18 July 1924, Arnheim
In this course of lectures I want in the first place to speak about the way in which the art of education can be furthered and enriched by an understanding of man. I shall therefore approach the subject in the way I indicated in my introductory lecture, when I tried to show how anthroposophy can be a practical help in gaining a true knowledge of man, not merely a knowledge of the child, but a knowledge of the whole human being. I showed how anthroposophy, just because it has an all-embracing knowledge of the whole human being — that is to say a knowledge of the whole of human life from birth to death, in so far as this takes place on earth — how just because of this it can point out in a right way what is essential for the education and instruction of the child.
It is very easy to think that a child can be educated and taught if one observes only what takes place in childhood and youth; but this is not enough. On the contrary, just as with the plant, if you introduce some substance into the growing shoot its effect will be shown in the blossom or the fruit, so it is with human life. The effect of what is implanted into the child in his earliest years, or is drawn out of him during those years, will sometimes appear in the latest years of life; and often it is not realised that, when at about the age of 50 someone develops an illness or infirmity, the cause lies in a wrong education or a wrong method of teaching in the 7th or 8th year. What one usually does today is to study the child — even if this is done in a less external way than I described yesterday — in order to discover how best to help him. This is not enough. So today I should like to lay certain foundations, on the basis of which I shall proceed to show how the whole of human life can be observed by means of spiritual science.
I said yesterday that man should be observed as a being consisting of body, soul and spirit, and in yesterday's public lecture I gave some indication of how it is the super-sensible in man, the higher man within man, that is enduring, that continues from birth until death, while the substances of the external physical body are always changing. It is therefore essential to learn to know human life in such a way that one perceives what is taking place on earth as a development of the pre-earthly life. We have not only those soul qualities within us that had their beginning at birth or at conception, but we bear within us pre-earthly qualities of soul, indeed, we bear within us the results of past earthly lives. All this lives and works and weaves within us, and during earthly life we have to prepare what will then pass through the gate of death and live again after death beyond the earth, in the world of soul and spirit. We must therefore understand how the super-earthly works into earthly life, for it is also present between birth and death. It works, only in a hidden way, in what is of a bodily nature, and one does not understand the body if one has no understanding of the spiritual forces active within it.
Let us now proceed to study further what I have just indicated. We can do so by taking concrete examples. An approach to the knowledge of man is contained in anthroposophical literature, for instance in my book Theosophy, in An Outline Of Occult Science or in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. Let us start from what can lead to a real, concrete knowledge of man by taking as a foundation what anthroposophy has to say in general about man and the world. There are two examples which I should like to put before you, two personalities who are certainly well known to you all. I choose them because for many years I made an intensive study of both of them. I am taking two men of genius; later on we shall come down to less gifted personalities. We shall then see that anthroposophy does not only speak in a general, abstract way, but is able to penetrate deeply into real human beings and is able to get to know them in such a way that knowledge of man is shown to be something which has reality in practical life. In choosing these two examples, Goethe and Schiller, and so making an indirect approach, I hope to show how a knowledge of man is acquired under the influence of Spiritual Science.
Let us look at Goethe and Schiller from an outward point of view, as they appeared during the course of their lives, but let us in each case study the whole personality. In Goethe we have an individuality who entered life in a remarkable way. He was born black, or rather dark blue. This shows how extraordinarily difficult it was for his soul-spiritual being to enter into physical incarnation. But once this had taken place, once Goethe had overcome the resistance of this physical body, he was entirely within it. On the one hand it is hard to imagine a more healthy nature than Goethe had as a boy. He was amazingly healthy. He was so healthy that his teachers found him quite difficult; but children who give no trouble are seldom those who enjoy the best health in later life. On the other hand, children who are rather a nuisance to their teachers are those who accomplish more in later life because they have more active, energetic natures. The understanding teacher will therefore be quite glad when the children keep a sharp eye on him. Goethe from his earliest childhood was very much inclined to do this, even in the literal sense of the word. He peeped at the fingers of someone playing the piano and then named one finger “Thumbkin,” another “Pointerkin,” and so on. But it was not only in this sense that he kept a sharp eye on his teachers. Even in his boyhood he was bright and wide-awake; and this at times gave them trouble. Later on in Leipzig Goethe went through a severe illness, but here we must bear in mind that certain hard experiences and some sowing of wild oats were necessary in order to bring about a lowering of his health to the point at which he could be attacked by the illness which he suffered at Leipzig. After this illness we see that Goethe throughout this whole life is a man of robust health, but one who possesses at the same time an extraordinary sensitivity. He reacts strongly to impressions of all kinds, but does not allow them to take hold of him and enter deeply into his organism. He does not suffer from heart trouble when he is deeply moved by some experience, but he feels any such experience intensely; and this sensitivity of soul goes with him throughout life. He suffers, but his suffering does not find expression in physical illness. This shows that his bodily health was exceptionally sound. Moreover, Goethe felt called upon to exercise restraint in his way of looking at things. He did not sink into a sort of hazy mysticism and say, as is so often said: “O, it is not a question of paying heed to the external physical form; that is of small importance. We must turn our gaze to what is spiritual!” On the contrary, to a man with Goethe's healthy outlook the spiritual and the physical are one. And he alone can understand such a personality who is able to behold the spiritual through the image of the physical.
Goethe was tall when he sat, and short when he stood. When he stood you could see that he had short legs. [The German has the word SitzgrÃ¶sse for this condition.] This is an especially important characteristic for the observer who is able to regard man as a whole. Why had Goethe short legs? Short legs are the cause of a certain kind of walk. Goethe took short steps because the upper part of his body was heavy — heavy and long — and he placed his foot firmly on the ground. As teachers we must observe such things, so that we can study them in the children. Why is it that a person has short legs and a particularly big upper part of the body? It is the outward sign that such a person is able to bring to harmonious expression in the present earth life what he experienced in a previous life on earth. In this respect also Goethe was extraordinarily harmonious, for right into extreme old age he was able to develop everything that lay in his karma. Indeed he lived to be so old because he was able to bring to fruition the potential gifts with which karma had endowed him. After Goethe had left the physical body, this body was still so beautiful that all who saw him in death were fulfilled with wonder. One has the impression that Goethe had experienced to the full his karmic potentialities; now nothing more is left, and he must begin afresh when again he enters into an earthly body under completely new conditions. All this is expressed in the particular formation of such a body as Goethe's, for the cause of what man brings with him as predisposition from an earlier incarnation is revealed for the most part in the formation of the head. Now Goethe from his youth up had a wonderfully beautiful Apollo head, from which only harmonious forces streamed down into his physical body. This body, however, burdened by the weight of its upper part and with too short legs was the cause of his special kind of walk which lasted throughout his life. The whole man was a wonderfully harmonious expression of karmic predisposition and karmic fulfilment. Every detail of Goethe's life illustrates this.
Such a personality, standing so harmoniously in life and becoming so old, must inevitably have outstanding experiences in his middle years. Goethe was born in 1749 and he died in 1832, so he lived to be 83 years old. He reached middle age, therefore, at about his 41st year in 1790. If we take these years between 1790 and 1800 we have the middle decade of his life. In this decade, before 1800, Goethe did indeed experience the most important events of his life. Before this time he was not able to bring his philosophical and scientific ideas, important as they were, to any very definite formulation. The Metamorphosis of the Plants was first published in 1790; everything connected with it belongs to this decade 1790-1800. In 1790 Goethe was so far from completing his Faust that he brought it out as a Fragment; he had no idea then that he would ever finish it. It was in this decade that under the influence of his friendship with Schiller he conceived the bold idea of continuing his Faust. The great scenes, the Prologue in Heaven among others, belong to this period. So in Goethe we have to do with an exceptionally harmonious life; with a life moreover that runs its quiet course, undisturbed by inner conflict, devoted freely and contemplatively to the outer world.
As a contrast let us look at the life of Schiller. From the outset Schiller is placed into a situation in life which shows a continual disharmony between his life of soul and spirit and his physical body. His head completely lacks the harmonious formation which we find in Goethe. He is even ugly, ugly in a way that does not hide his gifts, but nevertheless ugly. In spite of this a strong personality is shown in the way he holds himself, and this comes to expression in his features also, particularly in the formation of the nose. Schiller is not long-bodied; he has long legs. On the other hand everything that lies between the head and the limbs, in the region of the circulation and breathing is in his case definitely sick, poorly developed from birth, and he suffers throughout his life from cramps. To begin with there are long periods between the attacks, but later they become almost incessant. They become indeed so severe that he is unable to accept any invitation to a meal; but has to make it a condition — as for instance on one occasion when coming to Berlin — that he is invited for the whole day, so that he may be able to choose a time free from such pains. The cause of all this is an imperfect development of the circulatory and breathing systems.
The question therefore arises: What lies karmically, coming from a previous earthly life, in the case of a man who has to suffer in this way from cramping pains? Such pains, when they gain a hold in human life, point quite directly to a man's karma. If, with a sense of earnest scientific responsibility, one attempts to investigate these cramp phenomena from the standpoint of spiritual science, one always finds a definite karmic cause underlying them, the results of deeds, thoughts and feelings coming from an earlier life on earth. Now we have the man before us, and one of two things can happen. Either everything goes as harmoniously as with Goethe, so that one says to oneself: Here we have to do with Karma; here everything appears as the result of Karma. Or the opposite can also happen. Through special conditions which arise when a man descends out of the spiritual world into the physical, he comes into a situation in which he is not able fully to work through the burden of his karma.
Man comes down from the spiritual world with definite karmic predispositions; he bears these within him. Let us assume that A in the diagram represents a place, a definite point of time in the life of a man when he should be able in some way to realise, to fulfil his karma, but for some reason this does not happen. Then the fulfilment of his karma is interrupted and a certain time must pass when, as it were, his karma makes a pause; it has to be postponed until the next life on earth. And so it goes on. Again, at B there comes a place when he should be able to fulfil something of his karma; but once more he has to pause and again postpone this part of his karma until his next incarnation. Now when someone is obliged to interrupt his karma in this way pains of a cramping nature always make their appearance in the course of life. Such a person is unable fully to fashion and shape into his life what he always bears within him. Here we have something which shows the true character of spiritual science. It does not indulge in fantasy, neither does it talk in vague, general terms about the four members of man's being; physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego. On the contrary, it penetrates into real life, and is able to point out where the real spiritual causes lie for certain external occurrences. It knows how man represents himself in outer life. This knowledge is what true spiritual science must be able to achieve.
I was now faced with the question: In a life such as Schiller's, how does karma work as the shaper of the whole of life if, as in his case, conditions are such that karma cannot properly operate, so that he has to make continual efforts to achieve what he has the will to achieve? For Goethe it was really comparatively easy to complete his great works. For Schiller the act of creation is always very difficult. He has, as it were, to attack his karma, and the way in which he goes to the attack will only show its results in the following earthly life. So one day I had to put to myself the following question: What is the connection between such a life as Schiller's and the more general conditions of life? If one sets about answering such a question in a superficial way nothing of any significance emerges, even with the help of the investigations of spiritual science. Here one may not spin a web of fantasy; one must observe. Nevertheless if one approaches straight away the first object that presents itself for observation, one will somehow go off on a side track. So I considered the question in the following way: How does a life take its course when karmic hindrances or other pre-earthly conditions are present?
I then proceeded to study certain individuals in whom something of this kind had already happened, and I will now give such an example. I could give many similar examples, but I will take one which I can describe quite exactly. I had an acquaintance, a personality whom I knew very well indeed in his present earthly life. I was able to establish that there were no hindrances in his life connected with the fulfilment of karma, but there were hindrances resulting from what had taken place in his existence between death and a new birth, that is in his super-sensible life between the last earthly life and the one in which I learned to know him. So in this case there were not, as with Schiller, hindrances preventing the fulfilment of karma, but hindrances in the way of bringing down into the physical body what he had experienced between death and a new birth in the super-sensible world. In observing this man one could see that he had experienced much of real significance between death and a new birth, but was not able to give expression to this in life. He had entered into karmic relationships with other people and had incarnated at a time when it was not possible fully to realise on earth what he had, as it were, piled up as the content of his inner soul experience between death and conception. And what were the physical manifestations which appeared as the result of his not being able to realise what had been present in him in the super-sensible world? These showed themselves through the fact that this personality was a stutterer; he had an impediment in his speech. And if one now takes a further step and investigates the causes at work in the soul which result in speech disturbances, then one always finds that there is some hindrance preventing what was experienced between death and a new birth in the super-sensible world from being brought down through the body into the physical world. Now the question arises: How do matters stand in the case of such a personality who has very much in him brought about through his previous karma, but who has it all stored up in the existence between death and a new birth and, because he cannot bring it down becomes a stutterer? What sort of things are bound up with such a personality in his life here on earth?
Again and again one could say to oneself: This man has in him many great qualities that he has gained in pre-earthly life, but he cannot bring them down to earth. He was quite able to bring down what can be developed in the formation of the physical body up to the time of the change of teeth; he could even develop extremely well what takes place between the change of teeth and puberty. He then became a personality with outstanding literary and artistic ability, for he was able to form and fashion what can be developed between puberty and the 30th year of life. Now, however, there arose a deep concern in one versed in a true knowledge of man, a concern which may be expressed in the following question: How will it be with this personality when he enters his thirties and should then develop to an ever increasing degree the spiritual or consciousness soul in addition to the intellectual or mind soul? Anyone who has knowledge of these things feels the deepest concern in such a case, for he cannot think that the consciousness soul — which needs for its unfolding everything that arises in the head, perfect and complete — will be able to come to its full development. For with this personality the fact that he stuttered showed that not everything in the region of his head was in proper order. Now apart from stuttering this man was as sound as a bell, except that in addition to the stutter, (which showed that not everything was in order in the head system) he suffered from a squint. This again was a sign that he had not been able to bring down into the present earthly life all that he had absorbed in the super-sensible life between death and a new birth. Now one day this man came to me and said: “I have made up my mind to be operated on for my squint.” I was not in a position to do more than say, “If I were you, I should not have it done.” I did all I could to dissuade him. I did not at that time see the whole situation as clearly as I do today, for what I am telling you happened more than 20 years ago. But I was greatly concerned about this operation. Well, he did not follow my advice and the operation took place. Now note what happened. Very soon after the operation, which was extremely successful, as such operations often are, he came to me in jubilant mood and said, “Now I shall not squint any more.” He was just a little vain, as many distinguished people often are. But I was very troubled; and only a few days later the man died, having just completed his 30th year. The doctors diagnosed typhoid, but it was not typhoid, he died of meningitis.
There is no need for the spiritual investigator to become heartless when he considers such a life; on the contrary his human sympathy is deepened thereby. But at the same time he sees through life and comprehends it in its manifold aspects and relationships. He perceives that what was experienced spiritually between death and a new birth cannot be brought down into the present life and that this comes to expression in physical defects. Unless the right kind of education can intervene, which was not possible in this case, life cannot be extended beyond certain definite limits. Please do not believe that I am asserting that anybody who squints must die at 30. Negative instances are never intended and it may well be that something else enters karmically into life which enables the person in question to live to a ripe old age. But in the case we are considering there was cause for anxiety because of the demands made on the head, which resulted in squinting and stuttering, and the question arose: How can a man with an organisation of this kind live beyond the 35th year? It is at this point of time that one must look back on a person's karma, and then you will see immediately that it in no way followed that because somebody had a squint he must die at 30. For if we take a man who has so prepared himself in pre-earthly life that he has been able to absorb a great deal between death and a new birth, but is unable to bring down what he has received into physical life, and if we consider every aspect of his karma, we find that this particular personality might quite well have lived beyond the 35th year; but then, besides all other conditions, he would have had to bear within him the impulse leading to a spiritual conception of man and of the world. For this man had a natural disposition for spiritual things which one rarely meets; but in spite of this, because strong spiritual impulses inherent in him from previous earth lives were too one-sided, he could not approach the spiritual.
I assure you that I am in a position to speak about such a matter. I was very friendly with this man and was therefore well aware of the deep cleft that existed between my own conception of the world and his. From the intellectual standpoint we could understand one another very well; we could be on excellent terms in other ways, but it was not possible to speak to him about the things of the spirit. Thus because with his 35th year it would have been necessary for him to find his way to a spiritual life, if his potential gifts up to this age were to be realised on earth, and because he was not able to come to a spiritual life, he died when he did. It is of course perfectly possible to stutter and have a squint and yet continue one's life as an ordinary mortal. There is no need to be afraid of things which must be stated at times if one wishes to describe realities, and not waste one's breath in mere phrases. Moreover from this example you can see how observation, sharpened by spiritual insight, enables one to look deeply into human life.
And now let us return to Schiller. When we consider the life of Schiller two things strike us above all others, for they are quite remarkable. There exists an unfinished drama by Schiller, a mere sketch, called the Malteser. We see from the concept underlying this sketch that if Schiller had wished to complete this drama, he could only have done so as an initiate, as one who had experienced initiation. It could not have been done otherwise. Up to a certain degree at least he possessed the inner qualities necessary for initiation, but owing to other conditions of his karma these qualities could not get through; they were suppressed, cramped. There was a cramping of his soul life too which can be seen in the sketch of the Malteser. There are long powerful sentences which never manage to get to the full stop. What is in him cannot find its way out. Now it is interesting to observe that with Goethe, too, we have such unfinished sketches, but we see that in his case, whenever he left something unfinished, he did so because he was too easy-going to carry it further. He could have finished it. Only in extreme old age, when a certain condition of sclerosis had set in would this have been impossible for him. With Schiller however we have another picture. An iron will is present in him when he makes the effort to develop the Malteser but he cannot do it. He only gets as far as a slight sketch. For this drama, seen in its reality, contains what, since the time of the Crusades, has been preserved in the way of all kinds of occultism, mysticism, and initiation science. And Schiller sets to work on such a drama, for the completion of which he would have had to bear within him the experience of initiation. Truly a life's destiny which is deeply moving for one who is able to see behind these things and look into the real being of this man. And from the time it became known that Schiller had in mind to write a drama such as the Malteser there was a tremendous increase in the opposition to him in Germany. He was feared. People were afraid that in his drama he might betray all kinds of occult secrets.
The second work about which I wish to speak is the following. Schiller is unable to finish the Malteser; he cannot get on with it. He lets some time go by and writes all manner of things which are certainly worthy of admiration, but which can also be admired by so-called philistines. If he could have completed the Malteser, it would have been a drama calling for the attention of men with the most powerful and vigorous minds. But he had to put it aside.
After a while he gets a new impulse which inspires his later work. He cannot think any more about the Malteser, but he begins to compose his Demetrius. This portrays a remarkable problem of destiny, the story of the false Demetrius who takes the place of another man. All the conflicting destinies which enter into the story as though emerging out of the most hidden causes, all the human emotions thereby aroused, would have had to be brought into this drama, if it were to be completed. Schiller sets to work on it with feverish activity. It became generally known — and people were still more afraid that things would be brought into the open which it was to their interest to keep hidden from the rest of mankind for some time yet.
And now certain things take place in the life of Schiller which, for anyone who understands them, cannot be accounted for on the grounds of a normal illness. We have a remarkable picture of this illness of Schiller's. Something tremendous happens — tremendous not only in regard to its greatness, but in regard to its shattering force. Schiller is taken ill while writing his Demetrius. On his sick bed in raging fever he continually repeats almost the whole of Demetrius. It seems as though some alien power is at work in Schiller, expressing itself through his body. There is of course no ground for accusing anyone. But, in spite of everything that has been written in this connection, one cannot do otherwise than come to the conclusion, from the whole picture of the illness, that in some way or another, even if in a quite occult way, something contributed to the rapid termination of Schiller's illness in his death. That people had some suspicion of this may be gathered from the fact that
Goethe, who could do nothing, but suspected much, dared not participate personally in any way during the last days of Schiller's life, not even after his death, although he felt this deeply. He dared not venture to make known the thoughts he bore within him.
With these remarks I only want to point out that for anyone able to see through such things Schiller was undoubtedly pre-destined to create works of a high spiritual order, but on account of inner and outer causes, inner and outer karmic reasons, it was all held back, dammed up, as it were, within him. I venture to say that for the spiritual investigator there is nothing of greater interest than to set himself the problem of studying what Schiller achieved in the last ten years of his life, from the Aesthetic Letters onwards, and then to follow the course of his life after death. A deep penetration into Schiller's soul after death reveals manifold inspirations coming to him from the spiritual world. Here we have the reason why Schiller had to die in his middle forties. His condition of cramp and his whole build, especially the ugly formation of his head, made it impossible for him to bring down into the physical body the content of his soul and spirit, deeply rooted as this was in spiritual existence.
When we bear such things in mind we must admit that the study of human life is deepened if we make use of what anthroposophy can give. We learn to look right into human life. In bringing these examples before you my sole purpose was to show how through anthroposophy one learns to contemplate the life of human beings. But let us now look at the matter as a whole. Can we not deepen our feeling and understanding for everything that is human simply by looking at a single human life in the way that we have done? If at a certain definite moment of life one can say to oneself: Thus it was with Schiller, thus with Goethe; thus it was with another young man — as I have told you — then, will not something be stirred in our souls which will teach us to look upon every child in a deeper way? Will not every human life become a sacred riddle to us? Shall we not learn to contemplate every human life, every human being, with much greater, much more inward attention? And can we not, just because a knowledge of man has been inscribed in this way into our souls, deepen within us a love of mankind? Can we not with this human love, deepened by a study of man which gives such profundity to the most inward, sacred riddle of life — can we not, with this love, enter rightly upon the task of education when life itself has become so sacred to us? Will not the teacher's task be transformed from mere ideological phrases or dream-like mysticism into a truly priestly calling ready for its task when Divine Grace sends human beings down into earthly life?
Everything depends on the development of such feelings. The essential thing about anthroposophy is not mere theoretical teaching, so that we know that man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego; that there is a law of karma, of reincarnation and so on. People can be very clever, they can know everything; but they are not anthroposophists in the true sense of the word when they only know these things in an ordinary way, as they might know the content of a cookery book. What matters is that the life of human souls is quickened and deepened by the anthroposophical world conception and that one then learns to work and act out of a soul-life thus deepened and quickened.
This then is the first task to be undertaken in furthering an education based on anthroposophy. From the outset one should work in such a way that teachers and educators may become in the deepest sense “knowers of men,” so that out of their own conviction, as a result of observing human beings in the right way, they approach the child with the love born out of this kind of thinking. It follows therefore that in a training course for teachers wishing to work in an anthroposophical sense the first approach is not to say: you should do it like this or like that, you should employ this or that educational knack, but the first thing is to awaken a true educational sense born out of a knowledge of man. If one has been successful in bringing this to the point of awakening in the teacher a real love of education then one can say that he is now ready to begin his work as an educator.
In education based on a knowledge of man, such for instance as the Waldorf School education, the first thing to be considered is not the imparting of rules, not the giving advice as to how one should educate, but the first thing is to hold Training Courses for Teachers in such a way that one finds the hearts of the teachers and so deepens these hearts that love for the child grows out of them. It is quite natural that every teacher believes that he can, as it were, impose this love on himself, but such an imposed human love can achieve nothing. Much good will may be behind it, but it can achieve nothing. The only human love which can achieve something is that which arises out of a deepened observation of individual cases.
If someone really wishes to develop an understanding of the essential principles of education based on a knowledge of man — whether he has already acquired a knowledge of spiritual science or whether, as can also happen, he has an instinctive understanding of these things — he will observe the child in such a way that he is faced with this question: What is the main trend of a child's development up to the time of the change of teeth? An intimate study of man will show that up to the change of teeth the child is a completely different being from what he becomes later on. A tremendous inner transformation takes place at this time, and there is another tremendous transformation at puberty. Just think what the change of teeth signifies for the growing child. It is only the outer sign for deep changes which are taking place in the whole human being, changes which occur only once, for only once do we get our second teeth, not every seven years. With the change of teeth the formative process taking place in the teeth comes to an end. From now on we have to keep our teeth for the rest of our lives. The most we can do is to have them stopped, or replaced by false ones, for we get no others out of our organism. Why is this? It is because with the change of teeth the organisation of the head is brought to a certain conclusion. If we are aware of this, if in each single case we ask ourselves: What actually is it that is brought to a conclusion with the change of teeth? — we are led, just at this point, to a comprehension of the whole human organisation, body, soul and spirit. And if — with our gaze deepened by a love gained through a knowledge of man such as I have described — we observe the child up to the change of teeth, we shall see that during these years he learns to walk, to speak and to think. These are the three most outstanding faculties to be developed up to the change of teeth.
Walking entails more than just learning to walk. Walking is only one manifestation of what is actually taking place, for it involves learning to adapt oneself to the world through acquiring a sense of balance. Walking is only the crudest expression of this process. Before learning to walk the child is not exposed to the necessity of finding his equilibrium in the world: now he learns to do this. How does it come about? It comes about through the fact that man is born with a head which requires a quite definite position in regard to the forces of balance. The secret of the human head is shown very clearly in the physical body. You must bear in mind that an average human brain weighs between 1,200 and 1,500 grammes. Now if such a weight as this were to press on the delicate veins which lie at the base of the brain they would be crushed immediately. This is prevented by the fact that this heavy brain floats in the cerebral fluid that fills our head. You will doubtless remember from your studies in physics that when a body floats in a fluid it loses as much of its weight as the weight of the fluid it displaces. If you apply this to the brain you will discover that our brain presses on its base with a weight of about 20 grammes only; the rest of the weight is lost in the cerebral fluid. Thus at birth man's brain has to be so placed that its weight can be brought into proper proportion in regard to the displaced cerebral fluid. This adjustment is made when we raise ourselves from the crawling to the upright posture. The position of the head must now be brought into relationship with the rest of the organism. Walking and using the hands make it necessary for the head to be brought into a definite position. Man's sense of balance proceeds from the head.
Let us go further. At birth man's head is relatively highly organised, for up to a point it is already formed in the embryo, although it is not fully developed until the change of teeth. What however is first established during the time up to the change of teeth, what then receives its special outer organisation, is the rhythmic system of man. If people would only observe physical physiological processes more closely they would see how important the establishing of the circulatory and breathing systems is for the first seven years. They would recognise how here above all great damage can be done if the bodily life of the child does not develop in the right way. One must therefore reckon with the fact that in these first years of life something is at work which is only now establishing its own laws in the circulatory and breathing systems. The child feels unconsciously how his life forces are working in his circulation and breathing. And just as a physical organ, the brain, must bring about a state of balance, so must the soul in the first years of life play its part in the development of the breathing and circulatory systems. The physical body must be active in bringing about a state of balance proceeding from the head. The soul, in that it is rightly organised for this purpose, must be active in the changes that take place in the circulation and breathing. And just as the upright carriage and learning to use the hands and arms are connected with what comes to expression in the brain, so the way in which speech develops in man is connected with the systems of circulation and breathing. Through learning to speak man establishes a relationship with his circulation and breathing, just as he establishes a relationship between walking and grasping and the forces of the head by learning to hold the latter in such a way that the brain loses the right amount of weight. If you train yourself to perceive these relationships and then you meet someone with a clear, high-pitched voice particularly well-suited to the recitation of hymns or odes, or even to declamatory moral harangues, you may be sure that this is connected with special conditions of the circulatory system. Or again if you meet someone with a rough, harsh voice, with a voice like the beating together of sheets of brass and tin, you may be sure that this too is connected with the breathing or circulatory systems. But there is more to it than this. When one learns to listen to a child's voice, whether it be harmonious and pleasant, or harsh and discordant, and when one knows that this is connected with movements of the lungs and the circulation of the blood, movements inwardly vibrating through the whole man, right into the fingers and toes, then one knows that what is expressed through speech is imbued with qualities of soul. And now something in the nature of a higher man, so to say, makes its appearance, something which finds its expression in this picture relating speech with the physical processes of circulation and breathing. Taking our start from this point it is possible to look up and see into the pre-natal life of man which is subject to those conditions which we have made our own between death and a new birth. What a man has experienced in pre-earthly conditions plays in here, and so we learn that if we are to comprehend the being of man by means of true human understanding and knowledge we must train our ear to a spiritual hearing and listen to the voices of children. We can then know how to help a child whose strident voice betrays the fact that there is some kind of obstruction in his karma and we can do something to free him from such karmic hindrances.
From all this we can see what is necessary for education. It is nothing less than a knowledge of man; not merely the sort of knowledge that says: “This is a gifted personality, this is a good fellow, this is a bad one,” but the kind of knowledge that follows up what lies in the human being, follows up for instance what is spiritually present in speech and traces this right down into the physical body, so that one is not faced with an abstract spirituality but with a spirituality which comes to expression in the physical image of man. Then, as a teacher, you can set to work in such a way that you take into consideration both spirit and body and are thus able to help the physical provide a right foundation for the spirit. And further, if you observe a child from behind and see that he has short legs, so that the upper part of the body is too heavy a burden and his tread is consequently also heavy, you will know, if you have acquired the right way of looking at these things, that here the former earthly life is speaking, here karma is speaking. Or, for instance if you observe someone who walks in the same way as the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who always walked with his heels well down first, and even when he spoke did so in such a way that the words came out, as it were “heels first,” then you will see in such a man another expression of karma.
In this way we learn to recognise karma in the child through observation based on spiritual science. This is something of the greatest importance which we must look into and understand. Our one and only help as teachers is that we learn to observe human beings, to observe the bodies of the children, the souls of the children and the spirits of the children. In this way a knowledge of man must make itself felt in the sphere of education, but it must be a knowledge which is deepened in soul and spirit.
With this lecture I wanted to call up a picture, to give an idea of what we are trying to achieve in education, and what can arise in the way of practical educational results from what many people consider to be highly unpractical, what they look upon as being merely fantastic day-dreaming.