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The Child's Changing Consciousness
and Waldorf Education

Schmidt Number: S-5249

On-line since: 15th January, 2015

T H E   C H I L D ' S   C H A N G I N G   C O N S C I O U S N E S S


Lecture Six

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DORNACH, APRIL 20, 1923


Questions of ethical and social education are raised when we consider the relationship between growing children and their surroundings. We will consider these two issues today — even though briefly and superficially, due to the shortness of time. Once again, the kernel of the matter is knowing how to adapt to the individuality of the growing child. At the same time, you must remember that, as a teacher and educator, you are part of the social setting, and that you personally bring the social environment and its ethical attitudes to the growing pupil. Again, pedagogical principles and methods must be formed so that they offer every opportunity of reaching the child's true nature — one must learn to know the child's true nature according to what has been shown here briefly during the last few days. As always, much depends on how one's material is brought to the students during their various ages and stages.

Here we need to consider three human virtues — concerning, on the one hand, the child's own development, and on the other hand, what is seen in relation to society in general. They are three fundamental virtues. The first concerns everything that can live in will to gratitude; the second, everything that can live in the will to love; and third, everything that can live in the will to duty. Fundamentally, these are the three principal human virtues and, to a certain extent, encompass all other virtues.

Generally speaking, people are far too unaware of what, in this context, I would like to term gratitude or thankfulness. And yet gratitude is a virtue that, in order to play a proper role in the human soul, must grow with the child. Gratitude is something that must already flow into the human being when the growth forces — working in the child in an inward direction — are liveliest, when they are at the peak of their shaping and molding activities. Gratitude is something that has to be developed out of the bodily-religious relationship I described as the dominant feature in the child from birth until the change of teeth. At the same time, however, gratitude will develop very spontaneously during this first period of life, as long as the child is treated properly. All that flows, with devotion and love, from a child's inner being toward whatever comes from the periphery through the parents or other educators — and everything expressed outwardly in the child's imitation — will be permeated with a natural mood of gratitude. We only have to act in ways that are worthy of the child's gratitude and it will flow toward us, especially during the first period of life. This gratitude then develops further by flowing into the forces of growth that make the limbs grow, and that alter even the chemical composition of the blood and other bodily fluids. This gratitude lives in the physical body and must dwell in it, since it would not otherwise be anchored deeply enough.

It would be very incorrect to remind children constantly to be thankful for whatever comes from their surroundings. On the contrary, an atmosphere of gratitude should grow naturally in children through merely witnessing the gratitude that their elders feel as they receive what is freely given by their fellow human beings, and in how they express their gratitude. In this situation, one would also cultivate the habit of feeling grateful by allowing the child to imitate what is done in the surroundings. If a child says “thank you” very naturally — not in response to the urging of others, but simply by imitation — something has been done that will greatly benefit the child's whole life. Out of this an all-embracing gratitude will develop toward the whole world.

The cultivation of this universal gratitude toward the world is of paramount importance. It does not always need to be in one's consciousness, but may simply live in the background of the feeling life, so that, at the end of a strenuous day, one can experience gratitude, for example, when entering a beautiful meadow full of flowers. Such a subconscious feeling of gratitude may arise in us whenever we look at nature. It may be felt every morning when the Sun rises, when beholding any of nature's phenomena. And if we only act properly in front of the children, a corresponding increase in gratitude will develop within them for all that comes to them from the people living around them, from the way they speak or smile, or the way such people treat them.

This universal mood of gratitude is the basis for a truly religious attitude; for it is not always recognized that this universal sense of gratitude, provided it takes hold of the whole human being during the first period of life, will engender something even further. In human life, love flows into everything if only the proper conditions present themselves for development. The possibility of a more intense experience of love, reaching the physical level, is given only during the second period of life between the change of teeth and puberty. But that first tender love, so deeply embodied in the inner being of the child, without as yet working outward — this tender blossom will become firmly rooted through the development of gratitude. Love, born out of the experience of gratitude during the first period of the child's life, is the love of God. One should realize that, just as one has to dig the roots of a plant into the soil in order to receive its blossom later on, one also has to plant gratitude into the soul of the child, because it is the root of the love of God. The love of God will develop out of universal gratitude, as the blossom develops from the root.

We should attend to these things, because in the abstract we usually know very well how they should be. In actual life situations, however, all too often these things turn out to be very different. It is easy enough, in theory, to say that people should carry the love of God within themselves — and this could not be more correct. But such demands, made abstractly, have a peculiar habit of never seeing the light of day in practice.

I would like to return to what I said during one of the last few days. It is easy enough to think of the function of a stove in the following way: You are a stove and we have to put you here because we want to heat the room. Your categorical imperative — the true categorical “stove-imperative” — tells you that you are obliged to heat the room. We know only too well that this in itself will not make the slightest difference in the temperature of the room. But we can also save our sermonizing, and, instead, simply light the stove and heat it with suitable logs. Then it will radiate its warmth without being reminded of its categorical imperative. And this is how it is when, during various stages of childhood, we bring the right thing to children at the right time. If, during the first period of life, we create an atmosphere of gratitude around children, and if we do something else, of which I shall speak later, then, out of this gratitude toward the world, toward the entire universe, and also out of an inner thankfulness for being in this world at all (which is something that should ensoul all people), the most deep-seated and warmest piety will grow. Not the kind that lives on one's lips or in thought only, but piety that will pervade the entire human being, that will be upright, honest, and true. As for gratitude, it must grow; but this can happen with the intensity necessary for such a soul and spiritual quality only when it develops from the child's tender life-stirrings during the time from birth to its change of teeth. And then this gratitude will become the root of the love of God. It is the foundation for the love of God.

Knowing all this will make us realize that, when we receive children into the first grade, we must also consider the kinds of lives they have led before reaching school age. There should really be direct contact with the parental home — that is, with what has happened before the child entered school. This contact should always be worked for, because teachers should have a fairly clear picture of how the present situation of children was influenced by their social conditions and the milieu in which they grew up. At school, teachers will then find plenty of opportunities to rectify any possible hindrances. For this to happen, however, knowledge of the child's home background, through contact with the parents, is of course absolutely essential. It is necessary that teachers can observe how certain characteristics have developed in a child by simply watching and imitating the mother at home. To be aware of this is very important when the child begins schooling. It is just as much part of teaching as what is done in the classroom. These matters must not be overlooked if one wants to build an effective and properly based education.

We have already seen that, in the years between the child's change of teeth and the coming of puberty, the development of a sense for the authority of the teacher is both natural and essential. The second fundamental virtue, which is love, then grows from that when the child is in the process of also developing the physical basis of love. But one must see love in its true light, for, because of the prevailing materialistic attitudes of our time, the concept of love has become very one-sided and narrow; and because a materialistic outlook tends to see love only in terms of sexual love, it generally traces all manifestations of love back to a hidden sexuality. In an instance of what I called “amateurism squared” the day before yesterday, we find, if not in every case, that at least many psychologists trace human traits back to sexual origins, even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with sex. To balance such an attitude, the teacher must have acquired at least some degree of appreciation for the universal nature of love; for sexual love is not the only thing that begins to develop between the child's second dentition and puberty, but also love in its fullest sense, love for everything in the world. Sexual love is only one aspect of love that develops at this time of life. At that age one can see how love of nature and love for fellow human beings awaken in the child, and the teacher needs to have a strong view of how sexual love represents only one facet, one single chapter in life's book of love. If one realizes this, one will also know how to assign sexual love to its proper place in life. Today, for many people who look at life with theoretical eyes, sexual love has become a kind of Moloch who devours his own offspring, inasmuch as, if such views were true, sexual love would devour all other forms of love.

The way love develops in the human soul is different from the way gratitude does. Gratitude has to grow with the growing human being, and this is why it has to be planted when the child's growing forces are at their strongest. Love, on the other hand, has to awaken. The development of love really does resemble the process of awakening, and, like awakening, it has to remain more in the region of the soul. The gradual emergence of love is a slow awakening, until the final stage of this process has been reached. Observe for a moment what happens when one awakes in the morning. At first there is a dim awareness of vague notions; perhaps first sensations begin to stir; slowly the eyelids struggle free of being closed; gradually the outer world aids one's awakening; and finally the moment arrives when that awakening passes into the physical body.

This is also how it is with the awakening of love — except that, in the child, this process takes about seven years. At first love begins to stir when sympathy is aroused for whatever is taught during the early days at school. If we begin to approach the child with the kind of imagery I have described, we can see how love especially comes to meet this activity. Everything has to be saturated with this love. At that stage, love has a profoundly soul-like and tender quality. If one compares it with the daily process of waking up, one would still be deeply asleep, or at least in a state of sleeping-dreaming. (Here I am referring to the child's condition, of course — the teacher must not be in a dream, although this appears to happen all too often!) This condition then yields to a stronger jolt into wakefulness. And in what I described yesterday and the day before about the ninth and tenth years — and especially in the time leading up to the twelfth year — love of nature awakens in the child. Only then do we see it truly emerging.

Before this stage, the child's relationship to nature is completely different. A child then has a great love for all that belongs to the fairyworld of nature, a love that has to be nourished by a creative and pictorial approach. Love for the realities in nature awakens only later. At this point we are faced with a particularly difficult task. Into everything connected with the curriculum at this time of life (causality, the study of lifeless matter, an understanding of historical interconnections, the beginnings of physics and chemistry) into all of this, the teacher must introduce — and here I am not joking, but speak very earnestly — the teacher must introduce an element of grace. In geometry or physics lessons, for example, there is every need for the teacher to allow real grace to enter into teaching. All lessons should be pervaded with an air of graciousness, and, above all, the subjects must never be allowed to become sour. So often, just during the ages from eleven and a half, or eleven and three-quarters, to fourteen or fifteen, work in these subjects suffers so much by becoming unpalatable and sour. What the pupils have to learn about the refraction and reflection of light or about the measurement of surface areas in a spherical calotte, is so often spoken of not with grace, but with an air of sourness.

At just this time of life the teacher must remember the need for a certain “soul-breathing” in the lessons, which communicates itself to the pupils in a very strange way — soul-breathing must be allowed for. Ordinary breathing consists of inhaling and exhaling. In most cases, or at least on many occasions, teachers, in their physics and geometry lessons, only breathe out with their souls. They do not breathe in, and the outbreath is what produces this acidity. I am referring to the outbreathing of soul expressed in dull and monotonous descriptions, which infuses all content with the added seriousness of inflated proportion. Seriousness does have its place, but not through exaggeration.

On the other hand, an in-breathing of soul brings an inherent sense of humor that is always prepared to sparkle, both within and outside the classroom, or whenever an opportunity arises for teachers and pupils to be together. The only possible hindrance to such radiating humor is the teachers themselves. The children certainly would not stand in its way, nor would the various subjects, provided they were handled with just the right touch during this particular age. If teachers could feel at home in their subjects to the degree that they were entirely free of having to chew over their content while presenting lessons, then they might find themselves in a position where even reflected light is likely to crack a joke, or where a spherical skullcap might calculate its surface area with a winning smile. Of course, jokes should not be planned ahead, nor should they be forced on the classroom situation. Everything should be tinted with spontaneous humor, which is inherent within the content, and not artificially grafted onto it. This is the core of the matter. Humor has to be found in things themselves and, above all, it should not even be necessary to search for it. At best, teachers who have prepared their lessons properly need to bring a certain order and discipline into the ideas that will come to them while teaching, for this is what happens if one is well prepared. The opposite is equally possible, however, if one has not prepared the lessons adequately; one will feel deprived of ideas because one still has to wrestle with the lesson content. This spoils a healthy out-breathing of soul and shuts out the humor-filled air it needs. These are the important points one has to remember at this particular age.

If teaching follows its proper course in this way, the awakening of love will happen so that the student's soul and spirit are properly integrated into the human organization during the final stage of this awakening — that is, when the approach of puberty, begins. This is when what first developed so tenderly in the child's soul, and then in a more robust way, can finally take hold of the bodily nature in the right and proper way.

Now you may wonder what teachers have to do to be capable of accomplishing their tasks as described. Here we have to consider something I would like to call the “social aspect” of the teaching profession, the importance of which is recognized far too little. Too often we encounter an image that a certain era (not ancient times, however) has associated with the teaching profession, whose members are not generally respected and honored as they should be. Only when society looks upon teachers with the respect their calling deserves, only when it recognizes that the teachers stand at the forefront of bringing new impulses into our civilization — not just in speeches from a political platform — only then will teachers receive the moral support they need to do their work. Such an attitude — or perhaps better still, such a sentiment — would pave the way toward acquiring a wider and more comprehensive view of life. This is what the teachers need; they also need to be fully integrated into life. They need more than just the proper qualifications in educational principles and methods, more than just special training for their various subjects; most of all teachers need something that will renew itself again and again: a view of life that pulsates in a living way through their souls. What they need is a deep understanding of life itself; they need far more than what can pass from their lips as they stand in front of their classes. All of this has to flow into the making of a teacher. Strictly speaking, the question of education should be part of the social question, and it must embrace not just the actual teaching schools, but also the inner development of the teaching faculty.

It should be understood, at the same time, that the aims and aspirations for contemporary education, as presented here, are in no way rebellious or revolutionary. To believe that would be a great misunderstanding. What is advocated here can be introduced into the present situation without any need for radical changes. And yet, one feels tempted to add that it is just this social aspect of education that points to so many topical questions in life. And so, I would like to mention something, not because I want to agitate against present conditions, but only to illustrate, to put into words, what is bound to come one day. It will not happen in our current age, so please do not view what I am going to say as something radical or revolutionary.

As you know, it is customary today to confer a doctorate on people who, fundamentally speaking, have not yet gained any practical experience in the subjects for which they are given their degree, whether chemistry, geography, or geology. And yet, the proof of their knowledge and capacity would surely have to include the ability to pass their expertise on to other candidates, of teaching them. [The word doctor is derived from docere, the Latin verb meaning “to teach.” — TRANS.] And so a doctor's degree should not really be granted until a candidate has passed the practical test of teaching and training others who wish to take up the same vocation. You can see great wisdom, based on instinctive knowledge, in the popular expression; for, in the vernacular, only a person capable of healing, capable of giving tangible proof of healing abilities, is called a “doctor.” In this instance the word doctor refers to someone engaged as a practical healer, and not just to a person who has acquired specialized medical knowledge, however comprehensive this might be.

Two concepts have arisen gradually from the original single concept — that of educating as well as that of healing. In more distant times, teaching or educating was also thought of as including healing. The process of educating was considered synonymous with that of healing. Because it was felt that the human being bore too many marks of physical heredity, education was viewed as a form of healing, as I have already mentioned during a previous meeting here. Using the terminology of past ages, one could even say teaching was considered a means of healing the effects of original sin. [See footnote on page 37.] Seen in this light, the processes of healing, set in motion by the doctor, are fundamentally the same as those of teaching, though in a different realm of life. From a broader perspective, the teacher is as much of a healer as a doctor. And so the weight the title “doctor” usually carries in the eyes of the public could well become dependent on a general awareness that only those who have passed the test of practical experience should receive the honor of the degree. Otherwise, this title would remain only a label.

However, as I have already said, this must not be misunderstood as the demand of an instigator for the immediate present. I would not even have mentioned it except in a pedagogical context. I am only too aware of the kind of claims that are likely to be listened to in our times, and the ones that inevitably give the impression one is trying to crash through closed doors. If one wants to accomplish something in life, one must be willing to forgo abstract aims or remote ideals, the attempted realization of which would either break one's neck or bruise one's forehead. One must always try to remain in touch with reality. Then one is also justified in using something to illustrate certain needs of our time, even if these may only be fulfilled in the future; for what I have spoken of cannot be demanded for a very long time to come. It may help us to appreciate, nevertheless, the dignity within the social sphere that should be due the teaching profession. I have mentioned all of this because it seemed important that we should see this question in the proper light. If teachers can feel moral support coming from society as a whole, then the gradual awakening of love in the young will become the close ally of their natural sense of authority, which must prevail in schools. Such things sometimes originate in very unexpected places.

Just as the love of God is rooted in gratitude, so genuine moral impulses originate in love, as was described. For nothing else can be the basis for truly ethical virtue except a kind of love for humankind that does not allow us to pass our fellow human beings without bothering to know them, because we no longer have an eye for what lives in them — as happens so easily nowadays. The general love toward all people is the love that reaches out for human understanding everywhere. It is the love that awakens in the child in the time between the change of teeth and puberty, just as gratitude has grown between the child's birth and the loss of the first teeth. At school, we must do everything we can to awaken love.

How are children affected by what happens in their immediate surroundings during the first period of life — that is, from birth to the change of teeth? They see that people engage in all kinds of activities. But what children take in are not the actual accomplishments in themselves, for they have not yet developed the faculty to perceive them consciously. What they do perceive are meaningful gestures. During this first period of life we are concerned with only a childlike understanding of the meaningful gestures they imitate. And from the perception of these meaningful gestures the feeling of gratitude develops, from which the gratitude-engendered will to act arises.

Nor do children perceive the activities happening in their environment during the subsequent years, between the change of teeth and puberty — especially not during the early stages of this period. What they do perceive — even in the kinds of movements of the people around them — no longer represents the sum total of meaningful gestures. Instead, events begin to speak to the children, become a meaningful language. Not just what is spoken in actual words, but every physical movement and every activity speaks directly to the child during this particular time. It makes all the difference, therefore, whether a teacher writes on the blackboard:

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Or writes the same word thus:

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Whether the teacher writes the figure seven like this:

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Or like this:

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Whether it is written in an artistic, in a less-refined, or even in a slovenly way, makes a great difference. The way in which these things affect the child's life is what matters. Whether the word leaf is written in the first or second way (see above), is a meaningful language for the child. Whether the teacher enters the classroom in a dignified manner, or whether the teacher tries to cut a fine figure, speaks directly to the child. Likewise, whether the teacher is always fully awake to the classroom situation — this will show itself in the child's eye by the way the teacher handles various objects during the lessons — or, during wintertime, whether it could even happen that the teacher absent-mindedly walks off with the blackboard towel around his or her neck, mistaking it for a scarf — all of this speaks volumes to the child. It is not so much the outer actions that work on the child, but what lives behind them, whether unpleasant and ugly, or charming and pleasant.

In this context, it is even possible that a certain personal habit of a teacher may generate a friendly atmosphere in the classroom, even if it might appear, in itself, very comic. For example, from my thirteenth to eighteenth year I had a teacher — and I always considered him to be my best teacher — who never began a lesson without gently blowing his nose first. Had he ever started his lesson without doing so, we would have sorely missed it. I am not saying that he was at all conscious of the effect this was having on his pupils, but one really begins to wonder whether in such a case it would even be right to expect such a person to overcome an ingrained habit. But this is an altogether different matter. I have mentioned this episode only as an illustration.

The point is, everything teachers do in front of children at this stage of life constitutes meaningful language for them. The actual words that teachers speak are merely part of this language. There are many other unconscious factors lying in the depths of the feeling life that also play a part. For example, the child has an extraordinarily fine perception (which never reaches the sphere of consciousness) of whether a teacher makes up to one or another pupil during lessons or whether she or he behaves in a natural and dignified way. All this is of immense importance to the child. In addition, it makes a tremendous difference to the pupils whether teachers have prepared themselves well enough to present their lessons without having to use printed or written notes, as already mentioned during our discussion. Without being aware of it, children ask themselves: Why should I have to know what the teachers do not know? After all, I too am only human. Teachers are supposed to be fully grown up, and I am only a child. Why should I have to work so hard to learn what even they don't know?

This is the sort of thing that deeply torments the child's unconscious, something that cannot be rectified once it has become fixed there. It confirms that the sensitive yet natural relationship between teachers and students of this age can come about only if the teachers — forgive this rather pedantic remark, but it cannot be avoided in this situation — have the subject completely at their fingertips. It must live “well-greased” in them — if I may use this expression — but not in the sense of bad and careless writing. [In German, “very untidy writing” is often referred to as Geschmier, a “smear on the page.” The verb schmieren also means “to grease.” — TRANS.] I use it here in the sense of greasing wheels to make them run smoothly. Teachers will then feel in full command of the classroom situation, and they will act accordingly. This in itself will ensure an atmosphere where it would never occur to students to be impudent.

For that to happen among children of ten, eleven, or twelve would really be one of the worst possible things. We must always be aware that whatever we say to our pupils, even if we are trying to be humorous, should never induce them to give a frivolous or insolent reply. An example of this is the following situation: A teacher might say to a student who suddenly got stuck because of a lack of effort and attention, “Here the ox stands held up by the mountain.” And the pupil retorts, “Sir, I am not a mountain.” [The German saying “Wie der Ochs Corm Berg stehen.” It means literally “to stand there like the ox facing the mountain.” It is a very common saying, and it can also be translated as “to be completely out of one's depth,” “to be nonplussed.” — TRANS.] This sort of thing must not be allowed to happen. If the teachers have prepared their lessons properly, a respectful attitude will emerge toward them as a matter of course. And if such an attitude is present, such an impertinent reply would be unthinkable. It may, of course, be of a milder and less undermining kind. I have mentioned it only to illustrate my point. Such impudent remarks would destroy not only the mood for work in the class, but they could easily infect other pupils and thus spoil a whole class.

Only when the transition from the second life period to the third occurs, is the possibility given for (how shall I call them now in these modern times?) young men and young women to observe the activities occurring around them. Previously the meaningful gesture was perceived, and later the meaningful language of the events around the child. Only now does the possibility exist for the adolescent to observe the activities performed by other people in the environment. I have also said that, by perceiving meaningful gestures, and through experiencing gratitude, the love for God develops, and that, through the meaningful language that comes from the surroundings, love for everything human is developed as the foundation for an individual sense of morality. If now the adolescent is enabled to observe other people's activities properly, love of work will develop. While gratitude must be allowed to grow, and love must be awakened, what needs to evolve now must appear with the young person's full inner awareness. We must have enabled the young person to enter this new phase of development after puberty with full inner awareness, so that in a certain way the adolescent comes to find the self. Then love of work will develop. This love of work has to grow freely on the strength of what has already been attained. This is love of work in general and also love for what one does oneself. At the moment when an understanding for the activities of other people awakens as a complementary image, a conscious attitude toward love of work, a love of “doing” must arise. In this way, during the intervening stages, the child's early play has become transmuted into the proper view of work, and this is what we must aim for in our society today.

What part do teachers and educators have to play in all of this? This is something that belongs to one of the most difficult things in their vocational lives. For the best thing teachers can do for the child during the first and second life period is to help what will awaken on its own with the beginning of puberty. When, to their everlasting surprise, teachers witness time and again how the child's individuality is gradually emerging, they have to realize that they themselves have been only a tool. Without this attitude, sparked by this realization, one can hardly be a proper teacher; for in classes one is faced with the most varied types of individuals, and it would never do to stand in the classroom with the feeling that all of one's students should become copies of oneself. Such a sentiment should never arise — and why not? Because it could very well happen that, if one is fortunate enough, among the pupils there might be three or four budding geniuses, very distinct from the dull ones, about whom we will have more to say later. Surely you will acknowledge that it is not possible to select only geniuses for the teaching profession, that it is certain that teachers are not endowed with the genius that some of their students will display in later life. Yet teachers must be able to educate not only pupils of their own capacity, but also those who, with their exceptional brightness, will far outshine them.

However, teachers will be able to do this only if they get out of the habit of hoping to make their pupils into what they themselves are. If they can make a firm resolve to stand in the school as selflessly as possible, to obliterate not only their own sympathies and antipathies, but also their personal ambitions, in order to dedicate themselves to whatever comes from the students, then they will properly educate potential geniuses as well as the less-bright pupils. Only such an attitude will lead to the realization that all education is, fundamentally, a matter of self-education.

Essentially, there is no education other than self-education, whatever the level may be. This is recognized in its full depth within anthroposophy, which has conscious knowledge through spiritual investigation of repeated Earth lives. Every education is self-education, and as teachers we can only provide the environment for children's self-education. We have to provide the most favorable conditions where, through our agency, children can educate themselves according to their own destinies.

This is the attitude that teachers should have toward children, and such an attitude can be developed only through an ever-growing awareness of this fact. For people in general there may be many kinds of prayers. Over and above these there is this special prayer for the teacher:

Dear God, cause that I — inasmuch as my personal ambitions are concerned — negate myself. And Christ make true in me the Pauline words, “Not I, but the Christ in me.”

This prayer, addressed to God in general and to Christ in particular, continues: “... so that the Holy Spirit may hold sway in the teacher.” This is the true Trinity.

If one can live in these thoughts while in close proximity to the students, then the hoped-for results of this education can also become a social act at the same time. But other matters also come into play, and I can only touch on them. Just consider what, in the opinion of many people, would have to be done to improve today's social order. People expect better conditions through the implementation of external measures. You need only look at the dreadful experiments being carried out in Soviet Russia. There the happiness of the whole world is sought through the inauguration of external programs. It is believed that improvements in the social sphere depend on the creation of institutions. And yet, these are the least significant factors within social development. You can set up any institutions you like, be they monarchist or republican, democratic or socialist; the decisive factor will always be the kind of people who live and work under any of these systems. For those who spread a socializing influence, the two things that matter are a loving devotion toward what they are doing, and an understanding interest in what others are doing.

Think about what can flow from just these two attributes; at least people can work together again in the social sphere. But this will have to become a tradition over ages. As long as you merely work externally, you will produce no tangible results. You have to bring out these two qualities from the depths of human nature. If you want to introduce changes by external means, even when established with the best of intentions, you will find that people will not respond as expected. And, conversely, their actions may elude your understanding. Institutions are the outcome of individual endeavor. You can see this everywhere. They were created by the very two qualities that more or less lived in the initiators — that is, loving devotion toward what they were doing, and an understanding interest in what others were doing.

When one looks at the social ferment in our times with open eyes, one finds that the strangest ideas have arisen, especially in the social sphere, simply because the current situation was not understood properly. Let me give you an example:

Today, the message of so-called Marxism regarding human labor and its relationship to social classes is being drummed not just into thousands but into millions of heads. [See Karl Marx's major work, Das Kapital (Capital), Vol. I, Hamburg, 1867.] And if you investigate what its author alleges to have discovered — something with which millions of people are being indoctrinated so that they see it as their socialist gospel, to use as a means for political agitation — you will find it all based upon a fundamental error regarding the attitude toward social realities. Karl Marx wants to base the value of work on the human energy spent performing it. [Karl Heinrich Marx (1818–1883), German political philosopher and coauthor, with Friedrich Engels, of The Communist Manifesto in 1848.] This leads to a complete absurdity, because, from the perspective of energy output, it makes no difference whether someone cuts a certain quantity of firewood within a given time, or whether — if one can afford to avoid such a menial task — one expends the same energy and time on treading the pedals of a wheel specially designed to combat incipient obesity. According to Karl Marx's reckoning, there is no difference between the human energy expended on those two physical activities. But cutting firewood has its proper place within the social order. Treading the pedals of a slimming cycle, on the other hand, is of no social use, because it only produces a hygienic effect for the person doing it. And yet, Karl Marx's yardstick for measuring the value of work consists of calculating the food consumption necessary for work to be done. This way of assessing the value of labor within the context of the national economy is simply absurd. Nevertheless, all kinds of calculations were made toward this end. The importance of one factor, however, was ignored — that is, loving devotion toward what one is doing and an understanding interest in what others are doing.

What we must achieve when we are with young people is that, through our own conduct, a full consciousness of the social implications contained in those two things will enter the minds of adolescents. To do so we must realize what it means to stand by children so that we can aid in their own self-education.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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