When he was in his late 30s, Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), the founder of Anthroposophy, received a revelation of what he believed was the turning point in human spiritual history, the incarnation of the divine being known as the Christ. In the twentieth century, Steiner said, humankind began to enter the "fullness of time" when the Christ principle, cosmic consciousness, might once again become manifest. Steiner defined "Christ consciousness" as a transformative energy that greatly transcended orthodox Christianity. In Steiner's view, the Master Jesus became "christed" and thereby was able to present humankind with a dramatic example of what it means to achieve a complete activation of the spiritual seed within all human souls and to rise above all material considerations.
Steiner was born in Krajevic, Austria-Hungary (now Serbia-Montenegro), on February 27, 1861. Although he had experienced encounters with the mystical and the unknown as a young child and was introduced to the occult by an adept he would only refer to as the "Master," Steiner's early academic accomplishments were in the scientific fields. His father wanted him to become a railway engineer, so that had led Steiner into a study of mathematics, which seemed only to whet his appetite for
Steiner grew increasingly interested in the occult and mystical doctrines, and he later claimed to be endowed with the ability to read the Akashic Records, from which he had been able to envision the true history of human evolution. According to his interpretation of humankind's prehistory, many present-day men and women were descended from the people of the lost continent of Atlantis, who had been guided to achieve illumination by a higher order of beings. Eventually, the smartest, strongest, and most intellectually flexible of the Atlanteans evolved into demigods, semidivine beings, who were able to relay instructions from higher intelligences. Consequently, within the contemporary mass of evolving humans are individuals who are descendants of those divine human-hybrid beings, men and women who are animated by higher ideals and who regard themselves as children of a universal power. Steiner perceived these individuals as members of the emerging "Sixth Post-Atlantean Race," who, imbued with divine universal power, would be able to initiate the more advanced members of the larger mass of humankind. The catalyst for this acceleration of humanity, in Steiner's vision, was the Christ energy, which the rest of the species must begin to imitate.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Steiner found that his lectures were well-received by those in the audience who were members of the Theosophical Society, so he began to make himself more familiar with their philosophy. In 1902, he became the general secretary of the German Section of the society, but he began to feel uncomfortable with what he perceived to be their lack of enthusiasm about the place of Jesus and Christ consciousness in the overall scheme of spiritual evolution. Although he accepted most of their teachings on reincarnation and highly approved of meditation, he came to believe that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891) and other high-ranking Theosophists were distorting many of the Eastern doctrines that they claimed to espouse.
In 1913, Steiner made a formal break with the Theosophical Society and set about forming his own group, which he declared would be about the utilization of "human wisdom" (anthro ' man; sophy ' wisdom) to achieve contact with the spiritual world. The human intellect, Steiner insisted, could be trained to rise above material concerns and to perceive a greater spiritual reality. The human consciousness had the ability to activate the seed that the great Spirit Beings had implanted within their human offspring.
Steiner recognized that while the physical seeds of male and female intermingled to produce the whole human being, there was also something in each human that did not arise from the blending of two physical seeds. Something ineffable and indescribable somehow flowed into the process of germination of the seed of the Spirit Beings within, something that could be accessed by human consciousness and directed by the Christ principle.
Steiner emphasized that the path to such contact might best be attained by a proper application of meditation. When human consciousness had been raised to the spiritual level, where it can experience the eternal element that is limited by neither birth nor death, then it can comprehend its own eternality and its ability to be born again in subsequent life existences. Steiner taught that the process of spiritual evolution enabled those who died in one period of history to be reborn in other epochs to experience various levels of Earth-existence.
In Lecture V, Earthly and Cosmic Man (1948) Steiner stated that in rejecting the doctrine of reincarnation, Christian thought had lost something vital that the East had always possessed, and he urged that such knowledge be reacquired. Western religion and culture is in the process of passing through a period during which individuals were "split up" into separate personalities, Steiner said, but now men and women of the West "…stand on the threshold of a deepening of thought and experience…they will themselves be aware of a longing to find the thread uniting the fragments which make their appearance in the life of a human being between birth and death.…"
In 1914, Steiner married Marie von Sievers, an actress, who had been secretary of the German Section of the Theosophical Society. Together they established a school for esoteric research near Basel, Switzerland, and developed new approaches to the teaching of speech and drama, which led to "eurythmy," an art of movement. Later, Steiner originated the Waldorf School Movement, an innovative educational system, which still maintains 80 schools in Europe and the United States. Rudolf Steiner died on March 30, 1925, in Dornach, Switzerland.