The Younger Generation
13 October 1922, Dornach
During the epoch of the consciousness soul the most abstract elements come consciously to life in the inner being of man, yet also in the subconscious, in what man desires of life, most concrete things are seeking to find their way into existence.
The human being who is growing into the epoch of the consciousness soul is held fast today in the abstract ideas of the head. But there lives outside man's head, if I may so express myself, the desire to experience more than the head is able to. To begin with man has only a connection with Nature formed between her and his head. Everything he absorbs in science, so far as he regards it as valid, is acquired from Nature through the head. Between man and Nature today there always stands man's head. It is as though everything that comes to the human being from the world were to pour itself into the head, as though the head were entirely choked up so that it lets nothing through its dense layers that could bring about a relation with the world. Everything remains stuck fast in the head. Man thinks everything through only with his head. But he cannot, after all, live merely as a head. For joined to the head there is always the rest of the organism. The life of the rest of the organism remains dull, unconscious, because everything is directed towards the head. Everything stops short there. The rest of man receives nothing from the world because the head allows nothing to reach it. The head has gradually become an insatiable glutton. It wants everything that comes from the world outside, and man is obliged to live, where his heart and the rest of his organism is concerned, as if he had nothing whatever to do with the surrounding world.
But these other parts of the organism develop wish, will, capacity for desire; they feel themselves isolated. For instance, the eyes catch colors and allow only scanty remains to be experienced in the head, so that the colors cannot work down, they cannot reach the blood nor the nervous system in the rest of the body. It is only in his head that man still knows something about the world. But he has all the more capacity for intensely desiring with the rest of his organism to meet the outside world. This again is something living in the maturing human being — this desire to find some kind of connection with the world not only with the head but with the rest of the organism; to learn to think not only with the head but with the whole man; to learn to experience the world with the whole man and not only with the head.
Now human beings today still have the capacity of learning to experience the world with the whole man at an early age. For what I have just been saying refers to the grown man. Before the change of teeth a child still has the faculty of grasping the world with his whole being. This is shown, for example, in the fact that it would be a mistake to suppose that the baby's experience when sucking milk is as abstract as an adult's. When we drink milk we taste it on our tongue, and perhaps round our tongue. But we lose the experience of taste when the milk has passed our throat. People ought to ask why their stomach should be less capable of tasting than the palate — it is not less but equally capable of tasting; only the head is a glutton. In the grown man the head claims all taste for itself. The child, however, tastes with its entire organism and therefore with its stomach. The infant is all sense-organ. There is nothing in him that is not sense-organ. The infant tastes with his whole being. Later this is forgotten by man; and this tasting is impaired by the child learning to speak. For then the head which has to take part in learning to speak begins to stir and develops the first stage of insatiability. The head in return for giving itself up to learning to speak reserves for itself the pleasures of tasting. Even as regards “tasting the world,” connection with the world is very soon lost. Now this “tasting the world” is of no particular importance, but the relation of the whole human being with the world is.
You see, we can get to know an important philosopher such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte, for example, in various ways. Every way is right. I do not wish to stress any one of the following in particular. It is wonderful to go deeply into the philosophy of Fichte — which not many people do nowadays because they find it too difficult — and much is gained from it, yet they would have gained far more if with strong feeling they had walked behind Fichte and had seen him appear, planting the whole sole of his foot and especially his heels firmly on the ground. The experience of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's walk, the curious way he stumped his heel on the ground, is something of tremendous power. For those able to experience each step with the whole being, this would have been a more intensive philosophy than all Fichte was able to say from the platform. It may seem grotesque, but perhaps you will feel what I am trying to say.
Today such things have been entirely lost. At most a man, who not twenty but fifty years ago was a boy, can remember how some philosophy of this kind still existed among the country folk. In the country people still got to know each other in this way and many expressions with the wonderful plasticity of dialect reveal that what today is seen only with the head was then seen with the whole man.* (An incident is quoted here which is untranslatable because of the Austrian idiom.)
As I have said, these things have been lost. Human beings have reduced themselves to their head and have forced themselves to believe that the head is their most valuable part. But this has not brought them to an ideal condition, because the rest of human nature asserts its claims in the subconscious. Experiencing through something other than the head is lost today with the change of teeth in early childhood. If you have an eye for these things you can see the walk of the father or the mother in the son or daughter decades later. So exactly has the child lived itself into the adults around him that what he has felt becomes part of his own nature. But this living ourselves into something no longer spells culture with us. Culture is what the head observes and what can be worked out by means of the head. Sometimes people dispense with the head, and then they write down everything and put it in the archives! Then it goes out of the head into the hair where it cannot be retained because at thirty they no longer have any hair!
But really I am not saying this as a joke, nor for the sake of being critical, for this is all part of the necessary development of humanity. Men had to become like this to find through inner effort, inner activity, what they can no longer find in a natural way; in other words, to experience freedom.
And so today, after the change of teeth, we must simply pass over to a different way of experiencing the surrounding world from the way of the child who experiences it with his whole being. Therefore primary school education in future must proceed by way of the artistic I described yesterday, so that through the outer man the soul-nature of another human being is experienced. If you educate the human being by what is abstract and scientific, he experiences nothing of your soul. He only experiences your soul if you approach him through art. For in the realm of the artistic everyone is individual, each one is a different person. It is the ideal of science that everyone should be alike. It would be quite a thing — so say people today — were everyone to teach a different science. But that could not be, for science confines itself to what is the same for all human beings. In the realm of the artistic each human being is an individuality in himself. But because of this there can come about an individual, personal relation of the child to the man who is alive and active artistically, and this should be so. True, one does not come to the feeling for the whole man as outer physical being as in the first years of childhood, but to a feeling for the whole man in the soul of the one who is to lead.
Education must have soul, and as scientist one cannot have soul. We can have soul only through what we are artistically. We can have soul if we give science an artistic form through the way it is presented, but not through the content of science as science is understood today. Science is not an individual affair. Hence during the primary school age it establishes no relation between teacher and pupil. All instruction must therefore be permeated by art, by human individuality, for of more value than any thought-out curriculum is the individuality of the teacher and educator. It is individuality that must work in the school. What grows between teacher and pupil from the change of teeth to puberty — what is the link between them?
What binds them together is solely what man brings with him into his earthly existence from super-sensible, spiritual worlds, from his pre-earthly existence. My dear friends, it is never the head that recognizes what man brings with him out of his pre-earthly life. The head is made for the purpose of grasping what is on the earth. And on the earth there is only the physical part of man. The head understands nothing of what confronts one as the other human being and comes from pre-earthly existence. In the particular coloring the artistic impulse gives to the human soul there lives and weaves what the human being has brought down from pre-earthly existence; and between the period of the change of teeth and puberty the child is particularly disposed to feel in his heart what meets him in the teacher as coming out of pre-earthly existence. A young child has the tendency to feel the outer human form in its earthly shape; from his seventh to his fourteenth or fifteenth year he seeks — not through theoretical concepts but through the living-together with human beings — what does not lend it self to be grasped in concepts but is manifested in the teacher; and it resists conceptual form. Concepts have form, that is to say, external limits. But human individuality in the sense described has no external limits, only intensity, quality; it is experienced as quality, as intensity, very particularly in the period of life referred to. It is experienced, however, through no other atmosphere than that of art.
But we are now living in the epoch of the consciousness soul. The first treasures we acquire for the soul in this epoch consist in intellectual concepts, in abstractions. Today even the farmer loves abstractions. How could it be otherwise, for he indulges in the most abstract reading — the village newspaper and much else besides! Our riches consist really in abstractions. And therefore we must free ourselves from this kind of thinking, through developing what I spoke of yesterday. We must purify our thinking and mould it, into will. To this end we must make our individuality stronger and stronger, and this happens when we work our way through to pure thinking. I do not say this out of idle vanity, but because that is how I see it. Whoever works his way through to pure thinking as I have described in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity will find that this does not bring him simply to the possession of a few concepts which make up a philosophic system, but that it lays hold of his own individuality, of his pre-earthly existence.
He need not suddenly become clairvoyant; that will only happen when he is able to behold the pre-earthly. But he can confirm it by gaining the strength of will that is acquired in the flow of pure thoughts. Then the individuality comes forth. Then one does not feel happy with a philosophic system in which one concept proceeds from another and everything has rigid outlines. But one feels compelled to have one's being in a living and weaving world. We acquire a special kind of life of soul when we experience in the right way what is meant by the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.
Thus it is a bringing down of pre-earthly existence into the life of the human being. But it is also the preparation for the vocation of teacher, of educator. Through study we cannot become teachers. We cannot drill others into being teachers, because each one of us is already a teacher. Every human being is a teacher, but he is sleeping and must be awakened, and Art is the awakener. When this is developed it brings the teacher, as a human being, nearer to those whom he would educate. And as a human being he must come near to them. Those who are to be educated must get something from him as a human being. It would be terrible if anyone were to believe it possible to teach just because he knows a great deal. This leads to absolute absurdity. This absurdity will be apparent to you if you think about the following picture.
Now take a class in a school. There are perhaps thirty pupils in the class. Among these pupils there are, let us say, two geniuses, or only one, for that is enough. If we have to organize a school we cannot always give the post of teacher to a genius just for a future genius to be able to learn all he should be able to learn. You will say that this would not matter in the primary school. If the child is a genius he will go on to a higher school and there certainly find geniuses as teachers. You would not say this because experience does not bear it out — but you must admit the case may arise that the teacher is faced with a class in which there are children predestined to become cleverer than he is himself. Now our task of teacher consists in bringing the children not merely to our degree of cleverness, but to the full development of their own powers.
As teachers, therefore, we may come into the position of having to educate somebody who will be greater than we. It is impossible to provide schools with enough teachers unless one holds to the principle that it does not matter if the teacher is not as clever as the pupil will be some day. Nevertheless he will still be a good teacher because it does not depend on the giving out of knowledge but on activating the individuality of the soul, upon the pre-earthly existence. Then it is really the child who educates himself through us. And that is the truth. In reality we do not educate at all. We only disturb the process of education when we intervene too energetically. We only educate when we behave in such a way that through our own behavior the child can educate himself. We send the child to primary school in order to rid him of troublesome elements. The teacher should see to it that the troublesome elements are got rid of, that the child escapes conditions under which he cannot develop. So we must be quite clear upon this point: we cannot cram anything into a human being through teaching and education. What we can do is to see to it that the human being, as he grows up, should succeed in developing the abilities within him. That we can do, but not through what we know but through what stirs inwardly within us in an artistic way. And even if the rare thing should happen that as teachers we are not particularly endowed with genius — one should not say this, but in spite of your youth movement you are old enough for me to say it — if the teacher has only a kind of instinctive artistic sense he will offer less hindrance to the growth of the child's soul than the teacher who is inartistic and tremendously learned. To be tremendously learned is not difficult.
These things must for once be said most emphatically. For even when spoken clearly, our age does not hear them. Our age is terribly unreceptive for such things. And regarding those who assure one that they have understood everything, after thirty years it is often apparent that they have understood nothing whatever. Thus the configuration of soul in the human being is what is essential in practical pedagogy, in instruction and education, during the child's life between the change of teeth and puberty. And after this the human being enters a period of life in which, in this age of the consciousness soul, still deeper forces must work up out of human nature if men are to give anything to one another.
You see, the feeling with which one man meets another is tremendously complicated. If you wanted to describe the whole round of sympathies and antipathies, and the interworking of sympathies and antipathies with which you meet another man, you would never come to an actual definition. In fifty years you would not succeed in defining what you can experience in five minutes as the relations of life between man and man. Before puberty it is pre-eminently an experience of the pre-earthly. The pre-earthly sheds its light through every movement of the hands, every look, through the very stressing of words. Actually it is the quality of the gesture, the word, the thought, of the teacher that works through to the child and which the child is seeking.
And when as grown-up people — so grown-up that we have reached the age of fifteen or sixteen or even beyond! — we meet other human beings, then the matter is still more complicated. Then, what attracts or repels others in a human being actually veils itself in a darkness impenetrable to the world of abstract concepts. But if, with the help of Anthroposophy, we investigate what one can really experience in five minutes but cannot describe in fifty years, we find that it is what rises up from the previous earth-life or series of earth-lives into the present life of the soul, and what is exchanged. This indefinite, indefinable element that comes upon us when we meet as adults is what shines through from earlier lives on earth into the present. Not only the pre-earthly existence but everything the human being has passed through in the way of destiny in his successive earth-lives.
And if we study what is working upon the human being we find how today, in the epoch of the consciousness soul — because everything is pushed into the head and what we take in from the outer world cannot get through to man as a whole — our head culture sets itself against what alone can work from man to man. Human beings pass one another by because they stare at each other only with the head, with the eyes — I will not say, because they knock their heads together! Human beings pass one another by because only what plays over from repeated earth-lives can work between man and man, and modern culture does nothing to develop a sense for this. But this must also be brought into our education; we should be able to experience what is deeper down in man, what plays over from previous earth-lives. This will not be achieved unless we draw into our education the whole life of man as it is lived out on earth.
Today there is only a feeling for the immediate present. Therefore all that is asked of education is that it shall benefit the child. But if this is the only thing that is asked, very little service is rendered to life. Firstly, because the question is put one-sidedly, one gets a one-sided answer; and secondly, the child should be educated for the whole of life, not only for the schoolroom or the short period after school so that he does not disgrace us. But we need an understanding for the imponderable things in life, an understanding for the unity in man's life as a whole as it unfolds on earth.
There are human beings whose very presence, at a certain age, is felt by those around them as a benediction. There are such human beings. If we were to look for the reason why such people, not through their acts but through their being, have become a blessing to those around them, we would find that as children they were fortunate to have been able in a natural way to look up to someone in authority whom they could revere. They had this experience at the right time of life. And because they were able to revere, after many years they become a blessing to the world around them. It can be expressed concisely by saying: There are human beings who can bless. There are not many who can bless. But it is a question of the power to bless. There are men who certainly have the power to bless. They acquire it in later life, because in their childhood they have learnt to pray. Two human gestures are causally connected: the gestures of praying and blessing; the second develops from the first. No one learns to bless who does not learn it from prayer. This must not be understood sentimentally or with the slightest tinge of mysticism, but rather as a phenomenon of Nature is observed — except that this phenomenon is nearer to us in a human way.
Now we have to care for a child hygienically so that he can grow in accordance with nature. If you were to devise an apparatus for a child that would keep him a certain size so that he could not grow, so that even the size of his arm would not change and the young human being would remain as he is all his life, this would be terrible. The human being must be treated in such a way that he can grow. What would it be like were the little child not to change, were he to look no different ten years hence? It would be dreadful were he to remain as he is at four or five. But in school we supply the children with concepts and cherish the notion that they should remain unchanged for the whole of the children's lives. The child is supposed to preserve them in memory; fifty years hence they are to be the same as they are today. Our school text-books ensure that the child remains a child. We should educate the child so that all his concepts are capable of growth, that his concepts and will-impulses are really alive. This is not easy. But the artistic way of education succeeds in doing it. And the child has a different feeling when we offer him living concepts instead of dead ones, for unconsciously he knows that what he is given grows with him just as his arms grow with his body.
It is heart-breaking to witness children being educated to define a concept, so that they have the concept as a definition only. It is just the same as if we wanted to confine a limb in an apparatus. The child must be given pictures capable of growth, pictures which become something quite different in ten or twenty years. If we give him pictures that are capable of growth, we stimulate in him the faculty through feeling to find his way into what is often hidden in the depths of the human individuality. And so we see how complicated are the connections We learn to come to a deeper relation to human beings through the possibility being given us in our youth for growth in our life of soul.
For what does it mean to experience another human being? We cannot experience other people with dead concepts. We can comprehend them only if we meet them in such a way that they become for us an experience which takes hold of us inwardly, which is something for our own inner being. For this, however, activity in the inner being is needed. Otherwise our culture will reach the point which it is fast approaching. People go out to luncheons, dinners and teas, without knowing much about one another. Yet it is about themselves that, relatively speaking, modern people know most. And what do they instinctively make of their experiences? Suppose they go about among the people they meet at lunch or dinner. At most they think — Is he like me or is he different? And if we believe him to be like ourselves, we consider him a fine fellow; if he is not like ourselves, then he is not a fine fellow and we do not trouble ourselves about him any longer. And as most men are not the same as ourselves, the most we can do is sometimes to believe — because really it would be too boring to find no fine fellow anywhere — that we have found someone like ourselves. But in this way we do not really find another human being but always ourselves. We see ourselves in everyone else. For many people this is relatively good. For if they were to meet somebody who in their opinion was not altogether, but yet to a certain extent, a fine fellow, and were really to comprehend him, this would be so overwhelming an experience that it would quite drown their own manhood, and by a second encounter their ego would be drowned still more deeply. In the case of a third or fourth there would be no approaching him at all, for by that time he would certainly have lost himself! There is too little inner strength and activity, too little kernel, too little inner individuality developed, so that people for fear of losing themselves dare not experience the other human being. Thus men pass one another by.
The most important thing is to establish an education through which human beings learn once again how to live with one another. This cannot be done through hollow phrases. It can be done only through an art of education founded upon a true knowledge of the human being, that art of education referred to here. But our intellectualistic age has plunged the whole of life into intellectuality. In our institutions we actually live very much as if no longer among human beings at all, we live in an embodied intellect in which we are entangled, not like a spider in its own web, but like countless flies which have got themselves caught.
When we meet anyone, do we feel in any sense what this human being can become for us? Do we judge today as humanly as this? No, for the most part we do not — present company is always excepted — for the most part we do not but we ask — well, perhaps on the door of a certain man's house there will be a little plate with an inscription “Counselor at Law,” conveying a concept of some kind. So now we know something about this man. In another case the inscription is “Medical Practitioner.” Now we know that the man can cure us. In another case the inscription is “Professor of English.” And now we know something about him — and so on and so forth. If we want to know something about chemistry, how do we set about it? We have no other means than to enquire if somewhere there is a man who is a qualified chemist. What he can tell us then is chemistry. And so we go on. We are really caught up in this spider's web of concepts. We do not live among human beings. We trouble ourselves very little about human beings. We only concern ourselves with what is on paper. For many people that is their only essential fact. How else should they know what kind of man I am unless it is written down somewhere on paper!
This, of course, is all rather an overstatement, and yet it does characterize our epoch. Intellectuality is no longer merely in our heads but it is woven around us everywhere. We are guided by concepts and not by human impulses.
When I was still fairly young, at Baden near Vienna I got to know the Austrian poet Hermann Rollett, long since dead. He was convinced that the right thing was development towards intellectualism, that one must develop more and more towards the intellectual. At the same time, however, he had an incurable dread of this, for he felt that intellectualism only takes hold of man's head. And once when I visited him with Schröer, we were talking with him and he began to speak in poetical fashion about his incurable fear in regard to culture. He said: When one looks at human beings today, they cannot use their fingers properly; many of them cannot write; they get writer's cramp, their fingers atrophy. When it is a question of sewing on trouser buttons, only tailors can do that! It is dreadful; the limbs are atrophying. The fingers and the limbs will not only get less skillful but they will also get smaller, they will wither away and heads will get larger and larger. That is how he described his poet's dream and then he said he thought the time would come when only balls, balls which are heads, would be rolling about over the surface of the earth.
That was the cultural dread I met with in this man in the last third of the nineteenth century. Now he was also a child of his age, that is to say, he was a materialist, and that was why he had so great a dread that at some point in the future such living heads would be rolling about on the earth. Physical heads will not do this. But to a serious extent the etheric and astral heads do it already today. And a healthy education of the young must preserve human beings from this, must set human beings upon their legs again, and lead them to the point where, if they are pondering over something, they will feel the beating of their heart again and not merely add something to their knowledge. With this we must reckon if in preparation for man's future, we penetrate ourselves with the art that must enter education. What more there is to be said on this subject I shall try to develop for you tomorrow.