ANTHROPOSOPHY (Greek ’ανθρωπος [anthropos]—man; σοφια [sophia]—wisdom)—the term anthroposophy is a modern neologism that arose within the tradition of hermeticism.
The term appeared for the first time in the title of T. Vaughan’s work Anthroposophia magica (1650). In the eighteenth century, anthroposophy meant a basic domain of philosophy intended to take the place of metaphysics which would shift the philosophical problematic from matters of ontology to epistemology and anthropology. I. P. V. Troxler thought that anthroposophy is the most important philosophical science about human knowledge. G. Spicker stated that the particular sciences enable us to know things, while anthroposophy is the knowledge about that knowledge. At the beginning of the twentieth century R. Steiner’s conception of anthroposophy was the most influential. Steiner was influenced by R. Zimmermann. This anthropology had paraphilosophical elements (occult knowledge) with a large element of Gnosticism, along with elements of Christianity and Hinduism. Today the concept of anthroposophy is primarily associated with Steiner’s views.
Anthroposophy grew is a climate of opposition to positivism’s narrow view of the world and man. At first, in the late nineteenth century, this opposition grew within the framework of theosophy (H. Petrovna Blavatsky), and at the beginning of the twentieth century a special society of anthroposophy was founded by Steiner.
Anthroposophy is based on the idea that what the spiritual is not only in man but also in the universe. After the sensual level, the universe contains an invisible and extrasensory spirit. Man can activate in himself extrasensory powers that go beyond the level of purely rational thought to see this spiritual side of the world. To this end one needs to practice meditation. Meditation contributes to the development of a special organ of knowledge. Reaching the higher spiritual world is the elevation of the soul to the third state—then the soul which is purified of what is material and sensual achieves the state of karma. Steiner thought that the soul and the universe have the same spiritual source. Man as a microcosm is the counterpart of the macrocosm or universe. The universe and man in their evolution to what is supreme pass through seven degrees of incarnation (seven planetary epochs). At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century man was in the fourth stage.
Christ was not regarded as an historical figure but as a reincarnation of the spirit of the Buddha and Zarathustra, but he helps humanity pass to the highest spiritual level. On these foundations, man and the universe are something that is one with God.
This vision corresponds to the gnostic myth of the fall of the soul and its re-elevation, while the concept of karma and reincarnation was taken from Hinduism. The figure of Christ, although completely deformed, obviosly comes from Christianity. The idea of the unity of man, the world, and God is an expression of pantheism.Steiner’s anthropomorphism served as the basis for a grand spiritual reform that included education, art, politics, economy, medicine, agriculture, and religion. Many of these projects began within secret societies and were joined to official and institutional programs in the western world (e.g., abstract art, Steinerian schools, etc.).
The Congregation of the Holy Office officially condemned membership in anthroposophic societies (18 VII 1919).
F. Kwiatowski, Teosofia i antropozofia, czyli nauka tajemna o Bogu i człowieku [Theosophy and anthroposophy, namely occult knowledge about God and man], Pz 1925; M. K. Wołowski, Antropozofia Steinera i jej przeciwnicy w Polsce [Steiner’s anthroposophy and its opponents in Poland], Wwa 1925; A. L. Matzka, Theosophie und Anthroposophie, Gr 1950; J. Witzenmann, HWP I 378–380 (bibliogr.); C. Rudolph, Von der Entwicklung der Anthroposophie zur Waldorfpädagogik heute oder Wege zur Versteinerung, B 1985; H. Ullrich, Waldoftpädagogik und okkulte Weltanschauung, Weinheim 1986, 1991³; W. Kugler, Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophie, K 1991; H. Ullrich, Rudolph Steiner and Education, NY 1992.