Rudolf Steiner (25 February 1861 – 30 March 1925), born in Donji Kraljevec, Croatia, was an Austrian philosopher, literary scholar, educator, artist, playwright, social thinker, and esotericist. He was the founder of anthroposophy, Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, and the new artistic form of eurythmy.
Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual component. He derived his epistemology from Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s world view, where “Thinking…is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.”
Even as a young man, Steiner already supported the independence of educational institutions from governmental control. In 1907, he wrote a long essay, entitled “Education in the Light of Spiritual Science,” in which he described the major phases of child development and suggested that these would be the basis of a healthy approach to education.
In 1919, Emil Molt invited him to lecture on the topic of education to the workers at Molt’s factory in Stuttgart. Out of this came a new school, the Waldorf school, and Waldorf education — sometimes known as Steiner Education. During Steiner’s lifetime, schools based on his educational principles were also founded in Hamburg, Essen, The Hague and London. There are now more than 900 independent Waldorf schools worldwide.
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