Here are some reflections from participants on the World Conference.Together they give a well-rounded account of the strengths and challenges of the international gathering. Participants who shared their views asked to remain anonymous.
“An invitation to attend an anthroposophical conference in Dornach with the Foundation Stone meditation as the central theme and the intention to explore together the future of the Anthroposophical Society was a challenge for over 800 people from many countries.
A clever start for the conference was for the attendees gathered on the outside terrace of the Goetheanum to form groups of 3 or 4 and explore 3 questions before moving on to another group. This facilitated wonderful open encounters with discussions continuing throughout the conference.
The theme for each day was taken from the Foundation Stone, starting with beautiful eurythmy, with the speakers exploring the impulse for renewal which Steiner revealed to the world at the Christmas Conference in 1923. In discussions groups the addresses of the day were expanded. Afternoon sessions for the sections reviewed the working environment and issues encountered.
The question being asked by the Anthroposophical Society was why those who are involved with an anthroposophical enterprise do not join the Society and become members of the School of Spiritual Science. The answer to this may take some time to become clear.
My impression was that the Society is stuck in a European model from over 100 years ago and it is difficult to metamorphose into a truly world Society. Language and outdated structures do not help.
This conference has made me wonder if the time has come to step more openly into our communities to discuss and address issues which Anthroposophy could contribute solutions to, without waiting for ‘the question’ to be asked. There were some excellent ideas discussed which require further investigation, research and application. These should be acted on now, I welcome discussions from anyone.”
“The World Goetheanum Conference was an excellent initiative attended by 800 people from around the world. It was often an enthusiastic buzz of connections and conversation. The conference started well with conversations on the newly renovated terrace where we broke into groups of three working on 3 questions, each ‘conversation’ was ended by the sound of the gong and we moved to a different table seeking people we hadn’t spoken with before:
- What is my challenge/question?
- What are our challenges/questions in my work?
- What is the challenge/question?
I was encouraged that the expectation I had taken to the conference would be carried through. I had read the material provided beforehand and was excited by the thought of exploring the fragmentation and split between the Society, the Movement and the First Class.
Unfortunately after the initial contemporary conversations the conference slipped into a form that was strongly shaped by the class. Each day carried the theme of the Foundation Stone Meditation – Spirit Remembering, Spirit Awareness/Mindfulness and Spirit Beholding. The morning eurythmy was excellent with an in depth explanation of each day’s verse in movement, colour, theme etc. One evening we were treated to a performance of the whole Foundation Stone Meditation – which I found very special.
The key note lectures were very good and of high calibre although I was aware that the world concept seemed to be very European, sometimes it extended to include the ‘world’ but never the Southern Hemisphere – the most striking representation of this was the final closing where a piece of music played on trumpets, solely composed for this event, sounded from all sides of the Goetheanum to represent the four directions, the South being Italy!
After the key note lectures we moved into dialogue groups, mine numbered 60 people of which we broke into sub groups of 3 or 4 to work with the day’s question and theme along with resonances from the morning lecture after which we came back to the main group for feedback and further discussion. This began well on the first day but declined in quality. The theme of the day was carried through but I was left with the feeling that the quality of the facilitation was being affected, I wondered if by tiredness.
Then followed the section fields of work. My first experience was that the group I was in slipped into a single focus. I moved to the General Section where the theme and experience was better. I gather that experiences were varied.
While not all my expectations and hopes were met, there were many positive aspects and I believe overall the impulse is an excellent one that I’d like to see happen again, next time with more concentration on the actual process and holding of the spaces from those facilitating.
The conference ended with terrace talks with people stating their intentions that they were taking away from the conference to work into the sections and fields of work with a view to spiritual research and what could be brought to the 100th year anniversary in 2023/24. While this encompassed the consciousness of class work and section work, which I fully agree needs strengthening, I would have appreciated greater exploration of the movement and all those involved in it to better understand the Society and why the membership is declining whilst the movement is growing.”
“The World Conference was very welcoming and there was a real sense of wanting to move forward together. This intent was tangible. The conversations were encouraging (world cafe on the first day, all participated, then in the conversation groups). For me the work with the Foundation Stone Meditation in Eurythmy each morning was a real highlight and a promising start of how to work together: There a form, how to work together, emerged which I deeply hope can be inspiring for the work across all the sections!
From the morning talks I had varied experiences. The presenters who lived overseas (incidentally all women) appeared more urgent, more direct and met me.
I was fortunate to be in a positive conversation group facilitated by Ueli Hurter and Thomas Lueth – whose English translations were very stoic and super summarised.
We worked with the Foundation Stone theme of the day, first day Personal biography review (key moments in relation to anthroposophy, and share), second day Empathy was with one other person, third day individual exercise about what will come for me from the future and how will I use this. Very Otto Scharmer inspired work.
The afternoon work which I anticipated, maybe a bit foolishly, with a sense of excitement, however I was rather disappointed. The Social Science section work seemed to focus on how to save the Goetheanum (building) financially.
Similarly, the summaries/forums at the end of the day were poorly facilitated and opened the floor for ego-driven feedback from anyone who wanted to do so.
Another general feeling, was that the questions of the work of the Anthroposophical Society are still very Eurocentric; evident in the content, the lack of English (and other languages) literature available and at times poor quality of the simultaneous English translation.
I did not feel that the question really lived: What are the questions for US ALL worldwide in the Anthroposophical Society? What is our shared urgency? And how can we hear, learn and gain from each other?
My hope: If any such forms continue, as the assurance was given, that the focus be much more on productive section work in this context.
To have the next forum in maybe four or five places worldwide with the key people from the Goetheanum actually coming, learning and sharing in the world: Pacific Forum, European Forum, etc. Anthroposophy lives in the world.”