The Child's Changing Consciousness and Waldorf Education
16 April 1923, Dornach
To begin with we will try to understand more fully the nature of the growing human being, bearing in mind the later stages in life, in order to draw conclusions about education from our findings.
Knowledge of the human being made possible through anthroposophical research — as outlined briefly yesterday — fundamentally differs from the findings of modern science and other research. The knowledge of the human being produced by our contemporary civilization is based mainly on what remains when the human spirit and part of the human soul are ignored. Such knowledge rests on what can be found, both anatomically and physiologically, when one looks at a corpse. Furthermore, it is supported by investigations into pathological changes, due to illness or other causes, from which conclusions are drawn with regard to the healthy human being. What is gained through this approach then forms the background for the attitude from which judgments are made regarding the living, healthy human being.
The anthroposophical approach begins by looking at the human being as an entity, an organization of body, soul, and spirit. It attempts to comprehend the human being not in an abstract and dead way, but through a living mode of observation that can recognize and comprehend with living concepts the human totality of spirit, soul, and body. This approach enables us to perceive accurately the various metamorphoses that take place during a lifetime. Children are different beings depending on whether they are going through the development between birth and change of teeth, or between the second dentition and puberty — the latter period being the time when they are in the care of the class teacher — or during the stage following puberty. Human beings are completely different creatures depending on which of these three stages they are going through. But the differences are so deeply hidden that they escape a more external form of observation. This external method of observation does not lead to a clear perception and judgment of how body, soul, and spirit are permeated by spirit in entirely different ways during each of the first three periods of life.
It would surely not be proper for teachers to first acquire theoretical knowledge and then to think: What I have learned in theory I will now apply in my teaching in one way or another. With this attitude they would only distance themselves from the child's true being. Teachers need to transform their knowledge of the human being into a kind of higher instinct whereby they can respond properly to whatever comes from each individual child. This is another way that anthroposophical knowledge of the human being differs from the usual kind, and can lead to a routine approach to education at best, but not to a firmly founded pedagogical sense and teaching practice. To achieve this, one's knowledge of human nature must be capable of becoming pedagogical instinct the moment one has to deal with a child, so that in response to all that comes from the child one knows instantly and exactly what must be done in every single case. If I may use a comparison, there are all kinds of theories about what we should eat or drink, but in ordinary life we do not usually follow such theoretical directions. We drink when thirsty and eat when hungry, according to the constitution of the human organism. Eating and drinking follow a certain rhythmical pattern for good reasons, but usually one eats and drinks when hungry or thirsty; life itself sees to that.
Now, knowledge of the human being, which forms the basis of a sound and practical way of teaching, must create in the teachers, every time they face a child, something like the relationship between hunger and eating. The teachers' response to a given pedagogical situation has to become as natural as satisfying a sensation of hunger by eating. This is only possible if knowledge of the human being has permeated flesh and blood as well as soul and spirit, so that you intuitively know what needs to be done every time you face a child. Only if your knowledge of human beings has such inner fullness that it can become instinctive can it lead to the proper kind of practical teaching. It will not happen on the basis of psychological experiments leading to theories about pupils' powers of memory, concentration, and so on. In that case, intellectual ideas are inserted between theory and practice. This presents an unreal situation that externalizes all educational methods and practice. The first thing to be aimed for is a living comprehension of the child in all its pulsing life.
Let's look now at young children as they grow into earthly life. Let our observations be straightforward and simple, and we shall find that there are three things with which they have to come to terms, three activities that become a decisive factor for the entire life to come. These are what are simply called walking, speaking, and thinking.
The German poet Jean Paul — this is the name he gave himself — once said: “The human being learns more for the whole of life during the first three years than he does during his three years at university.” 1Jean Paul (Friedrich Richter) (1763–1825) German poet. This is entirely true; it is a fact. For even if academic studies nowadays extend over longer periods of time, their gain for life amounts to less than what is acquired for the whole of life during the time when children are learning how to walk, speak, and think.
What does it actually mean when we say the child is learning to walk, speak, and think? The capacity to walk comprises far more than is generally realized. It is by no means simply a case of the young child — after the stage of crawling — managing to stand up and take the first steps in order to develop what will eventually become an individual and characteristic way of walking. An inner adjustment underlies learning to walk; there is an inner orientation of the young child. The equilibrium of the organism, with all its possibilities for movement, becomes related to the equilibrium and all the possibilities for movement of the whole universe, because the child stands within it. While learning to walk, children are seeking to relate their own equilibrium to that of the entire cosmos.
They are also seeking the specifically human relationship between the activities of arms and hands and those of the lower limbs. The movements of arms and hands have a special affinity to the life of the soul, while those of the legs lag behind, serving more the physical body. This is of immense importance for the whole of later life. The differentiation between the activities of legs and feet and those of arms and hands represents the human quest for balance of soul that is lifelong.
When raising themselves up, young children are first of all seeking physical balance. But when freely moving arms and hands, they are also seeking balance of soul. There is infinitely more than meets the eye hidden behind what is commonly called “learning to walk,” as everyone can find out. The expression “learning to walk” signifies only the most obvious and outwardly important aspect perceptible to our senses. A deeper look at this phenomenon would make one wish to characterize it in the following way. To learn to walk is to learn to experience the principles of statics and dynamics 2The terms statics and dynamics, the principles of rest or equilibrium and of movement, are used by Steiner in various ways in this and the following lectures. These polar forces, active in the young child, work in full coordination in walking, while the body's weight is being transferred from one leg to the other. The way that a child gradually learns to control these forces is not only highly individual, but is significant for the child's entire life. — Translator. in one's own inner being and to relate these to the entire universe. Better still, to learn to walk is to meet the forces of statics and dynamics both in body and soul and to relate these experiences to the whole cosmos. This is what learning to walk is all about. But through the fact that the movements of arms and hands have become emancipated from those of the legs and feet, something else has happened. A basis has been created for attaining a purely human development. Thus, the child who is learning to walk adapts itself outwardly to the external, visible world with its own rhythms and beat, as well as inwardly with its entire inner being.
So you see that something very noteworthy is woven into the development of the human being. The activities of the legs, in a certain way, have the effect of producing in the physical and soul life a stronger connection with what is of the nature of beat, of what cuts into life. In the characteristic attunement of the movements of right and left leg, we learn to relate ourselves to what lies below our feet. And then, through the emancipation of the movements of our arms from those of our legs, a new musical and melodious element is introduced into the beat and rhythm provided by the activities of our legs. The content of our lives — or one might say, the themes of our lives — comes to the fore in the movements of our arms. Their activity, in turn, forms the basis for what is being developed when the child is learning to speak. Outwardly, this is already shown through the fact that with most people, the stronger activity of the right arm corresponds to the formation of the left speech organ. From the relationship between the activities of legs and arms, as you can observe them in a freely moving human being, yet another relationship comes into being. It is the relationship that the child gains to the surrounding world through learning to speak.
When you look at how all this is interconnected and belongs together, when you see how in the process of sentence formation the legs are working upwards into speech, and how the content, the meaning of words, enters into the process of sound production — that is, into the inner experience of the structure of the sentences — you have an impression of how the beat-like, rhythmical element of the moving legs works upon the more musical-thematic and inward element of the moving arms and hands. Consequently, if a child walks with firm and even steps, if its walk does not tend to be slovenly, you have the physical basis — which, naturally, is a manifestation of the spirit, as we shall see later — for a good feeling for the structure of both spoken and written sentences. Through the movement of the legs, the child learns to form correct sentences. You will also find that if a child has a slouching gait, it will have difficulties finding the right intervals 3The German word Intervall refers to differences in pitch only, and not to a break in the flow of time. — Translator. between sentences, and that the contours of its sentences become blurred. Likewise, if a child does not learn to move its arms harmoniously, its speech will become rasping and unmelodious. In addition, if you cannot help a child to become sensitive in its fingertips, it will not develop the right sense for modulation in speech.
All this refers to the time when the child learns to walk and talk. But something else can also be detected. You may have noticed that in life the proper timing of certain processes is sometimes disturbed, that certain phases of development make their appearance later than one would expect according to the natural course of development. But in this context you can also see that the proper sequence of events can be safeguarded if children are encouraged to learn to walk first, that is, if one can possibly avoid having children learn to speak before they can walk. Speech has to be developed on the basis of the right kind of walking and of the free movement of the arms. Otherwise, children's speech will not be anchored in their whole being. Instead, they will only babble indistinctly. You may have come across some people whose speech sounded not unlike bleating. In such a case, not enough attention was paid to what I have just tried to characterize.
The third faculty the child must learn on the basis of walking and speaking is thinking, which should gradually become more and more conscious. But this faculty ought to be developed last, for it lies in the child's nature to learn to think only through speaking. In its early stages, speaking is an imitation of the sounds that the child hears. As the sounds are perceived by the child in whom the characteristic relationship between the movements of the legs and arms is deeply rooted, it learns intuitively to make sense of the sounds that it imitates, though without linking any thought to what it has heard. At first, the child only links feelings to the sounds coming toward it. Thinking, which arises later, can develop only out of speech. Therefore, the correct sequence we need to encourage in the growing child is learning to walk, learning to speak, and finally, learning to think.
We must now enter a bit more deeply into these three important processes of development. Thinking, which is — or ought to be — the last faculty developed, always has the quality of mirroring, or reflecting, outer nature and its processes. Moral impulses do not originate in the sphere of thinking, as we all know. They arise in that part of the human being we call the conscience, about which we shall have more to say later on. In any case, human conscience arises in the depths of the soul before penetrating the sphere of thinking. The faculty of thinking, on the other hand, that we acquire in childhood, is attuned only to perceiving the essence of outer nature and its processes. Thus all of the child's first thinking is aimed at creating images of outer nature and its processes.
However, when we turn to learning to speak, we come across quite a different situation. With regard to the development of this faculty, present-day science has been able to make only tentative observations. Orthodox science has achieved quite wonderful results, for instance in its investigations into the animal world. And when it compares its findings with what happens in a human being, it has made many discoveries that deserve our full recognition. But with regard to the comprehension of the processes taking place when a child is learning to speak, contemporary science has remained rather in the dark.
The same applies to animal communication through sound. And here a key question needs to be answered first. In order to speak, the human being uses the larynx and other speech organs. The higher animals also possess these organs, even if in a more primitive form. If we disregard certain animals capable of producing sounds that in some species have developed into a kind of singing, but think instead of animals that emit only very primitive sounds, an obvious question comes to mind (and I raise this question not only from a causal, but also from quite a utilitarian point of view). Why should such animals have a larynx with its neighboring organs, since these are used for speech only by the human being? Though the animal is not capable of using them for speaking, they are there nevertheless, and this even very markedly. Comparative anatomy shows that even in relatively dumb animals — dumb in comparison with the human being — organs of this kind exist.
It is a fact that these organs, at least to a certain extent, have possibilities destined to be realized only by the human being. Though incapable of making use of these organs for speech, the animal nevertheless possesses them. What is the meaning of this? A more advanced physiology will come to discover that the animal forms of the various species depend, in each case, upon the animal's larynx and its neighboring organs. If, for instance, a certain animal grows into a lion, the underlying causes have to be looked for in its upper chest organs. From there, forces are radiating out that create the form of a lion. If an animal grows into a cow, the cause of this particular form is to be found in what becomes the speech organ in the human being. From these organs, the forces creating the animal forms radiate. One day this will have to be studied in detail in order to learn how to approach morphology more realistically. Then one will find out how to correctly study animal forms, how to grasp the nature of the upper chest organs and the way these pass over into the organs of the mouth. For it is from this region that forces radiate creating the entire animal form.
Human beings form these organs into speech organs on the basis of their upright walk and freely moving arms. They take in what works through sound and speech from their surroundings — if we are dealing with present times. And what is it they absorb in this way? Think of how the potential to give form to the entire human organism lies in these organs. This means that if, for instance, a child hears an angry or passionate voice, if it is surrounded by loud and ill-tempered shouting, it will absorb something the animal keeps out. The animal lets itself be shaped only by the larynx and its neighboring organs, but members of the human species allow vehement or passionate voices to enter their inner being. These sounds flow into the human form, right into the structure of the most delicate tissues. If children hear only gentle speech in their surroundings, this too flows right into the structure of their finest tissues. It flows into their very formation, and especially so into the more refined parts of their organization. The coarser parts are able to withstand these influences, as in the case of the animal. But whatever is taken in through speech flows into the finer parts of the child's organization. This is how the differing organizations of the various nations come about. They all flow out of the language spoken. The human being is an imprint of language. You will therefore be able to appreciate what it means that in the course of human evolution so many people have learned to speak several languages. It has had the effect of making such people more universal. These things are of immense importance for the development of humankind.<
And so we see how during the early period of childhood the human being is inwardly predisposed, right down to the blood circulation, by what comes from the environment. These influences become instrumental for the orientation of a person's thought life. What happens in a human being through learning to speak is something I ask you to consider most seriously.
This human faculty might best be understood in its essence by comparing it with animal development. If an animal could express what lives in its forming and shaping, emanating from its upper chest organs, it would have to say, My form conforms with what streams from my upper chest and mouth organs, and I do not allow anything to enter my being that would modify this form. So would the animal speak if it were able to express this relationship. The human being, on the other hand, would say, I adapt the upper organs of my chest and mouth to the world processes that work through language, and I adjust the structure of my innermost organization accordingly.
The human being adapts the most inward physical organization to what comes from the surroundings through language, but not the outer organization, which develops in a way similar to that of animals. This is of immense importance for an understanding of the entire human being. For out of language, the general orientation of thought is developed, and because of this the human being during the first three years of life is given over entirely to what comes from the outer world, whereas the animal is rigidly enclosed within itself.
For this reason, the way that we find our relationship during these three years to statics and dynamics, then to speech, and finally to thinking, is of such profound importance. It is essential that this process develops in the right way. No doubt you are all aware that this can happen in the most varied ways in each individual human being.
On what does it depend that these processes take their prper course? It depends on many things. But the most fundamental factor during the first stage of childhood is the right relationship between the child's times of sleeping and waking. This means that we have to acquire an instinctive knowledge of how much sleep a child needs and how long it should be awake. For example, suppose that a child sleeps too much, relatively speaking. In this case it will develop a tendency to hold back in the activity of its legs. If a child gets too much sleep, inwardly it will lose the will to walk. It will become lethargic in its walking, and, because of this, it will also become lazy in its speech. Such a child will not develop a proper flow in its speech and it will speak more slowly than it should according to its natural disposition. When we meet such a person in later life — unless this imbalance has been put right during the subsequent school years — we sometimes despair because he or she gives us the opportunity, one might say, to go for a little walk between every two words spoken. There are such people who have difficulties in finding their way from one word to the next. And if we come across them and look at their childhood, we will find that when they were learning to walk, they were allowed to sleep too much.
Now let us take the case of a child whose parents or those in charge did not ensure that it had the relatively long hours of sleep appropriate to its age. The inner being of such a child is incapable of gaining the necessary control over its leg movements. Instead of walking normally, the child will have a floppy gait. In its speech, instead of controlling the sequential flow of words with the forces of the soul, it will let the words fall out of its mouth. The words of the sentences will not cohere.
This is quite different from the case of a child who has difficulties in finding the right words. Here an overabundance of speech energy prevents it from getting from one word on to the next. Thus, in the instance mentioned previously, I was referring to the opposite, namely to a lack of the necessary energy. The words, as they follow each other, are not carried along by the flow of the soul; instead, the child waits for the right moment to “click in” the next word. If this reaches extreme proportions, the result is stammering. If one finds a tendency toward stammering in people, especially in their twenties and thirties, one can be sure that as young children they were not given enough sleep.
From this you can see how knowledge of the human being can give us the fundamentals of what needs to be done.
Now let us consider the entire human organism and see how during the first three years it adapts itself to earthly conditions of life, how it allows the principles of statics and dynamics, underlying the faculty of autonomous movement, to flow into what is produced through shaping the air in speech. In this process there is much more involved that is of consequence for the development of thinking. Compare this situation with that of an adult, and you will see that in the child there is a much stronger working together of these inner dynamics — of walking, fidgeting, movements of arms, and creating mental images. In the child all this flows together into a unity far more than in the adult. The child remains a far more homogeneous being than a grown-up in other respects as well.
If, for instance, we as adults suck a sweet (which we really shouldn't do), this merely amounts to a titillation of the tongue, for the sweet taste does not go much further than that. But the child is in a different position. There the taste continues to spread. Children don't tell us this and we don't notice it; nevertheless, the taste continues to have an effect upon the child. Many among you will surely have observed how, according to their individual makeup, certain children are strongly permeated by soul and spiritual forces and how this quality comes to outer expression in them. It is far more interesting to watch the arms and legs of such a lively child than its mouth, when it is standing some distance away from a table where there is a bowl full of sugar. What the mouth says is more or less obvious, but the way such a child develops desire right down to its toes, or in the arms, as it steers toward the sugar bowl: you can clearly see it is not just a matter of the tongue anticipating sweetness, but changes are taking place throughout the entire being of the child. Here, tasting flows throughout the whole human being. If you enter into these things without preconceptions, you will come to realize that the young child, in a certain sense, is really just one great sense organ. Mainly this is so during the very first years (and more generally so between birth and the change of teeth) and is, naturally, less so in later years. What has become localized in the sense organs on the periphery of the human body in the adult, permeates the child's entire organism. Of course, you must understand these things with a certain discernment, but fundamentally they are real. Their existence is so real that orthodox physiology will one day be able to prove them with regard to the most conspicuous of all our sense organs, namely the human eye.
People come to me quite frequently and ask, Considering the present state of science, what would you recommend as a suitable theme for a thesis? (Theses, too, belong to the chapter on “school misery.”) If such a question is asked by students of physiology, I refer them to a topical problem. I tell them to observe the developmental phases of the human eye as seen in the embryo, and then to compare these with the corresponding phases of the entire embryo from its germinal stage onward. This will lead them to a kind of inverted parallel between the eye and the whole embryo as its development progresses. They will discover that, in a certain way, the eye begins its development later, it omits the first stages. In contrast, the embryo as an entity never reaches its final stage — as the eye does — but stops short beforehand. This points to something of great significance for embryology. If one looks at the whole development of the embryo, one will come to recognize that in these beginning stages we may observe ideal stages that exist only as an indication. The eye continues to develop into a perfected sense organ, whereas the embryo remains behind in its development only to continue its further growth later on.
But the situation in the young child is still one where, in its entire soul and spiritual development, the child's senses are poured out, as it were, over all of its corporeality. In a certain way the child is entirely a sense organ and it confronts the world as such. This has to be borne in mind, not only with regard to educational matters, but concerning everything that is happening in the child's environment before the change of teeth. We shall go into questions relating to more practical methods of teaching at a later stage. But it is only if one can see the fundamentals in the right light that one will be able to find the correct answers to particular human questions. One of these has been handed to me, which is of extraordinary importance for anyone who does not merely look at human evolution from external and well-known aspects of history.
As you know, in the past, as you know, there was far more discussion of sin and original sin than is customary today. Now I do not wish to go into this question in detail, I only want to outline what this expression implied to those who studied such questions as we study general scientific subjects today (not in its present popular sense where such matters have undergone a certain coarsening). To those inquiring minds, original sin stood for all inherited characteristics. 4The German word for “original sin” is Erbsunde, which means literally “inherited sin.” — Translator. This means that what a person had inherited from his or her forebears was considered to represent original sin. Such was the actual concept of this expression; only later on was it changed to what we associate it with today. In earlier times, it was definitely felt that physical features inherited from one's ancestors gave rise to sinfulness.
And what do we say today? We not only believe in studying inherited characteristics most carefully, but we even encourage their cultivation! If an earlier form of science had been asked to judge the modern attitude, it would have responded, With all your progress you have managed to come up with a most extraordinary principle — you have actually taught society to cultivate what is of sinful origin in the human being! Because we know of historical events only from what is rather superficially recorded in history books, we do not notice such subtle changes of interpretation.
However, if you look into what I have told you today — namely how the child, through its relationship to dynamics and statics, through learning to speak and to think, adapts itself to the environment — then you will be able to distinguish between the part played by purely physical heredity and that of the environmental influences, which are far stronger than is generally realized. Often we hear it said that someone has inherited a particular trait from either the father or the mother, whereas in reality it is simply the result of imitating a certain way of walking, or a characteristic gesture of hands, or a specific manner of speaking, from those close to the person in his or her early childhood. The child's total surrender to the influences of the environment is what is of preeminent importance during the first years and not heredity as such. In their proper place, theories of heredity have their justification, but these also need to be seen within the context of what I said yesterday, when speaking about soft ground into which footmarks were imprinted.
If now some hypothetical Martian were to appear on the Earth, a being unacquainted with the human race, it might explain the origin of these footprints in the following way: Certain forces have pushed up the Earth, more in some places and less in others, which has caused the configuration of these footmarks. This is how some people would explain the nature of the human soul on the basis of heredity and as a result of the working of the brain. Just as the footprints have been pressed into the Earth from outside, so have environmental influences, experienced during the childhood stage of imitation, through learning to walk, speak, and think, been imprinted in the body, and particularly so in the brain and the nervous system.
What orthodox physical psychology maintains is perfectly correct. The brain is a clear imprint of what the human individual is as a being of soul. One only has to know that the brain is not the cause, the creator of the soul element, but the ground on which the soul develops. Just as I cannot walk without the ground under my feet, neither can I, as a physical being, think without a brain. This is obvious. But the brain is no more than the ground into which the activities of thinking and speaking imprint what is received from the surrounding world. It is not a matter of heredity.
Perhaps now you can see that people tend to have only unclear notions about what is happening in the child during these first three “nonacademic” years. During that time, to a large extent, the foundations are being laid for a person's whole inner life and configuration. I have already spoken of how thinking, which develops later, turns toward the outer world. It forms images of the natural world and its processes. But the faculty of speaking, which is developed earlier, absorbs — at least in nuances and in modified form — what lives spiritually in language. And language, coming from the child's environment, works upon the child's soul. Through language we take in from our surroundings what we make our own in the realm of the soul. The entire soul atmosphere of our surroundings permeates us through the medium of language. And we know that the child is one great sense organ; we know that inner processes are inaugurated through these soul impressions.
So that, for example, if a child, is frequently exposed to the outbursts of an over-choleric father who utters his words as if in constant anger, it will inwardly experience its father's entire soul background through the way he forms his words. And this has an effect not only on the child's soul, but, through the atmosphere of anger surrounding it, causes the activity of fine glandular secretions to increase as well. Eventually, the glands of such a child become accustomed to an enhanced activity of secretion, and this can affect the whole life of such a child. Unless these harmful influences are balanced through the right kind of education later on, a tendency will develop toward nervous anxieties in any angry atmosphere. Here you have an example of how a certain soul condition directly enters and affects the physical organization. The attempt is often made to comprehend the relationship between the human soul and body, but a fact such as this, where during the first period of life a physical condition directly manifests itself as a symptom in the realm of the soul, simply goes unnoticed.
And now, while the child enters into the realm of statics and dynamics working through its surroundings, it does something unconsciously that is of great importance. Think for a moment of how much trouble it means for many an older pupil to learn the laws of statics and dynamics and to apply them, even if only in the field of mechanics. The young child does this unconsciously. It incorporates statics and dynamics into its entire being. Anthroposophical research shows us that what most accomplished experts in the field of statics and dynamics manage to think out for the external world is child's play compared with the way the child incorporates these complicated forces while learning to walk. It does so through imitation. Here is an opportunity to observe the strange outer effects of imitation in just this situation. You can find many examples in life. I will give you one.
There once were two girls of roughly the same age, who could be seen walking side by side. This case happened many years ago, in a town in central Germany. When they walked next to each other, they both limped with one leg. While both were performing the same limb movements, they displayed a marked difference between the movements of their more mobile right arms and right fingers and a somewhat paralyzed way they carried their left arms and left fingers. Both children were exact copies of each other. The slightly younger one was a true copy of the older one. And yet, only the older sister had a damaged left leg. Both legs of the younger one were perfectly normal. It was only by sheer imitation that she copied the movements of her handicapped sister. You can find similar cases everywhere, though many of them, being less conspicuous, may easily escape your notice.
When a child learns to walk, when it makes the principles of statics and dynamics its own, it takes in the spirit in its environment. One could formulate it in this way: In learning to walk, we take hold of the soul element of our milieu. And in what the child ought to learn first after entering earthly life, it takes hold of the spirit in its surroundings.
Spirit, soul, and body — spirit, soul, and nature — this is the right order in which the surrounding world approaches the human being. But as we take hold of the soul element in our surroundings, we also lay the foundations for our future sympathies and antipathies in life. These flow into us quite unnoticed. The way we learn to speak is, at the same time, also the way we acquire certain fundamental sympathies and antipathies. And the most curious aspect of it all is that whoever is able to develop an eye for such matters (an eye of the soul, of course) will find in the way a child walks — whether it does so more with the heel or with the toes, whether it has a firm footstep or whether it creeps along — a preparation for the moral character the child will develop in later life. Thus, we may say that together with the spiritual element the child absorbs while learning to walk, there also flows into it a moral element emanating from the environment. And it is a good thing if one can learn to perceive how the characteristic way a child moves its legs portends its moral character, whether it will develop into a morally good or bad person. For the most naturalistic quality belongs to what we take in through our thinking during childhood. What we absorb through language is already permeated by an element of soul. What we make our own through statics and dynamics is pervaded by moral and spiritual powers. But here statics and dynamics are not of the kind we learn about in school; here they are born directly out of the spirit.
It is most important to look at these matters in the right way, so that one does not arrive at the kind of psychology that is based primarily on physical aspects. In this kind of psychology one reads in fair detail what the author has managed to establish in the first thirty pages of print, only to find that relevant aspects of the soul are stuck on artificially. One must no longer speak today of the human spirit, since an Ecumenical Council abolished it, declaring that the human being does not consist of body, soul and spirit, but only of body and soul, the latter having certain spiritual properties. 5The Eighth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in A.D. 869.
The trichotomy of the human being was dogmatically forbidden during the Middle Ages, and today, our contemporary “unbiased” science begins its psychology with the declaration that the human being consists of body and soul only. Blissfully unaware of how little “unbiased” its findings are, it is still adhering to medieval dogmatism. The most erudite university professors follow this ancient dogma without having the slightest notion of it. In order to arrive at an accurate picture of the human being, it is essential to recognize all three constituent parts: body, soul, and spirit.
Materialistic minds can grasp only human thinking — and this is their tragedy. Materialism has the least understanding of matter because it cannot see the spirit working through matter. It can only dogmatize — there is only matter and its effects. But it does not know that everywhere matter is permeated with spirit. If one wants to describe materialism, one has to resort to a paradoxical definition. Materialism is the one view of the world that has no understanding of what matter is.
What is important is to know exactly where the borderlines are between the phenomena of body, soul, and spirit, and how one leads over into the other. This is of special importance with regard to the child's development during the first period of life.