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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Curative Education
GA 317

This course of lectures given to doctors and curative teachers contains an astonishing number of fertile suggestions for the treatment of retarded and handicapped children. Beginning with the general principles of curative education and the relationships of the four bodies of the human being, Steiner then discusses particular cases such as: epilepsy, hydrocephalus, infantilism, adenoids, kleptomania, the autistic child, and more. A great variety of remedies and treatments are discussed along with many details of their effects on the different organs. These lectures constitute one of Steiner's major contributions to the treatment of children “in need of special care.”

Translated from shorthand reports, unrevised by the lecturer. Revision made from the German edition of 1965 entitled, Heilpädagogischer Kursus (No. 317 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961).

Translation by Mary Adams.

Lecture I June 25, 1924
Understanding of normal children helps with abnormal and vice versa. Right way to regard symptoms. Abnormal commonly regarded as deviation from the supposed normal. Distinction between soul and spirit-soul. Soul life of thinking, feeling and willing only a reflection of higher permanent soul life which passes through repeated incarnations and is seated in organisation of body. Head system is synthetic. Metabolic-limb system analytic. Higher form of thinking builds the brain. Lower uses it as reflector. Metabolism with separated organs is basis of will. Body changes in seven year periods. In first period body is an inherited model. In second, descending spirit-soul builds new body. In third, child builds a third body in accordance with earth forces. Sex maturity merely a part of earth maturity. In child physical organs and corresponding soul life deeply connected, in adult more independent. Subtle forms of illness. In children most defects lie in will rather than in thinking, whose apparent defects are often those of will. Inherited defects are often a karmic necessity. Man has exact knowledge of human organism in spiritual world. Knowledge of the earth world necessary for that of the body in spiritual world. Why children may choose defective rather than healthy bodies. The liver enables thought to be transformed to action. A man whose philosophical system excluded the will produced a pathological son with no connection to the liver.
Lecture 2 June 26, 1924
Need to go beyond symptoms. A sarcastic newspaper article on Wulffen's view of Schiller. Model body overcome in second period of childhood in accordance with strength of child's ego. Thinking, feeling and willing of the soul are symptoms behind which stands the thinking which builds the brain synthetically and the limbs-metabolism analytically. Thoughts not produced by body but borne by cosmic ether, from which child receives them in building his own ether body. This living thinking forms the brain which becomes mirror for dead thoughts and excretes the nerves. In so-called deranged thoughts the mirror is out of order. Teacher must have reverence for cosmic ether. Child's etheric permeates body with varying intensity. Law that every principle is influenced by one above it. This applies as between teacher and child. How teacher can develop his astral to influence child's etheric. Need for good Judgement. Case described of a genius who in a later incarnation cannot unite his principles and alternates between sanity and madness. Insanity distorted genius. Interest and love can restore true rhythm. To educate backward children is to intervene in karma. The agricultural course and the need for high morality both in the agricultural methods there advocated and in curative education.
Lecture 3 June 27, 1924
Difficulty of helping adults as compared with children. On waking, ego organisation enters directly into physical forces (gravity) and etheric forces (buoyancy). It connects fully with Earth, Water and Air, and partially with Warmth. Astral body especially connected with light (in spiritual science “light” is perception of all senses). This light is etheric. Mechanism of the eye correctly described in modern science. Soul and spirit lay hold of this mechanism and go out from it to surrounding world. In abnormal conditions an organ (e.g. liver) may restrict this activity and prevent consciousness. This happens in epilepsy. If giddiness is associated with epilepsy exercises for balance recommended. For disturbances in circulatory system element of warmth to be stressed. When moral defects are present in epilepsy medicines are necessary. Children are born without morality, which they must learn from their surroundings. An example of an a-moral child. The intellect is rightly acquisitive, but this acquisitiveness should not enter will. “Collecting” and kleptomania.
Lecture 4 June 28, 1924
Congestion of astral and ego forces in an organ connected with consciousness leads to fits. Congestion in an organ which hinders consciousness leads to pain. Conversely, an organ may allow ego and astral forces to flow out too freely, and this leads to hysteria, which is not to be associated with sex in children before puberty. In this condition ego and astral grasp surrounding world too strongly and child becomes hyper-sensitive. The unfolding of will then causes him pain, ideas evoke fear and depression follows. Enuresis connected with this condition. “Soreness of soul” and relation to death process. Anxiety among teachers caused by their training. Need to drive out the anxiety connected with “soreness of soul” by inducing a different anxiety which consolidates the astral body. Bodily activity for epileptics, shocks for the opposite type of child. Alternation of depression and sense of well-being. Teacher must enter into child's inhibitions and give him the right stimulus and encouragement. The best self-education for the teacher.
Lecture 5 June 30, 1924
Differing Inter-relation of the four principles of man described for the head and metabolic systems. Impressions in the head system reach the corresponding member in the metabolic system in becoming memories. Condition under which the metabolic man cannot retain the impression, leading to fixed ideas. Opposite condition when impressions are too strongly absorbed and produce disturbances. These two conditions related to lack or excess of sulphur in the albumen. Educational treatment for boy mentally apathetic but excitable in the will. Barrenness of ideas today and an exercise for developing creative ideas. Educational treatment for a child mentally active but outwardly apathetic. Spiritual understanding of children will save them from the psychoanalyst. Feeble mindedness and mania. Curative Eurythmy for the same.
Lecture 6 July 01, 1924
Case history of a boy in whom the head organization has failed to control the limb system. Reference to the backward child whom Dr. Steiner himself educated. Unskilfulness in the modern age due to lack of religious feeling. Interest must be aroused in the boy in all his activity. Tenacity of language forms. Curative Eurythmy. Three therapeutic methods — taking medicines internally, injections, and bath lotions. Prescription for the boy concerned. Necessity of humour and enthusiasm.
Lecture 7 July 02, 1924
Case history of boy of six. Acting by the mother during pregnancy had weakened astral. Disintegrating forces out of order in both brain and metabolism. Speech exercises and curative Eurythmy. Case history of a boy of eleven. Astral organization cannot properly enter body, perhaps through deficiency in the “model”. This causes fits and other symptoms. Root, leaf and flower of plant affect head, rhythmic, and metabolic systems respectively. This boy's imagination to be stimulated by giving him “unfinished” toys and encouraging him to carve forms. The first boy again. His absorption with the sound R. For him lessons must rise to a climax and then tail off, thus helping astral to enter body.
Lecture 8 July 03, 1924
Drawings of a boy of twelve shown. Next a hydrocephalic boy and his clinical history. Sudden death of the child's father. The boy really still an embryo. Details of mother and child. Child's astral bears features of mother's astral. Ego not developed in last moments of pregnancy. Mother's wish to keep the child in the womb. Father forces weak in embryo. Boy an example of infantilism. Return to first boy, who appears normal but is a kleptomaniac. His ingenuity. His head formation. A charming little girl with blue eyes is a sulphurous child who wets herself by day but not at night. Weak head a result of poor appetite. Limbs are nourished from cosmos through breathing and sense activity. The child's fantasy comes from limbs. This child dreams on falling asleep, not on waking. Treatment of these three children to be given later.
Lecture 9 July 04, 1924
Kleptomaniac boy. Moral judgements belong to earth, not to spiritual world. Astral body of this boy has not penetrated into physical. His interest is in “discovery”. Good and bad mean liking and disliking. Authority of teacher especially needed. Early excessive pleasure in sounds of speech connected with kleptomania. Need to study the place and people where such a child is born. Two examples. Stories to represent a child's nature. The hydrocephalic child. Such children are ultra-sensitive in head and nerves. Quietness and darkness recommended. Gneiss as therapy. Nectar and its effects. Set-backs as part of a cure. Lead to induce decomposition. Lead and radium. A hydrocephalic man whom Steiner knew as a child described. The girl seen previously and her clinical history. Arsenic baths to help astral harmonise with physical and etheric. Mustard and horse-radish compresses recommended. Child to be broken of habit of excitability. Man has developed as far as the ego, but beings of spirit-self are also to be reckoned with, e.g. the Genius of language. Teacher must attend to speech and gesture.
Lecture 10 July 05, 1924
Cases from Lauenstein. Boy of sixteen able to do a subtraction sum but very slow. Reluctance to move his limbs noticed. Head forces not in proper contact with limbs. Should be made aware of skilfulness in hands and legs. Medically, lead may help. Younger children of similar character should touch their feet with their heads. Quick but deep observation to be cultivated by teacher. Epileptic boy of fifteen who had been castrated. Difficult puberty expected. Need to interest him in the world, as is practise of Waldorf Schools at this age. School attainments reported nil. He should paint and express in colour his inner troubles. Medical treatment algae and belladonna. Peculiar relation of algae and mushrooms to air and water. A girl of fifteen described of whom Steiner had said she must have had a bad disturbance in her astral body at three or four (afterwards confirmed). Over-enjoyment of food leads to protruding lips. Loving devotion can help to discover disturbances like these without clairvoyance. Danger of vanity in discovering new faculties. Youth Movement of great significance but marred by lack of devotion to small details. Need for true confidence. A meditation for night and day. Enthusiasm in experience of truth required. Curative Eurythmy and nicotiana juice recommended for girl above. Albinism in two Lauenstein children. Their horoscopes show a special relation of Uranus and Neptune. In albinism organisation resists iron and drives sulphur to periphery with effect on hair and eyes. Is albinism inherited? Geology of locality to be studied. The Saal region characterised.
Lecture 11 July 06, 1924
Girl of ten suffering from loss of memory. Adenoids due to excess of etheric in region of bladder. Defective astral lies behind both symptoms. Strong impressions needed. Child remembers simple folk melodies. Poems with refrain recommended. Medical treatment and curative Eurythmy prescribed. Kleptomaniac boy of sixteen to receive same treatment as previous boy of this type. Fidgety backward boy who has not learned to speak. He has never learned to imitate. Tone Eurythmy recommended and repetition of strongly rhythmical sentences forwards and backwards. Also curative speech Eurythmy and medicines. Use of hot and cold baths. Boy who sees colours everywhere. Ego always pushing at astral from within. Try to change his handwriting and work on his boastfulness. Albinos. Horoscopes characterised. Strong predestination of the will. Nerves and senses unable to endure strong impressions. Medical treatment with radiation of iron. Two questions: Is the mood of those attending the lectures good? Is there a connection between Lauenstein and the Trüper Homes in Hanover? Goethe's Theory of Metamorphosis and Steiner's discovery in a notebook in Weimar. Meditation of point and circle (already given) fundamental to grasp of metamorphosis. Historical antecedents in Jena. Hildebrand reappears on earth as Ernst Haeckel. The latter's speech at Jena on his sixtieth birthday. His humour and influence.
Lecture 12 July 07, 1924
Man today understands human being less than Goethe understood the plant. Goethe's interest in malformation in plants, the study of which can lead to observation of archetypal plant. Spirituality lives in human malformations. Earlier education balanced Luciferic and Ahrimanic aberrations. The virtue of mother's milk. In embryo the good mother forces live in metabolism and have ego content. Later they move higher, retaining astral content. In head they would have only etheric and physical content. Plant becomes more spiritual in ascending from root to flower. Man is plant reversed. Mother's milk related to blossom in plants. Making a map of illness. Old belief that every animal represents an illness. Meditation for the teacher. The right feeling for the ego — the youngest principle. Need to integrate all work within the form of the Anthroposophical Society.