Human Values in Education
X. The Relation of the Art of Teaching to the Anthroposophical Movement
24 July 1924, Arnheim
As I am now coming to the concluding words of this course of lectures on education, I should like first of all to take the opportunity of expressing the deep satisfaction I feel that our friends in Holland, who have set themselves the task of fostering the anthroposophical conception of the world, had the will to arrange this course. Such an enterprise always involves an immense amount of hard work for the organisers. And we ourselves, just because we have very many things to arrange in Dornach, know best of all what goes on behind the scenes on such occasions, all the work that has to be done and how much effort and energy are called for. It is therefore obvious that, before leaving Holland, I should express my very warmest thanks to those who have worked together in order to bring about this whole conference. An educational course has taken place and in my closing words I may perhaps be allowed to say something about the part played by the art of education within the whole sphere of the anthroposophical movement.
An educational art has grown up within the anthroposophical movement, not, so to speak, as something which has found its way into the movement through some abstract intention, but it has arisen with a certain necessity out of the movement itself. Up to now few activities have grown out of the anthroposophical movement so naturally and inevitably as this art of education. In the same way, simply as a matter of course, eurythmy has grown out of the anthroposophical movement through Frau Dr. Steiner, medicine through Frau Dr. Wegman; and educational art, as with the other two, has, I may venture to say, arisen likewise in accordance with destiny, with karma. For the anthroposophical movement as such is, without any doubt, the expression of something which corresponds to human striving through the very fact that humanity has arisen on the earth.
We need only look back into those ancient times in the evolution of humanity when Mystery Centres were to be found here and there, in which religion, art and science were cultivated out of experiences of the spirit, and we become aware how in those old, sacred centres human beings have had, as it were, intercourse with beings of the super-sensible world in order to carry spiritual life into external, physical life. We can pursue our way further into the historical development of humanity and we shall discover ever and again the urge to add what is super-sensible to what man perceives with his senses. Such are the perspectives which open up when we penetrate into the historical evolution of humanity and see that what lives in anthroposophy today is ceaseless human striving. As anthroposophy however it lives out of the longings, out of the endeavours of human souls living at the present time. And the following may in truth be said: At the turning point of the 19th to the 20th century it has become possible, if one only has the will, to receive revelations from the spiritual world which will once again deepen the whole world-conception of mankind.
These revelations from the spiritual world, which today must take on a different manifestation from the old Mystery Truths, must accord with modern scientific knowledge. They form the content of anthroposophy. And whoever makes them his own knows also that out of the conditions of our present age many, many more people would come to anthroposophy were it not for the tremendous amount of prejudice, of pre-conceived feelings and ideas, which put obstacles in their path. But these are things which must be overcome. Out of the small circle of anthroposophists must grow an ever larger one. And if we call to mind everything which is living and working in this circle we may perhaps — without in any way wishing to declare that anthroposophy is itself a religious movement — we may perhaps allow a deeply moving picture to rise up before us.
Call to mind the Mystery of Golgotha. Only a hundred years after the Mystery of Golgotha, the most brilliant Roman writer, Tacitus, writes about Christ as if he were someone almost unknown, who had met his death over in Asia. At that time therefore, in the height of Roman civilisation, of Roman spiritual and cultural life, where people were living in the traditions of the previous several thousand years, even there nothing was known of Christ. And it is possible to paint a word-picture of a significant fact: There above is the Roman civilisation — in the arenas, in brilliant performances, in everything that takes place in Roman social life, in the life of the state. Below, underground, are those regions known as the catacombs. There many people gather together, gather by the graves of those who, like themselves, were believers in the Mystery of Golgotha. These people must keep everything secret. What goes on under the earth only comes to the surface on those occasions when, in the arena, a Christian is smeared with pitch and burned as an entertainment for those who are civilised citizens. Thus we have two worlds: above, the life of Roman civilisation, based on old, resplendent traditions; below, what is developing in secret under the earth. Let us take the brilliant writer of this epoch. He was able to write what amounts to no more than a brief reference in his notes to the coming into being of Christianity, while his writing table in Rome may well have stood over one of the catacombs without his knowing anything whatsoever about what was taking place beneath him.
Let us take several hundred years later. What earlier had spread over the world in such a spectacular way has now disappeared; the Christian civilisation has risen to the surface of the earth and Christianity is beginning to expand in Europe where previously there had been the Roman culture. Keeping such a picture in view one sees how things actually proceed in the evolution of humanity. And often, when contemplating the present time, one is inclined to say: To be sure, anthroposophists today do not bury themselves under the earth; that is no longer customary, or they would have to do it; externally they find themselves in surroundings as beautiful as those we have here; but now ask yourselves whether those from outside, who regard ordinary, normal civilisation as their own, know more about what is taking place here than the Romans knew about what was taking place in the catacombs. One can no longer speak so precisely; the situation has passed over into a more intellectual sphere, but it remains the same. And when in thought one looks forward a few hundred years, one may at any rate indulge in the courageous hope that the picture will change. Of course, those who know as little about anthroposophy today as the Romans knew about Christianity find all this very fantastic; but no one can work actively in the world who is unable to look courageously at the path opening out before him. And anthroposophists would fain look with the same courage at the way which lies ahead. This is why such pictures rise up in the mind's eye.
From time to time we must certainly turn our attention to all the opinions about anthroposophy which are held today. Gradually it has come about that scarcely a week goes by without the appearance of some sort of antagonistic book dealing with anthroposophy. The opponents take anthroposophy very seriously. They refute it every week or so, not indeed so much from different standpoints, for they are not very inventive, but they nevertheless refute it. It is quite interesting to observe how anthroposophy is dealt with when approached in this way. One discovers that very learned people, or people who should have a sense of responsibility, write books on some subject or other and introduce what they have read about anthroposophy. Very often they have not read a single book whose author is an anthroposophist, but they gather their information solely from the works of opponents.
Let us take an example. There was once a Gnosis, of which scarcely anything exists except the Pistis-Sophia, a writing which does not contain very much and is moreover extremely difficult to understand. All those who write about the Gnosis today — for at the present time this realm is very much in the forefront — know little about it, but nevertheless regard themselves as its exponents. They believe that they are giving some explanation of the Gnosis when they say it originated out of Greek culture. I must often think of how it would be if everything related to anthroposophy went the same way; if, as many people often wish, all anthroposophical writings were to be burnt; then anthroposophy would be known as the Gnosis is known today. It is interesting that today many people say that anthroposophy is a warmed-up Gnosis. They do not know anthroposophy because they do not wish to know it, and they do not know the Gnosis because no external document dealing with it exists. Nevertheless this is how people talk. It is a negative example, but it can notwithstanding point in a definite direction. It can certainly only point to this: Courage and strength will be needed if anthroposophy is not to go the same way as the Gnosis, but is to develop so as to unfold its intrinsic reality. When one looks such things in the face, a feeling of deep satisfaction arises when one sees all the various undertakings which come about, of which this conference is an example; for such things taken together should ensure that anthroposophy will work powerfully into the future. In this educational course anthroposophy has, as it were, only peeped in through little windows. Much however has been indicated which may serve to show how anthroposophy goes hand in hand with reality, how it penetrates right into practical life. Just because everything real is permeated with spirit, one can only recognise and understand reality when one has an eye for the spirit. Of course it was not possible to speak here about anthroposophy as such. On the other hand it was perfectly possible to speak about a sphere of activity in which anthroposophy can work fruitfully: I mean the sphere of education.
In the case of eurythmy for instance it was destiny itself that spoke. Today, looking at things from outside, it might well be imagined that at a certain moment someone was struck with a sudden thought: We must have a eurythmy. This was not so, but at that time there was a family whose father had died.
There were a number of children and the mother was concerned about their welfare. She was anxious that something worth while should develop out of them. The anthroposophical movement was still small. The question was put to me: What might develop out of the children? It was in connection with this question that the first steps were taken to come to something in the nature of eurythmy. To begin with the attempt was confined to the very narrowest limits. So it was out of these circumstances that the first indications for eurythmy were given. Destiny had spoken. Its manifestation was made possible through the fact that there was an anthroposophy and that someone standing on anthroposophical ground was seeking her life's career. And soon after — it did not take so very long — the first pupils who had learned eurythmy themselves became teachers and were able to carry eurythmy out into the world. So, with the help of Frau Dr. Steiner, who took it under her wing, eurythmy has become what it is today. In such a case one may well feel convinced that eurythmy has not been sought: eurythmy has sought anthroposophy.
Now let us take medicine. Frau Dr. Wegman has been a member of the Anthroposophical Society ever since there was a Society. Her first attempts to heal out of an artistic perception gave her the predisposition to work medically within the Anthroposophical Movement. As a whole-hearted anthroposophist she devoted herself to medicine. So here too medicine has grown out of the being of anthroposophy and today exists firmly within it because its growth has come about through one particular personality.
And further. When the waves of the world war had subsided, people's thoughts turned in all possible directions: Now at last something really great must happen: now, because human beings have experienced so much suffering, they must find the courage to achieve something great; there must be a complete change of heart. Immense ideals were the order of the day. Authors of all kinds, who otherwise would have written on quite other subjects, wrote about “The Future of the State” or “The Future of the Social Order” and so on. Everywhere thoughts were turned towards what could now come about out of man himself. On anthroposophical soil many such things sprang up and faded away. Only in the realm of education there was very little to show up to this time. My little book, The Education of the Child from the Aspect of Spiritual Science, which appeared more or less at the beginning of the Anthroposophical Movement, was already there and it contained all kinds of indications which could be developed into a whole system of education. It was however not regarded as anything special, nothing more than a booklet that might help mothers to bring up their children. I was constantly asked: Should this child be dressed in blue, or that one in red? Should this child be given a yellow bed-cover or that child a red one? I was also asked what one or another child should eat, and so on. This was an admirable striving in an educational direction but it did not amount to very much.
Then in Stuttgart, out of all these confused ideals, there emerged Emil Molt's idea to found a school for the children of the workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. And Emil Molt, who is present today, had the notion to hand the direction of the school over to me. That was a foregone conclusion. Destiny could not have it otherwise. The school was founded with 150 children drawn from the Waldorf-Astoria factory. It was provided with teachers drawn from the Anthroposophical Movement. The law pertaining to schools in Württemberg made it possible to choose as teachers men and women who were regarded as suitable. The only condition made was that those who were to become teachers should be able to give some proof in a general way that they were well-fitted for their task. All this happened before the great “freeing of humanity” through the Weimar National Assembly From that time onwards we should no longer have been able to set about things so freely. As it was, we could make a beginning, and it will be possible at least for a few years to maintain the lower classes also. 1It was then possible that a State law might prevent children from entering the school before the fifth class.
Well, then anthroposophy took over the school, or one might equally well say, the school took over anthroposophy. And in a few years the school grew in such a way that children were entered coming from very different backgrounds and belonging to all classes of life. All kinds of people wanted their children to attend Waldorf School, anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists. Very strange opinions were held. Naturally enough parents are fondest of their own children and of course want to send them to an excellent school. To give one example, we have had the following experience. There are many opponents whose opposition is based on scientific grounds; and they know that anthroposophy is so much foolish, unscientific rubbish. Nevertheless they send their children to the Waldorf School. They even discover that the Waldorf School suits their children admirably. Recently two such people visited the Waldorf School and said — But this Waldorf School is really good, we notice this in our children; but what a pity that it is based on “Theosophy.” Now the Waldorf School would not be there at all if anthroposophy were not there. So, you see, the judgment of many people amounts to this: It is as if one would say: That is an excellent dancer; the only pity is that he must stand on two legs. Such is the logic of opponents. One cannot do otherwise than say that the Waldorf School is good, for nothing whatever in this school is planned in order to make it a school with a definite “world-conception.” In regard to religious instruction, the Catholic children are taught by a Catholic priest, the evangelical children by an evangelical clergyman; and only because in Germany there are a great many non-churchmen who belong to no religious community, are we obliged to arrange for a free religion lesson. Otherwise these children would have had no religious teaching at all. I have great difficulty in finding teachers for these free religion lessons, for they are over-full. There is no inducement whatever to persuade the children to come, for we only want to be a modern school. All we want is to have practical and fundamental principles for the instruction and education. We have no wish to introduce anthroposophy into the school, for we are no sect; what we are concerned with is universally human. We cannot however prevent children from leaving the evangelical and Catholic religion lessons and coming to the free religion lesson. It is not our fault, but they come. And so we have ever and again to see to it that this free religion lesson is continued.
The Waldorf School is growing, step by step. It now has about 800 children and between 40 and 50 teachers. Its growth is well in hand — not so its finances. The financial situation is very precarious. Less than six weeks ago there was no means of knowing whether the financial position would allow the Waldorf School to exist beyond 15th June. Here we have an example which shows clearly how difficult it is today for an undertaking to hold its own in the face of the terrible state of economic affairs in Central Europe, even though it has proved beyond any manner of doubt the spiritual justification for its existence. Again and again, every month, we experience the utmost anxiety as to how we are to make the existence of the Waldorf School economically possible. Destiny allows us to work, but in such a way that the Sword of Damocles — financial need — is always hanging over our heads. As a matter of principle we must continue to work, as if the Waldorf School were established for eternity. This certainly demands a very pronounced devotion on the part of the teaching staff, who work with inner intensity without any chance of knowing whether in three months time they will be unemployed.
Nevertheless anthroposophical education has grown out of the Anthroposophical Society. What has been least sought for is what prospers best. In other words, what the gods have given, not what men have made, is most blessed with good fortune. It is quite comprehensible that the art of education is something which perforce lies especially close to the hearts of anthroposophists. For what is really the most inwardly beautiful thing in the world? Surely it is the growing, developing human being. To see this human being from the spiritual worlds enter into the physical world through birth to observe how what lives in him, what he has carried down in definite form is gradually becoming more and more defined in his features and movements, to behold in the right way divine forces, divine manifestations working through the human form into the physical world — all this has something about it which in the deepest sense we may call religious. No wonder therefore that, wherever there is the striving towards the purest, truest, most intimate humanity, such a striving as exists as the very foundation of anything anthroposophical, one contemplates the riddle of the growing human being with sacred, religious fervour and brings towards it all the work of which one is capable.
That is something which, arising out of the deepest impulses of the soul, calls forth within the anthroposophical movement enthusiasm for the art of education. So one may truly say: The art of education stands within the anthroposophical movement as a creation which can be nurtured in no other way than with love. It is so nurtured. It is indeed nurtured with the most devoted love. And so many venture to say further that the Waldorf School is taken to the heart of all who know it, and what thrives there, thrives in a way that must be looked upon as an inner necessity. In this connection I should like to mention two facts.
Not so very long ago a conference of the Anthroposophical Society was held in Stuttgart. During this conference the most varied wishes were put forward coming from very different sides. Proposals were made as to what might be done in one or other sphere of work. And just as today other people in the world are very clever, so naturally anthroposophists are clever too; they frequently participate in the cleverness of the world. Thus it came about that a number of suggestions were interpolated into the conference. One in particular was very interesting. It was put forward by pupils who were in the top class of the Waldorf School and it was a real appeal to the Anthroposophical Society. The appeal was signed by all the pupils of the 12th Class and had more or less the following content: We are now being educated in the Waldorf School in a genuine, human way; we dread having to enter an ordinary university or college. Could not the Anthroposophical Society also create an anthroposophical university? For we should like to enter a university in which our education could be as natural and human as it is now in the Waldorf School. — The suggestion thrown into the meeting stirred the idealism of the members and as a result the decision was actually taken to found an anthroposophical university. A considerable sum of money was collected, but then, in the time of inflation, millions of marks melted away into pfennigs. Nevertheless there were people who believed that it might be possible to do something of the kind and to do it before the Anthroposophical Society had become strong enough to form and give out judgments. Well, we might certainly be able to train doctors, theologians and so on, but what would they be able to do after their training? They would receive no recognition. In spite of this, what was felt by these childlike hearts provides an interesting testimony to the inner necessity of such education. It was by no means unnatural that such a suggestion was put forward. But, to continue the story, when our pupils entered the top class for the first time we were obliged to take the following measures. We had been able to give the young people only what constituted a living culture, but now they had to find access to the dead culture essential to the Abitur examination. 2The German matriculation. We had therefore to plan the time-table for the top class in such a way that our pupils could take the Abitur. This cut right across our own curriculum and in our teachers' meetings we found it extraordinarily difficult to reconcile ourselves to putting the examination work as the focal point of the curriculum during the final year of this class. Nevertheless we did this. I had a far from easy time when I visited the class, for on the one hand the pupils were yawning because they had to learn what they must know later for the examination, and on the other hand their teachers often wanted to fit in other things which were not necessary for the examination but which the pupils wanted to know. They had always to be reminded: But you must not say that at the examination. This was a real difficulty. And then came the examination. The results were passable. However, in the college of teachers and in the teachers' meetings we were — pardon the expression — thoroughly fed up. We said: We have already established the Waldorf School; and now, when we should crown our work during the last school year, we are unable to carry out our intentions and do what the school requires of us. And so, there and then, in spite of everything, we resolved to carry through the curriculum strictly to the end of the final school year, to the end of the 12th class, and moreover to suggest to the parents and pupils that we should add yet another year, so that the examination could be taken then. The pupils accepted this with the greatest willingness for they saw it as a way out which would ensure the realisation of the intentions of the Waldorf School. We experienced no opposition whatever. There was only one request which was that Waldorf School teachers should undertake the coaching for the examination.
You see how difficult it is actually to establish within present day so-called reality something originating purely out of a knowledge of man. Only those who live in a world of fantasy could fail to see that one has perforce to deal with things as they are, and that this gives rise to immense difficulties. And so we have on the one hand the art of education within the anthroposophical movement, something which is loved quite as a matter of course. On the other hand we have to recognise that the anthroposophical movement as it exists in the social order of today is confronted with formidable difficulties when it endeavours to bring about, precisely in the beloved sphere of education, those things of which it perceives the deep inner necessity. We must look reality in the face in a living way. Do not think that it would occur to me for a single moment to ridicule those who out of inner conviction are inclined to say: Well, really, things are not so bad; too much is made of it all, for other schools get on quite all right. No, that is not the point! I know very well how much work and effort and even spirit are to be found in the schools of today. I fully recognise this. But unfortunately human beings today do not look ahead in their thinking. They do not see the threads connecting education, as it has become in the last few centuries, with what is approaching us with all the violence of a storm, threatening to ravage and lay waste our social life. Anthroposophy knows what are the conditions essential to the development of culture in the future; this alone compels us to work out such methods as you will find in our education. Our concern is to provide humanity with the possibility of progress, to save it from retrogression.
I have described on the one hand how the art of education stands within the anthroposophical movement, but how, on the other hand, through the fact that this art of education is centred in the anthroposophical movement, that movement is itself faced with great difficulties in the public life of today.
When therefore it so happens that to an ever increasing extent a larger circle of people, as has been the case here, come together who are desirous of hearing what anthroposophy has to say on the subject of education, one is thankful to the genius of our time that it is possible to speak about what lies so closely to one's heart. In this particular course of lectures I was only able to give a stimulus, to make certain suggestions. But when one comes down to rock bottom, not all that much has been achieved; for our anthroposophical education rests on actual teaching practice. It only lives when it is carried out; for it intends nothing more nor less than life itself. In actual fact it cannot truly be described, it must be experienced. This is why when one tries to stimulate interest in what must necessarily be led over into life, one has to make use of every possible art of speech in order to show how in the anthroposophical art of education we have the will to work out of the fullness of life. Maybe I have succeeded but ill in this course, but I have tried. And so you see how our education has grown out of anthroposophy in accordance with destiny.
Many people are still living in anthroposophy in such a way that they want to have it only as a world conception for heart and soul, and they look askance at anthroposophy when it widens its sphere of activity to include art, medicine, education and so on. But it cannot be otherwise, for anthroposophy demands life. It must work out of life and it must work into life. And if these lectures on the art of education have succeeded in showing to some small extent that anthroposophy is in no way sectarian or woven out of fantasy, but is something which is intended to stand before the world with the cool reasonableness of mathematics (albeit, as soon as one enters into the spiritual, mathematical coolness engenders enthusiasm, for enthusiasm is a word that is connected with spirit [The German words for enthusiasm and spirit are Geist and Begeisterung.] and one cannot help becoming enthusiastic, even if one is quite cool in the mathematical sense, when one has to speak and act out of the spirit) — even if anthroposophy is still looked upon today as an absurd fantasy, it will gradually be borne in on people that it is based on absolutely real foundations and strives in the widest sense of the words to embody and practise life. And possibly this can be demonstrated best of all today in the sphere of education.
If it has been possible to give some of those who have been present here a few stimulating ideas, then I am content. And our work together will have its best result if all those who have been a little stirred, a little stimulated, find in their common striving a way to continue in the practice of life what these lectures were intended to inspire.