Jörgen Smit Pages

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Jörgen Smit

July 21, 1916 – May 10, 1991

I will begin with a few experiences that Jörgen Smit has told me from his early years.
Jörgen grew up in the Norwegian city of Bergen, near the rocks and fjords with which he has later on so often been compared. In 1923 he was six years old when Rudolf Steiner was to visit Oslo for the founding of the Society in Norway. This was discussed in the family, and it was arranged that the two parents, who were both personal pupils of Rudolf Steiner, should go, while Jörgen and his brothers remained behind in Bergen. In Oslo Rudolf Steiner laid it on the heart of their mother Lily to pass on to her sons his most cordial greetings. Jörgen remembered, as though it had happened yesterday, how his mother returned and in a solemn moment passed on these greetings. Jörgen carried this in his heart throughout his life as a great treasure.
A second picture: the family has moved to Oslo. Jörgen is fourteen, and after an illness he takes up the works of Henrik Ibsen and reads them through from A to Z. This wasn't merely reading; he lived totally engrossed in Ibsen's world and felt himself fully incorporated in it. On his 65th birthday he spoke of these weeks as among the happiest of his life.
A tremendous appetite for reading awoke in him, and Jörgen decided he must read all the books there are! So he went to the Royal Library and asked, how many books are there? They told him how many they had, but also that even this great library didn't have "all the books in the world". Jörgen tried to figure out how long it would take him to read them all and came to the conclusion: it's impossible! It can't be done! But – if one can't read everything, then at least as many as possible. Thus for a time he undertook a measure remarkable enough from an ordinary point of view (for his will-power was colossal, and a decision once made was executed without compromise). Thus every free moment was used for reading, such as on his way to school. Every chance to save time was exploited. The time between classes was often enough to get his homework done inwardly. In the times one couldn't get down to reading, one could at least think...
When he was 15 or 16, his study of Fichte, Hegel, Hartmann, Kant or Nietzsche was not disturbed by his six scuffling brothers, who sometimes literally hung onto or tugged at him. He found in Rudolf Steiner's works his key for a choice of reading matter. He went after the sources Steiner mentions in order to build up his expanding store of knowledge.
At 16 he decided that Rudolf Steiner must be read in the original, although he knew no German. His father had lent him Steiner's works in Norwegian, but this he wouldn't accept. He took Occult Science and a dictionary and set to work, reading it word for word. To begin with, of course, he had to look up each word. He carried out this project, not exactly an easy one, with tremendous will-power, and the result, as he told it, was that in the middle of the Old Sun evolution he experienced a breakthrough. From then on he could read German fluently. This unbelievable will-power and radical thinking accompanied him throughout life.
When he was 20 a change took place in this inward-oriented reading existence. He formed an intense friendship with Conrad Englert, and consequently for the first time discovered nature and its sense-qualities. Englert was a most interesting, intensely-living person. Originally Swiss, an author, founder of the Rudolf Steiner School in Zurich with a close bond to Marie Steiner and the Anthroposophical Society, he had moved up to Norway and married Jörgen Smit's aunt on his mother's side. Jörgen had great admiration for him. Not only was he thoroughly at home in culture and history, but he was inspired in his perceptions of nature, exploring Norway on foot with his drawing pad. If this was interesting for Englert, it was interesting for Jörgen as weIl. Thus a new world opened up for him.
It was Englert who urged him to study in Basel and Dornach and helped carry the plan across to Jörgen's father. Englert must be given part of the credit for Jörgen's decision to become a teacher. Englert died in 1945, just 46 years old. This was a hard blow for Jörgen, who was 29 at the time...
I jump over the intervening years – his work in the school and in the Norwegian Society and in Järna, which other speakers have described – and turn to the work in the Youth Section. The chief emphasis of his work in Dornach since 1975, his main task apart from his work as a Vorstand member, lay here. The Youth Section blossomed in this period. Many of us had frequent opportunity to experience him as a teacher and helper, speaker and friend.
His way of working there left us free, despite his strong will and energetic thinking. His style as leader allowed us the maximum of freedom. He never prescribed what we should do. He rather devoted his activity to going here and there, listening to what we wanted to do, and then answering, reacting to this, giving us his lectures and contributions in this light. He was extremely flexible, always prepared at once to try out something new. When a new Youth Section co-worker arrived in Dornach and made an interesting remark, this person was at once drawn fully into the work. An unbelievable trust in others.
Where did this trust come from? The sum of his method was: work with the emerging human being. This was the central motif of his work in the Youth Section. Thus his understanding of reincarnation held no emphasis on the past. I recall his presentation of the reincarnation idea thus: it is of no particular interest who or what you once were, or that it is the same individuality who is reborn; the real interest lies in the new person who can now emerge, focussing on the future. This was the source of his trust, and it was the element that spoke so strongly to the thousands of people involved in Youth Section work, or who to some degree have passed through it.
At the center the emerging human being, an emphasis on the future in all a person does, always in the understanding that these are now tiny seeds of Anthroposophy which must move along a "winter path". This is not the time for a blossoming of culture; these are seeds planted for a far future.
Jörgen's genius lay in the fact that he always had time. He commanded time and lived with it so that he always had some left over. He had time to prepare his lectures, time for every conversation and also time to travel. On his way to Norway he would stop overnight in Hamburg to see the opera before travelling on. He always found time for the problems of the co-workers. And he had time to go to aIl the artistic performances here and often to the dress rehearsals as well, and to the graduation performances of the speech and eurythmy schools.
I asked him once about his personal relation to Rudolf Steiner. He gave me a surprising answer: that he experienced the presence of Rudolf Steiner in every presentation of eurythmy and speech formation. And that became a source from which he could draw – being at home with and taking part in the creative forms Anthroposophy has developed.
This past winter and spring he was to have given a major Iecture cycle on the path of inner development at the Goetheanum branch. The schedule he had planned for these months had never been so full. He was able to give two of the seven planned lectures, and already the second drew 8-900 people, so that we had to transfer to the Great Hall upstairs and were a bit worried how it might go the next week, how we should all manage to squeeze in. But on the next day, a Thursday, his final lecture was held at Haus Julian (the house of the Youth Section at Dornach, ed.) for the students at the Goetheanum. His theme was: the world of the stars. In it he spoke among other things of Venus as the celestial rose. A week before, lecturing to the same group on the same theme, he had ended by going out onto the open terrace of Haus Julian with the students, seventy or so of them surrounding his imposing figure. He pointed out and explained the constellations – one of the last pictures we hold of his lecturing activity, as if already indicating the path among the stars he is now treading.
One can hardly imagine this lecturing achievement. Among his papers I found an exact listing of the 4889 lectures, with titles, which he had held in a lifetime, more than half during the 16 years of his service on the Vorstand. These were given in English, German and Norwegian, in almost every country into which Anthroposophy has spread – as many as four lectures a day to audiences up to 3500. His Iectures were very graphic, full of examples, and most of them uncomplicated in structure. Many people will still be able to visualize his broad hand gestures or his unique blackboard handwriting.
The period of his illness, introduced by a fall in which he broke a leg, was used – and how could it have been otherwise? – for study. Already on the second day he asked for parts of the collected works (the GA) to be brought him, and while he was in the Ita Wegman Clinic he worked without pause, up to the last days, on Rudolf Steiner's karma lectures, the Gospel cycles and others. He went through all his lecture notes, made plans for what he would do if he were still granted a little time, working on tirelessly in this way.
The reaction to Jörgen's illness and the sympathy for him were enormous. His sick room became a sea of flowers from the first moment on. The mass of letters, many from colleges of teachers, institutes or from participants at conferences at which he was to have spoken, but naturally first of all letters from individuals – was more than overwhelming.
When it became clear to him he had not long to live, the fact was noted without the slightest sentimentality. When this was told him, he fully accepted the fact within seconds, yet from that moment lived in the hope that he would still be able to go to Järna for the conference already referred to. When that could not be, he resigned himself to the fact without regrets and was prepared to die. A few days before his death he said he could already see his whole life before him and looked back on it with great gratitude. His last hours were lived with nobility. He said, now the great journey begins. He was living fully conscious in his hospital bed, yet at the same time had taken a step into the spiritual world, had already to a degree been born there. Those of us who were allowed to share these hours could observe that he could distinguish the two spheres precisely. Then he said, "So be it" and a few hours later, "I am through the first part of the ritual." Shortly thereafter, "Now I am entering the sanctuary." Moments later he fell asleep and within an hour had died.
So is he now born in the spiritual world, working there further for us all. I am satisfied that he will work on as a helper and support for the anthroposophical cause from the sphere in which he is now active, where apparently his presence was needed.

(Words spoken at the Goetheanum Memorial Service)

Published in: What is happening in the Anthroposophical Society Vol. 12, No. 5 Sept./Oct. 1991

Words spoken by Arne Klingborg
Words spoken by Heinz Zimmermann

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