A short address given during the visit of Bodo von Plato to New Zealand on our relationship to the Goetheanum as part of a programme for the Annual General Meeting of the Anthroposophical Society in New Zealand – August 2017
In this age many people are crisscrossing the earth for work or adventure and distances for some are now far less significant than they would have been less than a century ago, but many people do not have the opportunities for travel. Imagine being a New Zealander living on one side of the earth and coming across anthroposophy with its centre almost diametrically on the opposite side of the earth. You build a picture of this centre in Dornach from Anthroposophy Worldwide and from other publications available in English, you hear others tell of their experiences in Dornach, you may visit the website of the Society and you may experience some of the occasional visits from members of the Executive in Dornach or those associated with them.
The Goetheanum, from this far away, is a photo in a publication which you may have pinned to your wall and an image supported by the accounts of others. It could just as easily be a temple from another time or even a mystical place, but no it is the centre for the Society Rudolf Steiner started and your life is now beginning to immerse itself in anthroposophy. If there is one place you must travel to in your lifetime, it’s the Goetheanum and so begins the quest.
The once in a lifetime journey may be by yourself without any prearranged contact at the Goetheanum but this is your mecca and you are on your way to the place that is the focus of your highest thoughts. The joy when you arrive, climb the hill and enter the building in your moment of ‘coming home’ only to find a building with the activity of others going about their normal day oblivious to your presence as you wander, what seem to you like lonely corridors and rooms. But perhaps this is not your experience, but rather your first visit is to a conference or meeting with others from your profession. Instead you encounter the comradeship of others and their thoughts and experiences which fire your imagination with possibilities and the exhilaration lifts you with so many things that will create and unfold into this wonderful initiative you have now in mind for back home. You arrive back in New Zealand with ‘Dornach Fever’, from so much to tell others that it takes some weeks to find the earth
and sort the reality and clear possibilities from the wild enthusiasm.
These are two real experiences in the realm of many but they ask the question of what constitutes the experience from afar of the Goetheanum and how does a New Zealander and not just a New Zealander see and experience the Goetheanum?
What if there were no Goetheanum, well then anthroposophy would not have grounded itself on earth and it would not be a reality, just an idea. Do we need a physical centre to hold the spiritual impulse on earth, a centre to provide focus, to hold it, and to be something to work with? A New Zealander in this context sits on the periphery and provides another viewpoint, a counter or a balance for the centre.
We could see this in another geographical perspective. A new organism has formed across the Pacific over the last one to two centuries and from several perspectives such as economic activity this is now the centre of the world with New Zealand sitting between East and West, between China and the USA as a counter picture to middle Europe. New Zealand having maintained some ties with China through its isolationist years and having early free trade agreements with China is also tied into an American orbit of security and economy but able at least symbolically to stand up to the USA and ban nuclear armed vessels. Is this another centre or just standing in the middle? Perhaps we bring more than a peripheral experience as we all stand at interesting physical junctures of the world.
New Zealanders bring other qualities such as in the rights sphere, being the first nation to give women the vote and the country that gave the United Nations formulation of the Declaration of Human Rights some substance in the late 1940’s, when Europe with its colonies and the USA with its racial segregation didn’t have any real interest in human rights moving beyond a vague proclamation. Then again isn’t the world a myriad of various groups of peoples who all bring aspects of the human condition and human development to the collective whole. (and since this article was conceived New Zealand has joined the group of nations in the developed world like Canada, France and Ireland who have elected relatively young political leaders which asks the question of what new impulses are now coming into the world which we need to acknowledge)
I am also not just a New Zealander with experiences from a folk soul level but a human being with my individual life experiences that have contributed to my being, unique experiences in the context of my life that have formed my outlook.
So here I am in New Zealand looking to the Goetheanum and to bridge the distance between us. Can you see me? Can I see you? I stand in a unique position not only in the world but unique in myself as a human being. Is this not the same for everyone in the world in that we are all unique as individual human beings, we all stand uniquely at the centre of the world and we all look to connect with others?