[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

Spiritual Ground of Education

Schmidt Number: S-4957

On-line since: 26th August 2004



The importance for the educator of knowing man as a whole is seen particularly clearly when we observe the development of boys and girls between their eleventh and twelfth years. Usually only what we might call the grosser changes are observed, the grosser metamorphoses of human nature, and we have no eye for the finer changes. Hence we believe we can benefit the child simply by thinking: what bodily movements should the child make to become physically strong P But if we want to make the child's body strong, capable and free from cramping repressions we must reach the body during childhood by way of the soul and spirit.

Between the 11th and 12th year a very great change takes place in the human being. The rhythmic system — breathing system and system of blood circulation — is dominant between the change of teeth and puberty. When the child is nearly ten years old the beat and rhythm of the blood circulation and breathing system begin to develop and pass into the muscular system. The muscles become saturate with blood and the blood pulses through the muscles in intimate response to man's inner nature — to his own heart. So that between his 9th and 11th years the human being builds up his own rhythmic system in the way which corresponds to its inner disposition. When the 11th or 12th year is reached, then what is within the rhythmic system and muscular system passes over into the bone system, into the whole skeleton. Up to the 11th year the bone system is entirely embedded in the muscular system. It conforms to the muscular system. Between the 11th and 12th years the skeleton adapts itself to the outer world. A mechanic and dynamic which is independent of the human being passes into the skeleton. We must accustom ourselves to treating the skeleton as though it were an entirely objective thing, not concerned with man.

If you observe children under eleven years old you will see that all their movements still come out of their inner being. If you observe children of over 12 years old you will see from the way they step how they are trying to find their balance, how they are inwardly adapting themselves to the leverage and balance, to the mechanical nature of the skeletal system. This means: Between the 11th and 12th year the soul and spirit nature reaches as far as the bone-.system. Before this the soul and spirit nature is much more inward. And only now that he has taken hold on that remotest part of his humanity, the bone-system, does man's adaptation to the outer world become complete. Only now is man a true child of the world, only now must he live with the mechanic and dynamic of the world, only now does he experience what is called Causality in life. Before his 11th year a human being has in reality no understanding of cause and effect. He hears the words used. We think he under-stands them. But he does not, because he is controlling his bone system from out of his muscular system. Later, after the 12th year, the bone system, which is adjusting itself to the outer world, dominates the muscular system, and through it, influences spirit and soul. And in consequence man now gets an understanding of cause and effect based on inner experience, — an understanding of force, and of his own experience of the perpendicular, the horizontal, etc.

For this reason, you see, when we teach the child mineralogy, physics, chemistry, mechanics before his 11th year in too intellectual a way we harm his development, for he cannot as yet have a corresponding experience of the mechanical and dynamical within his whole being. Neither, before his 11th year can he inwardly participate in thy causal connections in history.

Now this enlightens us as to how we should treat the soul in children, before the bone system has awakened. While the child still dwells in his muscular system, through the intermediary of his blood system, he can inwardly experience biography; he can always participate when we bring before him some definite historical picture which can please or displease him, and with which he can feel sympathy or antipathy. Or when we give him a picture of the earth in the manner I described yesterday. He can grasp in picture everything that belongs to the plant kingdom, because his muscular system is plastic, is inwardly mobile. Or if we show him what I said of the animal kingdom, and how it dwells in man — the child can go along with it because his muscular system is soft. But if before his 11th year we teach the child the principle of the lever or of the steam engine he can experience nothing of it inwardly because as yet he has no dynamic or mechanic in his own body, in his physical nature. When we begin physics, mechanics and dynamics at the right time with the child, namely about his 11th or 12th year, what we present to him in thought goes into his head and it is met by what comes from his inner being, — the experience the child has of his own bone-system. And what we say to the child unites with the impulse and experience which comes from the child's body. Thus there arises, not an abstract, intellectual understanding, but a psychic understanding, an understanding in the soul. And it is this we must aim at.

But what of the teacher who has to make this endeavour? What must he be like? Suppose for example, a teacher knows from his anatomy and physiology that “the muscle is in that place, the bones here; the nerve cells look like this”: — it is all very fine, put it is intellectual; all this leaves the child out of account, the child is, as it were, impermeable to our vision. The child is like black coal, untransparent. We know what muscles and nerves are there; we know all that. But we do not know how the circulation system plays into the blood system, into the bone-system. To know that, our conception of the build of a human being, of man's inner configuration must be that of an artist. And the teacher must be in a position to experience the child artistically, to see him as an artist would. Everything within the child must be inwardly mobile to him.

Now, the philosopher will come and say: “Well, if a thing is to be known it must be logical.” Quite right, but logical after the manner of a work of art, which can be an inner artistic representation of the world we have before us. We must accept such an inward artistic conceiving — we must not dogmatise: The world shall only be conceived logically. All the teacher's ideas and feelings must be go mobile that he can realise: If I give the child ideas of dynamics and mechanics before his 11th year they clog his brain, they congest, and make the brain hard, so that it develops migraine in the latter years of youth, and later still will harden; — if I give the child separate historical pictures or stories before his 11th year, if I give him pictures of the plant kingdom which shows the plants in connection with the country-side where they grow, these ideas go into his brain, but they go in by way of the rest of his nervous system into his whole body. They unite with the whole body, with the soft muscular system. I build up lovingly what is at work within the child. The teacher now sees into the child, what to one who only knows anatomy and physiology is opaque black coal now becomes transparent. The teacher sees everything, sees what goes on in the rows of children facing him at their desks, what goes on in the single child. He does not need to cogitate and have recourse to some didactic rule or other, the child himself shows him what needs to be done with it. The child leans back in his chair when something has been done which is unsuitable to him; he becomes inattentive. When you do something right for the child he becomes lively.

Nevertheless one will sometimes have great trouble in controlling the children's liveliness. You will succeed in controlling it if you possess a thing not sufficiently appreciated in this connection, namely humour. The teacher must bring humour into the class room as he enters the door. Some-times children can be very naughty. A teacher in the Waldorf School found a class of older children, children over 12 years old, suddenly become inattentive to the lesson and begin writing to one another under their desks. Now a teacher without humour might get cross at this, mightn't he? There would be a great scene. But what did our Waldorf School teacher do? He went along with the children, and explained to them the nature of — the postal service. And the children saw that he understood them. He entered right into this matter of their mutual correspondence. They felt slightly ashamed, and order was restored.

The fact is, no art of any kind can be mastered without humour, especially the art of dealing with human beings. This means that part of the art of education is the elimination of ill-humour and crossness from the teachers, and the development of friendliness and a love full of humour and fantasy for the children, so that the children may not see portrayed in their teacher the very thing he is forbidding them to be. On no account must it happen in a class that when a child breaks out in anger the teacher says: I will beat this anger out of you! That is a most terrible thing! And he seizes the inkpot and hurls it to the ground where it smashes. This is not a way to remove anger from a child. Only when you show the child that his anger is a mere object, that for you it hardly exists, it is a thing to be treated with humour, then only will you be acting educationally.

Up till now I have been describing how the human being is to be understood in general by the teacher or educator. But man is not only something in general. And even if we can enter into the human being in such detail that the very activity of the muscular system before the 11th year is transparent to us, and that of the bone system after the 11th year, there will yet remain something else — a thing of extraordinary vitality where education is an art — namely the human individuality. Every child is a different being, and what I have hitherto described only constitutes the very first step in the artistic comprehension and knowledge of the child.

We must be able to enter more and more into what is personal and individual. We are helped provisionally by the fact that the children we have to educate are differentiated according to temperaments. A true understanding of temperaments has, from the very first, held a most important place in the education I am here describing, the education practised at the Waldorf School.

Let us take to begin with the melancholic child; a particular human type. What is he like? He appears externally a quiet, withdrawn child. But these outward characteristics are not much help to us. We only begin to comprehend the child with a disposition to melancholy when we realise that the melancholic child is most powerfully affected by its purely bodily, physical nature; when we know that the melancholy is due to an intense depositing of salt in the organism. This causes the child of melancholic temperament to feel weighed down in his physical organism. For a melancholic child to raise a leg or an arm is quite a different matter than for another child. There are hindrances, impediments to this raising of the leg or arm. A feeling of weight opposes the intention of the soul. Thus it gradually comes about that the child of melancholic disposition turns inward and does not take to the outside world with any pleasure, because his body obtrudes upon his attention, because he is so much concerned with his own body. We only gain the right approach to a melancholic child when we know how his soul which would soar, and his spirit which would range are burdened by bodily deposits continuously secreted by the glands, which permeate his other bodily movements and encumber his body. We can only help him when we rightly understand this encroaching heaviness of the body which takes the attention prisoner.

It is often said: Well, a melancholic child broods inwardly, he is quiet and moves little. And so one purposely urges him to take in lively ideas. One seeks to heal a thing by its opposite. One's treatment of the melancholic is to try and enliven him by telling him all sorts of amusing things. This is a completely false method. We can never reach the melancholic child in this way.

We must be able, through our sympathy and sympathetic comprehension of his bodily gravity, to approach the child m the mood which is his own. Thus we must give him, not lively and, comical ideas, but serious ideas like those which he produces himself. We must give him many things which are in harmony with the tone of his own weighted organism.

Further, in an education such as this, we must have patience; the effect is not seen from one day to the next, but it takes years. And the way it works is that when the child is given from outside what he has within himself he arouses in himself healing powers of resistance. If we bring him something quite alien, if we bring comic things to a serious child — he will remain indifferent to the comic things. But if we confront him outwardly with his own sorrow and trouble and care he perceives from this outward meeting what he has in himself. And this calls out the inner action, the opposite. And we heal pedagogically by following in modern form the ancient golden rule: Not only can like be known by like, like can be treated and healed by like.

Now when we consider the child of a more phlegmatic temperament we must realise: this child of more phlegmatic temperament dwells less in his physical body and more in what I have called, in my descriptions here, the etheric body, a more volatile body. He dwells in his etheric body. It may seem a strange thing to say about the phlegmatic child that he dwells in his etheric body, but so it is. The etheric body prevents the processes of man's organic functions, his digestion, and growth, from coming into his head. It is not in the power of the phlegmatic child to get ideas of what is going on in his body. His head becomes inactive. His body becomes ever more and more active by virtue of the volatile element which tends to scatter his functions abroad in the world. A phlegmatic child is entirely given up to the world. He is absorbed into the world. He lives very little in himself hence he meets what we try to do with him with a certain indifference. We cannot reach the child because immediate access to him must be through the' senses. The principle senses are in the head. The phlegmatic child can make little use of his head. The rest of his organism functions through interplay with the outer world.

Once again, as in the case of the melancholic child, we can only reach the phlegmatic child when we can turn ourselves into phlegmatics of some sort at his side, when we can transpose ourselves, as artists, into his phlegmatic mood. Then the child has at his side what he is in himself, and in good time what he has beside him seems too boring. Even the phlegmatic finds it too boring to have a phlegmatic for a teacher at his side! And if we have patience we shall presently see how something lights up in the phlegmatic child if we give him ideas steeped in phlegma, and tell him phlegmatically of indifferent events.

Now the sanguine child is particularly difficult to handle. The sanguine child is one in whom the activity of the rhythmic system predominates in a marked degree. The rhythmic system, which is the dominant factor between the change of teeth and puberty, exercises too great a dominion over the sanguine child. Hence the sanguine child always wants to hasten from impression to impression. His blood circulation is hampered if the impressions do not change quickly. He feels inwardly cramped if impressions do not quickly pass and give way to others. So we can say: The sanguine child feels an inner constriction when he has to attend long to anything; he feels he cannot dwell on it, he turns away to quite other thoughts. It is hard to hold him.

Once more the treatment of the sanguine child is similar to that of the others: one must not try to heal the sanguine child by forcing him to dwell a long time on one impression, one must do the opposite. Meet the sanguine nature, change impressions vigorously and see to it that the child has to take in impression after impression in rapid succession. Once again, a reaction will be called into play. And this cannot fail to take the form of antipathy to the hurrying impressions, for the system of circulation here dominates entirely. With the result that the child himself is slowed down.

The choleric child has to be treated in yet a different way. The characteristic of the choleric child is that he is a stage behind the normal in his development. This may seem strange. Let us take an illustration. A normal child of 8 or 9 of any type moves his limbs quickly or slowly in response to outer impressions. But compare the 8 or 9-year old child with a child of 3 or 4 years. The 3- or 4-year old child still trips and dances through life, he controls his movements far less. He still retains something of the baby within him. A baby does not control its movements at all, it kicks — its mental powers are not developed. But if tiny babies all had a vigorous mental development you would find them all to be cholerics. Kicking babies — and the healthier they are the more they kick — kicking babies are all choleric. A choleric child comes from a body made restless by choler.

Now the choleric child still retains something of the rompings and ragings of a tiny baby. Hence the baby lives on in the choleric child of 8 or 9, the choleric boy or girl. This is the reason the child is choleric and we must treat the child by trying gradually to subdue the “baby” within him.

In the doing of this, humour is essential. For when we confront a real choleric of 8, 9, 10 years or even older, we shall affect nothing with him by admonition. But if I get him to re-tell me a story I have told him, which requires a show of great choler and much pantomime, so that he feels the baby in himself, this will have [For further descriptions of the alternation between sympathy and antipathy in children and its place in education see Steiner's educational writings passim.] the effect little by little of calming this “tiny baby.” He adapts it to the stage of his own mind. And when I act the choleric towards the choleric child — naturally, of course, with humour and complete self-control — the choleric child at my side will grow calmer. When the teacher begins to dance — but please do not misunderstand me — the raging of the child near him gradually subsides. But one must avoid having either a red face or a long face when dealing with a choleric child, one must enter into this inner raging by means of artistic sensibility. You will see the child will become quieter and quieter. This utterly subdues the inner raging.

But there must be nothing artificial in all this. If there is anything forced or inartistic in what the teacher gives the child it will have no result. The teacher must indeed have artist's blood in him so that what he enacts in front of the child shall have verisimilitude and can be accepted unquestioningly; otherwise it is a false thing in the teacher, and that must not be. The teacher's relation to the child must be absolutely true and genuine.

Now when we enter into the temperaments in this manner it helps us also to keep a class in order, even quite a large one. The Waldorf teacher studies the temperaments of the children confided to him. He knows: I have melancholies, phlegmatics, sanguines and cholerics. He places the melancholies together, unobtrusively, without its being noticed of course. He knows he has them in this corner. Now he places the cholerics together, he knows he has them in that corner; similarly with the sanguinis and the phlegmatics. By means of this social treatment those of like temperament rub each other's corners off reciprocally. For example the melancholic becomes cheerful when he sits among melancholies. As for the cholerics, they heal each other thoroughly, for it is the very best thing to let the cholerics work off their choler upon one another. If bruises are received, mutually it has an exceedingly sobering effect. So that by a right social treatment the — shall we say — hidden relationship between man and man can be brought into a healthy solution.

And if we have enough sense of humour to send out a boy when he is overwrought and in a rage — into the garden, and see to it that he climbs trees and scrambles about until he is colossally tired, — when he comes in again he will have worked off his choleric temper on himself and in company with nature. When he has worked off what is in him by overcoming obstacles, he will come back to us, after a little while, calmed down.

Now the point is, you see, to come by way of the temperaments into ever closer and closer touch with the individuality of the child, his personality. To-day many people say you must educate individually. Yes, but first you must discover the individual. First you must know man; next you must know the melancholic — Actually the melancholic is never a pure melancholic, the temperaments are always mixed. One temperament is dominant — But only when you rightly understand the temperament can you find your way to the individuality.

Now this shows you indeed that the art of education is a thing that must be learned intimately. People to-day do not start criticising a clock — at least I have not heard it — they do not set up to criticise the works of a clock. Why? Because they do not understand it, they do not know the inner working of a clock. Thus you seldom hear criticism of the working of a clock in ordinary conversation. But criticism of education — you hear it on all hands. And frequently it is as though people were to talk of the works of a clock of which they haven't the slightest inkling. But people do not believe that education must be intimately learned, and that it is not enough to say in the abstract: we must educate the individuality. We must erst be able to find the individuality by going intimately through a knowledge of man and a knowledge of the different dispositions and temperaments. Then gradually we shall draw near to what is entirely individual in man. And this must become a principle of life, particularly for the artist teacher or educator.

Everything depends upon the contact between teacher and child being permeated by an artistic element. This will bring it about that much that a teacher has to do at any moment with an individual child comes to him intuitively, almost instinctively. Let us take a concrete illustration for the sake of clarity. Suppose we find difficulty in educating a certain child because all the images we bring to him, the impressions we seek to arouse, the ideas we would impart, set up so strong a circulation in his head system and cause such a disturbance to his nervous system that what we give him cannot escape from the head into the rest of his organism. The physical organism of his head becomes in a way partially melancholic. The child finds it difficult to lead over what he sees, feels or otherwise experiences, from his head to the rest of his organism. What is learned gets stuck, as it were, in the head. It cannot penetrate down into the rest of the organism. An artist in educating will instinctively keep such a thing in view in all his specifically artistic work with the child. If I have such a child I shall use colours and paint with him in quite a different way than with other children. Because it is of such importance, special attention is given to the element of colour in the Waldorf School from the very beginning. I have already explained the principle of the painting; but within' the painting lesson one can treat each child individually. We have an opportunity of working individually with the child because he has to do everything himself.

Now suppose I have by me such a child as I described. I am taking the painting lesson. If there is the right artistic contact between teacher and child — under my guidance this child will produce quite a different painting from another child.

I will draw you roughly on the black-board what should come on the paper painted on by the child whose ideas are stuck in his head. Something of this sort should arise:

Click image for large view

Here a spot of this colour (yellow), then further on a spot of some such colour as this (orange), for we have to keep in mind the harmony of colours. Next comes a transition (violet), the transition may be further differentiated, and in order to make an outer limit the whole may be enclosed with blue. This is what we shall get on the paper of a child whose ideas are congested in his head.

Now suppose I have another child whose ideas, far from sticking in his head, sift through his head as through a sieve; where everything goes into the body, and the child grasps nothing because his head is like a sieve — it has holes, it lets things through. It sifts everything down. One must be able to feel that in the case of this child the circulation system of the other part of the organism wants to suck everything into itself.

Then instinctively, intuitively, it will occur to one to get the child to do something quite different. In the case of such a child you will get something of this sort on the painting paper; You will observe how much less the colours go into curves, or rounded forms; rather you will find the colours tend to be drawn out, painting is approximating to drawing, we get loops which are proper to drawing. You will also notice that the colours are not much differentiated; here (in the first drawing) they are strongly differentiated: here in this one they are very little differentiated.

Click image for large view

If one carries this out with real colours — and not with the nauseating substance of chalk, which cannot give an idea of the whole thing — then through the experience of pure colour in the one case, and of more formed colour in the other, one will be able to work back upon the characteristics of the child which I described.

Similarly when you go into the gymnasium with a boy or girl whose ideas stick in his head and will not come out of it, your aim will be different from that with which yon would go into it with a child whose head is like a sieve, who lets everything through into the rest of his body and into the circulation of the rest of his body. You take both kinds of children into the gymnasium with you. You get the one kind, — whose heads are like a sieve, where everything falls through — to alternate their gymnastic exercises with recitation or singing. The other gymnastic — group — those whose ideas are stuck fast in their heads — should be got to do their movements as far as possible in silence. Thus you make a bridge between bodily training and psychic characteristics from out the very nature of the child himself. A child which has stockish ideas must be got to do gymnastics differently from the child whose ideas go through his head like a sieve.

Such a thing as this shows how enormously important it is to compose the education as a whole. It is a horrible thing when first the teacher instructs the children in class and then they are sent off to the gymnasium — and the gymnastic teacher knows nothing of what has gone on in class and follows his own scheme in the gymnastic lesson. The gymnastic lesson must follow absolutely and entirely upon what one has experienced with the children in class. So that actually in the Waldorf School the endeavour has been as far as possible to entrust to one teacher even supplementary lessons in the lower classes, and certainly everything which concerns the general development of the human being.

This makes very great demands upon the staff, especially where art teaching is concerned; it demands, also, the most willing and loving devotion. But in no other way can we attain a wholesome, healing human development.

Now, in the following lectures I shall show you on the one hand certain plastic, painted figures made in the studio at Dornach, so as to acquaint you better with Eurhythmy — that art of movement which is so intimately connected with the whole of man. The figures bring out the colours and forms of eurhythmy and something of its inner nature. On the other hand I shall speak to-morrow upon the painting and other artistic work done by the younger and older children in the Waldorf School.

Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com