Anthroposophy – Where it began. And where to tomorrow?

I have landed in the world epi-centre of Anthroposophy – the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.

The Goetheanum was created by Rudolph Steiner between 1913 and 1920 in Dornach, Switzerland – the birthplace to Anthroposophy. It was given this name in honor of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose works Steiner studied and revered. The Goetheanum was created as an active meeting place and performance centre for spiritually committed people. Today, over 150,000 people a year visit the home of the School of Spiritual Science and also the stage for over 800 events including lectures, exhibitions, theatre and eurhythmy performances and international conferences.

The first Goetheanum was burnt down on the evening of January 1, 1923. It was intended to be intended to be built in Munich, Germany but was met with considerable resistance.

Goetheanum is a place where spiritually minded people come to discuss approaches to mediative life, spiritual life-styles and to also develop themselves culturally.

What a perfect place to discuss Anthroposophy with one of the world’s most qualified people on this topic – Paul Mackay, who until only recently was the former President of the Anthroposophical Society.

Anthroposophy – Where it began. And where to tomorrow?

Interview with Paul Mackay, the President of the Weleda Board of Directors

Paul Mackay was born in Hong Kong in 1946. He worked in international banking for several years and studied anthroposophy in England and Germany in the 1970s and was a member of the executive board of the Anthroposophical Society for the last 22 years.

What is Anthroposophy?

It comes from the Greek: Anthropos = the human being and Sophia = supreme wisdom.

And it was introduced by a man called Rudolf Steiner, and he said the translation of Anthroposophy is:

‘Not so much wisdom of the human being but much more of one becoming conscious of one’s being, becoming.’ Rudolph Steiner

Rudolf Steiner watches over the Goetheanum to this day

That is one element of the human being – and that’s a being, becoming. With potential.’

“The human being is not finished, like the plants, the minerals the animals. The human being in created by the gods but the gods said ‘I will not finish you, that’s up to you. Go ahead and do it.’’ Rudolph Steiner

This whole element of inner freedom is at the core of anthroposophical education and medicine – the attitude that ‘you have potential’.

The art of Steiner teaching is about awakening your potential.

  • What is our relationship with ourselves?
  • Who am I?
  •  What is my relationship to the world?
  • Why am I here?
  • Is there more connection between heaven and earth?

When you start to open up, the world starts to open up. It’s the law of attraction. And that’s an adventure.

Anthroposophy is an adventure. And the question is “do I have that courage?’ to step into that adventure? 

Every human being is an individual and we need to make the best of it. Today, we have come to the point where to ‘believe is not enough anymore, we want to know inwardly.

That’s my understanding of Anthroposophy.

Over 150,000 people a year visit the Goetheanum

What would be your vision for what us as human beings, become?

In early times, we were group orientated – the family, the family business. Now in the last couple of centuries we are in a stage of emancipation from the group. We want to stand on our own two feet. And that in its own stance is an anti-social point-of-view. But this will lead to multitude of individuals and nothing will get done.

When we are all individuals standing on our own two feet we need to find our ways to each other again.

And that doesn’t happen without respecting and valuing the other human beings.
That’s the starts of a healthy social atmosphere. And for me… where does that take us?

That depends on the people taking on this responsibility.

We live in democracies, with all its pros and cons. And we are on huge long journey where we can create a society in which this freedom of voice comes with dignity, with respect for one another, with all our different points of views.

600 builders, relatives of hostile nations worked together to construct the Goetheanum during the conflict of the First World War

How can Weleda grow with people into the future?

Weleda is a triangle – equally balancing ‘people – planet – purpose.’

  • Weleda knows the ‘planet’, nature by heart.
  • ‘People’ also comes naturally to Weleda. Us too are looking for where we fit, where our values lie and how do we leave the world better than how we found it.
  • ‘Purpose’ is so vital for Weleda – we have a certain vision but we need this to become a living thing. What is our reason for being.

What do you think is Weleda’s main reason for being?

I have a feeling it can’t be distilled into one thing. It’s a blend of at least three things… integrating ‘people – planet – purpose’.

To create a more direct relationship between growers and consumers. Jumping beyond distributers to the real connections

Out of this comes a sense of purpose:

  • What is our specific contribution?
  • What would not be on the planet if it wasn’t for Weleda?

And Weleda has two – natural cosmetics and medicine.

We are focused on ‘functional cosmetics’ – really does it work? Like Weleda medicine works. Nothing is superficial in Weleda.

Nothing is superficial at Weleda – cosmetics need to be as beneficial as Weleda medicines

It’s important for Weleda to be in connection with other businesses, our suppliers, our so-called competitors to transform ‘competitors’ into being complimentary – a socialist attitude. To serve the clients not to make profits. Then we can start of move mountains. Which alone we cannot do.

How do you visualize moving into the future with Weleda?

It is important to have a strategy. To have our essential values. And to communicate these.

At the same time, we have to be very responsive to what’s happening in the world. To keep in mind our long-term perspective and also to be receptive. We need to embrace a new kind of attitude. We have a responsibility to the values of Weleda and to nature. It is very important that we keep adding to that and responding to that. With a kind of resilience and volatility to really adjust to new situations.

When we talk about natural cosmetics, we have quality. But Weleda is not there for the elite. We are accessible for all.

We need to communicate the essence of our medicines… to make that understandable to people with common sense, the consciousness to take care of yourself, in common language.

What is Weleda’s role in the world?

For the common good is a very important agenda. If we all just look at our plate and not beyond out plate we are in big trouble. We have a responsibility for the common good. And it’s not just government business, it’s our business to do good. We do it, not so our brand gets better – so we all get better. And that’s how we have always done it, since the very beginning. And that’s how we can help other people as well as other companies, by taking responsibility.

I can’t thank Paul enough for taking the time to discuss anthroposophy and share his wealth of knowledge of the spiritual science that inspires Weleda to this day. I thank him very much for being an inspiration to me too.

Where do you go to connect with similar, spiritually minded people?


  1. Elisabeth Veith says

    Gibt es auch eine deutsche Fassung? Konnte man es wählen?

  2. Dear Lauren,
    Thank you very much for your excellent reports and photos from Dornach and Arlesheim! Two little notes to your text aout ‘Anthroposophy – Where it began. And where to tomorrow?’:
    The first Goetheanum was created by Rudolf Steiner between 1913 and 1920 (not in 1924) and is the birthplace to Anthroposophy in Dornach.
    And Paul Mackay was never ‘the former President of the Anthroposophical Society’ or ‘a previous Chairman of the board’. He was a member of the executive board of the Anthroposophical Society for the last 22 years.
    With warm regards and best wishes!

    • Lauren Doolan says

      Hi Herbert, thank you so much for your kind words and also your feedback. I’ll make sure to address your corrections. Thank you so much for pointing them out. Kind regards, Lauren

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