The spiritual and philosophical founder of Weleda
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (25/27 February 1861 – 30 March 1925) was born in modern-day Croatia, but moved with his parents to Austria when a baby. His father was a railway telegraph operator of strong opinions, and Rudolf received his early education in village schools and at home.
Receptive to ideas on the spiritual and physical worlds, he gained a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Rostock, before which he had already published extensively on literature and philosophy – his works included The Philosophy of Freedom and The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception.
At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded a spiritual movement, anthroposophy. It has roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy, which encourages the individual to see his or her body, mind and spirit as intrinsically linked to our world - all part of one holistic system.
From philosophy to science and spirituality
In the first, more philosophically oriented phase of this movement, Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science and spirituality. His philosophical work of these years, which he termed spiritual science, sought to apply the clarity of thinking characteristic of Western philosophy to spiritual questions. In a second phase, around 1907, he worked in a variety of fields including artistic media such as drama and the movement arts, in which he developed a new artistic form, eurythmy.
His architectural work culminated in the building of the Goetheanum, a cultural centre to house all arts. In the third phase of his work, Steiner worked to establish various practical endeavours, including Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical medicine.
A new approach to medicine
From the late 1910s onwards, Steiner started working with medical doctors and chemists to create a new approach to medicine. In 1921, the doctor Ita Wegman, the chemist Oskar Schmiedel and physicians and pharmacists gathered under Steiner's guidance to determine just how they might use this philosophy to care for patients’ needs.
They understood that a human body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, but that it also sometimes needs a little help, so they developed a personal approach to health-care using natural ingredients to support the body’s own healing impulse. With this belief and a profound depth of scientific and philosophical knowledge they founded Weleda.
Great influence on Weleda
The importance of Steiner and his wholly original thinking is pivotal for Weleda. Even though he held no executive posts, he and Dr Ita Wegman were part of the so-called Kontrollstelle, a comprehensive advisory group underpinning the company. He was also responsible for the company name and for the logo, which he designed himself.
Above all, Rudolf Steiner was most influential for Weleda’s intellectual and spiritual foundations. His was the vision of a new healing process, following it through from the anthropological prerequisites to concrete remedy and medicine production.