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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

GA 307

The spiritual values inherent in the education of children is the main thrust of these lectures. In addition to education, Steiner connects the results of a pedagogy based on spiritual insights and values with a mature, responsible, adult way of life. The negative results of not incorporating ethical, spiritual ideas and values in education is contrasted to the results of a positive, spiritual methodology. Steiner also points to the practice and realizations in daily life of a living proof of his ideas: the founding of the first Waldorf School in 1919.

These lectures form one of the most comprehensive introductions to the philosophy of Waldorf education. They have been published under the titles: Education and Modern Spiritual Life, The New Art of Education, and A Modern Art of Education. Published in German as, Gegenwaertiges Geistesleben und Erziehung. Edited by H. Collison

Foreword by Marie Steiner
I. Science, Art, Religion and Morality August 05, 1923
Education strives to work creatively upon the human being — Nature's most sublime work of art. What was implied in the old term “Pedagogy” must be superseded. In modern times, intellectual knowledge, art, religion and morality have grown apart from each other, but there was an age in which they were one. Modem science eliminates the element of art. Man's inner activity of thought has gradually been lost; he is content to let thoughts be aroused by external objects. The inner forces of thought work creatively in childhood. Active thinking can rise to Imagination and become contemplative knowledge, leading to art. When this kind of thinking has matured, it must be transcended by a moral act. The spiritual world may then enter man's consciousness as Inspiration or creative knowledge which can flow directly into art. Through art, man is then able to give expression to Divine Will; artistic creation becomes a divine office. Formerly art could lead men directly to religion. All religion has proceeded from Inspiration. When man was aware of a divine-creative power within him, he was able to visualise the presence of the God not only in the sanctuary but in the world. This is true morality. When man has found his place in the world of the spirit through a life of true religion, Intuition imbues him with morality. We need this Intuition for the renewing of our civilization, in order that we may rediscover the harmony between science, art, religion and morality.
II. Principles of Greek Education August 06, 1923
The art of education must reckon with the historical course of human civilization, with the changes brought about in the souls of men through epochs. If man, as a being of body, soul and spirit, is to find his right place in social life, education must be founded on a knowledge of man as he is in the present epoch. Three stages in the development of education: (1) The Greek ideal was the Gymnast — one who knew how to express in the beauty of his bodily actions the divine beauty of; the Cosmos. The separation of spirit, soul and body began with Roman culture. Training of the soul qualities, with bodily training in the background. (2) The Rhetorician is the ideal of mediæval education. Halfway through the Middle Ages comes the impulse to intellectualism. The man of knowledge, no longer the man of practical skill in action, is now the ideal of education. (3) In modern civilization the ideal is the Doctor, or Professor. The ideal of our own times is the “Human Universal.”

The culture of ancient Greece was a continuation of oriental civilization — Body, soul and spirit are one. On earth, between birth and death, soul and spirit live in the body. The work of the Gymnast carried further the deeply spiritual philosophy of the East. “Orchestric,” song and the playing of the zither. Their connection with the systems of breathing and blood circulation in man. “Palestric” and wrestling.
III. Greek Education and the Middle Ages August 07, 1923
Significance of education at home up to the age of seven. The natural forces of growth and the being of soul and spirit are not as yet separate. They are a unity up to the seventh year. This inner force in the child is active in the pushing upward of the second teeth. After the change of teeth, certain forces are withdrawn from the body that the soul may develop the finer forces of her life. After puberty, the spirit is made manifest. The Greek saw the child of seven as a spiritual being who had descended into a physical body. After the seventh year, this being descends a second step, acquiring an earthly sheath of its own; before this age, pre-earthly forces have been working in the body. The task of the Gymnast was to understand the divine forces working in the human body and to develop them further.

The peoples streaming in from the East, who founded mediaeval civilization, brought the new consciousness of the unworthiness of slavery; greater respect was paid to woman; the idea of ‘Faith’ superseded the primal Wisdom that had previously poured through man. Primal Wisdom became tradition that must be memorised.

The Gymnast sought to preserve the forces of childhood until the time of earthly death. Musical talent developed naturally from breathing and blood circulation; intellectual thinking from Gymnastics; a marvellous memory from habitual bodily activities. The experience of individual consciousness (which emerges only after the age of puberty) began in the Middle Ages. The experience of inner freedom.
IV. The Conception of the Spirit with Bodile Organs August 08, 1923
We must now reach a concrete understanding of the spirit. To-day we theorize about the spirit. We have a skeleton of spirit as the result of intellectual thinking. Abstract ideals must give place to truly human qualities of soul. An example of the working of Spirit in the body. The teeth develop not merely for the purposes of eating and speaking, but also in order that the faculty of thinking may emerge. After the change of teeth, the corresponding physical force appears as the power of thought. The physical force hitherto concentrated in the organs now becomes a force of soul. Living thought alone can understand these truths. Through Imaginative knowledge we understand the relation of man's etheric body to the surrounding universe. Some of these etheric forces are freed when the child gets his second teeth, and they then become the forces of thought.

A transformation of the whole being takes place between the seventh and fourteenth years. Puberty is merely an outer symptom of this transformation. Feeling has been freed from the bodily nature. The larynx and rhythmic system express this in their changing form. At puberty, the astral nature becomes independent of the body. To perceive the astral nature, Inspiration must be added to Imagination. The teacher has to aid this second super-sensible member of man's being to become independent.

It is the task of the teacher gradually to make speech free of the bodily nature. At the age of seven years, organic activity is expressed in the labial sounds; at the age of fourteen, the soul-quality of feeling pours into the formation of the labials. Transition from organic to psychical activity. A truly religious attitude can alone help to permeate the feeling-life of the child with spirit, and this must be our attitude before we can penetrate to the full reality of the spirit.
V. Emancipation of the Will in the Human Organism August 09, 1923
Until about the twentieth year the will is highly dependent on organic activity. At about the twenty-first year, the will becomes free. Until this age the human being is strongly subject to the forces of earthly gravity and struggles with them. An upward impulse then strikes into his blood. The direction of the will is from below upwards; thinking, from above downwards. If the life of feeling is rightly developed between the ages of seven and fourteen, these two streams of force harmonize, and with them, thinking and willing. In man, this process is of the nature of a moral act. In their gymnastics, the Greeks stimulated the flow of force from head to limbs. We must learn to understand the sense in which the will becomes free within the organs of movement at the twenty-first year of life. This will fill us with reverence for the process of man's development, and then we can educate in the true sense.

The first line of the Gospel of St. John. To the Greeks, the ‘Word’ was a direct call to the human will. The Word lived in the movements of the human body. The Word embraced all natural phenomena, was creative. The Logos vibrated through the whole cosmos. Greek gymnastics were an expression of the Word. Musical education contained an echo of the Word. The Word itself was active in Greek wrestling; in the Greek dance there was an echo of the Word in the element of music. Spirit worked right down into the being of man. Then came the Middle Ages. The dead Word was offered to man in the Latin language. The living essence of the Logos, as contained in the Gospel according to St. John, died in the feeling-life of man. This lack is felt to-day and is the cause of the many demands for educational reforms. We have lost the spirit in the Word. In olden times the spirit was immanent in the Word. But the Word became an ‘idol’ — this was the beginning of intellectualism. Man turned away from the Logos to the world of sense. The new era in education will begin with the rediscovery of the spirit of the Word, in the sense of the Gospel of St. John.
VI. Walking, Speaking, Thinking August 10, 1923
Living ideas pass over into will and deed. The education of the child must begin directly after birth. This means that education is a concern of the whole of humanity. The first three years of life are the most important for the whole of future development. At first the child is one great sense-organ. His sense of taste is spread over the whole of his being. Forces that in the adult are localised in the different senses, are spread over the child's whole organism. In the child, spirit, soul and body are not separate; everything in the environment is imitated. Three fundamental faculties acquired by the child during the first three years of life: walking, speaking, thinking. To walk means to adjust oneself to the directions of space. The forces of orientation issue from organic impulses. The teacher may not exercise the slightest coercion; he must be a helper only. If we follow with inner love every manifestation of human nature in the child, we stimulate health-bringing forces within him. The faculty of speech develops from the process of orientation in space; it arises from man's organism of movement. Speaking is thus an outcome of walking. The forces of movement are carried over to the head structure; this is revealed in speech. As we help the child to speak we must be inwardly true, for the truthfulness of speech is absorbed by the physical organism. The delicate process of in-breathing and out-breathing is imitated by the child. Oxygen changes into carbonic acid in the more intimate regions of human life. The capacity to effect this change in the right way depends upon whether we have been handled truthfully or untruthfully during the time we were learning to speak. Thinking arises in turn out of speech. Since the child is one great sense-organ and imitates the spiritual in his spiritual being, clarity and precision must permeate our own thinking if we are to help the child in this connection. Confused thinking in the child's environment is the primary cause of nervous troubles. Diseases connected with the metabolic process are the result of being unwisely taught to walk. Digestive disturbances may be the outcome of untruthfulness in the way the child has been taught to speak; nervous troubles result from confused thinking.

Inner as well as outer punishment can be inflicted on the child. We must help to build up the child's brain like a sculptor who works on his medium with mobile, delicate hand. The child's play. Artistic qualities of playthings. If we give intellectual training to the child before the fourth or fifth years we shall bring him up to be a materialist. He must be left in his gentle, dream-like existence as long as possible.
VII. The Rhythmic System. Sleeping and Waking. Imitation August 11, 1923
Man is an imitative being up to the time of the change of teeth, and the effects of this imitation continue in his physical constitution through the whole of earthly life. Up to the age of seven the child is an inner sculptor; the formative forces proceed from the head and give shape to the whole being. The moral qualities observed in the environment play a part in building up the system of veins, blood circulation, breathing, and so forth, although much may be corrected in later life by moral strength. The rhythmic system is of paramount importance after the change of teeth. The whole teaching at this age must bear a rhythmic quality. We help the child to breathe in a healthy way if we bring an artistic quality into the teaching. There is little artistic feeling in modern civilization. An artistic conception of civilization as a whole can lead to principles of health-bringing education. In the first period of life (to the age of seven) the child is an inner sculptor; after the seventh year these plastic forces become forces of soul. There must be a musical interplay between teacher and child. Intellectual training must follow artistic development. The child must be taught to use his intellect, but it must never be forced. The rhythm of sleeping and waking. The rhythmic system never tires. Intellect and will cause fatigue. Teaching that is permeated by an artistic quality flows into the rhythmic system. To coerce the child to think is to generate forces connected with salt-deposits and the forming of bone. Thus, if writing is taught in a purely intellectual way, the tendency to sclerosis in later life is set up. From the artistic qualities that are brought into play in drawing and painting, we can lead over from the picture to the concept or idea. Working from the basis of the artistic, we can educate the human being in such a way that he will feel a sense of inner well-being with every step and every movement of the hand. Bodily activity works upon the life of sleep. The nature of Will. In the activity of milling, a process of combustion is set up in the organism, and this can only be regulated in sleep. Purely conventional exercises for the body prevent the child from getting the deep, sound sleep that is necessary for the regeneration of the organism. Care of the body in education.

After the seventh year the principle of education must be that of natural authority. Only after the age of fourteen is the child ready to form personal judgments.
VIII. Reading, Writing and Nature-Study August 13, 1923
Characteristic examples of the way in which writing should be taught. Vowels are an “expression of the inner being.” Eurhythmy. Reading and the development of conceptual life. Between the ninth and tenth years, the child begins to make a distinction between himself and the outer world. All outer things must be so described that they seem to speak as living beings to the child. Plant-lore. The earth as a living being. Up to the twelfth year the child has no interest in or understanding of mineral substance. We must develop in the child a living, not a dead intellect. Animal-lore. The animal kingdom in its connection with man. ‘Man is the synthesis of the animal species spread over the earth.’ Man bears the spirit within him and thus is raised above the animal world. This living conception of the relation of man to the animal world strengthens the will. Thinking, feeling, and willing.
IX. Arithmetic, Geometry, History August 14, 1923
Painting, drawing, writing, plant-lore, arithmetic and geometry affect the child's etheric body as well as his physical body. The etheric body preserves the after-effects of these activities during sleep. Animal-lore, history and the like, are taken up by the astral body and Ego into the spiritual world during sleep. Geometry and concrete conceptions of space. The right way to teach arithmetic. One particular subject should be continued for three or four weeks, and we should then pass on to another, finally returning to the first. History should be taught in a living way. The child has no understanding of causality until he has reached the age of twelve. Our teaching of history must appeal to the child's life of feeling and will. Preparation of the subject-matter of the lessons.
X. Physics, Chemisty, Hand-Work, Language, Religion August 15, 1923
Teaching in connection with minerals and stones should not begin until the child has reached the age of eleven or twelve. Physics and chemistry work upon the intellect alone. Only at this age should the child be taught the relations between cause and effect and the so-called ‘objective’ connections in history and geography. Handwork, spinning, weaving, technical chemistry. The child should be given apractical understanding of modern industrial life.

Speech and its connection with the whole being of man. How to teach languages. Consciousness becomes self-consciousness between the ninth and tenth years. This is the age when we can begin to teach the rules of grammar and syntax.

In all religious instruction we must bear in mind the particular age of the child. At first he must be taught to understand the Divine-Spiritual immanent in the world. If we have so taught him about plants, clouds, springs, and the like that his whole environment seems to live, we can easily pass on to the divine ‘Father Principle.’ Gratitude and love. Not until the child has reached the age of ten ought we to begin to speak of ‘duty.’ At this age we can lead him on to have some understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.
XI. Memory, Temperaments, Bodily Culture and Art August 16, 1923
The right way in which to develop the child's memory. Three golden rules. The teacher must have an intuitive understanding of certain symptoms of health and disease in the child. Treatment of children according to their particular temperaments. Contact between parents and teachers. Special class in the Waldorf School for backward children. Individual treatment. Curative Eurhythmy. The moment we begin to teach the child physics and chemistry, we must add some form of artistic work as a counter balance. Art is not a mere invention of man; it is a domain in which the human being is able to gaze into the secrets of Nature at a level different from that of ordinary thought.