Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) is an important occult philosopher. An Austrian, he was greatly influenced by Goethe's works, and worked for a time at the Goethe archives at Weimer. He later became involved in the Theosophical Society, and founded a new German branch. But although obviously influenced by the Theosophical World-view (the concept of seven planes, cosmic cycles and sub-cycles, etc) Steiner's approach and teachings differed markedly from those of the rest of Theosophists. Whereas the Theosophists, under the inspiration of Blavatsky's orientation, looked to the East - to India and Tibet, for inspiration - Steiner was preeminently a European mystic. He was interested in European occultism, European mysticism, European Christianity. In 1907 he was initiated into the Rosicrucians. By 1910 he was lecturing heavily on the Gospels, which gave him a popular following among the Germans he associated with.
Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater's Star of the East project (in which they claimed the new Messiah had incarnated in the person of Jiddu Krishnamurti, then a young boy) was as much as Steiner and the Germans could bear. And the last thing the German aristocracy wanted to be associated with was the British empire and all that Indian stuff. They craved instead the Nordic mysteries.
Eventually, due to increasing tension with Annie Besant's brand of Theosophy, things came to a head, and he broke away in 1913 to found his own organisation, which he called Anthroposophy ("Wisdom of or about Man").
Steiner wrote only a few books, but during his period as a teacher he gave thousands of lectures on all aspects of occultism and esotericism, as well as education, music, agriculture, and economics. In this enormous corpus of work he laid out his metaphysical system, a unique but limited structure, based on elements of Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Plato, Goethe, and Christianity. Indian influence in his ideas was for all intents and purposes nil, unlike the Theosophists, and the Theosophical Sanskrit terminology which appears in his early lectures was soon replaced by Christian European terms, such as spirit, soul, etc.
Steiner claimed to have clairvoyant or occult vision; to be able to directly perceive occult realities, spiritual beings, and the Theosophists' Akashic Record. It was on the basis of reading this akashic record that Steiner developed his cosmology, theory of human evolution, Christology, etc. He claimed to be able to actually see back in time to these ancient events imprinted on the cosmic aether.
Unfortunately, this akashic record cannot have been the most reliable thing, for Steiner made a few curious blunders. His account of the formation and history of the Earth for example is not supported by any astrophysical, geological, or paleontological evidence. He took the Gospels at face value, whereas any modern religious historian could tell you they were not eye-witness statements but theological accounts of how the early Church perceived Christ, only written some decades after the latter's death, and compiled from different sources. And his claim (on the basis of this same akashic record) that the anonymous fifth/sixth century Christian Neoplatonist who used as a pseudonym the name of a disciple of Paul's was actually the original (1st century) Dionysus mentioned in the book of Acts, is disproved by the striking similarity between "Psuedo"-Dionysius' writings and those of the Neoplatonist Proclus (fifth century). Whole sections of Dionysus are in fact plagiarised from Proclus.
Steiner's published lectures, despite being a mine of occult information, are also tedious and repetitious. His actual writings, especially his later and more important ones, are even more so, and for the most part totally unreadable.
Steiner's current legacy lies in education and agriculture. His education philosophy made him a notable figure among progressive educators just after the First World War, and his "Waldorf schools" are still known and respected by many today (although quite understandably everyone tends to look down on his associated cosmology in a rather dismissive way). In the 1940's and '50's in Australia at least the Steiner people developed the Camp Hill Communities (for example Warranala in Sydney), with curative education of other retarded children. In many ways these were the forerunners of the modern communes, with aspects of closed monastic communities.
Steiner's extraordinary system of agriculture, called bio-dynamics, rejects chemical fertilisers, and is based on the subtle formative forces of plant growth. With the help of his second wife, Marie von Sivers, he developed a system of flowing movement, "eurythmy", which seems, especially in Curative Erythmy to be at least superficially comparable to Chinese disciplines such as Tai Chi, although totally independent of them (for Steiner the Greek influence was always primary).
Around the turn of the century, Steiner returned to the mystical interests which had formed part of his education at Vienna. Such occult interests tended to be quite common among the idealistic and reforming circles in which Steiner moved, and his conversion from Goethe-specialist to occult teacher was complete by about 1906. This period was marked by the increasing ascendancy of Marie von Sivers (1867-1948), a Baltic Russian actress and originally a keen Theosophist.
In 1906 Steiner accepted a charter from the O.T.O. (this was still several years before Crowley was to join and eventually take over the organisation), which licensed him to work as head of a lodge called the Mysteria Mystica Aeterna. It is very unlikely that Steiner adopted the sex-magical practices of that organization. Rather, he was looking for an "apostolic succession" to give authority to his own ideas and his own form of Rosicrucianism. But Steiner's "Rosicrucianism", like his "theosophy", was a personal creation. He mingled Theosophical ideas of karma and reincarnation with contemporary European occultism, Goethe, and his own brand of Christianity.
Linkliste "Rudolf Steiner" - 2500 Rudolf Steiner links!
The Rudolf Steiner Archive and Electronic library
Waldorfsidorna - Waldorf education, international home page of the Waldorf movement, and anthroposophy.
Biodynamic Association of America - home page
Rudolf Steiner Wikipedia page
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