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Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)

Anthroposophy (from Greekἄνθρωπος ánthropos 'man' and σοφία sophίa 'wisdom') was founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) as a "path of knowledge, which wants to lead the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe" (Lit.:GA 26, p. 14). In this sense it wants to expand the "consciousness of his humanity" (Lit.:GA 257, p. 76). Starting from a deepened knowledge of man based on spiritual experience, anthroposophy opens a new, fully conscious thought-clear and scientifically exact access to the spiritual world. As a modern spiritual science, it orients itself methodically to natural science and complements and expands its findings, corresponding to the demands of our time, with an empirically founded spiritual knowledge that makes the modern idea of evolution fruitful also for the soul and spiritual realm and thus overcomes its one-sided materialistic misinterpretation.

„By anthroposophy I understand a scientific investigation of the spiritual world which recognizes the one-sidedness of a mere knowledge of nature as well as that of ordinary mysticism, and which, before it makes the attempt to penetrate into the supersensible world, first develops in the discerning soul those forces which are not yet active in ordinary consciousness and in ordinary science and which make such a penetration possible.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 66)

What is Anthroposophy?

Whereas anthropology, which is predominantly oriented towards the natural sciences, describes only the outwardly tangible human being, anthroposophy aims to explore beyond this the soul and spirit of man, who can only be experienced inwardly, and the soul and spiritual world that can be perceived by him through consistent training of consciousness, purely empirically - without metaphysical speculation and independently of any religious dogmatism or conventional mysticism. However, the essence of the whole world is also founded in this spiritual world, which is, at least in principle, accessible to the knowledge of every man who "always strives"[1] for it. Anthroposophy can therefore initially be characterised as follows:

„Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.“ (Lit.:GA 26, p. 14)

All effects in the world, as Rudolf Steiner emphasises, ultimately emanate from spiritual beings living in different conditions of consciousness. In their consciousness, to which man can rise through higher knowledge, lies the source of origin and the actual substance from which reality is woven:

„Thus, the actual realities of the world are beings in the various conditions of consciousness.“ (Lit.:GA 148, p. 306)

The spiritually deepened self-knowledge thus becomes at the same time a comprehensive knowledge of the world, cosmology or cosmosophy in the broadest sense.

„If we can look back on ourselves and recognise ourselves, then we can also observe in the cosmos. And then such observations result which provide us with a real cosmology, a cosmosophy, as I have tried to give it in my book "Occult Science".“ (Lit.:GA 82, p. 171)

„Nothing at all is considered in the cosmos without man being in it at the same time. Everything is only given meaning and at the same time a basis of knowledge by being considered in relation to man. Nowhere is the human being excluded. This anthroposophically oriented spiritual science leads our view of the world back again to a view of the human being.“ (Lit.:GA 338, p. 114)

Rudolf Steiner also referred to the anthroposophy he developed methodically as anthroposophically oriented spiritual science or, more briefly, as anthroposophical spiritual science and, very briefly, simply as spiritual science, in order to refer to the exact scientific investigation of the spiritual, based on concrete spiritual experience, that he was striving for. Even his main epistemological work, the "Philosophy of Freedom" (Lit.:GA 4), bears the subtitle: "Mental observation results according to the scientific method" ("Seelische Beobachtungsresultate nach naturwissenschaftlicher Methode").

Anthroposophy, which is represented worldwide today, has provided fruitful inspiration for many different areas of life, such as Waldorf education and curative education, anthroposophically extended medicine, the production of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics (Weleda, Wala), biodynamic agriculture (Demeter), for practically all areas of art (such as architecture), including eurythmy, the new spatial movement art that emerged from anthroposophy, for threefolding social life and finance (GLS Gemeinschaftsbank, Freie Gemeinschaftsbank), for the further deepening of Goethean natural science (Goetheanism), for the Christian Community as a movement for religious renewal and for the lay priestly movement "The Free Christian Impulse" (Der freie christliche Impuls).

General points of view

Anthroposophy sees itself as a method of individual development of consciousness. Its basis is an epistemologically founded concept of human individuality[2] and furthermore a "trained Goetheanism".[3]] It contains contents of Rosicrucianism, insofar as they have been elaborated by Rudolf Steiner[4], a detailed presentation of the stages of world development as well as a conception of re-embodiment and destiny appropriate to our time, which differs fundamentally from many Eastern approaches.

Spiritual Science and Natural Science

Anthroposophical spiritual science in Rudolf Steiner's sense does not see itself as a speculative science, but as a strictly empirical science, which methodically orients itself to natural science, but unlike natural science does not have the outer physical nature as its primary object, but dedicates itself to the study of the spiritual world, in which it sees an independent reality that is superior to the physical world and conditions the latter, which is accessible to experience through the specific development of corresponding soul organs of perception and can be understood in its inner context through thinking.

„Spiritual science is the true continuator of natural scientific research in that it strives to know the realm of the spirit with those means which are suitable for this realm. As the continuator of natural science, it cannot itself be mere natural science. For those means which have brought this science such tremendous triumphs were able to do so precisely because they were adapted to the study of nature to the highest degree, and because this research did not interfere with them by other means not suited to the field of nature. In order to achieve in the field of the spirit something similar to what natural science has achieved in the field of nature, spiritual science must develop other cognitive faculties than those applicable to natural research. In doing so, however, it must assert a point of view that can understandably meet with many doubts in the present day. Just consider impartially what is said about these "other cognitive faculties". They are faculties which lie entirely in the line of development of the ordinary human powers of the soul. How must spiritual science understand its difference from natural science? The study of nature can only be cultivated with the powers of knowledge which man acquires in the natural course of his life and which, for the purpose of this study, are supported by regulated observation and scientific experimental tools. In order to penetrate the spiritual world, man must develop them by spiritual-soul exercises beyond the point to which they form themselves - as it were of their own accord - without such exercises.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 159)

„It wants to be an opening of the gates to a supersensible world. And it does not want to find this world through mere speculative thinking, but through real perception, which is just as accessible to the human soul as the perception of the physical senses. It is usually thought that such perception of a spiritual kind only occurs in states of vision, of ecstasy in the soul, and that it is not subject to scientific control in those who are gifted with it. For this reason, no other value is attached to it than that of the personal experiences of the individual human beings. Modern theosophy has nothing in common with this kind of soul experience. It shows that there are powers of knowledge slumbering in the human soul which do not come to light in ordinary life or in external science. These powers can be awakened by meditation and by an energetic concentration of the inner life of feeling and will. In order to achieve this, the soul must be able to close itself off from all outer impressions and also from everything that the memory retains of such outer impressions. Meditation is the intense devotion of the soul to ideas, sensations and feelings, in such a way that one does not develop any consciousness of what these ideas or feelings mean for the physical world, but in such a way that they prove to be forces within the life of the soul which, as it were, radiate through the soul and thus bring out of its depths powers of which man is not conscious in ordinary life. The effect of this inner immersion is such that through it the human being becomes conscious of his own being as a spiritual reality of which he otherwise has no perception. Before he undertakes such exercises, he recognises himself as a being which knows something of himself and of the world through bodily organs. After such exercises he knows that he can unfold a life in himself even without his bodily organs imparting such a life to him. He knows that he can separate himself spiritually from his physical body and that through this separation he need not sink into a state of unconsciousness. And he attains such knowledge not only of himself, but also of a supersensible world, which for ordinary knowledge is hidden behind the physical-sensible world and in which the true causes of the latter lie.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 145ff)

Anthroposophical spiritual science, initially also called occultscience or secret science by Rudolf Steiner because it serves to investigate the "occult", the "secret", i.e. that which cannot be experienced sensually but only supersensually, sees itself, because it is oriented towards the strict methodology of the natural sciences, as a science that systematically investigates the higher worlds.

„Secret science wants to detach the scientific method of research and the spirit of research, which in its field adheres to the context and course of sensory facts, from this particular application, but to retain it in its intellectual and other characteristics. It wants to speak about the non-sensible in the same way that natural science speaks about the sensible. While natural science remains in the sensuous with this way of research and thinking, secret science wants to regard the soul's work on nature as a kind of self-education of the soul and apply what it has learned to the non-sensuous realm. It wants to proceed in such a way that it does not speak about sensuous phenomena as such, but about the non-sensuous world contents in the same way as the naturalist speaks about the sensuous ones. It records the mental constitution of the natural-scientific procedure within this procedure, that is, precisely that through which knowledge of nature first becomes science. It may therefore call itself a science.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 36)

Natural science is not only the best preparation for spiritual science through its methodical approach, it also leads to those borders where the consciousness for the spiritual can awaken.

„This modern science of nature not only gives those who devote themselves to it information, which no one can admire more than the spiritual researcher himself, about the outer course of nature, about many things which also have an impact on practical life, but this science of nature gives those who devote themselves to it from certain points of view an inner education of the life of the human soul. And more than we were able to do in earlier stages of scientific knowledge, today we are actually prepared for spiritual research through natural science. One should not allow oneself to be confined by what natural science has to say about the outer world in its own field. Rather, one should be able to rise to an inner discipline, to an inner discipline of the spiritual life through the way in which one researches nature. The ideas which natural science itself provides can only give information about outer nature; their content will say nothing about spiritual life. But by using them, by using them devotedly in the study of nature, in the knowledge of nature, they educate, I would say, incidentally, in that man who is able to pay attention to what is going on in him, certain inner conditions of life which lead him to receive a concept, an inner experience of what it means to live with his soul outside the body.

I know very well that this concept - living with one's soul outside the body - is the height of nonsense for many today. But that does not matter. Everyone can convince himself that inner experience gives him a certain insight into life outside the body if he goes through such exercises of soul life as are indicated in my writings or as I want to express in principle here.

One can go through particularly significant things when one comes to that frontier of the life of knowledge to which natural science so often leads one. Frontier! You see, many people speak of the great frontiers of cognition. They say that the human soul comes to a limit when it wants to investigate whether the world is spatial or temporal, infinite or finite, when the soul wants to investigate whether it is subject to an irresistible compulsion in all its actions or whether it is free. Certainly, these are supreme borderline questions. In his famous speech on the limits of natural knowledge, on the seven riddles of the world, Du Bois-Reymond posed other such questions. The deepest impression can be made on one when one feels, I would like to say, out of the pain of knowledge of a man of knowledge, how such a man stands at such a frontier.“ (Lit.:GA 72, p. 25f)

„Therefore, one can say that today real knowledge is only offered to those who seek it by natural science. But what does natural science teach about man? It teaches what comes into being in the human being at birth or conception and passes away at death. Nothing else! If one wants to be honest, it has nothing else. Therefore, for one who wants to be honest in this field, there is no other way than to direct his gaze to that which today cannot be achieved by the usual means of natural science, that is, to establish a real science of the soul and the spirit, which in turn is based on an experience and observation of the spiritual, like the old spiritual knowledge. And this cannot be done in any other way than by the means which you will find in my books "How to attain knowledge of the higher worlds?", "The Secret Science" and others, in that the human being thereby puts himself in a position to really see the spiritual and to speak about it in the same way as he speaks about that which is present in the sensuous-material and has led to a sound natural science. All that is given to the senses on Earth, all that can be brought to experimentation, is of course not yet complete, but it is well on its way. But all this only provides knowledge about the transient, the sensual, the temporal human being. Therefore, we cannot look beyond the earthly at all if we want to grasp the human being with these means. For if we look only at the earthly, we look only at that which is transient of man.“ (Lit.:GA 231, p. 61f)

Philosophy and Anthroposophy

Whereas philosophy, at least since Aristotle, has been based primarily on speculative or discursive thinking, anthroposophy is based directly on thought-clear, fully conscious spiritual perception. Intuitive thinking, already mentioned in Rudolf Steiner's basic epistemological works, represents an elementary form of such spiritual perception.

„Anthroposophy is slandered if it is called merely a philosophy. It is not based on philosophical speculation, but on a perception which is as alive as only a sensual perception can ever be, but which must be attained by the human being developing the forces which are otherwise only dormant in his soul, in the way I have indicated in principle...“ (Lit.: R. Steiner: Anthroposophy and the Riddles of the Soul, lecture in Bern, 20 March 1922 pdf)

In his introduction to SKA 5, Christian Clement quite rightly points out that Rudolf Steiner always emphasised,

„... that real knowledge cannot be acquired solely through the mental processing and interpretation of sensual observations, but that a completely different way of thinking and perceiving must be added to this "sensual" knowledge. A "higher", "supersensible" consciousness had to be developed, a new "organ" had to be opened up, the contents of which were not simply "given", like those of sensual perception, but which first had to be brought forth inwardly in energetic spiritual-soul self-education. At present, humanity as a whole is still on its way to this higher consciousness, but it can already be consciously brought forth by the philosopher or mystic through mental and spiritual practice, as it were as an early birth of consciousness. In Steiner's view, this fundamental postulate of a 'higher' consciousness slumbering in the human being as a potential, not based on sensual content, connects his own philosophy with such disparate intellectual currents as Platonism and Neoplatonism, medieval mysticism, with Cusanus, Paracelsus and Böhme, with the views of Goethe and Schiller and the idealism of a Fichte, Schelling and Hegel.“ (Lit.: Christian Clement, SKA 5, XXXV)

„We see the child entering the world with little ability to gain insight into the environment, we see how the abilities lead deeper and deeper into the outer and inner world and how these abilities develop. In ordinary life we complete this development at a certain point and, having acquired a certain way of thinking, a certain way of feeling and a certain way of willing as adults, we remain with this, carrying on our everyday life and our ordinary science with this.

He who wants to pursue anthroposophical research must continue the development, he must say to himself at a certain point in his life: That which is in the soul in terms of abilities is not fully developed in this way; it can be further lifted up from the subsoil of the soul. And this lifting up then leads to those faculties of cognition which can lead into the supersensible worlds.“ (Lit.: Rudolf Steiner, Munich, 16 January 1922 pdf)

Appearance and reality

According to Rudolf Steiner, a basic error of philosophy is to regard the world of the senses as a finished reality. Only thinking, which penetrates perceptions, also reveals their inner laws, without which they could not exist, and thus only leads to full reality.

„This is the fundamental error of 19th century philosophy, that the world of the senses is always simply taken as finished. We have not become aware that man belongs to true reality, that that which arises in man, especially in thought, splits itself off from reality, in that man is born into reality, that reality is at first concealed, so that it confronts us as an illusory reality; and only when we penetrate this illusory reality with that which can come to life in us do we have full reality before us. But this would characterise from the outset, philosophically, from the point of view of a certain theory of knowledge, all that which in turn later underlies my Anthroposophy. For it has been attempted from the beginning to prove that the world of the senses is not a reality, but that it is an illusory reality, to which must first be added that which the human being brings to it, which lights up in his inner being and which he then works out. The whole of Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy basically assumes that we have a finished reality before us and that we can then ask the question: Yes, can we recognise this finished reality or can we not recognise it? - But it is not a finished reality, it is only half a reality, and the whole reality only comes into being when the human being adds to it and pours into reality that which arises for him in his innermost being.“ (Lit.:GA 255b, p. 41f)

According to Rudolf Steiner's «Philosophy of Freedom», reality is not given to the human being directly, but flows to him from two sides, namely through observation and thinking. As a result, a seemingly unbridgeable gulf (→ chorism) is initially torn open in human consciousness. Only by connecting the two halves, which are always inseparably connected in reality but are initially only given separately to human consciousness, in the act of cognition, i.e. by penetrating perception with the corresponding concept, does man advance to full reality.

„It is not because of the objects that they are initially given to us without the corresponding concepts, but because of our mental organisation. Our total beingness functions in such a way that for every thing of reality the elements which come into consideration for the thing flow to it from two sides: from the side of perception and of thought.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 90)

„The concept of the tree is conditioned for cognition by the perception of the tree. I can only lift a very definite concept out of the general system of concepts in relation to the definite perception. The connection of concept and perception is determined indirectly and objectively by thinking about the perception. The connection of perception with its concept is recognised after the act of perception; but the connection is determined in the thing itself.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 145)

The fact that reality is not given to man directly, but initially only in the form of two unreal halves, which he must actively connect, establishes the possibility of his freedom.

Anthroposophy as a path to self-knowledge

In a lecture given in Berlin on 3 February 1913 on the occasion of the first general meeting of the Anthroposophical Society, Rudolf Steiner characterised the essence of anthroposophy as a path to human self-knowledge appropriate to the demands of the present age of the consciousness soul.

„People will learn how deeply grounded in the total being of the human being is what we present through our Anthroposophy. What we take up through Anthroposophy is the essence of ourselves, which first floated up to man as Sophia, as Philosophia, in order to show itself like a heavenly Goddess, to whom he could come into a personal relationship, which lived. He will bring this out of himself again, will recognise in her the mirror image of his being, will place it before him as the result of true self-knowledge in Anthroposophy. We can wait calmly until the world will want to test how deeply founded, down to the last detail, is what we have to say. For that is the essence of Anthroposophy, that its own essence consists in that which is the essence of man. And this is the essence of its effectiveness: that the human being receives what he himself is in Theosophy or Anthroposophy and must place it before him, because he must practise self-knowledge.“ (Lit.: R. Steiner: The Essence of Anthroposophy, February 3, 1913, Berlin, p. 24f)

The essence of anthroposophy lies in life and not in form

Anthroposophy is only properly understood when it is seen in its living development. It does not strive to give "absolute truths" which are to be valid for all times, but reckons that the spirit of humanity is in constant development and that consequently these truths will have to be given again in quite a different form for future ages.

„There are numerous paths to Anthroposophy. One should get beyond being offended by the nature of individual people who want to be anthroposophists and should try to really experience anthroposophy. At the present time, anthroposophy is actually the only one that does not dogmatise, and that is not eager to present something in a very definite way, but that strives to look at something from different sides. The main thing in anthroposophy is life and not form. If one wants to be understood, one is compelled to use forms that are common at present.“ (Lit.:GA 217a, p. 44)

„Human opinions, especially when they want to be world-view opinions, only feel satisfied when they can say to themselves, in a certain sense and within certain limits at least: I have thoughts that are valid; they are absolutely valid in themselves; I have found them or science or religion or something else has found them; but they are valid, they are absolutely valid in themselves. - That is not the case with anthroposophy. Anthroposophy knows that thoughts must be born in every time out of what in a deeper sense may be called the spirit of the time. And the spirit of humanity is in continual development. So that what appears as an opinion about the world in one age must have a different form from what appears in such a way in another age. By coming before the world today, Anthroposophy knows that after centuries what it says today will have to be said in quite a different form for quite different human needs and quite different human interests, that it cannot strive for 'absolute truths', but that it is in living development.“ (Lit.:GA 72, p. 65)

„This anthroposophical world-view comes about in the most individual way and is at the same time the most unindividual thing that can be thought of. It can only come about in the most individual way by the secrets of the universe revealing themselves in a human soul, by the great spiritual beings of the world flowing into it. In human individuality the content of the world must be experienced in the most individual way, but at the same time it must be experienced with a character of complete impersonality. He who wants to experience the true character of the mysteries of the world must stand entirely on that point of view from which he says to himself: He who still respects his own opinion cannot arrive at the truth. - This is the peculiarity of anthroposophical truth, that the observer must have no opinion of his own, no preference for this or that theory, that he must by no means, through his special individual peculiarity, love this or that view more than another. As long as he stands on this standpoint, it is impossible for the true secrets of the world to reveal themselves to him. He must recognise quite individually; but his individuality must have developed so far that it no longer has anything of the personal, hence also of what is individually sympathetic and antipathetic to him. This must be taken strictly and seriously. Whoever still has any predilection for these or those concepts and views, whoever through his education, through his temperament, can incline to this or that, will never recognise the objective truth.“ (Lit.:GA 117, p. 155f)

Objective truth, through which man can rise into the spiritual worlds, must never be founded on personal authority, but only on individual insight.

„It must be an ideal of men to penetrate and recognise objective truth, to raise themselves through objective truth into the spiritual worlds. An obstacle would be put in the way of this if one wanted to base any truth, as it cannot be in the future, unilaterally on personal authority!“ (Lit.:GA 133, p. 164)

„People appear who proclaim the Anthroposophical with right, with full right, with enthusiasm. But they emphasise that in proclaiming it they are giving a teaching which is not at first accessible to their experience, which they represent as a teaching accessible only to the spiritual researcher as such. This brings about a conflict with the spiritual attitude of today's civilisation. Today's civilisation reproaches man if he, to a certain extent, represents a world view on the basis of some kind of authority. This reproach would fall away if it were thoroughly understood, here and there, that the results of spiritual research, as they are meant in Anthroposophy, must indeed be found by methods which the individual must acquire in various ways, but that these results, once they are there, can actually be seen by the really unbiased human mind.“ (Lit.:GA 257, p. 50f)

Anthroposophy should not be accepted in good faith, but through individual understanding. Rudolf Steiner, however, was under no illusion that this still happens very rarely and that anthroposophy is often only understood with a kind of religious feeling.

„Anthroposophy is taught, lectured, written in books; and I have the conviction, which I believe to be well founded, that in the way it is demanded by the questioners here, by individual questioners at least, that Anthroposophy is a knowledge for the individual human being - that such a knowledge, such an understanding is not yet present for most, for very many at least, indeed for the majority of those who today are quite intensively interested in Anthroposophy. There are very many people today who, on the basis of what they have heard, accept Anthroposophy in good faith. But why do they do so? Why are there such people in large numbers who accept Anthroposophy in good faith? You see, among them most are religious natures of a quite definite nature, and without actually claiming to understand things right down to the bottom, they follow Anthroposophy because they sense a certain religious ductus in the whole conduct, I would say, of Anthroposophical affairs. It is precisely a kind of religious feeling, a religious sensibility, which today brings to Anthroposophy many of the people who are not able to see through Anthroposophy as the botanist sees through botany; and that is what is actually demanded here.“ (Lit.:GA 343a, p. 92f)

Rudolf Steiner did not want anthroposophy to be understood as a closed doctrinal system; in order to point to its constantly changing nature, which is far away from any dogmatism, he would have preferred to give it a new name every week:

„And so it is that anthroposophy, at the moment when it wants to intervene in life, wants to be only generally human, wants to refrain from any dogmatism, wants in turn to take hold of life itself, wants to represent it [...]. And this difference between the anthroposophical movement and other movements should be made clear to the world: its comprehensiveness, its impartiality, its lack of prejudice, its freedom from dogma: that it merely wants to be a method of experimenting with the generally human and the general phenomena of the world [...].

And so one would actually like anthroposophy to have a different name every week, so that people could not get used to all that follows from a name.“ (Lit.:GA 259, p. 173f)

Truth, as a free creation of the human spirit (Lit.:GA 3, p. 11f), must be founded again and again in the untiring individual striving for truthfulness:

„Many things may have been gathered here about occult things. In fifty years' time one will perhaps have investigated these or those points more closely, will be able to say this or that differently. And if not a stone were to be left behind of what has been carried out here as content, but that one thing would remain, I would like: that a theosophical-occult movement has been inaugurated here and sharply adhered to, which wants to be founded solely on truthfulness and truth! And when, even in fifty years' time, one will say: Everything they have said must be corrected; but they wanted to be true and let nothing happen but what can be true, - then my ideal would also have been achieved. Truthfulness and truth, that they can exist even with an occultist movement, that should one day, and even if so many storms will rise against it, be striven for with our movement in the world - I do not want to be proud and say "shown" - but striven for!“ (Lit.:GA 133, p. 168)

Thus, also with regard to anthroposophy, the words directed against any dogmatics, spoken by the spiritual teacher Benedictus in the 6th image of the second mystery drama "The Soul's Probation", apply:

You can base yourself on those words,
Which I spoke while on earth.
They do not suspect that these words
Can only generate themselves while alive,
If they are developed in the right sense
By those who are followers of my work.

As with every other science, errors are also possible in anthroposophical spiritual science, which require later correction; however, the danger here is not as great as in research based only on external facts.

„In order to prevent a possible error, it should be said right away that spiritual perception is not infallible. Even this view can be mistaken, can see inaccurately, obliquely, wrongly. In this field, too, no man is free from error, no matter how high he may be. That is why one should not be offended if communications that come from such spiritual sources do not always agree completely. But the reliability of observation is far greater here than in the outer world of the senses.“ (Lit.:GA 11, p. 23)

Rudolf Steiner has also repeatedly pointed out that although the results of spiritual research can only be found through spiritual observation, they can very well be understood with common sense and proper factual logic and can also be checked for their truth content.

„It is not necessary that one should blindly believe the spiritual researcher. Certainly, spiritual research is necessary for the discovery of such things as I have presented in "The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind". But if this is presented, then the spiritual researcher must quite openly admit to the one who then examines the facts which the spiritual researcher wants to explain from what he calls the higher beings, who sees the external facts, who can collect everything that is at all accessible to him, he must admit to him: You can and may properly rap my knuckles if you find anything that contradicts the external sequences of facts which must occur if my view were correct.“ (Lit.:GA 324, p. 132)

„The supersensible facts can only be investigated through supersensible perception; but once they have been investigated and communicated by the science of the supersensible, they can be seen through ordinary thinking, if this only really wants to be unbiased [...]. Now, if someone looks at what he has before him at present in mere sensual perception, and then takes into himself what supersensible knowledge says about how this present has developed since the distant past, he can say to himself with truly unbiased thinking: First, what this knowledge reports is absolutely logical; second, I can see that things have become as they just appear to me, if I assume that this is correct, what is communicated by supersensible research. By "logical" in this connection is not meant, of course, that within any representation of supersensible research there could not be errors in a logical respect. Here, too, we shall speak of the "logical" only as one speaks of it in the ordinary life of the physical world. Just as logical representation is regarded as a requirement, so it is also in supersensible research. It may even happen that a researcher who is able to perceive in supersensible spheres indulges in errors of logical representation, and that such a researcher can then be improved by one who does not perceive supersensibly at all, but who has the faculty of sound thought.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 142f)

„It is incorrect when from this or that side it is said again and again: Yes, how am I to see that what this or that person puts forward as a science of initiation is right, if I cannot see into the spiritual world myself. - It is incorrect. Common sense, which is not misguided by the erroneous natural or social ideas of today, can decide for itself whether there is any truth in what anyone says. Some one speaks of spiritual worlds: one has only to take everything together, the manner in which it is spoken, the seriousness with which things are taken, the logic which is unfolded, and so on, and then one will be able to form a judgement as to whether what is brought as news of the spiritual world is charlatanism or whether it has a foundation. This can be decided by anyone, and there is no obstacle in anyone's way to making fruitful in natural and social thought what is brought out of the source of spiritual life by those who are entitled to speak of the principle of initiation.“ (Lit.:GA 194, p. 198f)

The Archai as Impulsators of Modern Spiritual Science

Until about the 4th century AD, the Exusiai, the Spirits of Form, referred to in Genesis as the Elohim, were the bearers of cosmic intelligence. Then this task passed to the Archai, the Spirits of Personality. This process of handing over began in pre-Christian times and was not completed until the 14th century. As a result, man's access to the world of thought also became different. Whereas in former times thoughts were received from the outside like sensory perceptions, they now appeared more and more within and thus increasingly came into the possession of the personality. (Lit.:GA 222, p. 46ff) Inhibiting this is the influence of retarded Spirits of Form (Lit.:GA 222, p. 60ff), but also, through the ever expanding machine world, Ahrimanic Spirits of Darkness (Lit.:GA 186, p. 274ff).

As the new bearers of cosmic intelligence, the Archai very quickly ascend themselves into the hierarchy of the Spirits of Form. This is a significant transition, for they thereby ascend at the same time from the third to the second hierarchy and thereby become creative beings. As such they are the impulsors of anthroposophical spiritual science.

„You will remember, as I have been saying these days, that one of the most important, the most essential things in the knowledge of the present time is that humanity is, as it were, on the threshold of a new revelation. It is that revelation which is to take place, and in a certain sense is already taking place, through the spirits of personality, who, if one wishes to express it in this way, ascend to the dignity of creators, whereas we have hitherto only been able to address as creators in the course of the world of humanity those spirits which in the Bible are called the Elohim, whom we call the spirits of form. Something creative, therefore, will emerge within that which man can notice in pursuing the outer world.“ (Lit.:GA 187, p. 164f)

„"If we take into account all that we can consider spiritually, we can call the Spirits of Form creative spirits. To them, above all, man owes his existence as he is as an earthling. Until our age, however, the spirits of personality were not creative spirits. They were spirits who ordered various affairs from the spiritual realm. You can read about the activity of these spirits of personality in my "Occult Science". But the time is beginning when they must first really intervene in the creative aspect of human development. Later they will also have to intervene in the creative work of the other kingdoms. Development is taking place in the Hierarchy. The Spirits of Personality ascend to creative activity. This points to an important secret in the development of humanity. Whoever does not seek to comprehend the development of humanity in a superficial view of nature, as is common today, but whoever looks at it inwardly with spiritual-scientific impulses, knows that since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean period, which is now often discussed from various points of view, something has begun to die in man. With this dying, I would like to say, with this paralysis of something in our nature, with this is basically connected our whole progress in the soul and spirit.

We are no longer living human beings in the same sense, if I want to put it bluntly, as people were centuries or even millennia ago. They had stronger vitality in them, stronger power in them, power that emanated from the mere physical. Man only knows death when it occurs in the radical form of the cessation of earthly life. But you know from the spiritual-scientific observations that something is constantly dying within us. And if something did not continually die, we would have no consciousness. Consciousness is connected precisely with the dying of something in us. But this dying, this process of dying, is stronger now than it was, for example, in the first Christian century or even in the pre-Christian centuries. That which in man came from the creative spirits as Spirits of Form is beginning, if I may say so, to die strongly, and new creative things must be added to human nature, creative things which must first proceed from the spiritual. It is indeed the case that, from our age onwards, creative forces flow out of the spirit to the human being who does not resist them. Spiritual science seeks to understand these creative forces. It seeks to grasp in thought and sight that which penetrates from worlds which have not hitherto allowed their impulses to flow into the evolution of mankind, that which enters as new spirituality into the evolution of time. And that is actually what spiritual science is in the really modern sense. So it does not appear like any other programme, scientific or otherwise, but it appears, as it were, because the heavens send new revelations to men, and because these new revelations are to be understood.

Anyone who does not understand the task of anthroposophically oriented spiritual science in this sense does not understand it at all. For this anthroposophically oriented spiritual science would remain silent if it did not have to proclaim something new, something that is only just dawning, if I may use the expression, something that is revealing itself to humanity from the heavens.

And what reveals itself through the veil of appearances is the expression of a new creative principle, which is provided by the Spirits of Personality. It is connected with this that this very age of ours, of which we have said that it began with the fifteenth century after Christ, has as its characteristic feature the expression of the impulses of personality. The personality wants, if I may use the trivial expression, to stand on its own feet, and will want to do so more and more into the third millennium. Then other impulses will arise after the personality has been completed.“ (Lit.:GA 186, p. 272f)

This effect of the Archai, who have risen to become creative beings, is already revealed in pure thinking, which draws from the world of ideas common to all human beings, as Rudolf Steiner has already described it in his "Philosophy of Freedom". There it is said:

„Every human being embraces with his thinking only a part of the entire world of ideas, and in this respect individuals also differ in the actual content of their thinking. But these contents are in a self-contained whole that encompasses the thinking contents of all human beings. The common primordial being that permeates all human beings is thus grasped by the human being in his thinking. Life in reality, filled with the content of thought, is at the same time life in God.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 250)

That "the common primordial being that permeates all human beings" does indeed point to the Archai is evident from Rudolf Steiner's answer to a question by Walter Johannes Stein on this matter:

„I was once allowed to ask Rudolf Steiner about this being, and he gave me the answer: "That is a kind of group soul of humanity, that is the oldest of the Archai, which is just on the way to becoming a Spirit of Form.“ (Lit.: Thomas Meyer (ed.): Walter Johannes Stein - Rudolf Steiner. Dokumentation eines wegweisenden Zusammenwirkens, p. 284)

Independent further thinking of anthroposophy

Rudolf Steiner left behind an extensive corpus of work (→ Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works) which is the indispensable foundation of anthroposophy. But this cannot, of course, be exhausted by constantly quoting and reciting this work. Anthroposophy only becomes fruitful where it is thought out independently. Rudolf Steiner emphatically pointed this out. The basis for this can be formed in particular by Rudolf Steiner's basic writings, especially "Theosophy", "Occult Science" and "How does one attain knowledge of the higher worlds?" and also the four Mystery Dramas, which very concretely invite to be further processed independently in active comprehension.

„Yes, the most ideal thing would be if the study of such a book as "Theosophy" were so eagerly pursued that many a reader would himself come from such hints as are given there to something like what has now been set forth. There is a great deal in these books, and one could certainly come to it only by reading for oneself, if one reads with the heart, with the whole inner spiritual experience. But books written in the field of spiritual science are not usually read with the attention they require. They really are not, for otherwise, after "Theosophy" and "How to attain knowledge of the higher worlds" and perhaps also "Occult Science in Outline" had been written, all the cycles could have been written or delivered by someone other than myself. Basically everything is written in these books, one just does not usually believe it. And how much could be written if everything contained in the four Mystery Dramas were extracted! I am not saying this in order to make a name for myself - I have already spoken enough about the humility of the occultist, the spiritual researcher - but I am saying it in order to incite one to really read these writings, which had to be given in our time and in which one personally has as little merit as possible.“ (Lit.:GA 156, p. 77)

Anthroposophy and life practice

Anthroposophical spiritual science was not conceived by Rudolf Steiner as a theoretical doctrinal structure, but aims to become fruitful in the immediate practice of life. Steiner formulated the following motto for this purpose:

„A motto must take hold of people out of a spiritual-scientific attitude, otherwise no progress will be possible in our hopeless times. And this motto must be:

Seek the really practical material life,
But seek it in such a way that it does not stupefy you
   about the spirit that is active in it.
Seek the spirit,
but do not seek it in super-sensible lust,
   out of supersensible egoism,
but seek it,
Because you want to apply it selflessly in practical life,
   in the material world.

Apply the old principle:
"Spirit is never without matter, matter is never without
   without spirit" in such a way that you say:
We want to do everything material in the light of the spirit,
And we want to seek the light of the spirit in this way,
so that it will give us warmth for our practical actions.

The spirit that is led by us into matter,
Matter, which is worked by us to its revelation,
By which it expels the spirit from itself;
Matter, which receives from us the revelation of the spirit,
The spirit which is driven by us to matter,
These form that living being
which can bring humanity to real progress,
That progress which the best of the best...
   in the deepest recesses of the
   present souls can only long for.

“ (Lit.:GA 297, p. 116f)

Anthroposophy has indeed proved fruitful in many areas of life (→ areas).

Development and meaning of the term anthroposophy


The term to which the word "anthroposophy" refers was not coined by Rudolf Steiner, but can be traced back to early modern times. As early as in an anonymous book entitled Arbatel de magia veterum, summum sapientiae studium (1575), attributed to the esotericist and Neoplatonist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Anthroposophy (Anthroposophiam "Human Wisdom"), like Theosophy, is attributed to the "science of good" and translated as "knowledge of nature and natural things" or "prudence in human affairs".

In 1650, the Welsh clergyman, philosopher and alchemist Thomas Vaughn (1622-1666) published the mystical-magical work "Anthroposophia Theomagica Or a Discourse of the Nature of Man and His State After Death" under the pseudonym "Eugenius Philalethes"[5][6].

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Swiss physician and philosopher Ignaz Paul Vitalis Troxler (1780-1866) adopted the term "anthroposophy" and assigned it to biosophy (Elemente der Biosophie, 1806). In the sense of the precursors of the philosophy of life, above all the natural philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, under whom Troxler had studied, biosophy was to mean "knowledge of nature through self-knowledge". Troxler called the knowledge of human nature anthroposophy. According to him, philosophy - and all philosophy is knowledge of nature - must become anthroposophy. This is presented as an "objectified anthropology", which should start from the "original human being". In human nature, God and the world unite in a mystical process.

Immanuel Hermann Fichte, the son of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, also used the term in 1856 in "Anthropologie - Die Lehre der menschlichen Seele" (Anthropology - The Doctrine of the Human Soul) and used it to describe a "thorough self-knowledge of man" that lies "only in the exhaustive recognition of the spirit". However, the "human spirit" could not know itself in a truly thorough or fathomable way without thereby becoming aware of the "presence or probation of the divine spirit in it".

The philosopher of religion Gideon Spicker (1872-1920), who aspired to a "religion in philosophical form on a scientific basis" and regarded the conflict between faith and knowledge, between religion and natural science as the basic problem of his life and thought, formulated the programme of anthroposophy, also in terms of "highest self-knowledge": "If, however, science is concerned with the knowledge of things, while philosophy is concerned in the last instance with the knowledge of this knowledge, then the real study of man is man himself, and the highest aim of philosophy is self-knowledge or anthroposophy." (Die Philosophie des Grafen von Shaftesbury, 1872). Spicker's ideal embraced in religion the unity of God and world as self-responsible knowledge using reason and experience.

The Austrian philosopher and Herbartian Robert Zimmermann (1824-98), creator of the "Philosophical Propaedeutics", chose the term "Anthroposophy" in 1882 as the title of a pamphlet that sought to describe a system of ideal worldview on a realistic basis ("Anthroposophie im Umriß. Entwurf eines Systems idealer Weltsicht auf realistischer Grundlage", 1882). Zimmermann, by whom Steiner listened to philosophy lectures, wanted his system to go beyond the "barriers and contradictions inherent in the common standpoint of experience" and establish a "philosophy of human knowledge" which, as a science, starts from experience but, where logical thinking requires it, reaches beyond it.

Steiner chose the term anthroposophy for the title of lectures in Berlin as early as 1902.[7] In a letter to Wilhelm von Hübbe-Schleiden dated 16 September 1902 he writes:

„In addition, I shall still give a continuing course somewhere: "Anthroposophy or the Connection of Morality, Religion and Science" In the Bruno League I also hope to give a lecture on "Bruno's Monism and Anthroposophy"[8]. That is only so provisionally projected.“ (Lit.:GA 169, p. 80f)

In 1916 Steiner described Zimmermann's impetus:

„When it came to giving our cause a name a number of years ago, I fell upon one that had become dear to me, because a philosophy professor whose lectures I had heard in my youth, Robert Zimmermann, called his main work 'Anthroposophy'. That was in the eighties of the 19th century. Incidentally, the name anthroposophy goes back further in literature. It was already used in the 18th century, and even earlier. So the name is old; we use it for something new. For us the name should not mean "knowledge of the human being". That is the express intention of those who gave the name. Our science itself leads us to the conviction that within the sense-man lives a spiritual man, an inner man, a second man, as it were. While that which the human being can know about the world through his senses and through the intellect that adheres to the observation of the senses can be called "anthropology", that which the inner human being, the spiritual man, can know should be called "anthroposophy".

Anthroposophy, then, is the knowledge of the spiritual man; and this knowledge does not extend merely over the human being, but it is a knowledge of all that in the spiritual world the spiritual man can perceive in the same way as the sense man perceives the sensuous in the world. Because this other human being, this inner human being, is the spiritual man, one can also call that which he attains as knowledge "spiritual science". And the name spiritual science is even less new than the name anthroposophy.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 176f)

„Basically, anthroposophy should be nothing other than that Sophia, that is, that content of consciousness, that inner experience in the human soul that makes the human being a full human being. The correct interpretation of the word anthroposophy is not "wisdom of man", but "consciousness of his humanity"; that is to say, the conversion of will, the experience of knowledge, the co-experience of the fate of time should aim at giving the soul a direction of consciousness, a Sophia.“ (Lit.:GA 257, p. 76)

„In a certain sense, the salvation and understanding of the event of Golgotha is closely connected with the anthroposophical deepening of humanity, with a new real knowledge of the nature of the human being. Hence the name anthroposophy, which means: wisdom that arises when the human being finds himself in his higher self. One cannot actually find a more concise name than "Anthroposophy" if one wishes to designate that knowledge which is not concerned with man, such as ordinary history, such as anthropology or the like.“ (Lit.:GA 198, p. 244)

Anthropology, Theosophy and Anthroposophy

While anthropology strives to recognise the sensuous human being through predominantly scientific methods, theosophy focuses its gaze on the purely spiritual human being who can only be experienced supersensually. Anthroposophy tries to bridge the gap that opens up between these two opposing points of view.

„The first point of view that comes into consideration in such a relationship is that of anthropology. This science collects what results from sensuous observation about man and seeks to obtain information about his nature from the results of its observation [...].

Anthropology at present generally keeps within the limits which are now regarded as those of the methods of natural science. An enormous amount of factual material has been gathered by it. In spite of the different ways of conceiving this material, there is something in it which can have the most beneficial effect on the knowledge of the human being. And this material is constantly increasing. It is in accordance with the views of the present day to place great hopes on what can be gained from this side in the way of elucidation of the riddles of man. And it is quite natural that many consider the point of view of anthropology to be just as certain as they must regard the next one, which is to be characterised here, as doubtful.

This other point of view is that of theosophy [...] Theosophy assumes that man is first and foremost a spiritual being. And it seeks to recognise him as such. It has in view that the human soul not only shows and processes sensuous things and processes as in a mirror, but that it is able to lead a life of its own, which receives its impulses and its content from a side that can be called spiritual. It refers to the fact that man can penetrate into a spiritual realm just as he penetrates into a sensuous one. In the latter, man's knowledge expands by directing his senses to more and more things and processes, and on the basis of these he forms his ideas [...].

The direct experience of spiritual knowledge requires complicated soul paths and soul procedures; the possession of such knowledge is necessary for every soul that wants to have a full consciousness of its humanity. And without such consciousness, human life is no longer possible from a certain point of existence.

Even if Theosophy is able to supply knowledge which satisfies the most important needs of the human soul, and which can be recognised by the natural sense of truth and sound logic, there will always remain a certain gulf between it and anthropology. The following will always be possible. One will be able to point out the results of Theosophy on the spiritual nature of man, and then be able to point out how Anthropology confirms all that Theosophy says. But it will be a long way from one field of knowledge to the other.

But it is possible to fill the gap. In a certain respect, this is to be done here by sketching an anthroposophy. If anthropology can be compared to the observations of a wanderer who goes from place to place, from house to house, in the plain, in order to gain an idea of the essence of a stretch of country; if theosophy is like the overview which one gains of the same stretch of country from the summit of a hill, anthroposophy is to be compared to the view which one can have from the slope of the hill, where the individual is still before one's eyes, but the manifold already begins to unite into a whole. Anthroposophy will look at the human being as he stands before physical observation. But it will cultivate the observation in such a way that from the physical fact the hint of a spiritual background is sought. Anthroposophy can thus lead from anthropology into theosophy [...].

It must then be followed by psychosophy, which looks at the soul, and pneumatosophy, which deals with the spirit. Anthroposophy then flows into theosophy itself.“ (Lit.:GA 45, p. 14ff)

The History of Anthroposophy

During Rudolf Steiner's lifetime

Rudolf Steiner

In his autobiography Rudolf Steiner himself described a "profound change" in his spiritual experience in the years before the turn of the century, describing it as a "time of testing" with "hard battles of the soul", which particularly affected his relationship to Christianity. (Lit.:GA 28, p. 365)

In the autumn of 1900, the philosopher and Nietzsche researcher Rudolf Steiner was asked to give a lecture on Friedrich Nietzsche at the Theosophical Library of Count von Brockdorff in Berlin. This lecture was so well received that shortly afterwards Steiner was engaged to give weekly lectures on Christian mysticism for six months. Another cycle of lectures followed, and in December 1901 Brockdorff and his wife asked Steiner to take over the leadership of the theosophical work in Germany, which they had previously held. This then happened officially in October 1902 at the founding of the German Section of the Theosophical Society (Adyar-TG).

„As a result of these lectures I was invited to join the "Theosophical Society". I complied with this invitation with the intention of never representing anything other than the content of what had arisen to me as the anthroposophical world-view. My view was always that I should lecture before all people who wished to hear me, no matter what the party name under which they had united to form any group, or whether they came to my lectures without any such precondition.“ (Lit.:GA 259, p. 83)

Steiner's activity within the Theosophical Society, consisted mainly in giving lectures, publishing his own theosophical journal (Lucifer, later Lucifer-Gnosis) and writing books. The organisational work was done by Marie von Sivers, later Steiner's second wife. In addition to lectures for members of the TG, Steiner also gave numerous public lectures. In these he referred, among other things, to Central European (German-speaking) spiritual life. Under Steiner's leadership, the number of TG members in Germany grew rapidly: at the first general assembly in 1903, there were only 130 members, but by 1912 there were already 2489.[7] At that time, the TG was represented by a "branch" in 54 German cities.

Due to increasing differences with the president of the international Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, which mainly concerned the stylisation of the young Jiddu Krishnamurti as a kind of messiah by Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater, there was a break with the Theosophical Society in the spring of 1913. The Anthroposophical Society had already been founded in Cologne at the end of 1912, which was now joined by most of the Theosophists living in Germany and which soon had a presence in other countries as well.

In autumn 1913 work began on the first Goetheanum in Dornach near Basel (Switzerland), which was to serve as a venue and centre for the Society, after planning permission for a building originally planned in Munich had been refused several times. Parallel to this, a wide range of activities took place in the social, cultural and societal spheres. For example, Emil Molt, general director of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, founded the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart in 1919 for the children of his workers and employees, which Steiner himself took over as director. In 1921 the pharmaceutical company Weleda AG was founded to produce and distribute anthroposophic and homeopathic medicines. In 1922 a group of predominantly theology students, through Rudolf Steiner's private help (outside the anthroposophical movement) founded the Christian Community, a movement for religious renewal which recognises anthroposophy.

At the same time opponents formed. On New Year's Eve 1922/23 the first Goetheanum, built of wood, burned to its foundations, presumably set on fire by unknown persons. Steiner then designed a second, larger Goetheanum made of concrete, which was not completed until 1928. At the same time he endeavoured to reorganise the Anthroposophical Society, in whose leadership he had not been involved until then. When these efforts did not bring the desired success, he founded the General Anthroposophical Society at Christmas 1923 in Dornach without reference to the previously existing Anthroposophical Society, whose chair he now took over himself. At the same time he founded the long-planned School of Spiritual Science and, as its only lecturer for this time, also took over its direction. Already during the founding celebrations, however, Steiner suffered an illness, presumably caused by a poison attack[8], from which he was not to recover. Thus, of the three planned "classes" of the School of Spiritual Science, only the first, elementary one came into being. In the course of 1924, Steiner had to increasingly limit his lecturing activities. He had to break off his last lecture on 28 September 1924 after a short time. Until two days before his death on 30 March 1925, he was still working in his sickbed on various publications, the last of which was a book on the foundation of anthroposophical medicine written together with his attending physician Ita Wegman.

The crisis after Steiner's death

In the event of his death, Rudolf Steiner had not appointed a successor with regard to the Anthroposophical Society and the School. The five-member executive committee of the Society, which Steiner had appointed just over a year earlier, was then at a loss and soon became divided[9]. In particular, no agreement could be reached on whether Steiner's initiatives could be continued or, more realistically, only what was already in place could be administered. At the end of 1925 Albert Steffen was elected chairman of an Anthroposophical Society which had emerged in 1925 from the Bauverein of the Goetheanum. At that time, the Anthroposophical Society founded by Rudolf Steiner had already ceased to exist. On the initiative of Ita Wegman, it was soon decided, against Rudolf Steiner's precautions, to allow the School to continue to exist formally. However, the Dornach Executive Committee increasingly lost importance, and in several countries new groups split off from the Anthroposophical Society, sometimes with the participation of individual executive committee members. In 1935, therefore, at the instigation of Albert Steffen, the General Assembly decided to expel from the Society those who had been involved in this, including the Executive Council members Ita Wegman and Elisabeth Vreede and other leading anthroposophists in Germany, Holland and England.

Parallel to this disintegration of the Anthroposophical Society, however, some of the cultural impulses initiated by Steiner continued to develop, such as the Waldorf movement through the founding of new schools and Steiner's artistic initiatives, which were continued under Marie Steiner's leadership.

At the time of Nazism

It was claimed that anthroposophists had "pushed their followers deep into Nazi circles".[10] The Nazis stuck to their rejection of anthroposophy, even though they noted some similarities. This is at least what emerges from an expert report that the Nazi pedagogue Alfred Baeumler had prepared on behalf of the Amt Rosenberg. The report stated: "The study of man which underlies the method of the Waldorf schools contains profound and correct insights which Rudolf Steiner owes largely to his extremely fruitful study of Goethe's scientific writings. The National Socialist study of man can only be designed from the race."[11]

After 1945

After the war, anthroposophical activities, which had been banned in Nazi Germany, were soon resumed in Germany and Austria as well. However, the conflict over the rights to Rudolf Steiner's work continued to come to a head. After Marie Steiner's death in 1948, the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverein (estate association) founded by her (today: Rudolf Steiner Verlag) considered itself the sole owner of these rights. This led to a legal dispute with the Anthroposophical Society, which ended in 1952 with a victory for the Nachlassverein. The losing party then banned all of Rudolf Steiner's works from the bookshop at the Goetheanum, a practice that continued until 1968. The role of Dornach as the international centre of the Anthroposophical Society was fully restored when the national societies in Holland and England, which had split off in 1935, rejoined in 1960 and 1963 respectively.

The strong expansion of Waldorf schools (there are currently 1271 Rudolf Steiner schools in 70 countries worldwide and 1915 Waldorf kindergartens in 59 countries (as of May 2021)[12]), anthroposophic medicine and biodynamic agriculture (Demeter), also inspired by Rudolf Steiner, was largely unaffected by these difficulties. In 1960 a bank with anthroposophical aims was also founded in Bochum (GLS Bank). In 1969 the anthroposophical community hospital Herdecke was founded as the first institution of its kind in Germany. The Witten/Herdecke University, Germany's oldest private university, founded in 1983, also has predominantly anthroposophical founders (Gerhard Kienle and Konrad Schily). At present, according to the Anthroposophical Society, more than 10,000 anthroposophical institutions are active in 103 countries worldwide.


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust. Der Tragödie zweiter Teil, V. Akt
  2. Rudolf Steiner: Grundlinien einer Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung. 8. Auflage. Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach 2002
  3. Rudolf Steiner: Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit - Goethe und die Krisis des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach, 1984, p. 136
  4. Rudolf Steiner: Die Theosophie des Rosenkreuzers, GA 99 (1985)
  7. Christoph Lindenberg: Rudolf Steiner - eine Chronik (1988), pp. 211 and 329f.
  8. Lidia Gentilli Baratto: Eine Erinnerung an Marie Steiner, Selbstverlag 1947, p. 20f
  9. Bodo von Plato: Zur Entwicklung der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft. Ein historischer Überblick, 1986
  10. [[w:Erich Ludendorff|]] had asserted this in his memoirs: "Since anthroposophy had pushed its adherents deep into National Socialist circles, it was particularly dangerous. To what extent this was the case, I only became fully aware after the seizure of power."
    Erich Ludendorff: Vom Feldherrn zum Weltrevolutionär und Wegbereiter Deutscher Volksschöpfung. Band III. Meine Lebenserinnerungen von 1933 bis 1937, 1955. p. 67 ff. Quoted from: Arfst Wagner: Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Teil II. In: Flensburger Hefte. Sonderheft 8: „Anthroposophen in der Zeit des deutschen Faschismus – Zur Verschwörungsthese“, 1991. p. 50-94, here pp. 53 to 55.
  11. Quoted from Walter Kugler: Feindbild Steiner, 2001, p. 29f.
  12. Waldorf World List