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Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy I
GA 304

IX. Synopsis of a Lecture from the “French Course”

16 September 1921, The Dornach

Today is the time of intellectualism. The intellect is the faculty of soul, in the exercise of which our inner being participates least. We speak with some justification of the coldness of intellect, and we need only consider its effect on artistic perception or works of art. The intellect destroys or hinders. Artists dread the possibility that their creations might be conceptually or symbolically explained by clever reasoning. They would like their work to be understood with feeling, not with understanding. The soul warmth that gave their creations life disappears in such clarity; it no longer is communicated to the beholder. This warmth is repelled by an intellectual explanation.

In social life, intellectualism separates people from one another. We cannot work rightly within the community unless we are able to imbue our deeds, which always involve the weal or woe of our fellow human beings with a soul quality. Deeds alone, lacking soul, are not enough. In a deed springing from intellectualism, we withhold our soul nature, preventing it from flowing over to our neighbor.

It has often been said that intellectualism has a crippling effect in the teaching and training of children. In saying this, one is thinking, in the first place, only of the child’s intelligence, not the teacher’s. One would like to fashion the methods of teaching in such a way that not only the child’s cold powers of reasoning are developed, but that warmth of heart may be engendered in the child as well.

The anthroposophical world-view is in full agreement with this. It accepts fully the excellent educational principles that have grown from this demand. But it realizes that warmth can be imparted only from soul to soul. Hence, it is of the opinion that, above all, pedagogy itself must become ensouled and thereby the teacher’s whole activity too.

In recent times, indirectly influenced by modern science, teacher training has been strongly permeated by intellectualism. Parents have allowed science to dictate what is beneficial for a child’s body, soul, and spirit; and so teachers, during their training, have received from science the spirit of their educational methods.

But science has achieved its triumphs precisely through intellectualism. It tries to keep its thoughts free from anything emanating from human soul life. Everything must come from sensory observation and experimentation. Such science could amass the excellent knowledge of nature in our times, but it cannot found a true pedagogy.

A true pedagogy must be based on a knowledge comprising the human body, soul, and spirit. Intellectualism grasps only the physical aspect of the human being, for only what is physical is revealed to observation and experiments. True knowledge of human beings is necessary before a true pedagogy can be founded. This is what anthroposophy seeks to attain.

One cannot come to knowledge of human beings by first forming an idea of the bodily nature with the help of a science founded merely on what can be grasped by the senses, and then asking whether that bodily nature is ensouled, and whether a spiritual element is active within it. In dealing with a child, such an attitude is harmful; for here, far more than in the adult, body, soul, and spirit form a unity. One cannot care first for the health of a child from the point of view of a merely natural science, and then want to give to the healthy organism what one regards as proper from the point of view of soul and spirit. In all that one does to and with the child, one either benefits or injures his bodily life. In earthly life, the human soul and spirit express themselves through the body. A bodily process is a revelation of soul and spirit.

Material science is necessarily concerned with the body as a physical organism. It does not reach an understanding of whole human beings. Many people feel the truth of this but, in regard to pedagogy, they fail to see what is actually needed today. They do not say: pedagogy cannot thrive on material science; let us therefore found our teaching methods on pedagogical instincts, not on material science. But they are half-consciously of this opinion.

We can admit this in theory but, in practice, because modern humanity has mostly lost the spontaneity of the life of instinct, it leads to nothing. It would be groping in the dark to try to construct a pedagogy on instincts that are no longer present in humanity in their original force. We come to see this through anthroposophical knowledge. We learn to know that the intellectualistic trend in science owes its existence to a necessary phase in the evolution of humanity. In recent times, people passed beyond the period of instinctive life. The intellect then became of predominant significance. Human beings had to advance along the evolutionary path in the right way. Just as an individual must acquire particular capabilities at a particular period of life, the evolutionary path led human beings to the level of consciousness that had to be attained in a certain epoch. The instincts are now crippled under the influence of the intellect, and yet one cannot try to return to the instinctive life without working against human evolution. We must accept the significance of the enhanced consciousness we attained through intellectualism, and give human beings—in full consciousness—what instinctive life can no longer give them.

To this end, knowledge of soul and spirit is needed, founded as firmly on spiritual reality as material, intellectualistic science is founded on physical reality. Anthroposophy strives for just this, yet it is just this that many people shrink from accepting. They learn to know how modern science tries to understand human nature. They feel that the modern scientific way is impossible, but they will not accept that, in order to attain knowledge of soul and spirit, it is possible to cultivate a new mode of cognition that is as clear in consciousness as that with which we penetrate physical phenomena. This being so, they want to return to the instincts as a way of understanding and training children.

But we must move forward; and there is no other way than to extend anthropology by knowledge of anthroposophy—to extend sensory knowledge by acquiring spiritual knowledge. We must learn all over again. People are terrified at the complete change of thought required for this. Out of unconscious fear, they attack anthroposophy as fantastic, yet anthroposophy wants only to proceed in the spiritual domain as soberly and as carefully as material science does in the physical.

Let us consider the child. At about the seventh year of life, a child develops his or her second teeth. This is not merely the work of the period of time immediately preceding this change. It is a process that begins with embryonic development and only concludes with the second teeth. These forces, which produce the second teeth at a certain stage of development, were always active in the child’s organism. But they do not reveal themselves in this way in subsequent periods of life. Further tooth formations do not occur. And yet the forces concerned have not been lost, they continue to work, they have merely been transformed. They have undergone a metamorphosis (there are other forces, too, in the child’s organism that undergo a similar metamorphosis).

If we study the development of the child’s organism in this way, we discover how these forces (leading to the change of teeth) were previously active in the processes of nourishment and growth. They lived in undivided unity with the child’s body, freeing themselves from it only around the seventh year. After the change of teeth, then, they live on as soul forces, active in older children in feeling and thinking.

Anthroposophy reveals that an etheric organism permeates the physical organism of the human being. Up to the age of seven, the whole of this etheric organism is active in the physical body. But a portion of it is now freed from direct activity in the physical body and acquires a certain independence as a vehicle for a soul life that is relatively free of the physical organism.

In earthly life, however, soul experience can develop only with the help of the etheric organism. Before the age of seven years, the soul is quite embedded in the physical body and expresses itself actively only through the body. The child can enter into relationship with the outer world only when this relationship takes the form of a stimulus that runs its course within the body. This can happen only when the child imitates. Before the change of teeth, the child is, in the widest sense, a purely imitative being. The aim of education at this stage can therefore be expressed thus: the conduct of those around the child should be worthy of imitation.

A child’s educators should experience within themselves what it is to have the whole etheric organism within the physical. This gives them knowledge of the child. One can do nothing with abstract principles alone. Educational practice requires an anthroposophical art of education to work out in detail how, through childhood, a human being gradually emerges. Just as the etheric organism is embedded in the physical organism until the change of teeth, so, from the change of teeth until puberty, a soul organism, called by anthroposophy the astral organism, is embedded in the physical and etheric organism. As a result, the child develops a life that no longer expends itself in imitation. However, children of this age cannot govern their relation to others in accordance with fully conscious thoughts, regulated by intellectual judgment. This becomes possible only when, at puberty, a part of the soul organism frees itself from the corresponding part of the etheric organism. From the age of seven to the age of fourteen, the child’s relationship is not determined by independent judgment. It is the relationship effected through authority that is important now.

This means that, during these years, children should look up to someone whose authority they can accept as a matter of course. The whole education must be fashioned with reference to this. One cannot build on children’s powers of intellectual judgment at this age. One should perceive clearly that children want to accept what is put before them as true, good, and beautiful because their teachers, whom they take as their models, regard it as true, good, and beautiful.

Moreover, teachers must work in such a way that they do not merely put before the child the true, the good, and the beautiful, but, in a sense, they themselves must be these. Not so much what they teach but what the teachers are is what passes over into the children. Everything that is taught should be presented to the children not as a matter of theory but as a realizable ideal, as a work of art.