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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Education for Adolescents
GA 302

Lecture Seven

18 June 1921, Stuttgart

Yesterday we began with a subject I referred to as a kind of exploration of conscience that is appropriate for our time and especially necessary for the teacher of children in their fourteenth and fifteenth years. Not only ought this age that outwardly manifests in sexual maturity to be dealt with at the actual time; it ought to be kept in mind throughout the school years. Because our own education — or miseducation — was such that as a result there can be no real understanding of children, especially children in this age group, this kind of higher exploration of conscience has become essential.

We can visualize this situation by proceeding as follows. Let us consider the human being between twenty-one and twentyeight years. Spiritual science speaks of the birth of the ego, the time when the ego actually comes fully into its own in life. We emphasized the fact that the ego of the girl at about the fourteenth or fifteenth year is absorbed into the astral body, is therefore not yet independent, while the girl’s astral body has already attained a certain independence at this age. The ego of the boy, we said, is not absorbed into the astral body; it leads a kind of withdrawn life. And I explained that both these tendencies, these characteristics, can indeed be seen as the result of the inner human development.

But when the I, the ego, fully comes into its own at about the twenty-first year, this shows itself in one human being looking for and finding others, and this in the fullest sense of the word: other human beings. This is such a specific characteristic of this age. When, let’s say, a twenty-four-year-old finds a twenty-one-year-old — but not younger than twentyone or older than twenty-eight — the two will be in an equal, reciprocal relationship in all areas: spirit, soul, body. During this age, we really interact with, relate to others in this age group as equals.

This observation is of special significance for anyone who wishes to be involved in education. All the psychological fiddle- faddle that is frequently practiced is a mere playing with clever words. If we today wish to understand life, we have to observe such things as this special nuance that is present in human beings when they meet one another between their twenty-first and twenty-eighth years.

Let us now consider other age groups: a youth between the age of fourteen and twenty-one and someone between twentyeight and thirty-five. Regardless of their sexes, it will not be possible for them to relate fully as equals. And yet, provided certain conditions we shall presently discuss are met, a significant relationship can be established between them. If a youth aged fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen meets a twenty-eight-, twentynine-, or thirty-year-old person, the matter is as follows. Engendered by the astral body, the physical development between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, the characteristic outer behavior, the improving skills, the ideals, the way the young find their way into outer life — this is subject to unconsciousness, just as the physical life proceeds unconsciously when developing to the outside.

The same development emerges as a soul form in the inner life of those between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-five. This is the reason why persons in this age group are especially predestined for understanding, for feeling, the processes taking place in adolescents. And adolescents are especially suited to look up to people between the ages of twenty-eight and thirtyfive, because they can see inwardly active in those between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-five what is in themselves more or less unconsciously manifesting physically in connection to the world outside.

The knowledge of the connection between these age groups was still very much present in ancient Greece. It was instinctively experienced. When Greek children looked up to the older ones they felt instinctively, not fully consciously: “They have in their souls what we have in our bodies; we see something coming to us from them in a refined way, what we have in our physical bodies.” And the twenty-eight or twenty-nine-year- old Greeks took immense pleasure in what they saw developing and manifesting in the fourteen-, fifteen-, and sixteen- year-olds. There was this real relation between age groups, this instinctive life — not as in our culture, where people only relate in an abstract way — in which one was important for the other person by virtue of one’s age. The Greeks still experienced this instinctive relationship in an extraordinarily strong way, and it really affected their social life.

Try to visualize this situation in Greece. The child grew up, revered a person in his or her early thirties. On reaching the age of twenty-one, the child strongly felt: “Now I have to find someone of my own age.” This resulted in a manifoldness and also an inwardness.

It also gave the social life a certain structure. We must emphasize this point especially today, when this instinctive life is no longer present in human beings, when especially the teachers of adolescents do not know what to do with them. We cannot find answers to this problem because — as I said yesterday — we were not given such ideas and concepts that could affect our feelings to the extent that the instincts we lost during the natural course of evolution could in a more conscious way be revived.

Without our preoccupation with anthroposophical spiritual science, by which such feelings, such refined feelings, can again be stimulated, we would gradually produce even deeper gulfs between the older children and ourselves. All we could then do is to command, to order them, to do this or that. Should we fail in this we could have recourse to the police or some other authority who would then threaten the disobedient. We cannot establish an inner relationship between teachers and students unless — however theoretical this may sound — we stimulate such thoughts in our whole being that can again awaken in us, but now consciously, what the instinctive life used to provide for people in the past.

Because of this difference in world conception, as I told you yesterday, what we are learning today about our world — that the different substances and properties in nature are combinations of some one hundred or so elements — is valid for us only after death, for our corpses in their graves. The chemical and physical interactions concern not the living human being but only the corpse, which disintegrates according to the laws we find in the combinations of these elements.

By contrast we can point to the views held especially by the ancient Greeks, and still by people as late as the fourth century — views that are today dismissed as childish, as I said yesterday. But these views, correctly understood, provided the people with something else: the way they regarded the four elements — earth, air, fire, and water. As I pointed out, they did not regard the four elements as pictures of coarse sense impressions, coarse physical matter; they regarded them qualitatively. Fire contained at the same time the qualities warm and dry; they thought of water as cold and damp. These living concepts that they connected to the elements could then be applied in several ways.

They applied them in the way they thought about their connection to earth, air, fire, and water — in which they saw pictures, quite definite pictures. They could apply them to the way, in the human being, that the etheric body activates the mixing and demixing, synthesis and analysis of matter. They could understand how the etheric body is working in the physical between birth and death. All we can do, by contrast, is to limit our thinking to the processes in our corpses after death, processes in keeping with the physical and chemical laws. The Greeks and their followers, as far as into the fifteenth century, could think of the working of the etheric in the physical body, by developing qualitatively the properties of fire as warm and dry, of water as cold and damp, of earth as cold and dry, and so on.

By applying these four elements to the human being, one works in a far more living, inner way, which enables one to imagine the etheric body’s participation in the physical substances. By imagining this participation as living processes one becomes inwardly much more mobile, more alive, especially if one adds to one’s imagination something else the Greeks still understood in a living way. They imagined the following [a drawing is made].

You see, today we have the surface of the earth, on it the green plants. How do we today imagine the processes taking place in the world of plants? Here, too, our knowledge is limited to the explanations of the chemical analyses and syntheses taking place in the one hundred or so elements. Anything else is denied, or the attempt is made to see it according to the analogy with reciprocal mineral interaction. One would like to see the interaction of chlorophyll, the green color of the plant, with some outer entities during the plant’s growth as a process similar to that taking place in a test tube. This is not actually said in so many words, but this mode of thinking has become widespread. The plants are being studied according to their mineral properties.

The Greeks, on the other hand, even though they did not express it concisely, said: “When a plant grows, the cold and dry qualities of the earth are working from below upward. Once the plant has emerged from the earth, when it grows leaves and blossoms with their beautiful colors, we see all this as the effect of water and air, in the way we imagine their qualities; and permeating all of it is the effect of fire. Everywhere in the environment there is this interaction, this intermingling of warm and dry, cold and damp, warm and damp, and all of it, all this qualitative interweaving and inter-whirling of dry, cold, damp, and warm across the surface of the earth affects the plant life.”

We just have to see this. If we do, and then if we look away from the plants to the human being, to the way the etheric body is active within the human being, we shall there see something that is similar to plant life. When we look at the total life of the plant, we are inwardly stirred and stimulated, let me say, to participate in this life of the plant, in this objective life. The Greeks felt this. Outside, they said, “everything is blossoming, thriving, growing, and ever changing. All this is also working in me.” The activity of the Greek’s own etheric body, imagined in this way, was not beyond experience. The Greek reflected: “I am no stranger to what constitutes the etheric body in me. Certainly, I cannot see it. But by looking at everything that is growing around me, I experience these activities also within me.”

And if such a Greek — not in a present incarnation but as an ancient Greek — were alive today, and if a modern chemist were to tell him: “Your ideas are nonsensical, childish ones. We have left them behind, discovered not four, but some one hundred elements — hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and so on” — the Greek would have responded by saying: “I have no quarrel with this, there is no harm in it. But it is no more than a specialized, detailed study of my understanding of the cold and dry qualities of the earth. You have not got beyond the knowledge of the cold and dry properties of the earth. You know nothing of water, fire, and air. You haven’t got the faintest idea of what goes on in the world of plants, of the etheric life in yourself. You cannot even speak about the plants, because your knowledge of the elements cannot give you any idea of life, of what is working in the life of plants.”

Try to feel another ring to our words, how they will be living, as soon as we experience within us the greening, growing processes in the world around us, once these processes cease to be incomprehensible to us. And I can assure you that once it has again become a living experience, incorporated into education, this inner nuance permeating our words will not be limited to affecting the soul abstractly but will put color into faces again. It will transform the whole human being, will have a harmonizing effect. The teacher’s words will have a healthy ring to them, will have a different effect, regardless of anything else. All the other theories that tell us what to do, how things ought to be, are basically nothing but plants cultivated in conservatories. Real education must grow naturally. It must be absorbed into our mental images and feelings in the same way that nourishment is absorbed by the processes active in our blood and nerves, thus growing together with us in our organism.

It is essentially the beginning of folly to tell someone what to do. It is as if we were to say to a stove, “You were put into the room, and it is your duty as a stove to warm the room.” A stove is filled with firewood, which is then lit, but education needs a true knowledge of the human being that can then come alive in the whole person, that can reach our feelings and also our will. It is necessary for us to develop such a knowledge.

The Greeks, though, did not limit themselves to the observation of the life in plants. They looked up to the cosmos, where initially they perceived the circling planets — from the moon to Saturn, as they said.

The Greeks observed the stars and felt: “Here on earth, where I am surrounded by the plants, I am permeated by the effects of fire, air, and water. The plants are permeated by fire, air, and water. What I see there also works rhythmically in me. I actually bear the whole year in me. As the processes of dry and damp and of cold and warm harmonize in the greening and decaying plants, so my etheric body works in me. The only difference is the fact that I have in me a whole world, so that what happens outside during the course of a year takes place within me in shorter rhythms.”

The Greeks felt themselves as living beings within the world, felt themselves belonging to the earth beings. But then they said: “As far as the plants are concerned I can see the beginning of the interaction of earth, air, fire, and water. The etheric then extends upward with its effects. It is now met by the cosmos, by the effects of the stars, initially by the effects of the planets, on fire, air, and water. Without the planets, I would have an etheric body, the plants would exist. But I would not, for example, be able to develop the front part of my brain without the forces of Saturn, working from without. I would not have a larynx without the Mars forces, working from without. I would not have a heart without the forces raying in from without.”

These thoughts prompted the further reflection: “Forces are raying in from without. The etheric is raying outward. But the forces that constitute me are raying in from indefinite cosmic distances — forces that are modified through the influence of the planets, forces extending inward from beyond the plant world.” The Greeks felt: “I could not have the front part of my brain, could not have a larynx, heart, or stomach without Saturn, Mars, the sun, or Mercury.” Through their organs, the Greeks felt themselves as much a part of the wide cosmos as they felt themselves part of earth, air, fire, and water in the etheric body. And they saw the cosmic forces whirling through each other in earth, air, fire, and water in a way that allowed the heart, the lungs, and the other organs to develop.

The Greeks felt themselves to be physical products not just of the earth but of the whole cosmos. “Here I am.” they could say, “standing beside a plant. But cosmic forces are active in me. These forces also affect the plants, but merely from without. They cannot enter the plants, cannot produce organs in them. But they penetrate me and produce in me everything I share with the animals. In regard to my organizing the effects of the cosmos, I can reach as far as the zodiac. There I have exhausted the sphere in which I can observe everything that extends into my animal nature and into the animals around me. I see the animals in their characteristic forms — I see a lion, for example. In the lion I can see a definite interaction between the planets and the fixed stars, which allows me to understand why a lion has this particular shape and these particular features. The same applies to the other animals. Learning to understand the nature of the animals around me, I learn to understand the astral body. I also experience the astral body within myself, just as I experience the etheric — what is in the plants — within myself. Together with the animals of the earth, I am not merely a creature of earth but a member of the cosmos, of that which pulsates through the cosmos as a result of the existence of the stars.”

Such a perception of the world can indeed permeate a human being, permeate one’s feelings, so that one may say: “Certainly, I can see objects formed according to mineral laws. But these do not include me. Neither am I a part of the plant world. And I am certainly not part of the animal world. I cannot live on the earth merely through the forces rising from the earth.” Feeling oneself within the whole of the universe essentially constituted the element in which the Greeks used to live, albeit yet instinctively.

The ego was then sought outside the circle of the zodiac, in a sphere that was pure spirit, for which a physical correlate could not be found except in its outer picture, the sun. This is the idea of the sun held by the people of still earlier times; it had become somewhat decadent during the Greek cultural period.

Our physicists and astronomers imagine the sun as a huge gaseous ball some twenty million miles away in the universe. This huge cosmic gas stove — without walls — radiates light and warmth in all directions. It is the only explanation, the sole idea for us — if we wish to be experts and not naive dilettantes. Indeed it is only an “expert,” a “specialist,” who could hold such a view. You will get closer to the truth by imagining the following. Imagine yourself surrounded by light. Light is everywhere. But nowhere is there an object that reflects this light. The light will then not be reflected to you; the light-filled space will be dark. You will not see anything; you will be surrounded by total darkness. Were there nothing but light, we would experience total darkness. Light only returns to us if it is caught by something; otherwise we cannot see it. In a light-filled room is total darkness.

A better age than ours certainly entertained this idea. Its people knew that the sun was not a gigantic gas stove, that there was not merely an empty space up there, but less than space, a negative space. Our physicists would get the surprise of their lives if they were to travel to the sun. They would not find the imagined gas ball, would perceive nothing, not even space, but merely left-out space, an energy or force that absorbs space. This force exists. Space is everywhere. We just have to be able to imagine the “less-than-space.” In the meantime, we at least know that “less-than-no-money” means debts.

Space has its boundaries, and negative space collects the light, which cannot pass through the negative emptiness, but is rayed back. Thus the sun becomes visible. Light is everywhere. What we see as the sun is only an entity that rays back, an apparatus that reflects the light. The origin of this light is, according to the Greeks, beyond the region of the zodiac. The light enters from cosmic distances and not from perceptible space. But it is collected, made visible, through the sun.

This, so the Greeks said, is connected with the development of the ego, whose origin is in regions higher than the planets. The sun is connected with the ego by virtue of the fact that the sun is less than space, emptier than space — at the place of the sun all matter ceases to be and spirituality can enter. It was because the Greeks understood the spiritual nature of the sun that they felt themselves so very much related to it.

Something of this living feeling, of this entering into the spirit by looking up to the cosmos, was still consciously experienced as late as the sixth century, especially during the middle of the fourth century. And because of the living feeling, events were described as resulting from the influence not of the planets but of the hierarchical beings who move what can be outwardly perceived as the planets. This living idea is necessary if we wish to arrive at a different experience of ourselves, imparted into the world as human beings.

If now we take a look at the animal kingdom from this point of view, we may say that this is also within us. It produces our organs. But the animals I see are enclosed in definite forms. I have not become such a form. I do not look like a lion, a bull, an ox, or a pig. I have in me all the animals as synthesis; I have within me the disposition for all of them. If the effect of the sun had not equalized it all, I should be somebody in whom the whole of the animal kingdom were thrown together, whirling, all the animals rooting into each other. It is the effect of the sun that equalizes it, that brings it to a state of balance.

And what is the result of this fact — that I bear within me the dispositions for all the animals, but in a suppressed way? It allows me to think forms, imaginations. The animals are outwardly shaped according to their imaginations; they are living imaginations, move about as imaginations. Looking at the animals I can see the world of imagination. The same forms are in me. They have become thought pictures in me, because I have not assumed their outer shape, have not made them spatial.

If we were to go even further back in time, before Thales, we would find an exact knowledge taught in mystery centers. Plato recorded this knowledge in his esoteric writings. We may describe it as follows. What is logic? Living logic is zoology! What comes to expression in the animal kingdom harmonizes itself in us and, according to our predisposition, assumes a spiritually abstract form, thus producing in us living thought activity. It is the animal kingdom that is active in our life of thoughts. Ergo, logic is zoology.

This knowledge was later replaced by the Socratism of Aristotle, and the consciousness was lost. The beginning of abstract logic came when the living relation of elective affinities gave way to the relation of judgment, the abstract connection of concepts — as we see them expressed in Aristotle’s logic, a logic that can drive the student preoccupied with it to despair, because in it can be found nothing concrete on which to build, nothing to hang on to.

We feel, we think, we develop concepts because we have within us what is spread out, outside of us, in the animal kingdom. If we develop this view, we impart ourselves into the world in a way that is quite different. Will and feelings are then vitalized in a way that is quite different. We feel ourselves related to the nature kingdoms. And we gradually experience not only the etheric but also the astral activity in ourselves.

If we are not limited by the abstract concepts taught everywhere today, but if we are inwardly stimulated by positive forms, and if we are then confronted by the fourteen- and fifteen- year-old children, we learn to observe them. What we inwardly receive will then direct our eyes and ears to the way we ought to conduct the next lesson. Our eyes are led and guided, our ears are led and guided, and only in this way will our observation of what is going on in the fourteen- and fifteen- year old students be stimulated. If we do not have this stimulation, if we do not permeate ourselves with such a spiritual science that enters our life of feelings, we confront these youngsters — as people used to say when I was young — “as the ox confronts Sunday, after having eaten grass all week.”

It is this that we must give our culture, our civilization, our sciences, so that they can become real, and not only a sum total of names, a mere nominalism, so that they can kindle in us something that has meaning and reality. This will allow us to observe human beings. I do not mean that we ought to proceed craftily, recording their behavior in notebooks. No, the positive forms will come to us as though by themselves when we observe in this way. We shall arrive at a judgment of each child, need not speak about it, because it will be mobile within us. We can then raise it to consciousness, and we shall conduct our lessons according to the numerous judgments that live and surge in us, as the whole of the animal kingdom is living in true thought forms.

Just think what it would mean if we had to know everything, if we had to have a clear notion of how the lion is eating a lamb, if we had to be fully conscious of that. By the same token, we cannot judge everything in our environment, cannot raise everything to an explicit consciousness. But it can be there; we can act accordingly. If we have not taken our starting point from the knowledge that only reckons with abstract concepts and abstract natural laws and that cannot possibly raise itself to such positive thought forms, then we can stand among our students and act appropriately. But how can we have anything other than such a starting point if we imagine the big gas stove without walls boiling away in the universe. Such a concept cannot lead to a better understanding of human beings.

All of this must lead to the deep exploration of conscience, to our telling ourselves that unless we make every effort to permeate our life of instincts and feelings with spiritual science, we can no longer understand children in their fourteenth and fifteenth years. We learn to understand them only by progressing to such a knowledge. This is what is meant by our ever emphasizing that anthroposophy is pedagogy. In other words, anthroposophy becomes pedagogy when one gets to the stage at which one can educate. All that is needed is to take from the depths of the soul what has been put into it through anthroposophy, if it is to be applied to education. What I mean to say is that if the qualities present in each human being are given a pedagogical direction, the anthroposophical understanding of the human being will also become a true pedagogy.

Yesterday I said to the teachers of the tenth grade that they should begin with a certain knowledge of the human being. Such a knowledge wishes to make us understand that we ought to place the human being again into the whole universe, according to body, soul, and spirit. We really should — if we are true teachers working on the basis of this knowledge of the human being — study anatomy and physiology, learn everything that has been produced in these fields by centuries of spiritless work. But these books should be no more than sources of information, and we should never omit to pour into them the knowledge we can gain from anthroposophy.

Only this approach will shed light on the information that emerges from such books, on what is generally held to be true today. You must have a different attitude toward this literature than other people. Certainly you will be called arrogant and worse, but you will have to accept this treatment today. You will have to live with it. You will have to see in the offerings of modern science merely the source for information — just as a member of the ancient Greek culture, if such a one were to come to life today and read a book on chemistry, would say: “The things I know about the earth, that it is dry and cold, that it affects plant growth, this you specialize for me. To learn about the details is interesting. But you have no knowledge of the totality of life; you merely know a quarter of it.”

We must return to a knowledge that enters our feelings and will, that permeates our whole being, that is for soul and spirit similar to the blood for the physical. Then becoming different human beings, we shall also become true teachers. The teaching profession cannot tolerate the automatization of the human being, which is the result of the various artificially grown greenhouse plants in educational theories. There are even experiments today that are supposed to lead to new concepts — experiments that show how memory works, how the will and even the thoughts are developing and running their course, harmless games that might even produce results. We need not be against games, those of children or those of the laboratory. What matters, however, is that we oppose the narrowing of the horizon that such experiments produce.