Sunday, February 26, 2012

The jugendkreis - is it a secret enclave within anthroposophy?

Dear friends, Some of you reading this message will be aware of the existence of the jugendkreis, or youth circle, established in 1922 with the assistance of Rudolf Steiner. Indeed, if you know of it you’re likely to be a member of the circle. Some of you however, will be totally unaware of its existence even though you may have been an anthroposophist for decades. Until very recently, I hadn’t heard of it either. When it was first described to me I initially refused to believe that a secret group existed. It seemed inconceivable that such a thing was possible. ‘Nobody in anthroposophy would join a secret, select group,‘ I declared, ‘and if invited to be part of such a group they would loudly denounce it.’ I was wrong. The group does exist and has members all over the world, including, I’m told, at least three members of the executive council at Dornach, as well as many representatives of national & regional councils, Waldorf teachers, doctors, etc. Over the past six weeks I’ve asked many of my fellow anthroposophists in Forest Row if they are members of the circle. So far, the results are split 40/60 between those who are members and those who’ve never heard of the circle. The latter group often share the same incredulity as I did and sometimes feel deep dismay at learning of its existence. Circle members often seem surprisingly eager to talk about the circle; some are totally convinced of the rightness of belonging to the group and value its exclusiveness. Some say they are relieved to finally unburden the secret. Some carry concerns about not telling family, friends and colleagues about their membership. The more conversations I have, the more concerned I've become about the health implications of this secrecy - both the health of the individuals involved & the health of anthroposophy. As anyone who has read either of my books will know, the social & spiritual implication of the secret stands squarely at the centre of my life and my work. Therefore, I’d like to now put the same question to those of you who have a relationship with anthroposophy. I invite you to complete a survey & answer ten simple questions that will give a clearer picture of the percentage of anthroposophists who know about the circle and are members, compared to those who don’t know. I give you my guarantee that the survey is completely anonymous. Neither I, nor anyone else, has any way of knowing who the participants are. At the end of the survey each participant will immediately see the cumulative results to date. And, in the spirit of inclusiveness, I will send another email in three weeks giving the total outcome of all the answers. I hope, by then, to also send a more comprehensive article about the circle and its implications, as well as a more comprehensive survey about anthroposophy. In the meantime, you can learn more about the founding of the youth group by reading, Esoteric Lessons 1913 - 1923. This account gives a good picture of the impulses that lie behind the group but it doesn’t give any indication of the current strength or influence of the group therefore it’s rather disingenuous of some circle members to point to this publication as evidence that the circle is open and visible. It is however, very enlightening to discover that Rudolf Steiner exclusively refers to the youth group impulse as the founding of a ‘community’. That, in itself, should give pause for thought to those who claim Steiner sanctioned the existence of a secret circle. It's also worth reflecting on the deep connection of two of the founding members of the circle with the medieval 'Friends of God', a mystical-type order connected with the 14c Roman Catholic Church. Have some aspects of this medieval practice crept into the circle? Perhaps. Finally, I know that this message and this research will cause distress and possible offense to some. I wish it were not so and ask that we all take care of each other during this process of rediscovering who were are, and who the other is. To access the survey please click the link: Please circulate this message to all who may be interested. I hope you will leave comments and engage in discussion and dialogue wherever possible. Warmest regards, Kelly

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