My Experience with Anthroposophy

While discussing McGuire’s preferred categorization of religious organizations, anthroposophy was brought up as an example of a religion with a cultic orientation. Although it would surprise me if any of my fellow classmates were familiar with anthroposophy, the mention of this uncommon lifestyle reminded me of countless memories I accumulated last year while living in Harduf, an anthroposophic kibbutz in Israel. I lived in the community for about five months and spent most of my time teaching in a nearby Arab school and volunteering with the special needs adults who lived on the kibbutz itself. My fellow volunteers and I also participated in anthroposophic theater, and did other exercises that I can only describe as anthroposophic in nature(ha).

Even after five months in this enclave, I have yet to develop a complete understanding or definition of anthroposophy. Until Thursday’s class, I regarded it as simply a spiritual and down-to-earth way of life– never as a religion. This was perhaps because the program I was in was exclusively for Jews, the special needs adults I worked with were Jewish, and I celebrated the high holidays with several community members. These factors indicated to me that anthroposophy coexisted with Judaism in this context, and was not a stand-alone religion.

However, upon further inspection, a lot more of what I observed had anthroposophic roots than I realized. For example, the special needs adults I worked with were sent to the community from all over Israel in an attempt to provide purpose and structure through a variety of jobs that ultimately serve the community. Until Prof. Spickard mentioned the inclusion of those with special needs and elderly in society as an aspect of anthroposophy, I considered the structure of the kibbutz and the spiritual affiliation coincidental.

Perhaps anthroposophy it is more accurate to describe anthroposophy as a quasi-religion, but nonetheless its mention in a religious context surprised and intrigued me. After some reflection, I can say that anthroposophy is a prime example of cultic orientation, as it is very much open-minded to other ways of life, and at tension with modern society.