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Logo of Transhumanism, short: H+ or h+
Humani Victus Instrumenta: Ars Coquinaria, by an unknown Italien engraver (c. 1570)
The Shadow robot hand system
Technicians prepare a body for cryopreservation (1985)

Transhumanism[1] (from Latintrans "beyond" and humanus "human"), in short H+ or h+, which is predominantly widespread in the Anglo-Saxon world, comprises various heterogeneous philosophical-ideological currents that have in common that they want to improve and expand the physical and/or mental abilities of humans by means of state-of-the-art technology, i.e. through technological human enhancement[2]. It continues the humanist ideal of self-education with other, namely technical means. Ultimately, it is about the technological transformation of man into a posthuman being, as it were the development of a humanity 2.0 consisting of transhumans[3]. Transhumanism is therefore often regarded as a special form of posthumanism[4]. In principle, however, transhumanism and posthumanism differ in that the former wants to improve humans indefinitely, while the latter wants to overcome them altogether.

Basic ideas

The basic idea of transhumanism was formulated by the British biologist, philosopher and eugenicist Julian Huxley (1887-1975) in the eponymous chapter of his 1957 book New Bottles for New Wine:

„The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself — not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.“

Julian Huxley: 1957, p. 17

In the manifesto of the "2045" Strategic Social Initiative, written by Russian transhumanists, the goals of transhumanism are outlined as follows:

„We believe that before 2045 an artificial body will be created that will not only surpass the existing body in terms of functionality, but will achieve perfection of form and be no less attractive than the human body. People will make independent decisions about the extension of their lives and the possibilities for personal development in a new body after the resources of the biological body have been exhausted.“

Manifesto 2045[5]

Of particular interest to transhumanists are scientific, technical and medical fields such as biotechnology, especially genetic engineering, nanotechnology (nanomachines, nanobots), computer and information technology, artificial intelligence up to and including a future superintelligence, brain-computer interfaces, robotics, prosthetics, cyborgs, regenerative medicine, cryonics, etc.

Historical background

The origins of the unconditional optimism for progress that unites all transhumanists are seen above all in Renaissance humanism and in the epoch of the Enlightenment and the associated ethical obligation that man or humanity should consciously take its further development into its own hands. Unlike in classical humanism, however, this goal is not to be achieved by means of education and upbringing or even by means of spiritual training, but by exploiting the technical possibilities that are already available or will be available very soon[6][7]. The Darwinian theory of evolution and the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill[8] form the further idealistic background. The extent to which Friedrich Nietzsche's "superman" also plays a role, as emphasised in particular by Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, is a matter of debate.

In the early 1980s, California with its specific intellectual and technological potential, and in particular the University of California and Silicon Valley, became the centres of transhumanism.


Together with Tom Bell (pseudonym: T. O. Morrow), the futurologist Max More founded extropianism, which he himself considers to be the first philosophically thought-out direction of transhumanism, and the Extropy Institute[9], which was established according to its principles. Extropianism is based on the principles of extropy. This is a measure of the intelligence, information content, available energy, longevity, vitality, diversity, complexity and growth capacity of a system. The term is not precisely defined, but has a more metaphorical meaning, deliberately chosen as a contrast to entropy, which leads humans to death and ultimately the world to decay[10]. It stands for an unlimited capacity for human development based on technology.

Max More characterises transhumanism as follows:

„Transhumanism is a class of philosophies that seek to guide us towards a posthuman condition. Transhumanism shares many elements of humanism, including a respect for reason and science, a commitment to progress, and a valuing of human (or transhuman) existence in this life rather than in some supernatural "afterlife". Transhumanism differs from humanism in recognizing and anticipating the radical alterations in the nature and possibilities of our lives resulting from various sciences and technologies such as neuroscience and neuropharmacology, life extension, nanotechnology, artificial ultraintelligence, and space habitation, combined with a rational philosophy and value system.“

Max More: Transhumanism - Toward a Futurist Philosophy (2005)[11]

Risks, Opportunities and Necessities from the Perspective of Spiritual Science

An essential goal of transhumanism is the practically unlimited prolongation of life up to the de facto immortality of the physical or at least the mental earthly personality. Until this goal is realisable, the body is to be preserved from decay in the face of death by means of cryonics, first propagated by Robert Ettinger, and later revived and healed. This would be a renewal of ancient Egyptian mummification taken to the extreme. The consequences of this mummification, the fall into materialism, were clearly described by Rudolf Steiner (Lit.:GA 105, p. 31f). This effect would only occur more strongly today.

„It is also a question of bringing the problem of immortality into materialistic waters from this side. This problem of immortality can be brought into materialistic waters in the same way, by exploiting the cosmic constellation. Then one does not achieve what is often speculated under immortality, but one achieves a different immortality: one has some brotherly lodge - one prepares, as long as it is not yet possible, to influence the physical body in order to prolong life artificially -, one prepares to go through such things with one's soul that enable one to be inside the brotherly lodge even after death, to help there with the powers that are then at one's disposal. Immortality is therefore simply called life extension in these circles. You see external signs of all these things. I don't know whether some of you have noticed the book that caused a bit of a stir for a while, which also came over from the West and is entitled "Der Unfug des Sterbens"[12]. These things are all going in that direction. They are only at the beginning, for that which is further than the beginning is still today very much kept for group egoism, very esoteric. But these things are actually possible if one brings them into the materialistic fairway, if one turns the abstract ideas of God, virtue and immortality into the concrete ideas of gold, health and prolongation of life, if one exploits in the group egoistic sense what I have presented to you as the great problems of the fifth post-Atlantean period.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 225f)

However, apart from the technical feasibility, this raises a number of other serious problems. If this were not to remain the privilege of only a small elite, sooner or later new births would have to be prevented in order to avoid overpopulation of the earth. Humanity would thus be deprived of all refreshing childhood powers. Moreover, man would be cut off from the life between death and new birth and banished to the earthly sphere. Reincarnation would be prevented and the spiritual development of humanity would come to a standstill. Man would then have to completely fall prey to the ahrimanic powers.

All in all, transhumanism looks like an ahrimanically distorted counter-image to classical humanism and especially to anthroposophy. Nevertheless, Rudolf Steiner has pointed out that a "forging together of the human being with the machine being" will not only come, but must come in the sense of earth evolution. Just as man had to unite with Lucifer in the beginnings of culture, he will also have to unite with Ahriman in the future in order to be able to use and at the same time overcome his powers. The decisive factor, however, will be the ethical attitude from which this happens. This development will only be fruitful if the human being - apart from any confessional bond - connects directly through his I with the Christ.

„In such places the will is there to harness human power together with machine power. These things must not be treated as if they had to be fought. That is quite a wrong view. These things will not be absent, they will come. It is only a question of whether, in the course of world history, they will be staged by men who are selflessly familiar with the great aims of earthly development and who shape these things for the salvation of men, or whether they will be staged by those groups of men who exploit these things only in an egoistic or group-egoistic sense. That is what it is all about. It is not the what that matters in this case, the what certainly comes; it is the how that matters, how things are done. For the what is simply in the sense of the development of the earth. The forging together of the human being with the machine being will be a great and important problem for the rest of the evolution of the earth.

I have often pointed out, also in public lectures, that the consciousness of man is connected with degrading forces. Twice I have said in public lectures in Basel that we are dying into our nervous system. - These forces, these dying forces, will become more and more powerful. And the connection will be established between the forces dying in man, which are related to electrical and magnetic forces and the external machine forces. Man will, so to speak, be able to conduct his intentions, his thoughts, into the machine forces. Yet undiscovered forces in human nature will be discovered, such forces that act on the external electric and magnetic forces.

That is one problem: the merging of the human being with the mechanism, which must become more and more widespread in the future. The other problem lies in that which will call the spiritual conditions to our aid. But this can only be done when the time is ripe, and when a sufficient number of people are prepared for it in the right way.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 218f)

This development can only be salutary if the human being, as a counterbalance to this connection with the technical sub-nature, strives for a corresponding spiritual-moral development, as Rudolf Steiner succinctly described it in the 184th Anthroposophical Leading Thought. Only in this way can he stand against the ahrimanic beings associated with technology:

„This requires that the human being find a spirit-realisation through experience, in which he rises just as high into the super-nature as he sinks below nature with the sub-natural technical activity. He thereby creates in his inner being the power not to sink below.“ (Lit.:GA 26, p. 259)

From a spiritual-scientific point of view, the time will come when man will be able to shape man anew in free activity. He will then have abilities through which he can not only change the sub-nature and the mineral kingdom as he does today, but he will then have risen in fully conscious understanding above the plant kingdom and above the animal kingdom to the actual human kingdom.

„Anthroposophists are believed to be so foolish as to doubt that the time will come when plants will actually be produced in the retort.

That time will come. But those who stand on occult ground have always said so. They know that the time will come when man will absorb plant life into his own nature in the same way as he has today absorbed the mineral kingdom. And just as he builds houses out of minerals, just as he uses the forces of the mineral kingdom today, so he will one day, out of the forces of the plant kingdom, which will then be well known to him, without reaching for the seed, without having to call upon the forces of nature in their incomprehensible way, produce the plant form and higher things still in the laboratory. But if this possibility of producing a living being in the laboratory were to occur prematurely, it would be what is called black magic for one standing on the true ground of secret science. People must first become mature for every step of development.

There is an occult sentence which says: Only then will men produce living beings on the experimental table, as they produce mineral products today, when the laboratory table has become an altar and the chemical work has become a sacramental act. - This is an occult phrase that has always been uttered. Truly, so long as one goes into the laboratory and believes that one can do the same with unholy feelings as with holy ones, so long will one never be able to produce a living being in the laboratory with the will of those who rightly guide the development. Only then will this be possible, when one will know that a mineral product can indeed be produced, even if there is a villain at the laboratory table, but that a living being can never be produced if this is the case. For into the living being, when it is assembled, flows something that is within the human being himself. If man were a villain, the villainy would flow over and the being that came into being would be an imprint of villainy. Only when we understand what it means that man as a whole being works with his whole inner being in what he produces, only then will the world be ripe to produce the living, the vegetable, the animal and the human, in free activity. Then man will have ascended into the vegetable kingdom, when he will see through the vegetable just as well as he sees through the mineral today. He will have ascended to the animal kingdom when he understands sensation in such a way that he can make a sentient being through his own spiritual power just as he today makes an object. And he will have ascended to the human kingdom when he can shape man anew in free activity.“ (Lit.:GA 104, p. 199f)

See also


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 (by Steiner Online Library).
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. The term "transhuman" entered the English language in the early 19th century through the English translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" (cf. Krüger 2004, p. 109f.; Loh 2019, p. 32).
  2. Buchanan, Allen. Ethical Issues of Human Enhancement. Retrieved 18 January 2020
  3. Raymond Kurzweil, 2014
  4. Bert Gordijn, Ruth Chadwick: Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity.
  5. International Manifesto of the "2045" Strategic Social Initiative. Retrieved 29 August 2021
  6. Nick Bostrom: A history of transhumanist thought. In: Journal of Evolution and Technology. 14, Nr. 1, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, 2005, ISSN 1541-0099. Retrieved 29 August 2021 pdf
  7. Daryl J. Wennemann: The Concept of the Posthuman: Chain of Being or Conceptual Saltus?, in: Journal of Evolution & Technology, Vol. 26 Issue 2, 2016, p. 16–30. Retrieved 29 August 2021 online
  8. cf. Loh 2019, p. 31
  9. Max More: The Philosophy of Transhumanism, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2013 pdf
  10. Max More: Principles of Extropy, 2013 online
  11. Max More: Transhumanism - Toward a Futurist Philosophy (2005) Retrieved 29 August 2021
  12. "Der Unfug des Sterbens": Selected Essays by Prentice Mulford, translated from the English and edited by Sir Galahad (pseudonym for Bertha Eckstein-Diener), Munich 1909.