The Anthroposophical Society in America is a nonsectarian, nonpolitical organization open to everyone regardless of religion, race, nationality, social standing, scientific or artistic conviction. It was founded as "an association of people who would foster the life of the soul, both in the individual and in human society, on the basis of a true knowledge of the spiritual world."
When Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was requested to provide a mere dictionary definition of Anthroposophy in English, he wrote: "Anthroposophy is a knowledge produced by the Higher Self in man." Later, when summarizing the essence of the world view he had presented in such manifold ways, he wrote: "Anthroposophy is a way of knowledge which undertakes to guide the spiritual in man to the spiritual in the universe."
"The Anthroposophical Society is in no sense a secret society, but is entirely public. Anyone can become a member, without regard to nationality, social standing, religion, scientific or artistic conviction, who considers as justified the existence of an institution such as the Goetheanum in Dornach, in its capacity as a School of Spiritual Science."
From the Statutes of the Anthroposophical Society
"For certainty of feeling and for a strong unfolding of his will, man needs a knowledge of the spiritual world. However widely he may feel the greatness, beauty and wisdom of the natural world, this world gives him no answer to the question of his own being. His own being holds together the materials and forces of the natural world in the living and sensitive form of man until the moment when he passes through the gate of death. Then nature receives this human form, and nature cannot hold it together; she can but dissolve and disperse it. Great, beautiful, wisdom-filled nature does indeed answer the question, how is the human form dissolved and destroyed, but not the other question, how is it maintained and held together? No theoretical objection can dispel this question from the feeling soul of man, unless indeed he prefers to lull himself to sleep. The presence of this question must incessantly maintain alive, in every human soul that is really awake, the longing for spiritual paths of world-knowledge."
Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, II.1
One year after the burning of the First Goetheanum Rudolf Steiner invited the members to the Christmas Conference in Dornach in which he refounded the Anthroposophical Society and took on its Presidency. In Rudolf Steiner's opening lecture of the conference on December 24, 1923 he spoke the following words:
"This Anthroposophical Movement is not an act of service to the earth. This Anthroposophical Movement in its totality and in all its details is a service to the divine beings, a service to God. We create the right mood for it when we see it in all its wholeness as a service to God. As a service to God let us take it into our hearts at the beginning of our conference."
Sergei Prokofieff lectured on the Christmas Conference at the 2002 year-end conference at the Goetheanum. He contrasted the new mysteries with the old mysteries. The mysteries were the places in ancient times where spiritual wisdom was taught to selected pupils. In these mysteries pupils were given responsibilities as they progressed along their path of development. Their teacher observed their progress and gave them tasks and responsibilities suitable to their level of development. Anthroposophy belongs to the new mysteries. They are mysteries of the will. They are based entirely on freedom. We see what needs to be done, what needs to be supported. Then we take on these responsibilities ourselves to the extent we are able. No one assigns us responsibilities. We take them up freely.
Sergei Prokofieff gave the following examples of taking on responsibility. He said that the study of spiritual science is important for us. Study is the first step on the Christian-Rosicrucian path, which is the same as our Anthroposophical path. Study is fundamental to the method of training which Rudolf Steiner gave. We continue to study spiritual science our whole lives. But study is also important for the angels. It is important for the angels that we think clear thoughts about the spiritual world. The fact that we think clearly about spiritual concepts helps us to lift our thinking up to the angelic realm. Then the angels are able to work with us.
We learn from anthroposophy that there are three hierarchies of spiritual beings above the human being, and three ranks of beings in each hierarchy - nine ranks in all. The angels are the next hierarchy above human beings. They are connected to our individual development. The archangels above them work with nations and language groups, folks. The archai, the highest of the third hierarchy, are time spirits and bring changes from epoch to epoch. The time spirit of the present is Michael, who has matured from an archangel to the level of the archai.
Sergei Prokofieff described how after we begin to study Anthroposophy, we may meet other people who share our interest in Anthroposophy. We can meet together with others who work as we do and share our spiritual study. We can work with a group of people, whether it is a small study group or a large branch. When we do this work together, we can meet on the level of the archangels. This working together is not only for us but it is a sacrifice for the archangels.
We can develop a sense of responsibility for this working with the angels or the archangels. This sense of responsibility is not connected to any outer position or office or function. It is purely an inner attitude. Anyone who works with anthroposophy or spiritual science can have this inner attitude.
Sergei Prokofieff continued that if we wish to connect our work to that of the Archangel Michael - for he needs disciples to work together in our present culture - this can only be done in a generally human society. We need to think of Michael who wants us to overcome our individual differences, who brings acosmopolitan, whole world view to us. He wants us to work together without regard to nation, race, or folk.
If we want to work with Michael, we can only work with Michael in the same spirit as we did in the School of Michael. The School of Michael was before our earthly life, but we met there as brothers and sisters who want to work together to bring something spiritual to modern civilization. If we want to do this out of Anthroposophy, we can do this only as a world-wide General Anthroposophical Society. And when even in small groups we feel our connection to the world-wide anthroposophical society, we are able to regard others throughout the world as our spiritual brothers and sisters. It is a wonderful experience and privilege to have spiritual brothers and sisters throughout the world. When we feel this connection, we are able to be of service to the archai, the spirits of time.
Through our own initiative, through our own inner attitude we can cultivate a sense of responsibility to the spiritual beings. It is an image that can inspire our work and help us to look beyond our daily difficulties in our own Anthroposophical community. We all suffer from a sense of frustration that there is too much work and too few people to help. And this is a real suffering we must bear, for others in our community may not take up with their will the tasks which are there in abundance. And Sergei Prokofieff spoke of how painful that can be. He spoke out of his personal experience when he spoke of suffering when others do not take up these tasks. He presented a Good Friday picture of the Christ bearing his cross. One man alone stepped forward to help him. Prokofieff quoted from the Gospels, "Take up the cross and follow me." This is a spiritual archetype. He spoke of Rudolf Steiner following this archetype in his own life.
This theme, Anthroposophy as a service to divine beings, as a service to God, raises many questions. How is the Anthroposophical Movement a service to God? How can we understand this service in a more practical way? What do we need to do to be of service to divine beings? If we work deeply and sincerely with these questions, we can begin to find answers to them for ourselves.
Anthroposophy can be a service to divine beings in many ways. Each individual who wishes it can find, in freedom, a way to be of service to the spiritual world.
"...in the room where we are occupied with Anthroposophy there will be present a real spiritual being."
Rudolf Steiner, Awakening to Community, February 27, 1923
It is good to look back on one's life in a certain way, and above all to envisage clearly those things that one did not like. All this leads to a more intimate knowledge of the inner kernel of our being. For example, a son who would have liked to become a poet was destined by his father to be a craftsman, and a craftsman he became, although he would sooner have been a poet. It is well to know clearly what we really wanted to be, and what we have become against our will, to visualize what would have suited us in the time of our youth but was not our lot, and then, again, what we would have liked to avoid.
All that I am saying refers, of course to life in the past, not in the future - that would be a false conception. We must therefore be quite clear as to what such a retrospect into the past means; it tells us what we did not want, what we would have liked to avoid. When we have made that clear to ourselves, we really have a picture of those things in our life which have pleased us least. That is the essential point. And we must now try to live into a very remarkable conception: we must desire and will everything that we have not desired or willed. We must imagine to ourselves: What should I actually have become if I had ardently desired everything that in fact I did not wish for and which really went against the grain in life: In a certain sense we must here rule out what we have succeeded in overcoming, for the most important thing is that we should ardently wish or picture ourselves wishing for the things we have not desired, or concerning which we have not been able to carry out our wishes, so that we create for ourselves, in feeling and thought, a being hitherto unfamiliar to us. We must picture ourselves as this being with great intensity. If we can do this, if we can identify ourselves with the being we have ourselves built up in this way, we have made some real progress towards becoming acquainted with the inner soul-kernel of our being; for in the picture we have thus been able to make of our own personality there will arise something that we have not been in this present incarnation but which we have introduced into it. Our deeper being will emerge from the picture built up in this way.
You will see, therefore, that from those who wish to gain knowledge of this inner kernel of being, something is required for which people in our age have no inclination at all. They are not disposed to desire anything of the sort, for nowadays, if they reflect upon their own nature, they want to find themselves absolutely satisfied with it as it is. .... If you call up the counterpart of yourself, the following thought will dawn upon you. This counterpart - difficult as it may be to realize it as a picture of yourself in this life - is nevertheless connected with you, and you cannot disown it. Once it appears, it will follow you, hover before your soul and crystallize in such a way that you will realize that it has something to do with you, but certainly not with your present life. And then there develops the perception that this picture is derived from an earlier life.
Rudolf Steiner - Berlin, January 23, 1912
Anthroposophical Society in America
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