History of the Anthroposophical Society

by Robin Schmidt 

Early years 1902-1912
In 1902 Rudolf Steiner becomes General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Germany, where he finds people interested in his aim of shaping culture and society through spiritual practice. Development of the Theosophical Society in German-speaking regions, broad international lecture activity, fundamental books on anthroposophy. More…

Founding of the Anthroposophical Society and cultural initiatives 1912-1923
The Anthroposophical Society is founded on December 28, 1912 in Cologne, Germany, with about 3000 members. Many artistic activities: summer festival weeks with performances of “mystery plays.” During World War I a building called the Goetheanum is erected in Dornach near Basel, Switzerland, with the help of artists and helpers from all European countries. Proposals for “trisectoring the social organism” are offered to post-war Germany. The first Waldorf school is founded in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919. Fundamental ideas are formulated for extending the practice of medicine through anthroposophy. The Goetheanum is destroyed by arson on New Year’s Eve, 1922/23. More…

Restructuring and deepening. Founding the General Anthroposophical Society 1923-1925
The international growth of the Anthroposophical Society makes restructuring necessary. Fifteen countries have Anthroposophical Societies. Refounding of the Anthroposophical Society at Christmas 1923. A School of Spiritual Science is established by Rudolf Steiner. It has sections for general anthroposophy, education, medicine, mathematics, science, etc. A decision is made to rebuild the Goetheanum as a center. Foundations are laid for biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophically-inspired curative education. More…

After Rudolf Steiner’s death. Internal differences. World War. 1925-1945
Rudolf Steiner dies on March 30, 1925. Swiss poet Albert Steffen becomes president of the Anthroposophical Society. The restructuring that had been started remains fragmented. Various initiatives are continued worldwide. The second Goetheanum opens in fall 1928. The National Socialists in Germany ban the Anthroposophical Society there, which is by far the largest group. Parts of the anthroposophical movement continue their work independently of the Anthroposophical Society after internal disagreement. Marie Steiner stages the world premiere of Goethe’s Faust I and II (unabridged) in 1932. Activities are greatly restricted by the war. More…

Development and consolidation 1945-1968
Intensive groundwork, development and institutionalization. Rudolf Steiner centers are developed in major cities around the world. Local groups (“branches”) study basic anthroposophy and provide forums for initiatives, such as seminars and training centers in Waldorf education, agriculture, curative education, art, etc. Principles of anthroposophically extended banking are developed. More…

Expansion and professionalization 1969-1989
Change in generations. Anthroposophically extended medicine, education, curative education and agriculture spread around the world as society in general changes. Schools, farms, homes and training centers are established in all parts of the world. Cultural initiatives are started in social focal points in South Africa, South America, prison programs, treatment of addiction, etc. Regional and international conferences. More…

Pluralization and questions of identity 1990 until today
The questions raised at the beginning of the 20th century within the anthroposophical context have become the basic problems of the civilized world today. A partial integration of anthroposophical approaches is beginning to show in the cultural life of the western world. For the development of the School of Spiritual Science, emphasis is placed on the founding impulses of the General Anthroposophical Society. Today the Anthroposophical Society has 52,000 members, with societies in 50 countries. About 10,000 institutions around the world work on the basis of anthroposophy. More…