Monday, December 2, 2013

Seminar at Acadia University

- by Maggie Keppie

On November 14 of this year Maggie Keppie offered an introductory talk on anthroposophy as part of a Thursday lunchtime seminar series at Acadia University in Wolfville.  The series offers free talks on a variety of topics to members of the university community and the public at large.  Members of the audience come from all walks of life, are generally retired, and typically number about 20 to 25 for any given seminar.  Thirty people showed up for Maggie's talk, including a few who had read some of Rudolf Steiner's works earlier in their lives, several with experience in bio-dynamic farming or Waldorf education, and one who knew and used Weleda products.

Using a power point presentation to share pictures of the Goetheanum as it was first constructed, Maggie pointed out its unique architecture, organic style, and comprehensive artistic expression.  From this, the question arose:  Who was Goethe, for whom this astonishing building was named? And related to this, Who was Rudolf Steiner, who designed and oversaw its construction?  This led to a brief look at the 18th century Enlightenment in Europe, and its connections with Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.   Maggie then indicated how the gift of a copy of Goethe's Rosicrucian fairy tale, The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, to Rudolf on his 21st birthday had made a lasting impression, especially in light of the deep wisdom he had already encountered through Felix, a licensed herb gatherer, and an individual whom Rudolf Steiner calls in his autobiography simply, The Master. 

Themes and interests arising from these contacts continued to occupy Rudolf Steiner throughout his life, as he first pursued his own academic studies in philosophy and science, and then went on to write and edit numerous books and essays.  Further slides illustrated some of these, before highlighting the profound change that came about in Rudolf Steiner's public life at the turn of the century when he connected with Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society and began speaking openly and lecturing widely about his spiritual insights and understandings.

Rudolf Steiner disengaged from theosophy after a few years in order to develop his new focus of anthroposophy.  Together with his future wife, Marie, Rudolf Steiner encouraged this new energy to blossom and come to expression in a variety of ways.  Using a wide selection of pictures to illustrate eurythmy, the mystery dramas, the threefold social order, Waldorf education, biodynamic farming, and anthroposophical medicines, Maggie directed attention to the many varied aspects of applied anthroposophy that arose in Europe during and immediately following WWI with such promise. 

All of this underscored the importance of the Goetheanum, and pointed to its function as the centre of anthroposophical endeavour at the time.  So the horror of the night of fire when this astonishing building was destroyed came as a real shock to Maggie's audience, echoing - albeit faintly - something of the horror and shock that must have affected all those in the anthroposophical community at the time the fire actually raged. 

Affirmation of Goethe's initial inspiration, as well as of anthroposophy itself, of course soon emerged as the Goetheanum was built anew out of fire-proof concrete.  To bring her talk to a close, Maggie used slides again to document the strange beauty of this second Goetheanum, and to point out that it continues to serve as a focal point for anthroposophical endeavour throughout the world.

During the hour-long presentation all members of the audience showed clear interest in the topic and gave full attention to Maggie and the slides she presented.   Regrettably, there was no time for questions, discussion, or response immediately following the talk, although later a number of people did make a point to acknowledge Maggie's evident passion and preparation for the presentation, the huge scope of the topic, the fact that few people had even heard of anthroposophy although they could now sense something of its import, and their interest in having a short course to allow more in-depth exploration and discussion of at least some of what had emerged in this seminar.

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