Address: Vancouver, BC Canada

Professional Contributions

Joan Sleigh

Joan Sleigh, having lived in South Africa for many years joins us as a member of the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society exploring the Grail as an agency for healing in the face of international, social and personal conflict. 

Coping with Conflict

The story of Parzival and his quest to find the Grail is an example of any modern biography. His travels bring him into contact with many different people and situations, each of which demand new growth, development and understanding, both of the surrounding world and of himself. He has to confront his own limitations, carry the consequences of his mistakes, and face his vulnerability and disorientation. Each crisis causes pain and suffering, not only to himself, but also results in the opportunity for growth and understanding.

In our world at this time, the crises we face seem to be more internal than external, psychological than physical. Very often the crises we find ourselves in are triggered by interpersonal or personality conflicts. Social interactions and relationships appear to be the stage on which the souls play out their comedies and tragedies, follow their quests and find fulfilment. Crises are and have always been important markers, catalysts in the process of development. Can we say that today human conflicts could perform the same task, giving us opportunities of awakening to deeper social awareness, understanding and empathy?

In this conference I would like to explore and deepen our understanding of conflict, our natural reactive-defensive responses as opposed to socially engaged and empathic understanding of human differences. In the workshop we will discover practical and experiential ways of growing social skills with a view to acknowledging and resolving inter- and intra-personal conflicts in a constructive and empowering way. Parzival's search for his true community, found finally after facing the inevitable trials that he brought upon himself, can be a metaphor for conflict resolution. As the arts provide the medium of transformation and catharsis, so does the social art - the youngest art form, long overdue to be developed in our time - allow the possibility of love and empathy to be born out of conflict.

Despite the social barriers and conflicts in South Africa,
Joan Sleigh talks about her hope!

Having worked in multicultural schools and training centers in South Africa, we have had to battle daily with race and class issues, huge vulnerability and therefore reactivity, to the point of verbal and emotional abuse and violence. Every course I did included aspects of self-reflection with a view to gradually getting to know oneself better as well as accepting the differences in others. We tried to develop each group of students, class of children, parent body, College of Teachers to become a safe space in which open communication, personal needs, past wounds, etc. could be valued and nurtured. Not only the anti-social forces of our time - very important in their right place - but also the fast-paced lifestyle which squashes out the silent inner core, as well as many other physical, psychological and spiritual challenges, make creative conflict resolution almost impossible. However, I still hold fast to the possibility and opportunity of self growth and developing social awareness that is hidden in most conflicts and crises. 

I am fully aware of the unacknowledged problems, personal limitations, socio-cultural difficulties... even impossibilities in conflict management and resolution, but simply making an effort to see the other with active compassion... catalyses a process of healing, integrity and wholeness. 

Philip Thatcher

Philip Thatcher, General Secretary for the Anthroposophical Society in Canada from 2004 to 2011, speaks about Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival in relation to the interval in music as a path of awakening. 

Into the Stillness: Grail and Interval

Space apart from time becomes a void, a prison. Time without space becomes a river of destruction. In the Michael letter of November 23, 1924, Rudolf Steiner says that Ahriman intends to capture space from time. Yet in the first act of Wagner's Parsifal, Gurnemanz says that as one approaches the realm of the Grail, time becomes space.

The interval as I hear it in music or in a poem as the spoken word makes possible a true wedding of time and space...time becoming space without ceasing to be time and hallowing the space it becomes. From here a path of research opens up into intervals in human meetings, in our biographies (one can approach the moon nodes from this perspective), and in the unfolding of the Parzival story as told by Wolfram von Eschenbach: How to comprehend that interval between perceiving the suffering of another and speaking a healing word? Between the asking of a question and awakening to an answer? 

Furthermore, how does the birth and development of the consciousness soul relate to such questions? The historical core of the Parzival story predates the consciousness soul era, yet the wound in the Grail Castle and the situation of the Grail itself cry out for an act of healing out of the consciousness soul. When Parzival first comes to the Grail Castle, it becomes clear that the Grail is able to sustain Anfortas and all who serve him, but it cannot heal him or them. What is needed is a new quality of meeting between human being and human being, out of the consciousness that perhaps also frees both time and space to become the interval that enables such a meeting.

Grail, interval, and the consciousness soul, and how they might interrelate in the Parzival story and in the artistic life of our time: These are themes I am researching in preparation for the 2014 Cambridge Music Conference. Underpinning all of the above is attention to listening as a creative and healing activity. Do I hear an interval because it is objectively present to me, already formed? Or does my listening out of the consciousness soul become a creative act that now enables an interval to come into being, through a work of art or in a conversation between human being and human being? 

In effect, any interval can become a place of healing interaction, and every art finds its true home in the social art of developing the capacities needed for true human meetings in our time.

Philip Thatcher

Nigel Osborne

Nigel Osborne, Composer and Professor of Music at Edinburgh University, will be speaking and presenting a workshop on The Creative Arts – A Space for Change drawing on his therapeutic work with music within the international domain where incessant conflict, widespread deprivation and abject poverty are a way of life.

Since 2001 the Ulysses Theatre has run a cultural initiative of renewal on Brijuni, part of Brijuni Archipelago, which is a protected National Park in Croatia. Three former Yugoslavs, actor Rade Serbedzija, artistic director Lenka Udovicki, and philosopher/writer/translator Borislav Vujcic decided to work with the cathartic effect of tragedy to implement social renewal and cultural regeneration in the aftermath of the war and genocide. Many of the best actors who fled the former Yugoslavia and received political asylum abroad have agreed to endorse this new initiative. Every summer a meaningful collaboration develops when the legendary figures of the past return to work in Croatia with an upcoming generation determined to forge new cultural terms. As of yet the choice of dramatic works the Ulysses Theatre has performed captures aspects of brutal misfortune and psychological despair many suffered under the political regime of the former Yugoslavia.

Often the intensity of interpretation portrayed on the stage subtly speaks of the atrocities witnessed during the war and genocide. Nigel Osborne was asked to join as music director and has set each feature the Ulysses Theatre has produced to music. The first year Shakespeare’s “King Lear” was produced in 2001, the second summer Euripides’ “Medea” in 2002, Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade” in 2003, and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in 2004. Although Nigel Osborne’s “Marat/Sade” was orchestrated for Zagreb Opera Theatre Company, “Medea” best  reveals how music works as the voice of conscience. Each summer the work from the previous years has been revived. As well as the all male production of  “Waiting for Godot” in Croatian “Play Beckett”, the Ulysses Theatre hosted a workshop of an all female English cast with Amanda Plummer, Caroline John, Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave (renown for her initiative in human rights). The Ulysses Theatre usually performs on Mali Brijuni in what was once an Austro-Hungarian fortress. The atmosphere of tragedy is enhanced by the permanent reminder of misplaced authority and power. However, in 2004 the Ulysses Theatre decided to make a film about the spiritual dimension of their work, for which they received permission for a workshop/production of “Waiting for Godot” on the island of Goli Otok, Tito’s former penal colony for political “deviants”.

A few female survivors of Tito’s concentration camp were approached to participate in the project and made themselves available for interview giving testimonials of their suffering. The persecution of women on Goli Otok from 1949 to 1956 remains a censored epoch in the history of the former Yugoslavia. In an attempt to redeem the past through their workshop performance on Goli Otok, the all English cast aspired to recapture the inhumanity of the female colony run by women. 

Set within a much broader context of human rights issues, Nigel Osborne’s therapeutic work at the Balkans’ Summer Music Camp speaks of compassion. Although the Balkans’ Summer Music Camp is Nigel Osborne’s personal initiative, he admits to acting on an assessment made by UNICEF, which diagnosed the children of Mostar as the most seriously damaged and least able to address the effect of violence and conflict in their lives. The Balkans’ Summer Music Camp was first established in 1995. Nigel Osborne’s initiative was to address the needs of children who had been victims of trauma caught in conflict and war-locked zones in the former Yugoslavia. Inspiring a process of healing through creative projects and curative work the Balkans’ Summer Music Camp renews one’s trust in the human spirit to heal the unseen horror of violence and injustice in the world!

Elizabeth Carmack Tempo Music Magazine (Cambridge University Press) 2005