The work of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) influenced a number of fields in Germany in the nineteenth to twentieth centuries, including those of education, construction, agriculture, and medicine. His school of thought is known as anthroposophy (Anthroposophie), a term composed of the Greek words anthr?pos (human) and sophia (wisdom) and meaning study of the true essence of being human. Steiner perceived a crisis of his time as a “moral and mental (moralisch-geistig)" one, seeing man's mind accelerating ever faster toward becoming materialistic and egoistic. Pursuing the recovery of morality, he presented anthroposophy to the world. Therefore, moral issues always underpin Steiner's thoughts. However, many scholars of anthroposophy have focused only on his later mystical thoughts, outlined in his works Theosophy (Theosophie) and An Outline of Occult Science (Die Geheimwissenschaft im Umris), and have been either for Steiner's extraordinary cosmology or against it. In his later works, Steiner takes the role of a psychic or prophet able to predict human beings' future for them. Scholars have tended to be somewhat indifferent to his early philosophical phase and consequently do not regard as important his early philosophical thoughts expressed in the Philosophy of Freedom (Die Philosophie der Freiheit). If they had not erected a wall between his early philosophical thoughts and his later mystical ones, they would have noticed the meaning of ethics that runs through his entire body of work, namely, the good relationships that exist among people of various backgrounds.
This paper aims, first of all, to establish the links between Steiner's early and later thoughts on “morals" or “ethics", and secondly to explore the meaning of these two concepts. I hold the view that his entire body of thinking is based on his early thoughts. In one of his early works, the Philosophy of Freedom, we are introduced to an important concept, Ethical Individualism (der ethische Individualismus), which becomes a coherent undercurrent of all of Steiner's thoughts.
This paper is organized into 5 sections. Section I presents the historical background to Steiner's life and his life history. Section II examines the definition of mysticism generally and then Steiner's thoughts as seen from the perspective of mysticism. Section III discusses Steiner's epistemology, and Section IV examines Steiner's understanding of what constitutes being human. Section V explores the relation between “morals" and “ethics" in the context of Steiner's mysticism.
The most important section of this paper is Section V. We find that Steiner does not apply morality in a limited fashion to specific communities with specific cultural backgrounds. Rather, he tried to broaden the meaning of morals and ethics to human beings in general. Through being moral, human beings can overcome their egoist nature. Steiner focused on the good inside each and every individual, which gives human beings the ability to have a higher self. Every one of us has this self (Ich). The self has the ability to understand others; in other words, we can objectively see the self by expanding self-awareness.
Steiner regards Jesus, as Christ, to be the Sun-god who endows human beings with self and thus with the ability to have a higher self. Although criticized as a heretic by “orthodox" Christians for his interpretation of Christ, Steiner's thoughts have Western cultural roots, in Greek philosophy, like that of Plato and Aristoteles, and even more so in Greek mysticism. The main matter that we should examine then is what Steiner tried to present in his works. In our examination of his work, we see that the method he applies is to dig down to the very bottom of the “self (Ich)" to create the “all-self (All-Ich)" which extends to others. In other words, it addresses a problem related to self-reform?to overcoming egoism?by creating a container inside oneself that accepts others (including nature) as others. This method is clearly influenced by the Greek idea “know thyself".
In this paper we have found that Steiner's concepts of morals and ethics relate to understanding others through the self and overcoming egoism including the self. This is because Christ endowed human beings with the self and the ability to overcome the self. Through the self, we become capable of connecting to a divine world. Yet we know the divine entity is not the only god as in the context of Christianity: there are many divinities including Jesus Christ in the divine world.
The most controversial philosophical problem is how to live our lives without God after the Death of God in the context of Nietzsche. While Steiner's interpretation of Christ is not “orthodox", by making a higher self inside, we can connect with divine entities (God). In this way, we can live vigorously yet calmly in the modern world. Steiner's thinking tells us that “god" is still alive in a different fashion. But what is this god? I will address this question in future work.