A major conference entitled Encountering our Humanity: From Knowledge to Conscious Action will be held in Ottawa from August 7th to 14th, 2016. This conference is the initiative of Arie van Ameringen, General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. The following is an interview given by him.
According to you, the conference has a threefold objective. Could you please elaborate?
First of all, this event is an attempt to tighten what have become the rather loose connections between the Anthroposophical Society and the various initiatives inspired by anthroposophy. Secondly, we shall underline what anthroposophy has accomplished in its nearly one hundred years of existence. And finally, and most importantly, we shall explore how we can prepare for the future. How can the anthroposophical (universal human) impulse be experienced and put into practice in daily life? Can we find through our work together answers that traditional ways of thinking can no longer supply? How can we bring a humanizing (spiritual) quality to the various fields of daily activity?
These questions are fundamental if human evolution is to lead to a renewed connection with the spiritual world. The ability to enter so deeply into the soul of another human being that I actually suffer his or her pain – this is a quality belonging to the future sixth epoch; and yet I can already begin to prepare myself for this eventuality by cultivating a rich inner life. If I am able to transform myself, I shall be better equipped to help another human being – to begin with by simply learning to accept that being as he or she is. Rudolf Steiner refers to this in the 4th and 5th lectures of his cycle From Symptom to Reality in Modern History (G. A. 185), stating that in our age of the consciousness soul, life must become penetrated through and through with ideas that have their origin in the spiritual world.
What does our Michaelic era demand of us?
That we move from knowledge into the realm of conscious activity! Information about anthroposophy is widely available today, and as anthroposophists we have certainly quoted Steiner profusely during the course of the 20th century! Now that we have amassed this wisdom, what do we do with this legacy? We must do more than merely remain content with the knowing; this means that we must experiment with anthroposophy in our lives and see how it can inspire us in our deeds. Here, we enter into the “how,” and this always carries with it the danger inherent to the “how,” that of acting according to prescribed formulas. For example, if I choose to work as a Waldorf teacher or an anthroposophical doctor, I must ask myself whether I have really made the necessary effort to connect with the living source of anthroposophy – or whether I am merely a technician applying a prescribed methodology. Is my activity still relevant and does it respond to the needs of our epoch?
We must bring anthroposophy into a new phase, a phase of conscious activity. Act with discernment and sensitivity, and you will soon see whether or not your deed was morally just – and you may then have to make adjustments as you go along, being aware that you are bound to the consequences of the deeds you perform. This means finding the morally right path through heart-connected thinking rather than by responding to outer imperatives. Extensive examples of this are to be found in The Philosophy of Freedom. And the exercises contained in the Foundation Stone Meditation can also be of great help in this sense.
You also have stated that the Ottawa conference is one in a series of events. Could you be more specific?
Yes, things are coming together in a time-space convergence. As far as space is concerned, let us consider the actual location. Ottawa is the capital city of a country that is officially bilingual; and historically, Ottawa is a meeting point on the North American continent. For centuries First Nations Peoples have held a small island in the Ottawa River to be a sacred meeting place. And the city itself is the result of a compromise directly connected with the history of Canada – a capital situated midway between Montreal, the French city, and Toronto, the English city. Something of the intellectual soul is still living in North America due to the French influence. The very history of Ottawa, with its diversity of influences, seems to point towards the possibility of building a community of the future.
And as far as convergence in time is concerned: 2016 will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the writer whose plays most vividly depict the multiple facets of the human being. The year will also see Goethe’s Faust performed at the Goetheanum (where the Michaelmas conference will be held as well): Faust – contemporary man’s confrontation with evil. All of this prompts us to strengthen (within ourselves and also with the help of others) the “awareness of our humanity,” the unique contribution anthroposophy brings to the world and to evolution.
The North American anthroposophical conference Encountering our Humanity will be held at the Cité collégiale in Ottawa from August 7th to 14th, 2016. The event has been planned to correspond with the rhythm of the week: Sunday, words of welcome and opening lecture; Monday, biography and karma; Tuesday, pedagogy; Wednesday, medicine; Thursday, our earth and the sciences; Friday, the arts and architecture; Saturday, community building; Sunday, religion, spirituality, meditation. Woven throughout the week there will be, among other activities, study relating to the General Anthroposophical Section and artistic workshops.
Six members of the leadership at the Goetheanum will be featured among the keynote speakers: Bodo von Plato, Paul McKay, Seija Zimmermann, Constanza Kaliks, Joan Sleigh and Marianne Schubert. There will also be several contributors from North America including Kenneth McAlister, Regine Kurek, Michael Schmidt, Irene François, Duncan Keppie, Bert Chase, Jonah Evans, Nathaniel Williams, Arie van Ameringen, and Douglas Cardinal.
In addition to the main activities scheduled for each day, space will be allotted for individuals wishing to present the results of their personal research, based on their work with a fundamental question or on their involvement in a field of activity or initiative connected with the conference theme (please contact John Bach at email@example.com.) It is our hope that the Youth Section will also be able to meet during the week.
The conference web site is slated to be functional by the beginning of December of this year at: