In 2011 we were called upon to focus on two very important themes: the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s birth on the one hand, and the individuality of Christian Rosenkreuz on the other. As we study Rudolf Steiner’s biography and his many lectures, we come to realize how closely he was linked with the individuality of Christian Rosenkreuz. On many occasions Steiner specifically mentioned the importance of this great guide of mankind, and indeed anthroposophy can be called a modern form of rosicrucianism. (1)
Last year, various events were held worldwide, and especially in Europe, to celebrate Rudolf Steiner’s legacy and the relevance of his work for our times. Across Canada, several members’ groups chose to commemorate this anniversary by offering public events such as lectures or educational activities, some groups got together to stir and spray bio-dynamic preparations simultaneously on St John's Day, others by simply gathering in more intimate circles. These celebratory events were all ways of expressing our gratitude for the work of Rudolf Steiner.
Several months ago, I had agreed to go to my bank in Montreal in order to obtain foreign currency for my daughter, who was leaving for Central America. Upon arriving at the bank branch, an employee explained that the bank was closed due to a power blackout in the neighborhood. I begged him to let me in, explaining that I lived 100 km away and that I could never return in time, since my daughter’s flight was scheduled for the next morning.
The employee finally let me in. Since I was the only customer, I was given the royal treatment: I was waited upon by five employees plus the branch manager. And yet there was a serious problem: the computers were not working! What was to be done? The employees seemed helpless. How could the transaction be recorded? How could they calculate the amount in Canadian dollars or even issue a receipt? It is as if we had been thrown back 30 years to a time when office computers did not exist.
Finally, it took the six of them a full half hour to process my request. It was obvious that the employees were in no way prepared for this kind of situation. And even the branch manager had difficulty calculating the conversion of Canadian dollars into pesos.
Several weeks prior to that incident, (23 October), a very interesting article concerning Waldorf schools had appeared in the New York Times, relating how employees of companies in California’s Silicon Valley send their children to Waldorf Schools so they can learn to “hold a pencil.” The piece praised the merits of what was said to be a form of education which teaches practical life skills.
When Rudolf Steiner speaks of the teachings of Christian Rosenkreuz, he describes a spiritual movement which emphasizes the importance of acquiring the practical skills needed for daily life. When a man breaks his leg, do we pity his suffering? Of course we do. But it is also essential that we know what to do in such a case and that we act. The attitude required here is not that of a spectator but rather of a being who can act in full awareness of what the situation requires. Given the fact that electronic tools have taken on a dominant role in our daily lives, education which remains in touch with concrete practical life skills is assuredly a way of facing head on the challenges of the over-dominance of cyber specialisation and of ensuring that our human faculties remain free.
In 1911, Rudolf Steiner gave us essential details into the life and mission of Christian Rosenkreuz. Also, in December of the same year he created a new initiative, an Endowment (Stiftung) under the temporary name of Society for Theosophical Art and Way of Life. This initiative was established under the direct impulse of Christian Rosenkreuz and Rudolf Steiner was to choose (“interpret”) a group of people who would be able to undertake free spiritual research.
Each of the members of this group was a representative of a particular art form; each one had complete freedom to carry out his or her own spiritual research based on mutual trust, and the group was to continue its work in total autonomy without the help of Rudolf Steiner. It goes without saying that each of the individuals chosen agreed to commit to the work with an attitude completely devoid of any personal interest or gain whatsoever.
Unfortunately, this effort to create the Endowment did not succeed. (2) Yet, the method of working put forward at its conception remains an inspiration for us today. At that time, Rudolf Steiner had already deemed it necessary to give birth to a spiritual initiative in order to counter the destructive tide of materialism. Indeed, it was then that the second mystery drama was written and performed. And today, artistic endeavor inspired by authentic spiritual work is more relevant than ever.
At the beginning of November I attended the meeting of General Secretaries, Section leaders and the Executive Committee at the Gœtheanum. The theme of the meeting was: Recognizing differences and building together. Our conversations focused on how to achieve a working together of the various streams within the Anthroposophical Society. We know that within the Society the manifold diverging impulses fall somewhere between two distinct points of view: those who place the greater importance on knowledge and those for whom action is the essential element. Seen in the light of the Endowment, the fundamental requirements for spiritual research are trust and autonomy. How then can we remain individually creative, make our own personal spiritual contribution, and yet work towards a common goal in spite of our differences? This question remains relevant for each one of us.
We also shared our imagination of current world events, particularly the most striking events of 2011. The Executive Committee explained its new way of working, which involves including the General Secretaries of the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland in some of the decision making process.
On January 21, 2012, in Toronto, the members of the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada met with the circle of Canadian Class Holders to explore the research theme: Anthroposophy: a modern form of Rosicrucianism, and our experience of the Canadian Folk Soul.
In the evening, after a short introduction, there was a conversation with local members. During this exchange period on the question of the Canadian Folk Soul, the Rosicrucian mood was always there in the background, helping us to realize that our Canadian situation was constantly evolving. The core values of openness, tolerance and artistic creativity were among the qualities mentioned as characterizing the Canadian nation, as was the diversity of the founding peoples; the contributions of new immigrants have proven to be of great cultural value; the Canadian Folk Soul is still in a process of taking shape for some future task.
Bearing in mind the qualities we have mentioned, it should come as no surprise to find printed on the Canadian 20 dollar bill the following quote from writer Gabrielle Roy:
Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?
Arie van Ameringen
General Secretary, Dunham, Quebec
(1) Peter Selg recently published a book in German on Rudolf Steiner and Christian Rosenkreuz. See also Sergei Prokofief’s article on the theme of the year.
(2) Virginia Sease explains in her little book (in German) Rudolf Steiners Versuch einer Stiftung für Theosophische Art und Kunst 15.Dezember 1911 the history of this group and the individuals who participated in it.