Steiner (1864-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, scientist and humanitarian
who has profoundly influenced western culture. He worked with scientists,
artists, doctors, ministers of religion, teachers and industrialists
to help transform our civilisation. His work is best known through Steiner
Education, Biodynamic Agriculture, Anthroposophical Medicine and Architecture.
His scientific investigations of the spiritual world led to the development
of Anthroposophy, the wisdom of man.
His background in
history and civilisations coupled with his observations of life gave
the world the gift of Waldorf Education. It is a deeply insightful application
of learning based on the study of humanity that helps to develop the
consciousness of self and the surrounding world. Steiner’s perception
that although external conditions in our time are changing as never
before, the essential nature of humanity remains unchanged; in particular,
the stages of human development through childhood follow a natural pattern
unaffected by short-term social change.
The task of educators
remains to prepare children for an unpredictable future by nurturing
healthy development ‘from the inside’, to provide the right
nourishment at each stage of physical, emotional and spiritual growth.
This kind of education had its origin in the first school established
by Rudolf Steiner for the children of workers at the Waldorf cigarette
factory in Stuttgart in 1919. He developed a flexible curriculum that
has evolved with time and has been adapted to local conditions in the
various countries where Steiner schools are found.
Rudolf Steiner (February
27, 1861, Murakirály, Hungary [today Donji Kraljevec, Croatia]
– March 30, 1925) was an Austrian philosopher, literary scholar,
architect, playwright, educator, and social thinker, who is best known
as the founder of Anthroposophy and its practical applications, including
Waldorf School, Biodynamic agriculture, the Camphill Movement, and the
history as essentially shaped by changes formed through a progressive
development of human consciousness. The activity of individualised human
thinking was seen as a relatively recent advance which led to the dramatic
developments of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In his
epistemological works, he advocated the Goethean view that thinking
itself is a perceptive instrument for ideas, just as the eye is a perceptive
instrument for light.
his system of Anthroposophy as follows:
philosopher, phenomenologist of spirit and sense perception
Steiner's father was a huntsman in the service of Count Hoyos in Geras,
and later became a telegraph operator and stationmaster on the Southern
Austrian Railway. When Rudolf was born, his father was stationed in
Murakirály in the Muraköz region, then part of Hungary (present-day
Donji Kraljevec, Medimurje region, northernmost Croatia). When he was
two years old, the family moved into Burgenland, Austria, in the foothills
of the eastern Alps.
Steiner displayed a keen and early interest in mathematics and philosophy.
From 1879-1883 he attended the Technische Hochschule (Technical University)
in Vienna, where he concentrated on mathematics, physics, and chemistry.
In 1891, with his thesis Truth and Knowledge, he earned a doctorate
in philosophy at the University of Rostock in Germany.
In 1888, Steiner was invited by Grand Duchess Sophie of Saxony to edit
the complete edition of Goethe's scientific works in Weimar, where he
worked until 1896. During this time he also collaborated in a complete
edition of Arthur Schopenhauer's work.
He wrote his seminal philosophical work, Die Philosophie der Freiheit
(The Philosophy of Freedom) in 1894. It advocated the possibility that
humans can become spiritually free beings through the conscious activity
of thinking (see section on 'Philosophical Debate').
In 1896, Friedrich Nietzsche's sister, Forster-Nietzsche, asked Steiner
to set the Nietzsche archive in Naumburg in order. Her brother by that
time was no longer compos mentis. Forster-Nietzsche introduced Steiner
into the presence of the catatonic philosopher and Steiner, deeply moved,
subsequently wrote the book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom.
This book may be of interest, but arguably is not in the category of
Steiner's most important works. Students of philosophy in particular
are likely to find much more substantial grist if they start with Steiner's
Philosophy of Freedom and his doctoral thesis, Truth and Science (Wahrheit
und Wissenschaft). See also the list of (mostly non-philosophy) works
in the 'Selected Bibliography' at the bottom.
In 1897, Steiner moved to Berlin to edit the Magazin für Literatur.
A turning-point came when, in the August 28, 1899 issue of this magazine,
he published an article entitled "Goethe's Secret Revelation"
on the esoteric nature of Goethe's fairy tale, The Green Snake and the
Beautiful Lily. 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, eventually becoming the head of its German Section.
Beginning around this time (ca. 1900), till his death in 1925, Steiner
articulated an ongoing stream of "experiences of the spiritual
world" -- experiences he said had touched him from an early age
on. Steiner sought to apply all his training in mathematics, science
and philosophy in order to produce rigorous, intersubjectively testable
presentations of those experiences. He also sought to bring a consciousness
of spiritual life and non-physical beings into many practical domains
- medicine, education, science, architecture, special education, social
reform, agriculture, drama, etc. Steiner held that non-physical beings
were in everything, and that through freely chosen ethical disciplines
and meditative training, anyone could develop the ability to experience
such beings, and thus be strengthened for creative and loving work in
Steiner sought to be phenomenological (experience-based, rejecting immobile
abstractions and assumptions). Like Edmund Husserl and Jose Ortega y
Gasset, but preceding them, Steiner was intimately familiar with the
philosophical work of Franz Brentano and Wilhelm Dilthey, both of whom
were central precursors of the phemonenological movement in European
philosophy. Steiner was also deeply influenced by Goethe's phenomenological
approach to science.
Unlike the Theosophists, Steiner encouraged the development of artistic
efforts within the Society — and this was poorly received. Steiner
also strongly objected when the leaders of the Theosophical Society
declared that Krishnamurti was the reincarnation of Christ (Krishnamurti
himself later repudiated the attempt to make him into a reincarnated
messiah, shocking the other Theosophical leaders). Steiner quickly denied
Krishnamurti was Christ, and held that Christ's earthly incarnation
was a unique event. Steiner held that what trained spiritual vision
could discover about most of the rest of humanity -- namely that the
human being goes through a series of repeated earth lives -- did not
apply to Christ. These and other conflicts eventually led Steiner and
most of the German branch of theosophists to separate from the main
body of Theosophists, and form the Anthroposophical Society, which was
founded in 1912.
The society remained active, and after years of extensive touring and
lecturing, the organization needed a home for their activities. In 1913,
Steiner was employed as architect for the first Goetheanum building
in Dornach, Switzerland. It was built entirely by the work of volunteers
who offered their skills of craftsmanship and trade. 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.
By 1919, the first run of Goethe's Faust had been produced there —
the same year as the founding of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart.
The Goetheanum developed as a cultural centre which included activities
in mathematics, medicine, Biodynamic agriculture, and schools of art.
It was within the Society that Steiner met his wife Marie von Sievers,
with whom he developed a new artform known as Eurythmy (aka 'visible
speech'). On New Year's Eve, 1922, the first Goetheanum building was
burned down by arsonists. Unwavered, work was begun on a second Goetheanum
building — still under construction when he died in 1925.
During the Christmas conference in 1923, he founded the School of Spiritual
Science, which is also known as the Goetheanum or by some the spiritual
Goetheanum. The distinction makes clear that the first Goetheanum was
a building, a 'physical' architecture embodying the spirit (hence it
was known as the house of the word, while the second Goetheanum consists
of the spiritual architecture of those human beings active in it (members
of the above school). The School has become increasingly active since
Steiner's day, and is structured like a university. As such, it has
three classes (years) and various sections (faculties). Within the society,
it is seen as a centre of activity in education, agriculture, art, natural
science, medicine, and economics.
In 1919 Emil Molte, on behalf of workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette
factory in Stuttgart, invited him to lecture on the topic of education.
This, and subsequent lectures, formed the basis for the Waldorf Education
movement (known in some countries as Steiner Education) — including,
perhaps, the largest independent schooling system in the world. As of
2004, there are some 870 schools worldwide, including about 170 in the
United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Somewhat independently of the Waldorf schools, a separate school for
Spiritual Science was founded at the Goetheanum during Christmas 1923.
Within the Anthroposophical society, it is seen as a centre of research
in education, agriculture, art, natural science, medicine, and economics.
This school has become increasingly active since Steiner's day.
Steiner the activist
and social threefolding
For a period after World War I, Steiner was extremely active and well-known
in Germany in part because in many places he gave lectures on social
questions. A petition expressing his basic social ideas (signed by Herman
Hesse, among others) was very widely circulated. His main book on social
questions, Die Kernpunkte der Sozialen Frage (available in English today
as Toward Social Renewal) sold tens of thousands of copies. Today around
the world there are a number of innovative banks, companies, charitable
institutions, and schools for developing new cooperative forms of business,
all working partly out of Steiner’s social ideas. One example
is The Rudolf Steiner Foundation, incorporated in 1984, and as of 2004
with estmated assets of $70 million. RSF provides "charitable innovative
financial services". According to the independent organizations
Co-op America and the Social Investment Forum Foundation, RSF is "one
of the top 10 best organizations exemplifying the building of economic
opportunity and hope for individuals through community investing."
on social history
In Steiner's various writings and lectures he held that there were three
main spheres of power comprising human society: the cultural, the economic
and the political. In ancient times, those who had political power were
also generally those with the greatest cultural/religious power and
the greatest economic power. Culture, State and Economy were fused (for
example in ancient Egypt). With the emergence of classical Greece and
Rome, the three spheres began to become more autonomous. This autonomy
went on increasing over the centuries, and with the slow rise of egalitarianism
and individualism, the failure adequately to separate economics, politics
and culture was felt increasingly as a source of injustice.
The three kinds
of social separations Steiner wanted strengthened
1) Increased separation between the State and cultural life
Examples: A government should not be able to control culture; i.e.,
how people think, learn, or worship. A particular religion or ideology
should not control the levers of the State. Steiner held that pluralism
and freedom were the ideal for education and cultural life.
2) Increased separation between the economy and cultural life
Examples: The fact that churches, temples and mosques do not make the
ability to enter and participate dependent on the ability to pay, and
that libraries and museums are open to all free of charge, is in tune
with Steiner’s notion of a separation between cultural and economic
life. In a similar spirit, Steiner held that all families, not just
rich ones, should have freedom of choice in education and access to
independent, non-government schools for their children. Other examples:
A corporation should not be able to control the cultural sphere by using
economic power to bribe schools into accepting ‘educational’
programs larded with advertising, or by secretly paying scientists to
produce research results favorable to the business’s economic
3) Increased separation between the State and the economy (stakeholder
Examples: A rich man should be prevented from buying politicians and
laws. A politician shouldn’t be able to parlay his political position
into riches earned by doing favors for businessmen. Slavery is unjust,
because it takes something political, a person’s inalienable rights,
and absorbs them into the economic process of buying and selling. Steiner
also advocated more cooperatively organized forms of capitalism (what
might today be called stakeholder capitalism) precisely because conventional
shareholder capitalism tends to absorb the State and human rights into
the economic process and transform them into mere commodities.
to the state and the economy
Steiner’s view of education’s social position calls for
special comment. For Steiner, separation of the cultural sphere from
the political and economic spheres meant education should be available
to all children regardless of the ability of families to pay for it
and, on the elementary and secondary level, should be provided for by
private and|or state scholarships that a family could direct to the
school of its choice. Steiner was a supporter of educational freedom,
but was flexible, and understood that a few legal restrictions on schools
(such as health and safety laws), provided they were kept to an absolute
minimum, would be necessary and justified.
Equality, Fraternity" and three examples of macrosocial imbalance:
2. Communism/state socialism,
3. Conventional capitalism
Steiner held that the French Revolution’s slogan, “Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity,” expressed in an unconscious way the distinct
needs of the three social spheres at the present time: liberty in cultural
life, equality in a democratic political life, and (uncoerced) fraternity/sorority
in economic life. According to Steiner, these values, each one applied
to its proper social realm, would tend to keep the cultural, economic
and political realms from merging unjustly, and allow these realms and
their respective values to check, balance and correct one another. The
result would be a society-wide separation of powers. Steiner argued
that increased autonomy for the three spheres would not eliminate their
mutual influence, but would cause that influence to be exerted in a
more healthy and legitimate manner, because the increased separation
would prevent any one of the three spheres from dominating. In the past,
according to Steiner, lack of autonomy had tended to make each sphere
merge in a servile or domineering way with the others.
For example, under theocracy, the cultural sphere (in the form of a
religious impulse) fuses with and dominates the economic and political
spheres. Under communism and state socialism, the political sphere fuses
with and dominates the other two spheres. And under the typical sort
of capitalist conditions, the economic sphere tends to dominate the
other two spheres. Steiner points toward social conditions where domination
by any one sphere is increasingly reduced, so that theocracy, communism,
and the standard kind of capitalism might all be gradually transcended.
For Steiner, threefolding was not a social recipe or blueprint. It could
not be "implemented" like some utopian program in a day, a
decade, or even a century. It was a complex open process that began
thousands of years ago and that he thought was likely to continue for
Apart from his central book on social questions, Toward Social Renewal,
there are at least two others available in English: World Economy (14
lectures from 1922) and The Social Future (revised edition 1972).
an organic style of architecture for the design and construction of
some seventeen buildings. The most significant of these are the first
and second Goetheanums. These two structures, both built in Dornach,
Switzerland (the first beginning in 1913), were intended to house a
University for Spiritual
The first Goetheanum
was burned down by arsonists on New Year's eve 1922. Several surrounding
buildings he designed survived the blaze (the Glasshaus, Haus Duldeck,
the Transformerhaus, etc.).
Construction of the second Goetheanum building began on the same site
shortly before he died in 1925. He conceived it as an organic extension
and metamorphosis of the first building, inspiring and pre-dating architects
such as Le Corbusier, and Eero Saarinen's Kennedy Airport (1962).
Within the Society, Steiner met his wife Marie von Sievers, with whom
he developed a new artform (that also has therapeutic uses) known as
Eurythmy (German: "Eurythmie")— sometimes referred to
as "visible speech and visible song". It is interesting to
note, however, that the "designs" for Eurythmy were never
fully completed. Whereas now Eurythmists only use their arms to create
diffrent "sounds" (with the lower half of the body used for
walking the rhythm) Steiner wanted the legs to create "sounds"
too- unfortunately he died before he could introduce the idea. Eurythmy
performances are still held at the Goetheanum in Dornach, and at various
theatres throughout the world. There are now a number of Eurythmy schools
where a full four-year training is given.
As Playwright, he wrote four "Mystery Dramas" between 1909
and 1913, including "The Portal of Initiation" and "The
Soul's Awakening". They are still performed today.
As a sculptor, his primary work was The Representative of Humanity (1922).
This enormous work carved in wood is still on display at the Goetheanum
A philosophic basis rooted in a practical sensibility yielded continuations
to his work. In 1921,pharmacists and physicians gathered under Steiner's
guidance to create a pharmaceutical company called Weleda, which now
distributes natural medical products worldwide.
In 1924, a series
of lectures to a group of farmers concerned about the destructive trend
of "scientific farming" originated the practice of biodynamic
agriculture, which is now practiced throughout much of Europe, North
America, and Australasia. Biodynamic farming is not merely organic --
in addition it works with the movement patterns of the stars and the
moon, and with the non-physical beings in nature, and seeks to do testable
research on how agriculture can produce the best quality food.
In 1939, based on a series of lectures Steiner gave in the 1920s on
special education, physician Karl Konig founded the Camphill Movement
in Scotland as a place to provide treatment for children with severe
learning disabilities. There are currently more than a dozen Camphill
Villages and eight Colleges providing a home for more than 1000 residents.
A few aspects of
Steiner's way of thinking
According to Steiner, a real spiritual world exists out of which the
material one gradually condensed, so to speak, and evolved. The spiritual
world, Steiner held, can in the right circumstances be researched through
direct experience, by persons practicing rigorous forms of ethical and
cognitive self-discipline. Steiner described many exercises he said
were suited to strengthening such self-discipline so that a practicioner's
consciousness could enter the 'spiritual world'. Details about the spiritual
world, he said, could on such a basis be discovered and reported, not
infallibly, but with approximate accuracy.
Yet Steiner was periodically at pains to discourage taking his spiritual
research reports as either accurate or inaccurate 'information' -- an
interpretation he considered relatively superficial. Steiner preferred
for readers to enter into the process of his thinking and not cling
too rigidly to the fixed results, i.e. the thoughts that crystallized
out of that process. He often said there was a hidden life in thinking
and advised people to attend more to the spirit or 'drift' of his words
than to the letter. Otherwise readers would fall into an excessive literalism
and turn his work into a doctrine, a result he said he wanted to avoid.
Those of Steiner's students alert to this distinction (e.g. Georg Khulewind,
author of From Normal to Healthy) are wont to affirm Steiner’s
claim that remaining actively within the process, as opposed to the
results of Steiner's thinking, can have the effect of awakening one
gradually into forms of superconscious spiritual awareness. Steiner
claims to offer a gradual experiential path from ordinary conceptual
thinking into forms of thinking perceptive of living spiritual beings
and mobile realities in the spiritual world. Perhaps because the spiritual
path Steiner offers claims to be based, in many respects, on the gradual
transformation of thinking into a wholly new activity of the whole person
-- an activity of thought, feeling and will seamlessly integrated into
a form of spiritual awareness that eventually leaves the body and peregrinates
through spiritual worlds -- Steiner's teaching has attracted a number
of trained scientists, physicians, and scholars in various fields.
Steiner periodically affirmed that gaining access to the unusual forms
of consciousness supposedly embodied in some of his works was not a
matter of believing in or having faith in whatever he chose to say about
spiritual beings. It was rather that some of the thinking in some of
those works, if adequately penetrated with one's own active questioning,
thinking and feeling, would eventually reveal itself as a kind of spiritual
music full of aesthetic tensions and relaxations and various kinds of
spiritual dynamism, and this spiritual dynamism, full of complex metamorphoses
of form and color, would itself eventually be perceived as the speaking
and singing of real, living spiritual beings and of a real spiritual
world. And this would still be only a hint of what a student could experience
who learned to enter the spiritual world fully and carry out further
Steiner also occasionally averred that this consciousness of the spirit
was not so much related to the content of his statements, where he tells
readers the characteristics of this or that spiritual being (or something
similar) that he says he has perceived. It was not so much such content
that was effective, he said, but rather something a bit deeper, within
the content, that he indicated would lead one to begin to enter higher
states of awareness and 'hear' or 'see' spiritual beings as one thought
through his 'research reports'. The mere content was so to speak thrown
up to the surface of Steiner's thinking by the style, or more precisely,
by the movement and metamorphic-metaphoric process of his thinking,
and it was this underlying formative process (or portions of it in some
of his lectures and books), he said, that could gradually lead to a
sort of superconsciousness awareness of living in spiritual worlds at
least as real and persuasive as the physical world. Whereas mere content
could be memorized like recipes, and then parroted mindlessly, formative
process could only be experienced if one actively recreated it from
Some of Steiner's more philosophically inclined students argue that
an obstacle to 'getting' Steiner, in the just mentioned sense, is that
reading for people today is rarely a process where the dynamic birth
of the conceptual out of a pre-conceptual background is felt and recreated
as we read each word. When reading is creative today, that creativity
tends to be confined within conceptual life, and only rarely extends
to the threshold between conceptual and pre-conceptual life, the threshold
where not just this or that concept, but conceptuality itself, can be
experienced in the process of its creative origination, and seen at
its core as fundamentally an imaginative birthing activity. Lacking
awareness of this particular threshold, we also lack consciousness of
the elastic poetic dynamism at the very basis not only of our most 'literal'
ideas and scientific terminologies, but at the basis of the world process
Again, some philosophical students of Steiner claim that one way of
remaining within the process (as opposed to the results) of Steiner's
thinking, would be to gradually learn through his works how to live
consciously at the threshold where conceptuality comes into being. There
one would supposedly no longer be confined to observing things that
already are -- one would begin to see realities emerging into being,
and that would mean seeing to some extent into 'non-being' itself, and
discovering there more than mere nothingness: a hidden life of creative
non-material beings and processes in a non-material world.
Though the emphasis anthroposophists place on individual freedom and
thought limits the tendency toward group-think and prevents anthroposophy
from turning into a cult - if a cult is something that deprives its
members of spiritual and intellectual freedom - a critical approach
to the works of Steiner is not as common as some would like and not
always welcomed within some Anthroposophic circles. Given Steiner's
clear statements about political democracy being the proper kind of
State for humanity, his consistent and emphatic support for liberty
and pluralism in education, religion, scientific opinion, the arts,
and in the press, not to mention his rejection of the idea that the
State should take over economic life - one cannot justly link Steiner
or his movement with a totalitarian intent.
There are scientists acquainted with the topics Steiner touched-upon
who regard him as substandard and unprofessional in his methods, and
therefore completely disregard his works. However, a number of trained
physicists, biologists, medical doctors, architects, philosophers, and
other scholars claim to find creative genius in Steiner's comments on
detailed aspects of each of their fields. Research centers staffed by
trained professionals in various fields of study do research along lines
suggested or inspired by Steiner's ideas. Some of the better known scientists
and scholars who have been deeply influenced by Steiner are listed two
Access to Steiner's original manuscripts is controlled by Rudolf Steiner
Nachlassverwaltung. Most of the some 350 volumes of works by Steiner
are based on third-party stenographic reports of his lectures. Often
more than one stenographer was present taking down a lecture, so the
reliability of these reports and their accuracy is frequently good or
excellent, but certainly not perfect.
There are some scientists and intellectuals who admire Steiner's efforts
to transform ordinary thinking gradually into a higher thinking that
is at the same time a perceiving of the spiritual world. Examples of
books and authors profoundly influenced by Steiner: physicist Henri
Bortoft's The Wholeness of Nature, physicist Arthur Zajonc's Catching
the Light, physicist Georg Unger's Forming Concepts in Physics, physicist
Stephen Edelglass' The Marriage of Sense and Thought, biologist Craig
Holdrege's Genetics and the Manipulation of Life, theoretical chemist
Jos Verhulst's Developmental Dynamics in Humans and Other Primates,
theoretical chemist Georg Khulewind's From Normal to Healthy, biologist
Wolfgang Schad's Man and Mammals: Toward a Biology of Form, medical
doctor Robert Zieve's Healthy Medicine, medical doctor Victor Bott's
Introduction to Anthroposophical Medicine, philosopher Owen Barfield's
World's Apart, philosopher Richard Tarnas' Passion of the Western Mind,
cultural critic Theodore Roszak's Unfinished Animal. See also computer
scientist Joseph Weizenbaum's comments on Steiner, or those of Albert
Schweitzer. Andrei Belyi, the great Russian symbolist writer, was also
profoundly influenced by Steiner and wrote essays about him.
Franz Kafka gave what, from his own particular literary perspective,
was perhaps the highest compliment, in his diaries calling Steiner's
mystery plays 'incomprehensible' (or something similar). See also the
collection of scientific articles edited by physicist Arthur Zajonc
and architect David Seamon, Goethe's Way of Science, A Phenomenology
of Nature. Nevertheless, Steiner remains unknown by many and rejected
The high regard in which Steiner is held within the Anthroposopical
movement, which sees his teaching as foundational, has prompted some
critics to see Steiner as a founder of a religion, not as a philosopher
in the usual sense of the word. The idea, if there is a degree of truth
to it, evolves from overzealous students, not from Rudolf Steiner.
Steiner frequently asked his students to test everything he said, and
not to take his statements on authority or faith. He also said that
if it had been practicable, he would have changed the name of his teachings
every day, to keep people from hanging on to the literal meaning of
those teachings, and to stay true to their character as something intended
to be alive and metamorphic. Nor was Steiner shy about saying that his
works would gradually become obsolete, and that each generation should
rewrite them. Individual freedom and spiritual independence are among
the values Steiner most emphasized in his books and lectures.
Steiner's views of Christianity have been criticized as heretical. Only
a very simplified account of those views can be given here, because
though they only amount to about 4% of his total works, that 4% still
amounts to about 15 volumes of books and lectures -- and many of the
other 335 or more volumes contain additional scattered comments on Christianity.
Steiner said that anyone could develop disciplined spiritual vision
and that such vision could see that there were two 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— this might seem a bit less
strange when one recalls that 'Jesus' was a common name in biblical
times); that the divine "Christ Spirit", the Son-God of the
Trinity, incarnated in the Nathan Jesus at the moment of the baptism
by John; that up until the moment of the baptism by John in the Jordan,
the Nathan Jesus was a very great holy man, but not yet the divine Son
of God; that "the Christ Being" is not only the Redeemer of
the Fall from Paradise, but also the unique pivot and meaning of earth's
evolutionary processes and of human history; that Yahveh (Jehovah) dwelt
in the moon, but Elohim in the Sun; and that the second coming of the
Christ meant the Christ would, for slowly increasing numbers of people,
become manifest in the etheric realm beginning around the year 1933.
(Steiner was not referring to the hypothetical ether of 19th century
physicists, and on several occasions carefully distinguished his own
use of the term from their use of it.)
Occasionally Steiner is criticized for his advice to delay reading until
students reach the age 6 or 7. Still, a government commission in Germany
conducted a study in the 1990s and found that German Waldorf school
(Steiner school) graduates scored significantly higher than German public
school graduates on the Abitur, a high school graduate exam widely administered
in Germany. The significance of this finding is questionable, because
not all Waldorf students are admitted to prepare for the Abitur. On
the other hand many Waldorf Schools have a lack in teaching staff, this
results in most Waldorf students not having the possibility to select
the subjects they want to be tested on for the Abitur, like it is still
being done in public schools of some federal provinces. But in the wake
of the centralized Abitur this practice will eventually diminish in
the next few years.
Some critics say the Waldorf schools' emphasis on imagination and creativity
can sometimes lead to child-led class sessions without focus or direction.
To the contrary, Waldorf educators report that it is a highly structured,
disciplined educational model. The emphasis on arts and creativity complements
a challenging curricula.
The claim he made in this book to have disproved transcendental idealism,
the philosophy of Immanuel Kant—he had read the whole of Kant's
Critique of Pure Reason by the age of 14—has been rejected by
some philosophers, accepted by others, and remains unknown to many.
Richard Tarnas, in his book The Passion of the Western Mind, includes
Steiner as one significant figure within the whole history of thought.
...at almost precisely the same time that the Enlightenment reached
its philosophical climax in Kant, a radically different epistemological
perspective began to emerge—first visible in Goethe...developed
in new directions by Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, Coleridge, and Emerson,
and articulated within the past century by Rudolf Steiner. Each of these
thinkers gave his own distinct emphasis to the developing perspective,
but common to all was a fundamental conviction that the relation of
the human mind to the world was ultimately not dualistic but participatory...In
essence this alternative conception did not oppose the Kantian epistemology
but rather went beyond it, subsuming it in a larger and subtler understanding
of human knowledge. The new conception fully acknowledged the validity
of Kant's critical insight, that all human knowledge of the world is
in some sense determined by subjective principles; but instead of considering
these principles as belonging ultimately to the separate human subject,
and therefore not grounded in the world independent of human cognition,
this participatory conception held that these subjective principles
are in fact an expression of the world's own being, and that the human
mind is ultimately the organ of the world's own process of self-revelation.
In this view, the essential reality of nature is not separate, self-contained,
and complete in itself, so that the human mind can examine it 'objectively'
and register it from without. Rather, nature's unfolding truth emerges
only with the active participation of the human mind. Nature's reality
is not merely phenomenal, nor is it independent and objective; rather,
it is something that comes into being through the very act of human
cognition. Nature becomes intelligible to itself through the human mind.
- Richard Tarnas, p.433-434, 1991.
On the basis of this epistemology, Steiner attempted to develop a qualitative
science to complement the quantitative science of Newton, Galileo and
Einstein. Steiner claimed that if one practiced various systematic forms
of inner discipline, it would be possible to create an increasingly
objective, testable knowledge of a noumenal or spiritual world. While
small groups of scientists find brilliant originality in Steiner's scientific
work and seek to carry it forward (see, for example, The Wholeness of
Nature by physicist Henri Bortoft), the majority of scientists have
never heard of Steiner, and of the minority who have, most probably
take his work to be unscientific. Scientists developing Steiner's work
argue that it sometimes doesn't receive a fair hearing because of prejudice
against even the possibility of a qualitative science of non-physical
1861 Birth on Feb. 2 in Donji Kraljevec (Lower Kralevec), Medjimurje
region, Croatia, between Hungary and Slovenia, son of a railroad employee.
Parents came from Austria. Childhood and youth in various Austrian towns.
1872-1879 Junior and Senior high school in Wiener-Neustadt (close to
1875-1889 Worked as a private teacher, many times to his own classmates,
specially in Math and sciences.
1879-1883 Undergraduate studies at the Vienna Institute of Technology
(Wiener Technische Hoschschule). Deep studies of Goethe.
1882-1897 Editor of Goethe's scientific works for the J.Kürschner's
"Deutsche National Literatur" edition (the 5 volumes are in
1884-1890 Private teacher/tutor of 4 children of a Vienna family, mainly
of one who was hydrocephalic and unable to learn. Succeeds in helping
him to finish school, and enter the Faculty of Medicine; he died during
the 1st. World War.
1886 Worked in the "Duchess Sophia" complete edition of Goethe's
1888 Editor of the "Weekly German Magazine" (Deutsche Wochenschrift)
1890-1897 Worked at the Schiller-Goethe Archives in Weimar. Edition
of Goethe's scientific writings.
1891 Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Rostock, Germany.
Publication of the dissertation (GA 3).
!894 Meeting with Haeckel; beginning of correspondence with him (in
1897 Moved to Berlin, where he was the editor (up to 1900) of the "Literature
Magazine" (Magazin für Literatur) (GA 31), where he decisively
manifests himself against antisemitism, and of the "Drama Journal"
(Dramaturgische Blätter) with O.E.Hartleben. Activities at the
"Free Drama Society" (Freien dramatischen Gesellschaft), at
the Giordano Bruno League, and others.
1899-1904 Instructor at the Berlin "Workers' School of Education"
1900 Beginning of activities as a lecturer on various Anthroposophic
themes under the invitation of the Berlin Theosophic Society, transmitting
only the results of his own original esoteric research.
1902 Nominated the General Secretary of the German Theosophic Society.
In the same day, gives a lecture with title "Anthroposophy".
1902-1912 Intensive activity as a lecturer in Berlin and in whole Europe.
Marie von Sievers becomes his constant cooperator.
1903 Foundation of the Luzifer journal, later Luzifer-Gnosis (GA 10-12,
1905 First writings on the threefold social organization (in GA 34).
1906 Meeting with Edouard Schuré; Marie von Sievers had translated
some of his works.
1907 Organizes the world conference of the Theosophic Society in Munich,
where he introduces artistic activities for the first time.
1910-1913 Writes and directs the representation of his 4 Mystery Dramas,
one each year, in Munich (GA 14).
1912 Introduction of the new arts Eurithmy (GA 277a) and Speech Formation
1913 Separation from the Theosophic Society and foundation of the Anthroposophical
1913-1923 Construction of the first Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland,
a true work of art in wood.
1914 Marriage with Marie von Sievers (from then on Marie Steiner).
1914-1924 In lectures in Dornach, Berlin and many cities all over Europe,
gives indication for the renewal of many areas of human activity: art,
education, sciences, social life, medicine, pharmacology, therapies,
agriculture, architecture and theology.
1919 Intensive activities as a writer and lecturer on his ideas on social
renewal, the Threefold Commonwealth (GA 23, 328-341) mainly in Southern
Germany. On autumn, foundation of the Free Waldorf School (Freie Waldorfschule)
in Stuttgart (GA 293-295), directed by him up to his death; this school
exists up to now, at the Hausman street.
1920 First course for physicians (GA 312), beginning the application
to what became Anthroposophic Medicine.
1921 Foundation of the "Das Goetheanum" weekly, with his regular
contributions (GA 36, 260a); this journal continues to be edited. Foundation
of the first Anthroposophic Clinic, in Arlesheim, next to Dornach, by
Ita Wegman; this clinic continues its operation as the Ita Wegman Klinik
(for a picture of it and a text with information in German, please click
here).1922 Foundation of the religious renewal movement "The Christian
Community", by clergymen under his orientation. In the evening
of the year's end, the Goetheanum is criminally set afire. In the following
day, he continues his lecture cycle in the nearby cabinetmaking workshop.
1923 Beginning of the design and gypsum modeling of the 2nd Goetheanum,
to be built in 1925-28 after his death, now in reinforced concrete (for
pictures of it, please click here). During the Christmas Conference,
foundation of the new General Anthroposophical Society (Allgemeine Anthroposophische
1923-1925 Publishes every week in Das Goetheanum his autobiography (GA
28), which would remain unfinished (covers his life up to 1907). In
cooperation with Dr. Ita Wegman, writes the book on Anthroposophic Medicine
1924 Course on agriculture in Koberwitz (GA 327), originating bio-dynamic
farming. Course on Curative Education (GA 317), originating this field
of application of Anthroposophy. After intensive activity of lectures
and courses in the last months, and his last lecture on Sept. 9 to members
of the Society, beginning of his fatal disease.
1925 Death in Dornach on March 30. His published work, including lecture
cicles, comprises more than 350 titles.