Rudolf Steiner was born February 25, 1861 in what is now Croatia. From simple beginnings he became a well known scientist, philosopher, playwright, and artist of his time.
In 1890 he was invited to the Goethe and Schiller archives in Weimar. At the time, this was the cultural center of Germany. There he was given the task of editing the natural scientific works of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. During this time he published, A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World-Conception.
In 1891, Rudolf Steiner received a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Rostock. Steiner’s dissertation was later published in expanded form as Truth and Knowledge: Prelude to a Philosophy of Freedom. Two years later, he published Die Philosophie der Freiheit (The Philosophy of Freedom or The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity — Steiner’s preferred English title) (1894), an exploration of epistemology and ethics that suggested a way for humans to become spiritually free beings. Steiner later spoke of this book as containing implicitly, in philosophical form, the entire content of what he later developed explicitly as Anthroposophy.
In 1897, when Rudolf Steiner had completed the works of Goethe, he moved to Berlin. With the turn of the century, Rudolf Steiner, devoted himself to the science of the spirit. A truly “Renaissance man”, he developed a way of thinking that he applied to different aspects of what it means to be human. This study he termed Anthroposophy (the wisdom of man).
Rudolf Steiner’s mission in life was to make available to mankind a new way of connecting with the spiritual world, to speak into this material age of the spiritual world in a way that is fully compatible with modern, fully awake consciousness. (Core Anthroposophy by Ernst Katz … Steiner Books)
His closest co-worker from 1902 onwards, and later his wife, was Marie von Sievers (in 1914 Marie Steiner). She made it possible for him to realize many of his artistic impulses by working alongside him to develop Eurythmy, Speech Formation, and Drama. Although Rudolf Steiner had the capacities needed to take initiative in many areas such as medicine, education, and architecture, he waited for others to be inspired by what Anthroposophy might offer their own disciplines and vocations. It was through the interest and enthusiasm of others that Rudolf Steiner was able to introduce new directions to many disciplines, sciences, and social initiatives. The fruits of these initiatives can be found in the practical sections of the School for Spiritual Science, which has its home in the Anthroposophical Society.
In 1918, when a revolution took place—not only in Russia but also in Germany—and threatened to disintegrate the social fabric, Steiner presented suggestions for a conscious threefold differentiation of society as a path for the future. It focused on the development of freedom in the cultural sphere, equality in the sphere of politics and legislation, and a globally oriented brotherhood in the sphere of economy. Steiner lectured widely on this topic, leading to a movement for social renewal and three-folding.
In 1919, this led to the founding of the first free Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany, through the initiative of Emil Molt, CEO of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. The school became the model for the Waldorf educational movement, leading to the building and development of some 1,600 Waldorf Kindergartens and 994 independent Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner schools world wide—offering educational activities from early childhood through high school, and in some cases programs for adults.
Today, Steiner’s ideas about a conscious threefold differentiation of society has been one of the main inspirations for the work by one of the recipients of the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2003, Nicanor Perlas, and other civil society activists.
During 1924, his lecturing activity reached a climax, and he held 330 lectures from the beginning of the year to September 29, when he became exhausted and had to stop all public activity. He died six months later, on 30 March 1925 in Dornach, Switzerland.
News of Steiner’s death spread quickly. An obituary appeared in the New York Times the next day, focusing on Steiner’s contributions to social theory.
The center of Anthroposophical activity has its home at the Goetheanum in Basil, Switzerland. The first Goetheanum, a monumental double-domed wooden structure, richly carved and painted within, was begun in 1913. It opened in 1920 and was destroyed by fire on New Year’s Eve 1922/23.
In 1924 Rudolf Steiner presented his model for a second Goetheanum – the present one – made of reinforced concrete. Constructed between 1925 and 1928, it was the first large-scale building to employ this material for sculptural forms.
Both buildings are based on an architectural concept in which each element, form, and color bear an inner relation to the whole, and the whole flows organically into its single elements in a process of metamorphosis. The second Goetheanum and its neighboring buildings were designed to harmonize with the local topography – the movement of the terrain, and the rocky spurs of the Jura mountains visible from the Birs River Valley, ten kilometers southeast of Basel.