Research 2011: Reflections

Reflections on the Pre-Symposium
Social Research Experiment

By Ani Hanelius

“Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Rilke

Coming together at that special time of year when Summer has faded and the crispness of Autumn is rustling in the leaves, a group of spiritual scientific researchers met in the Red Barn of the Threefold Community and began an exploration of living questions. We came from all walks of life, with different focuses, passions and expertise. We each brought interest and together created a mood of thoughtful participation and engagement.

Instead of the usual terse mandatory round of introductions, we began with an exercise to work with and share pieces of our own biographies. Between moments of reflection, we met in pairs and shared parts of our stories, pictures or themes from the beginning of our lives, talking quietly in the still barn or stepping out to wander in the fresh autumn air. By sharing from our own stories, we felt a substance form between us, a familiarity, a recognition, out of which we knew real meeting could continue.

The work continued as out of our own biographies we crafted and refined a single question, burning to be spoken. These questions were intimate and resounding. Powerful in their universality and singular in their depth. They spoke to the task of inner development and outer manifestation, of recognizing new forms and witnessing archetypes. They carried the mood of our Michaelic age in their richness and intention.

The following days we worked together, exploring these questions and meeting the Spirit of our Time by looking out into the world situation. We explored moments of courage. We challenged each other to listen deeply and share from an authentic source of questioning resounding within. And were challenged with the task to not only become comfortable in the role of researcher, but to stretch and serve as facilitators, movers and partners in the social process as well.

The following are words from the final reflection and sharing round, as I heard them, in the form of a poem:

Thurasaz: The Thorn of Awakening

There is a pulse
to which we all belong
A surging lifeblood
streaming meteoric iron
A flow of movement
cascading through us around the world
Nourishing the willful work
the pursuit of Truth
the acts of Courage
coming from realms of light.

In a time of hard tests
we are challenged
to move beyond polarities
the cramping rigidity of fear and anxiety
that threatens to choke the new
To recognize the universal in our Humanity.

We are healers, farmers, organizers
cultivating a mood of courage
collaborating beyond the threshold
We are not alone.

Tightrope walking
Sunhearts streaming
Meteoric lifeblood surging
We enable that which is necessary
by letting our courage sing.

A Reflection on the 2011 Research Symposium

By Evan Paul

New to the work of Rudolf Steiner, this was Evan’s first visit to the Threefold Educational Center and his first Anthroposophical conference.

Evan was so struck by the threefold perspective that informs Spiritual Science that he chose a form for his reflection that would reflect this new insight. The reflection below comments on the thinking, feeling and willing aspect of himself (I), the group present (We) and for wider humanity (All).

Think — that the symposium was catered toward the thinking capacity. Speakers broached heavy subjects on the cutting-edge of their fields, creating discussions that cut straight into deep thought about the meaning of the heart, the fundamentals of conversation and the creation of open spaces. As thinking about and dissecting abstract concepts has always been a passion of mine the focus on this realm was a delight for me. Robert’s lecture on the three modes of being (I, We, and All) instantly permeated my being and added a new layer to my thought structure. It added a great new dimension while at the conference and I’ve happily brought it home with me as well. Frank Chester’s lecture then added several more layers as I began to assimilate a geometric aspect to the world along with a view of the human as bridging spirit and earth worlds.

Feel — the constant firing of neurons from more new connections being made than I could process. Being surrounded by so many like minded people made it instantly feel like home. I always felt comfortable, I always felt welcome, I always felt heard. I felt open and connected to all around which lead to instantly deep conversations with new acquaintances. As time passed the feeling built upon itself and great connections were made.

Will — bring the answers found within me into the rest of my life. While Friday’s question had led to incredible conversation and all sorts of unexpected answers, I was looking for something else on Saturday. The experience of the first day as well as the inspiration and future-facing speech of John Beck had put me into that much sought-after state of clear-headed, high-energy readiness. I wanted to build a castle or write a constitution. My question to Saturday’s conversation group should have been “Will you back my campaign for office?” Instead I asked them a near-impossible existential question about fate—and of course got a fantastic answer.

Think — that the majority of the people were on the same page as I was. We were highly mentally stimulated and cheerfully engaged in the intense thought-experiments going around. Of course we were. Since I was in a constant state of love and continually engaged in the moment, I only attracted like minds to me and therefore the “We” I was part of was unanimously pleased. But in some of the friends I had met prior to arriving I saw another reaction to the heavily thinking-oriented activities. There were some who could not relate to the material in the lectures, didn’t have the right educational background, or had a mental construction untrained to deal with the type of abstract conceptual thought that was a stimulant to others. Obviously not everyone is attracted to the same, and so inevitably some were left with the question “What’s the point of all this?”

Feel — like there could have been more feeling. For both those who felt left out of the thinking exercises and even for those who did not. There was an aspect of the We that would have loved more experiential feeling exercises. The opening and closing with music and eurythmy was very nice but it was subtle and could feel distant compared to the thinking exercises. Being a complete beginner to anthroposophy, I may have been searching for a full-package introduction that others were not, and I may be asking for something that would not fit or is not included in its scope, but I felt we all could have used a little more hands-on experiments in feeling. Maybe a group eurythmy lesson, singing, meditation, or just some dancing to music at night. On the other hand, the built-up tension from intense mental stimulation without the release of expression created a unique feeling of its own.


Will — carry the spirit of the vessel created at the Threefold Community back into our own lives. We got to experience for at least a brief time a higher state of consciousness and a better reality. The big-hugs goodbye and sincere see-you-soons barely felt real as the lower plane of existence we were going back to seemed somehow less relevant. It was like the temporary world we created is the beginning of the next world, a taste of the future that will leave the past meaningless.


Think — the number of ideas exchanged, amount of wisdom exposed, and new concepts channeled reached an extraordinary level. Add to that the range of subjects covered, and it becomes clear that this is not a common occurrence on earth. An experiment I would like to be part of is figuring out how to hold frequent events of this type without anything getting repetitive. How can one get a daily dose of the spirit of Living Questions?

Feel — like there was nowhere else we wanted to be at that moment. I personally got this the most during the coffee breaks. During the few brief times that I was not engaged in a stimulating conversation, I found myself casually walking around, head buzzing from a great lecture I had just heard and amongst others in the same state. Compare this feeling to that of being in a NYC subway, and you can see the need to spread this feeling to the outside world.

Will — accomplish great things. If there had been pitchforks lying around near unused land, garden beds would have been tended. There was an incredible amount of inspirational energy embedded into people over the weekend. As well as some that was lost due to having no direction. Dual truths resonated with me. One is that the ideas and concepts behind anthroposophy and at the core of the Living Questions Research Symposium are rapidly permeating the culture, and each gathering like this is another wave pulsing out into the world. The other is a desire to send stronger and more purposeful waves out. I both heard and felt the desire for stronger action to be taken and specific plans to be made. A symposium may usually just be a place for ideas to be exchanged and connections made because a weekend seems too short to fit much more. However, many of the people I experienced were onto Stage Three by Saturday. The world would benefit from a gathering such as this resulting in plans, outlines, or seeds to be planted into the world that? grow into incredible things. While there was no shortage of individual energy sent out into the world following the Symposium, my biggest question now is: “How much energy can be channeled in the next experiment?”

Evan Paul Biography

I seasonally fluctuate between the mentally challenging world of writing code for the internet and the emotionally intense world of earth nurturing that we often call farming. Finding the balance between local and global community, oneness with the earth vs a potent individuality and comfort vs the rush of exploration is my passion.

Reflection of Living Questions Research Symposium

By Branko Furst

First of all, I would like to thank you for organizing the Living Questions conference within the framework of the Michaelmas celebrations.

We feel indebted to Robert Karp for his in-depth and well delivered talk on the social aspects of spiritual research. His insights into the value of small study groups in the work of transforming the spiritual landscape of our country were invaluable, as were his indications that this activity could be seen as a basis for communion between the guiding spiritual powers and humanity. By endeavoring to understand the blueprint of the world as given in the language of anthroposophy, we align in our thoughts with the creative archetypes active in the world and humanity. When rightly offered and received, an exchange takes space, a true spiritual communion in the sense of “reverse cultus.” In this day, the need for group work is perhaps more than ever before.

Equally penetrating was John Beck’s presentation on the “humble, little” American verse given to Ralph Courtney in 1924. John showed us that, when viewed through deeper insight, it contains no less than the contents of the Beatitudes, which, as Steiner pointed out, address the totality of the human sheaths. Using the verse as the backdrop, John painted a rich tapestry of events, illustrating how defining characteristics of the past hundred or so years help illuminate our present. His insights into European culture as the global force in the fifth post-atlantean age have given me a better appreciation for the role of America in the shaping of the world since the two World Wars. Finally, John shared with us some of the (chilling) prospects for the future, should the present wave of technology barrel on unchecked. Luckily, the sheer presence of numerous young people at the conference gives one the assurance that there IS a bright future.

Perhaps the most promising sign of hope came from the talks and workshop of Robert Sandstrom and Ed Kierwa. They both work in highly technological fields (at IBM), where more “thought substance” is expanded on mechanization of the world than perhaps in any other field. However, as Robert and Ed proved, there are bright exceptions to the rule. Their work into understanding the world beyond three-dimensional space clearly goes beyond being able to predict the orbits of the satellites or the chaotic behavior of smoke rings. We live in the age where the mechanistic-mathematical models reign not only in organic sciences, but also in biology and medicine, and even in the social sciences. In other words, we live in times where the dictum “If you can calculate it, or if it is statistically significant, it is true” still holds grip. Robert and Ed showed us that already in the middle of the eighteenth century and in Steiner’s time, the serious attempts to introduce qualitative aspect into mathematics (Hamilton’s quarternions and Cifford algebra) were scuttled, similar to the attempts of Goethe and his contemporaries to expand materialistic methods in organic sciences. The tragedy of current biological science is that it still lacks a coherent language to describe phenomena that go beyond the mechanism. The growth of a plant occurs in time, a dimension that transcends the spatial. However, here the general conception of time, as applied to the laws of motion, does not suffice. The situation becomes still more complicated when we study the processes in an animal, where everything is “turned inside out,” so to speak. Each of these processes occurs in different dimensions, and here we can begin to appreciate the work of Robert and Ed (and George Adams, Olive Whicher, Nick Thomas, and many others). Over the years it has became clear that in order to place organic sciences on firmer footing, phenomenology will have to be complemented with a mathematics that can go beyond the bare numbers and is able to embody qualitative aspects of reality.

The symposium has been supported by the Henry Barnes Fund for Anthroposophical Research, which is administered by the North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science.

For an account of the 2010 Researcher in Residence program, Click here.


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.