Sue Young Histories

Rudolf Steiner 1861 - 1925

July 03, 2008

Rudolf Steiner (Rudolph) 1861 - 1925 was an Austrian philosopher, literary scholar, educator, artist, playwright, social thinker, and esotericist. He was the founder of Anthroposophy, Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, and the new artistic form of Eurythmy.

Rudolf Steiner developed a new path to spiritual knowledge which he called ’Spiritual Science’, maintaining that in our modern World, we should gain a direct knowledge of the supersensible by developing our latent spirituality in full rational consciousness.

Rudolf Steiner was an advocate and practitioner of homeopathy (Rudolf Steiner, Introducing Anthroposophical Medicine: Lectures, March 21-April 9, 1920, Dornach, Switzerland, (SteinerBooks, 1999). Multiple Pages), inventing a new range of homeopathic medicines. including pioneering the mistletoe treatment for cancer.

Steiner was head of the German section of the Theosophical Society. He was also the Austrian Chief of the Ordo Templi Orientis.

Emil Schlegel was the homeopath of Rudolf Steiner’s second wife Marie Steiner von Sivers, and Rudolf Steiner had frequent correspondence with him about homeopathy. Steiner also knew Norbert Glas, with whom he wrote Reading the Face, How to Look at Illness.

Steiner was an acquaintance of Friedrich Wilhelm Neitzsche, and a colleague of Eugen and Lili Kolisko and Walter Johannes Stein.

Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual component. He derived his epistemology from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s world view, where:

“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.”

Rudolf Steiner established a nursery school system, of which 875 schools exist today, 27 of which are in the United Kingdom.

Steiner’s homeopathic medicine and art of natural healing, and the natural scientific and ecological teaching dispensed in the Steiner schools, are based on this primeval, pre-modern theory of a cosmos in which all things are one.

Anthroposophical medicine, which generally refers to Weleda homeopathic preparations, was also developed by Rudolf Steiner.

Biodynamic agriculture has its basis in a spiritual world-view known as anthroposophy as propounded by founder Rudolf Steiner… All preparations are thus used in homeopathic quantities.

Steiner’s homeopathic medicine and art of natural healing, and the natural scientific and ecological teaching dispensed in the Steiner schools, are based on this primeval, pre-modern theory of a cosmos in which all things are one.

In 1924, Rudolf Steiner prepared a homeopathic remedy from a dead male rabbit to remove a plague of rabbits from the estate of Count Keyserling in Silesia. Steiner put his homeopathic remedy in a bucket of water and ‘flicked it like a fine rain into the wind’. Steiner explained that creatures throughout the World would slowly build up a resistance to the allopathic poisons at present in use. Within three days, all of the rabbits on the estate had fled towards the distant wastelands and marshes and rabbits were rarely seen on the estate for years to come.

Rudolf Steiner was particularly interested in the use of homeopathy for the treatment of the environment and bees, as well as using homeopathy directly as human medicine. Rudolf Steiner gave extensive lectures to doctors on the use of homeopathic medicines, and he continued to lecture on homeopathy for many years.

Rudolf Steiner invented Anthroposophical Medicine:

The first steps towards an anthroposophical approach to medicine were made before 1920, when homeopathic physicians and pharmacists began working with Rudolf Steiner, who recommended new medicinal substances as well as specific methods for preparing these.

In 1921, Dr. Ita Wegman opened the first anthroposophic medical clinic, now known as the Ita Wegman Clinic, in Arlesheim, Switzerland. Ita Wegman was soon joined by a number of other doctors. They began to train the first anthroposophic nurses for the clinic.

At Ita Wegman’s request, Steiner regularly visited the clinic and suggested treatment regimes for particular patients. Between 1921 and 1925, he also gave several series of lectures on medicine. In 1925, Ita Wegman and Steiner wrote the first book on the anthroposophic approach to medicine, Fundamentals of Therapy

Anthroposophical Medicine approaches disease as an imbalance in the biological organism and employs treatment strategies intended to restore this balance. Anthroposophical approaches include Anthroposophical Medicine based upon modified homeopathic principles, physical therapies including massage therapy and artistic therapies. Many of these are intended to support the patient’s capacity for self-healing.

From From 1879 to 1883 Steiner attended and then graduated from the Technische Hochschule (Technical University) in Vienna, where he studied mathematics, physics, and philosophy.

In 1882, one of Steiner’s teachers at the university in Vienna, Karl Julius Schröer, suggested Steiner’s name to Professor Joseph Kürschner, editor of a new edition of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s works. Steiner was then asked to become the edition’s scientific editor.

In his autobiography, Steiner related that at 21, on the train between his home village and Vienna, he met a simple herb gatherer, Felix Kogutski, who spoke about the spiritual world:

“as someone who had his own experiences of it…”

This herb gatherer introduced Steiner to a person that Steiner only identified as a “master”, and who had a great influence on Steiner’s subsequent development, in particular directing him to study Fichte’s philosophy.

In 1891 Steiner earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Rostock in Germany with a thesis based upon Fichte’s concept of the ego, later published in expanded form as Truth and Knowledge

In 1896 Elisabeth Forster Nietzsche asked Steiner to set the Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche archive in Naumburg in order. Her brother by that time was no longer compos mentis. Elisabeth Forster Nietzsche introduced Steiner into the presence of the catatonic philosopher and Steiner, deeply moved, subsequently wrote the book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom.

Of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Steiner says in his autobiography:

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s ideas of the ‘eternal repetition’ and of ‘supermen’ remained long in my mind. For in these was reflected that which a personality must feel concerning the evolution and essential being of humanity when this personality is kept back from grasping the spiritual world by the restricted thought in the philosophy of nature characterizing the end of the nineteenth century.”

“What attracted me particularly was that one could read Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche without coming upon anything which strove to make the reader a ‘dependent’ of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s’.“…

A turning point came in 1899, when Steiner decided to publish an article in the Magazin für Literatur, titled ”Goethe’s Secret Revelation”, on the esoteric nature of Johann Wolfgang von 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 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Steiner continued speaking regularly to the members of the Theosophical Society, becoming the head of its newly constituted German section in 1902, though without ever joining the society.

It was within this society that Steiner met and worked with Marie von Sievers, who eventually became his second wife (1914).

By 1904, Steiner was appointed by Annie Wood Besant to be leader of the Esoteric Society for Germany and Austria. The German Section of the Theosophical Society grew rapidly under Steiner’s leadership as he lectured throughout much of Europe on his spiritual science.

During this period Steiner maintained an original approach, replacing Madame Blavatsky’s terminology with his own, and basing his spiritual research and teachings upon the Western esoteric and philosophical tradition.

This and other differences, in particular the pronouncement by C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Wood Besant that Jiddu Krishnamurti was the vehicle of a new world teacher, and the reincarnation of Christ, claims Steiner publicly rejected, led to a formal split in 1912…

From his decision to “go public” in 1899 until his death in 1925, Steiner articulated an ongoing stream of experiences that he claimed were of the spiritual world — experiences he said had touched him from an early age on.

Steiner aimed to apply his training in mathematics, science, and philosophy to produce rigorous, verifiable presentations of those experiences.

Steiner believed that through freely chosen ethical disciplines and meditative training, anyone could develop the ability to experience the spiritual world, including the higher nature of oneself and others. Steiner believed that such discipline and training would help a person to become a more moral, creative and free individual - free in the sense of being capable of actions motivated solely by love.

Steiner’s ideas about the inner life were influenced by Frantz Brentano

Steiner’s collected works include about 40 volumes of his writings and more than 300 volumes of lectures.

The Anthroposophical Society grew rapidly. Fueled by a need to find a home for their yearly conferences, which included performances of plays written by Eduard Schuré as well as Steiner himself, the decision was made to build a theater and organizational center.

In 1913, construction began on the first Goetheanum building, in Dornach, Switzerland. The building, designed by Steiner, was built to significant part by volunteers who offered craftsmanship or simply a will to learn new skills.

Once World War I started in 1914, the Goetheanum volunteers could hear the sound of cannon fire beyond the Swiss border, but despite the war, people from all over Europe worked peaceably side by side on the building’s construction.

In 1919, the Goetheanum staged the world premiere of a complete production of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. In this same year, the first Waldorf school was founded in Stuttgart, Germany. (Where Walter Johannes Stein lectured frequently)

Beginning in 1919, Steiner was called upon to assist with numerous practical activities. His lecture activity expanded enormously. At the same time, the Goetheanum developed as a wide-ranging cultural centre.

On New Year’s Eve, 1923, it was burned down by arson; only his massive sculpture depicting the spiritual forces active in the world and the human being, the Representative of Humanity, was saved.

Steiner immediately began work designing a second Goetheanum building – made of concrete instead of wood – which was completed in 1928, three years after his death.

During the Anthroposophical Society’s Christmas Conference in 1923, Steiner founded the School of Spiritual Science, intended as an open university for research and study. This university, which has various sections or faculties, has grown steadily; it is particularly active today in the fields of education, medicine, agriculture, art, natural science, literature, philosophy, sociology and economics.

Steiner spoke of laying the foundation stone of the new society in the hearts of his listeners, while the First Goetheanum’s foundation stone had been laid in the earth. He gave a Foundation Stone meditation to anchor this.

The arson had a context. Threats had been made publicly against the Goetheanum, and against Steiner himself by right-wing nationalists.

Reacting to the catastrophic situation in post-war Germany, Steiner had gone on extensive lecture tours promoting his social ideas of the Threefold Social Order, entailing a fundamentally different political structure; he suggested that only through independence of the cultural, political and economic realms could such catastrophes as the World War be avoided.

Steiner also promoted a radical solution in the disputed area of Upper Silesia - claimed by both Poland and Germany: his suggestion that this area be granted at least provisional independence led to his being publicly accused of being a traitor to Germany.

In 1919, the political theorist of the National Socialist movement in Germany, Dietrich Eckart, attacked Steiner and suggested that he was a Jew. In 1921, Adolf Hitler attacked Steiner in an article in the right-wing ”Völkischen Beobachter” newspaper, including accusations that Steiner was a tool of the Jews, and other nationalist extremists in Germany were calling up a “war against Steiner”.

The 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich led Steiner to give up his residence in Berlin, saying that if those responsible for the attempted coup [Hitler and others] came to power in Germany, it would no longer be possible for him to enter the country; he also warned against the disastrous effects it would have for Central Europe if the National Socialists came to power.

The loss of the Goetheanum affected Steiner’s health seriously. From 1923 on, he showed signs of increasing frailness and illness. He continued to lecture widely, and even to travel; especially towards the end of this time, he was often giving two, three or even four lectures daily for courses taking place concurrently.

On the one hand, many of these were for practical areas of life: education, curative eurythmy, speech and drama. On the other hand, Steiner began a new, extensive series of lectures presenting his research on the successive lives of various individuals, and on the technique of karma research generally.

By autumn, 1924, however, he was too weak to continue; his last lecture was held in September of that year. He died on March 30, 1925.


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