From the World Society On Verticals and Horizontals

From the World Society On Verticals and Horizontals

Dear Members and Friends of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada,

For twelve months the sun has traveled through the houses of the zodiac to return once more to the place where it stood a year ago looking down upon an unraveling world. For all of humanity the familiar paths of life have folded in upon themselves, becoming knotted and confused. All that had given our days order and constancy; the paths of family and friends, work and leisure, began the journey that has led our lives into cramped circumscribed existences. Life has become a silent chaos that collapses in upon itself.

As we step into a new year, from beneath this silent chaos rises a profound longing.  Universally we seek the community of others. We long to overcome the experience of being hemmed in – to breathe freely once again. This longing rises from a deep golden way that runs straight and true beneath the confusion of what life now seems to be.

This deep guide has led us throughout our lives toward all that is possible, all that life might become. This golden way calls us into movement, calls us to participate. It is this deep need to engage with life that we now experience has been choked off. This binding of our ability to act can also be calling us to perceive more than what our ‘normal life’ would show us. Is this ‘binding’ offering access to what is usually concealed by life’s activity?

We bring this golden way with us as we make the crossing out of our life before birth. With our first breath, with the first awakening of the primal experience of being alive, this guiding way ushers us, carries us into our sense existence. The first significant occurrence, rising up from this ‘path of life’, is beholding the one who cares for us. When the newborn child first sees its mother, against the ocean of undifferentiated sense impressions, is a point of profound significance. It sets in motion the journey that leads us to seek our own being in this new world. This bond between child and mother awakens the foundation of relationship that throughout the years of childhood and youth slowly prepare the ground for us to recognize ourselves, to recognize who ‘I’ am.

What is so extraordinary is that this journey toward finding ‘my self’ lies beyond myself. The infant turns toward its mother, looking up. This deep mood of joy, of anticipation, of completely open receptivity, has a distinct gesture that is fundamental to this journey into life – it is a turning upward. This vertical, lifting up of our inner being is essential for the healthy development of this delicate possibility for a unique individuality to unfold itself.

The infant looks up to its mother, the young child to its parents and family. The toddler looks up to those who nurture it. The student looks up to its teacher. This is an essential and remarkable force in the human soul, one that Rudolf Steiner points out as crucial for the human being to take the first steps toward spiritual development. This is the first essential condition that he points to in the first pages of Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment. This vertical, upward striving within the human being is the essential inner gesture that comes with us across the threshold of birth. It leads us to seek for our self in the world. It leads us to seek for the self in the quiet inwardness of our souls. Our fundamental longing for life is forever drawing us to those who we seek as our teachers, as our guides.

So it has been throughout time. Arising out of this journey into life has come the longing toward what lies beyond life – the greater journey into life beyond this life. Throughout the ages this greater quest has been cultivated, fructified, by those we have turned to as our spiritual teachers. This turning of student to spiritual master, as all life turns to the sun, has immense power. It is the force that builds what becomes our human civilizations. It is this power to seek to fully unfold what it is to be truly human that is the force that calls culture into being. As the infant needs its relationship with its mother in order to take up the journey into life, so the evolving human being needs its relationship with the human community to take up the journey that leads to our true being, to the greater self. Then a new longing rises out of the fabric of life, the fundamental need to ‘be with’ the other – to seek the community of those who we recognize as fellow seekers along our golden way.

In the time of Michaelmas in 1923, an extraordinary event took place. Rudolf Steiner traveled to Norway to found the first group of an Anthroposophical Society that did not yet exist. For us who are accustomed to these ‘country groups’ we can forget how significant this event was. During the previous decades, anthroposophical life had a distinct structure that conformed with spiritual institutions as they had existed in earlier ages. This earlier Anthroposophical Society had followed the form of the Theosophical Society, an earthly association built around a common interest. It was structured vertically with its central organization and chapters, an organization in the outer world.  This was an institution to which Rudolf Steiner did not belong.  Instead, he called to himself his spiritual students for whom he was their teacher in the Esoteric School. This School for inner development also followed the vertical forms of earlier mysteries.

All of this was to go through a fundamental process of metamorphosis after the burning of the Goetheanum. With the inauguration in Norway of the first of what would become a circle of ‘country groups’ came the first manifestations of a newly evolving organism. This developing entity would only fully appear with the Christmas Conference. What then came into being was the remarkable family of communities that we have all been drawn to throughout our lives, guiding us to the circles of fellow students that form our groups.

At the heart of this fundamental transformation is a completely new way of finding those for whom we have sought throughout life. We are now called to seek for those with whom we can stand together in the journey toward ‘our selves’. Rather than turning outward to the spiritual teacher who we look up to with reverence, we are now called to turn in reverence to each other – becoming each other’s teachers, each other’s fellow pupils.

At the base of the great stairway that leads up through the Goetheanum is an enigmatic form. This form is what we meet as we turn to begin our ascent. It has two distinct aspects, gestures. What first catches our attention is a form that seems to be lifting itself up as if seeking for the light. It calls us into up-rightness. We become aware of our spine, as if unfurling from a fetal position. The second aspect of the form sweeps around the first horizontally. We can experience how each gesture is only complete with its complement. The vertical form has its place within the encircling one. The horizontal form is awakened by the upright one. Rudolf Steiner has given us a sign, a glyph for what was to become the foundations of our shared life in the care of Anthroposophia. This sculptural form is the outer expression of what is hidden in the structures of our inner ear – structures that enabled us to stand upright and in so doing find our orientation to the world around us.

As we complete the ascent up the staircase and enter the great space of the Goetheanum, we enter in a most powerful way into the experience of the strength and the mystery of this new Anthroposophical Society of striving individuals. About us is the mighty circle of columns that together create the space that surrounds us. Each individual column lacks significance when separated from the whole. Each has its place, specific and exact. Each stands where it must be within the circle, bearing the weight it is destined to bear. Only in so doing is the whole present. This is the signature for all of our groups, whether they are the groups of people to whom we belong, or whether they are the groups that we long to meet or be with once more – the community that is inseparable from my journey to myself.

It is the loss of this community, that the golden way through life has brought us to, that we experience as a profound soul ache. Does this experience of loss provide us a window through which we are given the possibility of seeing the profound significance that we each play in the lives of each other? Is this great longing a fleeting gift for seeing anew? Can we receive it?