THE MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE OF A
FREE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL GROUP
By V. Tomberg
An anthroposophical group*, like every living organism, has its stages of maturity. These stages come to expression through the way members relate to their group, so that the significance which the group has for its members is an indication of the level to which it has matured. For example, it could be that a group has significance for its members in being a place of study : people gather together to learn and to teach. A group can also have the significance of being a place for discussion : people gather together for the expressed purpose of exchanging points of view ; here the element of conversation replaces that of the lecture. A group can, however, have a significance of yet a third kind : that of purposefully forming an organ of knowledge wherein knowledge not accessible to the single individual becomes possible. For there are things in spiritual life which are not meant for the individual, but are intended for the community. And these reveal themselves to the individual only when he inwardly represents a community. The important fact here is that such things belong to the higher aspects of life ; that is, to matters which are spiritually-morally of greater consequence than those which one seeks and finds by oneself and for oneself.
If in a group the mood predominates which develops out of the insight that its effort can mean a path of knowledge, then the group has reached a stage of maturation at which one may have reason to hope that it can become an organ of cognition, and an organism of knowledge. In this process of becoming, it is of fundamental importance that the elements of lecture and discussion undergo an inner transformation : a transformation in the sense that teaching (holding forth) and discussion evolve into a "taking counsel" with one another. What matters is that a group meeting become more and more a conferring together, wherein not only practical things are spoken about, but also pure questions of knowledge. Such is, then, the aim of a group : that it becomes a council of friends.
But meeting in "counsel" means more than merely adding together what the individual members know. A "counsel" is no mere summation of that which is already known ; instead it is an actual process of attaining knowledge, making it possible for entirely new ideas to come to light. This "coming to light" occurs in the center of a circle which the persons involved have to form. If they form a circle on a moral-spiritual basis ; that is, in the spirit of mutual help, then a middle-point of this circle comes into being -- like the sun within the zodiac. This center point, which can be viewed from all sides, begins to shine and to enliven. In other words, the fundamental principle of the John Gospel, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them", also shows itself to be true on the more modest level of honest and free anthroposophical group work. Here, too, something appears between and above the individuals which goes beyond each of them. The spiritual being of a group becomes perceptible.
This appearance of the spiritual being of a group was also the reason why Rudolf Steiner gave names to groups : to bring to expression the connection of a group to a spiritual being. In this giving of names (which was always a very solemn affair, often carried out with great ceremony) it was not a matter of simply giving a group a title, a designation ; the decisive thing was that a group recognize and seek its 'higher ego'. The name of a group denoted at the same time its esoteric task in that it pointed to an "I among them" to whom a conscious relationship was to be attained through the group's work. (For it was not a matter here of the individual karmic relationships of the members on their paths of destiny, but of the common endeavor to be together in the work of the group.) Thus the names -- Luke Group, Benedict Group, Christian Rosenkreutz Group, etc. -- indicated not merely titles, nor the directions of the particular sympathies of those involved, but rather the task of uniting themselves with a particular source of inspiration.
And when people have formed a circle in an honest, free and earnest disposition of soul, they indeed become united with a certain higher source of inspiration. Where there is such a circle, an illuminating center point also comes into being. But how is such a circle formed, and what human moral significance does it have?
When a number of free human beings come together for a task involving questions of knowledge, it is only natural that the points of view can be quite different. These different, often diverging, viewpoints offer just those elements which should bind together to form a circle ; one built not on personal sympathies, but on a spiritual foundation.
Initially, however, the individual viewpoints by no means comprise this binding, uniting element. On the contrary, at first they have the effect of separating. And yet the task consists in having the viewpoints together produce a unifying substance, so that a circle comes into being. To attain this, we can try to bring the views together by attempting to unite them on the level of thoughts. But the result of this attempt (if we are totally honest) will unavoidably prove to be thoroughly unsatisfying. It will become clear that the views are thus combined, but not bound together in a real unity. This is due to the fact that there is always an abyss, an empty space, between the individual views. As a pralaya condition is interposed between the Old Saturn stage of existence and that of the Old Sun, so in a similar manner a kind of 'thought pralaya' is interposed between one viewpoint and another. In order to bridge these abysses, we must avoid going about the task in such a way that we try to create a connection on the same level; that is, in the region of thought-life. To create this connection, we must actually descend from the head, from the level of thoughts, and immerse into the heart, and then from there rise again to the level of thoughts -- in the head of the other person. Only in this way does one learn to understand the other. For when people confront each other with their heads, one cannot understand the other. But one understands the other person when his thought world is entered into by way of the heart. And when one has thus understood the other's world of thought, one will also have insight into that which is true and justified in the other's views. Then, will also be found the missing links which unite viewpoint with viewpoint.
The inner activity of the forming of a circle is therefore not a surface movement such as this:
Instead, it is a rhythmic wave-like movement which occurs between the levels of the head and the heart:
It is this kind of inner activity which forms a circle of a group of people united through the heart who are striving for knowledge. Hence the persons involved do not merely observe one another but have inwardly extended their hands to each other. And when a group of people have in this sense mutually reached out to each other, the circle is created. Then the illuminating center point comes into being -- and a free anthroposophical group has come about, having a name which is also valid in the spiritual world. The work of this group will then be such that it sets itself in a vertical relationship to the higher world. Thus it will truly be "in accord with the Christmas Foundation Meeting of 1923".
Such groups are the backbone of the anthroposophical movement as well as the hope that there endure not only the anthroposophical treasures of knowledge, but -- also -- living anthroposophical endeavors. And when single groups of this kind find objective human contact with each other on matters of content, they will not only be preserved from the danger of 'spiritual provincialism', but they can also unite together, forming a moral-spiritual association which does not exist exclusively for its own well-being. To further this association would be one of the worthiest tasks of this little magazine, since it would be a matter of cultivating that which is most needed in the present situation of the anthroposophical movement.
* 'Arbeitsgruppe' : 'working-group' , study group, branch ; here and throughout is simply translated as 'group'.