Rudolf Steiner gave this address immediately before beginning the lectures contained in this volume.
This is the first opportunity I have had of addressing you since the Christmas Foundation Meeting at the Goetheanum and before beginning the lectures themselves I want to speak of certain matters connected with the impulse which came into the Anthroposophical Movement through that Christmas Meeting. We were glad on that occasion to welcome a number of Members from England, above all Mr. Collison, a friend of many years and the President here, and I should like now to renew the greeting I gave him in Dornach then as the representative of the English Society.
The deep significance of the impulse brought into the Anthroposophical Society through the Christmas Foundation Meeting must be realised to the full and many things that were said by way of characterisation before that Meeting will now have to be expressed in opposite terms. The Society had passed through difficult times both outwardly and in an occult sense too, because in the post-war period a number of different enterprises were set on foot from within the Society itself and this made it necessary that the Society should be imbued with a new impulse.
So far as I myself am concerned — and I may be permitted to say it here — this was connected with something of very great significance.
Some time before Christmas I was faced with a question — although the intention to give a new foundation to the Society had taken shape long before then.
It became necessary for me to decide on taking the very step I had for good reasons refused to take at the time when the Anthroposophical Society separated from the Theosophical Society. I had started then from the supposition that if I abstained from all administrative work and from the official leadership of the Society, merely occupying the position of a teacher, certain things connected with the inner life would present less difficulties than is the case when the teacher also holds an administrative office.
But what was to be expected in the years 1912 and 1913 did not come about; things have not worked out within the Anthroposophical Society as one assumed they would. And so I was obliged to give most earnest consideration to the question of whether I should or should not take over the Presidency. I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to do so. But among our English friends too I want to emphasise something that was inevitably associated with the decision to assume the Presidency of the Anthroposophical Society. Vis-à-vis the Movement as a whole such a step was hazardous for it placed one before a very definite eventuality.
The whole basis of the Anthroposophical Movement is that revelations of the substance of spiritual knowledge flow down from the spiritual world. If one wishes to carry out the work of the Anthroposophical Movement, it is not possible to devote oneself exclusively to human affairs and activities. One must be open to receive what may flow from the spiritual worlds. The laws of the spiritual world are definite and inviolable; they must be strictly obeyed. And it is difficult to combine the demands of an external office to-day — even though it be the Presidency of the Anthroposophical Society — with the occult duties connected with the revelations coming from the spiritual world. And so one was obliged to face the question: Will the Spiritual Powers who have showered their blessings upon the Anthroposophical Society hitherto, continue to do so?
You will certainly be able to realise what such an eventuality meant. The answer of the Spiritual Powers might well have been that this must not be, that there must be no assumption of any external, official position.
But to-day it can truly be said, before all the Spiritual Powers connected with the Anthroposophical Movement, that the links between the spiritual worlds and the revelations which should flow through the Anthroposophical Movement have become more intimate still and the revelations have been vouchsafed in even greater abundance than before; so of the two eventualities, the fortunate one for the progress of the Movement has actually come about. It may now be said that ever since the new Foundation of the Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum last Christmas, those Spiritual Powers from whom our revelations are received have showered upon us even greater grace than before. Therefore in this respect too, a heavy care has been removed from the Society.
Before the Christmas Meeting it was often necessary to emphasise the distinction between the Anthroposophical Movement which is the reflection on earth of a stream of spiritual life, and the Anthroposophical Society which had an external form of administration in that its functionaries were elected or formally appointed.
Since Christmas, the opposite holds good. The Anthroposophical Movement is now one with the Anthroposophical Society; the two are no longer to be distinguished from each other. For since I myself have become the President of the Society, the Anthroposophical Movement has become identical with the Anthroposophical Society.
This made it necessary in Dornach last Christmas to institute an Executive Council — which is not a Council in the exoteric sense but is to be regarded as an esoteric Executive Council, responsible for its actions to the Spiritual Powers alone, and which has not been elected, but just formed. The whole procedure at Christmas differed from that usually adopted at foundation gatherings. This Executive Council may be called a Council of initiative seeing its tasks in what it actually carries out. Hence the Statutes adopted at the Christmas Meeting are not worded in terms of ordinary Statutes but are a simple statement of the relationship that should exist between man and man, between the Council and the Members, between the individual Members themselves, and so forth. The intentions of the Council are set forth as a statement of what we intend and wish to do; they are “Statutes” in respect of form only. The whole procedure was quite different from that usually adopted by Societies.
The fact of salient importance is that an esoteric trend has now been brought into the Anthroposophical Society. The whole Movement, flowing through the Society as it now does, must have an esoteric character.
This must be taken in all earnestness. Only those impulses for human action which come from the spiritual world will be determinative so far as the Executive is concerned. It will not be a matter of giving effect to certain paragraphs or the like, but of promoting the true spiritual life unreservedly and with no other intent.
Reference may here be made to a matter that may seem of secondary importance. New Membership Cards have been or are in course of being issued. As we now have about 12,000 Members all over the world, the same number of Membership Cards have had to be prepared. All these Cards will now bear my own signature. Many people considered that a stamp could be used for this purpose. But in the Anthroposophical Movement from now onwards, everything must have a directly individual, human character and I must obey this even in a detail like the above. Every Membership Card must lie before my eyes, I must read each name and sign my own below it with my own hand. In this way a relationship is established with every individual Member — slight though such a relationship may be to begin with, it is nevertheless real in the human sense. It would of course be much easier to let somebody else stamp the 12,000 Membership Cards, but this will not be done. This is a symbolic indication that in the future the human element prevailing in the Society is all-important.
If the Executive Council at the Goetheanum is met with understanding from the Members, you will see that as time goes on every one of the intentions implicit in the Christmas Meeting will be carried into effect — although things can only be done by degrees and patience will be necessary. The Council must be met with understanding for it cannot take the fifth step before the second or the second before the first and if up to the present it has taken only half a step, the time will come when it is ready to take the fifth. If things are to be conducted in a really human way, one cannot live in the realm of abstraction; one must always enter into the concrete.
And so a new trend will become apparent in the Anthroposophical Movement. The Movement will be esoteric in spirit; it will no longer seek for the esoteric in external things. Certain truths that it will be possible to communicate will be esoteric for the reason that only those who participate in a living way in what goes on in the Society will be capable of really working upon and assimilating them. But the Lecture-Courses will no longer be withheld from the outside world as hitherto; they will not be sold through the trade but they will be available for those who wish to obtain them. We shall, however, make a certain spiritual reservation by stating that we can recognise only such objections or criticisms as may come from those who are qualified by knowledge to pass judgment upon the contents of the Lecture-Courses. Whatever people may choose to say in the future, in the domain of the occult one's actions must be positive, not negative.
All these things must be understood as time goes on. If the understanding is really there, the Anthroposophical Movement will take on an entirely new character. It will be realised that the Executive Council at the Goetheanum feels itself responsible only to the spiritual world and every individual in the Society will feel united with this Executive.
It may then be possible to achieve what must be achieved by the Anthroposophical Movement if it is to fulfil the aim which in the course of these lectures I shall set before you from the depths of the spiritual life.