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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Education as a Social Problem
GA 296

IV. Education as a Problem Involving the Training of Teachers

15 August 1919, Dornach

From the various matters we have considered here you will have gathered that among the many problems under discussion today that of education is the most important. We had to emphasize that the entire social question contains as its chief factor, education. From what I indicated a week ago about the transformation of education it will have become clear to you that within the whole complex of this subject the training of teachers is the most important auxiliary question. When we consider the character of the epoch that has run its course since the middle of the fifteenth century it becomes evident that during this period there passed through mankind's evolution a wave of materialistic trials. In the present time it is necessary that we work our way out of this materialistic wave and find again the path to the spirit. This path was known to humanity in ancient cultural epochs, but it was followed more or less instinctively, unconsciously. Finally, it was lost in order that men might seek it out of their own impulse, their own freedom. This path must now be sought in its full consciousness.

The transition through which mankind had to pass after the middle of the fifteenth century is what might be called the materialistic test of mankind. If we observe the character of this materialistic period and the development of culture of the last three or four centuries right up to our time, we shall see that this materialistic wave has most intensively and quite particularly taken hold of teacher training. Nothing could have such a lasting effect as the permeation of educational philosophy by materialism. We only need to look at certain details in present-day education to appreciate the great difficulties in the way of progress. Those who today consider themselves well-versed in the problems of education say again and again that all instruction, even in the lowest grades, must be in the form of object lessons. In the teaching of arithmetic, for instance, mechanical aids to calculating are introduced. The greatest value is placed upon having the child see everything first, and then form his own inner concepts about it. To be sure, the urge for such objectivity in education is in many respects fully justified. Nevertheless, it raises the question, what becomes of a child if he only receives object lessons? He becomes psychically dried up; the inner dynamic forces of his soul gradually die out. His whole being unites with the objective surroundings, and what should sprout from his inmost soul is gradually deadened. The way material is presented in much of our education today is connected with this deadening of the soul. People do not realize that one kills the soul, but it really happens. And the consequence is what we experience with people today. How many are problem-laden personalities! How many are unable in their later years to produce out of their own inner resources that which could give them consolation and hope in difficult times and enable them to cope with the vicissitudes of life! We see at present many shattered natures. At important moments we ourselves are doubtful as to the direction we should take.

All this is connected with the deficiencies in our educational system, particularly in teacher training. What then do we have to strive for in order to have the right teacher training in future? The fact that a teacher knows the answers to what is asked in his examinations is a secondary matter, for he is mostly asked questions for which he could prepare himself by looking them up in a handbook. The examiners pay no attention to the general soul-attitude of the teacher, and that is what constantly has to pass from him to his students. There is a great difference between teachers as they enter a classroom. When one steps through the door the students feel a certain soul-relationship with him; when another enters they often feel no such relationship at all, but, on the contrary, they feel a chasm between them and are indifferent to him. This expresses itself in a variety of ways, even to ridiculing and sneering at him. All these nuances frequently lead to ruining any real instruction and education.

The burning question, therefore, is, how can teacher training be transformed in future? It can be transformed in only one way, and that is, that the teacher himself absorb what can come from spiritual science as knowledge of man's true nature. The teacher must be permeated by the reality of man's connection with the supersensible worlds. He must be in the position to see in the growing child evidence that he has descended from the supersensible world through conception and birth, has clothed himself with a body, and wishes to acquire here in the physical world what he cannot acquire in the life between death and a new birth, and in which the teacher has to help.

Every child should stand before the soul of the teacher as a question posed by the supersensible world to the sense world. This question cannot be asked in a definite and comprehensive way in regard to every individual child unless one employs the knowledge that comes from spiritual science concerning the nature of man. In the course of the last three or four centuries we gradually acquired the habit of observing man only in regard to his outer, bodily constitution, physiologically. This concept is detrimental, most of all for the educator. It will, therefore, be necessary above everything else for an anthropology resulting from anthroposophy to become the basis for education in the future. This, however, can only happen if man is considered from the points of view we have frequently touched upon here, that characterize him in many respects as a threefold being. But one must make up one's mind to grasp this three-foldness with penetrating insight. From various aspects I have drawn your attention to the fact that man as he confronts us is, first, a man of nerves and senses; popularly expressed he is a head-man. As a second member we have seen, externally, that part in which the rhythmical processes take place, the chest-man; and thirdly, connected with the entire metabolism is the limb-man, metabolic man. What man is as an active being is externally brought to completion in the physical configuration of these three members of his whole organism:

Head-man, or nerve-sense man;

Chest-man, or rhythmical man;

Limb-man, or metabolic man.

It is important to understand the differences between these three members, but this is very uncomfortable for people today because they love diagrams. If one says that man consists of head-man, chest-man, limb-man, he would like to make a line here at the neck, and what is above it is headman. Likewise, he would like to draw a line in order to limit the chest-man, and so he would have the three members neatly arranged, side by side. Whatever cannot be arranged in such a scheme is just of no interest to modern man.

But this does not correspond to reality. Reality does not make such outlines. To be sure, man above the shoulders is chiefly head-man, nerve-sense man, but he is not only that. The sense of touch and the sense of warmth, for instance, are spread over the whole body, so that the head-system permeates the entire organism. Thus, one can say, the human head is chiefly head. The chest is less head but still somewhat head. The limbs and everything belonging to the metabolic system are still less head, but nevertheless head. One really has to say that the whole human being is head, but only the head is chiefly head. The chest-man is not only in the chest; he is chiefly expressed, of course, in those organs where the rhythms of the heart and breathing are most definitely shown. But breathing also extends into the head; and the blood circulation in its rhythm continues on into the head and limbs.

So, we can say that our way of thinking is inclined to place these things side by side, and in this we see how little our concepts are geared to outer reality. For here things merge; and we have to realize that if we separate head, chest, and metabolic man we must think them together again. We must never think them as separated but always think them together again. A person who wishes only to think things separated resembles a man who wishes only to inhale, never to exhale.

Here you have something that teachers in future will have to do; they must quite specially acquire for themselves this inwardly mobile thinking, this unschematic thinking. For only by doing so can their soul forces approach reality. A person will not come near to reality if he is unable to conceive of approaching it from a larger point of view, as a phenomenon of the age. One has to overcome the tendency to be content with investigating life in its details, a tendency that has been growing in scientific studies. Instead one must see these details in connection with the great questions of life.

One question will become important for the entire evolution of spiritual culture in future, namely, the question of immortality. We must become clear about the way a great part of humanity conceives of immortality, particularly since the time when many have come to a complete denial of it. What lives in most people today who, still on the basis of customary religion, want to be informed about immortality? In these people there lives the urge to know something about what becomes of the soul when it has passed through the portal of death.

If we ask about the interest men take in the question of the eternity of man's essential being, we come to no other answer than this, that the main interest they have is connected with man's concern about what happens to him when he passes through death. Man is conscious of being an ego. In this ego his thinking, feeling, and willing live. The idea that this ego might be annihilated is unbearable to him. Above all then he is interested in the possibility of carrying the ego through death, and in what happens to it afterward. Most religious systems, in speaking about immortality, chiefly bear in mind this same question: What becomes of the human soul when man passes through death?

Now you must feel that the question of immortality, put in this manner, takes on an extraordinarily egotistical character. Basically, it is an egotistical urge that arouses man's interest in knowing what happens to him when he passes through death. If men of the present age would practice more self-knowledge, take counsel with themselves, and not surrender to illusions as they do now, they would realize the strong part egotism plays in the interest they have in knowing something about the destiny of the soul after death.

This kind of feeling has become especially strong in the last three to four centuries when the trials of materialism have come upon us. What has thus taken hold of human souls as a habit of thought and feeling cannot be overcome through abstract theories or doctrines. But must it remain so? Is it necessary that only the egotist in human nature speak when the question of the eternal core of man's being is raised?

When we consider everything connected with this problem we must say: The fact that man's soul-mood has developed as we have just indicated stems from the way religions have neglected to observe man as he is born, as he grows into the world from his first cry, as his soul in such miraculous fashion permeates the body more and more; their neglect to observe how in man there gradually develops that part of him which has lived in the spiritual world before birth. How little do people ask today: When man is born, what is it that continues on from the spiritual world into man as a physical being?

In future primary attention will have to be paid to this. We must learn to listen to the revelation of spirit and soul in the growing child as they existed before birth. We must learn to see in him the continuation of his sojourn in the spiritual world. Then our relationship to the eternal core of man's being will become less and less egotistical. For if we are not interested in what continues in physical life from out the spiritual world, if we are only interested in what continues after death, then we are egotistical. But to behold what continues out of the spiritual into physical existence in a certain way lays the basis for an unegotistical mood of soul.

Egotism does not ask about this continuation because it is certain that man exists, and one is satisfied with that fact. But he is uncertain whether he still exists after death, therefore he would like to have this proved. Egotism urges him on to this. But true knowledge does not accrue to man out of egotism, not even out of the sublimated egotism that is interested in the soul's continuation after death. Can one deny that the religions strongly reckon with such egotism? This must be overcome. He who is able to look into the spiritual world knows that from this conquest not only knowledge will result but an entirely different attitude toward one's human environment. We will confront the growing child with completely different feelings when we are aware that here we have the continuation of what could not tarry any longer in the spiritual world.

From this point of view just consider how the following takes on a different aspect. One could say that man was in the spiritual world before he descended into the physical world. Up there he must no longer have been able to find his goal. The spiritual world must have been unable to give to the soul what it strives for. There the urge must have arisen to descend into the physical world, to clothe oneself with a body in order to search in that world for what no longer could be found in the spiritual world as the time of birth approached.

It is a tremendous deepening of life if we adopt such a point of view in our feelings. Whereas the egotistical point of view makes man more and more abstract, theoretical, and inclines him toward head-thinking, the unegotistical point of view urges him to understand the world with love, to lay hold of it through love. This is one of the elements which must be taken up in teacher training; to look at prenatal man, and not only feel the riddle of death but also the riddle of birth.

Then, however, we must learn to raise anthropology to the higher level of anthroposophy, by acquiring a feeling for the forms that express themselves in three-membered man. I said recently that the head in its spherical form is, so to say, merely placed on top of the rest of the organism. And the chest-man, he appears as if we could take a piece of the head, enlarge it, and we would have the spine. While the head bears its center within itself, the chest-man has its center at a great distance from itself. If you were to imagine this as a large head, this head then would belong to a man lying on his back. Thus, if we were to consider this spine as an imperfect head we would have a man lying horizontally, and a man standing vertically.

If we consider metabolic man, matters become still more complicated, and it is not possible to draw this in two dimensions. In short, the three members of the human organism, observed as to their plastic form, appear very different from one another. The head, we may say, is a totality; the chest-man is not a totality but a fragment; and metabolic man is much more so.

Now why is it that the human head appears self-enclosed? It is because this head, of all the members of man's organism, is to the greatest degree adapted to the physical world. This may appear strange to you because you are accustomed to consider the human head as the noblest member of man. Yet it is true that this head is to the greatest degree adapted to physical existence. It expresses physical existence in the highest degree. Thus, we may say, if we wish to characterize the physical body in its main aspects we must look toward the head. In regard to the head, man is mostly physical body. In regard to the chest organs, the organs of rhythm, man is mostly ether body. In regard to the metabolic organs, he is mostly astral body. The ego has no distinct expression in the physical world as yet.

Here we have arrived at a point of view which is very important to consider. We must say to ourselves, if we look at the human head we see the chief part of the physical body. The head expresses to the highest degree what is manifest in man. In the chest-man the ether body is more active; therefore, physically, the chest of man is less perfect than the head. And metabolic man is still less perfect, because in it the ether body is but little active and the astral body is most active. I have often emphasized that the ego is the baby; as yet it has practically no physical correlate.

So, you see we may also describe man in the following way: He consists of the physical body, characterized mostly by the sphere-form of the head; he consists of the ether body, characterized mostly by the chest section; he consists of the astral body, characterized mostly by metabolic man. We can hardly indicate anything for the ego in physical man. Thus, each of the three members — the nerve-sense system, the rhythmic system, the metabolic system — becomes an image of something standing behind it: The head the image for the physical body; the chest for the ether body; metabolism for the astral body. We must learn to observe this, not in the manner of research clinics where a corpse is investigated, and no attention is paid to the question of whether a piece of tissue belongs to the chest or the head. We must learn to realize that head, chest, and metabolic man have different relationships to the cosmos and express in picture form different principles standing behind them. This will extend the present anthropological mode of observation into the anthropomorphic one. Observed purely physically, chest and head organs have equal value. Whether you dissect the lung or the brain, from the physical aspect both are matter. From the spiritual aspect, however, this is by no means the case. If you dissect the brain you have it quite distinctly before you. If you dissect the chest, let us say the lungs, you have them quite indistinctly before you, because the ether body plays its important role in the chest while man is asleep.

What I have just discussed has its spiritual counter-image. One who has advanced through meditation, through the exercises described in our literature, gradually comes to the point where he really experiences man in his three members. You know that I speak of this threefold membering from a certain point of view in the chapter of my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, where I indicate the Guardian of the Threshold. But one can also bring about a picture of this three-membering through strong concentration upon one's self, by separating head-man, chest-man, and metabolic-man. Then one will notice what it is that makes the head into this head we have. If through inner concentration we withdraw the head from its appendage, the rest of the organism, and have it before us without the influence of the other members, the head is dead; it is no longer alive. It is impossible, clairvoyantly, to separate the head from the rest of the organism without perceiving it as a corpse. With the chest-system this is possible; it remains alive. And if you separate the astral body by separating the metabolic system, it runs away from you. The astral body does not remain in its place, it follows the cosmic movements.

Now imagine you stand before a child with the knowledge I have just developed for you, and you look at him in an unbiased way. You observe his head, how it carries death in itself. You look at the influence of the chest upon the head; it comes alive. You see the child as he starts to walk. You notice that it is the astral body that is active in walking. Now the child becomes something inwardly transparent to you. The head — a corpse; the outspreading life in him when he stands still, is quiet. The moment he begins to walk you notice that it is the astral body that walks. Man can walk because this astral body uses up substances in moving, metabolism is active in a certain way. How can we observe the ego? — for everything now has been exhausted, so to say. You observe the head-man, the life-giving element of the chest-man, the walking. What remains by which we might observe the ego externally? I have already stated that the ego hardly has an external correlate. You can see the ego only if you observe a child in his increasing growth. At one year he is very little; at two he is bigger, and so on. As you connect your impressions of him year after year, then join in your mind what he is in the successive years, you see the ego physically. You never see the ego in a child if you merely confront him, but only when you see him grow. If men would not surrender to illusions but see reality they would be aware of the fact that when they meet a person they cannot physically perceive his ego, only when they observe him in the various periods of his life. If you meet a man again after twenty years you will perceive his ego vividly in the change that has taken place in him; especially if twenty years ago you saw him as a child.

Now I beg you not to ponder just theoretically what I have said. I ask you to enliven your thoughts and consider this when you observe man: Head — corpse; chest — vitalization; the astral body in walking; the ego through growing. Thus, the whole man comes alive who previously confronted you like a wax doll. For what is it that we ordinarily see of man with our physical eyes and our intellect? A wax doll! It comes alive if you add what I have just described.

In order to do this, you need to have your perception permeated by what spiritual science can pour into your feelings, into your relationship to the world. A walking child discloses to you the astral body. The gesture of his walking — every child walks differently — stems from the configuration of his astral body. Growth expresses something of the ego.

Here karma works strongly in man. As an example, somewhat removed from our present age, take Johann Gottlieb Fichte. I have characterized him for you from various aspects, as a great philosopher, as a Bolshevist, and so on. Now let us look at him from another point of view, imagining him as he passed us by on the street and we watched him as he went. We would see a man, stocky, not very tall. What does the manner in which he has grown, disclose? He is stunted. He puts his feet, heels first, firmly on the ground. The whole Fichte-ego expresses itself in this. Not a detail of the man do we miss when we observe him so — his growth stunted by hunger in his youth, stocky, putting his heels down firmly. We could hear the manner of his speech by observing him in this way from behind.

You see, a spiritual element can enter into the externalities of life, but this does not occur unless men change their attitude. For people today, such observation of their fellowmen might be an evil indiscretion, and it would not be very desirable if this were to spread. People have been so influenced by ever-growing materialism that they, for instance, refrain from opening letters that do not belong to them only because it is prohibited; otherwise they would do it. With such an attitude, things cannot change. But the more we grow toward the future the more must we learn to take in spiritually what surrounds us in the sense world. The start must be made with the pedagogical activity of the teacher in regard to the growing child. Physiognomic pedagogy; the will to solve the greatest riddle, MAN, in every single individual, through education.

Now you can feel how strong is the test for mankind in our times. What I have discussed here really presses forward toward individualization, toward the consideration of every human being as an entity in himself. As a great ideal the thought must hover before us that no one person duplicates another; every single individual is a being in himself. Unless we learn to acknowledge that everyone is an entity in himself mankind will not attain its goal on earth. But how far removed we are today from the attitude that strives for this goal! We level human beings down. We do not test them in regard to their individual qualities. Hermann Bahr, of whom I have often spoken to you, disclosed once how the education of our times tends to do away with individualization. He participated in the social life of the 1890's in Berlin, and one evening at a dinner party he was seated of course with one lady at his right, another at his left. The next evening he sat again between two ladies, but only from the place cards could he gather that they were two different ladies. He did not look at them very attentively because, after all, the lady of yesterday and the lady of today did not look any different. What he saw in them was exactly the same. The culture of society, and especially of industry, makes every human being appear the same, externally, not permitting the individuality to emerge. Thus, present-day man strives for leveling, whereas the inmost goal of man must be his striving for individualization. We cover up individuality, whereas it is most important to seek it.

In his instruction the teacher must begin to direct his insight toward the individuality. Teacher training has to be permeated by an attitude which strives to find the individuality in men. This can only come about through an enlivening of our thoughts about man as I have described it. We must really become conscious of the fact that it is not a mechanism that moves one forward, but the astral body; it pulls the physical body along. Compare what thus can arise in your souls as an inwardly enlivened and mobile image of the whole human being, with what ordinary science offers today — a homunculus, a veritable homunculus! Science says nothing about man, it preaches the homunculus. The real human being above everything else must come into pedagogy, for now he is completely outside of it.

The question of education is a question of teacher training, and as long as this fact is not recognized nothing fruitful can come into education. You see, from a higher point of view things so belong together that one can make a true connection between them. Today one strives to develop man's activities as subjects side by side. A student learns anthropology, he learns about religion; the subjects have nothing to do with each other. In fact, as you have seen, what one observes about man borders on the question of immortality, of the eternal essence of human nature. We had to link this question to one's immediate perception of man. It is this mobility of soul experience which must enter education. Then, inner faculties quite different from those developed today in teacher training schools will come into being. This is of great importance.

Today I wished to put before you the fact that the science of the spirit must permeate everything, and that without it the great social problems of the present time cannot be solved.