Research 2008

Honoring the Past —
Recognizing the Way Forward

September 26-28, 2008

On September 18, 2008, Henry Barnes passed away at age 96. A luminary in Waldorf education and an ambassador for anthroposophy in America, Henry embodied the warmth, charm and sharp intelligence of a life well lived.

Henry Barnes

The weekend following Henry's death, a conference took place in the Threefold Community entitled Honoring the Past — Recognizing the Way Forward. The conference, which celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of anthroposophical gatherings at Threefold, was inspired by Henry, who, as a young man of 21, met his destiny in anthroposophy at the first Anthroposophical Summer School at Threefold Farm in 1933.

On Michaelmas weekend, more than 75 individuals of all ages came from many regional communities to celebrate the seeds that had been planted and to cultivate the capacity for a new social life. As nature darkens into winter, Michaelmas reminds us each to search for and kindle an inner light. This mood of soul was vibrantly experienced as we explored the issue of economic renewal in accordance with Rudolf Steiner's social ideals amidst news of a national, and increasingly global economic collapse. As in a truly living process, the topics of form and renewal we explored through lectures, intergenerational discussion, and artistic expression, organically gave rise to a question which Henry Barnes had shared: "How can the anthroposophical movement support active spiritual research in a way that will practically impact the world?"

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A Research Manifesto

At the 1924 Christmas Foundation Conference, Rudolf Steiner placed spiritual scientific research at the center of the work and mission of anthroposophy. In 1926, Threefold Farm in Spring Valley, New York, was founded as a living laboratory for spiritual science in social threefolding, biodynamic farming, and the arts. Our mission was codified in 1965, when the Threefold Educational Foundation was chartered by the State of New York Education Department “to establish, conduct, operate and maintain conferences, programs of research and adult education in all fields of human endeavor emphasizing the principles and methods enunciated by Rudolf Steiner.”

We recognize that research is not a luxury, it is a necessity—life itself depends on it. However, research, like any living thing, requires a convergence of essential elements in appropriate amounts. These elements include: qualified researchers carrying worthy questions; time and space in which to do research, and means for researchers to live on; and a social and physical setting that is supportive of the researchers’ work. In short, what is urgently needed is for qualified researchers to be paired with appropriate institutional, social and financial support.

Over the past year, Threefold Educational Center has consciously acted on its task as an anthroposophical institution, which is to create and foster the conditions necessary for spiritual scientific research to take place. A series of conferences hosted by Threefold have brought together interested parties from all over North America and Europe, in part to investigate and discuss the nature and meaning of such research in the past and going forward. A community of researchers and a constellation of questions have been identified. We have developed our physical facilities to create appropriate spaces for working, meeting, exhibiting and performing, a process that continues as new needs and opportunities arise.

A major step in this process was the creation in 2010 of the Threefold Researcher in Residence program. Our first Researcher in Residence, artist and geometrician Frank Chester, worked with a team of eleven research fellows at Threefold from September 19 to October 30. Their work culminated in an exhibition at Threefold Auditorium, “Art as Research and Scientific Inquiry as a Creative Act.” The exhibit’s opening coincided with a weekend Symposium on Anthroposophical Research, co-sponsored by the Collegium of the North American School of Spiritual Science and Threefold.

As the Threefold Researcher in Residence program takes shape and evolves, a continuous dialogue with the Collegium of the School of Spiritual Science is intended to ensure that our work harmonizes with the Collegium’s efforts in the same direction.