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Steiner, Rudolf

(1861-1925). Founder of the Anthroposophical Society and at one time General Secretary of the Theosophical Society (TS) in Germany. Steiner was born in Kraljevic, Upper Austria on February 27, 1861. As a fifteen-year-old youth he made the acquaintance of a herbalist who not only knew the species, families and life of plants, but their secret virtues. The herbalist had the ability to see the etheric form of plants and could contact and see the elementals associated with them. This friendship stimulated the latent psychic abilities in Steiner and, indeed, later on Steiner claimed that the herbalist was a messenger from a Master of the Wisdom. From the age of eighteen Steiner had what he described as, “a direct and involuntary seeing of things.”

At university in his late teens Steiner devoted much of his time to the study of Kant, Fichte and Schelling. Later he plunged into the study of mathematics, chemistry, mineralogy, botany and zoology. “These studies,” he said, “afford a surer basis for the construction of a spiritual system of the universe than history and literature.” As a direct result of these studies Steiner was able to outline his intellectual mission, “To re-unite science and religion. To bring back God into Science and Nature into Religion.”

In Vienna, Steiner gained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, his thesis entitled Truth and Science, and wrote a number of articles on zoology, geology and the theory of colors in which we can discern theosophical ideas. He was editor of a weekly journal called the Deutsche Wochenschrift (German Weekly). In 1890 Steiner asked to superintend the re-editing of Goethe’s scientific works (at Weimar) and shortly afterwards he published two works, Truth and Science and The Philosophy of Liberty.

Steiner joined the Theosophical Society in 1902 in Berlin. From his own standpoint, he did not enter the Society as a student of the eastern Tradition, but as an initiate of Rosicrucian esotericism who recognized the significance of the Hindu philosophy. From the beginning, he was convinced that his work lay in the endeavor to unite Eastern and Western traditions. He was assisted in this work by Marie von Sivers, a Russian by birth with a command of English, Russian, French and German languages. When he was appointed General Secretary of the German Theosophical Section, von Sivers became his assistant. In 1908 he published an important work which carried a foreword by Annie Besant which dealt with the attainment of knowledge of higher worlds.

In about 1912 a problem arose in the German Section. Under the auspices of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater an organization was formed called the Order of the Star to promote the work of J. KRISHNAMURTI. It appears that the Executive of the German Section made a ruling that members of this Order were not eligible to join the Theosophical Society in Germany. Since this rule contravened the rules of the Theosophical Society, it caused considerable dissension and eventually Besant was ordered by the Council at Adyar to write to Steiner. No reply having been received to this letter, the Council canceled the charter of the German Section.

Steiner now had no outlet for his esoteric work and so he decided to form his own organization which he called the Anthroposophical Society. Steiner’s standing and charisma ensured the success of the Society which eventually spread worldwide. It advocated an esoteric approach to many activities, particularly in health and education. Steiner Schools, called Waldorf Schools, still operate in many countries.

Steiner believed that humanity originally participated in the spiritual processes of the world through a dreamlike consciousness out of which the more limited but awake consciousness of today has evolved. He believed that it was possible for humans to regain that essential spirituality through right training.

Steiner died at Dornach, Switzerland, on March 30, 1925.


Steiner’s published writings include:

The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1894); Theosophy (1904); The Way of Initiation (1908; Foreword by Annie Besant); Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (1909); Occult Science, an Outline (1913); Christianity as Mystical Fact (and the Mysteries of Antiquity) (1914); A Road to Self-Knowledge (1918); Story of My Life (1924); and numerous articles in The Theosophist while Steiner was still a member of The Theosophical Society.


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