Steiner, Rudolf (1861–1925)
Founder of the Anthroposophical Society. He was born on
February 27, 1861, at Kraljevic, Austria, but a year later his
parents moved to Vienna. He grew up a Roman Catholic and
attended a technical college in Vienna. While in college he attended
lectures at the university, where he was attracted to the
great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He did intense
study in Goethe’s writings, in which he developed an expertise.
Because of his technical background and his competence
in the subject, he was invited to edit a critical edition of
Goethe’s scientific writings. Eventually he was offered a position
at the Goethe Archives in Weimar.
As a young man Steiner became interested in the occult. He
was a member of the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) for a brief
period and in the late 1890s moved to Berlin, where he became
affiliated with the Theosophical Society. He soon rose to leadership
of the German section of the society.
Almost from the beginning Steiner had opposed what he
considered a downplaying of Christ in Theosophical teachings.
Theosophy considers Christ but one member of the vast spiritual
hierarchy. His differences were brought to the fore, however,
in 1910, with the announcement by international president
Annie Besant that a young Indian boy was to be the new world
savior. To Steiner, and many others who identified themselves
as Theosophists, the emergence of Jiddu Krishnamurti and
the formation of the Order of the Star of the East was very
clearly an un-Christian statement. Steiner moved to oppose
Besant and Krishnamurti by declaring that membership in the
German section of the Theosophical Society and the Order of
the Star were incompatible. Besant revoked the charter of the
German section.
With 55 of the 65 chapters with him, Steiner in 1913 reorganized
the membership as the Anthroposophical Society. The
name of the organization was taken from a alchemical work by
Thomas Vaughn, Anthroposophia Theomagica. He created a
Gnostic-like theology and during the remaining years of his life
wrote voluminously, developing his perspective in every area of
life, especially art, education, natural farming, and religion. In
1922 he introduced the Christian Community as a related
church structure for those members who wanted more traditional
Steiner died on March 30, 1925, at Dornach, in Germanspeaking
Switzerland. From there the movement was later able
to survive the destruction of occultism in Germany by the Nazi
regime. His movement began to spread internationally in the
1920s and is now represented across Europe and North America.
Easton, Stewart. Rudolf Steiner Herald of a New Epoch. Spring
Valley, N.Y. Anthroposophical Press, 1980.
Rittelmeyer, Friedrich. Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life. London
George Roberts, 1929.
Steiner, Rudolf. Christianity as Mystical Fact. West Nyack,
N.Y. Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1961.
———. Cosmic Memory. West Nyack, N.Y. Rudolf Steiner
Publications, 1959.
———. The Course of My Life. New York Anthroposophical
Press, 1951.
Wachmuth, Guenther. The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner.
New York Whittier Books, 1955.