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The Younger Generation
GA 217

Lecture IX

11 October 1922, Dornach

From what I said yesterday about the course of historical evolution, you will have gathered that the way in which a human being confronts his fellow men at present was different before the year 333 A.D.

I assume that you are familiar with the soul principles of man according to anthroposophical knowledge. You know that we must differentiate in the soul between what was active in human nature up to the fifteenth century — the so-called intellectual or mind soul — and the consciousness soul which since that time has been principally active in those who have developed to the level of culture to which man has so far advanced.

In describing a particular activity of the soul as that of the intellectual or mind soul, it does not indicate that intellect, in itself, as we understand it today, is a special characteristic of the intellectual or mind soul. The intellectual or mind soul was developed particularly by the Greeks and among them intellect was certainly not what it is today. But you will have been able to gather that from yesterday's lecture.

Among the Greeks, concepts, ideas, were bestowed by the Spirit. But because of this, their intellect was not so cold, so lifeless and dry as ours is today when it is the result of effort. Intellectualism has first arisen through the special development in the consciousness soul. You can only get the right conception of the intellectual or mind soul by transporting yourselves into the mind of a Greek. Then you will certainly discover the difference between the relation of the Greek towards the world and our own. This will be made clearer by our lecture today.

These introductory words serve as a basis to understand that in the centuries preceding the modern age, that is, up to the fifteenth century, human beings met and spoke to one another out of the intellectual or mind soul. Today we face the consciousness soul. But to feel it the developing human being had to reach the turn of the nineteenth century. It has been brought about by circumstances already described. But because of this the problems of life have appeared in an entirely new way. Problems must be regarded in a new way nowadays, otherwise the connecting bridge between consciousness soul and consciousness soul, which means for modern humanity the bridge between one man and another, cannot be found. We are suffering from this at the present time — we cannot find the bridge between human being and human being.

Above all we must ask many of our questions in a new way, in a form that may at first seem grotesque. But it is not meant to be so. Now let us suppose that a three-year-old child were to resolve not to pass through the tedious process of waiting for its second teeth until the seventh year, but this child were to say: It is weary work to go through four more years until I get my second teeth; I will get them at once. (I could use other comparisons which would appear still more grotesque, but this one will suffice,) Such a thing is impossible, isn't it? For there are certain conditions of natural development.

And so, too, it is a condition of natural development, for which today only few people have any feeling, that only from a certain age onwards the human being can know something about the connections in life of which he must know, but which cannot be exhausted by information about external things. Naturally even at the age of nine we may know, for example, that the human being has ten fingers. But matters where a judgment formed by active thinking is necessary, cannot be known before we reach a certain time in life, that is, between about the eighteenth and nineteenth years. Just as it is impossible to get the second teeth before the seventh year so it is impossible to know something in its essential reality before the eighteenth year. It is simply impossible before the eighteenth year really to know about those things that are not just under our nose, things for which active judgment is necessary. Before this one may have heard something, may believe something on authority. But one cannot know anything about it. Before this we cannot unfold that inner activity of soul necessary for us to say: I know something about this or that which does not lie in a region accessible to mere eyes or ears. Such things are hardly mentioned today. They are, however, exceedingly important for life. If culture is to find roots again, one must speak about such things, and treat them in a knowledgeable way.

What, then, follows from the fact that before his eighteenth year the human being cannot, properly speaking, know anything? It follows that the human being before he is eighteen must depend upon those who are older, just as the infant is dependent on its mother's breast — it is in no way different. From this, however, there follows something of the greatest significance for the intercourse between teachers, educators, and the younger generation. If this is not heeded the connection is simply false.

Now, people are not conscious today that this is so; generally in the sphere of education, an opposite direction is taken. But it was not always so. If we look back before the first third of the fifteenth century, a real modern youth movement would not have been possible. At that time there could never have been a youth movement in the present form with a justified right of existence. Why could there have been no such thing? To answer this question we must turn to the conditions which obtained among those preparing for life in the monastic schools. We could also take the conditions for the young who were being prepared for trades. We should not find much difference. In the earliest of those times it was definitely realized that no one could be brought before his eighteenth year to the point of real knowledge. It would have seemed absurd had one maintained that it was possible to give anyone real knowledge before his eighteenth year. At that time it was known among older people, especially if they wanted to teach or educate: “The young cannot be brought to the point of actual knowledge. We must be capable of inducing the young to believe in what we, according to our knowledge, hold to be true.” And to lead the young to believe was a sacred task.

Today this is all upside-down, because what in earlier times was demanded only of the young, namely, belief, is now demanded in connection with the super-sensible of those who are grown-up. At that time the concept of belief was only there for those who were young. But it was regarded as something sacred. A man would have reproached himself with violating his most sacred duty if, as teacher or educator, he had failed to make the young believe in him out of the freshness and lively conviction of individual human nature, so that they thus received the truth. This shade of feeling lay in all education, in all instruction. In other respects the education and teaching of that time may today arouse a sense of antipathy because of its division into all kinds of classes and distinctions. But putting that aside, the desire was there to maintain the faith of the young.

Something else was connected with this: that teachers felt that it was first of all necessary to justify the claim that the young should believe in one. I shall explain this by means of an example in the monastery schools which were the only educational institutions in the time preceding the fifteenth century. One had first to justify the claim that one should be taken seriously; for this was the basis upon which the belief of the young was to be founded. A man did not think, just because he was a grown-up or because some authority had granted him a diploma or given him a post, that the young had to believe in him. It is true that diplomas and the like played a certain external role even in those days. But to justify the right to be taken seriously meant that to begin with one avoided giving them definite knowledge. It was not customary in those days to impart knowledge. It is so foreign to us today to connect any definite concept with the remark: We do not wish to impart knowledge to the young — that this saying is quite unintelligible. But at that time it was self-understood that before there was any wish to impart knowledge the young should be made to see and to feel that one was capable of something. It was only when the young people had reached a certain age that the teacher told them what he knew. The first step was to show what one could do, and for this reason the substance of the teaching was the trinity of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. These were not sciences. For it is only in the course of time that grammar has become the present pseudo-scientific monstrosity. In those times grammar was not at all what it is today; it was the art of combining and separating thoughts and words. Instruction in grammar was the teaching of an art, and all the more so in the case of dialectic and rhetoric. Everything given was so arranged that the pupils should feel the ability of their teachers, that they should feel their teachers capable of speaking and thinking and of letting beauty hold sway in their speaking. Grammar, dialectic and rhetoric — this was instruction in ability, in an ability closely connected with the human activity of the teacher and educator.

Today when we speak of the objective method of teaching, we keep the teaching quite apart from the personality of the teacher. We drag in every possible kind of gadget, even those dreadful calculating machines, in order that the teaching may be as impersonal as possible. We try to separate it entirely from the personal. Such a separation is not really possible. The endeavour to keep the teaching entirely apart from the personal only leads to the worst sides of the teacher coming into play, and his good side is quite unable to unfold when so much objectivity is dragged in.

Thus it was a natural demand on the teacher that he should first let the young feel what he was capable of in the very highest sense, as a human being. He had to show his mastery of speech, his mastery of thought, and how beauty was part of his speech. Only by letting the young for a time witness what one could do, was the right acquired to lead them gradually to what can be known, to arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, to music as it was conceived of at that time, that is, as a permeation of the whole world-order by harmony and melody. Because a start was made from grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, one was able later to pour into arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music as much of the artistic as was possible, having had an artistic point of departure.

Now all this has evaporated, has vanished into thin air, with the first dawn of intellectualism. Of everything artistic that appeared then we have but the scantiest remains. Here and there, in certain universities, the doctor's degree still bears with it the title: “Doctor of Philosophy and of the Seven Liberal Arts.” But you know the real state of affairs where the Seven Liberal Arts are concerned! That can be established historically; for instance, the famous Curtius who taught in Berlin was an extraordinary personality who held a quite irregular diploma. If you ask for what subject he actually received the venia legendi, you would expect it to have been for history of art. But that is not correct. His teaching certificate was for Eloquentia — fluency of speech. But the times were such that this branch of knowledge was out of date. He was professor of eloquence, but in order to teach he took up history of art — and dealt with it most excellently. Even at the time when Curtius was teaching it would have been strange had eloquence been a branch of instruction. Eloquence or rhetoric, however, was one of the fundamental branches of instruction given to the young of earlier times, with the result that something thoroughly artistic came into education. But the introduction of the artistic into education was still in keeping with the old order in which intellectual or mind soul encountered intellectual or mind soul. And today people are still not able to put the question from the new point of view: How must things be in human affairs if consciousness soul is to meet consciousness soul? As soon as education is considered in the wider sense this question arises of itself. It has been put for a long time, for decades, but human beings have not yet developed an active enough thinking to formulate and feel it clearly. And where do we find an answer?

One answer to this question is found by learning to perceive — for it is a matter of the unfolding of will and not of a theoretical solution — that when the child enters earthly existence he brings with him the power of imitation; up to the time of the change of teeth, the child just imitates. Out of this power of imitation speech is learnt. Speech is, so to speak, poured into the child just as his blood circulation is poured into him when he comes into earthly existence. But the child should not come to a more and more conscious education by giving him out of the consciousness soul knowledge in the form of truth. In earlier times it was said: Before the eighteenth year the child cannot know anything, so he must be led through ability to knowledge which he accepts first as belief; thereby the forces of knowledge will be awakened in him between the eighteenth and nineteenth years. For it is out of the inner being that the forces of knowledge must be awakened. To keep the young waiting until their eighteenth year, adults behaved in relation to youth so as to show what they were capable of, afterwards educating them to experience together with the teacher in a provisional way, up to the eighteenth year, what later they would be expected to know. Up to the eighteenth or nineteenth year the “acquisition of knowledge” was provisional, because before the eighteenth or nineteenth year it is not possible really to know anything. But in fact no teacher can convey knowledge to any boy or girl if in their feeling there has not ripened the conviction: He is capable! A teacher has not the right sense of responsibility towards the human being if he wants to set to work before the young take it as a matter of course that be knows his job.

Before the students were given arithmetic — as arithmetic was understood in those days, and it was not the dry, abstract stuff of today — those who guided them into arithmetic, knowing too how to speak and think, had also the gift of eloquence. When the young know this out of their own feeling, it is a good reason for looking up to those who are older. When they only know that the teacher has a diploma, it sometimes happens that when the child is not more than ten everything goes to pieces. The question which was a living one in those days must again be given life. But because today consciousness soul encounters consciousness soul in human affairs, this question cannot be solved as formerly when human beings confronted each other with their mind souls. Today a different solution must be found.

Naturally, we cannot return to the liberal arts, although it would be preferable than what is being done today. We must reckon with modern conditions — not the external conditions but those dealing with the evolution of the human race. Here we must find the transition from imitation, which up to the change of teeth is natural in the child, to the stage when we can bring knowledge to the human being, reckoning first upon trust and belief and later upon his own judgment.

But there is an intermediate period, today a very critical one for the young. For this period we must find the solution of the most significant world-problem; upon these problems depends the future progress or otherwise of human evolution — even its total submergence. The question is: How must adults handle children between the years of imitation and the years when knowledge can be given? Today this is one of the weightiest of all cultural questions.

And what was the youth movement in so far as it is to be taken seriously? It can be summed up in the burning question: Have the older people an answer for this? And it became clear to the young that no such answer was to be found in the schools, so they drifted out — out into grove and meadow and into the fields. They preferred, instead of being school boys and girls, to become birds — birds of passage (Wandervögel).

We must look at life, not at theories, when one seeks to encompass the great problems of world-culture. If one really looks into life today one will find that the period between the age of imitation and the age at which the human being can receive knowledge in the form of truth must be filled if humanity is not to pine away. This must be done by giving the human being with artistic beauty what he needs for head, heart and will. The seven-foldness of grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, grew out of an older cultural order; it was of the nature of art. Today too we need art but, according to the demands of the consciousness soul, it must not be specialized in the way of the Seven Liberal Arts. During the primary school age and far beyond it, for as long as education holds good, the whole teaching must be warmed through and fired by the artistic element. During the primary school years everything must be steeped in beauty, and in later years beauty must rule as the interpreter of truth.

Those human beings who have not learnt to walk in the ways of beauty, and through beauty to capture truth, will never come to the full manhood needed to meet the challenges of life. The great German writers divined this even if its full importance was not emphasized. They were not met with understanding. How clearly we see this search for truth through beauty in Goethe. Listen how he says: “Art is a manifestation of secret forces of Nature,” which simply means that only through an artistic grasp of the world does man reach the living truth — otherwise it is dead. And Schiller's words, the beautiful words: “Only through the dawn of beauty do you penetrate to the land of knowledge.” Unless we first permeate ourselves with the meaning of the path, [that] only through the artistic can we penetrate into the realm of truth, there can be no question of acquiring a real understanding of the super-sensible world in accordance with the age of the consciousness soul.

For you see, with the help of the recognized sciences, today knowledge of man is limited to the physical body alone. With modern science there is no possibility of knowing anything about the human being beyond his physical body. That is why science can only speak conclusively — yet grandly — about physiology or biology so long as it is a question of the physical body. True, people talk about psychology. It is only known as experimental psychology; phenomena of the life of soul are observed, but what figures as phenomena of the soul is connected with the physical body. They cannot form the slightest conception of any real phenomena of the life of soul. Hence they have hit upon the idea psycho-physical parallelism. Parallel lines, however, can meet only at infinity. So, too, the connection between the physical body and the soul can be understood only at infinity. Thus psycho-physical parallelism was setup.

All this is symptomatic of the incapacity of the age to understand the human being. For, firstly, if one seeks to understand the human being, the power of intellectualism ceases. Man cannot be understood out of the intellect. One may choose to adhere firmly and rigidly to intellectualism; but then, knowledge of the human being must be renounced. But for that one would be obliged to tear out the mind and heart and that is impossible. If it is torn out it withers way. For the head can renounce knowledge of man, but this entails the stunting of mind and heart. All our present culture is expressed in a withered life of mind and heart. And, secondly, understanding of man is not to be achieved with concepts that lead us in the domain of outer Nature. However much we can achieve outwardly with these concepts they cannot lead us to the second member of the human body, to the human etheric body, the body of formative forces.

Just imagine that with the methods of modern science man could know as much, let us say, as he will know at the end of earth evolution — quite an appalling amount! I will assume the existence of a very finished and very clever scientist. I am not saying that there are not among us scientists already near this stage. For it is not my belief that in the future there will be more progress in intellectualism. A different path will be taken. I have the very highest respect for the intellectualism of our learned men. Do not for a moment think that I am saying this out of a lack of respect. I mean this in all seriousness. There are vast numbers of very clever scientists, of this there is no doubt at all! But even were I to assume that science had reached its highest peak, it would still only be able to understand the physical body of man, nothing at all of the etheric body. Knowledge of the etheric body is not based upon phantasy. But the stimulus to acquire the faculty for perceiving this subordinate super-sensible member of man's nature can arise only out of artistic experience of the soul. Art must become the life blood of the soul.

The more people wish in our objective science to avoid carefully everything of the nature of art, the more are they led away from knowledge of man. Through the microscope and other instruments we have come to know a great deal. But it never leads us nearer to the etheric body, only farther from it. Finally we entirely lose the path to what is a prime necessity for understanding man. In the case of plants we may get the better of this, for they do not concern us so intimately. It does not worry the plant that it is not the product of the laboratory which modern science makes it out to be. It still goes on growing under the influence of the etheric force of the cosmos and does not limit itself to the forces presumed to exist by physics and chemistry. But when we confront men things are different. Then our feeling, our confidence, our reverence, in short all that is in our mind which in the age of the consciousness soul naturally rises above instinct — for with the consciousness soul everything rises above instinct — depends upon our having an education which allows us to perceive something more than merely the human physical body.

When teachers deprive us of insight into what man really is, we cannot expect those forces to flourish which in the right way place man over against man. Everything depends upon the human being to free himself from the shackles of mere observation and experiment. Indeed we can estimate observation and experiment at their right value only when we have become free of them, and the simplest way of breaking free is the artistic way.

Yes, when the teacher stands in front of the child again as — in an earlier epoch — grammar dialectic, rhetoric stood, that is to say, when the teacher stands before the young so that his way of teaching is again that of the artist, and is permeated by art, there will arise a different youth movement — it may appear unattractive to you, but nevertheless it will arise — which will crowd around the teachers who are artists, because there they will draw nourishment and receive what the young must expect from those who are older. The youth movement cannot be a mere opposition, a mere revolt against the older generation, for then it becomes like the infant who can do nothing because it cannot receive milk from its mother. What is to be learnt must be learnt. But it will be learnt when there is as natural an urge towards those who are older as the infant has towards its mother's breast, or as the small child feels when, by imitating, he learns to speak. This urge will be stimulated when the young find the artistic coming from the older generation, when truth first appears in the garb of beauty. In this way all that is best will be kindled in the young, not the intellect which always remains passive, but the will which stirs thinking into activity. Artistic education will be an education of the will, and it is upon the education of the will that everything else depends.

Tomorrow, then, we shall continue.