The Child's Changing Consciousness and Waldorf Education
22 April 1923, Dornach
In order to round off, so to speak, what we could only superficially outline during the last few days regarding education based on anthroposophical investigations, I would like to add something today, as an example of how these ideas can be put into practice, about how the Waldorf school is run. What has to emerge clearly from the spirit of this education is that equal consideration be given to everything pertaining to the human body, soul, and spirit. If the actual teaching is carried out as characterized, therefore, it will at the same time become a kind of hygiene in the life of the child and, if necessary, even a therapy.
To see this clearly, one has to be able to look at the child's being in the right way. And here it must be understood that everything we have said about the child's development, from birth to the change of teeth, is revealed most of all in the activities of the nerve-sense system. Every organic system naturally extends over the entire human body, but each system is at the same time localized in a definite part of the physical organism. Thus the nervous system is mainly organized in the head. But when speaking about the three main organic systems of the human being — the nerve-sense system, the rhythmic system, and the metabolic-motor system — we do not imply that they are confined only to the head, the chest, and the metabolic-limb systems, because this would be completely inaccurate. It is impossible to divide the human organization into three separate spatial regions. It can only be said that these three systems interpenetrate one another, that they work and weave into each other everywhere.
The nerve-sense system is, nevertheless, localized primarily in the region of the head. The rhythmic system, which includes everything of a rhythmic nature in the human being, is mainly organized in the chest organs, in the organs of breathing and blood circulation. Here one must not ignore the fact that everything that furthers the rhythms of digestion — and ultimately those of sleeping and waking — also belongs to the rhythmic system, insofar as digesting, and sleeping and waking are based physically within the human organism. The actual chemical-physiological process of digestion is closely connected with all that forms the human motor system. As for movement itself, a reciprocal activity occurs between the nutritional and digestive system on the one hand, and the actual physical movement on the other.
All of this means that, although the three systems work naturally into each other during the child's early years until the change of teeth, the formative and malleable shaping forces involved in the child's growth and nourishing processes work mainly downward from the head, the center of the senses and the nervous system. Consequently, if a young child becomes ill, that illness is due primarily to the influences of the nerve-sense system. That is why young children before their second dentition are especially likely to suffer from illnesses that originate from within — those called childhood illnesses.
The influences that emanate from the environment, those that reach children through their urge to imitate, have a very powerful effect on this vulnerability to childhood illnesses, more than is commonly realized by the medical profession within the current materialistic climate. Thus, a sudden outburst of anger by an adult, when witnessed by a young child, can be responsible in many cases for an attack of measles. I am not referring to the psychopathic outburst of a psychopath, but to a less violent form of temper that can very often be seen among people. The shock that follows, together with its moral and spiritual implications, must certainly be seen as a contributing factor for measles. Furthermore, all these influences that work on the child will remain as after-effects until almost the ninth year. If a teacher happens to become very angry in school (for example, if a child accidentally spills some ink, and the teacher reacts by shouting, “If you do that again, I'll pour the entire inkwell over your head!” or “I'll throw it at your head!”), then we shouldn't be surprised when this has a very damaging effect on the child's physical health. Of course, I have chosen a fairly drastic example, but this kind of thing can happen too easily in a classroom.
Inner dishonesty in teachers also has a very harmful effect on children, even after their second dentition. Falsehoods can take on many different guises, such as insincerity or hypocritical piety, or establishing a moral code for the children that the adults would not dream of applying to themselves. In such cases the element of untruth weaves and lives in the words spoken, and in what unfolds in front of the child. An adult may remain totally oblivious to it, but children will take it in through the teachers' gestures. Through the nerve-sense system, dishonesty and hypocrisy have an extremely powerful effect on the organic structure of the child's digestive tract, and especially on the development of the gall bladder, which can then play a very significant role for the rest of the child's life.
All pedagogical interactions have to be permeated by this intensive awareness of how spirit, soul, and body constantly interweave and affect each other, even though it is unnecessary for teachers to speak of it all the time. And since the human organism, from the head downward, is so active during these early years — that is, from the polarity of the nerve-sense system — and because abnormal conditions can easily override socalled normal conditions in the head region, the child is particularly vulnerable to childhood diseases at just this age.
The years between the change of teeth and puberty, strangely enough (and yet, true to the nature of the human organism) are the child's healthiest years, although this is not really surprising to anyone with insight into human development. This is because the child's entire organic structure at this age radiates from the rhythmic system. This is the very system that never becomes tired or overstimulated on its own. Symptoms of illness that occur during these years are due to outer circumstances, although this statement must not be taken too strictly, of course, and only within the context of actual life situations. The child who is subject to illness at this particular age, when the rhythmic system plays such a dominant part has been treated improperly, one way or another, in outer life.
When puberty is left behind, the occurrence of illness radiates outward from within — that is, from the metabolic-motor system. That is the time of life when the causes of illness, to which young people are exposed, arise from within. Because the method of teaching the actual lessons plays a large part in the physical well-being of the students, we must always allow a certain physical and soul hygiene to be carried, as if on wings, by our educational ideas and methods. This must always be part of whatever we do with our classes, particularly during the second period of childhood.
Here certain details can be indicated. Let us take, for example, a child with a melancholic disposition. If you give that child sugar — an appropriate amount, of course — you will find that the sugar has a totally different effect than it would have on a predominantly sanguine child. In a melancholic child the sugar will have a suppressive effect on liver activity. This gradual lessening of liver activity, in radiating out into the entire being of the child, effectively curbs the melancholic tendencies from the physical side. It is a useful expedient, but one has to understand it. Using it as an aid does not mean the denial of soul and spirit, because anyone who knows that spirit is working in all physical or material processes — as anthroposophy reveals — will not view the effect of an increased sugar-intake on the activity of the liver as something merely physical, but as the working of soul and spirit brought about by physical means. (Naturally, the result always depends on the correct dosage.) In the case of a sanguine child it can be beneficial to stimulate liver activity by withholding sugar.
This is an example of how knowledge of the interaction and mutual working of body, soul, and spirit can greatly benefit the three systems of the human being. It definitely allows one to say as well that, contrary to frequently held opinions, Waldorf pedagogy (which arises from spiritual foundations) certainly does not neglect the physical aspects of education. On the other hand, you will find that other forms of pedagogy, bent on developing the physical part of the child according to fixed, abstract rules indeed serve it least, because their adherents do not realize that every soul and spiritual stirring within a child has a direct effect on his or her physical nature.
Because of all this, I felt it necessary to give a seminar course before the opening of the Waldorf school, for the benefit of those who had been chosen to become its first teachers. 1See Rudolf Steiner, The Foundations of Human Experience, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1996, and Practical Advice to Teachers, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1976, and Discussions with Teachers, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1967. One of the primary aims of this course was to bring the fundamental and comprehensive thought of the working together of soul, body, and spirit into the new pedagogy before its actual launching; for knowledge of this has been lost gradually during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — more so than is generally realized.
During the years after the Waldorf school founding, shorter supplementary courses were also given. 2See Balance in Teaching, Mercury Press, Spring Valley, NY, 1990; Education for Adolescents, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1996; and Deeper Insights into Education (to be republished). It goes without saying that anyone who seriously considers taking an active role in Waldorf education must live in the spirit of these courses. This is what really matters. If one wants to treat a certain subject in a living way, the details are not as important, because they can always be worked out of the spiritual background. The details will then also appear in proper perspective. You may already have seen, through talks given by Waldorf teachers such as Dr. von Baravalle 3Dr. Herman von Baravalle (1898–1973) teacher of mathematics and physics at the Waldorf school in Stuttgart. and Dr. von Heydebrand, 4Caroline von Heydebrand (1866–1938) class teacher at the Waldorf school. how the attempt was made to let the spirit living in this education flow into the ways of teaching various subjects. Something like lifeblood will pulse through the lessons when the human structure is comprehended in terms of an all-comprising spiritual entity. In this respect, of course, much of what can be said today will have to remain brief and superficial.
I mentioned yesterday that a united faculty of teachers, functioning like the soul and spirit of the entire school organism, is absolutely fundamental to running a Waldorf school. According to one of its pedagogical impulses, it is not so much a statistical collection of the teachers' observations expressed during the meetings that is important, but that a living and individualizing psychology should be jointly developed from out of the actual experience of teaching lessons. I would like to give you an example.
In our school, boys and girls sit next to each other. When we started, there were just over one hundred students in the Waldorf school. But our numbers have grown so quickly that we had seven hundred pupils last year, which necessitated opening parallel classes, especially in the lower grades of the school. Now we find that there are more girls than boys in some classes, while in others there are more boys. The number of boys and girls more or less even in very few classes. To insist on equal numbers in each class would not only be pedantic, but would not work. First of all, new arrivals do not come neatly paired, and, second, such a scheme would not represent real life. The right way to proceed in such a situation is to make it possible to apply educational impulses whatever the outer circumstances may be.
All the same, we soon found that a class with a majority of girls presented a very different psychological picture than those with more boys, aside from outer circumstances — that is, aside from the most obvious. What gives such a class its psychological character is the imponderable element that easily escapes one's notice. Nevertheless, when working together in our meetings, the opportunity was presented to make fruitful investigations in this direction. And it soon became clear that sharing such questions of common interest greatly contributed to the school's becoming a living, ensouled organism.
Let's imagine someone who says, “I want to think only thoughts that will be useful to me later in life. I don't want to allow anything to enter my soul that does not have direct value for later life, because this would be uneconomical.” Such a person would become an appalling figure in life! First, because such a person would have nothing to dream about — indeed, could never dream. Of course, people who are inclined in this direction might simply reply, “Dreams are unimportant. One can very well do without them, because they really don't mean anything in life.” True, dreams have little consequence for those who accept only external reality. But what if there were more to dreams than just fantastic images? Naturally, those who believe they see something highly significant and deeply prophetic in every dream, even if it is only caused by the activities of their liver, bladder, or stomach — people who consider dreams more important than events in waking life — they will not draw any benefit from their dreaming. Yet, if one knows that in one's dream life forces are expressed — even if only indistinctly — that have either a health-giving or an illness-inducing effect on the breathing, circulatory, and nerve-sense systems, then one also knows that half of the human being is mirrored in these dreams, either in a hygienic or in a pathological sense. Further, one will recognize that not to dream at all would be similar to undermining the digestion or circulation through taking some form of poison. It is important to realize that much of what may appear unnecessary in a human being for outer life, nevertheless, plays an important part — similar to the way we see outer nature. Just compare the infinite number of herring eggs, distributed all over the seas, with the number of herrings actually born, and you could easily reproach nature for being tremendously wasteful. However, this could only be the opinion of those who do not know of the powerful spiritual effects the dead herring eggs have on the growing herrings. A certain number of eggs have to die so that a certain number of eggs may thrive. These things are all interconnected.
If we now relate this thought to the school as a living organism, we have the following situation: In the staff meetings of our teachers such matters as the proportion of boys to girls, and many other problems, are being worked through from a psychological and pneumatological aspect as part of a common study of soul and spirit. Efforts are made continually to effect a new understanding of the psychological and pathological problems facing the school. And, in order to cover every contingency, something else is essential in the life of a school, something we have in the Waldorf school, and that is a school doctor. He is a full-time staff member, who also teaches various classes in the school. This allows the teachers — insofar as they actively take part in all the meetings — to discuss and work through pathological and therapeutic questions, as well as those posed by the specially gifted child. Problems are studied not only for the benefit of individual cases — more or less statistically — but they are worked through in depth. In this way, much can be learned from each individual case, even if it does not always appear to be immediately useful.
One could compare this situation with someone who has taken in one thing or another, and declares it to be of no use in life. Nevertheless, life may prove otherwise. Similarly, whatever is worked through by the teachers in these meetings, creating a living psychology, a living physiology, and so on, continues to have an effect, often in very unexpected places. Imagine you had occupied yourself, let's say, with the spiritual functions of a child's gall — forgive this expression, but it is fully justified — and that through this study you had learned to find a way into this kind of thinking. If you were now suddenly called on to deal with a child's nose, you actually would relate very differently to the new situation. Even if you may think, “What is the good of learning all about the gall if now I have to deal with the nose?” Once you find a point of entry, you meet every problem and task differently.
In this sense, the teaching faculty must become the spirit and soul of the entire school organism. Only then will each teacher enter the classroom with the proper attitude and in the right soul condition. At the same time, we must also remember that, in just these matters, an intensely religious element can be found. It is unnecessary to have the name of the Lord constantly on one's lips or to call on the name of Christ all the time. It is better to adhere to the command: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord God in vain.” Nevertheless, it is possible to permeate one's entire life with a fundamental religious impulse, with an intensely Christian impulse. Certain experiences of old, no longer known to the modern mind, will then begin to stir in one's soul, experiences deeply rooted in human evolution, in the Christian development of humankind. For example, teachers who in the depths of their souls are seeking the proper stimulation for finding appropriate forms of pedagogy (especially in these pathological-physiological areas) would do well to allow themselves to be inspired, time and again, by what radiates from the Gospel of Saint Luke. (To modern ears such a statement must sound bizarre.) On the other hand, teachers who want to instill the necessary idealism for life in their students, would do well to find a source of inspiration by reading again and again the Gospel of Saint John. If teachers do not want their pupils to grow up into cowards, but into the kind of people who will tackle life's tasks with exuberant energy, they should look for inspiration in the Gospel of Saint Mark. And those who are enthusiastic to educate the young to grow into perceptive adults, rather than into people who go through life with unseeing eyes, may find the necessary stimulation in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. These are the qualities that, in ancient times, were felt to live in the different Gospels. If our contemporaries were to read that in past ages the Gospel of Saint Luke was felt to radiate a healing element in a medical sense, they could not make anything of it. On the other hand, if they entered life as real pedagogues, they would begin to understand such matters again.
This is one way one can speak about these things. It is just as possible to speak of them in an entirely different way, no less religious or Christian. For instance, the main theme during a seminar course could well be the four temperaments of the human being — that is, the psychic, physical, and spiritual natures of the choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic temperaments. First, one would give a description of these four temperaments and then one could discuss how they must be treated in class. For example, it has a salutary effect if one seats choleric children together in one corner of the classroom, giving a certain relief in this way to the rest of the class, because the teacher is freed from having to constantly discipline them. Choleric children can't help pushing and hitting each other. If they now find themselves suddenly at the receiving end, this in itself produces a thoroughly pedagogical effect, because the ones who do the pushing and shoving, goading others into retaliating, are being “shaped up” in a very direct way. And if, by seating the phlegmatics together, one lets them “phlegmatize” each other, this also has a wonderfully pedagogical effect. However, all this needs to be done with the appropriate tact. One really has to know how to handle the situation in each individual case. You will find a detailed treatment of the children's various temperaments in the published version of the first training course, given to the teachers of the Waldorf school. 5See footnote page 171. See also the 1909 lecture, “The Four Temperaments,” contained in Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy in Everyday Life, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1995.
What I have said about the four Gospels, fundamentally speaking, is exactly the same when seen from a spiritual perspective, because it leads one into the same element of life. Today it is ordinarily felt that, if one wants to learn something, the relevant elements have to be put neatly side by side. But this is a procedure that will not lead to fundamental principles, as they have to be dealt with in actual life. For example, one cannot understand the human gall or liver system unless one also has an understanding of the human head, because every organ in the digestive tract has a complementary organ in the brain. One does not know anything about the liver unless one also knows its correlative function in the brain. Likewise, one does not have an inner understanding of the immense inspiration that can flow into the human soul from the Gospels, unless one can also transform these into the ways that character and temperament are imprinted into the human individuality here on Earth. To livingly comprehend the world is very different from comprehending it through dead concepts.
This will also help one to see that if children are raised in light of the education spoken of here, one allows something to grow in them that will outlast their childhood days, something that will continue to affect them throughout their lives; for what do you have to do when you grow old? People who do not understand human nature cannot assess how important certain impulses, which can be implanted only during childhood, are for life. At that tender age it is still possible for these impulses to be immersed into the soft and pliable organism of the child, still very open to the musical-formative forces. In later years the organism becomes harder, not necessarily physically, but in any case, tending toward psycho-bodily hardening. What one has absorbed through one's upbringing and education, however, does not grow old. No matter how old one has become, one is still inwardly endowed with the same youthful element that one had from, say, the tenth to the fifteenth year. One always carries this element of youthfulness within, but it has to remain supple and flexible to the degree that the now aged brain — perhaps already covered by a bald head — can use it in the same way that the previously soft brain did. If a person's education has not helped this process, however, the result is a generation gap, which appears so often these days, and is considered unbridgeable.
Sometimes people say something that is actually the opposite of what is really happening. For example, one often hears the comment, “The young today don't understand the elderly, because old people no longer know how to be young with the young.” But this is not the truth. Not at all. What really happens is that the young generation expects the old generation to be able to properly use the physical organization which has grown old. In this way, young people recognize something in the old that is different from their own condition, something they do not yet have. This is the quality that leads to the natural respect for old age. When young people meet an old person who can still use an already-bald head in the way children use their tousled heads, they feel that something can be received from the older generation, something that they cannot find in their contemporaries. This is how it should be.
We must educate young people so that they know how to grow old properly. It is the malaise of our time that as young people grow up, they do not recognize among the older generation those who have aged properly. They see merely childish individuals, instead, who have remained at the same level of development as the young generation. This is because of the inadequate education of old people who cannot properly use their physical organization, and they remain infantile. The expression “overgrown kids” is really chosen with great ingenuity, for it implies that such persons lost the ability to get hold of their entire organism during the course of their lives. 6The German expression is Kindskopf, literally “child's head.” — Trans.
They can work only with the head, which is precisely what
children or young people are meant to do. So the young respond
by saying, “Why should we learn from them? They are no
further along than we are; they are just as childish as we
are.” The point is not that old age lacks youthfulness,
but that it has remained behind, is too infantile, and this
causes difficulties today. You see how expressions, sometimes
chosen with the most goodwill, mean the opposite of what they
intend convey. 7See Rudolf Steiner's
The Youth Section of the School of Spiritual Science,
March 9, 1924 (published in
The Constitution of the School of Spiritual Science,
Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 1964), which
But the youth today does not see in the older men and women any human quality different from its own, yet worthy of its emulation. For the older people of the present day are not really “old.” They have taken in the content of many things and can talk of these. But their knowledge has not ripened in them. They have grown older in years, but in the soul they have not kept pace with the advancing years. They speak out of an older brain in just the same way that they spoke when the brain was young. Young people feel this fact. They do not perceive maturity when they are with their elders; they see their own young condition of soul in older bodies, and they turn away, for this does not seem true to them.
These things must all be seen in the proper light before education can stand on its feet again. This has become more than necessary today. Forgive this somewhat drastic way of saying it, but in our intellectual age education really has been turned upside-down.
Thus, one of the characteristic features of Waldorf pedagogy is to learn that it is not the externals that are important. Whether a teacher draws substance to nourish the souls of students from the different qualities of the four Gospels, or whether this is done by using what was presented in the Stuttgart teachers' training course with regard to the four temperaments does not matter at all. What does matter is the spirit that reigns in everything developed there. Because of how superficially these things are often regarded today, it could easily happen that someone, when told that the treatment of the four temperaments could be studied in the fundamental course given in Stuttgart, could also consult a later course where one would find something about the teacher's attitude toward the four Gospels. The reaction of such a person might well be, “In this case, I should study the later course as well.” It certainly is a good thing to approach different subjects by using different sources. But there is also another way of looking at it — that is, one may find a common message running through both courses, given in two different places at different times, even though outwardly the subjects may appear very different. This inner correspondence found within different lecture courses can be uncomfortable because of the way their various points are interlinked, instead of fitting into the more conventional patterns of cause and effect.
Thus, the educational course given here at the Goetheanum just over a year ago (where some English friends were present, and which was rendered very competently and artistically by Mister Steffen) 8Albert Steffen (1884–1963), Swiss poet, novelist, playwright, and a leading student of Rudolf Steiner beginning in 1907. can be compared with what I presented to you again differently in this course. 9See Rudolf Steiner, Soul Economy and Waldorf Education, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1986. You will find that, basically, the substance of both courses is the same as, for example, the head and the stomach; each form a part of one organism. It may be uncomfortable that, because of how various themes mutually support each other, one cannot say: I have read and understood the first course; and because the later one is supposed to carry the same message, there is no need for me to study it as well. The fact is, however, that, if one has studied both courses, the earlier one will be understood in greater depth, because each sheds light on the other. It could even be said that, only when one has digested a later teachers' course, can one fully understand an earlier one because of these reciprocal effects. Mathematics is built on purely causal sequences, so it is possible to understand earlier stages without any knowledge of subsequent stages. But when it comes to teaching in a living way, its subject is affected by mutual interconnections, so that what was given at an earlier date may receive further elucidation by what was presented later.
I mention this because it is all part of the living spirit that has to permeate the Waldorf way of teaching. One has to have the good will that wants to know it from all sides, and one must never be satisfied with having comprehended one particular aspect of it. As a Waldorf teacher, one has to be conscious of the necessity for continually widening and deepening one's knowledge, rather than feeling satisfied with one's achievements and, indeed, considering oneself very clever. If one has lived into the Waldorf way of teaching, such delusions are soon overcome! For a real Waldorf teacher, everything that flows from this activity must be permeated with true heart and soul forces. It has to spring from the right kind of self-confidence, which rests on trust in God. When there is awareness of the divine forces working within, one will be fed by a constantly flowing fountain of life, flowing since time beyond memory, and very much apart from what one may or may not have learned externally. It is only the beginning of the way when self-confidence stems from outer achievements. One is in the proper place when self-confidence has led to confidence in the working of God, when it has led to an awareness of the power of the words: Not I, but the Christ in me. When this happens, self-confidence also becomes self-modesty, because one realizes that the divine forces of Christ are reflected in whatever is carried in one's soul. This spirit must reign throughout the school.
If it were not present, the school would be like a natural organism whose lifeblood was being drawn out, or that was slowly being asphyxiated.
This is the spirit that is most important, and if it is alive, it will engender enthusiasm, regardless of the staff or the leadership of the school. One can then be confident that a somewhat objective spirit will live throughout the school, which is not the same as the sum of the teachers' individual spirits. This, however, can be nurtured only gradually within the life of the teaching staff.
As a result of working in this way, something has emerged in the Waldorf school that we call “block periods” or “main lessons.” These main lessons — much longer than the ordinary lessons, which allow one subject to be studied in depth — do not distract children, as often happens because of too many subject changes. For example, students might typically be given a geography lesson from 8 to 8:45 A.M., followed by an entirely different subject, such as Latin, from 8:45 until 9:30 A.M. This might be followed again by math, or some other lesson. Block periods of main lessons, on the other hand, are structured so that the same subject is taught every day for about three or four weeks (depending on the type of subject) during the first half of the morning session. For example, in a main lesson period, geography would be studied for perhaps three or four weeks — not severely or in a heavy-handed way, but in a more relaxed, yet completely serious way. When the same subject is taken up again during one of the following terms, it will build on what was given during the previous block period. In this way, the subject matter covered during one year is taught in block periods instead of during regular weekly lessons. This method is, no doubt, more taxing for teachers than the conventional schedule arrangements would be, because such lengthy geography lessons could easily become boring for the children. This is solved by the teachers' much deeper immersion in the subjects, so that they are equal to their freely-chosen tasks.
After a mid-morning break, which is essential for the children, the main lesson is usually followed by language lessons, or by other subjects not taught in main lesson periods. Two foreign languages are introduced to our pupils as soon as they enter the first grade in a Waldorf school. Using our own methods, we teach them French and English — the aim not being so much a widening of their outer horizons, but an enrichment of their soul life.
You will ascertain from what was said yesterday that physical movement, practiced most of all in eurythmy and gymnastics, is by no means considered to be less important, but is dealt with so that it can play a proper role within the total curriculum. Similarly, right from the beginning in the first grade, all lessons are permeated by a musical element according to various ages and stages.
I have already indicated (with unavoidable briefness, unfortunately) how our pupils are being directed into artistic activities — into singing, music-making, modeling, and so on. It is absolutely necessary to nurture these activities. Simply through practicing them with the children, one will come to realize exactly what it means for their entire lives to be properly guided musically during these younger years, from the change of teeth through the ninth and twelfth years until puberty. Proper introduction to the musical element is fundamental for a human being to overcome any hindrance that impedes, later in life, a sound development of a will permeated with courage. Musical forces effect the human organism by allowing, as smoothly as possible, the nerve fluctuations to become active in the stream of breath. The breath-stream, in turn, works back upon the functions of the nervous system. The breathing rhythms then work over into the rhythms of the blood circulation, which in turn act on the rhythms of sleeping and waking. This insight, afforded by anthroposophical investigation, of how musical forces creatively work within the structure of the human being, is one of the most wonderful things in life.
One learns to recognize that we have an extremely sensitive and refined musical instrument in the raying out of the nerves from the spinal marrow, from the entire system of the spinal cord. One also learns to see how this delicate instrument dries up and hardens, whereby, inwardly, the human being can no longer properly develop qualities of courage, if musical instruction and the general musical education do not work harmoniously with this wonderfully fine musical instrument. What constitutes a truly delicate and unique musical instrument is coming into being through the mutual interplay between the organs of the nerves and senses with their functions on the one hand, and on the other hand, the human motor functions with their close affinities to the digestive rhythms and those of sleeping and waking.
The upper part of the human being wants to influence the lower part. By directing the child's entire organism toward the realm of music, we enhance the merging of external sounds (from a piano during music lessons, or from the children's singing voices) with the nervous and circulatory systems, in what can be recognized as a divine plan of creation. This is a sublime thing, because in every music lesson there is a meeting between the divine-spiritual and what comes from the earthly realm, rising, as it were, within the child's body. Heaven and Earth truly meet in every achievement of musical culture throughout human earthly evolution, and we should always be aware of this. This awareness, plus the teachers' knowledge that they are instrumental in bringing together the genius of Heaven with the genius of Earth, gives them the enthusiasm they need to face their classes. This same enthusiasm is also carried into the teachers' staff meetings where the music teacher may inspire the art teacher, and so on. Here you can see clearly how essential it is that spirit works through every aspect of Waldorf education.
To give another example: not long ago, during one of our teacher meetings, it truly became possible to work out to a large extent what happens to the students' spirit, soul, and body, when first given eurythmy exercises and then directed in doing gymnastics. Such insight into the relationship between gymnastics and eurythmy (which is very important to how these lessons are presented) was really accomplished in one of our teacher meetings the other day. Of course, we will continue our research. But, this is how teacher meetings become like the blood that must flow through the school as a living organism. Everything else will fall into place, as long as that is allowed to happen.
Teachers will know also when it is proper to take their classes for a walk or for an outing, and the role of gymnastics will find a natural and appropriate place within the life of the students, regardless of which school they attend. Doubts and anxieties will disappear with regard to the remark: What is done in a Waldorf school may all be very good, but they neglect sports there. Admittedly, it is not yet possible for us to do everything that may be desirable, because the Waldorf school has had to develop from small beginnings. Only by overcoming enormous obstacles and external difficulties was it possible to have gone as far as we have today. But when matters are taken care of with spiritual insight, the whole question of the relationship between physical and spiritual will be handled properly.
The following analogy could be used: Just as it is unnecessary to learn how the various larger and smaller muscles of the arm function (according to the laws of dynamics and statics, of vitalism, and so on) so that one can lift it, so it is also unnecessary to know every detail of the ins-and-outs of everything that must be done, as long as we can approach and present lessons out of the spirit that has become transformed into the proper attitude of the teacher — as long as we can penetrate properly to the very essence of all our tasks and duties.
I could only give you brief and superficial outlines of the fundamental principles and impulses, flowing from anthroposophical research, according to which the Waldorf school functions. And so we have come to the end of this course — primarily because of your other commitments.
At this point I would like to express once more what I already said during one of our discussions: If one lives with heart and soul, with the ideal of allowing education to grow into a blessing for all humankind in its evolution, one is filled with deep gratitude when meeting teachers from so many different places; for you have come to this course to obtain information about the way of teaching that arises from anthroposophical investigation, which I have attempted to place before you. Beyond whether this was received by one or another participant with more or less sympathy, I want to express my deep gratitude and inner satisfaction that it was again possible for a large group of souls to perceive what is intended to work on the most varied branches of life, and what is meant to fructify life in general through anthroposophy. Two thoughts will remain with you, especially with those who dealt with the organization and practical arrangements of this course: the happy memory of the gratitude, and the happy memory of the inner satisfaction as I expressed it just now. And the more intensely these thoughts can be inwardly formed — the thoughts of the work based on such gratitude and satisfaction — the more hope will grow that, in times to come, this way of teaching may yet succeed for the benefit of all of humanity.
Such hope will intensify the loving care for this way of teaching in those who already have the will to devote themselves to it with all their human qualities.
It should also be said that it was not only the Waldorf teachers who may have given you something of their practical experience, because those of you who have been present here as visitors have certainly given equally to them. By allowing us to witness what lives in us begin to live in other souls as well, you have fanned the glow of love that is both necessary and natural, and just that can engender genuine enthusiasm. And we may hope that out of feelings of gratitude and inner satisfaction, of hope and love that have flowed together during this course, good fruits may ripen, provided we can maintain the necessary interest in these matters, and that we are inwardly active enough to sustain them.
Ladies and gentlemen, my dear friends, this is what I want to pour into my farewell, which is not to be taken as formal or abstract, but as very concrete, in which gratitude becomes a firm foundation, and inner satisfaction a source of warmth, from which hope will radiate out, bringing both courage and strength. May the love of putting into practice what is willed to become a way of teaching for all human beings be turned into light that shines for those who feel it their duty to care for the education of all humankind!
In this sense, having to bring this course to its conclusion, I wish to give you all my warmest farewell greetings.
Question: Would it be possible to implement the Waldorf way of teaching in other countries, in Czechoslovakia, for example?
Rudolf Steiner: In principle it is possible to introduce Waldorf education anywhere, because it is based purely on pedagogy. This is the significant difference between Waldorf pedagogy and other educational movements. As you know, there are people today who maintain that if one wants to give pupils a proper education, one must send them to a country school, because they consider an urban environment unsuitable for children's education. Then there are those who hold the opinion that only a boarding school can offer the proper conditions for their children's education, while still others insist that only life at home can provide the proper background for children. All of these things cease to be of real importance in Waldorf education. I do not wish to quarrel about these different attitudes (each of which may have its justification from one or another point of view), but since Waldorf education focuses entirely on the pedagogical aspect, it can be adapted to any outer conditions, whether a city school, a country school or whatever. It is not designed to meet specific external conditions, but is based entirely on observation and insight into the growing human being. This means that Waldorf pedagogy could be implemented in every school.
Whether this would be allowed to happen, whether the authorities that oversee education, the establishing of curricula, and so on would ever agree to such a step being taken, is an entirely different question. There is nothing to stop Waldorf pedagogy from being applied anywhere in the world, even tomorrow, but the real question is whether permission for this to happen would be granted. This question can be answered only in terms of the various local government policies. That is really all one can say about it.