Section of What?

Section of What?

It may seem difficult to make sense of the various parts of the Anthroposophical Society at first, but the wisdom inherent in them becomes ever more apparent over time.  This has been increasingly evident at meetings of the North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science.  At our most recent meeting, which took place in Chestnut Ridge, NY in October, we worked together to assess how this inner integrity of the movement, Society and its School could be strengthened and made more visible.

In the months following the tragic burning of the Goetheanum, which had made visible the spiritual content of anthroposophy through the arts, Rudolf Steiner encouraged the founding of national anthroposophical societies.  Then, at the end of the year, he re-founded the General Anthroposophical Society.  He entrusted the Foundation Stone Meditation to the hearts of the members and created at the core of the Society a School for Spiritual Science, which was entrusted with the task of spiritual research.  Membership in the Society was open to anyone who experienced the value of what had arisen from spiritual science at the Goetheanum and wanted to support its continuing existence.  Membership in the School, after the initial group of students was admitted, was open to those who had been members of the Society for approximately 2 years and, as a fruit of their study of anthroposophy, found themselves in a position of representing anthroposophy through their lives and work or wishing to do so.

The core of the schooling is cultivated in a series of 19 Class Lessons with mantras as a common, rhythmic, life-long path of learning for all of its pupils.  It enables them to face how thinking, feeling and willing have been distorted by the forces at work in our time, and to know how, gradually, with the support of higher beings, they can come to know their own true being. Whoever joins this School is joining a research community known as the General Anthroposophical Section.  The research involves ever deepening participation in the transformation of consciousness and culture, with the ultimate purpose of serving the needs of the world.  It alternates between solitary meditative work and sharing the Lessons together with other members of the School.

The School also consists of Sections devoted to vocations in the arts, agriculture, science and mathematics, education, social life, and healing, plus a Section for the spiritual striving of youth.  Each of these Sections cultivates research in its own field.  For example, in the Pedagogical Section there is current research to address anxiety in children and the effects of technology and how to mitigate them.  There is also intersectional work, as when a doctor collaborates with teachers and artistic therapists to address the needs of a child.

At first the Sections were all centered at the Goetheanum but since 1980 they have been increasingly active on this continent, and in 1998 a North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science was inaugurated to allow the wholeness of the School to find a center here.  The Canadian and US Societies are present in this group through their General Secretaries, and Joan Sleigh has now followed Virginia Sease as a member from the Goetheanum.

The North American Collegium discovered that over time this ideal picture has become fragmented.  It does not breathe as a living organism from the periphery to the center and back out to the periphery.  Rather, as the fields of outer work have grown they have become increasingly separated from the wellspring out of which they originated. An unintended egoism has crept in as each of the fields of work inspired by anthroposophy has become a world unto itself, and teachers, farmers, therapists may lose sight of the fact that the anthroposophical movement was intended to become a sun-like, radiating, multifaceted impulse to heal the materialistic grip on civilization.  Only a vibrant, enthusiastic Anthroposophical Society can support this endeavor.  And only a committed, earnest School for Spiritual Science can keep it inwardly alive.  The Collegium is working to awaken a greater awareness of the whole.  The Canadian and US Societies have each developed differently and can help and complement one another.  We are seeking greater collaboration with their Society Councils and with the Class Holders, who introduce new members to the School and are responsible for holding the Class Lessons in their locale.

As the North American Collegium prepares for the centennial in 2023/4, we see two challenges that are related to the gap between the anthroposophical activities in the world and the Anthroposophical Society and the School for Spiritual Science. Whereas we are pleased and grateful that the US Society is no longer in financial crisis and is able to have a balanced budget, we recognize that this has been achieved by severely cutting its support to the School, which, as we know from Rudolf Steiner’s Statutes, is one of its primary tasks.  We heard in our recent meeting that two of the Section Councils have not been able to meet face to face for lack of travel assistance.  The Performing Arts Section is unable to move forward with its plan to have a conference on humanity’s changing relation to Time and its consequences. If every Waldorf teacher, biodynamic farmer, eurythmist, therapist and co-worker in anthroposophically inspired institutions were to make a modest contribution to the Anthroposophical Society, what a difference this would make!

People generally meet the impulse of anthroposophy through the so-called ‘daughter movements’ rather than directly through the Anthroposophical Society, and they may never even hear of its existence or importance.  Yet in the Statutes, Rudolf Steiner provided for the possibility of members with common interests to be able to apply for recognition and inclusion in the Society as interest groups.  Could this allow anthroposophically inspired institutions to affiliate with the Society in addition to individual members?  What about creating opportunities for people to join the Society in the place where they participate in anthroposophical work and study?  These are questions, prompted by the recent letter from John Bloom, Bert Chase and Arie van Ameringen, which we are exploring with our colleagues in the Society Councils.

Mindful of the necessity to pass on its responsibilities to the next generation, but also aware that some of the Section Councils have been hindered by finances from inviting newer members, each Collegium member is encouraged to bring a younger colleague as a guest to its spring meeting.  Through this we hope to benefit from their more youthful perspective and widen the circle of people who grasp the importance of supporting the whole and not only their particular Section.

Alecture on Feb 6, 1923 in Awakening to Community, by Rudolf Steiner might seem relevant here:

“It is time to be absolutely serious about anthroposophical work, and all the single movements must work together to achieve this goal. We cannot rest content to have a separate Waldorf School movement, a separate Movement for Religious Renewal, a separate Movement for free spiritual life.Each will flourish only if all feel that they belong to the anthroposophical movement.”


Submitted by Sherry Wildfeuer, from the North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science