The Faust Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in America
The Founding of the Faust Branch
Although Lysbeth R. “Betty” Buck was born into wealth in Turlock, California and celebrated as a young debutante, she was always a sickly child. Her lifelong quest for better health led her to prominent anthroposophical doctors, her meeting with anthroposophy and thus her destiny as a founder of anthroposophical work in Sacramento and northern California.
She traveled to London in 1938 where, due to a serious eye condition, she was referred to distinguished anthroposophical physician Eugen Kolisko. He was living in London at the time, in exile from Nazi Germany. He sent her to Arlesheim, Switzerland and Dr. Ita Wegman (co-founder with Rudolf Steiner of anthroposophical medicine). At a critical point in her treatment at the clinic, Dr. Wegman sat at her bedside for hours. When she took a break, she left her ring with Betty until she could resume the vigil. After a four-month stay Betty returned to California filled with gratitude, a sense of mission, and enthusiasm for anthroposophy.
On the advice of Dr. Wegman she convalesced for three years (1939-42) in the Trinity Alp s of Northern California at “Hyampom”, an anthroposophical retreat center run by Betty’s friend Minerva Brooks. She organized their first Waldorf conference; she also sponsored many prominent speakers, including Dr. Friedrich Hiebel who wrote his Gospel of Hellas there.
In 1939, at her invitation, Dr. Eugen Kolisko gave the first anthroposophical lecture in Sacramento titled “The Arts in Waldorf Education” at the Crocker Art Gallery.
While Betty was crisscrossing the country from 1949-53 for health care, she was also connecting with anthroposophical work in the various communities.
About this time law student Rudolf Binsch, newly immigrated from Germany, put an ad in the Sacramento newspaper looking for local anthroposophists. He was eager to help establish a Waldorf school in America. Betty saw the ad and responded.
Rudi Binsch introduced another German friend who would help pioneer the Waldorf school efforts. Rudolf Binnewies had immigrated to America in 1952 and earned an M.A. and a California teacher’s credential in order to teach in Sacramento. By 1955, a group had formed that met in Betty’s living room. It included Betty, Rudi and Gisela Binsch, Rudolf and Katherine Bennewies, and Jack Zust, a Swiss rancher living in Auburn. This group established the Faust branch in 1957. Paul Marshall Allen, the first American-born anthroposophical writer and lecturer was invited for its inauguration.
The fledgling Faust group also started an association called “Friends of the Sacramento Waldorf School,” which led to the establishment of the school in 1959 – the second in California. From 1956-1959 they organized, sponsoring speakers, arranging teas and inviting locals to educational meetings. A pivotal moment came with the visit of Hermann von Baravalle of Vienna, a world-famous mathematician and one of the original teachers selected for the Stuttgart Waldorf School by Rudolf Steiner himself.*
Dr. Baravalle’s dynamic and fascinating lecture at the Sacramento YMCA, attended by only one person other than the Faust Group, nevertheless served as the catalyst to gather enough public interest from several families – the Teicherts, Riggs and Elliotts. Because of these families’ interest in imaginative quality education, the tiny Sacramento Waldorf School began, first in the Elliotts’ living room, and then in March 1960, in the rented rooms of the Church of Christ on Marconi Ave. in North Sacramento.
Betty always loved and supported the art of eurythmy. Her warm-hearted, faithful sponsorship of this young art, along with her support of the fledgling Waldorf School and The Christian Community blessed the greater Sacramento community and provided a foundation for all that would develop here.
It is of note that Dr. Ita Wegman, whose continuous oversight of Betty’s health allowed her to unfold her gifts, had always wanted to visit the American northwest. Significantly, Rudolf Steiner College, established where Betty had so long supported the work, was founded on the 100th anniversary of Dr. Wegman’s birth – February 22, 1976.
*Dr. Baravalle’s younger sister, Ilse Baravalle Kimball, was the youngest eurythmist to tour with Rudolf Steiner and was present at the Christmas Foundation Meeting and Last Address. She spent her last years in Sacramento with her artist husband Maulsby Kimball.
Sources: Henry Barnes, John Hornor, Nancy Poer