Spiritual science is the modern term for the ancient wisdom about Man, the microcosmos and the macrocosmos. It answers the questions on who we are (re 'Man, Know Thyself'), where we come from and where we are going. A more modern version of these questions is 'the meaning of life'.
Modern, contemporary spiritual science has a long tradition going back millenia, starting with mystery centers in Atlantis and later in the mystery schools in ancient cultures such as Egypt and Greece. In modern times it was also initially called philosophy (Greece) and later theosophy (middle ages), and includes branches such as rosecrucianism and hermetics. Of course the state of consciousness, culture and language was always very different, hence teachings have varied also, but nevertheless the scope and questions, and the essence of this type of knowledge, has always been consistent.
Characteristics of spiritual science is that it is holistic and integrative. It looks at the whole of creation and all spiritual beings and their evolution. It also does not divide science and art. In its basis, it represents a universal body of knowledge and wisdom which is not specific to any timeframe or culture, which is also the difference with contemporary mineral science and the linked worldview.
Again in terms of terminology, we use 'spiritual science' and 'initiation' as a modern terms. About a century ago much of what was not mainstream was called 'occult' or 'esoteric' knowledge, similarly in olden times the term 'magic' was used instead of esotericism and initiation.
A simple way to compare mineral science and spiritual science, is that mineral science has a bandpass filter on what it takes in scope (limiting to waking consciousness, and the mineral physical world), whereas spiritual science takes a broader spectrum of consciousness (imagination, inspiration, intuition as the Stages of clairvoyance to describe the other Planes or Worlds of consciousness. The process to extend one's 'consciousness bandwith' is called initiation and consists of developing latent faculties in Man through initiation exercises such as meditation and concentration.
Spiritual science can be seen as a meta-representation of mineral science, which is a knowledge domain subset focusing on the study and physical laws of the element Earth only (see Four elements and Spectrum of elements and ethers).
On this site, focus on the spiritual science in its most recent version, as brought by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). This is the largest body of consistent information and knowledge (some 100.000 pages over more than 20 years of lecturing), closest to contemporary language and scientific thinking, and especially - includes references and crosslinks to numerous previous sources of spiritual science of previous ages and time periods, thereby mapping them into a modern framework. Initially Rudolf Steiner's teachings were coined theosophy, but (for certain reasons) it was renamed to anthroposophy.
This site however also includes information from the original theosophy, hermetics and other teachers than Rudolf Steiner. Examples are the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky (theosophy), Franz Bardon (hermetics), as well as Stylianos Atteshlis a.k.a. Daskalos (christian esotericism), and Peter Deunov (a.k.a. Beinsa Douno).
In terms of lineage, the same stream of knowledge and wisdom underlies all these teachings, as well what we find in the following substreams and the work of those mentioned. See Also The Michaelic stream
We use the classification below just arbitrarily for the sake of presentation, as - in this context - one really ought to do away with the categories.
- philosophy: Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Lessing, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Empedocles
- art: Raphael, Richard Wagner, Leonardo Da Vinci, William Blake, Novalis, Schiller, Dante
- scientific: Goethe, Kepler, Tycho Brahe
- esotericism: Agrippa, Nicolas Flamel, Paracelsus, Karl von Eckertshausen, Pietro d'Abano, Johannes van Helmont, Apollonius van Tyana
- Christian esotericism: apostle Paul of Tarsus, John of Pathos, Dionysius the Areopagite, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, Thomas Aquinas
- mystics: Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, Jan van Ruusbroec, Hildegard von Bingen, Swedenborg
- religious: Buddha, Laotzu, ..
Lecture coverage and references
Foundation for study
- For Spiritual Science the work of Rudolf Steiner provides a foundational basis, but it fits into a larger stream called the Michaelic Stream, which includes theosophy and the ancient wisdom knowledge going back to previous cultures.
- So we also consider:
- the work done by people in the anthroposophical stream initiated by Steiner (eg Karl Konig, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, Lily Kolisko, Guenther Wachsmuth, etc). Over the last century thousands of people have contributed to furthering anthroposophy and spiritual science.
- theosophy (eg the work of HP Blavatsky, Jacob Boehme, and others .. see here for more info on what Rudolf Steiner said about the origin of the theosophical stream back to Plato and the Gospel of John)
- hermetics, eg the works of Franz Bardon on initiation
- the work of other teachers such as Daskalos (Stylianos Atteshlis), Beinsa Douno (Peter Dounov)
- religious documents and other ancient texts, as well as myths and legends
In the period 1904 to 1924, Rudolf Steiner gave over 6.000 lectures on the most wide range of subjects. These were stenographed and transferred to typoscripts that were edited and published in a Gesamtausgabe (Collected Works) with over 300 volumes and about 100.000 pages. In the last century much has been translated into many different languages. In his work, Rudolf Steiner also gave an integrative framework linking in the work of many of the names above (and more). To give a hint on how that can be, consider that Steiner have lecture cycles (of say 10 lectures) on o.a.:
- the study of Man, destiny or karma, the spiritual hierarchies, and evolution of the solar system
- the gospels, the book of Genesis, the Bhagavad Gita, etc, but also
- scientific courses on light, warmth, astronomy, and the boundaries of natural (mineral) science
- courses on education, medicine, eurythmy, agriculture, even bees
- various course cycles on the arts in general, the visual arts, the nature music,
- importantly: the framework of spiritual science is 'integrative' because the teachings of previous cultural ages was mapped into this framework, thereby showing that concepts and spiritual entities were described with different names and in other ways, depending on the tradition, but all describe the same higher knowledge or wisdom. Examples are the religious texts (see point 2 above) but also Ancient history of myths and legends.
 - The oversimplification of how we view the world
describes that the kingdoms are not coordinated and working together, so nature appears as undivided but this is filtered appearance and (over)simplified, in reality things are much more complex (SWCC)
A person who tries to build up a world-picture rightly endeavours to bring its separate elements into harmony. He does this from habit — a thoroughly justified habit, connected for many centuries with the dearest possession of our souls: with monotheism. He tries therefore to lead back the whole range of his experience of the world to a unitary principle. This is valid enough in its own way — not, however, in the sense in which it is usually applied, but in quite another sense of which we will speak next time. To-day I will deal only with the essential principle.
If we approach the world with the preconceived idea that everything must be explicable without contradiction, as though it came from a single source, we shall be disappointed again and again when we look without prejudice at the world and the experiences it affords. We have acquired the habit of treating everything we perceive in the light of the didactic concept which says that everything leads back to a unitary divine origin — everything derives from God and so must admit of a single mode of explanation.
But this is not so. The experiences we encounter in the world do not spring from a single ground, but from diverse spiritual individualities, who all play a part in producing them. That is the essential point. ... up to a certain high stage, we must think of independent individualities as soon as we cross the threshold of the spiritual world. And then we cannot expect to explain everything we experience in unitary terms.
This is something that belongs to the deepest secrets of human evolution. For centuries, even for millennia, it has been obscured by monotheistic feeling, but you must take it into account. If today we are to come closer to ultimate questions, we must above all not confuse logic with abstract freedom from contradictions. In a world where independent individualities are simultaneously at work, contradictions are bound to occur, and to expect them not to occur leads to an impoverishment of ideas; to ideas which cannot embrace the whole of reality. The only adequate ideas will be those that are able to grasp a world replete with contradictions, for that is the real world.
The realms of nature that lie around us come into being in a very remarkable way. In all that we call nature, the nature we approach through science on the one hand and through aesthetic perception on the other, various individualities are at work. But in the present phase of human evolution a wise Providence has ordained an arrangement which is a great blessing for mankind. We can lay hold of nature with ideas that assume a monistic dispensation, because sense-perception allows us normally to experience only as much of nature as is in accord with that principle. Behind the tapestry of nature there lies something different which is sustained from a quite other direction; but sense-perception shuts it out, admitting only as much of nature as can pass through its sieve. Everything contradictory is strained out, and nature is communicated to us in the guise of a monistic system. But directly we cross the threshold and bring the true facts to bear on the interpretation of nature — the facts concerning the elemental spirits or the influence of human souls, which can also act on nature — then we are no longer able to speak of a monistic system applicable to nature. Once again we see clearly that we have to do with the workings of individualities who may either oppose or reinforce one another.
In the elemental world we find earth-spirits, gnomes; water-spirits, undines; air-spirits, sylphs; fire-spirits, salamanders. They are all there, but they do not form a single united band. Each of the four kingdoms is in a certain sense independent; they do not work only in rank and file as a single system, but they oppose one another. Their purposes are, to begin with, entirely distinct; the outcome reflects the interactions of their purposes in the most varied ways. If we know what these purposes are, we can discern in a given phenomenon the working together, let us say, of fire-spirits and undines. But we must never suppose that behind them is a single authority which gives them definite orders. This way of thinking is widespread today; and philosophers such as, for example, Wilhelm Wundt (whom Fritz Mauthner described with some justice as “an authority by the grace of his publisher” - yet before the war he ranked as an authority almost everywhere) - these philosophers are out to force into a unity all the manifold life of the soul, its concepts, its feeling, its willing, because they say that the soul is a unity, and therefore all this must belong to a unitary system. But that is not so, and the strongly conflicting tendencies in human life, which psycho-analysis indeed brings out, would not occur if our conceptual life did not lead back beyond the threshold into regions where it is influenced by individualities quite different from those that influence our feeling and our willing.
 - Short statement on anthroposophy
The following 250 word statement was written by Jeremy Smith:
Anthroposophy (meaning “wisdom of the human being” or “consciousness of one’s humanity”) was defined by its founder, Rudolf Steiner as “a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe. ”
Steiner considered anthroposophy to be a science based on spiritual observation, and a necessary complement to natural science. A fundamental aspect of anthroposophy is the recognition of a real spiritual world that interpenetrates the visible physical one. It deals with many large questions, such as: the purpose of life, the physical and non-physical aspects of the human constitution, the nature of divinity and the cosmos, and the understanding of universal laws such as karma and reincarnation which govern life. Anthroposophy is a philosophy, not a religion, and both religious and non-religious people have found it helpful in expanding their sense of what it means to be a human being.
Freedom is at its core and Steiner was always insistent that anthroposophy must never force its existence upon people. It is instead something to be discovered by those individuals “who feel certain questions on the nature of human beings and the universe as an elemental need of life, just as one feels hunger and thirst.”
Anthroposophy is applied in many practical ways for the benefit of individuals and the community, including in agriculture (biodynamic farming), architecture, economics, education (Steiner Waldorf schools), mathematics, medicine and curative education, nutrition, pharmacy, science, sociology, and diverse branches of the arts.
 - spiritual science must be explored by the clairvoyant researcher, but can be understood by everyone with an open mind and will
... if this soul will only liberate within itself all the moral courage at its command and so frustrate the obstacles proceeding from Ahriman.
... it has often been emphasised here that not everyone needs to be a spiritual investigator in order to appreciate what the awakened man has to impart. When knowledge resulting from spiritual research is communicated, no more is required of the listener than ordinary logic and an unbiased sense of truth.
Investigation calls for the opened eye of the clairvoyant; recognition of what is communicated calls for a healthy sense of truth; natural feeling unclouded by prejudice; natural good sense.
The point is that teachings and observations concerning the soul should be understood in the light of this spiritual research when in later lectures we come to speak of some of the humanly interesting characteristics of the soul. Just as anyone who wants to study hydrogen or oxygen or any other chemical substance has to acquire certain capabilities, so is observation of the life of the soul possible only for someone whose spiritual eye has been opened. The investigator of the soul must be in a position to make observations in soul-substance, so to speak.
see more on: Clairvoyant research of akashic records
It must be brought to our attention again and again that, when the realms of spiritual investigation and spiritual science are spoken of today, it is unjustified to claim that only the spiritual investigator can see into the spiritual world and that one who is not yet a spiritual investigator is unable to know and understand and grasp it. You can learn from the descriptions in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, and from my presentation in An Outline of Occult Science that in our era to a certain degree every person, if only he makes the necessary effort, can become a spiritual investigator, no matter what his position in life is otherwise.
Nevertheless, it is also possible for a person to understand the descriptions of the spiritual world without being a spiritual investigator. It is necessary to be a spiritual investigator not in order to understand the communications from the spiritual world but in order to discover them, to investigate what is present in the spiritual world. One must be a painter in order to paint a picture, but one need not be a painter to understand a picture; it is the same with understanding communications from the spiritual world with the sound human intellect. It is in order to investigate the spiritual world that the human being is endowed with the higher organs of observation. If what is investigated, however, is brought into the concepts of the ordinary world, as is often attempted here, the sound human intellect can, if only it is sufficiently unprejudiced and does not create obstructions for itself, grasp what is brought to light through spiritual investigation.
It is the same with what can be gained through spiritual scientific investigation: it can be brought to light only if the soul has transformed itself into an organ of perception for the spiritual world. If it is brought into the concepts and mental images of ordinary life, however, then the human intellect, if only it is sufficiently sound, can understand and illuminate everything as if with spiritual sunlight. All of spiritual science, therefore, can be grasped by the sound human intellect. Just as a painting is not made merely for the painter himself, so the communications about the spiritual world are not only for the spiritual scientific investigator. Nevertheless, paintings are able to originate only through the painter, and the spiritual world can be explored only by the spiritual investigator.
He who believes that what comes from the communications of the spiritual investigator cannot be grasped by means of the ordinary intellect does not perceive at all correctly the nature and essence of the human capacity for thinking. In the human capacity for thinking reside faculties that stand in direct connection with the nature of the higher world. Because man is accustomed to approach only the ordinary sense objects with his concepts, he believes that the ordinary faculty of judgment vanishes in him if super-sensible facts are presented to him. He who develops his capacity for thinking, however, can cultivate this capacity in such a way that it can grasp what is brought to light through spiritual investigation. One must not have some notion beforehand, however, of how one can grasp such matters. This should result from the study itself. If one has a definite notion of how one should grasp these things, one surrenders oneself again to a serious error in relation to spiritual investigation.
.. through what we call the Luciferic influence, through the encroachment of Luciferic beings, Man diverted his power of thought and other powers of soul which he would otherwise have used for the acquisition of spiritual scientific knowledge only, to the study of things belonging exclusively to the physical world.
There are many who say that whereas ordinary science is accessible to everybody, spiritual or occult science can be made intelligible only to those who are able to see into the spiritual worlds.
This is a fundamental error, for in the depths of his own soul every man is capable, even before he becomes a seer, of recognising the truths of Spiritual Science. Admittedly, occult truths can be discovered only by the seer, but when they have been discovered, and expressed in the normal language of human reason, they can be intelligible to every human soul who has the will to remove the obstacles to such understanding that exist within himself.
As a result of the Luciferic impulses it became possible at a later period in the evolution of the Earth for another being whom we call Ahriman, to acquire influence over the souls of men. And only when the possibility of understanding spiritual science is held back through Ahrimanic influence in the soul does that understanding remain unattainable. If the being we call Ahriman did not work in every human soul, if our souls were free from his influence, then an idea or thought belonging to spiritual science would need only to be spoken and the soul, through its subconscious relationship to this truth, would feel: This idea, this statement of spiritual science, is true. In every human soul there is a life which the everyday consciousness understands and can account for, and a subconscious soul-life which lies submerged as if in the depths of an ocean and only from time to time is brought to light. In the depths of the soul there lies, for example, the fear that is present in every human being — the fear of the spiritual. This fear is the outcome of Ahriman's influence and would not exist if Ahriman had not gained power over the souls of men. The reason why a man is usually unconscious of such fear is that it works in the deepest foundations of his soul and plays no part in what he can account for with his everyday consciousness.
Sometimes this fear knocks at the door of a Man's ordinary consciousness without any knowledge on his part of what is inwardly disquieting him; and then he looks for something that will act as an opiate, that will deaden this feeling of fear. He finds this opiate in materialistic thoughts, theories and ideas. Materialistic theories are not devised on a logical basis, although it may be believed that this is the case; they are devised as the result of a dread of the spiritual, which is the consequence of Ahriman's influence upon the soul. Hence the preparatory condition for actual understanding of spiritual truths is much less a knowledge of physical science than an education of the soul in the virtue of moral courage, spiritual courage.
Therefore we may say that occult science must be explored by the seer, but it can be understood by every human soul if this soul will only liberate within itself all the moral courage at its command and so frustrate the obstacles proceeding from Ahriman.
Should anyone wish to understand occult truths through the original moral forces of his soul he may make the following attempt: he may allow spiritual science to work upon his soul without saying to himself, ‘I agree with this’, or, ‘I do not agree with it’. He may assimilate the ideas and concepts given by the seer and allow them to work upon his soul; and if he has absorbed the occult knowledge with inner enthusiasm and not as the result of mere curiosity, he will have an experience that may be compared with a feeling of soaring without physical ground under his feet, with a feeling as if he were hovering in the air.
This attempt will have a completely different effect according to whether it is carried out by a person with religious, reverential inclinations towards spiritual life, or by someone accustomed to materialistic thinking. One who has no actual occult knowledge, but whose inclinations and feelings with regard to the spiritual world have nevertheless a religious quality may feel somewhat insecure as the result of this attempt but very much less so than a materialist who has no feeling of attraction to the spiritual world. The latter will experience a strong feeling of fear, of insecurity. The materialist may convince himself through this experience that the effect of occult ideas and concepts upon him is that they give rise to dread and terror. And then he may say to himself: ‘This proves to me, not only that I am full of fear of this realm, but that fear is one of my intrinsic tendencies.’
lecture in Christiana, not clear in which GA volume this may have been published
Spiritual science as it is meant here wants in turn to enter into the fullest intensity of the soul of the human being, into the eternity of the soul; it wants religious consciousness, the godly-religious content to enter again into the development of humanity and the education of humanity, precisely so that Man can come through awareness to his full dignity. And he, conscious of his dignity which results from his knowledge of the connection of his soul with the eternal, with the ur-eternal powers of the world, realizes that this is part of his true nature, as the physical body, as something that stands in everyday life, is connected with him, is part of his life.
This is that which people themselves have followed as knowledge, and already many, many of them crave the equivalent, if it is not fully conscious to them. That which today torments people, what they feel as the uneasiness of life that makes them basically nervous about what drives them so that they feel undermined in their whole existence, this is the burning question of the eternal forces underlying the temporal forces that we need to develop in normal and in social life. This spiritual science is here so that people who want to have knowledge of these eternal forces — that spiritual science here intends — can find methods to lead others to this realization, so that others can also engage in this knowledge in social life; that they and their fellow man not only see something as it were that is borne by the stream of life on earth, to be born with birth and die with death, but that they learn rather of something that will go through all eternity, guided by the stars and the aims of people through the cosmic goal so that this cosmic goal gives the correct meaning to all earthly goals.
Anthroposophy wants to speak to people of this cosmic sense, the sense of the goals of earth. This is what it would awaken in souls again as feeling and sensation in the relationship of the human soul with all of the forces of eternal life, for people of the present and of the future.
And this, ladies and gentlemen — if you are going on honest advice you will have to admit — is what one needs as a human being at the present time. And what one will need more and more as a human being of the future.
- Sources of spiritual science
- Clairvoyant research of akashic records
- Man's most important questions
- Relationship between mineral and spiritual science
- Mystery school tradition
- White Lodge
- The Michaelic stream
References and further reading
- Hermann Poppelbaum: 'Can Supersensible Facts Be Proven?' (Journal for Anthroposophy, Spring, 1970, #11)