Who is this man called Rudolf Steiner?
He has been credited with having made “the greatest contribution to world peace” in the 20th century. His thinking has been described as “light-years ahead of the curve …” He has been called “ … a towering genius …”, “an extraordinary pioneer …”, “one of the most comprehensive psychological and philosophical visionaries …” *
He founded a system of agriculture known as biodynamics, which is in use all over the world today and contributed significantly to the development of modern organic farming.
His work in medicine led to the development of a broad range of complementary medications and therapies, with international pharmacies (Weleda) and clinics and a number of hospitals based on his work. There are homes for children and adults with developmental disabilities in many parts of the world, based on his understanding of human nature.
His paintings and drawings influenced many modern artists. His painting techniques and use of colour in art have influenced modern art therapy. He is one of very few major architects who was never a pupil of another major architect. Three of the 17 buildings he designed have been listed amongst the most significant works of modern architecture in the world.
The Goetheanum in Switzerland.
Photo: Taxiarchos228, Wikimedia Commons
His Goetheanum, now a national Swiss monument, has been hailed a “true masterpiece of 20th-century expressionist architecture”.
The concept of ethical banking is based on his ideas.
He emphasized the core spiritual unity of all the world’s peoples and sharply criticized racial prejudice. He believed that race and ethnicity are transient and superficial, not essential aspects of the individual. He predicted that race would lose its significance for future generations. His writings and lectures on social reform were endorsed by many cultural figures of the time, including Hermann Hesse.
In conjunction with Marie von Sivers, (whom he married in 1914) he founded a new approach to acting, storytelling and the recitation of poetry, as well as a dance-form called Eurythmy – sometimes referred to a ‘visible speech and song’. A four-year accredited European speech-training course is based on his work.
He founded Waldorf education – a system that has become the largest non-sectarian educational movement in the world. At the time, his approach to education was a revolutionary shift away from rote learning to experiential learning.
But that’s not all. The published writings of this scientist, mathematician, philosopher, educator, social reformer, architect, ecologist, literary scholar, theologian, historian, playwright and artist fill about forty volumes. These include books, essays, letters, verse, an autobiography and four full-length plays. His collected lectures make up another approximately 300 volumes. His drawings fill a separate series of 28 volumes. And it is known that many of his manuscripts remain unpublished. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Steiner)
Why, if he is so great, do we know so little about Rudolf Steiner?
“… their sheer quantity constitutes an enormous obstacle between Steiner and the intelligent reader. Steiner’s incredible industry was self-defeating. The mountain of titles, the avalanche of ideas, obscures the clarity and simplicity of his basic insight. Nevertheless, for the reader who declines to be discouraged, the rewards can be enormous.”
– Colin Wilson, Author, Rudolf Steiner: The Man and his Vision
But Steiner also defies convention. He does not fit neatly into any specific classification of knowledge or intellectual enquiry and he is often dismissed as a mystic or an occultist. And, like so many visionaries and thought leaders throughout history, Steiner was a product of the conventions and belief-systems of his time.
Those who make the effort to truly engage with the legacy of this man cannot help but be deeply touched and transformed. Be prepared, though, to be challenged and to think deeply in the context of ideas originally expressed in German during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Here’s how the man and his work have been described by people who either knew him or who investigated his work.
“My meeting with Rudolf Steiner led me to occupy myself with him from that time forth and to remain always aware of his significance. We both felt the same obligation to lead man once again to true inner culture. I have rejoiced at the achievements his great personality and his profound humanity have brought about in the world.”
– Albert Schweitzer
“Steiner spoke from his own intuition, and the word intuition must be understood as his direct experience. This deep wisdom of Steiner’s is the kind that Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to in his essay Self Reliance thus: ‘We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin.’ ”
– Christopher Bamford, Author
“Steiner was an extraordinary pioneer … and one of the most comprehensive psychological and philosophical visionaries of his time … his overall vision is as moving as one could imagine.”
– Ken Wilber, Philosopher and author
“The advent of the Waldorf Schools was in my opinion the greatest contribution to world peace and understanding of the century.”
– Willy Brandt, former Chancellor West Germany, 1971 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Uncommon Schooling: A Historical Look at Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Education,
a highly informative treatise by P. Bruce Uhrmache
If you would like to learn more, take a look at the ‘Featured Channels’ posted on the Michael Mount Waldorf School YouTube channel.