Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Letter from Philip Thatcher - March 2011

Dear Friends,

During the week of February 13th, I received word of the deaths of three persons in our Thornhill anthroposophical community in Ontario. Robert Nason and Michelle Monkhouse died early in the week; both were in their twenties and their unexpected deaths have shaken their families and friends. Veronica Jackson died on the Friday of that week, bringing to a culmination her struggle with cancer and her life of service within and beyond the Camphill community in Ontario.

As I have carried this trinity of individuals crossing the threshold in my heart and thoughts, I have lived with the timing of their deaths. Then I awoke a few mornings ago with a clear moment of recognition: Is it possible that Veronica crossed the threshold when she did in order to support Robert and Michelle?--saying, in effect, to her illness: The time is now at hand, I am urgently needed on the other side, and you can finish your task in my life so that I can cross over.

I can only hold such a thought as a possibility, yet one that would be fully congruent with the Veronica Jackson I came to know in the past several years--a mature, compassionate student of anthroposophy, ready to serve fellow human beings whenever and however that service was needed.

Is it then possible that we who became aware of these three crossings of the threshold witnessed a karmic deed? And if so, what manner of karmic deed? A deed born out of relationships coming from the past, or out of the profound reconfiguring of karma now possible within the being and presence of Christ as lord of Karma?

It was only toward the close of his life that Rudolf Steiner could bring the full extent of his research into karma and show how the Christ event has affected the working of karma in our lives. Yet he said that bringing this picture of reincarnation and karma out of spiritual science was the core task of his life. Therefore, it is fitting that we take up this aspect of his work at this year's Annual General meeting in Vancouver in May, in the context of celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The theme for the AGM conference will be: How Can Karma Heal? Let me introduce the theme with an incident from the story of Parzival. As Parzival awakens to his resolve to return to the Grail Castle and speak the healing question to Anfortas, Gawan stands alongside him and is accused of dishonourably killing a king. Gawan is dumbfounded, yet must answer the challenge handed to him by his accuser; he must obey this karmic moment even though he cannot as yet find an inner relationship to it. Yet through this act of obedience and the encounters that it brings, Gawan is led, step by step, into the Land of Wonders. This is the Land where Anfortas was wounded and the Land which must be healed before Parzival and his story can pierce through to the Grail Castle. Gawan's taking of responsibility for this Land and its healing begins with him staring into a karmic moment and asking: Why is this happening to me?

It is within this context of karmic riddles, and sometimes knots, that I want to take up the motion that has been submitted to the Annual General Meeting in April at the Goetheanum, seeking a vote of non-confidence in the Executive Council and setting forth a process for selecting a new Executive Council. The motion in full will appear in the next issue of Anthroposophy Worldwide. Our Council and circle of Class Holders have been carrying this situation in our hearts and thoughts, and a letter from Monique and me on behalf of our Council will soon be coming to you.

This motion has been put forward in the context of decisions recently made at the Goetheanum that have affected the Visual Arts Section of the School for Spiritual Science. Many members of this Section feel they have yet to receive from the Executive Council the clarity they need as to why their section no longer has a leader and co-workers at the Goetheanum. For them the current financial situation alone does not account for this decision.

I can understand the distress of our colleagues within the Visual Arts Section and am concerned that there be resolution of their relationship with the Executive Council and others at the Goetheanum. It would be a loss to all of us in the Anthroposophical Society if these artists came to feel that they must turn away from the Goetheanum and even the School for Spiritual Science. Yet I also value the way each member of the Executive Council carries an understanding of the Anthroposophical Society as a world society and works toward making that understanding a reality. Executive Council members have supported and participated in the life of our Society in Canada in a variety of ways over the past several years. From my meetings with them at the Goetheanum, I further know of the extent to which they have gone to work through the difficult situations that have come to them. They are a committed circle of colleagues. Should this narrowly conceived motion prove successful, I cannot imagine that the process set forth in it for selecting a new Executive Council would result in a configuration of persons as capable of enabling a worldwide Anthroposophical Society.

As I have lived with this situation, and like situations during my time as General Secretary, I have continued to search for a way of comprehending what is wanting to be recognized. In her book, The Challenge of Spiritual Language, Martina Maria Sam suggests that the image of approaching a question or situation "from various sides around an open middle" is a reflection of Rudolf Steiner's practice of characterizing thoughts or situations, rather than defining them. In a situation such as the one precipitated by this motion, there is a tendency for each of the points of view in the air or wanting to go into the will to claim that open middle for itself. So I suggest that we in Canada work at comprehending this particular situation in a manner similar to that with which we best comprehend our land and our Society--by placing as many perspectives as come to us, including those I have brought in this letter, along the periphery and letting light shine through them into that open middle. For out of that practice of comprehending from the periphery, with a true Johannine understanding of what it is to comprehend, we may discern the movement of ways forward not yet seen.

This letter is my last to you as General Secretary for Canada. During the past seven years, many of you from across the country have welcomed me into your circles of anthroposophical work and into your lives. Within the human meetings that are at the heart of all that Rudolf Steiner wanted to make possible through spiritual science, we have sought together to comprehend what is being asked of us as the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. Thank you, one and all, for what you have given to me; I have grown in many ways through knowing you.

This coming May members present at our Annual General Meeting in Vancouver will have the opportunity to confirm Arie van Ameringen as our next General Secretary. Paul Mackay will be present at that meeting on behalf of the Executive Council. I have come to know Arie as a valued colleague on our Council and extend to him my full support for this step in his life, with gratitude for his being ready to serve us as General Secretary for Canada.

Philip Thatcher,
General Secretary

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