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Curative Education
GA 317

Lecture IV

28 June 1924, Dornach

I would like today to try as it were to round off our introductory studies, so that we may be able, from tomorrow onwards, to pass on to the practical consideration of particular cases; for it is indeed so, that a faithful study of the nature of so-called illnesses of the soul will of itself afford clues for the discovery of their right treatment.

The treatment of adult patients by our methods still presents difficulties. As I explained yesterday, the treatment would require certain conditions for the patients which, so long as things are in the world as they are today, cannot be realised within the work of our Society. For children, on the other hand, a very great deal can be achieved—by education.

It will already be clear to you, dear friends, that in illnesses of the soul we have to do with karmic connections which come to manifestation in the illness. This is, of course, true of other illnesses too, but it is true in a much deeper sense, and more specifically, of illnesses of the soul. We are therefore perfectly justified in asking the question—we do not formulate it in so many words, but it is bound to arise in the unconscious, and we must have a feeling for what lies behind it—the question, namely: how far can we expect to bring about an improvement? Any degree of improvement that we are able to bring about is so much gain for the patient. We must never take refuge in the thought that, owing to the patient's karma, things are bound to take their course in such and such a way. We can say this about the external events; that a person encounters on the path of destiny; but it is never possible to speak so in regard to the free flow within him of his thoughts and feelings and deeds. For here karma can take different roads; karma can even be turned aside, so that the fulfilment comes in some quite other way. Not that it ever fails to come, but karma can be fulfilled in many ways. I have frequently said, when people have raised the question of pre-natal education—meaning education in the embryonic time—that so long as the child does not yet breathe, it is the education and whole manner of life of the mother that is of importance. For the rest, we should not intervene in the work of God. In the embryonic period, it is entirely a matter of how things are with the mother.

We can now usefully carry further the study we began yesterday when we were considering the epileptic disorder—the study, that is, in regard to physical body, ether body, astral body and ego organisation. What conclusion did we come to as regards all those forms of illness in children, that are of an epileptic nature? We found that in these illnesses we have to do with a congestion of astral body and ego organisation in some organ. The surface of the organ does not allow the astral body and ego organisation to make their way out, and they become congested. They are, as it were, jammed in the organ. An astral and ego atmosphere of high pressure arises there. This causes fits. For what is really taking place, when a fit occurs?

Suppose you have an organ with its ether body within it. For each single organ there is a definite relationship that should obtain between physical body and ether body on the one hand and astral body and ego on the other hand. Now I assume of course that all of you are familiar with the fact that in inorganic external Nature, substances combine with one another in certain definite relationships. The descriptions of this that you find in the chemistry books are not correct; nevertheless there are these well-defined relationships. I purposely do not say relationships of weight, nor do I say atomic relationships for there we would come into the realm of theory; nevertheless it is a fact that hydrogen and oxygen, for example, combine in a certain definite relationship. If we have sulphuric acid (H2S04), we have in it hydrogen, sulphur and oxygen in a particular relation to one another. If this relation were to change, then the combination might under certain circumstances give rise to an altogether different substance. We can, for example, if we have a certain relation of hydrogen, sulphur and oxygen that is different from the relation in sulphuric acid, obtain sulphurous acid (H2S03)—obtain, that is to say, a different substance, although composed of the same three original substances.

In a similar way, physical body and ether body stand in a certain definite relation to astral body and ego in the so-called normal human being. (I say “so-called”, because the expression “normal human being” is a purely conventional one, founded on the belief that there is a fixed boundary dividing human beings into normal and abnormal.) This relationship is, within limits, a variable one. But if it exceeds a certain limit of variability—and this again can be individual for the particular human being—we have abnormality, a state of illness; in some organ astral body and ego organisation will be present, but in such a way that they cannot fill it in a right relationship. This will mean, that they are unable to come forth from it, they cannot get out. You will remember, we recognised yesterday the necessity for astral body and ego organisation to come forth again out of an organ, out of the physical body. When the astral body and ego are jammed and squeezed in this way in some organ, then there is too much astral body, too much ego in that organ; there is not the proper amount, there is a surplus—with the result that the organ cannot help feeling the astrality. If the organ has in it the right and proper amount, it does not perceive or feel the astrality, it does not sense the presence of astrality within it. But if there is in an organ an activity of astral body and ego organisation that does not belong there, then the organ is bound to feel it. If something is there in the organ that does not pass over into consciousness, if there is congestion, so that a great amount of astrality and ego organisation is present which does not go over into consciousness, then a fit takes place. The very description I have given you contains an indication of the accompanying phenomenon—namely, disturbance of consciousness. Disturbance of consciousness is bound to occur whenever this congestion happens in an organ that is in any way connected with consciousness.

When such congestion of astral body and ego organisation takes place in an organ that has not direct positive connection with consciousness—for there are organs that are not directly but inversely connected with consciousness, organs that in fact hinder or arrest consciousness—then we have, not loss of consciousness, but pain. Pain is heightened—not lessened—consciousness. A fit as such is not painful, as you know; that is simply a fact. Pain occurs when the congestion takes place, not in an organ that promotes consciousness, but in an organ that retards or arrests consciousness. Here the congestion will lead to enhanced consciousness—to pain. That is the real nature of pain.

We have now arrived at some understanding of all those forms of disorder which, occurring in childhood, lead to epileptic and related illnesses; we shall afterwards have to speak more specifically of these illnesses, but that we can do better when we have individual cases before us.

But now you will easily see that we may also have a quite different state of affairs. Instead of an organ whose surface holds back within the organ the ego organisation and the astral body, we could have an organ whose surface lets too much through, an organ that does not, as it were, keep back sufficient for its own use. Here the astrality, with which is associated also the ego organisation, is not dammed up, but tends, on the contrary, to overflow the organ. The surface becomes, as it were, porous for the astrality and the ego organisation; they “leak” out of the organ. With imaginative consciousness we do actually see rays streaming forth from the organ. In an organ that “leaks” in this way you will always find also the physical correlate of secretion; even where the secretion is not strikingly present, you will find that it can occur and can be detected. We shall have more to say about this later. When a human being is affected with this condition in childhood, the condition can be healed only if we are able to hold fast the astral body and ego organisation—bring them back, as it were, into the organ.

To what forms of illness, to what outwardly perceptible complexes of symptoms does such an inner condition lead? Here we come to a chapter in our study, where the phenomena that show themselves differ according as we are dealing with children or adults. For we come to illnesses that are bound to assume quite special forms for the period in human development between birth and puberty. We come, in effect, to the various kinds of hysteria. Now it is just in the realm where we are concerned with the forms of hysterical disorder, that the deplorable lack of clarity in modern science proclaims itself. Words are coined to name the various forms without any regard for reality. This shows itself at once in the first picture people begin to make of the matter; for in conformity with the modern way of looking at such things they are, of course, bound to bring this hysterical condition into connection somehow or other with the sexual life, and more so in the case of the woman than of the man; and then the forms of illness are named accordingly. The words by which the various forms are designated are of no importance. What is important for us is to make sure whether all the cases that are today reckoned under these names really deserve to be called hysteria, in the way the word is understood, or whether we do not rather need to have recourse to a much wider classification.

Now, as a matter of fact, the child who has not yet attained puberty cannot possibly have the form of disorder from which he is frequently said to suffer. He cannot have hysteria—if it is assumed that hysteria is associated with sex. The child can, however, certainly have in his earliest childhood what I have described as a protrusion of astral body and ego organisation beyond an organ. That he can have, but only that. We must turn a deaf ear to the various descriptions that have been given for the better comprehension of hysterical disorder. All these descriptions are made with reference to one ruling idea; and when an idea is set up in this way and all descriptions are made with reference to it, then these descriptions cannot but be false. Countless descriptions in psychiatry today are false just on this account. You cannot do things that way.

Let us see what it is we really have before us in a young child who is said to be suffering from hysteria. He has difficulty in making contact with the external world. I explained yesterday what this means. He has difficulty in taking hold rightly of the equilibrium that belongs to the fluid element, of the equilibrium that is associated with air, of the differentiations in warmth, in light, in chemical action, and in the universal cosmic life. But instead of grasping all these too weakly, as is the case with the epileptic, the child takes hold too strongly, he puts his astral body and Ego into his whole environment—into weight, into warmth; he seizes hold of all the elements more intensely than is really possible for a so-called normal person. And what is the result?

You have only to remind yourself how it is with you when you have grazed your skin at some spot. Suppose you then grasp hold of some object with the sore surface, where the skin has been rubbed away. You know how it hurts! The reason for your being so sensitive is that at that spot (where the surface is raw) you come up against the external world too vigorously with your inner astral body. Only in moderation are we able to contact the external world with our astral body (and ego organisation). The child who from the first brings his astral body right out—such a child will touch and take hold of things delicately, just as though he had been wounded. Nor shall we be surprised to find in him this hyper-sensitiveness, this hyper-sensitive response to the world around him. A human being in this condition is bound to feel his environment much more keenly, much more intensely; and he will moreover have within him a much more powerful reflection of his environment.

And now ideas will begin also to arise in the child which are painful in themselves. It comes about in the following way. The moment he begins to develop will in any direction, the child has to reach out into something in regard to which he is hyper-sensitive. And then as soon as the will begins to develop, a strange condition arises in the conscious part of him. He becomes super-conscious of the unfolding of the will; in other words, the unfolding of the will causes him pain. Pain is present in nascent state as soon as the will begins to appear, and the child tries to hold back the pain. This happens with great intensity. He makes restless, struggling movements, because he is trying to hold back the pain. Here, you see, I have given you descriptions of inner conditions which find their outlet in life in a clearly recognisable manner. A child wants to do something but feels a pain and cannot do it; instead of the soul-life flowing out into action, he has a terribly powerful inward experience before which he shudders—he shudders at himself. But now it may equally well be a question, not of an outward action, but of a concealed or disguised action in the sphere of thought—for the will lives also in the sphere of thought. When it is a question of an action in the life of thought, when it is ideas that should unfold, it may be that in certain forms of illness these ideas, at the moment they should develop, evoke fear, evoke anxiety and fear and are unable to arise in the mind. Every such idea which, at the moment when it should come to consciousness, evokes fear—every such idea simultaneously causes the life of feeling to develop below it; feelings surge up, and depression invariably sets in. Feelings which are not comprehended, not taken hold of by ideas, give rise to depression; only those feelings are not of a depressing nature, which, as soon as they arise, are immediately apprehended by the life of thought and ideation.

The condition that has been described as arising out of the nature of the case can be seen in the patient; it is there before us as a complex of symptoms. If we have learned to know an abnormality for what it really is, then we shall find that this true and essential nature of the abnormality shows itself to us quite plainly in the patient. And that is how it should be, when we take with us into the practical spheres of life perceptions that have been arrived at in Spiritual Science. When speaking to those who will have to intervene in illnesses of this kind with practical help, descriptions must leave the realm of the abstract entirely and enter right into the realm of living reality, so that the person who listens to the description can see it taking place in the patient before him. And in such a case as we are considering, you do actually see what is happening; in some organ, or nexus of organs, you perceive an outflowing of the astrality or ego organisation.

A phenomenon in a child, which brings the complex of symptoms to expression with somewhat rude plainness, is nocturnal enuresis. It happens quite naturally; but only in the light of what has been explained will you see the phenomenon of bed-wetting in a child in its right perspective. For it has its origin in the condition we have been describing. Whenever you have a case of bed-wetting, you can assume that the astral body is running out, is overflowing. As a matter of fact, secretions and excretions of every kind are always connected with the activity of the astral body and ego organisation. These must therefore be in order, if we want the secretions and excretions to be in order.

Now it is through the physical body that the ego organisation and astral body are connected with the four elements (as they are called), whilst in the etheric body, the ego organisation and astral body are connected more with the higher elements, with a part of the warmth, with the light, with the chemical ether and with the universal life-ether. If now we may borrow from the physical realm a word which can be most expressive when we extend its application to the spiritual (as was continually done in earlier times, when men had instinctive clairvoyance and made no such sharp distinction as we do between physical and spiritual), let us take the word “soreness” and speak of a child having soreness of soul. The child is sore in his soul, and this soreness of soul becomes a dominant idea in him, overriding everything else. If it cannot be made better by means of curative education, then, when the child attains puberty, either the feminine or the masculine form of this soreness will appear. The feminine form will have the character of hysteria, as it was called when there was still a true perception of it. The masculine form will have a different character. We shall be able to speak about that also; we shall find that it assumes quite other forms.

Whenever therefore you have a case where the conditions are the opposite of what are found in epileptic or epileptoid trouble, you will always have to give your attention to the excretions. And you will find you need to observe particularly how the child sweats. Whenever you want to bring something home to the child, to call up ideas in him, then watch carefully to see whether the inner soreness of soul, that is experienced at the origination of an idea, does not express itself in conditions of sweating. There is a certain difficulty here. In the ordinary way, one might imagine that when something like sweating had been stimulated by an inner condition of soul, the sweating would be noticeable immediately afterwards. It may be so in some circumstances but it is not necessarily so. For, the peculiar thing is that the inner anxiety or shrinking, the feeling of tenderness and soreness, does not work as does an outer feeling of soreness; but what arises as the result of it is first of all “digested” in the human being, and will sometimes take then the strangest paths in the interior of the human being, making its appearance not at all quickly but, curiously enough, only after some time, in the course of the next three to three and a half days.

Now, everything that is caused by expansion of astral body and ego organisation, is connected with what meets us in the normal expansion of astral body and ego organisation at death. When it is a question of congestion, the opposite condition from dying sets in. In epileptic phenomena there is the attempt to damn up life within the organism, to imitate, under abnormal circumstances, the process of creeping into the physical organism when the descent to earth takes place. But in the condition of which we are speaking now, we have to do with an imitation of what happens at death. After death the astral body and ego expand at the same time as life flows away; and it is with an imitation of this condition that we are here concerned. When once we are able to feel this, we come to acquire, little by little, something that is important in the observation of such cases. We acquire, namely, an organ of smell for what is present in the child; we smell this outflow. For it can really be smelled, and it belongs to the esoteric side of our work to acquire this perception and to experience how the aura of these children smells differently from the aura of normal children. There is actually something faintly corpse-like in the auric sweatings of these children. Such a fact can help to bring it home to you that we do indeed have here a kind of imitation of death; the accompanying phenomena of “dying” appear, in the sweatings that occur in consequence of this or that symptom. Such phenomena can make their appearance in the course of the next three days, approximating to the period during which the backward review after death takes place, when the astral body and ego organisation are expanding.

Working with this knowledge, you will have to accustom yourselves to imprint in your memory something you have noticed in the connections of mind or will of such a child, and then go on observing him for the next three or four days. This will enable you to discover whether you have before you the form of abnormal soul-life of which I have been speaking. And now we are at last rightly equipped for tackling the question: How am I to treat such a child?

The soul of the child lies open to my view in his every action. His soul flows into everything I see him doing around me. In such a case, where the soul of the child comes streaming towards you, you will realise that the education must more than ever depend upon what the teacher, on his part, is able to bring to the child in his own attitude of soul—in his whole mood, when he is dealing with something in his own surroundings, when he is himself doing something. Suppose you are a very nervy teacher, a person who is continually doing things in such a way as to give a shock to other people. This quality of character or temperament is much more widespread than one imagines; it is exceedingly frequent among teachers. If I may use a frivolous expression—are not most teachers today inclined to be “jumpy”? This state of nerves, where people are so easily put out or upset, simply cannot be avoided, so long as the training of teachers continues to be as it is today, where the student is overloaded with an enormous amount of undigested knowledge. Those who take teachers' training courses (we are concerned here with the training of teachers, so I say nothing about other courses of training!) ought never on any account to have to go in for an examination. The examination in front of them puts them into the frame of mind which leads to this nervy condition.

You will see at once in what a difficult position we are placed when we have to develop our work on the background of present-day conditions! We are at this moment faced with the question of organising the Lauenstein Home for backward children. In view of the government regulations, those who are to take charge would be well advised to take the examination. One of them, at any rate, will have to do so. And yet there is no sense in it; because it is, of course, only another opportunity of becoming nervy. This is a situation which we must face quite dispassionately—unless we want to go through the world blindfold! There is nothing to be done but to take the examination, and after it gradually get rid of the nervous tendencies. That is, however, what most people do not succeed in doing.

Anything in the environment that may cause even a slight shock to the child—if it originates in the unconscious, in the temperament, of the teacher—must be avoided. And do you know why? Because the teacher must also be capable of inducing shock, consciously and deliberately; shocks are often the very best remedy for these conditions! They take effect, however, only if they do not proceed from unconscious habit, but are given consciously and deliberately, the teacher watching intently all the time to observe the effect on the child.

Suppose you have observed this complex of symptoms in a child. You must take the child and get him to write, or read, or paint. Well, and what then? Having first tried to bring him to do as much as he with his particular constitution is capable of doing, then, at a certain point, try to bring the work into a quicker tempo. This will mean that the child is then obliged to let, not the feeling of soreness, but the anxiety connected with the soreness, retire, because you are there in front of him and he cannot help getting into a fresh state of anxiety on that account. The fact that the child is at this moment compelled to come into a new state of anxiety, compelled to enter into an experience that has been artificially promoted and is different from the previous one, brings it about that he strengthens within him, consolidates within him, the ego and astral that are trying to flow out. If you repeat such things systematically with a child, over and over again, a consolidation of ego and astral body will take place. But you must not grow tired! You must do the thing over and over again, preparing your whole teaching in such a way that, as it proceeds, at certain moments it suddenly takes a new turn.

For this, it is, of course, essential that you have the arranging of the teaching in your own hands. If, let us say, every three-quarters of an hour you are obliged to take a different subject, then all your plans will be frustrated. A form of teaching for abnormal children can be built up on the basis of what we have introduced in the Waldorf School—period lessons where, during the main teaching hours, one subject is continued for weeks at a time. For we have, as you know, no set curriculum for the early morning hours between 8 and l0 a.m.; the teacher can take what he chooses, what he sees to be right, in accordance with the principles on which he works. On this basis you can also work out what you must do for abnormal children. You will be able, for instance, to introduce such a method as I was describing, where you are continually changing the teaching, altering the tempo. By such means you will find you can work very strongly indeed upon glandular secretion, and therewith on the consolidation of the astral body in the child. But you will have to practise a certain resignation, for where this kind of treatment has been given and healing has begun, people will not notice that the children have begun to grow healthy. They will notice only that in a particular case there has been in their view no healing, since “becoming normal” is regarded by them as the right and natural thing to expect. What the world calls “becoming normal” is however not at all a thing to be so taken for granted.

So you see, whereas in cases of epileptic or epileptoid trouble it was a question (as I explained yesterday) of adopting rather methods that call for bodily activity, or else methods that work purely in the moral sphere, it is mainly didactic methods that will be needed for combating this other trouble of which I have been speaking today. To give these “shocks”—that is one thing you must do. And the other is as follows.

Observe carefully how the condition alternates between depression on the one hand, and on the other hand a kind of excitement or mania, outbursts of mirth and cheerfulness. What is the cause, when they occur in these forms of illness, of such alternation between states of depression and mania? Owing to the inward soreness, there is a perpetual longing not to let the will come to expression. If the will fails to unfold in the life of ideas, then conditions of depression arise. But when this has been happening for a long time and the child can no longer restrain himself but must give vent, there arises—because the inner soreness is repressed and the child can now flow right out, together with the astral outflow—an enhanced feeling of well-being. So we have in this way alternating conditions of sadness and hilarity, which, when they occur in a child who has also the other symptoms of sweating and bed-wetting, should be carefully watched. For this is where we must intervene as teachers.

Suppose we are faced with depression in the child. The first step will have been taken, the moment the child feels that we are strongly united with him inwardly, that we understand him. But because we are dealing here with a kind of hypertrophy of the life of thought and will, what the child needs is more than that we simply share his sorrow. If we are merely dejected and sorrowful with the child—that is no good to him! We can help him only if we are ourselves competent to cope with the depression we are experiencing with him, and able therefore to give him effective consolation, so that he feels comfort and relief.

A teacher who can understand these things will learn to find for himself the methods he can use. He will know, for example, that a constant idea in such children is that they think they ought to do something, and yet they cannot do it. It is a complicated idea, but one must be able to study it and understand it. They ought to do something and cannot do it; but they have to do it notwithstanding, and then it turns out differently from how they would have liked. Examine the soul-life of such children and try to get hold of the idea in their soul. One could express it in the following words: “I want to do it. I cannot do it. And yet I must do it ... And then it turns out differently from what it ought to be.”

In this complex of ideas the whole of the child's illness is really contained. The child detects in himself the peculiar constitution which consists in the out-flowing of astral body and ego organisation. It manifests as a kind of working outwards-into-the-world of the astral body—“I will do it.” But the child knows that then he comes immediately up against the external world and its reagents. Here is the soreness, here it hurts. The child is forced to perceive: “I cannot do it!” Then he knows that it has to be done, nevertheless. He feels: “I have to reach out with my astral body into the agents of the world. But I have no control over what I take in hand, I am so unskilful with my out-flowing astral body. The thing turns out different, because I am not in full control; the astral body flows out too strongly.”

It is precisely in such children that we can observe, in the most wonderful way, what the sub-consciousness, which reaches up into the life of feeling, is really doing. The sub-conscious is so terribly clever! It stamps into the clearest concepts what is going on in the inner constitution of the child, and in his relationship with others as well as with his environment. All this is, so to speak, disentangled in the child's sub-consciousness. But it does not rise up into consciousness. We have to go in search of it. We have to put forth all our efforts to discover these inner, unconscious complexes of ideas in the child. And now suppose the moment comes when such a complex shows itself to you. You notice it. As a matter of fact, it is there almost every time the child is about to begin something in the way of outer action or even also in the way of thought; it is nearly always there. If you intervene at this moment by gently helping in what the child has to do—doing it with him, feeling, as it were, every movement of his hand in your hand, then the child will have the feeling that the second stage is being corrected for him by what you are doing. Naturally the child is not helped at all if you simply do for him the things he has to do. You must intervene only fictitiously. Say, you get the child to paint. You do not paint yourself; but you sit down by him and move your paint brush, accompanying with your brush each movement he makes with his. The child will have the idea that you are gently guiding him, while thus, with love in your heart, you do with him what he has to do; the fact that you are there beside him in this way—he will feel it like a gentle caress in his soul. Even down to intimate details of this nature, we shall be able to find, if we practise a really careful observation, the right thing to do.

In everything Spiritual Science can give, you will always find that there is at last this summons to the individual human being; he must do his part. People are for ever wanting prescriptions: Do this in this way, do that in that way! But the fact is, anyone who sets out to educate abnormal children will never have finished learning. Each single child will be for him a new problem, a new riddle. And the only way he can succeed in finding what he must do in the individual case, is to let himself be guided by the being in the child. It is not easy, but it is the only real way to work. And this is the reason why it is of such paramount importance that, as teachers, we should take in hand our own self-education.

The best kind of self-education will be found to consist in following the symptoms of illness with interest, so that ever and anon we have the feeling: there is something quite wonderful about that symptom! Not that we should go about the world, proclaiming with a flourish of trumpets that it is the insane who are the really divine human beings. One must not do that—not in our time! We should however be fully awake to the fact that when an abnormal symptom makes its appearance, something is there which, seen spiritually, stands nearer to the Spiritual than the things that are done by man in his healthy organism. Only, this standing-nearer-to-the-Spiritual cannot become active in the healthy organism in the corresponding way. If we have once grasped this, then many intimate truths will reveal themselves to us.

It is, as you see, indeed the case that in every domain diagnosis and pathology lead—of themselves—to a real therapy, provided the diagnosis can succeed in penetrating to the essence of the trouble.