Anthroposophy (19TH-20TH CENTURIES)

The teachings of the German occult philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), derived from an ancient Greek phrase meaning ‘wisdom about man’.

Steiner held that the development of man’s spiritual awareness was of paramount importance. He attempted to treat the investigation of spirituality as a ‘scientific’ study, and based much of his research upon his central contention that man’s intelligence was derived from a more spiritually perceptive form of consciousness which required revival.

Christ’s self-sacrifice was, he argued, a catalyst for such a realization of man’s spiritual potential.


R Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, G Metaxa, trans. (London and New York, 1923)

Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to develop mental faculties of spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience.[1][2] They also aim to present their ideas in a manner verifiable by rational discourse and specifically seek a precision and clarity in studying the spiritual world mirroring that obtained by scientists investigating the physical world.

The philosophy has its roots in German idealist and mystical philosophies.[3] Steiner chose the term anthroposophy (from anthropo-, human, and Sophia, wisdom) to emphasize his philosophy’s humanistic orientation.[1][4] Anthroposophical ideas have been employed in alternative movements in many areas including education (both in Waldorf schools and in the Camphill movement), agriculture, medicine, banking, organizational development, and the arts.[1][5][6][7][8] The main organization for advocacy of Steiner’s ideas, the Anthroposophical Society, is headquartered at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.

Anthroposophy’s supporters include Hilma af Klint, Pulitzer Prize-winning and Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow,[9] Nobel prize winner Selma Lagerlöf,[10] Andrei Bely,[11][12] Joseph Beuys,[13] Owen Barfield, architect Walter Burley Griffin,[14] Wassily Kandinsky,[15][16] Andrei Tarkovsky,[17] Bruno Walter,[18] Right Livelihood Award winners Sir George Trevelyan,[19] and Ibrahim Abouleish,[20] child psychiatrist Eva Frommer,[21][22] Fortune magazine editor Russell Davenport, Romuva (Lithuanian pagan) religious founder Vydūnas, and former president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Albert Schweitzer was a friend of Steiner’s and was supportive of his ideals for cultural renewal.[23] The historian of religion Olav Hammer has termed anthroposophy “the most important esoteric society in European history.”[24] However, many scientists and physicians, including Michael Shermer, Michael Ruse, Edzard Ernst, David Gorski, and Simon Singh have criticized anthroposophy’s application in the areas of medicine, biology, agriculture, and education to be dangerous and pseudoscientific

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