Rudolf Steiner was a truly universal human being, whose mind
encompassed unbounded earthly and cosmic wisdom. His literary
and lecturing output was enormous. The German edition of his
collected works runs to 350 volumes. There are translations
of his works in all European languages as well as in Hebrew,
Japanese, Hindi and Turkish.
Anthroposophy is the word that Rudolf Steiner used to describe
the spiritual insights that he shared with people during his
lifetime. It means ‘wisdom relating to mankind’.
Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861 in what was then Austria-Hungary,
but his birthplace is situated in what is now Croatia. He
died in Dornach, Switzerland, in 1925.
In his autobiography he tells us that, as a child, he was
aware of the existence of a supersensible world which to him
was just as real as the physical, and which was just as full
of objects and beings, but he also adds that he felt lonely
and cut off from the rest of his fellows because no one made
reference to this 'other' world.
At school and college he studied the official science course
(mathematics, chemistry, physics, zoology, botany, mineralogy,
geology) but at the same time taught himself the classics.
He also took a keen interest in literature and the arts.
At the age of 23 he was asked to edit an edition of Geothe's
scientific works and he became a recognized authority on these
matters. For a time he worked at the Goethe archives in Weimar
and came to appreciate Goethe as a kindred spirit. He recognized
that Geothe's view of the world was 'spiritual' like his own.
Troubled by the prevalent one-sided materialistic conception
of the world, he was convinced of the necessity for a new
understanding of spiritual matters. He considered that in
this lay the future welfare of humanity.
To call attention to his ideas and to the fact that the time
was ripe for a new spiritual impulse, it seemed opportune
to accept the editorship of a journal when it was offered.
Accordingly he went to Berlin to edit the ‘Magazin für
Literatur’. At the same time he joined the staff of
a working- men's college, and although he was able to expound
many of his ideas in these circles he could only do it within
By this time he had already written several works on Goethe
and also one of his fundamental books The Philosophy of Freedom,
also translated under the title of The Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity (1894). There followed, Christianity as Mystical
Fact (1902), Theosophy (1904), Knowledge of the Higher Worlds.
How is it Achieved? (1904) and Occult Science - An Outline
By the year 1900 Dr Rudolf Steiner had made a certain position
for himself in the world. He was nearly 40, he felt himself
to have reached a certain stage of maturity and clarity as
to his task in life, and, as he tells us himself, he now had
the courage to speak openly on esoteric matters. Together
with Marie von Sivers, who later became his wife, Dr Steiner
founded the monthly magazine Lucifer-Gnosis, in which many
ideas were put forward which later appeared in the standard
works. The publication was a flourishing success but had to
be abandoned on account of pressure of work from other quarters.
He now lectured extensively speaking only from his own spiritual
investigation and knowledge. He crossed and recrossed Europe
from Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki in the north to Milan, Bologna
and Trieste in the south; from Oxford, Torquay and Paris in
the west to Vienna, Prague and Budapest in the east. He delivered
in all some six thousand lectures.
Hundreds of people sought him out to ask for personal advice.
When the Waldorf School was founded in Stuttgart to put his
educational ideas into practice, he took personal interest
in it, appointing the first teachers, guiding them and advising
them in their work. It is said that he knew every child in
The necessity for a geographical centre led to the building
of the Goetheanum, in Dornach, Switzerland. Dr Steiner's intention
was to build a permanent home for anthroposophic activities,
in particular a setting for the performance of his own plays
which contain his world conception in the form of drama. Hence
it was not to be a mere roof and walls but had to have artistic
The original building was a unique structure with two intersecting
domes, the smaller one over the stage and the larger (bigger
than the dome of St Paul's in London) over the auditorium.
The interior supporting columns were made of different woods;
capitals and bases were carved with different motifs, each
one being a metamorphosis of its neighbour. The architraves
and window surrounds were also of carved wood. The whole thing
was a massive architectural masterpiece, conceived and designed
by Rudolf Steiner himself. This building, created at enormous
cost and by prodigious effort, was destroyed by fire on 31
December 1922, by an act of malice.
In spite of the enormous loss Steiner immediately set to work
to design a second Goetheanum in a different style, to be
built in concrete. He did not live to see it completed. This
building now stands on the same site as the first one and
is the headquarters of the movement. Here there is enormous
activity throughout the year. Courses and lectures are continuously
being offered and performances of plays, music and eurythmy
are regularly given. Conferences are held which attract thousands
Rudolf Steiner gave courses in all the following areas where
his insights have been applied in a very practical way: Curative
Education; Education; Painting; Sculpture; Architecture; Drug
rehabilitation; Nutrition; Eurythmy; Medicine; Religion; Speech
and Drama; Agriculture; Economics; Social therapy and Philosophy.
It seems impossible that one man could have achieved so much.
Yet the evidence is there in all his many lectures and books
and in the ways in which his insights are still being applied
in daily life. The evidence is there in the building of the
Goetheanum and in the formation of the Anthroposophic Society
and last but not least, it exists in the hearts and minds
of the many people who still turn to him for inspiration.
Some of the details contained in this biography have been
taken from the first chapter of the book ‘Rudolf Steiner.
An Introduction to his Spiritual World-View, Anthroposophy’.
By Roy Wilkinson 1998.
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