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Steiner, Rudolf


Founder of anthroposophy; b. Kraljević, Austria, Feb. 27, 1861; d. Dornach, near Basel, Switzerland, March 30, 1925. His formal schooling in natural science at the University of Vienna was supplemented by extensive reading, notably in goethe, whose complete works he edited (188996). For a time he was coeditor of Magazin für Literatur. His bent for occultism led him from Catholicism into theosophy. In 1902 he became head of a German section of the Theosophical Society, although he reacted against its dominantly Oriental associations. In 1912 he organized the Anthroposophical Society as an autonomous branch of theosophy and built the Gotheanum as international headquarters at Dornach, where the center of the Anthroposophical Society remains. Steiner's extensive lectures were later published in book form. Die Philosophie der Freiheit (1894; Eng. tr. 1916) was his most important book. His other best-known works were Das Christenthum als mystische Tatsache (1902), Die Geheimwissenschaft (1910), Vom Meschenrätsel (1916), and Von Seelenrätseln (1917). His autobiography, Story of My Life (1925; Eng. tr. 1928), gives the clearest insight into his complex character. Steiner claimed to have discovered the secret of man's search for the divine by his theory of spirit cognition, innate in everyone. According to him, most people are blinded by attention to material phenomena and are liberated from this materialism through contact with the reality of a spiritual world. His system differs from the more familiar Eastern philosophies in that he admits the existence of things less than spirit. He further postulates that not only the whole cosmos but all history and culture verify the same levels of existence that the human spirit can penetrate through its native intuition without books, teachers, or other external aids. Steiner inspired numerous activities and movements, such as the Waldorf school program, homes and schools for impaired children, the biodynamic method of farming, centers for science research, and academies for the fine arts. Most of these projects have no direct connection with anthroposophy. The Anthroposophical Society has published several of Steiner's books in English translation.

Bibliography: a. p. shepherd, A Scientist of the Invisible (London 1954). g. wachsmuth, The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner, tr. o. d. wannamaker and r. e. raab (2d ed. New York 1955).

[j. a. hardon]

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