- by Mark McAlister
It’s been said that Alcoholics Anonymous makes it a principle to venerate newcomers. Their questions are sharp and immediate, and they prevent the organization from becoming complacent and irrelevant. Is there a lesson here for the Anthroposophical Society? What would happen if we paid more attention to the questions and concerns of newcomers?
With this in mind, I decided to participate in the Cambridge Music Conference in Vancouver last November. Elizabeth Carmack (an anthroposophist) was the driving force behind the conference, but the vast majority of the presenters and participants had no direct connection with Anthroposophy. What brought them together was a deep concern for the plight and trauma of people in the justice system (including both perpetrators and survivors of violent crime), and a quest for real and sustainable healing. Nigel Osbourne (a composer from UK) was a particularly inspiring example. Working with children in war zones, he has shown how the elements of music can reach to the deepest levels of the human being and bring hope where otherwise there would only be despair. I did not feel that he was lacking anthroposophy; he was revealing it to me.
One can have similar experiences in meetings of the biodynamic movement. I have met a number of young farmers in recent years who have a deep connection to Rudolf Steiner and spiritual science and find the anthroposophists to be a little superficial. Could it be that their relationship to anthroposophy is more direct and active than mine, even though I have been studying for several decades? I have helped to arrange several small conferences with these folks, and I must say they are teaching me a lot!
I can also share something of my experience at a recent Camphill seminar for 20+ social therapists. The presenter was Beth Barol, a colleague of Julia Wolfson. Beth has been serving people with developmental disabilities all her life, and has achieved distinction at all levels in her work in the State of Pennsylvania. In the seminar, she introduced the biographical timeline tool, and showed us how in even the most difficult cases, they are usually able to compensate for decades of trauma and abuse, and guide the person back to some semblance of a meaningful life. How exciting that a person of this caliber has found her way into the anthroposophical community! Beth, too, has helped me to see anthroposophy emerging in quite new ways.
Without a doubt, many readers of this article are having similar experiences, and I encourage you to share some of them in this Newsletter. It seems to me that we will become much stronger as a movement if we pay more attention to what is coming to meet us.
Finally, I should mention that the events described in this article have one thing in common: two or three First Class members were involved in the planning process. Now that’s productivity!