Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Letter from Philip Thatcher

Dear Friends,

In the course of the year 2011, the Anthroposophical Society around the world will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Steiner. Of particular interest is a conference in Bologna, Italy, next spring, where on April 8, 1911, Rudolf Steiner gave a lecture in the context of a philosophical congress--the only occasion, I am told, on which he was invited to address such a gathering.
The Council in Canada is taking up the question of how such a commemoration could be enacted within the Society in Canada. In Europe this commemorative year will go forward in the context of over a hundred years of interaction between anthroposophy in its various forms and the historical and cultural life of European peoples. In Canada our situation is very different, even though we can point to times and places over the years where we as a movement have interacted with political and cultural life. How then might we place this commemorative possibility within a Canadian context?
I suggest that one way might be to take up across the country this lecture given in Bologna on April 8, 1911, entitled in the translation I have, "The Psychological Foundations of Anthroposophy: Its Standpoint in Relation to the Theory of Knowledge."
At the core of this lecture is the relationship between anthroposophy as a spiritual science and the scientific/philosophical conviction of Steiner's day--continuing into our own time--that because what I call my "I" seems to dwell within the physical body and gaze out into the world from that place, my knowing of the world and myself is bounded by the consciousness this physical body makes possible. In the course of the lecture, Rudolf Steiner describes exercises that lead one toward an understanding and experience of the human being as a configuration of spiritual activity not bounded by the physical body.
As the horizon of consciousness grows and human being begins to experience itself as "the stage upon which a supersensible content, consisting of real being, is not merely perceived but perceives itself," one's relationship to the physical body changes. More and more the physical body ceases to be the prison or sanctuary that bounds our knowing but becomes a reflecting apparatus that enables the ego as a spiritual reality to center and objectify its knowing of the world and itself without placing limits upon that knowing.
Thus my attempt to bring into focus one aspect of this April 8, 1911, lecture. How might what I have tried to bring forth speak to our situation as Canadians and as the Society in Canada?
I have flown over this country many times, from west to east, from south to north, and back, at both high and low altitudes. And in the past six years I have flown over the north of Canada, travelling to and from the Goetheanum. Looking down from whatever height, I gaze upon the myriad of mirrors that are the lakes and rivers holding this land together, and upon the great mirror that is Canada itself--the whole of Canada. My work with this April 8, 1911, lecture has led me to see that it is possibly the physical body of this country, the land itself, that reflects back to us that elusive yet real center of identity that makes us Canadian. How then is this relation to the land, a beholding of the physicality of Canada as a whole, integral to the becoming of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada?
Other peoples, of course, also feel the land on which and in which they live to be part of their identity. I suggest that for Canadians, however, the mirror of their geography is a primary, even primal, means of reflecting who they are as Canadians, far more than their history or culture or varied cultures, as important as these are in other respects. As I have written elsewhere, Canada's geography has encompassed and still encompasses its history.* Thus Canadians, I suggest, have intuited that we need to comprehend--a gesture of knowing that begins at the periphery, at our horizons, and reaches inward to discover a center--the entire reach of this country if we would truly know ourselves.
I offer the above as one point of departure out of this lecture of April 8, 1911, toward discerning how we in Canada might enter into this 2011 commemorative year honouring the life and work of Rudolf Steiner. Class Holders and Council members across the country can provide access to one translation of this lecture. It can also be found in another translation as the second lecture in Esoteric Development, published by Anthroposophic Press (USA).
In closing, I ask that we in the Society in Canada send good thoughts toward those taking part in the International English Conference to be held at the Goetheanum from August 2nd through 7th, around the theme Entering into the 21st Century Spiritually. All four Mystery Dramas will be performed in the days leading up to this conference, making for a rich and challenging event.

Philip Thatcher
General Secretary

*In "North of the Border", first published in the US Journal for Anthroposophy (Winter 1986) and then in past editions of the newsletter in Canada and in The Riddle of America (AWSNA 2001)

1 comment:

diamond jim said...

Hi 'Philip,'

I have read this article, and it is a whopper. I would say most of us will learn something reading it, but more importantly, I think it describes what Anthroposophy needs to be able to say about itself in the 21st century.

James