Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Letter from Philip Thatcher - Advent 2010

Dear Friends,

During the first week of November the General Secretaries met at the Goetheanum with the Executive Council and section leaders from the School for Spiritual Science. The situation that focused our attention throughout the week is a reduction in the Goetheanum budget for 2011 in the amount of 3,900,000 Swiss francs, just over an equivalent amount in Canadian dollars. This figure takes into account a reduction in members' contributions throughout the world Society, a reduction in donations to the Goetheanum, a decision to remove legacies from the budget, and an amount of 800,000 CHF lost in the exchange of other currencies into the Swiss franc.

The activity on the Goetheanum stage will be reduced substantially once the current production of the Mystery Dramas has run its course, both with respect to drama and eurythmy. The Visual Arts sections of the School for Spiritual Science no longer has a leader or co-workers at the Goetheanum; other sections such as Mathematics and Social Science still have leaders but no longer have co-workers on site; still other sections are in process of determining how their work can go forward. When Cornelius Pietzner steps out of his role as Treasurer in April 2011, his position on the Executive Council will not be filled for the time being. Paul Mackay will act as interim Treasurer for the General Anthroposophical Society.

What I have touched on above is a highlighting of the current situation at the Goetheanum. On another, very human level, live a range of individual responses and soul struggles on the part of those immediately affected: frustration, anger, regret, as well as acceptance of what the situation now requires, along with empathy for those who will not be able to continue as co-workers at the Goetheanum. It was on this level of direct human experience that we as General Secretaries witnessed the immediate effect of the financial situation.

Within the General Secretaries' meetings, the gesture was one of searching for ways of supporting both the Executive Council and section leaders, as distinct from assigning blame for the situation--other than recognizing that perhaps the decision to reduce the budget could have been taken earlier. Yet the increase in anthroposophical activity around the world and the response to a variety of activities at the Goetheanum fed into the hope that in time there would be a corresponding increase in funds directed to the Goetheanum--a hope that was not realized.

For each of us as General Secretaries, the question became: How I and the country society I represent make a relationship to this situation? From European societies with a larger membership, such as Germany and Holland, there was the response of offering to work with the Executive Council on a council to council basis. Out of what we in Canada have tried to bring about in the past several years and given the fact that we are a small society numerically, and geographically removed from the Goetheanum, in what ways can we respond? As a point of departure, I was moved to ask myself: What do I as a member of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada see as essential tasks of the Goetheanum that I am willing to support?

First, I look to the Goetheanum to make visible the being of a worldwide Anthroposophical Society with a task for humanity. This gesture can be embodied both in the work at the Goetheanum and activity around the world, and communicated through organs such as Anthroposophy Worldwide and our country news for members. I am also aware, however, of the extent to which members around the world and here in Canada embody the being of a worldwide society in what they do and who they are. When I meet with you in person, when I speak with you on the phone, I am struck time and again by the depth and breadth of the connections many of you have with anthroposophical life and activity beyond the borders of Canada. Through those connections and the consciousness awakened by and through them, we in Canada embody the being of the Goetheanum as a world society. How then can we make these connections more visible to one another in a way that supports this task of the Goetheanum?

Secondly, I look to the Goetheanum to awaken, nurture, and guard essential organs of spiritual scientific research, wherever these organs may be active and however they may be formed. Rudolf Steiner initially gave these organs the form of sections of the School for Spiritual Science; up to the present time each section has had a leader and co-workers at the Goetheanum. Out of the current financial situation the time may have come to re-imagine the forms needed to embody these essential organs, where they are to be placed in the worldwide working of the School, and the character of the leadership needed to turn this critical moment into a way forward.

In Canada the Council, with the Class Holders and other colleagues in the School, has carried for some time the question as to how to make section work  more visible. Now  may be the moment for us to take up this question in a new way, with other colleagues in the School worldwide.

Running through all of the above is the question: What do we understand and imagine the Goetheanum to be? Is that understanding focused primarily on activity centered in Dornach? Or do we also imagine the Goetheanum as being present throughout the world Society? If so, how can that presence now take new and urgent form?

In the lecture Rudolf Steiner gave on New Year's eve during the 1923-1924 Christmas Conference*, on the anniversary of the burning of the first Goetheanum, he asked for an awareness of and commitment to the Goetheanum as a spiritual reality that no fire can destroy. How then at this present, crucial moment in the life of the Goetheanum can we awaken anew what Rudolf Steiner calls the "spirit of the Goetheanum" and out of that awakening work with our colleagues in Dornach to understand and meet this moment?

In bringing this letter to a close, I want to make us aware of the passing of Linda Link, who lived the latter years of her life on Quadra Island in British Columbia. A  long time and faithful member of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada, Linda was a co-founder of Capers, one of the first health food stores in the lower mainland. She died of pneumonia in June, and I learned only recently of her death. I hope a member of her family will be willing to write of her life for an upcoming issue of Glimpses.

As well, I want to bring to your attention the conference in Finland this coming summer:  I AM--the Inner and Outer Light, which will engage the theme of the Etheric Christ. It will take place from August 3rd through 7th, on Åland Island, off the west coast of Finland. The conference website is: www.innerlight2011.com. This conference follows on in a good way from our conference in Whitehorse in 2009 and last summer's conference in Iceland. I hope some of us will be moved to make that journey.

With good thoughts for Advent,

Philip Thatcher,
General Secretary

*December 31st, 1923, in World History in the Light of Anthroposophy

1 comment:

John said...

Dear Philip,

Thank you for bringing the membership up to date on these very important and troubling developments at the Goetheanum. While funding shortfalls are shaking just about every institution I can think of at the moment, it is still sad to see the same pattern affecting the Anthroposophical Society. But, we are a part of the larger culture too. I don't have solutions to offer, but the Goetheanum's situation is definitely in my thoughts. I wonder if it might be time to inaugurate a tradition of provincial Anthroposophical Society meetings in Canada? I am in BC. Or do provincial meetings already occur?