On The Art of Lecturing
Dornach, October 16, 1921
Repetition in very formulations helps the listener to comprehend. The use of questions gives the audience a moment to breathe in. Logical trains of thought put the audience to sleep. Unusual formulations and word order keep the listeners attentive. Illustrations and pictures convince and are remembered.
Since today must be our last session, we will be concerned with filling out and expanding upon what has been said; so you must consider this rather like a final clearance at a rummage sale, where what has been left is finally brought out.
First, I would like most of all to say one must keep in mind that the speaker is in an essentially different position than he who gives something he has written to a reader. The speaker must be very aware that he does not have a reader before him, but rather a listener. The listener is not in a position to go back and re-read a sentence he has not understood. The reader, of course, can do this, and this must be kept in mind. This situation can be met by presenting through repetition what is considered important, even indispensable, for a grasp of the whole. Naturally, care must be taken that such repetitions are varied, that the most important things are put forth in varied formulations while, at the same time, this variety of re-phrasings does not bore the listener who has a gift for comprehension. The speaker will have to see to it that the different ways he phrases one and the same thing have, as it were, a sort of artistic character.
The artistic aspect of speaking is, in general, something that must be kept clearly in mind, the more the subject matter is concerned with logic, life-experience, and other powers of understanding. The more the speaker is appealing to the understanding through strenuous thinking, the more he must proceed artistically — through repetition, composition, and many other things which will be mentioned today. You must remember that the artistic has its own means of facilitating understanding. Take, for example, repetition, which can work in such a way that it forms a sort of facilitation for the listener. Differently phrased repetitions give the listener occasion to give up rigidly holding himself to one or another phrase and to hear what lies between them. In this way his comprehension is freed, giving him the feeling of release, and that aids understanding to an extraordinary degree.
However, not only should different means of artistically structuring the speech be applied, but also different ways of executing it. For example, take the speaker who, in seeking the right word for something, brings in a question in such a way that he actually speaks the question amidst the usual flow of statements. What does it mean to address one's listeners with a question? Questions which are listened to actually work mainly on the listener's inhalation. The listener lives during his listening in a breathing-in, breathing-out, breathing-in, breathing-out. That is not only important for speaking, it is also most important for listening. If the lecturer brings up a question the listener's exhalation can, as it were, remain unused. Listening is diverted into inhalation on hearing a question. This is not contradicted by a situation when the listener may be breathing out on hearing a question. Listening takes place not only directly but indirectly, so that a sentence which falls during an exhalation — if it is a question — is really only rightly perceived, rightly taken in, during the subsequent inhalation. In short, inhalation is essentially connected with hearing a content in question form. However, because of the fact that inhalation is engaged by a question being thrown out, the whole process of listening is internalized. What is said goes somewhat more deeply into the soul than if one listens merely to an assertion.
When a person hears a straight assertion his actual tendency is to engage neither his inhalation nor his exhalation. The assertion may sink in a little, but it doesn't actually even engage the sense organs much.
Lengthy assertions concerning logical matters are, on the whole, unfortunate within the spoken lecture. Whoever would lecture as if he were merely giving a reasoned argument has gotten hold of a great instrument — to put his listeners to sleep; for such a logical development has the disadvantage that it removes the understanding from the organ of hearing. One doesn't listen properly to logic. Furthermore, it doesn't really form the breath; it doesn't set it going in varied waves. The breath remains essentially in its most neutral state when a logical assertion is listened to, thus one goes to sleep with it. This is a wholly organic process. Logical assertions are perforce impersonal — but that takes its toll.
Thus, one who wants to develop into a speaker must take care whenever possible not to speak in logical formulae but in figures of speech, while remaining logical. To these figures of speech belongs the question. Also belonging to figures of speech is the ploy of occasionally saying the opposite of what one really wants to say. This has to be said in such a way that the listener knows he is to understand the opposite. Thus, let us say, the speaker says straight out, and even in an assertive tone: Kully is stupid. Under certain circumstances that could prove to be not a very good turn of phrase. But it could be a good formulation if someone said: I don't believe there is anyone sitting here who presumes that Kully is clever! There you have spoken a phrase that is opposite of the truth. But, naturally, you have added something so that you could formulate the opposite to the assertive statement. Thus, by proceeding in this way, and with inner feeling, the speech will be able to stand on its own two feet.
I have just said that the speech will be able to stand on its own feet. This is an image. Philistines can say that a speech has no feet. But a speech does have feet!As an example one need only recall that Goethe, in advanced age, when he had to speak while fatigued, liked to walk around the room. Speech is basically the expression of the whole man — thus it has feet! And to surprise the listener with something about which he is unfamiliar and which, if he is to grasp it, he must go counter to what he is familiar with — that is extremely important in a lecture.
Also belonging to the feeling-logic of the speech is the fact that one does not talk continually in the same tone of voice. To go on in the same tone, you know, puts the listener to sleep. Each heightening of the tone is actually a gentle nightmare; thus the listener is somewhat shaken by it. Every relative sinking of tone is really a gentle fainting, so that it is necessary for the listener to fight against it. Through modulating the tone of speech one gives occasion for the listener to participate, and that is extraordinarily important for the speaker.
But it is also especially important now and then to appeal somewhat to the ear of the listener. If he is too immersed in himself while listening, at times he won't follow certain passages. He begins to reflect within himself. It is a great misfortune for the lecturer when his listeners begin to ponder within themselves. They miss something that is being said, and when — after a time — they again begin to hear, they just can't keep up. Thus at times you must take the listener by the ear, and you do that by applying unusual syntax and sequences of phrasing. The question, of course, gives a different placing of subject and predicate than one is used to, but you ought to have on hand a variety of other ways of changing the word order. You should speak some sentences in such a way that what you have at the beginning is a verb or some other part of speech which is not usually there. Where something unusual happens, the listener again pays attention, and what is most noteworthy is that he not only pays attention to the sentence concerned but also to the one that follows. And if you have to do with listeners who are unusually docile, you will find that they will even listen to the second sentence if you interlace your word-order a bit. As a lecturer, you must pay attention to this inner lawfulness. You will learn these things best if, in your listening, you will direct your attention to how really good speakers use such things. Such techniques are what lead essentially to the pictorial quality of a speech.
In connection with the formal aspect of speaking, you could learn a great deal from the Jesuits. They are very well trained. First, they use the components of a speech well. They work not only on intensification and relaxation but, above all, on the image. I must continually refer to a striking Jesuit speech I once heard in Vienna, where I had been led by someone to the Jesuit church and where one of the most famous Jesuit Fathers was preaching. He preached on the Easter Confessional, and I will share the essential part of his sermon with you. He said: "Dear Christians! There are apostates from God who assert that the Easter Confessional was instituted by the Pope, by the Roman Pope; that it does not derive from God but rather from the Roman Pope. Dear Christians! Whoever would believe that can learn something from what I am going to say: Imagine in front of you, dear Christians, there stands a cannon. Beside the cannon there stands a cannonier. The cannonier has a match in his hand ready to light the fuse. The cannon is loaded. Behind the cannonier is the commanding officer. When the officer commands, 'Fire,' the cannonier lights the fuse. The cannon goes off. Would any of you now say that this cannonier, who obeyed the command of his superior, invented the powder? None of you, dear Christians, would say that! Look now, such a cannonier was the Roman Pope, who waited for the command from above before ordering the Easter Confessional. Thus, no one will say the Pope invented the Easter Confessional; as little as the cannonier invented the gunpowder. He only carries out the commandments from above." All the listeners were crushed, convinced!
Obviously, the man knew the situation and the state of mind of the people. But that is something that is an indispensable precondition for a good speech and has already been characterized in this study. He said something which, as an image, fell completely outside the train of thought, and yet the listeners completed the course of the argument without feeling that the man spoke subjectively. I have also called to your attention the dictum by Bismarck about politicians steering by the wind, an image he took from those with whom he was debating, but which nevertheless frees one from the strictness of the chain of thought under discussion.
These sorts of things, if they are rightly felt, are those artistic means which completely replace what a lecture does not need, namely, sheer logic. Logic is for thought, not for speaking; I mean for the form of speech, not the way of expression. Naturally, the illogical may not be in it. But a speech cannot be put together as one combines a train of thought. You will find that something may be most acute and appropriate in a debate and yet really have no lasting effect. What does have a lasting effect in a speech is an image which grabs, that is, which stands at some distance from the meaning, so that the speaker who uses the image has become free from slavish dependence on the pure thought-sense.
Such things lead to the recognition of how far a speech can be enhanced through humor. A deeply serious speech can be elevated by a humor which, so to say, has barbs. It is just as I have said: if you wish to forcibly pour will into the listeners, they get angry. The right way to apply the will is for the speech itself to develop images which are, so to speak, inner realities. The speech itself should be the reality. You can perhaps grasp what I want to say if I tell you of two debates. The second is not a pure debate, but it still can be instructive for the use of images in a speech which wishes to characterize something.
Notice that those orations that are intended to be witty often acquire a completely subjective coloring. The German Parliament had for some time, in one of its members by the name of Meyer, just such a witty debater. For example, at one time the famous — or infamous — “Lex Heinze” was advocated in this particular Parliament. I believe that the man who gave the speech for the defense was the minister; and he always spoke, as the defender and as one belonging to the Conservative Party, of “das Lex Heinze.” He always said “das Lex Heinze.” Now, no doubt, such a thing can pass. But it was in the nature of the Liberal Party, of which the joker, Representative Meyer, was a member, that it took just such matters seriously. So later on in the debate Meyer asked leave to speak and said somewhat as follows: “The Lord Minister has defended die Lex Heinze [Note 1] and has constantly said ‘das Lex Heinze.’ I didn't know what he was really talking about. I have gone all around asking what ‘das Lex’ is. No one has been able to enlighten me. I took the dictionary and looked — and found nothing. I was about to come here and ask the Minister, when it suddenly struck me to consult a Latin Grammar. There I found it, there stood the statement: 'What one cannot decline must be considered a neuter!”
To be sure, for an immediate laugh it is very good, this coarse wit. But it still has no barbs, it doesn't ignite deeply, because with such a ploy there is aroused subtly and unconsciously in the listener a pity for the afflicted one. This kind of wit is too subjective, it comes more out of a love of sarcasm than out of the thing itself.
Over against this I have always found the following to be a striking image: He who was later to become Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV was, as Crown Prince, a very witty man. His father, King Friedrich Wilhelm III, had a minister who was very special to him, whose name was von Klewiz. [Note 2] Now the Crown Prince could not bear von Klewiz. Once, at a court ball, the Crown Prince spoke to Klewiz and said: Your Excellency, I would like to put to you a riddle today:
The first is the fruit from the field
The second is something which,
when one hears it, one gets a light shock;
And the whole is a public calamity!
Von Klewiz turned red from ear to ear, bowed, and handed in his resignation after the ball. The King called him and said: What happened to you? I can't spare you, my dear Klewiz! — Yes, but, Your Royal Highness, the Crown Prince said something to me yesterday which made it impossible for me to remain in office. — But that is not possible! The dear Crown Prince would not say such a thing, that I can't believe! — Yes, but it is so, Your Majesty. — What has the Crown Prince said? — He said to me: The first is a fruit from the field; the second is something which, if one hears it, one gets something like a light shock; the whole is a public calamity! There is no doubt, Royal Highness, that the Crown Prince meant me. — Indeed, remarkable thing, dear Klewiz. But we will have the Crown Prince come and we will hear how the matter stands.
The Crown Prince was called. — Dear One, yesterday evening you are supposed to have said something very offensive to my indispensible minister, His Excellency, von Klewiz. — The Crown Prince said: Your Majesty, I am unable to remember. If it had been something serious I would surely be able to remember it. — It does seem to have been something serious, though. — Oh! Yes, yes, I remember. I said to His Excellency that I wished to put a riddle to him: The first syllable is a fruit of the field, the second syllable indicates something which, if one perceives it, one gets something like a slight shock; the whole is a public calamity. I don't think that it is a matter of my having offended His Excellency so much as that His Excellency could not solve the riddle. I recall that His Excellency simply could not solve the riddle! — The King said: Indeed, what is the riddle's solution? — Here, then: The first syllable is a fruit of the field: hay (Heu); the second syllable, where one gets a light shock, is “fear” (Schreck); the whole is: grasshopper (Heu-schreck), that is, a public calamity (or nuisance), Your Majesty.
Now why do I say that? I say it on the grounds that no one who tells such a thing, no one who moulds his phrases or figures of speech in such a form, has need of following the matter through to its end; for no person expects in telling it that he has to explain the tableau further, but rather expects each to draw for himself the pictorial idea. And it is good in a speech to occasionally work it so that something is left over for the listener. There is nothing left over when one ridicules someone; the gap is perfectly filled up.
It is a matter of heightening the vividness so that the listener can really get the feeling that he can act on something, can take it further.
The audience listens with the speech organs. The speaker must be fully immersed in his topic. He must have thorough knowledge of the events of the time. The movement for the threefold social order cannot be separated from Anthroposophy.
Naturally, it is necessary that one leaves the needed pauses in his speech. These pauses must be there.
Now along this line we could say an extraordinary amount about the form, about the structure, of a speech. For usually it is believed that men listen with their ears alone; but the fact that some, when they especially want to grasp something, open their mouths while listening, already speaks against this. They would not do this if they listened with their ears alone. We listen with our speech organs much more than is usually thought. We always, as it were, snap up the speech of the speaker with our speech organ; and the etheric body always speaks along with, even makes eurythmy along with, the listening — and, in fact, the movements correspond exactly to eurythmy movements. Only people don't usually know them unless they have studied eurythmy.
It is true that everything we hear from inanimate bodies is heard more from outside with the ear, but the speech of men is really heard in such a way that one heeds what beats on the ear from within. That is a fact which very few people know. Very few know what a great difference exists between hearing, say, the sound of church bells or a symphony, and listening to human speech. With human speech, it is really the innermost part of the speaking that is heard. The rest is much more merely an accompanying phenomenon than is the case with the hearing of something inanimate. Thus, I have said all that I did about one's own listening so that the speaker will actually formulate his speech as he would criticize it if he were listening to it. I mean that the formulation comes from the same power, out of the same impulse, as does the criticism if one is doing the listening.
It is of some importance that the persons who make it their task to do something directly for the threefolding of the social organism — or something similar to this — take care that what they have to say to an audience is done, in a certain way, artistically. For basically, one speaks today — I have already indicated this — to rather deaf ears, if one speaks before the usual public about the threefolding of the social organism. And, I would like to say, that in a sense one will have to be fully immersed in the topic, especially with feeling and sensitivity, if one wants to have any success at all. That is not to suggest that it is necessary to study the secrets of success — that is certainly not necessary — and to adapt oneself in trivial ways to what the listener wants to hear. That is certainly not what should be striven for. What one must strive for is a genuine knowledge of the events of the time. And, you see, such a firm grounding in the events of the time, an arousal of the really deeper interest for the events of the time, can only be evoked today by Anthroposophy. For these and other reasons, whoever wants to speak effectively about threefolding must be at least inwardly permeated with the conviction that for the world to understand threefold, it is also necessary to bring Anthroposophy to the world.
Admittedly, since the very first efforts toward the realization of the threefold social order, there have been, on the one hand, those who are apparently interested in the threefold social order but not in Anthroposophy; while on the other hand, those interested in Anthroposophy but caring little for the threefold social order. In the long run, however, such a separation is not feasible if anything of consequence is to be brought about.
This is especially true in Switzerland, some of the reasons for which having already been mentioned. The speaker must have a strong underlying conviction that a threefold social order cannot exist without Anthroposophy as its foundation. Of course, one can make use of the fact that some persons want to accept threefolding and reject Anthroposophy; but one should absolutely know — and he who knows will be able to find the right words, for he will know that without the knowledge of at least the fundamentals of Anthroposophy there can be no threefold organization.
For what are we attempting to organize in a threefold way? Imagine a country where the govern ment has complete control of the schools on the one hand and the economy on the other, so that the area of human rights falls between the two. In such a country it would be very unlikely that a threefold organization could be achieved. If the school system were made independent of the government, the election of a school monarch or school minister would probably shortly follow, transforming within the shortest time the independent cultural life into a form of government!
Such matters cannot be manipulated by formulas; they must be rooted in the whole of human life. First we must actually have an independent cultural life and participate in it before we can assign it its own sphere of activity within society. Only when that life is carried on in the spirit of Anthroposophy — as exemplified by the Waldorf school in Stuttgart — can one speak of the beginnings of an independent cultural sector. The Waldorf school has no head, no lesson plans, nor anything else of the kind; but life is there, and life dictates what is to be done.
I am entirely convinced that on this topic of the ideal independent school system any number of persons, be it three, seven, 12, 13 or 15, could get together and think up the most beautiful thoughts to formulate a program: firstly, secondly, thirdly — many points. These programs could be such that nothing more beautiful could be imagined. The people who figured out these programs need not be of superior intelligence. They could, for example, be average politicians, not even that, they could be barroom politicians. They could discover 30, 40 points, fulfilling all the highest ideals for the most perfect schools, but they wouldn't be able to do anything with it! It is superfluous to set up programs and statutes no one can work with. One can work with a group of teachers only on the basis of what one has at hand — not on the basis of statutes — doing the best one can in the most living way.
An independent cultural life must be a real life of the spirit. Today, when people speak of the spiritual life, they mean ideas; they speak only of ideas.
Consequently, since Anthroposophy exists for the purpose of calling forth in people the feeling for a genuine life of the spirit, it is indispensable when the demand arises for a threefold social organism. Accordingly, the two should go together: furtherance of Anthroposophy and furtherance of the threefold social order.
But people, especially today, are tired in mind and soul. They actually want to avoid coming to original thoughts and feelings, interested only in maintaining traditions. They want to be sheltered. They don't want to turn to Anthroposophy, because they don't want to stir their souls into activity; instead, they flock in great numbers — especially the intellectuals — to the Roman Catholic Church, where no effort is required of them. The work is on the part of the bishop or priest, who guides the soul through death. Just think how deep-rooted it is in today's humanity: parents have a son whom they love; therefore they want his life to be secure. Let him work for the government: then he is bound to be well looked after; then he doesn't have to face the battle of life by himself. He will work as long as he can, then go on to pensioned retirement — secure even beyond his working days. How grateful we should be to the government for taking such good care of our children!
Neither are people so fond of an independently striving soul. The soul is to be taken care of until death by the church, just as work is provided by the government. And just as the power of the government provides the physical man with a pension, so the church is expected to provide the soul with a pension when a man dies, is expected to provide for it after death — that is something that lies deeply in present-day man, in everyone today. Just to be polite I will add that this is true for the daughters as well as the sons, for they would rather be married to those who are thus “secure,” who are provided for in this way. Such seems to be the obsession of humanity: not to build upon oneself, but to have some mystical power somewhere upon which to build. The government, as it exists today, is an example of such a mystical power. Or is there not much obscurity in the government? I suspect much more obscurity than in even the worst mystic.
We must have a sense for these things as we commit ourselves to the tasks to which these lectures are addressed. This course was primarily confined to the formalities of the art of lecturing, but the important thing is the enthusiasm that lives in your hearts, the devotion to the necessity of that effectiveness which can emanate from the Goetheanum in Dornach. And to the degree that this inner conviction grows in you, it will become a convincing power not only for you but for others as well. For what do we need today? Not a mere doctrine; however good it could be, it could just get moldy in libraries, it could be formulated — here or there — by a "preacher in the desert," unless we see to it that the impulse for a threefold social order finds entrance, with minimal delay, to as many minds as possible. Then practical application of that impulse will follow by itself.
But we need to broaden the range of our efforts. A weekly publication such as the Goetheanum will have to be distributed as widely as possible in Switzerland. That is only one of many requirements, in view of the fact that the basic essentials of Anthroposophy must be acquired ever anew; but a weekly of this type will have to find its place on the world scene and work in widespread areas for the introduction and application of the threefold social order. The experience of the way in which the Goetheanum publication thus works will be essential to anyone attempting to assist in the realization of such an order in the social organism.
What we need above all is energy, courage, insight, and interest in world events on a broader scale! Let us not isolate ourselves from the world, not get entangled in narrow interests, but be interested in everything that goes on all over the world. That will give wings to our words and make us true coworkers in the field we have chosen.
In this light were these lectures given; and when you go out to continue your work, you can be assured that the thoughts of the lecturer will accompany you. May such cooperation strengthen the impulse that should inspire our work, if that work, especially in Switzerland, is to be carried on in the right way.
And so I wish you luck, sending you out not into darkness but into where light and open air can enter into the development of humanity — from which you will doubly benefit, as you yourselves are the ones who are to bring this light and openness into the world.