Study group ďAnthroposophy and JudaismĒ founded

A study group researching the theme ďAnthroposophy and JudaismĒ has been established in Munich. The first meeting took place on the 5 and 6 January, 2002. Lorenzo Ravagli describes its aims.

Munich, 23 January (NNA) - Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, often stressed that anthroposophy is obliged to follow a basic theosophical principle, namely to search for the central truths in all religions. From a historical perspective, Judaism is one of these religions. 

The subject of the research work in Munich is the history of Judaism as well as the history of the people who practised this religion in the past and present. 

Anthroposophy also has a history. It is the history of a life's work and the history of the reception of this work, of which we ourselves are a part. Just how important it is to see anthroposophy as a living science in a process of development became apparent when we considered Steiner's use of the expression "YAHVEH" between 1902 and 1910.

The research group considered the hypothesis that Steinerís relationship to Judaism was similar to his relationship to Christianity and that similar changes of perspective can be observed in Steinerís evolving views.

If one regards the turn of the century as a threshold, Steiner can be regarded above all as the "philosopher of freedom" in the period before 1900. He defends ethical individualism against religions based on revelation and opposes any dogmatic system (Christianity, Judaism, Kantianism), which desires to fix categorically human concepts of morality. In Steinerís view, the highest level of morality is the creation of individual moral intuitions.

After 1900 Steiner himself becomes someone who reveals what at first sight seems to be a religious world view. The religions based on revelation are seen to be an element in the development of human freedom and even to be its prerequisite.

Steinerís still developing views on Judaism before the turn of the century are well known. Steiner regarded hate and collective instinct as the driving forces behind the anti-Semitism of the times and supported the unconditional acceptance and integration of the Jews in Europe. However, at the same time, he also expressed the view that Judaism could not claim universal validity as a system of moral values for the present age.

At the turn of the century we find a whole list of articles by Steiner in defence of Judaism. They were published in the most important Jewish magazine of the day. In these articles he condemns anti-Semitism and takes a sharp stand against racism.

After 1900 we find numerous descriptions and interpretations of the Jewish tradition in Steinerís work, ranging from the account of creation in Genesis to the development of Hassidism. In Steiner's religious and historical considerations, Yahveh appears as Creator God, Adam as the original father of the human race, Noah as the spiritual source of postdiluvian cultural development and Abraham as the first independently thinking person in history who provided the impulses and content of occidental culture for the first millennium of our era.

Here we encounter Moses not only as a historical figure who renews and develops the wisdom of Zarathustra and Hermes (the founders of monotheism), but also as the first human being who becomes aware of his human soul life within the ego.

We can, therefore, begin to sense the immensity of the world-historical mission Steiner ascribed to the leading spirits of Judaism and how important their contributions were in forming the modern human spirit, and how they in fact continue to influence the current spiritual constitution of humanity.

During the first weekend it already became clear that a mystical experience of the central truths of the worldís religions, or even simply a thinking comprehension of such mystical experiences, could contribute not only to peace between religions, but also to peace between people. Anthroposophy, which has its source in Steinerís spiritual experience, could become an instrument for the thinking to promote communication between religions. 

The Munich research group wishes to concern itself not only with Steinerís work, but also with the following questions: how have Rudolf Steinerís many Jewish pupils handled the relationship between anthroposophy and Judaism and how have they integrated the two in their personal self-conception? 

How have pupils received Steinerís contributions on Judaism since his death? What effect have they had to this day?

Three main themes were chosen for the current year: the depiction of Moses in Steinerís works, the question of unity and plurality in Steinerís understanding of God, and the motif of the prohibition of images (thou shalt make no images). In addition, we shall closely examine the twentieth century biographies of Steinerís Jewish pupils. We also wish to enter into dialogue with contemporary practising Jews.

The participants of the research group are: Hans-Jürgen Bracker, Janos Darvas (corresponding), Walter Kugler (corresponding), Detlef Hardorp, Ralph Sonnenberg, Bernd Schmäche, David Schweizer, Lorenzo Ravagli, Günter Röschert, Miriam and Jürn-Hinrich Volkmann

Readers of this article who wish to contribute to these research questions are asked to send their suggestions and contributions to: Lorenzo Ravagli, Kunigundenstr. 4, 80802 Munich, Germany.

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