Rudolf Steiner

About Dr Rudolf Steiner
Dr Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, scientist, artist and educationalist whose humanitarian vision has influenced many fields of human endeavour. All over the world, but particularly in Western Europe, there are schools, communities for people with special needs, biodynamic farms, hospitals, clinics and medical practices, artists and architects, banks and businesses –whose work acknowledges a special debt to Rudolf Steiner.

Educated at the College for Science and later at the Technical College in Vienna,Rudolf Steiner also studied philosophy, literature, medicine and psychology, and in 1891 submitted his PhD. thesis at Rostock University. The content of this later appeared in his book,‘The Philosophy of Freedom’. As a scientist, artist and philosopher, looking at the problems facing the 20th century, Steiner saw that science, religion and art had taken separate paths. Science was becoming coldly factual, art too personal and religion too often academic.

He realised that if a new and positive culture was to arise, then science, art and spiritual experience must be renewed and brought together again. Where their special qualities affect and help each other positively, science becomes morally creative, art universal, and spiritual experience more real. In such a way, social life, based on the individual’s concern for the welfare of others would develop in a beneficial manner.


Habitually, man establishes an ordered relationship with the world and himself through thought. He sees, muses, experiments (formally or through everyday experience) and draws conclusions relevant to his needs. But his thoughts are completely conditioned by his senses and his senses are completely conditioned by his anatomy and physiology, and therefore even his thoughts about anatomy and physiology are conditioned by this circuitous route. In this sense, thinking is chained to our physical-sensory make-up and can never convey a true or objective reality about the world or ourselves. At most it can convey definable relationships between our various sensory experiences and out of this grows science and technology.

But thought can follow another course. Steiner became acutely aware that in the study of pure mathematics, something is being undertaken which is not conditioned by an unascertainable physiology and anatomy. In mathematics we are directly observing the laws of quantitative relationship, which we can then apply to our sensory world and find that they also hold good for that world. These laws exist, and though we have to have a functioning brain, nervous system, etc. to apprehend them, they themselves are not the result of any physiological process. They exist within their own right and apply as soundly in the phenomenal world as they do within the realm of thought. This opened the door for him to what he later called "sense-free thinking".

Inner Space
Young Steiner was deeply introverted; as he admits in his Autobiography (1925), he had great difficulty relating to the outer world. He also had an inquisitive mind and was obsessed with many questions the adults he knew seemed unable to answer. This subjectivity might have taken a morbid turn were it not for his discovery of mathematics. When Steiner came upon a book of geometry, it was a revelation. "That one can work out forms which are seen purely inwardly, independent of the outer senses, gave me a feeling of deep contentment. I found consolation for the loneliness caused by the many unanswered questions. To be able to grasp something purely spiritual brought me an inner joy. I know that through geometry I first experienced happiness."

Steiner's joy upon discovering geometry may strike us as odd, yet the experience was essential in getting him through an early crisis. What impressed Steiner so greatly about geometry was that it seemed to offer proof that within the mind there existed a kind of "soul-space," an inner equivalent of the external space of the natural world. 

excerpts from The Story Of My Life by Rudolf Steiner, read by Dale Brunsvold
Part 1 (1:55)
Part 2 (4:29)
Part 3 (3:35)
Part 4 (5:38)
Part 5 (7:34)
Part 6 (3:10)
Part 7 (7:10)
Part 8 (2:06)

What is Rudolf Steiner's Path to Freedom?

Path of Science
Path of Cosmic Logic
Path of Anthroposophy
Path of Freedom
Path of Pure Thinking
Path of Study
Path of Ethical Individualism
Path of Clairvoyance
Path of Philosophy
Path of Anthroposophical Community
Path of Individual Initiative
Path of New Social Order

"Each one of us has it in themselves to be a free spirit, just as every rose bud has in it a rose."

“My purpose was to write a biographical account of how one human soul made the difficult ascent to freedom.”

“I found my own way as best I could, and then, later on, described the route that I had taken.”

In a letter to Rosa Mayreder, “If you had rejected my book, it would have been incomparably painful for me… I don’t teach. I relate what I have inwardly experienced. I relate it as I have experienced it.”

How to get the book:
The Philosophy of Freedom (unrevised) -- R. F. Alfred Hoernle

Once asked, for which of his books he would be remembered as writer, Rudolf Steiner answered, “For my Philosophy of Freedom.”

Path of Science
The Philosophy of Freedom is the result of introspective observation following the methods of natural science.

“I was not setting forth a doctrine, but simply recording inner experiences through which I had actually passed. And I reported them just as I experienced them.”

“What I was really trying to do in The Philosophy of Freedom was to locate freedom empirically and thus put it on a solidly scientific basis.”

Galileo took a seminal role in launching the first revolution in the physical sciences, and a key element in this revolution was the rigorous, sophisticated observation of physical phenomena.

Darwin likewise launched a revolution in the life sciences on the basis of decades of meticulous observation of biological phenomena.

By using the Philosophy of Freedom as a map for making introspective observations of inner life an opportunity exists for a 21st century revolution in our understanding of the mind sciences.

“For one of the things most centrally needed is clarity on the path of inner striving, a clarity of inner striving comparable to the clarity of external striving. Not vague mysticism, but brightest clarity.”

In a conversation with Rudolf Steiner in 1922 Walter Johannes Stein asked,
“What will remain of your work in thousands of years?
Rudolf Steiner replied: “Nothing but the Philosophy of Freedom,” and then he added: “But everything is contained in it. If someone realizes the act of freedom described there, he finds the whole content of Anthroposophy”.

The pure thinking of science (rightly understood) is the sole avenue leading to the spirituality of the future.

Rudolf Steiner, while writing The Philosophy of Freedom was not concerned with philosophy as such, but with working out for himself the means of expression which, in its very thought-formation could bring about the transformation of those forces which had been brought to highest possible peak in pure scientific thinking and now could become the spring board for a final leap into new realms.

Path of Cosmic Logic
"In 1894 I made the attempt with my Philosophy of Freedom to provide a philosophic basis on which to approach spiritual science. It presents the wide range of human standpoints, often masquerading under such strange philosophical names, in a way that leaves the reader free of attachment to any particular approach and able to let the various concepts speak for themselves, as though each were a photograph of one and the same object taken from many different angles."

The Philosophy of Freedom is a thought organism whose structure is depicted in Steiner’s World-Outlook diagram found in his Human and Cosmic Thought lectures. Steiner states the World-Outlook diagram indicates the logic of the Spiritual Hierarchies of the cosmos. "..their logic was indicated in the diagram I drew for you."

World-Outlook Diagram

“For in the case of a book like this, the important thing is so to organize the thoughts it contains that they take effect. With many other books it doesn’t make a great deal of difference if one shifts the sequence, putting this thing first and that later. But in the case of The Philosophy of Freedom that is impossible. It would be just as unthinkable to put page 150 fifty pages earlier as it would be to put a dog’s hind legs where the front ones belong.”

“Catharsis is an ancient term for the purification of the astral body by means of meditation and concentration exercises. If a reader takes this book as it was meant and relates to it in the way a virtuoso playing a composition on the piano relates to its composer, reproducing the whole piece out of himself, the books organically evolved thought sequence will bring about a high degree of catharsis.”

“Within this book thinking is experienced in a way that makes it impossible for a person involved in it to have any other impression, when he is living in thought, he is living in the cosmos. This relatedness to cosmic mysteries is the red thread running through the book.”

One can’t bend and twist pure thinking to one’s subjective will. Thinking itself thinks. The spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies enter free thinking and then your thinking receives its content from above.

Path of Anthroposophy
"Anyone interested in looking for them will find the basic principles of anthroposophy already enunciated in this book."

It takes no great effort of will to observe and then think about one's observations. It takes energy to engage in the activity of sense-free thinking.

People have to be shown how to get beyond merely poetical, artistic imagination to creative moral imagination.

The content of The Philosophy of Freedom is not contrived or the results of mystical superstition, but rather in the strictest sense the result of introspective observation verifiable by others.

You will find nothing at all in The Philosophy of Freedom that is derived from clairvoyant communications of spiritual science. It is written for the express purpose of disciplining thinking without any mention of theosophy.

In the first decade of the 20th century, August Ewerbeck got word that there were intimate circles in which Rudolf Steiner gave special esoteric training to those admitted to them. So he asked his teacher whether he too might be allowed to attend, and received the astonishing reply: “You don’t need to! You have understood my Philosophy of Freedom!”

"Those who had no desire to undertake the uncomfortable and demanding pursuit of clear thinking were little attracted to the direction taken by The Philosophy of Freedom."

"Too many seeking experience in all sorts of unclear paths, nebulous mystical approaches, attached themselves to what anthroposophy was trying to achieve in clarity. This group of people attracted the attention of a lot of ill-disposed persons who now attack what people with whom I have no connection whatsoever have been saying. But in these attacks they attribute to 'me' what these vague mystics have produced as their own twisted version of something intended to meet the urgent needs of our modern culture. What is needed is the brightest clarity in everything that has to do with thinking, not vague mysticism.”

The proper study of this book gives the reader an inner attitude that enables him to stand entirely on his own feet in relating to anthroposophy. It teaches him to present it on his own authority rather than on that of someone else.

Path of Freedom
When, in the bright circles of the spirit,
The soul calls forth
Pure energy of thinking,
It lays hold on knowledge of what freedom is.

When, entering fully in life,
Free, conscious man
Shapes reality from willing,
Then freedom is made living fact.

Steiner initially divides the problem of free will into freedom of thought and freedom of action. He argues that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our perception, which reflects the outer appearance of the world, and our cognition, which give us access to the inner structure of the world. Outer freedom arises when we bridge the gap between our ideals and the constraints of external reality, letting our deeds be inspired by what he terms moral imagination. Steiner considers inner and outer freedom as integral to one another, and that true freedom is only achieved when they are united.

“My book addresses itself mainly to the question of how philosophy, as an art, deals with the subject of human freedom, what the nature of freedom really is, and whether we already possess it or can develop it.”

Path of Pure Thinking
What I called pure thinking in my Philosophy of Freedom was certainly not well named when judged by outer cultural conditions. For Eduard von Hartmann said to me:
“There is no such thing, one can only think with the aid of external observation.”
And all I could say in reply was:
“It has only to be tried and people will soon learn to be able to make it a reality.”

When is an action free? Only when it has its origin in pure thinking.

The Philosophy of Freedom is a path, a method leading to the actual experience of a thinking detached from the body-soul make-up.

Freedom dawns when we enable the will to become an ever mightier and mightier force in our thinking.

Out of pure thinking there can flow powerful impulses to moral action that are no longer determined by anything but pure spirit.

Rudolf Steiner declares, “The intention in my Philosophy of Freedom is that the reader must lay hold --with his own thinking activity-- page by page, that the book itself is only a sort of musical score, and that one must read this score through inner thinking activity in order to progress continually, out of his own resources, from thought to thought.  Who does not sense that he was in a manner been lifted above his ordinary way of thinking into a thinking free of the sense perceptible and that he moves altogether in this, so that he feels that he has become ‘free’ in his thinking from the limitations of the corporeal nature, ---such a person has not really read in the true sense of the word this Philosophy of Freedom.

Path of Study
Incomprehensible!…. Baffles the experts!….. You’ll never finish it!….. It’s a tangle of thought!…. These are Rudolf Steiner’s comments on the disappointing experience of readers when he first published The Philosophy of Freedom in 1894.

“Back in the 1890’s when the book was published, people hadn’t the least idea what to do with it. It was as though Europeans had been given a book in Chinese and couldn’t understand a thing it said.

Readers often stop reading the book soon after they begin it for the simple reason they would like to read it as they do any other book. Other popular books are read on a chaise lounge letting thought pictures pass in review before one’s mind.

In The Philosophy of Freedom readers have to keep shaking themselves to avoid being put to sleep by the thoughts they encounter. One has to try with all of one’s human strength to activate one’s inner being, to bring one’s whole thinking into motion.

The least honest are those who read The Philosophy of Freedom as they would any other book and then flatter themselves that they have really taken in the thoughts it contains. They’ve kept on reading strings of words without anything coming out of it that might be likened to the striking of steel on flint.”

Now what kind of reader approach did The Philosophy of Freedom count on? It had to assume a special way of reading. It expected the reader, as they read, to undergo the sort of inner experience that, in an external sense, is really like waking up out of sleep in the morning.

“The primary purpose of my book is to serve as thought training, training in the sense that the special way of both thinking and entertaining these thoughts is such as to bring the soul life of the reader into motion in somewhat the way that gymnastics exercise their limbs.”

The reading of the Philosophy of Freedom should not be a mere reading, it should be an experiencing with inner shocks, tensions and resolutions.

Path of Ethical Individualism
We hear calls for an improvement of public morality, but this overlooks the fact that moral action is a characteristic only of the free individual.

Actions motivated by instincts, reflexes, dispositions, maxims, commandments, social and religious customs and even laws are not truly moral.

A deed can only be described as moral in the truest sense when the individual has intuited the moral principle for the particular situation concerned and brought into play the imagination needed to realize that principle in the deed.

The idea and the love of the deed it engenders in the individual is all the motivation that is needed.

If this seems like a recipe for anarchy, then in a certain sense it is, that is in the sense that no external governance prevails, only the free individuality.

The free human being lives in confidence that he and any other free individual belong to one spiritual world, and that their intentions will harmonize.

What I have outlined here is what Rudolf Steiner called ethical individualism. Free moral action involves moral intuition, moral imagination, and moral technique.

Moral Intuition: The capacity to intuitively experience the particular moral principle for each single situation.

Moral Imagination: The ability of imagination to translate a general moral principle into a concrete mental picture of the action to be carried out.

Moral Technique: The ability to transform the world according to moral imaginations without violating the natural laws by which things are connected.

Path of Clairvoyance
When a man in the eighteenth century said, “Embolden yourself, O man, to make use of your powers of reason,” these were considered the words of a great enlightener.

Today a still greater challenge must ring out, that is, “Embolden yourself, O man, to recognize your concepts and ideas as the first stage of clairvoyance!”

The reader of The Philosophy of Freedom should be able to say to oneself: “Now I know, through this effort of my mind in thinking, what pure thinking really is.”

Then what I should like to call modern clairvoyance ceases to be anything miraculous.

That this clairvoyance should still appear as something particularly miraculous comes from people not wishing to develop the energy to bring activity into their thinking.

Path of Philosophy
The question of freedom cannot be settled by philosophical argument. Nor is it simply granted to us. If we want to be free, we must work through our own inner activity to overcome unconscious urges and habitual thinking.

Today’s materialism seeks to reduce us to totally unfree creatures completely determined by heredity and other influences. The experience of pure thinking is the only possible way of refuting materialism and is attainable by anyone with the “goodwill” to undertake this path.

Path of Anthroposophical Community
What appears as the common goal of a community is usually determined by the top down authority of a few leaders who are followed by the others.

The Philosophy of Freedom bases the independence of the human being upon the awakening of pure thinking as the origin of freedom and impulse to moral action.

How can we work together in freedom? Can pure thinking be applied to a group?

Taking life's ordinary concerns as a starting point, group discussion can rise to the level of pure conversation, or rather pure thinking as a group experience that results in group insight, real relationship between person and person, and a powerful impulse to joint activism.

Most of us are so habituated to what has always been done that we find it impossible to conceive of a leaderless society.

In a true anthroposophical community, the leader -- if there may be said to be one – are impulses to action arising out of pure conversation that is no longer determined by anything but pure spirit.

If we turn toward thinking in its essence, we find in it the power of love in the depths of its reality.

No leaders or external measures can bring about anthroposophical community building. It has to be called forth from the profoundest depths of each one’s consciousness.

"The trouble is The Philosophy of Freedom has not been read in the different way I have been describing. That is the point, and a point that must be sharply stressed if the development of the Anthroposophical Society is not to fall far behind anthroposophy itself. If it does fall behind, anthroposophy's conveyance through the society will result in its being completely misunderstood, and its only fruit will be endless conflict!"

“The members read it, but reading is not the same as understanding. They took what I offered, not as something issuing from my mouth or written in my books, but rather as what this one thought ‘mystical,’ that one ‘theosophical,’ another something else again”

“Anthroposophy is independent of anthroposophical societies and can be found independently of them. It can be found in a special way when one human being learns to wake up in the encounter with another and out of such awakening the forming of communities occurs.”

Path of Individual Initiative
Asked which of his books he would most want to see rescued if catastrophe should come upon the world, Rudolf Steiner replied without hesitation: "The Philosophy of Freedom."

Many ethical individualists today are applying their idealism in re-imagining our relationship to the environment and one another.

They are actively forming civil society organizations to forward: ecological sustainability, economic justice, human rights protection, political accountability and peace.

Using the tools of modern communication technology to organize –texting, cell phones, the internet—a bottom up rising of ethical individualists is taking place.

An awakened human spirit working collectively with others can change the world. The possibilities are extraordinary.

Path of New Social Order
“If the ideas contained in my Philosophy of Freedom are to be further developed and applied to external social life, so that these truths may become clear to a larger circle of people, it will be necessary to build a superstructure of the truths of spiritual science on the foundation of that philosophy.”

Building upon his Philosophy of Freedom Rudolf Steiner went on to write dozens of books and delivered over 6000 lectures on a variety of themes. This has inspired others to apply his innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, science, education, special education, philosophy, religion, economics, agriculture, architecture, the arts and other fields.

Waldorf Education
Biodynamic Farming
Anthroposophical Medicine
Camphill Movement and Curative Education
Social Threefolding
The Christian Community


Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)

Biography of Rudolf Steiner up to the year 1900. All quotes from Rudolf Steiner are in blue italic.

Childhood and Adolescents

25 February 1861

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was born in Kraljevec, an insignificant Hungarian village in what is now Northern Croatia. So it came that he was born in a Slav environment and not in a German-speaking one, a fact which he considered essential for his life's work.
He was the first-born child of the railway telegrapher Johann Steiner and his wife Franciska, Blie by maiden name.
He received Roman Catholic baptism two days later. This is why the 27th of February 1861 commonly has been considered to be his birthday.

It was mainly his mother, a quiet friendly woman, who looked after him in the first years of his life.
His father was often doing a shift for three days and nights in a row, relieved of his duties for 24 hours in a state of total exhaustion.


When Rudolf Steiner was 1½ years old, his father was transferred to Moedling near Vienna.


Rudolf Steiner 1867
Rudolf Steiner (right) with his sister Leopoldine in the year 1867.

Six month later, the father took up a position as station Manager in Pottschach on the Semmerling line - which for those days was one of the technological most advanced railways.
To the end of his life Rudolf Steiner looked at that period with joy and gratitude.
It was also in this period that Rudolf Steiner's sister Leopoldine (1864 - 1924) and his brother Gustav (1866 - 1941) were born.

The scenes amidst which I passed my childhood were marvellous. The prospect embraced the mountains linking Lower Austria with Styria.
I lived in this area from the age of two to the age of eight. The most beautiful landscape embedded my childhood.

In contrast to this experience of nature stands the fact that the environment in which he grew up was dominated by his father's employment. The family lived in the station house, directly in front of the railway tracks.


Rudolf Steiner's early clairvoyant experiences must have lead to a feeling of isolation. He described only the first of theses events:

My mother's sister who lived in some distance from our family home committed suicide. Nobody knew about this at the time and my parents didn't have any message about the tragic death. I saw in a vision the whole event whilst sitting in the station's waiting room. Later I made some remarks when my parents were around. Their reaction was to say: "You are a stupid boy".
Some days later I noticed when my father becoming very thoughtful whilst reading a letter he had received. Another couple of days later he talked alone with my mother. My mother cried for days after this conversation.

It was only some years later when I was informed about the tragic death of my aunt.

For the boy this was the beginning of a living in the soul.

I distinguished between things and beings "one can see" and such "one can't see"


Rudolf Steiner was eight years old when his father was transferred to Neudoerfl in Hungary, now part of Lower Austria. The family lived a isolated live troubled by sorrow for his younger brother Gustav who turned out to be hearing-impaired, dumb, and learning disabled.

It was only through long walks in the surrounding area that the young Rudolf Steiner got to know the inhabitants of the village. The Monks of a nearby monastery particularly fascinated him:

It was at the age of nine when the idea established in my mind that there must be important things I have to learn about in context of the tasks of these monks.

Rudolf Steiner's childhood was influenced by many unanswered questions he carried within himself:
Yes, these questions about all kind of things made me a lonely boy.


He visited the village school in Neudorfle until 1972. He remained an outsider and never integrated in the class community: In autumn, everyone would just talk about who harvested how many nuts. The one with the biggest bounty would be the person with the highest status. I found myself at the bottom of this hierarchy. Being the 'foreigner in the village' I had no right to be part of this pecking order.

Guidance and help for Rudolf Steiner came through an assistant teacher at the school in Neudoerfl. It was not the man's outstanding teaching skills that were helpful; through this teacher Rudolf Steiner had access to a geometry book, which he was allowed to study in depth for many weeks:

As a child, I felt, without of course expressing it to myself clearly, that knowledge of the spiritual world is something to be grasped in the mind in the same way as geometrical concepts.

To understand concepts that are of a pure spiritual nature gave me inner contentment. I know it was through geometry when I experienced happiness for the first time.

Beside the assistant teacher it was the priest who made a lasting impression on the 10-year-old boy.
Once he came to the school, gathered a group of the more mature students, which I was considered to belong to, in his little study and explained the Copernican system (…). I was completely taken in by the whole thing (....).

Through the station's telegraph I learned the theory, principles and laws of electricity. Still a boy I learned how to use the telegraph machine.

Following this are the first studies of History, Literature and Mathematics.

October: pupil at the secondary modern school (Realschule) in Wiener - Neustadt. Steiner perceives the orderliness and transparency in the scientific and mathematical disciplines as invigorating in view of his first super sensible and childhood clairvoyant experiences whose unfamiliarity triggered many questions.


Summer: Rudolf Steiner teaches himself shorthand.

Autumn: I gave extra lessons to fellow pupils… The College of Teachers gladly supported this by sending me students since I was considered a 'good pupil'.


Study of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason during mind-numbing history lessons.


Rudolf Steiner 1879
Rudolf Steiner 1879

July: Steiner passes his school living examination with distinction.

August: His father's transferred to Inzersdorf near Vienna to enable the 18-year-old Steiner to study at the Polytechnic. Self study of Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Fichte, Darwin and others. The study of Fichte inspires Steiner to first philosophical essays.

The years as a student in Vienna


October, 1879: Begin a study course of 8 Terms at the Polytechnic in Vienna, financial support through a student grant. As bread study he decides to aim for secondary school teacher. Nevertheless he visits a variety of philosophical lectures.

At the time I felt obliged to find the truth through philosophy. Whilst most of the people in his environment regard philosophy as something abstract, for Steiner the spiritual world is a 'visible' reality. And this is how my view of the spiritual world was received in most places. No one wanted to hear about it.

History of physics, physics, chemistry, mechanics, geology, mineral logy, botany, mathematics, literature and history of literature, politics, zoology, medicine, philosophy are a selection of the of the areas Steiner chose to study. He passed the exams in these disciplines with excellence or distinction.

As a penny-less student coming from the country side Steiner found his way into the life of Vienna only step by step and not in all areas. He had no access to the circles of the aristocracy entrepreneurs, industrial workers or the world of opera or big society events.
Rudolf Steiner fulfilled his until now unsatisfied thirst for pure music that wants to be nothing but music by visiting concerts and chamber music. Beethoven became his favoured composer, the deadly boring music Wagner's resenting as barbaric.

He followed the political life by visiting public parliament sessions and he also becomes member of a politically orientated student organisation.
The sad destiny of some of his fellow students showed him how the dominating public spirit at the time caused strong feelings of hopelessness and pessimism destroyed many lives. At the time all this could be experienced as the seed that later in Austria lead to the crumbling of the empire.

Karl Julius Schroer, the professor lecturing German Literature, deeply honoured and admired by him, introduced Steiner in a very special way to the 'German Classic' generally and especially to Goethe. For all his life Steiner looked at Goethe as a great personality and idol for the people of his time.

In addition he was engaged with philosophical questions and increasingly with questions regarding the theory of recognition, inspired by Fichte's research regarding the relationship between spirit (I) and nature

Through his intensive work on Schelling's contemplations about the essence of a human being, certainty grows within him regarding the ability, to see the eternal within us in the form of the unchangeable (quotation by Schelling).

Steiner reports about this time (he was 21):

A spiritual view appeared in front of my me that was not based on a dark mystical emotions.
It rather was a spiritual activity fully comparable in it's clarity to the thinking in mathematical terms.
I approached a condition of mind that gave me the certainty that I would be able to justify the view of the spiritual world I carried within me in the light of modern scientific thinking.


Rudolf Steiner 1882
Rudolf Steiner as a student in 1882

Autumn: Prof Joseph Kurschner invites Steiner on recommendation by Prof. Karl Julius Schroer, to edit Goethe's scripts about natural science within 'German National Literature' edited by Kurschner.
For Steiner this means the beginning of 1½ decades of Goethe research.


October: Steiner leaves the Polytechnic without final exam and without finishing his studies despite having successfully past all intermediate examinations. His hope was to lay the foundation for a career in literary studies with his work about Goethe's natural science scripts. This hope was not fulfilled.

The last years in Vienna (1884 - 1890)


The literature experts positively acknowledge the First volume of Goethe's Scripts About Natural Science, first published in March.

April: On request Kurschner's Steiner agrees to edit articles in the field of mineralogy and later in general natural science in Kurschner's Conversation Dictionary.

June: Steiner is entrusted with the role of an educator in the household of Ladislaus Specht. This is an important practical educational task that becomes for Steiner a rich source of learning.
He becomes friend with the lady of the house, Pauline Specht. She becomes a confidant with whom he can talk about all the things important to him.
His position gave him time to establish and maintain social contacts and to pursue out his own work and studies.


Study of Eduard von Hartmann's and other philosopher's work.
Rudolf Steiner continues his studies and the editorial work on Goethe's Scripts about Natural Science. Friendship with Radegunde and Walter Fehr.


By making the acquaintance with the poet Marie Eugenie Delle Gracie, a new circle of society opens up to Steiner. Some of the personalities he meets are lecturers of theology at the University of Vienna who recommended to Steiner to study the philosophies of Aristotle and Thomas of Aquinas.

The book Baselines of a Theory of Knowledge of Goethe's Philosophy of life is concluded. It already contains important basic ideas of Steiner's freedom philosophy.

June: Steiner gladly accepts a position offered by the Director of the Goethe Archive in Weimar.


By the beginning of the year severe illness forces Steiner to stop all his activities. The Specht Family however gives all the attention and love he needs for his recovery.

Since summer Steiner thoroughly concerns himself with the questions of aesthetics. He especially studies the philosophical aestheticians of the 19th century, under it Eduard von Hartmann with whom he gets in contact. (by letter).

The book Baselines of a Theory of Knowledge of Goethe's Philosophy of life is praised in professional circles, but also criticised – in a fair way –.

Autumn: The beginning of a friendship with Fritz Lemmermayer, who brings him in contact with numerous poets.


Without neglecting the work he was engaged in previous years, Steiner becomes the editor (informally) for the German Weekly Revue. This gives him the opportunity to discuss publicly questions of politics, literature, philosophy i.e. A review by Steiner of Robert Hamerling's Epos Homunculus, published in the German Weekly Revue, rejected by the majority of readers as a grotesque work of literature, causes astonishment within the Specht family, since the statements regarding the position of Judaism, understood by Steiner in an objective way, have been considered as a special kind of anti-Semitism. This doesn't change his friendly relationship with the Specht family. Hamerling expresses his gratitude for the understanding and the excellent article about 'Homunculus'.


Rudolf Steiner 1889
Rudolf Steiner in the year 1889

In this year it is for the first time that Steiner undertakes extensive travelling. It is also his first journey to Germany. In spring he visits Budapest, Weimar in the summer. His work-schedule for the position at the Goethe-Archive is established during this visit to Weimar. He further travels to Berlin (meeting with Eduard von Hartmann), Stuttgart, Munich and Eisenach. At Christmas he visits Hermannstadt where he also gives some lectures.

For the first time he encounters Nietzsche's Work: 'Beyond Good and Evil' was the first of Nietzsche's books I read. I was at same time captivated and repelled by his views. I found it hard to relate to Nietzsche's way of thinking. I loved his style and courage; what I didn't like at all was the way he talked about the deepest problems without connecting himself with a conscious spiritual experience.

By the end of the year Steiner gets in contact with the Theosophists in Vienna. Although considering the time spent in this circle as valuable throughout, he doesn't really endorse the kind of Theosophy practised, which he characterises as a spiritual weakness that influences the spiritual development in a negative way. Soon afterwards he turns his back to Theosophy and Mystics in order to further his freedom philosophy. Later (1891) he mentioned the mystic element in which I submerged for a while in a disturbing way in Vienna.

At this time questions regarding the riddles of reincarnation take on a more tangible shape. I did struggle with the riddles of repeated lives of a human beings on earth. Some revelations came to me when having met personalities who's habits of live an characters revealed traces of an essence, entity that couldn't possibly be explained by their genetic inheritance and the way life experience has shaped them since they where born.


March: His acquaintance with the poet Rosa Mayreder leads to a deep friendship and a mutual understanding that allows exchanging his freedom philosophical thoughts and ideas. She shares some of his loneliness in which he fell (already at 1882) caused by the deviation of his views from the usual way of thinking. I had nobody at the time I could talk too about my views. Another source of redemption from his loneliness originates Goethe's work in which he finds his own thoughts expressed.

During the summer Steiner starts to work on his Thesis, later extended and published with the title Truth and Science.

September: Steiner moves to Weimar to commence work at the Goethe - Schiller Archive. Weimar will be his residence until 1897.

The Time in Weimar (1890 – 1897)


September: I received a warm welcome.

September 30th: Rudolf Steiner commences his work in the Goethe Archive.


Rudolf Steiner 1891
Rudolf Steiner at the age of 30.

First he appreciated the attractive side of his work: the discovery of new, important or unknown facts. Already in April 1991 it says: The viewing, sorting and classifying in the archive dulls my mind and causes a spiritual discomfort, that almost destroyed any urge to write myself. He considers his Goethe work as a skin, a shell that has become lifeless, and that he wants to leave behind for once. Otherwise my whole existence is going to become a lie and a nuisance: my work and my achievements will not be my own anymore, but those of a miserable puppet.

In October, Steiner begins to work on the Philosophy of Freedom, his major philosophical work.

26th of October: Doctor of Philosophy officially awarded. His thesis, later extended and published under the title: ”Truth and Science”, considered by Steiner as the prelude for a “Philosophy of Freedom”, has the theme: “The basic question of the Science of Cognition in special consideration of Fichte’s Theory of Science”.

November: Steiner studies the philosophy of the middle age, the area in which I considered my knowledge still to be incomplete. Once I feel confident here, the gap between the profound knowledge I have about the ancient time and the newer times will be closed, and only then I may claim to be on solid ground.

December: In a letter to Pauline Specht (Vienna), Steiner characterises the mood caused by the circumstances as so powerful to cause him the feeling of ongoing disgust. His working conditions might have contributed to this feeling – the archive was limited to only a few rooms within the castle of Weimar, and his superior was the pettiest of the pettiest……… a real ‘philister’ with the nature of a ‘schoolmaster’, incapable of taking a wider point of view. – as well as his uncomfortable 2-bedroom flat, and the fact, to have no one with an understanding I could talk with.


January: Today only thing left to say is, that my book (The Philosophy of Freedom) makes good progress. The disposition and the arrangement of the content are now determined. Besides his work in the archive, Steiner is also engaged as a writer. He often writes essays and reviews. Not seldom he criticises in his articles the preaching of moral that is done without any basis of knowledge. Because of this he made himself a number of enemies, but was supported by Ernst Haeckel. His moral views (ethical individualism) may be characterised by the following quotation: A general prescription from the big pharmacy of moral remedies can only be rejected by all those, who really work towards a better future.

At the same time he committed himself to edit the work of Schopenhauer and Jean-Paul for the publishing house Cotta.

By the middle of the year, Steiner moves to a flat at the place of Anna Eunike, soon a close friendship developed. In 1899, Steiner married Anna Eunicke. They were later separated; Anna died in 1911.

December: Steiner explains to Haeckel something that was also significant for all his later work: Since I am a writer, I am fighting against any dualism, and I consider it as a task of philosophy, to justify monism scientifically by means of a strictly positive analysis of our cognitive capacity, and also to proof, that all results gained by natural science are the real truth.


Whilst aiming for a teaching position in philosophy at the Polytechnical School in Vienna with increasing enthusiasm, he continues with the previous’ years activities.
Also Steiner’s popularity as a lecturer grows also in other towns and cities.

On the 15th of June, the election for the ‘Reichstag’ takes place. Steiner comments: I experience the increase in roughness and ignorance that has shown in the last election as really frightening.

After the completion and the publishing of his Philosophy of Freedom, Steiner asks many personalities under his friends and in the circle of professionals for their opinions and for reviews.

December: It is now more than three years since I arrived in Weimar, and in the three summers so much strain was laid on me, not allowing me even two weeks to relax without having to work.


Meeting with Haeckel; beginning of correspondence with him.


Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche asked Steiner to set the Nietzsche archive in Naumburg in order. Förster-Nietzsche introduced Steiner into the presence of the catatonic philosopher and Steiner, deeply moved, subsequently wrote the book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom.


Steiner left the Weimar archives and moved to Berlin. He became owner, chief editor, and active contributor to the literary journal Magazin für Literatur, where he hoped to find a readership sympathetic to his philosophy. His work in the magazine was not well received by its readership, including the alienation of subscribers following Steiner's unpopular support of Émile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair. The journal lost more subscribers when Steiner published extracts from his correspondence with anarchist writer John Henry Mackay. Dissatisfaction with his editorial style eventually led to his departure from the magazine.


Teacher at the Berlin "Workers' Education School" founded by Social Democrats. (Arbeiter-Bildungsschule).


Beginning of Rudolf Steiner's involvement with the Theosophical Society. Before this, Steiner seemed willing to speak to any group, but now he started to give talks regularly to the members of the Theosophical Society.

Steiner was originally invited to speak to a theosophical gathering in Berlin in 1900. His choice of a theosophical career, after some hesitation (in the course of 1900-02 Steiner applied unsuccessfully for several jobs, including university lecturer and newspaper editor), brought him economic security and a position within a community of like-minded souls. His about-face regarding Theosophy may have involved an urge to teach, and gratitude that at least the theosophists appreciated his abilities. Steiner's increasingly close personal involvement with active theosophist Marie von Sivers, whom he met in 1900 and eventually married, played an important role as well.

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