Thursday, December 5, 2013

Impressions from the Ontario Member's Meeting, 30 November 2013

- by Treasa O'Driscoll

Forty members of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada gathered at the Christian Community Church on the outskirts of Toronto on November 30. The time had come for a collective review of the Society’s statement of purpose. (See text at the end of this article.)  Drafted in 1953, the original incorporation document was signed by Isabel Grieve, Elsie (Whitehead) Andress and Erna Schon, the occupation ascribed to all three was that of housewife.

One can only guess at the vision and timeliness of their united front. John A. McDonald’s retrospective remark about the shaping of the Canadian Constitution might well be applied to these pioneering women:”Destiny being their guide, they ‘builded’ better than they knew.” The flourishing initiatives that have enriched anthroposophical cultural life in Canada owe a debt of gratitude to their enterprise.

And we were there to wonder at it all.....

Council member, Dorothy LeBaron, welcomed us warmly and set a tone of mindfulness as we sat expectantly in a large circle. The statement of purpose was read out and everyone had a chance to share impressions with the person sitting in the next chair. The buzz of talk revealed that there were as many different points of view being aired as there were people in the room. Fortunately we were not striving for consensus! 

Some had worried that we were congregating to substitute one set of words for another but their fears were soon allayed. An intuitive, hands-on approach to the issue at hand was what artist and teacher, Regine Kurek, ever attuned to the music of what happens, had in mind. She would skillfully and lightheartedly conduct our experiment in colour and form in a two-hour process of discovery.

Divided into two groups of twenty, we clustered around large blank pages spread out on tables that stood some distance apart. Regine invited us to bring some vexing situation, private or public, to mind and then, with deliberate brushstrokes, to apply an artistic representation of the problem on the blank page.  When each person had taken a turn it was somewhat startling to note that the overall impression was one of fragmentation, isolation and protest- that accurately reflected the state of our world.

Relief came when Regine suggested we approach the painting with a healing impulse. Silence reigned as the fervour of creativity took hold and a harmonious weaving of colour brought us into closer collaboration, the work transforming before our eyes into a beautiful picture! The isolated ‘I’ had merged into the communal ‘we’!

We then broke into groups of five to reflect on our experience and the light it shed on the statement of purpose and its revision. These were animated discussions in which sympathy and antipathy were permitted to co-exist. We returned to the process accordingly enlivened and resonating with the question:”What is seeking to come forth and how can I serve?”

Step three of the process gave rise to some angst for we were not to rest on our laurels. Group A was now instructed to take the place of Group B and vice versa and both groups were charged with the task of building on each other’s painting. I had great difficulty in carrying out this step - and when I did tentatively intervene my brushstrokes seemed woefully out of place. Perhaps more time was needed for the exercise-our meeting was drawing to a close....

Returning then to Painting A with other group members, I was delighted to observe how complete our picture now appeared. Somebody from Group B was inspired to insert two eyes - one open, one closed - into the centre of the page, its impact reminiscent of The Treeman in the paintings of Bosch. We named the painting, Seen and Unseen. A line from Kathleen Raine afterwards came to mind.....not in the seen but in the seer, epiphany of the commonplace......

I am full of admiration for members of the present council, Mark McAlister, Regine and others working behind the scenes who brought this meeting about. I hope it provided grist to the mill of their further deliberations on the statement of purpose. Dissemination of principles( included in the 1953 document) is obviously not the strong point of a society that has a relatively small membership given its sixty years of existence. However, mutual support and soul nourishment, along with a love of ideas, make for strong connecting links between members as evidenced on November 30th, 2013.

To sum up - if anybody asks me about the gathering, I will simply say: “It was not about something, it was that something itself! Time seemed to stand still as it ran its course."                                                                                          

Treasa O’Driscoll

Our Purpose, as stated in the Charter:

a) to promote and foster the study of the science of Anthroposophy and the dissemination of its principles, according to the teachings of Dr.Rudolf Steiner, and thereby to promote and foster the development of human brotherhood and the moral, artistic and cultural life of humanity;
b) to enter into such trust arrangements as may be necessary or desirable to enable the use of the income and capital of such trust fund or funds as may be created by or for the Corporation for the study and propagation of the science of Anthroposophy and the more effective carrying out of the objects of the Corporation.


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