The Kaspar Hauser Festival 2017
November 1-5, 2017
Columbia County, NY
The following article about the Kaspar Hauser Festival in 2017, written by Deborah Grace, appeared in the newsletter of the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle (Spring 2018 issue), and later in the newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society in America (Fall 2018 issue).
(The image on the left is from the rehearsal of Carlo Pietzner's Kaspar Hauser play, "...And From the Night, Kaspar" in Camphill Village Copake, New York.)
Kaspar Hauser Goes West
Something is quickening in America; people are seeking deeper understanding for why Kaspar Hauser’s life and death matter in our time. The first North American Kaspar Hauser Festival with Eckart Boehmer and Richard Steel was held in Camphill California at Michaelmas 2016. And the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle became part of the Karl König Institute on December 17, 2016. Also in 2016 and 2017, Richard Steel gave a series of talks in Camphill Ghent exploring Kaspar Hauser’s enigmatic destiny and preparing the ground for another festival in North America. This took place in upstate New York in November 2017, sponsored by the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle and the Karl König Institute and hosted by four local Camphill communities.
Several hundred people from different parts of America participated in the New York festival. Understanding and experience of Kaspar Hauser was brought through lectures, artistic encounters and conversations. This statement of Rudolf Steiner was like a leading theme for the festival: “If Kaspar Hauser had not lived and died as he did, contact between the earth and the spiritual world would have been completely severed.”
Glen Williamson’s play, “Kaspar Hauser, the Open Secret of the Foundling Prince”, welcomed people on the first evening. Glen describes it as an epic fairy tale and it is clearly one derived from imagination, scientific research and spiritual understanding. In his introduction that evening, Glen spoke of how for the first time in history, with the founding of the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle and its uniting with the Karl König Institute, there is now a strong ring of support around the mission of Kaspar Hauser. What Glen articulated became a stronger reality over the course of the festival, as a widening circle of people experienced the importance of Kaspar Hauser and the research circle.
On the first morning, the festival began with Eckart spontaneously singing an Iroquois healing song that resounded throughout Camphill Copake’s Fountain Hall. This song was like a conduit that aligned the festival with the Native American stream, connected it with the destiny of America, and grounded it in the earth.
Gathered in a large circle, participants then shared responses to this inquiry, “What is YOUR connection to Kaspar Hauser?” Inspiring personal experiences of waking up through encounters with Kaspar flew like sparks of light around the circle. And this light-filled quality of conversation continued throughout the festival in groups that worked deeper with the content.
David Andrew Schwartz gave a well-researched lecture on the theme, “Herman Melville and Kaspar Hauser: Vulnerability in a Time Dominated by Intelligence and Power.” David explored connections between the destiny of Kaspar Hauser, American history and literature, and what lives as the true mission and spirit of America.
That evening was All Souls’ Day and the focus was, “Kaspar Hauser and the Living Connection to Those Who Have Died”. Karl König’s compelling narrative, “Also…A Christmas Story”, was introduced and read by Richard Steel, framed by instrumental music from Camphill Triform. The story describes an experience of Karl König one Christmas Eve Day…a mystical walk in “the land of truth and life” which the soul enters after death. There, König encountered souls who, having recognized in one another a common bond with Kaspar Hauser, began to form a ring across the threshold, a ring of brother-sisterhood to create a home for Kaspar’s being and tasks in the world.
A heart-reaching rendering of Suzanne Vega’s Kaspar Hauser Song introduced Richard’s lecture the following morning, “Kaspar Hauser, Karl König and Today”, in which he showed how threads from König’s life closely interwove his being with the being of Kaspar Hauser. It was moving to experience how König’s personal destiny, his work in the world, his spiritual research and also the seeds he consciously planted for the future – all were shaped by this intimate interweaving of destiny with Kaspar Hauser. From that evening the words “and what was wood became alive” were weaving like an inner thread through our work.
Carlo Pietzner’s play, “and from the night, Kaspar…” was performed the second evening, produced by Stephen Steen from Camphill Triform with actors from the Camphill communities and support from Jeanne Simon MacDonald, who portrayed Kaspar’s higher being in eurythmy. This contemporary play seeks to awaken hearing and conscience for the meaning of Kaspar Hauser’s life and death, which the play expresses this way: “Kaspar’s destiny is the mythology for the battle of consciousness in the service of the individual spirit. Thus we partake in it and in his mysterious life and mysterious death. We all spontaneously partake in it, for we feel his destiny to also be our destiny.” It comes across powerfully in the play that this battle of consciousness in the service of the individual spirit which marked Kaspar Hauser’s life also marks the lives of many seeking souls today.
Eckart gave two lectures the next day, “The Unfulfilled Mission of the Hereditary Prince” and “The Fulfilled Mission of Kaspar Hauser”. He spoke potently in English from translations by Helen Lubin. In the first lecture, a vast overview of the complex world-historical forces impacting the life and death of Kaspar Hauser was laid before people. And it was shown how the opposing forces thwarted the mighty social-political transformation of Middle Europe which should have been Kaspar Hauser’s mission on earth. Profoundly, Eckart also related that, although the dark powers cruelly imprisoned Kaspar during his childhood and ultimately brought about his murder – they could not prevent him from bringing redemptive healing into the world. For Kaspar’s soul shone with Christ-like radiance to those around him and the purity of his noble qualities of truthfulness, innocence, goodness, kindness, compassion, wonder and forgiveness was experienced by his contemporaries with awe.
In his second lecture, Eckart laid bare the twisted web of dark powers that conspired to bury Kaspar Hauser’s soul alive and thus annihilate his spirit. He then shared the immense grace for humankind that these forces did not succeed in destroying Kaspar’s timeless, eternal being. Eckart revealed how the helping spiritual beings, out of their great love for humanity, worked so that Kaspar Hauser did fulfill his spiritual mission. And therefore, the connection of human beings to the spiritual world was not severed! Eckart called on people to internalize this mighty reality, to meditate upon it. He ended his lecture by quoting Kaspar’s teacher, Georg Friedrich Daumer: “Shortly after Kaspar Hauser appeared in the world, he once asked why, if Christ arose from death, human beings could not also arise again. When it was answered that this was because Christ was not just a human being but was also God, he said that people should also learn so much that they become God.” I myself wonder if these words could be understood as a kind of call from Kaspar towards the future...
Each day of the festival, one of the Camphill communities offered original artistic presentations on the theme: “Portraits of Us” and poetry from Camphill Hudson, a choir written specially for the occasion by Channa Seidenberg and puppet theatre from students in Camphill Copake, instrumental music and a rendition of Suzanne Vega’s song, “Wooden Horse” from Camphill Triform, and lyre music from Camphill Ghent’s ensemble were amongst the fine contributions.
The four Camphill communities of Columbia County also collaborated in generously hosting the festival. The many meals and refreshment breaks became enlivening, community-building social times. And a number of people remarked that they felt as if the warmth offered by Camphill became like a sheath that held the gathering and everyone in it.
On the last morning, an artistic experience brought Kaspar’s presence livingly before people through original poetry shared by Eckart, Richard and Stephen Steen. Music proffered by pianist Gili Melamed-Lev, the Camphill Ghent lyre group, and Camphill Copake’s choir singing the piece by Channa Seidenberg once more framed the poetry.
In the plenum conversation that closed the festival, people spoke of ways their hearts and minds had been kindled. There was surely an awakening, a searching that carried throughout this festival. And also, people began to express a new experience of community, as a widening circle united around carrying Kaspar Hauser’s mission.
Appreciation and thanks were expressed to Eckart and Richard for their contributions and for the work of the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle. And this question was voiced by many people, “What now... how will this go forward?”
In answer to this enthusiastic question, two more Kaspar Hauser Festivals are already planned for North America! One is happening in California in the fall of 2018 and one will be held in upstate New York at All Souls’ time 2019. Information about these events will be on the website of the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle.
It’s important to express that an excellent and also important way for people to remain informed and engaged is to support the ongoing work of the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle, including financially. Now is a good time to do so, so please go to http://kaspar-hauser.net/en/donations.html to give your support!
I want to extend warm thanks to Eckart and Richard, to the Kaspar Hauser Research Circle of the Karl König Institute, to all of the presenters and all of the participants and to the Camphill communities of New York – all were contributors to the success of this remarkable festival!
In closing, I would like to share these words from Carlo Pietzner’s play, words in which Kaspar Hauser describes a profound, prophetic dream which I believe can live as an inspiration for souls who feel called by the mystery Kaspar describes:
“For I beheld that all and everything in all its manifoldness was at one and the same time One; all of mankind together with all nature, but in such a manner that it was in truth mankind that made it into One.
“I saw this in the image of a tree whose branches moved and formed all manner of signs and figures. They were transparently clear in their meaning. Opposing branches moved into one another and through this interpenetration, other wholeness was created.
“The tree itself stood upon a base which was solid and from below to its top reached something like an innermost pole on the very tip of which was a crown so slender with a red berry in it – which was the chief aspect of the whole image. In its power I was to assemble around me such men and women who would be able to read the signs of the branches and who would thus themselves become branches of a new order. They would flower with the radiance of freedom in their thoughts, each live with equal acceptance of one another and pulsing with the fraternal blood of the brotherhood to which I was called. I remember it, my brothers, I begin to remember…”