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The Christmas Conference

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The Christmas Conference

Schmidt Number: S-5525

On-line since: 21st December, 2008


Meeting of the Vorstand and the General Secretaries
of the National Societies and their Secretaries

25 December, 2.30 p.m. in the glass house


Dr. Steiner answers questions from the officials of the Societies on the various Paragraphs of the Statutes.

To a question on Paragraph 11 regarding the admission of individual members who do not wish to join a particular group he answers as follows:

This Paragraph would only come into consideration if it proves entirely impossible to bring these efforts to a satisfactory conclusion. Only then should individuals or groups apply for membership direct to Dornach. Efforts must first be made to join the relevant national Society and only if this fails for some reason would we admit an individual or a group here in Dornach.

Herr Hohlenburg asks what is meant by: ‘Only for those for whom it is quite impossible to find entry to a group.’

Dr. Steiner: The Statutes are phrased in such a way as to include everything in as few words as possible. Perhaps it is necessary to clarify the sentence ‘Only those for whom it is quite impossible to find entry to a group should apply directly to Dornach for membership’ by adding that this refers not only to the group not agreeing to admit the individual but also to the individual finding it inwardly impossible to join the group. Thus for instance a person who is convinced that he cannot thrive in a particular group can, if all efforts fail, become a member in Dornach. Here in Dornach we for our part shall of course endeavour to convince the individual to join a group. When I was writing down this sentence I was thinking not only of external obstacles coming from the group but also of obstacles arising out of an individual's convictions.

Herr Hohlenburg: Are all those who are already members to have their membership confirmed?

Dr. Steiner: This will be desirable if only for the reason that we are having proper membership cards printed to replace the old, not very beautiful membership cards, and every member will enjoy seeing a membership card which is somewhat larger and which commands a certain degree of respect. Therefore it would be good to send a circular to the individual groups letting them know that all the old membership cards can be exchanged for new ones.

Mademoiselle Sauerwein asks: If a number of members in a particular country want to form themselves into a group and elect a new officer who is not an officer of the national group, would they be allowed to do this or not?

Dr. Steiner: Of course nobody can be denied this right. All that can be done is to make efforts to prevent it, but nobody can be denied the right to form groups which would, of course, not be the national group but simply a private group. It would not be possible for it to be the national group because, of course, the national group already exists, does it not? But this cannot be included in the Statutes. The Statutes must contain the principles. But it can be included in By-Laws which we shall still have to elaborate.

Herr Donner wants to ask whether a group which does not want to be affiliated with the national Society in its own country can instead be affiliated with the Society of another country.

Dr. Steiner: In principle this would not be impossible. To exclude this on principle would be too great an infringement of the freedom of the individual members. We cannot exclude this possibility, but we would have to make efforts not to let such a situation arise in which a group in one country joins the Society of another country; if such a group were not to join the national Society, then it would join directly in Dornach. This could come about as a matter of usage. It cannot be excluded on principle. For instance it would not be possible to prevent a group coming into being in France and registering with the German Society. We would not be able to prevent this.

Madame Muntz: Should we make efforts to bring it about that individuals who do not live in Belgium and yet do belong to our group apply for membership in their own countries, or not?

Dr. Steiner: In cases where they have done this from sympathy, this is all right. Cases where those in question have sympathies in a particular direction might as well be allowed to remain. But for the future it would be preferable for this not to happen. We need not take up a pedantic position; there is no need for this, but we do need something that can give us a certain degree of support.

Dr. Unger: There are quite a number of people in South America who are members of the German Society and who have expressed their wish to remain so. Arrangements are, however, being made for a Society to be formed among the different groups. I have been asked to bring to this meeting the need expressed there that a South American Society should be planned. For the moment they wish to remain attached to Germany, and the method of transferring these groups will gradually come about.

Dr. Steiner: The configuration of the Society being what it is, it is of course the case that from the administrative point of view everything will have to be taken into consideration not in a bureaucratic way but in a way that is necessitated by human factors. Take Paragraph 14 of the Statutes: ‘The organ of the Society is Das Goetheanum, which for this purpose is provided with a Supplement containing the official communications of the Society. This enlarged edition of Das Goetheanum will be supplied to members of the Anthroposophical Society only.’ Would you not agree that this implies that if the South American groups belong to Germany they would be supplied with Das Goetheanum not by us here but that it would be sent to them from Germany? Similar situations are still likely to arise. Here we are of the opinion that things should not remain confined to paper. The things that are written in the Members' Supplement are things which every member wants to know as quickly as possible. So I think it would be a good thing for groups which exist outside their national groups to join directly in Dornach so that anthroposophical life can flourish as much as possible without having to make all kinds of detours.

Dr Wachsmuth informs the meeting that the South American Society had written a letter just before Christmas, having heard about the new decisions. He reads a statement from them.

Herr Leinhas: I have had a similar letter. It arrived only a few days ago, and I have been asked for the moment to represent the national Society, which is to have its seat in Rio.

Dr. Zeymans Van Emmichoven:In point 5 mention is made of the three Classes of the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach: ‘Members of the Society will be admitted to the School on their own application.’ I should like to ask whether the national Societies have anything to do with this or whether this is a purely personal matter for each member.

Dr. Steiner: What is contained in point 5 will be a matter for the Goetheanum in Dornach as far as the overall leadership is concerned. Everything that belongs to the configuration of this School of Spiritual Science will have to be taken in hand by the leadership at the Goetheanum in Dornach. Among the things that will have to be dealt with will of course be the matter of making contact not only with officers but also with members who are doing certain work in one place or another. Members of the First, Second and Third Class of the Goetheanum will be everywhere, having been nominated by the Goetheanum. How they are chosen will depend entirely on the individual case, for it will be essentially an esoteric matter, but an esoteric matter which is handled in a modern way. Once things have got going it will become apparent that there will be members in the different national Societies who belong to one of the Classes of the Goetheanum. For these the Goetheanum will nominate their own leadership in the different countries, so that matters are territorially delimited and do not expand boundlessly. This matter, then, will be handled essentially by the leadership at the Goetheanum; I shall describe it in more detail as our Conference progresses. Point 7 also refers to this matter: ‘The organizing of the School of Spiritual Science is, to begin with, the responsibility of Rudolf Steiner, who will appoint his collaborators and his possible successor.’

To begin with, I intend to set up, in addition to the three Classes, Sections which will be in charge of the different fields of research. For example there will be a Section for General Anthroposophy, another for what used to be called in France Belles-Lettres, a Section for Natural Science, for Education, for Art, for the various realms of art. Each Section will have a Section Leader and together these will constitute the leadership of the School of Spiritual Science. The members of the different Classes will be scattered all over the place; they will be members, for their pupilship is their own private affair. This is an independent institution which the national Societies will undertake to protect and guard as a matter of course.

Fräulein Henström: In Sweden, as far as I know, more than a third of the members have not joined a branch. In small villages this is natural, but there are a good many in Stockholm who do not wish to belong to the groups. They believe that they can work more freely if they stand by themselves and study the lectures alone. There are a good many of us who understand how important it is to stand firmly together and that it is therefore necessary for members to get to know one another personally. I think it is quite impossible if members refuse to conform to the groups and I wondered whether some encouragement could not be given from Dornach to bring about an improvement in this direction.

Dr. Steiner: We shall make every effort towards encouraging members in the different countries to join the main groups, which in most countries will mean the national Society. But we do not want to exert any pressure by means of some statute or other. We do not want to exert any pressure from Dornach in any direction, but we shall make every effort to help people understand, so that for instance in Sweden any members who live in an isolated situation, even if they want to remain isolated as far as their way of living is concerned, can nevertheless join the Stockholm Society or the national Society.

Fräulein Henström: I too would not want any compulsion to be brought to bear.

Dr. Steiner: We shall certainly endeavour to bring about an understanding of this matter.

Mr Monges enquires about the point of view and the manner in which the General Secretaries in the different countries are selected and whether this shall be a democratic procedure or what else?

Dr. Steiner: This is a further matter which I would not wish to lay down in any way by means of statutes for the various groups all over the world. I can well imagine, for example, that there are national Societies who will most certainly want to employ democratic procedures. I can also imagine that there will be others who will want to be thoroughly aristocratic in their approach, agreeing with the wishes of a particular individual upon whom they confer the task of nominating the other officers and so on. Thus I rather assume that the, shall I say, somewhat aristocratic method I have adopted with regard to appointing the Vorstand may well be imitated. In some quarters, however, this method may be regarded as highly undesirable, and in those quarters the democratic method could be used. An election is naturally all the easier the smaller the group in question, whereas I consider elections in a gathering as large as ours today to be totally meaningless. It is impossible to nominate and elect anybody in a situation where there is to start with so little mutual recognition. So in this gathering such a procedure would not be possible. But I can well imagine that a democratic institution of some kind might come into being in one place or another. In a general way, however, I do not find this question to be of paramount importance as a matter of principle. If on the one hand the selection is made by means of an election that is thoughtless, then the Societies will not flourish. They will come to nought if someone is simply nominated so that the election may be settled in a hurry, as is the case with political elections. Nothing can come of this in our circles.

The matter will be different, though, if consideration is given to those who have already earned some merit, or done certain work, or if their way of working has been observed. In such cases a majority is likely to come about quite naturally. But if the antecedents are all set for some kind of election, I do not believe that amongst us, since our main concern is for the work, some kind of democracy could prevent this work. In other words, in practice there will be little difference between democracy and aristocracy. We might try this out over the next few days. We could ask whether the Vorstand I have suggested would be elected or not. This would give us a democratic basis, for I do consider their election to be a necessary condition, otherwise I myself would also have to withdraw! Freedom must reign, of course. But, dear friends, I too must have freedom. I cannot allow anything to be imposed on me. Anyone who is expected to carry out a function must have freedom above all else. Is this not so? Thus I rather assume that what I have just said will be born out everywhere, for the most part. Whether democracy or aristocracy is the method, the Society will not look much different.

Mr. Monges: We in America are very political.

Dr. Steiner: If Dornach is permitted to have its say to a certain extent, then everything will work out satisfactorily.

Fräulein Schwarz: It was said some time ago that members of the old Theosophical Society cannot become anthroposophists, that is they cannot belong to the Anthroposophical Society. Will this continue to be the case or not?

Dr. Steiner: Who said that? I certainly never said such a thing! Never. The decision as to whether a person shall be admitted or not has to be taken individually in each case. I have always expressly stated that it matters not a jot whether someone belongs to a carpenters' club, or an insurance company, or a scientific research society, or the Theosophical Society. The only thing that matters is the human being. I have never said that the stamp of membership of any other society presents an obstacle for joining the Anthroposophical Society. Of course there might be individual cases in which membership of the Theosophical Society could present an obstacle. It is naturally questionable whether Mrs Besant [ Note 39 ] or Mr Leadbeater, [ Note 40 ] should they apply for membership of the Anthroposophical Society, would be admitted or not. So the question might arise in individual cases. But as a matter of principle it can have no validity whatsoever; otherwise we would come down to principles which would not be in keeping with a society that is to be formed in the modern style.

The Duke of Cesaro brings up a question regarding the number of votes allotted to members. There was once some unpleasantness in a national section of the old Theosophical Society, for example; and the solution had been to break up the whole group in order to gain more votes. Such things ought no longer to be possible.

Dr. Steiner: As you say, Your Grace, it is desirable that such things should not happen. But on the other hand there are certain difficulties involved in fixing the number of members at the lower end. There you come up against the question: How many members should there be in a group? So far we have had quite a definite view on this. But problems might now arise in this connection: Should we perhaps put everything pertaining to matters of modern usage into Paragraph 3, so that everything esoteric is contained in Paragraph 3, or should we name the number of members a group ought to contain? In the latter case the minimum number would be seven, because only seven can yield a true majority. In the case of three and five there can of course be a seeming majority. But those who understand the nature of the human being know that with a majority of two to one arrived at amongst three members, or of three to two arrived at when there are five members, the one who makes the seeming majority does not count properly. Not until you can have four to three can you arrive at a possible majority, which results if on the one side you have three and on the other side one third more. This then makes a true majority possible. So the minimum number would be seven members. I would not object to including this number here, but I did consider that these Statutes are more likely to be respected in the eyes of the world if we refrain from including things like the number seven. I therefore think, Your Grace, that your suggestion would be better included in the By-Laws, which would mean that in practice this is how the matter would be handled. This is probably the solution for us in this case.

Professor Dr.Maurer: I want to ask whether it might not be possible to curtail the other Paragraph as well, as regards the Classes. Perhaps it would be preferable not to launch this aspect on the public. I rather fear that all kinds of historical and other parallels might once again be dredged up and possibly used against us.

Dr. Steiner: Take Paragraph 5 as it is formulated here and ask yourself whether it could not be applied to any university just as it stands. As it stands it is applicable to any university and cannot possibly cause any offence. Everything else will be a matter of how we handle it.

Professor Dr.Maurer: Yes, I agree it is applicable, but there are other points which are open to attack. Taken in its usual sense it could remind people of something which did exist historically.

Dr. Steiner: Historically it was never the custom to speak of ‘Classes’, only of ‘Degrees’.

Professor Dr.Maurer: Nevertheless people will immediately jump to the wrong conclusion and I merely wanted to prevent the incidence of such mistaken and warped conclusions.

Dr. Steiner: It would be the greatest possible mistake to include anything in our Statutes arising from any conclusion. We cannot avoid having misunderstandings attached to what we do. But anyone interpreting Paragraph 5 wrongly must really want to do so. We cannot prevent this. Paragraph 5 is phrased in such a way that absolutely nobody can say anything other than that in this School of Spiritual Science in Dornach there are three Classes, just as if in Freiburg there were a university with four medical classes, a four-year course. The description in Paragraph 5 accords exactly with the pattern of universities in the outside world, so there is not the smallest opportunity for objection that could be seized with any even seeming justification. The same applies to the way the affairs of the School are conducted. You know that at a university it is the leadership who decide whether a student is ready to move on to the next year or not.

Professor Dr.Maurer: This has not always been the case. In the faculties of philosophy it was never a matter of moving up to the next class; this did not happen at Strasbourg under Professor Windelband [ Note 41 ] or anywhere else for that matter. You simply presented yourself and were accepted. Naturally what you gained from the lectures depended on your abilities. Nowadays I agree that in the interest of the students a certain amount of grading has been introduced. I only wanted to draw attention to this matter because our opponents will immediately point it out.

Dr. Steiner: It is certainly not the case that a medical student who has just arrived at the university will be allowed to attend the special classes on anatomical medicine. There are proper classes for this, are there not. I do not believe that he would be allowed to attend immediately.

Professor Dr.Maurer: No, of course not.

Dr. Steiner: In the case of the philosophical faculty there are good reasons which have come about historically. A justification can certainly always be found for these things. Originally there was no such thing as a philosophical faculty at the universities. The three faculties were those of theology, medicine, and jurisprudence. These three faculties were always graded into classes. The philosophical department was at the basis of all three. First you attended the faculty of philosophy. This is where you started, whether you wanted to study theology, jurisprudence or medicine. Then you moved up from this faculty of philosophy into the different faculties. From then on you moved up in classes. I do not believe that it is any different in other countries. So if you take our Constitution to be the general anthroposophical and philosophical faculty, then advancing on from there you have the three Classes. The set-up is absolutely identical with that of a university. I have taken the utmost care to ensure that it shall be absolutely indisputable. In universities, though, the faculty of philosophy gradually developed into a faculty in its own right. More and more lectures were given till the whole situation degenerated into anarchy and chaos. No one entering the faculty of philosophy has any idea what lectures he ought to attend, indeed he can go to lectures he cannot understand at all. This is a chaotic situation that has arisen at the universities.

What we have written down here corresponds exactly to what was customary at universities, in Vienna for instance, up to the year 1848. This is entirely indisputable. And I believe that this is the case to this day in Paris; and also in Italy there are universities which still conduct matters in this way. At German universities there are certain things which have developed chaotically. But what we have written down here is absolutely indisputable. If we were to do these things without including them in our Statutes — and do them we must, otherwise Paragraph 8 about the lecture cycles would also have to be modified — we would immediately find ourselves in another situation which would not serve our purposes at all. This Paragraph must stand as it is and so must Paragraph 8. Of course we can consider requests for changes regarding details, but a complete suppression of the School with its three Classes would not be acceptable.

Professor Dr. Maurer: I quite see that it will be necessary to move up Class by Class. I was merely concerned that it might give our opponents something on which they could seize.

Dr. Steiner: The only change that could be considered would be to say: ‘The Anthroposophical Society sees the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach as the centre for its activity. The School will be composed of three classes after the manner of other universities.’ If you wish to include this we can certainly do so.

Baroness de Renzis: Should the report on our work in Italy and the direction it is taking be given now, or are we to discuss the Statutes only?

Dr. Steiner: I would request you to speak tomorrow about the work in Italy.

Baroness de Renzis wishes to ask a question about the direction the work is taking in general.

Dr. Steiner: I would ask you to give your report tomorrow.

Baroness de Renzis: Ought we to announce the anthroposophical character of any undertaking or initiative arising out of our Movement from the start, thus provoking the danger of having it rejected, or should we endeavour to disseminate an anthroposophical understanding within public opinion without throwing down the challenge of it being judged and rejected? It is necessary to decide this so that we know what is to determine the attitude of our groups in the future.

Dr. Steiner: It is of course not the word ‘Anthroposophy’ itself that matters but there are other things that do matter. Take the following example. Medicine is a case in point. It is today not possible to take medicine beyond the point it has now reached, which is not far enough, without starting to speak of the etheric body of the human being, and also of the astral body and the ego-organization, for it is here that the real causes of illness lie. So it is necessary simply to place before the world the substance of what Anthroposophy contains. We have gained some extremely instructive experience in this matter. Frau Dr Wegman has run courses with me in London, Vienna and The Hague. [ Note 42 ] One of these took place at Dr Zeylmans' Dutch institute. I have given lectures to doctors in which I spoke quite directly of anthroposophical matters. At appropriate moments I have spoken about the astral body, the etheric body and so on. In doing this it is barely relevant what terminology is used. In some instances one feels it is more appropriate to name the etheric body and in others it is better to use different words in describing it. For example when you want to speak of the etheric body you can say: The effects on the physical substances which come not from the centre of the earth but from the periphery of the universe. Only those who have not fully come to grips with their subject matter are tied to a specific terminology, is this not so? We have found that when we speak in this way people can make something of what we say. They know that this is something new making its appearance in the world. If you avoid speaking clearly, all people can say is: Well, here is another opinion about the effect of this or that medicament on the human organism; it has been held before and was then replaced by another; now here is yet another opinion. They cannot distinguish whether a clinical report or a clinical dissertation comes from some external source or from us. But if we want to bring what can really lead us to the centre of the illness, then we cannot avoid speaking about the etheric body and so on, even if we use different terminology. Then people know what is what. We go furthest when we act in this way. It is not in the first instance a matter of the actual name of Anthroposophy; what matters is nowhere to shy away from whatever is necessary to explain something properly. If you try to dress Anthroposophy up in ‘this is what the parson says too’, then people have no idea what you are getting at. I myself once proved this point. I gave a course of twelve lectures in Vienna [ Note 43 ] ranging over every aspect of Anthroposophy including its practical applications. If you read this cycle today you will not find a single mention of the word Anthroposophy. It is perfectly possible for there to be occasions when it is inappropriate to use the word Anthroposophy. This is for sure. For me what matters is the actual subject itself, the spirit of the subject. You have no idea how many well-meaning people have come to me saying: People dread the expression ‘etheric body’; could we not say ‘the functional element in the human organism’? But this is a meaningless expression. To speak of the etheric body you have to distinguish between the physical body in which all the forces are related to gravity, the mechanical pull of gravity, and the etheric body in which all the forces can be related to the periphery, to all that is ever in weaving movement. This is the difference. The ‘functional element in the human organism’ refers to the function and not to this fundamental contrast. So these well-meant suggestions that come, often from outsiders, cannot be taken into account.

Baroness de Renzis: Is it sufficient to speak of the ‘essence’ of things?

Dr. Steiner: It is not necessary to throw the actual word ‘Anthroposophy’ at people, but if asked whether you are an anthroposophist it would be quite a good thing if you did not say: No!

We shall continue this meeting tomorrow. We must try to make sure that we have enough breathing space during this Conference.




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