From Sue Simpson, General Secretary, Anthroposophy in New Zealand
In the process of finalising this report, I heard news of the shootings in the Christchurch mosques, the full tragedy of which has yet to be known or understood. All too often we hear of such events, but when they occur close to home they jolt us out of a certain numbness that can arise from the constant news media reporting. Whether we know someone directly affected by such an incident or not, it is deeply disturbing.
Increasingly, world events enter our lives as a tangible reality. A whole youth movement has emerged in response to climate change, environmental issues and the perceived inaction from the older generations. Meanwhile our organisations suffer the effects of economic pressures, in education, medicine and disability services. There are real challenges on our doorstep, which reach into our professional and daily lives, but how best to read and respond to them is not always clear.
Independent thinking asks for alertness to, and an understanding of, the influences informing our choices and decisions. In the effort to disentangle ourselves from the volumes of information and advertising that, particularly through technology, flood our lives, we can recognise the potential for fixed and narrow thinking that restricts our perceptions and ideas, or be challenged to direct our thoughts towards conflicting ideas and influences. In any situation, we are often quick to see the extreme and shortcomings in another but find it not so easy to see our own limitations.
In ‘Philosophy of Spiritual Activity’ Rudolf Steiner builds beautifully the steps from perception to concept, steps moved through so swiftly that generally we come to a conclusion without experiencing the path. A first perception will influence the direction of our thoughts, and ultimately our judgements and decisions. Actions follow thoughtful ideas, but they can also arise from emotional reactions. It is not so easy to understand the motivation behind a deed nor what motivates the action. Most people would say they want to be independent in their thinking, and yet there are times when it seems easier to leave the decision to others. Our decisive or indecisiveness will have an outcome, one that we bear responsibility for.
Regarding the events in Christchurch, we read of the influencing ideas that led to such a tragic and devastating outcome. Sadly, we realise again, in the culture of violent video games, derogatory banter, and online commentary that surrounded this act – which was indeed ‘performed’ as an act, as entertainment – the enormity of what Hannah Arendt named ‘the banality of evil’. All of us can ask this question of ourselves: what influences me? Can I speak and act with common sense and empathy while keeping my thoughts and judgements free from emotively influencing factors? Personally, I look forward to hearing Nicanor Perlas take up themes that challenge us to confront our ideas as well as the effects of influences such as artificial intelligence when he speaks at our annual conference later this year in Christchurch (3-6 October).
Two themes that run through this year are Threefolding and Waldorf / Steiner 100. These are being celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways. We aim to have, in this year’s editions of Scope, articles on Threefolding from diverse professional and personal perspectives – two can be found in this edition. In preparation for Waldorf / Steiner 100, two films on Steiner education worldwide are now available on YouTube. The first film, Learn to Change the World, is followed by a second, Encounter, Engagement and Inclusion, which focuses on the encounter across social, religious and ethnic barriers, as exemplified by the Oakland Community School for Creative Education, located in a social focus point in California, a Jewish-Arabic Kindergarten and the Parzival School Centre in Karlsruhe, and on learning that goes beyond the acquisition of information to become a way for each individual to seek our human truths.
Part one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfec6eF4I_4
Part two: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDFmUwA3_jE
On a different note, 2019 started positively for me with the fifth Eurythmy/Class workshop in Mullumbimby, Australia, an annual event that over the years has gained direction and depth. In one session, all attendees were invited to contribute to Pacifica College of Eurythmy and explore what we call our leading light. It was exciting to share with others and experience two verses evolving from the work. One has become our vision statement:
Pacifica College of Eurythmy aims high,
deep and wide.
It is the confluence of many streams
to bring a fresh art,
education and therapy impulse
It is rare that the Pacifica College of Eurythmy carrying group can all be together. After the months of preparation, an artistic opening ceremony welcomed the students, and on 4 February the course was away with six students and the promise of others. To date all students are Australian based and we look forward to the day when the first New Zealanders join the course. This year, I will be in Brisbane to tutor, 4 –31 March and 15 July – 9 August, and hope to be there for the last week of their year,18– 22 November, as it coincides with my return trip from Dornach.
February, I visited Wellington for the first Branch meeting of the year. Having shared news of the eurythmy training, the discussion moved to the topic of what we can do to nourish and strengthen the etheric forces in life today. It is always good to join a group, participate in the discussions and hear of events and activities. Early April, I’ll be in Dornach, and soon after Easter will be moving around the country to share news from the Goetheanum, and around the world.
In April, Silke Carter, treasurer, will attend the treasurers’ meeting and the AGM at the Goetheanum. It is good to have another member of the council representing New Zealand in Dornach. More information regarding the AGM will be provided in the coming publications of AWW.
Mid-February I was privileged to attend the IPMT conference on ‘Pain’ in Wellington and provide the morning eurythmy sessions. It gave me the opportunity to hear a number of excellent lectures from Matthias Girke and Robert Fitzer and meet many people working in the medical field. It was good to recognise the generosity of Weleda and Weleda Trust that enables such medical events NZ and it was encouraging to meet three young doctors relatively new out of their training and full of wonderful energy (all ex-Steiner students).
We’ve had confirmation of Constanza Kalic’s dates, 19 – 27 August. Her visit has been shortened, limiting the number of centres and time she can give in them. We are happy to confirm that she will be the guest speaker at out AGM Saturday 24 August in Hastings. I will be in touch with the various centres to confirm times and themes for her talks. The general outline of her itinerary and that of Bart Vanmecheln can be found below. I will also be in contact with centres to confirm the dates of my visits.
Sue Simpson, March 2019