Why become a Member of the General Anthroposophical Society?
What is the Anthroposophical Society?
The General Anthroposophical Society was founded by Rudolf Steiner during the Christmas Conference of 1923. It includes various members’ groups and branches in 78 countries on all continents. It is active in various sectors of contemporary life including: education (Waldorf schools), medicine, the social sciences, economy, agriculture (biodynamics), etc. It organizes lectures, conferences, seminars and artistic events – all concerning contemporary questions. The Society headquarters is located at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.
Upon discovering anthroposophy, an individual may feel an immediate connection with the values and the goals expressed by the Society and its members. This person may choose to join the Society in order to explore anthroposophical knowledge in the company of others with whom he or she feels a connection. In this case, becoming a member implies consciously supporting the work of anthroposophy being carried out all over the world and recognising the importance of what Rudolf Steiner gave to mankind at the 1923 Christmas Conference.
The Society is public and open to all regardless of one’s political leanings or religious beliefs.
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. (Paragraph 4, Statutes of the General Anthroposophical Society.)
The Anthroposophical Society fosters and supports the School for Spiritual Science as an organisation devoted to spiritual research and development. The School is made up of what is known as the General Anthroposophical Section, the members of which can then choose to join the various other Sections devoted to specific fields of professional life: the Pedagogical Section, the Medical Section, the Section for Agricultural, the Social Sciences Section, the Section for Humanities and the Arts, the Fine Arts Section, the Science Section and the Section for Mathematics and Astronomy.
Why become a member of the Anthroposophical Society? This question is a perfectly legitimate one to ask in our present era. Is a society founded nearly a century ago still relevant? Upon serious examination, it becomes apparent that what anthroposophy brings to human beings retains all its relevance in the sense that it provides answers to the most pressing contemporary questions and offers prospects for the future evolution of mankind – especially when supported within a common social framework.
Rudolf Steiner defined anthroposophy as being an approach: “a path to join the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.” An individual’s aspiration to follow such a path of development is supported by rigorous study of the spiritual nature of the human being and his relationship to the world. Anthroposophy therefore is not merely a spiritual path to individual freedom, but also becomes a process of discovery and of expanding the scope of one’s knowledge. In this sense, it brings cultural insights that are significant for the needs of our times. Indeed, the possibility of making small steps for the progress of mankind can begin by undertaking work on oneself.
What is the School of Spiritual Science?
The task of this school is to carry out research in the spheres mentioned above: education, medicine, etc. The investigative tools used in such research are study, Goethean observation, concentration and meditation.
Given this context, in order to become a member of the School one must have, on the one hand, previously become familiar with the basic principles of anthroposophy and, on the other hand, it is a general recommendation that one be a member of the Anthroposophical Society for at least two years prior to requesting to become a member of the School. This will entail being willing to become a representative for anthroposophy in the world.
Has research carried out according to this approach led to convincing results?
We can clearly answer in the affirmative. Here are a few examples:
Through what is known as Waldorf education, anthroposophy has made it possible to expand our knowledge of the human being and human development. The rich and varied Waldorf curriculum, which addresses all the constituent elements of the human being, has been adjusted throughout the years to meet the changing needs of children as cultural and social contexts evolve. Research in the field of Waldorf education has cast new light on the difficulties encountered by children born into our present world.
In the field of anthroposophical medicine, a deep insight into both psychological and physical disturbances offers alternative treatments. Ongoing research in the fields of cancer and infectious diseases are pointing towards new breakthroughs. Psychosomatic and complementary medical practices cans give support to patients without their necessarily having recourse to traditional remedies. And the revolutionary work done with persons with special needs in Camphill Villages around the world has implemented appropriate care methods by the use of art therapy.
Biodynamic farming and gardening methods have also become widely known, gaining more and more recognition for their positive effects on the environment and for the quality of the vegetables, medicinal plants and wine they produce.
In the social sciences field, new forms of working have been introduced in institutions (methods such as consensus management decision making and the application of techniques based on the notion of social three-folding).
And in the realm of economics, several enterprises now work according to the principles of cooperative economics (for example, “associative economy” which has been developed as an ethical alternative to rampant capitalism.)
The General Anthroposophical Section of the School of Spiritual Science takes the soul-spiritual aspect of the human being as its principle field of exploration. In addition to the lessons of the First Class (which describe the path taken by the human ego in its search for its spiritual essence) given by Rudolf Steiner, the School of Spiritual Science provides rich and varied indications for embarking upon a personal meditative practice, and many workshops and seminars are offered in this field.
As a response to the fragmented and incomplete answers provided by the quantitative approach of official natural science, a “Goethean” approach can offer complementary avenues of exploration; phenomenological observation focuses on the qualitative nature of substances such as water and plant life.
As for the arts, their importance in the context of the anthroposophical world view cannot be underestimated. Rudolf Steiner’s indications concerning the theatre and visual arts have opened up rich new possibilities of renewal in these fields. It must be added that the arts have also been put to practical application in the areas of health, education and the social sciences. In certain instances, they can also bring clarity when brought into play to deal with questions arising in the field of natural science.
Is there a place for the youth in the Anthroposophical Society?
Young people who develop an interest in anthroposophy when seeking answers to the specific questions they live with can form groups to explore these questions. They need not be members of the Anthroposophical Society, but nevertheless are part of the Section for the Spiritual Striving of Youth.
In the words of the leaders of the Youth Section:
“The Youth Section vision is to create a world that values, supports, and allows the potential and creativity of every young person to unfold their full strength and brilliance.”
Are there specific requirements for becoming a member of the General Anthroposophical Society?
Becoming a member of the General Anthroposophical Society is a completely free act and requires no specific commitment other than recognising that Rudolf Steiner founded the Society and that the Goetheanum is the centre of the world Society.
In order to cover the costs of a Society Newsletter and to support the ongoing activity of the Society, both locally and internationally (including the work being carried out at the Society headquarters at the Goetheanum in Switzerland), each member is asked to pay an annual contribution fee.
How does one apply for membership?
Membership application is generally made through contact with a local or regional group, in other words through the Society as it exists in this country. Application can however also be made through a branch directly connected to the Goetheanum in Switzerland. If you are interested in becoming a member, we urge you to contact the Anthroposophical Society in Canada: Jeffrey Saunders: 877-892-3656 or Arie van Ameringen: 450-295-2387 for information in French.