- by Debbie Allen, Friday, September 23, 2011
The American Anthroposophical Society inspired conference, The Nineteen Lessons of the First Class, held at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California in August 2011 was the third such conference of its kind that I have attended.
From the Invitational Brochure for the 2011 Class conference, in the words of the Planning Committee (Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann, Shawn Sullivan, Patrick Wakefeild Evans, MaryJo Rogers, and Virginia Sease): (1)
“…It will be a significant spiritual event to participate in three Class Lessons per day, and in this way to enter deeply into every step of the unfolding path of the Michael School…”
The deed was spiritually significant. To enter into hour long guided meditations three times a day, over a period of 6 days, with more than 200 other human souls, on deeply esoteric mantra, gives rise to busy soul life during the night.
The Class conference was wonderfully ochestrated to be as much of an initiatory experience as the individual chose to make of it. The integration of:
· the thoughtfully delivered personal renditions of Rudolf Steiner’s 19 Class Lessons during the day;
· the lively public lectures on Rudolf Steiner’s biography, deep esoteric topics, music, eurythmy, and dramatic speech during the evenings;
· the daily karmic meetings at Clara’s Counter café or in the dining hall;
had the effect on me, after two jet plane rides home into fierce thunder storms, of feeling as though I had, during that week, been transported back in time to the age of Goethe, if not even briefly to Ephesus; of being drawn through space to the other side of the fixed stars to look at the rainbow chalice; of returning me abruptly to my every day world with new karmic insights.
I must here state my admiration for the stamina of the Conference Committee and organizing members for executing the conference. I noted the grace, the humour, and the expansiveness of the people carrying the conference. I noted the significant presence of the elderly who wanted this experience and those who cheerfully and willingly supported them. (I noticed this also in Ann Arbor in 2007.)
Like my experiences of the two other Class Conferences I have attended (2005, 2007), the overall effect produced a deeper resonance of the Class mantra within me. I gained a greater understanding of the Class as a whole, acquired new ways of integrating the mantra, and perceived more acutely what lives in the forms of the ritual that surrounds the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science – the Michaelic Rosicrucian forms.
Equally importantly, at these conferences I found my presence in the Michael School confirmed by the presence of a growing number of friends. The reality of having been in the Michael School in the spiritual world, as revealed to us by Rudolf Steiner, became just that – more real.
Coming back to the words of the Planning Committee, “ the unfolding path of the Michael School” I wish to develop what that means in my experience as a Class Member and not as a Class Holder, or anyone who has to do with the planning or execution of any Class activity – simply as a Member of the Class since 2002.
The unfolding path of the Michael School has been up until 2005 mostly experienced by small groups of people in their localities under the leadership of their locally appointed Class Holder. Meetings are typically held once per month or in some areas even less frequently.
All that changed in 2005. From the Invitational Brochure for the 2005 conference in Dornach, in the words of the Planning Committee (Sergej Prokofieff, Bodo v. Plato, Johannes Kuhl, and Dr. Virginia Sease): (2)
“…In planning this special Conference, we are trying to meet a need which frequently comes to expression in regard to the Class Lessons, namely that it often requires almost two years to go through the entire cycle of Lessons…and thereby the Class member cannot feel the continuity between the Lessons…”
(Contrast this pace through the Lessons with the pace that Rudolf Steiner brought the very first 19 Lessons: February 15, 1925 to August 2, 1924, or 6 months. Place beside this perspective the awareness that concurrently with the Class Lessons Rudolf also gave the lecture cycle on karma known as Karmic Relationships, in 8 volumes.)
The 2005 Class conference took place on the 81st anniversary of Rudolf Steiner bringing down the Michael School in this earthly form. The Class Lessons were held in free rendition by members of the Collegium of the School of Spiritual Science for the German speaking members. For the English speaking members we also heard from several Class Holders from English speaking countries. There were many hundreds of people at that first conference on Dornach soil.
Post 2005 Conference, Christof Wiechert wrote about the conference in Anthroposophy Worldwide (3), calling it a “Concerted Soul Experience”:
“…This gave rise to a powerful unity of soul experience, a unity that completely devoted itself to the content of the lessons given, even though the manner of the presentations differed, due to the different personalities freely shaping them on the strength of their possibilities in the moment.”
This was also my experience in 2005, 2007, and 2011 – that a conference of this kind on the mantric verses of the 19 Class lessons is an intensive guided meditative experience that works not only individually but also collectively.
Concurrently with the preparations for the 2005 Class conference, Johannes Kiersch was compiling his research into “The History of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science” which was later published under that title in English in 2006. Mr. Kiersch was commissioned to take up this study, with all libraries open to him, by the Vorstand. Mr. Kiersch presented the findings of his study to the Collegium of Class Holders at their annual meeting in Dornach in the fall of 2005. This was part of the on-going effort to strengthen the work on the content of the First Class. This was reported in Anthroposophy Worldwide: (4)
“Several hundred Class holders of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science will come together from all over the world at the beginning of November for their annual Conference… A central item is the presentation of a study by Johannes Kiersch on the history of the First Class. The study can be expected to be an important element in the future development of the work of the School…”
When the year end report for the School of Spiritual Science came out the two impulses, the conference and Mr. Kiersch’s work, were discussed together: (5)
“Under the auspices of the General Anthroposophical Section a project of the Collegium of the School of Spiritual Science was realized at the Goetheanum for the first time in the summer of 2005. In the course of a one-week conference, the 19 Class lessons were held in German and English. Many hundreds of people from all parts of the world came to the Goetheanum to devote themselves jointly to the core of the spiritual work within the School. Silent eurythmy forms accompanied the work which achieved an intense concentration as early as the first day. The continuation of this initiative by the Collegium of the School will continue to be the focus of the work at the Goetheanum and it is already evident today that as a result the courage to take further steps in living with the mantras and the exercises of the First Class is growing in many countries and groups.
…In autumn 2005 Johannes Kiersch presented his study on the history of the First Class…With these studies, supported by Virginia Sease, Heinz Zimmerman, Bodo v. Plato, and Uwe Werner (Documentation at the Goetheanum), Johannes Kiersch provides a profound insight above all into the first and perhaps key year in the development of the School, into its esoteric, human and social dimensions. Work is currently progressing on translations into English and French and it is planned that they should appear in 2006.”
Flash forward to 2011 and there have now been three subsequent Class Conferences:
· 2007 Michigan University, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
· 2009 Rudolf Steiner House, London, England
· 2011 Rudolf Steiner College, Fair Oaks, California, USA
And three books published:
· A History of the School of Spiritual Science, Johannes Kiersch, Temple Lodge Publishing 2006, Verlag am Goethanum 2005.
· The School of Spiritual Science, edited by Johannes Kuhl, Bodo v. Plato, and Heinz Zimmerman, Temple Lodge Publishing 2010, Verlag am Goethaneum 2008.
· Der Meditationsweg der Michaelschule in neunzehn Stufen, edited by Thomas Meyer, Perseus Basel 2011. (6)
In the same newsletter mentioned above (5) under the title “Events on spiritual scientific studies and meditation at the Goetheanum” we read:
“In 2005, numerous events took place at the Goetheanum on the subject of spiritual scientific studies and meditation: probably the most important event was the conference for members of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science in early July…”
The significant meditative aspect of the Class Conference is here mentioned following the observation of Mr. Wiechert that there is also a unity of soul experience.
After the 2005 Conference in Dornach, two soul disturbances lived in me. One had to do with the publication question regarding the English texts, and the other had to do with the question of free rendering versus reading of the Class lessons. These two questions were finally placed in context for me when in 2006 I bought the English Class texts and Johannes Kiersch’s book. At urgent promptings by Steven Roboz, I made an in-depth study of Mr. Kiersch’s book – particularly Chapter 7, “Between free rendering and reading aloud – How can the First Class rise again?” which Steven Roboz declared to be a very important chapter.
Chapter 7 of Kiersch’s book reflected my own struggle of wanting to hear the words of Rudolf Steiner, at least once for each lesson. At the same time I strove to be receptive to what lived in the Class Holder given freely back out of his or her experience and meditative work with the mantra as given by Rudolf Steiner.
These dilemmas of publication of the Class Texts, and free rendition versus reading aloud the words of Rudolf Steiner, still exist today. This is not just my dilemma as the last conversation I had at the Class conference in 2011 was with a recently appointed Class holder who expressed some hesitancy at suddenly being expected to bring free renditions of the Class lessons to the local members, confessing that the Members preferred to hear the words of Rudolf Steiner.
Steven Roboz and I argued this point many times, and I am still of the opinion that there is a place for the Class lessons to be read. For the first time through the Class lessons, the words of Rudolf Steiner offer a sound platform from which to receive the fruits of the efforts of a Class holder who has worked with the mantra for many years. Then when I take up the work on the Mantra, with suggestions, and indications from several sides I still know where is the firm ground. Steven Roboz always emphasized the importance of knowing where Rudolf Steiner ends and where interpretation begins.
During the 2005 conference the impulse for a second Class conference came about, planned for 2007. This Class conference took place in Ann Arbor, Michigan at Michigan University, and coincided with the 100th Anniversary of the Munich Theosophical Congress.
Initially one received a simple invitation from the School of Spiritual Science in North America to save the dates for the conference: July 8 – 17, 2007 (7) …to be held for the first time on American soil.
In the March 2007 edition of the Portland Anthroposophic Times one finds an article by Philip Thatcher on the School of Spiritual Science wherein Mr. Thatcher describes the up-coming conference as an opportunity, an “occasion to heighten the awareness of all members of the Anthroposophical Society in North America as to the work of the School of Spiritual Science.” (8)
After succinctly describing the beginning of the First Class, membership in the First Class, the various sections and their relationship to the General Anthroposophical Section, Philip Thatcher continues:
“The work of the General Anthroposophical Section is directly linked with the life of the Anthroposophical Society. Virginia Sease and Paul Mackay have suggested that the Society is the context – the laboratory, in fact – in which the research of the School can be tested and elaborated through the encounter of the members with one another through Society activity…” (8)
In May 2007 I received a package of information and the program for the Class conference. From the Conference Committee (Joan Almon, Marion Leon, Virginia Sease, and Marguerite Millar) we read: (9)
“…whatever the individual personal circumstances that have led you here, we invite you to join now in this endeavor as fellow participants in the new Mysteries…
We have striven to create an atmosphere appropriate to the Modern Rosicrucian School, the School for Spiritual Science given to the world through Rudolf Steiner…In recognition of the Rosicrucian Impulse set in motion a century ago at the Munich Congress, the arts – visual, performing, literary – have taken an active preparatory role. They will embrace us and weave among us as integral threads throughout the week.”
The artistic impulses found expression in the daily silent eurythmy of the planets presented on the Lydia Mendolssohn Theatre stage surrounded by the paintings of Michael Howard, representing the “Metamorphosis of the Munich Art Impulse”:
“…It was our intention to capture something of the mood and spirit of the Munich Congress by incorporating one or more elements of what Rudolf Steiner created one hundred years ago. However, it was also clear from the beginning that we did not want to merely replicate his great artistic achievement. We wanted to do something that demonstrated, however modestly, that the artistic impulse Rudolf Steiner initiated in 1907 was very much alive today and continues to evolve and bear fruit.” (9)
There were approximately 250 participants at the Ann Arbor conference in 2007, the focus and ambience of which was decidedly Rosicrucian. Breaks throughout the day provided opportunities in which karmic threads could be discerned, turned over, and re-woven; threads that appeared at the Northern conference in 2009 and again in Fair Oaks in 2011.
My 2005 experience of spending conference free time meditating on the Goetheanum grounds or exploring the nearby esoteric sites or chatting it up at the Karma Corner Café was transformed into the 2007 experience of spending conference free time in the quaint University town of Ann Arbor chatting it up in University cafes or study lounges.
(The third Class conference was held in Rudolf Steiner House, London, England on August 12 – 16 2009 (10) and immediately following that conference was a conference on the Knights Templar at Emerson College (11). I cannot seem to find any information on that third Class Conference.)
The 2011 Conference, or the fourth Class conference, was attended by over 200 participants. The ambiance at Rudolf Steiner College, being so fashioned after the Goetheanum, brought forth fond memories of 2005. The days were filled with content that engaged one’s listening most of the time; the activities inspired one to remain as still, focused, and as conscious as possible; there was little free time except for meals. We were surrounded by the artistic works of local artists in the form of paintings and sculpture, also reminiscent of the Goetheanum.
As the conference also embraced the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s birth, every evening was filled with vibrant public discussions and lectures on Rudolf Steiner’s biography and deep esoteric studies, such as Geographic Medicine. The Foundation Stone Meditation was dramatically spoken and performed in eurythmy at the close of each evening.
What I noticed the most about the 2011 presentations of the Class Lessons was the continuity between lessons. Each presenter seemed acutely aware of the place of the one lesson they were bringing within the structure of the whole, and how that lesson related to the one before it or after it. The continuity of the Class Lessons, as an unfolding form relating forwards and backwards upon itself, has been given expression to in a number of ways over these Conferences over the years. And at the same time, the freedom to shape the content of the Lesson in the possibility of the moment was clearly apparent through the manner of execution by very different personalities. (3)
I found myself being the ‘last participant’ at the College after the conference ended; last except for all the Class holders and presenters who were soon to gather for a final meeting after the conference. I just happened to be in the right place to help set up chairs for that meeting, and it was then I had the discussion on reading versus free rendition. The unfolding of events clearly demonstrates to me that much thought, planning, and preparation goes into these conferences designed to further the work on the content of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science, the Michael School in its present earthly form as brought down by Rudolf Steiner.
It is clear that the unfolding path of the Michael School (1) - the impulse Rudolf Steiner initiated in 1924 continues to evolve and bear fruit. (9) The Class conferences are great opportunities to advance one’s relationship to the mantric contents of the Lessons as well as to investigate one’s karmic relations within the Michael School.
- Conference Brochure: The Nineteen Lessons of the First Class; for Members of the School of Spiritual Science; A conference in Honor of the 150th Anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s Birth; Special events for members and friends in the afternoons and evenings; August 7 – 12, 2011; at Rudolf Steiner College, Fair Oaks, California.
- Conference Brochure: The 19 Lessons of the First Class; conference for Members of the School of Spiritual Science; 2 – 9 July 2005; Goetheanum, Dornach.
- Anthroposophy Worldwide; No.8/05; School of Spiritual Science; page 2.
- Anthroposophy Worldwide: No. 9/05; School of Spiritual Science; Front page.
- Single photocopy page of a publication of the School of Spiritual Science; General Anthroposophical Section; Sensitivity towards central Anthroposophical themes; Sensitivity towards central Anthroposophical themes; page 6.
- The School for Spiritual Science in North America; The North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science, the Executive Council and the Collegium of the School at the Goetheanum and the North American Class Holders Circle invite Members of the First Class of the School for Spiritual Science to save the dates for a Conference of the Nineteen Lessons of the First Class, July 8 – 15, 2007.
- Portland Anthroposhopic Times, Volume 3.3 March 2007.
- Conference Program: The Nineteen Lessons of the First Class, A conference for Members of the School for Spiritual Science, Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 8 – 15 2007.
- Newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society in Ireland, Autumn 2009.
- Newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society in North Carolina, page 26, Confronting the Future: Templar impulses in the 21st Century, the 9th Historiography Conference at Emerson College, Forest Row, England August 16 -22 2009