Rudolf Steiner February 1861 – 30 March 1925 was
an Austrian clairvoyant, philosopher, social
reformer, architect, economist and esotericist.
Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of
the nineteenth century as a literary critic and
published philosophical works including The
Philosophy of Freedom.
At the beginning of the twentieth century he
founded an esoteric spiritual movement,
anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist
philosophy and theosophy; other influences
include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.
In the first, more philosophically oriented
phase of this movement, Steiner attempted to
find a synthesis between science and spirituality.
His philosophical work of these years, which he
termed "spiritual science", sought to apply the
clarity of thinking characteristic of Western
philosophy to spiritual questions,
differentiating this approach from what he
considered to be vaguer approaches to mysticism.
In a second phase, beginning around 1907, he began
working collaboratively in a variety of artistic
media, including drama, the movement arts (developing
a new artistic form, eurythmy) and architecture,
culminating in the building of the Goetheanum, a
cultural centre to house all the arts.
In the third phase of his work, beginning after
World War I, Steiner worked to establish various
practical endeavors, including Waldorf education,
biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical
In 1921, Adolf Hitler attacked Steiner on many
fronts, including accusations that he was a tool
of the Jews, while other nationalist extremists
in Germany called for a "war against Steiner".
That same year, Steiner warned against the
disastrous effects it would have for Central
Europe if the National Socialists came to power.
In 1922 a lecture Steiner was giving in Munich
was disrupted when stink bombs were let off and
the lights switched out, while people rushed the
stage apparently attempting to attack Steiner,
who exited safely through a back door.
Unable to guarantee his safety, Steiner's agents
cancelled his next lecture tour.
Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism,
to which he later brought a more explicitly
He based his epistemology on Johann Wolfgang Goethe's
world view, in which "Thinking… is no more and no
less an organ of perception than the eye or ear.
Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds,
so thinking perceives ideas."
A consistent thread that runs from his earliest
philosophical phase through his later spiritual
orientation is the goal of demonstrating that
there are no essential limits to human knowledge.
Can Theosophy or the knowledge of God be reconciled
to Anthroposopy or the knowledge of man?
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