A world society for Anthroposophy

A world society for Anthroposophy

28 March 2023 Peter Selg 56 views

In early February 1923, as Rudolf Steiner was making every effort to reorganize the Anthroposophical Society in Germany (Anthroposophy Worldwide 3/2023), he also announced that he was going to make arrangements for the ‘International Anthroposophical Societies’.

In future, Rudolf Steiner said at the time, the German Anthroposophical Society would be one of many country societies. The times were asking for a global society and for the creation of a centre at the Goetheanum.

Autonomous country societies

Anthroposophical societies were then founded in the same year in Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Austria. There had been independent societies before: in Sweden since 1913 and in Switzerland since 1920. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that for him the founding of country societies would lead up to the foundation of an ‘international Anthroposophical World Society’ at a Christmas conference in Dornach at the end of the year.[1]The ‘international’ or ‘general’ world society would be based on the country societies, which were to have their centre in Dornach (CH). They would also be directly linked to the Goetheanum rather than to, or via, Germany. Rudolf Steiner said that the future asked for a much stronger link, a much more robust collaboration of ‘anthroposophists of all countries’, as well as a social, organizational and spiritual centre in neutral Switzerland. ‘This will enable an international Anthroposophical Society that will finally be truly active.’[2]Rudolf Steiner expected the country societies to draw up their own statutes, which would reflect the objectives of the individual Anthroposophical Societies in the various countries and form the basis for the foundation of a world society in Dornach at the end of 1923.It was necessary, he continued, for the Anthroposophical Society around the world to give itself a ‘unified structure’. In spiritual terms the country societies were important individualities; they lived within their own language and cultural spirituality but should be united in the World Society. ‘To understand Anthroposophy rightly for this moment in history means to understand that it consists in finding something like an international means of communication that spans the entire world, a means of communication that brings people together and that lies one level above language.’[3]

No specific group interests

Any ‘specific group interests’ were harmful at the present time: ‘It is a spiritual law that any spiritual movement which can truly advance humanity must be universally human.’[4] ‘International’ in this context meant ‘universally human’.[5] The anthroposophical country societies were autonomous in that they chose their own statutes, admitted their own members and took responsibility for the anthroposophical affairs in their countries.Rudolf Steiner pleaded for tolerant admission criteria, for ‘open-minded’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ statutes.[6] The Anthroposophical Society needed a true ‘global consciousness’;[7] its task was to represent Anthroposophy in full awareness of the times. It was important for the Anthroposophical Society to be taken as seriously in public as other specialist societies[8]. Any sectarianism had to be eradicated,[9] all new members should be able to feel that they represented a ‘great cause’ in the world by joining the Society.[10]The Goetheanum should contribute to ‘promoting anthroposophical communication across the world,’[11] it should be the headquarters of the world society and home to an innovative and independent School of Spiritual Science. In a proposal for the statutes of the Dutch society Rudolf Steiner wrote, ‘I think that naturally the statutes should include something like, “The endeavours described here have their centre in everything of a scientific, medical, artistic, religious nature that emanates from the Goetheanum, the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach, or can build on them.”’[12]

Initiatives for a humane community

According to Rudolf Steiner, the tasks of public consequence for which the Anthroposophical Society was to assume responsibility were those of the School’s specialist departments. Their productivity was to send impulses to the various spheres of life and create initiatives for the future humane community that the Anthroposophical Society would support around the world. The Anthroposophical Society was to operate an academic school, disseminate the work of that school and facilitate its effectiveness.[13]

Titelbild: Motif Goetheanum Main Auditorium. Foto: Bernard Bonnamour.

The first part of the article on the Essence of the Anthroposophical Society was published in Anthroposophy Worldwide 3/2023.


[1] Rudolf Steiner: GA 259, 17 May 1923, 1991, p. 4712

[2] GA 259, 18 November 1923 (afternoon), 1991, p. 6703

[3] GA 307, lecture of 17 August 1923, 1986, p. 2534

[4] GA 259, 2 September 1923, 1991, p. 6045

[5] Ibid., p. 6046

[6] GA 259, 18 November 1923, 1991, p. 6747

[7] GA 259, 21 January 1923, 1991, p. 998

[8] GA 259, lecture of 18 November 1923, 1991, p. 6689

[9] GA 259, 21 January 1923, 1991, p. 9910

[10] GA 259, 17 May 1923, 1991, p. 47311

[11] GA 259, 2 September 1923, 1991, p. 60712

[12] GA 259, 18 November 1923 (afternoon), 1991, p. 674f.13

[13] cf. Peter Selg: Die anthroposophische Weltgesellschaft und ihre Hochschule [The Anthroposophical World Society and its School], 2023.

[All page numbers refer to German editions]