Rudolf Steiner was Austrian-born lecturer and founder of anthroposophy, a philosophy which attempts to synthesize science and mysticism. The Waldorf School movement was inspired by his works, and by 1969 had some 80 schools attended by more than 25,000 children in Europe and the U.S.

Attracted in his youth to the works of Goethe, Steiner edited that poet's scientific works and from 1889 to 1896 worked on the standard edition of his complete works at Weimar. During this period he wrote his Die Philosophie der Freiheit (1894; “The Philosophy of Freedom”), then moved to Berlin to edit the literary journal Magazin fr Literatur and to lecture.

Coming gradually to believe in spiritual perception independent of the senses, he called the result of his research “anthroposophy,” centering on “knowledge produced by the higher self in man.” In 1912 he founded the Anthroposophical Society.

Steiner believed that man once participated more fully in spiritual processes of the world through a dreamlike consciousness but had since become restricted by his attachment to material things. The renewed perception of spiritual things required training the human consciousness to rise above attention to matter. The ability to achieve this goal by an exercise of the intellect is theoretically innate in everyone.

In 1913 at Dornach, near Basel, Switz., Steiner built his first Goetheanum, which he characterized as a “school of spiritual science.” After a fire in 1922, it was replaced by another building. The Waldorf School movement derived from his experiments with the Goetheanum.

Other projects that have grown out of Steiner's work include schools for defective children; a therapeutic clinical centre at Arlesheim, Switzerland, scientific and mathematical research centres, and schools of drama, speech, painting, and sculpture. Among Steiner's varied writings are The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1894), Occult Science: An Outline (1913), and Story of My Life (1924).

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