Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
GA 300

Forty-Seventh Meeting

14 February 1923, Stuttgart

Dr. Steiner: We have received a request from Dr. Karutz regarding the next parent evening; it requires a thorough discussion in the faculty before any public discussion of it. We need to discuss this proposal and, at least within the faculty, we need to arrive at a common perspective. For that reason, I have asked Dr. Karutz to spend the first hour of our meeting with us, so he can give us more information on what he wrote in his letter, and so that we can clearly understanding his request. (The letter is read aloud.)

Now that we have all heard the letter, we can see this is a question we must discuss in regard to basic principles. It would certainly be difficult to carry on a considered and objective discussion during the parent evening, and, since I cannot attend, I would like to discuss the question here. I would like to ask you to say what you would like to say first.

Dr. Karutz says his proposal has a cultural, not a political, intention. His objective is that the parents make a unanimous decision that the French language should no longer be required. He proposes Russian as a replacement.

Dr. Steiner: This question has a number of different aspects. The first is on the cultural side, and any serious pedagogical system must take that into account.

We see in the current activities of the French something that fundamentally cannot be explained from the outside. It is inexplicable because anyone should be able to see, even from the French perspective, that France will not reach its own goals by what it undertook today. We should not view this merely from a cursory political standpoint, but from a historical political perspective. What France is doing today is something like death throes—of course in history such things last a longer time—the death throes of a people in decline and in the process of disappearing from earthly development. Such views arise, of course, from spiritual observation of European history. The French nature is, in a sense, an initial wave of the demise of Romanism—the demise of the Romantic peoples of Europe. Naturally, the Spanish and Italian portions have somewhat more life than the French, who have the least life among the Romantic population.

We can clearly see the decadence of French culture in the language. Among the common languages of Europe, French is the language that, in a sense, most forces the human soul to the surface. It is the language in which it is possible (and this is a paradox) to lie in the most honest way. In that language, it is easiest to lie in the most naïve and honest way, because it lacks any real connection with the inner human being. French is spoken entirely at the surface of the human being.

Consequently, the French language, and thus the French nature, has a certain attitude of the soul. The attitude of the French soul is directed by the French language, whereas in German, the soul controls the inner configuration of the language, the mobility of the language. The French language is currently something that paralyzes—it directs the soul. It rapes the soul, and thus makes the soul hollow, so that French culture is hollowed out under the influence of the French language. Those who have a feeling for such things can see that the soul does not speak in French culture, only a petrified formalism has a voice. The difference is that, in speaking French, the language rules the speaker. The infinite freedom possible in German, and that we should use more than we normally do, that enables you, for instance, to put the subject in any position, depending upon your inner life, does not exist in French.

The reason Germany has brought French into education is not due to pedagogy; we do not teach French in our schools for any pedagogical reasons. We teach it because what was considered useful for a certain group of young people was modified and masked when the old college preparatory high school system was replaced by a number of modern institutions. It is significant that people believed what was available in the old system through Latin could be found in French. People had assumed French had a pedagogical effectiveness similar to that of Latin. That is, however, not true. Latin has a kind of inner logic and brings logic to people instinctively. That is not true of French, which has slipped into clichés and is no longer based on logic. It is only clichés—such things must be stated in a radical way—so that learning French brings a great deal to the surface in children, and that is why a desire to remove French from education has gradually arisen. It is obvious that French will disappear from education in the future.

In the Waldorf School, which exists to make a radical new beginning, we have a different perspective. The school can make a beginning only through the understanding our teachers have for the character of the French language, in that they teach it with an awareness that they are actually teaching something decadent. You do not have to tell that to the children, but we certainly should be clear about it. We are clear about it, but from a different perspective, it is completely out of the question that we here at the Waldorf School begin by fighting to remove French from the curriculum. We cannot do that for purely external reasons. We do not yet have an independent cultural life. We have, of course, a Waldorf School pedagogy based upon the idea of an independent cultural life, but that is only an ideal that we cannot completely implement under the present conditions.

For that reason, we had to sign a declaration when we founded the Waldorf School in which we agreed we would always meet the learning goals of the public schools at appropriate stages. For instance, we have to insure that our nine-year-old children meet the learning goals of the public third grades. We are pedagogically free for periods of three years. In general, we would place ourselves in an impossible position if we did not fulfill these responsibilities. We cannot keep our children from being able to transfer to another educational institution through testing. If we did that, we would rob our children of the possibility of finding their own path in life. There is, therefore, nothing we can do other than attempt to bring as much of the ideal Waldorf pedagogy as possible into the school. We cannot go further than the possibilities allow. If the building in Dornach had not burned down, we would still have been far from obtaining accreditation for the Dornach University. We could not have given doctoral diplomas. Since we must take into account that those children who complete our school may transfer into other learning institutions and universities, we have to allow them to meet learning goals at a particular age.

All this assumes that we teach foreign languages the way we do for inner pedagogical and psychological reasons. Seen from outside, people could say we do not need to begin teaching foreign languages as early as we do. If, however, we are to achieve in a pedagogical way what eighteen-year-old boys and girls need of foreign languages for their final examinations, there is nothing else we can do. Under the assumption that it is justifiable that our children achieve a certain level of education, we must form foreign language instruction as we have. We must swallow the bitter pill of French until we can do something else.

That brings me to what is of primary importance for the work of our movement. You see, well-intended people are always asking our movement to undertake this or that remedy. In the area of medicine, people make all kinds of demands. We need to take the position that we cannot do such things individually, but only through major movements. We have begun to develop medicine in the light of an independent cultural life. Thus, in such a question where we can best find the pedagogical basis through the practical experiences of the Waldorf School, a major movement would need to begin. A single private school, where the light of life could be instantly snuffed out if it undertook such things, cannot do it.

Aside from that, we could not accomplish much. Whether or not our students learned French would make little difference in the cultural status of the German empire. In contrast, a major cultural deed could occur if people overcame all the things connected with the false valuing of French in Middle Europe through a genuine understanding of the things I mentioned and Dr. Karutz also indicated. If people saw that and it became part of their flesh and blood, and if, therefore, the French language disappeared from the schools in a healthy way, then that would be a path toward a major cultural deed. A cultural movement directed toward removing French from the schools could begin that in a proper way while retaining a proper appreciation of French itself. Today, it is no longer valid to teach French for practical reasons. I do not believe that was true even before the war. In countries outside France, people respected French and valued it in teaching, not because of its commercial significance, but because it was used as the language of diplomacy, and because it was used in conversation in the salons of the so-called better circles in society. That, too, came from using French in diplomacy. If this was done with the necessary force and motivation, it could kill two birds with one stone by hitting the decadence of both French and diplomacy. It could show that diplomacy is just as decadent, because it is necessary to lie when being diplomatic. In war, success results in surrounding the opposing forces. The technique of winning a war is to mislead the opponent. Diplomacy is well described by a peculiar statement, namely, “War is the continuation of policies by other means,” something as insightful as “Divorce is a continuation of marriage by other means.” Diplomacy consists of using the same means, but at a different level, as those used to mislead the opponent in war. In this case, a language that can mislead others is required. Nietzsche made a major error when he spoke of the German language as the language of deception. The French language is not the language of deception, but the language of stupefaction that actually brings people outside themselves. Someone who is enthusiastic about speaking French seems like someone who is not quite in control of themselves. That is, of course, expressed in an extreme way. You need to look at things that way, otherwise you will not come to the subtle feelings you need to present in teaching French.

The parents of the Waldorf children can be very sure that we will contribute nothing to the false estimation of the French language. However, we do live under the compulsion of the state and, for that reason, cannot include anything in the constitution of our Waldorf School that would do anything against the French language. We depend upon the creation of a major cultural movement in this regard, one that is objective, one that at some time can also present these views and that values spirituality. If we were to once begin such an action, then we would see that a much different culture would replace today’s. It is important to put forward the differences in evaluation of the languages. We would win some trust and strength from certain people for the mission the German language still has in Western civilization. However, people would still need a feeling for what is declining or rising in the language. In the German language, many elements are still positively developing, although, since High German entered, there is much that can no longer develop. We still have the inner strength to transform words. Under certain circumstances, we can still transform words that have petrified in the substantive into verbs. I have used the word kraften as a verbal form of kraft. And we may also do similar things. People understand them. German still has a lot of inner strength. French no longer has that. Everything is prescribed. When language takes over everything, it corrupts the human soul.

That is what I have to say, Dr. Karutz. You see, we understand your request, but our hands are tied. At the moment, we cannot really discuss the question.

A teacher: The public schools in Bavaria no longer require French.

Dr. Steiner: We will have to wait until Württemberg does something. Since things can quickly change from one day to the next, we will have to make our decisions accordingly. I am not sure that, if French were removed today, it would not be included again later if something did not take hold of human souls at a deeper level.

A teacher: The decision in Bavaria occurred several years ago.

Dr. Steiner: It occurred only now. We will certainly shed no tears about the French language if it comes to that here. Perhaps some of the teachers would like to say something about French.

A teacher: It would not be so easy to do here.

Dr. Steiner: We will address these questions when they become more pressing.

A teacher: I thought it was easier to comprehend the spirit of a language when it is in the process of dying.

Dr. Steiner: That is the case with human beings, but not with languages. The French language is now more dead than Latin was in the Middle Ages when it was already a dead language. There was more spirit living in Latin when it was clergy- and kitchen-Latin than lives in the French language now. What keeps the French language going is the furor, the blood, of the French. The language is actually dead, but the corpse continues to be spoken. This is something that is most apparent in French nineteenth- century poetry. The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous affect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.

Marie Steiner: You can notice the superficiality and hollowness of the language when you compare it with Italian. In Italian you can still present the spirituality of the content. That is often lacking in French, the depth disappears.

Dr. Steiner: We had the strangest experiences. Mrs. Steiner translated two major works by Schuré. At the time, there were some reasons for the translation, but we always had a feeling that only through the translation was the actual content of these two works apparent. The reason for that was Schuré’s own development. His first work was L’histoire du Lied, in other words, a history of German lyrics written in French. He was thinking in German but wrote in French. He thinks substantially in German, and had his first cultural impressions from the Wagnerian school. I still remember Mrs. Schuré’s genuinely French fury when she told me that as a student he had sold his gold watch in order to be able to go to Tristan. You can see how the translations of these two works appears as though they were translations into the original language, that is, as though they had originally been written in German. They are thought in German, and the French can feel that in Schuré’s work.

A teacher mentions that German style was transformed by Heine and anti-romantic journalism.

Dr. Steiner: The effects of Heine and Börne have been very colorfully described by Treitschke. There is a wonderful chapter in one of Treitschke’s books on history about the rise of journalism. In it you can see all of Treitschke’s fury. He could be very radical and was often not very tactful.

We once both received an invitation in Weimar, where he saw me for the first time. He couldn’t hear, and you had to write everything for him. He always asked where people came from, and he said that the Austrians are either very clever people or scoundrels.

A teacher: I would like to say how it is for me when I teach French. I overdo it. I get right into it, but nothing is so strenuous as teaching French.

Dr. Steiner: If you meant that in a good sense, I would advise you to overdo yourself in other things more.

Marie Steiner: It is very funny how that affects Rostand in Chantecler. It is a real mess.

Dr. Steiner: The conclusion we should draw is that as long as we have French, we should teach it with the proper attitude and under the proper estimation of its pedagogical value. The remainder we must leave to the future.

Dr. Karutz leaves.

Dr. Steiner: We needed to take care of this matter or it would have come up at the next parent meeting, and I must admit it does not seem right to me to broach the question at this quasi-public occasion. We may not expose ourselves too much in regard to such current questions. This is not a question where we can make compromises. The fact is, we can only maintain our general direction and path if we do not put hurdles in our own way and do not allow ourselves to be drawn into such current questions about pedagogy. If we do, the light of our lives will be snuffed out. We must take this position also regarding less significant questions. Today’s questions about elementary schools will find their answer the moment there is support for the Waldorf School method. Discussions over such things really become quite trivial. When such problems come up, we can certainly participate in the discussion, but we must maintain our position.

Is there anything else to discuss? There is not enough time for a lecture on medicine. Perhaps you could bring some current problems for discussion in the time remaining.

They discuss the many children who are absent from school.

Dr. Steiner: That is certainly something to be concerned about. In the first grade, I found only nine of twenty-seven children. That is really terrible. How is it in the other classes?

A teacher: In the 1b class, I had only half the children.

Dr. Steiner: These things are connected with the general state of nutrition. We should be aware that such things appear as illnesses about three and a half years later, that is, malnutrition then appears as an illness. That is something reasonable physicians were aware of at the beginning of the war. Only Abderhalden claimed that hunger during the war had no effects, though he was sometimes reasonable about other questions.

The school doctor: The children’s health is getting continually worse. Of six hundred and fifty children, about one hundred and eighty are severely undernourished.

Dr. Steiner: When we think about the physiological corruption of the children’s organism, we now need to try to make those forces that support the necessary functions of the human organism more effective. We need to make those forces more effective. We need to be aware that the correct view of the human organism views human nutritional and growth forces as located in a kind of reservoir. The way we should imagine that reservoir is a question that leads deeply into occult physiology. Actually, you need to think of a created reservoir out of which the forces for nutrition and digestion and rhythmical processes arise.

Perhaps you can best understand that if I draw your attention to the difference between vegetarian and meat nutrition. If you look at a plant, you will see that the plant completes the mineral and vegetable processes to a certain point, so that as a human being we have to work further upon what the plant has made of earthly substances. We must further transform the substances into the form they should have in the human body. Thus, when I eat plants, I must further transform the final stages of plant existence into what is necessary for human existence. These forces are available in various ways in the human organism, that is, there are forces that create sugar, transform fat or protein. The salts are used in a certain almost physical-chemical way in the organism. These forces exist.

If I eat meat, the mineral and vegetable processes have been continued beyond the stage reached by the plant to that of the animal, and I do not need to change the meat in the same way I need to change plants, because that has already happened in the animal. The animal has already made the changes I should undertake. Thus, if I eat, say, some grass or something like that, I would have to do what a cow would otherwise do. But, if I eat some beef, the cow has relieved me of this inner work. In a sense, I thereby leave the work of the cow in my reservoir of forces. Thus, I fill myself with unused forces. I leave those unused forces within me. Actually, I carry them with me.

That was not meant as some sort of fanaticism for vegetarianism. This can definitely have to do with heredity. Nevertheless, it is correct that when people eat meat, they do not fully use their inner functions. They sentence themselves more easily to gout than when they train their inner functions so that they become vegetarians.

Under some circumstances, the work required with fruit is even greater because it has to be transformed backwards. If you can perform this reverse transformation, you awaken even more forces within your organism. You should, however, not believe that awakening such forces is tiring. Under some circumstances, allowing forces to lie fallow is much more tiring because those forces collect. Thus, you can see that we either fully use the forces in that reservoir, or we leave them unused. I have mentioned all this only as a kind of discussion of how forces act in the organism. All the aspects of human nature, the I, the astral, etheric, and physical bodies, participate in using those forces. The situation in the human being is such that, in general, the development of forces acts in what we might call a centrifugal manner, that is, from within, outward, and from below, upward, depending upon the various parts of the physical body. In general, the development of those forces follows the path of the blood, and it is their responsibility to carry what lies in the blood’s path.

There exists another force counter to those forces, one that goes parallel to the paths of the nerves and is particularly important for the child’s organism,. Everywhere within the human being you will find these two extremes. For example, the blood moves from within toward the outside in the eye, whereas you observe the nerves properly only when you consider that they go from outside, inward. The centripetal forces go parallel to the nerve pathways. These two forces achieve their general harmony through the breathing and circulatory systems and are the two poles of the human threefold organism. The nerves act centripetally. The metabolic- limb system works centrifugally, parallel to the path of the blood. What is important is that the liveliness of all inner functions depends upon the proper interaction of these two systems, and thus these two forces. The centrifugal and centripetal forces need to be properly activated in each individual organ.

Malnutrition during and after the war caused what I saw yesterday in a little child in the first grade. The centrifugal forces in that child have developed only to a dangerously weak point, so that those forces need to be enlivened by support from the outside. That was why I advised giving the child those baths, since they support the centrifugal forces from outside. Those are things that are important when dealing with such acute cases, but of course, they must be applied very individually.

On the other hand, it is necessary to work on improving general nutrition in Germany and Austria. There we can enliven both sides, namely, the centrifugal and centripetal forces. We can enliven the centripetal forces, so that they support the blood stream, primarily through dietary means or through providing medications based upon calcium phosphate. In the reverse situation, we can enliven the centrifugal forces by using calcium carbonate. I said in the reverse situation because calcium carbonate enlivens the nerve system and enlivening the nerves achieves a greater activity in the centrifugal forces. Calcium phosphate enlivens the centrifugal forces, the blood, and thus has a reverse effect upon the nerves.

The effect of the carbon is to enliven the centrifugal forces through the nerves. You can see this enlivening in a coarse way when you simply drink some carbonated water. There, it is the carbon that has the effect. Since we are using a calcium compound, people will have to work with things right into their bones. You can see quite clearly that the bones are included, and that is why this compound should be used, so that people can work right into their bones. This may seem like a strange statement, but physiologically it is correct to say that the bones are the final extension of the nerve system. The nerves are bones at the lowest level of development. They are bones that have been stopped from developing into bones. Nerves tend to become bone-like, only they have been stopped at a very early stage. For that reason, calcium carbonate enlivens the nervous system right into the bones. In contrast, calcium phosphate enables the bones to participate in distributing the blood. The bones play a role in the formation of red blood cells, and that can be increased through calcium phosphate. Oyster shells are an empirical proof of that. Oysters have no blood, which is why we find only calcium carbonate in them.

What you can see from all this is that if you properly combine calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate, you can enliven the organic functions and thus strengthen the organism when it is too weak to digest what comes into the stomach.

That is the cause of modern malnutrition. The problem is not that there is no food, but that the food is not used beyond the intestine because the organism is so weak. The body actually takes in only a little bit of the chyme. That could be improved if we strengthened those forces related to organic forces.

This needs to be done alternately, so that the calcium carbonate is taken at the night and the calcium phosphate is taken in the morning so that it is effective during the day. Thus, the calcium phosphate would be connected with the activity of the nervous system, and the calcium carbonate active during the night will strengthen the blood system.

I think that a sufficient dose of calcium carbonate would be 5% and of calcium phosphate, .5% at a potency of 5X or 6X. In connection with calcium phosphate, the higher the potency, the better, but calcium carbonate is allopathic.

What we actually have here is a genuine illness that we should, therefore, heal. No one should complain that we want to give all the children some medicine. Since we actually have an epidemic, we should undertake mass treatment. That is a commandment of genuine love of humanity.

A teacher: We would have to discuss that with the parents.

Dr. Steiner: That is something we cannot easily do in a parent evening, although I think it would be basically proper. Nevertheless, we should not become too prominent, so you should speak with the parents individually.

The school doctor: If we did that on a broad scale, we could discuss it with the parents. There are some financial difficulties, and we would also be entering the realm of the local doctors.

Dr. Steiner: We can expect the support from the Clinical Therapeutic Institute. The other thing is, it is advisable not to treat such things as medicine at all. Nevertheless, some of these things lie right at the limits of diet, so we do not really have to consider this a question for physicians. To restate it, first, Palmer at the institute could give us some support, and second, we do not need to see this as medicine. It is a dietary question and therefore we do not need any medical justification. The third thing is that the parents would pay nothing for it. Doctors start to get nasty if you require payment. I think it would be difficult to use genuine medications. In connection with calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate, we could take the position that they are simply dietary supplements. We could even extend this and make it into a kind of popular movement, so that people simply received a dietary supplement through one of these preparations at the table, just as we might put salt on the table. You certainly do not need a doctor for that. Today, I wanted to handle only the general question. This is how we would have to take care of it if we are to handle public questions with the slightest bit of reason.

A teacher presents the request of a mother who wants to have her son put in a parallel fourth-grade class.

Dr. Steiner: The lady told me she believes that her child cannot work in the present class, and the class teacher also wants the child to leave. She is not bothered by that, but now she is asking that he be put in a parallel class. I have nothing against that if it is best for the child. My only question is whether Mr. K. would take him. He is one of the few boys who does not want to be taught by a female teacher. If the parallel class were also taught by a woman, he would have no interest in it. Now that we have the request, and you don’t have anything against it, perhaps it is best to do it. Is there anything else we need to do?

A teacher: S.R. does not want to participate in shop because of his music instruction.

Dr. Steiner: If such things come up often, then we will have to create a category of special students who can have such changes, and whose parents are ready to be responsible for the student not meeting the goals of our teaching. We would have to handle each case that way. We would have to treat him as a special student.

A teacher: The children often ask what is the deeper meaning of learning to spin yarn.

Dr. Steiner: It is something that enhances the life of their souls, and they also learn something about genuinely practical life through spinning. You cannot really learn anything about practical life by just watching how something is done, only by doing it the way it is really done. The children should also notice that you can learn to make a pair of shoes in a week, but a shoemaker’s apprenticeship lasts three years.

A teacher asks how to present The Song of the Niebelungs in the tenth grade.

Dr. Steiner: You have already done that, haven’t you? You need to first teach the children about the whole context of The Song of the Niebelungs, so that they understand how it fits into the historical perspective. You should do that as pictorially as possible, similar to the way I did Parzival and Christianity in Dr. Stein’s class. It took place during the time of the Great Migrations. Present it in a very lively way and then give the children some examples. Teach it so that the children first have a complete picture, not with boring lectures, but in an exciting, pictorial way. Give them a picture of what you will read to them as an example. Above all, see to it that you are not the only one who reads. The children should also read in a way that is not boring, through the way you gave them a proper picture. It is not possible to read in a boring way if you have given them the proper picture. Stop for a moment at some of the interesting passages where you can say something about the beautiful words. It is possible to create some real excitement and illuminate the whole scene from some individual words or phrases. If you do that, you will have given the children enough.

A teacher: What could I use as a historical source?

Dr. Steiner: You can use any book on the history of the Middle Ages. The history has been so worked over that any fool could do it in the same way. A person would not need to be particularly insightful. Those history books are all the same.

A teacher asks whether a book on mathematics should be written for the use of the teachers.

Dr. Steiner: A teaching guide for mathematics and geometry in the upper grades would be good. You would need to write it so that the material is presented in a very clear way, so the reader does not drown in the amount of material and important things are not missing. All textbooks are really unusable. They are not very helpful. It should be a text without any remarks or figures that you can read like a novel.

As a boy of about fourteen or fifteen, I once wrote one myself, because all of the geometry books were so boring. It is too bad I no longer have it. It was not bad, you could read it like a novel. It might be interesting if you put it together as connected text that reads like a novel. It does not need to be as voluminous as things are today, and we could even have one edition for teachers and a still shorter edition for children, like a short story. Children would be very thankful if every day in class they could read a page or two about geometry written in a readable form. There are no good books anymore. The books on geography are horribly written. The grammar books are terrible. This is something that The Coming Day publishing company could do.

A teacher asks about speech exercises for a child in the first grade who has a very soft voice.

Dr. Steiner: I would have to see and hear him. Perhaps you could show him to me when I am here for the delegates’ conference.