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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Knowledge of Soul and Spirit
GA 56

VII. Man, Woman and Child

8 January 1908, Berlin

Spiritual science shall not only satisfy scientific curiosity. It shall give the human being an impulse for life or acting, for certainty and satisfaction in life. What spiritual science offers shall enable us to act and manage our tasks efficiently.

The child faces us like a living riddle. Prejudices in many fields of life can still be corrected, however, prejudices of child education have often detrimental effects and can no longer be corrected.

In the triality of man, woman and child the entire humanity appears. In the child many things are inheridited from man and woman. Hence, the question of heredity has impact here which also comprises the riddle of destiny to a certain degree. What has the child got from its ancestors? Concerning this consider Ibsen's dramas (Henrik I., 1829–1906, Norwegian dramatist). Everywhere in art the question of heredity arises, because one feels its significance and practical importance. However, we are not deceived by the prejudices which are suggested by the facts that one gains from the observation of lower animals. One of the biggest mistakes in this field is that we apply to the present human being automatically what observation and experiments with lower animals show or what we know about the history of our ancestors. Spiritual science acknowledges what science understands by heredity, but it ascends to higher facts that become obvious, actually, only from the aspects of the spiritual world. It exists an increase of lawfulness. Lawfulness prevails in the entire nature, in the bodily and in the spiritual. However, we have to ascend with our insights from lower principles to principles that apply to the higher regions. We have to accomplish this increase without fail.

Into what does heredity transform in higher regions? The solution of this question instills healthy respect of the becoming human being. It is a huge difference between the lower animals and the human being. The basic difference between the human being and other creatures is as follows: all that interests us in the animal is connected with the concept of species or genus. We do not notice the same respect of the individual with the animals as with the human being. The portrayal of a lion is the portrayal of the lion species. The species prevails. In contrast, the individuality prevails with the human being. That is why a biography of any human being is possible, even of the simplest. In this fact many things are concealed, above all, that the human being is a species, a genus in himself. In the human being, something lives that corresponds to an entire animal species.

The principle of soul re-embodiment or reincarnation results from this. We cannot understand the human individual from the ancestors. Perhaps, outer qualities can be led back, admittedly, to ancestors, but not that what belongs to the own being of a human individuality. Just as little, we can derive the individuality of any animal species from the qualities of its ancestors.

The cause of the origin of a living being must always arise from the living. Few centuries ago, one still believed in procreation, for example, that animals come into being from river mud. The human soul is not composed of all kinds of qualities, as little as a worm of certain inorganic substances, as one meant at that time. A soul always goes back to a soul; and the soul that lives in a human being today goes back to a former soul existence. It is a re-embodiment, but it is not a conglomerate of qualities of the fatherly or motherly side. Thus, the principle of reincarnation results inevitably. From this viewpoint, we want to look at man, at woman and child.

What as the deeper basis as the individuality of the child appears is that what as a soul fits into the physical nature, after it had lived on in another existence in the meantime. Man and woman have to give the child a cover only. Motherly love and fatherly love is degraded thereby by no means. The individuality of a human being exists for a long time before the copulation of the parents. A kind of unaware love leads the child to these certain parents and causes them to begetting. Then as a gift in return, both parents meet the child with their parental love.

Death and love are tied together with certain creatures. Some animals die after the copulation. Such beings point to the coherence of the living beings in the universe and to the fact of love. Love is for the human being something by which he dedicates his individual existence to the entire being. It is not that rhetorical thing of poetry, but a force pervading the entire nature. Love is the counter-image of egoism. In it, the individual goes beyond itself as it were. It is a real increase of life with more perfect beings.

The individual being is the human being. One can only understand the significance of individual and love completely considering the nature of the human being in the sense of spiritual science. According to it, the physical body is only a dress of the entire human existence. He has the etheric body in common with animals and plants. The astral body that also the animals have encloses the mental, from the lowest desire up to the highest moral ideas.

However, the human being owns the force of the ego only, hence, he may be regarded as a crown of creation. That personality felt the depth of the word “I” who spoke: the ego is, was and will be there. True knowledge of the ego is the highest form of knowledge. The ego-knowledge stands behind the “veiled picture at Sais.” “No mortal being has lifted my veils.” The true ego-knowledge is possible only to that human force which is immortal. Only the supersensible in the human being recognises the immortal. Hence, what is mortal in us does not lift the veil of the goddess. A German romantic said boldly, if no mortal lifts the veil of Isis, we must become just immortal.

Up to the second dentition of the child the physical body develops. Then the human being grows, admittedly, even further, but the figure becomes only taller, the form extends which he has received up to the seventh year. With it, we have an important regulator for education. Up to this time, one should develop the physical form of the child. If one does not do this, one has omitted something for the whole life of the human being concerned. In the second period up to puberty, the etheric body develops. In the time before, it was by no means idle. The etheric body is enclosed only in a kind of motherly sheath up to the second dentition. Only thenceforward, it gets free and can develop. The sexual maturity is a final point of the development of the etheric body, and from now on, the development of the astral body becomes free. Even later, the real education of the ego begins.

Another picture results from the hereditary process of the physical, another from that of the etheric body and again another from that of the astral body.

What the human being brings as inheritance of the ancestors lies in the physical and in the etheric body. Up to the sexual maturity, these inherited qualities become completely visible. Then, however, the development of the special individuality of the human being begins, and this expresses itself in love. Certain animal species die with the act of love because here their being stops and their individual existence is over. The higher the individuality of a being is, the more it takes along beyond the sexual maturity as something imperishable. In reality, there are transitions. Thus, the human being saves his inner life beyond the species only.

Perhaps, by a confrontation of a human being and a stone you get the understanding of it: in the crystal, the outer forces that have formed it conclude. They do no longer impress anything into the inside of the stone. With the plant, the essentials are not the increase of the form, but only a kind of recurrence of the form principle as Goethe explained it. What the human being himself acquired on former stages he shows as effect of his ego now. As the plant searches and receives its materials from the soil to build up its body, the young human being chooses his parents to build up his physical body.

Here the ideas of spiritual science immediately intervene in the will, in the feelings, in life. We must respect the right of the child in the deepest sense. Towards the next generation, the human being feels different if he sees the matters in this light.

Concerning that, the natural sciences say, from the male principle a number of qualities changes over to the germ, also from the female part, from the ovum. Both groups of qualities must blend in the embryo. The everlasting return of the same qualities is thereby avoided. This is the reason why the male and female gametes blend. This is the essential in nature.

Concerning the soul our natural sciences are the most superstitious that can be there. Schopenhauer had a flash of genius when he said, what strives for existence brings the human individualities of both sexes together in love. In the end, spiritual science teaches this too. The human being are brought together to procreate the future generations. If one considers every child that way, we have no right to force our peculiarity upon it. The right educator can promote the development of the child only as far as he has learnt this with himself. The child is the greatest teacher of the educator.

If the educator solves this riddle of the child thoroughly, he is the best educator. To him who penetrates such views with his soul they change into respect to the being of the child and arouse awe of what there grows and becomes. This attitude to duties extends to the entire growing generation. We adults are for the growing generation a sort of mother soil from which it develops. We have to give the child what it needs for life, but we are not allowed to form it in our own image under constraint, but we must leave it free in its development and respect it. It is a much more significant mission of the human beings to respect this nascent freedom than respecting that freedom of that which is there already. Spiritual science is a right educator of this respect. It shows the supersensible and the facts which spiritual beings create constructing the universe for ages and help the human beings with it. The knowledge of yesterday enables us to find adequate solutions also for the present. Our work in the present must respect the freedom of the developing supersensible. Freedom of the supersensible in the sensuous shall be our motto.

Thus, we help humanity to advance to a future that is salutary for us and means a divine condition. If the look is opened to the supersensible in the present, the past becomes explicable to us, and we can learn from it what helps and is advisable for the future

If Yesterday is clear and obvious to you,
You work freely and powerfully Today
You can also hope for a Tomorrow
That is not less happy.

From Goethe's Zahme Xenien (1820/1827)