Fourth Edition, 2016

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This dictionary is largely based on two others: THE STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PSYCHIC, MYSTIC, OCCULT (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1973) and THE NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1980). The latter also refers to itself as THE NEW DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL, PSYCHIC, MYSTIC, OCCULT, and is essentially a revision and enlargement of the 1973 dictionary.

The SteinerBooks dictionaries — which are primarily the work of George Riland — are interesting, but they are also surprisingly incomplete, omitting numerous topics important in Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. For this reason, I have added entries to plug the gaps. My own contributions, which appear within brackets, provide definitions drawn from the work of Anthroposophists — chiefly Rudolf Steiner himself, but also Clopper Almon, Christopher Bamford, Henry Barnes, Stewart C. Easton, Robert McDermott, Henk van Oort, Roy Wilkinson, etc.

The SteinerBooks dictionaries are not exclusively lexicons of Anthroposophical/Waldorf terms; they include expressions found in Theosophy and other "supernatural sciences" in addition to Anthroposophical terms. Thus, they aim to outline the broad realms of spiritualism, mysticism, the paranormal, and the occult, which may be looked on as the context of Anthroposophy. That aim, then, is one of my aims in The Semi-Steiner Dictionary.


Although many of the definitions in the SteinerBooks dictionaries take us well outside the limits of Anthroposophy, all the entries are presumably of at least provisional interest to Anthroposophists, given that the books were issued by Rudolf Steiner Publications. If nothing else, terms from systems other than Anthroposophy help Anthroposophists — and us — to locate Anthroposophy within the range of spiritualistic, mystical, and occult systems.

The SteinerBooks dictionaries include far more about mediums, seances, and controls (spiritualism) than is to be found in Anthroposophy, and some of the topics mentioned in the dictionaries are wholly absent from Steiner's teachings — flying saucers, for instance. And be forewarned: The SteinerBooks dictionaries contain numerous errors. I have corrected some of these, but and I have let others go uncorrected so that you can get the flavor of the books (there is sound evidence for the existence of flying saucers, the SteinerBooks books say, and photographic evidence of fairies...). To the extent that SteinerBooks books reflect the thinking of Rudolf Steiner's followers, such errors hold their own fascination.

Here is the format used in The Semi-Steiner Dictionary:

Terms to be defined are shown in bold typeDefinitions excerpted from the SteinerBooks dictionaries are placed within quotations marks. Anything I have added is placed within brackets.

Thus, the following is taken from the SteinerBooks dictionaries:   adept  "An occult title representative of the highest attainment on this earth by an Initiate, with conscious and complete mastery of psychic powers."

And the following is a contribution of mine:   [abnormal  In Anthroposophical teachings, generally: backward, delayed, or regressive in development or evolution. Being abnormal is often akin to, but not identical to, being evil.]

Definitions quoted from THE STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PSYCHIC, MYSTIC, OCCULT, published in 1973, are marked "73". Thus, an entry marked "73 p. 12" is taken from page 12 of THE STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PSYCHIC, MYSTIC, OCCULT.

Definitions quoted from THE NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL, published in 1980, are marked "80". Thus, an entry marked "80 p. 27" is taken from page 27 of THE NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL.

— Roger Rawlings

These links will take you to various sections of The Semi-Steiner Dictionary:

[A - D]     [E - I]     [J - O]     [P - R]     [S]     [T - Z]

Similar links appear at the beginning and end of each section.

[R. R., 2012.]

In 1982, Warner Books reissued the second SteinerBooks dictionary.


Some large questions hover over the SteinerBooks dictionaries. Many of the entries describe spiritual beings, spiritual "facts," and spiritual powers that are not found in Anthroposophy but that the dictionaries affirm as true or probably true. Why, we might ask, are these things absent from Anthroposophy? If these things are true, then Anthroposophy must be a faulty description of reality, omitting much that should be included. On the other hand, if many of these things are false — if these beings, "facts," and powers do not exist — then we are left wondering where to draw the line between truth and falsehood. And, importantly, we need to ask how many Anthroposophical doctrines cross the line. In the welter of apparent falsehoods we find in these dictionaries, which Anthroposophical teachings need to be tagged as false? A few, or many, or all of them? Most rational people will find themselves inclining to the latter possibility.

We can reframe these questions. Aren't the SteinerBooks dictionaries, in the end, catalogs of human fantasies and delusions? Aside from certain religious doctrines that many readers will affirm, aren't the contents of these dictionaries mainly the products of ancient ignorance (such as various forms of divination) and modern deception (such as the "phenomena" produced during seances)? In other words, aren't these dictionaries crammed with absurdities? Most rational people will incline to this conclusion. 


But, to avoid undue haste, let's step back and approach these matters from a different angle. Let's concentrate on the similarities between Anthroposophy and other occult/mystical/spiritual systems, and let's ask ourselves whether these similarities should persuade us to accept one or another of these systems. Many systems share Anthroposophy's belief in the Sun God, for instance. Most of them use other names for the Sun God, and their particular doctrines about the Sun God may be incompatible with Anthroposophical doctrines, but surely the widespread agreement about the existence of the Sun God counts as a form of confirmation for Anthroposophy. Right? Likewise, many systems are, like Anthroposophy, polytheistic; many agree that the stars and planets exert astrological forces on human beings; many agree that ghosts, specters, demons, and other mysterious beings exist; and so forth. All of this must count as confirming Anthroposophy. Right?

Unfortunately, no. It really makes no difference how many people believe in something. Unless somebody comes up with clear, firm evidence for the existence of that thing, the belief in that thing remains only a belief. Let's say, for instance, that you are absolutely convinced that the jungles of the Earth contain pink, levitating elephants. And let's say that after extensive research, you determine that many other people share this belief, more or less. Maybe some people refer to reddish, floating pachyderms, while others affirm the reality of rosy, flying mastodons. Still, all of you agree that the world really does contain big airborne palish reddish animals with trunks and tusks and huge floppy ears. So, therefore, your belief is confirmed. You are right. Right? No.

The only way to prove that pink, levitating elephants exist is to produce one. Bring us one. Let us see it, and examine it, and photograph it. If you do this, then no matter how many people laughed at you before, you win. You were right. You are right. You have proven your case. Bravo.

But if neither you nor anyone else ever produces a real, live, flying/floating/levitating elephant/pachyderm/mastodon, the existence of such animals will remain unproven. Moreover, because the belief in such animals is so strange, violating the known laws of physics (levitation?), the presumption will have to be that, in all probability, no such animals exist. Indeed, one tentative but compelling conclusion will have to be that, in discussing pink, levitating elephants, we are not really talking about zoology — rather, we are talking about human psychology. What is it about the human psyche that leads people to have delusions about pink, levitating elephants? What do these delusions tell us about ourselves, and what should we do to straighten out our heads? Widespread delusions tell us nothing about the real, objective world. Nor do they confirm one another. Widespread delusions potentially tell us about our own needs, desires, wants, and dreams. As such, they may be very instructive. But they do not provide us anything that we should mistake for reality.
I have been using a fairly straightforward example, a physical phenomenon. Either flying pink elephants exist in the real world or they don't, and the required proof — show us one of these elephants — is obvious. Things gets trickier when we turn our attention to matters of the spirit. Producing firm evidence for spiritual subjects is extremely difficult, if not impossible. This should make us extremely humble and tentative when speaking of such subjects. But Anthroposophists tend to speak with grave certainty about their spiritual doctrines (and of course they are not alone in doing this). They profess to know things that they almost surely cannot know. They claim to "know" through clairvoyance. But clairvoyance is a delusion, and the utter hollowness of their claims is revealed by their reliance on a nonexistent faculty. [See "Clairvoyance".] So we arrive again in the realm of psychology. We humans tend to be most dogmatic and "sure" precisely on the subjects where we should be most tentative. Why do we do this to ourselves, deceiving ourselves in the matters that are most important to us? Our desires, our needs, indeed our very insecurities lead us to affirm most definitely those things that we really, truly wish were true — and then we suppress the knowledge that we are wishing, and we claim instead that we are describing a reality about which we have no doubts. 

Not all people of faith behave this way. Many are deeply thoughtful and humble, recognizing that the spirit realm may be quite beyond human comprehension. Consider an analogy: You cannot teach a dog algebra. The concepts of algebra are utterly beyond the limits of canine comprehension. In the same way, the ultimate truths about the universe may lie beyond the limits of human comprehension. I hope this is not the case. The astonishing progress made in science, by Einstein and other towering geniuses, suggests that we may yet grasp extremely deep — perhaps ultimate — mysteries.* But one of the most troubling characteristics of Anthroposophy is that its adherents profess such certain knowledge about things that may be quite beyond them, things that may be impossible to probe, things that indeed may not exist (hierarchies of gods, gods dwelling on distant planets, good gods waging wars on bad gods...). Rudolf Steiner did not claim to be omniscient, but he came close, describing the spirit worlds and the distant past and the distant future in great detail (without, however, producing any evidence to support his descriptions). And Steiner's followers tend to express a similar unfounded certitude — if not in their own powers of spiritual investigation, then in his. And that, ultimately, is a giveaway. People who profess certain knowledge about things that cannot be known with such certainty, are inadvertently admitting that, really, their professed knowledge is not real knowledge at all.


The SteinerBooks dictionaries are essentially credulous. Some entries indicate that various beliefs and practices are false or have receded into the distant past, but most indicate a strong desire to believe. Thus, some entries stress the universality of various beliefs and images (such as witches flying on broomsticks or similar objects), as if this universality, in itself, tells us something important about objective reality. Sometimes, indeed, the books openly express belief (there is good evidence for flying saucers, for instance, and photographic evidence of fairies**). The dictionaries often indicate that phenomena encountered in seances are real, and they say that adequate measures are often taken to prevent trickery by mediums. Likewise, the books affirm the work of mystics, occultists, and parapsychological "investigators" such as Joseph Rhine. A professor at Duke University, Rhine conducted a number of experiments that, he claimed, proved the existence of ESP and other psychic powers. Many people were swayed by his reports, although eventually his work was almost totally debunked. In the NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL, his work is essentially endorsed. "[H]e set up the epoch-making laboratory in parapsychology at Duke University ... Rhine's work in telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and kinesis was immensely impressive to a large number of psychologists ...  [I]t has been the persistence of his interest despite the array of criticism, the success of his efforts to attract outstanding colleagues, and the radically challenging nature of his results that have played a remarkable part in making parapsychology a major adjunct of contemporary psychology and an enlightening subject to Americans and much of the literate world." [pp. 245-246.] If there was some possible justification for such statements in 1980, that justification has long since collapsed. What we are left with is a reference book that tells is almost nothing about the real world.

* Scientists are not necessarily atheists. Some believe in God. But others, such as Stephen Hawking, insist that science explains the universe so deeply — and will proceed to even greater profundity — that we have no need to posit the existence of any spiritual powers.

**In some instances, beliefs expressed in the 1973 dictionary are toned down in the 1980 edition. Thus, for instance, the latter book is more circumspect about fairies.

Rudolf Steiner Publications sometimes promoted 
under a somewhat more succinct title: