I am convinced that Rudolf Steiner wanted hundreds of thousands if not millions of people practicing spiritual science by the beginning of the 21st century. But somehow this has not happened.  Why is that? Because somehow, Anthroposophy has primarily become a study which is then applied as personal knowledge to external cultural activities. This knowledge is based on memory and evolving professional skills, augmented by meditation and inner development exercises.  It has brought a lot to the world, but it is not the full potential of what Dr Steiner brought to humanity.

Rudolf Steiner had four main tasks that we know of, and the gaps in development of two of them could be one of the reasons why anthroposophy has not gained a broad appeal. These show a definite trajectory of his life’s work, moving from one important development to the next. They also become tasks to engage with for active students of his in their own life’s biography:

  • He demonstrated both in philosophical terms and through direct application, that there is no limit to the capacity of human cognition to know reality. It is true that the intellect has absolute limits to knowing, needing mathematical analysis and scientific instruments to support it, whereas intuitive direct knowing has no absolute constraints when developed in specific ways. This proven realisation was shared in his Philosophy of Freedom, investigating ontology and epistemology through personal application as a path of intuitive thinking within a living ethical individualism. Elsewhere he described this an intermediate path in the development of intuitive research capacities. This path enables pure or living thinking to flower but gives no specific instructions for the development, activation and use of specific intuitive sense organs. It is the foundation from which we can engage with his next life task.
  • He followed the demonstrable proof of the unlimited potential for the expansion of knowing by describing how this intuitive capacity can be developed. This is shown in his book Knowledge of Higher Worlds and How to Attain It (once a series of articles) as well as six other ancillary books and chapters. Sadly, for today’s readers this is not easily discernible as the complete method of systematic development which it is. There is no easy way it can be understood and applied in our modern times because of the way it was written back then, supplemented by lectures and private lessons. Dr Steiner became very busy and never completed this work which is why he wrote ancillary books and indicated in his various Knowledge of Higher Worlds prefaces where readers could find the complete picture, which even now is not yet organized into a system.
  • Furthermore, in his third task Rudolf Steiner demonstrated in his life how, once developed, three clear and accurate intuitive ways of knowing can be used as a research method to engage with previously hidden aspects of reality lying beyond the cognitive capacity of the intellect. This trained intuitive knowing becomes an ability to merge our mind with specific parts of reality following lines of questions using transformed thinking, feeling and willing. ‘I think’ changes to ‘It thinks in me’ with this method, which has unique variations on a common theme for each individual’s way of working. Sadly, even tragically, information about this third task’s detailed methods have been almost completely lost as few know how to use these intuitive methods for valid and reliable scientific research engaging with the non-physical dimensions of reality in ways that Rudolf Steiner himself did. Yet it was one of the main hopes Rudolf Steiner had for the 20th and 21st He taught his private esoteric pupils both the development and research methods, tasks 2 and 3 outlined above. However, very little specific and clearly described ways of engaging in reliable spiritual research has come down to us. This is an almost lost part of his life task, though some resurgence is now happening more openly, particularly in Europe, with people learning from each other by sharing their inner experiences and methods.
  • The fourth task, which has been much more successful, is the improvement and renewal of life in society, such as children’s education, farming and gardening, religion, medicine, natural science, architecture and many of the arts to mention some of them. He considered it vital that people involved in these external cultural endeavours were actively involved in the development of intuitive knowing which is core to Anthroposophy’s task of renewal. All endeavours would become more effective and a new practical spiritual culture could evolve, when many people could communicate directly with the non-physical dimensions permeating our physical world, acting as the essence of the outer activities we engage with.

These cultural activities and Rudolf Steiner’s many associated books, lectures and artwork are what is generally known as anthroposophy. However, Tasks 2 and 3, the thorough development of capacities for direct knowing beyond memory and intellect and then the application of this cognition in research which were core to Steiner’s life’s purpose have not been taken up to the extent he hoped for. Anthroposophy or better named, Spiritual Science, is a capacity of knowing, not a body of knowledge, and needs to be experienced as that more widely for the Anthroposophical Society to thrive again. 

Steiner indicated seven steps in the anthroposophical journey which involves study as the first step, with the development of Imagination, Inspiration and (higher) Intuition the next three. Steps five and six involve expanding into the cosmos and lastly developing an equilibrium which can move by choice into any of these states.

The various seminars I have been running in New Zealand as well as in China and Europe over the last three years are an attempt to bring Rudolf Steiner’s Tasks 2 and 3 back into focus as direct experience, showing that actually it is not so difficult to develop and apply seeing imaging (Imagination), feeling hearing meaning (Inspiration) and meeting being (Greater Intuition) as outlined in Anthroposophy, if only we know specifically what to do. Having worked with Dorian and Antje Schmidt and Frank and Inessa Burdich in Europe I am privileged to be part of a wider group that is working to enliven this core aspect of Anthroposophy as practical spiritual science.

Ian Trousdell