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From the Life at the Goetheanum

16.03.2007 14:02 Age: 11 yrs
By: Wolfgang Held

The Executive Council at the Goetheanum decided to exclude 44 members of the “Living the Christmas Conference” group

The Executive Council's official letter to the members of the Anthroposophical Society:


Dear members,

In December, we informed you that we had begun a process of excluding 46 members of the “Living the Christmas Conference” group (Newsletter No. 50/06, December 8, 2006). We are providing hereafter the position taken by members of “Living the Christmas Conference”. In the meantime, all those involved have also had an opportunity for personal conversations with us. Supported by these conversations, we have decided to exclude 44 members. The exclusion will go into effect at the close of the upcoming Annual General Meeting.

The consequences of a long conflict

In our understanding of anthroposophy and the Anthroposophical Society, differing views are welcome, as are constructive criticism and a culture of dialogue for conflict resolution. But when negative criticism becomes a basic principle and an almost 20-year-long conflict continues and begins to paralyze the life of the Society, then we, as the Executive Council, have the responsibility to act. Today, after many and lengthy efforts, we no longer see any hope of a possibility for reaching an understanding with the members connected to “Living the Christmas Conference.” A glance back at the past 18 years may help to clarify the background of our decision, especially for all those members who have not had the opportunity to form their own impression based on a first-hand experience of what happens in meetings or by reading published material.

Pictured as an adversary since 1989

“Living the Christmas Conference” can be traced back to the initiative of Werner and Michaela Jordan. Both resigned from the Anthroposophical Society in 1989. Michaela Jordan’s reasons for taking this step are described as follows by Tina and Peter Schlegel:i

“Their meeting with the Anthroposophical Society…proved to be a major disappointment.…Anthroposophical lectures, events, periodicals, and new books showed them that a lot was being said and written about anthroposophy in the Society, but that the Christmas Conference was not being lived.…Michaela Jordan met a paralyzed, ruined Anthroposophical Society caught up in illusion.…She was most shaken by the fact that she had to experience the Executive Council as untrue; that she had to learn how our Society was increasingly ruled by illusion in the very groups that led it. This Executive Council was preventing the redeeming influence of anthroposophy from flowing into the world! Michaela Jordan could not connect herself with such an Executive Council. She decided with a heavy heart and for inner reasons to resign from the Society in order to withdraw her support from this Executive Council.”

Since her resignation in 1989, Michaela Jordan has consistently built up a picture of the Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society as an adversary. She took up this battle in 1990 with so-called “open letters” that she sent to selected individuals. In keeping with her reasons for resigning, she was already calling for the resignation of the entire Executive Council.ii In her opinion, the Executive Council had already become the “hindrance to anthroposophy in the world” in 1968 when it decided to reconcile with the Rudolf Steiner Estate in regard to the so-called “book question.”iii According to her, a further mistake was made in 1975—the addition of a second paragraph in Article 8 of the Bylaws pertaining to open discussion about the spiritual goals of the Anthroposophical Society, but without voting on them.iv Michaela Jordan characterizes the change in the bylaws as a “self-disenfranchisement of the members.”v In her opinion and that of the circles belonging to “Living the Christmas Conference,” apparently almost everything that the Executive Council has done or approved since then has been wrong, a betrayal of Rudolf Steiner, a misleading of the members, or simply evil.

In possession of the truth

Michaela Jordan soon gathered a small circle of adherents around her. Together with these people, she founded the “Association for Researching and Realizing the Works of Rudolf Steiner” in 1993. This association functioned as publisher of the journal Gelebte Weihnachtstagung [Living the Christmas Conference]—the name of this journal suggesting that here the impulses of the Christmas Conference are truly being “lived”.

The journal has been published since 2003 by the newly founded association “Living the Christmas Conference— Society for the Preservation of the General Anthroposophical Society 1923/25.”vi The name of this second association makes clear the claim by “Living the Christmas Conference” that it is in sole possession of the truth and also infringes on the registered name of the General Anthroposophical Society. Originally, the word “preservation” could still be seen as connected with the 2003–2005 legal argument about the constitution of the Anthroposophical Society (see box). But since the end of the trial (i.e., for the last two years or more) it can be understood solely as expressing the conviction of its members: only the people in this group are truly living the Christmas Conference and preserving the General Anthroposophical Society.

Since 2002, “Living the Christmas Conference” has maintained a web site under the name “888GOYA.” On this web site the picture constructed by “Living the Christmas Conference” of the Executive Council—and the Anthroposophical Society—as the enemy is being spread around the world (also in the English language). Anyone who reads the texts learns about a “decline,” about “catastrophic” and even “incomprehensible” events in the Society and at the Goetheanum. The Society’s Annual General Meetings are reported on extensively in their journal in documents filled with derogatory remarks about the members of the Executive Council at the Goetheanum, and about all who criticize “Living the Christmas Conference.” Anyone seeking information about anthroposophy on the Internet can hardly get past this propaganda (now grown to about 2,000 pages) directed against the Anthroposophical Society. The domain name “888GOYA” is also part of the propaganda campaign, and contains derogatory accusations against the Anthroposophical Society: The web site claims that 888 is the number of life. The use of the name of the painter Goya is connected with two paintings: May 3, 1808 depicting an execution of revolutionaries by a repressive state power, and the devilish fantasy The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. Given the opposition to the Executive Council and the majority of our membership who think differently, the illustrations appear to symbolize the position that we have mentioned, a position that portrays us as the adversary.

Opinionated attitude and a flood of proposals

Even more of a burden than this polemic in print is the experience we—and a growing number of members—have had with this group’s behavior at membership gatherings in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and at the Goetheanum. At these gatherings, the members of “Living the Christmas Conference” counter people who think and feel differently by advancing opinionated arguments and seeking to provoke the same sort of response in return. The members of the Anthroposophical Society who have voted down the proposals from this group by a clear majority (or voted not to entertain these proposals) are depicted as a disenfranchised, passive mass that is misled by the Executive Council. Even when the members of “Living the Christmas Conference” seek a conversation (something they continually claim to do), they are concerned primarily with spreading their own views and rarely with listening to anything that might raise questions about themselves. As an example, we could mention our attempt to establish a conversation during the first half of 2006, that unfortunately could not take place.vii

For some years now the members of “Living the Christmas Conference” have participated mainly in official members’ meetings and in conflict-oriented members’ conversations—they are seldom found at artistic events or professional conferences, at general anthroposophical conferences, or at conversational meetings or study groups. Despite their small numbers—about 50 members—“Living the Christmas Conference” has brought the majority of motions to meetings since 1999.viii Despite the fact that they have had a legalistic effect on members’ meetings with their own numerous proposals and insistent debates, “Living the Christmas Conference” accuses the Executive Council of being the ones guilty of making too little time available for a true conversation about their questions. The contradictory nature of their behavior is apparent, as is the growing rejection with which it is met in the membership.

Basic declaration

For many members of the Anthroposophical Society, participation in the Annual General Meetings has become a burdensome, often painful experience during the past few years. In November, 2002, when the Swiss national Society excluded those members of “Living the Christmas Conference” who were registered in Switzerland, we still held out some hope of a possibility for co-existence with the members of the LCC, and did not make the same decision about their membership in the General Anthroposophical Society. However, their paralyzing effect and intolerance continued despite many attempts at conversation. There were numerous individual complaints by other Society members, and in 2006 two members of the Swiss national Society began a petition drive that requested that we “exclude from the General Anthroposophical Society those members connected with ‘Living the Christmas Conference’.” 850 members in Switzerland signed this request. Of course, there are also the voices of those that see things differently, or members who have an understandable concern in principle about exclusion. We have given exhaustive consideration to these views and possibilities.

The exclusion of members is within the authority granted to the Executive Council by our bylaws, and as we indicated at the beginning of this document, we have decided to exclude 44 known members of “Living the Christmas Conference” following a full consideration of all issues.

In addition, we will propose the adoption of a basic declaration at the upcoming Annual General Meeting. We share it with you here:

Basic Declaration:

Membership in the General Anthroposophical Society is not compatible with a membership in the association “Gelebte Weihnachtstagung—Gesellschaft zur Bewahrung der Allgemeinen Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft 1923/25” [“Living the Christmas Conference—Society for the Preservation of the General Anthroposophical Society 1923/25”].

Reason:

The Anthroposophical Society, together with its organs, has been attacked since 1993 in the journal “Gelebte Weihnachtstagung” and since 2002 in the internet publication “888goya.org,” both published by the above-named association. Life within the Anthroposophical Society is being paralyzed by the members of “Living the Christmas Conference” in an intolerant and legalistic way.


In this basic declaration it is not a matter of excluding someone because of his views, but rather of addressing the attacks being directed at the Anthroposophical Society by “Living the Christmas Conference.”

Criminal complaint against members of the Executive Council

On July 7, 2006, members of “Living the Christmas Conference” filed a criminal complaint against the six members of the Executive Council who had been made responsible for the “collectivity” of costs in the Upper Court of the Canton of Solothurn’s decision of January 12, 2005 (see box). The criminal complaint (which resulted in a search of the Goetheanum by the public prosecutor’s office on March 6, 2007) is based on an interpretation of the judgment that would have the members of the Executive Council held personally liable for paying these costs. In this interpretation, the action of the Executive Council in having the costs paid out of the Society’s funds may have represented a misappropriation of funds. But being accountable for the the provision of the sum does not mean a personal debt—it means being held accountable for providing the means for paying the court costs. Since the constitutional process together with its legal defense involved an historical problem of the General Anthroposophical Society, they were a concern of the Society, and not a private matter for the members of the Executive Council or those members who made these decisions during the Members Meeting held at the time. We have always represented this view and have shown these costs as an expense in the annual financial reports of the General Anthroposophical Society. These reports were accepted by the Annual General Meeting, and were the basis for the release from liability of the Executive Council. The opposing view of “Living the Christmas Conference” led it to bring a lawsuit against the April 8, 2006, decisions of the Annual General Meeting. The criminal complaint represents a further attempt by “Living the Christmas Conference” to accuse the Executive Council of wrongdoing whenever it can find an excuse to do so. We were unaware of this criminal complaint when we began the process of exclusion. The latest attack by “Living the Christmas Conference” against the Goetheanum only strengthens our conviction that this group and the General Anthroposophical Society should go their separate ways in the future.

We have also prepared a motion in relation to this for the upcoming Annual General Meeting on March 31, 2007. On the one hand, it is intended as a response to the constant attempts to divide the Executive Council from the membership, and to charge the Executive Council with malfeasance. On the other hand, it will serve to clarify the position of the membership within the context of the current criminal process.

Motion:

The Annual General Meeting once again notes affirmatively that the General Anthroposophical Society has carried the costs for the preparation, execution, and legal defense of the 1999–2005 constitution project, and confirms that it understands its acceptance of the annual financial report and its release from liability of the Executive Council during these years in this sense.

Reason:

The clarification of the constitution question involved the founding history of the General Anthroposophical Society, and thus it was a matter for the General Anthroposophical Society. The General Members Meeting of the General Anthroposophical Society participated formally in the constitution process by its decision to merge on November 15, 2003. The General Anthroposophical Society did not participate formally as a party to the trials that became necessary for the defense of the constitution project, but the results of these trials affected the General Anthroposophical Society. Therefore the General Anthroposophical Society carried their costs. It did not involve a private matter for individual members of the Executive Council.


We once again cordially invite you to participate in the Annual General Meeting on March 31, 2007.

 

Goetheanum, March 14, 2007

The Executive Council at the Goetheanum: Virginia Sease, Heinz Zimmermann, Paul Mackay, Bodo v. Plato, Sergei Prokofieff, Cornelius Pietzner, Seija Zimmermann

i Cf. the publication Gelebte Weihnachtstagung (GW), Michaelmas 1994, p. 15. Emphasis in the original.

ii Cf. the Open Letter of Michaela Jordan and Brigitte Herzog (October 19, 1990), and GW Easter, 1994, p. 7.

iii Cf. GW of February 18, 1998, pp. 1–10. The Executive Council decided with its “book decision” of January 14, 1968, to recognize the works of Rudolf Steiner edited by the Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung; see Bodo v. Plato, Zur Entwicklung der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft – ein historischer Überblick, 1986, p. 116ff; see also Bernhard Ruchti, “Zum 100. Geburtstag von Herbert Witzenmann” [For the 100th birthday of Herbert Witzenmann] GW, February 16, 2005, p. 1.

iv Since spiritual questions are not questions to be decided by a majority vote, the following paragraph was added: “Requests that concern the spiritual goals and tasks of the Society shall be handled in free discussion. A vote on such matters is not taken.”

v Cf. GW Easter 1994, p. 1 ff.; GW November 1998, p. 66 f.; see also Michaela Jordan, First Open Letter of April 19, 1991, reprint in GW (Easter, 1994), p. 4, right-hand column: “Our Society is suffering from a nominalism that denies reality and leads us to believe in a bizarre illusory life. A high point on this road to ruin was the 1975 bylaw change to be examined more fully in this letter. This change in the bylaws has contributed substantially to the fact that the current state of our Society is truly catastrophic. It is high time to declare an emergency.”

vi The original association was removed from the Commercial Register in 2004.

vii See the correspondence in the Newsletter (No. 25/2006, June 16, 2006).

viii Out of a total of 57 member motions placed before the Annual General Meetings of the General Anthroposophical Society from 1999 to 2006, 36 came from adherents of “Living the Christmas Conference” and 21 from all other members.


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