Monday, June 11, 2012

A Report on the 2012 Society AGM and Conference

- by Robert McKay
The 2012 Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada, held in Thornhill Ontario over the May long weekend, was a new approach, that was interesting and, in many ways, a wonderful event. Entitled “Seeds of Transformation for the Anthroposophical Community:  The Seven Arts”, the conference was designed as an experiential journey through the seven art forms. As the approximately 70 conference participants made their way through this journey, they were encouraged to ponder what seeds of transformation are seeking to come alive at this time, in themselves and in our Society. While there were a few glitches (in some sessions participants found it hard to hear clearly) and suggestions for potential improvements, in general as conference participants noted, the basic event design worked well and yielded meaningful experiences:

I felt that the conference was a great success.  I only took part in the painting and in the singing, but, as an observer in the other areas, felt totally included and engaged…I have hardly ever experienced such an enlivening conference within the Anthroposophical Society.  It became clear that through artistic involvement people are stimulated, they connect more easily with each other.  There is frustration, but through the common struggle understanding and sympathy arises.  The more we can work with an artistic approach the richer we and the Society will become.    
     - Renate Krause

Togetherness in pursuit of artistic experiences engenders strength and courage we so much need in our troubled times. 
 - Ilse Black

Made me more open and vulnerable to Anthroposophical community life. Finding that I can be loved, accepted, reflected in others (inspire them & myself) was something I am grateful for.    
- Anonymous

Masterful artistic experience, reflection back, and sharing!  You actually got some of us out of our ruts! I was surprised, had moments of awe, moments of centering, many experiences of broadening. Has inspired.                                      
- Mary Brian

The entire event began and closed with the performance of Rudolf Steiner’s Michael Imagination, as performed by the Northern Star Eurythmy Group.  This brief, powerful piece left a lasting impression.  The complex formations that surround a central figure offer a picture of skillful collaboration in service to a common, higher purpose. 

Following opening remarks by Regine Kurek, the artistic director of the conference, our General Secretary, Arie van Ameringen, sounded a note of genuine esotericism, offering a talk entitled “Rediscovering the Path of the Heart, Creating New Social Forces” in which he wove together disparate indications from Rudolf Steiner’s writings into a rich picture of the heart, at all levels of being, showing how our hearts can guide us forward in earth evolution. 

Over the course of the event, the team of presenters brought their individual stamp to the group artistic experiences which created a complex tapestry and brought many interesting themes to light. On Friday night, the Architecture Workshop provided a hands-on experience that highlighted the relationship between architecture and the evolution of consciousness, with particular reference to the evolving nature of religious feeling and experience. 

On Saturday morning, after a profound free rendering of Class Lesson 11 provided by Bert Chase, conference participants broke into two groups for the Sculpture and Painting Workshops.  In the Painting Workshop, using the wet-on-wet technique, participants were guided through an engaging meditation on the lifecycle of colour.  In the Sculpture Workshop, participants had an experience of shape formation that moved from the solo creative act to the collaborative creative act, evoking the challenges of collaboration in this age of the consciousness soul.  

On Saturday afternoon, the Society AGM occurred with additional participants joining in. (See separate post by Jean Balekian.)
On Saturday evening, the group gathered to engage in the rousing and beautiful Music and Song Workshop, following by the Symposium in which a panel of older people traded questions and responses with a panel of younger people. Of this symposium, one participant wrote:

The symposium was an idea whose time has come and one of the most important aspects of the conference. After we heard in the AGM that the youth contingent of the Anthroposophical Society does not always feel it has enough input, we were then led into a remarkable experience where young and old were engaged in a structured dialogue with each other. Hopefully there will be repetitions and deepenings of this kind of event in future.                                  
- Anonymous

On Sunday, the group again divided for the parallel Creative Writing and Eurythmy Workshops.  In the sharing across forms discussion following these workshops, participants from both groups noted how powerful these events were, with intense inner experiences summoned forth in a short period of time. The conference culminated with the Workshop: Social Life as Art, which was a collective experience. Working with an emergent theme, ‘collaborating creatively in community’, the participants broke into five groups, with each group creating a sounding, moving team sculpture to interpret this theme. These five presentations showed remarkable variation in design and mood.  The group then merged the five presentations into a large group movement and toning experience that began as chaotic and creative, was punctuated by bursts of spontaneous laughter, then became more ordered and soulfully sounding and, finally, as if out of an unspoken yet clear group consensus, came to a harmonious, resonant close.

Not everyone felt a harmonious resonance in all parts of the workshops, especially the ones where we moved in to group creating experiences. However, the mood hovering over the participants at the close of the conference was truly remarkable. For an active Parsifal, for a seeker ready to ask the question, such a moment must bring forth a desire to ask of the spiritual world, in a state of amazement, What is happening here?  What is it that dances and shines out warmly out from the space above us and surrounding us? Perhaps some answers are to be found in comments from the participants that were gathered at the end of the event, gathered as seeds for sharing with the entire community:

I feel like the old and the new are both living. Maybe there is some creative tension. We are striving.  Feels like the seeds are so ready to burst - into the next stage.  Some kind of initiation.  Some kind of visibility through the arts.  It's coming!  We are working together.
      - Anonymous

1) To reflect on all the artistic experiences to sense the being of Anthroposophia that was illuminated, 2) to describe her (again artistically in any medium), 3) to sense what she needs from us, and 4) to extend this artistic practices into the future. 
- Douglas Wylie

        Love, truth, and beauty are born within our community.                       
         - Cameron MacInnes

The shared experiences of the different art forms provided many vessels by which we can meet each other and ourselves in a more complete way.  It is wonderful to come together with our colleagues to generate support and receive inspiration for new ideas and possibilities. The Society has vast potential for building a community that deeply cares about one another. I feel the deep richness of our community and the collective power that lies in between us. 
      - Ari-Paul Saunders

There is a big seed of letting go of old forms, or ways of being, and at a personal and collective level, of active exploration.  Another seed of reverence and tenderness for our striving and thankfulness for the gifts of Anthroposophy in this time of flux.                                                        - Anonymous

It would seem that there has been some personal truths - that have become awarenesses, some wonderful sharings - with new friends and old friends - perhaps a joyousness. Gratefulness for those who have thought through and created this great gathering. 
- Maureen Bellur

The Anthroposophical Society has the task of remembering the so very hidden seed of Man as a being of community.  This needs to be our labour for the coming years. We need to see ourselves as having the task of bringing this into the Society at large.  The stretching of the yet unformed Society muscle - it feels like a very urgent exercise.                                                           
 - Barbara Schuster

Freedom to approach questions “artistically”, to open up the meaning of “inner artist” and pave the way to the possibility of recognizing “Art” as a way of perceiving.             
- Monique Walsh

There will be a place for joyous, care free laughter. Our questions will transform into other questions, not answers. There can be joy socially for this quest.                                                           
- Maggie Keppie

A few final notes, financially the event was a success, enabling the organizing team to forward a seed donation to the team that will begin work on next year’s event to be held next May in Montreal, as well as to contribute to the Members’ Travel Fund. The conference was attended by people from across the country. Several local branches and groups prepared poster presentations that were displayed in a common area, sharing their accomplishments from the previous year. This added a real national dimension. Food provided by Hesperus was wholesome and tasty.

My warm thanks to my fellow organizers, Regine Kurek, Douglas Wylie and Dorothy LeBaron; to Melanie Nason, Mark McAlister, and others who helped with the event logistics; to the members of the Northern Star Eurythmy Group; to our General Secretary Arie van Ameringen; to the team of workshop presenters and panel members; and especially to the brave participants who took up our experimental design and worked through it with such great soul. 

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