Re-Search: The Spiritual Striving of Youth – Defining our Reality

Re-Search: The Spiritual Striving of Youth – Defining our Reality

21 December 2018 193 views

by the Youth Section Team

Colloquium report

On the 15th of December, we gathered at the Youth Research Colloquium in Dornach, where Constanza Kaliks and Andrea de la Cruz presented the first findings of our qualitative study (Re)Search: The Spiritual Striving of Youth, Shaping our Reality.

Early in 2019 you will all receive a link to our first publication, which is currently being revised and getting ready for print. For now, take a look at last Saturday’s presentation and read below our latest article, published first in Anthroposophy Worldwide.

We are delighted that the project continues to spark interest around the world. There have been requests to present the findings in New Zealand, England, Belgium, and the US, and Canada. We are always open and happy to share our methodology and insights, so if you are interested in us coming to talk about it in your community, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

What shapes reality

In addition to organizing and carrying out meetings, conferences, study groups, international exchanges with young people, and supporting initiatives, the work of the Youth Section includes the project '(Re)Search: The Spiritual Striving of Youth'. Initial insights have been presented in the Goethenaum on December 15, 2018.

In October 2017 the Youth Section at the Goetheanum embarked on a youth-led research project titled (Re)Search: The Spiritual Striving of Youth – Defining Our Reality, which focused on understanding the impulses and motivations guiding young people’s actions today by listening to their life experiences. At the heart of the study lie questions such as, how do young people meet reality and shape it? What are the values guiding their participation in the world? What are their longings and expectations for the future?

Our frame question for the study was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s address to the young people of 1924 (GA 217a, lecture of 20th July 1924) They were asked to imagine the world in 1935 if their youthful wishes became reality. This question was adapted by the team of young researchers and their mentors in Anthroposophy, Sociology, and Pedagogy to fit present times: What would the world look like in 2030 if what lives within me becomes a reality, and what will I do to make it happen?

Through this question, we invited those already connected to the Youth Section community worldwide to participate in semi-structured interviews. The purpose of these encounters was to guide participants through open-ended questions into an exploration of their experiences, as well as their longings and ideas for the future. (Re)Search is thus more than a research project, it is an opportunity to create bonds between the young people who participate and learn to listen, to accompany the process of opening up to another, and to observe the commonly shared challenges, wishes, and motivations beyond the apparent differences between us.

A total of 40 men and women aged 18 to 35 from 23 different nationalities and different spiritual backgrounds formed the sample of the study. 20% attended Waldorf School and/or were born to Anthroposophical families, 31% found Anthroposophy in the last 10 years or less, 49% do not know Anthroposophy. All participants have or have had access to higher or further education, with 15% of participants currently completing high school; 12% have attended or currently attending vocational training; and 73% have either studied or are currently studying in University. The interviews were recorded and transcribed for analysis, giving us more than 75 hours of recorded content to work with.

As young researchers, we were able to explore ideas related to the nature of the social sciences, such as the relationship between observer-observed, subject-object, and what Anthroposophical methodologies can bring to more traditional methods of research. A key question for us has been: how do we look at the human being standing in front of us? How can we allow individuality to reveal itself to us, without our prejudices becoming a barrier to a new understanding? How can we create the best possible environment for the participant to express openly, honestly, and freely and how does this improve the quality of our data?

We were surprised to witness how quickly and deeply the participants expressed questions and ideas connected to spirituality during the interviews. This was important for the researchers, who did not want to direct the interviewees towards questions of spirituality, but rather to observe if and how spirituality appeared in the young person’s discourse spontaneously. Very often without any prompt from the interviewers, the participants were talkative about how they search for meaning in life, their questions about human identity (who am I? where do I come from? am I a free being?), and their religious views and spiritual experiences or practices. The importance placed on this subject during interviews led us to closely look at the role that spirituality plays in young people’s daily lives; and how it impacts the way in which they shape existing relationships and make new bonds with others, or how they confront professional and educational choices, for example. The researchers are eager to continue further investigations with a more direct focus on this subject.

Other highlights from our findings include the importance that young people place in establishing deep connections with self and world, and how they recognise both these elements as being in constant change and often full of polarities and contradictions. The interviewees struggle and strive to give meaning to this and to find ways to integrate elements that at first might seem disconnected or difficult to combine. This manifests across areas such as professional life, relationship management, and educational choices. Examples of this can be seen in their descriptions of non-linear career paths which combine multiple disciplines, or their efforts to create situations where they can widen their immediate cultural access.

But, how to establish deep connections with self and the world when it is constantly changing? How to deal with integrating differences, polarities, and contradictions? Young people express honesty, clarity, and transparency, as key needs for better communication in our times. These young people demand the practice of these values, which often means confronting fears, shame, and self-doubt in ourselves, our closest relationships, and our institutions and society at large.

In the coming months, we will publish the results and findings from the study. At a colloquium on December 15th at the Goetheanum, Constanza Kaliks, leader of the Section, and her team of researchers Ioana Viscrianu and Andrea de la Cruz presented some initial insights.

For more information on the project, or to request a visit, workshop, or presentation in your community, please contact the team at