Eulogy and/or Celebration
In a world falling apart, with leaders of various nations seemingly going mad, the school of hard knocks and shared pain decided to have a plague.
The idea of a school implies teachers and students … you know, gods&goddesses and such, along with seven billion human beings. On some levels the social-political world is heading for the grave, in need of a eulogy; meanwhile, our myths might suggest celebration – a phoenix does arise from the ashes.
Both are true. The Mystery is. We are loved, and we are still learning how to love each other.
There are a small number of people who know of Rudolf Steiner, or Anthroposophy. All the same, the Mystery, that is Love, is teaching each individual biography precisely what that particular immortal spirit needs. It is not necessary for everyone to know of Anthroposophy and Steiner.
Rudolf Steiner was asked what the future would know of his works. His reply: The Philosophy of Freedom, for the path to Anthroposophy is revealed therein.
What future, in all these rough seas of change, is in store for the institution we call: “The Anthroposophical Society”?
Years ago I wrote a little article, in a tiny (only 23 copies) bit of writing that barely deserves to be called a journal (although I did so label it). I got a friend to hand carry these 23 copies to an anthroposophical/conference gathering in Ann Arbor, in August of 1997.
I put it on my first website. Some folks, who ran a brand new Internet Waldorf store, and resource website, put the two essays, and a poll, in the resource section. They were also American translators of Steiner’s works from German to English.
A European gentleman, who was publishing a real journal of critical thinking about Anthroposophy, on his own initiative translated this work into German, and published it in his journal.
Both asked ahead of acting.
About four years later, I got an email from an American woman, who had been at that Ann Arbor conference, and then, recent to this email, had found and read my journal’s words on the Internet. She told me that at that conference she had been warned to watch out for something “subversive” that was circulating among those attending.
“Subversive” is a political word. Heretical would have been a kind of religious criticism. “Illogical” is okay if there were questions of logic, evidence, and reasoning.
The paper had a dozen or so pages, and was called: “Outlaw Anthroposophy – the journal”, with the subtitle: “another declaration of independence: spiritual science with passion – light and heat”.
The first article was called: “The Study of Rudolf Steiner’s Lecture Cycles, and the Problem of Cognition – musings on the epistemological swampland of the Anthroposophical Movement.” This piece concerned the effects on the thinking of Steiner students due to a failure to learn the practical consequences of what I have been recently calling: “Steiner’s science of knowing”.
It was not a positive set of observations, and the effects continue to this day. The second essay was even more pointed. “The Anthroposophical Society: is it a living social form?”
My view then, and today as well, is that the Society is not living.
The living changes. It undergoes metamorphosis. It is not static, but growing and developing. Should the reader of this want more, that more can be found here: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/oajnr.html
For example, I had once been living near Fair Oaks, CA, where Rudolf Steiner College is, as well as the Faust Branch of the Society. I was gone for 21 years, and on my return the same people were doing the same things. Not only that, of what value was naming a branch on the West Coast of America after an obscure European cultural artifact? In fact, around 1991, when I spoke of American culture, at a conference called: “Conversation in America”, the European sitting next to me remarked: “What culture?”
Social forms tend to become institutions. For example, the Roman Church has only a most tenuous relationship to the Catholic Religion (1). A thoughtful thinker wrote a series of books on what is at first blush, a rather strange idea: “Anti-fragility” (2). His thesis is that if an institution has too much inflexible order, it is fragile, and in the right circumstances will fail.
To survive the rapid changes of the modern world (especially now what with a plague and a lurking economic collapse), an institution needs to be flexible, adaptable, open to dancing in chaos.
As with most spiritual movements, ours is covered in traditions. Annual General Meetings, that are served up like mini-conferences, are mostly required by law, for any organization such as non-profits, to have a meeting where the budgets and the leadership is approved. Mostly form, little substance.
We celebrate festivals, Holy Nights, Easter Weeks, feasts of Michael, and St. John. Michaelmas and Easter on the equinoxes, and Holy Nights and St. John’s Tide on the solstices. As a christian raised in America, up until I meet European anthroposophists, I only knew of Christmas and Easter.
As I watched social life in America accept these additional “traditions”, I also noticed that two American traditions had been lost – at least among American anthroposophists: backyard barbecues and cocktail parties.
The first time I went to an anthroposophical Holy Nights festival, it broke my heart to be asked to sing German carols, in German. Doing Eurythmy is okay, but where was rock ‘n roll, and its obvious erotic attributes? What about singing the songs of Woody Guthrie, and Peter, Paul, and Mary? Or listening to Bob Dylan (3), jazz, country&western, and hip hop?
Americans wear their hearts on their sleeves, while Germans have two different words for “you”, one formal, and the other more intimate.
At one point, I began to label what Europeans anthroposophists did to the native culture of Americans: spiritual imperialism. In addition, Steiner, and other Europeans, such as Carl Stegmann, were clueless as to the facts and importance of the still thriving aboriginal cultures in the Americas.
Yeats was right. The center cannot hold, and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Latent in the world of Steiner readers is a potential. For this potential to be realized we need to celebrate the past, at the same time as we bury it. The centers, such as Dornach, need to surrender – to wash the feet – of the periphery, the study groups and branches, the Waldorf Schools and the biodynamic farms. Why?
Because the day of priests, initiates, gurus, mullahs, masters, and lamas are over. The Mystery speaks directly now to each heart’s mind, and we don’t need traveling “important” speakers, and conferences built solely on a sun-moon dynamic – speaker and listener. Especially in America, where the native folk well knew the value of the circle, and sun-sun living conversation.
Is the Anthroposophical Society flexible enough to adapt itself to the world’s local cultures, without imposing an unconscious European bias? If it isn’t, the structure will fail. Perhaps a very excellent effect of the times, in that then study groups and branches, Waldorf Schools and biodynamic farms, are free to present their experience, in their own – individual – Way.
The centers are in flames. The periphery takes the ashes, and births the phoenix.