Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy I
V. Educational Methods Based on Anthroposophy I
23 November 1921, Oslo
First, I would like to thank the Vice Chancellor of this University, and you yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, for your friendly welcome. I hope that I can make myself understood, despite my inability to speak your language. Indeed, I apologize for my lack in that respect.
The theme that I shall present tonight and tomorrow night is the educational principles and methods based on anthroposophy. And so, here, right at the beginning, I must ask you not to look on the aims of anthroposophy as wishing to be in any way subversive or revolutionary — with respect either to scientific matters or any of the other many aspects of life where anthroposophy seeks to be productive.
On the contrary, anthroposophy seeks only to deepen and develop what has already been prepared by the recent spiritual culture of humanity. However, because of anthroposophy’s deepened insight into human life and knowledge of the universe, it necessarily looks for a corresponding deepening and insight in contemporary scientific thinking. Likewise, it also looks for different ways of working practically in life — different from more accustomed and conventional ways.
Because of this, anthroposophy has found itself opposed by representatives of the spirit of the day. But it does not want to become involved in hostilities of this kind, nor does it wish to engage in controversy. Rather, it aims to guide the fundamental achievements of modern civilization toward a fruitful goal. This is the case, above all, in the field of education. Apart from my small publication, The Education of the Child from the Viewpoint of Spiritual Science, published several years ago, I had no particular reason to publish a more detailed account of our educational views until, with the help of Emil Molt, the Waldorf school in Stuttgart was founded.
With the founding of the Waldorf school, anthroposophy’s contribution to the field of education entered the public domain. The Free Waldorf school itself is the outcome of longings that made themselves felt in many different parts of Central Europe after the end of the last, catastrophic war. One of the many topics discussed during that time was the realization that perhaps the most important of all social questions was about education. And, prompted by purely practical considerations, Emil Molt founded the Free Waldorf school, originally for the children of the employees of his Waldorf Astoria Factory. At first, therefore, we only had children whose parents were directly connected with Molt’s factory. During the last two years, however, children from different backgrounds have also entered the school. Hence, the Waldorf school in Stuttgart today educates children from a wide range of backgrounds and classes. All of these children can benefit from an education based on anthroposophy. In education, above all, anthroposophy does not wish to introduce revolutionary ideas, but seeks only to extend and supplement already existing achievements. To appreciate those, one need only draw attention to the contribution of the great educators of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Anyone with education at heart can feel only enthusiasm for their comprehensive ideas and powerful principles. Yet, despite all of this, there remain urgent problems in our present education. As a result, not a year passes in which a longing for the renewal of education does not make itself felt in society.
Why should it be that, on one hand, we can be enthusiastic about the convincing educational ideas expressed by the great educators of our times, while, on the other, we experience a certain disenchantment and dissatisfaction in how education is carried out?
Let me give just one example. Pestalozzi has become world famous. He certainly belongs among the great educators of our time. Nevertheless, thinkers of Herbert Spencer’s caliber have pointed out in the strongest terms that, although one might be in full agreement with Pestalozzi’s educational principles, one cannot help realizing that the great expectations raised by them have not been fulfilled with their practical application. Decades ago, Spencer already concluded that despite Pestalozzi’s sound and even excellent pedagogical ideas, we are unable at present to apply his general principles in practical classroom situations. I wish to repeat, ladies and gentlemen, that it is not new ideas that anthroposophy wants to introduce. Anthroposophy is mainly concerned with actual teaching practice.
Just as the Waldorf school in Stuttgart grew out of the immediate needs of a given life situation, what exists today as anthroposophical pedagogy and the anthroposophical method of education is not a product of theories or abstract principles but grows out of the need to deal practically with human affairs. Anthroposophy feels confident of being able to offer specific contributions for solution of human problems, particularly in the realm of education. What, then, are the fundamentals of this anthroposophy?
Anthroposophy has frequently drawn hostility and opposition, not because of an understanding of what it seeks to accomplish for the world, but rather because of misconceptions regarding it. Those within anthroposophy fully understand such hostility. For, on the basis of natural science and the cultural achievements of our times, modern humanity generally believes itself to have found a unified conception of the world. Anthroposophy then steps in with a call to our contemporaries to think about themselves and the world in an apparently quite different way. The contradiction, however, is only apparent. But people think initially that the insights provided by anthroposophy cannot be reconciled with the claims made by natural science.
Today, the human physical and bodily constitution is being thoroughly studied, on solid grounds, following the admirable and exact methods of modern natural science. And, as far as the human soul is concerned, its existence is no longer generally denied. On the contrary, the number of those who deny the existence of the soul and speak of “human psychology without a soul,” as many did for a time, has already dwindled. Yet the soul itself is only observed by means of research into its physical aspects and by guesswork done on the basis of physical manifestations. Under such conditions, it is impossible to derive an educational practice, even with the best of theories and premises.
Thus, Herbert Spencer profoundly regrets the lack of a proper psychology for modern educational principles. But a true child psychology cannot possibly grow from the modern natural-scientific view of life. Anthroposophy, on the other had, believes that it is able to offer the basis for a true psychology, for real care of the human soul. However, it is a psychology, a care of the soul, that admittedly requires an approach very different from that of other contemporary psychological investigations.
It is all too easy to poke fun at anthroposophists who speak of other supersensible bodies, or sheaths, in addition to the physical body. It is often said that anthroposophy, when it speaks of the etheric body, which I also call the “body of formative forces,” has invented or built up some strange fantasy, vision, or illusion. What anthroposophy says, however, is simply that a human being possesses not only a sense-perceptible, physical body (that can be examined according to established medical practice and whose underlying natural laws can be grasped by our intellectual capacity to systematize manifold phenomena) but also an etheric body, or a body of formative forces, that is of a more refined nature than the physical body and — apart from the etheric body — a still higher and more refined member of the human being, called the astral body. In anthroposophy, furthermore, we also speak of a very special aspect of the human being, which is summarized only by each individual’s own self-awareness and is expressed by the word “I.”
At first, there seems to be little justification for speaking of these higher aspects of the human being. By way of introduction, however, I would like to show how in actual and practical life situations — which are the basis of our educational views — anthroposophy speaks about, for example, the human etheric body.
This etheric body is not a nebulous cloud that is somehow membered into the physical body and perhaps extends a little beyond it here and there. Initially, of course, it is possible to imagine it like this but in reality it appears quite differently to anyone using anthroposophical methods of observation. The etheric body, in fact, is primarily a kind of regulatory agency and points to something that belongs, not so much to the human spatial organization, but to something of the nature of a “time organism.”
When we study the human physical body, according to present day natural-scientific methods, we know that we can do so by studying its various organic parts — such as the liver, the stomach, or the heart — as separate entities. But we can also study those same organs from the viewpoint of their various functions and interrelationships within the whole human organism. We cannot understand certain areas of the human brain, for example, without knowing how they affect other organs, such as the liver, the stomach, and so on, effects that are instrumental in regulating the nourishment of those organs. We thus look upon the spatial, physical organism as having its own specific interrelationships. We see the physical organism as something in which single members affect each other in definite and determined ways.
Anthroposophy sees what it calls the human etheric body in the same way. It assigns to it an existence in time, but not in space as in the case of the physical body. What we call the human etheric body manifests itself at birth or, rather, conception and continues to develop through life until the point of death.
Disregarding the fact that a person can die before his or her natural life span has been reached, let us for the moment consider the normal course of a human life — in which case we may say that the etheric body continues its development through old age until the moment of death.
In what develops in this way, anthroposophical investigation sees an organic wholeness. Indeed, as the human spatial body is composed of various members — such as the head as the carrier of the brain, the chest organs as carriers of speech and breathing, and so on — so what manifests as the human etheric organization is likewise composed of various life periods, one following the other in the flow of time. We thus distinguish between the various component parts of the etheric body — which, as already stated, must be observed as existing in time and as consisting of spatially separated parts — by first considering the period from approximately a child’s birth to its change of teeth. We can see an important part of the etheric body in this life period, just as we can see the head or the lungs in the physical body. Thereafter, we see its second member lasting from the second dentition until puberty and, though less clearly differentiated, we can also distinguish further life periods during the subsequent course of life. Thus, for instance, at the twentieth year, a completely new quality in a person’s psychic and physical life begins to manifest. But, just as, for example, the cause of certain headaches can be traced to malfunctioning of the stomach or the liver, so can certain processes undergone in one’s twenties or even during later life be traced back to definite happenings during the time between birth and the change of teeth. Just as it is possible to see processes of digestion affecting processes occurring in the brain, so is it possible to see the effects of what happened during a child’s first seven years of life up, to the second dentition, expressed in the latest period of adult life.
When studying psychology, we generally find that only the present situation of a person’s soul life is observed. Characteristics of a child’s capacity of comprehension, memory, and so on are observed. Without wishing to neglect those aspects, students of anthroposophy must also ask themselves the following kind of question. If a child becomes subject to certain influences, say in the ninth year, how does that affect the deeper regions of his or her etheric psychic life and in what form will it re-emerge later on? I would like to illustrate this in more detail by giving you a practical example.
By means of our pedagogical approach, we can convey to a child still at a tender age a feeling of reverence and respect for what is sublime in the world. We can enhance that feeling into a religious mood through which a child can learn how to pray. I am purposely choosing a somewhat radical example of a moral nature. Thus, let us suppose that we guide a child so that it can let such a mood of soul flow into a sincere prayer. This mood will take possession of the child, entering the deeper regions of its consciousness. And, if we observe not only the present state of a person’s soul life but his or her whole psychic constitution as it develops up to the moment of death, we will find that what came into existence through the reverence felt by the praying child goes “underground” to be transmuted in the depths of the soul. At a certain point, perhaps not before the person’s thirties or forties, what was present in the devotional attitude of a praying child resurfaces as a power of blessing, emanating from the words spoken by such a person — especially when he or she addresses children.
In this way, we can study the whole human being in relation to his or her soul development. As we relate the physical to the spatial — for example, the stomach to the head — so can we relate and study through the course of a life what the power of prayer might have planted in a child, perhaps in the eighth or ninth year. We may see it re-emerge in older age as the power to bless, as a force of blessing, particularly when meeting the young. One could put this into the following words — unless one has learned to pray in childhood in a true and honest manner, one cannot spread an air of blessing in one’s forties or fifties.
I have purposely chosen this somewhat radical example and those among you who are not of a religious disposition will have to take it more in its formal meaning. Namely, what I wanted to point out was that, according to anthroposophical pedagogy, it is not just the present situation of a child’s soul life that must be considered; rather, the entire course of a human life must be included in one’s considerations. How such an attitude affects one’s pedagogical work will become plainly visible. Whatever a teacher or educator might be planning or preparing regarding any educational activity, there will always be the question in mind, what will be the consequences in later life of what I am doing now with the child? Such an attitude will stimulate an organic, that is, a living pedagogy.
It is so easy to feel tempted to teach children clearly defined and sharply contoured concepts representing strict and fixed definitions. If one does so, it is as if one were putting a young child’s arms or legs, which are destined to continue their growth freely until a certain age, into rigid fetters. Apart from looking after a child’s other physical needs, we must also ensure that its limbs grow naturally, unconstricted, especially while it is still at the growing stage. Similarly, we must plant into a child’s soul only concepts, ideas, feelings, and will impulses that, because they are not fixed into sharp and final contours, are capable of further development. Rigid concepts would have the effect of fettering a child’s soul life instead of allowing it to evolve freely and flexibly. Only by avoiding rigidity can we hope that what we plant into a child’s heart will emerge during later life in the right way.
What, then, are the essentials of an anthroposophically based education? They have to do with real insight into human nature. This is something that has become almost impossible on the basis of contemporary natural science and the scientific conception of the world. In saying this, I do not wish to imply any disregard for the achievements of psychology and pedagogy. These sciences are the necessary outcome of the spirit of our times. Within certain limits, they have their blessings. Anthroposophy has no wish to become embroiled in controversy here either. It seeks only to further the benefits that these sciences have created. On the other hand, we must also ask what the longing for scientific experimentation with children means. What does one seek to discover through experiments in children’s powers of comprehension, receptivity to sense impressions, memory, and even will? All of this shows only that, in our present civilization, the direct and elementary relationship of one soul to another has been weakened. For we resort today increasingly to external physical experimentation rather than to a natural and immediate rapport with the child, as was the case in earlier times. To counterbalance such experimental studies, we must create new awareness and knowledge of the child’s soul. This must be the basis of a healthy pedagogy. But, to do so, we must become thoroughly familiar with what I have already said about the course of an individual’s life. This means that we must have a clear perception of the first life period, which begins at birth or conception, and reaches a certain conclusion when the child exchanges its milk teeth.
To anyone with an unbiased sense of observation, a child appears completely changed at the time of the change of teeth — the child appears different, another being. Only if we can observe such a phenomenon, however, can we reach a real knowledge of human beings.
Our understanding of the higher principles of the world has not kept pace with what natural science demands of our understanding of the lower principles. I need only remind you of what science says about “latent heat.” This is heat contained by a physical substance without being outwardly detectable. But, when such a substance is subjected to certain outer conditions, the heat radiates outward, emitting what is then called “liberated heat.” Science today speaks of forces and interrelationships of substances in the inorganic realm, but scientists do not yet dare to use such exact methods to deal with phenomena in the human realm. Consequently, what is said of body, soul, and spirit remains abstract and leaves those three aspects of the human being standing beside one another, as it were, with no real interconnection. We can observe the child growing up until the change of teeth and, if we do so without preconceptions, we can detect how, just after this event, the child’s memory assumes a different character; how certain faculties and abilities of thinking begin to manifest; how memory works through more sharply delineated concepts, and so on. We can observe that the inner soul condition of the child undergoes a definite change after the second dentition. But what exactly happened in the child?
Today, I can only point in certain directions. Further details can be found with the help of natural science. When observing a child growing up from the earliest stage until the second teeth appear, one can discern the gradual manifestation of an inner quality, emerging from the depths and surfacing in the outer organization. One can see above all how, during those years, the head system develops. If we observe this development without preconceptions, we can detect a current flowing through the child, from below upward. At first, a young baby, in a state of helplessness, is unable to walk. It has to lie all the time and be carried everywhere. Then, as months pass, we observe a strong force of will, expressed in uncoordinated, jerky movements of the limbs, that gradually leads to the faculty of walking. That powerful force, working upward from the limb system, also works back upon the entire organization of the child.
And, if we make a proper investigation of the metamorphosis of the head, from the stage when the child has to lie all the time and be carried everywhere to the time when it is able to stand on its own legs and walk — which contemporary science also clearly shows us and is obvious physiologically, if we learn to look in the right direction — then we find how what manifests in the child’s limb system as the impulse for walking is related to the area of the brain that represents the will organization. We can put this into words as follows. As young children are learning to walk, they are developing in their brains — from below upward, from the lower limbs and in a certain way from the periphery toward the center — their will organization.
In other words: when learning to walk, a child develops the will organization of the brain through the will activity of its lower limbs.
If we now continue our observation of the growing child, we see the next important phase occur in the strengthening of the breathing organization. The breathing assumes what I should like to call a more individual constitution, just as the limb system did through the activity of walking. And this transformation and strengthening of the breathing — which one can observe physiologically — is expressed in the whole activity of speaking.
In this instance, there is again a streaming in the human organization from below upward. We can follow quite clearly what a young person integrates into the nervous system by means of language. We can see how, in learning to speak, ever greater inwardness of feeling begins to radiate outward. As a human being, learning to walk becomes integrated into the will sphere of the nervous system, so, in learning to speak, the child’s feeling life likewise becomes integrated.
A last stage can be seen in an occurrence that is least observable outwardly and that happens during the second dentition. Certain forces that had been active in the child’s organism, indwelling it, come to completion, for the child will not have another change of teeth. The coming of the second teeth reveals that forces that have been at work in the entire organism have come to the end of their task. And so, just as we see that a child’s will life is inwardly established through the ability to walk, and that a child’s feeling life is inwardly established by its learning to speak so, at the time of the change of teeth, around the seventh year, we see the faculty of mental picturing or thinking develop in a more or less individualized form that is no longer bound to the entire bodily organization, as previously.
These are interesting interrelationships that need to be studied more closely. They show how what I earlier called the etheric body works back into the physical body. What happens is that, with the change of teeth, a child integrates the rest of its organization into the head and the nerves.
We can talk about these things theoretically, but nothing is gained by that. Lately, we have become too accustomed to a kind of intellectualism, to certain forces of abstraction, when talking about scientific matters. What I described just now helps you to look at the growing human being not just intellectually: I have been trying to guide you to a more artistic way of observing growing human beings. This involves experiencing how every movement of a child’s limbs is integrated into its will organization and how feeling is integrated as the child learns to speak. It is wonderful to see, for example, what happens when someone — perhaps the mother or another — is with the child when it learns to speak the vowels. A quality corresponding to the soul being of the adult who is in the child’s presence flows into the child’s feeling through these vowels. On the other hand, everything that stimulates the child to perform its own movements in relation to the external world — such as finding the right relationship to warmth or coldness — leads to the speaking of consonants. It is wonderful to see how one part of the human organism, say moving of limbs or language, works back into another part. As teachers, we meet a child of school age when his or her second teeth are gradually appearing. Just at this time we can see how a force (not unlike latent heat) is liberated from the general growth process of the organism: what previously was at work within the organism is now active in the child’s soul life. When we experience all of this, we cannot but feel inspired by what is happening before our eyes.
But these things must not be grasped with the intellect; they must be absorbed with one’s whole being. If we do this, then a concrete, artistic sense will pervade our observations of the growing child. Anthroposophy offers practical guidance in recognizing the spirit as it manifests in outer, material processes. Anthroposophy does not want to lead people into any kind of mystical “cloud cuckoo land.” It wants to follow the spirit working in matter. In order to be able to do this — to follow the spirit in its creativity, its effectiveness — anthroposophy must stand on firm ground and requires the involvement of whole human beings. In bringing anthroposophy into the field of education, we do not wish to be dogmatic. The Waldorf school is not meant to be an ideological school. It is meant to be a school where what we can gain through anthroposophy with living inwardness can flow into practical teaching methods and actual teaching skills.
What anthroposophy gives as a conception of the world and an understanding of life assigns a special role to the teachers and educators in our school.
Here and there, a certain faith in life beyond death has remained alive in our present culture and civilization. On the other hand, knowledge of human life beyond death up to a new birth on earth has become completely lost.
Anthroposophical research makes it clear that we must speak of human pre-existence, of a soul-spiritual existence before birth. It shows how this can rightly illumine embryology. Today, one considers embryology as if what a human being brought with him into earthly life were merely a matter of heredity, of the physical effects of forces stemming from the child’s ancestors. This is quite understandable and we do not wish to remonstrate against such an attitude. In accordance with accepted modern methods, research is done into how the human germ develops in the maternal body. Researchers try to trace in the bodies of the mother and the father, in the parents’ bodies, the forces that manifest in the child and so on. But things are just not like that. What is actually happening in the parents’ bodies is not a process of construction but, to begin with, one of destruction. Initially, there is a return of the material processes to a state of chaos. And what plays into the body of an expectant mother is the entire cosmos itself.
If one has the necessary basis of observation, one can perceive how the embryo, especially during the first months of pregnancy, is formed not only by the forces of heredity, but by the entire cosmos. The maternal body is in truth the matrix for what is formed through cosmic forces, out of a state of chaos, into the human embryo.
It is quite possible to study these things on the basis of the existing knowledge in physiology, but we will in time regard them from an entirely different viewpoint. We would consider it sheer folly if a physicist claimed, “Here is a magnetic needle, one end of which points north while the opposite end points south: we must look for the force activating the needle within the space of the compass needle itself.” That would be considered nonsense in physics. To explain the phenomenon, we must consider the whole earth. We say that the whole earth acts as a kind of magnet, attracting one end of the needle from its north pole and the other from its south pole. In the direction seeking of the compass needle, we observe only one part of a whole complex phenomenon; to understand the whole phenomenon, we must go far beyond the physical boundary of the needle itself. The exact sciences have not yet shown a similar attitude in their investigations of human beings. When studying a most important process, such as the formation of the embryo, the attitude is as limited as if one were to seek the motivating force of a compass needle within the needle itself. That would be considered folly in physics. When we try to discover the forces forming the embryo within the physical boundaries of human beings, we behave just as if we were trying to find the forces moving a compass needle within the physical needle itself. To find the forces forming the human embryo, we must look into the entire cosmos. What works in this way into the embryo is directly linked to the soul-spiritual being of the one to be born as it descends from the soul-spiritual worlds into physical existence.
Here, anthroposophy shows us — however paradoxical it might sound — that, at first, the soul-spiritual part of the human being has least connection with the organization of the head. As a baby begins its earthly existence, its prenatal spirit and soul are linked to the rest of the organism excluding the head. The head is a kind of picture of the cosmos but, at the same time, it is the most material part of the body. One could say that at the beginning of human life, the head is least the carrier of the prenatal soul-spiritual life that has come down to begin life on earth.
Those who observe what takes place in a growing child from an anthroposophical point of view see that soul-spiritual qualities, at first concealed in the child, come to the surface in every facial expression, in the entire physiognomy, and in the expression of the child’s eyes. They also see how those soul-spiritual elements manifest initially in the development of the limb movements — from crawling to the child’s free walking — and next in the impulse to speak, which is closely connected with the respiratory system. They then see how these elements work in the child’s organism to bring forth the second teeth. They see, too, how the forces of spirit and soul work upward from below, importing from the outer world what must be taken in unconsciously at first, in order to integrate it then into the most material part of the human being — the organization of the head in thinking, feeling, and willing.
To observe the growing human being in this way, with a scientific artistic eye, indicates the kind of relationship to children that is required if we, their teachers, are to fulfill our tasks adequately as full human beings. A very special inner feeling is engendered when teachers believe that their task is to assist in charming from the child what divine and spiritual beings have sent down from the spiritual world. This task is indeed something that can be brought to new life through anthroposophy.
In our languages, we have a word, an important word, closely allied to the hopes and longings of many people. The word is “immortality.” But we will see human life in the right way only after we have a word as fitting for life’s beginning as we have for its ending — a word that can become as generally accepted and as commonly used as the word “immortality” (undyingness) — perhaps something like “unbornness.” Only if we have such a word will we be able to grasp the full, eternal nature of the human being. Only then will we experience a holy awe and reverence for what lives in the child through the ever creating and working spirit, streaming from below upward. During the first seven years, from birth to the second dentition, the child’s soul, together with the spiritual counterpart received from the life before birth, shapes and develops the physical body. At this time, too, the child is most directly linked to its environment.
There is only one word that adequately conveys the mutual relationship of the child to its surroundings at this delicate time of life when thinking, feeling and willing become integrated into the organs — and that word is: imitation. During the first period of life, a human being is an imitator par excellence. With regard to a child’s upbringing, this calls forth one all-important principle: when you are around a child, only behave in ways that that child can safely imitate. The impulse to imitate depends on the child’s close relationship to its surroundings in which imponderables of soul and spirit play their part.
One cannot communicate with children during these first seven years with admonitions or reprimands. A child of that age cannot learn simply on the authority of a grownup. It learns through imitation. Only if we understand that can we understand a child properly.
Strange things happen — of which I shall give an example that I have given before — when one does not understand this. One day, a father comes saying, “I am so unhappy. My boy, who was always such a good boy, has committed a theft.” How should such a case be considered? One asks the worried parent, “How old is your boy and what has he stolen?” The answer comes, “Oh, he is five years old. Until now, he has been such a good child, but yesterday he stole money from his mother. He took it out of the cupboard and bought sweets with it. He did not even eat them himself, but shared them with other boys and girls in the street.”
In a case like this, one’s response should probably go as follows. “Your boy has not stolen. Most likely, what happened was that he saw his mother every morning taking money from her cupboard to do the shopping for the household. The child’s nature is to imitate others, and so the boy did what he had seen his mother do. The concept of stealing is not appropriate in this case. What is appropriate is that — whenever we are in the presence of our children — we do only what they can safely imitate (whether in deeds, gestures, language, or even thought).”
If one knows how to observe such things, one knows that a child imitates in the most subtle, intimate ways. Anyone who acts pedagogically in the manner I have indicated discovers that whatever a child of that age does is based on imitation — even facial expressions. Such imitation continues until a child sheds its milk teeth. Until then, a child’s relationship to the surrounding world is extremely direct and real. Children of this age are not yet capable of perceiving with their senses and then judging their perceptions. All of this still remains an undifferentiated process. The child perceives with its senses and, simultaneously, this perception becomes a judgment; and the judgment simultaneously passes into a feeling and a will impulse. They are all one and the same process.
In other words, the child is entirely immersed in the currents of life and has not yet extracted itself from them.
The shedding of the milk teeth marks the first occurrence of this. The forces that had been active in the lower regions of the organism and — following the appearance of the second teeth — are no longer needed there, then manifest as forces in the child’s soul-spiritual sphere. At this point, the child enters the second period of life, which begins with the second dentition and ends in puberty. During this second period, the soul and spiritual life of the child becomes liberated, as — under given outer conditions previously cited — latent warmth is liberated. Before this period, we must look in the inner organism, in the organic forming of the physical organism, for the child’s soul and spirit.
This is the right way to explore the relationship between body and soul. Principles and relationships of all kinds are being expounded today in theory. According to one, the soul affects the body; according to another, everything that happens in the soul is only an effect of the body. The most frequently held opinion is so-called “psychophysical parallelism,” meaning that both types of process — soul-spiritual as well as physical-bodily ones — may be observed side by side. We can speculate at length about the relationship of spirit to body and body to spirit but, if we only speculate and do not engage in careful observation, we will not get beyond mere abstractions. We must not limit our observations to present conditions alone. We must say to ourselves, the forces that we witness as the child’s soul spiritual element during the period from the seventh to about the fourteenth year are the same ones that worked before in the lower organism in a hidden or latent way. We must seek in the child’s soul and spirit what is at work in the child from birth to the change of teeth and between the change of teeth and puberty. If we do this, we will gain a realistic idea of the relationship between soul and spirit on one side and the physical-bodily processes on the other.
Observe physical processes up to the second dentition and you will find the effects of soul and spirit. But, if you wish to observe the soul and spirit in its own right, then observe a child from the change of teeth until the coming of puberty. Do not proceed by saying, “Here is the body and the soul is somewhere within it; now I wish to find its effects.” No, we must now leave the spatial element altogether and enter the dimension of time. If we do so, we shall find a true, realistic relationship between body and soul, a relationship that leads to fruitful ideas for life. We shall learn, from a deeper point of view, how to care for a child’s physical health before the change of teeth, so that the child’s psychic and spiritual health can manifest appropriately afterward, during the second life period, from the change of teeth to puberty. Similarly, the health of the stomach reveals itself — in the time organism; that is, the etheric or body of formative forces — in the healthy condition of the head. That is the point.
And, if we want to study how to deal with the forces that are released from the physical organism between the change of teeth and puberty — and we are here dealing with one of the most important periods of a child’s life, let us call it the time of school duties — I must say, first of all, that they are formative forces, liberated formative forces, that have been building up the human organism, plastically and musically. We must treat them accordingly. Hence, initially, we must not treat them intellectually. To treat the formerly formative forces, which are now soul-spiritual forces, artistically, not intellectually, is the basic demand of anthroposophical pedagogy.
The essence of Waldorf education is to make education into an art — the art of the right treatment of children, if I may use the expression. A teacher must be an artist, for it is the teacher’s task to deal in the right way with the forces that previously shaped the child’s organism. Such forces need to be treated artistically — no matter which subject the teacher is to introduce to children entering the Waldorf school. Practically, this means that we begin not with reading but with writing — but learning to write must in no way be an intellectual pursuit. We begin by letting our young pupils draw and paint patterns and forms that are attuned to their will lives. Indeed, watching these lessons, many people would feel them to be rather a strange approach to this fundamental subject!
Each teacher is given complete freedom. We do not insist on a fixed pedagogical dogma but, instead, we introduce our teachers to the whole spirit of anthroposophical pedagogical principles and methods. For instance, if you were to enter a first grade class, you might see how one teacher has his or her pupils move their arms in the air to given rhythms. Eventually each pupil will then draw these on paper in the simplest form. Hence, out of the configuration of the physical organism — that is, out of the sphere of the children’s will — we elicit something that quite naturally assumes an artistic form and we gradually transform such patterns into the forms of letters. In this way, learning to write avoids all abstraction. Rather, writing arises in the same way as it originally entered human evolution. First, there was picture-writing, which was a direct result of outer reality. Then, gradually, this changed into our written symbols, which have become completely abstract. Thus, beginning with a pictorial element, we lead into the modern alphabet, which speaks to the intellect. Only after having first taught writing out of such artistic activities do we introduce reading. If teachers approach writing and reading in this way, working from an artistic realm and meeting the child with artistic intentions, they are able to appeal above all to a child’s forces of will. It is out of the will forces that, fundamentally speaking, all psychological and intellectual development must unfold. But, moving from writing to reading, a teacher is aware of moving from what is primarily a willing activity to one that has more of a feeling quality. The children’s thinking, for its part, can be trained by dealing with numbers in arithmetic.
If teachers are able to follow a child’s whole soul-spiritual configuration in detail as each child first draws single figures, which leads to formation of letters and then to writing words that are also read — and if they are able to pursue this whole process with anthroposophical insight and observation of growing human beings — then a true practice of teaching will emerge.
Only now can we see the importance of applying an artistic approach during the first years of school. Everything that is brought to a child through music in a sensible and appropriate way will show itself later as initiative. If we restrict a child’s assimilation of the musical element appropriate to the seventh to eighth year, we are laming the development of that child’s initiative, especially in later life. A true teacher of our time must never lose sight of the whole complex of such interconnections. There are many other things — we shall have to say more about them later — that must be observed not only year by year but week by week during the life period from the change of teeth to puberty.
There is one moment of special importance, approximately halfway through the second life period; that is, roughly between the ninth and tenth years. This is a point in a child’s development that teachers need to observe particularly carefully. If one has attained real insight into human development and is able to observe the time organism or etheric body, as I have described it, throughout the course of human life, one knows how, in old age, when a person is inclined to look back over his or her life down to early childhood days, among the many memory pictures that emerge, there emerge particularly vividly the pictures of teachers and other influential figures of the ninth and tenth years.
These more intimate details of life tend to be overlooked by natural-scientific methods of research that concentrate on more external phenomena. Unfortunately, not much attention is paid to what happens to a child — earlier in one child, later in another — approximately between the ninth and tenth years. What enters a child’s unconscious then emerges again vividly in old age, creating either happiness or pain, and generating either an enlivening or a deadening effect. This is an exact observation. It is neither fantasy nor mere theory. It is a realization that is of immense importance for the teacher. At this age, a child has specific needs that, if heeded, help bring about a definite relationship between the pupil and the teacher.
A teacher simply has to observe the child at this age to sense how a more or less innate and unspoken question lives in the child’s soul at this time, a question that can never be put into actual words. And so, if the child cannot ask the question directly, it is up to the teacher to bring about suitable conditions for a constructive resolution of this situation.
What is actually happening here?
One would hardly expect a person who, in the 1890’s , wrote a book entitled The Philosophy of Freedom to advocate the principle of authority on any conservative or reactionary grounds. Yet, from the standpoint of child development alone, it must be said that, just as up to the change of teeth a child is a being who imitates, so, after this event, a child needs naturally to look up to the authority of the teacher and educator. This requires of the teacher the ability to command natural respect, so that a pupil accepts truths coming from the teacher simply because of the child’s loving respect, not on the strength of the child’s own judgments. A great deal depends on that.
Again, this is a case in which we need to have had personal experience. We must know from experience what it means for a child’s whole life — and for the constitution of a person’s soul — when children hear people talk of a highly respected member of their family, whom they have not yet met, but about whom all members of the household speak in hushed reverential tones as a wise, good, or for any other reason highly esteemed family member. The moment then arrives when the child is to be introduced to such a person for the first time. The child feels overcome by deep awe. He or she hardly dares open the door to enter into the presence of such a personality. Such a child feels too shy to touch the person’s hand. If we have lived through such an experience, if our souls have been deepened in childhood in this way, then we know that this event created a lasting impression and entered the very depths of our consciousness, to resurface at a later age. This kind of experience must become the keynote of the relationship between the teacher and the child. Between the change of teeth and puberty, a child should willingly accept whatever the teacher says on the strength of such a natural sense of authority.
An understanding of this direct elemental relationship can help a teacher become a real artist in the sense that I have already indicated.
During this same period, however, another feeling also lives in the child, often only dimly and vaguely felt. This is the feeling that those who are the objects of such authority must themselves also look up to something higher. A natural outcome of this direct, tangible relationship between the teacher and the child is the child’s awareness of the teacher’s own religious feelings and of the way in which the teacher relates to the metaphysical world-all. Such imponderables must not be overlooked in teaching and education. People of materialistic outlook usually believe that whatever affects children reaches them only through words or outer actions. Little do they know that quite other forces are at work in children!
Let us consider something which occasionally happens. Let us assume that a teacher thinks “I — as teacher — am an intelligent person, but my pupils are very ignorant. If I want to communicate a feeling for the immortality of the human soul to my students, I can think, for instance, of what happens when a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis. I can compare this event, this picture, with what happens when a person dies. Thus I can say to my children, ‘Just as the butterfly flies out of the chrysalis, so, after death, the immortal soul leaves the physical body.’ Such a comparison, I am certain, offers a useful simile for the child’s benefit.”
But if the picture — the simile — is chosen with an attitude of mental superiority on the part of the teacher, we find that it does not touch the pupils at all and, soon after hearing it, they forget all about it, because the teacher did not believe in the truth of his simile.
Anthroposophy teaches us to believe in such a picture and I can assure you that, for me, the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis is not a simile that I have invented. For me, the butterfly emerging out of the chrysalis is a revelation on a lower plane of what on a higher level represents the immortality of the human soul. As far as I am concerned, it is not I who created this picture out of my own reasoning; rather, it is the world itself that reveals the processes of nature in the emergence of a butterfly. That is what this picture means to me. I believe with every fibre of my soul that it represents a truth placed by the gods themselves before our eyes. I do not imagine that, compared with the child, I am wiser and the chid more foolish. I believe in the truth of this picture with the same earnestness that I wish to awaken in the child. If a teacher teaches with such an attitude, the child will remember it for the rest of his or her life.
Unseen supersensible — or shall we say imponderable — forces are at work here. It is not the words that we speak to children that matter, but what we ourselves are — and above all what we are when we are dealing with our children. This is especially important during the period between the ninth and tenth years, for it is during this time that the child feels the underlying background out of which a teacher’s words are spoken. Goethe said: “Consider well the what, but consider more the how.” A child can see whether an adult’s words express a genuine relationship with the supersensible world or whether they are spoken with a materialistic attitude — the words have a different “ring.” The child experiences a difference of quality between the two approaches. During this period between the ninth and tenth years, children need to feel, if only subconsciously, that as they look up to the authority of their teachers, their teacher likewise looks up to what no longer is outwardly visible. Then, through the relationship of teacher to child, a feeling for other people becomes transformed into a religious experience.
This, in turn, is linked to other matters — for example, the child’s ability to differentiate itself from its surroundings. This too is an inner change, requiring a change of approach toward the subjects taught. We shall speak of that tomorrow. In the meantime, one can see how important it is that certain moods of soul — certain soul conditions — form an intimate part of the theory and the practice of education.
When the plans for founding the Waldorf school in Stuttgart were nearing realization, the question of how to form the hearts and the souls of teachers so that they entered their classrooms and greeted their children in the right spirit was considered most important. I value my task of having to guide this school enormously. I also value the fact that, when I have been able to be there in person, the attitude about which I have been speaking has been much in evidence among the teaching staff, however varied the individual form of expression. Having heard what I have had to tell you, you now will realize the significance of a question that I always ask, not in the same words but in different ways each time, either during festive school occasions or when visiting different classes. The question is, “Children, do you love your teachers?” And the children respond “Yes!” in chorus with a sincere enthusiasm that reveals the truth of their answer. Breathing through all of those children’s souls, one can feel the existence of a bond of deep inner affection between teachers and pupils and that the children’s feeling for the authority of the teacher has become a matter of course. Such natural authority is meant to form the essence of our educational practice during these years of childhood.
Waldorf pedagogy is thus built not only upon principles and educational axioms — of which, thanks to the work of the great pedagogues, there are plenty in existence already — but, above all, upon the pedagogical skills in practical classroom situations, that is, the way each individual teacher handles his or her class. Such skill is made possible by what anthroposophy unfolds in the human soul and in the human heart. What we strive for is a pedagogy that is truly an art, an art arising from educational methods and principles founded on anthroposophy.
Of course, with such aims today, one must be prepared to make certain compromises. Hence, when the Waldorf school was opened, I had to come to the following arrangement with the school authorities. In a memorandum, worked out when the school was founded, I stipulated that our pupils should attain standards of learning comparable to those reached in other schools by the age of nine, so that, if they wanted, they would be able to transfer into the same class in another school. But, during the intervening years — that is, from when they entered school around six to the age of nine — I asserted our complete freedom to use teaching time according to our own methods and pedagogical point of view. The same arrangement was offered to pupils who stayed in the school through the age of twelve. Because they had reached the standards of learning generally expected at that age, they were again given the possibility of entering the appropriate classes in other schools.
The same thing happens again when our pupils reach puberty; that is, when they reach school-leaving age. But what happens in between is left entirely to our discretion. Hence we are able to ensure that it unfolds out of our anthroposophical understanding of human beings, just as our curriculum and educational aims do, which are likewise created entirely out of the child’s nature. And we try of course to realize these aims while leaving scope for individual differences. Even in comparatively large classes, the individuality of each single pupil is still allowed to play its proper part.
Tomorrow, we shall see what an incisive point of time the twelfth year is.
There is obviously a certain kind of perfection in education that will be attained only when we are no longer restricted by such compromises — when we are given complete freedom to deal with pupils all of the way from the change of teeth to puberty. Tomorrow, I shall indicate how this could be done. All the same, since life itself offered us the opportunity to do so, an attempt had to be made. Anthroposophy never seeks to demonstrate a theory — this always tends toward intellectuality — but seeks to engage directly in the fullness of practical life. It seeks to reveal something that will expand the scope of human beings and call into play the full potential of each individual. Certainly, in general terms, such demands have been made before. The what is known; with the help of anthroposophy, we must find the how. Today, I was able to give you a few indications regarding children up to the ninth year or so. When we meet again tomorrow, I shall speak in greater detail about the education of our children during the succeeding years.