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About the coming Christmas Conference and the one of 1923
Clara Steinemann, who has been on the executive board of the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland since 2005, is in the preparation team for the coming Christmas Conference. About its impulse we had the following conversation with her.
The Swiss Society has been preparing for this conference for the last ten years. Many young (and not so young) people, on the other hand, have only recently begun to approach this topic. What would be particularly important for them to get into a good mood? What direction could they give their thoughts?
Clara Steinemann: I can't answer that so sweepingly. I think that today there are many ways to find an approach to what the Christmas Conference means. This year marks its centenary and we attempt to open a path to understanding this event and to give impulses for its effectiveness in the future for people who have already taken it into their hearts as well as for those who are only just getting to know it.
How will the conference unfold?
C. S. The programme will include central lectures each day, which will follow parts of the Foundation Stone Meditation done in eurythmy in different languages. The morning lectures will focus on what the Anthroposophical Society is all about: the laying of the Foundation Stone on 25th December, the Anthroposophical Society, the School of Spiritual Science and a look at future paths.
The evening lectures will attempt to look at future mysteries on the basis of the history of the mystery streams like Ephesus, Chartres, Rosicrucians., as described by Rudolf Steiner on the evenings of the Christmas Conference. On the last evening, we will discuss the mystery of the Guardian of the Threshold and what the transition of humanity across the threshold to the spiritual world means in our time.
It is a multifaceted programme that characterises this conference, with specialised afternoon courses, panels and forums being, as well as, an essential element. We asked ourselves which themes and areas of life have been or are being explored through anthroposophy in such a way that the esoteric, the spiritual penetrates into the outer appearances, both in the theory and in the practice of it, so that one could experience how anthroposophy works and transforms. Thus courses are offered that are intended to have this research character and where one can actually learn something.
Membership of the Society is sometimes problematic. Why is it that many people involved in anthroposophy who have undertaken an inner quest find that the Christmas Conference is an abstraction? In which direction has esotericism developed as a result?
C. S. A core element of the Christmas Conference is that from then on esoteric life can no longer be separate from everyday life. Rudolf Steiner himself used to hold esoteric lessons for groups or individuals. There are numerous mantric verses that one should meditate on at different moments of the day. Some of them were given to certain personalities. All this has a character that precedes the Christmas Conference and, seen from today's perspective, can be understood as a preparation for it. However, the Christmas Conference is a spiritual turning point: Until then, spiritual striving was hidden. People had to withdraw and avoid the outer as much as possible in order to strengthen the inner. With the beginning of Michael's age, Anthroposophy gradually comes to earth. With the Foundation Stone – not only with the verses, but much more with the stone, that is, with an etheric-spiritual entity – the possibility is realised that modern people can cultivate the esoteric in everyday life and that outer life can be transformed and shaped accordingly.
Does it mean that Anthroposophy is neither exactly an esoteric training nor a philosophical representation of humanity, but much more an inner practice in that which connects humanity with the world? This would mean that practice, the fact of being active, would be of great importance.
C. S. Actually, today it is no longer possible to separate the outer occupation from the inner seeking, to put it in extreme terms. There may, of course, be phases in life when one can devote oneself more to a spiritual training, but basically, since the Christmas Conference, the true esoteric is to be found in life, in work, in the transformation of nature; briefly, in civilisation. Even the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science only has a healthy effect when it is connected with work in the world. That is why the Sections with their Section Leaders were founded at Rudolf Steiner's Christmas Conference.
The way Rudolf Steiner organised the Society and the Sections also shows that there is no secret unrelated to life and the work, which comes with it. The Society is the heart of something that goes all the way into the world.
What is the meaning of the Foundation Stone Meditation in this regard?
C. S. I understand the Foundation Stone as the centre of everything. Everything is in there in concentrated form. If one meditates on it regularly, one attunes oneself to the own soul so that it can act in the world through a conscious, strong connection to the spirit and the body.
Why are many interested in anthroposophy but not in the Anthroposophical Society at the same time?
C. S. There are several reasons for this, which I do not wish to go into here. We have talked a lot about this issue over the years. Now we have to look ahead. This conference has been prepared in such a way that it can be an event for everyone interested. We very much hope to be able to reach many people, not only German speakers, but also people speaking other languages thanks to the various translations. Unfortunately, we could only choose a limited number of languages and had to leave out others, although they are also important for many people.
Thank you very much for this interview, Frau Steinemann. We wish you and your colleagues in the preparation team a good work.
Giovanni Tobia De Benedetti