A biweekly newsletter from the Anthroposophical Society in America
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November 15, 2021

Dear Members & Friends,

The letters from General Secretary John Bloom that are sent out roughly quarterly have been much appreciated. A new, November letter was sent last week, and if you missed it, you can find it here.

Some fine observations linger from the October conference, including two from Dr. Michaela Glöckler’s keynote. “Biography work is heart research.” Also, after noting the divergence of the gifts of the two sexes, Dr. Glöckler observed that when women and men do work together, we learn more about what is happening now, and pay better attention to the future.

The photos this time remind us of the busy lives of insects. Their appearance in a scene of plant life can be felt to bring out another dimension of reality. Nature and reality will be our main theme this issue.

Bee harvesting nectar from lavender flowers


Our fall conference was successful in weaving a good number of face-to-face gatherings into a larger and very satisfying digital package. Branches and groups are now beginning to gather again and there are energetic efforts to combine the well-loved “natural meetings” with the wide online availability that has meant so much to others. Can we create effective and not-too-distracting broadcast studios in those same spaces where years of artistry and community care had created a haven? “Stay tuned.”


I spoke a few weeks ago to the Sacramento Faust Branch about the “battle for reality” which is intensifying. One aspect of it is the progress of technological media, those “things inbetween” us and inbetween us and the reality we call “nature.” (This email, for example.)

It is not a long span, historically speaking, from Rudolf Steiner’s birth in 1861 (year one of the US civil war) to 2021, when the most powerful media corporation ever changed its name from the quaint collegiate “Facebook” to the old Greek word “Meta”. In 1861 photography (more Greek, “drawing with light”) was already rolling, as was electrical telegraphy (“distance writing”). The telephone came in 1876, sound recording in 1877, radio from the 1890s, then silent movies.

By the decade after the Great War we were into the first mass media era. Nature’s sights and sounds had strong competition, and electric lighting was dispersing the night and hiding the stars. By the 1930s one individual could address—and deliver big truths or big lies to—a whole nation, and “the masses” could be entertained by faraway musicians, or entranced by motion pictures, which now included sound.

By the 1960s television had started edging out family dinner conversation and evening town meetings. Color television did show the USA its shocking war in Vietnam, and public tv and radio were launched with hope and marginal funding in 1968, but it was a “vast wasteland” in most respects. As the future creator of a cable news channel had observed to President Nixon, people watching tv do not think. By the 1980s there was an apocalyptic torrent of commercial entertainment and sports spreading onto cable channels and VHS tapes.

Full media convergence came after 2000. The internet delivered, and the iPhone, the smartphone, brought it all to life in your hand: telegrams (texting) and phone calls and audio and video recordings and newspapers and tv and movies. And you could become a creator in all those fields. Then from 2010 social media stepped squarely into the middle of individuals’ relations with each other. Making extraordinary profits, these apps opened this intimate zone of human relations to access by influencers and advertisers and governments and corporations. Those with funds learned to manage it all with machine intelligence that was trained over vast fields of personal data gather by the same social media... 

Now comes the metaverse, or omniverse, or comprehensive artificial reality. It sounds and looks too boring to bother with, but it will get better, shaped by our own reactions to it, and its purpose is to contain and exert maximum influence over our consciousnesses. Are there any human beings who might be qualified to manage such a project?

Nature, the great illusion, or maya, created by higher divine beings, will soon have full-scale competition from an illusion within the illusion. The motivations that find homes in this metaverse will be mixed, but greed and envy and lust and boredom will have large roles. It will be expensive to create. Corporations will need to profit from it, and they will do that by entrapping and exploiting and selling our attention: the most essential power of human individuality.

They will take hold of that attention by shaping this meta-reality to fit our sensations and feelings and “keep us engaged,” and they will sell that manipulated and degraded attention to anyone who pays for it. This same process has been thoroughly tested already over several generations. And the corporation with the worst reputation so far for handling such matters, Meta Platforms, Inc., Facebook, is striking out now to become controller of this new reality.

Bernard Lievegoed's last book was titled, The Battle for the Soul. As we’ve mentioned before, Steiner and Aquinas and Aristotle asserted an equivalence of soul and world: “My soul and the world are but one.” So this new artificial reality-world is what, a reach to take all of humanity’s souls?

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

Walt Whitman ended this famous passage from Leaves of Grass:

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Rudolf Steiner suggested that we take a lively interest in nature, the divinely created reality that once embraced us totally. If not, we will be dulled down in our next incarnation. Look at a leaf, a tree, a fruit, an insect: everything in nature has bottomless depth and quality beyond measurement. And we have been part of that.

Learning aggressively, heartlessly, from nature has helped us raise ourselves to a commanding place over nature. Commanding, yes, but not yet wise, as shown in this latest stage of things by the way we are losing command over ourselves to something we have drawn up and fabricated out of the hidden depths below nature.

Bees on a field of tiny white flowers


“Nature is the standard of beauty,” said Emerson, and the Nature Institute website is displaying some beautiful fall foliage at the moment. Alongside that are words of H.D. Thoreau which may be helpful in connection with the previous paragraphs:

“The question is not what you look at, but how you look and whether you see.”

How you look. Whether you see. The metaverse will not be prevented, but it will help us to withstand its unwise motives if we can look at it in the right way. What is this new reality? What does it intend to do for us, or to us? How will it do that? What will we gain by overcoming its seductions?

The other encompassing challenge today is the global pandemic, and the Institute site offers “Ways of Looking at a Virus: Reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Jon McAlice and Craig Holdrege. This outstanding “long read” (an expression drawn from the attention-shortening power of our artificial mass media) is worth your time and attention.

Returning to the Institute’s front page, there are several other offerings of the highest quality. A new foundation year program coming. A new monograph—the more traditional term for long read—from Craig Holdrege: “Living Perenniality — Plants, Agriculture, and the Transformation of Consciousness.” Buy it in print or download a free PDF. Plus a new podcast episode which explores posing the question, “Who are you?” to animals.

In January Henrike Holdrege will lead a course, “Taking Appearances Seriously — Visual Experience and the World of Light, Darkness, and Color” for the M.C. Richards Program. Doesn’t that sound like a direct response to this metaverse project? And there is a video of a talk by Steve Talbott on the matter of purpose in evolution, and a new chapter for his book in progress, Evolution As It Was Meant To Be. This is a battle that Steve has been fighting quite tenaciously for living, receptive thinking about life.

Finally, there is a short video on the Nature Institute’s mission, asking “the fundamental question, ‘Do we really see the world?’” It is both confounding and inspiring to behold this tiny team in Ghent, New York, working with such care and penetration to awaken us to the sublimity of nature, maya, at just the moment when a corporation worth a thousand billion dollars and hosting two billion customers, and controlled by one man, has turned to summon us into an artificial replacement for nature.

Do spend some time at www.natureinstitute.org

Bee in the pink


It is surprising to learn at his retirement from the RSArchive and e.Lib that Jim Stewart began this internet project before the World Wide Web and browsers were invented in 1989-90. His announcement thanks Marylin Kraker, and identifies the new e.Librarian, Chris Wietrzykowski, who has already been helping in a major way since 2012. Chris and his wife Karin are duplicating the existing content with updated technology at a new site, SteinerLibrary.org which flies the well-stated banner of “Steiner Online Library: Spiritual Science for Human Evolution.”

Its front page states the purpose of the Steiner Online Library very clearly and is worth reading in full:

The problem we aim to solve
The advent of the technological revolution has caused mankind to fall into a deep materialism. Much of our former cultural life has been stripped away and is now supplied for us through television and computerized devices. We no longer ask ourselves important life questions but instead seek authoritative answers from political leaders and scientific “experts”. The cost we pay is a loss of our spiritual freedom. ...
The Solution: "Man, know thyself!"
Steiner Online Library aims to preserve the vast wealth of information contained in the books, articles and transcribed lectures given to the world through the personality of Rudolf Steiner. A distinct summary of Steiner's message could be summed up by the Ancient Greek aphorism "Man, know thyself!" ...

Chris and Karin met Steiner’s work around 2003, and after an immersion in internet technology, Chris retired from dentistry in 2020 to take on this important donation-supported service.

Not that Jim Stewart is leaving the field. “Besides hanging around to help with the RS Archive, my new adventures will be in developing and presenting two new websites and related activities. AnthroposophicalPublications.org will attempt to publish books containing the over 3,000 Steiner lectures that have never been translated into English. Study Groups Online will offer a safe place for groups of people who gather to research and study Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy, to meet in a space with no ads and no tracking!”

The publications work is well begun, featuring Frank Thomas Smith (Toward a Threefold Society, Esoteric Lessons, original stories) and Peter Stebbing (Raphael’s Mission, The Worldview of Hermann Grimm, Artemis and the Artemision, Fairy Tales) among others. It offers the uncommon procedure of giving links to free internet texts and to Amazon to purchase printed-on-demand books.


Wasp feeding on a leaf


A new Waldorf Education eNews arrived ten days ago from Rebecca Moskowitz, Executive Director, Advancement, of AWSNA, and it is full of valuable content including an hour video conversation with young alums for current students. This is really helpful for students who will find sooner or later that they had a significantly different kind of education. Sample tips from these alums: Be ready to explain eurythmy at college, but don’t bring it up first thing! — Don’t be too shocked at your invisibility in a big university, just make yourself known to teachers, they do care. — Conversations may be easier for you because it’s not an option in Waldorf to just follow a narrow set of interests. — Realize that you have gained a special ability to present facts and information as stories, and that makes everything more understandable and interesting to other people. Other good reports from this eNews: “The Importance of Productive Solitude”; “Waldorf Schools are Media Literacy Role Models”; and AWSNA’s new School Renewal journal is out, focusing in this issue on “Connecting with the Earth.”

Accreditation is an important and difficult challenge for higher education organizations. Gradalis Waldorf Consulting & Services in Colorado (their Gradalis Teacher Education offerings are advertised in our print being human) received the good news of a five-year continuation of accreditation from ACCET, the Accreditating Council for Continuing Education & Training. Not only does this sort of approval give confidence to prospective students, it has value for program graduates in finding jobs and building careers.

So it’s also important to the movement that Antioch University offers a Master of Education degree in Waldorf Education, through AU New England. And there are several related centers and institutes: School Renewal, Place-Based Education, Essential School Reform, Nature Based Leadership, Waldorf Administration & Leadership Development. Click here to view the MEd program and scroll down for the related ones.

Blue-winged wasp (?) on yellow flowers

While the world situation is challenging in many ways, it is hard not to be impressed with the quality and relevance of anthroposophical initiatives. Can we learn how to communicate that these many parts are an outline for building a global culture that will serve all of us and the Earth?

Thank you for reading, and be well!

John Beck
Editor, being human

Anthroposophical Society in America

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