Rudolf Steiner and Religion
Steiner's relation to religion is a complex issue, which I will discuss in depth.
"Another facet of Rudolf Steiner which is of fundamental importance for understanding his views on Christianity ought to be mentioned at the outset. He was a thoroughly modern man. This is made evident by two personal needs which accompanied his life and work as recurring themes. The first was his need for spiritual autonomy, that is, the need to decide for himself about the truth of reality and not be told by any external authority, be it a book, tradition or institution. His writings and lectures were the results of his own direct spiritual investigations and not any eclectic synthesis of wisdom traditions from ancient or modern sources. Secondly, he needed to understand through thinking the things that presented themselves to him in life. As modern human beings we orient ourselves today primarily through our thinking.
From one point of view, Rudolf Steiner had a relationship to religion similar to that of many contemporaries. He received religious instruction at school and attended church as a child but his connection with the church ended before his fourteenth birthday. His religious teachers could not answer his deepest questions concerning the meaning of life and human existence. He turned to natural science, a field in which he found people who appeared unafraid to ask questions. In the religion of his time he saw resigned devotion to revelations of the past and inappropriate claims to power. He read and listened to theologians but to him they seemed lost in a fabric of abstractions, separated from the everyday experience of living human beings. But from another point of view Steiner's relationship to religion was quite unique. For already as a small child he had a living experience of spiritual beings in a spiritual world. Belief in God or a higher world was never a question of faith for Steiner. "
Hindes, James. Renewing Christianity. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1996. Page 12.
"Steiner was not a theologian in any ordinary sense and has been largely ignored by professionals. His starting point, rather than the examination and analysis of ancient sacred texts, was radically different. He began with an examination of spiritual realities through his conscious, direct perception in those spiritual realities. In some quarters of late it has become more acceptable to be a visionary or mystic. However, such an approach is often rejected by churches as a subversion of faith, and at the same time is also viewed as unscientific."
Hindes, James. Renewing Christianity. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1996. Pages 11-12.
"This spiritual science is not trying to found either a new religion or a new religious sect of any kind. It hopes to be able to fulfill the tasks required spiritually of our contemporary culture."
Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophy and Christianity. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophical Press, 1985. Page 1. (G. A. 155 lecture of July 13th 1914.)
"Spiritual science does not want to usurp the place of Christianity; on the contrary it would like to be the instrument in making Christianity understood."
Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophy and Christianity. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophical Press, 1985. Page 17. (G. A. 155 lecture of July 13th 1914.)
"May I be allowed to draw attention once again to the fact that spiritual science has no desire to found a religion of any kind..."
Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophy and Christianity. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophical Press, 1985. Page 25. (G. A. 155 lecture of July 13th 1914.)
"Another question is also asked – and it is even considered a rather obvious one – as to how spiritual science or Anthroposophy stands in relation to the religious life of man. Its very nature, however, altogether prevents it from intervening directly in any religious confession, in any sphere of religious life.... We observe spiritual circumstances. Spiritual science endeavors to penetrate behind the mysteries of the spiritual circumstances in the world. Religions are facts in the historical life of humanity. Spiritual science can, of course, go so far as to consider the spiritual phenomena which have appeared as religions in the course of war of the world's evolution. But spiritual science can never desire to create a religion... Hence the most various religious confessions will be able to live together in the profoundest peace and in complete harmony within the circle of the Anthroposophical view of the world, and will be able to strive together after knowledge of the spiritual – so to strive that the religious convictions of individuals will not thereby be in any way encroached upon. Neither need intensity in the exercises of a religious belief or in attending services in any way lessened by what is found in spiritual science."
Rudolf Steiner. "Approaches to Anthroposophy." Sussex: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992. Pages 18-19.
"Increasing numbers of people will recognize what is today still widely disputed, that spiritual science does not in the least degree detract from religious sensibility, from the religious life of man, but on the contrary seeks to form a bond that will again unite scientific man with the mysteries that are accessible to him through religious revelation. True spiritual science is not in any sense opposed to natural science, nor can it estrange anyone from religious life.”
Rudolf Steiner. "Approaches to Anthroposophy." Sussex: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992. Page 55.
Renewing Christianity by James Hindes
Religion: an Introductory Reader, by Rudolf Steiner, edited by Andrew Welburn