Is Everything Only Physical?
By Lois Schroft
Although his more than fifty published books and thousands of lectures continue to influence new generations of readers interested in the worlds of metaphysics and science, his name remains obscure. Thousands of people know of the worldwide Waldorf School system, Biodynamic Farming, Camphill Communities and Anthroposophy medicinal homeopathic products, doctors, nurses and hospitals, but few know that all are based on the spiritual insights of Rudolf Steiner, Doctor of Philosophy and Science. Born in Austria in 1861, his multi-faceted genius led to radically new holistic approaches to medicine, science, education, the arts, consciousness, religion, social renewal, agriculture, architecture and many other fields.
Around the age of seven he became aware that there was an invisible world existing alongside the visible. Experiencing that others were not aware of this, he remained silent on the subject until he was in his forties. The elder of three children born to a railroad stationmaster, his early education was directed into the field of the natural sciences by his father who wanted him to become a railway civil engineer. He graduated from the Vienna Technical College (the equivalent of M.I.T.) where he received advanced studies in mathematics, natural history and chemistry.
Although he was always more interested in philosophy, as evidenced by his tackling at age fourteen, Kant’s Philosophy of Pure Reason,following his grounding in the sciences, he went on to earn his PhD at the University of Rostock in 1891 based upon a comparison of the works of Kant, Hegel and Fichte.
For ten years he was employed by the Goethean Society in Weimar, Germany, to edit Goethe’s unpublished scientific writings. During these years Steiner published many books, notably his Philosophy of Freedom (1893) at age 32, and Goethe’s World View (1897). Finally, as a respected lecturer and well-published scholar, he had reached a point where his reconciliation of the sensible and supersensible worlds could stand up to the tests of his peers.
After moving to Berlin, he surprised his learned associates by going public with many lectures about the existence and working of the spiritual world, describing it in minute detail. He explained the evolution of our planetary system, focusing particularly on the earth and the reasons for the superior position of the human being. He carefully explained that everything visible is the result of the working of the spiritual hierarchies. Anxious that no one accept his precepts through blind faith, he asked that they be objectively tested, thus stimulating many fields of research and the resulting books by geologists, botanists, biologists, psychologists, medical doctors, physicists, priests and others.
Although one of the subjects that consumed much of his attention was the education of children (Waldorf school system), Steiner had no children. Following the death of his first wife, he married Marie Von Sivers with whom he had worked when for ten years he was head of the German section of the Theosophical Society.
Perhaps it is the distaste among many for conversations about spiritual science rather than about materialistic science that has delayed the spread of knowledge of this man’s vision and accomplishments. Referring to him, Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of Nation magazine, stated in recent years that this man was “Light years ahead of the curve,” and Oxford scholar Owen Barfield, argued that this man is “perhaps the key thinker of modern times…By comparison, his stature is almost too excessive to be borne.”
According to Steiner, mankind’s mission at this point in evolution is to understand the incarnation of the Christ. To this end, his lectures on history take us through the breakup of Atlantis, the Seven Holy Rishis, the creation of the Vedas and Upanishads, the Greek oracles, the Buddha, Mohamed and Christ/Jesus. In 1924 Rudolf Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society. The word “anthroposophy” can be translated as “wisdom about and concerning the human being.” It is a path of knowledge and self-development that encompasses the realms of religion, philosophy, art and science.
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