Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Background For The English Conference At The Goetheanum

Dear Friends,

The step from the 20th into the 21st century heralded a new millennium. It also triggered countless fears and other responses that have since mostly faded from memory. But have they really disappeared? Are we in western civilization able to compare the mood during the change of the first millennium to the second with our general mood today as we enter the third millennium?

For several decades before 1000 A.D. there was a sense in Europe that doomsday was drawing near; humanity anticipated the Last Judgment described in the Revelation of John. When the fateful year passed without incident it was interpreted as an act of divine grace that would continue for only a few centuries and allow human beings time to repent if they followed a holy path determined by the Church. Then came the Crusades, the final expulsion of the Moors, and the Inquisition. Both the positive and negative results of this era remain with us.

Rudolf Steiner describes how large portions of our civilization will be affected by the transition to the third millennium. He describes that prior to this transition an era of optimism and confidence in technological progress will prevail in humanity – there would be no problem so large that it could not be solved by human ingenuity. This optimism has persisted into the first decade of the third millennium. Yet it is shaken by new and unexpected challenges that touch every country and all peoples. Among these challenges are the distribution of wealth and resources, climate imbalance, the stewardship and ownership of natural resources, population growth, and diseases.

This International English Conference will address the times in which we live. It is an opportunity to explore through shared work ways of implementing Rudolf Steiner's indications for developing new initiatives that will turn crisis into conscious benefit and opportunity. The world situation today is serious. It is asking us to discover and put into practice new ways of working with Rudolf Steiner's indications. We hope many friends will join us at the Goetheanum to take part in this special, joyful event.

Virginia Sease and Cornelius Pietzner
Executive Council

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Talk with Mac Meade

- Summary by Mark Ross of Mac's Talk at the Art of Mentoring Apprentice Conference in Harlemville, Feb 12-14

Mac began with a confession of sorts, around speaking to the theme of Mentoring; that is, he had never formally 'apprenticed', though we would soon see, he still had many Mentors. He took us on a guided tour of his early life, stage by stage, beginning with the age between 1 & 7 years old.

In one of his earliest memories Mac recounts being about 'this tall' (motioning with his flat hand somewhere between his knee and waist) and staring at a 4 pronged spading fork rhythmically moving between a pair of big boots (belonging to his father's legs), turning the earth over and over and over again. That's all he saw; these two feet and four tines on the earth, no face and no hands. And similarly with a bow rake. Later still he would recall his sensory experience in great grandma's garden; while picking beans he recalls that particular smell that would come from brushing past the tomato plants nearby. Recalling the last of three key early experiences, found him once again at his grandma's compost pile, on the south side of the barn. He and his sister would contentedly sit against the sun warmed barn boards atop the warm compost pile. These were experiences he can remember still & if one word would suffice to describe this time, it was "imitation".

Next we headed into the 7-14 age group. In retelling his personal history between 10 & 12, the fact that he was not only the shortest but the lightest in his class was indelible in his memory. His best friend, Buzzy, was 6 foot tall at 12. Buzzy was going to get him a job for a $1 an hour at the Mayola farm (Mac added; 'figuring out your pay was easier that way'...) So you could imagine the farmers doubt about little Mac being able to even lift a bale. Within a community that was half Italian and half Polish, Buzzy had good standing with this Italian farmer, discreetly assuring him under his breath; 'He may be small, but he is really strong!' This was Mac's first experience of hay, and a hook that would last a lifetime. And judging by the man standing before us, his height would eventually surpass 6 feet or thereabouts.

Earlier on, Mac could fairly say that he spent 90% of his waking day in the river-beds, fields and forests of Connecticut; a playground that hosted a topsoil between two and twenty feet deep. In this later time, he was now working in the field, sometimes at the Polish farm, but wherever it was, the word that spoke through this second 7 year period had to be "authority". To Mac, this meant doing what he was told, by people that he looked up to.

In the next period, between 14 and 21, we may find reference to the defining word "judgement". Well known within the educational realm, it is not lost on anyone who has raised teenagers. He had entered the realm of constant weighing, deciding and choosing. And around the town he grew up in, there were also many professionals, in amidst a predominantly farm based community.

As Mac saw it, these people could be divided up into 3 basic groups. Group 1 consisted of those who were trying to figure out what they could do to get off the farm. Group 2 consisted in the Country Club goers, of doctors and the like.

And it was in the third grouping that he placed himself and his father; in a place in between. He saw himself as wanting to bridge the two other worlds. Mac distinctly recalls, at around the age of 16-17, having the crazy idea to bring these two worlds together. In these worlds, as he saw it, the farmers were over-exposed to Nature, and the professionals were under-exposed.

It was at this point that Mac took opportunity to "interdigitate" (admitting that he didn't know if that was even a word, but that it somehow made sense to him) around some ideas on spiritual science that he met at the Spring Valley Fellowship, where there was an interesting combining of medical work with agriculture. He proceeded to inform us of the Fellowship origins, around a woman in the early sixties, who proposed to donate 1/4 of a million dollars for the building of this old age home, with the condition that this work had to take up with the care of children as well.

And in amidst the strong nursing, medical and agricultural impulses present at the fellowship, he found "education" to be a big component. There was in deed, a place for book learning as well. Case in point, he referenced a lecture cycle that he, with others, had taken up on the "Karma of Vocation" by Rudolf Steiner. In lecture 4 in particular he quotes (here paraphrased) "everything we do in vocation is a germinal building ground for the future".

From this study he came to understand that karma involved the presumption of many incarnations. In light of 'vocation', these days (unlike in the medieval times, where a "shoemaker" could be involved in a 'single piece' of the puzzle) we are freed from this single focus, toward a broader vocational element, and no less germinal towards fostering the birth of elemental beings in the work place. And it was through the work place, where Mac described the human being in early years as finding their vocation reflected in heredity. The early years could also be a window into the vocation of a past life.

From here Mac described how at the end of the 2nd, 7 year phase, this past is coming to an end. That is, after 14-16 years old, forces enter for the individual to find their 'new vocation', and expressly, not of the old. This has been corroborated in his work with many youth of this age, who are getting new cues for what they are needing to do. And in recalling his own situation, after many years of being at the Fellowship, he realized that he is kinda' doing what he wanted to do at
that age: "bringing these two worlds together". And Moreover, Mac has seen this very interest in many youngsters in these mid-teenage years.

Mac here paraphrases Rudolf Steiner from his "'The Study of Man", here paraphrased further: "If we merely take up nature and the study of it we are heading into a dead realm...but if we come into her with our senses, we are entering into her with our 'will'". In light of this, we are coming into a new time, where young people have gone through an intense study time, art school, etcetera...and are coming to the conclusion " I want to be a farmer!". By their nature, Mac has observed something of the future coming toward youth in their low to mid 20's. And it is from this vantage point that Mac begins to unpack an image which he finds useful in working with young people.

He prefaces this with the statement: there is a very strong healing impulse in Biodynamics, drawing again on a 2 part description provided by Rudolf Steiner, of the present stage of Earth evolution. In the first half, we have the Mars period of densification. In between the halves is the incarnation of Christ. And the second half can be described by its healing attributes, and is called the Mercury evolution. Rudolf Steiner connects healing with the being of Mercury, and is very connected to the stream of healers and doctors or the ones bringing plants to the earth.

Having set the stage for another story, Mac proceeds to tell one from the Bible: It is about Tobias and his father Tobit, who has become blind. In this story, Tobias sets out on a journey to heal his father, whereupon he meets up with a 'guide' who introduces him to the secrets of nature; herein he discovers a particular remedy made from a fish, that will heal is father. Mac reminds us of the archetypal journey that Tobias has embarked on, having left his past & heredity, finding himself in nature, he grows in new direction toward the future; it is not long before Tobias meets with a friend's daughter, Sarah, who has married 7 times. After each marriage, so the story goes, the husband dies. However, Tobias, follows his love courageously and doesn't die (even his friend, the father had gone out to dig the grave in anticipation of the seeming inevitability). Tobias goes back to his own father with the healing remedy. He is accompanied by his sun guide, who is revealed to be Raphael, the Archangel of Mercury and servant of this youngster.

This picture, is for Mac, the gesture of education, that he looks to (in an aside, he recommended "The On-Farm Mentor's Guide" put out by the New England Small Farm Institute which Miranda Smith, who presented at this conference, helped with; editor's note: if there is interest, this can be made available through the Ontario BD Society) advocating a blend of leading & guiding while allowing the apprentice to unfold (while taking care to not let your own karma get mixed up with theirs).

At this point, Mac passed around several painterly depictions of Tobias, from more recent veil painters to Renaissance Masters. In art, Mac said, he has discovered for himself the representation of the guide within a 'freely roving leadership', a relationship distinct from serving the one you are leading & where you never quite know whom is leading whom.

An example came to mind. When he was working at the Fellowship a neighbour asked them if they wanted to buy his farm, first dibs...or it would be sold for houses. After the Fellowship accepted the offer, Mac asked the old farmer if he would be their consultant for the orchard. He said that he would let Mac know & "Uhh, well, uhh, I don't know..."

The next day they spent 2 hours walking the fields and orchard together. He knew every square foot of the property, offering bits of wisdom like the Red Spider mite showing up on this particular tree would tell you this, or that is the coldest spot on the farm, so put your thermometer there. To this he added the solemn admission that this farmer, would be considered a 'conventional' farmer and therefore 'unenlightened' by the sometimes righteous standards of organics and the like. On this note, Mac brought this conversation to a humble close, encouraging us to get to know the farmers (i.e. Mentors) in our area.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Art of Mentoring Apprentices

- A conference at Hawthorne Valley Farm, Harlemville, New York, February 12 - 14, 2010.
- by Mark Ross

Several farmers from Ontario attended the 2nd annual Mentoring conference, the fees for which were being generously footed by the Agricultural Section of the School of Spiritual Science. The initiative being explored had to do with the newly formed North American Bio-Dynamic Apprenticehip Program (NABDAP) in response to a need to fructify a training program for apprenticing in Biodynamic farming. By adding more structure & continuity to the relationships between farmers (in their capacities as adult educators) and future-farmers/apprentices (in learning a skill set), the larger purposes could be better achieved in the particulars. All present were genuinely invited to join in the co-creation of something new, while adding to a great amount of work that had already been done. A sense of beginning was clearly in the air.

Sherry Wildefeuer, Chair of the Agriculture Section in North America, reset the stage for the presentation by Spring Valley farmer Mac Mead. As if by fireside, his words would soon warm the room. Kim Barnes (Program Co-ordinator) is compliling a full report, and details will be published in the Fall issue of Stir, the periodical published by the Ontario Bio-Dynamic Society. (Website)

Think OutWord Conference - I Give You My Word

- by Thomas Willington

What is the nature of agreements? How do we make them with one another, with ourselves, and with the world? Are all agreements made by choice? Are they signed and sealed, or are some agreements assumed? These are just a few of the questions posed to the participants of this winter's Think OutWord Conference, from which a whole variety of insightful and sparkling thoughts, conversations, lectures, and activities emerged.

The conference is “a peer-led training in social threefolding . . . which is grounded in, though not limited to, an understanding of the threefold nature of the human being and of society, primarily as it was articulated by the early 20th century philosopher, Rudolf Steiner.”

Upon arriving in Harlemville, New York, a fairly small town which boasts the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, Hawthorne Valley Farm, an organic market, and book store, registration took place followed by a wonderful potluck dinner. After catching up with old friends, and meeting new faces, we adjourned to the music hall where the recipients of the Credere Fund grants were presented along with several artistic presentations. The Credere Fund aims to support individuals who have taken initiative and are connected with anthroposophy, be it in the realm of social work, education, or art. To read more about this year’s recipients or to support the Credere fund, click here.

As the first evening drew to a close, we were all fairly exhausted from the drive and happy to discover that all the Torontonians were to be billeted in the same home, nice and simple. However, getting there was not. First, we turned the wrong way on the highway, and drove almost half an hour in the wrong direction while enjoying a sleepy sing-along before realizing our mistake. Getting back on track, we again got lost on the country back roads. Finally arriving, we were greeted by Christina and Bronko who were outstandingly gracious and kind hosts. They provided luxurious sleeping accommodations, great snacks and teas, and wonderful conversation. They truly welcomed the five of us into their home and we cannot thank them enough. Making our way back to Harlemville bright and early on Saturday morning, we enjoyed a hot breakfast and commenced with the busy day that was ahead.

One of the keynote speakers that were scheduled to appear was Orland Bishop, but unfortunately he was tied up in Los Angles with several urgent matters. This however offered the opportunity for Robert Karp to lead the group in an exercise developed by Otto Scharmer, a Senior Lecturer at MIT, where we broke into groups of four to address an important issue, thought, problem, or idea that one member of the group, the case giver, would bring to the table. Needless to say, it was a very interested exercise which presented a specific technique towards problem solving that allowed each member of the group to bring a fresh perspective to the table and present them to the case giver in a highly constructive manner. Among other lectures and workshops on Saturday was a philosophical lecture by Luke Fischer on ‘The Word’ which touched on works from Georg Kuhlewind, by Emmanuel Levinas, and Rudolf Steiner. Sarah Hearn also spoke on a variety of themes including three types of money, and outlining the basic principles of social threefolding. The last activities before dinner were the artistic workshops which included eurythmy, painting, speech, and singing. After yet another wonderful meal, much of which was from local bio-dynamic sources, we were treated to a great a performance by the Off Leash Improv troop.

Sunday was the last day of the conference. One of the highlights was the Open Space Technology exercise which was facilitated by Seth Jordan and Peter Buckbee. It involved individuals coming to the centre of the room with conversation ideas where were shared with the group and posted on the blackboard. There were over twenty different conversations to choose from ranging from higher education to our current monetary system to Nicanor Perlas’ work in the Philippines. As the conference drew to a close, it occurred to me that one of the things that made this conference different, and that makes this community so open, is its emphasis on peer-led facilitation. Other conferences have strict guidelines, time tables, and programmes, but such a rigid structure allows little room for real creativity or growth. At Think OutWord there were a group of organizers who did an outstanding job of putting the conference together, but they were all there as participants just as much as the rest of us. Similarly, each and every individual was given the space and encouraged to bring their own ideas to the group or to lead an activity or conversation. This experience was only enriched by the space that was created. This was a space where the question of agreements could really be explored. Although it went by in a flash, I believe we all left the conference not only with new friends, ideas, connections, and agreements, but also with a more vivid, holistic, and conscious understanding of just what our agreements really are, and how they help define our identity.

The Guelph Research Group - 100th Meeting!

- submitted by Elizabeth White

"The conversation group must make itself a magic circle; the least break in its Grail-Cup wholeness would let precious light-substance, generated by the meeting, drain away. Sensitive participants will feel asides and interruptions to be nothing less than a cutting off of the meeting from the spiritual world."
- from Marjorie Spock’s “The Art of Goethean Conversation”

In June 1999 a group of five people met together and decided to start a study group. They were Doug and Helen Cass, Elizabeth White (a newcomer from England) and Roger and Susie Smook, who offered their home as the venue for the meetings. There was a feeling in the initial group that the study should take place not in the conventional way we had all been used to, but in Goethean conversation around different research questions. The meeting would be held once a month and a subject might last from two to four months. In this way the members of the group would have time to do their own research on the subject in order to bring contributions to the meetings. Strict Goethean conversation in a group was a discipline that challenged us all; we succeeded, we failed, we succeeded and again we failed, but by perseverance and dedicated hard work we continued to meet every month and give it our best!

Our first meeting was on September 17, 1999 and in the group were the above mentioned five people and Eileen McMorris. Because our desire was to work deeply out of anthroposophy it was considered a necessity that every contributor would be a member of the anthroposophical society. Over the years different people joined and left. We had a visit from Heather Thomas in June 2004 and from Philip Thatcher in January 2005. Doug Cass passed over the Threshold on November 19, 2008.

We feel enriched by this work as we study the different topics in preparation for the meetings and have found it to be an inspiring and challenging way to work with anthroposophy. Over the past eleven years we have researched twenty one topics including each member’s biography. And so on Friday February 19th 2010 we gathered to celebrate our one hundredth meeting. Present were Chris and Margaret Wilson from Woodstock, Linda Nagel from Waterloo, Helen Cass, Roger and Susie Smook and Elizabeth White. Members unable to attend this meeting were Linda Fairburn, Mark Ross and William Caldwell.


- by Michael Roboz

The Wednesday night study group, which takes up the deepening of Anthroposophy, was founded in 1954, in Vancouver, by Steven Roboz. Steven is the remaining founding member of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. (The Canadian Society was formed in Toronto in 1954, when it separated off from the Anthroposophical Society in America. This was just before my parents, Steven and Helga, moved to Vancouver.)

The study group reached numbers of more than 50 people in the 1970s before other groups were founded for various reasons. Steven has co-signed over 100 new memberships. This group has studied the Four Mystery Dramas (Hans Pusch translation) four times, taking about two years to complete each cycle. The last time this study group took up the Mystery Dramas was from September 2007, until May 2009. On average, about twenty people took part. For the first time, Helga, was not physically present, as she had already died in December of 2006.

It was about five years ago that Steven started to pull back from his Wednesday night participation. At first, he would come about once a month to give specific talks on special subjects. When we started again with the Mystery Dramas, Steven came weekly for the first six months, and then withdrew completely. However, he was there always in the background. Before each scene, I discussed with him what background material to bring in by Rudolf Steiner and Steiner’s pupils, and explored with him many questions regarding the deeper meaning of what we were reading and discussing. Steven was fully supportive, but by the end of the Dramas, it was difficult for him to work intensively with me for an hour, for his energy to focus was waning. Steven celebrated his 91st birthday in September 2009.

Since September of 2009, the theme has been the Opposing Powers. This involved many short cycles relating to the incarnations of Lucifer and Ahriman and their influences on past, present and future culture. The Asuras were also touched upon in context. A couple of evenings were dedicated to the occult background of earthquakes after the one in Haiti in January. Apart from the study group’s theme for this year, we also have had special evenings dedicated to Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Whitsun, and Rudolf Steiner’s birth and death anniversaries. While Steven was still working intensively with us, he inspired many of us to connect deeply with the being of Rudolf Steiner.

When Steven was at the helm of the study group, he often gave long introductory talks, followed by questions and discussion. Much of the time, people took up a lecture, prepared it at home, presented it, followed by discussion. The format of the Wednesday Study Group has changed since Steven has retired. We alternate between:
- reading lectures together followed by a discussion
- presentations of a summary by a volunteer who feels inspired to do so and again we follow with a discussion.

We are very conscious and grateful for the gift of study and support that Steven and Helga offered so generously over these many years and we are doing our best to continue the legacy and build on the strong foundation. It is much more of a “working together” than a teacher/lecturer-pupils relationship.

It was so interesting to observe Steven’s changing relationship to the body of Anthroposophical knowledge over the last few years. The most rapid change was over the past year. Anthroposophical knowledge became like a huge tableau, as Steven described it, similar to the tableau we experience right after our physical death. Most everybody knew Steven as an encyclopedia of Anthroposophical knowledge. He would have at his finger- tips, where and when Steiner said this or that, in what context it was said, and often the exact quotation. People used to write and phone him from all over the world. We continue to work in the way Steven taught us by noting the lecture name and cycle when quoting parts of lectures and being mindful of the context in which Steiner said them.

Steven’s love of Anthroposophy, his love of the being of Rudolf Steiner, streamed through in all that Steven brought to the Wednesday Study Group, to his many public lectures, and many articles over the last sixty years. Rudolf Steiner spoke many times of groups that come together in freedom, regardless of race, nation or blood, and how through such groups a feeling of fellowship is formed, which allows an Angelic Being to descend and support the work. Rudolf Steiner described this kind of work as “reversed cultus”. “The anthroposophical community seeks to lift human souls into supersensible realms so that they may enter the company of Angels” (RS: Feb. 27, 1923, GA 247, lec. 6, Awakening to Community). I really am aware of this Being some evenings!

Michael Roboz
North Vancouver, BC


- by Arie van Ameringen

At the beginning of the last century, many Russians were active in the anthroposophical movement. We can still find today, in the center of Moscow, a reminder of this period. On Arbat street, in the museum dedicated to the poet Andrei Belye, there is an exhibition on the first Goetheanum; Belye participated with Assya Turgeniev (his first wife) in the construction work on the building. Since the fall of the communist regime, new anthroposophical initiatives have been founded, mainly in European Russia, with the help of Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries. Today, the challenges are great on both the social and economic levels in a country where the state and the orthodox church work hand in hand.

The Russian Anthroposophical Society has 500 members, which is quite a small number for such a large country.

When Monica Gold (from Vancouver) was president of ISIS, she organized many trips to support initiatives such as schools and curative centers. This time, the new members of the ISIS board decided to visit two places in Siberia in order to meet the people involved, share their experiences and get some idea of their needs.

After the Whitehorse conference, four members of the board, Mary Lee Plumb-Mentjes, Galina Fin, Renée Cossette, and myself, along with a eurythmist, Grace Ann Peysson, travelled to Irkutsk, the first stop on our journey. This involved a flight of roughly 20 hours made over a period of three days.

Irkutsk is a charming city on the Angara river and is located one day’s drive from Mongolia, to the south and from Lake Baikal, to the east. This part of Russia is something of a forgotten land as far as the central government of Russia is concerned. Basic infrastructures are often lacking. There are beautiful wooden houses from the 19th century in the city; many of them have no running water. Imagine pumping water outside in the winter, in temperatures hovering around minus 40o C. At the same time you can observe people driving late-model Japanese SUV’s.
We should not forget that Siberia was a place of great suffering during the period when dissidents were sent to work in the gulags. The Russians, however, want to forget this past. We had a taste of this mood when we visited a former labour camp. Our guide could not understand why we should want to visit this place. She drove through the camp very fast without stopping.

In the last 20 years a small community has grown up around the Waldorf school in Irkutsk (which in 2009 graduated its first 12th grade class). During our stay we got acquainted with the people, their initiatives and their needs. They welcomed us with great warmth. With the help of several local anthroposophists, we organized a conference, offering presentations on anthroposophy and Waldorf education, and including artistic workshops (painting, clay modeling and eurythmy).

Our presentations were appreciated and the participants showed a keen interest in the various themes, as well as in a report on the Whitehorse conference. Outside the city, we visited two centers for curative education. The largest, called Istok, is located one hour’s drive from town. We had to travel on muddy roads through birch forests. Upon arriving at our destination, we found young volunteers from Europe hard at work painting the exterior walls of the buildings. The villagers had gone home to their families for the school holidays. This initiative is carried by Tatiana Kokina. The adjoining land is farmed biodynamically.

Back in the city, the teachers took us on a tour of the curative education seminar and the kindergarten. Our hosts organized a short trip to Olchon island in Lake Baikal, well known as a holy place of shamanism (as practiced by the Buryat shamans). We had the privilege of witnessing a shamanistic ceremony where the shaman, in a trance, invoked the spirits of the ancestors.

The second part of our trip to Siberia brought us to Vladivostok, on the Sea of Japan, 7,200 km east of Moscow. This city was the site of a secret military base during the cold war and was also a place of transit for prisoners sent to Magadan, a famous gulag. Today, its harbour is the main port of entry for shipments of imported goods from Japan. We found the city’s physical surroundings, with its hills and sea, to be reminiscent of San Francisco.

We held a three-day conference there similar to the one in Irkutsk. This event was made possible thanks to Lilia Solkan, a psychologist who had met Monica Gold some years before. And Mary Lee knew a fellow botanist who obtained a conference room at the botanical gardens for us.

We had to meet great challenges during our stay in this city of 600,000; there are no Waldorf schools or curative initiatives and the participants (most of them work in the field of child care) were not familiar with anthroposophical concepts. They liked the artistic workshops best of all.

Only time will tell if what we attempted to do there was fruitful. We must mention once again that in this city, as was the case everywhere, people welcomed us with great generosity.

In Moscow, a eurythmist, Olga Kulagina, showed us around one of the two Waldorf schools, with 325 students. It is interesting to note that both Andrei Tarkovski the filmmaker and Alexander Men, the priest, attended classes in this very building when they were children. The classrooms were decorated with beautiful paintings by a German artist.

We also met with members of the Moscow branch and had a wonderfully open conversation with them on the relationship between East and West during the Second World War.

Since our return, we have continued to pursue our fundraising efforts. Generous donations have recently made it possible to send more than $3,000 US for various projects in Irkutsk and Yekaterinburg. After the Whitehorse Conference, we collected $2200 for the Meta Williams Fund. And we now have $2000 in the bank to begin a Prison Outreach project in Canada, which will be carried by Elaine Mackee.

ISIS Cultural Outreach International is a non–profit organisation with charitable status.

ISIS Cultural Outreach International - en Sibérie

- Arie van Ameringen

Au début du siècle dernier, plusieurs groupes d'anthroposophes s'étaient formés en Russie. D'ailleurs, on peut voir, aujourd'hui, en plein centre de Moscou un témoignage émouvant sur cette époque. Sur la rue Arbat, dans le musée consacré au poète Andrei Belyé, il y a une exposition sur le premier Goetheanum; Belyé avait participé avec Assya Tourgéniev ( sa première femme) aux travaux de construction.

Depuis la chute du communisme, des plusieurs initiatives anthroposophiques ont été fondées, grâce au soutien venant d'Allemagne, de la Hollande et des pays scandinaves principalement, dans la partie européenne de la Russie. Il reste que les défis sont très grands autant au niveau social qu'économique dans un pays où l'état et l'église orthodoxe travaillent main dans la main. Aujourd'hui, on compte environ 500 membres de la Société Anthroposophiques pour toute la Russie ce qui est relativement peu.

ISIS Cultural Outreach avait sous la direction de Monica Gold (de Vancouver )organisé plusieurs voyages ,afin de soutenir des initiatives dont des écoles et des centres curatifs. Les nouveaux membres du conseil d'administration d'ISIS ont décidé d'aller à deux endroits en Sibérie pour rencontrer y des collègues et partager nos expériences.

Après le congrès de Whitehorse, quatre membres du conseil d'ISIS, Mary Plumb Mentjes, Galina Fin ,Renée Cossette et moi-même (s'est ajoutée au groupe une eurythmiste américaine Grace Ann Peysson), nous nous sommes envolés pour Irkoutsk; la première étape du voyage nécessitant vingt heures de vol échelonné sur trois jours. Irkoutsk, est une ville charmante traversée par le fleuve Angara et se trouve à une journée de distance en voiture de la Mongolie au sud et du lac Baïkal à l'est. C'est une région est un peu oubliée par le gouvernement central de la Russie. Les infrastructures y sont rudimentaires. On peut voir plusieurs magnifiques maisons en bois dans la ville, dont certaines datent du 19e siècle mais qui n'ont pas d'eau courante; imaginer chercher de l'eau à la pompe par -40 C en hiver! En même temps les automobilistes circulent dans des véhicules tout terrain japonais . Il ne faut pas oublier que la Sibérie était aussi une terre de souffrance jusqu'à tout récemment en raison de la présence des goulags. D'ailleurs, les Russes cherchent à oublier ce passé. Nous avons eu cette expérience lors de la visite des vestiges d'un camp de travail; notre guide ne comprenait pas pourquoi on voulait voir cet endroit et rendus sur place la visite fut écoutée abruptement.

Il y a depuis une vingtaine d'années une petite communauté qui s'est formée autour de l'école d'Irkoutsk (qui en 2009 avait pour la première fois une classe de 12e année). Pendant notre séjour nous avons appris à connaître les gens et leurs besoins.

À l'école Waldorf, nous avions organisé avec des anthroposophes de l'endroit un congrès portant sur l'anthroposophie et l'éducation Waldorf, qui comprenait des ateliers artistiques, (peinture , modelage et eurythmie). Nos présentations furent bien reçues et les 20 participants ont montré un grand intérêt, y compris pour le compte-rendu sur le congrès de Whitehorse. Fait cocasse durant nos présentations, une commission du ministère de l'éducation composée de sept membres est venu inspecter les lieux pour évaluer si l'école était conforme aux règlements ; conclusion, les murs devaient être repeints en blanc car la couleur était jugés trop intense. L'école n'avait pas la permission d'ouvrir. Sur une initiative de Mary, nous avons donné 300$ US pour aider à la mise à norme.
À une heure d'Irkoutsk, se trouvent deux petits centres de pédagogie curative. Le plus grand s'appelle Istok ; il faut prendre des chemins boueux à travers des forêts de bouleaux. Sur place, nous avons rencontré de jeunes volontaires venus d'Europe qui étaient en train de faire des rénovations .Les villageois étaient tous dans leur famille . L'initiative qui compte aussi une ferme biodynamique est portée par Tatiana Kokina.

De retour en ville, on nous a montré les locaux du séminaire pédagogique et le jardin d'enfants . Des projets de rénovation et d'agrandissement étaient en cours.

Nos hôtes nous avaient organisé un court séjour au Lac Baïkal, le plus grand lac d'eau douce au monde, sur l'île Olchon. Cet endroit est reconnu comme un lieu sacré par les chamans Bouriats (peuple mongol). Nous eûmes le privilège d'assister à une séance chamanique où le chaman en transe faisait appel aux esprits des ancêtres.

La deuxième partie de notre voyage nous a conduit à Vladivostok à 7,200 km à l'Est de Moscou. Cette ville qui fut pendant la période de l'URSS une ville militaire secrète est au bord de la mer du Japon et était à l'époque, le port pour le transfert des prisonniers vers Magadan. On y trouve de magnifiques plages et au début de septembre, la mer nous apportait un vent chaud. D'ailleurs , la ville fait penser à San Francisco en raison de sa baie et de sa montagne.

Grâce à une connaissance de Monica Gold et une collègue botaniste de Mary Lee, un congrès de trois jours fut organisé devant une quinzaine de participants dans un local du jardin botanique de la ville. Le défi était de taille car dans cette ville de 600,000 habitants, il n'y a pas d'initiatives anthroposophiques ni école ou centre de pédagogie curative . Nous étions donc devant un auditoire peu familier à la pensée de Rudolf Steiner . La personne ressource Lilia Soltan, psychologue, avait réussi à attirer des intervenants professionnels travaillant auprès d'enfants. Les participants étaient ont été davantage touchés par les ateliers artistiques que par les présentations.

Il faudra voir avec le temps si notre présence aura donné des fruits. Ici, encore nos hôtes nous ont reçu avec une grande générosité.

À Moscou, l' eurythmiste Olga Kulagina nous a fait visiter une des deux écoles de la ville. Intégrée dans le système public, l'école accueille 325 élèves et se trouve dans un bâtiment où Andrei Tarkovski , le réalisateur et le prêtre Alexander Men ont étudié dans leur enfance. Les peintures exécutées par un artiste allemand sur les murs des classes sont très impressionnantes. Un soir, nous avons été invités à rencontrer les membres de la branche de Moscou dans un échange très cordial sur les relations entre l'Est et l'Ouest durant la deuxième Guerre Mondiale.

Depuis notre retour nous continuons à faire des levées de fonds et grâce à des donateurs nous avons pu envoyer récemment plus de 2000$US pour différents projets à Irkoutsk et à Ekaterinabourg.

Durant le congrès à Whitehorse, un fonds spécial a été créé pour soutenir des initiatives auprès de la communauté autochtone, le Meta Williams Fund; des donateurs ont permis de ramasser 2200$. ISIS démarre aussi un projet auprès des prisonniers canadiens ( prison Outreach) avec Elaine Mackee. Il est toujours possible de faire des dons pour un des projets. ISIS est un organisme à but non-lucratifs et peut émettre des reçus pour don de charité.


- by Verena Hoffmann, Kingsburg, March 30, 2009

I did not know!
I cry,
How deep the misery would be –
Yet I chose to come.

All I saw
Was darkness;
Twisted bodies, distorted minds,
Lost souls crying for home.

I did not know
How it would feel
To become one of them.
All I wanted was to heal.
To wake up each soul
To Light and Love
To make them whole.

So I stood up,
There, high in the mountains,
The most beloved child
in the circle of wise old men.
I will bring them Love and Hope,
I said,
And joyfully I danced
down the slope.

How could I know
What it would be
When plunged
Into human frailty?

I did not question –
nor did it matter,
yet I cry
when darkness creeps up high
and clouds my mind
in useless chatter,
and heaviness
engulfs mankind –
and – that is I!
From faraway I hear:
Embrace it gently and bear
It up to Me.

A lifetime spent
Wading through darkness –
where is the end?

Be quiet, child.
There are no answers,
There are no rules,
But this I say:
You will be there
At dawn
The stone is rolled away.