When we considered a drive from Atlanta to Michigan in February, we realized that our journey north would pass right through Chattanooga, TN, the home of Maria St. Goar. We contacted her by phone to make an introduction and ask if she would be available to meet with us.
Already in this initial conversation, Maria shared a bit of her background: She was born in Japan to German parents and had moved to America at the age of 21. She is the primary translator of Sergei Prokofieff’s work into English, and we were eager to meet with her.
Over the phone, she spoke a bit about her work as translator, never charging a cent for her efforts: “I work for free or not at all!” From this conversation, we already knew that if Maria were the only person we met on this leg of our journey, our efforts would be worth it. Dottie flew into Atlanta on a Sunday, and Monday morning we were on the road.
Arriving to her home in North Chattanooga, we were greeted by Maria who met us at the front door by asking, “Who’s the younger one?” A good joke, we thought, as she smiled and invited us in. Right away, Maria wanted to know our story. How had we come to do what we were doing? Who are we exactly and how had we come together? As we expressed our gratitude for the meeting, Maria said, “Well, I’m sure we have known one another before. This is how it is.” From our initial conversation, Maria was encouraging of our project. We are aware that it must take people by surprise to be contacted out of the blue by two traveling anthroposophists and asked to set aside time for a conversation. Maria said, “This is how we get things done!”
As Maria shared with us about her life, language was a key theme right from the beginning. She grew up speaking Japanese in the community and German in her home. She remembers the experience of being a little girl and considering that there was a place faraway where all the people spoke German. She also had an English godmother, who provided a foundation in that language as well. Maria’s parents were anthroposophists, and though they didn’t speak much to her about it when she was a young child, she remembers being struck by the pictures of Rudolf Steiner that she saw. When she was an adolescent, she began to ask her mother deeper questions. In response, her mother shared with her a book from Emil Bock, which made a lasting impact on Maria and led her into a study of anthroposophy from a young age. At the age of three, Maria was taken to see Ita Wegman at a medical clinic. What seeds were planted in her early years!
Maria feels honored to have had the opportunity to work with Sergei Prokofieff as translator of his work. “I am 2,000% behind him!” Why anyone would take issue with him is puzzling to Maria, as she has experienced him as a man of great integrity and as the greatest initiate of our times. She said that Prokofieff has picked up on what Rudolf Steiner was to bring before he was taken from us. It was beautiful to hear of their collaboration, which Prokofieff refers to as “our work.”
Maria told us a story about the one time she had found what she considered to be a mistake in a text. She was unsure about how to proceed and did not want to offend him. In the end, a friend mentioned it to him instead of Maria. It turned out that she was correct, and Prokofieff let her know that she did not need to worry about offending him. In fact, she did not even need to ask; she should simply go ahead and make the correction. What trust and appreciation lives between them!
When Maria’s son, Edward, arrived she said introduced us by saying, “And they are 200% for Prokofieff!” Over lunch, Edward described how his mother has an intuitive sense of anthroposophy along with such a facility for language that enables her to take on this translation work so successfully. It was truly beautiful to see the relationship between this mother and son, as there was such love and respect between them in the room.
Maria and Edward host the First Class reading for members who drive from other parts of Tennessee as well as Georgia and Alabama. Maria has been the Class Reader for years, and when she began to consider finding someone who could follow her in this role, others recommended Edward. He has now taken on the role enthusiastically, and the meetings are still hosted monthly in Maria’s home. Maria has a meeting room in her house that her husband originally had built for his work. It turns out that this room has been a gift not only to Maria, but to anthroposophists all over the Southeast!
While it has sometimes felt isolated to be an anthroposophist in Chattanooga where there are no other outer anthroposophical initiatives, there has also been a blessing: Maria has never gotten caught up in divisions. She focuses on the work without being pulled this way or that way. The service that she has been able to offer through her translation work is tremendous, and she is grateful to be able to take on the task. She described a visit to Dornach where she found herself riding in a car with the members of the Vorstand. In the moment, she was able to reflect on what an amazing opportunity it was.
It is clear that Maria does not push anthroposophy on anyone. In fact, many of her friends don’t about it at all, and they still have a wonderful relationship. Maria told us about a time that she was at a gathering and another person asked her what she was. She said immediately, “I’m an anthroposophist.” “A what?” the other responded. Before Maria could speak, a different guest replied, “She’s an anthropologist.” Marie simply smiled.
Maria said that as she reflects each day, she finds herself realizing again and again, “I’m an anthroposophist.” Truly, what a path this is! Offering words for the future, Maria advised that it is important to stand up for anthroposophy. She also declared, “Don’t hesitate to take the initiative!” Edward also remembered Steiner’s words from the third karmic lecture: “Be a man of initiative!” In that spirit, it was wonderful to be so well received by Maria and Edward. This Have Seeds work is refreshing, she said. We sense in her a kindred spirit indeed. Edward and Maria both emphasized the importance of patience with one’s practice. We must keep working without expecting immediate results or trying to control outcomes.
Throughout the conversation, we were surrounded by beautiful photographs of Maria’s family. Especially remarkable was to see the gentleness of her husband. He was not an anthroposophist for so many years, while she hosted study groups and Class readings. He always appreciated her work but did not participate. Then a week before he died, Maria was holding a study group session when there was a knock at the door of the meeting room. It was her husband, who said, “I’ve been alone long enough. Can I join you?” The group welcomed him in, and the study continued.