[Para a versão original em português, acione aqui]
by V.W. Setzer email@example.com,
on Feb 15, 1998; this text has not been approved yet by the board of the Anthroposophical
Society in Brazil, which is responsible for this site. Last
modified: Dec. 27, 2004.
Anthroposophy, from the Greek "knowledge of the human being," was introduced in the first quarter of this century by the Austrian Rudolf Steiner. It may be characterized as a method of knowing the nature of the human being and of the universe, extending the knowledge obtained with conventional scientific methods, and its application in almost every field of human life. The index of the home page of this site (www.sab.org.br) gives an idea of these fields and how much comprehensive Anthroposophy is. To jump to a chronological biography of Rudolf Steiner, please click here. For a catalog of his complete works (GA, "Gesamtausgabe"), click here. For a bilingual page with the article Introducing Rudolf Steiner, by Owen Barfield, click here.
In the sequel, we give a list of aspects which characterize Anthroposophy and how it distinguishes from other ideas, philosophies and practices:
1. Comprehensiveness. It covers the whole of human and nature life - hence its applications in almost every field of life. The most popular of these practical realizations, Waldorf Education - which still represents a revolution in educational terms - has its visible results in more than 800 schools all over the world (more than 100 in North America, 13 in Brazil - see the Latin American Directory on Waldorf Education), and may be examined by anyone: it suffices to visit one of them.
2. Conceptual framework. It is presented under the form of concepts which are directed to the thinking capacity and to the search for knowledge and understanding of the modern human being. For an introduction (in Portuguese) to the human constitution from the Anthroposophical point of view, by V.W.Setzer, please click here.
3. Spiritualism. Through its method, it arrives to the conclusion that the universe is not constituted just of physical matter and energy, reducible to pure physical-chemical processes. Anthroposophy discovers a spiritual world, structured in complex forms in various levels. For instance, human beings have a level of spiritual, non-physical "substance" higher than that of plants and animals, hence their distinction in relation to the latter. It also describes purely spiritual beings, who do not have physical expression, and who act in different levels of spirituality. Some of these beings are in levels above those of the human constitution. Nevertheless, they are understandable by a comprehensible thinking, and may be consciously perceptible through a direct supersensible observation.
For Anthroposophy, physical substance is a condensation of the spiritual, non-physical "substance." Therefore, it is a "state" of the spiritual being. In the realms of the microcosms of the atomic and sub-atomic "particles," as well of the macrocosms of stars and galaxies, one is already entering a non-physical world. In this sense, Anthroposophy represents a monism: for it, there exists no paradox of the spirit acting upon matter: the spirit is the origin and permeates everything.
4. Anthropocentrism. Its starting point for the understanding of the whole universe is the human being, who is the reason for the existence of the physical universe. In its evolution, the human being originated the world of animals, which represent specializations of the former. Even the evolution of the spiritual world depends on humans.
5. Development of extra-sensorial organs of perception. Anthroposophy demonstrates that the spiritual world may be observed with as much (or even higher) clarity as we observe the physical world with our eyes. For this, it is necessary to individually develop organs of perception which exist in a latent state in every human being; individual meditation exercises are given for this purpose. What is commonly called "intuition" is, for Anthroposophy, a spiritual perception. Nevertheless, it is not a conscious and self-controlled inner activity, as spiritual observations which are adequate for the modern human being should be. Modern humans want to absorb ideas with the understanding of their intellect, want to make their own observations and do not want to have beliefs and superstitions.
Anthroposophical meditation is based upon the activity of conscious thinking, which should preserve its clarity, should be fully controlled and should be strengthened and developed to the point of not being dependent on concepts and images stemming from the physical world.
6. Development of consciousness, self-consciousness, individuality and freedom. Anthroposophy proposes that these four human characteristics (we have the first one partially in common with animals) should be radically preserved and even developed.
7. Open view of the world. The works of Rudolf Steiner (about 40 books written by himself or with collections of his own writings, and 6,000 lectures grouped into 270 volumes) have been published. There is absolutely nothing secret in Anthroposophy.
8. Historical perspective. Anthroposophy gives a grandiose perspective for the evolution of the Earth and of the human being, encompassing the whole of the historic and pre-historic past. Through it, it is possible to conceptually understand much of what was transmitted in ancient times through images such as oriental and occidental myths, as well as the Old and New Testaments (in particular, of the Christ cosmic being and his manifestation), the Greek philosophy, the heretical movements, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, up to modern materialist movements. Thus, it re-establishes historical continuity, showing how the human being is the consequence of a sequence of spiritual and physical processes since the origins of the universe. In Portuguese, a good introduction to this perspective may be found in Lanz, R. Promenades through History under the Light of Anthroposophy, São Paulo: Editora Antroposófica, 1985.
9. Renewal of scientific research. Anthroposophy indicates how scientific research could be enlarged, becoming more humane and more coherent with nature. It has provided for excellent results in the development of drugs, in the understanding of animals and plants, etc. In this sense, it may be considered as an evolution of Goethes scientific method. In particular, his Theory of Colors has been extended and better understood from research done and published by Anthroposophists. For an essay on Goethean Science by Dennis Klocek, please click here.
10. Moral development. Anthroposophy recommends a moral development which should be done individually, based upon the knowledge of the essence of the human being and of the universe. For it, moral development grounded on unselfish love is the mission of the human being on present Earth. Moral attitudes should preserve individual freedom, that is, should not depend upon external commandments, dogmas and laws, but irradiate from unselfish love and individual knowledge in full freedom.
What Anthroposophy is not:
a) It is not a mystic movement or a set of mystical ideas. Mysticism is essentially based upon feelings and visionary imagery without being accompanied by cognitive thinking; it is transmitted through images and metaphors. Anthroposophy is the result of observations permeated by conscious thinking; it is transmitted through concepts, directed to the longing for understanding of the modern human being.
b) It is not a religion. It has no cults. It is cultivated individually, in open study groups and in the institutions where it is practised.
c) Does not employ mediunism. The development and the use of extra-sensorial organs should be done in a full awaken consciousness, preserving self-awareness and individuality.
d) It is not sexist, racist or nationalistic. On the contrary, it shows that the essence of each human being, what it calls the "Superior I," and whose evolution is our mission in the present Earth, has no sex, no race, no religion and no nationality.
e) It is not moralist. There are no behavior rules for those that adopt it as a life principle. Each person has to establish her own rules of conscious behavior, according to knowledge and not from unconscious impulses.
f) It is not dogmatic. Rudolf Steiner referred many times to the fact that one should not believe in what he expounded, but take it as a working hypothesis awaiting for personal observation. In particular, one should always verify if what he transmitted agrees with what one observes in nature, forms a coherent whole, and does not contradict scientific facts. (Attention: one should distinguish scientific facts from theories and judgments based upon these facts - obviously, there may be contradictions to the latter.) He also said that Anthroposophy was adequate to his time, and should be dynamic and follow the evolution of the human constitution, which does not remain static.
g) It is not a sect, much less a secret one. Nobody who studies Anthroposophy receives secret indications; everything has been published and study groups may be visited by anyone with enough basic knowledge to follow the discussions.
h) It is not a closed society. Everyone may become a member of the General Anthroposophical Society, directly or through the branches of each national Society. Admission to the Society does not depend on ethnic, religion, social-economic status or education.
We would like to add a last observation, on a word that has raised many misunderstandings and may lead to prejudices. Steiner employs the word occult in a very precise sense. He wants to refer with it to what is not accessible to our physical senses. If we consider the 5 usual senses, maybe still adding the sense of warmth, his formulation should not be considered a strange one: with those senses it is not possible to observe inner human activities, such as thinking, feeling and willing. In particular, modern science is nowadays practically reduced in its experimental part to the detection of visual impulses, either directly or, more frequently , through the results shown by some equipment. Obviously, nobody has ever seen our will impulses, our feelings and our thoughts. If some apparatus, like a magnetic resonator, detects some physical reaction of the organism to those inner activities (which were called by Steiner soul activities), certainly it is not detecting those activities themselves, but their consequence upon our organism. Nobody would say that such a machine feels as we do; thus, our feelings are "occult" in Steiners sense - nevertheless, nobody would deny their existence! Similarly, what gives life to a living being is occult: we may perceive its manifestation through the being itself, but the "force" that constitutes the essence of life cannot be perceived with our physical senses. A fundamental contribution by Steiner was to call the attention to the fact that this non-physical "occult" may be investigated with the same clarity with which we investigate physical phenomena - but with other methods and other organs of perception (which also remain "occult," contrary e.g. to our eyes). It is for this reason that he called one of his basic books "Occult Science" ("Geheimwissenschaft;" in our opinion, in the sense of "The Science of the Occult," that is, of the physically non-perceivable; edited in Portuguese by Editora Antroposófica) .
For those that understand Portuguese (which include, with a little effort, Spanish-speaking people) and are interested in an introduction to Anthroposophy, we recommend the booklet by R. Lanz, Basic Notions of Anthroposophy, also edited by Editora Antroposófica. Please click here to jump to its index, introduction and two first chapters. See also in Portuguese An introduction to he human constitution from the Anthroposoohical point of view, by V.W.Setzer.
For a catalog of Steiner's books published by Ed. Antroposófica in Portuguese, please click here.
The Escola Waldorf Rudolf Steiner de São Paulo has in its library almost the whole Rudolf Steiner's complete edition (GA - Gesamtausgabe) in the original in German as well as translations in many languages, including Portuguese. Please click here to jump to a catalog of the complete GA edition and its volumes at that library.
"Anthroposophie ist ein Erkenntnisweg, der das Geistige im Menschenwesen zum Geistigen im Weltenall führen möchte. Sie tritt im Menschen als Herzens- und Gefühlsbedürfnis auf. Sie muss ihre Rechtfertigung dadurch finden, dass sie diesem Bedürfnis Befriedigung gewähren kann. Annerkennen kann Anthroposophie nur derjenige, der in ihr findet, was er aus seinem Gemüte heraus suchen muss. Anthroposophen können daher nur Menschen sein, die gewisse Fragen über das Wesen des Menschen und der Welt so als Lebensnotwendigkeit empfinden, wie man Hunger und Durst empfindet."
Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophische Leitsätze, Dornach, 17.2.1924 (GA 26)
"Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge whose objective is to guide the spiritual in man to the spiritual in the universe. For the individual it is felt as a basic need of the heart and of feeling. It must find its justification in the satisfaction of this necessity. It will be recognized only by those who find in it what they are seeking in their hearts. Anthroposophists may therefore only be those who feel certain questions about the nature of man and the universe as intensely as they feel hunger and thirst." (Transl. Frank Thomas Smith.)
We thank Bernardo Kaliks for some valuable suggestions, incorporated on March 7, 1999.
Text "An Anthroposophical introduction to the human organization" by Valdemar W. Setzer.
Article "Introducing Rudolf Steiner" by Owen Barfield, in English and Portuguese.
Essay "What is Goethean Science?", by Dennis Klocek, in English and Portuguese.
The friendship between Albert Schweitzer and Rudolf Steiner - reports by A. Schweitzer and others, translated into English (copied from the excellent electronic magazine Southern Cross Review No. 48).
For many books and lecture cicles by Rudolf Steiner translated into English, see the Rudolf Steiner Archive (activate one of the options at the menu "Archive Sections").
For the Brazilian Anthroposophic Press, with books by Rudolf Steiner and others in Portuguese, see www.antroposofica.com.br
To receive Steiner's Calendar of the Soul weekly, accompanied with a water color by Edith Bierman, please subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Edith Bierman weeks. To view one sample week and a short introduction log to http://www.eurythmy.org.uk/reading/art_njr1.html
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For sites with works by Rudolf Steiner, see
In German: www.anthroposophie-online.de/GA-DB.HTM
Electronic magazines with Anthroposophical inspiration:
Netfuture - technology with reponsibility: www.netfuture.org
Southern Cross Review: www.southerncrossreview.org
Trans Intelligence Magazine ("foremost thinking in the world today"): www.transintelligence.org
3. Other sites of interest
General Anthroposophical Society, with headquarters at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, with a site with information in English and German: www.goetheanum.ch.
Information on Anthroposophy in German: www.anthroposophy.com
The site www.anthros.net contains general information in English on Anthroposophy, Waldorf Education and Schools, Anthroposophic Medicine, etc.
See also Emerson College, an old institution with Anthroposophical college education in England.
In Swedish, see www.antropos.pp.se.
Prof. Valdemar W. Setzer, Department of Computer Science, University of São Paulo, Brazil, has a site with many papers, essays and a list of lectures on educational and philosophical topics, all inspired on Anthroposophy, at www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer.
Last modified: March 13, 2008
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