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Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner (February 27, 1861 - 1925) was an Austrian philosopher, scholar, architect, playwright and educator, who is best known as the founder of Anthroposophy and its practical applications, including Waldorf School, Biodynamic Farming[?], the Camphill Movement[?], and the Christian Community[?].

Steiner was born in Kraljevic[?] (present-day Croatia; then part of Austria) and died on March 30, 1925 in Dornach, Switzerland.

Steiner saw 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. He saw the realm of the spiritual related to the realm of the physical through the activity of human thinking. Steiner characterized his system of Anthroposophy with the following words:

"Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe... Anthroposophists are those who experience, as an essential need of life, certain questions on the nature of the human being and the universe, just as one experiences hunger and thirst."
-Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (1904)

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Goethean Scholar and Philosopher 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.

Steiner displayed a keen and early interest in mathematics and philosophy - reading the whole of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason by the age of 14.

He attended the Technische Hochschule[?] in Vienna, where he concentrated on mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Steiner earned his doctorate at the University of Rostock with his disertation, Truth and Knowledge.

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 posibility that humans can become spiritually free beings only through the conscious activity of thinking.

It was during this period that his work led Frau Forster-Nietzsche to request him to set the Nietzsche archive in Naumburg in order. Upon which he subsequently wrote in his book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom.

In 1897, he moved to Berlin to edit the Magazin für Literatur.

A turning-point came when, in the August 28, 1899 issue of the 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. He continued speaking regularly to the members of the Theosophical Society, eventually becoming the leader of the German branch.

Differences he held from the Theosophists -- primarily that he did not share the view that their much-hailed Jiddu Krishnamurti was the reincarnation of Jesus, and the lack of any cultivation of artistic activity within the society -- led to his founding of the Anthroposophical Society[?] in 1912. Most of the German members of the Theosophical Society left this organization to join the new Anthroposophical Society.

Waldorf Education

In 1919 Emil Molt[?], 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 School movement - the largest independent schooling system in the world. As of 2001, there are over 600 schools worldwide, with over 150 of them in United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Architecture, Eurythmy and Free Spiritual Culture

Steiner developed an organic style of Architecture for the building of the first Goetheanum in Dornach[?], Switzerland in 1913, as a School for Spiritual Science.

It was subsequently burned down by arsonists on New Year's eve 1922. Several surrounding buildings which he designed (the Glasshaus, Haus Duldeck, the Transformerhaus, etc.) survived the blaze.

Construction of a second Goetheanum[?] building began on the same site shortly before he died in 1925. It was concieved 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).

The Goetheanum was seen as a cultural centre which included activities in scientific and mathematical research, biodynamic farming[?], medicine, and schools of drama, speech, painting, and sculpture.

It was within the Society that he met his wife Marie von Sivers, with whom he developed a new artform that also has therapeutic uses, known as Eurythmics (German: "Eurythmie") -- sometimes referred to as 'visible speech'. 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 a Sculptor, his primary work was The Representative of Humanity(1922). This enourmous work is on display at the Goetheanum in Dornach.

As Playwright, he wrote four 'Mystery Dramas' between the years 1909 - 1913, including ' The Portal of Initiation', and 'The Soul's Awakening'. They are still performed today.

Weleda, Biodynamic Farming, Camphill

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 pharmacuitical called Weleda, which now distributes natural medical products worldwide.

In 1924, a lecture 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.

In 1939, Doctor 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.

Social Threefolding

Steiner also developed a new system of Economics called Threefold Social-Economics (also often referred to as Social Threefolding[?]). The three independent members of this system are: i) the Economic sphere, ii) the sphere of Civil Rights, and iii) the Cultural sphere. Within this system, the establishement of Associations allows an intelligent and human mediation of supply and demand between consumers and producers.

To this end, the RSF (Rudolf Steiner Foundation) was incorporated in 1984, and provides 'charitable innovative financial services'.

Selected Bibliography

Amongst two dozen books, and over 6000 published lectures, some of the more significant works include:

  • The Philosophy of Freedom (1894)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom (1895)
  • The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception (1886)
  • The Education of a Child (1907) [Waldorf Education]
  • Theosophy (1904)
  • An Outline of Occult Science (1913)
  • Four Mystery Dramas - The Soul's Awakening (1913)

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