The year 2011 is being celebrated worldwide as the 150th anniversary year of the birth of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian-born scientist, philosopher, educator, esotericist, artist, holistic thinker, and social activist. RSF Social Finance’s work is inspired by Rudolf Steiner. “It’s hard to imagine a world without the contributions of Rudolf Steiner. He inspired and influenced so many fields of activity and spoke to the awakening of the human spirit in their daily work. In times like this, it is helpful to turn to a new kind of thinking that is needed in all professional and personal walks of life. RSF is pleased to be working on one aspect, namely to help transform the way the world works with money through its practical work in social finance”, says Mark A. Finser Chair of the Board of RSF Social Finance.
Rudolf Steiner was born to a working class couple on February 27th, 1861, in Kraljevec, Austria-Hungary, now Donji Kraljevec, Croatia. Steiner’s life work has been characterized as the “many-sidedness of an outsider.” Its influence today, however, is worldwide, and seems only to be growing:
- Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner schools number 1,000 worldwide, on every continent; Waldorf parent and Nobel peace prize winner Willi Brandt called it the most important contribution to world peace of the 20th century.
- Biodynamic agriculture, along with the organic agriculture movement which it helped to inspire, is likewise spreading on farms and recently also vineyards worldwide, combining an intense ecological consciousness with radical conceptions of human nutrition and the livingness of the Earth.
- Steiner’s direct and indirect influence in the arts (through such figures as Kandinsky, Josef Beuys, Andrei Bely, and Michael Chekhov) is being recognized more widely, including two major exhibits 2010-2011 in Europe.
- Steiner-inspired communities have exhibited social innovation in diverse cultures including Israel and Egypt, pre-apartheid South Africa, India, and South America; outstanding among them is the Camphill movement centered on special needs and gifts.
- Economic and social ideas pioneered or inspired by Steiner continue to receive attention and to influence social-impact investing and tri-sectoral social leadership.
- Steiner launched an impulse in complementary medicine in the 1920s which is now well-established in Europe and represented in many other parts of the world.
- Steiner’s fundamental ideas about human and cultural evolution continue to be rediscovered, reconsidered, found relevant and even still “avant-garde.” Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stedall, who made films for the BBC on Tolstoy, Gandhi, and C.G. Jung, is at work on “The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner” to be released in late 2011.
Rudolf Steiner worked independently until the late 1890s when he became a popular lecturer at Berlin’s socialist workers school. A few years later he was asked to head a German section of the Theosophical Society, and he was also designated leader of its esoteric school. In 1913 this relationship ended and the Anthroposophical Society was founded. This became the main vehicle for Steiner’s work from that time forward.
His first and second Goetheanum buildings in Dornach near Basel, Switzerland, are important architectural landmarks of 20th century Europe. The first burned at the end of 1922; the second remains the international center of the Anthroposophical Society.
Steiner described the path to becoming an anthroposophist in 1923 as recognizing with one’s heart that the world and one’s own life is not as it should be; then seeking with the mind a higher standpoint and knowledge from which to understand the situation; and then taking action in the world. In 1999, the book The Cultural Creatives described the same sequence as the personal developmental path of tens of millions of people worldwide.
In the USA there are several hundred early childhood initiatives and independent Waldorf and charter Waldorf-inspired schools. The Anthroposophical Society recognizes several dozen branches and groups. Biodynamic farms and vineyards are found from coast to coast, and there are a growing number of Camphill Villages and other Steiner-inspired social communities.
Use the following links to learn more about these notable Steiner inspired organizations:
Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) www.whywaldorfworks.org
Association for Therapeutic Eurythmy in North America (ATHENA) www.therapeuticeurythmy.org
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association www.biodynamics.com
Camphill Communities www.camphill.org
Steiner Books www.steinerbooks.org
About the Anthroposophical Society in America
The Anthroposophical Society was founded by Rudolf Steiner in Switzerland in 1923. It seeks to support individuals who are working on their own inner development and who wish to bring the fruit of that inner work to benefit the wider world. As a modern path of knowing, its doors are open to all who seek its approach and who wish to support its activities. Today, anthroposophical activity is alive in communities around the world. Visit www.anthroposophy.org to learn more.
About RSF Social Finance
RSF Social Finance is a nonprofit financial services organization dedicated to transforming the way the world works with money. Inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, RSF offers investing, lending, and giving services that generate positive social and environmental impact while fostering community and collaboration among participants. In partnership with our investors and donors, RSF has made $200 million in loans and over $90 million in grants since 1984 to for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises working in the areas of Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. Underlying all our work is a spirited conversation about the role that money can play in the development of humanity.