Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Spirit of the Waldorf School
GA 297

V. The Social Pedagogical Significance of Spiritual Science

25 November 1919, Basel

In the face of facts that speak loud and clear, we do not need to prove that the social question is now one of the most burning public concerns. However, those who can observe these facts without prejudice can also see that much deeper human questions play into modern social demands than the problems usually associated with slogans. If you look beyond current academic activity and trends to social facts, you can see how deeper human questions in a certain respect spring from these social problems.

It is obvious that, for the most part, academic life stands by helplessly when confronted with these burning social demands. I need only mention two things to prove this helplessness. We know that in the course of recent cultural development, in addition to the other branches of science, a theoretical socio- or world economics has emerged. We know how the differing schools of thought have affected the area of world economics in the last centuries, particularly in the nineteenth century. We know that there was a mercantilist school, a physiocratic school and so forth, and we know how these different streams have attempted to understand social facts. They have attempted to discover how human social understanding can become a part of human willing, for example, in various governmental programs. However, we have seen that these different theoretical viewpoints have not resulted in any really thorough, fruitful social initiatives. The clearest proof of that is the form that world economic theory has taken. It has slowly withdrawn into a scientific observation of social life and world economics. It has withdrawn into a description of social facts.

Specifically, we see the newest efforts in this area developing into all manner of descriptions or statistical observations and such. However, we do not see anywhere an impulse that can really be carried into social will, that can be fruitful for the social activity of public life. The incapacity of world economic theories in this area is thus evident.

On the other hand, we see the growth of social ideas and social demands from a wide spectrum of the working class.

Certainly, we would have much to discuss if we wanted to speak about the historical development of these more-thanhalf-century-old social demands. Here we wish to take note of only one feature, of one characteristic of these demands. I wish to express it like this: There were also older efforts in this direction, efforts that did not simply rely upon theoretical contemplation, as has been done in world economics, but that were based upon the goals of people seeking a new social structure. Since the time of these efforts (we need only recall Fourier, Saint-Simon, Louis Blanc and so forth), a quite different element has entered into these contemplations. This can be characterized by a certain mistrust. Among the masses and their socialist leaders a certain antipathy is prevalent concerning everything that arises out of the spirit, out of contemplation, out of the human willing that should lead to a rejuvenation of social relationships.

Those whose feeling and thinking embody the intellectual impulses of modern times have much goodwill toward achieving social change. Regardless of that goodwill, the belief has arisen that all this has a utopian character. In spite of all the human inventiveness and goodwill, the belief has arisen that it is impossible to create impulses that will lead to practical changes in social life, to a truly practical reformation of social life. Disbelief in the human spirit and its social ideas has become the prevailing sentiment of the masses and their leaders.

Thus, something has come forth that people in these groups feel to be a foregone conclusion — so much a foregone conclusion that to fight against it is extraordinarily difficult. The conviction has arisen that on/y the means of economic production can stimulate a reformation. The conviction has arisen that, in a certain sense, the human will is powerless and must wait until the means of production themselves cause a different configuration in social life. It has become a habit to speak of everything created through thinking as an ideology, as something powerless in real life. It has also become habitual to speak as though only material relationships and changes are real, as though thinking emerges from these like a wisp of smoke. People speak of historical materialism because they see reality only in materialism, particularly in economic activity. People view what comes from the human spirit as something that rises like smoke out of what is real — in this case, economic activity — and forms a kind of ideological superstructure.

If we look at theoretical world economics, based as it is on the world view of conventional science, or at the thoughts of such thoroughly honest, creative personalities as Saint-Simon or Louis Blanc, whose work comes fully out of modern intellectual life, a question arises. We now ask, given what these two sides desire, is it so incomprehensible that a disbelief in true spiritual impulses has occurred?

No, it is not. If we look at the basic character of modern intellectual life we will find the main reason. The basic character of modern intellectual life has slowly become purely abstract, something foreign and removed from reality.

We must constantly note that attitudes arising from what intellectual life has become in the last centuries have created ethical and moral viewpoints. However, the question is, do these moral viewpoints have the power to affect outer reality? Do they have the power to be creative in outer reality?

Neither science nor moral points of view have been able to create a true bridge between what lives in people’s spirit and what lies in material or natural processes. We see that over time the concerns of the human soul, the concerns of the human spirit, have become the intellectual monopoly, the cultural monopoly, of those groups who have made this or that credo their own. Thus, scientific endeavors have slowly become unaccustomed to concerning themselves with spirit and soul. People believe they are free from prejudice, that they follow a completely unprejudiced science, when they limit scientific methods to what is sense perceptible. People believe these methods immediately go beyond the bounds of human cognition when they enter the spiritual realm, when they enter the supersensible realm. People think that they are unprejudiced when, in fact, they are only following those forces that arise out of the historical course of events.

Those religious groups who, due to historical development, have had a monopoly in creating dogmas concerning the essence of spirit and soul out of old traditions, concerning the essence of human immortality, were in a position to prevent scientific research into these things. These groups applied pressure upon research until it simply succumbed to the pressure and accepted the dictates of the credo. Slowly the sciences came to believe they followed their own lack of prejudice, their own objectivity, because they were no longer conscious that what they actually followed are the prohibitions of the Church.

This “objective” approach has limited itself completely to external, sensible reality and has not endeavored to examine spiritual life with the conscientious methods that have brought modern science such great triumphs. It has, nonetheless, been able to affect the realm of spirit and soul. Thus the realm of spirit and soul has become something foreign to life. Life, external reality, is measured with exact methods. However, what concerns spirit and soul has slowly lost all living concepts. Those of you who follow the usual, the respected, the official textbooks and lectures on psychology and such will find in them nothing sparkling with life. Spiritual life has become something disconnected from life.

The only thing that could be a basis for the spiritual attitude of such people as Saint-Simon or Fourier or Louis Blanc when they considered social questions has remained unfruitful because nowhere were the living effects of the human spirit upon social reality taken into account. People go around talking in abstractions. With normal modern intellectuality, we cannot refute the statement that social facts can be observed only through economics, that no steps can be taken to fulfill human social longings. With only these means, we can make no counter argument when people insist that nothing results from spiritual life that could lead to a true healing of social relationships, that we must leave social development to the means of production. Modern intellectual life has become abstract. In a certain sense modern intellectual life is an ideology. Thus those who are, in the widest sense, members of socialist circles believe that a//thinking must be ideological.

This is just what lies so heavily upon the souls of those who accept spiritual science. Spiritual science does not want to follow the same path taken by that burned-out academic science that has developed in modern times. Spiritual science wishes to lead people back to the true spirit. It wishes to lead people to an understanding of the true spiritual life to which they belong in just the same way that their bodies belong to physical reality, in the same way that through their material needs they are part of economic reality.

When we speak of real spirit today, when we attempt to speak of real spirit, we not only meet opposition, we meet mockery. We meet the kind of ridicule that derides all spiritual desires as pipe dreams or worse. We really meet modern disbelief when we say that what we mean as spirit cannot be comprehended with the usual powers of cognition that lead us through everyday life, through conventional science. We meet disbelief when we emphasize that to grasp and understand this spirit, it is necessary first to awaken powers of cognition that otherwise only sleep in human nature — in the same way that we awaken the usual powers of cognition in the developing child. Modern people will not admit that there could be something like an intellectual unpretentiousness, that there could be something like a further development of the inner human out of our childhood when we instinctively and dully step into life. They will not believe that we can awaken this later development to assist the normal powers of cognition, and that we can continue its development. But, it is not continued because modern intellectual life has resisted its continuance.

It is not our intent to speak in a vague way about spirit and its reality. Due to the spiritual development of the last centuries, it is easier to speak to the hearts and souls of people when we talk about spirit and spirituality in generalities instead of in a more definite manner. When people speak about spirit, they almost immediately think of spirit as an abstraction, something foreign to life. We might say that true spirit has become so foreign to them that they expect this spirit to reveal itself only in an occasional guest appearance.

Now I do not want to hold you up long with things common to the spiritualism to which modern thinking has fallen prey. In the end, however, what is this spiritualism other than the final decadent outstreaming of a desire for an abstract spiritual life! What we must understand is a true, concrete spiritual life to which human spirit can connect itself, and which we can grasp at every step in physical and cosmic reality. True spiritual life is not there to fulfill people’s desires for theatrical effects, to show itself in spiritualist seances or in other ways desired by abstract mystics. The science of the spirit cannot speak of a spirit that partakes of guest appearances that have nothing to do with external reality, and are called forth simply to convince passive people that spirit exists. The science of the spirit cannot speak of such a spirit. Spiritual science can speak only of the spirit that in truth participates in every material effect and every material event. It speaks of the spirit with which people can connect themselves in order to master external reality. Thus, I will primarily speak about the activity of the spirit we must turn toward if we wish to learn how the spirit, working through people, can have an effect in life.

We first need to look at the way the spirit gradually develops out of the growing human. The growing child presents us with one of the greatest riddles of the world — a riddle we in education continuously try to solve. People have recently brought even this amazing riddle to a particularly abstract, nebulous height. Recently, there has been much talk about recognizing the power of education. People have recently made many attempts to use various educational principles. All such attempts have failed. They will stand as evidence of the goodwill of their proponents, but in the face of the great, the intense demands of our lives, these attempts must fail if they do not arise from a recognition of human essence.

People will not recognize human essence if they attempt to understand it only through modern science, or by intellectually assimilating the observations gained through science. Human essence reveals itself only if we understand how to observe it. It shows itself only if we develop the capability to investigate that certain something that reveals itself with every day, every week, every year after human beings enter into physical existence through birth or conception. We must observe the specific stages in the life of young humans if we do not want to remain in abstractions, but instead want to understand the spiritually concrete activity in external reality.

People value these things much too little today. For the observer of human essence, the stage when children change teeth, around six or seven years of age, indicates a deep change in the totality of human nature. If you have an organ that can truly examine such things empirically, the way we can empirically observe physical experiments in laboratories or in the astronomical observatory, then you can see such things. When you examine the life of the soul before this stage, you find that during the time preceding the change of teeth, people are primarily imitators. The imitative element, a kind of intuitive dependence upon the environment, motivates their entire being until seven years of age. In the first seven years of our lives we learn everything through imitation, through the most strict conformity to what is in our environment, right down to our movements, our gestures, our intonation.

In extreme cases, we can easily observe such things. I wish to mention only one of the many cases that become obvious if you have any sense at all for such things in life. I could mention a hundred others. I knew a young child who limped. Even though there was nothing wrong, the child limped, and people could not get her to stop limping. The reason the child limped was that she had an older sibling who, due to a diseased leg, actually had cause to limp! This imitative principle that motivates people until the change of teeth is thus expressed in an extreme case.

The true observer sees that quite new forces enter into the human life of body, soul and spirit when the change of teeth is complete. Then, what children perceive in their environment does not motivate them as much. Instead, they are especially ready to believe, to accept, what they feel to be the opinion or the belief of those who, through age or bearing, they intuitively perceive as authorities.

Until the time of puberty, this acceptance, this automatic acceptance of authority, is like a law of human nature. If you wish to properly affect the human essence during this time, then you must turn to this intuitive principle of authority.

Those who, without prejudice, without some pet theory, observe the life of young people, those who work with facts, know how much it can mean for their whole life if children have someone they can look up to as an authority. You need only observe how people’s feelings about such an authority change! You need only observe what later in life results from these feelings toward authority! Everything that we develop as truly free independent democratic feelings in human social life, everything that we gain in true human understanding and human respect, is at heart a result of appropriate development under intuitive authority during the period from the change of teeth until puberty.

We should not meddle with such things through special programs. We should approach this area through purely empirical observation. Then we will discover what we need to think and feel when we receive the school child who has developed in imitation of the care — or the neglect — of the parents. We will see how we must work out of the principle of authority in school if we truly want to work appropriately. We can only be effective when we derive our pedagogical methods and develop our whole teaching activity out of a human understanding.

If you are not able to observe from year to year, from week to week how other demands develop out of the core of the child and rise to the surface, then you will not be able to work with human developmental powers, you will work against them. Educational material and methods must, in fact, meet these requirements of the developing child.

If you do not know how authority works, if you do not know the intimate interactions that exist between the authority and the growing child, then you will never be able to work positively in the education of children this age. I wish to mention a single concrete example. You know that due to certain programs and prejudices, there is now much discussion concerning visual aids. You are supposed to show the children everything. This often implies that you should teach the children only about things you can place before their eyes, or at least demonstrate to their intellect, so that they can immediately understand everything with their immature comprehension.

You need only look at the books that are to serve as guides for such teaching. Certainly, illustrative material is, within bounds, quite appropriate. But, what is appropriate within certain boundaries leads to error when we extend it beyond these boundaries. Visual aids — as I mentioned, you can see it in the guides — often lead to extremely materialistic triviality. People try to limit instruction to what children can understand, to what such people, in their simple-mindedness, believe is the maximum children can understand. However, they neglect something. They do not take into account what teaching out of authority means to human life. Individuals who are thirtyfive years old may, due to some event, suddenly remember that when they were seven, eight, nine or ten years old, they learned something in school from a highly regarded authority. They say to themselves, “I did not really understand it then. I only looked with high regard to that honored authority. When that honored authority said something, led something into my soul, I knew it instinctively. I did not know how I knew it, but I felt it was something valuable. I remembered it, perhaps only as words, but it lived in me for many years afterward. After many years, now that I have become mature, I recall what I learned long ago.” When people are mature, these recollections of things they accepted in youth upon simple authority now become a source of strength. They now know what it means that things they learned as children can first be fully understood as recollections in later life. In this way, we can give people living strength!

I wish to mention one other thing about the intimate workings between educational authority and the child. We want to teach the child certain things meant for a later period in life. Of course, the child does not understand these things. Thus, we clothe them in all kinds of allegories and pictures. Let us take a picture someone might think of, for instance, the picture of immortality. The teacher might say, “Here you have the cocoon of a butterfly. The animal is nestled within it. It will creep out, the beautiful butterfly will come out of the cocoon.” Now, the teacher might go further and say, “Just as the butterfly is in this cocoon, in the same way the immortal soul lies within your body. When you go through the gates of death, this immortal soul will appear in the spiritual world just as the butterfly will appear here. Remember how here in the physical world the beautiful butterfly comes out of the cocoon.”

You can make such a picture. It may touch the child. But, such a picture will not achieve what it should achieve if, as a teacher, you only have the consciousness that you are clever and the child is dumb, and that, therefore, you have to clothe in a picture what the child cannot yet understand. There are great intangibles in living human relationships. Regardless of what occurs between the intellect of the authority and the child’s intellect, something will happen in the child’s subconscious that comes from the discrepancy between the teacher’s disbelief in the picture and the intent to develop the child’s belief through the picture.

You need only observe how differently things occur — this is something paradoxical — when you yourself believe that the picture of the cocoon and the butterfly is not simply a picture, when you are clear that you do not make this picture, but the creative natural powers themselves make this picture. The one and only great artist, Natura, forms this picture. She carries her divinity within her in such a way that this picture expresses the same thing at a lower level as immortality expresses at a higher level. In other words, when you have complete belief in the picture, when it is not something made up for someone else, when it is your own inner belief, then something occurs in your telling of it to the child. Then, when it affects the child in the proper way, later in life the grown child’s soul will carry a true picture of immortality. Today we must not judge the things connected with the principle of authority by appearances. To really understand what occurs in people’s lives, we need, at the least, a careful study from the standpoint I will discuss in a moment. We need such a study to understand what to use in education during the period between the change of teeth and puberty.

Real capabilities of judgment, of free, independent reason, first appear in human nature after puberty. If we activate this independent reason too early, if we appeal too much to the child’s intellect before puberty, then we do not appeal to what can be given from one person to another through authority. Then we kill much of what we need to develop between the ages of six to seven and fourteen to fifteen, that is, during the time of elementary school.

Now we must ask, where will the teachers gain insight into the forces they must use, first when the child is an imitator, then when the child is between the change of teeth and puberty, and then in that stage of life after puberty? Our detractors can mock, they can ridicule what spiritual science means when it says that particular powers, higher powers of cognition, must be formed in human nature so that people can recognize the spiritual and its actions in the different ages of human life.

In my book How to Know Higher Worlds, 1 have described in detail how people can obtain these higher powers of cognition. The same thing is in the second part of my Outline of Occult Science, and in other books. I have shown how people can use common everyday cognition, common scientific cognition, as a basis to rise through three higher stages that I have called (do not be disturbed by the names, you have to use some common names) Imaginative cognition, Inspired cognition and Intuitive cognition.

We can obtain Imaginative cognition when we systematically do quite specific meditations that I describe in the abovenamed books, when we train thinking beyond the level of normal life and conventional science. Imaginative cognition first gives us the possibility of developing pictures in our soul life, pictures that are not spatial, not fantasy, but that represent spiritual reality.

People learn to recognize that, in the end, everything humans develop as ideas, as conceptions, as sense perceptions for normal life and for conventional science is connected to human physical existence. We learn to slowly disengage the life of the soul from simple bodily life as we increasingly undertake to raise our powers of thinking to a meditative activity. We rise to an Imaginative cognition that at first consists only of pictures, but that shows us reality the moment we further develop ourselves as I describe in the above-mentioned books. When the Inspiration (which we have first prepared ourselves to be capable of comprehending) enters from the spiritual world that is just as much around us as the physical world, then the effects of the spiritual world fill these pictures.

If we then rise to Intuitive cognition, we will meet spiritual beings in just the same way we meet physical beings in the physical world. Today I can merely mention this and must direct you to the books where I describe these things in detail. If we can really rise to what I call Imaginative, Inspired and Intuitive cognition, then these stages of cognition are not phantasms, are not daydreams as our contemporaries, with their lack of spirituality, call them. When they are feeling kindly, they say at best, “Well, all right, the product of a sick mind!” However, they will judge differently if we only indicate the true basis, the real source of this higher knowledge — and I will do that today by referring to a characteristic I have mentioned before. Where in human nature do these forces lie that we must develop in life so that we can look into the spiritual world?

Think for a moment. We have certain forces that make us into imitative beings until the change of teeth, forces that, in a certain sense, later recede. These forces find no further use in normal modern social life — they recede. However, they remain connected with human nature. Again, there are the forces that act between the change of teeth and puberty to stimulate the inclination toward authority out of the soul-physical realm. These forces, which I described in connection with the intangibles living between the teacher and the children, are real forces in childhood, but they, too, later recede.

Furthermore, as human beings we have forces that are active from puberty until around the age of twenty that also later recede. (Of course, now we seldom see what we call youthful idealism, youthful motivations that lead to living ideals. At one time people perceived living ideals in the same way that we perceive external life.) These are the same forces that after puberty first form the foundation of true judgment and that need to be brought to a special level of development. They also recede after the age of twenty-one or twenty-two.

In the last centuries, human life has developed such that we only cultivate intellectual capabilities, scientific capabilities, the ability to observe natural and social things. To the extent that this development has taken place, those powers active in the first three stages of life have receded. We can, however, bring them forth again. Imaginative cognition is nothing more than those forces whose spiritual activity forms the human body and soul from puberty until the age of twenty. It is nothing more than those soul forces that, under the direction of my book How To Know Higher Worlds, we can bring forth out of the depths of human nature. The spiritual researcher brings forth again what has receded. Where it otherwise remains hidden, we bring it forth again so that it enters into consciousness. Then it develops Imaginative cognition.

It is more difficult to bring forth those human forces that are active from the change of teeth until puberty but that recede later in life and lie deep in the organism. However, through such exercises as I have described in my books, we can call them, too, into consciousness. These prove to be identical with forces that are active in children, but remain unknown and unnoticed by science. We learn how to master these forces. Through an Inspired cognition, they bring into our consciousness certain spiritual secrets of our surroundings. This is not a made-up force, not something that does not already exist in life. This is something that proves itself to be active during the most important developmental years. Spiritual research brings it forth again to become the basis of insight into the spiritual world.

Because they remain hidden from observation, the most difficult forces to bring forth are those forces that are active in human nature between birth, we can even say between conception, and the change of teeth. Those forces find their conclusion in the permanent teeth and later completely withdraw into the human organic system. Nevertheless, we can bring these forces forth after we have called forth the others.

We see that we now connect ourselves with these forces when we grasp them with our full being, these forces that actually gave us the life impulse. In a certain sense, we unroll in the first seven years of our life — we bring forth out of our deepest souls the actual impulse, which we recognize as spirit, that we received in the first stage of life. When we bring into our consciousness what has receded, then we have Intuitive cognition. We do not connect ourselves only with our own being, but with something in comparison to which our normal thoughts are absurdities. We connect ourselves with something that is one and the same as the Being of the World. We then recognize the spirit in us as connected to the Spirit of the World.

You see, teachers who understand human beings through spiritual science, who have the developing human before them, look at what the spirit forms out of this developing human. The teachers meet this developing human with their educational skills. The teacher working from spiritual science does not have in mind a pedagogy used to educate children according to abstract rules, as is normal today. For this teacher, each child is a riddle. What should come to life in each child is something the teacher must solve in a living way every day, in every hour. However, when the teacher acquires the viewpoint of this living, working spirit in the living development of the child, he or she absorbs a recognition of reality that does not remain in concepts, does not remain in abstract generalities, but permeates the will with spirit. Such a teacher really becomes a pillar of knowledge, and he or she will develop a truly living pedagogy because it comes from an understanding of the human being, from a recognition of the complete, whole person.

Spiritual science is nothing other than what we can create out of the forces that are spiritually active in the stages of human development. It is not some fantasy. The source for the development of higher spiritual powers does not come from just anything that might arise in people, but from the conscious apprehension of what works in the healthiest forces of growth and life in the first three stages of human development. In that we become spiritual researchers, we raise into the consciousness of our understanding of the world and of people what really causes our growth and development as human beings.

So closely related is Anthroposophy to the spiritual sword and shield of cognition! For that reason, spiritual science is not something we can take up simply through our intellect. Since we bring it forth out of the being and growth forces of the whole human, it permeates our whole being, our feeling and will. It becomes a basic human force. Immaturity and unconsciousness are concepts that lose their relevance through the activity of the spirit in human beings. We may not say that people lose their instinctive, basic forces when they consciously develop the spirit. No, this remains. The same basic strength that is otherwise present only in instinctive actions is present when the spirit permeates people in this way. The spirit really enters into the being of the teacher, into the effectiveness of the teacher, into those who are to develop social pedagogical forces in youth. What spiritual science is comes from the same source from which people themselves grow. Self-development is only a transformation of our growth forces.

You see, these are things, at least in their underlying principles, that modern people often regard much as people once viewed the science of Copernicus and Galileo. What most people once viewed as an absurdity has now become a matter of course. In the same way, the knowledge of the three stages of life, their basic forces and their transformation into Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition through spiritual science will become a matter of course.

Our age can notice that modern intellectual life (I have shown this in two examples) has become powerless in the face of social life and social desires. When modern people see that the intellectualism developed in the last centuries (abstract, foreign and removed from life) is not the only possibility, that there is also a science that comes from the transformation of growth forces, they will develop sympathy and interest. This spiritual science can understand the living spirit that does not play guest roles in life, but is present and active in life; and the human spirit, by connecting itself with that living spirit, develops social pedagogical strength.

Why (again we put this question) are we so seldom able to transform into social will what we receive in ideas, what we develop in ideas? How is it that such disbelief has arisen that people speak only of ideology when they refer to the power of the spirit?

The period that is just behind us was a time of great triumphs for modern science. Those great scientific triumphs could arise only when people first turned away from what was within them and devoted themselves to the activities of nature and to the scientific method. Those who are spiritual researchers will certainly recognize the conscientiousness, the exactitude, of modern scientific methods, and will also recognize the fertility of these methods within their areas. They will certainly not go into a simplistic, unsympathetic criticism of limited and bounded material knowledge. However, we must be clear about one fact of experience that people do not observe today. People do not observe it because they can see, completely correctly from at least one point of view, that scientific methods are well suited to give a picture of natural phenomena. Because scientific methods work so well in this realm, people are not inclined to ask how this experience, derived in this way, affects the whole essence of humanity.

Concerning observations of nature and the recognition of natural laws, people accept only what their senses believe and their intellect can process. They consciously shut out everything that comes from their feeling and will life. What they understand about nature does not affect the will and feeling life. Thus, many people who view the entire situation without prejudice speak about modern science and its effects differently than those who simply accept all the great scientific triumphs.

If we look at the human essence, the picture we can achieve through the scientific method has something fatalistic about it — it is something that fills only our intellect, but does not touch our will. If we use the scientific method in popular or scientific thinking about social life, then social life in a sense ebbs away, falls apart. Just as something finely ground runs through a sieve, true social life slips past our observation when we approach it only with modern scientific methods. We can see how strict causal scientific thinking fails the moment it is applied to the social realm or general external society. I want to give an example of this: There is perhaps no other book in a much-debated area that so beautifully develops exact scientific thinking as Das Werden der Organismen, eine Widerlegung der Darwinschen Zufallstheorie (The development of the organism — a rebuttal of the Darwinian theory of chance), by the well-known biologist, Oskar Hertwig. We can offer only the highest praise for this book’s attempt to characterize conventional scientific insights into the theory of evolution.

A short time after Hertwig’s book appeared, he also published something about social, legal and political issues, issues concerning general society. It would be impossible to think of something more dilettantish and incompetent than this firstrate biologist’s stroll through an area generally encompassed by the concept “social life”!

There are hundreds, thousands, of such examples. They all show what we can directly observe, namely, that even the highest devotion to natural scientific knowledge causes us to fill our consciousness with ideas that are actually the content of an ideology that cannot pulse into our feeling and will. These ideas remain unfruitful in feeling and willing.

I want to expressly emphasize that in considering such things, it is not my intention to go in the reverse direction. I do not wish to contend that the way of thinking of the vast majority of modern people is simply the outcome of the scientific way of thinking. No, quite the opposite. The last centuries have brought forth a certain kind of common thinking. Those who really study history, not simply a fable convenue, a convenient story, see how human life, particularly social life right down to the peasantry, has changed in the last three or four centuries. What has come forth as natural scientific thinking is, in my opinion, only an external expression of what has generally taken hold of human soul life. I do not wish to call human thinking and feeling a product of modern scientific attitude and knowledge, but just the opposite. I see in the scientific attitude and knowledge only the external symbol, the revelation, of what is the general direction of human thinking, the general attitude toward life and external reality.

What has developed is the basis for a thinking and feeling foreign to life, for a spiritual life foreign to life. If, on the other hand, you consider what forms the basis of spiritual science (I have just shown that this spiritual science is only a transformation of the human forces of growth and development), then you can rise to see a real world in these things. Then what we take in with spiritual knowledge enters into our powers of feeling and will. This is the only healthy way for people now and in the near future to come to a truly social willing. It is necessary for the future to infuse this social willing with the knowledge that can come from the spiritual.

We would not say that everyone can effortlessly achieve the development of higher spiritual powers. We certainly do not at all contend that. Certainly, only a few people will be able to recognize the secrets of spiritual life through direct vision of the highest spiritual facts. This recognition is first connected to a certain inner courage, a certain boldness. Human will, human intellectual power, all human soul forces must develop so that they extend beyond the normal level of strength. These soul forces must grow so they can grasp the spiritual world that flits past ordinary human cognition, the spiritual world people cannot usually perceive. In a certain sense, we must reach for the finest among everyday capacities. The spirit does not come in the same way that external realities come. The spirit comes when you connect yourself with it in the same way that you feel pain, that you feel desire and distress that flood through your soul, as something very real. In this way you will feel, experience and recognize the spiritual through a flooding in your soul, only you know that it is not something simply subjective like desire and distress. It is so intimately connected with the soul, like desire and distress, joy and sorrow, yet it streams into our souls as something foreign, something spiritual. At first, it will be something unexpected. We expect something quite different in external life. Thus, we must accept this spiritual life in sorrow and pain, since we receive and perceive around us a life that we do not expect. No one comes into the spiritual world who does not struggle for this entrance, step by step, through sorrow and pain. This, though, only concerns research of the spiritual world.

In contrast, we must say that the capacities to understand what spiritual research has to say comprise only ordinary healthy common sense. For spiritual researchers, it is unimportant simply to assure others that they love truth and see what they speak of as spiritual. Rather, spiritual researchers can speak so that people with healthy common sense can understand their path of thinking. Of course, their thinking is formed from spiritual vision. However, people can recognize that it has the same inner logic they learn from external, sense-perceptible reality. Thus, if it is not limited by opposing prejudices, healthy common sense can judge whether spiritual researchers talk nonsense. Healthy common sense can judge from the way spiritual researchers speak whether the spiritual world is open to them, whether they really see into it. Thus, what individual spiritual researchers bring into social life is itself a social pedagogical force.

If people accustom themselves to acquiring understanding, to acquiring the healthy common sense to be able to perceive the convincing power of what spiritual science reveals as the true reality of human life, then they will develop another social force. This social force will lead people to one another and will bring into the structure of the social organism things that cannot come into it any other way. These things form a more intimate recognition of one person by another, an ability to accept other people, a germination of true social impulses.

This is what develops in human interactions based upon true spiritual cognition and everything connected with it. People will feel how social pedagogical forces can enter social will when they begin to extend what we can draw from human growth and development into the living social organism. Only then will they understand that human essence embodies social organs. People will be able to bring into the social organism what they understand of the spirit working in the natural organism.

People will not come to true social pedagogical strength until they are able to draw social pedagogical forces from the motives, from the impulses, of spiritual knowledge!

Where does our understanding of spiritual scientific knowledge come from? It comes from those diminished forces that made physical and spiritual adults from little children. We do not need to let those forces lie fallow, we need to use them. We need only to apply our own humanity to external social order for a true social pedagogical strength to develop in the education of children. Then, too, that indefinable but very real activity in education that lies in human relationships, in human interactions, will develop between us. If we will only understand what meets us from the personality of the whole person, if we will only understand what mysterious things lie in each person, how individuals can, in their sub- and superconsciousness, grow beyond themselves, then a social pedagogical strength will exist in human interactions. We will so interact with one another that the being of one raises and carries the being of the other. In short, social pedagogical strength flows out of spiritual recognition, not only for the education of children, but for the totality of human life.

You see, the idea of the threefold social organism does not, in truth, come from some program, like so many social ideas. It comes from a new spiritual direction for which, on the one side, modern people have only very little sympathy. But, on the other side, they yearn for it with all of their subconscious desires and instincts. They thirst for it. Much more than people consciously believe, they carry in their subconscious a thirst for the spiritual. Today we see that people clothe their social desires in all sorts of formulas, forms and demands. What is characteristic about them, if you look at what meets us from people’s well-meaning will forces, from correct rightful needs, is that they cannot generally be understood. They cannot be so understood that genuinely constructive activity could arise from them.

This is quite characteristic, and it is very remarkable the way those people who have worked for years on ideas and programs for social reform, the way all their thinking, everything they have derived from their spiritual life, fails. Recently a letter from a well-known social revolutionary appeared in the newspapers, a letter from Kropotkin to George Brandes. In it Kropotkin describes the bleak situation in eastern Europe. In his way, he really describes the whole European situation, and concludes, “Yes, the only thing we can hope for is that we are given bread and tools to produce bread.”

You see a social revolutionary, who has for years attempted to think about his ideas, has come so far as to state that the world is to be organized so that the tools to produce bread shall be properly provided, so that people can be fed. In the end, only an abstract cry for bread and tools results! Disbelief in abstract spirituality, in his own spirituality!

We have to see through the cry for bread, to see that it is nothing other than a modern cry for the spirit. Only out of an understanding of the #rue spirit can come the social strength of will that can properly provide tools for bread production. The point is not to cry for programs, but to turn rightly to human faculties, to turn to the strength of human activity. That means to correctly understand people, so that they find their proper place in life and can work in the most efficient way to feed their families, to work for the whole life of their fellow human beings.

We must make the social question a question of humanity in the broadest sense. Otherwise, no good will come of it. It is possible to improve things when we recognize that the social question is complete only when we perceive it out of the spirit.

What we strive for in the threefolding of the social organism arises out of a new spiritual direction, out of a recognition of the demands that are so nebulous today. Although they are correct, they are nonetheless nebulous. What we strive for arises out of the recognition that an unconscious longing for this new spirituality lives in these demands. Everything we recognize as decadence in the striving for spirituality is an expression of people’s still clumsy search for the spirit. Certainly, one of the most decadent forms of this search is spiritism, or false mystical paths. This decadent direction has come out of centuries, we can even say in this case millennia, of education through which people have not learned to search for the spirit in reality itself, in the reality to which they belong. The striving toward spirituality has been carried to such abstract heights because dogmatic monopolies wanted to usurp it.

Spiritual science wants to prove that the same powers that can grasp external nature, if we develop them further as I described today, can also penetrate spiritual life. Then people will not strive toward an abstract spirit, toward a spirit created for the occasional gratification of human consciousness, but toward a spirit that is in reality, that is ome with material life. We do not recognize the spirit when we look at matter simply as matter, and say that it is only matter and the spirit is somewhere else. No. Those who seek the spirit through abstract formulations and think they should seek it along the path of spiritism, for instance, in the dark corners of life, have not yet achieved the correct human relationship to the spirit.

We have achieved the proper human relationship to spiritual life only if we seek such a spirit as we can see in nature around us, particularly in human life itself, in the life of children, in social connections. We have achieved the correct relationship when we know that in everything around us, even in economic life, the spirit is active, and when we search in such a way that we connect this spiritual activity to ourselves. A proper seeking of the spirit exists only when people want to understand the spirit, only when they love the spirit that is active in themselves. It exists only when people can form a bridge between the spiritual reality in themselves and the spiritual reality in the world. Only through such a spirit and through the knowledge of such a spirit can we develop the social pedagogical strength that we need for human life now and in the near future.

Thus, we can only repeat time and again:

May the dark unconscious desires living in human hearts and minds flame up into the conscious life of soul, so that humanity may find, in this age when social concern has become so bright, the #rue spiritual power of the world with which inner spiritual powers of humans can connect.

Out of this union between the World Spirit and the human spirit will flow the best source of social pedagogical strength for human life.

After a short discussion, Dr. Steiner concluded with the following:

Now, of course, those who speak out of spiritual science will not be of the opinion that what has come forth recently as science, philosophy or art needs to be thrown away simply because it has led to the false path mentioned by the previous speaker. However, the essence of spiritual science should be that the one-sided human activities that arose in the last centuries out of modern scientific assumptions should give up their one-sidedness and merge into a general stream of all-encompassing life.

You will not expect that I am in any way against what science, philosophy or the arts have generated within their rightful boundaries, if you follow not only my spiritual scientific books but also, for example, my description of the progress of philosophy in The Riddles of Philosophy. 1f you look at the way I have interpreted the essence of art — the Goetheanum in Dornach that houses the School for Spiritual Science, which, in its external appearance, attempts to represent spiritual science — you will not see an opposition to the modern developments in science, philosophy or art, to the extent that they occur within their proper limits. The one-sidedness that has come forth in these areas seems to me even to be something necessary. Life develops in contradictions, even polar contradictions. Thus, if we introspectively consider history, we can see that periods when certain activities were one-sided alternate with periods when these activities flow into a certain universal, consonant, harmonious life activity. However, it is the fructification of modern scientific views, of philosophical considerations and modern artistic trends that spiritual science should particularly accentuate.

Let us take, for example, to use something that I could barely mention in the lecture, many of the more modern trends in art. Certainly, we can easily make fun of such trends in art. But, you see, even though certain things like expressionist art appear incomplete to our souls, nevertheless we must say that they are only a preliminary, often clumsy attempt to come to something that is really in accordance with life. In the last century, we have slipped into a kind of intellectuality. Intellectuality is unfruitful. In social life and in art, what has been the consequence? The necessary consequence has been that although people have wanted to be artistically active, they have slipped into naturalism, into the simple imitation of nature.

The simple imitation of nature can never be art in an absolute sense. I say that not in deference to the art critics, but simply because when someone so strongly imitates what they see in external nature, they will never reach nature. If you have a sense for it, you will always prefer nature over what simply imitates nature.

An outrageously inept thing often occurs (you will excuse me if I bring up this trivial example) that is the expression of outrageously bad taste. You show people, let’s say, an apple that you find particularly pleasing, beautifully polished, and so forth. Then, you say, “It’s as though it were made out of wax!” It is impossible to think of something more outrageously inept than when someone compares something from nature with an artificial thing, regardless of how good this artificial thing is! For the simple reason that we can never reach true nature in art, we must reject absolute naturalism.

It is something quite different if, in the expressionist manner, the artist wants to embody something that people experience beyond what is simply natural — even though the embodiment may be clumsy. However, to recognize that clumsy beginnings should be neither over- nor undervalued, you must be open to what is today often expressed by a slogan, but which, in connection with human life, people do not correctly understand.

The following may sound like a paradox. I certainly belong among those who have the highest admiration for Raphael. However, from my point of view the only people who have a right to admire Raphael are those who are convinced that if someone today were to paint just as Raphael painted, it would be impossible and inconsistent with modern times. It would not be art that we could accept today as contemporary art. This may sound paradoxical. However, what has occurred during human development belongs to its particular stage. You must really take this whole idea of development seriously. What developed since the middle of the fifteenth century in science, philosophy and art is completely justifiable as an educational impulse in developing humanity. However, human development has today reached a stage where it must strive for the other pole. As humans, we needed to go through a one-sided science for a time. We needed to absorb the thoughts of this science, to come to a mood of soul brought about by our noticing the powerlessness of these scientific thoughts. This powerlessness calls forth a counterforce in the active soul life, the counterforce toward spiritual recognition, toward a spiritual viewpoint.

If you take Lessing’s thoughts earnestly, that history is an education of humanity, then you can best come to grips with such things. Thus, today in certain areas people’s prejudices allow what spiritual science has to offer to enter directly into social pedagogy, that is, into external reality.

It has been possible to make artistically visible in the Dornach building what moves us inwardly, to express in forms what moves us inwardly. I might also mention that only very recently has it been possible to attempt to found a school upon real pedagogy. Our friend Emil Molt integrated the founding of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart into a modern industrial undertaking (people are beside themselves in ridicule over this), into the Waldorf cigarette factory in Stuttgart. Here we can now build a unified elementary school upon what can result for pedagogy from an understanding of the spiritual point of view. I held the pedagogical seminar for the faculty of the Waldorf School, and I must say that this belongs among the most beautiful of things I could imagine as a task for myself. There, a pedagogy was founded that does not exist to fulfill norms imagined as necessary to train people, but rather a pedagogy that results from a true understanding of the whole person, that is, the body, soul and spirit of human beings. This is a pedagogy that paradoxically makes life more difficult for the teacher than it would be with simple, normative education.

Those who believe in standardized education, who preach programs, who give educational principles, know how to instruct. However, those who teach directly from life can only receive impulses to observe what really occurs in the developing human being, from year to year, from week to week, from month to month. Even though it may be a large class, you must continuously be in living interactions. You must understand what it means not to practice a learned pedagogy from memory, but to invent at each moment the individual methods that this child needs.

What is effective in life cannot be based in memory or in habit. What we have in our memory, what we practice from memory in our human activities, what we practice out of habit is something that in all cases is simply a cliché. What results from spiritual life can never be a cliché!

There have been times, and probably still will be, when I have lectured on the same theme week after week. I do not think anyone can say I have ever spoken about the same theme in exactly the same way. When you speak from the spirit, your concern is to create something immediate. It is not at all possible in the normal sense to memorize what comes from the spirit, because it must continuously develop in direct contact with life. For those who are active out of the spirit, the simple memorization of spiritual knowledge is about the same as if someone were to say, “I am not going to eat today because I ate yesterday; why should I eat again today? My body will continue simply on the basis of what I ate yesterday.” Yes, our physical organism is such that it continuously renews itself. This is also true for the spirit. The spirit must also be within this vigorous life. The true spirit must at all times be a creator. In the same way, education carried by the spirit must be a continuously creative art.

There will be no blessing upon our elementary schools, and there will also be no healing in our school systems, until education becomes a continuously living, creating art, carried by true love and those intangibles of which I have spoken.

We can see in all areas how necessary it is in the face of the unconscious and subconscious demands of modern humanity (and in the near future it will be even more necessary) to take what people wish to make into a comfortable intellectual program and go from that to a truly productive experience of the spirit. This will be much less comfortably achieved than a great deal of what people today call spiritual life. However, this will become the social pedagogical force that we need. On the one hand, it is true that after so many years of devotion to scientific thinking the innermost souls of modern people long for a direct recognition of the spirit. It is on the other hand true that social demands cry for a spiritual deepening. It is true that the subject of my lecture is not something thought of haphazardly, but something heard from contemporary human development. However, you must first educate yourselves to it and connect yourselves with it.

In conclusion, I would like to point out one other thing that is particularly necessary now. Because everyone thinks that some fruitful philosophical life can result from subjective opinions, we must indicate how to understand questions today. I want to do that with an example.

Many years ago I held a lecture in a southern German city in which I spoke about the Christian saints. There were two priests at the lecture. Since they could say nothing against the content of the lecture, they came to me and said, “We don't have anything to say against the content of what you said today. However, we do want to say something about the fact that you claim to speak for people whose path leads them to your way of thinking. We, however, speak for all people.” This is what they said. I, of course, addressed them with their proper title. You must always be polite. I said, “You see, Reverend, you believe that you speak for all people. I find that natural and reasonable since, subjectively, that is the case. However, whether I speak, or whether you believe that you speak, for all people doesn't mean anything, particularly not in the present when individual human lives exist so much in the whole of society. Today we must learn not to define our tasks by subjective arbitrariness, but to develop them individually out of objectivity and objective facts. And so I ask you, Reverend, if you think that you speak for all people, then look at the facts. Does everyone go to church?” There they could not say yes! You see, thus speak the facts. I then said to them, “I speak for those who no longer come to you in the church.” That is what the facts teach us today.

Things do not merely guide us in the direction of an objection. Rather, we must see the facts as they are and let them form the argument. It is something quite natural that people think that they speak for everyone.

What is important today is that (although we can know that the majority of people consciously resist real spiritual scientific impulses) if we can understand the revelation, we can also know that these impulses have the effect of a subconscious cry, “Make whole again what has split into philosophy, science, art, religion and the other areas, especially the social areas, of culture!”

However, we can only make these things whole according to their own spirit. Only then do things speak to us not out of the abstract, but out of a concrete unity where the true spirit that we find in all individual things is the one spirit in everything.

However, because the unifying spirit is something concretely alive, we cannot understand it by encompassing it with abstract concepts, with ideology. We must resolve to seek the living spirit. We can only seek it, though, if, with a certain intellectual modesty, we find the bridge between the sleeping inner human forces that are of a spiritual nature, and the spirit that lives in nature, in human life, in the whole cosmos. Thus, in concluding, I wish to emphasize once again that we must take into account the longing that lives in the depths of the human soul to bind the human spirit with the Spirit of the World. Much of the solution to humanity’s burning questions lies in this bond between human spirit and World Spirit.

I do not want to arouse the belief that we can solve every problem. However, humanity is on the path to a partial resolution of riddles that have always been presented to it. In this partial resolution lies true human progress in that we recognize how the spirit lives in everything, and how this spirit can light the way if we awaken the spirit in ourselves. The greatest, most important contemporary social tasks live in this recognition, and it will lead to healing when wider and wider circles realize this.