Spiritual science

From Anthroposophy

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).

See also: Relationship between mineral and spiritual science


For more info: see Sources of spiritual science, as well as More sources on the topic of initiation and magic

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.


[1] - The oversimplification of how we view the world

1917-11-19-GA178 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.

[2] - 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.

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