The October 2016 Goetheanum World Conference greatly inspired and influenced the recent meeting of general secretaries. Not all general secretaries were present at the World Conference, and the immediate challenge was to bridge the gap of what was obviously a powerful experience for many with those who were not present. Such a challenge is common in life, for example in New Zealand our recent conference left a positive resonance but can we invite others to connect and carry forward any impulse that arose there?
In their invitation to the Goetheanum World Conference the Goetheanum Leadership sought to engage with others to understand how the life and work of the General Anthroposophical Society, the School of Spiritual Science, the Sections and movement can better work together. As I did not attend the world conference I have invited others to share their responses and reflections. As in the Goetheanum World Conference, the Foundation Stone Meditation provided the daily theme for the General Secretaries meeting. Before beginning the conference preparation group clarified that they would dissolve the group to enable a new group to form and take the next step towards 2024/5.
Day One was reflective, ‘Spirit remembering’ gathering impressions and experiences in order to inspire new ideas from what has passed. Many reflected on the rich meetings between people and the openness of the Goetheanum leadership. Holding an open space is not always a comfortable experience, it can be seen as lacking direction, but living in the juxtaposition of remaining open and seeking a direction can awaken us to what is needed in the moment. Again, in the Society the striving is to work strongly with the spirit, the experience from the conference was that along with this striving there is a need to deepen meetings with others and extend our awareness beyond the Society. When we say anthroposophy is in the world today, how is that experienced and do we understand what it means?
This brings me to the second day and the theme of ‘Spirit awareness’ and what it can be to live in the moment, to be present and awake. This links with our recent conference ‘Meditation in Action’, the importance of being able to create a space, to be open, to expand space and time, and develop a capacity to listen. At the start of the day Stefan Hassler led us in eurythmy, asking that we place our hands on our breast and feel the rhythm of our breathing, then feel the beat of the heart. A magical tactile experience of two rhythms working together to serve the whole human being! In both lung and heart live movement and stillness; between inspiration and expiration, systole and diastole, there is stillness. Living with the image of the heart as an organ of perception can change our meetings, the sharp critic of head thinking can move to the open receptive element of heart thinking. It requires an inner act of will to break habitual behaviors and response, enabling every meeting to be fresh and new.
Consider ‘Spirit visioning’, the future approaches us and in taking initiative we take on responsibility for the future. In conversation the question of karma arose. Karma is something that connects us to the past and yet in every meeting we have the possibility to create something new for the future. In every birth, of a child or an initiative we experience creativity. When bringing an initiative into the world it is worth considering whether there is warmth, human dignity, transparency and the openness to invited others in. Can we help bring healing in the world? Could we create a festival that replaces coldness with warmth, pain with joy, darkness with light? Universally there is a definite interest to reach out and engage with others and other streams. Living in isolation will not help us or the world to evolve. It was noted that over the years many anthroposophical institutions have internally developed a conservative attitude. Can we find the courage to look more keenly at our organisations to know what must transform and change? Is Anthroposophia visible, does she have a presence in the world?
Unusual to this meeting was the number of new faces around the table. Michaela Gloeckler gave a poignant farewell in her presentation of the 11th class lesson. The following evening Helmut Goldman, stepped back as Austria’s general secretary and gave his overview of the lesson as a parting gift. The new Medical Section leaders, Mattthias Girke and Georg Soldner introduced themselves. Seven new general secretaries joined us bringing a whole new dynamic to the work. Bart Vanmechelen, Belgium; Ingrid Reistad, Norway; Nils Heinrik-Nielson, Denmark; Wolfgang Tomaschitz, Austria; Michael Schmock, Germany; Uta Craemer, Brazil and John Bloom, USA.
A number of issues are carried between meetings. When the racial issue was actual in New Zealand we realised that there was no possibility to quickly access historical information that could help us understand the background to the criticism. About that time Britain began to experience their first media attacks and for them it has been important to develop skills in meeting the media. To this end the council in GB, has recently engaged in an exercise that challenges the language they use when speaking of anthroposophy. This exercise made them aware of the effect their phrases and words have on others. Their next step is to upskill in meeting the media. Both France and England continue to face regular open attacks. We were reminded of the importance of remaining awake as external attacks can come at any time and we need the tools and capacity to meet them. The Society remains vulnerable not only to the outer attacks but also those from within.
Over the years in my role as general secretary I struggled to inspire members to actively engage with the year’s theme. I now realise that the themes inspired by the Goetheanum leadership do not always find an echo with members. In the coming year, the leadership will share their theme and leave it open for those it inspires to pick it up. It would be good to hear what challenges and inspires people to work with anthroposophy, and if anywhere in NZ groups are working with a theme for the year.
Already preparation towards a hundred years’ celebration of the 2024/25 Christmas Conference is under way in several countries. It is possible to find ourselves standing at the gate of 2024/25 unprepared or do we now begin to prepare, set goals and envision what we New Zealand could do? Is this an opportunity to create a wonderful festival that invites wider engagement? Can each region share their vision and plans for 2024/25? Can we pick up on the Goetheanum World Conference in that the School of Spiritual Science, the Society and Movement co-create a celebration of the future? I am reaching out to you to share your ideas with us all.