March, 28-April 2, 2023, By John Bloom
The spring meeting of the General Secretaries and Country Representatives of Anthroposophical Societies from around the world precedes the Annual General Meeting of the World Society. Such was the case again this year. As a Circle, we have close working relationships that have developed over the years. When we gather in Dornach, we certainly participate in the business of the Society and issues pertaining to the Annual General Meeting, but we also meet independently of Goetheanum Leadership to take up topics such as consciously cultivating a world society through awareness of cultural and language differences and ways of transcending those differences. Understanding how the language of anthroposophy is understood in translation in Japan, Australia, India, Canada, and South Africa is illuminating and helpful in understanding the challenges of a true world Society with a shared Central European origin.
Other conversations touch on the happenings within the country societies, including a drop in membership in some countries. Issues raised during the COVID period have remained divisive. No question, the polarized politics of the time have also taken a toll on the reputation of the Society, and there is much good work taking place, particularly in Germany, to counter the bad press. At the same time, there is an impulse toward renewal taking place around the coming 100-year celebrations. Building on the all-night vigil held on New Year’s Eve in commemoration of the burning of the First Goetheanum in 1922, there is much enthusiasm for the upcoming Goetheanum World Conference at the end of September at Michaelmas time. That meeting will look to the future of the Society and the School for Spiritual Science. One other topic we engaged with extensively was the autonomy of country societies in relation to the new founding, which was discussed at the Christmas Conference. Rudolf Steiner worked tirelessly to foster the development of country societies as the basis for the creation of the Christmas Conference. This dynamic between autonomy and the General Anthroposophical Society of which every country society member is also a member, gives rise to the celebration of unique cultures and the social and spiritual reality of world coherence. It is a living question for our time now, almost 100 years after the Christmas Conference.
The Annual General Meeting opened with beautiful cello music, followed by brief presentations from the General Secretaries of New Zealand, Australia, Romania, France, Great Britain, United States (myself), and then Brazil. The guiding idea was to present the diversity within and coherence across a world society. We arranged the order of speakers to start with and end with the global south, with passage through Europe and the United States. We asked Ute Craemer, General Secretary from Brazil, to speak last so that she could be honored for her many years of service to Brazil and the World Social Initiative Forum which she cofounded.
One of the key issues at this year’s AGM was the most important question of the Constitution of the Society. Most of us joined the Society whose ideals were brought into being at the Christmas Conference in 1923/24. However, there are questions about whether the refounded Christmas Conference Society ever legally replaced the original Society (Bauveriein), though it was clearly declared that the Society was now “doing business as” the Christmas Conference. I am oversimplifying to make the point of the complexity of the issues and the tensions that remain around them. There is much at stake. Progress has been made in the conversation among the differing perspectives, and the AGM agreed to continue through a year-long conference process that would result in a formal motion at the next AGM in April 2024. As a result of this agreement to proceed, a number of other related motions were withdrawn. One of those was the motion to name the Circle of Country Representatives as an advisory body in the Statutes. This consideration will be taken into part of the discussion of the Statutes over the coming year.
One of the overarching considerations is how to move further toward becoming a World Society as Rudolf Steiner had imagined at the Christmas Conference. This includes the question of how members from around the world can participate in decision-making for the Society. The AGM closed with a mood of positivity for the future, and I am hopeful that those working on resolving the most challenging of issues will succeed in coming to clarity as a way of freeing the Society to meet its destiny for the future.
The long trip home to San Francisco gave me much time to ponder all the various aspects of the meetings. There is something special in having representatives from 32 countries sitting together, each an individual, each carrying the anthroposophical impulses from their respective regions and cultures around the world, to seek that sense of the spiritual world that guides all our work. The sense of the circle of respected colleagues is also a strength at my back as I work for anthroposophy and the Society every day.
General Secretary for the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in America