A snowy landscape greeted me on my arrival in Switzerland, a surprise after the warm days of early spring. It was only a few days before it began to melt and with its departure the plants bent low from its weight lifted their heads to again stand tall.
At this meeting thirty General Secretaries and Country Representatives gathered in an expanding meeting with the Goetheanum executive and section leaders. It was a meeting where we farewelled two long standing secretaries/representatives and welcomed the new. Henri Munto, Finland, shared how the General Secretary changeover had been a natural process. He spoke of their winter conference where working on three folding, they positively engage younger people. He is a farmer and at 35years he is presently the youngest General Secretary. He happily shared with me that in his twenties he had spent time in New Zealand! Vlad Popa, Rumania, spoke of the work they are doing to strengthen and improve their community. They have established five national conferences in different cities to encourage people to meet, experience and share. They link these with the five main Christian festivals. They invite people from around the world to give lectures and build a connection with the world. An impulse, nearly a century after the event, is how they can relate to impulses from the Christmas Conferences. It is a while since anyone has attended the meetings from Argentina and it was good to have Mati Mueller join us.
The times are changing, for many years the Goetheanum leadership have participated in all our meetings. Last October the General Secretaries had one session alone, providing us with an opportunity to speak openly regarding the review and election of Bodo von Plato and Paul Mackay. In this meeting we had three sessions to work as a group. In the first it was important to inform and update the Country Representatives of the October meeting and also the concerns raised. Through their questions the group gradually entered into a conversation and over the three sessions a new dynamic arose that was honest, open and strengthening. One topic discussed was the differentiation between General Secretary and Country Representative. A country has a General Secretary when their number of members reaches 500, at that stage the executive approves the General Secretary. Presently the Country Representative, selected by their country, comes to one meeting per annum. Our question was, is it still relevant to work with the 500 count, should we do away with the differentiation and open the two yearly meetings to all? There are sure to be aspects such as financing travel, that need consideration. The European GS will continue the discussion at their meeting and we will pick it up in October.
The Scandinavian countries shared with us their concern that the world is unable to participate in decisions taken at the AGM and learned that most countries supported their concern. When it comes to voting only those present at the AGM can vote. Finding a workable way to invite people in the periphery to participate will be challenging but it’s seen as a positive challenge. There are also questions regarding processes and what motions really belong in a world society AGM. Over the years it seems that a number of motions are local and could be resolved outside an AGM. Perhaps the events of this AGM will better define and clarify what processes are relevant for our time and for the Society.
In the statutes it is clear that the General Secretaries are part of the executive when in Dornach. Their place and participation became even more relevant with the vote taken at the AGM that excluded Paul Mackay and Bodo von Plato from the executive. We left the meetings with the question, what support can we give? Though three of the GS meet regularly with the executive, each of us left with a sense that our support was relevant and important to the four people remaining on the executive. Support that will enable them to carry the load like the plants throwing off the snow’s weight.
The Goetheanum leadership spoke to the ten projects that they have reduced to six by amalgamating some of them. The School of Spiritual Science, the Society and the Movement are often seen, spoken of as three different entities, the challenge is to realise they are connected and it is healthy as we build bridges to take down the walls. The Sections are integrating the life of the School into some conferences, conversations are inviting and opening, action research is encouraged and undertaken, relationships are being built with organisations, with trainings. An ongoing project is to strengthen communication, by going digital AWW can be shared through an increasing number of languages. Finances remain a struggle and a group is working towards what could become a World Goetheanum Association, a report of this work will be in AWW. Finally, there is the Goetheanum Compost, an impulse to ensure that the atmosphere at the Goetheanum is welcoming, that the Goetheanum is a vessel in which all can grow and develop. These initiatives have brought the section leaders and executive together in positive, creative action. The participation of Paul and Bodo will be sorely missed.
On a financial note Justus Wittich, treasurer, expressed his sincere gratitude to the countries and individuals who had contributed additional funds to support the Goetheanum. Despite the generosity the year closed with a deficit. Justus share his goal to reach to gradually reduce the deficit and break even by 2020. Perhaps the goalpost is high but he hopes with increased support from around the world this goal could be reached.
Last October I shared with you the suggestion that the motive for the coming years could be the Foundation Stone Meditation. Last year some people took up the first verse and this year are working with the second, Spirit mindfulness, awareness, sensing. Alongside this came the question from Stefan Gasperli, Italy, would we consider working towards a Michaeli Festival? He was speaking to Michael as an archai, as the spirit of our time. For many years I’ve attended festivals of the season where in autumn, Michael is portrayed with the dragon. Held in schools, kindergartens and Hohepa, they are wonderful and speak to the children and their communities. They speak of the archangel but finding a festival of the archai is different. In the course of the days Stefan shared his experience of bringing the Foundation Stone Meditation into relationship with a Michael Festival. At this time, it seems that no one has clearly found their way to such a festival but we were all asked to carry this theme and each meeting share what we could.
There is always a wonderful evening when the Youth Section invites us for a meal. This is an opportunity to mix and share cultures, languages and impulses from around the world. Some of the young people are studying, some work, others pass through or find themselves sitting around the table when they come to catch up with friends. They study eurythmy, speech, working with people with intellectual disabilities, Anthroposophy, agriculture. They come for workshops and courses and for a time they connect with the Goetheanum. It is wonderful that a facility is there where they can live and share their lives. Bodo von Plato and Constanza Kaliks have with others carried the German studies and coordinated that with the Spanish studies, while Virginia Sease and Joan Sleigh led the English studies. To meet with these young people is to experience the seeds of the future full of life and possibility. It is a privilege and gift to experience the lively interaction and interest between experience and youth!