A report on important matters at the Goetheanum – 27 March 2018

As the plane came into its landing flight, the pilot announced ‘It’s 8am and light snow is falling in Zurich’. A few hours later, walking up the hill from Dornach station, dragging my bag through piles of snow, I experienced the reality of a late winter. Spring had arrived and hidden beneath the white crystal world were primroses, crocuses, daffodils and tulips, all in flower. For two days we trudged, to and from the Goetheanum, through snow. On the one hand it was really beautiful to see, on the other people were shocked by the return to winter after warm days. After a few days the sun broke through the clouds, nature revealed her hidden strength and tenacity, one by one the plants rose from their forced horizontal positions to stand upright, revealing their flowers that again faced the sun. Touched by this experience I realised how much we can learn from nature.

The week itself has been full of gifts and struggles, some of which have deeply shaken and shocked people. Every year, in the weeks before Easter, I attend meetings of the General Secretaries and Country Representatives followed by the Annual General Meeting of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. At that meeting the members present vote on motions put forward prior to the meeting as printed in AWW.

This year there were two particularly important motions and about 950 members there to cast votes:
1. The restitution (“rehabilitation”) of Ita Wegman and Elizabeth Vreede after their painful and unjust separation from the Vorstand (Executive) in 1935.
2. The renewal of 7 year terms for Paul Mackay and Bodo von Plato as members of the Vorstand (Executive)

The first passed with near unanimous consent.

For the second, both Paul Mackay and Bodo von Plato failed to receive a simple majority of support for renewal. This means that neither will continue to serve on the Executive. This is effective as of March 24, 2018.

Whether or not you were interested in the motions, the changes made at the AGM are relevant to the world. A number of you met Bodo in 2017 when he visited New Zealand, Paul Mackay visited earlier, his last visit was in 2006. Paul has been on the Executive for 22 years and Bodo 17 years. The events that transpired will have their positive and negative aspects. The experience at the AGM, was that from the members present, the opposition held an overwhelming voice. A wave of shock rippled through the room when the votes were declared. Emotions were mixed and strong, for some fear gave way to relief, others felt a deep sense of grief and loss. It is too early to speak to the consequence of the decision, the reality of what it brings will evolve over the coming months and years. What I do want to share is that both Paul and Bodo responded with real dignity, speaking only of gratitude to those who have supported them, as they stepped back from the Executive. Six months ago, Seija Zimmerman announced her decision to resign from the Executive to take up tasks in Finland. Thus it was in this AGM she also stepped back, leaving four Executive members to carry the tasks and responsibility of the Executive. It is no easy task, to lose the knowledge and years of experience that Paul and Bodo carry in one sweep. It is good that in recent years, the section leaders have worked closely with the Executive, developing a strengthened leadership team. I am sure they will do all in their power to actively support and work with them.

Such moments can work deeply divisively, the removal of Ita Wegman and Elizabeth Vreede from the Executive in 1935 led to a major schism in the Society. It is a strange twist of destiny that in the same AGM where the two were rehabilitated, the majority vote led to the removal of two active Executive members. The present situation is a real wake up call. As long as there are factions, cliques or divisive groups we open the doors to destructive forces. It is not a question of right or wrong, every person at the AGM made their decision and each carries responsibility for their decision. The question that occupies me is, what is now asked of us and how can we bring healing to the Society? It seems to me that we stand on a world stage, on the one hand the experience at the AGM is unique and on the other we see the effect of a binding vote with Brexit. Look locally and it is not difficult to see forces at work that work divisively in our organisations and relationships. On reflection I would like to share a request from Gerald Haeffner, leader of the Social Science Section, ‘Can we learn to work for instead of against?’

There is much more to share from this week but for now it’s important to share the news so that the friends and members in New Zealand have the opportunity to live with the event and hopefully with a growing awareness that we are part of a worldwide society and what support can be given to the life of the Anthroposophical Society.

Sue Simpson