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Anthroposophy

A system of Christian mystical philosophy developed by the Austrian, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Son of a stationmaster, he studied science at Vienna University and thereafter worked till 1897 on the Weimar edition of Goethe's works. He joined the Theosophists,* but finding them overinfluenced by oriental religious ideas, he left them to develop a Christianized version of theosophy which he called “anthroposophy.” In 1913 he established an institute at Dornach near Basle, to incorporate the newly formed Anthroposophical Society and to provide a publishing house. Similar institutes were later set up in other countries as were also the Rudolf Steiner schools which specialize in the education of maladjusted children.

Steiner's thought encompassed the whole range of speculative philosophy. Basically his aim was “to raise the faculties of the soul to develop organs of spiritual insight.” He held that the story of evolution represented the various stages by which man as a created spiritual being became clothed in flesh. Though spiritual man was made in God's image, this image was soon distorted and Christ often intervened (e.g., by giving man an upright posture) to aid his restoration. The last and most important spiritual intervention was at Calvary by which means man is finally offered salvation from earthly entanglement. Steiner held that the Parousia, heralding the completion of man's redemption, started in our own century with the appearance of Christ in the etheric sphere. The anthroposophical movement owed much to Steiner's magnetic personality: he attracted many, some “cranky” and unbalanced, but many too of acknowledged ability who were unconventional but religiously and mystically inclined. Perhaps his most enduring work was in the field of education.

Steiner's autobiography (ET 1928) is the main source of information about the man; his views are contained in his numerous books, notably Spiritual Science and Medicine (1948 ed.); see also Rudolph Steiner: Recollections by some of his Pupils (1958); works by G. Kaufmann (1922) and A.P. Shepherd (1954); and particularly the centenary volume, The Faithful Thinker (ed. A.C. Harward, 1961).