Rebel Anthroposophy

Rebel Anthroposophy

A recent conversation with John Beck, director of communications for the Anthroposophical Society in America, got me to wondering about the state of that Society under the pressures of the covid-rite [1] I began then to recall certain thoughts I had shared with the Society in the past [2].

For example, one day – about 15 years ago – Dr. Kelly Sutton [3] wondered to me what it might mean that “the business of America is business”. Today I did some research, and here is the full quote by President Calvin Coolidge Jr.:

After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”

In the following years I often thought about this “idea”, and wondered whether or not the Anthroposophical Society in America should reconfigure itself as a “business”, and as part of Steiner’s Economic Life, rather than as currently conceived – an aspect of the Cultural Life.

My own experience, of the coming into being of the anthroposophical experience in America, was that it had involved a kind of cultural/spiritual imperialism. Beginning in the early years of the 20th Century, many anthroposophists from Europe had come to America, and found places for themselves.

For example, the two major Waldorf teaching training centers – one in Fair Oaks, California, and the other in Spring Valley, New York – were both run for about 20 years by Europeans. Fundamentally, Americans were being taught about their soul life, that it should be modeled on European soul life.

My view is that one of the consequences for Waldorf in America was a series of social blunders. The American teachers were taught, via this spiritual imperialism, by folk who did not truly understand American’s own soul life, and as consequence the soul life of the children, and the soul life of the parents.

Yes, this is overly broad, and there are teachers in American Waldorf Schools [4] who manage to operate with some freedom from the unconscious biases about America, carried by European anthroposophists, such as a kind of excessive assumption that America was the land of Ahriman, from which they would rescue us. Again, these are generalizations, yet I would have to write a long book just to detail the phenomena regarding this situation I have personally observed.

Here is a simple point for purposes of illustration on the social level. The German language has two different words for you – one more formal, and one more intimate. The American, however, wears his heart on his sleeve, is the saying.

This was not done with bad intentions, but rather with a kind of thoughtlessness. Steiner was very clear in pointing out that the soul life of the world’s social aspects of East, Centre, and West, were quite different from each other. Yet, in my experience this possible co-working of West and Centre was never discussed in America, a situation that seems to continue to this day.

The thinking that followed my exchanges with John Beck led me to wondering how much wealth from American anthroposophists goes to the support of what goes on in Dornach, Switzerland. The odd, yet perhaps quite apt thought that followed: Is this taxation without representation?

It is true that a couple of American personalities have been in the leadership in Dornach, but by and large they seem to succeed to the extent they go along with the views in that aging center of anthroposophical life. A major defect in those views is that becoming skilled at quoting Rudolf Steiner is a virtue. In fact, Steiner’s major contribution to our human future is his science of knowing (GA-1 through to GA-4), with which few Society leaders are familiar.

Those discoveries are the key to evolving scientific materialism (all is matter, there is no spirit) towards the deeper truth that spirit is everywhere.

Let me next shift gears a bit.

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder is a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. [5] It’s central thesis is that any social form which is too traditional, or otherwise rigidly organized, is not capable of surviving a period of severe social and political chaos, such as what the covid-rite clearly has engendered.

To that concept let me add the ideas of center and periphery, and of preservers and innovators. In my book American Anthroposophy [6], I write of the Martha and Mary impulses. Martha stays home and keeps the spiritual fires there preserved. Mary goes out into the world, and while confronting it as it is, needs to innovate.

Rudolf Steiner was clearly aware of these seemingly opposite social impulses. We can see this in the fact that he urged, that while centers needed to exist, at the periphery he saw to it that Branches and Study Groups came into being.

The result is that all over the world are these small groups, the leading edge of the work of Anthroposophia in the far away places … a biodynamic farm, a Waldorf School, an anthroposophical medical practice, or even one or more version of “shared living” to support folks with special needs.

A question that has to be seriously considered: Is what the world needs from the Mary innovative impulse, to be taught to revere Steiner in the same fashion as is done where preservation is the need? Or something different. What does the world need/want, as against being taught to read a lot of Steiner lectures?

A major component of the covid-rite is that scientific materialism, in denying spirit, does not understand the reality of either death or illness. Scientific materialism is not anti-fragile, but rather a rigid religion lost in its own confusion, made all the more acute by the present day dying and becoming of “Western” civilization.

It is also understood, in anthroposophical culture, that personal moral freedom is essential. Part of what that means is that the various Centres, such as Dornach, have no business telling the periphery what to do.

If, in American, … if the chief business is business, how does the periphery – the Branches and Study Groups, need to alter their processes in order to become functioning commercial enterprises?

It is my perception of anthroposophical life in America, that Steiner’s science of knowing is paid almost no attention at all. Nor do folk study – in the Branches and Study Groups – the Goethean scientists, whose phenomenological practices find the spirit, yet remain fully involved in the observation of Steiner, that science was the modern Way of Knowledge.

As the covid-rite evolves, there will be a need for many to appreciate how the rigid social institutions (news, politics, and medical experts) all went into failure mode. The Mary impulse can then adapt/innovate in response, by themselves studying and sharing the science of knowing, as well as the Goethean scientists, while at the same time doing this as a local business enterprise.

Folks are used to spiritual knowledge coming in the form of being a product that is sold to willing customers. They will be unfamiliar with Steiner, and most important, those remarkable students who followed Steiner into Goetheanism. They will also want to understand the covid-rite … to find an underlying way to perceive these trials via a means that is dedicated to evolving scientific materialism, beyond its now obvious defects.





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