At the end of the first world war, Emil Molt, managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, foresaw that a completely new basis must be found for education in the new world which even then was beginning to arise. He therefore invited Rudolf Steiner to become the educational director of a school he intended to found for the children of the workers in his factory — the first Waldorf School opened in 1919.
Steiner asked a number of people from all walks of life to become the original teachers in this school, and they gladly responded to his call. To them he gave the course of fourteen lectures contained in this book, as well as two other courses published in English as Practical Course for Teachers and Discussions with Teachers, which should be studied in conjunction with this work.
All these teachers were already familiar with Steiner's fundamental teaching as to the nature and evolution of man and the world, such as will be found in his books Philosophy of Freedom, Occult Science — an Outline, and Theosophy (a term which he used in a much wider historical sense than has come to be the case in England). The first of these books contains the philosophical justification for the existence of the spiritual investigations on which the present work is founded: the second gives a description of the evolution of the kingdoms of nature, the sequence of historical epochs, the relation of man to the hierarchies — on all of which much is built in these lectures: the third gives a full account of the threefold, sevenfold and ninefold nature of man, in which elements from the past are always meeting what is striving to be born out of the future. For Steiner's psychology is unique in that it takes account not only of forces playing into man from the past but also of future states of consciousness and being, which will not be realised till the far distant future but which are already affecting his character and destiny.
It was Steiner's way to approach a problem from one point of view at a time and develop that view fully. At another time he would approach the same problem from another viewpoint, and present what at first hearing may seem to be on almost opposite conclusion. It is important to remember in reading his works that nothing is intended to be final, conclusive or dogmatic. Life is full of complications and contradictions, and any valid account of it must reflect this fact.
After the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart in 1919 many other schools were soon founded on the same basis in a number of countries, and Steiner was called upon to lecture on education in various countries, including England. A list of further translated educational works will be found at the end of this volume.
Some personal words to the original group of teachers, stressing the importance of the founding of the school, with which Steiner opened the course of lectures, have been omitted from this translation.