, Austrian Empire
, now Donji Kraljevec
– 30 March 1925 in Dornach, Switzerland
) was an Austrian
, social reformer, architect
, and esotericist
. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher. At the beginning of the 20th century, he founded a spiritual movement, Anthroposophy
, as an esoteric philosophy growing out of European transcendentalism and with links to Theosophy
Steiner led this movement through several phases.
Live through deeds of love, and let others live with tolerance for their unique intentions.
Each individual is a species unto him/herself.
Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe... Anthroposophists are those who experience, as an essential need of life, certain questions on the nature of the human being and the universe, just as one experiences hunger and thirst.
Goethe's thinking was mobile. It followed the whole growth process of the plant and followed how one plant form is a modification of the other. Goethe's thinking was not rigid with inflexible contours; it was a thinking in which the concepts continually metamorphose. Thereby his concepts became, if I may put it this way, intimately adapted to the process that plant nature itself goes through.
You have no idea how unimportant is all that the teacher says or does not say on the surface, and how important what he himself is as teacher.
, Austrian Empire
, now Donji Kraljevec
– 30 March 1925 in Dornach, Switzerland
) was an Austrian
, social reformer, architect
, and esotericist
. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher. At the beginning of the 20th century, he founded a spiritual movement, Anthroposophy
, as an esoteric philosophy growing out of European transcendentalism and with links to Theosophy
Steiner led this movement through several phases. In the first, more philosophically oriented phase, Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science
; his philosophical work of these years, which he termed spiritual science, sought to provide a connection between the cognitive path of Western philosophy and the inner and spiritual needs of the human being. In a second phase, beginning around 1907, he began working collaboratively in a variety of artistic media, including drama, the movement arts (developing a new artistic form, eurythmy
) and architecture, culminating in the building of a cultural centre to house all the arts
, the Goetheanum
. After the First World War, Steiner worked with educators, farmers, doctors, and other professionals to develop Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture
, anthroposophical medicine
as well as new directions in numerous other practical areas.
Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism
, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual component. He based his epistemology on Johann Wolfgang Goethe's world view, in which “Thinking … is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.” A consistent thread that runs from his earliest philosophical phase through his later spiritual orientation is the goal of demonstrating that there are no essential limits to human knowledge.
Childhood and educationSteiner's father, Johann(es) Steiner (June 23, 1829, Geras or Trabenreith, Irnfritz-Messern
and lived Geras Abbey
– 1910, Horn), left a position as a gamekeeper
in the service of Count Hoyos in Geras, northeast Lower Austria
to marry one of the Hoyos family's housemaids, Franziska Blie (May 8, 1834, Horn
, Waldviertel – 1918, Horn), a marriage for which the Count had refused his permission. Johann became a telegraph operator on the Southern Austrian Railway, and at the time of Rudolf's birth was stationed in Kraljevec
in the Muraköz region, then part of the Austrian Empire
(present-day Donji Kraljevec, Međimurje region, northernmost Croatia
). In the first two years of Rudolf's life, the family moved twice, first to Mödling
, near Vienna
, and then, through the promotion of his father to stationmaster, to Pottschach, located in the foothills of the eastern Austrian Alps
in Lower Austria
Steiner entered the village school; following a disagreement between his father and the schoolmaster, he was briefly educated at home. At about nine years Steiner experienced seeing the spirit of an aunt who had died in a far-off town asking him to help her; neither he nor his family knew of the woman's death at this time. In 1869 the family moved to the village of Neudörfl (near Wiener Neustadt
), and in 1879 to Inzersdorf
The latter move was to enable Steiner to attend the Vienna Institute of Technology
, where he studied mathematics
, and philosophy
on an academic scholarship from 1879 to 1883. In 1882, one of Steiner's teachers, Karl Julius Schröer, suggested Steiner's name to Joseph Kürschner, editor of a new Deutschen Nationalliteratur edition ('German National Literature') of Goethe's works. Steiner was then asked to become the edition's natural science editor.
In his autobiography, Steiner related that at 21, on the train between his home village and Vienna
, he met a simple herb gatherer, Felix Kogutzki, who spoke about the spiritual world "as one who had his own experience therein...". Kogutzki conveyed to Steiner a knowledge of nature that was non-academic and spiritual; soon thereafter Steiner began to read Goethe's works on natural science. He also introduced Steiner to a person that Steiner only identified as a “Master”, and who had a great influence on Steiner's subsequent development, in particular directing him to study Fichte
's philosophy. Over the course of his life Steiner purportedly met with two spiritual masters, the other being Christian Rosenkreutz.
In 1891, Steiner earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Rostock
in Germany with a thesis based upon Fichte's concept of the ego, later published in expanded form as Truth and Knowledge.
Writer and philosopher
. Steiner remained with the archive until 1896. As well as the introductions for and commentaries to four volumes of Goethe's scientific writings, Steiner wrote two books about Goethe's philosophy: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception (1886) and Goethe's Conception of the World (1897). During this time he also collaborated in complete editions of the works of Arthur Schopenhauer
and the writer Jean Paul
and wrote numerous articles for various journals.
During his time at the archives, Steiner wrote what he considered from that time forward to be his most important philosophical work, Die Philosophie der Freiheit (The Philosophy of Freedom
or The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity—Steiner's preferred English title) (1894), an exploration of epistemology and ethics
that suggested a path upon which humans can become spiritually free beings (see below).
In 1896, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
asked Steiner to help organize the Nietzsche archive in Naumburg
. Her brother
by that time was non compos mentis
. Förster-Nietzsche introduced Steiner into the presence of the catatonic philosopher; Steiner, deeply moved, subsequently wrote the book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom. Of Nietzsche, Steiner says in his autobiography, "Nietzsche's ideas of the 'eternal recurrence' and of 'Übermensch
' remained long in my mind. For in these was reflected that which a personality must feel concerning the evolution and essential being of humanity when this personality is kept back from grasping the spiritual world by the restricted thought in the philosophy of nature characterizing the end of the 19th century." "What attracted me particularly was that one could read Nietzsche without coming upon anything which strove to make the reader a 'dependent' of Nietzsche's."
In 1897, Steiner left the Weimar
archives and moved to Berlin. He became part owner, chief editor, and active contributor to the literary journal Magazin für Literatur, where he hoped to find a readership sympathetic to his philosophy. His work in the magazine was not well received by its readership. Many subscribers were alienated by Steiner's unpopular support of Émile Zola
in the Dreyfus Affair
and the journal lost more subscribers when Steiner published extracts from his correspondence with anarchist writer John Henry Mackay
. Dissatisfaction with his editorial style eventually led to his departure from the magazine.
In 1899, Steiner married Anna Eunicke; the couple separated several years later. Anna died in 1911.
Steiner and the Theosophical Society
. This article led to an invitation by the Count and Countess Brockdorff to speak to a gathering of Theosophists
on the subject of Nietzsche. Steiner continued speaking regularly to the members of the Theosophical Society
, becoming the head of its newly constituted German section in 1902 without ever formally joining the society. It was within this society that Steiner met and worked with Marie von Sivers, who became his second wife in 1914. By 1904, Steiner was appointed by Annie Besant
to be leader of the Theosophical Esoteric Society for Germany and Austria.
The German Section of the Theosophical Society grew rapidly under Steiner's leadership as he lectured throughout much of Europe on his spiritual science. During this period, Steiner maintained an original approach, replacing Madame Blavatsky's terminology with his own, and basing his spiritual research and teachings upon the Western esoteric and philosophical tradition. This and other differences, in particular Steiner's vocal rejection of Leadbeater and Besant
's claim that Jiddu Krishnamurti
was the vehicle of a new Maitreya, or world teacher, led to a formal split in 1912/13, when Steiner and the majority of members of the German section of the Theosophical Society broke off to form a new group, the Anthroposophical Society
The Anthroposophical Society and its cultural activitiesThe Anthroposophical Society grew rapidly. Fueled by a need to find a home for their yearly conferences, which included performances of plays written by Eduard Schuré as well as Steiner himself, the decision was made to build a theater and organizational center. In 1913, construction began on the first Goetheanum
building, in Dornach
, Switzerland. The building, designed by Steiner, was built to a significant part by volunteers who offered craftsmanship or simply a will to learn new skills. Once World War I
started in 1914, the Goetheanum volunteers could hear the sound of cannon fire beyond the Swiss border, but despite the war, people from all over Europe worked peaceably side by side on the building's construction.
Beginning in 1919, Steiner was called upon to assist with numerous practical activities (see below), including the first Waldorf school
, founded that year in Stuttgart
, Germany. His lecture activity expanded enormously. At the same time, the Goetheanum developed as a wide-ranging cultural centre. On New Year's Eve, 1922/1923, the building burned to the ground; contemporary police reports indicate arson as the probable cause. Steiner immediately began work designing a second Goetheanum
building –this time made of concrete instead of wood – which was completed in 1928, three years after his death.
In 1923, Steiner founded a School of Spiritual Science, intended as an "organ of initiative" for research and study and as "the soul of the Anthroposophical Society". This included a general course of study based on meditative exercises (intended to guide a meditant from «the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.») and specific departments, including education, medicine
, art, natural science, social science, and literature. Steiner spoke of laying the Foundation Stone of the new society in the hearts of his listeners.
Social reformSteiner became a well-known and controversial public figure during and after World War I. In response to the catastrophic situation in post-war Germany, he proposed extensive social reforms through the establishment of a Threefold Social Order in which the cultural, political and economic realms would be largely independent. Steiner argued that a fusion of the three realms had created the inflexibility that had led to catastrophes such as World War I. In connection with this, he promoted a radical solution in the disputed area of Upper Silesia
, claimed by both Poland and Germany; his suggestion that this area be granted at least provisional independence led to his being publicly accused of being a traitor to Germany.
In 1919, Steiner's chief work on social reform (English title: Toward Social Renewal) was released simultaneously in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and sold some 80,000 copies in the first year.
Attacks, illness, and deathRight wing groups had been rapidly gaining strength in Germany. In 1919, the political theorist of the National Socialist
movement in Germany, Dietrich Eckart
, attacked Steiner and suggested that he was a Jew. In 1921, Adolf Hitler
attacked Steiner in an article in the right-wing Völkischer Beobachter newspaper that included accusations that Steiner was a tool of the Jews
, and other nationalist extremists in Germany called up a "war against Steiner". In 1922 a lecture in Munich was disrupted when stink bombs were let off and the lights switched out. Unable to guarantee his safety, Steiner's agents cancelled a next lecture tour. The 1923 Beer Hall Putsch
in Munich led Steiner to give up his residence in Berlin, saying that if those responsible for the attempted coup [Hitler and others] came to power in Germany, it would no longer be possible for him to enter the country; he also warned against the disastrous effects it would have for Central Europe if the National Socialists came to power.
The loss of the Goetheanum affected Steiner's health seriously. From 1923 on, he showed signs of increasing frailness and illness. He continued to lecture widely, and even to travel; especially towards the end of this time, he was often giving two, three or even four lectures daily for courses taking place concurrently. Many of these were for practical areas of life; simultaneously, however, Steiner began an extensive series of lectures presenting his research on the successive incarnations of various individualities, and on the technique of karma research generally.
Increasingly ill, his last lecture was held in September, 1924. He continued to write on his autobiography during the last months of his life; he died on 30 March 1925.
Spiritual researchFrom 1899 until his death in 1925, Steiner articulated an ongoing stream of experiences that he claimed were of the spiritual world — experiences he said had touched him from an early age on. Steiner aimed to apply his training in mathematics
, and philosophy
to produce rigorous, verifiable presentations of those experiences.
Steiner believed that through freely chosen ethical
disciplines and meditative training
, anyone could develop the ability to experience the spiritual world
, including the higher nature of oneself and others. Steiner believed that such discipline
and training would help a person to become a more moral
and free individual - free in the sense of being capable of actions motivated solely by love
Steiner's ideas about the inner life were influenced by Franz Brentano
, with whom he had studied, and Wilhelm Dilthey
, both founders of the phenomenological movement in European philosophy, as well as the transcendentalist philosophers Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling. Steiner was also strongly influenced by Goethe's phenomenological approach to science
Steiner led the following esoteric schools:
- His independent
but was disbanded at the start of World War I
Breadth of activityAfter the First World War
, Steiner became active in a wide variety of cultural contexts. He founded a number of schools, the first of which was known as the Waldorf school, and which later evolved into a worldwide school network. He also founded a system of organic agriculture, now known as Biodynamic agriculture
, which was one of the very first forms of, and has contributed significantly to the development of, modern organic farming
. His work in medicine led to the development of a broad range of complementary medications and supportive artistic and biographic therapies. Homes for children and adults with developmental disabilities based on his work (including those of the Camphill movement
) are widespread. His paintings and drawings influenced Joseph Beuys
and other modern artists. His two Goetheanum buildings are generally accepted to be masterpieces of modern architecture
, and other anthroposophical architects have contributed thousands of buildings to the modern scene. One of the first institutions to practice ethical banking
was an anthroposophical bank
working out of Steiner's ideas.
Steiner's literary estate is correspondingly broad. Steiner's writings, published in about forty volumes, include books, essays, four plays ('mystery dramas'), mantric verse, and an autobiography
. His collected lectures, making up another approximately 300 volumes, discuss an extremely wide range of themes. Steiner's drawings, chiefly illustrations done on blackboards during his lectures, are collected in a separate series of 28 volumes. Many publications have covered his architectural legacy and sculptural work.
EducationAs a young man, Steiner already supported the independence of educational institutions from governmental control. In 1907, he wrote an essay on "Education in the Light of Spiritual Science", in which he described the major phases of child development that were later to form the foundation of his approach to education.
In 1919, Emil Molt
invited him to lecture to the workers at Molt's factory in Stuttgart. Out of these lectures came a new school, the Waldorf school. In 1922, Steiner brought these ideas to Oxford at the invitation of Professor Millicent Mackenzie and the Oxford Conference led to the founding of Waldorf schools in Britain. During Steiner's lifetime, schools based on his educational principles were also founded in Hamburg
, The Hague
and London; there are now more than 1000 Waldorf schools worldwide.
Social activismFor a period after World War I, Steiner was extremely active as a lecturer on social reform. A petition expressing his basic social ideas (signed by Herman Hesse, among others) was very widely circulated.
His chief book on social reform, Toward Social Renewal, sold tens of thousands of copies in his lifetime. In this, Steiner suggested that the cultural, political and economic spheres of society needs to work together as consciously cooperating yet independent entities. Each of these three realms has a particular task: political institutions should establish political equality
and protect human rights
; cultural institutions should cultivate the free and unhindered development of such realms as science, art, education and religion; and economic institutions should encourage producers, distributors and consumers to cooperate to provide for society's needs. He saw the establishment of what he called Threefold Social Order as a vital response to what he saw as an already visible trend toward the mutual independence of these three realms: governments; cultural life; and economic institutions. Steiner saw theocracy, conventional shareholder capitalism, and state socialism as attempts by one of the three realms to dominate the others. In the present day, he suggested, such attempts by any one of these spheres to manipulate another would be contrary to society's interests; such negative mutual influences would include e.g. corporate pressure on governments, state attempts to interfere with science, education, or religion, or religious influences on governmental entities.
To achieve greater relative independence:
- The cultural realm (science, art, religion, education, and the press) requires freedom (rather than domination by economic or governmental interests;
- The political realm demands equality (rather than political control by special interests, whether of an economic or ideological nature);
- The economic realm requires uncoerced, self-organizing cooperation and solidarity (rather than state control).
Steiner also gave many suggestions for many specific social reforms.
Architecture and visual arts
. These two buildings, built in Dornach, Switzerland, were intended to house significant theater spaces as well as a School for Spiritual Science. Three of Steiner's buildings, including both Goetheanum buildings, have been listed amongst the most significant works of modern architecture.
and now on permanent display at the Goetheanum.
Steiner's blackboard drawings were unique at the time and almost certainly not originally intended as art works. Josef Beuys' work, itself heavily influenced by Steiner, has led to the modern understanding of Steiner's drawings as artistic objects.
Performing artsTogether with Marie Steiner-von Sivers
, Rudolf Steiner developed the art of eurythmy
, sometimes referred to as "visible speech and visible song". According to the principles of eurythmy, there are archetypal movements or gestures that correspond to every aspect of speech - the sounds (or phonemes), the rhythms, and the grammatical function - to every "soul quality" - joy, despair, tenderness, etc. - and to every aspect of music - tones, intervals, rhythms, and harmonies.
As a playwright, Steiner wrote four "Mystery Dramas" between 1909 and 1913, including The Portal of Initiation and The Soul's Awakening. They are still performed today by Anthroposophical groups.
Steiner also founded a new approach to artistic speech, or "speech formation", and drama. Michael Chekhov
took up and extended Steiner's approach in what is now known as the Chekhov method of acting.
Anthroposophical medicineFrom the late 1910s, Steiner was working with doctors to create a new approach to medicine. In 1921, pharmacist
s and physician
s gathered under Steiner's guidance to create a pharmaceutical company called Weleda which now distributes natural medical products worldwide. At around the same time, Dr. Ita Wegman
founded a first anthroposophic medical clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland (now called the Wegman Clinic).
Biodynamic farming and gardeningIn 1924, a group of farmers concerned about the future of agriculture requested Steiner's help. Steiner responded with a lecture series on an ecological and sustainable
approach to agriculture that increased soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticide
s. Biodynamic agriculture
is now practiced widely in Europe, North America, and Australasia.
A central aspect of biodynamics is that the farm as a whole is seen as an organism, and therefore should be a largely self-sustaining system, producing its own manure
and animal feed
. Plant or animal disease is seen a symptom of problems in the whole organism. Steiner also suggested timing agricultural activities such as sowing, weeding, and harvesting to utilize the influences on plant growth of the moon
and planets; and the application of natural materials prepared in specific ways to the soil
, compost, and crops, with the intention of engaging non-physical beings and elemental forces. He encouraged his listeners to verify his suggestions empirically
, as he had not yet done.
Goethean scienceIn his commentaries on Goethe's scientific works, written between 1884 and 1897, Steiner presented Goethe's approach to science as essentially phenomenological in nature, rather than theory- or model-based. He developed this conception further in several books, The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception (1886) and Goethe's Conception of the World (1897), particularly emphasizing the transformation in Goethe's approach from the physical sciences, where experiment played the primary role, to plant biology, where imagination was required to find the biological archetypes (Urpflanze), and postulated that Goethe had sought but been unable to fully find the further transformation in scientific thinking necessary to properly interpret and understand the animal kingdom.
Steiner defended Goethe's qualitative description of color
as arising synthetically from the polarity of light and darkness, in contrast to Newton
's particle-based and analytic conception. He emphasized the role of evolutionary thinking in Goethe's discovery of the intermaxillary bone
in human beings; Goethe expected human anatomy to be an evolutionary transformation of animal anatomy.
Knowledge and freedomSteiner approached the philosophical questions of knowledge and freedom
in two stages. The first was his dissertation, published in expanded form in 1892 as Truth and Knowledge. Here Steiner suggests that there is an inconsistency between Kant
, which postulated that the essential verity of the world was inaccessible to human consciousness, and modern science, which assumes that all influences can be found in what Steiner termed the “sinnlichen und geistlichen” (sensory and mental/spiritual) world to which we have access. Steiner terms Kant's “Jenseits-Philosophie” (philosophy of an inaccessible beyond) a stumbling block in achieving a satisfying philosophical viewpoint.
Steiner postulates that the world is essentially an indivisible unity, but that our consciousness
divides it into the sense-perceptible appearance, on the one hand, and the formal nature accessible to our thinking, on the other. He sees in thinking itself an element that can be strengthened and deepened sufficiently to penetrate all that our senses do not reveal to us. Steiner thus explicitly denies all justification to a division between faith
; otherwise expressed, between the spiritual and natural worlds. Their apparent duality
is conditioned by the structure of our consciousness, which separates perception
and thinking, but these two faculties give us two complementary views of the same world; neither has primacy and the two together are necessary and sufficient to arrive at a complete understanding of the world. In thinking about perception
(the path of natural science
) and perceiving the process of thinking (the path of spiritual
training), it is possible to discover a hidden inner unity between the two poles of our experience.
, for Steiner, is paradoxically both an objective discovery and yet "a free creation of the human spirit, that never would exist at all if we did not generate it ourselves. The task of understanding is not to replicate in conceptual form something that already exists, but rather to create a wholly new realm, that together with the world given to our senses constitutes the fullness of reality."
A new stage of Steiner's philosophical development is expressed in his Philosophy of Freedom
. Here, he further explores potentials within thinking: freedom, he suggests, can only be approached asymptotically
and with the aid of the "creative activity" of thinking. Thinking can be a free deed; in addition, it can liberate our will from its subservience to our instinct
s and drive
s. Free deeds, he suggests, are those for which we are fully conscious of the motive for our action; freedom is the spiritual activity of penetrating with consciousness our own nature and that of the world, and the real activity of acting in full consciousness. This includes overcoming influences of both heredity and environment: "To be free is to be capable of thinking one's own thoughts - not the thoughts merely of the body, or of society, but thoughts generated by one's deepest, most original, most essential and spiritual self, one's individuality."
Steiner affirms Darwin
's and Haeckel's evolution
ary perspectives but extends this beyond its materialistic
consequences; he sees human consciousness
, indeed, all human culture
, as a product of natural evolution that transcends itself. For Steiner, nature becomes self-conscious in the human being. Steiner's description of the nature of human consciousness thus closely parallels that of Solovyov
Spiritual scienceIn his earliest works, Steiner already spoke of the "natural and spiritual worlds" as a unity. From 1900 on, he began lecturing about concrete details of the spiritual world(s), culminating in the publication in 1904 of the first of several systematic presentations, his Theosophy: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos, followed by How to Know Higher Worlds (1904/5), Cosmic Memory (a collection of articles written between 1904 and 1908), and An Outline of Esoteric Science (1910). Important themes include:
- the human being as body, soul and spiritSpiritThe English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...
- the path of spiritual development;
- spiritual influences on world-evolution and history; and
- reincarnationReincarnationReincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...
and karmaKarmaKarma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....
Steiner emphasized that there is an objective natural and spiritual world that can be known, and that perceptions of the spiritual world and incorporeal beings are, under conditions of training comparable to that required for the natural sciences, including self-discipline, replicable by multiple observers. It is on this basis that spiritual science is possible, with radically different epistemological foundations than those of natural science.
For Steiner, the cosmos is permeated and continually transformed by the creative activity of non-physical processes and spiritual beings. For the human being to become conscious of the objective reality of these processes and beings, it is necessary to creatively enact and reenact, within, their creative activity. Thus objective spiritual knowledge always entails creative inner activity. Steiner articulated three stages of any creative deed:
- Moral intuition: the ability to discover or, preferably, develop valid ethical principles;
- Moral imagination: the imaginative transformation of such principles into a concrete intention applicable to the particular situation (situational ethics); and
- Moral technique: the realization of the intended transformation, depending on a mastery of practical skills.
Steiner termed his work from this period on Anthroposophy
. He emphasized that the spiritual path he articulated builds upon and supports individual freedom and independent judgment
; for the results of spiritual research to be appropriately presented in a modern context they must be in a form accessible to logic
al understanding, so that those who do not have access to the spiritual experiences underlying anthroposophical research can make independent evaluations of the latter's results. Spiritual training is to support what Steiner considered the overall purpose of human evolution, the development of the mutually interdependent qualities of love
Steiner and ChristianityIn 1899 Steiner experienced what he described as a life-transforming inner encounter with the being of Christ
; previously he had little or no relation to Christianity in any form. Then and thereafter, his relationship to Christianity remained entirely founded upon personal experience, and thus both non-denominational and strikingly different from conventional religious forms. Steiner was then 38, and the experience of meeting the Christ occurred after a tremendous inner struggle. To use Steiner's own words the "experience culminated in my standing in the spiritual presence of the Mystery of Golgotha in a most profound and solemn festival of knowledge."
Christ and human evolutionSteiner describes Christ's being and mission on earth as having a central place in human evolution: To comprehend the central role of the Christ in Steiner's spiritual philosophy it is necessary to understand the esoteric cosmology
that he espoused. In Steiner's theory of cosmic evolution, the incremental spiritual development of the human form is interwoven and inseparable from the cosmological development of the universe. This evolution and gradual descent into matter occurs over vast cosmic periods, or yugas. The Christ being brings the impulse which enables humanity's conscious ascent back into the spiritual worlds.
- The being of Christ is central to all religions, though called by different names by each.
- Every religion is valid and true for the time and cultural context in which it was born.
- Historical forms of Christianity need to be transformed considerably in our times in order to meet the on-going evolution of humanity.
It is the being that unifies all religions — and not a particular religious faith — that Steiner saw as the central force in human evolution. He understood Christ's incarnation as a historical reality, and a pivotal point in human history, however. The "Christ Being" is for Steiner not only the Redeemer of the Fall
, but also the unique pivot and meaning of earth's "evolutionary" processes and of all human history. The essence of being "Christian
" is, for Steiner, a search for balance between polarizing extremes and the ability to manifest love in freedom.
Divergence from conventional Christian thoughtSteiner's views of Christianity diverge from conventional Christian thought in key places, and include gnostic elements. One of the central points of divergence is found in Steiner's views on reincarnation and karma.
Steiner also posited two different Jesus children involved in the Incarnation of the Christ: one child descended from Solomon
, as described in the Gospel of Matthew
; the other child from Nathan
, as described in the Gospel of Luke
. He references in this regard the fact that the genealogies
given in these two gospels diverge some thirty generations before Jesus' birth.
Steiner's view of the second coming
of Christ is also unusual. He suggested that this would not be a physical reappearance, but rather, meant that the Christ being would become manifest
in non-physical form, in the "etheric
realm" — i.e. visible to spiritual vision and apparent in community life — for increasing numbers of people, beginning around the year 1933. He emphasized that the future would require humanity to recognize this Spirit of Love in all its genuine forms, regardless of how this is named. He also warned that the traditional name, "Christ", might be used, yet the true essence of this Being of Love ignored.
The Christian CommunityIn the 1920s, Steiner was approached by Friedrich Rittelmeyer
, a Lutheran pastor with a congregation in Berlin. Rittelmeyer asked if it was possible to create a more modern form of Christianity. Soon others joined Rittelmeyer — mostly Protestant pastors and theology students, but including several Roman Catholic priests. Steiner offered counsel on renewing the sacrament
s of their various services, combining Catholicism's emphasis on the rites of a sacred tradition with the emphasis on freedom of thought
and a personal relationship to religious life characteristic of modern, Johannine Christianity.
Steiner made it clear, however, that the resulting movement for the renewal of Christianity
, which became known as "The Christian Community
", was a personal gesture of help to a movement founded by Rittelmeyer and others independently of the Anthroposophical Society
. The distinction was important to Steiner because he sought with Anthroposophy to create a scientific, not faith
-based, spirituality. For those who wished to find more traditional forms, however, a renewal of the traditional religions was also a vital need of the times.
Reception and controversySteiner's work has influenced a broad range of noted personalities. These include the philosophers Albert Schweitzer
, Owen Barfield
and Richard Tarnas
; the writers Saul Bellow
, Michael Ende
, Selma Lagerlöf
, Andrej Belyj, David Spangler
, William Irwin Thompson
, and esotericist Édouard Schuré
; the artists Josef Beuys, Wassily Kandinsky
, and Murray Griffin
; actor and acting teacher Michael Chekhov
; cinema director Andrei Tarkovsky
; and conductor Bruno Walter
. Olav Hammer
, though sharply critical of esoteric movements generally, terms Steiner "arguably the most historically and philosophically sophisticated spokesperson of the Esoteric Tradition."
wrote that he and Steiner had in common that they had "taken on the life mission of working for the emergence of a true culture enlivened by the ideal of humanity and to encourage people to become truly thinking beings".
American writer and academic Robert Todd Carroll
has said of Steiner that "Some of his ideas on education – such as educating the handicapped in the mainstream – are worth considering, although his overall plan for developing the spirit and the soul rather than the intellect cannot be admired".
critiques as scientism
Steiner's claim to use a scientific methodology to investigate spiritual phenomena based upon his claims of clairvoyant experience. Steiner regarded the "observations" of spiritual research as more dependable (and above all, consistent) than observations of physical reality yet considered spiritual research as fallible and, perhaps surprisingly, held the view that anyone capable of thinking logically was in a position to correct errors by spiritual researchers.
Race and ethnicitySteiner's work includes both universalist, humanist elements and historically influenced racial assumptions. Due to the contrast and even contradictions between these elements, "whether a given reader interprets Anthroposophy as racist or not depends upon that reader's concerns." Steiner considered that every people, by dint of a shared language and culture, has a unique essence, which he called its soul or spirit, saw race as a physical manifestation of humanity's spiritual evolution and at times seemed to place races into a complex hierarchy largely derived from contemporary theosophical
views, yet he consistently and explicitly subordinated the role of hereditary factors, including race and ethnicity, to individual factors in development. The human individuality, for Steiner, is centered in a person's unique spiritual biography (i.e., the vast sum of an individuality's experiences and development not bound by waking hours or a single lifetime), not the body's accidental qualities. More specifically:
Steiner characterized specific races, nation
s, and ethnicities in ways that have been termed racist
by critics including characterizations of various races and ethnic groups as flowering, others as backward or destined to disappear; and hierarchical views of the spiritual evolution of different races, including—at times, and inconsistently—portraying the white race, European culture, or the Germanic culture as representing the high point of human evolution
as of the early 20th century, though describing these as destined to be superseded by future cultures. Nevertheless, his views about German culture were not ethnically based; he saw this culture, in particular Goethe and the German transcendentalists, as the source of spiritual ideals that were of central importance both for the immediate region and for the world.
Throughout his life, Steiner consistently emphasized the core spiritual unity of all the world's peoples and sharply criticized racial prejudice. He articulated beliefs that the individual nature of any person stands higher than any racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation; that race and ethnicity are transient and superficial, not essential aspects of the individual; that each individual incarnates
among / as part of many different peoples and races over successive lives, thus bearing within him- or herself a range of races and peoples; and that race is rapidly losing any remaining significance for human
Above all, Steiner considered "race, folk, ethnicity and gender" to be general, describable categories into which individuals may choose to fit, but from which free human beings can and will liberate themselves.
JudaismDuring the years when Steiner was best known as a literary critic, he published a series of articles attacking various manifestations of antisemitism and criticizing some of the most prominent anti-Semites of the time as "barbaric" and "enemies of culture". Towards the end of his life and after his death, massive defamatory press attacks against Steiner were undertaken by early National Socialist
leaders (including Adolf Hitler
) and other right-wing nationalists. These criticized Steiner's thought, and Anthroposophy
, as being incompatible with National Socialist racist ideology and charged both that Steiner was influenced by his close connections with Jews
and that he was himself Jewish. On a number of occasions, Steiner promoted full assimilation
of the Jewish people into the nations in which they lived, a stance that has come under criticism in recent years. He was also a critic of his contemporary Theodor Herzl
's goal of a Zionist
state, as well as of any other ethnically determined nation, as he considered ethnicity to be an outmoded basis for social life in today's world.
Writings (selection)Steiner's collected works, making up about 400 volumes, include his writings (about forty volumes), over 6000 of his lectures, and his artistic work.
- Goethean Science (1883–1897)
- Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception (1886)
- Truth and Knowledge doctoral thesis, (1892)
- Intuitive thinking as a spiritual path, also published as the Philosophy of FreedomPhilosophy of FreedomThe Philosophy of Freedom, the fundamental philosophical work of the philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner, focuses on the concept of free will...
(1894) ISBN 0-88010-385-X
- Mysticism at the Dawn of Modern Age (1901/1925)
- Christianity as Mystical Fact (1902)
- Cosmic Memory: Prehistory of Earth and Man (1904)
- Theosophy: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos (1904) ISBN 0-88010-373-6
- How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation (1904-5) ISBN 0-88010-508-9
- The Education of the Child, (1907) ISBN 0-85440-620-4
- An Outline of Esoteric Science (1910) ISBN 0-88010-409-0
- Four Mystery Dramas (1913)
- The Renewal of the Social Organism (1919)
- Reordering of Society: The Fundamental Social Law (1919) (article)
- Fundamentals of Therapy: An Extension of the Art of Healing Through Spiritual Knowledge (1925)
- The Story of my Life (1924-5) (autobiography)
Works about Steiner
- Kries, Mateo and Vegesack, Alexander von, Rudolf Steiner: Alchemy of the Everyday, Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design Museum, 2010. ISBN 3931936864
- AnthroposophyAnthroposophyAnthroposophy, a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner, postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development...
- Anthroposophical medicineAnthroposophical MedicineAnthroposophical medicine is a complementary approach to medicine that integrates the theories and practices of modern medicine with homeopathic medicines, physical and artistic therapies and biographical counseling...
- Anthroposophic pharmacyAnthroposophic PharmacyAnthroposophic Pharmacy is the discipline related to conceiving, developing and producing medicinal products according to the anthroposophic understanding of man, nature, substance and pharmaceutical processing....
- Anthroposophical SocietyAnthroposophical SocietyThe General Anthroposophical Society is an organization dedicated to supporting the community of those interested in the form of spiritual philosophy known as anthroposophy. The society was initiated during 1913 by members of the Theosophical Society in Germany, including Rudolf Steiner who was at...
- Anthroposophical view of the human beingAnthroposophical view of the human beingThe anthroposophical view of humans includes:-Threefold and fourfold view:Rudolf Steiner often described humans as consisting of an eternal spirit, an evolving soul and a temporal body, giving a detailed analysis of each of these three realms....
- Biodynamic agricultureBiodynamic agricultureBiodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that emphasizes the holistic development and interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system. Biodynamic farming has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the use of manures and composts...
- Camphill MovementCamphill MovementThe Camphill Movement is an initiative for social change inspired by anthroposophy. Camphill communities are residential "life-sharing" communities and schools for adults and children with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other special needs, which provide services and support for...
- The Christian CommunityThe Christian CommunityThe Christian Community is a Christian denomination. It was founded in 1922 in Switzerland by a group of mainly Lutheran theologians and ministers led by Friedrich Rittelmeyer, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and founder of anthroposophy...
- EurythmyEurythmyEurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Marie von Sivers in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education — especially in Waldorf schools - and as a movement therapy....
- GoetheanumGoetheanumThe Goetheanum, located in Dornach , Switzerland, is the world center for the anthroposophical movement. Named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the center includes two performance halls , gallery and lecture spaces, a library, a bookstore, and administrative spaces for the Anthroposophical...
- Social threefoldingSocial ThreefoldingSocial threefolding is a sociological theory that suggests increasing the independence of society's three primary realms in such a way that those three realms can mutually correct each other in an ongoing process. The movement aims for equality of rights in political life, freedom in cultural...
- Waldorf education
- Almon, Joan (ed.) Meeting Rudolf Steiner, firsthand experiences compiled from the Journal for Anthroposophy since 1960, ISBN 0-9674562-8-2
- Childs, Gilbert, Rudolf Steiner: His Life and Work, ISBN 0-88010-391-4
- Davy, Adams and Merry, A Man Before Others: Rudolf Steiner Remembered. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993.
- Easton, Stewart, Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch, ISBN 0-910142-93-9
- Hemleben, Johannes and Twyman,Leo, Rudolf Steiner: An Illustrated Biography. Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001.
- Lachman, GaryGary Valentine LachmanGary Lachman, born December 24, 1955 in Bayonne, New Jersey, is an American writer and musician. Lachman is best known to readers of mysticism and the occult, in the numerous articles and books he has published...
, Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work, 2007, ISBN 1-58542-543-5
- Lindenberg, Christoph, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie (2 vols.). Stuttgart, 1997, ISBN 3-7725-1551-7
- Lissau, Rudi, Rudolf Steiner: Life, Work, Inner Path and Social Initiatives. Hawthorne Press, 2000.
- McDermott, RobertRobert A. McDermottRobert McDermott is professor of Philosophy and Religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He received his Ph.D. in 1969 in philosophy from Boston University and is president emeritus of the California Institute of Integral Studies...
, The Essential Steiner. Harper Press, 1984
- Seddon, Richard, Rudolf Steiner. North Atlantic Books, 2004.
- Shepherd, A.P., Rudolf Steiner: Scientist of the Invisible. Inner Traditions, 1990.
- Schiller, Paul, Rudolf Steiner and Initiation. Steiner Books, 1990.
- Tummer, Lia and Lato, Horacio, Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy for Beginners. Writers & Readers Publishing, 2001.
- Turgeniev, Assya, Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Work on the First Goetheanum, ISBN 1-902636-40-6
- Welburn, Andrew, Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy and the Crisis of Contemporary Thought, ISBN 0-86315-436-0
- Wilkinson, Roy, Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-View, ISBN 1-902636-28-7
- Rudolf Steiner Overview
- The Anthroposophical Society in America
- Official site of the Rudolf Steiner Archive (German language)
- The Rudolf Steiner Online Archive with English translations of many of Steiner's works
- Steiner lending library
- Rudolf Steiner Audio
- A list of all known English translations
Articles and broadcasts about Steiner
- Heiner Ullrich, "Rudolf Steiner", Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol.XXIV, no. 3/4, 1994, p. 555-572
- Rudolf Steiner: 'Scientist of the Invisible' (Carlin RomanoCarlin RomanoCarlin Romano is a critic-at-large for the The Chronicle of Higher Education and a lecturer in Philosophy and Media Theory at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication...
, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 53, Issue 37, 2007, p. B16)
- Rudolf Steiner introduced by Owen Barfield.
- "From schools to business - Rudolf Steiner's legacy lives on", Deutsche Welle broadcast (in English), 28.02.2011
- Skeptics Dictionary
- Steiner biography by Gary Lachman