Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Motto of Social Ethics

- by James Gillen

Below is a new translation of Rudolf Steiner's Motto of Social Ethics (1), given to Edith Maryon, sculptress and co-worker with Rudolf Steiner and a member of the initial Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society, as a book inscription, November 5, 1920. (2)

The Motto is widely cited in a free but unfortunately flawed translation by George and Mary Adams.  A fresh attempt is made in this version to render the exact and literal meaning of the original verse , by focusing on its in-built turning of attention towards an essential 'ideal' tension between community form and community life.

The former is given as imaginal, reflective 'shapes', inspired through archetypal qualities of the Human Soul (its threefold functional nature); the latter is entirely dependent on the real, active pulsating deeds of individual human beings acting freely, whose soul forces are then experienced in the community as the wellsprings of life. This ideal tension between imaginal community form which takes shape in the mirror of the Human Soul, and the reality of community which is filled from the living power of the individual soul (when it acts freely) - this tension builds holistic functional hygiene between all interweavings of psyche and society or commonweal.

It is only wholesome when
In the mirror of the Human Soul
the whole community takes shape
and in the community
lives the strength of the individual soul.

This is the Motto of Social Ethics.

Heilsam is nur, wenn
Im Spiegel der Menschenseele
Sich bildet die ganze Gemeinschaft
Und in der Gemeinschaft
Lebet der einzelseele Kraft

Das ist das Motto der Sozialethik.

GA 263a

Ruminations From a non-Orthodox Anthroposophist

- by Niels von Meyenfeldt

Is it possible to be an anthroposophist and yet not be comfortable with the institutional practices of Anthroposophy?  I mean the members’ meetings, prescriptive meditative practices, one’s position in the hierarchy, the social rituals, the presence of an elite of speakers and lecture-givers who tend to be self-perpetuating?  And, most importantly, the pre-eminence of Rudolf Steiner, who shows us the way, and what a complex, demanding way it is! 

Frances Edmunds once said, “anthroposophy is ‘he next person I meet.”  (See Mark McAlister’s article in the October issue.)  But does that suffice?  Are all our practices, taken in a deeper, more spiritual sense, really only a kind of stage play for the important business of encountering one another as spiritual beings?

I have struggled greatly over the years, both as a simple member listening and observing (rather passively) and also as a purveyor or carrier of anthroposophy in different roles, to achieve a sense of being at one with the people I’m with. A sense of profound connectedness in the pursuit of spiritual understanding and growth is not what I’m finding.  I share this impression with others who happen to be personal friends. Maybe we are a rebel clique! But in fact, these friends have worked devotedly out of anthroposophy as teachers and therapists most of their adult lives. Objectively speaking, it is I who seek a connectedness with others in my spiritual striving.  I even suspect that for me this connectedness is a precondition for group work - that must be won through an intense effort of communication and empathy that is interpersonal. If that effort is not willingly and jointly made, not much will come of the work.

This is a discussion about form and roles and even about gratitude. I am grateful for having the opportunity to unburden myself about anthoposophy; so much of what we do is about upholding the edifice and somehow that means putting on a good show, being confident and knowing - doubt, vulnerability and openness take a lesser seat, but are they less important in the scheme of things?  The edifice of anthroposophy is how I used to feel about my parents as a young person - they provided the form and support I needed that but ultimately I had to develop my own forms, my ways of being, so that later I could become friends with them and know them more fully. 

I think there is too much form in what we do and not enough process.  In upholding form,
even out of love, we play into assuming roles and playing roles makes it hard to meet others. We think roles are essential, that if we abandon them, the edifice will fall or that we will lose our sense of belonging.  However, if we consider the teachings of anthroposophy, we must know that we need not lose anything in the eternal unless we freely chose to do so.

The action of meeting the other is a process and a very delicate one at that.  How do we
prepare and practice for this?  How can we affirm our connectedness, not only through spiritual knowledge, but also through deeply humanistic processes?  This is where we need to be creative. Anthroposophy offers help in the practice of Goethean conversation, insights on the nature of our astral bodies and wonderful meditative poems by Steiner. Contemporary humanistic psychology is also a rich source of helpful practices.  But I would go further and propose crossing a line that exists in our work - between the personal and the impersonal - to share our experiences more openly, even our uncertainties and failures.  If we truly uphold the legacy of Rudolf Steiner, then it is
entirely forgivable to fall short of our goals, for soon enough we’ll be in the spiritual world where new possibilities await us.  Any real relationship will have its ups and downs but the relationship cannot be denied. And so it is with my relationship with anthroposophy. It is a process, informed by form, but not dominated by form.  I have to care a lot about the form if it is to part of my process. 

Here in the Comox Valley, a few dedicated friends continue to explore new ways of making anthroposophy come alive for us. We are mostly First Class members who are completely truthful with each other about the efficacy of the class lessons (for us) and about our thoughts and feelings in general. We are interested in the arts and supporting fledgling initiatives in our area and currently hoping to build our work on what interests us and where we already have experience - where education, art and therapy overlap.

The Christ Impulse and Waldorf Education

Thoughts from an inspiring conference with Dorit Winter

- by Warren Cohen

A hundred Waldorf educators, administrators and parents came together on November 8-9 to explore spiritual questions in Waldorf pedagogy.  Dorit Winter, the director of the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training, led us with two intensive keynote lectures:
What are the esoteric roots of Waldorf education, and how are we nourished by this source?
How are these esoteric roots reflected in the Waldorf curriculum?

Dorit dove into these challenging questions with rigour and led us on a rewarding journey through many of Rudolf Steiner's core insights into the spiritual nature of the human being. It is in working through this knowledge of the true spiritual nature of the human being that Waldorf pedagogy so distinguishes itself from other streams in education. Dorit reminded us that all of anthroposophy is permeated and is founded upon the fact that the Christ Impulse plays a central role in human development and equally in the development of humanity. Christ gives to each person a living imprint of that which lies in potential for all of humanity, the possibility of becoming capable of both freedom and unconditional love.  This development is not guaranteed for all people, but may come to fruition through a combination of hard work and grace.

The Christ Impulse
In Steiner’s lectures to the teachers at the first Waldorf school, he stated that the Christ is the teacher's teacher. The Christ inspires the highest self of the teacher to address that which is highest in the becoming of the child. The Christ Impulse is implicit in most of Steiner's books and lectures and is often discussed explicitly as well. There simply is no avoiding the connection between the Christ Impulse (also the Christ Being) and Waldorf education. But what does he mean by the Christ Impulse? Steiner employs a great variety of terms to characterize that which lies as a spiritual archetype for human development, the spiritual ideal towards which human beings may strive. These include: Christ Impulse, Christ, Christ Being, Representative of Humanity, Human Archetype, Macrocosm…. These represent the spiritual fount that has impacted all people regardless of race, religion or belief. In fact, Steiner describes the spiritual being, Christ, as standing beyond religion (although claimed and shaped by many) and applying to all peoples.

Nevertheless, this term carries with it a lot of cultural baggage and can easily be confusing. Rather than hide from this challenge and possible confusion, it is incumbent upon us as Waldorf educators to penetrate it with our conscious striving for truth. It is our task to see if actively working with these insights can inspire a deeper level of pedagogy, colleagueship and humanity.

Dorit suggested that the best way to get to know the Christ Being (Impulse) is through observing and interacting with children before the age of 3 1/2. These young children are learning at a miraculous pace how to walk, talk and then think. Never again in their lives can humans assimilate so much wisdom seemingly from thin air. This is because at this age the highest spiritual wisdom is pouring directly into developing children. They are wide open and remarkably receptive. Imagine for a moment if a person were able to learn how to learn again in this way. Imagine what might become possible. What might the adult equivalent be to learning how to walk, talk and think?

Living thinking
Dorit encouraged teachers to develop a "living thinking", a capacity to think that is mobile and can respond to each individual situation both creatively and responsibly. But, she cautioned that it is hard work to stay in this active and open in the realm of thinking. It can at times feel like "ants swarming in your brain." This discomfort brings with it new possibilities. We cannot solve existing problems with the same thinking that has led us into them. We must develop new, intuitive, interconnected thinking that can grow and change with each situation. This in fact is one of the foremost tasks of Waldorf education: to foster the capacity for living and compassionate thinking in the students. This is a path of education that leads children towards wholeness and freedom.

Dorit offered so much more with many well researched citations. Perhaps it would be best to end this report with the thought that true self confidence rests upon trust in God. This trust can become an ever-flowing fount for life and a deep source of modesty:

"Not me, but Christ in me."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

La réunion du Conseil à Ottawa, octobre 2013

 - Dorothy LeBaron

Chers amis,

Durant le weekend de l’Action de grâces, les membres du Conseil et le Secrétaire général se sont réunis à Ottawa. Pendant une de ces 3 journées de travail, notre administrateur est venu se joindre à notre rencontre. Les membres d’Ottawa nous ont accueillis avec beaucoup de chaleur, nous ont logés et nous ont même préparé un délicieux repas de l’Action de grâces. Au cours d’une rencontre stimulante avec les membres, nous avons entendu ceux-ci nous décrire comment l’anthroposophie vit à Ottawa et les avons invités à collaborer avec nous pour étudier et éventuellement réviser la déclaration des objectifs de la Société.

Nous, les membres du Conseil, avons commencé notre travail comme de coutume en entendant la Méditation de la Pierre de Fondation. Après avoir pris des nouvelles de chacun et reçu une mise à jour des activités des différentes régions de notre pays, nous avons entrepris l’étude du dernier chapitre de la Philosophie de la Liberté. En plus de l’étude, l’activité artistique fait elle aussi partie intégrante de nos rencontres et fournit une profondeur supplémentaire à notre travail ensemble. Cette année, l’activité artistique comprenait aussi une dimension biographique pour nous aider à identifier et à travailler avec des défis personnels. Arriver à percevoir notre propre « ombre » nous aide à faire du chemin dans nos efforts pour nous soutenir mutuellement et pour travailler ensemble.

Nous continuons notre travail en vue de développer une Imagination de notre Conseil : cultiver une culture de communication; entendre la voix des membres; rendre visibles nos activités et nous-mêmes. Nous trouvons essentiel de travailler dans une ambiance digne de la Pierre de Fondation. Notre façon de présenter quelque chose et de l’exprimer doit être en harmonie avec cette impulsion. Qu’est-ce que l’anthroposophie de nos jours? Quel doit devenir le but même de notre Société? Voilà les questions fondamentales que nous tentons d’approfondir alors que nous entamons le dialogue avec nos membres dans le processus de révision de notre déclaration des objectifs de la Société.

Pour le volet administratif, nous avons passé du temps à réviser et à préciser les nouveaux règlements proposés. Ceci représente une tâche importante cette année, car nous sommes maintenant obligés de demander un certificat de prorogation (certificat de maintien) pour conserver notre statut d’organisme de bienfaisance. Nous avons travaillé avec notre administrateur pour redéfinir son rôle et sa responsabilité croissante dans le domaine de la communication, à la fois à l’intérieur de la Société et avec le grand public.

 Le Conseil est heureux d’annoncer l’engagement de Lynn Lagroix comme nouveau comptable pour la SAC. Lynn a beaucoup d’années d’expérience professionnelle en comptabilité et nous aide déjà dans la mise à jour et la préparation des livres en vue de la fin de notre année fiscale et de la mission de vérification annuelle. Elle a travaillé au sein d’autres organisations sur le campus de Thornhill.

La Société s’est donné cette nouvelle orientation pour faire face aux complexités croissantes du volet des finances et des exigences gouvernementales.

Le Conseil, avec le concours de Mark McAlister, aidera Lynn à assumer son nouveau rôle. Nous vous prions de lui souhaiter chaleureusement la bienvenue.

Et nous exprimons nos remerciements les plus sincères à notre trésorier, Douglas Wylie, pour son travail et pour avoir mis en place les éléments nous permettant de faire ce pas en avant, si essentiel pour le bon fonctionnement futur de notre Société.

En ce qui a trait au proche avenir, nous cherchons activement un membre de la côte Ouest pour faire partie du Conseil. Nous poursuivons la construction de notre site web. Notre Secrétaire général a déployé beaucoup d’énergie pour faire venir des conférenciers du Goethéanum, surtout lorsque ces individus se trouvaient déjà en Amérique du Nord. Nous tenons absolument à continuer à appuyer des efforts dans ce sens. Nous avons échangé sur la question d’un possible appui financier pour encourager des initiatives relatives aux Drames-Mystères. Nous envisageons avec enthousiasme la rencontre avec les lecteurs de classe et les membres à Toronto prévu pour janvier.

Nous trouvons fort inspirants notre travail ensemble et la collaboration active des membres de la Société. Nous vous remercions de votre appui et vous souhaitons beaucoup de chaleur et de lumière en ce temps de l’année. 

Dorothy LeBaron au nom du Conseil

Monday, November 11, 2013

Council Meeting In Ottawa

- by Dorothy LeBaron

Dear Friends,

During Thanksgiving weekend Council members and General Secretary met in Ottawa. We were joined for a day by our administrator. We were warmly welcomed by members in Ottawa, and greatly appreciated our accommodations, a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, and an enlivening meeting with members where we heard how anthroposophy lives in Ottawa, and invited collaboration for reviewing/renewing our statement of purpose.

Council members began work together as we always do, with the reading of the Foundation Stone Meditation. After a check- in with each other and about various activities across the country, we studied the last chapter in The Philosophy of Freedom. As well as the study, artistic work is very important for us. It brings a deeper way of working together. This year we engaged in a biography/art process to help us identify and work with personal challenge. Through being able to perceive our own “shadow,” we are better able to support each other and work as a whole.

We continue to develop our Imagination of the Council, cultivating a culture of communication, of hearing from members, of making our activities and each other visible. It is important to work in a way that creates a mood of the Foundation Stone. How we bring something, how we say it, needs to connect to this impulse. What is anthroposophy today? What is the purpose of our Society becoming? This is a research for us, as we engage with members in a process this year of reviewing the statement of our purpose.

In administrative work, we spent time reviewing and refining proposed new by-laws, a major work for us this year, which is now required to apply for a Certificate of Continuance to keep our status as a not-for-profit organization. We worked with our Administrator to redefine his role, as it moves towards a greater responsibility in the area of communications and outreach.

The council is pleased to announce that we have contracted Lynn Lagroix as the new ASC bookkeeper.  Lynn has many years of professional bookkeeping experience and is already helping us update and prepare for our upcoming yearend accounting and subsequent review engagement. She has worked in other organizations on the Thornhill campus.

This new direction for the Society has been taken to respond to the increased complexities that we are facing with respect to Society finances and associated government regulations.  

Council, along with Mark McAlister, will help Lynn take on her full role. Please give Lynn a warm welcome in her new position.

Thank-you to our Treasurer Douglas Wylie for his work and commitment to make this needed step.

As we look into the near future, we are actively looking for a Council member from the West. We are still developing our website. Our General Secretary has been very active in inviting visiting speakers from the Goetheanum to Canada, especially when they are already in North America. This is something we want to continue to support. We spoke about Council support for Mystery Drama initiatives. We look forward to meeting with Society members and with Class Holders in Toronto in January.

We are excited by working together and the growing strength of our collaboration in the Society. We thank you for your support and wish you warmth and light at this time of year.

Dorothy LeBaron on behalf of the Council