Jörgen Smit Pages

Heinz Zimmermann

 > Home   > Biography   > Bibliography   > Lectures

Jörgen Smit

July 21, 1916 – May 10, 1991

Heinz Zimmermann, successor to Jörgen Smit as leader of the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum.

Jörgen Smit kept up his interest in all that was happening at the Goetheanum until the end. He wanted to hear reports of each Vorstand meeting and was interested in details which another would not consider so important. He kept alive his concern for all Goetheanum activities, e.g. during the Easter conference, which, as he reported to me, he had followed inwardly lecture by lecture and performance by performance.
We have all experienced Jörgen Smit as a moral authority, an authority whose influence derived not from the content of what he said so much as from the way he himself actually fulfilled what he said.
If we consider the numerous lectures he held, people would say again and again they had felt him addressing their own inner concerns at the deepest level. If a person can experience this repeatedly, he knows this is the fruit of the speaker's lifelong working over, digesting of Anthroposophy.
This word "verarbeiten" (digesting, converting) was one he liked to use on many an occasion. He recounted once, how when he was just 20 and about to hold his first anthroposophical lecture, he resolved to talk without the use of notes. He remained true to this resolve throughout his life. He always spoke quite freely. Even when he had a mass of details to bring, he relied wholly on his memory. This I recall in a lecture at one of the teachers' conferences here at the Goetheanum, when he wrote on the blackboard dozens of words from various exotic Ianguages one after the other by memory. And nonetheless he did not speak simply out of memory; his memories too had been "digested". This worked-over memory enabled him to describe true teaching situations in a school class in a way that made one feel they were taking place in the present. Not speaking out of the former experience, as one so easily feels with teachers who haven't taught for the last 20 years. This presence in the moment, this actual substance personally worked-through, is what one could note in everything he had to say about the path of inner development. In this area too, where one of his chief chosen concerns lay, he never said, "Do thus, or so", but rather described situations he had experienced, wherefrom a person could draw what was of immediate practical use in life and be encouraged in his or her own immediate activity.
His examples often aroused general amusement by their originality. I recall a lecture at a Stuttgart teachers' conference where as an exercise in activating the .imagination he described an elephant with its massiveness and weight and next to it a hummingbird, using his inimitable gestures and mimicry, and then pictured the task of transforming the elephant inwardly into the hummingbird and vice versa.
Everything he presented left his listeners free. This derived from his own fantasy-rich penetration of each subject. His nature left no room for an uncritical admiration, and still less for any sort of guru-relation to arise. There was little space in his life for relationships that were played out on a personal level. He felt that relaxed conversation with coffee and cake was a waste of time.
A few further illustrations will reveal other sides of his nature. If one observed his gestures in meetings, in conversation or during lectures, one often noticed a sharp, abrupt movement of the hand, if there was something that required total rejection. The same gesture could be seen in his writing, for instance when he pulled out his famous little notebook from a pocket to underline an appointment. An abrupt, angular movement. And yet when he gave you his hand, you felt a soft and gentle pressure, in complete contrast to the former gesture. In a similar way, his voice could, when he came to something of spiritual intimacy, take on a most beautiful and gentle diction, whereas at the beginning of the lecture he may have projected a thought rather hoarsely, straining against his vocal chords.
About 15 years ago I drove with him from a school dedication at Wangen (north of the Lake of Constance) to Avrona in the lower Engadine. For three hours we drove in silence. Then I posed the question, how did he go about preparing his lectures and how had he gained his broad survey? Then for the remainder of the trip there was a lively conversation with completely relaxed comments on his personal experiences and methods of working.
Just before the first World Teachers' Conference began in 1983 I met him in a basement room of the Teachers' Seminar. He was counting chairs, to make sure there were enough for the group discussions. That was no gesture of self-sacrifice; it never occurred to him that someone else might just as well do it.
As leader of the Pedagogical Section he won world-wide respect throughout the school movement for three of his special character traits. To begin with, his full competence in matters ranging from the teacher's spiritual needs to mundane questions of teaching. Then came his ability to hold himself in the background personally, to consider the questions and capacities of others and thus gain the basis for his advice and helping hand. He did not give answers to questions that were not asked. Third was his unbounded and impartial kindness. As an example: he would always buoy up the courage of initiatives that were just beginning; if he were asked for help he would say yes, whether it was a matter of five teachers or 500. If there was an unfilled date in his appointment book, he would say yes and help. Thus it is essentially to him we owe the fact that a unifying spiritual consciousness has entered the school movement. And this was, not least of all, because he had achieved a total survey through his world-wide school visits. His inspiring influence can be traced to a spiritual source, which he cultivated through a lifetime. Thus we shall be able best to unite ourselves with him, as we try to master the overpowering pain his passing has left us, by treading with our own increased activity the path he trod throughout his life with iron consistency – the path to that threshold he has now passed over.

(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

> Contribute   > Contact   > About  > Blog  > Deutsch