Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy II
II. The Art of Teaching from an Understanding of the Human Being
20 November 1922, London
It might seem unusual to speak about practical questions in education from the standpoint of a particular philosophy — that is, anthroposophy. In this case, however, the reason for speaking about education arises from the practice of teaching itself.
As you know, I will speak tonight of the way of teaching being practiced at the Waldorf school in Stuttgart. The pedagogical ideas and goals proposed through anthroposophy have been, for the most part, established at the Waldorf school. A few years ago everyone was talking about problems in education, and industrialist Emil Molt decided to create a school for the children of the workers in his factory. He turned to me to provide the pedagogical content and direction for that school.
At first, we dealt only with a particular group of children who came from a particular class — proletarian children connected with the Waldorf Company and with some children whose parents were members of the Anthroposophical Society. However, we soon extended the task of the school. We began originally with about 150 children in eight classes, but we now have eleven classes and over 700 children. Before that, a group of friends within the circle of anthroposophy made a trip to Dornach, Switzerland to attend a conference on education at the Goetheanum at Christmas. As a result, I was invited to lecture at Oxford this past August. Following the Oxford lectures, the Educational Union formed in order to bring the educational principles I will discuss today to a greater application in England.
I need to mention these circumstances so you will not think our discussion this evening is to be theoretical. You should realize that I want to speak about a genuinely practical manner of educating. I need to emphasize this also because this evening we will, of course, be able to mention only a few things. Those things I can bring up will also be rather incomplete compared to the reality of those principles of education, since they are not about “programs” but about practice. When we speak of practice, we can only speak in terms of examples taken from that practice. It is much easier to talk about a program, since you can speak in generalities and about general principles. We cannot do that when speaking of the Waldorf school education due to its own distinctive characteristics. As I mentioned before, our concern is to begin pedagogy and education derived from a spiritual-scientific perspective, a perspective that can lead us to a true comprehension of the human being, and thus to a true comprehension of the nature of a child.
Painters or other artists must learn two things in order to practice their art. In the case of painters, they must first learn a particular skill for observing form and color. The artist must be able to create from the nature of form and color and cannot begin with some theoretical comprehension of them. The artist can begin only by living within the nature of form and color. Only then can the artist learn the second thing, namely, technique. Spiritual science does not comprehend education as an academic or theoretical field. Spiritual science sees it as a genuine art, as an art that uses the most noble material found in the world — human beings. Education is concerned with children who reveal so marvelously to us the deepest riddles of the cosmos. Children allow us to observe from year to year, even from week to week, how physiognomy, gestures, and everything else they express reveal spirit and soul as a divine gift of the spiritual worlds hidden deep within them. The perspective I am speaking of assumes that, just as the painter must learn to properly observe how form and color — the activity arising through the hands, soul, and spirit — result from that understanding, so the artist in teaching must be able to follow the essence of the human being revealed in the child. However, this is not possible if you do not elevate your capacity to observe above the level of common consciousness — that is, if you cannot gain a true observation of soul and spiritual activities in life. That is precisely the objective of anthroposophy. What contemporary people typically call “cognition” addresses only the corporeal — that is, what speaks to the senses. If people have not risen to a genuine comprehension of the spirit, how can they learn to understand the soul? They can gain understanding of the soul only by understanding the expressions and activities of their own soul. Through self-observation, they learn about their own thinking, about their own feeling and willing. Those are aspects of the soul. They comprehend the soul only through reasoning. The senses perceive the sense perceptible. However, such people can understand the soul only by forming a judgment about those characteristics within themselves and then concluding that they have something like a soul.
Anthroposophy does not begin with that ordinary way of thinking. Instead, it seeks to systematically develop those forces sleeping within the human soul so that (don’t be surprised by my expression) a kind of precise clairvoyance results. With precise clairvoyance, you can penetrate the characteristics of the soul to see what is truly the soul. You can perceive the soul through that spiritual vision just as you can recognize colors through the eyes or tones through the ears. Through normal consciousness we can comprehend the spirit active in the world only as a conclusion. If we insist on remaining within normal consciousness, then we can say that we see only the phenomena of nature or of the soul. From that, we conclude that a spiritual foundation exists. Our thinking concludes that spirit and soul are at the foundation of what exists physically. Anthroposophy develops forces sleeping in the soul, organs of spiritual perception through which we can experience the spirit through living thinking, not merely as a conclusion.
You can have a genuine understanding of the human being only when you have seen the soul, and when you can experience the spirit in living thought. A living understanding of the human being arises that can permeate you through spiritual science, so that you can see in every moment of the developing child’s life how the spirit and soul act in the child. You do not see the child only from outside through the senses; you see also the sense perceptible expression of the soul. You do not work with just a revelation of the soul, but with the actual substance of the soul that you can see, just as your eyes see colors. You can begin with how spirit works within the child because, through anthroposophy, you can understand how to comprehend spirit with living thought.
Thus, the art of teaching I am speaking of here begins with a living comprehension of the human being, along with a comprehension of the development taking place in the child at every moment of life. When you understand in that way how the material we work with in teaching is the most noble, when you recognize how your teaching can affect the human being, then you can see many things differently than possible through ordinary consciousness. You can then teach and give educational guidance based on that knowledge. You can, through direct practical interaction with the child, develop what you can see in the soul and experience in the spirit.
Observation that is truly alive shows that spirit exists within the child no less than in the adult. However, that spirit lies hidden deep within the child and must first conquer the body. If we can see that spirit before it speaks to us through language or reveals itself through intellectual thought, we can receive an impression of the marvelous way spirit’s divine gift affects the child’s organism. You will then get an impression of why we certainly cannot say that the physical nature of the human being is one thing, and spirit another. In children you can see how spirit, much more so than with adults, works directly on the physical — that is, how spirit completely permeates the physical. As adults, we have spirit to the extent that we need to think about the world. Children, on the other hand, have spirit to the extent that they need to form their organism through spiritual sculpting. Much more than people believe, the human physical organism throughout all of earthly life is the result of how that spirit hidden within the child develops the physical organism. To avoid speaking abstractly, I would like to present some concrete examples.
If you look at a child only as conventional science does, so that you only perceive what ordinary physiology presents through dissection — that is, if you do not have a spiritual view of the child — you will not see the effect of all the different events on the child’s physical organism. For instance, the child does something and is shouted at by an adult. That makes a very different impression on the child than it would on an adult, if one were to shout at the adult. We must remember that a child functions very differently than an adult. The adult’s sense organs exist on the surface of the body. Adults can control with their intellect what comes through the sense organs. Adults can form fully developed will from within when confronted with sense impressions. However, the child is completely surrendered to the external world. If I may express it pictorially (but I mean this to a certain degree in a literal sense), the child is entirely a sense organ. Allow me to be very clear about this. Look at an infant. If we look with an external understanding at an infant, it appears that the baby feels and sees the world just as an adult does, except that the infant’s intellect and will are not as well developed as in adults. That is, however, not the case at all. Adults feel taste only on their tongue and gums. What takes place only at the surface in adults permeates the child’s organism right into the innermost depths. In a way, children perceive taste throughout their bodies when they eat. They perceive light throughout themselves when light and colors enter their eyes. That is not simply pictorial; this is actually how it is. When light shines on children, the light vibrates not only in their nervous system, it also vibrates in their breathing and throughout their circulatory system. Light vibrates throughout the entirety of the child’s organism in just the same way light acts within the adult’s eye only. The child is, throughout the entire body, a sensing organ. Just as the eye is completely occupied with the world and lives entirely in light, children live entirely in their surroundings. Children carry spirit within themselves in order to absorb everything that lives in their physical surroundings into their entire organism. Because of this, when we yell at a child, our yelling places the entire body into a particular kind of activity. When we yell at a child, a certain inner vibration occurs that is much stronger than that in an adult, who can make certain inner counteractions. What happens then is a kind of stopping short of the spiritual and soul life, which affects the child’s physical body directly. Thus, when we often yell at and frighten a child, we affect not only the child’s soul, but the child’s entire physical body. Depending on how we act around children, we can affect the health of human beings all the way into the final years of old age.
The most important means of teaching a very young child is through the way we, as adults, act when in the child’s presence. If children experience a continuous hustle and bustle, a continuous hastiness in their environment, then they will take up an inner tendency toward haste within their physical body. If you truly understand human beings so that you can observe their spirit and soul, you can see in children of eleven or twelve whether they were brought up in a restless or hurried environment, in a more appropriate environment, or in one where everything moved too slowly. We can see it in the way they walk. If the child was brought up in a hurried environment, one where everything proceeded with extreme restlessness, one where impressions continually changed, then the child will walk with a light step. The kind of environment the child had makes an impression on the child, even in the way of walking, in the step. If a child had insufficient stimulus in the surroundings so that continuous boredom was experienced, we see the reverse in how the child walks in later life with a heavy step. I mention these examples because they are particularly visible, and because they show how we can observe people better. Through this example, you can see what we are able to give to children when we see them properly in early childhood. During early childhood, children imitate their surroundings. They are particularly imitative in learning what they should do in their souls — that is, what is moral. I would like to give an example of this as well.
Those who have had to deal with such things can also experience them. For example, a father once came to me and said that his son had always been a good boy and had always done what the parents had found morally pleasing. But, now he had stolen money. Well, in such a case, anyone who truly understands human nature would ask where the child had taken the money. The father replied, “from the cupboard.” I then asked further whether someone removed money from the cupboard every day. “The child’s mother,” was the reply; thus, the child had seen the mother remove money from the cupboard every day. Young children are imitative beings who dedicate the entire soul to their surroundings, and, therefore, they do what they see happening in the surroundings. The young child does not respond to reprimands, does not respond to “do” and “don’t.” Such things are not strongly connected with a child’s soul. Children do only what they see happening in their surroundings. However, children see things much more exactly than adults do, even though they are unconscious of what it is they see. What children see in their surroundings leaves an imprint on their organism. The entire organism of the child is an imprint of what occurs in the surroundings.
Contemporary understanding overvalues way too much what is called “heredity.” When people see the characteristics of some adult, they often say such traits are inherited by purely physical transfer from one generation to another. Those who truly understand human beings, however, see that children’s muscles develop according to the impressions from their surroundings. They can see that, depending on whether or not we treat a child with tenderness and care, with love or in some other manner, the child’s breathing and circulation develop according to the feelings experienced. If a child often experiences someone approaching with love, who instinctively falls into step with the child and moves at the tempo required by the child’s inner nature, then the child will, in subtle ways, develop healthy lungs. If you want to know where the traits for a healthy adult physical body arise from, you must look back to when the child was affected as one great sense organ. You must look at the words, the gestures, and the entire relationship of the child to the surroundings, and how these things affected the child’s muscles, circulation, and breathing. You will see that a child imitates not just in learning to speak — which depends entirely on imitation, even into the bodily organization that makes speech possible — but you will see that the child’s whole body, particularly in the more subtle aspects of the physical body, reflects what we do in the child’s presence.
To the extent that a person’s physical body is strong or weak, that the physical body can be depended upon, gratitude or blame for the way one walks through life, even in old age, is due to the impressions made on a person as a small child.
What I just said about growing children being imitative beings applies throughout the first period of childhood, that is, from birth until the change of teeth at approximately age seven. At that time, the child goes through many more changes than is generally thought. In order to build a secure foundation for a genuine art of education and teaching, we need to fully penetrate what occurs in the child’s development; that is what I want to discuss in the second part of the lecture after this first part has been translated.
(Rudolf Steiner paused at this point while George Adams delivered the first part of this lecture in English.)
At around age seven, the change of teeth is not just a physical symptom of transformation in human physical nature, but also indicates the complete transformation of the child’s soul. The child is primarily an imitative being until the change of teeth. It is in the child’s nature to depend on the forces that arise from imitation for the physical body’s development. After approximately age seven and the change of teeth, children no longer need to be physically devoted to their environment, but instead need to be able to be devoted with the soul. Everything that occurs in the child’s presence before the change of teeth penetrates the depths of that child’s being. What penetrates the child during the second period of life is due to an acceptance of the authority of the child’s teachers. The child’s desire to learn such adult arts as reading and writing does not arise out of the child’s own nature, but expresses the acceptance of that natural authority. It is a tragic pedagogical error if you believe children have any desire to learn those things, things that serve as communication for adults! What actually acts developmentally on a child are the things that arise from the child’s loving devotion toward an accepted authority. Children do not learn what they learn for any reason found in the instruction itself. Children learn because they see what an adult knows and is able to do, and because an adult who is the child’s accepted educational authority says this or that is something appropriate to be learned. That goes right to the child’s moral foundation.
I would remind you that the child learns morality through imitation until the change of teeth. From the age of seven until about fourteen — that is, from the change of teeth until puberty — the child learns everything through loving acceptance of authority. We cannot achieve anything with children through the intellect, that is, with commandments such as “this is good” or “that is evil.” Instead, a feeling must grow within the child to discover what is good based on what the accepted authority indicates as good. The child must also learn to feel displeasure with what that accepted authority presents as evil. Children may not have any reason for finding pleasure or displeasure in good or evil things other than those revealed by the authority standing beside them. It is not important that things appear good or evil to the child’s intellect, but that they are so for the teacher. This is necessary for true education.
It is important during that period for all morality, including religion, to be presented to the child by other human beings; the human relationship with the teachers is important. Whenever we think we teach children by approaching them through intellectual reasoning, we really teach in a way that merely brings inner death to much within them. Although children at that age are no longer entirely a sense organ, and their sense organs have now risen to the surface of the body, they still have their entire soul within. Children gain nothing through intellectualization, which brings a kind of systemization to the senses, but they can accept what the recognized authority of the teacher brings to them as an ensouled picture.
From the change of teeth until puberty, we must form all our teaching artistically; we must begin everywhere from an artistic perspective. If we teach children letters, from which they are to learn to read and write as is now commonly done, then they will have absolutely no relationship to those characters. We know, of course, that the letters of the alphabet arose in earlier civilizations from a pictorial imitation of external processes in things. Writing began with pictograms. When we teach the letters of the alphabet to the child, we must also begin with pictures. Thus, in our Waldorf school in Stuttgart, we do not begin with letters; we begin with instruction in painting and drawing. That is difficult for a child of six or seven years, just entering school, but we soon overcome the difficulties. We can overcome those difficulties by standing alongside the child with a proper attitude, carried within our authority in such a way that the child does indeed want to imitate what the teacher creates with form and color. The child wants to do the same as the teacher does. Children must learn everything along that indirect path. That is possible only, however, when both an external and an internal relationship exists between the teacher and pupil, which occurs when we fill all our teaching with artistic content. An unfathomable, impenetrable relationship exists between the teacher and child. Mere educational techniques and the sort of things teachers learn are not effective; the teacher’s attitude, along with its effect on the feelings of the child, is most effective; the attitude carried within the teacher’s soul is effective. You will have the proper attitude in your soul when you as a teacher can perceive the spiritual in the world.
I would like to give you another example to illustrate what I mean. This is an example I particularly like to use. Suppose we want to stimulate the child in a moral-religious way. This would be the proper way to do so for the nine- or ten-year-old. In the kind of education I am describing, you can read from the child’s development what you need to teach each year, even each month. Suppose I want to give a child of about nine an idea of the immortality of the human soul. I could tiptoe around it intellectually, but that would not leave a lasting impression on the child. It might even harm the child’s soul, because when I give an intellectual presentation about moralreligious issues nothing enters the child’s soul. What remains in the child’s soul results from intangible things between the teacher and child. However, I can give the child an experience of the immortality of the soul through artistically formed pictures. I could say, “Look at a butterfly’s cocoon and how the butterfly breaks through the cocoon. It flies away and moves about in the sunlight. The human soul in the human body is the same as the butterfly in the cocoon. When a human being passes through the gates of death, the soul leaves the body and then moves about in the spiritual world.”
Now, you can teach that to children in two ways. You can feel yourself to be above children and think that you are wise and children are dumb. You might feel that children cannot understand what you, in your wisdom, can understand about the immortality of the soul, so you will create a picture for them.
If I make up such a picture for the children while feeling myself to be superior to them, that will make an impression on the children that soon passes, but it leaves a withered place within them. However, I can also approach the child differently, with the attitude that I believe in this picture myself. I can see that I do not simply fabricate the picture, but that divine spiritual powers have placed the butterfly and cocoon into nature. The fluttering of the butterfly out of the cocoon is a real picture within nature and the world of what I should understand as the immortality of the soul. The emergence of the butterfly confronts me with the idea of immortality in a simple and primitive way. It was God Himself who wanted to show me something through that emerging butterfly. Only when I can develop such a belief in my pictures is the invisible and supersensible relationship between the child and myself effective. If I develop my own comprehension with that depth of soul and then give it to the child, that picture takes root in the child and develops further throughout life. If we transform everything into a pictorial form between the change of teeth and puberty, we do not teach the child static concepts that the child will retain unchanged. If we teach children static concepts, it would be the same as if we were to clamp their hands in machines so that they could no longer freely grow. It is important that we teach children inwardly flexible concepts. Such concepts can grow just as our limbs do, so that what we develop within the child can become something very different when the child matures.
Such things can be judged only by those who do not merely look at children and ask what their needs are or what their developmental capacities are. Only those who can survey all of human life can judge these things, which then become a rather intuitive way of teaching. I could give you an example of this. Suppose we have a school-age child that has inner devotion toward the teacher. I would like to illustrate the strength that could develop through an example. Those with insight into such things know how fortunate it is for later life when, during childhood, they heard about a respected relative they had not yet seen. Then, one day, they had the opportunity to visit that person. They went to visit that relative with a shyness and with everything that was contained in the picture developed within them. They stood there shyly as the door was opened. That first encounter with a highly respected person is certainly memorable. To have had the opportunity to respect someone in that way is something that takes deep root in the human soul, and it can still bear fruit in later life.
It is the same with all truly living concepts taught to children and not simply stuffed into them. If you can get a child to look up with true respect to you as a teacher, as an accepted authority, you then create something for the child’s later life. We could describe it as follows. We know that there are people who, when they have reached a certain age, spread goodness in their environment. They do not need to say much, but their words act as a kind of blessing; it is contained in their voice, not in the content of their words. It is certainly a blessing for people when, during their childhood, they met such people. If we look back on the life of such a person of fifty or sixty and see what occurred during childhood between the change of teeth and puberty, if we look at what that person learned, we realize that person learned respect, a respect for morality. We realize that such a person learned to look up to things properly, to look up to the higher forces in the world. We might say that such a person learned how to pray properly. When someone learns to pray in the right way, the respect they learn is transformed into powers of blessing in old age, powers that act like a good deed for others in their presence. To express it pictorially, someone who never learned to fold their hands in prayer as a child will never develop the strength later in life to spread their hands in blessing.
It is important that we do not simply stuff abstract ideas into children, but that we know how to proceed with children when we want to create within their souls something fruitful for all of life. Therefore, we do not abstractly teach children to read and write, but begin artistically with writing and allow all the abstraction within letters to arise from pictures. In that way, we teach children to write in a way appropriate to the child’s needs. We do not simply appeal to the child’s capacity to observe, to the head alone, but to the entire human being. First, we teach children to write. When the child has learned to write in this way — so that the child’s entire being, and not simply the head, participates in the picture — then what we give the child is appropriate. After children learn to write, they can learn to read. Anyone caught up in today’s school system might say that such children would learn to read and write more slowly than otherwise. However, it is important that the tempo of learning is proper. Basically, children should learn to read only after the age of eight, so that we can develop reading and writing pictorially and artistically.
Those who have genuine knowledge of human beings through true vision of soul and spirit can observe subtle details and then bring those observations into teaching. Suppose we have a child who walks too heavily. That comes about because the child’s soul was improperly affected before the change of teeth. We can improve the situation by enlivening what previously formed the child by teaching through artistically presented pictures. Thus, someone who truly understands the human being will teach a child who walks too heavily about painting and drawing. By contrast, a child whose step is too light, too dancing, should be guided more toward music. That has a tremendous moral effect on the child’s later character development. Thus, in each case, if we can truly see the human being, we will understand what we need to bring into our pictures.
Until the change of teeth the child’s closest and most appropriate place is within the circle of the family and the parents. Nursery school and play groups follow. We can appropriately develop games and activities when we understand how they affect the child’s physical organism. We need only imagine what happens when a child receives a store-bought doll, a “beautiful” doll with a beautifully painted face. We can see that such a child develops thick blood (these things are not visible in the normal anatomy) and that this disturbs the child’s physical body. We simply do not realize how much we sin in that way, how it affects the child. If we make for the child a doll from a few rags, and if this is done with the child — simply painting the eyes on the rags so that the child sees this and sees how we create the doll — then the child will take that activity into its body. It enters into the child’s blood and respiratory system.
Suppose we have a melancholic girl. Anyone who looks at such a child externally, without any view of the soul, would simply say, “Oh, a melancholic child; inwardly dark. We need to put very bright colors around her and make toys red and yellow for her wherever possible. We must dress the child brightly, so that she awakens in bright colors, so that she will be awakened.” No, she won’t! That would only be an inner shock for the child, and it would force all her life forces in the opposite direction. We should give a melancholic and withdrawn child blue or blue violet colors and toys. Otherwise, the bright colors would overstimulate such an inwardly active child. We can thus bring the child’s organism into harmony with her surroundings and cure what is perhaps too flighty and nervous because of being surrounded by bright colors. From a genuine understanding of the human being, we can gain an idea of what we should teach and do with children, right down to the finest details, and thus gain direct help for our work. You can see that this way of teaching might seem to support current ideas about what children should learn at a particular age — that we should stuff such things into them and about how we should occupy them. However, if you realize that children can take from their environment only what already exists within their bodies, then you might say the following. Suppose we have a child who does not tend to be robustly active, but always works in details — that is, tends to work rather artistically. If you insist that the child be very active outwardly, then just those tendencies within the child that are for detailed work will wither. The tendencies toward activity that you want to develop because you have deluded yourself into thinking that they are common to all humanity, that everyone should develop them, will also certainly wither. The child has no interest in that; the work assigned between the change of teeth and puberty is done, and nothing sticks, nothing grows within the child through forcing things. Throughout the kind of education we are discussing, it is always important that the teacher have a good sense of what lives within the child and can, from what is observed within the child’s body, soul, and spirit, practice every moment what is right through the teacher’s own instinct for teaching.
In this way, the teacher can see the pedagogy needed for the children. In the Waldorf school, we discover the curriculum in each child. We read from the children everything we are to do from year to year and month to month and week to week so that we can bring them what is appropriate and what their inner natures require. The teaching profession demands a tremendous amount of selflessness, and because of this it cannot in any way accept a preconceived program. We need to direct our teaching entirely toward working with the children so that the teacher, through the relationship to the children developed by standing alongside them, provides nothing but an opportunity for the children to develop themselves.
You can best accomplish this between the ages of seven and fourteen — that is, during elementary school — by refraining completely from appealing to the intellect, focusing instead on the artistic. Then, you can develop through pictures what the body, soul, and spirit need. Therefore, we should present morality as pictures when the child is about nine or ten years old. We should not provide moral commandments; we should not say that this or that is good or evil. Instead, we should present good people to the children so that they can acquire sympathy for what is good, or perhaps, present the children with evil people so that they can acquire antipathy toward what is evil. Through pictures we can awaken a feeling for the nature of morality. All of those things are, of course, only suggestions that I wanted to present concerning the second stage of childhood. In the third part of my lecture today, I want to show how we can bring it all together as a foundation for education — not merely education for a particular time in childhood, but for all of human life. We will continue with that after the second part has been translated.
(George Adams delivered the second part of the lecture.)
We can best see how this way of educating can achieve the proper effects for all of human life if we look specifically at eurythmy in education. The eurythmy we have performed publicly in London during the past days has a pedagogical side, also.
Eurythmy is an art in which people or groups of people express the movements in the depths of human nature. Everything expressed in those movements arises systematically from the activity within the human organism, just as human speech or song does. In eurythmy, no gesture or movement is haphazard. What we have is a kind of visible speech. We can express anything we can sing or speak just as well through the visible movements of eurythmy. The capacity of the entire human being for movement is repressed in speech, it undergoes a metamorphosis in the audible tones and is formed as visible speech in eurythmy.
We have brought eurythmy into the Waldorf school for the lowest grades all the way to the highest. The children, in fact, enter into this visible speech just as the soul makes a corresponding expression for the sounds of audible speech. Every movement of the fingers or hands, every movement of the entire body is thus a sound of speech made visible. We have seen that children between the change of teeth and puberty live just as naturally into this form of speech as a young child lives into normal audible speech. We have seen that the children’s entire organism — that is, body, soul, and spirit (since eurythmy is also a spirit and soul exercise) find their way just as naturally into eurythmy speech as they do into oral speech. Children feel they have been given something consistent with their whole organism. Thus, along with gymnastics derived from an observation of the physical body, we have eurythmy arising from an observation of the child’s spirit and soul. Children feel fulfilled in eurythmy movements, not only in their physical body or in an ensouled body, but in a spiritually permeated soul within a body formed by that soul. To say it differently, what people experience through eurythmy acts in a tremendously living manner on everything living within them as tendencies and, on the other side, has just as fruitful an effect on all of life.
Regardless of how well children do in gymnastics, if they perform these exercises only according to the laws of the physical body, these exercises will not protect the children from all kinds of metabolic illnesses later in life. For instance, you cannot protect them from illnesses such as rheumatism, which may cause metabolic illnesses later. What you gain through gymnastics results in a kind of thickening of the physical body. However, what you can effect by developing movements that arise from the spirit and soul makes the spirit and soul ruler of the bodies of the soul and physical for all of life. You cannot keep a sixty-year-old body from becoming fragile through gymnastics. If you educate a child properly, however, so that the child’s movements in gymnastics arise from the soul, you can keep the child’s body from becoming fragile in later life. You can inhibit such things if you teach pictorially during elementary school so that the picture that would otherwise occupy the soul can move into the body.
Thus, this pictorial language, eurythmy, is nothing but gymnastics permeated with soul and spirit. You can see that gymnastics permeated by soul and spirit is directed only toward a balanced development of the child’s body, soul, and spirit; and you can see that what can be ingrained during childhood can be fruitful throughout life. We can do that only when we feel like gardeners tending plants. The gardener will not, for example, artificially affect the plant’s sap flow, but will provide from outside only opportunities for the plant to develop itself. A gardener has a kind of natural reluctance to artificially alter plant growth. We must also have a respectfulness about what children need to develop within their own lives. We will, therefore, always be careful not to teach children in an unbalanced way. The principle of authority I discussed before must live deeply within the child’s soul. Children must have the possibility of learning things they cannot yet intellectually comprehend, but learn anyway because they love the teacher. Thus, we do not take away from children the possibility of experiencing things later in life.
If I have already comprehended everything as a child, then I could never have the following kind of experience. Suppose something happens to me around age thirty-five that reminds me of something I learned from a beloved teacher or a loved authority, something I had learned from that authority through my desire to believe. However, now I am more mature and slowly a new understanding arises within me. Returning in maturity to things we learned earlier, but did not fully comprehend, has an enlivening effect. It gives an inner satisfaction and strengthens the will. We cannot take that away from children if we respect their freedom and if we want to educate them as free human beings. The foundation of the educational principle I am referring to is the desire to educate people as free beings. That is why we should not develop the child’s will through intellectual moral reasoning. We need to be clear that when we develop moral views in the child’s feeling between the ages of seven and fourteen, the child can, after maturing and moving into life, then comprehend intellectual and moral feelings and the will. What permeates the will, and what arises out of the will from the esthetic feeling developed earlier, enlivens morality and, insofar as it arises from freedom, gives people strength and inner certitude.
You see, if you want to use the kind of education we are discussing properly, you will not simply look at childhood, but will also look at people later in life. You will want what you give to children to act just as the natural growth and development of the plant acts to produce a flower that blooms. If we want a blossoming, we do not dare to want the plant to develop too quickly. Instead, we await the slow development from the root to the stem to the leaf to the flower and, finally, to the fruit, unfolding and developing freely in the sunlight. That is the picture we need to keep before us as the goal of education. Our desire is to nurture the root of life in children. However, we want to develop this root so that life slowly and flexibly forms physically, soulfully, and spiritually from our care during childhood. We can be certain that, if we respect human freedom, our teaching will place people in the world as free beings. We can be certain that the root of education can develop freely if we do not enslave children to a dogmatic curriculum. Later in life, under the most varied circumstances, children can develop appropriately as free human beings.
Of course, this kind of education puts tremendous demands on the teacher. However, do we dare presume that the most complete being here on Earth — the human being — can be taught at all if we do not penetrate fully the characteristics of that being? Shouldn’t we believe — concerning human beings and what we do with them — that they hold a place of honor, and that much of what we do is a kind of religious service? We must believe that. We must be aware that education demands of us the greatest level of selflessness. We must be able to forget ourselves completely and plunge into the nature of the child in order to see what will blossom in the world as an adult human being. Selflessness and a true desire to deepen your understanding of human nature, and gaining a true understanding of humanity — these are the basic elements of genuine teaching.
Why shouldn’t we recognize the necessity of devotion to such teaching, since we must certainly admit that teaching is the most noble activity of human life? Teaching is the most noble thing in all human life on the Earth.
That is progress. The progress we achieve through teaching is this: the younger generations, given to us from the divine worlds, develop through what we, the older generations, have developed in ourselves; and these younger generations move a step beyond us in human progress. Isn’t it obvious to every right-thinking person that, in bringing such service to humanity — that is, in bringing the best and most beautiful things of previous generations as an offering to the younger generations — we teach in the most beautiful and humane way?
(George Adams concluded the English translation.)