To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s birth, The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner tells the story of his life (1861-1925), and also explores some of the many current initiatives inspired by his work.
The film features teachers, doctors, farmers, as well as social and business entrepreneurs, bankers and economists at work all over the world, all of them drawing on the research and the indications given by Steiner to deepen our understanding of the human being and of the world in which we live.
The film is interwoven with Steiner’s biography. Who was this man whose influence is increasingly felt one hundred and fifty years after his birth, despite the fact that his work is still largely ignored by mainstream culture? And above all what was the source of these insights which, until his death in 1925, he increasingly shared with those who ‘had the ears to hear and the eyes to see’?
Sequences of the Austrian countryside where Steiner grew up, and of Vienna where he studied science and mathematics, are supplemented by photographs, archive film, paintings, and by interviews with those who have studied his biography in depth. What for example, was the nature of the clairvoyance he experienced as a child and which he was gradually able to make conscious? And how did he reconcile this faculty with his scientific and philosophical studies? And what was the significance of Steiner’s early interest in Goethe as a scientist?
Steiner’s time in Weimar (1890 – 1897) was a lonely and difficult period for him. His work in the Goethe archives was much appreciated; in 1891 he was awarded a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Rostock but the intellectual establishment was not on the whole interested in his philosophical writings. Meanwhile his inner world of visions was kept largely private. ‘How long must I stay silent?’ was the question that Steiner increasingly asked himself as he entered his forties.
From 1897 in Berlin he continued in his efforts to reach out to the culture of his time, lecturing at a Workers’ Educational Institute and editing a literary magazine. However, it was only when a group of theosophists invited him into their midst that he felt comfortable to speak publicly about the research and experiences that were the outcome of many years of disciplined meditation – years in which he had increasingly become ‘a scientist of the invisible’.
The last phase of his biography, as theosophy gradually metamorphosed into what Steiner called anthroposophy, is when the practical indications to teachers, farmers, priests, doctors and artists – examples of which we witness at the beginning of the film – gradually emerged and this work is looked at in greater depth. Inspired by Steiner’s insights, and in response to the needs of the world, people in all walks of life are working creatively to take his unique contribution to cultural, spiritual and scientific renewal into the future.