Rudolf Steiner, born in Austria (February 1861 – March 30, 1925), initially gained recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and author of philosophical works, including The Philosophy of Freedom.
But it is his later contributions that tend to persist into our own time. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he founded an esoteric spiritual movement known as anthroposophy which is still vital today.
He came up with the Waldorf approach to education, which still thrives internationally as Waldorf Schools. In addition, he is responsible for biodynamic agriculture, so relevant to our own era’s need to heal the human relationship to nature. He made many other unique contributions to the realms of thought, spiritual life, and the embodiment of spiritual in life, as well.
Dedicated to finding a synthesis between science and spirituality, Steiner came up with “Spiritual science,” a philosophy that applied the clarity of Western philosophy to spiritual questions. He first began speaking publicly about spiritual experiences and phenomena in his lectures to the Theosophical Society. By 1901 he had begun to write about spiritual topics as discussions of historical figures. By 1904, he was expressing his own understanding of these themes in his essays and books. “A world of spiritual perception is discussed in a number of writings which I have published,” he wrote. “The Philosophy of Freedom . . . tries to show that the experience of thinking, rightly understood, is in fact an experience of spirit.”
Applying his training in mathematics, science, and philosophy to produce rigorous, verifiable presentations of his spiritual experiences, he believed that anyone—through ethical disciplines and meditative training—could develop the ability to experience the spiritual world, including the higher nature of oneself and others, and thereby become capable of actions motivated solely by love.
Steiner’s life’s work confronted many conventional categories and encompassed numerous disciplines and specialties. He was a philosopher, a theologian, an educator, an agricultural expert, an architect, an expert in medicinal plants, a dramatist, an authority on Goethe, a clairvoyant and esotericist, a social reformer, an economist, and an artistic trendsetter. In short, he was a creative genius. Steiner had supersensible perceptions starting at a very young age and aimed to find scientific methods for developing and cultivating these powers within ourselves by means of our conscious and deliberate thoughts. He believed that Divine creation is not simply a repetition of something already existing, but that the mission of the Earth is the cultivation of the principle of Love to its highest degree by those beings evolving upon it (i.e., us). When the Earth has reached the end of its evolution, Love should permeate it through and through. These tasks became his lifework.
Many people believe that Rudolf Steiner intentionally wrote in a difficult manner to make the readers really think, not merely glance through. Steiner did indeed want readers to think; but he also wanted people to be able to comprehend the contents in order to evolve inwardly and outwardly, not just take his writings and (figuratively speaking) throw them back on the shelf. I found, after talking to others and researching Steiner, that for many of his readers, the question often starts with, “Just where do I start? How do I begin to make sense of all this information?” I decided to simplify his writings a bit but keep the content and its purpose intact, as well as bring his works to 21st-century thinking.