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Home: Freunde Waldorf

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education.

Change does not come about on its own. It arises through the work of committed individuals, who can change the thinking of an entire culture. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the first Waldorf school, was born in 1861 in Austria-Hungary. He studied science and the humanities in Vienna, and later edited the first edition of Goethe's scientific writings. After moving to Berlin in 1897 he became involved in workers´ education and began to lecture within the framework of the Theosophical Society. After withdrawing from the Theosophical Society in 1913 and founding the independent Anthroposophical Society, he went on to break new ground in many fields of cultural, social and scientific thinking. Central to his work was a new understanding of the human being and his relationship to the creative activity which works in macrocosm and microcosm.

Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861 in Kraljevec, then in Hungary, now in Croatia. His father worked as a station-master, and so the family had to move from time to time, according to the demands of the railway administration. Small country stations were the environment Steiner grew up in. But so was the countryside itself as he usually had a long walk to school. After elementary school, his education tended towards the science, maths and technical stream rather than towards the liberal arts. Early on, however, he got hold of Kant's philosophical works and he immersed himself in the German Idealists.

When he went to the Vienna Technical College, he read natural sciences. At the same time he attended lectures and courses on philosophy and on literature. The occult experiences that ran parallel to all this posed serious questions to him as an adolescent and university student. What he saw and experienced seemed to be inaccessible to others. Natural science and inner, spiritual experience appeared irreconcilable. This led him to the study of the theory of knowledge, of how concepts are formed and how they can relate to reality. This in turn led him to Anthropology, in search for an answer to the question: What is the nature of the human being?

Despite his age, Steiner was entrusted with the task of editing the scientific works of Goethe. This work lead him to work in the Goethe/Schiller Archive in Weimar. His doctoral thesis was concerned with the theory of knowledge. In 1893, the first major work was published "The Philosophy of Freedom". From the turn of the century he wrote, lectured and continued his researches into the nature of the human being from an ever wider scope until his death in Dornach/Switzerland in 1925.

In overcoming the difficulty presented by Kant's posited limits to knowledge by intensifying perception through meditative work and through inner development, Rudolf Steiner introduced a radical change of paradigm which was to be important to the whole of history of philosophy. His concern was not the construction of new systems of thought, or the continuous forming of new theories, or a permanent discussion of new models of conceptual thought. Steiner's approach was rather a process of consistently extending the range of experience, perception and observation and accompanying this with a method of rigorous and consequent scientific objectivity. Psychological and spiritual phenomena become accessible to conscious investigation and they can be accurately observed and described. Moral and practical consequences arise out of such objective study. Anthroposophy, as Steiner was to call his approach, developed as a Science of the Spirit. Through the science of spiritual experience, the individual encounter with reality can lead to new orientation, and new insights and impulses for the arts, science and social renewal.

In 1917, a breakthrough is achieved. The results of thirty years of spiritual scientific research enabled Steiner to grasp the principle of the threefold nature of the human being. Both the interrelationship and the distinct character of body, soul and spirit can now be clearly perceived. The sense and nervous system, the rhythmic organisation and the metabolic and limb system of the body appear in their connection with the soul's faculties of thinking, feeling and willing. These can the evolve to become the higher spiritual abilities, Steiner termed imagination, inspiration and intuition. Self-knowledge enables the human Self, or "I" to embark on the transformation of its own innermost being.

This forms the starting point for a comprehensive change to be initiated in the areas of education, medicine, the sciences, society and the economy at a point in time which appeared as a turning point in the historical consciousness and which was documented by the end of World War I. A new concept of cultural, social and economic life appeared. Steiner and those who worked with him were already able to put it into practice in a rudimentary way.

Steiner's achievements have made Anthroposophy into a cultural impulse in our time. It counts on the responsible individual's ability to develop. It opens wide-ranging perspectives for the future which cannot be dispensed with in our crucial situation.Bodo von Plato