Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian academic, philosopher, artist and social reformer. Born in modern day Croatia, Steiner was educated as an adolescent in Vienna, Austria and received his Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Rostock, Germany in 1891. His first book titled, ‘Philosophy of Freedom’ was published in 1893.
Although Rudolf Steiner is commonly associated with Steiner or Waldorf education, his interests were diverse. He lectured and wrote prolifically on architecture, artistic practices, curative health, nutrition, biodynamic agriculture and social reform. He produced fifty books and in his lifetime gave approximately 6000 lectures across Europe and the UK. Underlying many of his studies was his belief in a system of philosophy called Anthroposophy.
Steiner’s first book, ‘Philosophy of Freedom’ articulated his vision of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science is both a scientific and philosophical way at looking at life. Artistic sensitivity, spiritual insight and observation of patterns within human development are key parts of this system.
Read Rudolf Steiner—An Oevre By John Davy for a comprehensive Sydney Rudolf Steiner College article on Steiner’s life.
What is Anthroposophy?
In 1924, Rudolf Steiner defined anthroposophy as ‘… a path of knowledge, which intends to lead what is spiritual in the human being to what is spiritual in the universe’.
Anthroposophy is fundamentally a study of the human being, our nature, development and task.
The lens that Rudolf Steiner gives us is the view that we are spiritual beings living a physical existence. In this sense, Anthroposophy is the tangible path of inner development and a spiritual-scientific lifelong study.
It draws and builds on the spiritual research of Rudolf Steiner, who maintained that every human being (Anthropos) has the inherent wisdom (Sophia) to solve the riddles of existence and to transform as individuals as well as society.
Anthroposophy is a spiritual philosophy and spiritual science that speaks to the deep questions of humanity, to our basic needs and the need to develop a relation to the world in complete freedom. It strives to develop not only natural scientific, but also spiritual scientific research and to bridge the divisions between the sciences, the arts and the spiritual strivings of man as the three main areas of human culture.
Anthroposophy is also an impulse movement to nurture and honour the life of the soul in the individual and in society and is active in the world as applied or practical anthroposophy in various initiatives such as: Waldorf education, Biodynamic farming, Medicine, Curative education Eurythmy, The Christian Community, Architecture, etc.
The term ‘anthroposophy’ predates Rudolf Steiner. The word ‘anthroposophy’ comes from the Greek (anthropos meaning ‘human’ and sophia meaning ‘wisdom’). It can also be translated as ‘wisdom of the human being’ or understood as ‘consciousness of one’s humanity’.
Anthroposophy is a spiritual philosophy; not a religion. It is a pathway to developing a conscious awareness of one’s humanity. It recognises the inherent ‘wisdom of the human being’ to support a lifelong quest for spiritual self-development.
It should be noted that while Anthroposophy informs the understanding and teaching approach in Waldorf/Steiner education, Anthroposophy itself is not taught as a subject to students in Steiner/Waldorf Schools.
To learn more about Anthroposophy and how the philosophy relates to Steiner/Waldorf education, please see our introductory online course Exploring Anthroposophy for a detailed overview delivered live via a series of weekly interactive webinars by a selection of highly experienced Australian and International lecturers. The course is delivered once a year from February to June.