For three men born into profoundly different cultures, Rudolf Steiner, Aurobindo Ghose, and Inayat Khan shared a strikingly related set of life circumstances and experiences.
- Rudolf Steiner was born in l861 on the border of Austria and Hungary. Aurobindo Ghose was born in 1872, and Inayat Khan in 1882, both in India. Despite the differences in their years of birth, each of these men taught and published his major work at essentially the same time: from l910 to 1924.
- Each of these men began his spiritual journey within a world religion, yet each rejected the exclusive claims to truth of that religious tradition. Instead each teacher synthesized the core truths of his religion of origin both with other spiritual traditions and with his own spiritual insight.
Steiner, born and raised within the nineteenth-century German culture, articulated teachings that related a Germanic Christianity, influenced by an explicit recognition of its roots in Teutonic paganism, to theosophy, a modern spiritual movement that found its primary sources in Hinduism. Steiner was also very familiar with the Western science of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and brought its influence into his work as well. Aurobindo’s teachings created a synthesis that drew on the Hinduism of his native India as well as an intimate understanding of European culture and its “religion” of science, which he had gained from the fourteen years he studied in England. Inayat Khan’s influences included his family religion of Islam, his knowledge of Hinduism, his spiritual training in Sufism, and his years of experience as a spiritual teacher in the United States and Europe.
- In an era when communication and transportation technologies had not yet brought the many lands of this planet into their present proximity, each of these three men had a profound understanding of the cultures of both the West and the East. Each of them carried elements of Western and Eastern traditions into his teachings and joined these elements with his own personal knowing to create a vision that was both a synthesis of East and West and the expression of his own spiritual intuition. In a profound way, each of these men brought together East and West in his life and in his teachings.
- Their public lives all ended at essentially the same time. Steiner died in 1924, Inayat Khan in 1926. While Aurobindo lived until 1950 and communicated with his disciples through letters and appeared before them four times each year, he withdrew from public teaching after his “day of Siddhi” in 1926.
During the past two centuries, many spiritual teachers have talked and written about the nature of human beings. Yet only Inayat Khan, Steiner, and Aurobindo have informed this discussion with detailed descriptions of both the process of human becoming in childhood and youth and the desired functions of child raising and education. And these three men have given us essentially the same vision of human unfoldment within the same coevolutionary context, at the very same historical moment. (One other person, a doctor and educator, not a spiritual teacher, has offered a strikingly related vision: Maria Montessori.1)