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The Younger Generation
GA 217

Lecture XII

14 October 1922, Dornach

From what has been said during the last few days it will be clear that nowadays one human being meets another in a different way from what was the case in the past, and this is of quite recent date—in fact, it entered human evolution with the century.

In poetical language no longer suitable for today, former ages foretold what in this century has come for the whole of humanity. Former ages spoke of how, at the end of the nineteenth century, the so-called Dark Age would have run its course, how in a new age there must come quite new conditions in human evolution, conditions difficult to attain because at first man is not accustomed to them. And in spite of the fact that we have now entered an epoch of light, much will seem more chaotic than what was brought by the long, gloomy Age of Darkness.

We must not merely translate into our language what was formerly presented in a picture derived from ancient clairvoyant vision: if so, we should be understanding only the old again. We must learn to perceive it anew with the spiritual means of today. We must permeate ourselves deeply with the consciousness that in this epoch for the first time human ego meets human ego in an intercourse of soul that is free of all veils.

Were we to go back to the first epoch after the great Atlantean earth-catastrophe, to the seventh or eighth millennium before Christ, we should find that fully grown men actually confronted one another as today only the child confronts grownups, with comprehension of the complete human being as I characterized it yesterday, a comprehension where soul and spirit are not found separated from the body but where the physical body is perceived as being of the nature of soul and spirit. In the epoch I have called the ancient Indian, which followed immediately upon the Atlantean catastrophe, the human being did not consider soul and spirit in the abstract way that we do today, with a certain justification.

It is precisely expressions used in this most ancient epoch which seem to us entirely spiritual which are misunderstood today. We misunderstand them if we believe that in the first post-Atlantean epoch of culture men overlooked all they saw in the outer world and were only willing to concentrate on what existed outside the world of the senses. This was by no means the case. They had a much fuller perception of, let us say, a human movement, or of the play of expression on a countenance, or of the way young people grow in five years, or of the plastic development of new leaves and blossoms in a plant, or in an animal of the way the whole of its forces pour into the hoof and other parts of its leg. Men did direct their gaze into the world we call that of the senses, but in the material processes they saw the Spiritual. For them what in the material world presented itself to their senses was at the same time spiritual. Naturally, such perception was only possible because over and above what we see in the sense-world, they actually perceived the Spiritual. They saw not only the meadow carpeted with flowers but over the flowers they saw in a vibrating, active existence the cosmic forces which draw forth the plants from the earth. In a certain way they saw—it seems grotesque to modern man but I am telling you facts—how the human being bears on his head a kind of etheric, astral cap. In this etheric, astral cap they experienced the forces underlying the growth of the hair. People today are prone to believe that the hair grows out of the head simply by being pushed from inside, whereas the truth is that outer Nature draws it forth. In olden times men saw the reality of things which later as an artistic copy shed their light into civilization. Just think of the helmet of Pallas Athene for instance which quite obviously belongs to the head. Those who do not rightly experience this helmet think of it as placed upon her head. It is not placed upon the head. It is bestowed by a concentration of raying cosmic forces that are working around the head of Pallas Athene and densifying, so that in olden times it would have seemed impossible to the Greek to form the head of Pallas Athene without this covering. They would have felt as we do today about a scalped head. I am not saying that this was the case among Greeks of later times.

In ancient times men were able to experience the sense-world as having soul and spirit, because they experienced something of an etheric and soul-spiritual nature. But these men did not ascribe any great importance to the soul and spirit. People readily believe that in the oldest Mysteries the pupils were principally taught that the sense world is semblance and the spiritual world the only reality, but this is not true. The strivings of the Mysteries were directed to making the material world comprehensible to the human soul by the roundabout way of comprehending what is of the nature of soul and spirit.

Already in the epoch of the first post-Atlantean culture, the Mysteries were striving to understand man as a being of soul and spirit, and particularly inwardly—not theoretically—to feel, to interpret any manifestation of the physical man in terms of the spirit. For example, it would have been impossible for them to have given a mechanistic explanation of walking, because they knew that when man walks he has an experience with every step, an experience which today lies deep beneath the threshold of consciousness. Why do we walk? We walk because when we stretch our leg forward and put down our foot, we come into a different relation to the earth and to the heavens, and in the perception of this change—that we place one foot into a different degree of warmth from that in which the other foot has remained—in the perception of this interchanging relation to the cosmos there lies something that is not only mechanical but distinctly super-dynamic.

This was the perception in more ancient times; the gaze of the human being even then was directed to man's external form, to his external movements. And it would never have occurred to the men of that time to imagine that what they saw as dumb show in Nature—the growth and configuration of plants, the growth and configuration of animals—was to be interpreted in the way that we scientifically do today. In the human heart and mind there was something altogether different; a man, belonging to the old Indian civilization to which I referred yesterday, felt it as entirely natural that during a certain period of the year the earth breathes in the being of the heavens, and during another period of the year she does not breathe in but works within herself by shutting out the heavens. It was natural for it to be different in ancient India because climatic conditions were different. But were we in imagination to extend our own climatic conditions we should have to say: During the summer the earth sleeps, gives herself up to the heavenly forces, receives the power of the sun in such a way that this power of the sun pours into the earth's unconsciousness. Summer is the sleep of the earth. Winter is her waking. During the winter the earth thinks through her own forces what during the summer in her sleeping and dreaming she has thought in relation with the heavens. During the winter the earth works over in her own being what during the summer has come to her through the in-working of the forces and powers of the cosmos.

Nowadays little is known of these things—in practical knowledge, I mean—as when the peasant out in the country puts potatoes into the ground during the winter. But nobody thinks about the fate of these potatoes because men have lost the faculty of getting right into the being of Nature. It would never have occurred to human beings who felt in this way to look out into Nature at animals, plants and minerals shining and sparkling in their color, to imagine that in this there is one single reality, a dance of atoms—that would have seemed utterly unreal. “But man needs this dance of atoms for his calculations about Nature.” Yes, that is just it, people believe they need the dance of atoms to be able to make calculations about Nature. Calculations in those days meant being able to live in numbers and magnitudes and not having to attach these numbers and magnitudes to what is only densified materiality. I do not want to raise objections against the service densified materiality renders today, yet one must mention how different the configuration of souls was in that more ancient age.

Then another age came in my book Occult Science. I have called it the old Persian; everything was built upon the principle of authority. People preserved during the whole of their life what is today experienced in a dull, repressed form between the seventh and fourteenth years. They took it with them into later life. It was more intimate but at the same time more intense. In a certain sense human beings looked through the external movement, through man's external physiognomy, or through a flower. They looked at something that was less outwardly objective. What they saw gradually became only a revelation of what exists as true reality. For the first post-Atlantean epoch of civilization the whole external world was simply reality, spiritual reality. The human being was spirit. He had a head, two arms and a body, and that was spirit. There was nothing to deter the ancient Indian from addressing the being he saw standing on two legs, with arms and a head, as spirit. In the next epoch men already saw more deeply into things. It was more in the nature of a surface behind which something more etheric was perceived, a human being more in a form of light. Man had the faculty of perceiving this form of light because atavistic clairvoyance was still present.

And then came the epoch of the third post-Atlantean culture. One felt the need for penetrating still further into the inner being of man or of Nature. The outer had become clearly perceptible and man is beginning to look through the outer perceptible to the spirit and soul within. The Egyptians, who belong to this epoch of the third post-Atlantean culture, mummified the human body. In the epoch of the old Indian culture, mummification would have made no sense; it would have been a fettering of the spirit. A distinction had arisen between body and spirit by the time mummification was practised. Formerly men would have felt they were imprisoning the human spirit, no distinction having been made yet between body and spirit, if the body had been embalmed as mummy.

Then among the Greeks—and actually into our own time—there was already a clearly established separation between the body and the spirit and soul. Today we can do no other than keep these two apart, the bodily and the soul-spiritual. Thus in earlier epochs man really saw the ego through sheaths.

Imagine the ancient Indian. He did not look at man's ego. His language was such that it really only expressed outwardly visible gestures and outwardly visible surfaces. The whole character of Sanscrit, if studied according to its spirit and not only according to its content, is of the nature of gesture, of surface; it expresses itself above all in movement and contour. The ego was therefore seen through the sheath of the physical body, in the next epoch through the sheath of the etheric, in the third epoch through the sheath of the astral man, man's ego still remaining indefinite, until in our epoch having cast off its veil it enters into human intercourse.

No one can adequately describe the impulse that has entered modern evolution, unless he draws attention to the relationship of ego to ego, free from the sheaths, which is emerging in a totally new way, though slowly, today. I shall not speak in the usual sense of our age being an age of transition. For I should like to know which age is not! Every age is an age of transition from the preceding one to the one that follows. And as long as one simply says—Our age is an age of transition—well, it remains just a hollow phrase. There is something to grasp only when one describes what makes a transition. In Our age we are going over from experiencing the other man through sheaths, to direct experience of the other man's ego.

And this is the difficulty in our life of soul; we have to live into this quite new relation between man and man. Do not think that we must learn all the teachings about the ego. It is not a question of learning theories about the ego. No matter whether you are a peasant on the land or someone working with his hands, or a scholar, it holds good for all of you that at the present time, in so much as we have to do with civilized men, their egos meet without sheaths. But that gives its special coloring to the whole of our cultural development.

Try to develop a feeling for how in the Middle Ages there was still much that was elementary in the way in which one human being experienced another. Let us imagine ourselves in a medieval town.

Let us say, a locksmith meets a town councilor in the street. Now what was experienced was not just that the man knew the other to be a town councilor; it was not exhausted by the locksmith knowing—we have elected that man. It is true there existed a link which gave the men a certain stamp. One belonged to the tailors' guild, one to the locksmiths' guild. But this was experienced in a more individual way. And when one as locksmith met a town councilor, he knew from other sources than from the directory: That is a town councilor. For the man walked differently, his look was different, he carried his head differently. People knew that he was a town councilor from things other than documents, the newspaper or things of the sort. One man experienced the other, but experienced him through his sheaths.

But in the sense of modern evolution we must increasingly experience human beings without sheaths. This has gradually arisen. But in a certain sense men are afraid of it. If we had a cultural psychology then it would describe, in connection with recent centuries, men's fear of being obliged to consort with human beings whose egos are unsheathed. It is a kind of terror. In the form of a picture, one might say that those people who in the last century really experienced their own times have frightened eyes. These frightened eyes, which you would not have been able to find either among the Greeks or the Romans, make their appearance in the middle of the sixteenth century, especially in the sixteenth century. Then we follow up these frightened eyes in literature. For instance, one can form a clear mental picture on reading the writings of Bacon of Verulam. We can glean from his writings with what kind of eyes he looked out at the world. Still more so with the eyes of Shakespeare. They can be pictured quite clearly. One need only supplement the words by the descriptions which circulated of Shakespeare's appearance. And so we must picture the people of recent centuries who lived most deeply in their own times as having frightened eyes, an unconsciously frightened look. At least once in their lives they had this frightened look. Goethe had it. Lessing had it. Herder had it. Jean Paul never got rid of it to the day of his death. We must have an organ for perceiving these subtleties if we want to develop any understanding of historical evolution.

Men who want to find their way livingly into the twentieth century should realize that those who represented the nineteenth century can no longer represent the twentieth.

It goes without saying that books about Goethe written in the nineteenth century by the philistine Lewes, or the pedant, Richard M. Meyer, can give no real conception of Goethe. The only literary work of the last third of the nineteenth century which can give some idea of Goethe is at best the Goethe of Herman Grimm. But that is a nightmare to those suffering from the great cultural disease of modern times, philistinism. For in this vast volume on Goethe you find the sentence: “Faust is a work that has fallen from heaven.” Just imagine what the commentators who pull everything to pieces have said; and imagine someone comes along and says that this should not be pulled to pieces. This may not seem important, yet we must notice such things in speaking about cultural phenomena. Read the first chapter of Grimm's Raphael and you will have the feeling: this must be an abomination to every orthodox professor, nevertheless something of it can be taken over into the twentieth century, for the very reason that for the orthodox professor nothing in it is right.

Thus man was seen within sheaths. Now we must learn to see him as an ego-being without sheaths. This alarms people because they are no longer capable of perceiving what I have described as the sheaths in which, for insurance, one could have seen our town councilor. It is no longer possible, at any rate not in Middle Europe, to give people outer representations of the sheaths. For outer representations, the sheaths still had a connection with the spiritual content existing in medieval councilors. Today—I must confess—it would be difficult for me to distinguish by their outer sheaths between a councilor and a privy councilor. In the case of a soldier, in the days when militarism was supreme one could still do it. But one had studiously to learn to do it, to make it a special study. It was no longer connected with basic human experience.

So there existed a kind of terror, and people made themselves indifferent to it by means of what I described yesterday as the web of intellectualism that spreads itself around us, and within which all are caught. In the centers of culture which have retained something of the East, the inner is still brought into a relation with the outer, the basic with the intellectualistic. Those of you who come from Vienna will sense that in the last century this was still very much so. For in Vienna, for instance, a man who wore spectacles was known as “doctor.” People did not bother about the diploma; they were concerned about the exterior. And anyone who could afford to take a cab was an aristocrat. It was the exterior. There was still a feeling of wanting to live within what can he described in words.

The great transition to this newer age consists in man meeting man free of his sheaths—according to his inner disposition, to what the soul demands; but the capacities for this untrammeled encounter have not yet been acquired; above all we have not yet acquired the possibility for a relation between ego and ego. But this must be prepared for by education. That is why the question of education is of such burning importance.

And now let me tell you quite frankly when the great step forward in educational method can first be made towards the individual ego-men of the new age. But I beg you not to use what I am going to say to impress other people who are of an opposite opinion, for if you do so the only result will be a volley of abuse against Anthroposophy. We shall work rightly in education only when we have learned to feel a certain bashfulness about speaking about it at all, when we feel abashed at the idea of talking about education. This is astonishing but it is true. The way in which education is being talked about will be regarded as shameless in future. Today everyone talks about it and about what he considers right. But education does not allow itself to be tied down in formal concepts, nor is it anything we come to by theorizing. One grows into education by getting older and meeting younger human beings. And only when one has grown older and has met younger people, and through meeting younger people and having once been young oneself we penetrate to the ego—only then can education be taken quite naturally.

Many suggestions about education today seemed to me no different from the content—horrible dictum—of the book of the once famous Knigge, who also gave directions as to how grownup people should be approached. It is the same with books on good breeding. Therefore what I have said and written about education, and what is attempted practically in the Waldorf School, aims only at saying as much as possible about the characteristics of the human being, in order to learn to know him, not to give directions: “You are meant to do this in such-and-such a way.” Knowledge of man—that is what must be striven for, and the rest left to God, if I may use this religious phrase. True knowledge of man makes the human being a teacher. For we should really get the feeling that we are ashamed to talk about education. But under the cultural conditions of today we have to do many things that ought to make us ashamed. The time will come when we shall no longer need to talk about education. Today these ways of thinking are lacking, but only for a little more than a hundred years.

Now read Fichte or Schiller thoughtfully. You will find in their writings what to modern people appears quite horrible. They have spoken, for example, about the State and about organizations to make the State into what it should be. And they have spoken about the aim of the State, saying: Morality must be such that the State becomes superfluous, that human beings are capable out of themselves of becoming free men, capable through their morality of making the State superfluous.

Fichte said that the State should be an institution which gives over the reins and gradually becomes entirely superfluous. It would hardly be possible to demand this of our contemporaries nor would they take it seriously. Today it would make a similar impression as the following incident on a troupe of actors.—A play had been performed for the fiftieth time by a traveling company when the director said: “Now that we have performed this for the fiftieth time, the prompter's box can be dispensed with.” But the actors were quite terrified at the idea. Finally one of them pulled himself together and said: “But, sir, then one will see the prompter!” This is about what would happen with our men of the present day. They do not see that the prompter, too, can be dispensed with. Thus it is today. The State will have found its best constitution when it makes itself superfluous, but the government officials and the Chancellors and the Privy Councilors—what would they all say to such a thing?

Now in practical everyday life we must be right within this great revolution going on in the depths of modern souls if we are to reach an outlook where there is as little talk about education as there was in older cultural epochs. Education was not talked about in earlier days. The science of education first arose when man could no longer educate out of the primal forces of his being. But this is more important than is supposed. The boy or girl, seeing the teacher come into the classroom, must not have the feeling: “He is teaching according to theoretical principles because he does not grasp the subconscious.” They want a human relation with the teacher. And that is always destroyed when educational principles are introduced. Therefore if we are to get back to a natural condition of authority between young and old it is of infinite importance, and an absolute necessity, that education shall not be talked about so much, that there should be no need to talk or think about it as much as is done today. For there are still many spheres in which education is conducted according to quite sound principles, although they are beginning to be broken through.

You see, theoretically it is all quite clear, and theoretically people know how to handle the matter, just as it is handled by the academic opinion of the present-day. But in practice it is quite good if there should happen to anyone what happened to me. A friend had scales by his plate and weighed the different foods so as to take the right quantity of each into his organism. From the physiological point of view this was correct—quite definitely so. But picture this transposed into the realm of education. Unfortunately it does happen, though in a primitive way and only in certain connections. But it is more wholesome when this happens intuitively, if parents, instead of buying some special physiological work on nourishment, judge how to feed their children through the feeling of how they themselves were once fed. And so in Pedagogy one must overcome everything which lays down rules as to how much food should be taken into the stomach, and of striving in the sphere of education for real insight into the nature and being of man. This insight into the nature of man will have a certain result for the whole of human life.

You see, whoever comes to an understanding of the human being in the way I have been describing during these days, and thereby imbues his knowledge with artistic perception, will remain young. For there is some truth in this—once we have grown up we have actually become impoverished. Yet it is of the greatest importance that we should have forces of growth within us. What we have in us as a child is of the utmost importance. But to this we are led back in inner experience through true knowledge of man. We really become childlike when we acquire the right knowledge of man and thereby qualify ourselves to meet those who are young and those who are still children in the right way.

There must be a striving that says, not in an egoistical sense as often happens today: “Except ye become as little children ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We must seek for this even in practical life. Unless we were imbued with an active human force which worked in us during childhood, we could never be educators. Pedagogics is not enough if it makes the teacher or educator merely clever. I do not say that it should make him empty of thought. But in this way one does not become empty of thought. Pedagogics that makes the teacher merely clever is not of the right kind; the right kind of pedagogics makes the teacher inwardly alive and fills him with lifeblood of the soul which pours itself actively into his physical life-blood. And if there is anything by which we can recognize a true teacher or educator, it is that his pedagogical art has not made him a pedant.

Now, my dear friends, that you can find a pedant working in some place is perhaps only a myth or a legend. If teachers are pedants, if these myths and legends are founded on truth, then we may be sure that pedagogy has taken a wrong road. To avoid giving offense I must assume these legends and myths to be hypothetical and say: If pedants and philistines were to be found in the teaching profession it would be a sign that our Education is going under. Education is on the ascent only when, in its experience and whole way of working, pedantry and philistinism are driven right out of men. The true teacher can be no philistine, can be no pedant.

In addition to this, so that you may be able to check what I have been saying, I ask you to consider from what vocation in life the word pedant is derived. Then, perhaps, you will be able to contribute to the recognition of the reality of what has been indicated; I do not want to enlarge upon it because already much that I have said is being taken amiss. It is only on the assumption mentioned that we can have a right Pedagogy, otherwise it would have to become a Pedagogy in accordance with what I have been giving you in these lectures. Thus in the lecture tomorrow I will attempt to bring these talks to some conclusion.