The Younger Generation
12 October 1922, Dornach
Yesterday I wanted to show how we must come to an education, steeped in artistic form. I drew attention to how in earlier times the teacher took his start from the artistic, which he did in higher education by treating as arts what today has become entirely abstract and scientific, namely, grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. This was done in such a way that the young human being started by recognizing in his teacher: This man can do something which I cannot do. And through this alone the right relationship was established between the younger and the older generations. For this relationship, my dear friends, can never develop along the path of intellectuality. As soon as one stands consciously on the ground of the intellect or without the ideas inwardly revealed in the intellectual or mind soul, there is no possibility of differentiating between human beings. For human nature is so constituted that when it is a matter of making something clear through the consciousness soul, everyone thinks that the moment he has concepts he is capable of discussing them with anyone. Thus it is, with the intellect. For the intellect neither man's maturity nor his experience comes into consideration; they only do so when it is a question of ability. But when their elders have ability the young quite as a matter of course pay tribute to maturity and experience.
Now, in order to understand these things thoroughly we must consider from a different point of view the course taken by mankind's evolution. Let me tell you what spiritual science has discovered about the course of history, with regard to the intercourse between men.
External documentary history can go back only a few thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha and what is to be found can never be estimated rightly because spiritual achievements, even in the time of ancient Greece, cannot be grasped by modern concepts. Even for the old Grecian times quite other concepts must be used. Nietzsche felt this. Hence the charm of his brief, unfinished essay on Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, where he deals with philosophy in connection with the general development of Greek culture up to the time of Socrates. In Socrates he saw the first flicker of pure intellectuality; everything philosophical in the tragic age of Greek development proceeded from wide human foundations for which, when expressed in concepts, these were only the language through which to convey what was experienced. In the earliest times philosophy was quite different from what it later became. But I only want to mention this in passing.
I really want to point out that with spiritual Imagination, and especially with Inspiration, we can look back much further into human evolution and, above all, into men's souls. Then we find when we go very far back, some seven or eight thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha, that the young had a natural veneration for great age. This was a matter of course. Why? Because what exists today only in earliest youth existed then for the whole evolution of man.
If we look at the human being with less superficiality than is often done today, we find that the whole evolution of the human soul changes at about the change of teeth, during the sixth, seventh or eighth year. Man's soul becomes different, and again it changes at the time of puberty. I have discussed this fully in my book The Education of the Child from the Standpoint of Spiritual Science. On occasion it is noticed that man's soul becomes different in the seventh year and again in the fourteenth or fifteenth. But what people no longer notice is that changes still take place at the beginning of the twenties, at the end of the twenties, in the middle of the thirties, and so on.
Whoever is able to observe the life of soul in a more intimate way knows such transitions in man, that human life runs its course in rhythms. Try to perceive this, let us say, in Goethe. Goethe records how he was cured of certain childlike religious ideas by the Lisbon earthquake, thus about the time when he was changing his teeth, and how puzzling everything was for him. He tells how as a small child he began to reflect: Is there a good God ruling the world, when one sees that countless people have been swept away through these terrible fiery forces in the earth? — Especially in these decisive moments of his life, Goethe was prone to let external events work upon his soul so as to be conscious of its changes. And he says concerning this period of his life that he became a strange kind of pantheist, how he could no longer believe in the ideas imparted by the older people in his home and by his parents. He tells how he took his father's music-stand on which he set out minerals, placing on top a little candle that he lit by holding a burning-glass to catch the first rays of the morning sun. In later life he explained that he had wanted to bring an offering to the great God of Nature by lighting a sacrificial fire, kindled from Nature herself.
Take the first period of Goethe's life, then the following one, and so on till you piece together this whole life out of parts of about the length of his childlike episode, and you will find that with Goethe something always happened during such times fundamentally to change his soul. It is extraordinarily interesting to see that the fact of Schiller's urging Goethe to continue Faust only found fruitful soil in Goethe because at the end of the eighteenth century, he happened to be at a transitional period of this kind. It is interesting too that Goethe re-wrote Faust at the beginning of a following life-period. Goethe began Faust in his youth in such a way that he makes Faust open the book of Nostradamus. There we have the great scene:
“What powers celestial, lo! ascend, descend
Each unto each the golden vessels giving!”
But turn the page and there we find:
“Thou, Spirit of the Earth, to me art nearer.”
Goethe rejects for Faust the great tableau of the macrocosm and allows only the earth-spirit to approach him. And when at the beginning of the nineteenth century he was persuaded by Schiller to revise Faust he wrote the “Prologue in Heaven.” Anyone who observes his own life inwardly will discover that these changes hold good. Nowadays we only notice them when we deliberately train ourselves to look deeply into our own life.
In ancient times, six thousand, seven thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha, these changes were so noticeable that they were experienced in the life of soul as the change of teeth or puberty is today. And, indeed, approximately up to the middle of life, up to the thirty-fifth or thirty-sixth year, life was on the up-grade. But then it began to decline. People experienced the drying-up of life. But while certain products of metabolism become deposited through sluggishness in the organism and the physical organism becomes increasingly heavy and lethargic, it was also felt that up to the greatest age the soul and spirit were on the ascent, how the soul is set free with the drying up of the body. And people in olden days would not have spoken with such ardour of the patriarchs — the word itself only arose later — had they not noticed externally in men: True, he is getting physically old, but he has to thank his physical aging for lighting-up his spirit. He is no longer dependent on the body. The body withers, but the soul becomes free.
In this modern age it is most unusual that such a thing happens, for instance, as occurred at the Berlin University. Two philosophers were there, the one was Zeller — the famous Greek scholar — and the other Michelet. Zeller was seventy years old and thought he ought to be pensioned off. Michelet was ninety and lectured with tremendous vivacity. Eduard von Hartmann told me this himself. Michelet is supposed to have said: “I don't understand why that young man doesn't want to lecture any more.” Michelet was, as I said, ninety years old!
Today people seldom keep their freshness to such a degree. But in those times it was so, especially among those who concerned themselves with spiritual life. What did the young say when they looked at the Patriarchs? They said: It is beautiful to get old. For then one learns something through one's own development that one cannot know before. It was perfectly natural to speak in this way. Just as a little boy with a toy horse wants to be big and get a real horse, so, at that time, there was the desire to get old because it was felt that something is then revealed from within.
Then came the following millennia. It was still experienced up to a considerable age, but no longer as in the old Indian epoch — in the terminology of my Occult Science. At the zenith of Greek culture, man still had living experience of the change occurring in life in the middle of the thirties. Men still knew how to distinguish between body and spirit, and said: At the age of thirty, the physical begins to decline, but then the spiritual begins to blossom forth. This was experienced by the soul and spirit in the immediate presence of men. The original feeling of the Greeks was based upon this, not upon that phantasy of which modern science speaks. To understand the fullness of Greek culture, we should bear in mind that the Greeks were still able in consciousness to come to thirty, five-and-thirty, six-and-thirty years, whereas a more ancient humanity grew in consciousness to a far greater age. Herein consists the evolution of humanity. Man has more and more to experience out of Nature unconsciously what is for a later time; this requires him to experience it consciously for consciously it must again be experienced. Whoever observes himself can recognize the seven-yearly changes; the length of time is not pedantically exact, but approximate. A man who looks back to the period of his forty-ninth, forty-second, thirty-fifth years can recognize quite well: At that time something happened in me by which I learnt something which out of my own nature I could not previously have done, just as I should not have been able to bite with my second teeth before I had them. To experience life concretely is something that has been lost in the course of man's evolution. And today if anyone does not inwardly train himself to observe, these epochs from the thirtieth year onwards are completely blurred. Comparatively speaking, an inner transformation can still be noticed at the beginning of the twenties — even up to the end of the twenties, though it is then rather less noticeable. But with the present human organization man receives something from his natural evolution only up to his twenty-sixth or twenty-seventh year, and this limit will recede more and more. In earlier times men were not free in their organization, destined as they were to have these experiences out of their own nature. Freedom has become possible only by the withdrawal of Nature. To the extent Nature ceases freedom becomes possible. Through his own striving, through his own powers, man must arrive at finding the spiritual, whereas formerly, the older he became the more did the spiritual thrive.
Today emphasis is no longer placed on what the old become merely by growing older. Intellectualism is left which, between the eighteenth and nineteenth years, can develop so that from then onwards one can know with the intellect. But as far as intellectuality is concerned, one can at most reach a greater degree of proficiency but make no qualitative progress. If one has fallen a victim to the desire to prove or to refute everything intellectually, one cannot progress. If someone puts forward what is the result of decades of experience but wants to prove it intellectually, an eighteen-year-old could refute him intellectually. For whatever is possible intellectually at sixty is equally possible at nineteen, since intellectuality is a stage during the epoch of the consciousness soul which in the sense of deepening is of no help to progress, but only to proficiency. The young may say: “I am not yet as clever as you are; you can still take me in.” But he will not believe the other to be his superior in the sphere of intellect.
These things must be emphasized to become intelligible. I do not wish to criticize. I am saying this only because it is part of the natural evolution of humanity; we should be clear about the following characteristic of our age, namely, that if man does not strive out of inner activity for development and maintain it consciously, then with mere intellectualism at his twentieth year he will begin to get rusty. He then receives stimuli only from outside, and through these external stimuli keeps himself going. Do you think that if things were not like that people would flock to the cinema? This longing for the cinema, this longing to see everything externally, depends on the human being becoming inwardly inactive, on his no longer wanting inner activity.
The only way to listen to lectures on Spiritual Science, as meant here, is for those present to do their share of the work. But today that is not to people's liking. They flock to lectures or meetings with lantern slides so that they can sit and do as much as possible without thinking. Everything just passes before them. They can remain perfectly passive.
But our system of teaching is ultimately of this character, too, and anyone who on educational grounds objects to the triviality of the modern object lesson is said to be behind the times. But one has to oppose it, for man is not a mere apparatus for observing, an apparatus that wants simply to look at things. Man can live only by inner activity. To listen to Spiritual Science means to invite the human being to co-operate with his soul. People do not want this today. Spiritual Science is an invitation to this inner activity, that is to say, it must lead all studies to the point where there is no more support in external sense-perception because then the inner play of forces must begin to move freely. Not before thinking moves freely in this inner play of forces can Imagination be reached. Thus the basis for all Anthroposophy is inner activity, the challenge to inner activity, the appeal to what can be active when all the senses are silent and only the activity of thinking is astir.
Here there lies something of extraordinary significance. Just suppose you were capable of this. I will not flatter you by saying that you are. I only want to ask you first to assume that you are capable of it, that you can think in such a way that your thoughts are only an inner flow of thoughts. What I called pure thinking in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity was certainly not well named when judged by outer cultural conditions. For Eduard von Hartmann said to me: “There is no such thing, one can only think with the aid of external observation.” And all I could say in reply was: “It has only to be tried and people will soon learn to be able to make it a reality.” Thus take it as a hypothesis that you could have thoughts in a flow of pure thought. Then there begins for you the moment when you have led thinking to a point where it need not be called thinking any longer, because in a twinkling — in the twinkling of a thought — it has become something different. This rightly named pure thinking has at the same time become pure will, for it is willing, through and through. If you have advanced so far in your life of soul that you have freed thinking from outer perception, it has become at the same time pure will. You hover with your soul, so to speak, in a pure flight of thought. But this pure flight of thought is a flight of will. Then the exercise or the striving for the exercise of pure thought begins to be not an exercise in thinking only but also an exercise of the will, indeed an exercise of the will that goes right to the center of the human being. For you will make the following remarkable observation. It is only now, for the first time, that you can speak of thinking, as it is in ordinary life, as an activity of the head. Before this you really have no right to speak of thinking as an activity of the head, for you know this only as external fact from physiology, anatomy, and so on. But now you feel inwardly that you are no longer thinking so high up, you begin for the first time to think with the heart. You actually interweave your thought with the breathing process. You actually set going of itself what the Yoga exercises have striven for artificially. You notice that as thinking becomes more and more an activity of the will it wrenches itself free first from the breast and then from the whole human body. It is as though you were to draw forth this thinking from the extremity of your big toe! And if with inner participation you study what has appeared with many imperfections — for I make no claims for my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity — if you let it work upon you and feel what this pure thinking is, you will experience that a new man is born within you who can bring out of the spirit an unfolding of the will.
Does man know before this that he has a will? He really has no will, for he is given up to instincts connected with his organic development. He often dreams that he does this or that out of an impulse of the soul, but he really does it because of the good or bad condition of his stomach. But now you know that you have permeated the physical organism with what fills it with consciousness. You do not need to be a clairvoyant for this. All you need do is to be interested in the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and let it work upon you. For this Philosophy of Spiritual Activity cannot be read as other books are today. It must really be read so that once you get into the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity you have the feeling that it is an organism, one member developing out of another, that you have found your way into something living. People immediately say: Something is going to get into me which will take away my freedom. Something is entering me that I do not want to have.
People who entertain such thoughts are like those who were to say that if the human being at two or three years has to get used to speaking a certain language, he will thereby lose his freedom. The human being ought to be warned against language for he will no longer be free when brought into this chance association of ideas. He ought to be able to speak at will now Chinese, now French, now German. Nobody says this because it would be too absurd, and life itself refutes such nonsense. On the other hand there are people who either hear or see something of Eurythmy and say that it, too, rests upon the chance association of the ideas of individuals. But one should be able to assume that philosophers would say: One must look into this Eurythmy and see if in evoking gestures we may not have the foundations of a higher freedom and find that it is only an unfolding at a higher level of what is in speech.
So one need not be surprised — for really nothing that goes beyond intellectualism is regarded without prejudice today — that people get goose-flesh when one tells them that a certain book must be read quite differently from other books, that it must be read in such a way that from it something is really experienced. What is it that must be experienced? It is the awakening of the will out of the spiritual. In this respect my book was intended as a means of education. The intention was not only to give it content but to make it work educationally. Hence you find in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity an exposition on the art of forming concepts, a description of what takes place in the soul when one does not keep with one's concepts to the impressions from outside, but lives within the free flow of thoughts.
That, my dear friends, is an activity which aims at knowledge in a far deeper sense than the external knowledge of Nature, but it is at the same time artistic, wholly identical with artistic activity. So that the moment pure thinking is experienced as will, man's attitude becomes that of an artist.
And this, my dear friends, is like-wise the attitude we need today in the teacher if he is to guide and lead the young from the time of the change of teeth to puberty, or even beyond puberty. The mood of soul should be so that out of the inner life of soul one comes to a second man, who cannot be known as is the outer physical body, which can be studied physiologically or anatomically, but who must be livingly experienced and may rightly be called, in accordance with the real meaning of the terms, “life body” or “ether body”. This cannot be known through external perception but must be inwardly experienced. To know this second man a kind of artistic activity must be unfolded. Hence there is this mood in the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity which most people never discover — everywhere it touches the level of the artistic. Only most people do not discover this because they look for the artistic in the trivial, in the naturalistic and not in free activity. Only out of this free activity can education really be experienced as art, and the teacher can become an artist in education when he finds his way into this mood. Then in our epoch of the consciousness soul all teaching will be so arranged as to create an artistic atmosphere between teacher and pupil. And within this artistic atmosphere there can develop that relation between led and leader which is an inclining towards the leader, because he can do something which he is able to show forth artistically, and one feels that what he can do one would like to be able to do oneself. Thus no opposition is aroused because it is felt that one would destroy oneself by opposing.
Because of the way writing is taught today, it often happens that even as a child — for in the child there is always a being who is cleverer than the teacher — one asks: Why should I be bothered to write? I have no kind of relationship to writing — which is really what the North American Indians felt when they saw European script. They felt the black signs to be witchcraft. The feeling of the child is very similar. But let us awaken in the child what it means to look at black, red, green, yellow, white. Let us call up in him what it is when we surround a point by a circle. Let us call up the great experience contained in the difference there is when we draw two green circles and in each of them three red circles, then two red and in each of them three green, two yellow with three blue ones in them, then two blue containing three yellow circles. We let the children experience in the colors what the colors as such are saying to the human being, for in the world of color lives a whole world. But we also let the children experience what the colors have to say to one another, what green says to red, what blue says to yellow, blue to green and red to blue — here we have the most wonderful relation between the colors. We shall not do this by showing the child symbols or allegories, but we shall do it in an artistic way. Then we shall see how out of this artistic feeling the child gradually puts down figures out of which the letters then develop as writing once developed from picture-script. How foreign to the child today are B, G, or any other sign that has developed through inner necessity to its present form. What is a G, K, or U to a seven-year old? He really has not the slightest kinship with it. it has taken the human being thousands of years to acquire this relationship. The child must acquire an aesthetic relation to it. Everything is exterminated in the child because the written characters are not human; and the child wants to remain human.
In order to understand youth in its relation to the older generation we must go right into the art of education. The cleft between age and youth must be bridged not by hollow phrases but by education that is an art, education which is not afraid to find its support in real spiritual-scientific knowledge. That is why I said a few days ago: Where does this art lead to? It leads to experience of the real spiritual. And where goes what the age has gradually developed in such a way that it believes it must be given as a matter of course to the young? Where does that lead? It does not lead to the Spirit but to that which is devoid of Spirit. It is regarded a sin to bring the Spirit into what goes by the name of knowledge and science.
Science does not leave the human being alone even in earliest childhood. It cannot very well be otherwise. For the teacher is so drilled in systematized botany (and many books are entirely given over to systematized botany) that he believes he is committing a sin if he speaks to the children about botany in a way that is not scientific. But what is found in a botanical textbook cannot mean anything to a child before he is ten, and it is not until he is at least eighteen or nineteen that it can acquire any real significance for him.
Such is the situation. Now I have no intention of creating another intellectual theory about education. The aim is to create an artistic atmosphere between the older and the younger. But when this comes about, something happens which must occur if young people are to grow into the world in a healthy way. What the human being of today grows into can be described quite concretely. Between the ninth and tenth years an undefined feeling lives in the soul of every human being who is not a psychopath. There need not necessarily exist either a clear or unclear concept of this. But it begins to live within the human being from his ninth or tenth year. Up till then what is called the astral body alone is concerned with man's life of soul. But from that time onwards the force of the ego nature first begins to stir. It is not formulated in concepts. But in the life of feeling, deep within the soul, there lives unconsciously a question in the heart of the growing human being. This question takes different forms in different people. But a question arises which put in the form of a concept might be expressed as follows: Up to now the astral body has believed in other human beings; now I need something that somebody says to me so that I may believe in him or in others in my environment. Those who as children have most resisted this are those who need it most. Between the ninth and tenth years the human being, to strengthen his ego, begins to be dependent on an older person in whom he can trust — without this trust needing to be drummed in — in whom he can believe with the help of the artistic atmosphere that has been created. And woe betide it if this question which may still be one for many children up to their sixteenth or seventeenth year and sometimes even to the years I mentioned yesterday, the eighteenth or nineteenth — woe betide it if nothing happens to enable this question of the young to be answered by the old so that the young say: I am grateful that I have learnt from the old what I can learn only from the old; what he can tell me, he alone can tell me, for it will be different if I learn it when I am old.
Through this can be created something in an educational way which, applied in the right way, can be of the greatest significance for the epoch of the consciousness soul, which, in fact, in the earliest times of the Patriarchs, was already alive between young and old. Then, every young person said to himself: The old man with his snow-white hair has experiences which can only come when one is as old as he. Before then the necessary organs are not there. Therefore he must tell his experiences to us. We are dependent on what he relates because he alone can relate it. Certainly I shall one day be as old as he. But I shall not experience what he tells for thirty-five or forty years. The times will have progressed by then and I shall experience something different. But what I want to learn is only to be learnt from him.
Here is something in the spiritual realm which may be compared with feeding at the mother's breast. Just as the infant might say: “I too shall one day give the breast to a child, but now it is my mother who must give it to me” — so it is in the spiritual life. In the foundations of the spirit life of the world it is as though a chain were there, reaching from the past over into the future, which must be received by each generation into itself, must be carried onwards, re-forged, perfected. This chain has been broken in the age of intellectualism. This was generally felt among those growing up about the turn of the nineteenth century. Try to feel that you did experience something of the kind, even if at the time you were not able to express it. Try to sense that by feeling this, you were feeling about it in the right way. And if you sense this you will realize the true significance of the youth movement today, the youth movement which has, and must have, a Janus-head, because it is directed towards experience of the spiritual — an experience of the spiritual which carries thought so far that it becomes will, that it becomes the innermost human impulse.
We have been seeking now for will at its abstract pole where it is thought. In the days to follow we will seek it in the deeper spheres of man's being.