Founding of the Anthroposophical Society and cultural initiatives


December 28, 1912.
The Anthroposophical Society is founded in Cologne, Germany, with about 3,000 members. The members of its Executive Council are: Marie von Sivers, Michael Bauer and Carl Unger. Rudolf Steiner does not take any official position but acts as an advisor and lecturer. Separation from the Theosophical Society.

“In order to lead a satisfying and healthy life, human nature needs knowledge and cultivation of its own supersensible nature and the supersensible nature of the non-human world . . . . True spiritual research and the attitude that arises from it should give the Anthroposophical Society its character”

1. All people can work fraternally together in the Society who consider a spiritual element shared by all human souls to form the basis for loving collaboration, however different they may be with regard to faith, nationality, status, sex, etc.

2. Serve research into the supersensible element hidden in all sense-perceptible things and propagate genuine spiritual science.

3. Cultivate knowledge of the kernel of truth in the various worldviews of peoples and epochs.

(From: Entwurf der Grundsätze einer Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft 1912)

Wide ranging artistic work within the Society and in public life. Mystery plays written by Rudolf Steiner are performed during annual summer festivals. Eurythmy, an art of movement developed by Rudolf Steiner is used in the plays to portray spiritual processes. The work cannot be continued at the same pace when World War I begins.

Work on the Goetheanum building beginning in 1913 and continuing through the war. Artists and helpers from all European countries contribute. This building is intended as an international center for anthroposophical work and a place to stage Rudolf Steiner’s mystery plays. During this building period, various scientific and artistic institutions are founded nearby. Rudolf Steiner designs other buildings for private homes and functional use. He lectures on anthroposophical and general topics for the building workers. Marie Steiner stages scenes from Goethe’s Faust. Eurythmy is developed further as a stage art. The previously internal work of the Society now becomes visible.

In the fermenting post-war period, Rudolf Steiner and others working with him try to contribute suggestions for replacing the idea of a unitary state with one that is differentiated into government, economics and culture, each with its own form of organization and representation. Rudolf Steiner’s book, Towards Social Renewal, draws public interest. A number of institutions try to employ these ideas on a small scale (e.g., Futurum A.G., Kommender Tag A.G.)

Emil Molt asks Rudolf Steiner in April 1919 to found a school for the children of workers in his Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. The school, administrated by its own teachers, opens five months later. It offers basic schooling to children independent of their social origins, sex, gifts or later careers. The curriculum is based on anthropology oriented to the child’s physical, soul and spiritual development. The new educational idea is successful. Rudolf Steiner is invited to give courses in Switzerland, England and the Netherlands, where further schools are founded.

Responding to the request of doctors, Rudolf Steiner lectures on how to spiritually extend and deepen medical work. These and later suggestions lead to the opening of two clinics and a pharmaceutical company in 1921 (later called the Ita Wegman Clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland; the Filderklinik near Stuttgart, Germany, Weleda, and Wala)

Courses in various European countries elaborate on the scientific character of anthroposophy and on specific details of various professional disciplines. Rudolf Steiner’s lecture tours, organized by concert agency Wolff&Sachs, draw large public audiences. Two publications are started, Das Goetheanum (weekly) and Die Drei (monthly), which are still being published today. In 1922 there is a “West-East Conference” to facilitate understanding between the world opposites of west and east. An initiative of theologues and ministers leads to the founding of the Christian Community as a movement for religious renewal in 1922 by a group of people around Friedrich Rittelmeyer.

The Goetheanum is destroyed by arson during the night of New Year’s Eve 1922/23. The fire is a manifestation of growing opposition and shows that the Anthroposophical Society, which was founded in 1912/13 with about 3,000 members and has now grown to about 12,000 members, with manifold activities in a number of countries, needs to adapt to its changed circumstances. Rudolf Steiner works toward having independent Anthroposophical Societies founded in each country. The plan is to unite them in an international body at Christmas. A decision is made to rebuild the Goetheanum.


The first Goetheanum from the south

The building opens in 1923. Made of wood, the building is destroyed by arson on New Year’s Eve 1922/23.