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Curative Education
GA 317

Lecture VII

2 July 1924, Dornach

Before we pass on to another case, I would like to say a little more about the boy we were considering yesterday. For in this boy we can really see a whole series of psychic facts demonstrated. Right at the beginning of his stay with us—indeed, he brought it with him—he would speak of a little sprite that he had on the forefinger of his right hand. He has always, quite consistently, called this little sprite “Bebe Assey”. He carries on conversations with it just as one does with one's fellow beings, speaking to it, talking with it and altogether treating it as a real being. And then I must tell you of another idiosyncrasy. The boy will every now and then suddenly undergo a change, something like the changes we read of in the Werewolf stories. For a considerable time, for instance, he thought he was a lion and went about roaring like a lion. Has he changed into any other kind of animal? His favourite animal, anyway, has been a lion. We have here a sign that the boy's astral body is not in good working order. The astral body should by rights dive right down into the physical body. Instead of this, remnants of it have got left behind. For obviously, this “Bebe Assey” is (to begin with) nothing else than a remnant of the boy's own astral body. Then of course it can happen that this piece of astral body, which is left hanging out loose, becomes ensouled by an objective elemental being from the world outside. Subject and object then merge completely in one another.

What is of main importance for us as educators is the fact that, owing to the organism having become hardened, the astral body does not entirely enter it. Supposing you were to draw your astral body out of your physical body, so that you no longer had it pulsating there in its entirety within your physical body, then that astral body of yours would begin to show itself in all possible metamorphoses, it would begin to assume animal-like shapes. For when the astral body loosens itself from the physical and etheric—it may be still quite near to them, it may perhaps be still half or even three-quarters united with them—but so soon as the astral body becomes to any extent independent of the physical and ether bodies, it begins to manifest in animal form.

All these symptoms are particularly characteristic of the boy's condition, and they go to show how very difficult it will be to establish in him the right and proper harmony between the astral and etheric and physical bodies.

Now we will go on to consider another child. Let me give you the history of the case. The mother says that the child was born four weeks late. In the first four months of pregnancy the mother was on the stage and sometimes had to jump a great deal. Later on, she had a fall. At the age of two and a quarter, the child suffered from a digestive disturbance. Not until two years old was he able to stand. Throughout the first four years he was apathetic, but greedy for food. The first sound he uttered was R, which is most unusual. He even cried in R. Up to the fourth year he could only stammer out isolated words. Then he was given speech exercises; he had to speak sentences forwards and backwards. This was done by my advice. At the same time that he was learning to speak, he began to be restless, to make restless movements. He sleeps little, and does not fall asleep at all easily. In the evening he is very excited and tired, and cannot go to sleep. He takes his food greedily.

You would not be able to tell, from looking at the boy, how old he is. He is now six and three-quarters—not far off seven years old. As you see, he is backward in the development of his whole physical organisation. The head is rather too big, though scarcely enough to be noticeable. Taken altogether, the boy is backward. In the first period of life, from birth to change of teeth, the period during which the physical organisation ought to be particularly active—just in this period the physical organisation has in his case been inactive. Let me remind you of what I said about the physical organisation in the first period of life—that it is the inherited organism. So you see, it is an inherited organism that the child has had in the epoch through which he has already lived. The I (ego) organisation is now beginning to come forward, but it lacks the ability to bring about much deviation from the first physical organism. For it is the ether body that is active now, and the boy's ether body has adapted itself extraordinarily closely to the model body of the first seven years. The boy is behind-hand also with the change of teeth; that has not yet begun. So that there too we have to note a retardation of development.

Before going any further let us see that we are quite clear about the objective facts of the case. We find in this boy a relatively very weak astral body and a weak ego organization, which cannot make headway against the inherited organism. And we have also to note that this inherited organism has itself remained small. Now there is room for doubt whether the information given us is correct—for we are not at all obliged to assume that it was correct!—the information namely, that the child was born four weeks late. If this was so, then it was owing to the child's being too small; the child will have remained an embryo longer than usual because it was too small, because at the end of the ten lunar months it was not fully developed.

And now we have to ask ourselves the question: how has it come about that the child is in this condition? The explanation is given to us in the fact that the mother was acting on the stage during the first four months of pregnancy. She was a member of an independent troupe, who worked enthusiastically, and there can be no doubt that she was following her calling with enthusiasm and devotion. This meant that a considerable strain was put upon the astral body of the mother, which actually affected the form of the astral body of the child and turned its activity in a direction where it cannot do much in the way of growth—in the direction, namely, of intellectual capability. And so the process of intellectualisation begins in this boy even before birth, with the configuration that was given to the astral body during the embryonic period. We have then to do with a case of retardation, the causes of which lie right back in the embryonic period.

And now we have to consider how we are to treat a child of this kind who is altogether behind-hand in his development. As you will see for yourselves, the body has remained quite powerless. Throughout his earliest years, the boy was apathetic and developed nothing but the purely animal instincts of the physical organism. He was greedy, and late in learning to speak. And then, as I told you, the very first sound he learned to say was R. (Turning to the boy) Say “Robert runs!” (The boy says it in a deep, growling voice.) He is, you see, completely at home in the sound R. Do not forget that in a symptom like this a whole life can be expressed! Think of the mother during pregnancy. Think how she was continually in movement on the stage. And then try to enter into the being and character of R, which we have described in the Eurythmy lectures as the sound that has to do with turning and you will discern in the boy's speech a continuation of the play-acting of his mother. This one fact is of such overwhelming significance as to throw all others into the background. In this one fact opportunity is given us to acquire an extraordinarily deep insight into connections that need to be grasped and understood if we want to be clear in our minds about the condition of this child.

Let me remind you that what ought to happen during the first years of life is that the metabolism-and-limbs system of man is ordered and regulated by a strong astral body and ego. In this child the astral body is weak, and fails in its task; hence we find in him two symptoms to which we must give careful attention.

I do not know whether all of you were present at the lectures where I explained the true significance of the human brain.1On 2nd March, 1924. I spoke of how the entire human organisation—all that we carry within us—is divided into upbuilding processes and breaking-down processes. With the latter are always connected products of excretion, for these are simply relics or traces that have been left behind by the process of disintegration. Let us look, first, at the boy's head. In the head a process of disintegration, a process of breaking down, is taking place. As you know, the intellectual activity of the soul, the whole thought-and-feeling activity of the soul, in so far as it makes use of the head as its organ of support, originates in a disintegration process. In this boy, the process of disintegration, having to be carried out by a weak astral body, is itself irregular. Waste products are not carried away with regularity, they remain; moreover, they do not harden as much as they should. We have not here to do with an actual case of hydrocephalus, but you see before you a head that holds within it too soft a brain. And now turn your attention to the reflected image of the brain—the content, that is, of the intestines. This too cannot be in order, and will not be. The activity of the intestines cannot ever have been in good order. Irregular brain activity and irregular intestinal activity go parallel with one another, especially in a child. This does not mean that you can set out with the resolve: I will see to it that the intestinal activity becomes regular—and imagine that thereby you will bring order into the activity of the brain. If you want to adjust the latter and bring it also into good harmony, you will have to work with medical knowledge.

Then there is a certain impurity in the relation and behaviour of the soul to the outside world. Try asking the boy to do something which he quite well understands; he will just grin a little, he won't meet what you say with openness and candour.

I shall have more to say afterwards about this case. I would like now only to add, in regard to the speech exercises that were begun with him at four years of age, that whenever speech exercises are done in this way, first forwards and then backwards, they help to regulate the connection of ether body with astral body. The exercises that were given to the boy at that time had this end definitely in view: to induce a harmonious co-operation of astral and ether bodies.

What the child needs is to be brought to feel and perceive his own physical organism. For as he does so, forces of growth will begin at the same time to insinuate themselves, as it were, into this physical organism. We must therefore choose for him exercises in Curative Eurythmy, which bring it about that he “discovers” his own physical organism. E (Eh, as in gate) is particularly helpful here, for in Eh man touches himself in his own organism; also U (as in rune) and O. O is chosen for its regulating influence. U and Eh are chosen for the purpose of helping the child to become aware of himself in himself. In his case, everything that makes for the realisation and apprehension of one's own organism can be of help. What else have we been doing with him besides Curative Eurythmy and Speech exercises? He has painting with the group. He must of course have painting; he is just about reaching school age. Progress with this child may be slow but it will be sure.

(The next child is brought in.)

I got to know this boy on a Journey. A rather difficult child! He is eleven years old. And now let me tell you where the trouble lies. The boy is an only child. Birth is reported to have been normal, although the mother is said to have lived unwisely during pregnancy; it seems she even drank a good deal. Development is said to have taken its course in the first three years without any marked individual feature. We will say more about that later. As a matter of fact, it cannot have been quite as represented, for at three years old the child fell suddenly ill, with high fever, and had convulsions during the night, the attack lasting only a short time. Such attacks became then for a while very frequent, coming on as a rule at night; later they grew much less frequent, occurring on an average once in three months. The attacks have, as you see, the characteristic symptoms of convulsions, that we spoke of earlier. Characteristically also, they began in the fourth year. Before that, the organism had not developed so far as to push back the astral organisation; the point had not been reached when the outside coverings—the walls—of certain organs began to repel the astral organisation. During the convulsions there is complete unconsciousness. This too, we saw, is quite usual. The child has violent spasms of twitching, particularly over the left half of the body; the eyes are also turned to the left. Afterwards he is very exhausted, and vomiting often occurs.

This means, you see, that by the time the child reached the third year, the walls of the organs were beginning to hold back the astral organisation, not allowing it to get through. Hence the convulsions. And with the convulsions—for the reason I explained to you—is associated loss of consciousness. But now in his case the astral organisation does succeed after a time in breaking through the walls of the organs to some extent. The child, unconsciously or semi-consciously, strains every effort to bring this about, and this struggle on his part lasts exactly as long as the attack. Then he has won through; but there is in consequence a certain emptiness in the organism in comparison with the previous condition, and this anomaly finds expression in the violent twitchings and spasms.

Now, as you know, the left half of the body of man is rather weaker than the right. When, the attack being over, the astral body is wanting to get free, it will naturally try to escape in the direction of the weaker part of the organism—that is, it will seek escape to the left. This finds expression also in the fact that the child turns his eyes to the left.

According to the diagnosis of doctors in Jena, the boy had encephalitis—a year ago, in January, was it? At that time, he had severe convulsions following on digestive disturbance and fever. So that here we have, preceded by stomach trouble, a major fit. Two weeks after the child was better again, paralysis of the left arm and leg showed itself—a most characteristic symptom, and easily explained. For, you see, what happens is this. The child goes on wanting to push the astral body through; but each time he puts forth these efforts and succeeds, he becomes aware afterwards of an emptiness behind the place where he succeeded in pushing the astral body through. Then he gets twitchings, and lets his astral body escape—to the left.

A process is taking place here which it is important to observe. Anything that enters into the organisation from without—that is to say, that has not been duly prepared by the organisation itself, but has forced its way in—is poison for the human organism. Suppose the astral organisation has suffered a displacement from right to left, and this displacement is continued—as it may well be, when it is a serious one—into the etheric organism, with the result that the physical organism also becomes involved. Then a slight infiltration of poison is set up towards the left side of the body, and this manifests outwardly in the symptom of paralysis. The child was given massage, and after three months the paralysis showed signs of improvement. The affected part was left a little weak, as one can still observe. (Turning to the boy and holding out an object) Take hold of it like this! As you see, he is clumsy with the left arm.

Since January 1923, the fits have essentially changed in character. They last now only a very short time, coming on as a rule nine hours after falling asleep. Suddenly the child will cry out, wake up, and stand up on his feet. At such moments you can observe also that extreme flatulence is present—a characteristic symptom. At the present time the boy has a fit nearly every week, but there is no longer the disturbance of consciousness. Neither do the twitchings occur. The fits pass and he jumps up all right. In 1924 a puncture was made in the corpus callosum, but with no result. The latest thing we have tried is treatment with calcium lactate.

The child is late in going to sleep and often talks in his sleep, especially if he has had a late meal. Appetite is good.

He has no liking for fruit or vegetables or anything acid, but shows a marked preference for meat. Digestion is at present fairly good; earlier on, he was inclined to be constipated and was also very quickly tired. The boy has a lively fantasy. He is friendly with everyone, but has no special affection for anyone in particular, not even for his parents. He is quick-tempered, and loves animals and plants. And we must not omit to note a trait that is strikingly characteristic of his condition, namely that he is a great chatterbox! That is part of the illness. It is for him a real need; he simply must chatter.

I think the very behaviour of the boy will have revealed to you the facts of his condition; you cannot help seeing them all simply by looking at him. There is however another feature of the case to which I must call your attention.

The child is now at the stage where the second body has already been developed for a long time, for he is eleven years old; but the condition in which we find him suggests that the model organism had itself become decadent, owing to the fact that the mother did not live wisely and carefully during the time of pregnancy, but drank a good deal. The whole manner and condition of the child now, makes it highly probable that the first body, the model body, was exceedingly irregular. And we are strongly inclined to the view that, although no such information has been given us, the birth may have occurred too soon, perhaps early by as much as two weeks—the mother failing to maintain her own organism in a condition that would render it a right and fit home for the embryo, which requires of course plenty of room to develop on all sides. This is frequently the case when alcohol is taken during pregnancy.

It is stated in the report given us that development in the first three years was without any peculiar features or symptoms. What seems to me more probable is that there has not been the readiness or ability to watch for more delicate deviations and irregularities. The astral (and the ego) organisation have been hanging out about the neck or mouth, and it is clear from this that the child must at any rate have felt, comparatively early, a need to speak. He must always have found difficulty in diving down into the ether and physical bodies. A certain nervous excitement, that manifests externally and that tends to hold back the principle of imitation and to allow more play to the inner organic impulses in evolution, must have already been present in the first three years.

And then we have, manifesting especially as the age of three-and-a-half approaches—the age that is halfway through the first seven-year epoch—the reactions that naturally arise when during the first seven years the ego and astral body are unable to work as they should from the direction of the head organisation. These organs here, which were at that time slowly and gradually coming into being—for they are finished and complete at seven years of age—turn out to be stunted in their growth. Why should they be so? The organs are stunted because the child did not finish the embryo period. They would have been more complete and more perfectly shaped if the child had gone through the whole embryo period. As it was, he had no fully developed model. When therefore, at the important age of three-and-a-half, the organs are beginning to take shape, the model comes short, and a condition develops where the astral body wants to penetrate the whole organisation and make its way through the walls of the organs, but is unable to get through; and there follow all the symptoms of which we have spoken. That in such a case the stomach and intestines must also inevitably become disordered ought not to be difficult to understand. For if the astral body does not succeed in bringing about the right streamings from the head to the limbs, then the intestines and the whole digestive organisation must necessarily remain weak. The ego organisation is not properly in them.

Consider now for a moment this weak digestive organisation—that is to say, a digestion that is weak in its forces, not having the ego organisation properly in it. Such a digestive system simply cannot tolerate just the particular kind of food that should find its specific field of activity in the digestive organisation. Imagine you have before you the plant.

Where in man does the root of the plant have its field of activity? In the head organisation; and the foliage in the rhythmic system; and all that develops above in the way of fruit or flower works in the intestines, in the whole digestive organisation. There is however no affinity between such a weakly developed digestive organisation and these upper parts of the plant. On the other hand, the boy's astral body, which is lying freely, as it were, in the whole belly without making its way right into the digestive organisation, has a hankering for meat. (The astral body of man is, you know, by its very nature strongly attracted to meat). We saw also that the boy shows a dislike of anything acid or sour. That again is understandable. Acid substances work with particular force upon the astral body. If the latter has dived down properly into the organism, then it unloads, as it were, upon the physical organism the acid influences it has received. But if it has not entered rightly into the physical organism, then this astral body is left painfully sensitive to the acid influences that reach it.

It is from observations such as these that you can obtain a true picture of how the organism works. When there is an irregularity of the kind I have described, one need not be at all surprised when stomach disorders occur. Stomach disorder is only a symptom of the presence in the metabolism of this irregularity. The illness consists entirely in the irregularity; the symptoms are occasioned by it, and there is naturally always the possibility that the onset of a fit should be preceded by stomach disturbance.

Since January 1923, there has, as I said, been an important change in the character of the fits. These last now only a short time, coming on about nine hours after the boy has fallen asleep. He suddenly starts screaming and crying, and wakes up. There is also extreme flatulence in the bowels. At present a fit occurs about once a week. With such a state of affairs, the outlook seems at first distinctly serious; it has nevertheless hopeful features. For there are signs of recovery, there are signs that a natural betterment is taking place. We have in fact reached a kind of crisis, that is expressing itself inwardly in an explosive manner; it takes its course slowly, but we could not expect anything else.

Why do the fits occur nine hours after falling asleep? Because that is the time when the astral body is beginning to set out on its return journey into the physical body. It still has difficulty in returning, it cannot make its way in; it keeps diving down, and then being driven back again. You can well imagine how all the symptoms follow from this—the starting up and the screaming. When however the astral body is once inside the whole physical organism, it is an easier matter for it to remain there throughout the day. The extreme flatulence arises from the fact that the astral body is not completely membered into the bowels organisation. To the relative independence and detachment of the astral body are due also the characteristic features of the boy's soul life—his continuous chattering, his excitability, his lively fantasy. And now the question is: what are we to do in such a case?

Important before all else is to remove from the astral body—which works powerfully and independently—all possibility of its developing forces that hinder it in the process of adaptation to ether body and physical body. When you have the child standing before you as you did today, you can see at once the first thing that needs to be done—his toy must be taken from him. That toy is a veritable poison for his soul. What he needs above all, is to have his imagination stimulated—as it can be only when he has to handle something that is not already complete and perfect. He must be got to paint as much as possible, but especially also to fashion forms, to carve. He should simply be given a piece of wood, and encouraged to “form” it in the shape of a human being. Here then will be our point of attack, as it were, in the educational sense. We must avoid bringing him in contact with things that are finished and perfect, and have it as our aim that he shall be constantly making things himself. This will bring his limbs into movement. We have not yet hit upon quite the right ways to achieve this; that still needs to be done.

A peculiar feature of this boy's condition is that one cannot say it is some particular organ which does not let the astral body through; the totality of the organs is formed and developed in such a way that they all equally hold back the astral body. Hence the slight tendency to deformity. And since, when the astral body does succeed in diving down, it is by the left side that it manages to escape, the danger is always present that symptoms of paralysis will show themselves on the left side. At his age they do not matter very much—as long as they are slight. They could, however, lead on to a more severe paralysis.

It would be good if along with foods for which he has a liking, the boy could be given sour fruit in exceedingly small quantities. (You will remember, we explained how his very constitution obliges him to have a strong dislike of all acid foods.) If this is done, then, while grabbing at the food he likes, he will take also with it your little dose of acid. All you have to do, before you give him some meat, is to pour on to the plate a small quantity of some dish that contains acid fruit juice. In this way you will find you can accustom him to eating very small helpings of stewed fruit with his meat.

And then it will be important that he should begin—or continue—to receive regular teaching on a right and sensible method, such as the method followed in the Waldorf School—irrespective of whether he makes rapid progress or not. We shall give him Eurythmy exercises, not limiting ourselves to particular sounds, but doing with him whatever brings the limbs especially into movement. In this way we can strengthen the limbs in their efforts to give form to the astral body.

In his present condition the boy himself helps in his own progress.

On the other hand, a child like the one we were considering earlier is extraordinarily difficult to deal with, the reason being that you have there before you a kind of little demon. What you must realise is that while the child remains small in his physical body, his astral body is all the time growing in inverse proportion. It does not adapt itself to the physical organism, but is as big as the latter is small. Now as a matter of fact, the child is, without knowing it, well on the way to become an actor in his astral body. Supposing you decide to appoint, instead of one teacher, a whole staff of teachers to train actors for speaking on the stage, assigning a particular task to each member of the college—then, if you were to develop him in a one-sided way, this squat little fellow could quite well be trained to teach the actors the sound R and related sounds. In spite of his apparent quietness and calm, the child is in reality very excited and agitated. You have before you, as I said, a kind of demonic being. An absolutely real super-sensible being is present in this boy. What you had sitting there in front of you was just a dwarfish little fellow, a mere Tom Thumb. But the actor is present there too all the time in full force, turning all kinds of somersaults etc., while the boy is perhaps sauntering along in an indolent manner.

You have here, you see, to do with a child who is most difficult of access. Whatever you attempt with the physical body meets with no response there, but only from the mercurial astral body—with the exception of Curative Eurythmy and speech exercises. These do contact the physical body and bring the intellect into activity; but it is no good trying to approach the child via the physical body by any other means. Indeed, it is quite possible you may fare like the “sorcerer's apprentice” who split the broomstick which would not behave and then found he had two broomsticks to deal with instead of one. For if you should ever succeed in making some sort of approach via the physical body—apart from Curative Eurythmy and Speech exercises—it may easily happen that through your intervention the constant restlessness is actually aggravated. That, then, will be your main problem in connection with this boy—that you are dealing all the time with an extraordinarily mobile and restless astral body.

How must we proceed, if we want to educate the boy? We must arrange our lessons so as to achieve a reversal of what we very frequently set out to achieve. Very often, as you know, we attach particular importance to making the course of the lesson lead up gradually to a dramatic climax. But for the boy we are considering, this gradual enhancement of interest must then at once be followed by a decline of interest. The dramatic quality must ebb away and subside. And this principle must be observed throughout all the teaching we undertake with him. We must have the patience and perseverance to carry it through. First, we must bring it about that the boy's attention is thoroughly roused. He, of course, has no knowledge at all of what is going on in his astral body; but anything that has the quality of true fantasy and imagination will help you to make your approach to this astral organism. You must invent the most delightful stories, full of vivacity and movement. When you are with this child, you must really become a poet, rich in imagination. And then, having gradually worked your story up to a high pitch of dramatic movement, and having succeeded at last in gaining entrance into the sub-conscious astral organisation—then you must, as it were, reverse and try to tone it all down, try to push back the stream of interest. Perhaps you hold up to ridicule some incident in the story, so that the charm of the thing is a little spoiled. Let us say, you begin to poke fun at the one who is the hero of the story and with whom the child has been enraptured. You could say: This great hero, you know, whenever he sets out to do his valiant deeds, he cannot begin until he has first blown his nose! With some such remark or other, you raise a smile at the person or thing that has aroused such enthusiasm and interest. And you go on in this way, until at last the whole thing evaporates like a soap-bubble. But beware that you do not at the same time spoil the child's enjoyment; you must see to it that the anticlimax, the discovery of how it all vanishes like a soap bubble, is also followed with pleasure and delight. And now while this is taking place, while you are undoing, as it were, the inner process which you yourself first stimulated the child's astral body is all the time gradually adapting itself to the physical body.

If you have the patience to undertake this kind of education with the child—first becoming a poet, and then again turning round on yourself and pulling your poetry to pieces with your irony until no shred of it remains—if you can have the patience to do this, you will manage to bring it about that by his ninth or tenth year the child will begin to grow in quite a natural manner. And that would be a great achievement. The super-fantastic organism that was created long ago during embryonic development would then be changed back again. The symptoms now present would gradually disappear in the course of your treatment. On the other hand, the very least result of all will be obtained by making direct attack on the symptoms themselves. To set about trying to break the child of his R would be as hopeless as it was once with a certain actor in Weimar—although he was no child!—who had a habit of emphasising each single syllable in every word. This actor would never say “Fréunderl” as we say it, but adhered strictly to the principle of giving equal emphasis to both syllables. Thus he used to say “Fréundérl”, “Kópfchén”, “Kíndléin”.2Comparable English words would be friendship kitten, darling. It is impossible to combat symptoms of this kind by direct attack. Any attempt to break our boy of saying and living in R would be utterly futile. It would only leave him empty and lazy and indolent. If, on the other hand, you carry out the measures I have described, the predilection for R will disappear of itself.