2019 marks one hundred years of Waldorf Education, it is also a hundred years since Rudolf Steiner devoted tremendous energy to what is often referred to as the Threefolding. The principle of threefolding was already deeply embedded in his teaching of the human being, from body, soul and spirit; thinking feeling and willing; nerve-sense, rhythmical and digestive systems, etc. In 1919, he extended this impulse to engage fully with the wider society and offer politicians and leading figures a different approach to life. Michael Burton expresses an experience of this time in his Threefolding play.  At the time, this impulse was not taken up but today, aspects of it are finding their way into life through organisations, businesses and initiatives.

Rudolf Steiner saw that in Waldorf Education, arising out of the chaos and needs – spiritual, social and material – of post war Europe, lay the seeds for Threefolding. Today historians reflect that WW1 (1914-1918) was a war that did not have to happen. Christopher Clark describes in his book ‘The Sleepwalkers’ how it could have been avoided, but as Steiner also said, not enough people were awake. Those in positions of responsibility walked towards the war, asleep. It seems it is all too easy to fall asleep, who amongst us hasn’t awoken after a decision has been made to ask how it happened. Whatever decision is made, it will have an impact, leading us forward or requiring a review and possible change of direction.


The Goetheanum AGM was an example of the latter. The Goetheanum Leadership requested the continued engagement of Paul Mackay and Bodo von Plato on the executive, however they were not reaffirmed and the Goetheanum Leadership had to reassess the situation and review how best to proceed while maintaining their goals. Since the AGM, four letters have been sent from the Goetheanum, intending to provide clarification as the members of the Goetheanum Leadership work intensively to redefine their direction. They provided a description of developments in recent years, the changes, sharing of responsibilities and the goals set. Naming section leaders and executive members recognises the people – whether known or unknown to us – who carry responsibility for the Goetheanum and the Anthroposophical Society.  This can be seen as a gesture of outreach by the Goetheanum Leadership to build and strengthen relationships with the world movement.

Recently, the European General Secretaries and Country Representatives met with the Executive Council in Warsaw, Poland. A topic discussed was how to include the worldwide Society in the life of the Goetheanum. Equally, we can ask how we include the life of the Goetheanum in the life of the Society in New Zealand.


In recent weeks – due to breaking my leg – I had some unexpected time at home. Though it’s well on the way to healing it has curtailed my travel and as soon as is possible I’ll be in contact with the different regions to organise a visit. The life of the Society has very much been in my thoughts. Before this event, I had the opportunity to visit some centres and speak with members in Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Christchurch. Everywhere I went people were happy to hear of the positive support for the rehabilitation of Ita Wegman and Elizabeth Vreede. It has also been encouraging to hear members stimulated to greater activity and I look forward to seeing reports of new initiatives appear in Scope.

This year it has been exciting to receive requests from schools to speak to the topic of the Society and the Inner Life of the Teacher. I’ve experienced a real interest to connect with the intention, based in Anthroposophy, that lived in the founding of an organisation. Since integration the schools have become accustomed to the term Special Character, protected under the Integration Agreement. The question is how do we define special character, clearly express what it is and know we are strengthening it for the future? Recently, in a meeting of Hohepa boards, the importance of prioritising Anthroposophy in the life of the organisation was clearly stated. Though ideas need to be brought into action, being clear as to what underpins the organisation and gives it its difference is an important step.  


Recently, a real wake-up call came on hearing someone say, ‘We know the theory is important, but when the word Anthroposophy is spoken the eyes glaze over, we need to start with the practical.’ My immediate reaction was “But Anthroposophy is practical!” Then followed the realisation, ‘oh my goodness, people have come to see anthroposophy as a theory, as knowledge removed from practical life and not that it penetrates life right into the practical’. Wasn’t this separation a challenge Steiner faced throughout his life? How is it that we still live with this polarity, that the three still haven’t penetrated into the life of the anthroposophical movement. Has it to do with the way Anthroposophy is presented? Certainly, there is a myriad of reasons such as our education or a scientifically influenced life, focused on the material and devoid of spirit, but I was left with an unsettled feeling as to my own presentations. The gift was that this led me to focus my thoughts in a talk to teachers and bring the six supplementary exercises into experiences of teaching.


Throughout my years as general secretary, I’ve been acutely aware of the potential distancing of organisations from Anthroposophy and especially from the Anthroposophical Society. A part of my role has been to maintain interest and contact with organistations, and where possible visit schools, Hohepa, Ceres and any initiative I became aware of. Nearly always the doors have been open and welcoming, but a visit is only a seed that will only find soil if it resonates with what lives in the organisation. A visitor provides an opportunity to look with fresh eyes at what is there, they can inspire and challenge, they offer a possibility to change. When a visitor meets any group or activity in the Anthroposophical Society we have the possibility to perceive how we work through the eyes of the other and perhaps change.


This year, Luigi Morelli our visitor from America, will be speaking at the Anthroposophical Conference in Christchurch. After the conference he’ll head north, visiting Hohepa in Hawke’s Bay and Auckland, and members in those regions will also get an opportunity to meet him. There may be few visitors this year but 2019 promises to be a festival of diversity in people, presentations and performances. There will be eurythmy, section leaders, executive member, educator and links with Threefolding. It’s an opportunity to celebrate one hundred years of anthroposophy in life, the movement and Society. We have a possibility to review and consider what we’ll give to the coming century. 

Sue Simpson

General Secretary