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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christmas Conference
GA 260
Part II. The Proceedings of the Conference

XI. Meeting of the Vorstand of the General Anthroposophical Society

29 December, 8.30 a.m.


My dear friends!

I would now like to open the meeting of the General Secretaries and the representatives of the Swiss branches. The best thing to do will be to include in the agenda our discussion about rearranging the affairs of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society. Wishes concerning this were expressed during the last meeting of delegates58Meeting of delegates of the Swiss. Anthroposophical Society on 8 December 1923. See Note 22. and in the course of our further discussions about the General Anthroposophical Society it will be a good thing to take these various wishes into account in the hope that a satisfactory arrangement can be found concerning the relationship of the branch at the Goetheanum and indeed of the General Anthroposophical Society as a whole. Would you now please speak to this point on the agenda. Suggestions at the other meeting were voiced very energetically indeed.

Dr Hugentobler speaks on this point and asks questions.

DR STEINER: With regard to these matters we must take into account that basically they can all be traced back to a question of tact. It all started at a meeting of delegates of the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland in the summer,59

when the Swiss members felt themselves to be drowned out by members who happened to be in Switzerland at the time. They felt they were being pushed aside. Everything they felt thus comes down to a question of tact. The Swiss members felt that the others talked much too much, that they themselves had not been able to get a word in and that people from elsewhere had given them all kinds of advice which failed to take account of the situation in Switzerland. The whole matter obviously stems from that meeting. At the last meeting of delegates the matter was cogently discussed, but on the other hand a great deal was brought forward which people found impossible to understand. As I was in the chair at that meeting of delegates I know how certain things said met with absolutely no understanding, so it would be a good thing if the wishes expressed then could be brought forward again in a comprehensible form. This is what I hope from today's meeting. Who would like to speak?

Herr Geering-Christ explains his point of view.

DR STEINER: That is quite right. The matter is not at all complicated if you look at the facts, and Herr Geering has put it very clearly. If the matter is properly faced it will find a perfectly simple solution. I should also like to add that the whole matter has been put on a new footing by the foundation of the General Anthroposophical Society of which Herr Steffen, being the one who will represent the Swiss element within the General Anthroposophical Society, is the Vice-president. The whole matter has been placed on a new footing as a result of the institution of this Vorstand. Looking at the structure as a whole it becomes obvious that part of the trouble at the meeting of delegates in the summer, which made for such bad feeling,60The international meeting of delegates in July 1923. See Note 22. stemmed from the fact that at that time the German council saw itself as the ‘Vorstand’ for the worldwide Society and behaved accordingly. This was what hurt the feelings of the Swiss delegates, was it not? So there are several contributory factors, which Herr Geering suggested in one way or another at the end of his speech. There is an administrative matter for the Swiss Anthroposophical Society which will naturally be settled at a meeting of Swiss members. So on the one hand there are the affairs of the Swiss Society and on the other there is a question of tact. I do hope that these matters of tact will be settled in the near future.

The General Anthroposophical Society, within whose framework our present discussions lie, can of course only discuss the arrangement of the relationship between the branch at the Goetheanum and the Swiss Anthroposophical Society. This is what we ought to be discussing today. Everything else should be left to a meeting which the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland will hold. This question of bringing order into the relationship between the branch at the Goetheanum and the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland is something that can concern us very much. At the last meeting of delegates on 8 December 1923, when the wishes on this matter were expressed, I believed that a solution could be found. You will agree that for external and internal reasons the branch at the Goetheanum cannot be seen by the outside world as something separate from the Swiss Society. But I thought that the solution could lie in arranging matters internally in such a way that the branch would have neither a seat nor a vote, or at least not a vote, at meetings of delegates of the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland.

Today, however, I believe that the view expressed by Herr Geering is very much justified, namely that a change in this direction is not necessary. The moment our Swiss friends can come to a general conviction that they could get on perfectly well with the branch at the Goetheanum when other things are not allowed to interfere, at the moment when our Swiss friends can come to that conviction, there will, I believe, be no need to change anything. I would like you to have a specific discussion on whether there are any wishes that lie in this direction. Once this question has been fully discussed it will then be a matter for the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland, who will elect their General Secretary or whatever kind of officer they may want to have. Once this has been discussed we shall actually have completed our consideration of the Swiss affair. I think the difficulty is partly due to the Swiss council having not been particularly strongly consolidated so far. The chairmen of the various branches had simply been nominated as the council. Obviously a council like this is a rather elastic entity and nobody really knows what it is, since the council does not function properly. If a properly functioning council can come into being in the Swiss Society, the whole matter will sort itself out. I do not believe that it will be possible for those not living in Dornach to form a majority in Dornach. So I would ask you to seize on a formulation which will bring about a change in the relationship of the branch at the Goetheanum with the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland.

Herr Schweigler has something to say.

DR STEINER: Does anyone else wish to speak to this point?

HERR GEERING-CHRIST: Could we now proceed to a vote among the Swiss delegates?

DR STEINER: I was just about to ask the Swiss friends whether they agree with the aims set out by Dr Hugentobler, Herr Geering and Herr Schweigler. Would those Swiss friends who do, please raise their hands. (They do.)

This is a clear expression of the wish of our Swiss friends to keep the branch at the Goetheanum within the bosom of the Swiss Anthroposophical Society. All the other questions are matters for the Swiss Anthroposophical Society and do not belong in this meeting. So we have dealt with the matter that needed attention within the framework of the General Anthroposophical Society.

Does anyone else wish to speak about these questions while they can be discussed at this smaller meeting?

Fräulein Dr Vreede, as the secretary of the branch at the Goetheanum, states that of the 150 members of the branch 70 are in fact Swiss members.

Dr Grosheintz wishes to speak.

DR STEINER: That is quite correct. In a Society such as ours it will never be possible to avoid the appearance of questions in every field which have to be settled by tact alone. You will remember that in The Philosophy of Freedom tact plays a special part among the moral principles. However much may be regulated by means of statutes, I am actually convinced that pedantic statutes can be the source of much that has to be settled by tact. So I do agree that if things are carried out in the manner suggested by Dr Grosheintz just now, we shall manage things alright by means of tact. Much will depend on this.

Frau Weiss asks a question.

DR STEINER: I do not think that Dr Grosheintz meant this in a statutory way. He was speaking of something that has to be applied in each case as it arises if it is felt to be necessary. And this is exactly what I mean by a ‘question of tact’. You have to have at your fingertips a sense for what might be necessary. I am altogether of the opinion that in the management of a society not much can be achieved by a pedantic head. It may have its place elsewhere, certainly, but in the management of a society such as the one to be founded here a pedantic head is quite harmful. What we need are sensitive fingertips. The more we can manage the Society through our sensitive fingertips the better will things be.

Mr Monges asks whether the relationship of Honolulu to the General Anthroposophical Society is to be similar to that of the branch at the Goetheanum.

DR STEINER: Honolulu belongs to the General Anthroposophical Society. It has nothing to do with all these questions. Everything we have been discussing up to now has concerned the relationship between the branch at the Goetheanum and the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland. The branch in Honolulu has nothing to do with the branch at the Goetheanum nor with the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland.

Does anyone else wish to speak about anything, for instance matters which could do with a preliminary airing prior to the general discussion with all the members? Somebody might wish to bring up a point for preliminary discussion in this smaller circle.

HERR LEINHAS: There was the matter of the contribution to be paid to the General Anthroposophical Society.

DR STEINER: Perhaps I could ask Dr Guenther Wachsmuth to report on this.

Dr Wachsmuth reports.

DR STEINER: It will not help us much, my dear friends, if we discuss whether every country should participate in paying membership contributions. It will only help us if they do all pay. There is very little point in knowing now whether they will pay or not. The only fruitful thing to do is to take the general picture as the basis and to endeavour from this general picture to state a figure which promises to be sufficient for the General Anthroposophical Society to achieve what it has to achieve. I would therefore be in favour of stating a standard figure and then leaving open, of course, what the groups, the national groups, can agree to in practice. Of course the figure can be exceeded by an unlimited amount, approaching, though never achieving, the lavish scale on which Carnegie61Andrew Carnegie, 1835–1919. American industrialist. Amassed an enormous fortune the greater part of which he donated for scientific and social work. acted. And less can also be contributed, for instance by the countries with very weak currencies, down to what in mathematics is termed the vanishing point. In practice we shall see what can be done. I do not know how closely it will be possible to approach the scale of Carnegie, but I am quite certain that the vanishing point, as they say in mathematics, will have a definite part to play. Therefore, having regard to all that we can know today, I do believe that a standard figure should be fixed and that deviations from this can be arranged in individual discussions. So I think it would be right to lay down that each group should pay 12 Schillings for each of its members, that is 1 Schilling per month. I can assure you that even if this Schilling is really contributed we shall have the greatest difficulty in carrying out the things we intend to do here. This must not be allowed to weigh on people. For those who cannot pay, the amount will have to be reduced, and we shall have to reduce our plans accordingly. But I do believe that we could agree on a standard contribution, from the groups, of 12 Schillings per member. Any other arrangement would lead to the Anthroposophical Society being able neither to live nor die, so that once again for financial reasons nothing worthwhile would be achieved. We shall be criticized and people will not understand that we cannot achieve anything if our hands are tied.

So this is not intended to be an absolute demand. It is a general standard. If it turns out to be impossible, it nevertheless expresses what we would need; and we shall then simply have to reduce it. This is perfectly possible. But I do think that it is necessary to make a statement of where one stands.

Mr Collison asks about a joining fee.

DR STEINER: The joining fee would not be included in this. It is something that goes into the general fund. But the calculation can be made on the basis of the subsequent contributions. I am simply reckoning with a monthly amount for every member of 1 Schilling, or annually 12 Schillings. This is what I am reckoning with. Perhaps I may be allowed to disclose that the Vorstand did consider this but only spoke in pictures regarding how these matters might be settled. My suggestion is what has come to me personally as a result of those pictures.

Mademoiselle Sauerwein explains her point of view.

BARONESS DE RENZIS: That would amount to 50 Lire. It would be utterly impossible for Italy!

Mademoiselle Sauerwein replies.

DR STEINER: Of course this may be so. It would simply mean that the standard contribution for individual groups would have to be set at a sufficiently low level. But I do not see that this means we cannot set the standard at the level that seems to us necessary after making some very exact calculations. What will happen in reality? Try to imagine it! I can say that under the conditions pertaining at present there will definitely be payments from not more than at most three to four thousand members, or rather payments will not be made for more than three to four thousand members. If you picture this to yourselves you will also have a picture of the amount we shall have at our disposal here each year. So you see the only sensible thing to do is to set the level of membership contributions like a budget. To set the level without regard to the future is pointless. If we want to make calculations we have to make them with figures. We have to be able to count on a certain income. If this income fails to appear we are then obliged to replace the shortfall from other sources in another way, perhaps from voluntary contributions and so on. Simply to fix an amount which bears no relationship to what we need here seems to me impossible. If we are to fix an amount—otherwise we might as well go straight to voluntary contributions—then it must be on the basis of what we need here. No other basis can be fruitful.

Fräulein Schwarz asks some questions.

DR STEINER: The Verein des Goetheanum can only receive contributions towards the rebuilding of the Goetheanum. And the rebuilding of the Goetheanum has nothing to do with the administration of the Anthroposophical Society. These are two quite separate things. I presume you are referring to the membership fee for the Verein des Goetheanum? The relationship of the Anthroposophical Society to the Verein des Goetheanum is something that can still be discussed during this conference. With regard to the membership of the Verein I think some kind of method will have to be found if those gathered here in any way wish it. You have to consider that with regard to the rebuilding of the Goetheanum the membership fees for the Verein are so minimal as to be almost negligible. The membership contributions are almost negligible! And in future they will be negligible; in the past they were at least used for the most part for the payment of interest on loans. But for the building of the Goetheanum in future it will not be possible to get involved with loans. A sinking fund (à fonds perdu) will be the only option. So then the membership contributions to the Verein des Goetheanum will have to be put to a use other than that of paying interest. We shall be speaking about the building of the Goetheanum. In future perhaps it will be possible to bring about an agreement with the Ceneral Anthroposophical Society. This is a question that would go too far for the moment, since we have not yet got beyond the matter of the membership contribution.

Does anyone wish to speak to the question of the membership contribution?

Mr Kaufmann explains that a little while ago Dr Wachsmuth had mentioned an amount of 7 Schillings for the contribution and that the English delegates had come with the mandate to agree to 7 Schillings.

DR STEINER: If the method I have suggested is chosen, then it will encompass every other method. But I merely maintain that it is impossible to mention a sum from the start in the knowledge that it will be no good for anything. Whether or not something is obligatory is not so much the point. The point is that the amount can be counted on under all circumstances. In the picture that has emerged we have certainly counted—or I have certainly counted—on the countries with strong currencies treating the amount more or less as though it were obligatory. To go below the nominated sum would require individual negotiations. But if we want to go below it now, it would have been better if we had started by negotiating the amount in the first place. We could have started the discussion by considering the amount—I know this would have gone against our moral sense—and once the discussion had revealed that the General Anthroposophical Society could not be maintained we could have decided not to found it in the first place. There is no other way but to think realistically. We cannot found a Society which is incable of surviving. But now I have said that it will be possible to give less than the stated amount and then the centre here will have the task of raising the difference. This statement makes the payment of the membership contribution no hardship at all, for it is simply a statement of what is actually needed. I should be sorry if the matter of the membership contribution were to create a mood of dissatisfaction. But it is not necessary for this to happen, my dear friends. However, it is on the other hand necessary that the general enthusiasm for our cause which rightly exists, and which has been expressed over the last few days, should not come to grief over the bagatelle of the membership contribution. That would be ‘ahrimanic’. My dear friends, people are so quick to say this in other settings!

Dr Büchenbacher recounts that the Free Anthroposophical Society in Stuttgart made it possible for a colleague to exist by paying him 2, 5 or 10 percent of the weekly payments. He says that though conditions in Germany are very difficult, nevertheless if everybody pulls his or her weight things can be managed.

DR STEINER: I should merely like to point out that discussion leading to such matters cannot really belong in our present agenda. I am convinced that if we were to listen to all the pros and cons of paying or not paying the contribution we should of course hear as many justified reasons as there are people in this room, and later, in the meeting with all the members, that would mean eight hundred justified reasons. Surely we cannot make this the content of our discussion. If we are to continue, we must discuss how else we are to manage. We must discuss from the point of view of the General Anthroposophical Society how else we are to manage. I can see no possibility of managing in any other way. It seems likely that we shall not get what we need, but I see no way of managing with less. However, I do see a possibility that the special wishes might be taken into account. Assume that not a single group can pay the required amount. So instead of 36,000 Schillings we should receive 5,000 Schillings, and then we shall have to see how to replace the 31,000 Schillings with something else. Above all it will be an uncomplicated and obvious situation. But it will be different from situations elsewhere; we cannot proceed by fixing budgets. Imagine a national budget being fixed if every citizen is allowed to pay whatever he likes! You cannot fix a national budget in this way! Or can you, Duke of Cesaro? Can you ask each citizen what he wants to pay per year or do you have to fix a sum and tell him what he must pay?

THE DUKE OF CESARO: You can, but you can't force him!

DR STEINER: This is just it; we shall not be able to enforce anything! And this can be the very reason why it might be much more easy to agree than if it were a matter of being forced. We have taken into account the matter of not being forced.

Mr Collison asks whether this might not be a bit of an obstacle as regards acquiring new members.

DR STEINER: Suppose a group was in a position in which it could only expect a yearly sum of 4 Schillings or 4 Francs from each member. If this were the case it would of course not be able to pay 12 Schillings or 12 Francs to us. Perhaps it could pay only 2 Schillings or even nothing. The question of how to deal with new members is a matter that is left entirely to the groups, who will then say to us: We cannot pay more than so much for each member. Under these circumstances it will always be possible to manage.

Herr Ingerö declares on behalf of Norway that about 3,000 Schillings per year could be paid.

Dr Zeylmans van Emmichoven declares that taking Holland as a whole, the sum will be met.

DR STEINER: This is how the matter was always handled during the time when we were still the German Section of the Theosophical Society. Individual members were not forced to pay, but the groups were able to pay the full sum to the German Section by making up any shortfall out of larger payments by some members. In those days, though, the contributions were far smaller. This is no longer possible today. I have often described to you the conditions under which it was possible to manage with the old, modest contributions. I have described to you how Luzifer-Gnosis was produced and sent out in the early days.62See Rudolf Steiner The Anthroposophic Movement. Its History and Life-Conditions in Relation to the Anthroposophical Society, London 1933. GA 258. These are conditions which cannot be brought back today. So all in all, so far as I can see, there can be no other picture than that of needing 12 Schillings in the future for each member of the General Anthroposophical Society. Is there any member of the Vorstand who thinks differently?

FRAU DR STEINER: No indeed. While I was closing down the publishing company and our flat in Berlin recently I was so interested to find the endless envelopes again, all addressed by hand by Dr Steiner, while each entry in the post book had been checked by me. We saw to every little detail ourselves and then carried the whole mailing to the post office in a laundry basket. These memories came back to me in Berlin. Nobody likes doing things like this these days. But it was most interesting to look back and experience once again how every detail was attended to by Dr Steiner and myself in those days.

DR STEINER: These are things which simply come about and there is no point in arguing about them. You didn't argue about them; you didn't even talk about them. These things are simply there, to be done out of the necessity of the moment. But once something comes under discussion you simply have to state how much you need. It is only possible to discuss something if you have a proper basis. Does anyone else wish to speak about this?

FRAU PROFESSOR BÜRGI: I wish to commit myself to paying the contribution on behalf of the Bern branch.

HERR HAHL: I wish to agree to what has been said.

DR STEINER: My dear friends, we must adjourn the meeting now so that we can go to the lecture. I shall announce when and where we shall continue.