The path that leads into Anthroposophy consists firstly, then, in changing the direction of one’s will; secondly, in experiencing supersensible knowledge; lastly, in participating in the destiny of one’s time to a point where it becomes one’s personal destiny.
One feels oneself sharing mankind’s evolution in the act of reversing one’s will and experiencing the supersensible nature of all truth.
Sharing the experience of the time’s true significance is what gives us our first real feeling for the fact of our humanness.
The term “Anthroposophy” should really be understood as synonymous with “Sophia,” meaning the content of consciousness, the soul attitude and experience that make a person a full-fledged human being.
The right interpretation of “Anthroposophy” is not “the wisdom of the human being,” but rather “the consciousness of one’s humanity.”
In other words, the reversing of the will, the experiencing of knowledge, and one’s participation in the time’s destiny, should all aim at giving the soul a certain direction of consciousness, a “Sophia.”
[Rudolf Steiner, Awakening to Community, Feb., 1923]
WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY?
Our Changing Consciousness
It is astonishing when we consider the enormous change in consciousness that has taken place in the Western world over the last 500 years. In 1500AD most Europeans lived in villages based around farming or trades and were embedded in a life shaped by the Christian Church. A new world was about to open up. America had just been rediscovered, Copernicus was soon to propose the revolutionary concept of a sun-centred (rather than earth-centred) solar system, the renaissance was underway in art and the Reformation would soon come to stir and shake the foundations of Christian faith that had been so all embracing in medieval life.
Since that time, the scientific paradigm has replaced religion as the dominant method through which we seek to understand our world. In many areas of knowledge and life, we seek proof to support new ideas and understanding; faith or belief on the basis of authority is no longer appropriate.
Along with an expanding awareness of our environment, both inner and outer, has come a strengthening of our experience of ourselves as individuals and an emancipation from traditions and dogma that once held us to certain ways of doing and seeing. But the cost for most Western people has been the loss of a sense of a divine, cosmic order in which we feel embedded. Many indigenous peoples still have a connection to their spiritual heritage. This has taken place over a longer time than just this millennium and if we compare ancient cultures to the world today we see an even greater expression of this. In ancient times humanity was guided out of the wisdom of the Mystery Schools. Many people today cannot find a connection to a spiritual home, nor do they necessarily seek one.
We live now in a world where human intelligence is seen as the source of ever increasing knowledge. We feel a freedom never before experienced and individuality is paramount. We exercise individual rights and freedoms in a way not known before and it brings with it a great diversity of choice. At times such choice can be overwhelming and we look for a guide to find a way through or we may avoid the area altogether. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of spirituality where a veritable smorgasbord of techniques and paths to self-development can be found.
Seeking the Spirit
Many people today are longing to understand more deeply and truly both themselves and their relationship to the world. We search for meaning in our relationships with others and in the life and work we share with them. To many the world of the spirit is a reality, although its landscape and dimensions are not yet so clear. We seek to find our own answers as we travel a path of self knowledge, discovering and developing both soul and spiritual capacities that we may then place in the service of humanity and the earth.
Early this century Rudolf Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society as a place where people seeking to find their connection to the spiritual world, to discover their own spirituality, could come together. He brought anthroposophy into the world, not as something totally new; but the eternal wisdom that has guided humanity through all ages of our time on earth was recast into a form suited to our present day.
Rudolf Steiner, (1861 to 1925), was a spiritual researcher who had developed his faculty for perception in the spiritual world to a high degree. He was able to give insight into the nature of the human being and the world in which we live and to place it in the context of past and future evolution of the world. In the books that he wrote and the many lectures he gave, Steiner elaborated among other things the means by which the modern person may find their path to the spirit, and difficulties commonly encountered along the way.
Anthroposophy lives as seed within each human being, providing a methodology that can lead to a new relationship to our inner life as well as to technology, the environment and most of all to our fellow human beings. It also places our modern times in the much larger context of human and world evolution, the main purpose of which is the development of individual human spiritual capacities through consciousness, leading to freedom and love. Thus it meets the deep human yearning for understanding and connection.
Anthroposophy has opened the door to new approaches in a wide range of different spheres of life and work. The fields of education, curative education (for people with disabilities), agriculture, healing, the sciences, economic endeavours, the arts, the social life, religion and psychology have all received fresh impulses from people working out of anthroposophy. Today, in almost every country around the world, initiatives based on the insights arising from anthroposophy are to be found.
ANTHROPOSOPHY AT WORK
There are over 900 Waldorf Schools and hundreds more new pre-school initiatives around the world today. Parents everywhere are asking similar questions about their children’s education.
¨ How can we educate so that students can grow towards the future with what they learn, taking it with them into life?
¨ How can we give them courage and confidence for the future, one in which they are active and creative and feel a sense of meaning and purpose?
¨ How can we strengthen the individual so that they can develop and harmonize their abilities and find their place in the community?
Waldorf/Steiner education meets these challenges with an education that is alive and full of wonder and strives to awaken the inner life of the child. It develops the student’s capacity to learn, to be open to life and to develop a connection to the world. It does this largely through a curriculum and an approach that rests on an understanding of human development. Each stage if fully entered and development is supported, provides powers that grow and transform to new capacities in the next stage. Each stage has its own learning style and requires different teaching approaches. Waldorf/Steiner education is based on such an understanding.
Biodynamic farming and gardening has been embraced by people seeking to heal the earth and bring life back into soils degraded by the use of fertilisers, weed killers and so on. The Demeter label used for Biodynamic (BD) products is widely recognised by those seeking healthy, natural, nutritional produce, as it signifies high quality food produced without any form of artificial additives.
Biodynamic practice involves using preparations made from natural substances including herbs, cow manure and quartz crystals, all prepared within Nature’s laws to bring vitality to the environment. Methods used nurture both human beings and planet earth, making a healthy environment to enhance growth of body, soul and spirit.
Illness is a sign that the natural processes that give health and vitality are out of balance in some way. Anthroposophical medicine uses remedies derived from the plant and mineral world to stimulate the body’s own life forces to re-establish the balance. A study of nature can reveal the connections between certain plants, minerals and metals and human organs and body processes. Weleda and Wala are two companies that have developed medicines based on this knowledge.
Anthroposophical doctors are qualified and registered medical practitioners who have extended their understanding of illness and health through their work with the anthroposophical picture of the human being. They bring to their work a recognition of the patient as a unique individual, often needing treatment for the inner life of soul and spirit as well as for the body.
This holistic view leads to the use of the specially prepared medicines mentioned above to stimulate the body’s life forces, (which carry the immune system), as well as establishing a therapeutic program which address physical, emotional or mental disorders. Artistic therapy is often prescribed, which may include painting, eurythmy, music, clay modelling or speech. Rhythmical massage, oil dispersion baths, counselling and advice on nutrition may also be indicated.
THE CREATIVE ARTS
Our lives are profoundly affected by the natural and built environment we experience around us. When the colours, forms and materials of architectural space are able to reflect our own life of feelings, thoughts and physical actions, the resulting dialogue can produce harmony and well being in us. Thus architecture receives a new impulse from such ideas and insights. So too painting, sculpture, music, speech and drama have all been stimulated to new approaches through entering into the lawfulness inherent in each of these realms. Each art form seeks to bring the artist into conversation with the medium in which they are working. Eurythmy is a quite new art form that brings speech and music to visual expression in movement. As a performing art, eurythmy reveals relationships that exist between the human being and the cosmos.
The world today is in crisis. Human beings are challenged to understand what is happening and to engage consciously in the process of healing our world. Because the future of our earth depends on the activities of human beings, the answer to the social crisis of our times lies in the realm of human endeavour and relationships between people.
Today we need to know and understand ourselves and others and the meeting between us. The work in social development strives towards this out of its aims based on the understanding of human beings as outlined by Rudolf Steiner.
ANTHROPOSOPHY – AN INSPIRATION FOR BUSINESS
The spectrum of anthroposophical activities is not complete without economic enterprises. These take many forms. Typical are those concerned with food and farming, medicaments, bakeries, export of BD wheat, bookshops, wall paints, toys and businesses associated with curative homes – for example, sale of handcrafts. Basic features of these are care for the environment including work and beyond, sharing the product’s sale rather than receiving wages, associative relationships with customers rather than aggressive advertising, and production of a good quality product based on anthroposophical understanding of materials and processes.
The growing number of enterprises as well as schools, therapeutic communities etc. represent money-wise a growing cash flow and concentration of investments. This offers scope for anthroposophically inspired banking, for renewal of the understanding and ethics of money.