Community Building

Awakening To Community

Passages from Lecture VI
by Rudolf Steiner
Stuttgart, February 27, 1923

Community Building Content

1. Intellectual Division
2. Common Language (Folk Spirit)
3. Common Life Memories
4. Common Cosmic Memories
5. Awaken In Encounter With Nature
6. Awaken In Encounter With Soul-Spirit Of Another
7. Consciously Lift Our Soul Life To The Ideal Level (reversed cultus)
8. Presence Of Spiritual Being
9. Growth Together In A Community Of Spirit
10. Anthroposophy Is Independent Of Anthroposophical Society
11. Founding Free Communities
12. Path Of Free Communities

Intellectual Division
Community building! It is particularly noteworthy that the community building ideal should be making its appearance in our day. It is the product of a deep, elemental feeling found in many human souls today, the product of a sense of definite relationship between person and person that includes an impulse to joint activity.

The prevailing intellectualistic trend that is increasingly taking over the religious field has had the effect of saturating a great many present day sermons with a rationalistic, intellectualistic element. This does not give people anything that could unite them. On the contrary, it divides and isolates them and the social community is reduced to atoms. 

This must be easy to see for anyone who realizes that the single individual can develop rationalistic and intellectualistic values all by himself. Simply attaining a certain cultural level enables an individual to acquire increasingly perfect intellectual equipment without depending on anyone else. One can think alone and develop logic alone; in fact, one can do it all the better for being by oneself. When one engages in purely logical thinking, one feels a need to withdraw from the world to the greatest possible extent, to withdraw from people. 

But the tendency to want to get off by oneself is not the only one man has. My effort today to throw light on what it is in the heart's depths that searches for community is called for by the fact that we are living in a time when human nature must go on to develop the consciousness soul, must become ever more conscious.

Becoming more conscious is not the same thing as becoming more intellectualistic. It means outgrowing a merely instinctual way of experiencing. But it is just in presenting anthroposophy that every attempt should be made to portray what has thus been raised to a clear, conscious level in all its elemental aliveness, to offer it in so living a form that it seems like people's own naive experiencing and feeling. We must make sure that we do this.

Common Language (Folk Spirit)
Now there is one kind of community in human life that everyone over the entire globe is aware of, and it shows that community is something built into humankind. It is a type of community to which a lot of attention is being given in modern cultural and even political and economic life, and this in an often harmful way. But there is a lesson of sorts to be learned from it, though a primitive one.

In a child's early years it is introduced into a human community that is absolutely real, concrete and human, a community without which one could not exist. I am referring to the community of human speech. Speech is the form of community that we might say nature presents to our contemplation. Speech - and especially our mother tongue - is built into our whole being at a time when the child's etheric body is not yet born, and it is our first experience of the community building element. 

We can lay it to the rationalism of our age that though people nowadays have some feeling for languages and nationality and conceive folk groups in relation to the language they speak, they do so from the political-agitational standpoint, without paying any heed to deep and intimate underlying soul configurations, to the tremendous aspects of destiny and karma attached to a language and to the spirit behind it, all of which are the real and intrinsic reasons why human beings cry out for community. 

What would become of us if we passed one another by without hearing resounding in the others words the same life of soul that we ourselves put into those same words when we use them? If everybody were to practice just a little bit of self-knowledge, we would be able to form an adequate picture, which I cannot take the time to develop now, of all we owe to language as the foundation of a first, primitive building of community.

Common Life Memories
But there is a community building element still deeper than language, though we encounter it more rarely. On a certain level, human language is indeed something that unites people in community life, but it does not penetrate to the deepest levels of soul life. At certain moments of our life on earth we can become aware of another community building element that transcends that of language. 

Let us take an ideal example. Someone finds himself in later life - in his forties or fifties say - in the company of several companions of his youth or childhood whom he has not seen for decades but with whom he spent the period between his tenth and twentieth years. Let us assume that good relationships prevailed among them, fruitful, loving relationships. Now imagine what it means for these individuals to share the experience of having their souls stirred by common memories of their youthful life together. Memories lie deeper than experiences on the language level. Souls sound more intimately in unison when they are linked by the pure soul language of memories even though the community experience they thus share may be quite brief. 

As everyone knows from such experiences, it is certainly not just the single memories that are summoned up to reverberate in the souls of those present that stir such intimate soul-depths in them; it is something quite else. It is not the concrete content of the particular memories recalled. An absolutely indefinite yet at the same time very definite communal experiencing is going on in these human souls. A resurrection is taking place, with the countless details of what these companions experience together now melting into a single totality, and what each contributes as he enters into the others' recollections with them is the element that awakens the capacity to experience that totality.

Common Cosmic Memories
Everything that comes to expression in the various forms of worship, either as ceremonial acts or words, is a reflection, a picture of real experiences, not earth experiences, of course, but real experiences in the world through which man makes his way before he is born; in other words, experiences of the second half of his path between death and rebirth. That is the part of the cosmos he passes through from the midnight hour of life after death to the moment when he descends again into life on earth. In the realm thus traversed are found the beings, the scenes, the events faithfully reflected in all true forms of worship. 

What is it, then, that a person is experiencing in the cultus in common with others whom some karma or other has brought together with him? For karma is so intricately woven that we may ascribe all encounters with our fellow men to its agency. He is experiencing cosmic memories of pre-earthly existence with them. They come to the surface of the soul's subconscious depths. Before we descended to earth, we and these others lived through a cosmic lifetime in a world that reappears before us in the cultus. 

That is a tremendous tie. It does more than just convey pictures; it carries supersensible forces into the sense world. But the forces it conveys are forces that concern man intimately; they are bound up with the most intimate background experiences of the human soul. The cultus derives its binding power from the fact that it conveys spiritual forces from the spiritual world to earth and presents supernatural realities to the contemplation of human beings living on the earth. 

There is no such reality for man to contemplate in rationalistic talks that have the effect of making him forget the spiritual world, forget it even in subconscious soul depths. In the cultus he has it right there before him in a living, power-pervaded picture that is more than a mere symbol. Nor is this picture a dead image; it carries real power, because it places before man scenes that were part of his spiritual environment before he was incarnated in an earthly body. The community creating power of the cultus derives from the fact that it is a shared, comprehensive memory of spiritual experiences.


Awaken In Encounter With Nature
Memory, transposed into the spiritual realm, rays out to us from the form the cultus takes. The cultus speaks to greater depths than those of intellect: it speaks to man's inwardness. For at bottom the soul really does understand the speech of the spirit, even though that speech may not be fully consciously perceived in the present day earth life.

Now, in order to grasp the further element that must come to play a corresponding role in the Anthroposophical Society, you will not only have to contemplate the secrets of language and memory in their relationship to community building; you will also have to consider another aspect of human life. Let us study the condition in which we find a dreaming person and compare it with that of something going about his daytime activities wide awake.

The dream world may indeed by beautiful, sublime, rich in pictures and in significance. Nevertheless, it isolates people here on earth. A dreaming person is alone with his dreams. He lies there asleep and dreaming, perhaps in the midst of others awake or asleep, the content of whose inner worlds remains completely unrelated to what is going on in his dream consciousness. A person is isolated in his dream world, and even more so in the world of sleep. 

But the moment we awake we begin to take some part in communal life. The space we and those around us occupy is the same space; the feeling and impressions they have of it are the same we have. We wake at hand of our immediate surroundings to the same inner life another wakes to. In waking out of the isolation of our dreams, we awaken, up to a certain point at least, into the community of our fellowmen, simply as a result of the way we are related to the world around us. We cease being completely to ourselves, shut in and encapsulated, as we were when absorbed in our dream world, though our dreams may have been beautiful, sublime, significant. 

But how do we awaken? We awaken through the impact of the outer world, through its light and tones and warmth. We awaken in response to all the various impressions that the sense world makes on us. But we also wake up in ordinary everyday life in the encounter with the external aspects of other human beings, with their natural aspects. We wake up to everyday life in the encounter with the natural world. It wakes us out of our isolation and introduces us into a community of sorts. We have not yet wakened up as human beings by meeting our fellow men and by what goes on in their innermost beings. That is the secret of everyday life. We wake up in response to light and tone and perhaps also to the words someone speaks in the exercise of his natural endowment, words spoken from within outward. In ordinary everyday life we do not wake up in the encounter with what is going on in the depths of his soul or spirit, we wake up in the encounter with his natural aspects.

Awaken In Encounter With Soul-Spirit Of Another
The latter constitutes the third awakening, or at least a third condition of soul life. We awaken from the first into the second through nature's impact. We awaken from the second into the third at the call of the soul-spiritual element in our fellowmen. But we must first learn to hear that call. 

Just as a person wakes up through the natural world surrounding him in the right way in everyday life, so do we wake up rightly at a higher level in the encounter with the soul-spirit of our fellowmen as we sensed light and tone on awaking to everyday life. We can see the most beautiful pictures and have the most sublime experiences in our isolated dream consciousness, but we will scarcely be able to read, for example, unless highly abnormal conditions prevail. We are not in a relationship to the outer world that would make such things possible. 

We are also unable to understand the spiritual world, no matter how many beautiful ideas we may have garnered from anthroposophy or how much we may have grasped theoretically about such matters as etheric and astral bodies. We begin to develop an understanding for the spiritual world only when we wake up in the encounter with the soul-spiritual element in our fellowmen. That is where the first true understanding of anthroposophy sets in. Yes, it is indeed necessary to base our understanding of anthroposophy on what can be called a waking up in the encounter with the soul and spirit of another person.


Consciously Lift Our Soul Life To The Ideal Level

The strength needed to achieve this awakening can be created by implanting spiritual idealism in human communities. We talk a lot about idealism these days, but it has become a threadbare thing in the culture and civilization of the present. 

For true idealism exists only where man reverses the direction he takes when, in presenting the cultus, he brings the spiritual world down to earth; when, in other words, he consciously makes himself capable of lifting to the supersensible-spiritual, the ideal level, what he has seen and learned and understood on the earthly level. 

We bring the supernatural down into a power-permeated picture when we celebrate the ritual of the cultus. We lift ourselves and our soul life to the supersensible level when our experiences in the physical world are experienced so spiritually and idealistically that we come to feel we have experienced them in the supersensible world itself and that what we perceive here in the sense world suddenly comes all alive on being lifted to the ideal level. It comes alive when properly permeated with our wills and feeling. When we ray will through our inner being and infuse it with enthusiasm, we carry our idealized sense experience in a direction exactly opposite to that taken when we embody the supersensible in the ritual of the cultus. 

Whether the anthroposophical community be large or small, we can achieve what I am characterizing when, infusing living power into the spiritual ideas we form, we put ourselves in a position actually to experience something of that awakening element, something that doesn't stop at idealizing our sense experience and leaving it at the stage of abstract thought, but that endows the ideal with a higher life as we live into it and make it the counterpart of the cultus by raising it from the physical to the supersensible level.


Presence Of Spiritual Being

We can achieve it in our life of feeling by taking care to imbue everything we do for anthroposophy with thoroughly spiritualized feeling. 

We do this when, for instance, we feel that the very doorway we reverently enter on our way to an anthroposophical assemblage is consecrated by the common anthroposophical purpose being served in the room it leads to, no matter how mundane the setting. We must be able to feel that everybody joining with us in a communal reception of anthroposophy has the same attitude. It is not enough to have a deep abstract conviction of this; it must be inwardly experienced, so that we do not just sit in a room where anthroposophy is being pursued, a group of so and so many individuals taking in what is being read or spoken and having our own thoughts about it. 

A real spiritual being must be present in a room where anthroposophy is being carried on, and this as a direct result of the way anthroposophical ideas are being absorbed. Divine powers are present in sense perceptible form in the cultus celebrated on the physical plane. Our hearts and souls and attitude must learn similarly to invoke the presence of a real spiritual being in a room where anthroposophy is being talked of. 

We must so attune our speaking, our feeling, our thinking, our impulses of will to a spiritual purpose, avoiding the pitfall of the abstract, that we can feel a real spiritual being hovering there above us, looking on and listening. We should divine a supersensible presence, invoked by our pursuit of anthroposophy. Then each single anthroposophical activity can begin to be a realizing of the supersensible.

Growth Together In A Community Of Spirit
A real community spirit is similarly attracted by our common experiencing when we study anthroposophy together, though it is obviously not a group soul active in the bloodstream (folk soul or folk spirit). If we are able to sense this, we can form true communities.

We must make anthroposophy real by learning to be aware in anthroposophical community life that where people join in anthroposophical tasks together, there they experience their first awakening in the encounter with the soul-spiritual element in their fellows. Human beings wake up in the mutual encounter with other human beings. As each one has new experiences between his encounters with these others, and has grown a little, these awakenings take place in an ever new way as people go on meeting. The awakenings undergo a burgeoning development. 

When you have discovered the possibility that human souls wake up in the encounter with human souls, and human spirits wake up in the encounter with human spirits, and go to anthroposophical groups with a living awareness that only now have you come awake and only now begin to grow together into an understanding of anthroposophy, and on the basis of that understanding take anthroposophical ideas into an awakened soul rather than into an everyday soul asleep to higher things, then the true spirit of community descends upon the place where you are working.

Is truth involved when we talk of the supersensible world, yet are unable to rise to awareness of a spiritual presence and of this reversed cultus? We are firmly grounded in our understanding of things of the spirit only when we do not rest content with abstract spiritual concepts and a capacity to express them theoretically, but instead grow into a sure belief that higher beings are present with us in a community of spirit when we engage in spiritual study. 

No external measures can bring about anthroposophical community building. You have to call it forth from the profoundest depths of human consciousness.

Anthroposophy Is Independent Of Anthroposophical Society
I would like to add just a few words on matters that may have been occupying you after hearing my descriptions of the spiritual bases of anthroposophical community life. On the one hand, things in the Anthroposophical Movement are really such as to necessitate my describing them as I have done. The Anthroposophical Society may present this or that appearance in a given phase. 

But anthroposophy is independent of anthroposophical societies and can be found independently of them. It can be found in a special way when one human being learns to wake up in the encounter with another and out of such awakening the forming of communities occurs. For one undergoes ever fresh awakenings through those with whom one finds oneself foregathered, and that is what holds such groups together. Inner, spiritual, realities are at work here.

Founding Free Communities
It would be ideal if, instead of dragging in anthroposophical theories in an artificial, sentimental, nebulous way, as has so often happened, a down-to-earth course were to be pursued.

But no solution will be found by tomorrow evening if things go on as they have up to this point; they can only lead to a state of tremendous, tragic chaos. The most important thing is to avoid any sentimental dragging in of all sorts of matters, and instead fill our hearts with anthroposophical impulses, conceived in full clarity.

As things are now, I see two parties, two separate groups of human beings sitting in this room, neither of which in the least understands the other, neither of which is able to take the first small step toward mutual understanding. Why is this the case? It is because what one side is saying issues inevitably from the experience of two whole decades, as I explained briefly earlier today, and the other side takes no interest whatsoever in that experience. I say this not in criticism, but in a spirit of concerned pleading. There have been occasions in the past when well-meaning people, in their own way genuinely enthusiastic about anthroposophy, have simply cut across our deliberations with such comments as, “What possible interest can these reports have for us when they keep on being served up at a moment when the important thing is that people unacquainted with the great dangers the Society faces want to learn about them?” 

Here, on the one side, we see an elemental, natural interest in the life of the Anthroposophical Society, a life that may have certain familial characteristics, but that has the good aspects of the familial as well. On the other side we find no interest in that life, and instead just a general conception of an Anthroposophical Society.

As things stand today, both points of view are justified, so justified that unless we can quickly develop a wholly different form of discussion, the best thing we could do (I am just expressing my opinion, for the decision will have to be made by the Society) would be to leave the old Society as it is and found a union of free anthroposophical communities for those who want something entirely different. Then each party could carry on in the way that suits it. We would have the old Society on the one side, and on the other a loose but closely related confederation of free communities. The two societies could work out ways of living together. 

It would be better to solve the problem this way than to continue on in the hopeless situation that would present itself tomorrow evening if the discussion were to go on as it has thus far. So I ask you to put on the agenda the further question whether you would not prefer to avoid the false situation that would develop from keeping the two groups welded together, regardless of whether things stay as they have been or undergo some modification. If the situation remains as it is, with each side failing to understand the other, let us go ahead and set up the two suggested groups within the one movement. 

I say this with an anxious, a very anxious heart; for surely no one will deny that I understand what it is to feel concern for our anthroposophical undertaking and know what it means to love it. But it is better to have two devoted sisters, each going her own way and united only by a common ideal, than to settle for something that would lead in short order to a state of chaos.

Path Of Free Communities 
These are very serious questions. We have to deal with them and discuss them objectively and impersonally. I meant what I said objectively, not as an attack on any member or members of the Central Executive Committee. Nobody is being disparaged, but in my opinion these problems, thus again sharply enunciated by me, had to brought up. If the two proposed societies are to be established, the group that would be a continuation of the old Anthroposophical Society could make itself responsible for the projects the Society has undertaken, and the other group, that feels no interest in them, could pursue a more narrowly anthroposophical path.