I have just finished "The New Essential Steiner" by Robert McDermott. I teach at a tertiary organisation preparing teachers and have found this book an excellent tool to use to introduce our students to the world of Steiner's thinking. Robert McDermott's introduction is clear and appealing. He examines why Steiner is still so little known despite being one of the most advanced thinkers of our age, commenting that too many of his "followers" put Steiner against modern thinkers and movements - a place Steiner would have shuddered to have found himself. He states: "Despite obstacles to the spread of Steiner's ideas and their influence, there is increasing evidence that they have become more familiar and received more credit than they did a generation ago. It is no longer unusual to observe academics and seekers acknowledging that Steiner's innovations such as Waldorf Education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophically extended medicine, and anthroposophic arts represent significant contributions to contemporary thought and culture."
McDermott give a clear and compelling introduction to Steiner making clear who he was and what his work was about. He then presents Steiner's work as having 12 distinct branches:
1. Philosophy: Self and World
2. Evolution: Cosmic and Human
3. Anthropos: Body, Soul and Spirit
4. Spiritual intelligence
5. Christ and other exalted beings
6. Reincarnation, Karma and the dead
11. Health and Healing
12. Gaia and the Future
In each section McDermot gives a very interesting overview of the field and then presents Steiner's writing about that field. These articles are newly translated with gender references removed, making them much more available to modern readership, and with excellent references and referrals for where else to read more.
As a person who has read Steiner for many years and teaches in Waldorf Education, I found this book a tremendous help in putting areas of his work in relation to one another and to modern scientific thinking. I found the book incredibly interesting, quotable, refreshing, stimulating. It is a book I would highly recommend both to enquirers about Steiner and Anthroposophy and to those very familiar with it as a way to help introduce others, to sharpen their own understanding and to gain an overview of the depth and breadth of Steiner's contribution to the world.
Robyn Hewetson, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand