This is the name given by Rudolf Steiner to his teachings. Its means «knowledge of man» or «human wisdom.» Steiner said his teachings were Spiritual Science, a term that to him was synonymous with occult science. Spiritual Science signified what he considered to be the empirical character of his research concerning the spiritual world.

His work in Spiritual Science that formed Anthroposophy earnestly began in 1913 after a dispute with Annie Besant, head of the Theosophical Society, concerning her pronouncement that Jiddu Krishnamurri was the reincarnated Christ. After leaving the Theosophical Society with his followers Steiner formed the Anthroposophical Society, a spiritual movement that is rooted in the Rosicrucian stem of the Christian esoteric tradition.

Steiner’s clearest description of Anthroposophy can be found with the opening paragraphs of Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, which he wrote during the last moths of his life:

Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe. It arises in man as a need of the heart, of the life of feeling: and it can be justified inasmuch as it can satisfy this inner need.

Anthroposophy communicates knowledge that is gained in a spiritual way…For at the very frontier where the knowledge derived from sense-perception ceases, there is opened through the human soul itself the further outlook into the spiritual world.(Steiner, 1973, p. 13)

The full extent of Steiner’s systematic was the seeking and teaching the methods or discipline of achieving spiritual, sense-free, knowing. Anthroposophy may be understood as the seeing of the inner, or spiritual, core of every reality, even those realities that appear grossly material. Although Anthroposophy is generally thought of as a teaching, it is essentially a discipline by which to see into the spiritual world. When employing the anthroposophical technique, Steiner was able to find deceased souls and read the Akasha Record.

One of the major claims of Spiritual Science is that knowledge of the higher, or spiritual, world is made possible by the principle of the self that Steiner refers to as «Spirit,» «Ego,» or «I.» Steiner stated that each of the four levels of knowledge corresponds to a level of human nature (though the lowest of the four levels, sensory, is technically below the level of knowledge). Sensory perception is made possible by the physical body; imaginative knowledge is made possible by the etheric body; inspirational knowledge is made possible by the soul, or astral body; and intuitive knowledge (also called spiritual knowledge) is made possible by the I, Ego, or Spirit. (see also Members of Man)

To summarize Anthroposophy is difficult for several reasons; one, which is, that Steiner prescribes methods for growth on all four levels of apprehension (or, correspondingly, the four levels of self). Techniques for increasing such knowledge as well as for the growth of the self include the study of natural sciences, projective geometry, sculpture, and painting, as well as speech formation, music, «eurythmy» (a method of disciplined movement to sound), interpersonal relations, experience of scriptures, and religious rituals. Steiner had practiced what he taught, he had personally worked in these and other areas as a way of showing the varied possibilities for the cultivation of imaginative, inspirational, and intuitive knowledge.

Steiner claimed that supersensible knowledge that lies behind his discoveries and disclosures is a distinct capacity of the present age – as, earlier, the thinking capacity of the classical Greek philosophers or earlier Christian thinkers was significantly different than the more ancient seers, whether the rsis of India, Moses, or Homer. Within Steiner’s elaborate description of the evolution of consciousness, thinking has evolved in direct relation to the devolution of clairvoyance. Steiner sought to illustrate that the supersensible mode of perception that he espoused combines conscious thinking with a spiritual or intuitive penetration akin to the clairvoyance characteristic of ancient times. In the center of this double evolution, Steiner pictures the decent of Christ, which reversed the downward, materialistic trend in favor of an ascent toward an increasingly free, spiritual mode of thinking.

Although only a few, if any, of Steiner’s followers ever completely achieved the supersensible perception that he apparently exhibited they have nevertheless creatively applied the spiritual discipline and insights that he taught. This can be seen in the Waldorf School movement, the activities of the Campbell Villages, the Christian Community, and the other achievements of the Anthroposophical Society. A.G.H.


Mircea Eliade (Editor-in-Chief). Encyclopedia of Religion. New York, Macmillan, 1987. pp. 1, 320-321; 14, 47-48

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