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

Introduction | Reading 
World Affirmation in Knowledge, by Helmut Goldmann 
From World Affirmation to World Connection, by Paul Mackay 
Interest in Others as a Principle of World Affirmation, by Michaela Glöckler 
The 'I' - Bridge and Gateway at the Same Time, by Hartwig Schiller 
“…the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” by Jaap Sijmons 
|  Of related interest: Some Reflections, by Torin Finser

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


by Hartwig Schiller

Anthroposophy Worldwide No. 7-8/15

“Know your self and your self will become the world; know the world, and the world will become your self.” No one can avoid the question of self-knowledge and world knowledge. Since Oedipus solved the riddle of the sphinx, it has become the existential problem of human beings which resonates from Delphi into our lives.

The theme of self- and world knowledge permeates Rudolf Steiner’s work from its very beginning through to the foundation of the School of Spiritual Science and it affects readers in individual ways. In pursuing it we look from the far distant past to a future we can only surmise.

In An Outline of Esoteric Science Rudolf Steiner traces human evolution from old Saturn to the far away future. Humanness manifests differently on Saturn in the Archai, the spirits of personality, from how it manifests for modern humanity under earthly conditions. The generally human aspect – on Saturn or Earth – consists in having an ‘I’ and knowing it. The Archai on Saturn as well as human beings on Earth have ‘I’-consciousness. [1]

Seeking the unity of I and world

Rudolf Steiner very frequently elaborated on the cognitive relationship between human beings and the world and addressed the relationship between self-knowledge and world knowledge widely: in his Philosophy of Freedom, at the Philosophy Congress in Bologna, in the meditations for teachers and special needs teachers and on numerous other occasions. In his Philosophy of Freedom, Rudolf Steiner describes the history of consciousness as a continuous seeking for the unity of ‘I’ and world.

“Religion, art and science follow, one and all, this aim. The religious believer seeks in the revelation which God grants him the solution to the universal riddle which this ‘I’, dissatisfied with the world of mere appearance, sets before him. The artist seeks to embody in his material the ideas that are in his ‘I’, in order to reconcile what lives in him with the world outside. He too feels dissatisfied with the world of mere appearance and seeks to mould into it that something more which his ‘I’, transcending it, contains. [2]

A striving for knowledge that is the subject as well as the object of this process will meet with immense difficulties. This is why the search for self-knowledge and its realization usually diverge widely. The discrepancy between expectation and actual achievement shows itself even at the slightest attempt. We can see this even in very banal examples. The adolescent who asks himself whether he is good-looking or ugly; is his nose too short or too long? We cannot even look at the outside of our body without prejudice.

Consider this case of a Waldorf teacher whom all his colleagues have down as a ‘typical’ melancholic: slender and tall, with slightly drooping shoulders, eyes hooded by noble eyelids, and other characteristic features. During a teachers’ outing he leaps over the barrier at the end of a forest path. His colleagues are speechless; he turns to them and says, “I told you I was sanguine!”

Subjective experience, objective constitution

All that makes judging others so difficult, becomes even more so when we look at ourselves. Each level of our organization poses its particular challenges. The configuration of our soul life is closest to consciousness and therefore most easily accessible to it, because the soul mood is relatively exposed. It is already more difficult when it comes to the constitution of our etheric life. Its diverse manifestations do not communicate themselves directly but have to be identified and for this we need to call on the spiritual. Growth, reproduction, memory, temperament, conscience, enduring habits and character are such highly differentiated challenges for our knowledge. When we are to judge our own wellbeing, we waver between subjective experience and the organism’s objective constitution.


In looking at ourselves we make the subject of our observation part of the outside world, opening the arena for a number of preconceptions. If it is to look at itself, the self needs to become selfless. The exercises of esoteric training help to create the right conditions for this. Concentration, willpower, serenity, affirmation, openness and integrity are qualities that need to be acquired.

Looking at one’s biography objectively can be fruitful. The perceiving of details might widen into the perception of the whole. As a result not only the sum of greater and smaller details becomes apparent, but we gradually grasp the whole picture, the details in their coherence. The further we go back and the more clearly we see the past, the more we can become conscious of the overarching characteristic traits in our life. We become aware of something essential and we inwardly perceive our life’s configuration. We may have an inkling of our incarnation, karma may become apparent. Rudolf Steiner said that this experience could be accompanied by a bitter, bitter-sweet or sour sensation. [3]

We might even gain an impression of what went before. We look to the point of our birth and its karmic situation. Every incarnation is preceded by a decision we make before birth and by the temptation to ignore this decision. The more aware we become of this situation and the more we realize that we meet it occasionally again during life, the more strongly we can perceive the forces that are directly connected with the ‘I’. They give us the strength to remain faithful to our decision and to take on our earthly journey.
As the self becomes aware of itself, the ‘I’ finds itself in a world that has grown to immeasurable dimensions, and the isolated objective ‘I’ experiences the higher levels of ‘I’-evolution.

Another ‘I’ experience

We can also look at ‘I’ experience in terms of self-efficacy. In this case we do not look to the past but to the future. “What do I want to achieve?” “What gives value to my life?” are questions that can be the starting point to this journey. Attributes such as “concrete”, “practical”, “economic” or “efficient” are often heard in this context. The ‘I’ wants to achieve something. It becomes active, plans and organizes, and gives order and direction to life. If moral aspirations are involved people often use terms like “progress”, “development” and “being modern” and associate the envisaged projects with “cultural progress” or the “good of humanity”. In the “Philosophy of Freedom” Rudolf Steiner calls attention to a problem that can occur when one strives for “cultural progress”. This problem is not at first apparent and often overlooked. The striving person “will have to take into the bargain the decline and destruction of a number of things that also contribute to the general good.” [4]

If we focus on goals in the outside world we become caught in the realm of decline and dying. We connect with elements that are subject to the destructive stream of the transient.

The ‘I’ can therefore find itself in a doubly desolate relationship with the world. It approaches unbornness, the life not yet lived, on the one hand and the continuously dying, the dead, on the other.

The bridge

The following verse was given by Rudolf Steiner to Ita Wegman at Christmas 1920:

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 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.” [5]

Words cannot describe what a moment is, for as soon as we direct our attention to it, it is already gone. Yet, past and future can both stream towards us or we can take hold of both. The moment is the bridge, presence of mind its building material.

As long as our interest in knowledge rests on ideas – or relationships – that are based on particular perceptions and experiences, it is subject to the destructive stream of the dying. As long as they evaporate into lifeless abstractions they are lost in the unlived.

“The highest conceivable moral principle […] springs from the source of pure intuition and only later seeks any reference to percepts, that is, to life.” [6]

Our relationship with the world is that of a bridge to past and future. The bridge is the ‘I’ in which ‘I’ and world merge into a new unity. But it is also a gateway: bridge and gateway at the same time.

| Hartwig Schiller,
General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany

The annual theme is taken from GA 40 (Wahrspruchworte, p. 288)

Rudolf Steiner: An Outline of Esoteric Science (GA 13), Hudson NY 1997, tr. C. Creeger, p. 143. “The Spirits of Personality were ‘human’ on Saturn. Their lowest component was not the physical body, but the astral body with the ‘I’. Although they had no physical or ether body such as ours in which to express the astral body’s experiences, they not only possessed the ‘I’ but were also aware of it because the heat of Saturn made them conscious of it by reflecting it back to them. They were ‘human beings’ under circumstances different from those of Earth.”
Cf. Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4), London 1964, tr. M. Wilson, p. 14.
Cf. Rudolf Steiner: Reincarnation and Karma (GA 135), Great Barrington 2001, tr. D. Osmond.
See footnote 2, p. 131.
Rudolf Steiner: Wahrspruchworte (GA 40), p. 143. Verse translated by M. Barton.
See footnote 2, p. 131f.


“…the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”

by Jaap Sijmons

Anthroposophy Worldwide No. 9/15

The Annual Theme “The I knows itself – in Michaelic World Connection” poses the question as to how the self expands into the world. Rudolf Steiner differentiated between diverse world-conception-moods, relating them to the names of the planets. In presenting seven steps of knowledge acquisition (and will development), Jaap Sijmons describes one of many ways. [1]

The Greek philosopher Democritus was the first to state that “Man is a microcosm”. What he meant was that we are a part of the world; the self as a spiritual dimension was lost. In the concept of dark atoms hovering around in the void, the thought of being connected with the world is, in principle, of secondary importance.

One could set against this typical “unconnectedness” a world connection that is – seed-like – immanent in all knowledge and that has the potential to grow into Michaelic world connection. Rudolf Steiner expects us to find a parallel between the outer images of the world and the inner moods of knowledge (between world and self).

The life of the senses as earthly foundation

Our twelve senses open up the world for us and help us communicate with the ‘I’ of others. But in this process we lose the spiritual world. The newborn child first conquers the spatial dimension by learning to stand up with the help of the three lower physical senses (senses of balance, movement and life). This is how children learn to grow into the world that surrounds them. But then they “breathe out” the physical senses in their soul life and inhale the senses of the middle (of smell, taste and touch). This gives rise to a more contained self-consciousness that hides the inner life. At the other end of the spectrum we have the social senses (of I, thought and word) that allow us to understand others, but hinder us from communicating with the spiritual beings in nature. Our seeing and hearing is rendered spiritually blind. The senses hide the spirits of nature from us. As sensory beings we are therefore connected with as well as separated from the world. This changes when thinking begins to stir.

1 Occultism (Moon)

Just as light is reflected by the moon, the whole sensory world is reflected by our mental images and memories. We are only really in ourselves when we are fully aware of our perceptions, because we are one with our thoughts about these perceptions.

And we deposit the outside world within us; we absorb the world into us with the stream of our mental images. By accumulating memories we continuously separate ourselves from the world. The waning moon is an appropriate picture for the fact that we constantly forget our mental images. They live on in unconscious and hidden (occult) realms as habits, even addictions, or trauma. This mood of knowledge is at the level of occultism.
At around the age of three, with the awakening of ‘I’ awareness, children begin to remember consciously. With the realization “I am”, with this inner force, we embrace the sinking etheric stream of mental images and raise images and memories into our consciousness where we can judge them. This points us to the next stage.

2 Transcendentalism (Mercury)

As a result of our quest for knowledge, our being is split into ‘I’ and world. “We create this division between ourselves and the world as soon as our consciousness lights up.” Our judgment splits the experience of the usually unconscious meeting of mental images (stream from the past) and desires (stream from the future) into inner and outer. The mental images intervene at this point and may stand between us and the world. While our judgment always aims at the world as something that lies outside the soul and finds itself confirmed there, our thinking does the same, but experiences the world as outside. How easily can the thinking be wrong about its relationship with the world if it has not first learned to know the world! All kinds of scepticism and speculation appear at this stage.

Impatient and rash, overestimating its own logic, the ‘I’ does not yet know the world but rather the difficult relationship it has with the world (scepticism). In ancient Greek dialectic the soul was able to experience itself for the first time, but at the same time thought erected “a wall around the soul.” But even within these walls the self knows that there is a world outside: this is the mood of transcendentalism. The experience of oneself in thinking judgement has matured through the centuries and strengthened our I-consciousness.

Immanuel Kant had not yet overcome dualism. Logical judgement, however, does not present us with the truth, it merely educates us for the truth – and therefore for a new connection with the world. The movement of Mercury can serve as a symbol for this thinking that weaves in and out.

3 Mysticism (Venus)

Our being may be split into ‘I’ and world but “we never lose the feeling that we belong to the world.” While our judgment aims from the soul to a truth outside, our feeling has this relationship because it is desire or will which has been rejected in the soul. It scans the world, withdraws immediately and turns into aesthetic judgment, for instance. Our subtle sympathy shows that we never lose the sense of being connected with the world. But it is somehow not affected by our judgment: Rudolf Steiner calls this mysticism, a mood he ascribes to Francis of Assisi and to Goethe’s Faust – in the “Forest and Cavern” scene (verses 3217-3227).

A secret reveals itself here: our inner life is not really “in us”, in the body. In the body are our memories of the world, of something outside us. Our true inner being is in the world, ignited by the senses and therefore really in the world. Our feeling experiences this, it experiences the spirit in the things when it learns to wonder and revere in thinking and to feel in unison with the laws of the world. The world phenomena evoke feelings of growing and vanishing, of good and evil. The beauty and radiance of Venus in the morning and evening sky can be an image for the feeling aspect of gaining knowledge.

4 Empiricism (Sun)

Focusing only on objects that are illuminated by the sun is the attitude of the empiricist. While our senses do not provide the spiritual aspect of things, the second, unconscious, part of our soul is already there with them. In the mood of empiricism we expose ourselves systematically to the world and do not lose ourselves in thought. If we live with these experiences, our astral body grows wiser and connects itself with the spirit of things. But if we do not meet people beyond our own narrow circle and if we do not look into the world, we remain dull and destitute, and we fail to create the foundation for wider knowledge. Goethe’s objective thinking that sought “subtle empiricism” but also “higher empiricism in the experience” is an example of this attitude.

5 Voluntarism (Mars)

When the astral body unconsciously connects with the world of wisdom, how do we raise such experiences to consciousness? There is a practical tool for this: we need to carefully recreate the images of our experience in our mind. Rather than form a ‘logical judgment’, we need to develop flexibility in our thinking, “creep through the experiences” as Goethe did in his search for the “archetypal plant”. We therefore actively construct concepts, but not out of a mood of passive experience. This is a wakeful recreating similar to the will effort we make in “recall”. We reverse the direction of time because we no longer depend on the “consecutiveness” of empiricism. As we actively recreate, we can now also sense that the sensory world does not only consist of lifeless interactions but that it is – as Schopenhauer thought – active will. We look around in the night when there is no sun and among the planets we discover fast moving Mars as our symbol for this mood.

6 Logism (Jupiter)

Behind the will stands the wisdom of the world, which we not only feel now but which is reflected inside, in the ether body. The mental images merge objectively and individual thoughts become a thought organism. Thought structures appear which we do not meet in nature, such as Goethe’s colour circle, the metamorphosis of the plant as an overall concept or the threefold constitution of the human being. At a purely conceptual level, categories grow out of one another in the dialectic method (for instance Hegel’s Science of Logic ). Rudolf Steiner refers to this mood as “logism”. Just as wisdom illuminates the mental images that have been actively permeated, Jupiter appears behind Mars, shining more brightly.

7 Gnosis (= knowledge; Saturn)

Lastly, true cognition is not our logically motivated uniting of concept and percept, but the overcoming of the subjective, unreal division of ‘I’ and world, of concept and observation (the actual conclusion of “Truth and Knowledge” and Rudolf Steiner’s refutation of Kant.) The world becomes “inner vision” (self and world become one).

We experience of course that we stand in the world with our true judgment, not with our smaller person. With true knowledge, our will can therefore take hold of and change the world, and in this way we keep proving to ourselves the reality of our knowledge (a positive outcome even of philosophical pragmatism, which, however, combines this view with scepticism). If we act in a truly suprapersonal way, out of the spirit of a cause, we move beyond karma and draw from the karmic void. Here lies the freedom to become more and more human, if one strives in love to make oneself the expression of the world and to stand in Michael’s light through one’s actions. Michaelic world connection is also a certain freedom (from coercion). Saturn with his rings is a suitable symbol: the self that expands into its surroundings.

World conceptions (the zodiac)

Once one knows, one can let go of everything sense-related. What characterizes knowledge is also the right prediction or – to put it more spiritually – prophecy, without direct vision. Like Faust one stands blind in the end, but the spiritual world opens up. The soul widens and becomes spirit, unites with the spirit-filled world. It is now able to understand the phenomena of the world from the spiritual point of view, “sub specie aeternitatis” (Spinoza). Now there is not just one such eternal aspect but twelve: the twelve world conceptions. The twelve constellations of the zodiac that the Sun and the planets pass through can be images of these world conceptions – or, in a more concentrated form, twelve individual stars.

Summary of the self becoming world

Let us summarize what has been said in a picture: The human form is a true image of the ‘I’, which beholds the soul as it gains conscious knowledge. The human being gives birth to itself (as a higher human being) as the mother gives birth to her child. Once the soul has learned to know, it will overcome the outer world within itself: the Moon. Spiritually speaking, the soul contains the world. In its empirical passage through the world, it has Sun-like experience: it is clothed in the Sun. The soul, once it has become spirit, knows the cosmic thought: a crown of stars. The picture for this is “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars (Revelation 12:1).

| Jaap Sijmons,
General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in the Netherlands

Footnotes: GA indicates the volume of the collected works (CW) of Rudolf Steiner {Note: the copy received did not located the footnotes in the text; they will be added when possible.}

[1] GA 151, lecture of 22 January 1914.

[2] Ibid.

[3] GA 322, lecture of 3 October 1920. Cf. also GA 187, lecture of 21 December 1918.

[4] GA 134, lecture of 30 December1911.

[5] GA 115, lecture of 4 November 1910.

[6] GA 4, chapter II.

[7] GA 115, lecture of 3 November 1910. Or one has to be able to transform true judgment into existential judgment (GA 108, lecture of 28 October 1908).

[8] For a modern outlook cf. Markus Gabriel: Die Erkenntnis der Welt – eine Einführung in die Erkenntnistheorie, Freiburg im Breisgau 2012.

[9] GA 18.

[10] GA 134, lecture of 28 December 1911 (with reference to Kant).

[11] GA 4, chapter II.

[12] GA 115, lecture of 3 November 1910.

[13] GA 137, lecture of 6 June 1912.

[14] GA 134, lecture of 30 December 1911.

[15] GA 134, lectures of 27 und 28 December 1911. Cf. also GA 10, chapter “The Stages of Initiation. Preparation”.

[16] Cf. GA 108, lecture of 18 January 1909.

[17] GA 134, lecture of 28 December 1911 and GA 151, lecture of 22 January 1914.

[18] GA 134, lecture of 28 December 1911.

[19] GA 108, lecture of 13 November 1908.

[20] GA 3.

[21] GA 107, lecture of 17 June 1909.

[22] GA 26, lecture of 16 November 1924. Cf. GA 107, lecture of 12 January 1909.

[23] GA 134, lecture of 1 January 1912.

[24] GA 151, lecture of 21 January 1914.


by Torin Finser

from being human Michaelmas-Fall, 2015

Some time ago I was sorting out old files in a box of long-forgotten materials when I came across a Christmas card received from Lisa Monges perhaps 35 years ago. On the right side was her Christmas greeting signed simply
L.D. Monges, and on the left was a portrait of Rudolf Steiner standing behind a sofa. In addition to the well-known black outfit and white collar, one cannot but help notice his strong hands and expressive fingers, the serious, well-formed facial contours that are filled with light, and of course the eyes that look both outward and inward at the same time. On the top left hand corner one finds a four-line verse followed by Rudolf Steiner’s signature and date: 17, February, 1924 and the two words “am Goetheanum.”

Of course one always has to wonder why such a card finds its way into the reader’s hands just at this time when the leadership of the Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum has introduced a very particular theme for the year ahead. So I decided that since very few things in life are really an accident, it was the right time to take up this gift from Lisa Monges and work with the verse in a renewed way. (Lisa was a pioneer eurythmist in the U.S., helped start the Spring Valley School of Eurythmy, and taught eurythmy to a group of community children in her living room once a week. I was one of them. Later, after years of mowing her lawn as a teenager, I turned to Lisa Monges when, at age 18, I heard about an exciting conference for members and I asked her to sponsor me.)

So here in my hands was the Christmas card with her signature, and a verse in Rudolf Steiner’s own hand. It begins with the line:

“Suche in der Welt nach allen Seiten…” To seek in the world on all sides, in all dimensions… What a challenge these days. I have met more people recently than ever before who have deliberately decided to tune out, to turn off the radio, CNN, internet news feeds, newspapers, etc., because the current events are so “depressing”—and they are. How many stories of ISIL can one read? When will the random acts of violence in schools and places of work stop? How many natural catastrophes can one ingest? I understand this point of view, and yet I continue to read parts of the Wall Street Journal most days, occasionally catch the evening news, and have given some thought-time to world events. I respect those who need to create islands of sanity, but I feel an inner obligation as yet to stay engaged in world events. Why?

In another context—the founding of the first Goetheanum—Rudolf Steiner used the word “Weltbejahung,” one of his terms that is almost impossible to translate. The closest I have come to it is “affirmation of the world,” a willingness to say “yes” and not reject what the world has to offer. This is a high order. How can one do that? It may be only part of the story, but my approach is to see it not as agreement with all that is happening, but rather a “living in presence” or awareness of what the world offers us today. It is possible to witness, to be aware, and not immediately to rush to judgment, acceptance (or rejection) as so many are apt to do these days. There are times, yes even months when it is terribly cold in New Hampshire, and there are the warm summer days, and of course we all have preferences. But can I learn to practice Weltbejahung to all kinds of weather, as well as the news stories that enter our consciousness?

Some might ask: what is the point of doing this? After all, along with being over- whelmed, many feel totally helpless in the face of world events. What can I do as one solitary person?

The second line of the verse has a clue that helps us with this riddle:

“Und du findest dich” — You will find yourself. What, I can find myself in another atrocious story on CNN? Is that not the last place I would want to find myself? Well, on one level, of course. But if one actually takes a few minutes to think (something that we cannot take for granted these days), the percepts from the world phenomena start to work on the soul, concepts start to arise. For instance, after a series of stories from the Middle East recently, I spent some time thinking about the root causes of fundamentalism. What makes people fanatics? Why do those who outwardly seem to be on a religious path (with all the teachings of peace) turn a corner and become fundamentalists? There are many in our circles who could help with this question (Christopher Bamford comes to mind) but I am not attempting to answer it here. I just want to point out a series of steps:

  • We seek to know the world in all dimensions.
  • That gives rise to new experiences which can take shape in new thoughts.
  • And if we have done some thinking, we have to own our own concepts.
  • And in owning our thoughts, and the soul depths from which they arise, we can experience ourselves in a new way.
  • Thus the world leads to self.

Then we move to the third and fourth lines of the verse:

“Suche in dir nach allen Tiefen Und du findest die Welt.”

Here we have the reverse process! If we are willing to seek in the depth of the soul, delve into our innermost being, we can find the world in a new way. There are many ways in which this can happen, but one has to do with meditation and reflective practices in general. When we do the inner work, we find our center, our essential Self. One can emerge from strenuous inner work with a heightened sense of integrity, authenticity, groundedness. Like the violinist who practices for hours before giving a concert, when one has done the inner work then one meets the world/audience on a different level. What a difference it makes if one has prepared a presentation or simply tries to “wing it”! When one is rooted in the depth of soul experience, one can then stand in a different relation to the theme or task at hand. And when one does so, one meets others and the world in a new way. So again we have a sequence:

  • Seek within in all possible depths of inner experience.
  • Let the research and soul exploration give rise to new experiences.
  • These experiences become the ground of authenticity.
  • When we are authentic in relation to others and the world, we will re-discover the “world” on a new basis.

So this little verse actually contains all of anthroposophy! We have the meditative path, self-knowledge, etc., as well as all the initiatives, schools, farms, etc., that have grown out of authentic deeds of sacrifice. And if there is need of any final proof, one has only to talk with a long- time biodynamic farmer, a seasoned Camphill co-worker, a veteran Waldorf teacher, or learned anthroposophical doctor. Nowhere could one find such depth, insight, and wisdom as one does from these people. They know the world not only from having worked in the world, but by virtue of having worked on themselves. And their inner work has led to new achievements in their respective fields and professional life.

In my travels I have had the honor of meeting many such people who have spent a lifetime working out of anthroposophy in this way. There is in reality no better evidence of the fruitfulness of anthroposophy than to experience such remarkable people. They are successful in an outer sense, but one finds after only a few minutes that at the same time they are also remarkable human beings. And their humanity and work success seem to go hand in hand. Finally, one footnote: the inscription on the card ends with the two words “am Goetheanum”—at the Goetheanum. These words should not be overlooked. It is not just about Rudolf Steiner the historical person, but also about the Goetheanum impulse that continues to work around the world in so many ways. We need to be willing, as he was, to identify ourselves and our work as coming out of this impulse. Our future success will depend on the authenticity of the inner work and the integrity that arises from compassionate engagement with the world. We do not reject, we embrace. We do not criticize, we suggest.

We are here not to judge but to help, servants of all that is good, kind and just.

Our Anthroposophical Society is dedicated to these goals. May we find the strength and the friends to help us realize our aims.

| Torin Finser,
General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America

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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"