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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Discussions with Teachers
GA 295

Translated by Helen Fox

Discussion Seven

22 August 1919, Stuttgart

Today we will try an exercise in which we have to hold the breath somewhat longer. Speech exercise:

Fulfilling goes
through hoping
goes through longing
through willing
willing flows
in wavering wails in quavering
waves veiling
waving breathing
in freedom
freedom winning
kindling

You can only achieve what is intended by dividing the lines properly. Then you will bring the proper rhythm to your breath. The object of this exercise is to do gymnastics with the voice in order to regulate the breath.

In words like fulfilling and willing, both “l’s” must be pronounced. You shouldn’t put an “h” into the first “l”, but the two “l’s” must be sounded one after the other.

You must also try to avoid speaking with a rasping voice, and develop instead tone in your voice, bringing it up from deeper in your chest, to give full value to the vowels. (All Austrians have tinny voices!)

Before each of the above lines the breath should be consciously brought into order. The words that appear together also belong together when you read.

You know that we usually do the following speech exercises also:

Barbara sass stracks am Abhang
or: Barbara sass nah am abhang
or: Abraham a Sancta Clara kam an 1The entire verse: “Barbara sass nah am Abhang, / Sprach gar sangbar — zaghaft langsam; / Mannhaft kam alsdann am Waldrand / Abraham a Sancta Clara!” is from material given by Julius Hey in Die Kunst der Sprache, Mainz-Leipzig, 1914. Rudolf Steiner found that these sound-sequences could be used and also mentioned the exercise of Hey’s for E (eh). While Hey’s exercises have a certain meaning, the exercises given by Steiner come purely from the element of sound.

The Steed and the Bull.

An impudent boy came flying along on a fiery steed. A wild bull called out to the horse, “Shame on you! I would not be governed by a lad!” “But I would,” replied the horse, “for what kind of honor would it bring me to throw the boy off?”

They all read the fable aloud.

RUDOLF STEINER: After hearing this fable so often you will certainly sense that it is written in the particular style of fables and many other writings of the eighteenth century. You get the feeling that they didn’t quite finish, just as other things were not fully completed then.

Rudolf Steiner read the fable aloud again.

RUDOLF STEINER: Now, in the twentieth century the fable would be continued something like this: “That may be the honor of bulls! And if I were to seek honor by stubbornly standing still, that would not be a horse’s honor but a mule’s honor!” That is how it would be written in these days. Then the children would notice immediately that there are three kinds of honor; the honor of a bull, the honor of a horse, and the honor of a mule. The bull throws the boy, the horse carries him quietly along because that is chivalrous, the mule stubbornly stands still because that is the mule’s idea of honor.

Today I would like to give you some material for tomorrow’s discussion on the subject of your lessons, since we will then consider particularly the seven-to-fourteen-year-old children. 2Practical Advice to Teachers, lecture 8.

So we will now speak of certain things that can guide you, and after I have presented this introduction, you will only need an ordinary reference book to amplify the various facts we have spoken of in our discussions. Today we will consider not so much how to acquire the actual subject matter of our work, but rather how to cherish and cultivate within ourselves the spirit of an education that contains the future within it. You will see that what we discuss today focuses on the work in the oldest classes. 3The Waldorf School began with grades 1–8 only. The oldest children in the school were thus fourteen to fifteen years of age.

I would therefore like to discuss what relates to the history of European civilization from the eleventh to the seventeenth century. You must always remember that teaching history to children should always contain a subjective element, and this is also true, more or less, when you work with adults. It is easy enough to say that people should not bring opinions and subjective ideas into history. You might make this a rule, but it cannot be adhered to. Take aspect of history in any country of the world; you will either have to arrange the facts in groups for yourself, or you will find them already thus assembled by others in the case of less recent history.

If, for example, you want to describe the spirit of the old Germanic peoples, you will turn to the Germania of Tacitus. But Tacitus was a person of very subjective thought; the facts he presents were clearly arranged in groups. You can only hope to succeed in your task by marshalling the facts in your own personal way, or else by using what others have done in a similar way before you. You can find examples, from literature for example, to substantiate what I have said.

Treitschke wrote German History of the Nineteenth Century in several volumes; it delighted Herman Grimm, who was also a competent judge, but it horrified many adherents of the entente. But when you read Treitschke you will feel immediately that his excellence is due to the very subjective coloring of his grouping of facts. In history the important thing is the ability to form a judgment of the underlying forces and powers at work. But you must realize that the judgment of one is more mature, that of another less so, and the latter should not pass any judgment at all because nothing has been understood about the underlying forces. The former, just because an independent judgment has been formed, will very well describe the actual course of history.

Herman Grimm portrayed Frederick the Great, and Macaulay also portrayed him, but Macaulay’s picture is completely different. Grimm even composed his article as a kind of critique of Macaulay’s article, and speaking from his perspective he said, “Macaulay’s picture of Frederick the Great is the grotesque face of an English lord with snuff on his nose!” The only difference is that Grimm is a nineteenth-century German and Macaulay a nineteenth-century Englishman. And any third person passing judgment on both would really be very narrow-minded if one were found to be true and the other false.

You might as well choose examples even more drastic. Many of you know the description of Martin Luther in the ordinary history books. If one day you try the experiment of reading it in the Catholic history books, you will get to know a Martin Luther whom you never knew before! But when you have read it you will find it difficult to say that the difference is anything but different viewpoints. Now it is just such points of view arising from nation or creed that must be overcome by future teachers. Because of this we must earnestly work so that teachers are broad-minded, so that the point will be reached of having a broad-minded philosophy of life. Such a mental attitude gives you a free and wide view of historical facts, and a skillfull arranging of these facts will enable you to convey to your pupils the secrets of human evolution.

Now, when you want to give the children some idea of cultural history from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries, you would first have to describe what led up to the Crusades. You would describe the course of the first, second, and third crusades, and how they gradually stagnated, failing to achieve what they should have. You would describe the spirit of asceticism that spread through much of Europe at the time — how everywhere, through the secularization of the church (or in any case in connection with this secularization), there arose individuals such as Bernard of Clairvaux, natures full of inner piety, such piety that it gave the impression to others that they were miracle-workers. From reference books you could try to become acquainted with biographies of people of this kind and then bring them to life for your pupils; you could try to conjure before them the living spirit that inspired those great expeditions to the East — because they were powerful in the views of the time. You would have to describe how these expeditions came to be through Peter of Amiens and Walter the Penniless, followed by the expedition of Godfrey of Bouillon and others.

Then you could relate how these Crusades set out toward the East and how enormous numbers of people perished, often before they reached their destination. You can certainly describe to boys and girls of thirteen to fifteen how these expeditions were composed, how they set out without any organization and made their way toward the East, and how many perished because of unfavorable conditions, and having to force their way through foreign countries and peoples.

You will then have to describe how those who reached the East had a certain degree of success at first. You can speak of what Godfrey of Bouillon accomplished, but you will also have to show the contrast that arose between the Crusaders of the later Crusades and Greek policy — how the Greeks became jealous of what the Crusaders were doing, feeling that the Crusaders’ goals were contrary to what the Greeks themselves were planning to do in the East; how fundamentally the Greeks, as much as the Crusaders, wanted to absorb the interests of the East into their own sphere of interests. Paint a graphic picture of how the goals of the Crusaders roused the Greeks’ opposition.

Then I suggest that you describe how the crusading armies in the East, instead of taking up arms against the Eastern peoples in western Asia, began to fight among themselves; and how the European peoples themselves, especially the Franks and their neighbors, began to quarrel about their claims to conquests and even took up arms against each other. The Crusades originated in fiery enthusiasm, but the spirit of inner discord seized those who took part in them; furthermore, antagonism arose between the Crusaders and the Greeks.

In addition to all this, at the very time of the Crusades we find opposition between church and state, and this became more and more evident. It may also be necessary to acquaint the children with something that is true, although in all its essential points it is veiled by the bias of historical writers. Godfrey of Bouillon, the leader of the first Crusade, really intended to conquer Jerusalem in order to balance the influence of Rome. He and his companions did not say this openly to the others, but in their hearts they carried the battle cry, “Jerusalem versus Rome!” They said among themselves, “Let us exalt Jerusalem so that it may become the center of Christianity, so that Rome no longer holds that position.” This, the underlying motive of the first Crusaders, can be conveyed to the children tactfully, and it is important to do so.

Those were great tasks that the Crusaders undertook, and great too were the tasks that gradually arose from the circumstances themselves. Little by little it came to be that the Crusaders were not great enough to bear the burden of such tasks without harm to themselves. And so it happened that, at the time of the fiercest battles, licentiousness and immorality gradually broke out among the Crusaders.

You can find these facts in any history book, and they serve to illustrate the general course of events. You will notice that in my arrangement of facts today, I am actually describing them without bias, and I will try also to describe in a purely historical way what took place in Europe from the eleventh to the seventeenth century.

It is often possible to make history clear through hypothesis, so let’s suppose that the Franks had conquered Syria and had established a Frankish dominion there — that they had reached an understanding with the Greeks, had left room for them, and had relinquished to them the rule of the more western portion of Asia Minor. Then the ancient traditions of the Greeks would have been fulfilled and North Africa would have become Greek. A counterbalance to subsequent events would have thus been established. The Greeks would have held sway in North Africa, the Franks in Syria. Then they wouldn’t have quarrelled with each other, and thus they wouldn’t have forfeited their dominions, and the invasions of the worst Eastern peoples — the Mongols, the Mamelukes, and Turkish Ottoman — would have been prevented. Because of the immorality of the Crusaders, and inevitably their inability to rise to their tasks, the Mongols, Mamelukes, and Ottomans overran the very regions that the Crusaders were attempting to “Europeanize.” And so we see how the reaction toward the great enthusiasm that led to the Crusades, spread over vast regions, is counterattacked from the other side. We see the Moslem-Mongolian advance, which set up military tyrants, and which for a long time remained the terror of Europe and cast a dark shadow over the history of the Crusades.

You see, by describing such things and acquiring the necessary pictorial descriptions from reference books, you can awaken in the children themselves pictures of the progress of civilization — pictures that will live on in them. And that is the important thing — that the children be given these pictures. They will initially be conjured in their minds through your graphic descriptions. If you can then show them some works of art, notable paintings from this period, you will find this supports what you say.

Thus, you will make it clear to the children what happened during the Crusades, and enable them to make their own mental pictures of these events. You have shown them the dark side of the picture, the terror caused by the Mongolians and Moslems, and now it will be well to add the other side, the good things that developed.

Describe vividly to the children how the pilgrims who had migrated east, came to understand many new things there. Agriculture, for example, was at that time very backward in Europe. In the East it was possible for these Western pilgrims to learn a much better way of farming their land. The pilgrims who reached the East and afterward returned to Europe (and many did return), brought with them a skilled knowledge of agricultural methods, which raised the standard of agricultural production considerably. The Europeans owed this to the experience that the pilgrims brought back with them.

You must describe this to the children so graphically that they actually see it there before them — how the wheat and other cereals flourished less before the Crusades, how they were smaller, more sparse, the ears less full, and how after the Crusades they were much fuller. Describe all this in pictures! Then you can also tell how the pilgrims really came to understand industries found in the East at the time, and still unknown in Europe. The West was in many ways more backward than the East. What grew and flourished in such a fine way in the industrial activity of the Italian towns and other places further north, was all due to the Crusades; we also have to thank them for a new artistic impulse. Thus you can call on pictures of the cultural and spiritual progress of that time.

There is something else you can describe to the children: you can say to them, “You see, children, that was when the Europeans came to know the Greeks; they had fallen away from Rome in the first thousand years after Christ, but had remained Christians. All over the West people believed that no one could be a Christian without viewing the Pope as the head of the church.” Now explain to the children how the Crusaders, to their astonishment and edification, learned that there were other Christians who did not acknowledge the Roman Pope. This freeing of the spiritual side of Christianity from the temporal church organization was something very new at the time. This is something you can explain to the children.

Then you can tell them that even among the Moslems, who could scarcely have been called very pleasant denizens of the world, there were also noble, generous, and brave people. And so the pilgrims came to know people who could be brave and generous without being Christians; thus a person could even be good and brave without being a Christian. For the Europeans of that time this was a great lesson that the Crusaders brought with them when they returned to Europe. During their stay in the East they gained many things that they brought back to Europe to further its spiritual progress.

You can then continue, “Just imagine, children, there was a time when the Europeans had no cotton cloth, they did not even have a word for it; they had no muslin — that too is an Eastern word; they could not lie down or laze about on a sofa, for sofas and the word for them were brought back by the Crusaders. They had no mattresses either. Mattress is also an Asian word. The bazaar also belongs to the East, and this suggests immediately an entirely new view of the public display of goods, and it initiated large scale exhibitions of goods. Bazaars (of an Eastern kind) were very common in the East, but there was nothing of the kind in Europe before the Europeans went on their Crusades. Even the word magazine [the word for “storeroom” in German] bound up though it now is with our trade life, was not originally European; the use of great warehouses to meet the growth of trade is something that the Europeans learned from the Asians.

“Just imagine,” you can say to the children, “how restricted life was in Europe; they hadn’t even any warehouses. The word arsenal too has the same origin. But now look; there is something else that the Europeans learned from the East and that is expressed in the word tariff. Until the thirteenth century the European peoples knew very little about tax-paying. But payment of taxes according to a tariff, the payment of all kinds of duties, was not introduced into Europe until the Crusaders learned about it from the Asians.

“Thus you see that a great number of things were changed in Europe due to the Crusades. Not much of what the Crusaders intended to do was realized, but other things were brought about, and transformations of all kinds occurred in Europe as a result of what was learned in the East. And further, this was all connected with what they observed of the Eastern political life. Political life — the state as such — developed much earlier in the East than in Europe. Before the Crusades the forms of government in Europe were much freer than they were afterward. Because of the Crusades it also happened that wide areas were grouped together as political units.”

Always assuming that the children are of the age I indicated, you can now say to them, “You have already learned in your history lessons that in former times the Romans became rulers over many lands. When they were extending their dominions, at the beginning of the Christian era, Europe was very poor and becoming even poorer. What was the cause of this increasing poverty? The people had to hand over their money to others. Central Europe will become poor again today because it must also hand over its money to others. At that time the Europeans had to give up their money to the Asiatics; the bulk of their money went to the borders of the Roman Empire. Due to this, barter became more and more the custom, and this is something that might happen again, sad though it would be, unless people rouse themselves to seek the spirit. Nevertheless, amid this poverty the ascetic, devotional spirit of the Crusades evolved.

“Through the Crusades, therefore, in faraway Asia, Europeans learned to know all kinds of things — industrial production, agriculture, and so on. In this way, they could again produce things that the Asians could buy from them. Money traveled back again. Europe became increasingly rich during the Crusades. This growth of wealth in Europe occurred through the increase in its own productions; that is a further result of the Crusades. The Crusades are indeed migrations of peoples to Asia, and when the Crusaders returned to Europe they brought with them a certain ability. It was due only to this ability and skill that Florence, Italy arose and became what it did, and also due to this, such figures as Dante and others emerged.”

You see how necessary it is to allow impulses of this kind to permeate your history lessons. When it is said today that more should be taught about the history of civilizations, people think they should give dry descriptions of how one thing arises from another. But even in these lower classes, history should be described by a teacher who really lives in the subject, so that through the pictures created for the children, this period of history will live again before them. You can conjure the picture of a poverty-stricken Europe, with acres of poor and sparsely sown crops, where there were no towns — only meager farms in poor condition. Nevertheless, an enthusiasm for the Crusades arises out of this same poor Europe. But then you will have to tell them how the people found this task beyond their powers and they began to quarrel and fall into evil ways, and even when they were back in Europe discord and dissension arose again. The real purpose of the Crusades was not achieved; on the contrary, the ground was prepared for the Moslems. But the Europeans learned many things in the East: how towns — flourishing towns — arise, and in the towns a rich spiritual life and culture; agriculture improved and the fields became more fertile, the industries flourished, and a spiritual life and culture arose.

You will try to present all this to the children in graphic pictures and explain to them that, before the Crusades, people did not lounge on sofas! There was no bourgeois life at that time with sofas in the best parlors and all the rest of it. Try to make all these historical pictures live for the children, and then you will give them a truer kind of history. Show how Europe became so poor that people had to resort to bartering goods, and then it became rich again because of what people learned in the East. This will bring life into your history lessons!

One is often asked these days what history books to read — which historian is best? The reply can only be that, in the end, each one is the best and the worst; it really makes no difference which historical author you choose. Do not read what is written in the lines, but read between the lines. Try to allow yourselves to be inspired so that, through your own intuitive sense, you can learn to know the true course of events. Try to acquire a feeling for how a true history should be written. You will recognize from the style and manner of writing which historian has found the truth and which has not.

You can find many things in Ranke. 4Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886), German historian and founder of the modern school of history. He championed so-called “objective” writing based on source material instead of legend and tradition. But what we are trying to cultivate here is the spirit of truth and reality, and when you read Ranke in the light of this spirit of truth, you find that he is very painstaking but that his descriptions of characters reduce them to mere shadows; you feel as though you could pass through them, because they have no substance — they are not flesh and blood, and you might well say that you don’t want history to be a series of mere phantasms.

One of the teachers recommended Lamprecht. 5Karl Lamprecht (1856–1915) wrote a German history in nineteen volumes.

Rudolf Steiner: Yes, but in him you have the feeling that he does not describe people, but figures of colored cardboard — except that he paints them with the most vivid colors possible. They are not human beings, but merely colored cardboard.

Now Treitschke on the other hand is admittedly biased, but his personalities do really stand on their two feet! 6Heinrich von Treitschke (1834–1896), German historian and publicist. Considered the successor to Ranke as Prussian historian, he advocated authoritarian “power politics” (i.e., German unity through force), favored colonial expansion, and promoted anti-British sentiment in Germany. He places people on their feet, and they are flesh and blood — not cardboard figures like those of Lamprecht, nor are they mere shadowy pictures as with Ranke. Unfortunately Treitschke’s history only covers the nineteenth century.

But, to get a feeling for truly good historical writing, you should read Tacitus. 7Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 56–120; not to be confused with Tacitus, the Roman emperor from A.D. 275 to 276), Roman orator, politician, and historian. His main work was Historiae. When you read Tacitus, everything is absolutely alive. When you study the way Tacitus portrays a certain epoch of history — describing the people as individuals or in groups — and allow all of this to affect your own sense of reality, it exists for you as real as life itself! Beginning with Tacitus, try to discover how to describe other periods as well.

Of course you can’t read what is out of date, otherwise the fiery Rotteck would always be very good. 8Karl von Rotteck (1775–1840) wrote numerous volumes on national and world history. But he is dated, not merely because of the facts, but in his whole outlook; he considers as gospel the political constitution of the Baden of his time, as well as liberalism. He even applies them to Persian, Egyptian, and Greek life, but he always writes with such fire that one cannot help wishing there were many historians like Rotteck today.

If, however, you study the current books on history (with a sharp eye for what is often left out), you will gain the capacity to give children living pictures of the process of human progress from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries. And, for your part, you can omit much that is said in these histories about Frederick Barbarossa, Richard Coeur de Leon, or Frederick II. Much of this is interesting but not particularly significant for real knowledge of history. It is far more important to communicate to the children the great impulses at work in history.


We can continue now to the question of how to treat a class where several boys and girls have developed a foolish kind of adoration for the male or female teacher.

Idolization of this kind is not really unhealthy until the age of twelve to fourteen, when the problem becomes more serious. Before fourteen it is especially important not to take these things too seriously and to remember that they often disappear again very quickly.

Various suggestions made by those present.

RUDOLF STEINER: I would consider that exposing the children to ridicule in front of the class is very much a two-edged sword, because the effect lasts too long, and the child will lose a connection with the class. If you ridicule children it is very difficult for them to regain the proper relationship with the rest of the class. The result is usually that the children succeed in being removed from the school.

Prayer was mentioned, along with other possible ways of helping these children.

RUDOLF STEINER: You are quite right!

It was suggested that one might speak to the child and attempt to divert such affection.

RUDOLF STEINER: The principle of diverting the devotion and capacity for enthusiasm into other channels is proper — except that you will not gain much by talking with such children, because that is exactly what they want. Precisely because this foolish adoration arises much more from feelings — and even passions — than from thinking, it would be extremely difficult to work against it effectively by being with the child frequently. It is certainly true that unhealthy feelings of this kind are due to the qualities of enthusiasm and devotion having taken the wrong path — enthusiasm in the gifted children and devotion in the less gifted. The whole thing is not very important in itself, but it will have repercussions in the way the children participate in the lessons, and this is the more serious aspect. When all of the children are affected by this foolish adoration, it is not so serious and will not last long; it will soon disappear. The class gets ideas that do not materialize; this leads to disappointment, and then the thing dies naturally. In this case it could be very good to tell a humorous story to the whole class. It only becomes detrimental when groups of children yield to this unwholesome idolization.

It became necessary to think this matter over thoroughly, because it can play a role in the entire life of the school. Affectionate attachment is not so bad in itself, but it weakens the children when it becomes unhealthy. The children become listless and lethargic. In some cases it can lead to serious conditions of weakness in the children. It is a very subtle and delicate matter, because the treatment could result in turning the children’s feelings toward the exact opposite — into hatred. In some cases it could be very good to say, “You look too warm. Perhaps you should go outside for five minutes.

In any case, this problem should be handled individually and each child treated individually. You should try anything that common sense tells you may help. There is one thing however that you should be extremely careful about — that such children do not get the idea that you notice their adoration. You really have to acquire the art of making them think you are unaware of it. Even when you take steps to cure them, the children should think you are merely acting normal.

Let’s suppose that several children have this foolish feeling for a man who has four, five, maybe six children of his own. In this case he has the simplest remedy; he can invite the “adoring” children to go for a walk with him and bring his own children along. This would be a very good remedy. But the children should not know why they were invited. You should use concrete things like this.

In a situation like this, it’s most important that you yourself act correctly, not treating those children who idolize you any differently than the others. When you remain unaffected by such foolish behavior, it disappears after awhile. It becomes serious, however, when a certain antipathy replaces adoration. This can be minimized by ignoring it. Don’t let the children know you have noticed anything, because if you call them on it or ridicule them in front of the class, the hatred will be that much greater. If you tell a story it must appear as though you would have told it anyway, otherwise certain antipathy will certainly arise afterward as a result; that can’t be avoided. But when you work with the same class for several years you will be able to restore a normal sympathy over time.

You cannot prevent another consequence, either, because when this foolish adoration assumes a serious form, the children will be somewhat weakened by it. When it is finished, you must help them to get over this weakness. This will indeed be the best therapy that you can apply. You can make use of all the other remedies — sending the children out for five minutes, taking them for walks, and so on, but your attitude must always be to ignore the whole matter in a healthy way. The child will be somewhat weakened, and afterward the teacher will be able to help the child through love and affection. If the matter were to become very serious, the teacher, because of being the object of adoration, could not do much; such a teacher would then have to seek the advice and help of others.

Tomorrow’s subject has to do with actual teaching rather than educational principles as such. Will each of you imagine that several children in your class are not doing very well in one subject or another — for example, arithmetic, languages, natural history, gymnastics, or eurythmy. How, through special treatment of the children’s human capacities, would you try to meet a misfortune of this kind during the early school years? How could you use the other subjects to help you?