Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Meditatively Acquired Knowledge of Man
GA 302a

IV. The Art of Education Consists of Bringing Into Balance the Physical and Spiritual Nature of the Developing Human Being

22 September 1920, Stuttgart

If we look at man's constitution and then apply the knowledge thus gained to the growing human being, to the child, the following (picture) emerges: out of the spiritual worlds comes into this one, I should like to say on wings of astrality, the ego being of man; and turning our attention to the first years of a child's life, observing how the child develops, how by degrees he brings his physiognomy from the depth of his inner being to the surface of his body, how he gains greater and greater mastery over his organism, then that which we see is essentially the incorporation of the ego. Considering this incorporation of the ego we can characterise what is happening in different ways, and you have so far met mainly two ways in which this can be done.

Latterly more stress has been laid on the fact that that which has hitherto worked in the body, organised the body, emancipates itself from the body with the change of teeth, frees itself from the body to work on as intelligence. Thus we can describe this process from one aspect. However, one can also do it the way it was done in earlier days when the whole subject was brought to man's understanding from a different point of view and it was said: with the change of teeth man's etheric body is being born; the physical body is born at birth, the etheric body round about the seventh year. So what seen from one side we can call the birth of the etheric body, seen from another side is the emancipation of intelligence from the physical body. It is only a two-sided description of one and the same fact. Indeed, we gain a true understanding only if we bring two such aspects to a synthesis. In spiritual science nothing can be characterised without approaching a fact from different sides and then combining the different aspects to one comprehensive view. To have any spiritual content fully contained in one single characterisation is just as impossible as it is to give a whole melody in a single tone. You must characterise it from different sides. This is what people who understood something of these matters in bygone times called harmonious listening (zusammenhoren), that is to hear the various explanations in harmony with one another.

Well , what happens further., In that which is set free—whether we call it the ether body or intelligence does not matter—the ego, which in a way descended at birth, streams, gradually organising it through and through; which means that there takes place a mutual permeation of the eternal I and that which is being formed: the slowly liberating intelligence, or the ether body which is in the process of being born.

And then, looking at the ensuing age, the time from the seventh to the fourteenth year, that is up to the time of puberty, we can say from a certain point of view that an element of will, a musical element is being absorbed; yes, this process is from one of its aspects indeed best described when we say: is being absorbed: for what lies in the outer world is really the musical element and all that which is being absorbed as music, as sound is vibrating through the astral body. Through this activity the astral body is emancipated from the connection which it had up to this time with the whole organism. From another point of view we can therefore say with regard to the child: in puberty the birth of the astral body takes place. But once again it is the ego which then as an eternal being unites itself with that which is being liberated, so that from birth to puberty, that is up to the age of about fourteen or more, we are concerned with a progressive anchoring of the ego in the entire human organism. From the seventh year on the ego fastens itself only to the etheric body, while before then, when the human being is still an imitator, the ego anchors itself precisely through this imitative activity in the physical body, and then later, even after puberty, the ego penetrates the astral body. So what takes place is a continuous penetration of the human organism by the ego, which can be seen really and concretely as I have described it.

This sphere has an immense significance for the educator. For—as I have indicated in my article on the artistic element in education in the last copy of Social Future—all education and teaching should always be carried out in the light of this gradual incorporation of the ego into the human organism as I have just described it; this process of the ego's incorporation in the human organism should be guided through an artistic education. What does this mean?

It means, for example, that the ego must not enter the physical body, etheric body and astral body too deeply, but that on the other hand it must neither be kept too much outside. If it settles down too firmly in the human organism, if the ego unites with them too intensively, man becomes too much an exclusively corporeal being; he will then think only with his brain, will be entirely dependent on his organism, in short he will become too earthly, the ego will have been too strongly absorbed by the bodily organisation. That we must avoid. Through our education we must try to avoid everything that would lead to the ego becoming too strongly absorbed by the bodily organisation, becoming too dependent on it. You will understand the utter seriousness of this matter when I tell you that the cause of the criminality and brutality of some men lies in the fact that their ego was allowed to be absorbed too strongly during their years of growing up. The characteristics of degeneracy, found by anthropologists and known to you, which manifest fully only in later years, reveal themselves often as an ego which has been too strongly absorbed by the rest of the bodily organisation. And if there is such a man born with the earlobe of a criminal, it is all the more important that we see to it, that his ego will not sink too deeply into the rest of his organisation. Because through a true artistic treatment in education we can avoid that even in a man with degenerate physical characteristics the ego sinks too deeply into his organism, we can thus save him from becoming a criminal.

We can, on the other hand, fall a prey to making the opposite mistake. There is a difficulty here. As we may place too small or too large a weight on one side of the scales—if the weight is too small, the other side will not rise; if it is too large, it will rise too high and we have to set the balance right—so, we have to face a similar fact in the realities of life. Living reality cannot be contained in rigid concepts; and in trying to rectify one error we may always fall into the opposite. With regard to a child it is therefore the intimate factors of life which are all important so that we never bring out one side or another too strongly but rather develop a feeling for the fact that in education one has to create an artistic balance. Because if one does not see to it that the ego unites with the organism in a right way, then it can happen that it remains too much outside, and the consequence will be that the person becomes a dreamer or follows fancies, or becomes altogether useless in life because he only lives in fantasies. This would be the other mistake, that one does not let the ego sink deeply enough into the organism. Even those, who in their childhood showed a tendency to fancifulness, to false romanticism, to theosophy in the wrong way, can be protected from this by their teacher when he or she sees to it that the ego does not stay outside the rest of the organism, but penetrates it in the right way. When one notices the well- known Theosophists mark, which all children who are inclined to theosophy bring with them at birth—a small bump rising a little way behind the forehead—then one must strive to prevent this tendency to fancifulness and false romanticism through pressing the ego more strongly into the organism. But how do we bring about the one thing and how the other?

We can work in one direction or another, when we acquaint ourselves with the means which can achieve this. They are the following: everything in teaching and education which is geometry and. arithmetic, everything which necessitates the forming of mental images of number and space helps the ego to settle itself well into the organism, provided the child takes it in and works it through. Equally, everything in language which is of a musical nature, for example rhythm in recitation, etc, helps the ego to settle properly into the organism. Music will be specially beneficial for a somewhat fanciful child when we use it in such a way that we develop the child's ability to recollect music, his musical, memory. These are the means we must use when we notice that the ego of a child does not want to enter into the organism properly, when the child might easily remain fanciful. In the moment, however, when we notice that a child is becoming too earthly, that the ego is too strongly dependent on the body, we let the child draw the forms which are otherwise grasped more through thought. The moment we let the child draw geometrical forms we create a force which works counter to the situation which draws the ego into the organism. You will see from this that we can indeed educate rightly, when we use the various subjects in the right way.

When in a child, who by virtue of his gift or through other circumstances may be receiving a special musical training, we notice that he becomes too dependent on his organism, that a certain heaviness becomes apparent in his singing, then we must try to guide him to practise more spontaneous listening and less his musical memory. We can always work for a balance: either help the child to suck in his ego more deeply through the measures I have characterized, or protect the ego from remaining outside too much if we haven't brought about the right balance. It is specially good when we try to regulate things through the way we teach a language. All the musical elements in a language contribute to the ego being sucked in. When I notice that this happens too strongly in a child, I will try to involve him in something which is more concerned with the meaning and the content of what is said. I will work with the child in such a way that I call upon him for the meaning of things. On the other hand, should I notice that the child is becoming fanciful, then I will rather make him take up recitation, rhythm and metre in the language. As a teacher one must acquire this as an art and develop a certain force in it.

There are whole subjects which help us when we want to protect the ego from being sucked into the organism too strongly. These are above all geography, history and all those where the emphasis is on the picture element and on drawing. In history, for example, it can be done excellently when you develop your story in such a way—this is of importance—that the child's inner life, his feeling participates in it deeply, so that you call up in him reverence, or if you like hatred, for a character if the personality you describe is deserving hatred. Such a treatment of history makes a special contribution towards the child's not becoming too earthly. But if through insight into the child's development, which we must acquire, we have gained the impression that through an overdose of this kind of history lesson we have made the child a little inclined towards fanciful dreaminess, if we notice that the child begins to bubble over a little in this way, then we must try something different. And all this must be integrated within the curriculum. One must start at the right age and for that reason it is good to keep our eye on such a child over years. If one sees that a child becomes too fanciful, gets a bit out of himself through the stories of history, then, if the time is right, one must permeate history with ideas, must show the great connections. Thus, the individual treatment of events or personalities of history protects the child from his ego being sucked into the body too strongly; the permeation of history with ideas which pervade periods of time further the ego's union with the body.

Too much drawing and too many images can also easily lift the ego out of the body and thus make it fanciful , but the antidote is at once at hand: one makes such a child that has become fanciful through too much drawing or painting understand the meaning of what he draws: when I let the child draw a Rosetta I make him think about it, or when he writes I lead him to admire the letters, the forms of the letters, to which I have drawn his attention. So while the child goes out of himself through the mere activity of writing and drawing, by observing what he has drawn or written he comes into himself.

Such examples show us how in teaching and education we can use every detail rightly when we develop it truly out of art. It is essential that we really take such things seriously into consideration. Take for instance the teaching of Geography. On the whole it protects the ego from being drawn too deeply into the organism, which means that we can make good use of it with a child who is in danger of becoming too earthbound; we will lead such a child to an active interest in Geography. On the other hand, however, should a child be in danger of becoming fanciful through lessons in Geography, then, by making him for instance grasp the differences of altitudes on earth, or by introducing anything into our teaching of Geography which requires a more geometrical kind of thinking, we will be able to bring the child's ego back into his organism.

The value of these things will only be fully appreciated when one can perceive the wonderful structure of the human organism and its harmony with the universe, the cosmos. It is wonderful to think that what we have observed in a child's development between birth and puberty is an interplay between cosmic-formative (plastiche>) and cosmic-musical forces. This interplay unfolds of course in the most diverse variations. And—I think, I have pointed to this important fact in various connections before, but I should like to mention it once more, because it can be very helpful here—if you look at the human constitution you will find on the one hand the physical body and the etheric body: these two never separate from each other between birth and death: in a certain way they are constantly united between birth and death. On the other hand, the physical body and the ether body separate from the astral body—first of all the ether body from the astral body—when one falls asleep and they join again when one wakes up. Thus we can see that the ether body and the astral body are less firmly bound to each other than, for instance, the physical body and the etheric body are; equally strongly connected, on the other hand, are the ego and the astral body which do not separate from each other while one is asleep. Well, what is man through his physical body here on earth? He is a being who lives in intimate interaction with the surrounding air. A certain quantity of air is at one moment in our body, at another outside it; we breathe in, we breathe out. This in and out breathing reveals in a delicate way the difference between man'1, waking and his sleeping condition. There is a subtle difference and in matters of great importance the subtle differences are often more significant than others. What happens here takes place through interaction between the astral body and the etheric body. It takes place in waking man, and also when man is asleep. This interplay between the musical element and the formative element during man's formative years (Entwicklungszeit) is the continual and mutual permeation of the vibrations of the astral body in which the ego participates and the vibrations of the ether body which are shared by the physical body. Fundamentally, in the morning man breathes in his ego and his astral body and on falling asleep he breathes them out again.

This is in a way a large breathing process which we can compare with the small breathing process. In truth, with every falling asleep we leave our physical body and our etheric body and enter then into a more intimate connection with the surrounding air, because our ego and our astral body are then directly in the air. When we are awake we direct our breathing from inside, when we are asleep we do it from outside, we direct it from out of our soul. From the fact that on the one hand the air, a certain amount of it, is now out of and then again in the human organism, and on the other hand that the entire human constitution from the physical body to the ego is involved in this breathing process, you can see that we shall have to investigate closely the significance of this interaction between the human constitution and the air.

Well, you have all learnt some physics and you will remember how hard teachers usually tried, tried as conscientious teachers will , to explain to the children or the young people that air, which consists of oxygen and nitrogen, is not a chemical compound but a kind of mixture. Looking at air in this way, we accept that the connection between oxygen and nitrogen does not develop into a chemical compound but remains a looser one than it would be in a chemical compound. What has this fact to do with man? This, that it is a cosmic picture of the other fact, namely that in man the astral body and the etheric body are but loosely connected with each other. If oxygen and nitrogen formed a chemical compound in the air, if they were chemically united, then man's etheric body and his astral body would also be so tightly linked that they could not be separated and we would never be able to go to sleep. The connection which exists in us between etheric body and astral body is mirrored in the external constituency of the air; and, vice versa, the constitution of the air outside as a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen mirrors the inner relationship between etheric body and astral body in the human organism. Thus is man organised in accordance with the cosmos. Thus he is inwardly a microcosm, with the only difference that in the outer world certain things are ordered in a physical way while in man they are of the order of the soul. Outside, in nature, we have to deal with the physical laws prevailing between oxygen and nitrogen; inside, in man, we have the laws of soul active in the relationship of etheric body and astral body. And, when, on the one hand, we look at man and what happens in the human organism—a scientist of the spirit can observe this—we realise that when he breathes we have in the wonderful vibrations, which we describe as vibrations of light, a swift intermingling of astral and etheric vibrations. Then, on the other hand, we see how the same thing one step lower down happens in the physical process of out and in breathing. Looking at this we can positively see how man as a spirit and soul being frees himself constantly from his physical environment just as when in a mixture the heavier parts fall to the bottom, separating themselves out from the mixture, while the lighter parts remain above. Such processes take place in infinitely manifold ways in man himself. And they must be part of all that we relate to by becoming aware of it, taking it in, perceiving it, and so understand it and, as I described yesterday, can transform it in meditative recollection into artistic, creative pedagogy.

Then there is yet something else which we shall have to consider. What is it that carries our ego on its descent from spirit worlds through birth into this physical world? It is the head which carries it. The head is, so to say, the carriage in which the ego journeys into the physical world. And when it has arrived (hereingefahren ist) at this transition from the spiritual to the physical world, it completely changes its whole state of life. No matter how paradoxical this may appear to someone who looks at things only from outside, before we get ready to be born here on earth we are in constant movement in the spirit world: yes, there movement is our native element. Should we want to continue this movement we would never be able to enter into the physical world. We are safeguarded from continuing this movement through the head organisation which adjusts itself to the rest of the organism so that, in a manner of speaking, our head organisation becomes a carriage in which we ride into the physical world, but which comes to a halt when it has arrived and remains comfortably supported on the rest of the organism. And though the rest of the body walks, the head does not participate in this movement. Just as a man who travels in a carriage or a train is himself at rest, so the ego which was prenatally in constant movement, has come to rest once it has arrived in the physical world; it has ceased making the movements which it previously made. This points to something of extraordinary significance.

The present day embryologist, studying the evolution of the human fÅ“tus (Keim) notices that to begin with the head is much larger and more configurated compared with the rest of the angular and unconfigurated members of the human being, which develop properly only later. But he looks at this process as if every part of it were of the same nature. It must be admitted that embryological science is rather meaningless, so meaningless that it is difficult to find common ground with a modern physiologist because his thinking works on a different plane altogether. What matters is that fertilization affects essentially only the limb nature of man, only that which is not of 'head nature'; because the head of the human being receives its configuration basically not from the male parent but from the entire cosmos. In fact the human head is conceived not from the seed of the male but from the whole cosmos. The germ (Aulagezum) of the human head is present already in the unfertilized human cell and the head, which in the unfertilized human cell is still under a cosmic influence, is affected by this fertilization in the following manner. First of all this fertilization works on the rest of the organism and only as this organism develops do the effects of the embryonic development work back on the head. So that—even by studying the embryonic development of the human embryo from quite an external point of view, but by really studying it—we can observe how the head forms itself out of the mother's womb, not yet under the direct but only the indirect influence of the forces of fertilization; it is just like building a carriage in a workshop, a carriage which is then to carry a passenger: they come towards each other—in the same way the head is being prepared so that it can receive the descending human being in accordance with his ego. And for a long time after birth, actually through all his formative years, man bears the traces of the growing union between his human and his cosmic organisation.

When the spirit of the pedagogy which we want to nurture here has entered the teacher, I should like to say as a real soul habit, then the following will happen. Those who are standing in front of a class will be enormously fascinated by that which takes place in individual children, because even between their seventh and their fourteenth year a distinct differentiation can be made—certainly only by intimate observation—between a separating, a receding of a superhuman organisation from the head and a penetration of the head with forces that stream up and pour in from the rest of the organism. In your thinking you will have to set this side by side with what was said in the first and the second lesson, because in a certain way the one has to be balanced by the other. But it must always be interesting to us to study in a child the difference between the sculptural form of the head and the formation of the rest of the organism. For this it is necessary, however, to look at both of them in a different way. If you want to consider the changes which take place within the head, you must approach them with the feelings of a sculptor; if, on the other hand, you wish to consider those changes which the rest of the organism undergoes, you must feel yourself a musician doing Eurythmy. For as far as the rest of the organism is concerned it is of little use to observe how, for example, the fingers grow, etc; instead you must take note of the change in the child's manner of moving. These movements work back on the formation of the organism, not, however, through their form content (die FormgebiIde), but through their dynamics. If someone has got enormously long legs and arms, then they will be heavier than under normal circumstances. It is not their form which has a distinct effect but the force of weight with which they work; and it is this weight which influences the musical forming of the movements. And if one wants to assess rightly a human being whose arms and legs have grown so long that he does not know what to do with them, then one will have to approach life with a sense of music (lebens musikalische Beurteilung) and one must feel that the child's legs, because they are too long, have the tendency of being in each other's way and that therefore the movements become abnormal, or that the arms never know what they are meant to do because their weight has too great an effect. It is wonderful to think that through spiritual science one can get to know the human being so intimately, if one proceeds in such a way! One may then cease to judge matters emotionally, as one might have been prone to do. If someone has small hands and small arms one will say to oneself: they will be far less inclined to box somebody's ear than if someone's arms and hands are too long, too heavy. In the latter case, instead of seeing it from an emotional point of view we will have to charge it to his Karma that he feels a ready urge to box people's ears.

Such considerations bring the human being, especially the growing one, much nearer to us. For there is a secret which is truly remarkable. You can, if you consider the form of the human body in this way, say to yourself; I am unravelling a human being's development, his soul make-up, from his bodily organisation; I am discovering the significance of a certain shape of head, of a certain weight of arms and legs, etc, of a certain way of setting your foot on the ground, for example if someone is more inclined to step with his toes or if he—like Fichte, whose whole figure bore witness to the fact—strides with his heels. All these things tell us an immense amount and can give us the feeling: this way you get to know man better. Of course these are not specially personal things, they are the way in which we express ourselves in our human-social encounters—encounters which are, however, more intimate between teacher and pupil when we educate. When we meet a man the feeling can arise in us: there is one thing you learn about him when you face him, in this way you can see what expresses itself musically; you learn another thing when you see him clearly from behind. One should derive one's rules for life out of the nature of life. For example, if a student with the right rules of life had sat in Fichte's lectures he would have listened to his lecture facing him, in order to take in what he said. However, in order to get to know Fichte's character, his whole manner of presenting himself (seines Auftretens), he would have had to look at him from behind. The form of the back of the head, the structure of his back, his hunched shoulders, the way in which he moved his hands, the manner of holding his head, were the features that called on us to see Fichte as the personality which he was in the world.

We can learn remarkable things, if we get to know children in this manner, if we are teachers who are inclined towards an understanding of Karma and less in the direction of a teacher who has taught in such a way that, being terribly annoyed about an emotional child, he admonished him again and again to sit still, to be quiet; told him: calm, calm, calm, please, and eventually, because he was driven to distraction, reached out for the inkpot and threw it at the child's head, saying: I'll teach you how to be quiet!—I am characterizing this in a somewhat radical fashion, but even in a less radical form we as teachers and educators must recognise such a thing as wrong.

If we are able to free ourselves from such behaviour and to direct our anthroposophical study of man more, as I have indicated, to the bodily form of the child, so that his organism can tell us something of the character of his soul, then we are occupying ourselves with a child in a different way from the usual one. And, strangely enough, through such an attitude towards the child we shall develop love towards him, we shall gradually understand him with greater and greater love. And precisely through that we shall gain a powerful feeling of support for teaching and educating the child lovingly. These ways, which I have tried here to describe to you, are the ways in which we as teachers and educators shall acquire the right attitudes and feelings. For it would be quite the wrong method if, for instance, someone wanting to become a composer thought he could learn to compose by merely using a book on music theory, or if someone else took a book on aesthetics, read everything that was said there about painting and hoped thereby to become a painter. He will not turn into a painter, he will only become a painter if he learns to use colours, the actual handling of colour right into every movement of his hand, and so on. And you will become a sculptor only through grasping the forms of an organism. It is immensely interesting to grasp the forms of an organism, also as it is done for example in the art of sculpture. You will have quite a different feeling as a sculptor when you form a head or when you form the rest of the organism. In forming the head you will feel the head is working on you from within itself, you would have to retreat and make room for the head formation; a pressure issues from within it. When, on the other hand, you sculpture the rest of the organism you will feel: you are exerting pressure and at the same time this section of the organism is withdrawing from you. So your feelings are just the opposite when sculpturing the head or all the rest of the organism. This shows us that in every case we have to learn the appropriate treatment. In education it is the same. If you wished to teach in a school by following a manual on pedagogy it would be just like wanting to become a painter through using a manual on aesthetics. Nothing will come of this. If, on the other hand, you will practise anthroposophical study of man as outlined, as we are doing here, then the pedagogical talent will spring up in you, because many more people have the right disposition for it than you would think. And then you will develop certain faculties which a teacher needs quite specially if he wants to be a good teacher.

There is no field where talk is more devoid of content than in the field of pedagogy, and this despite the great interest taken by many people. The reason why one feels so badly about the current ways of discussing educational matters is that they are affecting the next generation. But, as in so many other fields, and especially in this one, one can overcome the dilettante tirades through a deeper understanding of the human being. Even teachers have accepted the slogan: learning must be pleasure for the children. We do not take it amiss when such a thing is said by laymen; they mean well; but it is to be strictly rejected when passed on by professionals! For it is well to remember pedagogical reality and then consider certain things which are difficult for the children to overcome and ask yourself what you as a teacher can possibly do to make everything pure joy for the children. Or think of certain tendencies in children and put it to yourself, if one has such a child in school from morning till night what possibility is there for him to experience nothing but joy, joy, joy? It cannot be done: it is one of those slogans produced by people who stand outside the reality of things. The fact is that certain things will not be pleasurable for children but that they will have to experience them nevertheless. Were, for instance, the teacher to give to the child nothing but pleasure, the child would be unable to develop a feeling for duty, which can be acquired only if we learn to overcome ourselves. There would be no advantage in this. So, this is not the point; the point is quite a different one, namely: to gain through our pedagogical art the children's love so strongly that, under our guidance, they will do things that do not necessarily give pleasure, things which may even be unpleasant and even cause pain to a slight degree. We must say therefore: if the right kind of love is carried into teaching, if we succeed in awakening the right kind of love in children, then more than joy and pleasure will be developed in them—they will develop devotion (Anhanglichkeit) towards the teacher and then they will feel quite differently. They will feel then: there are many difficult things, but, for this or that teacher I will do even the difficult things.

These are matters which show us how we can overcome some difficulties in teaching when we are able to create the right relationship between teacher and pupil. Such a way of looking at matters differs from the views on teaching and educating as they are generally held by the laity.

My dear friends, on this occasion another meeting for further considerations will not be possible. There are endless other meetings to be gone through. We will only be able to gather once more for a teachers' meeting.