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Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy I
GA 304

VII. Education and Drama

19 April 1922, Statford-on-Avon

Ladies and gentlemen! First, I would like to express my thanks to the “New Ideals in Education” Committee for inviting me to give two lectures during this Shakespeare Festival. Truly, it is no mere coincidence that I speak at this Shakespeare Festival and in German about the relationship of drama to education. For Shakespeare, the dramatist, through his dramatic works was a great educator and he was also a personality who, through his works, was of immense significance for the whole life of humankind. Indeed, in a sense, the connection of drama and education is historical through the fact that Shakespeare the dramatist was Goethe’s teacher. Studying Goethe’s biography not only factually but with the inner eye of a discerning spirit, we become aware that Goethe took from Shakespeare far more than the external features of dramatic form. Goethe drew from Shakespeare the whole educational spirit that he absorbed during the earlier years of his life. He mentioned three great teachers as having given direction to his life: Shakespeare, the botanist Linnaeus, and Spinoza the philosopher — Linnaeus because, at an early age, Goethe was opposed to the Linnaean conception of nature. From Spinoza Goethe could learn only an external manner of expression, philosophical language. From philosophy, Goethe could not learn his own Weltanschauung, his insight into inner necessity in nature and the universe; he learned it from works of art in Italy. His conception of the world was an artistic one. Spinoza gave him only the means of expressing it in philosophical terms.

However, in the inner configuration of his spirit, Goethe remained faithful to Shakespeare, even when he had passed, in his dramatic art, to a more antique tendency of form. It was thus Shakespeare who accompanied Goethe as an educator and guide throughout his life.

Goethe’s spirit can be linked inwardly to the spirit of Shakespeare. For Goethe himself described quite intimately how he allowed Shakespeare’s spirit to work on him. Goethe liked to receive Shakespeare, not by seeing his plays acted on the stage, but by having them read to him in simple, quiet recitation. He would sit listening — his eyes closed — lifting himself out of the sphere of everyday intellectual life and sinking deeply into the fullness of his inner humanity. Such was the way in which Goethe wanted the Shakespearean spirit to enter into him.

In Dornach, we are endeavoring to work in the spirit of Goethe. The High School of Spiritual Science there, which has been founded by the anthroposophical world movement, has been given the name of the Goetheanum — not because I personally wished it so but above all (and this can be emphasized here) on account of the wishes of our English friends — because the Goethean spirit is to be cultivated in Dornach. At the Goetheanum, we are cultivating a direction in spiritual life that leads us to a definite understanding of new ideals of human education. We have been able to apply those ideals in practice at the Waldorf school in Stuttgart — a school closely linked to the High School of Spiritual Science in Dornach, to the Goetheanum. After the Great War, there was a great longing for the realization of spiritual-cultural life in Germany, and it became possible, through the initiative of Mr. Emil Molt, to found this Waldorf school in Stuttgart. It was my task to give methods of teaching and educational practices deriving from a deeper spiritual insight into human nature. I might perhaps be permitted to say a few words about the kind of spiritual knowledge that forms the background of the educational practices of the Waldorf school and that stems from the anthroposophical science being cultivated in Dornach.

I know that there are still a great many people in the world who believe that people are imbibing all sorts of fantastical illusions in Dornach, that some kind of cloudy mysticism is encouraged. But that is not the case at all. If we wish to judge the Dornach methods soundly, we must be ready to accept the fact that a really new direction in humanity’s mental and spiritual life of humanity is being cultivated there. I would like to describe what we are doing by a word that is, I know, still very alarming to many people, inasmuch as all things of a supersensible nature do, after all, still alarm many people today. Nevertheless, I would like to speak this word openly and without reservations. The method applied in Dornach can be designated as “exact clairvoyance.” It is not clairvoyance in the usual sense. What we understand by such clairvoyance does not arise pathologically from unknown depths of human nature but is developed and applied with scientific conscientiousness — a conscientiousness no less disciplined than what a scientist of external nature must cultivate in his or her scientific thought. To attain such “exact clairvoyance” and exercise it demands no less application of the human soul than is demanded of a mathematician or a practicing natural scientist. It is a clairvoyance that we apply consciously in matters of everyday life, a clairvoyance that awakens genuine faculties of knowledge and perception in the human soul. By these faculties, one becomes able to see beyond the things of the external world that have set their stamp on the civilization of the last three or four centuries. One becomes able to perceive the supersensible reality underlying the whole universe, all creation, and, above all, human nature.

Acquiring this kind of exact clairvoyance by a strictly methodical process, we become able to recognize and know what lives within us as a spiritual, supersensible reality between birth and death. When we are born into the world as little children, we appear to be only a physical organism. In reality — modern science might dispute it but this can become an absolute certainty by means of exact clairvoyance — a supersensible organism permeates the physical organism. It is an organism of forces. I have called it in my writings the “organism of formative forces.” It consists simply of a configuration of forces — forces, however, that work inwardly.

This is the first supersensible reality to be seen and observed through exact clairvoyance. It is in no way connected with the old, unscientific concept of a life or vital force. Rather, it is something that enters the sphere of supersensible perception with the same clarity as colors and sounds do within the sphere of the ordinary sense perceptions of seeing and hearing.

Exact clairvoyance of the organism of formative forces is, however, only the first stage in supersensible cognition attained by a person who sees the supersensible inner human being at work in the physical organism between birth and death. A further stage leads to perception of the supersensible member of the human being that is present before the person descends from the spiritual world to unite with a physical body through birth. This is the supersensible human organism that passes again into the spiritual world at death, when the physical body and the body of formative forces, named above, both succumb to decay.

By the power of such spiritual seership, exact clairvoyance unites what otherwise is taken purely intellectually with a view of what is spiritual or supersensible in human beings. That is to say, it unites science and religion. On the other hand, it is also able to give a new impulse to the artistic element in life. For we cannot without it explain, in terms of such ordinary natural laws as we are accustomed to use in our treatment of external nature, the manner in which the supersensible organism — the body of formative forces — works on human beings between birth and death. This must be grasped and understood artistically. It is only by clairvoyantly raising the customary method of science to an artistic perception of the world that we can grasp how the forces that a person brings to earth and takes up into the spiritual world again organize him or her from birth until death.

Now, if we are working as teachers — as artists in education — on human beings, we must enter into relation with their supersensible, creative principle. For it is upon this principle that the teacher and educator works. External works of art can be created by fantasy and imagination. But, as an educator, one can be an artist only if one is able to enter into connection with the supersensible creative element, the supersensible that lives in the human being’s self. The anthroposophical method of research makes this possible and so provides the basis for an art of teaching and education.

If we imagine a sculptor working at a figure that, when it is finished, comes to life and walks away, we can understand why the artist will count on his creation remaining as he or she leaves it. But, as parents and teachers, we are working on a child who not only lives on but grows and continues to evolve. When educators have completed their work upon the child, they are in the position of an artist whose work continues to evolve. For this, philosophy does not suffice, only pedagogical principles and methods do: exact clairvoyance. I would like to sum up in a picture how we must work in such artistic education — for artistic education is, finally, the great principle of our Waldorf method. We know that a child’s head, arms and legs continue growing and developing. The whole organism develops. Likewise, we must realize that the child before us is only in a childlike stage and that whatever we bring to the child — all that a child acquires through our education — goes on growing with the child throughout its life.

Waldorf education, which we at the Goetheanum are endeavoring to cultivate and carry into the world, sows in the child something that can grow and thrive from early childhood into old age. There are men and women who have a wonderful power in old age; they need only speak and the very tone of their voices, the inner quality of their speech, works as a blessing. Why, we might ask ourselves, can some people raise their hands and have an influence of real blessing? Our educational insight tells us that only those can do so who in childhood have learned to pray, to look up in reverence to another human being. To sum it up in one sentence, we can say that all children who rightly learn to fold their hands in prayer will be able to lift their hands in blessing in old age.

I would now like to speak about how we are trying to find the right pedagogy and educational practice.

Human life gives rise to many illusions. When speaking of the tasks of education, the greatest illusions are possible. We can proclaim wonderfully transparent ideals of education that appeal to heart and mind. We can even exercise persuasion with them — at first. But, in the real life of teaching and educating, something altogether different is needed from this faculty of knowing intellectually, or even in the goodwill of our hearts, what we wish to develop in the human beings we are educating. Imagine, for example, a teacher whose talents are not above average — for not every teacher can be a genius — and who must educate a child who will afterward become a genius. Very little of what such a teacher conceives as his or her ideals can be instilled into such a child. But a method of education founded on exact clairvoyance knows that there is an inmost core in the inner life of human beings and that the teacher or educator must simply prepare and smooth the way for this individual core. This inmost individuality always educates itself, through what it perceives in its surroundings, through what it receives by sympathy from life and from the situation into which life places it. Teachers and educators can work into this innermost individual core of the child only indirectly. What they must do is form and educate a child’s bodily and soul life in such a way that, by the very nature of the education they provide, the growing child meets the minimum of hindrances and obstacles from the teacher’s bodily nature, temperament, and emotional life.

Such an education can be achieved only if we really see how the human soul works in and on the body during these years of childhood. A child’s inner bodily nature, when born into the world, is so organized that it may actually be described, strange as this might sound, as a kind of sensory organism. Until the change of teeth, which occurs around the seventh year, the whole child is one great sense organ. It receives impressions not only from the actions but also from the thoughts, feelings, and sentiments of those who educate it. Being thus surrendered to the environment, a small child is at the same time a little sculptor sculpting its whole human nature. It is wonderful to see this inner secret of the child’s self-sculpture in the first seven years of its life (seven years, as I said, is only approximate — it continues until the change of teeth occurs).

How we speak to a child, whether we admonish it or not, the way we speak in a child’s presence, the manner of our speech and of all our actions, all of this enters plastically into a child’s inner life. This is the educative force. It is only an illusion to imagine that the child in those early years gains anything from our admonishments, our moral lecturing, our talking to it for its own good. In the presence of the child we should act, say, and think only what we would wish the child to receive into itself.

All of this changes when the child sheds its milk teeth, at approximately the age of seven — the exact moment is not to be taken pedantically. Around this time, the spiritual element that works plastically in the child grasps not only the nerve-andsense system but also the lungs, the heart, and the circulatory system — the whole inner rhythm of the organism. In soul life, this spiritual element is connected with the life of feeling and fantasy. Thus, while we say that, until about the seventh year, the child is an inner sculptor, from then onward, until the fourteenth year — until the time of puberty — we can describe the child as an inner musician. We must not work on the child at this age with abstract concepts. We must realize that the child before us wants to permeate his or her whole body musically, with inner rhythm. We shall be educating the child rightly if we meet this inner rhythmical-musical need in the child. All education from the seventh to fourteenth years must thus be based upon an artistic approach to the subjects that are taught.

At first, the plastic and sculptural element is still at work. Writing and reading are taught, not abstractly, but deriving each letter from artistic feeling. Musical instruction is introduced and is widened out into eurythmy — which is, in effect, a rhythm of the whole organism. In eurythmy, the will for limb movements and the tendency to movement in the larynx and the neighboring speech organs is transferred to the whole body and its several movements. The larynx produces movements in the air, and thus to spoken sound. In eurythmy, the whole body becomes a moving organism of speech. We see the children take to eurythmy’s language of movement with inner satisfaction, just as a small child takes to the spoken language of sound.

An artistic element underlies all teaching and education from the change of teeth till puberty. The artistic element is present also in what we are able to teach in the domain of art itself. At first, with the innate tendency to develop the plastic sense into an inner musical life, children are receptive to what we can bring by way of lyric poetry. Then, with the ninth or tenth year — earlier in one child, later in another — a sense for the epic awakens. We can now meet the child with epic poetry and poetic narrative. Then, at a quite definite moment in each child — approximately around the age of twelve — when sexuality is beginning to approach — we can observe how the child becomes receptive to the dramatic element. A demand awakens for what is dramatic. This is clearly evident if we perceive the child’s development. Of course, this does not preclude teachers’ having a dramatic element in themselves before this moment comes for the child. Indeed, teachers cannot cultivate eurythmy, nor lyric nor epic poetry, if they lack this dramatic element in their whole being. But it is from the age of about twelve that the child requires and needs the dramatic element in life.

This is the age, too, when we begin to make a transition from a purely artistic education to the first elements of intellectual education. Before this time, no importance should be attached to abstract concepts and intellectuality — in the teaching of nature study and natural science, for instance. Indeed, a person’s whole life is marred if abstract concepts have been forced on them at too early an age during childhood. Before this twelfth year, everything that is taught should be based upon art and rhythm. But, with the twelfth year, we begin to introduce a certain element of the intellectual in our school — in the teaching of history, for example, inasmuch as history reveals the working of law; and, likewise, in the teaching of physics. And so it is now that, as an opposite pole to the intellectual element, the child demands dramatic activity.

In the Waldorf school at Stuttgart, where we are trying to work out of the child’s nature in this manner, we have seen a group of boys of about thirteen or fourteen come and say, “We have been reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and we would now like to act it, too.” Thus, while we were careful to begin to develop intellectuality at the right age, young human nature asked for the element of drama of its own accord. This is what happens if we can bring children the right thing at the right time and in the right way. Naturally, the students said how pleased they were to have performed Julius Caesar and that this was of greater interest to them than watching a performance by professional actors on the stage. Nor can we wonder that it was Shakespeare who called forth this inner dramatic need in the boys of the Waldorf school. For we know that there is something in Shakespeare from which even Goethe could learn the essence of the dramatic. What lives in Shakespeare works into the soul and mind of the child, and becomes in the child a strong impelling force.

As the time is now well advanced, I should like to close for today. On Sunday, I shall have to speak again on Shakespeare in connection with the new ideals in education. Perhaps what I have had to say in a short talk on education and the role of drama may be a contribution to the endeavors of this honored educational society. Seeing, on the one hand, the world-historical figure of Shakespeare and on the other the great tasks of education, we cannot but be mindful that, while many ideals are necessary for our present life, the most important of them all will doubtless be the ideals of education.

RUDOLF STEINER’S NOTES

I) It is an art of education, based on anthroposophy. It is different from other contemporary currents and world-views.

II) It depends on perceptions that can be developed.

Education : The free individuality of the child is not to be disturbed. We are to give the young human being an organism for life, which he or she can use properly. The soul will develop if we meet it with the right kind of human understanding. The spirit will find its way into the spiritual world. But the physical body is in need of education.


0–7th years. The human being develops from the head; the young child is entirely a sense organ and a sculptor.


The child under seven. Baby: sleeps a great deal because its whole body is like a sense organ — and every sense organ sleeps during the state of perceiving. The senses are awake when the human being is asleep. The secrets of the world lie in the senses; the secrets of the solar system lie in the chest organs. The senses are not predisposed for perceiving, but for plastically forming the organism.


7th–14th years. Human beings develop from the breathing and circulatory systems. A child is wholly a listener and a musician.


Learning to write — not too early — afterward learning to read — arithmetic — as analysis.

9th–10th years. Turning point. One can begin to talk about the outer world as the outer world — but through descriptions — this will harmonize the tendencies of growth.

In children, the soul exerts an immeasurably strong influence on the body.


14th–21st years. The human becomes a being of fantasy and of judgment. After the twelfth year, he or she can grow into the dramatic element. Something then remains for the rest of life. Before this time, a splitting of the personality is not good.

The question of “Drama and Education” has been raised in history through Goethe’s relationship to Shakespeare.

1) The question of the relationship between drama and education will be answered by: What drew Goethe to Shakespeare?

2) Goethe mentions three teachers: Linnaeus, Spinoza, and Shakespeare. From the beginning, he stood in opposition to the first two. But he remained faithful to Shakespeare, although Goethe himself, in his dramatic works, comes to a different way of creating.

3) What attracted Goethe to Shakespeare was what escapes logical reasoning in Shakespeare. If one wanted to explain a Shakespeare play logically, one would be in the same position as someone wanting to explain dreams logically.

4) When is it right to introduce this element into education?

5) The Waldorf school is built on the artistic element. But teachers and educators arein a position different from other artists. They are not working with material that they can permanently shape; they are working with human beings.

6) The method of the Waldorf school is built on anthroposophy. Exact clairvoyance. Exercises in thinking and willing. Through these to recognize: the child — as sense organ and sculptor — and subsequently musician and listener to music.

7) Drama: the old Aristotelian definition: Fear and sympathy in tragedy. A human being facing something higher than the self. Satisfaction and gloating over other people’s misfortunes. A human being facing a state of subordination.

8) In school, drama is to be introduced only at the time of puberty. But all teaching must pay attention to the dramatic element. The dramatic element escapes the intellect. Hence, it is employed as a counterbalance to the training of the pupils’ intellectual powers.

Lyric poetry strengthens feeling —
epic poetry modifies thinking.


Consequently, a child’s words become inward through lyricism. They become worldly through epic poetry.


Tragedy awakens mixed feelings: fear and sympathy.
Comedy awakens self-satisfaction and gloating over other people’s misfortunes.


Comedy: The human being approaches the soul within.
Tragedy: The human being approaches the physical within.


Tasso and Iphigenia: are solutions to artistic problems
Faust: represents the problem of humanity


Shakespeare’s characters are the creations of a theatrical pragmatist, created by someone who was in close and intimate contact with the audience. Goethe studies the problem of humanity in the single human being. Shakespeare embodies a certain kind of dreaming.


The impossibility for Sh. to find support in the outer arrangements of the stage. Hence, the interest is centered in the characters themselves.

In order to fully enjoy Shakespeare, Goethe outwardly contrives conditions bordering on dream conditions.


People always try to look for the logic in Shakespeare’s plays.
However, they are guided not by logic but by the pictorial element.