Was in der Allgemeinen Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft noch vorgeht

The emergence of the Goetheanum Leadership body

(Supplementary extract from the book “3 x 33 years of the Christmas Conference and the GAS crisis”)

Thomas Heck, 2022/23


Preliminary remark

If today’s Goetheanum Leadership is associated with the Goetheanum Leadership named by Rudolf Steiner in the statutes of the Christmas Conference Society, then only the name is common, but not the origin and the occasion. Today’s Goetheanum Leadership does not represent continuity, but came into being in 2012 because the situation at the Goetheanum had to be reorganised out of a crisis. This gave rise to a new body, which “was also formally founded among us in October 2012.” “With the founding and appointment of the Goetheanum Leadership, the overall responsibility for the Goetheanum, the Society and the School of Spiritual Science was transferred to the Goetheanum Leadership.”

As this is a newly founded body, it is misleading to give the impression in §3 of the GAS statutes that today’s Goetheanum Leadership as a body is a successor or a connection with what was meant in the statutes of the Christmas Conference Society: “The Goetheanum Leadership named in the founding statutes comprises the members of the Board and the leaders of the individual Sections of the School of Spiritual Science, who determine their own forms of work.” (In addition, the 1923 statutes referred to here as the ‘founding statutes’ are by no means the founding statutes of the GAS, which was founded already in 1913).

The events in 2011

It is astonishing how, in a way, what happened in 2001/2002 was to be repeated – now according to the cycle of historical events corresponding to the founding of the Society in Cologne in 1912. Once again, opportunities for renewal presented themselves, and the events were characterised by numerous member motions for the AGM. The applicants, who were committed to the Society, wanted more opportunities to have a say and saw the authoritarian behaviour of the Executive Board as outdated and inappropriate.

Motion of no confidence and reorganisation of the Executive Board situation

In particular, a motion of no confidence (Motion 2.1), combined with the intention to reorganise the entire Board situation, took centre stage and kept the membership and Society management busy for months before the Annual General Meeting.

The following is an attempt to provide an (incomplete) overview of the detailed grounds for this motion of no confidence and reorganisation:

It was clearly expressed that an increasing externalisation and orientation towards the hoped-for recognition by the non-anthroposophical outside world was seen in the work of the Executive Board. Original impulses were no longer being developed and anthroposophical core concerns and tasks were being marginalised. Entire Sections were only active to a limited extent due to staff redundancies. In the field of art, severe cuts were made due to redundancies (cancellation of the stage ensemble, reduction of language training), and in the field of visual arts, the entire Section was shut down in 2010. The administrative apparatus was too large, and of the six Board members, only Paul Mackay was still in charge of a Section, although his intention was to transform it into an externally controlled platform. The weekly newsletter had been virtually abolished without prior consultation and without a decision by the AGM, and the internal communication [already considered insufficient in 2001][1] had thus been massively reduced. Many had turned their backs on the Society and withdrawn their support (including donations) due to the loss of trust in the Society leadership. Furthermore, the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of a few individuals was criticised (Paul Mackay and Bodo von Plato). The concentration of power, particularly with Paul Mackay, was criticised, as was the influence of the Executive Board in School matters. With regard to finances, the declining willingness to donate due to the loss of trust was mentioned as well as the intention to generate funds from financial markets by means of a ‘Goetheanum Foundation’. The questionable process of selling the Weleda participation certificates to an investor was also mentioned. It was also pointed out that the Board of Directors was stripped of its decision-making power over Weleda shares at the 2010 AGM.

In response to this “deselection motion”, the Executive Board proposed limiting the term of office for Executive Board members to seven years in future, with the option of being re-elected each time. This proposal was justified by Paul Mackay and Bodo von Plato with particularly noble aims: Thus, “… the members should be more involved in the responsibility”[2] and, “It is about us developing a new social field. This means that the members should be more involved.”[3] As well as: “We would like to strengthen the cooperation between members and those in positions of responsibility so that the Society becomes a partner of the Executive Board and does not see itself as a counterpart.” And further: “It’s about developing a new social field. This means involving the members more. This means that it’s not just about an initiative Board, but also about an initiative Society. Developing a culture of initiative is an important task for the Society.”[4] The Executive Board of had realised “that it is a fundamental need of the members to be more involved in the events of the Society and its shaping. Rudolf Steiner called on the members to become active members. If this succeeds, the Anthroposophical Society can be seen as a Society of initiative. Every member is invited to make their own specific contribution. A social force emerges that is more than the sum of its members. A force that is capable of ‘moving mountains’! And wouldn’t it be a wonderful anniversary gift to Rudolf Steiner to bring this force more strongly into being?”[5] (Paul Mackay in “Anthroposophy Worldwide” 9/11.)

These alleged goals turned out to be empty promises due to the subsequent behaviour of the leadership. They were revealed as a downright tactical pack of lies by Paul Mackay’s public admission in 2019, when he argued in support of his motion to abolish this term limit that its introduction in 2011 was merely a (possible over)reaction to the motion to remove him at the time! He went on to say that there should already be regular reflection on the work of the Executive Board, but without involving the membership, as it was only possible to assess the work of the Executive Board within the circle of the Goetheanum leadership and the Conference of General Secretaries.[6]

The Goetheanum Leadership emerges (2012)

With the Goetheanum Leadership, a governing body was added to the GAS that basically does not exist in the statutes: It is mentioned in the statutes, but not what its tasks are, what its responsibilities are, nothing about the procedures for its formation and certainly nothing about accountability. And it is precisely to this body that the Executive Board has delegated central management tasks – including overall responsibility (but obviously without any accountability to the membership).

What a contrast to the goals announced a year before.

Accountability and transparency are certainly mentioned in the Rules of Procedure (which were only published seven years later in a place where hardly anyone could find them, and in a form that had been modified shortly beforehand), but only within the Goetheanum Leadership! Accountability and transparency should be cultivated among each other, but this is not intended for the membership, which is basically not even mentioned in the Rules of Procedure. It thus becomes clear that what Paul Mackay also revealed seven years later (see page 2) was already systematically enshrined in the Rules of Procedure of the Goetheanum Executive Board in 2012.

“The working methods of the Goetheanum Leadership with regard to the management of the School of Spiritual Science, the Sections and the Anthroposophical Society are transparent and mutually accountable and are evaluated annually.”[7]

An unpublished description of the “Goetheanum in Development” project from 2017 makes it clear how the Goetheanum Leadership sees its relationship with its members:

“A key objective of all the projects mentioned is to make the Goetheanum economically viable within three years. The basis for this is trust in the Goetheanum and its development. An important impulse in this context is the initiative to strengthen the relationship with the members. After all, membership fees remain an essential basis for the finances.” (Bold emphasis in original! Underlining TH.)

One cannot help but get the impression that the Goetheanum Leadership – together with the country representatives – sees itself as the actual Society. There is simply nothing to be found in the Rules of Procedure about a partnership with the membership, about “a new social field”, about “involving the membership more”, about “strengthening the relationship with the members”, about trust as a basis. The organisational processes for the formation of the Goetheanum Leadership took place in 2011, precisely in the year when the term limit was made palatable to the membership with noble – but only feigned – intentions, because in reality the aim was to prevent a removal from office. Paul Mackay’s admission in 2019 made it clear that the very process of forming this body had been associated with misrepresentations to the membership. Not ‘favourable conditions’ for an Anthroposophical Society, but rather devastating. The official introduction of the Goetheanum Leadership then took place in 2012, 100 years after the Society was founded in Cologne!

Thomas Heck, 5 January 2024

[1] Note TH.

[2] “Documentation of the applications”, AWW 3/2011.

[3] “Developing a new social field”, AWW 5/2011.

[4] Paul Mackay in “Anthroposophy Worldwide” 5/11

[5] Paul Mackay in “Anthroposophy Worldwide” 9/11.

[6] Online only: https://www.goetheanum.org/fileadmin/kommunikation/GV_2019_Antraege.pdf (last accessed: 1 Jan. 2024).

[7] Annual Report 2018/19, p. 42.

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