Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Power of Questions

Reflections of our Annual General Meeting and Conference

- by Micah Edelstein

At our small Ascension festival in Dartmouth, NS, I asked Judy King if I was going to be asked to speak about something at the upcoming AGM in Montreal.  I wanted to be prepared for what was about to be my first AGM experience. Judy smiled and said I might be asked to say something about youth representation. I thanked her for the information and for the travel bursary and began to think about what youth representation could be. I call it the “ youth question.”

I have recently developed a deep appreciation and new understanding for the power of questions. It used to be that I sought answers externally for questions arising within me. We all want answers; it’s natural to seek outer side for to answer to inner questions. Recently I’ve come to understand that the question is everything. Living with the right question is not easy, but what we receive from living with the question is nothing less than a gift from the gods. This same gift is lost in the pursuit of answers. What lives in questions is a glimmer of our divine consciousness. Answers are then the question that has died within us as a result of our own thinking.- a solid type of thinking.  Put another way, answers appear to penetrate into our expanding consciousness like a type of gravity on our souls. The more answers we form the heavier we become inwardly because we have really become like gravity in our consciousness. Gravity thinking attaches a fixed concept to a living breathing consciousness and brings it closer to the earth element. We could say answers trap divine consciousness in the same way that material thinking traps elemental beings.

Working against this tendency is levity consciousness and we experience levity consciousness when we form questions but refrain from attaching concrete answers to them. It was out of this understanding that I have chosen to think about youth representation within the society as a living question without a concrete answer. , Ari-Paul Saunders, another youth member of the society, spoke about the same question in his letter to the AGM. We have agreed to explore this question together. We are hoping that something comes out of our dialogue for the next AGM.

I would like to also mention a wonderful reading I was drawn to before the conference:  The Necessity for New Ways ofSpiritual Knowledge. I found this Steiner lecture spoke to the themes and discussions at the AGM and also offered a deeper perspective on the keynote question of our Social will. I would recommend this lecture to everyone.

The Annual General Meeting
The AGM was a great event all around. I really enjoyed hearing about the different activities across the country, and also sharing my own experiences with the group. I spoke about my experiences with biodynamic education in Nova Scotia and my observations on two types of consciousness. I shared how I have accepted I don’t have the practical experience of most farmers, yet I have been able to give them deeper understandings for some of the mysteries behind the methods. There is a wonderful dialogue that comes out of this dynamic.

In the break out discussion groups after the sharing circle we first explored the question: Out of what you have heard this morning (members contributions), what is living? We then switched groups and explored the question: What needs to change to cultivate this life? It was remarkable to watch how two different questions created one continuous conversation between two different groups. I found the ideas everyone brought forward echoed the same themes presented in the lecture I referred to above. Both Steiner and the members in my group were speaking from the heart and both are true conversations out of the spirit of the time.  I hope everyone is able to continue the work we started in this dialogue in their everyday lives.

The business affairs’ meeting was informative, and concise.  I was impressed with the level of funds held by the Society and I imagined the real possibilities for investing some of the funds into creative initiatives through a type of “creative capital fund”. In my opinion, the three fold social order is a hot topic across North America as we all try to find a better way of living together. I’m excited to see if the Society can begin to explore ways to move funds into the other spheres as investments, or social capital.

The Conference
The Conference was my favorite part about the whole weekend.  Denis Klocek’s two lectures were thought provoking. He seemed to bring many of Rudolf Steiner ideas into a contemporary context connecting them with embryonic and technological discoveries. These gave an interesting perspective and depth to Steiner’s work on consciousness, freedom, the human threefold nature, initiation knowledge, Goethean science and the origins of evil. We met in small groups the following day to reflect on the “challenges of our social will”. I found these conversations to be very inspiring because there were 6 or 7 people all bringing their own anthroposophical  perspectives to the same questions. The conversations were rich, full of zeitgeist and felt like nourishment on many levels.  My hope is that in the future keynote speakers might be encouraged to interact with conference members more intimately, similar to the group discussions.

For the workshops I choose to do Eurythmy and singing. Maria Helms and Eric Oxford were both wonderful at their respective arts. They shared a real love of the art and I came home singing Bonsoir, Bonsoir, to Maria’s Taurus, Leo, Gemini and the selfless I Eurythmy gestures. I really enjoyed all of Maria’s Eurythmy work. It was a real highlight for me.

One last thing I like to share was the joy of being there with friends and also meeting many members for the first time. I also loved the reality of a truly bilingual French/English AGM.  I felt having members who spoke French brought a great deal of insight and humor to whole weekend. It also gave me a great reason to improve my French skills.  

Sincere thanks,
Micah Edelstein


In Memory of Friedrich (Fred) Karl Karter

- by Edna Cox and Gabriele Osborne

 Fred Karter was born on April 10, 1923 in Germany.  As a young man, during World War II, he served with the navy and worked at a hospital in Essen.  His experiences there raised the questions which led him to Anthroposophy and so began his life-long commitment to the work of Rudolf Steiner.  

After the war, Fred worked at a variety of jobs, including coal-mining, while he embarked on a training in accounting. In 1957, he came to seek a better life in Canada  with his wife Gertrud and his three daughters Jutta, Carmen and Gabriele.

They arrived in Vancouver, then lived in  New Westminster.  Here Fred joined Mrs. Mayne's group and met friends to whom he remained close always. He pursued more studies in accounting.  When,  in 1970, he was hired by Chemainus Hospital , the family moved to Thetis Island where Fred built their home.  Another move came in 1972 as  Fred became Administrator of the Port Hardy Hospital.  Fred built  a new home there.  He retired in 1988.  Due to his wife's health,  they moved to Ladysmith in 1993 and then in 2004 to Port Alberni to be nearer to daughter Gabi.

Fred loved reading, so losing his sight to macular degeneration in 2000 significantly changed his life.  He also knew well and loved music, especially the music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart which accompanied him throughout life.  After his wife of 66 years passed on in summer, 2008, he managed well living on his own with the company of his cat, the caring of good neighbours and friends, the contact with extended family and good friends in Germany.
Fred had gifts for organization, gifts of  humour and friendship, of integrity. He was respected by his colleagues and  enjoyed the love of his daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He supported many organizations generously.

During the last 3 years, a small group of friends of Anthroposophy  met in Port Alberni to read together - and to listen tothe music which was so dear to him.

This January 4th, Fred was hospitalized with a lung infection. He crossed the threshold on January 13 with family at his side.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Anthroposophy Ever New

- by Mark McAlister

It’s been said that Alcoholics Anonymous makes it a principle to venerate newcomers.  Their questions are sharp and immediate, and they prevent the organization from becoming complacent and irrelevant.  Is there a lesson here for the Anthroposophical Society?  What would happen if we paid more attention to the questions and concerns of newcomers?

With this in mind, I decided to participate in the Cambridge Music Conference in Vancouver last November.  Elizabeth Carmack (an anthroposophist) was the driving force behind the conference, but the vast majority of the presenters and participants had no direct connection with Anthroposophy. What brought them together was a deep concern for the plight and trauma of people in the justice system (including both perpetrators and survivors of violent crime), and a quest for real and sustainable healing.  Nigel Osbourne (a composer from UK) was a particularly inspiring example.  Working with children in war zones, he has shown how the elements of music can reach to the deepest levels of the human being and bring hope where otherwise there would only be despair.  I did not feel that he was lacking anthroposophy; he was revealing it to me.

One can have similar experiences in meetings of the biodynamic movement.  I have met a number of young farmers in recent years who have a deep connection to Rudolf Steiner and spiritual science and find the anthroposophists to be a little superficial.  Could it be that their relationship to anthroposophy is more direct and active than mine, even though I have been studying for several decades?  I have helped to arrange several small conferences with these folks, and I must say they are teaching me a lot!

I can also share something of my experience at a recent Camphill seminar for 20+ social therapists.  The presenter was Beth Barol, a colleague of Julia Wolfson.  Beth has been serving people with developmental disabilities all her life, and has achieved distinction at all levels in her work in the State of Pennsylvania.  In the seminar, she introduced the biographical timeline tool, and showed us how in even the most difficult cases, they are usually able to compensate for decades of trauma and abuse, and guide the person back to some semblance of a meaningful life. How exciting that a person of this caliber has found her way into the anthroposophical community!  Beth, too, has helped me to see anthroposophy emerging in quite new ways.

Without a doubt, many readers of this article are having similar experiences, and I encourage you to share some of them in this Newsletter.  It seems to me that we will become much stronger as a movement if we pay more attention to what is coming to meet us.

Finally, I should mention that the events described in this article have one thing in common: two or three First Class members were involved in the planning process.  Now that’s productivity!