Friday, October 29, 2010

More Than a New Agriculture

- by Colyn Cameron

Indeed, not many people know that during the last few decades the agricultural products on which our life depend have degenerated extremely rapidly.  In this present time of transition from the Kali Yuga to a new Age of Light, it is not only human moral development that is degenerating, but also what human activity has made of the Earth and of what lies just above the Earth.
- From the Introduction to Rudolf Steiner's Agriculture Course (1924)

When I first encountered biodynamic agriculture, I was enrolled in a creative writing program at Capilano University in Vancouver--I wanted to become a poet.  I had decided to work on a small BD farm (C-Dar in Squamish BC) for the summer.  I thought it would be a great place to have the space and and inspiration to write.  Well, things changed a little.  As the summer progressed and heated up, I found myself engaged more with the daily rhythm of the farm and less with my writing.  I found the farm community there to be rich and unique, as we practiced new ways of living together with common interests away from the mayhem of urban life, discovering what is possible when people come together, gathered around the soil in spiritual awakeness.  This is really the modus operandi of BD agriculture: together working with the Earth to consciously take part in its healing --which becomes our healing--but with a new kind of spiritual awareness, spiritual presence.

I was so artistically engrossed with the work of the farm, the effortless chores, such as feeding animals, cleaning their living areas, weeding, harvesting, making and spraying the BD preparations, that it became a kind of  "writing poetry with Nature."  The experience became a creative rhythmic process belonging to Nature and to me.  It brought into being a subtle spiritual awakeness in me, both for the Earth and for myself.  This was when I realized that what I was doing was more than just farming.  This realization gave me the beginning of a true relationship to what Steiner  was trying to enkindle in us through his lectures on agriculture.

By midsummer, I was reading all the BD literature I could get my hands on, including Secrets of the Soil by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, Wolf-Dieter Storl's Culture and Horticulture, and of course, Rudolf Steiner's Agriculture.  I was lucky to come across a a wonderful documentary film on Peter Proctor's work with biodynamic agriculture in India--One Man, One Cow, One Planet.  This film was eye-opening for me as it linked my long-time interest in the spiritual traditions of India to the soil.  It showed how people can be actively and wholly engaged with the land, with the soil, while retaining the spiritual striving of their ancestors, and do this while making a transition away from destructive chemical agricultural practices.  Wow!

By the end of the summer, I had stirred and applied preparations 500 and 501 on numerous different occasions, eaten fresh BD eggs, harvested a field of potatoes by hand, dropped a water pump in the river (oops!), sat in Native American sweat lodges, and had many other memorable experiences.  I had been a participant in a process of engaging with ancient wisdom, modern insight, and real living, all in the context of a biodynamic farm.  In September, I was not at university studying creative writing, but at Emerson College in England studying biodynamic farming.  How things do change!

Why is biodynamics more than just a new agriculture?  Rudolf Steiner gave the agriculture lectures to practicing farmers, gardeners and vegetarians based on the conditions of the time, including soil depletion, crop failures and unhealthy livestock.  But there is more to it than that.  Steiner was not merely a scientist who had studied agro-ecology and by deductive measures created some eccentric remedies for Nature.  He was not simply looking to create the most efficient food production system.  He was not only anticipating global warming.  Rather, Steiner was creatively engaged with consciousness and with spirit, and this engagement led to intuitive insights that would awaken the Earth, that would awaken the human being.  We cannot remove biodynamic agriculture from the context of Anthroposophy to understand  it [just] as a way of farming.

Today many young people like myself want to work with and develop Anthroposophy in a new way, free from the dogmas that can gather around it.  Biodynamics, to stay true to its original impulse and to become a true impulse in minds and souls of people today, must remember its essential nature as an art, a creative work involving body, mind and soul.  It cannot be understood and practiced only as a solution to the chaos of the present agricultural Armageddon.  BD agriculture is an answer to the food and climate dilemmas of our time.  But we must not lose our ability to recognize and experience its essential spiritual task, which is to enlighten consciousness through the interface with our Mother Earth. 

There is a beautiful, subtle way of being totally engaged with something practically--as a real solution and work--and yet maintaining the experience of the innate whole reality to which we belong.  Through biodynamic agriculture, we can use the context of the farm, the interface between what is human, animal, plant and mineral, to strengthen our meditative life, the attention to consciousness.  Biodynamics is not only a new agriculture.It is a new method of discovering  what it is to be human, but to be human in a relationship with the Earth and the cosmos.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Observing - and Feeling - the Northern Lights

- by Debbie Allen

Thank you for posting the pictures of Northern Lights in the October e-News. While beautiful, I suspect that they were not taken by a participant of the Northern Conference of 2009 as I have seen these pictures in magazines, most recently on the cover of SkyNews. (None-the-less, they stimulated me to report on the real experiences with which the Northern Lights have graced my back yard.

After the Northern Conference I moved from Vancouver  to my home soil of North-Central Alberta.  Currently I reside north of Edmonton on the way to Athabasca.  As the days have grown shorter the appearance of a Northern glow has become ever more present this fall.  I get off work at 10:30 pm; my half hour drive northward home allows me great opportunity to view the darkened rural heavens.  I do keep my eyes on the road as I also live in moose territory.

A few weeks ago the Northern Lights stepped up their intensity but still as a glow.  I watched Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull rise through the Northern Lights, accompanied by a meteor.  Then, on Friday October the 8th 2010, as I drove home I had to force my eyes to stay on the road.  This was the night of the Draconids Meteor shower, and the Northern Lights were dancing.  Bundled up in my winter clothes, with blanket and pillow, I spent the next two and half hours with my eyes glued to the skies in the north.  Behind me, Jupiter at mid-heaven, was casting nearly as much light as might the Moon, who was invisible that night.  The Milky Way was crystal clear in the black sky, every Constellation was filled with light.  The whole Constellation of the Great Bear was visible as if striding across the brilliant glowing arch of the Northern Lights.  Pollux and Castor in the Constellation of Gemini were rising through the Northern Lights like two headlights in the East.

A few short meteors flicked away from Draco.  A few meteors streamed through the Great Bear, while at the same time the Northern Lights began to undulate from the most eastern point of the glowing arch (under Castor and Pollux) towards the darkest place under the centre of the glow, due north.  The Northern Lights, glowing intense greenish-white, began to undulate towards the feet of The Great Bear.  They stopped short of The Bear, undulating like a great ribbon when the deepest glowing arch was pierced through, like an arrow, from the East by a bright red meteor!  The reaction of the Northern Lights was to ignite!  In the area pierced by the Michaelic Iron, the Northern Lights shot up to the knees and head of the Great bear, undulating like great Angels beating their wings.  I sat there until my eyes felt burnt.  In addition to the light show my amphitheatre has surround sound with slapping beaver tails on the river; the conversation between groups of coyotes; and those between owls, interspersed with a horse whinny or a cow lowing.

The Northern Lights have continued in varying intensity since then.  We are in a warm, dry spell of weather, so the nights are also clear.  Last night the Northern Lights were again dancing but one must sleep sometime!  I awoke every two hours, and yes they were still going, climbing higher in the sky.  Finally I bundled up and went outside at 5:30 am.  The Northern Lights were competing with the approaching dawn, but the stars were still intensely visible.  At that time of morning Taurus, Orion, and Sirius the Dog Star were visible in the South, and great waves of Northern Lights were streaming from the northern horizon to mid-heaven.  I sat in the corner of my yard for an hour all the while being buffeted by the gusts of strobing Northern Lights and Solar wind.  Again the Northern Lights were pierced through by a meteor from the south-east, and again they reacted.  They were already strobing intensely and where they were shot through they again took up great wing formation reaching way up in the sky.

Be The Students

An I and Thou Relationship Between Teacher and Students in an Atmosphere of Unknowing (1)
- by Diane Walters

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end,
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman (2)

As a educator I have witnessed strong individual presence apparent in students of all ages, urging us all forward into greater participation with the lesson at hand, calling forth the need for active dialogue between teachers and students. The degree of individualism evident in elementary students gave rise to the question: How do teachers meet contemporary children with engaging ‘presence’ referred to by Whitman? Curiosity led me to look into the light of individualism as revealed through American Romanticism and Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical insights. This led to further reflections of how American transcendentalists foresaw the ever present realities of individualism in the form of ideas. Rudolf Steiner states that ideas are living realities “as an “idea-world” within ourselves, finding meaning when we unite not concepts but percepts and the world of ideas.

Steiner calls this ‘pure thinking’ (4) an act which allows us to reach deep into direct experience of spiritual realities and arrive at moral imaginations. This moral imagination then centers our thinking through love. Our daily experience of thinking as an act of love enables us to become conscious of our connection with the outer world. This consciousness translates into whole-based thinking where connection and cohesion into the scheme of our existence is apparent. Ralph Waldo Emerson revealed this connection between thinking and love in his essay on nature:

the mind is a part of the nature of things; the world is a divine dream, from which we may presently awake to the glories and certainties of day. (5)

In the classroom where “knowing” can arrive through moral imaginations, the principle of unknowing referred to as intuition is at work acting as a force of growth in us, that is, the growing of ideas. The teacher must be patient and actively listening for the moment; for ideas, as beings, live in the love we bear from within and in the air we breathe, both teacher and student alike. In deepening our thought life and nurturing our ability to love we discover universality. The “…glories and certainties of day” that Emerson describes, are tangible experiences when we allow for them to occur.

We cannot truly know universality without delving deeper into what it means to be an individual. Steiner unites these themes when he reminds us that to know ourselves we must look into the world, and to know the world, we must understand ourselves. Universality or the idea of infinite vastness in ourselves, folds our individuality into a greater entity; one which enables us to enter into the portal of knowing our students as well as the subject we are teaching. The seeds of self and spirit intermingle within this space. Steiner reminds us that individuality is a spirit phenomenon, not in the first place, a material one. Individuality then participates the infinite, participates spirit, participates the source of everything else that a person may also be—rich, poor, handsome, ugly, caring, heedless and so forth. To know our individuality and recognize others then is to know what love is. We love the person’s essence, the person’s “self,” the person’s source. We not only love this self, but we love with our own self, rather than with some psychological or physical part of our being. Imagining the phenomenon of love in this way, loving our students and teaching from a loving capacity in ourselves, makes individuality a spiritual reality.

Love lives within the infiniteness of the individual. This infiniteness is spirit knowledge and is not there until we acknowledge it within us. We birth it by consciously cultivating a degree of creative moral intuition. This creating stream of intuition can be created in the classroom with transformative results. The ability to perceive and enter into what Gertrude Reif Hughes defines as “a portal of pure knowing.” (6) is suddenly there. This kind of knowing, this new awareness calls for the development of our perceptions.

The connection of the finite with the infinite lived in the spirit of American Romanticism. The American Romantics discovered and appreciated the idea of individuality as one with the cosmos. Emerson was rhapsodic of world perceptions, and Walt Whitman exuded a self-confidence which seemed to be prophetic. His feelings of loss and wakefulness relate to our times:

Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send the sun-rise out of me.
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the day-break.  (2)

Finding his soul at the center of wholeness or in unity with the cosmos, Whitman goes on to acknowledge the realities of spirit with these words:

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.(2)

Tapping into the same state of awe, Emerson brings further guidance for self-transformation and paves the road for us by discovering that human beings need to reorient the “axis of vision” in ourselves.

The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not transparent but opaque.
The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself. (4)

He elaborates on this thought by underlying our connection with living spiritual ideas (or by what Steiner defines as realism) in the following prose:

He cannot be a naturalist until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. Love is as much its demand as perception. Indeed, neither can be perfect without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words, thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep. (4)

Emerson’s realism is embedded in devotion to thoughts which have been transformed with pure light. Modern materialistic thought is liberated when he reveals his conclusion:

But when a faithful thinker, resolute to detach every object from personal relations and see it in the light of thought, shall, at the same time, kindle science with the fire of the holiest affections, then will God go forth anew into the creation.  (4)

Emerson’s consideration then, that the human sense of ‘self’ comes from the gods and that we have the capacity to know and experience divine thought living and working through us, is a humbling one in the classroom, and a necessary image to bear in mind while attempting to share knowledge, however vast or limited in our subjective eye.

We as teachers engage the spirit of living realism through the portal of the classroom door when we recognize the value of bringing the universal principle of individualism into our teaching methodologies through our connections with students and the subject as a whole.  As teachers we can meet individualism in our students by actively practicing what Walt Whitman identifies as living mystery. He speaks directly to the heart of the teacher and to the student with these words:

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and the sun, (there are millions of suns left)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the specters in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.  (2)

Whitman’s rhetoric speaks to the nodal point of all learning; the point where the ‘procreant urge’ within our souls begins to take form in our thoughts, interests and active doings in the world. This nodal point is the center of a lemniscate between teacher and student. It is the true meeting place of souls. It happens when we, as teachers, put down the mode of being a ‘presenter’ working out of fixed ideas and turn instead towards our students as the true subjects of a lesson. Something else begins to grow out of the patience and trust that results from meeting individualism. We begin to relate to a living dynamic that is germinating within the hidden and ‘as yet unknowable’ content of the lesson at hand. Whitman grasps the enormity of this deed as touching soul to soul:

To touch my person to someone else’s is about as much as I can stand
Is this then a touch? Quivering me to a new identity,
Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightening to strike what is hardly different from myself. (2)

“The mystery asks to be entered,” (6) Gertrude Reif Hughes reminded a group of students. "The mystery we may enter is to be found in all aspects and walks of life. How do we enter it in the context of the classroom?” We must carry reverence through the portal of the classroom door, and we must begin to speak it. Reverence as consciousness, belongs in our presence of mind when we teach. ‘Presencing’ (7) as a verb and as a noun comes into play when we read our students like an intriguing book; its plot slowly revealed through time and many editions. Presencing  while teaching is like working from the future into the present; living two streams of time simultaneously as we do when we read ahead just a little, in order to know how to sound or tone our speech while reading a book or poem aloud. These two streams create a powerful current which sweeps us into an embrace and often brings laughter or a sense of play into the moment. The current reveals itself when we encounter the unexpected, the dynamic, and the unknown. It is the sense of being comfortable with an element of surprise. Cultivating this kind of presencing requires a kind of inner directive to be an active listener. Emerson was such a listener as described in the quote:

If the Reason be stimulated to more earnest vision, outlines and surfaces become transparent, and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best moments of life are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers and the reverential withdrawing of nature before its God.  (5)

Students and teachers who engage in this kind of learning in the active dynamic of a classroom trust each other. They trust that they are seen and will continue to be seen, and that both teacher and student alike are part of a greater whole. We can then say that the mystery has been entered. Whatever the subject at hand, listening, and playing to the heartbeat of creating possibilities in a classroom, overcomes learned boredom and the idea that education is a materialistic institution. Meeting the individual with authenticity and integrity and taking our place in the center of the stream in the classroom is described by Emerson:

Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom and trade and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the center of all things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you and all men and all events. (5)

We, like Emerson, Whitman and Steiner, among others, need to trust ourselves and believe wholeheartedly in our own moral imaginations. We need to risk our individualism for this kind of humanity: a humanity which cultivates the capacity for intimacy, dialogue and mutual striving. When these are present, learning and teaching become one thing: Joy. It lives into the mystery of our own infinity, encountering our students in every moment, out of the principle of active love as evidenced in the words of Whitman: “I and this mystery, here we stand.” (2)


1. Buber Martin “I and Thou” Touchstone Press, New York, NY, 1996.

2.Whitman Walt “Leaves of Grass” 1892 Edition Bantam Books 1983 New York (Chant 3 ‘Song of Myself.” , Song of Myself, Chant 25 p43) (Song of Myself Chant 2) (Song of Myself, Chant 27) (Song of Myself p24 chant 3)

3. Steiner Rudolf: “The Redemption of Thinking” A.P.Shepard Ed Anthropsophical Press, Spring Valley New York

4. Steiner Rudolf “Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path” Anthroposophical Press Inc. Hudson, N.Y. 1995

5. Emerson Ralf Waldo “The Selected Writings” Brooks Atkinson Ed Random House Inc, 1950 , Nature pp35, Nature p41,Nature p41) (Nature p27) (Self-reliance p153)

6. Hughes Gertrude Lecture given at the Barfield School of Contemplative Studies, Spring Valley, New York, August 2008.

7. Senge, P., Scharmer, O., Jaworski, J., and Flowers, B., (2004). Presencing: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. New York, New York: Random House Inc.


- by Diana Zinter


I was able to make the journey this summer, traveling to the 63rd latitude to experience this conference in Iceland. There were two attractions: the country itself, and the warm people that I had had a chance to meet at our conference in Whitehorse last summer. (Well, actually there was another attraction- one of the workshops announced within the Conference was on The Horse; when I saw that, I knew this conference was for me!).

The reflection I would like to share is twofold, on the one hand the nature experience and on the other hand the human experience.

Icelandic geography and topography have been alluded to already in the previous articles. It is too intense a presence to not refer to again. The Nature of Iceland is indeed very present, and as intense and fierce as the Norse explorers I studied and remember (still, these many years later!) from elementary school days. There is no escaping its presence- even in the most industrial sections of Reykjavik there were punctuated spaces of rocks, moss and running water between the spare and very ordinary architecture found in industrial centers in cities everywhere. The rocky expressions varied from stern, upright towers and turrets of volcanic rock in the mountains, to flatlands strewn with rocks from volcanic activities of previous years- eerie and reminiscent of moonscape photos. There are few trees, but this did not impact me as I thought it would, as I experienced the sky quite differently. It was as though it was not so high, but very wide- quite opposite to the prairie sky experience that I am familiar with.

It seemed to me that Iceland a country that is waiting, quietly preparing for its future, a sort of paradise in this way. Here, close to the top of the world, is a country where the sea is receding, not rising as in so much of the rest of the world. Iceland is growing larger because of this, year by year, enough that it is possible to measure, as volcanic activity continues to mark the shifting movements of two tectonic plates, bound in opposite directions to one another. I stood on the tip of a tiny island that sits itself upon the Arctic Circle, three hours by ferry north of Iceland, and could feel the sea falling away from my feet- the sea in its power was moving away from me. I could feel a gratitude for gravity that kept the water attached to its spot!

In this quiet and waiting geographical mood are the Icelandic people. I must say what lovely uprightness in posture I saw, everywhere I went. There is clarity and strength of soul that I see reflected in this posture. The people I got to know who made our stay hospitable, warm and welcoming were amazing. Our intrepid bus driver took our wheels through places where I would hesitate to tread in a proper 4 wheel drive vehicle!

Icelanders love their horses, keeping stable space within the city limits, and having extensive urban horse trails in the same way that my city has bike trails. The horses themselves seemed very happy to me, and I saw a social side to these animals that surprised me.

This close relationship to nature that seems such a matter of fact must be reflected in the subtle relationship to the materialized postmodern culture that affects so much of the rest of the world. There is a distinct lack of shopping malls and retail fast food chains; the scarcity of billboards and visual advertisements gave a softness to visual sense experience. The red lights in the university town of Akureyri are heart-shaped…

In this backdrop of nature and sense experience was placed the Conference. The Conference reflection that I would like to share is in the form of a question. I went to morning lectures daily, sang before and went after to my horse workshop as others went off to their particular workshop, and then re-joined the whole group for the late afternoon continuation of the morning. Sometimes this would be the conclusion of the lecture, and sometimes we gathered together and met each other in a circle conversation format. This was a somewhat daunting task for any facilitator, as we were up to 50 or 60 in number for this sharing.

It is one thing to sit as a participant in a lecture hall and be immersed in the vast wisdom of Anthroposophy. It is quite another to sit and share and build thoughts with others in a conversation format. Sharing requires inner activity in a completely different way. I think the use of what Steiner called the higher spiritual senses of hearing, word, thought and another ego become of primary importance. In true listening to words and thoughts and other souls, one must be able to stop one’s own inner activity, and for that listening time the small self ceases to exist. This is the challenge of our time and it is everywhere; how can we listen to one another in such a way that ennobles both the human being and the world? The world faces this question, as does the Society of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophical wisdom of its own substance is not enough to help us with this challenge. We need to work at developing the tools within our own being to meet this threshold in social space: are we up to this work?

Diana Zinter; Calgary, Alberta

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Iceland Conference 2010

- by Carol Lewis

“You Self-Lead Yourself!”  This conference, sponsored by the Anthroposophical Society in Norway, took place in Iceland from June 30 – July 14, 2010.  Its structure, already heralded long in advance of the event, meticulously planned and organized by Sigrun Gunnarsdottir and her helpers, can all be known and perused on the conference website, Click here , or by googling “Wanderseminar 2010”.  This gathering featured presentations by many Scandinavian leaders in the Anthroposophical Society, who had prepared to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Steiner’s lecture cycle, “The Mission of the Folk Souls,” delivered in Oslo in 1910.  In brackets before and after these presentations was the Great Icelandic Road Trip, where participants were led through a touring and hiking experience through the rugged and spectacular landscape of the south Icelandic coast.  Pictures taken by participants can be viewed on the photo website, .  The lectures themselves on the “Folk Soul” cycle—it would have been beneficial to have studied this cycle as thoroughly as had the presenters—led to a clarion call for practice of Steiner’s “ethical individualism”:  what can we as individuals, apart from our ethnic and folk soul constellation, do to make a positive difference in our work together?  

More deeply and vividly, what were some of the impressions and images that made the conference so remarkable?

1).  The People.  Ontario members Christine Tansley, Reinhard and Ineke Rosch and I were met at the Reykjavik Flybus station by a very quiet and gaunt man with dark circles under his eyes wearing jeans, a leather jacket and a black toque pulled down far into his face.  His name was Gudjon, which took me days to learn to pronounce correctly, and while he was indeed the Waldorf school bus driver, as we had surmised, he was also the founder of the school, the building and grounds manager and a former teacher there, a biodynamic farmer, a workshop presenter, and a major force in the Icelandic Anthroposophical Society.  Over the course of the next two weeks, he and his wife Stina drove our tour bus through rivers and up high mountains, helped the hikers up sheer cliffs and down muddy valleys, prepared and served succulent meals of wild-caught salmon and tender Icelandic lamb, and narrated the story of Iceland.  Gudjon also gave an impassioned challenge to take seriously the elemental beings still sensed by the Icelanders, the reality of the spiritual being of the Norse gods and their effect on the human constitution, and the experience of the magnificent, rich and at the same time hostile landscape of fire and ice, formed by titanic cosmic forces.  The love and pride felt by Gudjon and the other Icelanders for their volcanic and glacier-bedecked island is moving and palpable.

2) The Pioneer Experience.  The Laekjarbotnar Waldorf School is twenty years old and consists of four recycled ski chalets on a barren and hilly expanse of countryside, a ten-minute drive beyond Reykjavik.  There are seventy children in the school from kindergarten to age sixteen, combined classes, a playground with some ropes and beams and an abandoned tugboat, a cat and a few chickens, and much joy.  Stina and Solveig, the Grade Three/Four teacher, have supplemented their income with tour guiding.  Solveig goes home at night to help her husband with his woodworking business.  Stina and two of her four children work at the school, driving the buses, preparing hot meals, and teaching subject lessons.  Due to anomalies of Icelandic law, the school could be shut down at any time.  The classrooms are small and simple, but the outdoors is featured, which means long hikes in the hills throughout the year, even in the cold and windy winter when there are only three hours of daylight.  That these families could devote themselves not just to the running of this school, but also to an international conference with several dozen people, fed and billeted on mattresses on the classroom floors, was stunning.  One of my favourite images is that of Gudjon and Stina’s blonde and pigtailed 23-year-old middle daughter, taking a break from driving the conference pickup truck through raging Icelandic rivers, sitting in the cab reading intently what could have been an Icelandic translation of “Harry Potter”, while the group photographed the ravages inflicted on what was once the lagoon beneath the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

3) The Land.  Black hills of eroded lava, covered with bright green moss and purple Arctic thyme, and blue lupins, with the occasional ochre or pale violet rhyolite rock formation, hot rivers and steaming springs and geysers, massive glaciers dusted with volcanic ash, turning pink in the low sun rays, afforded vistas worthy of “The Lord of the Rings.”  There are 300,000 people in an island the size of England, where a few fat sheep and colourful Icelandic ponies comprise most of the animal life, where vegetables grow mainly in greenhouses, and apples were long a special Christmas treat.  In 1930, at a time when Iceland was the poorest country in Western Europe, Sesselju Sigmundsdottir founded a home for needy children, handicapped or simply disadvantaged, under the inspiration of Rudolf Steiner.  Photographs show her wheeling the children in strollers or working with them in the fields in the rocky landscape.  Today Solheimer is a lively and attractively built-up village of 100 adults and numerous buildings, including “Sesseljuhaus”, where the conference lectures and workshops took place, guesthouses where we stayed, and a café which is a showcase for the local organic bakery.  Our tour took place in the pouring rain;  rains and howling winds were frequent and did not deter us from our hiking expeditions;  sunny moments were greeted with delight, as the July temperatures struggled to reach 13 degrees, the sky soon covered again with grey roiling clouds.  And nobody minded.  Just when it felt like the weather couldn’t get any worse, we were led to divinely warm open-air mineral springs, the healing waters that one Englishwoman leaning her head on a neighbouring rock told me she had come to Iceland five times to experience.

4) The Afterglow.  What does this conference mean for us, in the wake of these extraordinary experiences?  One of the most memorable of many conversations took place in the last morning.  Those few of us who had not yet been driven to the airport were sitting around the school picnic table in the playground in the thin Icelandic sun.  We spoke of the valley-of-three-glaciers hike the day before; I alluded to the sudden descent from the barren hills into a little glade of small birch trees, the sun filtering through the green leaves, thick with purple and yellow wildflowers, a rushing glacial brook just behind me.  I said it felt like being back in Eden.  Jonathan from Australia noted, “At that same place, I thought I experienced an elemental being, but when I turned around, it was only Carol!”  Dawn from Switzerland then added, “When you felt that you were in Eden, Carol, perhaps that was in fact what experiencing an elemental being really is!”  We spoke further of the Anthroposophical Society and the importance of encouraging non-members to join it, to stand for anthroposophy in the world, to understand that without the support of the Society, conferences like this one couldn’t happen.  Dawn concluded, “We who are sitting around this picnic table—we are the Anthroposophical Society; it is up to us to make anthroposophy alive and to offer a potluck at our house, to have a conversation, to do anything we can to reach out to anyone interested in the work of Rudolf Steiner.”

Now that I have had an experience of the North—in a country settled by Norsemen who valued their fierce independence, with “the hammer of Thor” pumping ego forces into their blood, more than their comfort—and a vivid experience of what a folk soul can be, it is up to me to bring my individuality to the world—in the words of Oscar Hansen, the venerable leader of the Anthroposophical Society in Denmark, the “Folk Soul” cycle tells us that “nobody else can do what I can do if I understand the gifts I get from being a member of this or that country;  I can look at the world as material for my developing myself;   the individual may thus get help to find his individual contribution to the progress of mankind; what we make out of our souls has a meaning for the whole world.”

Carol Lewis
London Member


- By Chris Wilson

In the Spring 2010 edition of Glimpses, Elizabeth White wrote an article about the Guelph Research Group’s 100th meeting in which she highlighted the fact that we use Goethean Conversation as the practical basis for our studies.   In this follow-up article, I will attempt to give a brief sketch of what Goethean Conversation actually is, from the “user’s point of view” so to speak.  I will also touch on the spiritual background and practical aspects, and will conclude with reasons why one might want to practice Goethean Conversation.   Since this is not a comprehensive article, I strongly urge you to read Marjorie Spock’s “The Art of Goethean Conversation” if the matter interests you.  It is easily accessed on the internet.

So, what is Goethean Conversation?  Let me illustrate it with an every-day experience.   You can probably recall having taken part in some sort of group discussion – anything from a social gathering to a business meeting – when you suddenly became aware that an idea or an insight had been born out of the conversation.  That is to say, no one actually thought of it first, it simply came of its own accord.  You might even have observed how sometimes the same idea occurs to two or three people simultaneously.  In an outward sense, Goethean Conversation is a bit like that.  It is a forum intended for the birth of ideas and insights out of the activity of conversation.  And it is further intended that these ideas and insights should come from the Archangels, specifically those Group Souls who guide mankind.   While this may seem rather far-fetched to some, a glance at the spiritual background will, I think, make it a little more plausible.  

Sergei Prokofieff’s booklet  “The Esoteric Significance of Spiritual Work in Anthroposophical Groups”  (Temple Lodge Publishing, London, UK) sheds considerable light on the spiritual aspect of Goethean Conversation, even though it does not mention it by name.  Chapter 8, titled “The New Group Souls” is particularly helpful and so I will summarize some of the relevant parts.   Prokofieff relates how Rudolf Steiner briefly mentioned the New Group Souls in a lecture on June 1st, 1908.   He describes how they differ from the Old Group Souls in that they fully take into account the freedom of mankind.  And whereas the Old Group Souls controlled the affairs of men to some extent, the New Group Souls are now waiting for man to approach them out of total freedom.  What was originally signaled in the Parzival legend where he had to ask a question of the Grail King, is now becoming a necessity in the age of the Consciousness Soul under the leadership of Michael:  Man must take the initiative in collaborating with the Gods.   Prokofieff adds that in order to approach the New Group Souls, individuals must first gain a knowledge and understanding of them, i.e. the Wisdom imparted by Anthroposophy.  Then, as a group they have to achieve a Harmony of Feelings.  

The revelations given by Goethean Conversation – one might also describe them as “Whisperings of the Gods” – come about in a definite way:  one simply discovers that the idea or insight is there, but cannot trace it back to any previously held thoughts or ideas.  It is a process of perceiving rather than thinking.   I have found Rudolf Steiner’s account of “sense-free” thinking  (Occult Science, p 254 – 255 in the George & Mary Adams translation) to be a very close description of how one actually receives these revelations.  

There is much more to true Goethean Conversation than just sitting around in a circle with a candle in the middle and talking occasionally.  To begin with, a reasonable knowledge of Anthroposophy is essential.  Individual preparation ahead of time that brings the topic to life is important, as is the willingness to then sacrifice all previous thinking for the sake of the Conversation.  All individual feelings of sympathy or antipathy, pride, satisfaction, fear or embarrassment need to be silenced so that each member may feel “at one” with the group.  And considerable inner discipline is required to keep all selfish impulses under control.   This is not to say that you should forfeit or suppress your normal judgment of another member’s contribution or conduct.  In fact I think it important you become absolutely clear just why you may hold a less-than-complimentary opinion.  It’s just in the actions that result from those opinions that you have to exercise great care.  Finally, each member must be granted the freedom to awaken to his or her own shortcomings in “Goethean Conduct”.  This is hard to do, for if you really think it through you will come to the conclusion that you may never criticize another group member’s contributions or conduct.  

As you can see, for each member of the group, all three soul faculties – thinking, feeling and willing – have to be fully engaged and selflessly put at the service of group.  If all this can be done consistently over a number of sessions, the group will become ready for contact with the Gods.

I will conclude by offering some thoughts on why one might want to take up Goethean Conversation.  But first of all I must make it absolutely clear that no one should ever do it for social reasons or because they somehow feel they ought to do it.  Such a person would simply be a burden to the group.   The commitment has to be a “free deed” in the sense of Rudolf Steiner’s The Philosophy of Freedom.   Those who take it up in all sincerity and humility will soon recognize they have started to gain valuable insights into the spiritual world.  They will also discover they can actually feel its presence.  Questions that have been carried for a while may be answered “in private” so to speak, even if it has nothing to do with the topic of the conversation.  In the longer term, and I must make it clear that this is only my own speculation, Goethean Conversation will become increasingly important as more and more of the Old Group Souls withdraw.  Signs of this are everywhere: the recent financial melt-down, chaos in large corporations, institutions and government; the crises in health-care and education; and at least half a dozen failed or failing states throughout the world.   It is part of man’s destiny to awaken to the fact that he has a free choice to work with the Gods, and Goethean Conversation is one of the ways he might do this, if he so chooses.  

Chris Wilson
September 2010

Thomas Meyer - Bibliographical Overview

- by Ann Watson

Thomas Meyer is a resident in Basel Switzerland, where he is fully engaged in Anthroposophical work, although his work is not within the Goetheanum, but as a free lance writer, publisher, lecturer and teacher of Rudolf Steiner's legacy of Spiritual Science.  Thomas puts out a magazine which includes historical and current events seen from the light of an anthroposophical world view.  There are, in his magazine as well, biographical articles, of both the leading anthroposophists and also not-so-well known people around Steiner himself, and also those who lived amd worked in the milieu into which Spiritual Science incarnated at the beginning of our modern era.  Thomas's magazine, which is called 'Der Europaer', and which means 'The European' is published once a month and has been available for subscription for over a decade.

In my opinion however, Thomas Meyer's main contribution to the life of Anthroposophy in our times is definitely his books.  He has written a significant number of books, although (unfortunately) several of them have never become available in the English language.  The ones that have been translated put him into the same category as the most prolific anthroposophical writers of our time.  He has written such monumental, and not adequately appreciated, books as 'D.N.Dunop, A Man Of Our Times'; and the truly amazing book 'Light For The New Millenium'.  These two books alone rank Thomas Meyer as the greatest historian on the work of Rudolf Steiner.  They are also highly educational in coming to an understanding of Rudolf Steiner as the greatest occultist of the twentieth century.  People don't generally realize that in these two above mentioned books the daily life of Anthroposophy's founder comes into view in a way that cannot be experienced from any other source.  For this alone the interested reader owes Thomas Meyer a grateful acknowledgement.

The other books on Thomas's roster are 'Reality, Truth and Evil', a collection of facts about the days in and around the destruction of the Twin Trade Towers in New York City on September 11th 2001.  His book has been acclaimed by the 9 \ 11 Truth Organization for finding facts that no one else writing about these events found.

Also written by Thomas is a small book on the difference between clairvoyance in ancient times and the clairvoyant consciousness that is attainable today.  The title of this book is 'Clairvoyance and Consciousness'.

Another fascinating book by the same author is 'The Death of Merlin'.  This book is a collection of writings by Walter Johannes Stein, one of the most creative spirits in Rudolf Steiner's closest entourage.  To any modern day person, the content of this book is so highly informative on Rosicrucianism that one cannot possibly understand Rudolf Steiner's numerous comments on the topic without it.  Walter Johannes Stein had an encyclopaedic knowledge of reincarnation, alchemy, the mythological perspective of history (such as the Grail) and also of the era of the Middle Ages in general as well as natural medicine and economics.  This is definitely the most fascinating book ever written on these topics.  The short essays in 'The Death Of Merlin' are edited by Thomas Meyer from the magazine that Stein published called 'The Present Age'.  'The Present Age' was brought into circulation by Stein after D N Dunlop, who was his mentor after Rudolf Steiner's death had suddenly passed away.  The two men, Stein and Dunlop were planning to bring this magazine into production together.

Thomas Meyer's most recent book is called 'Rudolf Steiner's Core Mission', and takes you into Steiner's early twenties and follows the unfolding of his ability to research human beings' past lives.   There are many anecdotes that have never before been published as well as other peoples' research in taking Steiner's indications further.  For example, there was, in the times just following Steiner's life an anthroposophist, who did his own historical research into one of the characters in Steiner's autobiography.  He came to a conclusion, as to who this fellow was in a past life, that for anyone interested in Early Christianity, a profound and yet acceptable possibility is presented.  All this you will find in "Rudolf Steiner's Core Mission".  This book, like many of Thomas's books, also gives the reader an informed, objective insight into the years of internal conflict within the  Anthroposophical Society following Rudolf Steiner's death.  This, in my opinion is an important and often overlooked aspect of the Anthroposophical Society's history.  I feel that the anthroposophists of today can't really get a grasp on their relationship to Rudolf Steiner's magnificent edifice without this historical view.

Thomas Meyer's other translated book 'The Bodhisattva Question' describes the history of the Theosophical Movement's grave and terminating error of proclaiming the reincarnation of Christ in the Indian boy Krishnamurti.  I say terminating because this was the event that ultimately ended Rudolf Steiner's relationship with the Theosophical Society.  As well as this, 'The Bodhisattva Question" also covers the time right after Steiner's death when there was a movement to elevate Steiner himself to the position of  Matreiya Buddha.  For those who aren't aware, the Matrieya Buddha is to follow Gautama Buddha in the succession of buddhahood.  Rudolf Steiner talked on this topic numerous times and his comments were then superimposed onto himself by one of the more active  members of the anthroposophical society at that time. At the end of this book there are two lectures by Elizabeth Vreede, who may be a perhaps somewhat obscure member of the original vorstand, who spoke out against the movement that was proclaiming Steiner as Matreiya Buddha.  Whether one has one's own opinion on this or not, the book is written in a light and human way that makes it a captivating and educating read.

Hopefully this is enough information on Thomas Meyer to entice any and all to join Christina Sophia and I in welcoming Thomas Meyer back to North America for his third expedition to this part of our big universe!