Thursday, July 9, 2009

Arthur Zajonc In Thornhill

Click here for the public version of this posting.
The Anthroposophical Society invites you for a conference with ARTHUR ZAJONC PhD, author of “Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry - When Knowing Becomes Love” , September 11- 13 2009, At the Toronto Waldorf School.
Please see the bottom of this post for registration instructions.

“…The true goal of contemplative practice, indeed of life, is the joining of insight and compassion, wisdom and love. …Our time is beset by problems: environmental problems, social justice issues, homelessness, health disasters, inequities in education, hunger and poverty. These all require real-world solutions. Yet together with our tireless outer efforts, a comparable effort is needed to change who we are, to become, as Gandhi said, the solutions we envision for the world. We will need to find the means to engage in an inner work commensurate with our outer work.”
- Arthur Zajonc
Public Lectures:

Friday – Sep. 11, 2009
7:30 PM - Public Lecture – Learning to See

Our conventional way of knowing is too small to allow us to experience and understand the full richness of the universe. What if knowing could be expanded to embrace all dimensions of life? How would this be done?
Saturday – Sep. 12, 2009
7:30 PM - Public Lecture - Learning to Love

We are born to love. Yet at each age of life we must learn to love anew. And at each stage that which we love opens itself to us. Through loving more fully, we know far more deeply.

Seminar for Members of the Anthroposophical Society:

9:00 am – 10:30 am : The Meditative Life: a Review
11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Cognitive breathing and the path of contemplative inquiry
2:30 pm – 3:15 pm : Singing with Elisabeth Koekebakker
Short Break
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Further exercises and conversation

9:00 am – 10:30 am: Practising compassion
11:00 – 12:00 Closing Conversation
Mail-in registration is now closed. To register by phone or email, please contact Mark McAlister. (See below.)
Cost for entire event: $95 ($85. if we receive registration by August 31, 2009)
Fee includes snacks and public lecture, but NOT meals or accommodation.
Cost for Lectures Only: $18 for 1 evening lecture, or $28 for both

Note: We apologize but we are unable to provide discounts for this year’s event.

For more information or assistance, please contact: Mark McAlister at (416) 892-3656, 877-892-3656;

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spiritual Science And Academia

Introducing the Forum on Spiritual Science & Academia

Written by James Steil, with revisions by John A. McCurdy


I have just come inside from reading on the deck; my Master’s thesis is handed-in and it is time for a little rejuvenation. Working through an old copy of An Attempt to Interpret the Metamorphosis of Plants, I have been taking some time to study the book of nature through Goethe’s eyes.

Goethe and his method of phenomenological inquiry remind me of the historical and contemporary relationship between spiritual science and academia, and so now I sit-down to write this introduction. In Goethe’s time - the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - humankind was only just waking from the Kali Yuga, a five thousand year slumber of the mind. The age of the Archangel Michael had yet to dawn. Still naïve in their ideas regarding nature, most of Goethe’s intellectual contemporaries dismissed his attempts at spiritualising the scientific method as beyond poetry, but too ambitious for science [1][2]. Yet Goethe’s method of studying and observing nature (including, but not limited to the metamorphosis of plants) has since led many a curious and rigorous mind to be stimulated beyond the bounds of conventional thought to a more immediate and forthright perception of the spiritual in matter - a much needed impulse for our times [3]. My own research has confirmed this need: researchers are now asking new questions, and applying new methods; leading them into domains of knowledge and experience to which anthroposophy has a great deal to offer. Having wandered, child-like, and sometimes aimlessly, science finds itself again at the threshold of the grail, this time asking earnestly of Nature: “Who are you?” Must we remain silent?

My thesis has been about imagination, inspiration, intuition, and their appearances in cognitive development [4]. Not only does Rudolf Steiner have much to say about cognition to academics today, cognitive scientific literature is already full of invaluable starting-points for making just such connections. Using the lens of anthroposophy, I have been able to illuminate the paradoxes within Buddhists’ research on embodiment and cognition, and the dead-ends of materialist analyses of language and metaphor. Ultimately, building on these thoughts has made it possible for me to fashion a phenomenal bridge from the conventional cognitive sciences right to the threshold of spiritual science.

As anthroposophists, we can and often do make use of contemporary ideas to further develop anthroposophical ones. Perhaps the time is right to carry our ideals and insights back into the work and world of academia, nourishing the dead concepts that too often predominate there, and quenching the thirst of those who seek higher thoughts. The naturalness of the impulse to give-back reminds me again of the plant world. Think of the bee which nourishes itself from the flower: In doing so it provides for its own community while at the same time fructifying the plant.

We might also imagine this symbiotic relationship in terms of a bridge, which facilitates movement in two directions at once. My own work, although dedicated to enriching the world of academia, has also deepened my understanding of and appreciation for anthroposophy – another benefit. What Steiner indicated in his books and many lecture-cycles was often only a brief outline of what could be known, and could also be one-sided at times. My research has yielded its greatest insights, its highest meanings, bridging anthroposophy and academia; requiring that I make both forms of knowing wholly and uniquely my own in my thinking, feeling, and willing. Wrestling with vague intuitions arising from the findings of others has strengthened my own capacity for perceiving truth, and expanded my understanding of anthroposophy. Building bridges from inner to outer is the living work of anthroposophy.

There are many examples of outstanding research borne out of anthroposophy, yet little finds its way into contemporary thought because most of this work unfolds outside the bounds of academia. Recognizing the need of our times, can we as anthroposophists, reach out beyond our own circles? Do we have the courage and wisdom to contribute to the emergence of a contemporary, living science? Do we have the resources needed to bring our work to the scholarly table? As was the case with Goethe, we cannot simply do, we must strive to be understood. This understanding will require anthroposophists develop concepts that can be clearly spoken across the traditional scientific/spiritual-scientific divide. Dialogue must be opened, cultivated, and sustained using new and existing vehicles and forums. Unlike in the past, this time science might be ready, willing, and able to listen.

To this end (or at least similar ones) a group of us has been discussing online the subject of spiritual science in academia. Not all of us are academics, and recently we decided to open-up our conversation to the participation of members at large. At this stage our purpose is simple and straightforward: to share perspectives on how each of us can work, or begin to work, with spiritual science in academia. Introducing our group (and this forum) with these few words we invite your listening, and your input. Given the needs of our time, I feel and hope our discussion may be a fruitful one. Welcome to the Forum on Spiritual Science in Academia – may all who enter flourish!

[1] “It has been suggested by a literary critic that Goethe was ‘a great poet who grew out of poetry’. Approaching him as we have done here, through the medium of his plant studies, we may perhaps offer the comparable conclusion, that Goethe was a great biologist, who, in the long run, overstepped the bounds of science.” This is the final sentence in the 20 page introduction to Goethe’s Metamorphosis as written by Agnes Arber D. Sc., F.R.S. in Chronica Botanica, an international collection of studies in the method and history of agriculture, Vol. 10 (Summer, 1946), the text I have been reading from.
[2] The discipline of Phenomenology itself has been practiced in various guises for centuries, but only came into its own in the early 20th century in the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others (copied from Wikipedia).
[3] See for example, lecture 6 of The Mission of Michael, the Revelation of the Secrets of Man’s Being, where in reference to the value of Goethe’s phenomenology Steiner says: “To learn to recognize the externally-material as a soul-spiritual element: this is what matters … what is necessary is the following: in the future we must cease to differentiate abstractly between the material and the spiritual, but we must look for the spiritual in the material and describe it as such…” (p 107). I have an older publication of this lecture, but it is available as part of the compilation: The Archangel Michael: His Mission and Ours: Selected Lectures and Writing, edited by Christopher Bamford
[4] Anyone who is interested in knowing more about my thesis is welcome to contact me at, and I will send you a copy of the preface and introduction. These present a good picture of the thesis as a whole, which I will also happily send if you request it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Study at the Goetheanum

Dear colleagues,
We will start the new study year here at the Goetheanum with the Open Study Week, which takes place for the second time from 14th to 18th September 2009. This year our subject is 'Anthroposophy and the Idea of the Goetheanum'. The Open Study Week is an opportunity to get to know the Goetheanum with its history and its many possibilities, as well as the Collegium of the School of Spiritual Science and the Board of the Anthroposophical Society, the place itself and the life of Anthroposophical initiative connected to it. As the participants of this week are not required to have any prior knowledge of Anthroposophy, this is a good way for people with a new interest in Anthroposophy or groups, such as high school students, to get to know the Goetheanum.
At the Goetheanum we offer different study programs on the subject of Anthroposophy. There are full-time and part-time courses at weekends, designed to gradually develop new abilities and work with new contents. Please find attached our information leaflet for different courses in English and German. You can also find this information on our homepage.
I would like to ask you to make these two publications in pdf format available on your homepage, if possible. It would also be helpful if you could publish the following links (German), (English)
If you have any questions, or if you would like to receive our printed brochures, please contact:
Edda NehmizGoetheanum, Postfach 4143 Dornach, Schweiz. Tel +41 61 706 44 14. Fax +41 61 706 44

With many thanks and warm greetings from the Goetheanum,
Edda Nehmiz

Portal Of Initiation

Sponsored by the Threefold Mystery Drama Group.

"The Portal of Initiation"and Its Relationship to Goethe's Fairy Tale,
August 12-16, 2009, Spring Valley NY.

Rudolf Steiner wrote four Mystery Dramas that unite mystery wisdom with stage art. He described the process of writing his first Mystery Drama, The Portal of Initiation, as a spiritual investigation that metamorphosed his own inner work with Goethe’s fairy tale, “The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.”
This conference will feature four days of lectures, conversations and performances that will enable participants to deepen their relationship to these two works of art, which lie at the heart of Rudolf Steiner’s Spiritual Science, Anthroposophy. The Saturday performance of The Portal of Initiation will take place on the 99th anniversary of the play’s premiere in Munich, Germany.
Conference faculty includes Barbara Renold, Herbert O. Hagens, Joan Allen, Joan Almon, Els Woutersen, and Daniel Hafner.
For more information, or to register, contact Susan Wallendorf: 845-352-5020 x17 or To download a printable brochure with a detailed schedule, fees and registration information, please click here.