From Academic Kids

(A more detailed description of concrete activities emerging from Anthroposophy can be found under the Wikipedia heading "Rudolf Steiner".) Also called 'spiritual science' by its founder, Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy (based on Greek words meaning man-wisdom) is a philosophy (or, as some opponents claim, a religion) that was born within the setting of Helena Blavatsky's Theosophy movement (but not born OF Theosophy, as Steiner, as stated by himself, always stayed true to his own insights, even while being active within the Theosophy movement)(re: the 'Discusson' section of this article).

Anthroposophy - not to be confounded with Anthropology - differs from Theosophy in emphasizing the importance of clear and free thought, as well as the development of parts of human consciousness not related to the material senses and artistic expression of one's perceptions. It centers on Western esoteric (rather than Hindu or Buddhist) thought, and within which Christ and His mission on earth have a particularly important place, though viewed differently than from the mainstream christian view.

The Anthroposophical Society was formed in 1912 after Steiner left the Theosophical Society Adyar over differences with its leader, Annie Besant, (she intended to present to the world the young Jiddu Krishnamurti as the reincarnated Messiah, which Steiner did not accept as truth.) He was followed by a large number of members of the Theosophical Society's German Section, of which he had been president.

Steiner defined Anthroposophy as "a path of knowledge leading the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe."

It advocates that people are not mere observers separated sharply from the outer world. According to Steiner, reality only arises at the juncture between the spiritual and the physical—i.e. "where concept and percept meet". This bears no small resemblance to Ren Descartes's assertion that imagination was what unified mind and body into a full being.

Both views share a focus on discipline: The anthroposophist's aim is to become "more human" by becoming more conscious and deliberate about one's thoughts and deeds. One may reach higher levels of consciousness through meditation, observation and openness over a lifelong "quest". Steiner described and developed numerous exercises for the attainment of spiritual development.

Anthroposophists view human beings as consisting of three intimately connected members: the physical body, the soul and the spirit. This view is thoroughly outlined in Steiner's books Theosophy, and An Outline of Occult Science. (Compare to Gnosticism, which has a somewhat similar three-fold view and which influenced this view within Theosophy. A much more used division however, which Steiner expands on very frequently, is the fourfold one: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego or "I" of the human being.

For Gnostics, Christ is often primarily a mystical experience, whereas for Steiner Christ's incarnation was a historical reality as well as a pivotal point in human history.

The Epistemic basis for Anthroposophy is contained in the seminal work, The Philosophy of Freedom, as well as in his doctoral thesis, Truth and Science. These and several other early books by Steiner anticipated 20th century continental philosophy's gradual overcoming of Cartesian idealism and of Kantian subjectivism. Like Edmund Husserl and Ortega y Gasset, Steiner was profoundly influenced by the works of Franz Brentano and had read Wilhelm Dilthey in depth. Through Steiner's early epistemological and philosophical works, he became one of the first European philosophers to overcome the subject-object split that Descartes, classical physics, and various complex historical forces had impressed upon the human mind for several centuries.

Medical doctors in the Anthroposophy movement use, amongst others, homeopathy as a part of their medical practices. In addition, Steiner gave several series of lectures to physicians, and out of this grew a medical movement that now includes hundreds of European M.D.s as adherents, and that has its own hospitals and medical universities.

Other practical results of Anthroposophy include work in: Architecture (Goetheanum), Bio-dynamic Farming, Childhood Education (Waldorf Schools), Astrosophy as opposed to Astrology, Anthroposophical Medicine (Weleda), Philosophy (The "Philosophy of Freedom"), Goethean Science resulting in new developments in the Arts, Eurythmy ("movement as visible speech"), and centres for helping the mentally handicapped (Camphill Villages).

Anthroposophy is not uncontroversial, however. Critics have termed it a cult with similarities to New Age movements. Supporters claim that in that case, it is one that strongly emphasizes individual freedom. Still, some critics maintain that anthroposophists tend to elevate Steiner's personal opinions, many of which are at odds with views generally held in orthodox religions, current science and the humanities, to the level of absolute truths. Supporters claim that if there is a degree of truth to this criticism, most of the blame belongs not to Steiner, but to his students. They claim that Steiner frequently asked his students to test everything he said, and on many occasions even begged them not to take anything he said on faith or authority.

Another critique asserts that some anthroposophists seem to distance their public activities from the possible inference that Anthroposophy is based on esoteric religious elements, tending to present themselves to the public as a non-sectarian academic philosophy. A difficulty in evaluating this criticism is that it arguably contains hidden bias because it ignores or begs a question anthroposophy sought to raise and answer: Is it possible for one's thinking to be both scientific and spiritually cognitive at once? Anthroposophy claims that it is possible. The aforementioned criticism, on the other hand, assumes that it is not, and therefore finds a contradiction between a claim of non-sectarianism and a foundation in non-physical or spiritual experience. The critics consider spiritual experience to be "religious" rather than cognitive. Such critics then read any reticence on the part of anthroposophists about their spiritual experiences and ideas as an effort to "hide" a spiritual basis for their various public activities, such as Waldorf schools.

External links

  • / Article: Rudolf Steiner introduced by Owen Barfield. ( (Barfield's writings were a significant influence on C.S. Lewis (Anglican) and J.R.R.Tolkien (Catholic), neither of whom were anthroposophists. At the end of the article, Barfield uses the Latin phrase, "homo imaginans et amans" which means "man imagining and loving".)
  • The Skeptic's Dictionary (
  • "Audio McCarthyism" ( Six page article from "Stereophile" magazine about Dan Dugan, the Secretary of PLANS (link to PLANS immediately below). The article presents Dugan as a user of McCarthyite deception and smear tactics. Dugan is also moderator of the "waldorf-critics" internet mailing list and a critic of anthroposophy.
  • PLANS, People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools ( (critical of Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy in general)de:Anthroposophie

fr:Anthroposophie hu:Antropozfia nl:Antroposofie ja:人智学 no:Antroposofi pl:Antropozofia ru:Антропософия sv:Antroposofi


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