a love letter to the members and friends
Anthroposophical Society in America
This is in part a report on some spiritual research, but
also an appeal for help. First a little story - some details from
my memory of the research of my friend Steve Burman:
There was in Concord Massachusetts, between
approximately 1879 and 1888, a School - the Concord School of
Philosophy, which attracted many, and seemed to influence much of
American Arts and Letters, for the members of the School traveled
widely, and among its founders were Emerson, Alcott, Thoreau,
Fuller and company.
One day the School received (around 1886) a report from
one of their number, who had just returned from two years in Europe.
He told them that he felt that the stream of philosophy,
known to them as German Idealism, was on the verge of solving the
problem of knowledge, which had trapped the minds of several of the
English Empiricists, and such as Kant, in the belief that human
knowledge was limited.
What Steve Burman next pointed out in his report on his
research was that at the same time as the School here in America lived
for a time and then faded away, even while knowing this question lurked
in the background (what
are the limits, or not, of human knowledge?),
unknown to the School in Concord, and as well to most of those familiar
in Europe with the stream of German idealism, the young genius of
Rudolf Steiner solved the problem of knowledge, eventually able to show
through three books (A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World
Conception; Truth and Knowledge; and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) that there were no limits to an awake thinker. In
point of fact thinking was given to us by the Divine Mystery precisely
to enable human beings to participate in knowledge creation, although
we had to, through our own efforts of will, draw forth this potential.
While it was a gift, we had to participate in its
flowering. Our will would arrive at its goal and its
self-knowledge, only through struggle and work. However
(according to my research), this will in America flowers in a
quite different way than how it flowers in Europe. In Europe one
has to be educated to it, while in America we arrive at it naturally
out of a kind of instinct.
The tragedy of the Anthroposophical Society, and the
cause of most of our confusion and instinctive worries about our
future, is that this question (what are the limits, or not, of human knowledge?) has for us been essentially lost over time. We
know something is not quite right in the Society (each of us
individually grasps a different segment of these questions), but not
As a consequence in our confusion we have turned to
Rudolf Steiner as an authority, rather than to our own thinking.
We look to books rather than to our own intuition. Our
lecturers and writers seldom can speak or write without constant
references to Steiner. This is not something wrong, by the way.
This state of consciousness is born in matters of karma and the
necessary and ordained work of the opponents. There must be
resistance to our wills before those same wills strengthen in the
needed ways for this new capacity for knowledge to emerge from its
chrysalis. Only our own “I” can give birth to the New Mystery of
At the same time, each of us is on an individual path to
this birth. There is no one
way. Nor is it an accident that we meet
in Ann Arbor in 2012, on the cusp of the Third Millennium, while the
social-political world seems about to implode. The war once in
Heaven now arises on the Earth, inside our own souls.
Ahriman has incarnated. The spiritual research
seeing this has been done, and anyone willing to struggle with their
own thinking-intuition can learn to see this as well. Seemingly
in opposition to Ahriman live the Michaelic hosts, of which we are
members. In us the seed of the Christ Impulse struggles to burst
its shell, via the effort of our own “I” to become its own sovereign
To do this, however, each of us must ask the question:
what is thinking and what is thought? This cannot be answered in
an intellectual way, because thought is the product of thinking; and,
thinking is willed activity. We only learn of it by doing it.
Yes, we do have thoughts seemingly without effort, but
it is precisely those thoughts that cannot always be moral. Now
there is a paradox here, because each of us believes we are essentially
moral. Why would we not feel that way? At the same time,
upon reflection (one of several modes
of thinking), we know we are not always moral and in fact we everyday
make compromises and adjustments in order to live our lives in what to
us is a sane way. These compromises are often necessary, and in
many cases that necessity means making a choice. In the process
of choosing, we can have a mental picture of being a perfect human
being, and from that picture, using comparative thinking (another
thinking mode), judge ourselves or others as not perfect.
This judgment is often not moral
thinking, as was so patiently explained by Christ in The Sermon on the
Mount. This means that part of being human involves being flawed. We have been graced by
becoming fallen. If there was nothing to overcome in ourselves,
this needed will for the New Thinking Mystery could never develop.
Today the existential question for this 2012 AGM is
whether or not the Society (as a collection of flawed and striving
human beings) will rediscover the understanding that Steiner once
showed us how to solve the problem of knowledge, both in its moral
sense (what is
the good?) and its scientific sense (what is the true?). The former question (what is the good?) can only be answered by the “I” alone. The latter
question (what is
the true?) is a “we” question - science is a
community activity. While Steiner gave us the means to answer the
“I” or moral question in his early books, it is only later, after the
Burning of the Goetheanum, that he shows in lecture 6 of Awakening to Community, how to be collectively doomed* to spiritual science via the Reverse Cultus.
The World of Mystery is not unmindful of our loss of
this central question (what are the limits, or not, of human knowledge?). This World has helped two individuals become
prepared to guide others in the Michael Stream to think their
individual way into contemporary life on the Cusp of the Third
Millennium and during the time of Ahriman’s Incarnation. These
two are: myself, who has been aided to understand much, especially the
Soul and Spirit of the American; and, Elizabeth A. MacKenzie whose
language above (*doomed) I have just used.
The two of us have successfully learned to practice the
New Mystery of Thinking. Many do it instinctively, and others try
to do it consciously. It is not easy, and no less all the more
important for not being easy. What is easy and unearned is
generally not of real value. Any woman and man can make a baby,
but not any human being can be a real parent.
In a similar fashion, an institution cannot write a poem
or paint a picture. The institution, named the Anthroposophical
Society, can facilitate its individual members, but only its individual
members can give birth to and raise the New Mystery of Thinking.
There is help everywhere. For example, one of the
wise women in America, Ursula K. LeGuin, has written a book in which a
culture based on the core truths expressed in The Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity is imagined: The Dispossessed. She gives us a living picture of
individuals struggling to be genuinely free thinkers. American
culture is rich in ways Europe could never be, and one of the tasks for
Americans is to learn to recognize the life already existing here.
This is what it means to meet our destinies in America.
Elizabeth and I too can help. Ask us questions. You
may find out in this way that you know more than you believe.