Anthroposophy vs Theosophy I
From a distance the similarities between Anthroposophy and Theosophy will be the first thing a researcher would notice. This is especially true because of the shared vocabulary. Approaching the question from another angle, I have noticed that Steiner repeatedly distanced himself from Theosophy. So the question naturally arises, was Steiner attempting to rewrite history after the Anthroposophical Society parted ways with the Theosophical Society, or did he really feel that there were significant differences from day one?
To answer this question, it becomes necessary to dig really deep into the minutiae of Theosophical doctrine and compare it to a large body of Steiner's work. I have been working on this for a while, but I do not feel competent to offer the final word on the matter.
Another thing to note is the amazing amount of similarities shared by virtually all approaches to spiritual questions. Believers tend to take this as a sign that all religions and other esoteric movements are viewing different angles of the same truth. Cynics claim that a form of literary "borrowing" lies at the root of this. In viewing Steiner, it is possible to say, "Steiner said many things that are similar to Blavatsky because he blatantly ripped off her 'Secret Doctrine'." Or it is possible to say, "Steinerlooked into the spiritual world, and many things he saw there corresponded to aspects of Blavatsky's 'Secret Doctrine', hence the similarities." Now I haven't had a chance to do a detailed comparison, but having looked at Blavatsky recently, I am actually amazed at how many things are in 'The Secret Doctrine' that are not in Steiner. The question "why?" naturally presents itself. An explanation is offered by Steiner:
"Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism was soon recognized as of the work of the spiritual dilettante, a compendium of old, badly understood esoteric bits and pieces. But it was less easy to find access to a phenomenon of the period such as Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. For this work did at least reveal in many places that much of its content had its origins in real, powerful impulses from the spiritual world. The book expressed a large number of ancient truths which have been gained through egotistic clairvoyance in distant ages of mankind. People thus encountered in the outside world, not from within themselves, something which could be described as an uncovering of a tremendous wealth of wisdom which mankind at once possessed as something exceptionally illuminating. This was interspersed with unbelievable passages which never ceased to amaze, because the book is a sloppy and dilettantish piece of work as regards any sort of methodology, and includes superstitious nonsense and much more. In short, Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine is a peculiar book: the great truths side-by-side with terrible rubbish."
Rudolf Steiner. "The Anthroposophic Movement." Bristol: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993. Page 23. Translated by Christian von Arnim. (Lecture of June 10th, 1923).
Essentially, Steiner had his own, independent grasp of truth, and then looked to see how the works of others did or did not correspond with his own understanding.