Saturday, April 29, 2017

Proper Conduct of a Group & on Anthroposophical Lecturing- Rudolf Steiner

THE following appeared in the November, 1949 issue of the Anthroposophical Movement, issued by the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. In it Adelheid Peterson speaks of some questions of “universal and fundamental importance”.

Adelheid Peterson writes: —

On the 28th August, 1919, I traveled from Munich to Stuttgart to lay before Rudolf Steiner a plan for a fresh beginning of our work in Munich. Since Sophie Stinde’s death things had stagnated there, in both Groups there were internal dissensions....

In contrast to his reception of me on former occasions, Dr. Steiner received me somewhat coldly; his attitude was one of reserve, and he said straightaway, in severe and chilly tones, “What have you to say to me?”

I replied that, since a house with a large reception room had been placed at the disposal of the movement, I wanted to take the initiative in inaugurating fresh work in Munich. Thereupon, in the same tone of voice, came the second question, “And how do you envisage this work?”

Now the whole plan in concrete detail was already fully alive in my mind. So I was able to expound it quickly and clearly. There were to be Introductory Courses, Continuation Courses, Courses for Young People; lectures from various anthroposophical speakers, and Afternoon Classes for the working-class children in the neighborhood, as to whose lack of supervision during the afternoon hours when the schools were closed the teachers had been much concerned.

When I had finished, Rudolf Steiner’s voice and manner changed. “That gives me great happiness,” he said warmly, “and I will do everything I can to help you.”

But he added a warning as to the heavy burden, the spiritual and physical fatigue, which such an undertaking involved; he warned me that we should actually have to face hostility and “stabs-in-the-back” from the ranks of “our own beloved members”. After he had spoken of this in some detail, he sent me away “to sleep over it all another night”, and made an appointment to see me again early the next morning, when I was to tell him what I had decided— as to which he was as little in doubt as I was myself.

So when I came back again, he smiled. And now a unique privilege fell to my lot an experience which worked an inward transformation in me. During this and other interviews arranged by him he put me through a thorough training in how to lecture and how to conduct a Group.

I pass over what he said that was purely personal and summarize here what was of universal and fundamental importance.

He started with what can be read in his lecture of June 15, 1915, given at Düsseldorf. Published in German as “Gemeinsamkeit über uns,Christus in uns”.

Preparing for the Sixth Epoch GA 159 

This lecture was given at the opening of Group II, on June 15, 1915. It was originally published in English with the title How Anthroposophical Groups Prepare for the Sixth Epoch, or Three Fundamental Characteristics of the Future Civilization of Mankind.

Some pertinent excerpts:

"we must realize that we make a distinction, even if only in thought, between the work we do in a group like this and our other work in the world. Those who are unwilling to enter deeply into more intimate truths connected with the spiritual progress of humanity, might ask if we could not cultivate Spiritual Science without forming ourselves into groups, but simply by finding lecturers and providing opportunities for people who may not know each other to come together and have access to the spiritual treasure of which we speak. 

"We could, of course, proceed in this way. But as long as it is at all possible to establish, in the wider and narrower senses, associations of human beings who are known to one another and who come together in friendship and brotherliness within these working groups, we will continue to found them in full consciousness of the attitude of soul
that is part and parcel of Spiritual Science.

"It is not without meaning that among us there are human beings who want to cultivate the more intimate side of spiritual knowledge and who sincerely intend to work together in brotherliness and harmony.

"Not only are relationships and intercourse affected by the fact that we can speak quite differently among ourselves, knowing that we are speaking to souls consciously associated with us — not only is this so, but something else is also to be remembered. The establishment of individual groups is connected with the whole conception that we hold of our Movement if we understand its inmost nature. We must all be conscious that our Movement is significant not only for the existence known to the senses and for the existence that is grasped by the outward turned mind of man, but that through this Movement our souls are seeking a real and genuine link with the spiritual worlds.

"Again and again, in full consciousness, we should say to ourselves that by the cultivation of Spiritual Science we transfer our souls as it were into spheres that are peopled not only by beings of earth but also by the beings of the higher hierarchies, the beings of the invisible worlds. We must realize that our work is of significance for these invisible worlds, that we are actually within these worlds. In the spiritual world, the work performed by those who know one another within such groups is quite different from work carried on outside such a group and dispersed about the world. The work carried out in brotherly harmony within our groups has quite a different significance for the spiritual world than other work we may undertake. To understand this fully we must remind ourselves of truths we have studied in many aspects during recent years.....

"The nature of Spirit Self is that it must pre-suppose the existence in human souls of the three characteristics of which I have spoken:

  • social life in which brotherliness prevails,
  • freedom of thought, 
  • and pneumatology. 

These three characteristics are essential in a community of human beings within which the Spirit Self is to develop as the Consciousness Soul develops in the souls of the Fifth Epoch. We may therefore picture to ourselves that by uniting in brotherliness in working groups, something hovers invisibly over our work, something that is like the child of the forces of the Spirit Self — the Spirit Self that is nurtured by the beings of the higher hierarchies in order that it may stream down into our souls when they are again on earth in the Sixth Epoch of civilization. 

"In our groups we perform work that streams upward to those forces that are being prepared for the Spirit Self. The thought that we do this work nor only for the sake of our own egos, but in order that it may stream upward into the spiritual worlds, the thought that this work is connected with the spiritual worlds, this is the true consecration of a working group. To cherish such a thought is to permeate ourselves with the consciousness of the consecration that is the foundation of a working group within the Movement. It is therefore of great importance to grasp this fact in its true spiritual sense. We find ourselves together in working groups which, besides cultivating Spiritual Science, are based on freedom of thought. They will have nothing to do with dogma or coercion of belief, and their work should be of the nature of cooperation among brothers. What matters most of all is to become conscious of the true meaning of the idea of community, saying to ourselves: Apart from the fact that as modern souls we belong to the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch of culture and develop as individuals, raising individual life more and more out of community life, we must in turn become conscious of a higher form of community, founded in the freedom of love among brothers, as a breath of magic that we breathe in our working groups."


“Anthroposophical study is a reality in the spiritual worlds. It enters into the spiritual worlds, into the life of the Higher Hierarchies. Through right anthroposophical work much of the evil which happens in this world can be counteracted for the spiritual worlds, which are unceasingly influencing everything.”

Then, coming to the case in point, he began: —

“At the outset of your work you will give your first lecture. But I want to say this to you.” And he leaned forward a little and spoke very emphatically. “Even if only three people are present — if only one is there — you must give your lecture as if five hundred people were sitting before you. The one who is there may be the one that matters- the same with the children’s classes. If only two children join as a result of your announcement, begin with those two.”

At that time a wave of propagandism was passing through the Society. Members hoped to counteract the tendencies of the time by a widespread publicity. Many Group Leaders took a pride in increasing the membership of the Group to the greatest possible extent. Rudolf Steiner disapproved of this. “Of course the movement must grow,” he said, “but it must come about in the proper way, in a healthy way. The methods which are being employed at present only drive the membership into superficiality. That does the Society great harm.”

He spoke, as frequently before, of lack of discernment, of tact, of complete conscientiousness. Then he went on:

“The essential thing for all right anthroposophical work is to give out only as much of the content of anthroposophy as has become inward life to you, as much as has become your life’s joy, your life’s necessity, as much as you have made your own. Only that enters into the other man. Only that can really mediate anthroposophy.

“Lectures that people deliver out of their head-knowledge are abstract and have the same effect upon their hearers as other abstractions. They will form no living substance, awaken no conviction.

“We should already have made far more progress in the world with anthroposophy if our lecturers did not speak so much from the head. To absorb something of anthroposophy through the head today and tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or in a few weeks or months, to give it out again from the head — that is an impossibility. What is so given out may be perfectly correct in its content, its reproduction may even have a certain beauty. But it does not live. Of course everything of a conceptual nature must first be worked out abstractly. But then it has to be transmuted, it has to become life, it has to become form.

“And this life, this form, must be behind what is conceptual in a lecture. Out of the whole man must the lecturer speak, out of the forces of his heart permeated with will. Then will he reach the deeper nature of his listener, even of one who still feels distaste or opposition to what he hears.

“One thing above all you must inscribe in your soul; not what you say is the decisive thing — of course it must be correct but how you say it! How what you say lives in you, how you yourself are behind it in all inner sincerity, what is your own inmost bearing, your disposition, how conscientious you are, that is what the spiritual world looks at!”

His solemnity became still more marked:

“And further you must know, and must never again forget, that when you give lectures or when people come to you with their questions — no matter what kind of question- if you stand there bursting with satisfaction that you are able, out of what you hear within you, out of what you yourself have attained, to answer their questions, or to teach them — if you stand before the other man with the feeling of inner riches, of spiritual superiority, then you might as well leave things alone. For then you only do harm to yourself and are of no use at all to the other man. For what you say remains only on the surface.

“If you would serve the spiritual world in the sense of anthroposophy you may never deliver an address or answer questions feeling full of the subject. You must, on the contrary, have a sense of inadequacy, of poverty, in face of what you have to do, in face of what is expected of you — a feeling of failure before men and before the spiritual world. You must actually ask for help. Then you will be in the right mood of soul. Then you will find the right thing to say. Then your words will find their way into the inner being of your hearer. Then you will speak out of the truth.

“Every lecture you give, all the anthroposophical work you undertake, you should feel as a heavy responsibility. It is right that you should have this sense of burden, but it is not so pleasant as to enjoy yourself in the work!”

He then began to speak of Group work and Group Leadership. “Here the problems are quite different from those we encounter in work in the outside world. Here the essential thing is community, a community of men of the most varied characteristics -so-called educated and uneducated, of all classes and all callings, old and young, both in years as well as in membership and in the character of their souls. This community tries to be and ought to be, a living conscious entity through the anthroposophical substance at which it works during the Group meetings. The activity of the Group is a process of continuously developing consciousness. For this development through common work the Group Leader is responsible. The welding together of this community turns upon the personality of the Group Leader. It must be so. But in this respect two things are taken far too lightly. How a Group is constituted, how its work is carried out, depends upon the Group Leader.

“The purport of the Group and hence its task is to deepen the esoteric life of the members. Work carried out in common by the Group is a training for the impulses of the Sixth Culture-Epoch. A certain contribution towards the spirit-life of the Sixth Culture-Epoch can actually only be carried out in Group study, in the working out of the esoteric, in the development of esoteric substance such as is given in the cycles and lectures for members.

“And here too, of course, what I have already said holds good. As Group Leader you can only work aright if what you are treating of has become your own inmost life. It does not matter whether you read a lecture and then speak about it or whether you speak about something that you have studied and worked out for yourself’. In Group work more than ever the important thing is how! Every thing depends on inner conviction, inner truthfulness, upon reverence for anthroposophy.

“When you read a lecture you must have fully mastered it inwardly, and in reading it aloud you must really bring it forth anew. And let there be no ‘cycle-cramming’. It is frightful to hear people saying how many cycles they have read in the shortest possible time. They never stop stuffing their heads! If you succeed in making a single anthroposophical idea living in human beings you have achieved something.

“You must learn to work from out of your members. You must listen attentively for what comes to meet you from them, you must be alive to their need. When you can do that, when you really speak or read out of an inward living esotericism, then you will speak to everybody, then each will find his own, be he old or be he young, be he educated or uneducated, each will take from you what he needs and what he can live and work with.”

Discussions Dr. Steiner did not want. “They are not suitable in Group meetings. The substance or the aura which can be formed by a lecture is destroyed by discussion, is frittered away.” He advised against allowing even questions after lectures in the open meeting. He used to allow them in earlier years of his activity, but later he discontinued the practice. “Often there is no real seriousness behind such questions, which are also for the most part wrongly formulated, and serve no good purpose. It is better to give out that one is willing to answer private questions after the lecture.

“The theory of knowledge is not suitable for Group meetings, nor the books written for the public, such as ‘Theosophy’ or ‘Occult Science’. Group meetings should he the occasion for deepening the inner life, for filling out and making more concrete what is heard there.”

He dwelt at length on the subject of the structure of lectures, both for the Group and for the public. Content and form cannot he separated. A shapelessly, badly constructed lecture is bad, even if its content is correct in all its details. “It makes no impression.”

“You will do well to work out with precision the commencement of your lecture. But then you must allow yourself to speak freely. To read your lecture is unthinkable. Unfortunately, in the matter of the formation of their lectures our lecturers leave much to be desired. The content is mastered without any care for its form. A lecture must he treated in its whole structure as a work of art. Its inner proportions must be harmonious. Its beginning and end must correspond, must, so-to-say, dovetail into one another. A lecture must have a firm axis around which one circles, but from which one may only deviate within proper limits.”

And then Rudolf Steiner showed me how he built up his own lectures, both the single lectures and the cycle as a whole. He drew an axis, encircled by a rising spiral, “With more and more practice you will at length only find it necessary to fix the beginning and the end. In between you will be able to move freely within the given form. It is painful to hear a lecturer lose himself in side-issues, become confused, return again and again to his peroration, and thereby spoil everything that went before it.”

As he ended his gaze took on that earnestness, that unfathomable beaming kindliness, in the light of which the personal man withers away, whilst at the same time he sees before him all the forces and possibilities of his own being.

“Be ever conscious of the sacredness and solemnity of the task that you have set yourself” he said. “Anthroposophy is a dangerous thing when undertaken lightly. Never forget that. The future of humanity is involved. The human beings who sit before you are involved. You must see these human beings. You must love the man, the hidden man within the man who sits before you, as you love anthroposophy.”

And again he repeated his earlier words as to the need for feeling a sense of inner poverty in face of one’s task. “Then you will feel the help of the spiritual world.”

Two more things Dr. Steiner said on another occasion- indeed he said these things more than once about that time:

“It is possible that one day anthroposophy will have to free itself from the Anthroposophical Society. That need not happen, but the possibility exists. When I am no longer here an intellectualisation of spiritual science will come about. That is a great danger for it will mean the stagnation of the whole movement. That is why the proper cultivation of esotericism within the Groups is so important.

“People do not know it and do not want to hear it, but when a man sits quietly in his room, and with real inward seriousness, with the complete devotion of his heart, reads, let us say, the Gospel of John or some anthroposophical book or lecture, and lives fully in what he is reading, he does more for the healing of the world and of men than many a one who makes himself important to himself and others in the external affairs of the Society.”

And he added, “But for that one must be aware of the reality of the Higher Beings.”

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