larger branches two delegates. But then we should have to define what we mean by ‘large’ and ‘small’.
Herr Trinler says that what matters is not whether there are one or two but that they are the right people!
DR STEINER: Would anyone else like to say something about this?
So are you making this proposal? The proposal is that the small groups send one and the larger groups two delegates.
Herr Trinler says something (inaudible).
DR STEINER: The two proposals are in agreement with one another, they are not contradictory; but we shall have to define ‘larger’ and ‘smaller’. So what is a large and what is a small group?
HERR STORRER: Looking at the Swiss branches, I would say that the large ones are those at the Goetheanum, in Bern, in Basel, in Zurich and in St Gallen.
DR STEINER: But you could imagine that a branch which is small today might grow large later on. We do need a figure to tell us when a group is starting to become a large one.
HERR STORRER: A small group has not more than ten members.
DR STEINER: So ten and less is a small branch; eleven and over a large branch.
HERR TRINLER: A branch with as many as a hundred members does not necessarily achieve any more than a small one.
HERR THUT: It is not a matter of what the branch achieves. Perhaps forty or fifty could be the number determining a large group.
Herr Schweigler asks how he should understand the matter of deciding about the delegates: Would this be by a vote or simply by acclaim? Which is best?
DR STEINER: The situation varies from one country to another. You will have heard that in England I suggested that the selection of representatives be made not according to branches but according to whatever figure is arrived at by dividing the total English membership by seven. I think this would be a very good method for England, but it would not be good to apply this way of thinking to Switzerland. Here I think we should aim in this group for two delegates from branches with over fifty members and one from those with fewer than fifty members. Apart from this, the difference is not particularly important. I think that would be best in this case. A branch with ten members can perhaps work better than a branch with two hundred members, certainly. But that applies to all forms of democratic representation, and I do not believe that you can base any particular rule on this. Otherwise you would have to say: Those branches which work well send two representatives and those which work badly send one. But this would be rather difficult to determine! And a branch which does not work well will certainly not believe such a thing of itself. (Laughter)
DR HUGENTOBLER: I don't think Herr Schweigler realizes that there are things about which you cannot vote.
Herr Schweigler denies this. Dr Hugentobler answers (inaudible).
DR STEINER: So if I have understood this correctly, then the proposal regarding the groups of delegates is as follows: Firstly the group of delegates is instituted, and secondly branches of over fifty members send two representatives and branches of under fifty members send one.
A MAN ASKS: Are the branch leaders not the people best suited?
DR STEINER: But the branch leaders are not decided by the meeting of delegates but by the branches themselves! It has nothing to do with whoever might be the branch leader at the moment.
A MAN: But (inaudible).
HERR GEERING-CHRIST: That is a misunderstanding on the part of this gentleman!
DR STEINER: The initiative has to lie with somebody. And now the initiative will lie with us here in Dornach and we shall be supported by the delegates. The meeting of delegates will be a kind of control body. It does not have to work as a council. A difficulty only arises if there is a council scattered all over the place that never does anything. That is where the difficulty lies.
DR USTERI: Have we accepted Dr Hugentobler's proposal that there should be a vote?
DR STEINER: It has been proposed that there should be a vote. Very well. Dr Hugentobler's suggestion was the most far-reaching, namely that the branches choose their own delegates and let us know in due course, whereby branches of over fifty members will send two and those with fewer than fifty will send one. Does anyone want me to divide this proposal into two parts? If that is not the case, then I now propose the vote for both the questions and ask those in favour to raise their hands. Who is against? The proposal seems to have been adopted.
So now the whole of the administration and leadership of the Society in Switzerland has been constituted.
Does anyone else wish to speak about a matter that concerns the Swiss Society?
HERR STOKAR: I should like to ask the present chairman, Dr Steiner, for his opinion on whether the Swiss Society should now come to grips with the Statutes. As stated in the Statutes, it is now up to us to discuss the Statutes and work out a suitable form for our national Society, perhaps by adding to the general Statutes.
DR STEINER: That will of course be the subject of the first meeting of delegates, and it will be our task, as the council of the Swiss Society, to work out a draft. On the basis of this draft the first meeting of delegates will be able to discuss with us how we adopt the draft statutes or else modify them or whatever. This will surely be in order on the basis of the decisions made today.
HERR STOKAR has another question: When there are official public announcements to be made, will they be made from here or will the representatives in the different towns be expected to make them?
DR STEINER: First of all there will be an official report in the first supplement to Das Goetheanum, [Note 73] and apart from this official report a good number of friends have been present and experienced it all for themselves. They will pass on anything they consider important. That is how I see it. As I see it, people are actually obliged to speak within the circle of the Society about what they have experienced here, and they could also speak about it wherever else they like in a tactful way such as is appropriate when speaking in public.
Dr Hugentobler wants the links with Dornach to be better.
HERR GEERING-CHRIST: Will nothing be made public?
DR STEINER: Let me repeat what I have just said: Members should feel obliged to speak amongst the members about whatever they have experienced. About whatever they have experienced! But they should also feel in duty bound to bring these things out into the world in, shall I say, a tactful manner. And I include the press in this. It will be possible to do it in a suitable way and we shall make sure that it is done in a suitable way. Indeed, I should like to say anyway — and as far as I know the whole Vorstand, which I have been so very instrumental in bringing into being, supports this — that I count courtesy as something that ought to exist extensively within our Society. We need courtesy. Some of us regard it as the most terrible thing that could have happened that one of our most valued members in Switzerland [Note 74] has been lost to us. He was a member of the Goetheanum committee and one of the reasons he was able to give was that he once entered the Goetheanum, as a member of the committee, and was then thrown out. There have been many such examples of ‘discourtesies’. We shall very urgently have to make it our task that courtesy is not the least of the unwritten paragraphs of our Statutes. We shall have to make very, very strenuous efforts in this direction. I presume that what Dr Hugentobler meant encompassed a good deal of this.
It was no small task for the provisional Vorstand to find quarters for all the many people who have come here, and some are indeed lodged in the most primitive and dreadful quarters. Yet they managed. But that does not make the work any less! In addition to all this — please be patient for a few more moments — we shall have to succeed gradually in being truly courteous in every way both towards Switzerland and towards the outside in general!
One speaker says that people could be more observant and take more into account: Yesterday evening someone had arrived in Dornach who had lost his membership card two or three years ago. Every seat was occupied and it was impossible to find one anywhere, and so on.
DR STEINER: In that particular case it would not have helped if the Swiss Society had had a representative or a council since it was a meeting of the General Anthroposophical Society. We should have been delighted if only you had come up to our table at the front. This is the very reason why I made sure that the Vorstand should be visible right from the start. They will be visible at every future meeting and I hope, knowing the Vorstand as I do, that they will also be courteous in future. So please be so good as to turn to the Vorstand during this Conference and things should be alright. Are there any more questions?
GENERAL REPLY: No.
DR STEINER: It seems to me that we have more or less reached the end of our agenda, and as far as the question of courtesy is concerned, let us rather carry it out in practice! I think we can now close this meeting. Please permit me to close the meeting.