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.


On this site, we focus on the spiritual science in its most recent version, as brought by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). This because he brought the largest body of consistent information and knowledge (some 100.000 pages over more than 20 years of lecturing), and especially - he included 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. 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, ..

For more info: see Sources of spiritual science

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.


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.

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