Rudi Lissau

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Rudi Lissau, born 26 June 1911 in Vienna and died 30 January 2004 in Brookthorpe, United Kingdom, was a Steiner school teacher, author, lecturer and anthroposophist.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Brookthorpe village in United Kingdom

Brookthorpe is a village in Gloucestershire, England.



Rudolf Lissau’s parents were both of Jewish origin but had become students of Rudolf Steiner and founded, together with an uncle, the Viennese branch of the Theosophical Society as a forum for his work in Vienna. Rudolf Steiner visited the family in their home from time to time. Rudi was impressed by the obvious awe in which his parents held Steiner and from the age of sixteen began to study Anthroposophy. From the time he completed school and began his studies at the university, he was a member of the “Vienna Youth Group” of gifted, young people, predominantly from assimilated Jewish backgrounds, who came together to study Rudolf Steiner’s works. The focal point of this group became, after he arrived in Vienna, Dr Karl Koenig, whose drive and idealism led them to agree to set up and work together in some common initiative. [1]

Rudolf Steiner Austrian esotericist

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect and esotericist. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published philosophical works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy; other influences include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.

Theosophical Society organization that advances theosophy

The Theosophical Society was an organization formed in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky to advance Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments, currently has several successors. Following the death of Blavatsky, competition within the Society between factions emerged, particularly among founding members and the organisation split between the Theosophical Society Adyar (Olcott-Besant) and the Theosophical Society Pasadena (Judge). The former group, headquartered in India, is the most widespread international group holding the name "Theosophical Society" today.

Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded by the 19th century esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to develop mental faculties of spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. They also aim to present their ideas in a manner verifiable by rational discourse and specifically seek a precision and clarity in studying the spiritual world mirroring that obtained by natural historians in investigations of the physical world.

After obtaining his PhD, Rudi took a position teaching in a school for the blind. On the day Hitler’s armies occupied Austria in 1938, Rudi Lissau, who, like most of the other members of the group, had laid his plans, left Austria for Britain. One of the few who did not go with them was his sister, who decided to throw in her lot with the Jewish people and did not survive the war. Rudi was the only one of the group that had made it to England who did not join with Dr Koenig in the founding of Camphill, though he remained on terms of intimate friendship with all of them.

In London, Rudi began once again to work in a school for the blind until, like other enemy aliens, he was interned on the Isle of Man. His wife Hedda, also from Vienna, found him a post at the recently founded Wynstones School in Gloustershire and so obtained his release. He determined to make a success of this although he had never taught seeing children or applied the Steiner methods in his teaching – and he ended up staying for forty years. It was he that built up the high school at Wynstones and taught History, Geography, Latin, Greek, German and Music, being himself an accomplished pianist. He conducted hikes and ski tours with his students and encouraged their love of the countryside.

Wynstones School

Wynstones School is a Steiner Waldorf school in Gloucestershire, set on 11 acres in the Cotswolds. It takes pupils from pre-school through to university entrance and has an enrolment of around 275 students.

Though he greatly valued life in Britain, he never lost his love for his home in Austria or his gratitude for the outstanding classical education he had received in Vienna. He met and conferred with Viktor Frankl and Ludwig Wittgenstein who both made a deep impression on him and stimulated his profound interest for contemporary issues that were the basis of his extraordinary knowledge and ability to address such a variety of subjects in his teaching and lecturing. Vienna had also given him his background in classical music, his love for the mountains and the landscape that he imparted to his own daughters and the many children in his classes.

Viktor Frankl Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. He survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Türkheim. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of existential analysis, the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy". His best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living. Frankl became one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists.

Ludwig Wittgenstein Austrian-British philosopher

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. From 1929 to 1947, Wittgenstein taught at the University of Cambridge. During his lifetime he published just one slim book, the 75-page Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), one article, one book review and a children's dictionary. His voluminous manuscripts were edited and published posthumously. Philosophical Investigations appeared as a book in 1953, and has since come to be recognised as one of the most important works of philosophy in the 20th century. His teacher, Bertrand Russell, described Wittgenstein as "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived; passionate, profound, intense, and dominating".

It was also in Vienna that he had schooled himself in the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, something that turned into a lifelong study and passion. It was this extensive knowledge and understanding of Steiner’s work that led him to his final engagement as the author of several books, a large number of articles and a sought-after lecturer on Anthroposophy all over Europe, North America and New Zealand. [2]


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Walter Johannes Stein Austrian philosopher

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  1. ‘’The Builders of Camphill: Lives and Destinies of the Founders’’ Edited by Friedwart Bock, Article by Christine Polyblank, Floris Books, 2004 ISBN   0863154425, 9780863154423
  2. Rudi Lissau – Article by Marjatta van Boeschoten, Biographien Dokumentation der Forschungsstelle Kulturimpuls retrieved 2014.09.12