Rudolf Steiner

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Steiner, Rudolf

(ro͞o`dôlf shtīn`ər), 1861–1925, German occultist and social philosopher. He was a leader in the founding of the German Theosophic Association (see theosophytheosophy
[Gr.,=divine wisdom], philosophical system having affinities with mysticism and claiming insight into the nature of God and the world through direct knowledge, philosophical speculation, or some physical process.
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). In time he abandoned theosophy and developed a distinctive philosophy which he called anthroposophy; this philosophy attempts to explain the world in terms of man's spiritual nature, or thinking independent of the senses. Translations of his works include Investigations in Occultism (1920) and Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1922). He also wrote many works on Goethe.


See his autobiography (rev. tr. 1951, repr. 1970).

Steiner, Rudolf

An Austria-Hungarian philosopher, artist, scientist, and architect. His Geotheanum (illus.), Dornach, Switzerland (1913), was the epitome of Expressionism, with a strong Symbolist and Jugendstil flavor. It was built of reinforced concrete.

Steiner, Rudolf


Born Feb. 27, 1861, in Kraljevic, Croatia; died Mar. 30, 1925, in Dornach, near Basel. German mystical philosopher and founder of anthroposophy.

Steiner was influenced by the natural philosophy of Goethe, and in the period 1883–97 he edited the poet’s scientific writings. Steiner was also influenced by the evolutionary teachings of C. Darwin and E. Haeckel and subsequently by the philosophy of F. Nietzsche. In 1902, Steiner embraced theosophy, heading the German branch of the Theosophical Society; after a conflict with the society in 1913 over the proclamation of J. Krishnamurti as the new Messiah, Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society with its center at Dornach, Switzerland.

Steiner attempted to transform theosophy into an experimental science, setting as its goal the revelation of the “secret” forces of man through the use of a system of special exercises that involved eurythmics, music, the contemplation of mysteries, and meditation. Steiner’s “spiritual science” claimed to combine German classical idealist philosophy and the natural scientific ideas of modern times with the various religious doctrines of antiquity and the Middle Ages (the ancient mysteries, Christianity, and Eastern religions), as interpreted in the spirit of occultism. Steiner’s writings ranged over such subjects as pedagogy, education, the arts, medicine, cosmology, and the history of religion.

In 1919, Steiner began developing Utopian ideas for overcoming the soulless, mechanistic economy on the basis of a spiritual approach to nature—for example, by transforming agriculture through the comprehension of the biorhythms of plants. Plato’s influence was evident in Steiner’s political utopia in his division of the social organism into three independent spheres—juridical, spiritual, and economic. Under conditions of the post-World War I crisis, Steiner’s doctrine gained widespread acceptance primarily in Germany; it had a definite effect on the artistic intelligentsia.

Steiner was also a playwright, sculptor, and architect; the Goe-theanum, an architectural complex that was built in Dornach in accordance with his design, exerted a considerable influence on architectural expressionism. The Anthroposophical Society was persecuted by the Nazis, who banned Steiner’s works after 1933. Since the 1960’s there has been a revival of Steinerism in Western Europe and the USA (for example, the therapeutic clinical center in Arlesheim, Switzerland).


Gesamtausgabe, vorträge, 2nd ed., vols. 1–18. Dornach, 1958–75.
In Russian translation:
Ocherk tainovedeniia. Moscow, 1916.
Misterii drevnosti i khristianstvo. Moscow, 1912.
Teosofiia. Moscow, 1915.


Belyi, A. R. Shteiner i Gete v mirovozzrenii sovremennosti. Moscow, 1917.
Wiesberger, H. R. Steiner: Das literarische und künstlerische Werk. Dornach, 1961. (Contains bibliography.)
Hiebel, F. R. Steiner im Geistesgang des Abendlandes. Bern-Munich, 1965.
Abendroth, W. R. Steiner und die heutige Welt. Munich, 1969.