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Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy - Rudolf Steiner modulated photo
Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).
He stood up and walked.

Up and Walking

"The Ego can rise." - Rudolf Steiner

Dr. Rudolf Steiner's most prodiguous feat was to stand up and walk, he told. His biography also reflects how. His spirit science teaches how to develop in many areas. Opposite to it, the guru Yogananda (1893-1952), who told he wanted many mouths to convince others, most often teaches the ego is bad and must be attacked - "abandon the ego" - but also that the ego is eternal and unchanging, and that development of the incarnating ego is fit. Confusing teachings bring on confusion in disciples. There are greater gifts than that. [Link]

"When in doubt, win the trick [Edmund Hoyle]." A healthy, judicious ego is an integral part of yourself. You cannot eat your cake and have it too; you cannot kill the egohood and evolve it too. Your egohood is your sense of "I". Those who lose it are too much like dumb animals. So try to make it serve you through lots of realism, and preserve your freedom well. Query into:

Who says what to whom along what channel and to what purposes and with what probable effects? (from Harold Laswell's formula)

A decent ego ("I"-sense) should be tended to. Steiner's views on how to do it can work well. Realism is aligned to the "I" also. One should not be duped to forgo realism either.

ONE SPRING day in 1860, the autocratic Hungarian Count Hoyos, who owned several large estates in Austria, dismissed his game-keeper Johannes Steiner, because Steiner wanted to marry Franziska Blie, one of the count's many housemaids. Johannes Steiner had to look for another occupation, and became a trainee telegraphist and signalman by the recently opened Austrian Southern Railway. He was given his first job in an out-of-the-way request stop called Kraljevic (now Croatia), and there his first child, Rudolf, arrived on February 27 1861. According to some it was about 11.14 p.m.

The sickly child was taken at once for an emergency baptism in the neighbouring village of Draskovec, and the entry still can be read as of one Rudolfus Josephus Laurentius Steiner. "Thus it happened," Rudolf Steiner writes in his autobiography, "that the place of my birth is far removed from the region where I come from."

In later life Steiner frequently made the point that the most prodigious feat any man achieves at any time is accomplished by him in the first two or three years of his life, when he lifts his body into the upright position and learns to move it in perfect balance through space, when he forms a vital part of his organism into an instrument of speech and when he begins to handle and indeed to fashion his brain as a vehicle for thought. In other words, when the child asserts his human qualities.

This initial achievement the boy Rudolf took place on the outskirts of a vast plain, the Puszta, where fields of maize and potatoes extend in every direction interspersed by lines of tall poplars flanking straight roads domed over by the high and blue Puszta sky. That's where the boy Rudolf learned to stand, to walk, to speak and to think, "in the simplest circumstances in order that nothing should impede his perfect unfolding."

When the boy was two years old the family moved into "the Burgenland" that comprises the foothills of the eastern Alps. It is one of the most idyllic parts of Austria. It takes its name from many Burgen, castles, which had been built on nearly every hill throughout history.

Father Steiner was moved as stationmaster to several small stations south of Vienna, so that the eldest son was able to attend good schools as a day student, and finally in 1879 could matriculate at the Technical University of Vienna. It was one of the most advanced scientific institutions of the world at the time. Steiner had to support himself by means of scholarships and tutoring.

In his first year at the University, while Rudolf Steiner still was an undergraduate, he often met a curious personality on the train. It was a herb-gatherer who was filled with nature lore. He understood the language of plants, which told him what sicknesses they could heal; he was able to listen to the speech of the minerals, which told him of the natural history of our planet and of the Universe. Later Steiner immortalized the herb-gatherer in his Mystery Dramas, in the figure of "Father Felix." But "Father Felix" was instrumental in bringing Steiner together with a still more important and mysterious personality.

"Felix was only the intermediary for another personality," Steiner tells us in his autobiography. "This personality used the works of Fichte in order to develop certain observations from which results ensued which provided the seeds for my (later) work ... This excellent man was as undistinguished in his daily job as was Felix."

At the same time another very consequential relationship developed too. The Technical University of Vienna provided a chair for German literature, which was held by Karl Julius Schröer, a great Goethe enthusiast. Schröer anticipated that Rudolf Steiner might be capable of doing some original research in Goethe's scientific writings. Steiner was then twenty-one years of age.

The young Steiner wrote introductions and explanatory notes to the many volumes of Goethe's scientific works while he was poor. The family lived in two rooms. In a part of one of them the young Steiner worked as in a monk's cell. A Viennese celebrity of the time refers to as one "who looked like a half-starved student of theology."

But this first literary success led to Steiner's call to the central Goethe Archives at Weimar, where despite his youth he now became one of the editors of the great Standard Edition (Sophien Ausgabe) of Goethe's Complete Works. His occupation with Goethe lasted for seven years in Weimar, from 1889 to 1896, and had a profound effect on Steiner's philosophical awareness.

During these years Steiner's fundamental philosophical works were conceived and written. In 1886 he published An Epistemology of Goethe's World Conception. In 1891 his small concentrated thesis on Truth and Science earned him his Ph.D. During this period Steiner also carried many ideas into the field of ethics. His book The Philosophy of Freedom summed up the ideas he had formed to deal with the riddles of existence that had so far dominated his life.

In the 1890s Steiner began to be looked upon in Germany as "the coming philosopher." Then, in 1897 Steiner moved to Berlin to serve as editor of the weekly, Das Magazin für Litteratur, founded in 1832. He wrote the leading article and the dramatic reviews, occupying in Berlin a position somewhat similar to that of Bernard Shaw (who was five years his senior). This assignment brought Steiner into contact with the intellectual and artistic elite of Berlin at the time, in an exciting and often amusing period.

Hankering gives feelings, and many feelings crystallise into ideas, wright or rong -

"The truth is out there" is a slogan for our days. However, the further away the "things" are - in time, in space, in culture - the more difficult they may be to ascertain. So when Rudolf Steiner and others repeatedly say there was a Lemuria, an Atlantis, and then describe these continents too - our task is to hold a fit balance. It could show up as "Maybe yes, maybe no, but what do I know?" The rule of the thumb: "The farther away, the harder to find out of and verify." It may help you to keep that in mind through speeches of alleged, lost continents of Hyperborea, Lemuria, and Atlantis and so on - on and on! Just as Buddha says, refrain from believing blindly, for your own good, that is [Kalama Sutta]. The coming section suggests why warning against being taken in, is found at this place.

Rudolf Steiner and the Theosophical Society - An Odyssey

In Berlin, Steiner seemed willing to speak to any group, but after 1899 he started to give talks regularly to the members of the Theosophical Society, and became head of its German Section in 1902. Now he estranged himself from the other groups. The German Section grew rapidly under Steiner's leadership.

By 1904, Steiner was appointed by the Theosophy leader Annie Besant to be leader of an Esoteric School for Germany and Austria. Steiner made it clear that this school would teach a Western spiritual path harmonious with other Theosophical paths.

Yet at the Theosophical Congress in Munich in 1907 -- organized by Steiner -- its focus on artistic expression was a sharp departure from Helena Blavatsky's Theosophy. A great portion of the old members of the Theosophical Society from various European countries, were not pleased with it.

Steiner's lectured on. From 1909 and onwards he spoke well of Christianity - they way he saw it. Helena Blavatsky on the other hand had been somewhat hostile against Christianity. The relationship between the Theosophical Society and its remaining German section became increasingly strained as new strains of Steiner's teaching became apparent. Steiner was a popular lecturer, and was active in Switzerland, Holland, Norway, Austria and other countries. Besant tried to restrict him, but to no avail. At the end of 1912 most German-speaking Theosophists broke away to found a new Anthroposophical Society, as a result of growing tensions. Steiner was at the head of it.

Steiner, for years the head of the German Section of the Theosophical movement, later claimed that he never had considered himself to be part of the Theosophical movement [!] and claimed he had been completely independent of philosophical thought and esoteric teachings from the Theosophical Society's esoteric path, and that the Theosophical Society for years had been marked by oppressive narrowness - so that it was a great relief for him to be excluded!

This Steiner claim is marred by the many correspondences between his teachings and many of Blavatsky's - of outlooks, terms, and approaches to this and that. The basic structural skeletons of Steiner's cosmology and of his description of the human being as composed of various physical and spiritual aspects are based on Blavatsky's schema, and he acknowledged his debt to it too. Steiner's elaborations of these (in his Theosophy and Outline of Esoteric Science) diverge from other theosophical presentations in style and in substance, though.

Who was Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), who Steiner owed so much to, and what was the Theosophical Society that she co-founded in 1875 to advance certain spiritual principles and brotherhood among humans, and search for Truth?

The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who formally became a Buddhist in 1880; Henry Steel Olcott, who formally became a Buddhist in 1880, he too - and who noted that they had previously declared themselves Buddhists while still living in America. William Quan Judge and others took part in founding the Society too.

Blavatsky posited that humanity had descended from a series of non-human "Root Races". The first humans were pure spirit, in the second they were sexless, in the third they were sexually reproducing giants in Lemuria, and so on. Blavatsky named the fifth root race - of seven - the Aryan race. The idea was that each new Root Race was more evolved than the previous one. Fine evidence of Helleboreans, Lemurians, and Atlants - such root races - has hardly been forthcoming. Helena believed that the Aryans originally developed on the continent of Atlantis - and that Aryans (most modern humans) would eventually be superseded by a more spiritual Root Race, the sixth, to develop on a reemerging Lemuria.

Blavatsky - and the Theosophical Society in her time - also said there exists a Spiritual Hierarchy that seeks to help humanity in evolving. Planets, solar systems, galaxies, and the cosmos itself are regarded as conscious entities. Spiritual units of consciousness may manifest as angels, human beings or in various other forms, and humans and others reincarnate. Blavatsky also teaches the human soul has seven constituents, and the material body is one of its interpenetrating "sheets". Within the gross body are more energy-like envelopes of the soul, it is taught. Thus:

  1. Gross, bulky body
  2. Pattern-field - astral body
  3. Prana of radiating and permeating energy.
  4. Desires - kama
  5. Manas - seat of thinking, the human person. essential ego.
  6. Buddhi - a vehicle of spirit, a garment of atman - even the alaya.
  7. Atman - Self, pure Consciousness, the feeling and knowing of "I am" - the same throughout the cosmos.

The so-called New Age movement is to a considerable extent derived from teachings of Blavatsky, and also Alice Bailey, who channelled a series of books from a Tibetan. She said that most of her wide-ranging works had been telepathically dictated to her by a "Master of the Wisdom", initially referred to only as "the Tibetan", "Djwhal Khul." Her writings were influenced by the works of Helena Blavatsky and have much in common with them, and the same goes for works and several basic outlooks of Steiner.

After Blavatsky's death in 1891, the society underwent schisms. Steiner's Anthroposopical Movement is a result of one of them.

Steiner Basics

RUDOLF STEINER 1889
Rudolf Steiner, 1889

From 1890 to 1897, at the Goethe and Schiller Archives in Weimar, Steiner was engaged in editing virtually the whole of Goethe's scientific writings. During this period he also took his Ph.D. at Rostock University. The initiate of Rosicrucian esotericism and Goethe-studied Steiner also became personally attracted to the camp of the dogmatic naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) a philosopher of Monism who taught that the universe is a differentiation of a single type of substance. Steiner wrote in a letter of 1907 that there was "no better scientific foundation to esotericism than Haeckel's teaching". Those words should not be swallowed uncritically, as Steiner valued Haeckel's work in several contexts, and Haeckel's efforts in general, but did not subscribe to all of Haeckel's views. In a preface to his book An Outline of Esoteric Science Steiner wrote it was possible to appreciate Haeckel without agreeing with him.

Rudolf Steiner had begun to operate from pure thought, and thereby detected living thoughts filling the Universe, he tells. Thereby Steiner was bent on putting force and life into thinking, through thinking, within thinking [!]. His basic philosophic works, especially the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, and many exercises he devised, are directed to strengthen the thinking faculties in man till thinking works itself on and up and gets free from the brain system. [!] This is called a most disturbing experience. Its consequence is a condition which Steiner describes thus: "Thinking itself becomes a body which draws into itself as its soul the Spirit of the Universe."

After reaching this stage of "independent thinking", Steiner discovered that this "living thinking" could awaken parts of him from "above" [read: deep within]. Thought that had risen into subtility, could even impart life to a dormant spiritual perception in Steiner, his claim was. From about 1900 Steiner began to pursue this path with determination, and gradually came to discern three forms of higher knowledge:

  1. Imagination: a higher seeing of the spiritual world in revealing images;
  2. Inspiration: a higher hearing of the spiritual world, through which it reveals its creative forces and its creative order;
  3. Intuition: the stage at which an intuitive penetration into the sphere of Spiritual Beings becomes possible.

Equipped with his new-found imagination, inspiration, and intuition, Steiner developed a substantial body of spiritual and practical knowledge up to his death in 1925. He gave it the name "Anthroposophy". Anthroposophy literally means wisdom of man or the wisdom about man. In his later years, however, Steiner also interpreted it on occasion as "an adequate consciousness of being human".

One of the first things Steiner did after the rocky relationship with Anne Besant had stranded in 1913, was to build a temple for his new movement in Dornach, Switzerland. When the First World War ended, his greatest popularity came. He launched a plan to reconstruct Europe, called The Threefold Commonwealth. An anti-Steiner campaign arose too, and there were at least two attempts on his life. His temple burned to the ground in 1922. After a year, Steiner announced plans for a second temple in Dornach. It is made of concrete.

Steiner's work branched out. The first Steiner school was established in Stuttgart in 1919. Steiner's educational ideas earned him deserved renown. Steiner in time became most famous for his ideas about education, a network of "Steiner Schools," or Waldorf schools. Prolific biodynamic agriculture and gardening come through Steiner too.

Steiner further voiced grave doubts about the growing pace of technological development assisting the great power of short-sighted, debasing materialism.

His work consists of some 170 books and published transcripts of nearly 6,000 lectures, where he kept telling about Atlantis, among many other things.

After many years of intense activity, wearing himself out, he died on March 30, 1925. Along with his public and private lectures and his practical work as a teacher, architect and agriculturalist, Steiner had made himself available to any who needed his counsel - a constant stream of visitors.

Since his death, more than 1,000 schools around the world work with Steiner's pedagogical principles, not to mention the many "special needs" schools, working along lines developed by Steiner. There are also hundreds of 'bio-dynamic' farms that make use of Steiner's agricultural insights, developed decades in advance of our present-day interest in ecology and organic foods.

TO TOP

Rudolf Steiner Timeline

"What was Rudolf Steiner like? - In the first place there was nothing in the least pompous about him. He never made one feel that he was in any sense extraordinary." - Alfred Heidenreich

YearsHappenings
1861Born on February 27 in Kraljevec, Austria-Hungary, today Croatia, son of a railroad stationmaster. Parents came from Austria. Childhood and youth in various Austrian towns.
1872-1879Junior and Senior high school in Wiener-Neustadt, which is close to Vienna.
1875-1889Worked as a private teacher, many times to his own classmates, particularly in math and sciences.
1879-1883Undergraduate studies at the Vienna Institute of Technology (Wiener Technische Hoschschule). Deep studies of Goethe.
1882-1897Editor of the scientific works of Goethe for the J. Kürschner's "Deutsche National Literatur" edition (five volumes).
1884-1890Private teacher/tutor of 4 children of a Vienna family, mainly of one who was hydrocephalic and unable to learn. Succeeds in helping him to finish school and enter the Faculty of Medicine; he died during World War 1.
1886Worked in the "Duchess Sophia" complete edition of Goethe's writings.
1888Editor of the "Weekly German Magazine" (Deutsche Wochenschrift).
1890-1897Worked at the Schiller-Goethe Archives in Weimar. Edition of Goethe's scientific writings.
1891Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Rostock, Germany. Publication of the dissertation too.
1894Meeting with Haeckel; beginning of correspondence with him.
1897Moved to Berlin, where he was the editor (up to 1900) of the "Literature Magazine" (Magazin für Literatur), shows up against antisemitism, and editor of the "Drama Journal" (Dramaturgische Blätter) with O.E.Hartleben. Activities at the "Free Drama Society" (Freien dramatischen Gesellschaft), at the Giordano Bruno League, etc.
1899-1904Instructor at the Berlin "Workers' School of Education" (Arbeiter-Bildungsschule).
1900Beginning of activities as a lecturer on various Anthroposophic themes under the invitation of the Berlin Theosophic Society, transmitting results of his own original esoteric sights.
1902Nominated General Secretary of the German Theosophic Society. The same day he gives a lecture titled "Anthroposophy".
1902-1912Works hard as a lecturer in Berlin and elsewhere in Europe. Marie von Sievers becomes his constant co-operator.
1903Founding of the Luzifer journal, later Luzifer-Gnosis.
1905First writings on 'the threefold social organization'.
1906Meets Edouard Schuré; Marie von Sievers had translated some of his works.
1907Organises the world conference of the Theosophic Society in Munich and introduces artistic activities for the first time there.
1910-1913Writes and directs the representation of his four Mystery Dramas, one each year, in Munich.
1912Introduction of the new arts Eurythmy and Speech Formation.
1913Separates from the Theosophic Society and founds the Anthroposophical Society.
1913-1923Construction of the first Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, a work of art in wood.
1914Marries Marie von Sievers (Marie Steiner).
1914-1924Lectures in Dornach, Berlin and many other cities in Europe, indicates renewals in art, education, sciences, social life, medicine, pharmacology, therapies, agriculture, architecture and theology.
1919Works as a writer and lecturer on his ideas on social renewal, the Threefold Commonwealth, mainly in Southern Germany. In the autumn: foundation of the Free Waldorf School (Freie Waldorfschule) in Stuttgart, headed by him till his death.
1920First course for physicians, beginning what is now called Anthroposophic Medicine.
1921Foundation of the "Das Goetheanum" weekly, with his regular contributions; this journal continues to be edited. Foundation of the first Anthroposophic Clinic, in Arlesheim, next to Dornach, by Ita Wegman; this clinic continues as the Ita Wegman Klinik.
1922"The religious movement Christian Community" is founded by clergymen believing as he says. On New Year's Eve the Goetheanum is criminally is burnt down by someone. Next day Steiner continues his lecture cycle in the nearby cabinetmaking workshop.
1923Beginning of the design and gypsum modeling of the second Goetheanum. It is built in 1925-28 after his death, in reinforced concrete. During the Christmas Conference, founding of the new General Anthroposophical Society (Allgemeine Anthroposophische Gesellschaft).
1923-1925Publishes every week in Das Goetheanum his (incomplete) ▫autobiography; which covers his life till 1907. With Dr. Ita Wegman he writes the book on Anthroposophic Medicine (Links: ▫A ▫B).
1924Course on agriculture in Koberwitz, originating bio-dynamic farming. Course on Curative Education, originating this field of application of Anthroposophy. Intensive lecturing and many courses in the last months. His last lecture on September 9 to members of the Society. Rudolf Steiner's fatal disease (cancer) recognised.
1925Dies in Dornach on March 30.

Postscript

Each of us is expected to weigh creative and intuitive statements. There are many wildly divergent claims - some through faiths, others through isms - and they may not all be wrong . . .

In some tracks we may do well in waiting out the effects on others, and study differences, subtle and gross ones. What truly helps is not becoming faith-ridden and thereby judgmental. Instead of blindly believing in things, weigh them thoroughly. It may take a lifetime, though, along with other and hopefully better things to do. I practice TM.

Collection

Rudolf Steiner life story and chronology, Literature  

Easton, Stewart C. Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1980.

McDermott, Robert, ed. The Essential Steiner: Basic Writings of Rudolf Steiner. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Story of My Life. Edited by H. Collison. New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1928. wn.rsarchive.org/Books/tcoml.index.html

Wachsmuth, G. The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner from the Turn of the Century to His Death. 2nd ed. New York: Whittier, 1955.

White, Ralph. "The Truth about Rudolf Steiner." The same article with a different heading: "Rudolf Steiner: Neglected Spiritual Genius." Lapis Magazine. 2008. www.newtimes.org/issue/0305/steiner.htm or www.lapismagazine.org/rudolf-steiner-neglected-spiritual-genius-by-ralph-white/

Wikipedia, s.v. "Rudolf Steiner," "Waldorf education," "Theosophy," "Theosophical Society," "Helena Blavatsky," "Henry Steel Olcott," "Alice Bailey," and "Djwal Khul".

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