Corner icon Lectures Section image

Rudolf Steiner Archive 

Calendar of the Soul

Northern Hemisphere
Week 19

In secret to encompass now
With memory what I've newly got
Shall be my striving's further aim:
Thus, ever strengthening, selfhood's forces
Shall be awakened from within
And growing, give me to myself.

Southern Hemisphere
Week 45

My power of thought grows firm
United with the spirit's birth.
It lifts the senses' dull attractions
To bright-lit clarity.
When soul-abundance
Desires union with the world's becoming,
Must senses' revelation
Receive the light of thinking.

—Translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch

See GA 40 for full calendar and German text.

Meditatively Acquired Knowledge of Man

III. Spiritual Knowledge of Man as the Fount of Educational

21 September 1920, Stuttgart

It is essential, in life, that man's connections with his environment are properly regulated. Produce supplied by the outer world can be eaten and digested by us in a suitable way; but we would not be feeding ourselves properly if we were to imbibe produce that had already been partly digested by man. This shows you that the essential thing is that certain things should be taken in from outside in a particular form, and acquire their value for life by being worked on further by man himself.

The same thing applies at a higher level also, for example in the art of education. Here, the essential thing is to know what we ought to learn and what we ought to invent out of what we have learnt, when we are actually taking a lesson. If you study education as a science, consisting of all kinds of principles and formulated statements, that is roughly the same, in terms of education, as choosing to eat food already partly digested by man. But if you undertake a study of the being of man, and learn to understand the human being in this way, what you are then receiving corresponds to food in its natural form. And then, when we are giving the lesson, from out of this knowledge of man there will arise in us, in a very individual form, the art of education itself. This has actually to be invented by the teacher every moment of the time. I want to put this point as an introduction to today's talk.

In teaching and education two elements interweave in a remarkable way. I would like to call one of them the musical element, the element of sound that we hear, and the other one can be called the pictorial element, the element we see. Other sense qualities are intermingled with what we hear on the one hand and see on the other, of course, and in certain circumstances these can be of secondary importance for the lesson, but they are not as important as seeing and hearing.

Now is is essential that we really understand these processes right down to the point where we understand what is actually going on in the body. You will know that nowadays external science sees a difference between man's so-called sensory nerves, that apparently run from the senses to the brain or the central organ, conveying perception and mental imagery, and his motor nerves, that apparently run from the central organ to the organs of movement and set them in motion. You will realise that from the standpoint of initiation science we have to challenge this classification. There is absolutely no such difference between the so-called sensory nerves and the motor nerves. Both are one and the same, and the motor nerves do not really perform any function other than perceiving the moving limb and the actual process of movement the moment it happens; they have nothing to do with actually giving the impulse of will. So we can say that we have nerves that run from our periphery more towards the centre, and we also have nerves that run from the centre to the ends of the organs of movement. But they are basically the same nerve strands, .and the essential thing is only that there is an interruption between these uniform nerves; that is, the soul streaming through the sensory nerves to the centre for instance, undergoes a break, as it were, at the centre, and has to jump across, without however becoming any different, to the so-called motor nerve, which also does not alter in any respect, but is exactly the same as the sensory nerve — just like, say, an electric spark or an electric current that jumps across a switch-board when transmission is interrupted. It is just that the motor nerve has the capacity to perceive the process of movement and the moving limb. But there is something that gives us the possibility of looking very closely into this whole organic process where soul currents and bodily processes interwork.

Let us begin by supposing we are living in the perception of a picture, in the perception of something that is principally conveyed by the organ of sight, a drawing, a form of any kind living in our environment, that is, anything that becomes the property of our soul because we have eyes. We must now distinguish three very distinctly different inner activities. Firstly perception as such. This perception as such actually takes place within the organ of sight.

Secondly we have to distinguish understanding. And here we have to be clear about the fact that all understanding is conveyed by man's rhythmic system, not by his system of nerves and senses. Perception, alone, is conveyed by the nerve-senses system, and we only understand a picture process, for example, because the rhythmical process regulated by the heart and the lungs proceeds through the brain fluid to the brain. The vibrations going on in the brain receive their stimulus in man's rhythmic system, and it is these vibrations that are the actual bodily conveyers of understanding. We can understand, because we breathe.

You can see how frequently these things are misinterpreted by physiology today! The belief is that understanding has something to do with man's nervous system. Yet in reality it is due to the rhythmic system receiving and assimilating what we perceive and visualise. Through this fact though, that the rhythmic system is connected with understanding, understanding becomes intimately connected with man's feeling. And whoever looks at himself very closely will see the connections between understanding and actual feeling. Actually we have to see the truth of something we understand before we can agree with it. For it is our rhythmic system that supplies the meeting place for our understanding of knowledge and the soul's element of feeling.

Then there is a third element, which is the absorbing of information so that our memory can retain it. Thus with each process of this kind we have to distinguish perception, understanding, and sufficient assimilation for the memory to retain it. And this third element is connected with the metabolic system. Those very delicate inner processes of metabolism going on in the organism are connected with memory, and we should pay attention to these, for as teachers we have particular reason to know about them. Notice what a different kind of memory pale children have compared with children who have nice rosy cheeks, or how different with regard to memory the various human races are. Everything of this kind is dependent on the delicate organisation and processes of the metabolism. And we can, for example, strengthen the memory of a pale child if, as teachers, we are in the position to see that he gets some sound sleep, so that the delicate processes in his metabolism receive more stimulation. And another way of helping his memory would be to bring about a rhythm for him, in our teaching, between just listening and working on his own. Now supposing you let the child listen too much. He will manage to perceive, and he will also understand at a pinch, because he is breathing all the time and therefore keeping his brain fluid moving; but the will of the child will not be sufficiently exerted. The will, as you know, is connected with the metabolism. So if you let the child get too much into the habit of watching and listening do not let him do enough work by himself, you will not be able to educate and teach him well — because inner assimilation is connected with the metabolism and the will, and the will is not being active enough. Therefore you have to find the right rhythm between listening and watching and working individually. For retention will not be good unless the will works into the metabolism and stimulates the memory to assimilate. These are delicate physiological matters that spiritual science will gradually have to understand in great detail.

Whilst all this refers to experiencing the pictorial element conveyed by means of sight, it is different in the case of everything relating to the element of sound, to the more or less musical element; and I do not only mean the musical element that lives in music, which only serves as the clearest example, and applies par excellence, but I mean everything to do with what we hear, living more in language and so on. I am referring to all that, when 1 speak of the sounding element. And here — however paradoxical it may sound — it is exactly the opposite process of the one I have just described. The sense organisation in the ear is inwardly connected in a very delicate way with all the nerves that present-day physiology calls motor nerves, but which are in fact the same thing as sensory nerves; so that all we experience as audible is perceived by the nerve strands embedded in our limb organisation. Everything musical has to penetrate deep inside our organism first of all — and our ear nerves are organised for this — and in order to be perceived properly it has to seize hold of the nerves deep within our organism those nerves in which otherwise only the will is active. For those areas in the human organism that convey memory of pictorial expedience — convey the actual perception of musical experiences. So if you look for the area in the organism where the memory of visual perceptions is developed you will also find the nerves that convey the actual perception of sound. Here we see the reason why, for instance, Schopenhauer and others brought music into such intimate connection with the will. Musical perceptions are perceived in the same place as visual perceptions are remembered, namely in the realms of the will. The place where musical perceptions are understood is again the rhythmic system. That is what is so impressive about the human organism, that these things intertwine in such a remarkable way. Our perceptions of visual things meet with our perceptions of audible things and are interwoven in a common inner soul experience because they are both understood in the rhythmic system. Everything we perceive is understood in the rhythmic system. Visual perceptions are perceived by the separate head organism and audible perceptions by the whole limb organism. Visual perceptions stream into the organism; audible perceptions stream from the organism upwards. And you must now combine this with what I said in the first talk. You can do this very well if you feel it. Through the fact that both worlds meet in the rhythmic system something arises in our soul experience that is a combination of audible experiences and visual experiences. And the musical element, that is, everything we hear, is remembered in the same realm where visual things have their sense-nerve organs. These are at one and the same time the kind of organs that appear to be sense-nerve organs, and external physiology calls them that, yet in reality they are connected with the metabolism, and convey the delicate metabolism of the head realm and bring about musical memories. In the same realms in which perception of visual things take place musical memory, the remembering of everything audible, takes place. We remember what we hear in the same realm as we perceive what we see. We perceive what we hear in the same realm as we remember what we see. And both cross over like a lemniscate in the rhythmic system where they intermesh.

Anyone who has ever studied musical memory — and despite the fact that we all take it for granted, it is a wonderful and mysterious thing — will find how entirely different it is from the memory of visual perceptions. It is based on a particularly delicate organisation of the head metabolism, and although in its general character it is also related to the will, and therefore to the metabolism, it is situated in an entirely different realm of the body from the memory of visual perceptions, which is likewise connected with the will.

You see, if you reflect on these things, you will be impressed by how complicated the speech process is. Due to the rhythmic system being so intimately connected with the organs of speech, understanding only comes about when the speech process unfolds from within. But it comes about in a remarkable way, and to help you understand it fully perhaps I may remind you of Goethe's theory of colour. Quite apart from the fact that Goethe calls the red-yellow side of the spectrum warm and the blue-violet side cold, let us recall how he brings the perception of colour and the perception of sound closer together. According to him the red-yellow side of the spectrum 'sounds' different from the blue-violet side, as it were, and he connects it with major and minor, which is certainly a more inward aspect of tone experience. You can find this in those parts of his scientific works that were published in the Weimar edition, from his unprinted material, and which I included in the last volume of my Kuerschner edition. And we can certainly say that if we look into the inner man more in the style in which Goethe describes the theory of colour, we arrive at something remarkable. When we speak it is, as it were, the sound of speech that comes to life first within man. Indeed, the element of sound lives in speech, yet this sound is altered in a certain way. I would like to describe it by saying that the sound is mixed with something that 'dulls it down' when we speak. This is really not just a metaphor but something that has to do with real processes when we say that the actual tone is 'coloured' when we speak. The same thing happens within us as it does in the case ol external colour when we perceive it as having a 'tone'. We do not perceive the tone in the external colour either, but we hear something sounding forth from every colour, as it were. We do not see a colour when we say E or U any more than we hear the tones when we see yellow or blue. But we experience the same thing when we become aware of the sound of speech as we do when we experience the sound of colour. The world of sight and the world of sound overlap here. The colours we see in the world outside us have a pronounced visual nature and a subtle sound nature that enters into us in the way I described in a previous talk. Speech, coming from within us towards the surface, has a pronounced sound nature and a subtle colour nature in its various sounds, that comes to expression more in the child before the seventh year, as I told you previously. From this you see that colour is more pronounced in the outer world and sound more pronounced in man's inner world, and that cosmic music moves beneath the surface in the outer world, whereas beneath the surface of sound in man there hovers an astral element of hidden colour.

And if you properly understand the marvellous organism that comes forth from man as actual speech, you will feel, when you hear it, all the vibrations of the astral body within the colourful movements that pass directly into speech. They work in man in other ways, too, of course. But they get unusually excited, gather up in the area of the larynx where they receive impacts from the sun and the moon, and this brings about something like a play of forces in the astral body that come to external expression in the movements of the larynx. And now you have the possibility of having a picture of this at least: when you listen to any kind of language you are looking at the astral body which straight away passes its vibrations onto the etheric body, thus making the two bodies work more closely as one. Now if you draw this, you will get pure movement coming from the human organism, and you will obtain the kind of eurythmy that is always being carried out by the astral body and etheric body together, when a person speaks. Nothing is arbitrary, for you would solely be making visible what is continually happening invisibly.

Why do we do this nowadays? We do it because it lies within us that nowadays we have to do consciously what we used to do unconsciously; for man's whole evolution consists in gradually bringing down into the sense world what originally only existed spiritually in the supersensible. The Greeks, for instance, actually still thought with their souls; their thinking was still entirely of a soul nature, Modern man, especially since the middle of the fifteenth century, thinks with his brain. Materialism is actually a perfectly correct theory for modern man. For what was still soul experience for the Greeks has gradually imprinted itself into the brain. This is inherited in the brain from generation to generation, and modern man now thinks with imprints in the brain; he now thinks by means of material processes. This had to come. Only now we have to go up again; what has to be added to these processes is that man raises himself up to what comes from the supersensible world. Therefore we now have to do the opposite of the former imprinting of soul in the body, that is, we have to take hold, in freedom, of the spiritual supersensible element, through spiritual science. But this has to be consciously taken in hand, if human evolution is to continue. We have consciously to bring man's visible body into movement, just as it has been done for us up till now in the invisible realm, without our being conscious of it. Then we shall be consciously carrying on in the direction in which the gods worked when they imprinted thinking into the brain, if we make invisible eurythmy visible. If we did not do this, mankind would fall asleep. Although all kinds of things would flood into the human ego and astral body from the spiritual worlds, this would only happen during sleep, and on awakening these things would never get passed on to the physical body.

When people do eurythmy it does a service to both the audience and the eurythmists, for they all get something of importance from it. In the case of eurythmists, the eurythmic movements make their physical organisms receptive to the spiritual world, for the movements want to come down from there. By preparing themselves for this the eurythmists are, as it were, making themselves into organs for receiving processes from the spiritual world. In the case of the audience, the movements living in their astral body and ego are intensified, as it were. If after seeing a eurythmy performance you could wake up suddenly in the night you would see that you had got much more from it than if you had been to a concert and heard a sonata; eurythmy has an even stronger effect than that. It strengthens the soul by bringing it into living contact with the supersensible. But a certain healthy balance must be maintained. If you have too much of it, the soul has a restless night in the spiritual world when the person should be asleep, and this restlessness in the soul would be the counterpart of physical nervousness.

You can see these things as an indication that we should look at the marvellous construction of our human organisation and perceive more and more what it is really like. On the one hand our attention is drawn to the physical, where everything points to the fact that there is no part of our body without spirit in it, and on the other hand we see that the spiritual soul part has the urge not to remain separated from physical experience. And it is of special interest to let these things that I have spoken to you about again today work on you, and look to their educational value. Say for example you do a lively meditation on the whole life of the musical element in man in the will realm of things we see, and another one on the life of musical memories in the realm where we have perceptions of what we see — and vice versa, if you connect what is in the realm where we have perceptions of what we hear with what is in the realm where we remember what we see, — if you bring all these things together and meditate on them, you can be sure of one thing, and that is that the power of inventiveness you will need for teaching children will be sparked off in you.

Ideas like these on spiritual scientific education are all aimed at a better understanding of man. And if you meditate on them these things are bound to have an effect on you. You see, if for instance you eat a piece of bread and butter, it is in the first place a conscious process; but what happens after that, when the piece of bread and butter goes through the complicated process of digestion, you cannot have much influence on. The process takes place nevertheless, and is of great importance to your general well-being. Now if you work at the study of man like we have been doing, you experience it consciously to start with; yet if you subsequently meditate on it, an inner process of digestion goes on in your soul and spirit making a teacher and educator of you. Just as the metabolism makes you a living person, this meditative digesting of a true study of man makes you an educator. You simply encounter the child in an entirely different way when you experience the results of a real, anthroposophical study of man. What we become, what works in us and makes us teachers, comes into being through our working meditatively at this kind of study of man. And if we keep on returning to ideas like these, if only for five minutes a day, our whole inner life of soul will be brought into movement. We shall produce so many thoughts and feelings they will just pour out of us. If you meditate on the study of man in the evening, then next morning you will know in a flash 'Of course, you must now do this or that with Johnnie Smith' — or 'This girl lacks such and such,' and so on. That is, you will know what to do in any situation.

In our lives as human beings the important thing is to let inner and outer things work together in this way. You do not even need a lot of time for this. Once you have got the knack, in three seconds you can get an inner grasp of things that will often keep you going for a whole day's teaching. Time ceases to have any significance when it is a matter of bringing supersensible things to life. The spirit has different laws. Just as you can be thinking about something when you wake up that could have taken weeks to happen, yet it shot through your head in no time at all — what comes to you out of the spirit can stretch out in time. Just as everything contracts in a dream, things we receive from the spirit expand in time. So by doing a meditation like this, you can, if you are 40 or 45 years of age, carry out the whole inner transformation you need for your teaching, in five minutes, and you will be quite different in ordinary life than you were before.

Documents have been written about things of this kind of people who have experienced them. You have to understand these things. But you must also understand that the kind of thing experienced by a few individuals to a high degree, in a way that can throw light on the whole of life, must take place in miniature in the case of the teacher.

He must take in the study of man, understand the study of man through meditation, then remember the study of man, and the remembering will become vigorous life. It is not the usual kind of remembering, but a remembering that gives forth new, inner impulses. In this instance memory springs forth from the life of spirit, and what we call the third stage appears in our work; namely, following in the wake of meditative understanding comes a creative remembering which is at one and the same time a receiving from the spiritual world. Thus we start with a receiving or perceiving of the study of man, then comes an understanding, a meditative understanding of the study of man, that goes into its inner aspect where the study of man is received by the whole of our rhythmic system; and then comes a remembering of it out of the spirit. This means teaching creatively from out of the spirit; the art of education comes about. It must, be a conviction, a frame of mind.

You must see the human being in such a way that you constantly feel these three stages within you. And the more you come to the point of saying to yourself 'There is my external body, my skin, and that contains the power to receive the study of man, the power to understand the study of man in meditation, the power to be fructified by God in the remembering of the study of man' — the more you have this feeling within you, the more you will be a real teacher.

Support Our Services

The Archive is a "pay what you can" service. If you or your organization use and value our work, please consider making a financial contribution. Visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support us. Thank you!

Please Donate!