Rudolf Steiner: The Austrian Mystic Who Took on Hitler, Created Organic Agriculture and Alternative Education

Organics are all the rage these days. Everything from baby food to bedding is coming in packaging certifying its organic nature, and — aside from the price in many cases — this is a very good thing. The consumer, by and large, has finally caught on and is demanding their products be pure.  We are what we eat, as the old adage goes, so we had better be sure what we’re consuming is coming from a wholesome source.

The same goes for education, though this is something we’re unfortunately a little behind on. While many companies have become much more progressive over the last 10 years, allowing a lot more flexibility, fun and freedom in the workplace — resulting in higher quality, creative turn-out — our schools are, for the most part, lagging behind in this regard. The minds of the people we produce are only as fine or as coarse as the quality of the education they’ve received, particularly in the beginning years. Yet certain alternatives exist, such as the CWG recommended Waldorf system of education, in which play, imagination and the integration of empathetic thinking with critical thinking play a huge part.

And while both of these things are well-known (Waldorf Education a little less so) very few people are familiar with the 19th century Austrian mystic who created them. Organic agriculture’s beginnings can be traced back to something known as biodynamic agriculture, a system of holistic farming and part of a larger philosophical system of thought known as anthroposophy, coined a “spiritual science”.

All of them emerged from the mind of a man by the name of Rudolf Steiner. An architect, philosopher, literary critic and social reformer born in Donji Kraljevec in 1861, Steiner remains a controversial figure to this day. Claiming to have had significant spiritual experiences as a child, and the ability to see into a type of “supersensible” reality, Steiner nonetheless kept quiet about all of it until his early 40’s, after he had worked his way through the halls of higher education and created a place for himself in the literary world. The latter half of his life was then devoted to the establishment of numerous systems still in play today. By the time of his death he had written over 15 books, lectured extensively and created the alternative approaches to agriculture and education mentioned above, as well as many other facets of life.

Because of his unapologetic foray into mysticism he remains widely ignored by academia. Indeed, Steiner stated that one of his main purposes on earth was to bring the knowledge of reincarnation back to the western world, and that the earth itself has gone through numerous reincarnations. His ideas include everything from Rosicrucianism to Christian mysticism to the idea of the Akashic Records, landing squarely in the realm of what many would call the “occult”.

Yet accounts of his personal life paint a picture of a highly moral man who was kind, passionate and deeply concerned for his fellow men and women and the societies they create. In 1921, as the power behind Hitler’s National Socialist movement grew, Steiner openly warned about the catastrophic effects it could have were they to come to power. Even when he was personally attacked by Hitler, with many national extremists calling for a “war against Steiner”, he remained unmoved.

These are only some of the facts about the Austrian philosopher and mystic. It is important, of course, for each of us to make our own determinations on such matters in life, but if you believe in organic agriculture and different forms of alternative education, you are already in line with some of his core philosophies, though you may not have even known it…