CIIS Faculty Publications

A Life for the Spirit: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrents of Our Time


A Life for the Spirit: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrents of Our Time



Few people today recognize Rudolf Steiner’s name, yet those who are aware of him know that his presence pervades every forward-looking aspect of contemporary life. Nearly all fields of life have been fructified by his insights―not abstractly or theoretically, but in a concrete way that changes lives. No wonder, then, that Steiner has been called “the best kept secret of the twentieth century.” Born in 1861 in Kraljvec, Austria, Steiner showed evidence early on of the most varied gifts―a precise and probing scientific mind combined with a natural clairvoyant ability to see into the spiritual world, a determined need to think things through for himself, and a profound reverence for the divine. He first made his mark as a philosopher and the editor of Goethe’s scientific writings. He also recognized the revolutionary spirit in Nietzsche. But Steiner’s destiny led him in a different direction. Profound cognitive experiences determined that his task would lie in service to the spirit. While recognizing the integrity of modern science’s phenomenological empiricism, he also knew that the time had come to extend the field of science to include investigation of the supersensible. Working at first within the Theosophical Society, but always speaking and writing out of his own experience, Steiner developed the foundations for a thoroughly modern spiritual-scientific discipline that would transform spiritual and cultural life. Until his death in 1925, in countless lectures and books, Steiner created the body of knowledge and practice known as “anthroposophy,” which not only challenged and extended the underlying methods of modern knowledge, but stimulated many practical cultural initiatives such as: Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, the art of eurythmy, the movement for a threefold social order, and anthroposophical medicine. Henry Barnes―the author of Into the Heart's Land: A Century of Rudolf Steiner's Work in North America―recounts the dynamic life of this remarkable man. He does so by placing Steiner in the crosscurrents of history and showing him not as a spectator or ivory-tower philosopher, but as a leading actor in the drama, one whose entire being was given in service to humanity and to the spirit.



Publication Date





Herndon, VA


Rudolf Steiner; Educational Philosophy


Education | Philosophy


Author: Henry Barnes (1912-2008) was born in New York City, attended Lincoln School of Teachers’ College and obtained his B.S. degree from Harvard College in 1933. He went on to Waldorf teacher training in Stuttgart until 1934. From 1935 until 1939, be was a class teacher at New School, Michael Hall, England. Mr. Barnes and Christy MacKaye were married on September 5, 1939, in Dornach, Switzerland, after which he returned with her to New York City. There, he was a class teacher at Rudolf Steiner School from 1940 until 1943, when he entered the U.S. Army until after the war in 1946. Mr. Barnes returned to the Rudolf Steiner School as a class teacher and high school history teacher, which he continued until 1977. During that time, he was also a faculty chairperson. From 1974 until 1991, Mr. Barnes was the general secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America. He was the author of A Life for the Spirit: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrents of Our Time (1997); Percy Mackaye: Poet of Old Worlds and New (2000); and Into the Heart’s Land: A Century of Rudolf Steiner’s Work in North America (2005).

Author: Robert McDermott, Ph.D., is president emeritus and chair of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). His publications include Radhakrishnan (1970); The Essential Aurobindo (1974, 1987); The Essential Steiner (1984); (with Rudolf Steiner) The Bhagavad Gita and the West (2009); and The New Essential Steiner (2009). He has also published on William James, Josiah Royce, M. K. Gandhi, the evolution of consciousness, and American thought. His administrative service includes president of the New York Center for Anthroposophy; president of the Rudolf Steiner [summer] Institute; chair of the board of Sunbridge College (New York) and of Rudolf Steiner College (California). He was a member of the council of the Anthroposophical Society in America (1996–2004). He is the founding chair of the board of the Sophia Project, an anthroposophic home in Oakland, California, for mothers and children at risk of homelessness. He is a Lindisfarne fellow, a Fetzer mentor, and a member of the Esalen Corportion.

A Life for the Spirit: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrents of Our Time