Jörgen Smit Pages

Arne Klingborg

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Jörgen Smit

July 21, 1916 – May 10, 1991

Arne Klingborg, former President of the Anthroposophical Society in Sweden.

Many thousands of people have met Jörgen Smit and won through him deeper access to Anthroposophy and lasting impulses for their lives.
For myself, I came to know Jörgen Smit personally after the war. Already than we in Sweden had had our attention drawn to the anthroposophical life in Norway. We knew that a number of young anthroposophists there had made themselves conspicuous in the cultural life, in the debates over education, on the questions of language, etc. Thus it was most natural to travel to Norway after the war to get acquainted with the anthroposophical life there.
If one came to Oslo, one knew that everyone could be found at the home of the Smit family, Lövenskioldsgate 3A. It was there I first got to know Jörgen Smit, as well as his brothers and his dear mother.
Jörgen's father, Christian Smit, I already knew. He came to Stockholm now and then during the war and held his marvellous lectures – clear and sharp – about religious issues.
The hospitable, cultivated home in Oslo, with significant art works by modern Norwegian painters hanging on its walls, was truIy a place for meetings. Here young and old came together. Jörgen's parents belonged to the group of anthroposophists who had come to know Rudolf Steiner and become his personal pupils.
But a younger generation was also there – those who had gained experience in representing Anthroposophy in a contemporary manner, primarily through a goetheanistic way of viewing things. The Swiss Conrad Englert, chairman of the Norwegian Society, was their inspiring leader.
Jörgen Smit belonged to this circle. Here many striking personalities had distinguished themselves in working out and taking a stand on various anthroposophical questions, on the current subjects of debate in politics and education, and not least, on questions relating to the dramas within the Anthroposophical Society.
One met together in the Smit home and carried on discussions, but it was also a place for pleasant, lively sociability. When things got too convivial, one could see Jörgen withdraw into a corner to observe the happenings from a distance as it were, and then to concentrate in a book, continuing his never-ending study. He didn't hold apart from social life, but it should not take the upper hand. It was a matter of making good use of every minute.
Many people who made Jörgen Smit's acquaintance in his later years know him as an earnest and rigorous researcher and lecturer. But when he was younger, one had, beside the brilliant and sharp thinker the physically energetic and strong individual, the sportsman, the outstanding skier, the passionate sailor.
The brothers recount how Jörgen, when the family was staying in the country, would bring along stacks of books. Yet he loved life in the open, and when there was hard labor to do, for instance in moving large boulders, one always called on Jörgen, the strongest.
Jörgen Smit studied at the University of Oslo, and also for a time at the University of Basle, where he came into contact with the Goetheanum and the life there. His speciality was philology, centering on the classical languages, but along with this he studied astronomy, mathematics and other subjects.
He was clear from early times that for him it would involve working out his many-sided interests in the light of Anthroposophy. He told how the insight woke in him that he would devote his life to Anthroposophy and place himself at the service of the tasks that needed doing. One could also observe how he was preparing himself through the decades for the task he could sense was coming to him.
He turned away early from the prospect of entering on an academic career. If we reflect on his unusual gifts, we can see that he could have handled such a career with ease.
The first major task which Jörgen Smit embraced was the school; or better said, the children in the Bergen school. Accompanying his work with the children, he helped make the school a bastion of intellectual freedom during the German occupation.
The meeting with Jörgen in Oslo led us to want him in Stockholm at the earliest possible moment together with others of the Norwegian youth circle. Thus in 1947 he came to Stockholm for the first time as lecturer.
At that time Jörgen had opened himself to criticism with regard to the problems within the Anthroposophical Society, and the result was that he had to speak, not in the Society's headquarters at Radmannsgatan 14, but in the provisional venue of the Goethe Group. His theme was life throughout history, characterising the various cultural periods. The next-to-last lecture had a typically Jörgen Smit title: "Is our culture doomed to die?"
The meeting with Jörgen as lecturer was something special. Here was someone obviously speaking from experience. It was as if the lecture was being worked out as he spoke. One was encountering spiritual experiences that had been digested and illuminated by disciplined thinking. One sensed that a modern way of thinking made it possible to lay hold of spiritual experiences in an individual way.
Jörgen was 30 at the time, and one could feel what it means for a person to be the bearer of a consciousness soul. This way of probing and working could be applied to the questions we had regarding the General Anthroposophical Society, which at that time often led to very critical judgements.
In the years that followed, the joint public work of the Nordic Societies began. Jörgen joined in this work from the beginning, and through his lectures and courses over the years gave it a decisive substance.
These Nordic efforts in the early years embraced many dramatic motifs. We were still shaken by political events; we were getting to know one another as members of different folk groupings; and we were experiencing the enigmatic fact that we had quite different relationships to the problems of the Anthroposophical Society. Thus it was that in our Nordic Council we avoided speaking of the Society and the School of Spiritual Science, and concentrated on the task of arranging the Nordic summer conferences.
A decisive rôle fell to Jörgen in the work of the Nordic Council. We gradually understood how cooperative work can become a motif on an earnest path of development. How often was it that Jörgen's insightful contribution transformed a chaotic situation into something fruitful.
With the passing years Jörgen Smit built up such a substance of trust that we could hardly imagine a Nordic summer conference without his effort behind it.
In 1957 Jörgen Smit became chairman of the national Society in Norway. When it became possible to intensify the Nordic work through the Seminar activities in Järna, Jörgen entered so strongly into it that after 1964, despite his chairmanship in Norway, he transferred the greater part of his efforts to Järna.
There as we built up the Seminar, we learned new sides of his nature. We now encountered a person who shared fully in a large community, who took part in all common meals and in a series of practical activities. We got to know the teacher, the guide of young people, earnest, strict, demanding, but also a gentle, understanding comrade. The counsellor always ready for a talk, feeling his way with warmth into the most varied situations of life and destiny. Here we encountered not only the smiling but also the laughing Jörgen, full of humor and joy.
In 1966 we had the first international youth conference in Järna. With this conference Jörgen's field of activity began to widen. This was the conference that had its sequel in Michael Hall, England in 1968, in Spring Valley USA in 1970 and in Dornach in 1972. These gatherings were carried in large measure by Jörgen Smit.
One situation in the Järna conference is unforgettable. We took on ourselves the bold task of dramatising some of the motifs from Rudolf Steiner's final lecture given during the Christmas Conference. It involved picturing how sleeping persons attempt, but without proper preparation, to force their way into the spiritual world, and how the Guardian of the Threshold turns them back again for their own good.
Jörgen Smit had the rôle of the Guardian. He entered into all the rehearsals with verve. Here his love for the theater arts, his love of acting was revealed. The performance took place on a stage in the open air, on a farmyard adjoining the Seminar. There were musical improvisations, a speech chorus and movements were introduced.
No one who took pan can forget Jörgen, how he turned back the souls pressing for entry with a voice of thunder, "Stand back! You have misused your ideas for the sense world. You must go back!" On the stage Jörgen's imposing figure seemed magnified. Perhaps it was something in Jörgen's own nature that came to expression in this rôle – the Guardian who speaks ardently of the spiritual world but warns sternly of the need for patience and earnest exercises as preparation for it. The watchman whose severity is combined with mildness.
It wasn't long before the pedagogical stream was introduced at the Seminar with Jörgen Smit as its enthusiastic leader. Now he could call on his long years of teaching experience. To be able to train young people who wished to become teachers – it was clear this was a task that warmed Jörgen's heart. And soon enough this field of work was to enlarge itself still farther.
In 1975 Jörgen Smit was called to Dornach to become a member of the Vorstand of the General Anthroposophical Society. This meant to enter into a completely new world. Even though we knew this was a task for which Jörgen had prepared himself inwardly through many years, this was no easy step for him. He found it hard to fit into the rôle of a member of the Vorstand. This was rather different from being a comrade among comrades in Järna.
The person who earlier had not held back his sharp criticisms of much that happened in Dornach, was now to be active there himself. It was certainly a fact that a part of the membership in Norway took a critical view of this step. Not many were aware how carefully Jörgen had prepared himself.
Earlier on he had been given the responsibility for the School of Spiritual Science in Norway. He had familiarized himself over many years with the history of the Anthroposophical Society, and in the course of 18 years had prepared himself to represent the School, with whose history – in many regards a tragic one – he was thoroughly acquainted. Thus at this point he could enter into a destined fellowship and bring to it his truth-upholding attitude and at the same time his loyalty towards the team of which he was now a part. This endowed the Society with a new force.
Much could be said about Jörgen Smit's significance for the whole of the world Society. By virtue of his many travels, he could live into the work of the groups and commit himself to getting to know the members, while he was representing the Goetheanum impulse in a faithful and correct way.
Jörgen's rôle as a Vorstand member was of the greatest importance for our Nordic work. We had carried on our public Nordic conferences each summer since 1949. But in the year 1984 something new was added. The first Nordic conference for members took place. The time was now ripe to emphasize a round of themes that had been tabu through the years. With Jörgen's help it was now possible to place the Anthroposophical Society and the School of Spiritual Science at the center of the work.
Jörgen, who had conducted himself hitherto with marked reserve, could now become a powerful representative of the Society impulse. We could say in a sense that for many people in the North Jörgen's lectures at this conference signified a bringing of the Goetheanum and the School of Spiritual Science to the North in a new way.
From the effort in 1984 arose a clear impulse to make the Society and School visible in the cultural life, through an intensification of the work and by means of a building. This was a task in which Jörgen felt at home. The central emphasis of his work became more and more what would intensify the work of the School of Spiritual Science and bring it up to date.
He wanted to round out his work of many years in the Youth Section with a major conference this summer in the new building in Järna – for members of the School in the North and for members of the Youth Section – on all 19 of the Class lessons. Even should the building not be completely finished, he wished to carry out this conference.
Then came his earnest illness, which he surveyed quite objectively, weighing its various consequences. With detached calm he discussed the possible situations that might arise. It was clear to him that he might not still be among us at the time of the conference. But he was still convinced it should take place and therefore assigned its various tasks.
Jörgen Smit's mode of expression was the spoken word. His lectures became more and more perfect works of art with an almost architectural structure. He elicited insight by means of thinking and active listening, yet his lectures often ended with an impulse for the will. He stood like a pillar as he spoke, but then there were his gestures, the expressive, unforgettable movements of his hands.
Dear Jörgen! Your way of speaking inspired us to apply and develop clear thinking – a thinking, not content to stay in the head, that kindled enthusiasm for the work of Rudolf Steiner and for Anthroposophy, which was the living air you breathed.
You leave behind among your many friends many a kindling spiritual impulse – impulses whose effect, when we think of you, do not depend on past meetings but rather on something that wills to become, that is, therefore, always present.

(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 Heinz Zimmermann

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