On this 15th day of Lenten-Tide I am deeply immersed in the YIP 13 Initiative Forum, but since it’s Ita Wegman’s deathday I felt the need to touch in. Here is a thought: Mother Earth gives us clues about how to suffer intelligently; about how to experience the limitations & pain of being in a body, with an eye to providing useful lessons for our immortal souls; about how to engage with our discomfort in such a way that it liberates us from illusion & brings us into harmony with our soul’s code.
4 March 2021 – “Speaking with the Stars”
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1868 – Birthday of Harry Collison, the 1st General Secretary of the British Anthroposophical Society. In his early days Collison was a Freemason & Theosophist, he founded a group called the ‘Myrdhin’ Group, which was then renamed the ‘Zarathustra’ Group, at the suggestion of Rudolf Steiner.
Collison translated many of Steiner’s works into English, & was involved with the arrangements for many summer conferences held at Oxford, feathering ‘eurhythmy’ in the hall of Keble College.I n 1914 Collison arranged for several performers from Dornach to visit the UK & demonstrate the art to the study groups. The performers were Lori Maier-Smits, her younger sister Ada, Elisabeth Dollfus & Flossy von Sonklar. His exposure to eurhythmy had begun the previous year, when he had participated in the premier of f Steiner’s mystery play, The Soul’s Awakening, put on in Munich. Collison was one of the gnomes.
Even with his heavy involvement with Anthroposophy from 1910, Collison did not give up his artistic interest; in fact he described his subsequent career as “fairly successful”
Due to its continued loud support for Wegman & Vreede, the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain was expelled from the General Anthroposophical Society in 1935. The British Society finally rejoined the General Anthroposophical Society in 1963.
He was variously described by those who knew him as charming, humorous, whimsical & genial, a delightful companion with whom to take a walk in the country or a tour of an art gallery, a provider of wise advice & counsel. He could also be excitable in conversation, authoritarian in his approach to dealing with issues & curt in manner if he lost patience. As Marie Steiner von Sivers, wrote, he enjoyed a rich life.
1943 – Death day of Dr. Ita Wegman co-founder of Anthroposophical Medicine with Rudolf Steiner. In 1921, she founded the first anthroposophical medical clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland.
Ita Wegman, was born in Karawang, West Java, the first child of a Dutch colonial family. Around the turn of the century, she went to Europe & studied therapeutic gymnastics & massage. In 1902, when she was 26, she met Rudolf Steiner, who encouraged her to become a medical doctor. She began at the University of Zurich, where women were allowed to study medicine.
She developed a special form of massage therapy, called rhythmical massage, & other therapeutic treatments. In 1917, having opened an independent practice, she developed a cancer treatment using an extract of mistletoe following indications from Steiner. This first remedy, which she called Iscar, was later developed into Iscador & has become an important cancer treatment
By 1919 she had a joint practice together with two other doctors, also women. In 1920 she purchased land in Arlesheim, where she opened her own clinic, the Klinisch-Therapeutisches Institut, or Clinical-Therapeutic Institute, the next year. A number of other doctors joined the institute, which grew steadily over the next years as a first center for anthroposophical medicine. In 1922 she founded a therapeutic home for mentally handicapped children, Haus Sonnenhof, also in Arlesheim, & co-founded a pharmaceutical laboratory, Weleda, that has since grown into a significant producer of medicines & health-care products.
In the following year, Rudolf Steiner asked Wegman to join the Executive Council of the newly reformed Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. Steiner also named her as the head of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science. She also directed the Medical Section of the research center at the Goetheanum.
Together, Wegman & Steiner wrote what was to be Steiner’s last book, Extending Practical Medicine (earlier editions were published as Fundamentals of Therapy), which gave a theoretical basis to the new medicine they were developing. The book was partly written while Wegman cared for Steiner, who was already terminally ill. Wegman founded a new medical journal, Natura, the following year.
In 1936, the clinic opened a second home in Ascona, Switzerland. Shortly thereafter, difficulties between Wegman & the rest of the Executive Council flared up,& Wegman was asked to leave the Council; in addition, she& a number of supporters had their membership in the Anthroposophical Society itself withdrawn.
Her medical work & personal inner development flourished, however, & Wegman travelled extensively in support of the rapidly growing movement to extend medicine’s limits; she was especially active in the Netherlands & England during this time.
Dr. Ita Wegman died in Arlesheim in 1943, at the age of 67.
Memory Pictures of Ita Wegman on her Death Day by Norbet Glas, the founder of the Lucas Clinic next to the Wegman Clinic in Arlesheim: ‘The request to write about Dr. Wegman has moved me deeply and given me such cause for thought. I have come to the conclusion that there must be very few people whose personality is so difficult to describe as hers. For example, to write a personal account of Dr. Wegman, one must have the gift to create a real and vivid life picture in any description of her. For such she always was : full of a natural, unquenchable source of life – a complete human being, with all the truly human qualities. And such people are admired by many, loved by many, but also misunderstood and even hated by many. Who, then, is right?Like an answer to this question a memory-picture arises of Dr. Wegman in a room with Rudolf Steiner. Her figure was erect; she was wearing a brightly colored dress. With shining eyes she watched a little group of doctor-friends who had gathered together there. I observe Rudolf Steiner keenly. Never had I seen him like this. He looked at her with an infinitely loving expression. He seemed to me like a father who, with admiration and respect was watching his grown up daughter, and at the same time was very proud of her.With this picture in mind, one knows for certain, that as long as confidence in Rudolf Steiner remains, one must think of Dr. Wegman too, with admiration and thankfulness.
Simpler pictures ruse up in my memory: the breakfast table in the early days of the Arlesheim Clinic. There of us often sat there together. She was generally first, and waited for us. She did not like one to come late, though I hardly ever heard a direct remark about it. She often read the morning newspaper with the greatest interests, and I know that this rather surprised me. It had been my opinion that Anthroposophists concerned themselves very little with newspapers! But it was characteristic of her, that she had the greatest interest in everything that was happening in the world. It seemed to her just as important to read the Basler Nachrichten as to hear the reports about the patients from us or from the nurses. At times, indeed, something like indignation came over me that she seemed to be more interested in an article in the newspaper than in the report of the night nurse. She did not pay attention to the report, but read and read, and only when she had finished, asked the nurse to repeat it.
Her absolute unwearied activity in those days could only be marveled at. She organized the new Clinic, and saw the patients who were living in; she visited those outside; she held regular consultations in Basle at that time, in the afternoons. She concerned herself with the production of medicines and evolved plans for making them widely known. Her head was full of ideas for the Curative Education Institutes just being established. She sought for connections with many people, and developed these. And with the ingenuousness of someone who is herself unassuming, and asks for nothing for herself personally, she often convinced people how they could put their money to the right use, as she indeed hoped it was. No one can be surprised that many such undertakings went wrong. But she never grew weary of beginning again to discover fresh ways.
In the evenings she often wen to Rudolf Steiner, told him of her experiences, asked his advice and listened to what he wished of her. She was late in coming back and we waited for her. Often she told us then what she wished and what Rudolf Steiner had advised. Her great sense of humour was one of her delightful qualities and hardly anyone in the Clinic could laugh as heartily as she. And as a keen observer, she found very many opportunities for laughter. I can still almost hear her hearty laughter when she once heard me trying awkwardly to say something in Swiss-German dialect to a patient from the village. If she had a plan in her mind, she tried every way to bring her thoughts to realization. She wanted to try it with everybody, expecting from each the capabilities that were necessary. She was eager to carry it through, and she had confidence in people. If they did not go with her, she soon let the matter drop, without being annoyed with them for long. The proposal was suddenly made to me once (I was then quite young) to become the director of a business. I felt neither the inclination nor had I the slightest ability to fill such a post. (At that time I had only contempt for everything in the business world.) she described to me in glowing colors how well I could do it. I did not wish to undertake it and she realized this at once. I spent a sleepless night. What should I do? The next morning I saw Dr. Wegman again. She was friendly and interested, as always – but nothing more was said about the ‘directorship’ – never a word more.
And here let another quality of hers be called to mind which I have hardly ever seen so wonderfully developed in anyone else: if people did not do what she asked, or behaved unfairly towards her, she never held it against them for long. She could be overpoweringly angry, so angry that one could only be astonished at it, but in a short time it was all over, and she was always ready to hold out the hand of reconciliation. She was so untiringly active that she never gave herself time really to feel seriously hurt. She was filled with a glowing will-power which communicated itself to others. Her one great wish was that the scientific world should recognize the significance of Anthroposophy. She thought that by far the best way would be to let the scientists make direct contact with Rudolf Steiner. In the last years of Rudolf Steiner’s life he came to Vienna. In the morning, Dr. Wegman talked over with us the possibility of arranging a meeting with the greatest scientists of Vienna. That was her plan. And we were so delighted, and so fired with her impulse that we let everything else stand aside, and did nothing but go in search of people who seemed to us important. We invited them, and tried to convince them that they would be missing a rare opportunity if they did not come to our meeting that evening. We succeeded, and Rudolf Steiner came together in the evening with the most eminent doctors and scientists of Vienna; he gave an address, followed by a discussion until late into the night which none of those present will ever have forgotten. She was so untiring in her efforts to carry Rudolf Steiner’s teaching far out into the world, because she felt the menacing approach of world catastrophes. Rudolf Steiner himself had given enough warning of it, and consciousness of the threatening evils would not let her rest.
Women as active as she often begin to display a certain hardness, and pride themselves on their virility. This was never so with Dr. Wegman; one was always aware of great womanhood. She never tried to imitate men, either, in her broad minded thinking. In fact, she lived entirely in certain plans for the future, as to how a great medical and pedagogical movement, on the basis of Rudolf Steiner’s ideas, might be brought to realization. In the realizing of these ideas, she would allow nothing to disturb her. And the many ‘clever’ men, who so often wanted to show her, by rigid logic, how impossible everything would be or what mistakes she had made – all these she really disliked, and was bored by them. People were offended by this trait in her, for they did not understand it. She would not allow her ardour to be quenched or her untiring zeal to make good use of the time as long as it was still possible to do something. If she had spoken her mind, however, to the person concerned, and he had been very vexed, she was truly sorry. But she would bear with no narrowness, and therefore could not endure certain qualities, such as egoism, vanity, and – most of all – stupidity. If she had been very angry and had spoken in a temperamental way, she would suddenly stop, begin to laugh, and say: ‘But really, it is so stupid!’ And usually it was very stupid. She simply hated that kind of logic by which the spirit is restricted.
She had in her something of a power with which she could make the impossible possible. This is needed in true medical work and she had this will to heal as no one else. This fire in her nature stimulated the doctors who were round her, and for that we shall be eternally thankful to her. She was ready to help at any moment. If she was not immediately ready with the advice she wanted to give, she went to Rudolf Steiner, asked him and at once brought the answer. In Vienna I often received word from her within twenty four hours from Basle as to what to do in this or that case. Like all magnanimous people, she was full of praise and appreciation for good work. I remember how she came once to one of the Homes which indeed had been founded at her suggestion, but had not yet been seen in full working order. In the morning – having arrived the night before – she looked all round, and said, with warm admiration: ‘I could not have believed that Rudolf Steiner would be so alive here!’ And she praised everything. We even felt that it was more than we deserved. But it was such a joy for her when something succeeded, that she found no limits to her praise. Those who accompanied her were not always too pleased about this! But if she noticed it – and she generally did notice – then she made a point of expressing her appreciation all the more!
The last time I was able to see her – shortly before the outbreak of war – she seemed to have greatly changed. One felt a great power of peace flowing from her. But it was no longer the earthly, warrior-nature which used formerly to show itself: now it was deep pain and wisdom. She wanted to help everyone for whom there was something she could do. More people from Germany and Austria asked help from her than she could undertake. How moved she was when one day I brought to her a doctor from Vienna who had fled and waded through a stream in the night, so as to be able to cross the border at an unguarded spot! He possessed nothing but his soaked clothes, and he was quite destitute. She had never seen the man before. All her warm heartedness broke through at such a moment and she did everything that was possible at that time. Long afterwards this doctor wrote with admiration of our ‘Colleague’ at Arlesheim.
If these few pictures from her life help to indicated something of the character of Dr. Wegman, the aim and intention of the writer is achieved. Their purpose has been to bring to remembrance those great human qualities which made her want to lead us towards lofty goals.’ ~Norbet Glas, Gloucester, England
POD (Poem Of the Day)
~ In the blood the pulse of iron
She buries us in the blue egg of the world
We are pressed into the soil & rise
We grow in Her
& the world changes…