Theme for the Year: “The I Knows Itself” – in the Light of Michaelic World Affirmation and World Connection

Articles on the 2015/16 Theme for the Year

by Christiane Haid and Bodo von Plato

It is the first time that the Theme for the Year will not be presented in one article, but in contributions from several authors over the course of the next twelve months. These will be based on Rudolf Steiner’s statement:
“Know your self and your self will become the world;
  Know the world and the world will become your self.”

Each year the annual theme of the General Anthroposophical Society aims to provide a stimulating focus for the work of those members who wish to engage in a process of common consciousness with the Goetheanum Leadership. During our annual autumn meetings with the General Secretaries (now representing seventeen countries worldwide) we consult on the theme for the following year.

Currently in 2014/15 we are attempting to penetrate, through an attitude of complete acceptance, a core anthroposophical concept, namely “The ‘I’ knows itself – in the light of Michaelic world affirmation.” Through this theme we wish to examine a quality of self-knowledge which can come into being when we fully engage with and accept the world. We suggest that we continue to make this Michaelic quality of self-knowledge a central focus of our studies, contemplation and anthroposophical meetings in 2015/16. In addition to “world-affirmation” we would like to add “world-connection.” By expanding the theme, the fundamental anthroposophical self-knowledge and self-development evolve to an active engagement in the world. In this spirit, we can come to understand the meaning of Michaelic self-awareness in an ever new and deepening way.

Articles on the Theme for the Year

The members of the Goetheanum Leadership, as well as the General Secretaries, intend publishing a variety of contributions on a monthly basis. The first will be an article by Helmut Goldman, the General Secretary of Austria (below). These contributions will articulate different perspectives, showing how connection to the world can be achieved through self-knowledge, and connection to the self by experiencing the world.

“The ‘I’ knows itself – in the light of Michaelic world affirmation and world connection” can contribute in a calm and powerful way towards a transformation – also in terms of the Anthroposophical Society – of: “Know your self and your self will become the world;/ Know the world and the world will become your self.”

Take Hold of the Future through the Past

The following meditation contemplating the stream of time, given by Rudolf Steiner on 24th December 1920 to Ita Wegman, may serve as a possible deepening of this year’s theme:

We are a bridge
between our past
and future existence;
The present a moment,
the moment as bridge.

Spirit grown soul
in matter’s enveloping sheath
comes from the past;
soul growing to spirit
in germinal spheres
is our future path.

Take hold of the future
through the past,
hope for what’s coming
through what became.

So grasp existence
through growth;
so grasp what’s growing
in what exists

(English translation:
Matthew Barton in Finding the Greater Self. Meditations
for Harmony and Healing
. Sophia Books, 2002)

| For the Goetheanum Leadership, Christiane Haid and Bodo von Plato.
Translation by Joan Sleigh, with Sue Simpson and Jan Baker Finch.


Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (GA 26), Michael Letter of November 16, 1924, “The World Thoughts in the Working of Michael and in the Working of Ahriman.”

Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (GA 26), Michael Letter of August 31, 1924, “The Condition of the Human Soul before the Dawn of the Michael Age.”

Rudolf Steiner, Karmic Relationships, vol. 3, Lectures of July 1, 1924 and July 28, 1924.

Rudolf Steiner, Awakening to Community (GA 257), Lectures of February 28 and March 4, 1923.

Rudolf Steiner: Inner Aspect of the Social Question (GA 193) Lecture of February 11, 1919.

Rudolf Steiner: Letters to the Members (from GA 260a), letter
of February 3, 1924.


by Helmut Goldmann

Rudolf Steiner inscribed the verse on which the 2015/16 Theme of the Year is based in Elisabeth Vreede’s copy of the Calendar of the Soul:
“Know your self and your self will become the world;
Know the world and the world will become your self.”
Helmut Goldmann looks at how self-knowledge and world affirmation are related.

Does not the world produce thinking in our heads with the same necessity as it produces the blossom on a plant? (The Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 5)

World  affirmation1 can never be affirmation of one detail or one aspect of the world. One cannot affirm evil, for instance, but one can learn to affirm, or at least inwardly accept, a world that  encompasses  evil.  The  affirmation relates  to  the  wider  world  context  including the human being. Interestingly, we find this world affirmation even in Rudolf Steiner’s very early work, in writings that  seem  to  suggest  to  some  people that he is an atheist or even a materialist because he radically rejects any views of the beyond that—from the point of view of Michaelic world affirmation—must be seen as escapist. Such views often come with the attempt to relinquish responsibility to the world beyond and are therefore, in essence, a flight from freedom.

Affirmation of Modern Humanity

Michaelic world affirmation is affirmation of modern humanity, of our position in today’s world and in the world of our thinking, feeling and will. The consciousness soul with the specific developmental potential it holds, especially since the beginning of the Michaelic Age in 1879, opens up new prospects for human self-knowledge: conditions and possibilities that belong to our world reality and form the basis for the freedom we can affirm and accept as our task.

Michael and Human Thinking

In the Michael Letters of 1924/1925 Rudolf Steiner described the cosmic journey towards human reality in which the transition from the intellectual  to the consciousness soul is a crucial step. Rudolf Steiner characterized this step in the second Michael Letter:2 our thinking loses the inspiration it (still) had in the age of the intellectual soul, and “actively brings [the ideas] out of our own spiritual life.” With the old inspiration we lose the “spiritual substance of the world,” however, and our (naïve) “courage to use our own mind”3 is initially restricted to “sense perception.”

Although this courage cannot be intellectually or  theoretically,  explained, it is justified because an entirely new possibility has emerged within our innermost being. “But while human vision in this era had to be restricted to the outer physical world, the experience of a purified spirituality that consists in itself has evolved within the human soul.”

Our courage is rooted in this “spirituality that consists in itself,” but it is not yet conscious of itself, of its inner foundation. The sentences which follow are the essence of Michaelic world affirmation: “In the Michaelic age, this spirituality must not remain an unconscious experience; it must become aware of its own nature. This4 means that the Michael being enters the human soul”. We must no longer seek “spirituality” in a traditional “higher” world but in the world in which we live: out of the dead thoughts of our object-consciousness we must wake up to this spirituality. This waking up to the oneness of the human being with the world that we need to recreate through our own inner spiritual activity constitutes the challenge we are facing now and in the future. We are free today from the coercive impact of old inspirations and we can look for the wellspring in which our freedom and our thinking originate. This is the Michaelic path in the world. If we do not take this step, we may be led into luciferic spirituality, or we may end up understanding and creating only dead contents in the world because our thinking has died or become detached. “So much depends on the fact that our ideas cease to be merely ‘thinking’ but, in thinking, become ‘seeing’.”5

From Dead Thinking to Living Thinking

In his lecture cycle on the “Karma of the  Anthroposophical  Society”6 Rudolf Steiner dramatically described the cosmic origin of our relationship with the world: A “cosmic storm” in the fifteenth century caused “the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones to transfer the cosmic intelligence from the human heart to the neurosensory system or head organization. […] Before this occurred, human beings were heart beings. After that, they became head beings. Intelligence has become our own.” This meant, however, that the true, living thinking was forgotten for the time being. As free human beings we can decide to take hold again of the living thinking at any time; but the results of this thinking—the ideas—at first seem like forgotten and therefore dead.

In the same lecture cycle Rudolf Steiner also outlined the task we have as a result of this cosmic-human evolution. “After this intervening period, during which the vividness of thinking is darkened, humanity must strive to take hold of the living thinking again, for human beings will otherwise remain weak and lose their own reality to the reality of thinking.”7

Self-knowledge in Thinking

In the first place, this task refers us back to our own selves: an act of freedom is required. We can each of us decide to embark on such inner development: it is our answer to a “question” that the world asks. This affirmation of a situation is not a theoretical step; it is existential and it means and  demands our ability to cope with ourselves—it is a dramatic soul event: we must overcome the oblivious selfishness that is fed by dead thinking.

This needs inner independence and autonomy because we now have responsibility and this responsibility we cannot relinquish. But as seekers who bear responsibility for ourselves, we can find each other in a new way: in what Rudolf Steiner referred to as “anthroposophical community building”. He described this in the eponymous cycle, especially in the lecture of 27 February in the crisis year 1923: the possibility of a new community-building arises as a result of the first spiritual awakening in group studies where a new, reverse cult can arise from conversation. It seems as if Rudolf Steiner recommended this path to the members because it would help to consolidate  the  Anthroposophical  Society. —Community building has a foundation and a practical way of application:

Gaining Knowledge as a Community

Its foundation is what Rudolf Steiner often referred to as spiritual idealism,8 an idealism that has been acquired and that is based on will activity – as opposed to the kind of idealism that is innate, acquired or intellectually cultivated. In our context here, it means the absolute acceptance of others as they are, absolute tolerance. – Another motif of world affirmation! Its practical application is described by Rudolf Steiner as the true task of the branches and groups: to experience how anthroposophy lives in the other person. “… what is important in the Anthroposophical Society is the life that is cultivated within it.”9 The striving of each individual to really understand ideas that are “not restricted to the external physical world” generates life, and the ensuing instances of life can meet each other. In repeatedly experiencing the striving for knowledge of people whom I make an effort to meet, I can awaken to the—initially unconscious—experience of the “purified spirituality that consists in itself” and that is the source of all striving for knowledge. It is as if, in community my own initiative to gain knowledge becomes a perceptive organ for this “spirituality”—in others, in myself and between us.

All this lives in every real conversation—if only as a seed. The  answer  refers us back to ourselves and our creative potential: an answer that merely replicates what has been heard or repeats old thoughts is not an answer. But in the weaving of  listening  and  answering a first awakening can take place—as something one cannot strive for in the ordinary sense, but that is given as a grace. This is why conversation is “more life-giving than light”.10

| Helmut Goldmann, General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Austria.
English translation by Margot Saar

  1. Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts [GA 26], Michael Letter of November 16, 1924, “The World Thoughts in the Working of Michael and in  the Working  of  Ahriman.”
  2. Ibid. Michael Letter of August 31, 1924, “The Condition of the Human Soul before the Dawn of the Michael Age.”
  3. Immanuel Kant, “Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?”, Berlinische Monatsschrift (December, 1784) pp. 481–494.
    On-line: philosophie/texte/kant/aufklaer.htm English:
  4. Emphasis added by Helmut Goldmann.
  5. Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, Michael Letter of August 31, 1924.
  6. Rudolf Steiner, Karmic Relationships, vol. 3, “The New Age of Michael,” Lecture of July 28, 1924.
  7. Ibid., Lecture of July 1, 1924.
  8. Rudolf Steiner, Awakening to Community [GA 257], Lectures of February 28 and March 4, 1923; Rudolf Steiner: Inner Aspect of the Social Question [GA 193] Lecture 3, Zurich, February 11, 1919.
  9. Rudolf  Steiner:  Letters to Members (from GA 260a), letter of February 3, 1924.
  10. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.


by Paul Mackay

In Anthroposophy Worldwide No. 1/2015 Helmut Goldmann deepened the theme of world affirmation in knowledge. I would like to base my contribution on two lectures by Rudolf Steiner:

  1. “Common Ground above Us, Christ in Us” (June 15, 1915; GA 159)
  2. “Evolution, Involution and Creation out of Nothing” (June 17, 1909; GA 107)

In the first lecture, Rudolf Steiner describes three characteristics that should be developed in the Anthroposophical Society; they represent a preparation for the next—sixth—cultural period. In the second lecture thee realms are indicated in which the human being can become creatively active. Here I would like to try to relate the three characteristics with these three realms. To the extent this interrelationship succeeds, world affirmation can become world relationship, even world connection. A deepened knowledge of world and self in the sense of the verse is made possible.

Humanity’s Awakening to Its Activity

The three characteristics are described by Rudolf Steiner as follows. The first is that the human being will more and more feel the suffering of another as his own suffering. The reality of life will be altered so that the welfare of the individual will depend on the welfare of the whole. Rudolf Steiner indicates that this sort of mutuality can only arise in a healthy way when the modern human undergoes a process of individualization and begins to feel himself meeting the world. From this meeting a new form of world affirmation and world relationship can arise.

The second characteristic is connected with this human individualization, one that makes it possible for complete freedom of thought to arise in the religious area. Religious life is placed into the hands of the individual. What happens then is that a hidden element of the divine can be discovered within each human being. Translated into modern language, that would be: “The dignity of the human being is inviolable.”

The third characteristic is connected with the human being’s capacity for knowledge. It we are more and more successful in recognizing the spiritual in the world, the world takes on meaning— and it thereby becomes possible to find a deepened relationship to the world.

Rudolf Steiner also describes these three characteristics (to be developed within  the   Anthroposophical   Society) in his lecture of October 10, 1916 (“How Can the Destitution of Soul in Modern Times Be Overcome?” GA 168) and the lecture of October 9, 1918 (“The Work of the Angels in Man’s Astral Body” GA 182).* In both lectures, Rudolf Steiner makes clear that these three characteristics are not only a preparation for the sixth cultural epoch—they must also be developed in our present time. The angel beings are even waiting for human beings to awaken to their activity. That means that much depends on whether these three characteristics can be realized in our time.

Qualities of Each World

In his lecture “Evolution, Involution and Creation out of Nothing,” Rudolf Steiner notes that it is possible for the human being to determine his relation to the world freely. That also means: to act based on the situation. This possibility is given him through Christ’s entrance into our evolution. The relationship with the Christ Being enables a so-called creation out of nothing, which can also be understood as creation out of the I. This creation can take place in three realms: the realm of logic, the realm of the esthetic, and the realm of ethics.

The realm of logic does not end with the sense world. Of course, the sense world has its own logic. But as soon as we enter the world of what is alive we notice  that  it  has  its  own  logic,  which means its own quality. Goethe followed the trace of this quality which finds its expression in metamorphosis. The realm of the soul element has its own logic as well. It is not without meaning that Rudolf  Steiner  inscribed  this  verse  in  the Calendar of the Soul which deals with the  intimate  connection  between  self and world. A process of inversion can be sensed, one that takes place in the soul element as it follows the course of the year: self becomes world, world becomes self. This applies to crossing the threshold of death, as well. Rudolf Steiner also sought to make the quality of the karmic element accessible in his karma lectures.

Human knowledge is lent an esoteric character, enters more and more into the sphere of inner insight. That also means that  the  types  of  logic  described  here open up to the human being only when he   takes   initiative   in   meeting   them. When  the  human  being  grasps  these types of logic, he can know the world ac-
cordingly. A context of meaning arises.

Inner Openness

In the realm of the esthetic we are not so much concerned with self-referential judgments of taste as with an inner openness to the world so that another form of perception can arise. It is especially social life that needs this inner openness, which can also be understood as an awakening through the soul-spiritual quality of the other person. With this type of awakening the human being begins to develop an initial understanding for the spiritual world. What happens between people is important, but it is also a type of gateway to an understanding with spiritual beings.

In the realm of ethics, the ninth chapter of the Philosophy of Freedom describes ethical individualism as human creative activity. I am not led by a generally valid moral precept, but by my love for the act. I perform it because I love it. It becomes good when my intuition—immersed in love—finds its right place within the context of the world as I experience it.

Creating a Context of Meaning

This creative human activity in the realms described here can be related to the three characteristics noted earlier, characteristics that are to be developed. The creative activity in the realm of thinking (or realm of logic) makes it possible for the human being to reach the spirit through thinking. Thus an insight into the spiritual nature of the world is attained; it opens up a context of meaning. It is the task of spiritual science to create this context of meaning.

If the realm of the esthetic is understood so  that  the  dignity  of  the other person is not only respected but also felt—then a divine element will  be found hidden in every person, and every encounter between people will be experienced as a religious act, a sacrament. We have an especially strong experience in our own time of the pressure that is being brought to bear on freedom of thought in the religious area.

Finally, ethical individualism makes possible a type of ethics in which every person sees himself as concretely related to others—which can lead to solidarity in dealing with life. Worldwide activity in support of one another paves the way for human beings to work together in finding a way to live on the earth.

An effect of this creation out of the I is that human beings will more and more become creators instead of creations, and thus become co-responsible for the development of the world. It is moving to see how Rudolf Steiner begins (1915) by describing these characteristics as a preparation for the next cultural epoch, and then—at the end of the First World War—presents them as necessary for the creation of healthy conditions in our own time. They form the inner aspect of the threefold social organism.

A Michaelic  connection  with  the world and relation to the world can arise through this creation out of the I.

| Paul Mackay, Goetheanum

* Rudolf Steiner’s three lectures from GA 159, GA 168 and GA 182 are also in Das Geheimnis der Gemeinschaft, Stuttgart 2002.


Interest builds bridges despite growing individualization

by Michaela Glöckler

In her contribution Michaela Glöckler tries to explain how important interest in others is as a basis for anthroposophical work and she outlines the factors that stand in the way of such interest.

When the German biologist and teacher Ernst-Michael Kranich died, a message from him was read out by the priest at the end of his eulogy to those gathered at the memorial service, “As a researcher I worked intensively on topics but I showed too little interest in the people I met in my professional work.” This kind of self-knowledge at the end of a person’s life reflects also an essential aspect of the meaning and justification of the Anthroposophical Society. What does it mean?

In the Founding Statutes of 1923-1924, which have, at Easter 2014, become the legal foundation of the General Anthroposophical Society, this motif is made explicit in paragraph 1: “The Anthroposophical Society is to be an association of people who intend to cultivate the soul life of the individual and of the human community on the basis of true knowledge of the spiritual world” In the last comment Rudolf Steiner made on this, in September 1924 at the Goetheanum, he said, “Esoterically speaking, the Anthroposophical Society can only be founded on and carried by true human relationships Everything must therefore in future be founded on real human relationships in the widest sense, on an actual, not abstract, spiritual life.” (GA 260 a)

Real human relationships

The quality of “real human relationships”, so clearly outlined by Rudolf Steiner, constitutes the goal as well as the way towards the goal, the path of development, not only of the Anthroposophical Societies in the various countries with their branches and groups, but also of anthroposophical initiatives It is the “anthroposophical way of meeting one another” that Rudolf Steiner explained in-depth in his letters to the members If this meeting is successful, it will contribute in an important way to the thriving of institutions and initiatives.

Day in and day out, we are confronted with media reports that dwell on the conflicts between people and nations Knowing about these conflicts, it is the more shocking to see how, in anthroposophical contexts, our self-knowledge – if we do practice it – points us to the same forces in us, on a smaller scale, that we find are underlying the catastrophes in the world: forces of polarization, nationalism, hunger for power, lack of transparency in the economic and social life, rejection, irreconcilability, indifference and egotism

Sharing responsibility

If we see through these forces, we pave the way for a form of world- and self-affirmation that is based on the principle of shared responsibility: a sense that whatever happens in the world has to do with me, or with us in the anthroposophical society And any inner efforts I undertake to overcome them are important in the wider context In Anthroposophy Worldwide 2/2015 Paul Mackay referred to the central motifs of branch work, as Rudolf Steiner explained them to the members with regard to their preparation for the sixth cultural era They are the motifs that have been most instrumental so far in keeping the worldwide anthroposophical community together It seems therefore the more urgent to ask how the social skills that are inspired by such motifs are to be developed today.

Rejoicing in the other person

If we consider how much the Anthroposophical Society has shrunk in Germany, the country of its birth, since the 1980s and how much its membership has grown in the still “young” countries, we realize that what enthuses people in the still “young” countries is that they are not alone with their interest in anthroposophy – they rejoice in the others who join in; they are open to everyone who comes along, and they are the more interested in others because they still know so little about anthroposophy, since not much of it has as yet been translated into their language.

But it is characteristic of anthroposophy that life is not only made simpler and more inspiring by it – whether it unfolds its effect in its original country or elsewhere in the world For wherever anthroposophy is received, it contributes to a stronger individualization process and therefore enhances people’s potential to not only say ‘yes’ to each other, but to also say ‘no’ in order to experience their individuality more strongly We need to welcome this fact because it is an essential developmental step Knowing this may be painful, but it is inevitable In order to be able to say ‘yes’ in the right way – rather than join someone or something out of sympathy – we need individual steadfastness Only then will we be free, also from ourselves and our own preferences or dislikes, so that we can be open to others If we have not developed enough steadfastness, we will tend towards forms of self-affirmation that arise from rejection and criticism of the world and of other people.

Rudolf Steiner pointed out how, in the course of repeated earthly lives, physical diseases go back to a lack of interest in the world, while the causes of mental illness are the result of disinterest in other people. Understanding, and being inspired by, these relationships unites us with forces in the spiritual world that originate in the sphere of Michael.

| Michaela Glöckler, Goetheanum


Previous "Themes of the Year":

"The I Knows Itself" in Michaelic World Affirmation

"The I Knows Itself": Dimensions of the Foundation Stone Laying

"The Identity of the Anthroposophical Society"

"Anthroposophy - Rosicrucianism in Our Time"

"The Destiny of the I in the Age of the Etheric Christ"

"Thinking of the Heart as an Organ for Perception of Development and Metamorphosis"