Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yeshayahu ben Aharon In Canada

From September 19th to 21st, 2008, thirty North Americans gathered with Yeshayahu at a retreat centre on Lake Ontario in Canada. This was YBA’s third annual conference in Canada and the first formal engagement of his Elementary School for Spiritual Science in Canada.

In September 2006, when YBA spoke to us of the spiritual course of the twentieth century and the intentions of Michael for the twenty-first century, we could feel how the spiritual world drew close to participate in our active listening. Such stirring and powerful words! How soulfully we absorbed the ripened gift, the mature flower of his spiritual research which this year reached a culmination of sorts. And from a certain perspective this weekend saw also the end of a certain phase of his work with us.

We could perceive the difference already the following year, in September 2007. He spoke once more with the authority of direct spiritual experience, but his emphasis had changed. What YBA depicted of twentieth century progress in the spiritualization of thinking - through in particular the French post-modernists - served primarily to frame for us the nature of the group work we would do together in digestive reading. The seeds of last year were falling windswept to the earth, with no certainty they would reach fertile soil.

In this, the third year of our collaborative evolutionary rhythm, YBA withdrew further as a lecturer and embraced more the role of a guide. We broke into five groups of six people. Each person in each group formulated a question out of her reading of the Second Appendix to the 1918 Edition to the Philosophy of Freedom. Then each group worked to find answers to each question out of the preface. YBA’s profound communications on the preface Saturday afternoon seemed more like an ideal, archetypal representation of each group’s experience, more like a spiritual embrace of the living being of the book than a lecture.

Some of the group work was emotionally intense, even painful at times. In 2006, you could say that our doubles were set aside, displaced by our higher selves in the cadence of our listening. Not so this year. This year our doubles were invited in to help with the work! Without them, how could we have achieved some of the inversions and conversions which took place? By the time of our plenum Sunday morning, people had exchanged questions: a question asked by one participant had become of significant import to another participant. Other people found in the soul movement of the group process signposts to unresolved life challenges. One group set aside YBA’s instructions for a time and discovered reflections of the thought current of the text in their own transformative life experiences. In YBA’s good-natured raillery at their “rule-breaking” he revealed a hint that this group had begun to uncover the imaginative magical thrust of the exercise.

With YBA’s encouragement, the only task remaining for the present is to resist the temptation to form intellectual conclusions on the nature of our work together. Let us simply enjoy our recognition that last year’s wind delivered seeds to fertile soil, trusting that next year’s seedling will emerge from the long winter of our separation with powerful life energies for the future.

Future Conferences

Over the past three years, we have publicized our conferences with Yeshayahu in advance in the Bulletin and have in addition sent invitations to all Society members in Ontario and Quebec. We intend to continue meeting with Yeshayahu once a year into the future. However, the nature of our work has evolved and going forward we will not be publicizing, sending out flyers etc. with a view to maximizing attendance. Rather, we will seek to deepen the quality of our work together.

At the same time, newcomers are most warmly welcomed to participate in our conference planned for October 2009! If you feel a connection with Yeshayahu’s published material or with the journey briefly described above, please speak to someone you know who has attended the recent 2008 conference to solicit a personal invitation which will surely be forthcoming. That person will then be responsible in his or her own individual manner for familiarizing you with the character of our work. If you don’t know anyone who attended, please call Magi Nadelle at 613-832-1822 or email Magi at Past participants who were unable to come in September 2008 are of course warmly encouraged to come again as well.

/Tim Nadelle

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hans Warner -- 1924 - 2008

The Warners’ old farmhouse at the end of a private lane is nestled in 200 acres at the northern edge of Muskoka, Ontario’s scenic cottage region. On entering the wooden house I am embraced by its ambience of simplicity, warmth, orderliness and comfort. From the hall, where Magdalene greets me, I glimpse, to the right, a library and study. I follow her to the large country kitchen on the left, where she prepares a tray with tea things. With it we proceed to the living/dining room and sit down for our conversation. On entering here, on my left, my eyes had been caught by a small reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and I remember the contribution Hans had sent for our 50th anniversary publication in 2003. He was already sick at the time, but he responded to my request and wrote, recalling the words of Dr. Benesch, one of the many visitors to the farm:
(what needs to happen is)”...that the etheric stream from Europe is embedded into the soil here, like an umbilical cord - through bio-dynamic farming- in order that the Christ impulse in transforming the earth, can be helped through the activities of humanity....Rudolf Steiner pointed out, early in 1918, that Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper can lead to an understanding of the meaning of the earth as Christ’s body.”

This makes me pause in wonder for a moment, and as we sit and recall Hans’ life, the image stays with me.

Hans and Magdalene had settled in this place in 1954 to start a bio-dynamic farm - the first in Ontario. They had arrived from Germany on July 1, 1951 knowing that land, unattainable for them in Europe, could be purchased here. After first working for some three years on farms in southern Ontario they found their acres, complete with a dilapidated old house, near the village of Rosseau. Now their own work to transform this land began in earnest. The house gradually became the comfortable wooden dwelling it is now, the land was made arable, machinery and animals were acquired. Eventually, over the years, much was grown here for the family and the region, and bio-dynamic principles and preparations were developed and applied. Their first-born, Angelika, had already arrived, when they came to Canada. Three more children were born: Christiane, Dorothee and John, and all of them were, from an early age, contributors to the farm’s life and chores.

The Warners’ arrival in Canada coincided with the pioneering days of the anthroposophical work in Ontario, and Hans (and Magdalene by proxy) were founding members of the Anthroposophical Society and The Christian Community in Canada. Much happened on their farm in this context during that time. Many people met there, some of the Society’s AGM’s were held there, as well as other meetings to give shape to the bio-dynamic work. Some of the services of The Christian Community were also held in the very room, where now Magdalene and I were sitting; and, of course, there were many visitors from the cities in the south and from Europe who came to enjoy the ambience and pulse of this place as it slowly became a bio-dynamic farm.

Over the years, until his illness, Hans attended most of the Society’s AGMs, no matter where they took place, sometimes accompanied by Magdalene, when she could get away from the farm and family. Many members will recall his talks, always focussing on the urgency of our task.One of the last of these talks that I heard dealt with a book entitled “Angels don’t play this haarp (sic!)” by Nick Begich and Jeanne Manning. It deals with an American scientific research project carried out in the Arctic that aims at and apparently succeeds in influencing and steering the thought processes of people gathering in large crowds anywhere on the earth. Hans ended his talk by inviting everyone present to join him in a daily inner gesture of turning, in gratitude, to the elemental beings as a counter-measure to this menace. I believe that many of us did so.

Life on a farm brings its ups and downs, and the Warners’ were not spared their share of natural disasters and accidents. In one of the worst of these, their barn burnt down along with all their expensive machinery. Over the years, it also became increasingly difficult to market their produce and meat in the wider community. Another source of income needed to be found, and Hans took on a job of tax assessor for the region. As the couple became older Hans focussed increasingly on the promotion of the bio-dynamic cause, attending many meetings on it far and wide. Both he and Magdalene also began to travel extensively. With their camper they went all across Canada, even as far as the Yukon. They also travelled to Australia to link up with their bio-dynamic colleagues, and they visited Greece.

Hans was born in Berlin on March 9, 1924 and was baptised and confirmed at The Christian Community. In 1942 he was drafted into the army and, while in Russia, became seriously ill with malaria. This experience took him to the brink of death, but saved him from the defeat at Stalingrad. His recovery may have led to the decision to study medicine which he took up for a few months at the University of Berlin. In 1945, when he was caught up in the Battle of Berlin, another powerful cue of destiny touched his life. As bombs fell on the city all around him, Hans’ coat had caught fire. As he struggled to save himself, a book suddenly fell on the ground at his feet. In spite of the inferno surrounding him, he nevertheless felt compelled to look at its title: “Der Mensch als Selbstgestalter seines Schicksals” (“The human being-Creator of his own destiny”) by O. J. Hartmann, and something about it touched Hans: he felt compelled to pick it up and put it in his pocket. On reading it later, it led him to the resolve to take up anthroposophy. He had also begun farm work, and the question of whether to pursue his medical studies or to take up agriculture was resolved for him by a conversation with Emil Bock. He reached his decision and remained faithful to it. He became a farm apprentice at the bio-dynamic farm at Rengoldshausen near Lake Constance. There he met Magdalene, who had also taken up this work. They married and their first child arrived. They became members of the Society and took part in members’ meetings and bio-dynamic conferences in Stuttgart and at the Goetheanum; and, of course, they embarked on an intensive study of anthroposophy.

In both Hans and Magdalene a deep commitment to what they had taken up guided their next steps which soon took them to Canada and their farm near Rosseau.

As Magdalene and I finish our conversation as we walk a trail on the farm, she tells me of the different phases of its growth and later changes, always greatly helped by their son who has land right next door to them; and of the powerful presence of the elemental beings in this country. In this connection, she later tells me that Hans always had a connection to their presence: three times he had been struck by lightning. She, too, speaks of Dr. Benesch’s image of the etheric stream from Europe embedded into the soil here. I am awed by the sheer work, dedication and loyalty Hans and she had brought to this task, inspired by this image, until his and now gradually also her strength gave out. Hans, after a long struggle with cancer, died on July 1st - the same day, on which he had arrived in Canada 57 years earlier. As I say good bye to Magdalene, I am aware, once more, of the picture of the Last Supper by the door of their parlour, where so much happened that bore fruit. It is but a small reproduction, and when one sees it, one understands its meaning and presence here on this land.

Alexandra B. Günther
Elliot Lake, Ontario
September 29, 2008

Congres "Lumiere Boreale -- Silence de l'Attente"

Congrès « Encircling Light – Expectant Silence »
« Lumière Boréale – Silence de l'Attente »
Du 1er au 8 août 2009
Whitehorse, Yukon
Nouvelles de dernière heure

Lors de la rédaction de cette mise à jour, 62 participants se sont déjà inscrits au congrès, dont plusieurs des USA et d’Europe. Comme vous pouvez le lire dans ma lettre qui paraît dans ce numéro, nous nous attendons à accueillir aussi deux amis d'Islande. En plus, des levées de fonds en Alaska et ici au Canada permettront à 3 participants de la Russie d'être des nôtres.

Une grande partie du travail de préparation a maintenant été terminée. J'exprime ma profonde reconnaissance à mes collègues du comité organisateur – Edna Cox, Monique Walsh, Ralph Danyluk, Anthony Perzel et Sarnia Guiton – qui ont bien voulu se charger du travail nécessaire à la réalisation de ce projet.

Au début de 2009 nous serons obligés de confirmer l'utilisation des deux locaux prévus pour la semaine du congrès (Yukon Arts Centre et Yukon College). Le nombre d'inscriptions reçues à cette époque-là déterminera si oui ou non nous pourrons garder les deux locaux. Nous prions donc à ceux qui ont l'intention de se joindre à nous à Whitehorse de bien vouloir s'inscrire le plus tôt possible. C'est maintenant le meilleur moment pour vous procurer des billets d'avion à prix réduit et pour pouvoir vous assurer d'obtenir votre choix d'atelier, étant donné que nous limiterons le nombre de participants de chaque atelier à 18 (en plus des animateurs).

Encore deux suggestions de lecture :

Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez (Vintage Books, 2001) : Déjà un classique, ce livre explore les réalités arctiques chez les êtres humains et dans la nature, avec envergure et beaucoup de sensibilité.

The Lost Patrol: The Mounties’ Yukon Tragedy, Dick North (Raincoast Books, 2008): Le récit de la patrouille de Fort Mackenzie jusqu'à Dawson City qui a fini tragiquement mais dont on a pu tirer d'importantes leçons de survie dans les régions du grand nord.

Philip Thatcher

Northern Conference Update

Encircling Light Conference Update, August 1st to 8th, 2009, Whitehorse, Yukon

As of now, 62 participants have registered for the conference, including some from the United States and Europe. As I indicated in my letter, we are looking forward to the presence of two friends from Iceland. Fund raising efforts in Alaska and here in Canada will enable three participants to come from Russia.
Much of the groundwork for the conference has now been done. My heartfelt thanks go in particular to my colleagues on the organizing committee—Edna Cox, Monique Walsh, Ralph Danyluk, Anthony Perzel and Sarnia Guiton—for taking on the work needed to make this event possible.
Early in 2009 we will have to confirm our use of both the Yukon Arts Centre and Yukon College for the conference week. The number of registrations received by that time will determine whether we can stay with both venues. So to those planning to join us in Whitehorse, please register as soon as you can. Now is the time to book cheaper plane fares and ensure that you get your first choice of workshops, given that we are limiting each workshop to a total of 18 participants, plus the workshop leaders.

Two more reading suggestions:
Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez (Vintage Books, 2001): Now a classic, this book is a extensive and sensitive exploration of Arctic realities, in nature and in human beings.
The Lost Patrol: The Mounties’ Yukon Tragedy, Dick North (Raincoast Books, 2008): The story of the 1910-1911 patrol from Fort Mackenzie to Dawson City that ended in tragedy, yet also revealed important lessons for survival in a northern terrain.

Philip Thatcher

January Youth Meeting in Portland

An invitation to the Anthroposophical Communityto learn about and support a meeting of young people: At the moment a meeting is being prepared which will take place in Portland, Oregon over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial weekend (January 16-19). The announcement of the meeting demands a brief preface. Imagine a tree. There is one root shooting over to Dornach to a small building nestled below the Goetheanum. This small building houses the Youth Section of the Anthroposophical movement/society. It has been the location of events called Initiative Meetings. These meetings have been occasions where younger people who have been inspired all the way through to deed by some ideal come together. Some of the young people here in North America have been present at these meetings where presentations are made and discussions are had about taking initiative. Some on our continent have been wishing to pursue something similar here in North America. Every few months a group of young people across North America gather in an audio space and hear of each other's activities, strivings, challenges and questions. These conference calls are where the idea of manifesting a North American Initiative Meeting began to grow feet. Within these conversations questions are often raised of what the significance of the Anthroposophical youth movement is. What is at the heart of our work? How should it be organized? How can we be visible and available for young people who are seeking and striving toward the same inspirations which we are? Within the discussion of these questions is a feeling and striving to take our work to a new level and this is the second root leading to the gathering in January.Young people who have participated in conferences and events within the Anthroposophical movement and Society might have found themselves as sole representatives of their generation, or one of few. They will have heard the earnest and, at times, anxious questioning of where the other young people are. I have had time to live with and think about this question and have come to see a reply. They are in the North east. They are in rural Canada. They are on the West coast. They are in the South east. I am not speaking of thousands, but many and from many directions. They have great questions and inspirations of finding a living culture, societal reforms, art, community, a secure and life affirming spiritual world view. They are full of divinations, will and fire. Some might feel at this point, "Young people are so dramatic and are always exaggerating things!". I must agree! And yet, I have not even reached my point. Something new and redemptive is taking place in this Sturm und Drang. The young generation is not fleeing society and the older generation to the woods, to India, to the monastery or traveling village of a musical sub- culture. They look to those preceding them and see many burning lamps fueled by the same oil which gives them their own light. Yet the light of this older generation, how calming and informing, how instructive and steady. tried by the tempests of life and still aflame. The youth are making time and space to witness this light with it is contagious endurance. The regular meetings at Heartbeet Life Sharing conference, the Think OutWord initiative in New England, the international Network M, which began in California, and many other initiatives are testimony to this letter. During the meeting in January members from the many projects on the North American continent will gather in Portland, Oregon to meet and hear of one another's work and seek out more clarity of what the place of the youth section/movement is within the Anthroposophical society on one hand and the greater world on the other. Many of the people who wish to attend this meeting will be traveling great distances and we are asking anyone who wants to support them to contribute to our Scholarship Fund. For more information about our event and about the open community evenings, or to share your work with us, please contact us at

Thank you on behalf of the planning group. Cari Burdett

Mot du Secretaire Generale

Chers amis,

Se tenir debout sur le sol de Thingvellir, là où le parlement islandais a vu le jour, c'est se tenir à l'endroit même où l'Islande est tirée en deux directions opposées. La plaque tectonique de l'Amérique du Nord tire vers l'ouest, celle de l'Europe tire vers l'est. Entre les deux pentes qui marquent la rencontre de ces plaques se trouve un sentier escarpé, que j'ai parcouru à pied avec mon compagnon Einar Gunnar. Nous avons passé devant le Lögberg, le Rocher de la Loi, où en l'an 1000 le païen Thorgeir, Celui qui Prononce la Loi, a émis un décret à l'effet que l'Islande dans son ensemble emprunterait la voie chrétienne mais permettrait toutefois aux individus qui le désiraient de continuer à pratiquer les rites païens. Cette décision a empêché que les Islandais s'entre-déchirent pour des questions de religion.

Einar compte parmi les nouveaux amis qui se sont occupés de moi durant mon séjour de quelques jours en Islande. J'ai été hébergé par la famille de Gudjon Arnason qui, en plus d'être chauffeur de l'autobus scolaire de l'école Waldorf qui se trouve à l'extérieur de Reykjavik, est une passionnée des sagas islandaises. Sigrun Gunnarsdottir, propriétaire de la petite (mais fort animée) boutique Waldorf de la ville, m’a conduit à pied au fond d'une vallée rocailleuse très escarpée jusqu'à une source d'eau chaude inconnue des touristes. Sigrun et Einar avaient tous les deux décidé voilà déjà un an de participer à notre congrès de Whitehorse et ont encore la ferme intention de le faire malgré la crise économique qui sévit actuellement en Islande. Pour les aider dans leur décision, des membres de Vancouver ont accepté de couvrir les coûts d'inscription pour les deux.

Au début du mois d'août, le bateau qui fait la navette le long de la côte norvégienne m'a amené à Kirkenes, situé sur la frontière qui sépare la Norvège de la Russie. J'ai ensuite passé trois jours à explorer la réalité de cette frontière, d'abord en bateau sur le fleuve Pasvik qui délimite en grande partie la frontière, et ensuite à pied, parcourant six kilomètres de chemin ardu jusqu'à Treriksrøysa, l'endroit où la Norvège, la Finlande et la Russie se rencontrent. Si l'accès à la Finlande est entièrement ouvert, l'accès à la Russie est interdit – et à tel point qu'un seul doigt de la main passé de l'autre côté de la ligne peut valoir au contrevenant une importante amende de la part des autorités norvégiennes. Et pourtant, il n'y a aucune barrière physique et la forêt russe se trouve à quelques mètres de là où je me tenais – encore une expérience d'être tiré dans deux directions opposées….

À la mi août, je me suis rendu à Whitehorse pour la réunion de notre conseil. Paul Mackay et Seija Zimmermann, deux collègues du Goetheanum qui participeront à notre congrès sur le Nord, nous y ont rejoints. En plus de nous occuper de notre ordre du jour de conseil, nous nous étions rendus sur place en tant que porteurs du congrès pour nous préparer intérieurement à l'événement. Un autre volet de cette fin de semaine a été une rencontre, tenue à Marsh Lake, avec quelques-uns des amis d'origine autochtone qui vont travailler avec nous. Ces nouveaux collègues voulaient savoir qui nous étions, comme Société et comme individus. La question s'est ensuite élargie pour explorer qui nous sommes tous et chacun en tant qu'êtres humains. À un certain moment, Diane Johns, de Carcross, s'est écriée : « Ah! Nous sommes donc des êtres spirituels qui vivons une expérience humaine. » Nous lui avons répondu : « Merci! En rentrant, nous allons porter avec nous ce que vous venez de dire. »

Ma participation au congrès Creating the Future à Jarna, en Suède, s'est trouvée au centre de mes voyages dans les régions du Nord cet été. Vous trouverez un compte-rendu de ce congrès dans les pages de Anthroposophy Worldwide, 7/2008. À mesure que le congrès se déroulait, j'ai commencé à discerner comme deux nuances dans les échanges entre d'une part les amis de l'anthroposophie impliqués dans les institutions politiques et financières actuelles, et d'autre part nos collègues du Comité exécutif. Les premiers ont démontré à quel point les prémisses sur lesquelles sont fondées ces institutions ne sont plus valables – par exemple, le fait de prendre pour acquis que les ressources naturelles sont inépuisables. Ils ont mis l'accent sur la nécessité de pénétrer dans ces institutions et de les comprendre; et pourtant, la capacité même de ces institutions à résoudre les crises actuelles est de plus en plus douteuse. De la part de nos collègues du Goetheanum (et d'autres participants qui pensaient dans le même sens), l'accent a été mis sur le fait que la réalité dans laquelle nous vivons est dans son essence une réalité spirituelle. Dans une telle réalité, les actes d'individus éveillés et de réseaux d'individus, bien que paraissant petits et sans grand pouvoir, peuvent évoquer l'activité des hiérarchies (et de ceux qui ont traversé le seuil) d'une manière susceptible de réaliser des changements significatifs. Qui peut dire, par exemple, l'effet réel des efforts de petites communautés qui agissent avec responsabilité pour assainir leur environnement local?

Dans une conversation que j'ai eue avec Tim Nadelle, membre d'Ottawa qui est courtier en investissements, Tim a suggéré que lors d'une baisse des marchés boursiers, comme celle que nous vivons à l'heure actuelle et qui reflète un profond déséquilibre au niveau du mouvement du capital, ceux qui déterminent les politiques sont si accablés par la peur et par la nécessité d'intervenir rapidement qu'ils n'arrivent pas à penser de façon créative à des principes qui pourraient transformer l'économie à long terme. Et puis, lorsque les bourses et l'économie se mettent à reprendre de la force, le besoin d'apporter de réels changements fondamentaux perd son urgence. Les premiers petits pas sur le chemin qui nous libèrerait véritablement des griffes de ces rythmes macroéconomiques volatiles devront donc être faits au niveau local par des individus prêts à aller au-delà de la peur et à voir ce qu'il est possible de faire – comme par exemple la transformation de profits corporatifs en dons.

À Reykjavík, j'ai visité le musée qui abrite les œuvres du sculpteur Einar Jónasson – des sculptures à couper le souffle, en effet! Mais, ce qui a capté mon attention, c'était un tableau peint en 1917. Une pente sombre s'élève en arrière plan; au premier plan, la terre est couverte d'une épaisse couche de neige. Au centre du tableau, des arêtes rocailleuses s'amalgament au-dessus d'une sombre ouverture en forme de triangle au sein duquel on perçoit une Madone, l'Enfant blotti dans ses bras, prenant refuge du froid.

Je vous envoie de chaleureuses pensées alors que nous cheminons vers le temps des Nuits Saintes.

Philip Thatcher,
Secrétaire général.

Letter From Cornelius Pietzner

Dear Friends,
One of the important re-occurring events at the Goetheanum in November is the series of meetings that begins with the Class Holders Gathering of the School of Spiritual Science, followed by four days with the General Secretaries and concluded by the Conference of Branch and Group Leaders. These three meetings, one after another, provide strength and focus for the School of Spiritual Science, for the worldwide Society in its diversity and manifoldness, and give an orientation out of anthroposophy for our common work. These three complementary and interweaving elements and events are at once a review and an occasion to look forward to new themes, points of emphases and directions that we elect to undertake together.
Indeed, it provides different forums to begin to define and articulate the theme for the new year, which will be taken up in the different Societies and branches worldwide, as well as give the opportunity to introduce focal points for the Society in the years to come. It is beyond the purview of these welcoming lines to detail and describe the theme for the year, as well as the areas of emphasis that we consider of importance for the Society--these will be written about in succeeding issues. What is important is to share the unique and special opportunity of coming together for these days to work together and exchange and deepen perspectives that consolidate the work and initiatives that live in the School and the Society. It is an important opportunity to prepare for the new year.
This of course accompanies the numerous other preparations that are in full swing, ranging from the the Mystery Dramas (the first of which will be performed at the Christmas Conference) to the budget for next year. In all of these we experience the vibrancy of human initiative individually and in groups.
In a time when the world is engaged and occupied with major crises , such as the global financial situation, there have also been significant changes (as with the recent election in the United States) that show the need to find balance and perspective between polarities; in the first instance in our own hearts and souls.
With best regards,

Cornelius Pietzner
For the Executive Council

Letter from Philip Thatcher

Dear Friends,

To stand at the site of Thingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament came to birth, is to stand where Iceland pulls in two directions. The North American plate pulls westward and the European plate pulls to the east. Between the two escarpments that mark the meeting of the plates, I walked the rising pathway with my companion, Einar Gunnar. We passed the Lögberg or Law Rock where in the year 1000, Thorgeir, the pagan Law Speaker, decided that Iceland as a whole would embark on the Christian path, even though individuals could stay with their pagan practices. That step prevented Icelanders from tearing one another apart over the question of their religion.

Einar was one of several new friends who cared for me during those few days in Iceland. The family of Gudjon Arnason, the bus driver at the Waldorf School outside of Reykjavik and student of the Icelandic sagas, provided me with a room, while Sigrun Gunnarsdottir, the owner of the small but active Waldorf shop in town, walked me down a steep craggy valley to a hot spring not on the tourist map. Both Sigrun and Einar decided a year ago to join us for the Conference on the North in Whitehorse and are resolved to make that possible, despite the current economic crisis in Iceland. To aid them in their resolve, Vancouver members have agreed to cover the costs of their registration.

In early August the boat that travels the Norwegian coast brought me to Kirkenes, on the Norwegian/Russian border. I then spent the following three days exploring the reality of that boundary, by boat on the Pasvik River through which much of the border runs and on foot for a demanding six kilometers to Treriksrøysa, the place where Norway, Finland and Russia meet. The way into Finland was wide open; the way into Russia was closed to the point where even placing a finger across the borderline could result in a heavy fine by Norwegian authorities—even though there was no physical barrier and the Russian forest was only meters away from where I stood. Another moment of pulling apart—

In mid-August I travelled to Whitehorse for the meeting of our Council, where we were joined by Paul Mackay and Seija Zimmermann, two of our Goetheanum colleagues who will involved in the Conference on the North. As well as working through our Council business, we also came together as co-carriers of the Conference to prepare inwardly for this event. Another aspect of the weekend was a Saturday meeting at Marsh Lake with some of the First Nations’ friends who will be working with us. Our new colleagues wanted to know who we are, as a Society and as individuals. That question in turn flowed into a conversation about who we are as human beings. At one point, Diane Johns from Carcross exclaimed, “Ah! So we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” To which we replied, “Thank you! We will take with us what you have just said.”

A center-piece of my summer travels northward was the Creating the Future conference at Järna, Sweden. A report of this event appears in Anthroposophy Worldwide, 7/2008. As the week unfolded, I was particularly interested in what I would characterize as two nuances in dialogue, arising from the conversations between friends of anthroposophy engaged in political and financial structures of our time and our colleagues on the Executive Council. Our friends in political and economic institutions laid bare the extent to which those institutions are informed by premises that no longer hold true—for example, a limitless abundance of natural resources. They stressed the importance of understanding and penetrating those institutions; yet the capacity of those institutions to resolve the crises of our day is more and more in doubt. From our Goetheanum colleagues and others during the week came the corresponding nuance that we live in a reality that is first and last a spiritual reality. In such a reality, the actions of awakened individuals and networks of individuals can evoke the activity of the hierarchies and those who have crossed the threshold in ways that can transform seemingly small deeds into far-reaching change. Who can say in advance, for instance, what very local efforts toward responsibility for the environment could have?

I spoke recently with Tim Nadelle, an Ottawa member of the Society who is an investment broker. Tim suggested that during a downturn in the stock market such as we are now experiencing, reflecting a profound imbalance in the flow of capital, policy makers are too overcome with fear and the need for immediate action to think creatively about longer term transformative economic principles. Then as markets and economies return to apparent strength, the need for meaningful change is no longer compelling. So the first baby steps on a real path out of these volatile macroeconomic rhythms lie in the individual and local actions of those ready to move beyond fear and see what can be done, such as transforming corporate profits into gift money.

In Reykjavik I visited the museum housing the works of sculptor Einar Jónasson. Many of the sculptures were breathtaking, yet what captured me was a painting done in 1917. A dark escarpment rises up along the background; in the foreground is snow-packed earth. At the centre of the painting jagged pinnacles of rock push together above the dark, triangular opening at the base. The opening itself reveals a Madonna and Child huddled together, waiting out the cold.

With warm greetings as we move together toward the Holy Nights,

Philip Thatcher
General Secretary