Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy I
VI. Educational Methods Based on Anthroposophy II
24 November 1921, Oslo
Yesterday, I sought to show how the philosophy and practice of an education based on anthroposophy rest on an intimate knowledge of human beings and hence also of growing human beings or children. I tried to show how a growing child can be regarded as a sort of “time-organism,” so that we must always bear in mind that the activities of each succeeding year of a child’s development occur against the background of that child’s entire life. We can therefore plant something like soul-spiritual seeds in our children that will bear fruits of inner happiness and security in practical life situations for the rest of their earthly existences.
First, we looked at the period between birth and the change of teeth, when a child is a completely imitative being. We must realize that, during this first period of life, a young child is connected to its environment in an extremely intimate way. In a manner of speaking, everything that happens through the people around the young child, even their thoughts and feelings, affects the child in such a way that it grows into the happenings in its surrounding world by imitating them. This relationship — this connection to the surrounding world — has a kind of polar opposite in what happens during puberty.
Naturally, during the present age, with its materialistic overtones, there is much talk of the process of puberty. The phenomenon is usually viewed as an isolated event; however, to unprejudiced observation, it must be seen rather as a consequence of a complete metamorphosis of the whole course of life thus far. At this age, human beings develop not only their more or less soul-spiritual or physically colored erotic feelings but also their personal relationship to the external world. This begins with the forming of judgments that express themselves in strong sympathies and antipathies. Basically, it is only now that young people are placed fully within the world. Only at puberty do they attain the maturity to turn toward the world in such a way that independent thinking, feeling, and judgment can live within them.
During the years between the change of teeth and puberty, a child’s relationship to its teacher is based above all on the feeling of respect for the teacher’s authority. Those important years can be regarded as lying between two polar opposites. One of them is the age of childhood when, without any subjective awareness, a child lives wholly within its outer surroundings. The other is the time of sexual maturity or puberty. At this time, adolescents as subjects differentiate themselves from the world — with all their newly awakened inwardness — by what could be called in the broadest sense sympathies and antipathies. In short, they distinguish themselves from the world by what we might call the various manifestations, or revelations, of love.
Between these two poles lies the lower school and, as teachers, it is our task to create a bridge from one pole to the other by means of education. During both stages — during early childhood as well as during puberty — the growing person finds a certain foothold in life, in childhood through union with the surrounding world and later through the feeling of being anchored within the self. The intervening years, encompassing the actual lower-school years, are the time when the growing child is in an unstable equilibrium, needing the support of the teacher and educator. Basically, during those years of primary education, the teacher stands as a representative of the entire world in the eyes of the child. That world is not one of mere arbitrary coincidence but rather the natural, lawful order in human development that is brought to life in what the teacher and educator means to the child. For the child, the teacher represents the whole world. Happy are those children who — before they must find a personal relation to the world by means of individual judgments, will impulses, and feelings — receive the world through someone in whom the world is rightly reflected!
This is a deeply felt premise of the education that is to be based on anthroposophy. With this principle, we try to gain insight into the child’s development, month by month, even week by week, in such intimate ways that we become able to read the curriculum and all our educational aims directly from the nature of the growing child. I could summarize this by saying: knowledge of the human being that is true and intimate also means knowledge of how and when — during which year and even during which month — to introduce the appropriate subject matter.
We must consider that until about the age of seven — and children should not really enter school before that age — a child lives entirely by imitation. Our young pupils are beings who strive with their will to be at one with their surroundings. This fact alone should preclude any appeal to the intellect, which depends on the soul’s self activity. Nor should we appeal to the child’s personal feelings, which in any case are in complete sympathy with the environment. If we bear in mind that every response of such an imitative being bears a will character, we will realize how strongly the innate will nature meets us when we receive a child into school at the time of the second dentition.
Above all, then, we must begin by educating, instructing — training — the child’s will. This in itself implies an emphasis on an artistic approach. For instance, when teaching writing, we do not immediately introduce the letters of the alphabet in their present form, because these have already become quite alienated from human nature. Rather, we begin by letting the children paint and draw, an activity that is a natural consequence and externalization of their will activities and that in turn leads to writing.
Proceeding in this way, a teacher notices in the children two different tendencies that should be given consideration. For whether we contribute to a child’s future health or lack of health depends upon how we deal with these two tendencies. In relation to writing, we find two types of child. This becomes especially evident when we guide them toward writing through a kind of painting. One type of child learns to write in a way that always retains a quality of painting. This child writes “with the eye,” observing every line and working with an aesthetic feeling for the beauty of the form — a painterly quality lives in all his or her writing. The other type forms the letters on the paper more mechanically, with a certain compulsion. Even in writing lessons — often given for dubious pedagogical reasons, especially in the case of older persons who believe that they must improve their handwriting — the aim is usually to enable the participants to put their letters on paper with this mechanical kind of compulsion. This is how individual handwriting is developed. Just as people have their gestures, of which they are unaware, so too they have their handwriting, of which they are equally unaware. Those who write mechanically no longer experience an echo of their writing. Their gaze does not rest upon it with an aesthetic pleasure. They do not bring an artistic element of drawing into their writing.
Each child ought to be guided toward introducing this artistic element into handwriting. A child’s eye should always rest on the piece of paper on which he or she is writing and so receive an impression of all that is being put into the writing. This will avoid writing under sheer inner mechanical compulsion, but will allow the child to experience an echo of his or her writing and the various letters. If we do this, we shall be cultivating a certain love in the child for what surrounds it — a sense of responsibility for its surroundings. Although this remark might sound improbable, it is nevertheless true. A caring attitude for whatever we do in life is a direct consequence of this way of learning to write — a method in which writing is a matter not only of manual dexterity but also for the eyes, for aesthetic seeing and willing.
We should not underestimate how such familiar things influence the whole of human life. Many persons who, later in life, appear lacking in a sense of responsibility — lacking in loving devotion to the surrounding world — would have been helped if they had been taught writing in the right way.
We must not overlook such intimate interconnections in education. Anthroposophy therefore seeks to shed light on all aspects of human nature — not just theoretically but lovingly. It tries to recognize the inherent soul and spiritual background of all external human traits and this allows it to add a completely practical dimension to the education of the young. If we remember to allow a child’s forces of will to flow into such activities as writing, then learning to write — writing lessons — will eventually produce fruits of the kind I previously mentioned.
After writing, we proceed to reading lessons. Reading involves a child’s life of feeling to a greater extent than writing and ought to develop from writing. Reading entails a greater element of observation, while writing is more a matter of active participation. But the starting point in education should always be an appeal to the will element, to active participation, and not only to powers of observation.
Three steps should always be followed when teaching children aged from seven to fourteen. First, the aim should be to involve the will; that is, the active participation of the pupils. Second, the aim is gradually to lead toward what becomes an attitude of observation. And only during the last phase of this period do we proceed to the third step, that of making of experiments, to experimentation.
Yesterday, I drew your attention to an important moment occurring between the ninth and tenth years. I pointed to the fact that much depends on a teacher’s detecting the inner soul needs of each child at this critical stage and taking appropriate action. This moment in a child’s development must be observed accurately. For only at this stage does the child begin to learn to differentiate its individual self from its surroundings. It does this in three ways — in feeling, in will activity, and through the forming of judgments. The ability to distinguish between self and environment with full inner independence is achieved only at puberty.
Between the ninth and tenth years, a first harbinger of this separation from the surrounding world already begins to make itself felt. It is so important — just because we must support a child’s being until puberty — that we recognize this moment and adapt our teaching accordingly. Up to this age, it is best not to expect children to distinguish themselves from their surroundings. We are always at a disadvantage when we as teachers introduce subjects — such as the study of nature — that require a certain objectivity, an inner distancing of the self from its surroundings, before a child is nine or ten. The more teachers imbue the surrounding world with human qualities, the more they speak about it pictorially, and the more they employ an artistic approach, the better it is for the inner unfolding of their pupils’ will natures. For, by becoming directly involved, these will natures are also thereby inwardly strengthened.
Everything musical helps deepen a child’s will nature. After age six or seven, the element of music helps make a child more inward, more soulful. The will itself is strengthened by all pictorial and artistic activities — but only, of course, as long as they correspond to the child’s age. Naturally, we cannot yet speak about plants, animals, or even lifeless objects, as something independent and separate. On the contrary, a child should feel that such things are an extension of its own being. Personification of outer objects and facts is right and appropriate during this time of a child’s life.
We are wrong to believe that, when we personify nature, we are presenting a child with something untrue. Arguments of this kind have no validity. Our attitude should be, “What must I bring to a child to liberate his or her life forces? What can I do so that what is within rises to the surface of life?” We can help this happen, above all, by being as lively as possible in our descriptions and stories of the surrounding world — if we make the whole surrounding world appear as if it issues from a human being’s inner self. Everything introduced to the child at this age should be addressed to the child’s whole being, not just to its head and nervous systems.
A false conception of human nature and an entirely misguided picture of human beings underlie current attitudes toward education. We have a false anthropology that over-emphasizes the nervous system. Rather, it is of prime importance that we recognize a current flowing through the entire person from below upward — from the activity of the limbs and from everything that follows from our relationship to the external world — that impresses itself into the nervous system and particularly into the brain. From this perspective, anthroposophical anthropology is not being paradoxical when it maintains that, if a child practices the appropriate movements at an earlier age, he or she will develop intelligence, intellect, the power of reasoning, the ability to discriminate, and so forth at a later age. If we are asked, “Why has a particular child not developed a healthy ability to discriminate by the time he or she is thirteen or fourteen? Why does he or she make such confused judgments?” We often have to answer, “Because the child was not encouraged to make the right kinds of physical hand and foot movement in early childhood.”
The fact that eurythmy is a required subject in the Waldorf curriculum shows that, from our point of view, these remarks are justified. Eurythmy is an art of movement but it is also of great pedagogical value. Eurythmy is truly a visible language. It is not like mime, nor is it a form of dance. Rather, eurythmy originates in the perception of tendencies toward movement in the human being that may be observed — if I may borrow Goethe’s expression — with “sensible-supersensible beholding.” Those tendencies toward movement (I say “tendencies” rather than the actual movements themselves) are seen when human beings express themselves in speech, with the larynx and other speech organs performing the actual movements.
Those movements are transformed into moving air, which in turn becomes the carrier of sound and tone perceived by the ear. But there exist other inner tendencies or inclinations toward movement which proceed no further than the nascent state and yet can be studied by “sensible-supersensible beholding.” It is possible to study what is formed in a human being but never becomes an actual movement, being instead transformed, or metamorphosed, into movement of the larynx and the other speech organs.
In eurythmy, the movements are performed by one person or by groups whose movements produce an ordered, organic, and visible form of speech, just as human speech organs produce audible speech or song. Each single movement — every detail of movement that is performed eurythmically — manifests such laws of the human organism as are found in speech or song.
This is why, in the Waldorf school, we witness again and again how — provided that it is taught properly — younger children in the first eight grades find their way into eurythmy, this new language, quite naturally. Just as, at this stage of development, a child’s organism desires to move through imitation, so likewise is the child naturally inclined to reveal itself through the language of eurythmy. A sense of inner well being depends on the possibility of the child’s expressing itself through this medium. Older pupils develop the same inner response toward this visible language of eurythmy, only in a metamorphosed form, at a later stage. Indeed, we find that, just as eurythmy has been called forth from the inner order governing the human organism, it works back upon the human organization in a healthy manner.
For the moment, let us consider the human form. Let us take as an example the outer human form — although it would be equally possible to take the forms of inner organs — but let us for the moment take the human hand together with its arm. Can we really understand the form of the human hand and arm when they are in a position of rest? It would be an illusion to think that we could. We can understand the forms of the fingers, of the palm, and of the arm only when we see them in movement. The resting form only makes sense when it begins to move. We could say that the hand at rest owes its form to the hand in movement and that the movements of the hand or arm must be as they are because of the form of the resting hand. In the same way, one can summon forth from the whole human being the movements, like those connected with the vowels and consonants, that originate in the inner organization and are determined by the natural organization or form of the human being. Eurythmy has been created in harmony with the innate laws of the human form. A child experiences the change of the human form at rest into the form in movement — the meaningful transition into visible speech through eurythmy — with deep inner satisfaction and is thereby enabled to experience the inner life of its whole being. And this works back again in that the entire organism activates what is later transformed into intelligence in a way that should not be activated by anything else. If we try to develop a child’s intelligence directly, we always introduce a more or less deadening or laming agent into its development. But, if we cultivate intelligence through the whole human being, then we proceed in a fundamentally healing manner. We endow the child with a form of intelligence that grows easily from the whole human being, whereas onesided training of the intellect resembles something artificially grafted onto the organism.
When seen in its practical pedagogical context, eurythmy — which is an obligatory subject along with lessons in gymnastics — therefore has the effect of ensouled gymnastics. I feel sure that the time will come when people will think about such matters more openly and more freely than is usual today.
In this respect, something extraordinary happened to me a short time ago. I talked about ideas concerning eurythmy and there happened to be in the audience someone who could rightly be called one of the most eminent Central European physiologists. You would be surprised if I mentioned his name, for he is a world-famous personality. On this occasion, out of a certain modesty, I said that anthroposophy does not clamor for revolutionary aims in any subject. I said that, one day, one might come to think of gymnastics as having been evoked from human physiology, from the inherent law and order of the physical body, and that, in that sense, it can be said to have a beneficial effect on the healthy development of the human physical body. I continued by saying that this more spiritual, ensouled eurythmy will find its proper place side by side with gymnastics because, in eurythmy, although due consideration is given to the physical aspects, at the same time, in each movement performed, an element of soul and spirit also lives, allowing the child to experience meaningful soul and spiritual sense and never merely empty physical movements. The child always experiences how the inner being of the eurythmist flows into the movements performed. And the strange thing was that this famous physiologist came to see me afterward and said, “You called gymnastics an educational aid. But I entirely disagree with your justification of gymnastics on physiological grounds. From my point of view, I consider gymnastic lessons for children to be pure barbarism!”
Well, I would never have dreamed of making such a statement myself, but I nevertheless find it interesting to hear what one of the most eminent physiologists of our time has to say about this subject. As I mentioned before, I do not wish to go as far as this physiologist but merely wish to say that eurythmy has its own contribution to make in practical pedagogy, side by side with gymnastic lessons as they are given today.
By working back again on the spirit and the soul of children up to the ages of nine and ten, eurythmy becomes an important educational aid. The same applies to later years when, between nine and ten, a child learns to discriminate between the self and the external world. Here, however, one must be very careful about how such discrimination occurs. First, one must be careful not to introduce subject matter that predominantly activates a child’s intellect and faculty of cognition. From this point of view, before proceeding to mineralogy, physics, and chemistry, it is good to introduce first animal and then plant study. Through the study of zoology and botany, children learn to discriminate between the inner and outer worlds in new and different ways. According to a given child’s own nature, it might feel more akin to the animal world than to the plant kingdom. Pupils experience the plant world as a revelation of the outer world. On the other hand, with regard to the animal kingdom, children feel greater, more immediate rapport, inwardly sensing that there are similarities in many respects between animals and human beings. Teachers should definitely be aware of this when giving lessons in zoology and botany. Hence, when introducing botany, they should relate the plants to the earth as to a living organism. They should speak of the earth as a living organism. They should speak of it during the different seasons and of how it reveals itself by appropriate plant growth at different times of the year. In other words, they should introduce a temporal aspect into the study of plants.
The use of observational methods, while justifiable in other situations, can easily be disturbing if applied to botany and zoology. Generally speaking, far too little attention is given to the fact that the earth forms a unity with its plant growth. Again, you might find this paradoxical, but just as we can hardly study the organization of an animal’s or a human being’s hair separately — having rather to consider it in connection with the whole organism, as part of a whole — so we should also consider the earth as an organism, and the plant world as part of it. If we introduce botany in this manner, a child, observing the plant kingdom, will differentiate its own being from the plant world in the right way.
On the other hand, the approach to animal study should be very different. Children feel a natural kinship, a “soul-bridge,” with the animal world and this feeling of kinship should be taken into account. The opinions of older nature philosophers are often smiled at today. But you will find all of the opinions of these older nature philosophers in Goethe’s way of looking at the animal world. According to the Goethean way, we look at the form of an animal and find, for instance, that in the form of the lion the development of the chest and the heart predominate, whereas, in the case of other animals, the digestive organs may predominate; in still other species, the teeth are especially developed, or the horns, and so on. We consider the various animal forms as expressions of single organs. In other words, we could say that there are head animals, chest animals, and limb animals. Indeed, one could arrange the various animal forms according to even more subdivisions. This gives us the totality. Finally, taking all of the various animal forms together — synthesizing them in such a way that what predominates in a particular species regresses to fit itself back into a whole — we come to the form of a human being. From the point of view of outer form, therefore, the human being represents a synthesis of the entire animal world.
It is quite possible to call forth in the child a feeling for this synthesis of the entire animal kingdom in humanity. If we do this, we have achieved something very significant, for we have then allowed the child to relate both to the plant world and to the animal world in the right way. In the case of the animal world, the child can learn to see a human being spread across the entire animal kingdom and in the plant kingdom something that belongs organically to the whole earth. If, by giving individual examples, we can bring to life such a study of animals or plants at a deeper level, we respect at the same time how human beings should fit rightly into the world according to their inner nature. Then, just at the age when a child learns to differentiate itself from its surrounding world by beginning to discriminate between subject and object, she or he will grow into the world in the right way. Through the study of botany, we can succeed in separating the outer world from the inner life of a human being in the right way, and at the same time enable a child to build bridges into the world. Such bridges are essential if a right feeling for the world, if love for the world, is to develop. We can also do this by presenting the animal world to the child in the form of a picture of the human being unfolded or outspread. Doing this, we are following an organic, living path by allowing the child to find its proper relationship to living nature. Only when the twelfth year begins can we cultivate purely intellectual work and appeal to the powers of reasoning without harming a child’s development.
When the curriculum that I have outlined today is followed, we begin by cultivating the life of the will. By presenting the child’s relationship to the plant world and to the animal world in nature study, we begin the cultivation of the child’s feeling life. The child then learns to relate to the plant and animal kingdoms not just theoretically. Indeed, the concepts gained from these lessons lay the foundations for a deeper relationship to the whole surrounding world. Something happens here that really touches the child’s feeling, the child’s psyche. And this is of immense importance; for, proceeding thus by engaging the child in the right kind of movement, and guiding and cultivating children’s will forces and their lives of heart and soul up to almost the twelfth year, we can then find the transition to the actual cultivation of the intellect by introducing subject matter belonging to lifeless, inorganic nature.
Mineralogy, physics, and chemistry should not be introduced before this age (the twelfth year). The only intellectual occupation not harmful during the earlier ages is arithmetic. This can be practiced earlier because it is directly connected with an inner discipline and because it is neutral with regard to the cultivation of both will and heart or soul. Of course, it depends entirely on our knowing how to activate the child outwardly through the right kind of geometry and arithmetic during the age when the child is at the stage of authority.
Regarding the introduction of subjects belonging to inanimate nature, we should wait until approximately the twelfth year. Thus our ability to read in a child’s nature what can and should be taught at each appropriate age is the whole point around which we form our curriculum.
If we introduce children to the external world in this way, we may be certain that we are preparing them for the practical sides of life also. Unfortunately, our present civilization does little to guide people into dealing with practical life. Rather, they are led into a routine life, the practical aspects of which consist in their being able to manipulate a few skills in a more or less mechanical fashion. Real love for practical work, love for working with one’s hands, even if only crude and simple skills are required, is poorly cultivated by our present educational methods.
Yet, if we teach from insight into human nature, we will find a way to develop a genuine impulse to become practical people in those pupils who have reached puberty. For this reason, we introduce practical subjects in the Waldorf school as soon as our pupils reach puberty. We try to teach them crafts, which at the same time demand an artistic treatment.
The Waldorf school is a coeducational school and this policy has not thus far shown the slightest disadvantage from a pedagogical point of view. But what has also emerged is that boys love to do so-called “girls’” jobs — such as knitting, crocheting, and so on — and that it is precisely in these practical lessons that boys and girls in the Waldorf school work harmoniously together. You will perhaps forgive me for making a personal remark: men who as boys were taught to knit at school will know how much these skills have contributed to their ability to work with their heads and how their dexterity in using knitting needles, in threading darning needles, and so on has been transmuted into the development of logical thinking. This may sound peculiar to you, but it nevertheless belongs to one of the more hidden facts of life.
The origin of poor or faulty thinking is by no means always to be found in a person’s innate intellectual capacities. What, during a person’s adult life, is revealed as human intelligence, must be traced back to the whole human being. Above all, we must realize that what is expressed through practical activities is intimately connected not only to the human head itself, but also to the way in which it has an effect on all that belongs generally to the cultivation of the sphere of the head.
If insight into the human being based on anthroposophy is to enter the field of education, it must guide the child towards a practical and realistic conception of life. Anthroposophy does not wish to lead anyone into a mystical “cloud cuckoo land.” It does not wish to alienate people from practical life. On the contrary, it seeks to lead human beings into the fullness of practical life so that they really begin to love practical work. For instance, in my opinion, one cannot be a true philosopher unless one is also capable of making a pair of shoes somehow or other, if the situation demands it, and unless one is capable of taking full part in all human activities. All specialization, however necessary it might be in life, can work in a healing way only if people are able to stand fully in life, at least to a certain degree. Naturally, not every adult can do this. Nevertheless, such is our aim in education, as I have taken the liberty of presenting it to you.
If we have thus guided our pupils from “doing” to observing and, finally, to practical participation, which includes the making of scientific experiments — that is, if we have guided our pupils starting from training their will lives through observation permeated by human feeling and finally to more intellectual work — if we have done all this, then we have followed a curriculum capable of planting seeds in their souls and spirits that will bear fruit throughout their lives. It is this wholeness of life that teachers must bear in mind at all times.
A great deal of thought has gone into finding the origin of morality. Ours is a time of abstraction: we philosophize about how human awareness of morality has found its way into life and where it is found in the individual and in the life of society. But so far, because our time is one of intellectualism and abstraction, we have not found its source in realistic terms. Let us seriously consider the idea that it is in the nature of the child, between second dentition and puberty, to surrender freely to the authority of a teacher who represents the whole world to the child. And let us accept that the child receives everything that enters its soul under the influence of this authority. If we do that, then we will adopt this line of thought in our education to give the child a picture of the educator and teacher as a living example of morality, one in which morality is personified. Listen carefully to what I say: teachers do not implant an ethical attitude by moralizing. To the child, they are morality personified, so that there is truly no need for them to moralize. Whatever they do will be considered right; whatever they refrain from doing will be considered wrong. Thus, in living contact between child and teacher, an entire system of sympathies and antipathies regarding matters of life will develop. Through those sympathies and antipathies, a right feeling for the dignity of human beings and for a proper involvement in life will develop. At this age, too, we can perhaps see emerging from the inner depths of the child’s soul something that surfaces at times and needs only to be interpreted correctly.
We can observe how, under the influence of certain feelings, a child blushes. The most significant cause for blushing is a sense of shame. I am not thinking here of shame in its more restricted, sex-related sense. I am speaking of shame in a wide and general sense. For example, when a child has done something that, according to the system of sympathies and antipathies that it has developed, must appear wrong or bad, a feeling of shame is provoked. It is as if the child wanted to hide from the world. In such a situation, life-sustaining blood rushes into the periphery. It is as if the real soul of the child were trying to hide itself behind the blushing. The other extreme can be seen when a child must face a danger threatening from outside. We then see a paling in the child’s countenance. These two phenomena — blushing and paling in the human face — point to something of great significance; they point to the system of sympathies and antipathies.
My point is that, if we follow up this blushing and paling in a child’s soul, we find the consequences of what teachers and educators have cultivated in the field of education during the period between a child’s second dentition and puberty. It is a question not of teaching morals, but of living morally. Through the relationship between the teacher and the child, what is good crosses over into the realm of sympathies and antipathies. They express themselves outwardly in paling and blushing, which are generated by the soul either when the inner life of feeling is threatened, destroyed, or paralysed, or when it feels a sense of shame. As a result, the appropriate feeling, or an entire complex of feelings for a genuine and true human dignity, is engendered in the child. It is of paramount importance that a living morality develop in this changeable, mobile relationship between child and teacher. Remember that yesterday I characterized the member of the human organism that works in time as the etheric body. When the child reaches sexual maturity, another, higher member of the human organism comes to meet the etheric body. That is, during the age of sexual maturity, the human astral body, as it is called in anthroposophy, comes to meet the etheric body. This is a stage when what had developed into a system of sympathies and antipathies in the child changes into a person’s moral attitudes. It is the astral body that places human beings within the world. It holds and gathers the person together far more tightly than the etheric body. What was previously a system of sympathies and antipathies, cultivated by the teacher’s artistic approach, now becomes transmuted into a moral attitude of soul.
This is the wonderful secret of puberty. It is the metamorphosis of what had previously lived in the child as living morality into a conscious sense of morality and of moral principles. That metamorphosis takes place on a comprehensive scale. The erotic side plays merely a subordinate role. Only a materialistic age sees the most important issue in a sexual context. The true and fundamental aspect of the change must be seen in the wonderful secret that what is at first founded in a natural way through a child’s direct and immediate experience now sees the light of day in a conscious sense of morality.
Just as a plant is rooted in the ground, so everything pertaining to a conscious sense of morality in the world — everything of an ethical nature living in society and social life generally — is rooted just as firmly as the plant is rooted in the ground in what was cultivated artistically and aesthetically into a system of sympathies and antipathies between the second dentition and puberty.
Instead of trying to find the origin of human goodness in philosophical abstractions, it is more productive to observe concrete realities. We can answer the question, “What is goodness in real life?” by saying that goodness in real life is the outcome of what we adults were able to nourish by means of our pupils’ sense of authority during the period that we are discussing.
In this way, we observe life as a whole. We observe the situation of the child during the school years of inner consolidation. During those years, the child’s soul is still intimately connected with the physical organism. Only at the age of about 35, does a person’s soul begin to loosen itself somewhat from the physical body. At that point, two ways are open to us — although, unfortunately, all too often there remains no choice. At that moment, when our souls and spirits free themselves from our physical bodies, we can keep alive within us the living impulses of feeling, will, and concepts that are capable of further growth and that were implanted in our souls during childhood days. In that case, we not only remember experiences undergone at school but can relive them time and again, finding in them a source of ever-renewing life forces. Although, naturally, we grow old in limbs, with wrinkled faces and grey hair and possibly even suffering from gout, we will nevertheless retain a fresh and youthful soul and, even in ripe old age, one can grow younger again without becoming childish.
What some people, perhaps at the age of fifty, experience as a second wave of youthful forces is a consequence of the soul’s having become strong enough, through education, to enable it to function well not only while it has the support of a strong physique but also when the time comes for it to withdraw from the body.
A teacher and educator must not only deal with the business of teaching actual subjects to pupils; she or he must also bear the burden of responsibility for their pupils’ inner happiness and feeling of security right into the last years of their lives.
This is how we can foresee the consequences of what we are implanting in childhood through education and school lessons. But we can also follow the consequences in social life. Social morality is a kind of plant that has its roots in the classroom in which children were taught between their seventh and fourteenth years. And, just as a gardener will look at the soil of his garden, so society too should look at the “soil of the school,”
for the ground for morality and goodness is to be found here. Anthroposophy seeks to be knowledge of human beings that is able to satisfy both individual and social life. It wishes to fructify the various fields of life. Hence, it also wants to fructify theory and practice in education.
In only two lectures, it is impossible for me to give more than just a few directives. Anthroposophy will continue to work further. What has been achieved so far regarding the foundations of pedagogy is only a modest beginning. In Dornach, at Christmas, I shall try to expand our anthroposophical pedagogy in a whole series of lectures, open to a wider international audience. What I wished to show with the few guidelines that I have given here is that what matters most in anthroposophy is never a theory or a form of ideas leading to a certain conception of the world but practical life itself. This is certainly so in the field of education, although often it is unrecognized. Anthroposophy is often considered to be alienated from life. This, certainly, it does not want to be. Anthroposophy does not encourage adherents of spiritual knowledge to escape into “cloud cuckoo land,” thus estranging them from life. It strives for spiritual knowledge so that the spirit can be experienced in all its creativity, at work in all material existence. That the spirit is creative can be seen in the as yet small successes of the Free Waldorf school in Stuttgart. Teaching our pupils is by no means the only task of the Waldorf school. Many subsidiary activities are pursued there as well. Whenever I can be there, we have staff meetings. At those meetings, almost every pupil is discussed individually, not just from the point of view of making judgments but very much from the point of view of how and what we can learn from the individuality of each child. Wonderful results have emerged from such discussions.
For a long time now, I have wondered how a majority of boys or of girls affects a class, for we have classes where boys are in the majority, others where girls predominate, and still others where the numbers of boys and girls are more or less balanced. It is never possible to predetermine, from personal contact with such classes, the effect of the relationships of boys to girls: imponderables play their part in the situation. But a class in which girls are in the majority is very different — neither better nor worse of course but all the same very different — from a class in which boys predominate. And, again, a class in which the numbers are more evenly balanced has a very different character. However, something has come into being, especially through working in our meetings with the progress of our pupils — something that is already outwardly expressed in the way we write our school reports. This is what one could call “the Spirit of the Waldorf school.” When we talk about the school — I say this in all modesty — it is no longer enough to speak only about its twenty-five to twenty-eight teachers: it is also possible to speak about the Waldorf school spirit.
This Waldorf school spirit spreads its life and existence beyond the school, right into the pupils’ families. For I know how happy those families are to receive our annual reports and with what happiness our children take them home. I do not wish to tread on anyone’s toes. Please forgive me if I mention a personal idiosyncrasy — but I have never been able to discriminate correctly among the various grades or marks that are given, say between B- and B or the difference between a “nearly satisfactory” and a “satisfactory.” In view of all the imponderables, I have always found it impossible to discern the differences that are indicated by such marks.
We do not make use of such marks in our reports. We simply describe the life of the pupil during the year, so that each report represents an individual effort by the teacher. We also include in each report a verse for the year that has been specially chosen for the individuality of the child in words with which she or he can live and in which he or she can find inner strength until the coming of a new verse at the end of the next school year. In that way, the report is an altogether individual event for the child. Proceeding thus, it is quite possible for the teacher to write some strong home truths into a report. The children will accept their mirror images, even if they are not altogether pleasing ones. In the Waldorf school, we have managed this not only through the relationship that has developed between teachers and pupils but also, above all, through something else that I could describe in further detail and that we can call “the spirit of the Waldorf school.” This spirit is growing; it is an organic being. Naturally, I am speaking pictorially, but even such pictures represent a reality.
We are often told, “Not all teachers can be perfect. In education one can have the best principles, but they founder on human weaknesses.” Yet, if the living spirit of which I speak, which issues from anthroposophical knowledge of human beings, exists and if we can respond to it in the right way, then, through it, the human being can grow and mature. I hope that I am not saying too much when I tell you that the teachers in the Waldorf school have greatly matured through the spirit of the Waldorf school. They are aware of it; they can feel its presence among them. They are growing and developing under its guidance. They can feel how many of their individual gifts, which contribute to the life of the Waldorf school, become independent, blending into a homogeneous spirit, and how that spirit is working in all teachers and educators, planting germs that can be of value for their pupils’ whole lives in the ways that I have described. We can perceive it in various separate phenomena.
Naturally, we also have our share of less able children, and it has become necessary to separate some of them from their classmates. Hence, a very devoted teacher has organized a remedial class. Whenever a pupil is supposed to join the remedial class, his or her class teacher must endure a painful struggle, and no pupil is transferred to the remedial class except for the most urgent reasons. If we proceed merely by following a fixed scheme, many children would be sent into that special class, but a teacher often insists on keeping a child among his or her classmates, despite the great additional burdens that may be involved.
These are things that I mention not to boast but to characterize the situation. I would refrain from speaking about them were it not necessary to show that anthroposophy is capable of offering a sound pedagogical basis on which to deal with the realities of life — a pedagogical basis that leads to a spirit that will carry a human being without having to be carried, as is the case with an abstract form of spirit. This living spirit is what is needed in our decaying civilization. We should be able to consider each individual life problem within the context of life in general.
One problem, often called the most burning question of the day, is the so-called social question — it has drawn interest in the widest quarters. Apart from some positive aspects, this social question has also brought with it terrible misery — we only need to think of what is happening in Eastern Europe. It has many facets and one of these is doubtless that of education and teaching. One might even be justified in claiming that, without dedication to the question of education from the social point of view, out of insight into human nature, the social question, with all of its ramifications in the most varied areas of life, can hardly be put on a sound basis. Anthroposophy is anxious to deal honestly and seriously with all aspects of life and, above all, with education of the young.
Strangely enough, in our age of abstraction and intellectuality, a certain concept has been completely lost with regard to spiritual and cultural life. But, if we go back to ancient Greece, we still find it. According to that concept, learning and teaching are at the same time healing and health-giving processes. In ancient Greece, people were still aware that teaching made human beings healthy, that what is given as soul and teaching content creates a process of healing. During the Greek stage of human evolution, teachers also felt themselves to be healers in the widest sense of the word. Certainly, times are always changing and the character of human development changes too. Concepts cannot remain unaltered. We cannot today return to the concept of a sinful humanity, and see in the child, too, a sinful member of humanity whom we must heal. From that point of view, we could see in education only a kind of higher, spiritual medicine. However, we see the situation more correctly when we realize that, depending upon how we affect a child by our education, we create health-giving or illness-inducing effects in the child’s soul, which certainly affect its physical condition as well.
It is with this in mind — that human beings may develop in healthy ways in spirit, soul, and body as far as this is possible within their given predispositions — that anthroposophical pedagogy and practice wishes to make its own contribution. Anthroposophy wishes to found educational principles and methods that have a healing influence upon humanity, so that what we give to the child and what we do in the proximity of the child, though not amounting to medicine in a restricted sense, nevertheless become a way of turning human life in a healing direction — as regards both the individual and the body social.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
In connection with the first lecture, further clarification was sought in relation to raising the question of immortality with children aged nine to ten.
We are not dealing here with the question of immortality per se in an explicit sense. But I would like to say that this question is part of the complex life situation for children of that age. I don’t think that I expressed myself unclearly when I said that at this age the child experiences a new form, a metamorphosis, in relation to the authority-based relationship of teacher to child. Previously, the child simply looked up to the teacher. This must be judged not on the basis of any party-political attitudes but on the basis of the child’s development. Between the second dentition and puberty, a child can only feel, what my teacher says is what my soul must believe; what my teacher does is a commandment for me. After that period, when children see an example to be followed in their teachers, they become aware that their teacher, too, looks up to a higher authority. They feel dimly that authority is no longer to be found in this world, but has withdrawn into the divine-spiritual world. In short, what lives in the teacher’s relationship to the supersensible world should not enter the feeling life of the child.
It is unlikely that a child will question the teacher regarding immortality in so many words. But the whole conduct of the child shows its dependence on the teacher’s realizing that, through the authority that she or he wields, the child wishes to be brought into a relationship with the supersensible. How that is done depends on each individual case. One case hardly ever resembles another. For instance, it might happen that a child, after previously having been its usual cheerful self, enters school in a moody and morose condition that lasts for several days. If one has the necessary experience, one knows that such a brooding state is an outcome of the situation we have been discussing. Sometimes, there is no need for an explicit conversation about the reasons for the change in the child. The mere way in which the teacher relates to the child, the understanding way in which she or he talks lovingly to the child during such days of brooding, could itself lead the child across a certain abyss. It is not an abyss in an intellectual sense, but one connected with the general constitution of the child’s soul. You will find the question of immortality there, not explicitly but implied. It is a question concerning the whole of life, one that will rise up in the child so that she or he can learn to feel, my teacher is not only an ordinary human being but one in whom the human relationship to the supersensible world is expressed. This is what I wished to add.
I have been given another question in writing which I should like to answer briefly. The question is: “Is it possible to follow the seven-year rhythms throughout the whole of life and what form do the various metamorphoses take?”
It is a fact that for those who are able to observe the more intimate changes of life, these rhythms are clearly identifiable during the early years of life; i.e., during the change of teeth and the onset of puberty. It is also easy to see that physical changes occur, paralleling those of soul and spirit. Such changing life-periods also exist in later life. They are less conspicuous and, strangely enough, become less distinctive as humanity progresses. I could also say that they become more inward. In view of our contemporary, more external ways of looking at history, it might not be inappropriate to mention that, in earlier stages of human evolution, such life periods were also clearly identifiable in later life. This is because human beings had different soul conditions in the past into which anthroposophy can look. I must add that anthroposophy is not dependent on documentary evidence as is modern historical research in our intellectual age. I am not blaming; I am merely describing. For instance, when we go back into earlier times, we notice how human beings looked forward to the coming of old age with a certain anticipation, simply on account of what they had experienced when they met other old people. This is a trait that one can discern if one looks back into human development without prejudice. Nowadays, people do not look forward to old age as a time when life will reveal certain things for which one is ready only then. That is because the clear distinctions between the various life periods have gradually been blurred. If we observe things without prejudice, we can perceive that we can today barely distinguish such development in most people beyond the ages of twenty-eight or thirty. After this period, in the majority of our contemporaries, the developmental periods become very indistinct. During the period called the Age of the Patriarchs, a time when people still looked up to old age, one knew that this period of ebbing life forces could still offer unique experiences to the human being. Although the body was becoming increasingly sclerotic, the soul was freeing itself more and more from the body. Very different indeed are the intimate experiences of the soul during the time of the body’s ascending life forces from those undergone at the other end of life.
But this growing young once more in a body that is physically hardening, of which I spoke in the lecture, also gives old age a certain strength. And, if we look back to ancient times, we find this strength there. I believe that it was not for nothing that the ancient Greeks saw, in Homer above all but also in other poets, people who were creative at the time when their souls were freer from the physical body which was deteriorating. (I am not now speaking about whether there ever was such a person on earth as the one we call Homer.) Much of what we have of oriental wisdom, in the Vedas and, above all, in the philosophy of the Vedanta, has grown out of souls who were becoming younger in old age.
Naturally, progress with regard to human freedom would not be possible if distinctions between the different life periods did not become blurred. Yet, in a more intimate way, they do still exist today. And those who have achieved a certain selfknowledge know well how what someone might have experienced in their thirties, appears strangely metamorphosed in their fifties. Even though it still belongs to the same soul, it nevertheless appears in different nuances. Such nuances might not have a great deal of meaning for us today because we have become so abstract and do not perceive, by means of a more refined and intimate observation of life, what is spiritually real. Yet these metamorphoses, following each other, do exist nevertheless. Even if there seems little time for these intimate matters in our age with its social upheavals, a time will come when human beings will be observed adequately once more, for humanity would otherwise move towards its downfall and decay.
Why should the wish to advance to real observation of human beings be lacking? We have made very great progress indeed with regard to the observation of external nature. And whoever knows how plant and animal species have been explored in greatest detail and how thoroughly external facts are being observed will not think it impossible that the immense efforts and the enormously penetrating observations that have been showered upon the study of external nature will not one day be applied equally to the study of the human being. When and how this might eventually happen will have to be left open for the time being. In any case, it is correct to say that the art of education will advance to the extent to which a thorough observation of human beings and the metamorphoses of the various life periods in later life are being undertaken.
I would like to go back once more to what I said yesterday; namely, that whoever has not learned to pray in childhood is not in a position to bless in old age, for more than a picture was implied. Respect and devotion engendered in childhood are transmuted at a much later age into a force that has a healing effect on human environment — especially upon children — so that we can call it a force of blessing. A picture, such as that of folded hands, given in the ninth or tenth year of life, will turn into hands raised in blessing during the fiftieth or fifty-fifth year — such a truth is more than a mere picture: it shows the inner organic interrelationships during the course of a human life, which reveal themselves in such metamorphoses.
As I said before, these phases do become more blurred in later life. However, although they are less discernible, they do nevertheless exist, and they need to be studied, especially in the art of education.