Creating a World Society
Hannah Semler reflects on the AGM of the General Anthroposophical Society
Goetheanum 31 March – 2 April 2023
I would like share my impressions and experience of the AGM at the Goetheanum held a few weeks ago. Members from the world society attended, including via livestream.
Arriving in Dornach
Firstly, I should say arriving in Dornach after more than 40 years, I had some trepidation. It was rainy, cloudy and the sun struggled to get through and it remained that way for the three days in Dornach. We had just spent six, mostly sunny, days in Crete, where the atmosphere and people of the Mediterranean are quite different to Switzerland. There, the rugged rocky mountains ran into the azure sea, the sky changed constantly and white painted buildings shimmered on the hillsides.
Arriving at the Goetheanum itself was also a little strange, but then walking up the stairwell and looking back at the red window, it all came back – that sense of awe. We had a chance to enter the Great Hall and experience the windows, the light and the painted ceilings of the spiritual history of humanity. It was a reconnecting experience, one that has been deepened over the many years through study of Anthroposophy – and it all made sense, if one is privileged to be there. I did not remember there was a café actually in the Goetheanum and the reception area has changed dramatically from when I was last there.
Presentations from round the world
The afternoon meeting began and I immediately found myself immersed in focusing on the German language, as I chose not to use the translating service. The consequence of this, is that there were some contributions I just did not fully understand. However, the atmosphere was quite heightened and the goodwill and striving by all to understand or be understood was exceptional.
The introduction to the theme and purpose of the meeting given by members of the Executive (Vorstand) was complemented by the contributions of selected country representatives. These began with the furthest, Michelle Vette from New Zealand speaking in Maori language with a wonderful heartwarming description of country and membership activity. Jane Bradshaw, our representative, followed with a re-imagining of Europe fitting into the land mass of the Australian continent. Jane emphasised from her personal experience the heart of Australia living out of Uluru and our 60,000years of aboriginal life connecting spirit and land, and what it means to have the distances we live with between members, branches and groups.
Further contributions were provided by country representatives from Brazil (Ute Kraemer), the USA (John Bloom) and the UK (Marjatta van Boeschoten) as well as several others. Marjatta made a strong impression by being totally honest about the shrinking Society, the reducing number of initiatives and the need to look at what is actually needed for Anthroposophy to live into the future, with a number of current initiatives outlined, beginning in Steiner House in London. These contributions set the mood for the meeting as a ‘World-wide Society ‘and really helped to bring perspective.
The afternoon continued with detailed presentations from the meeting forums, formed since the Extraordinary General Assembly held in January this year. These made clear the diversity of ideas but also focused on issues, mostly carried from the perspective of those centred around Dornach and Germany, with some contributions from outside these circles. A number of presentations spoke to the visions individuals carry concerning what it might mean to have an effective world society, referring often to Rudolf Steiner’s intentions as expressed from the Time Spirit.
On Friday evening, we heard about three key identities who have crossed the threshold and the contributions they made to anthroposophy, including the amazing contribution by biography facilitator and therapist Gudrun Borchard who worked out of Brazil for the past 20-30 years and has left a legacy with so many others trained to continue the work. Bach violin concertos complemented the contributions. It was a beautiful evening of connecting with those across the threshold.
The Annual General Meeting
The AGM itself opened on the Saturday with the Foundation Stone Meditation, spoken in several languages across the stanzas, with Jane Bradshaw speaking the last stanza. Having different members from round the world helps strengthen our awareness of our world consciousness.
The Foundation Stone speaking led into the Executive’s report on the development of the Society as a world-wide organism. Several local Dornach members presented other ideas, in particular one initiated by Eva and Thomas Heck which focused principally on the issues of communication. The principals were acknowledged, and after some clarification, then re-clarification, it was agreed that this proposal could be incorporated into the larger one offered by the Executive. By lunchtime, it was extraordinary to have agreement by most of those present to undertake the year-long process, which proposes to engage with all interested members round the world, to develop further the world society and also focus on the logistics of bringing the General Anthroposophical Society Constitution/Statutes into currency, while not losing its foundation.
Two of the several presentations in particular stood out. The Hungarian country representative Peter Takáts provided a clear outline to the proposed motion signed by 34 of their members, which seeks to make the Michael School the heart of the Society once again, as Rudolf Steiner intended. He implored us to redevelop in ourselves and in all our work with a Micha-el consciousness. The motion was not adopted, but it was suggested it be part of the contributions for the future process.
a more controversial motion proposed the idea of a third card, a yellow card, or a special section of work specifically for the economic sphere, since the pink card serves the soul sphere and the blue card, the spiritual/esoteric sphere. While it may seem impractical, it furthered a three-folding approach, work still lacking in the anthroposophical movement – and very necessary today.
As an active member from a far distant (from Dornach) country), I was keen to introduce myself and to reinforce the challenge of attending, voting as an individual member, and contributing from such a distance. It was interesting, and maybe not surprising, to see that only about third of the approximately 250-300 members present, had ever heard of Canberra, and that it was the capital of Australia, and as I emphasised, a decision-making centre for our country. I requested that this meeting make decisions. Unfortunately there was not enough time to read out contributions provided me by Karl-Heinz Fink and others.
Creating a worldwide consciousness
The style and manner of communication differs across cultures so it was good to experience the Japanese and South American voices, as well as the European. What was missing was the Russian voice and voices from the Middle East, China, India and other Asian countries, where we know Anthroposophy now active. Switzerland is expensive. Since Covid-19, flying into Europe has become much less affordable for members. I therefore again implored the members present to consider how they develop a more active and curious interest beyond Europe.
On the Saturday evening, there was a presentation by Alexander Schaumann from Bochum on the Goetheanum as the symbol of Anthroposophy. It was inspiring and quite overwhelming. He took us through both the creative process and the way in which the building works as a reflection of the threefold human being. While I have heard aspects of this and also read Rudolf Steiner’s own lectures, it was most inspiring hearing this while being in the space itself.
The main agenda for the final morning was to present the preparations for the upcoming major events of the coming 12 months.: the International Conference in September, the Class Holders conference in November, and the 100 year commemoration of the founding of the Anthroposophical Society at Christmas.
The social element
International, national and even branch meetings are always a chance to catch up with old friends and hopefully meet new ones. As I didn’t really know anyone except Jane, I made an effort to introduce myself to people, including the most wonderful Ute Kramer. She has made a life long contribution to developing inclusiveness in community through the development of schools, music and social enterprises in the underprivileged (favelas) areas of Brazil cities. A modest, passionate and committed individual, dedicating her life to furthering diversity in the Anthroposophical Society. Some of you may have seen or encountered Ute’s work in a presentation given in a series of presentations facilitated for the Ita Wegman commemoration about 18 months ago.
Another surprise was sitting next to Yuji Agematsu, one of the country representatives from Japan. I have admired him as an architect and will never forget his enlightened presentation on the twelve senses back in 1986 at the International Architecture and Colour Conference held in Jarna, Sweden. He remains a highly respected contributor to Anthroposophy.
Key takeaway messages for sustaining a world society
- Stay engaged with what is happening
- Participate in the working group dialogues coming up beginning in early May
- Attend future conferences if you can make it possible
- Write relevant articles for Anthroposophy World-wide
- Participate on-line in any way you can to keep abreast of what is happening
- Keep lobbying and work together with Jane so she can be the best representative of our membership she possibly can.
Hannah Semler is the outgoing coordinator of the Canberra Branch. She recently attended the AGM of the General Anthroposophical Society, held at the Goetheanum, Dornach, the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society worldwide.
Photo credit: courtesy of Goetheanum