The Spirit of the Waldorf School
IV. Supersensible Knowledge and Social Pedagogical Life
24 September 1919, Stuttgart
In these serious times, we can look at what people who have considered the gravity of the situation think is necessary. We can see what new institutions they imagine are needed, what changes in our untenable conditions are necessary. If we do this, we will see people with the goodwill to dedicate themselves to new institutions, to cooperate in changing what seems to need change in one way or another. If we accept the responsibility for our all-too-obvious social circumstances, then we cannot get around the fact that, although there is so much goodwill and there are so many wonderful ideas, they collapse immediately or, in any event, are not carried out to the extent so necessary today.
Spiritual science seeks, through anthroposophical understanding, to open the path to supersensible knowledge for modern humanity. It has tried for decades to address the conspicuous problems of modern civilization, namely the flagging goodwill and the loss of the wonderful ideas that live in this goodwill. The spiritual science I have presented here for years has attempted to point out exactly what is so necessary in the present, and what so many modern people welcome with such great sympathy or reject with such great antipathy. It tries to point out, on the one hand, what has made conventional science so great, and, on the other hand, as we will discuss today, what this science lacks the means to understand, namely, human will and human feeling.
We live in a time when it is no longer possible for people simply to yield to their instinctive will impulses. The necessity to increasingly transform the old instinctive life into a fully conscious life is especially characteristic of our time, yet so many prejudices arise today when it comes to admitting this. That people must increasingly change the old instinctive motives of human nature into conscious motives is a historical fact, the most important historical fact. It is this fact that has led to the present crisis.
To this end, scientific advances over the last three or four centuries have done much for modern civilization. But today, anyone who contemplates the institutions that arise out of the most vital contemporary needs must come to feel the insufficiencies of modern times that come from the modern scientific orientation and way of thinking. Just now in this city a limited attempt is being made to solve a social problem, a social problem that is more important than most people want to believe. Perhaps this evening we can point out the difficulties of solving such a specific problem.
Through the insight into anthroposophical spiritual science that he has often demonstrated throughout the years, our friend Emil Molt has succeeded in founding the Free Waldorf School upon social thinking appropriate to our times. This school is intended for children of the workers at the WaldorfAstoria factory and for a few others who will shortly be included. The imprint of modern society is visible in the manner of the school’s creation and in its connection with an industrial firm. This school must take into account the most practical needs of the people who entrust it with the education of their children. We could say that it is symbolic that this school was created in connection, in direct connection, with the industrialism that gives rise to the most important social questions of our time.
In founding the school, the faculty (for whom I held an introductory seminar lasting several weeks) considered the social pedagogical tasks relevant to modern culture. More than we are aware, our picture of modern civilization (as I already mentioned) results from the way our imagination has developed out of our understanding of physical nature. As I have emphasized for decades, spiritual science fully recognizes the value and meaning of the modern scientific way of thinking; in fact, spiritual science values conventional science more highly than that science values itself. Nevertheless, because conventional science so colors our picture of modern civilization, spiritual science must go beyond it. I have also emphasized that the means used by spiritual science to come to its understanding of the world differ from those of conventional science. I have repeatedly explained how we can really enter into the supersensible world through the path of spiritual science, how, through the development of inner capacities that otherwise only sleep in human nature, the way opens for us to see into the spiritual world in which we live. We can see into the spiritual world just as we can recognize the laws of the physical world through our senses, through reason, through associated events. I have explained how we, by awakening dormant capabilities, can look into the spiritual world that always surrounds us, but is unknown to us because the necessary sense organs remain undeveloped in ordinary life.
Today I want to discuss the capacities that spiritual science uses to see into the supersensible world — healthy, quite normal capacities of human nature. Those who want a deeper insight into how spiritual science works need not concern themselves with the accusations of our critics that it is based upon the use of unwholesome powers. It is quite simple to show the source of Anthroposophy and its path to the supersensible world.
If you look at my book How 7o Know Higher Worlds, you will see that I describe those stages of supersensible knowledge that people can attain through the development of certain capacities sleeping within them: 1) the Imaginative stage of knowledge, 2) the stage of Inspiration and 3) the stage of true Intuition. Now, where does spiritual science find the forces involved in such things as Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition? We can show that certain capacities forming the basis of human nature are at work during childhood. Later in life, when people have reached their normal size, when growth is complete, in a sense these forces lie unused. This spring I discussed the various stages of child development. 1Translators’ note: Lectures of 5/11/19, 5/18/19, 6/1/19, contained in A Social Basis for Primary and Secondary Education (GA 192), Waldorf Institute, Adelphi University, New York, 1975. I remarked that during the first period of life, people are primarily imitative beings. They instinctively learn everything that people around them do, and they imitate this in their movements, sounds, speech, even in their thoughts. This imitative behavior continues until approximately the change of teeth, until approximately seven years of age. Then those who can more exactly observe human nature begin to see another activity. They can observe the need in human nature, beginning at six or seven years of age and continuing until sexual maturity, to rely upon people with experience, upon those adults in whom children can devotedly believe. During this period, children need to act under the influence of honored authorities. The self-reliance that is based in people’s confidence in their power of judgment, the self-reliance that enables them to involve themselves in all sorts of things in life, first appears with sexual maturity at the age of fourteen and continues to develop until the age of twenty or twenty-one.
These are three quite distinct periods of human youth. Only people who have lost healthy judgment due to all kinds of prejudices can overlook what develops in the child, what causes physical development until the age of seven when bodily development is relatively complete — the form continues to grow but the general structure is complete. Only such people can overlook how those forces that act formatively until seven years of age subsequently work more inwardly, particularly as inner growth. They act as living forces, making children stronger until fourteen years of age. They work between the ages of fourteen and twenty to strengthen those organs directed toward the environment, those organs that are capable of immersing themselves in their surroundings. In this time those inner spiritual forces act upon the human physical body. Inner spiritual forces act in quite differing ways upon the human body until seven, then fourteen, then twenty-one years of age. Forces that for an unprejudiced observer are quite clearly inner spiritual forces work on human organs to master them and develop them further.
These forces really exist. The forces that in a certain sense cause the crystallization of the second set of teeth out of human nature, a meaningful conclusion to the stage of human development ending at age seven, really exist. The forces that work mysteriously on that part of human beings that is connected with growth and the unfolding of human nature until age fourteen really exist. These forces are real; they are active. But after the completion of physical development (around the age of twenty), where are these inner spiritual forces that have acted upon our physical form? They still exist; they are still there. These inner forces fall asleep, just as the forces we use in our everyday life, our everyday work from waking to sleeping, fall asleep and become dormant while we sleep. The forces of human nature that blazed during childhood and youth, the forces that fired the developmental changes that transform children into adults, and everything connected with these changes, fall asleep around the age of twenty. Those who look at the whole human being know that at the very moment when human beings reach this point, the forces that acted in the child, in the youth, step back into the innermost part of human nature. These forces go to sleep.
We can awaken the forces that have brought forth the processes normally observed between the ages of fourteen and twenty, through which we slowly gain an understanding of our surroundings, through which those organs develop that can form only after puberty. These organs are not one-sidedly oriented toward sexual love, but are formed such that we can deepen our love of all humanity. This loving absorption in all humanity gives us true understanding of the world. The forces we use until the age of twenty-one for growing and forming the inner organs become inflexible, just critical intellect. A certain inner spiritual force stops working formatively. It becomes an imaginary inner force, a power of the soul, no longer so strong as it was earlier when it had to guide human formation. If we can find it sleeping in human nature, this power that once was a formative force but after the age of twenty no longer is, if we develop it so it exists with the same strength as before, then, acting now through love, it becomes Imaginative power. People attain a capacity to see the world not only through abstract concepts, but in pictures that are alive, just as dreams are alive, and that represent reality just as our abstract concepts do. The same force that previously acted upon the healthy developing human to form the capacity to love, can enable us to see such pictures of the world and to reach the first stage of supersensible knowledge. We can awaken this human capacity and plunge it deeper into our surroundings than normal thinking and normal sensing can go.
Then we can go further, since the forces that cause the important formative changes from approximately seven years of age, from the change of teeth, until sexual maturity, are also sleeping in us. These forces sleep deeper under the surface of normal soul life than the forces I just characterized as Imaginative. When we reawaken these idle formative capacities, when we call these spiritual powers out of their sleep, they become the forces of Inspiration. These teach us that Imaginative pictures are filled with spiritual content, that these pictures, which appear to be dreams but really are not, reflect a spiritual reality that exists in our surroundings, outside ourselves.
We can go even deeper, into the strongest forces sleeping in human nature, those that have worked upon human formation from birth until the change of teeth. These formative forces that were active in the first years of life have withdrawn themselves most deeply from external life. If we bring them forth again in later life and imbue them with Imagination and Inspiration, we will then have the Intuitive powers of supersensible knowledge. These are the powers that enable us to delve into the reality of the spiritual world in the same way that we can delve into the physical world through the senses and the will usually associated with the body.
In three stages, through Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, we gain access to the supersensible world. These powers do not employ anything abnormal, but actually are the most normal of all things, namely the forces of healthy human development from birth until the early twenties. These forces then lie fallow, but we can bring them forth again. When they are no longer occupied with forming us, we can use them to open up the spiritual world.
I have now given you some idea of the source of those forces that open the way for spiritual science to enter the supersensible world. Those who seriously wish to follow this path will know how to differentiate what it can properly give from what simple conventional science, simple scientific understanding, can offer.
Why do I continually emphasize modern scientific understanding? It would not be so necessary to emphasize this scientific understanding and the attitude that derives from it, if modern popular thinking, including social thinking and social policies, were not so completely patterned after it. To be sure, we have here something that many people seldom consider. However, we must consider it if we wish to find something that will really lead to healing our ailing social conditions. We must be clear that scientific thinking so completely permeates all human thinking that when people begin to consider something else, they automatically revert to the modern scientific attitude and manner of thinking.
What is, in fact, the social political thinking of the second half of the nineteenth century right up to the present? What is it that fundamentally, even now, is presented to us as socialist theory? It is a social thinking patterned after mechanistic scientific thinking. Why does this social thinking appear to be so unfruitful, as I have often described it in these lectures? Because this social thinking, take for example the Marxist English Socialist thinking, is infested through and through with a conventional scientific attitude, an attitude that when used in this area simply cannot accomplish anything.
Now look at the most important characteristic of what I have referred to today as supersensible understanding in the sense of spiritual science. The most important characteristic is that this supersensible understanding uses those forces closely connected with what is human. What forces more closely connected with human nature could we possibly use than those that form human nature itself? How could we possibly use anything more human to achieve an ideal, to achieve anything we want to accomplish? How could we use forces for cognition more human than those that we can bring out of hiding the moment they are no longer needed to form human nature? There is a way of understanding in contrast to the modern scientific attitude and socio-political way of thinking, a life of abstract concepts connected only with the structure and function of the human head. This way of understanding is through those forces that people still retain after their formation is complete at the age of twenty or so. This way of understanding uses forces allowed to sleep, but which are more real because they work on human formation. What we can obtain from scientific concepts and happily use in the social sciences, and wish to use in social pedagogical tasks — these concepts and ideas, in fact, everything that we can obtain in this way for our souls, are only a reflection of reality in comparison to the content of supersensible knowledge. Every concept we can gain when our reason combines sense impressions and observations, everything that we know from our will impulses — all this is actually only a shadow, a reflection, in contrast to what is so tightly enmeshed with human growth and activity and existence as the forces that form us. Thus, the abstract character (the character of being “independent of human nature”) arises out of the scientific way of thinking that does not require people to use their will. We are proud of obtaining such knowledge that we can refer to as scientific and can call “objective.”
Concerning knowledge, spiritual science does not attempt to throw what is human out, but rather to draw it into the world. It attempts to come to its knowledge through just those forces that form people. We can observe that scientific concepts, and socio-political concepts patterned after the same methods, satisfy human intellectual curiosity. They satisfy the intellect, but clearly do not have the power to enliven, to infuse, to ignite human will. Were this scientific viewpoint and its onesidedness to become increasingly stronger and continually more dominant, in the end human willpower would completely atrophy. Nowadays we must motivate human willpower, atrophying under the influence of the scientific mentality, with something that can ignite it. This ability to stimulate willpower arises from people themselves because it can be drawn out of human nature as spiritual scientific knowledge.
This is what spiritual science wants to do, and what spiritual science, as we mean it here, can do. It wants to effect an understanding that is not simply there for the intellect alone, but flows into the feeling and the will.
Today, particularly in education, people repeatedly insist that we should not teach children knowledge simply for the sake of knowledge, that we should also teach them to be capable, to be able to work; we should develop the will. Here we have one of those points where the goodwill of our contemporaries becomes evident. Certainly much goodwill exists when people today say that we should not simply have “knowledge schools,” but schools that develop a capacity to work, schools that develop capabilities. But goodwill alone does not suffice. We need the capacity to illuminate this goodwill, to brighten it with true insight. We do not achieve this insight, however, by simply saying that we should create “schools of capabilities” instead of “schools of knowledge.” The core of this insight is that now we must move more and more from the instinctive to the conscious. It is necessary not only to affect the will instinctively, not only that the teacher instinctively affect the pupil. The important thing is that concepts, ideas and imagination be allowed to flow from the teacher to the child. However, these must be concepts that are not simply concepts in thought, but concepts that can stimulate the will, that can satisfy the whole person. We are not concerned that people often stress that only the will should be developed, or only the feeling. No, what we are concerned with is that we gain the possibility of working to obtain such an insight, such concepts that have the power in themselves to go into the will, to develop the inner fire of the will. This is what we need today to heal the present mentality, to properly use the will in the second social pedagogical area.
The first social pedagogical area is what the recently founded Waldorf School is intended to serve, namely that area encompassing the elementary grades. 2Translators’ note: In the Germany of 1919, many children finished formal schooling with the eighth grade and then entered an apprenticeship. Elementary education should prepare people for true social thinking today and in the near future. We shall see how much this is a question of spiritual science, a question of the path into supersensible worlds.
The other aspect of the social pedagogical question is to prepare people to learn from life. We do not fare well in life if we view it as a rigid and foreign object. We can place ourselves correctly in life only when every moment, every day, every week, every year becomes a source of learning for our further development. Regardless of how far we go in our schooling, we will have accomplished the most if, through this schooling, we have learned how to learn from life. If we find the proper way to place ourselves in relationship to everyone we meet, then they will become for us a source of further development through everything they are and through everything they consciously and unconsciously give us. In everything that we do, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, we experience ourselves such that everything we experience in our surroundings becomes a source of continuing further development. Life is a school for every healthy person.
However, neither of these social pedagogical realms, learning in school or learning from life, can meet the needs of society now and in the near future if they are not strengthened by what spiritual science can provide.
Today, people think we should educate children as “individuals.” We also find other fundamental thoughts represented in modern education. With one exception, I do not wish to go into the details of modern pedagogy. However, I do wish to mention that this pedagogy contains certain standards that are made clear to those who teach. The teachers are to educate according to these standards. Much goodwill lives in these standards also. People have done an exceptional amount of well-meant thinking in forming this pedagogy. However, what is necessary now and in the near future is a /iving pedagogy. What we need is a living pedagogy, derived from supersensible human understanding, that replaces an abstract pedagogy that sets up standards for teaching children.
This supersensible perception of human beings does not at all ignore sense-perceptible understanding — it takes it fully into account. The sense-perceptible view of human beings, with all its understanding of anatomy, physiology, and so forth, treats people as an abstraction. Supersensible perception adds the spirit-soul element, while at the same time taking sense-perceptible knowledge fully into account. It observes the whole person, with emphasis upon the development of the whole person. It can, therefore, concentrate upon the developing whole person at the time when the parents entrust him or her to the elementary school at about the age of seven. What developed in the child as a result of imitation requires the support of authority during this life-forming period. Only when we are able to look at people in such a way, can we see what truly lives in them. In that we observe such a change, we can see what is unfolding in people. If you notice in the right way, with sensitivity, what wants to develop in people at six or seven years of age, and if you have not become a teacher, but are a teacher, then an awareness for this most wonderful riddle awakens through the innermost living forces without the necessity of pedagogical standards — the developing person continuously offers him- or herself to your soul’s eye.
Here lies something that a true social pedagogical reformation, which must be the basis of a modern unified elementary school, must really take into account. Here we must say that it is essentially unimportant whether new teachers have really learned what is often taught as pedagogy, as special methods. What is important for future teachers is that, through their training, they have become capable of looking into the developing person. What is important is that they have acquired the skills that they can acquire through a thorough, real understanding of human beings. What is important is that they have become capable in the presence of each child and in each moment to newly form and re-form the educational task.
For the true teacher, pedagogy must be something living, something new at each moment. Everything that teachers carry in their souls as memories robs them of their originality. New insights into the nature of developing humans that allow the pedagogy to change and be alive in those people who teach must replace pedagogical norms. We could even say that the best pedagogy (stated radically) is one that the teacher continually forgets and that is continually reignited each time the teacher is in the presence of the children and sees in them the living powers of developing human nature. When an allencompassing interest in the secrets of the world, in the enigma of the world and in world views accompanies such an attitude, then within the teachers will live what enables them to give that part of themselves that should enter the being of the children.
How can the teacher’s inner nature become so alive in the way I have just described it? Certainly no longer through a way of thinking derived from science, but only when the teacher’s will is ignited through a science drawn from forces connected with human nature. The teachers who have absorbed what spiritual science knows about the supersensible nature of human beings, who have inwardly enlivened this, who in a living fashion carry within themselves a science founded upon those forces through which the child is to be educated — such teachers can make this knowledge into a living inner fire for teaching. The basis of such a pedagogical art is supersensible knowledge, that is, the same forces that from day to day, from week to week, from year to year bring about the growth and development of the child.
Think about it for a moment. Consider how close the sources of pedagogical art are to what grows in the child when supersensible knowledge controls and directs what the teacher brings to the child! We should not search for new abstract ideas nor clever new rules in what we refer to as social pedagogical effectiveness. What we should search for is that the living should replace the dead, the concrete should replace the abstract.
To demand such things today is much more necessary than people often imagine. It is remarkable that people cannot imagine that there is supersensible knowledge that acts upon sensible knowledge, that acts upon life and teaching, upon know-how and capabilities. Already people have begun to misunderstand the core of the Waldorf School, and thus they slander, often unconsciously, what we intend with the Waldorf School. People think the Waldorf School must be some kind of parochial school because those who stand at its cradle begin with spiritual science. They think that it is a school that teaches Anthroposophy to the children. They do not have any idea how deeply stuck they are in old ideas when they assume this, whether it be with a positive or negative attitude. We have absolutely no need to assert Anthroposophy, to assert it as a point of view by developing anthroposophical concepts and seeing to it that children learn these as they previously learned religion. That is not at all our task. We will continue with what we have already stated, namely that the Protestant and Catholic religion teachers shall teach the Protestant and Catholic religions. We will not set any obstacles in the way of the desire to give this religious instruction. We will keep our promises in this regard. We do not seek in any way to bring any new philosophical opinions into the school. We seek something else. Our viewpoint will result from spiritual science because it comes from human nature. We will pay attention to the way it develops human know-how, human capabilities, the way it directly flows into the human will. Our task lies in our pedagogical activities: how we act in a school, how we teach, how we plan the lesson and its goals, which teaching methods to use, how knowledge and philosophy affect the skill and capability of the teacher. These are our tasks.
For this reason, we will have to correct much that (out of goodwill, but without the necessary insight) people consider to be the goals and content of modern educational activity. For instance, people often say that we should emphasize visual aids. 3Translators’ note: The reader should be aware that the “visual aids” and “illustrative materials” meant here are to be understood as actual materials in the classroom, as distinct from a verbal or written description of the object of discussion. Prior to this time illustrative material was rarely used in the classroom, and it was a somewhat controversial innovation in 1919. Yes, certainly, within boundaries, it is good to use illustrative material, that is, to teach children about things that we show them directly. But, we must not allow these materials to lead to a slide into the banality and triviality of superficial consideration. People always want to stoop to the level of the child, and then all kinds of trivialities result, like those we find when we read visual aid guides. We concerned ourselves with such things while forming the Waldorf School. There we could see how trivial the so-called visual aids are that are derived completely out of the materialistic attitude of our time. We could see how forced instruction is when the teacher stoops to the child’s level of understanding, when the teacher is not to teach the child anything other than what the child can easily comprehend.
Now, if you only teach children what they can understand, then you neglect what can be the most beautiful thing in human life. If you always want to stoop to the level of what the children can already comprehend, then you do not know what it means later in life, perhaps at the age of thirty or thirty-five, to look back upon what you were taught in school. You do not understand what it means to have been taught something that you did not fully comprehend because you were not yet mature enough. But it comes up again. Now you notice that you are more mature, because you now understand it. Such a re-living of what has been taught forms the real connection between the time in school and the whole rest of life. It is immensely valuable to hear much in school that we cannot fully comprehend until we re-experience it later in life. We rob the children of this possibility when, with banal instruction, we stoop to the level of the child’s understanding.
What then is the task of the teacher who wants to bring the children something they can absorb, but perhaps will understand only after many decades? Teachers must have the necessary inner life forces so that through their personality, through what they put into the teaching, they can give the children something they cannot yet fully understand. A relationship exists between the teacher and the children through which the teacher can bring things to the children. Things can be brought to the children through the way in which they live in the teacher, because the children feel the desire to experience the world that is aglow within the teacher. That is why the children can grasp them. It is tremendously important that the teachers become leaders in this way, that through the fire that lives in them, they become a wellspring for what the children will carry in their own lives. Compare this with how the banal instruction children receive dims with time.
There are many other examples to show that pedagogy must be something living, something stirred up in the teachers out of an understanding of human beings obtained through human capacities. More than anyone else, the teacher needs an understanding of humanity based upon a supersensible view of human beings. If, in teaching, we would use what comes from a supersensible world view and understanding of humanity, we could immediately remove all abstractions so that the teaching would come from the practical.
There are people today who think that they are practical, who think that they stand in practical life, but it is their “practicality,” which is really only routine, that caused the terrible misery and misfortune that resulted in the war, and in which we still find ourselves today. Instead of obtaining an insight into what supersensible knowledge could achieve for education, these people say supersensible knowledge has nothing to do with the true practicalities of life. They have conjured up these miserable times because they have always said this, because, in reproachable carelessness, they have thrown out the true supersensible content of practical life. We have scarcely caught our breath, and now these people want to continue this stupid practice by kicking to death every truly earnest desire for improvement. If those people who absolutely do not want to see what is necessary for our time are again victorious, then in a short time we will again have the same misery that started in 1914. Those people who wish to crush everything supersensible in the activities they so slander, which are in reality so practical, are exactly those people who have led us into this misery. That is what we need to see clearly today.
I would not have spoken these serious words had not the terrible croakings of doom again arisen where we want to create something quite practical, like the Waldorf School. We should have learned something from the terrible events of the last four to five years, and we should progress. We must keep a sharp eye on those who do not want to progress, who want to begin again where they left off in 1914. We need not worry that they will keep a sharp eye on us — that they will do for sure. But, we must also keep a sharp eye on them. All people must unite who have a sense that something must happen today that, on the one hand, really originates out of the true spirit, and, on the other hand, is capable of affecting serious practical life.
For such very practical reasons, what is often an empty slogan, particularly concerning pedagogical questions, must for once be handled with objective seriousness. We must take into account, for instance (we paid particular attention to such things in the seminar for the Waldorf School faculty), that around nine years of age something important ends and something new begins with children. Until the age of nine, children are strongly entwined with their surroundings. The imitative principle is still enmeshed in the authoritative principle. The possibility of developing the feeling of self first begins at the age of nine, so that, for instance, scientific facts, nature studies of the plant and animal world, can be brought to the child. At the same time, the stage between seven and nine years of age is such that we do well not to bring the children anything that is taught out of convention, that is not basic and does not obviously flow out of human nature.
We must gradually lead children into reading and writing. Anyone can see that the letters we have today are something conventional. (With Egyptian hieroglyphics, it was different.) That means we must teach writing starting from drawing. At first we do not pay any attention to the shapes of the letters, but draw forms. We must begin basic drawing and painting, along with music, in the lowest grades. We must derive the whole education from the child’s artistic capabilities. The children’s artistic capabilities touch their entire being. They touch the child’s will and feeling, and then, through will and feeling, the intellect. We then go on. We continue with drawing and painting to motivate the will through artistic instruction. We go on to writing and develop letters out of the drawn forms. Only then comes reading — it is even more intellectual than writing. We develop reading out of writing. I am giving these details so you can see that spiritual science is not off in the clouds but enters into all details of practical instruction. A living understanding of humanity, which must replace an abstract pedagogy, leads into all the details, into the ways in which we teach mathematics, writing, and languages.
So much for the special area of instructional pedagogy.
The social aspect of pedagogy encompasses all of practical living. After we have finished school, we go out into “real life,” but our conventional education creates a gulf between us and life. Thus we see that there is something instinctive in the great questions of humanity. Although these questions address the needs of life, there is no insight for solving them.
I would like to take note of another question that has concerned modern civilization for some time, the so-called feminist question, namely, what forms the gulf between men and women. People are correct in trying to close this gap, but they cannot close it when they do not really understand what is common between men and women. If they only pay attention to what they can learn about human beings in the physical world and from the modern scientific way of thinking, the difference between men and women remains extreme. We will first bridge the abyss between men and women when we bring the differences in perception and ways of working in the world into balance. We will attain this balance through what we can arrive at through the knowledge, will and feeling that exist in the forces that form the basis of human nature. What men do not have, but women do, gives men a certain inclination; and what women do not have, but men do, gives women a certain inclination. During the time when people are physically female, they are spiritually male, and during the time they are physically male, they are spiritually female. If what can come into our society from spiritual science would permeate our culture, then the ground would be prepared for such things as the so-called feminist question. We can apply this to numerous questions, but I only want to remark about one other.
People cry out for organization. It is obvious that they cry out for it since the complicated relationships of modern social life require organization. I have said much in my lectures about the nature of such structure. However, people think that we need only to organize things according to current scientific principles, according to modern socio-political thinking, without spiritual science. Lenin and Trotsky organize, Lunatscharsky organizes according to these principles. They have placed economic life into a mechanistic form, and they want to do the same with spiritual life. Neither the stories of various people who judge out of their impressions, nor what journalists and other people who have recently been in Russia tell, is important. What we can use are Lenin’s writings. They show anyone with insight what to expect: the organizational death of everything that is a true source of humanity, of what lies in the individual human being and in human nature. No greater foe of true human progress exists than what is now happening in the East.
Why is this? Because they absolutely ignore what can come from spiritual development, namely true social pedagogical life forces. We must organize, but we must be conscious that although we want to organize, people must live in this organization. People must live in this organization and have the opportunity to teach what the inner source of human nature is, what is hidden after people have grown, what we can again bring out of the sleeping powers of their human nature. Not everyone needs to be a clairvoyant and experience what can be experienced through the awakened powers of human nature, but everyone can be interested in what humanity can achieve through these living human forces.
When people take interest in such things, then a new capability awakens in them. This is a capability we can best characterize when we bring to mind an area where people already have somewhat weakened sensibilities. This capability can be likened to what a language is to all the people connected by it. To discover the spirit living in the language, those who speak one language must first understand the genius, the wonderful artistic structure of the language, even though they already speak it. They need to understand the spirit emanating from the language that permeates the people and forms the language into a unified whole. In that we learn to speak, we absorb, not consciously, but instinctively and unconsciously, with every word and with every connotation, something that reveals to us the genius of the language in a mysterious way. Social life is something that lives in many instincts. Language has always been one of the most wonderful social instruments. Only, in modern times, as we go from East to West, language has become increasingly abstract. People feel less and less what the sounds of the language say to the heart and to the head, and particularly the connections that the language forms to speak to the heart and to the head. People feel less and less the mysterious way in which the genius of the language makes impressions upon them.
Many other things that touch people as does the genius of language will become effective if a general human development becomes more widespread through the activity of the elementary school — acting not as a parochial school, but through rationally formed instruction. Then when people meet one another, they can unite through speech. Every conversation, every relationship to another person, becomes a source for the further development of our soul. What we do in the world that affects other people becomes a source of our own further development. We can first develop the elements of communication between people if we meet other people with those feelings aroused in us. We can develop this communication if we do not follow abstract modern science, but take up the living fire within us. This living fire can come to us from a science that is connected to what in human nature allows people to grow until twenty years of age, and from then on can lead to a development of supersensible knowledge.The school of life can follow formal schooling when those forces that make us students of life are ignited. We will meet people in one or another abstract organization, in a political or in an economic organization. We will feel a bond, and see that we are connected with them in a very special way. Alongside those connections formed out of external needs, intimate mysterious connections between one soul and another can form in the future if the results of true spiritual development live in human souls. Human experience will be that you have lived through something with a person in a previous earthly life, and now you meet again. Inner ties lying deep in our souls will form spiritual-soul connections out of external life in the cold, sober organizations that we do not really need.
Even though I have described the three forms of the social organism since spring, the spiritual sphere, the rights-political sphere and the economic sphere, I must emphasize that these are three external forms. Inside these three external forms will live the intimate inner connections forged from one human soul to another. People will recognize each other more clearly than they do today. If, in place of antisocial desires, those social motives that are the basis of true social life are present, then the modern scientific way of thinking can at last become fully useful for humanity. Through this scientific way of thinking we will be able to properly master the external lifeless nature that appears as technology and other things. The ethical, moral forces that can be kindled by the spiritual will derived from spiritual science will take care that the results of technology are useful to human beings. An inner structure that carries people and forms human life will come into the external forms of the social organism. Without this inner structure we cannot develop a fruitful external social form.
That is what I wanted to mention to you today, that spiritual science as we think of it here is not in any way abstract, is not something floating in the clouds, is not, as some people claim, metaphysical. It is something that streams directly into human will and makes people more adept and more capable of living. This remains unrecognized by those who refuse to see the present need for our spiritual science. They will also refuse to see that something like the Waldorf School has been formed, not arbitrarily, but out of truly practical life.
Can we expect much from those people setting the tone today? This spring and summer I repeatedly mentioned in my social lectures (I only mention this as characteristic of much of the modern intellectual attitude) that among the issues of the working class is that, in the future, work must not be a commodity. In a neighboring city I spoke about the “commodity character” of work. I think that people need only the tiniest bit of common sense to understand the general intent in the words “commodity character.” This morning I received a newspaper published in that neighboring city. The lead editorial closes with the sentence, “I am confused by the sentence that ‘work must be freed from its true character’” 4Translator’s note: Steiner used the German word Warencharakter (commodity character); the editor understood him to say wahren Charakter (true character). Their pronunciation is nearly identical. Yes, that's possible today. Today it is possible for people who are unable to understand something so clearly related to modern culture as “commodity character” to make judgments about such things. Someone like this could not in an entire life have possibly heard of the “commodity character of human work.” How do such people live in the present time? When it is possible to become so out of touch with reality, it is no wonder that we cannot get together in modern social life.
This is not only possible for people such as the writer of this editorial, it is also possible for those people who think they know everything about practical life. It is possible for people who, at every opportunity, look down upon what appears to them to be idealistic. They do not speak about real life any differently than people who see a U-shaped piece of iron and are told it is a magnet. “No,” they answer, “this is used to shoe horses.” These modern people who wish to shut supersensible knowledge out of practical life are like the person who sees a horseshoe-shaped magnet only as a horseshoe. They do not think anything can be true that does not directly meet their limited powers of understanding.
Today there are many more people than we think who hinder social progress. There are many people who do not want to understand that we cannot simply say that the last four or five years have brought something terrible to the people of Europe — something more terrible than ever before existed in historical times. To this we must add that now things must occur out of a depth of thought that people have never before reached in the course of what we call history. We have come to a time in which people think completely abstractly. Most abstract are the political opinions and programs that existed at the beginning of the twentieth century and that grew out of a modern scientific education. People do not want to understand how abstract, how foreign are the means they wish to use to come to grips with life. People think that they are practical. For example, people see today that in world trade money runs through their fingers, that the German mark is worth less day by day. And from day to day we do exactly those things that, of course, cause the value of the mark to fall. “Practical” people have again taken the helm. So long as people do not see that truly practical life does not lie where they, in 1914, looked for it, but in the understanding of the ideals of life, so long will nothing get better. People today are not modest enough to admit that things will get better only if they come to a deepening in their insight. Goodwill will not do it alone, that is the cancer of our times. It will be necessary that people see more and more what the true basis of spiritual cognition is. Spiritual cognition, because it is based upon the development of the same powers that work in the formation of healthy human beings, can place them in social pedagogical life. What we need today is spirituality — not a naive spirituality, not a spirituality lost in the clouds, not a metaphysical spirituality, but true spirituality that affects practical life, true spirituality that can master the problems of life. We also need practical insight into life; we need to be in life, but in such a way that our view of life kindles a desire to bring this spirituality into life.
From a spiritual-scientific point of view, people must understand one thing, otherwise no progress will be possible in our unfortunate times. The axiom must be:
Seek the truly practical material life, but seek it such that it does not numb you to the Spirit working in it.
Seek the Spirit, but seek it not in supersensible lust, out of supersensible egotism; seek it because you want to become selfless in practical life, selfless in the material world.
Turn to the old maxim: Never Spirit without matter, never matter without Spirit!
Do this so that you can say, “We want to perform all material deeds in the light of the Spirit, and we want to seek the light of the Spirit in such a way that it develops warmth within us for our practical deeds.”
Spirit brought by us to matter,
Matter wrought by us to its revelation
Driving the Spirit out;
Matter receiving from us Spirit revealed,
Spirit forged by us back into matter —
These create that Living Being,
Bringing humanity to true progress,
Progress only longed-for
By the best desires in the depths of human souls.