Rudolf Steiner, the father of anthroposophy, is hardly a household name.

But the Austrian literary critic and philosopher, who held considerable influence in post-World War I Germany, left a mark on many disciplines, including education, agriculture, art, architecture and medicine.

Among his lasting creations are Waldorf education and biodynamic farming, which have gained recognition and practice in alternative-friendly Sonoma County.

Not bound by convention, Steiner, who died in 1925 at age 64, believed in reincarnation, karma, clairvoyance and astral projection.

He dumped some of his daily coffee on the ground so the earth could share it. He believed in educating the "whole child" and regarding a farm as a living organism, giving rise to both organic and bio-

dynamic agriculture.

The child of an Austrian Catholic village culture, Steiner studied mathematics, physics and philosophy at the Vienna Institute of Technology and earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Rostock in Germany.

Steiner maintained that every human being (anthropos) had the inherent wisdom (sophia) to solve the riddle of existence and to transform both self and society.

In 1913, Steiner renamed his philosophy anthroposophy and spent the last 12 years of his life establishing it as a movement.

Advocates define anthroposophy as a "spiritual science." It's also been described as "an amalgam of humanistic warmth, love of nature and oddball occultism."

Winemaker Mike Benziger of Sonoma, well versed in Steiner's prolific works, said Steiner "wanted to develop man's capacity to think so he could solve problems without going to war."

-- Guy Kovner