From Earth to Heaven and Back

From Earth to Heaven and Back

09 March 2023 Vesna Forštnerič Lesjak & Matthias Rang & Johannes Wirz 952 views

The leadership of the Natural Science Section changed in the new year. Johannes Wirz handed along his position to Vesna Forštnerič. The new leadership now consists of her and Matthias Rang. This offers a good opportunity for a look at the work and relevance of anthroposophical natural science. Gilda Bartel asked the questions.

Dear Ms. Forštnerič Lesjak, dear Mr. Rang, what did you appreciate about Johannes Wirz’s work?

Vesna Forštnerič
I met Johannes Wirz eleven years ago, when he was not yet the co-leader of the Section. I saw at once that he was a true co-worker of the Natural Science Section and of the Goetheanum as a whole; he always radiated great enthusiasm for the matter at hand each meeting, lecture, and training session, and transmitted it to all present, passing on his thinking from research and anthroposophy with great power. Over the last few years, I have had the honour of getting to know him better and better. I respect him not only as a scientist in the field of biology, genetics, and beekeeping, but also as a human being. He is clear in his thoughts, warm in his heart, and, above all, always a free spirit who reveals his own personality with all its particularities openly and honestly. I think that the younger generations like to see this quality in their somewhat older and more experienced colleagues who have worked in anthroposophy for a lifetime. An honest, lifelong enthusiastic and inspiring personality, in all its colours. He took good care of me when he handed over the leadership and will undoubtedly help us all in the Section work in the future. But I must also emphasise that we have had a good Section collegium for many years and will continue to have one.

Matthias Rang
I always found it impressive how he was able to combine the gaze of a molecular biologist with the probing and open-minded observation of a Goethean researcher, in such a way that, as a listener, the two together often resulted in a high level of inner evidence. The way he was able to combine modern research — which he knows very well and follows closely in its results — with anthroposophy was always very valuable to me. On the merits of a given matter, he often also valued researchers outside anthroposophy as ‹allies›. The large international ‹If gene› conference in 1996 and the major research projects on morphological changes in genetically manipulated plants are just two examples. Johannes is often very direct, so you always know where you stand, and I am very grateful for the last two years in which we have been able to work more closely together. Having felt the desire to resign myself on a number of occasions during my 15 years at the Goetheanum, I also admire the fact that he worked here for more than three decades and was able to leave a strong mark on the Section with a great deal of expertise and drive during this long time.

Dear Mr. Wirz, what do you wish for the new leaders of the Section?

Johannes Wirz
First and foremost: full research freedom. This wish sounds less audacious as soon as you understand that the inner, spiritual path does not separate you from the world but connects you ever more strongly with it. Questions concerning the world and thus inspiration for research projects flow to you from this sense of being in touch with your time – that is my experience over many years. Secondly, I wish my two colleagues and friends solid basic funding from the Goetheanum, which unfortunately is not sufficiently secured today. Only on this basis can funds and people be found for concrete research projects in an entrepreneurially responsible manner. And thirdly, I wish them an unconditional openness and social sensitivity that opens the door to anthroposophical Goethean work for younger people. To do this, they must be willing to acknowledge that their pupils and students can become better than they are. Allen Ginsberg once said: «If the student is not better than the teacher, then the teacher is a failure.»

This excerpt comes from an article originally published in the (online exclusive) English Edition of the weekly Newsletter ‹Das Goetheanum›. You can read the full article on the website of ‹Das Goetheanum›.

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Title image Rear left: Johannes Wirz, Torsten Arncken, Matthias Rang, Johannes Kühl. Front left: Vesna Forštnerič Lesjak, Ruth Richter, Mara Born. Photo: Xue Li.