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Curative Education

Schmidt Number: S-5788

On-line since: 21st August 2004

SECOND LECTURE

26th June, 1924

It is, as you know, my dear friends, our intention to work things out here from their foundations, in order then to pass on afterwards to the practical side. I called your attention yesterday to the fact that the ordinary, superficial life of soul has to be regarded as a complex of symptoms, and no more. It follows from this that, if we want to get at the real state of affairs that lies behind a so-called mental illness or mental weakness in some child, modern methods of approach are quite inadequate, for they can only describe how things are in this superficial soul-life, without being able to lead on to what lies deeper — that is to say, to the region where, as we saw yesterday, the real life of soul is working. We cannot here enter into the question of how mental illnesses in grown-up people should be dealt with (there are indeed always, as you know, problems of many kinds connected with that), but we do want, in this course, to make a thorough study of what it is possible to do with children.

Before going further into the subject, I would like to read you an article from this newspaper that gives a crude example of how misleading an observation of the superficial life of soul can be. (I use the word “superficial” in the sense of locality, not in a derogatory sense.) It is an example that will have special significance for you, in view of the tasks that you are undertaking.

A man of the name of Wulffen, [Erich Wulffen, b. 1862, author and criminologist.] who was once Public Prosecutor, has made a study, from the standpoint of criminal psychology, of all kinds of mental abnormalities, and has written big books on the subject. How does he reach his conclusions? For he obviously does not take his start from professional medicine. In his capacity as Public Prosecutor he naturally became familiar with a wide field of abnormalities in the life of soul, and afterwards at a more mature age, he set out to acquire a somewhat miscellaneous knowledge of medicine. He then combined his experience in his profession with his subsequent reading, and evolved a theory which is nothing else than the inevitable outcome of the so-called “scientific” hypotheses of today. For either we take this modern scientific point of view seriously, in which case we are bound eventually to come to the conclusions arrived at by Wulffen, or we do not take it seriously, and then nothing remains but to take our start from Anthroposophy. An intermediate way can never be anything but a questionable compromise.

Wulffen recently gave a lecture in Zürich dealing with the subject of criminal psychology, in which he spoke about abnormality in the life of the soul. It is important that we should pay attention to what is said in such a lecture, for we are in fact in these days continually coming up against the very same kind of thing. If you set out to think about any knowledge you have gained from looking into some modern scientific book, or into any book that is based on the scientific way of thinking, you will find it full of the forms and modes of thought which this man Wulffen voices in a particularly radical way. And you really ought to know whither modern science must inevitably lead when it begins to investigate the field of abnormal soul-life. Before I read the press notice let me tell you that Wulffen himself is a much more able man, and much more correct in his statements, than the journalist who is reporting his lecture. The journalist can only make fun of it, which he is free to do, since he has still the public behind him — thanks be! — in his prejudice against psychiatry and criminal psychology. The tone in which the report is written need not therefore concern you; the journalist, as I said, is not a man of much ability and can do no more than ridicule the whole thing. He has, however, no idea that his jests are a hit at modern science rather than at Wulffen! For if the science upon which Wulffen takes his stand were honestly adhered to, its representatives in other fields of knowledge would have to speak in the very same way as he does. And now let us read this press notice — for it really does concern us. It is entitled: “Schiller according to the Psycho-Analysis of the Public Prosecutor”. It should rather be called: “Friedrich Schiller, according to the Psycho-Analysis of present-day Psychology or Psycho-pedagogy”.


Last Friday, 29th February, I924, the Public Prosecutor Dr. E. W. Wulffen, a man known and respected far outside his immediate profession, took severely to task the penniless Swabian, Fritz Schiller (at one time Professor of History in Jena and the author of several revolutionary writings) in a brilliantly constructed lecture on “Criminal Psychology and Friedrich Schiller”. He achieved among the large number of listeners belonging to the Zürich Lawyers' Union a success all the more lasting because, on account of death, the accused was unable to be present at the meeting; the utmost he could do was perhaps to point with an invisible hand to what he had written during his lifetime.

Wullfen's arguments were most effective. The proofs adduced were irrefutable. The lecturer had even confiscated — I mean, had read — Schiller's private correspondence. And, lo and behold, thanks to Dr. Wulffen's help, scales fell from the eyes of the audience. Our people's love for Schiller, youth's adoration for him, were laid bare in all their ugly roots. Schiller is popular, it seems, on account of his innate cruelty which makes wallowing in the gloomy splendor of the horrible come natural to him, and causes him to write ballads like “Die Kindesmörderin”, etc., which are evidence enough of a cruelty that is continually intensified by Schiller's struggle with his own sick body. And then his tragedies, which stimulate fear and compassion in the spectators why are they so effective on the stage? Because they appeal to latent criminal qualities in the public and enable the audience to enjoy a safe outlet for dangerous propensities ...

It is true that in spite of this overwhelming load of proof Wulffen concedes to Schiller certain redeeming features. There is his feeling for freedom, which, nursed by the suppression he laboured under in earlier years (associated, as it was in him, with an inferiority complex) suddenly flares up in “The Robbers”, and is then gradually purified and ennobled, until finally in “Wilhelm Tell” we have the glorification of a revolution that is founded on order. For the rest, Schiller's attitude to good and evil is seen to be the outcome of aesthetic points of view.

Thus are the arteries which feed Schiller's poetry quickly detected by Dr. Wulffen and defined; they are — cruelty and the urge for freedom. The struggle with these impulses, which Schiller lived out in his poetry — this it was, so we are assured, that led him along the path to perfection. [From Neue Züricher Zeitung, No. 342, 7th March, 1924.]


So there was, then, in Schiller an “inferiority complex” — in his childhood. It is quite important to realise what the outcome would be if modern science were to enter the realm of pedagogy, and teachers were then to give lessons in the manner of this science — let us say, in a school where some young Schiller was among the pupils. You must envisage quite exactly what this would mean.

If you think of what was said yesterday, you will see that, just as we have to take, in other illnesses, the symptoms, that help us to find the right orientation, and then lead back from these to the real facts of the illness, so we must start in our present investigation from the manifestations of the life of soul, from thinking, feeling and willing, and trace our way back until we can “behold” the real condition of the patient. We saw that the origin, for example, of an abnormality of soul, which showed itself in the patient's being unable to pass from intention to deed, had to be sought in some subtle abnormality of the liver, and that the knowledge of this connection must form the starting point for our treatment, both educational and therapeutic.

And now, before we can pass on to consider the practical side in detail, we must look back once again at the life of soul of the child. We have seen how during the first seven years the body presents a model, and the individuality works out in accordance with this model the second body, which functions between the change of teeth and puberty. If the individuality is stronger than the inherited qualities, the child will overcome these — more or less — in the course of changing his teeth; his individuality will then be apparent in his whole life of soul, and will manifest also externally in his bodily nature. If, however, the individuality of the child is weak, it will be overcome by the inherited characteristics; it will give, as it were, such close attention to the model that a slavish copy of the same will be visible in the body. And then one can rightly speak of inherited characteristics. For between the change of teeth and puberty everything is as it results from the individuality; the reason why it can happen that inherited characteristics show themselves at all during this period, is because the individuality has been to that extent too weak to overcome them and follow its own line of direction in accordance with karma. What works in the individuality as the real impulse of karma shows itself overpowered in such a case by the inherited characteristics.

Now at this point we must observe — and it will also provide us with what I may describe as a symptomatology of more general application — we must observe how thinking is related in its development to the development of will, in the child. We saw yesterday that there is a certain sense in which we have to look upon thinking, feeling and willing as no more than symptoms. We saw that thinking, as it expresses itself in the superficial soul-life, has behind it a synthesizing activity which operates in the construction and organisation of the brain; and then we saw how behind expressions of will is an analytical activity which underlies the organs — underlies indeed our whole metabolism-and-limbs man, keeping the organs separate and distinct one from another.

To begin with, let us consider thinking, with the synthesizing activity of the brain, that underlies it. We must understand clearly what thoughts really are. Thoughts, as we know, enter the organism of the child, as it were, in snatches, bit by bit. Even the grown person has around him only in scattered fragments, so to speak, all that man is capable of thinking. One person will have a great wealth of thoughts, another will have less. But now, what are thoughts?

The modern view, which tends to degenerate into the conclusions you find in people like Wulffen, imagines that thoughts come into existence gradually in the human being, as he progresses in his development, and that when he succeeds in having thoughts that “answer” in the world, that fit in all right with the world, then these thoughts he has evolved, of course, out of himself. But if we investigate, with anthroposophical understanding, the being of man, we shall never succeed in discovering in him anything from which thoughts can arise. All investigations which set out to discover where thoughts could originate in man are, in the eyes of Spiritual Science, no more sensible than if someone who had a jug of milk given him every morning were to begin one day to ponder, in his cleverness, how the china of which the jug is made produces the milk. It might conceivably happen that he had never observed how the milk does get into the jug; but if he could start wondering how the milk manages to ooze out of the china, we should take him for a simpleton indeed. To assume such a possibility in regard to a milk jug is obviously to adopt a hypothesis which leads to an absurdity. And yet, in regard to thinking, science makes this very hypothesis; science is just as stupid, every bit as stupid as the fellow we have imagined. For when we set out to investigate with all the means afforded by Spiritual Science (and we have been speaking of these now for more than twenty years), we find nothing at all in the human organisation that could possibly produce thoughts. There is simply nothing there capable of doing it. Just as the milk must be poured into the jug in order to be in the jug, so for thought to be in man, the must come into him. And whence do they come — for the life we are considering, between birth and death? Where are thoughts? We can investigate the question of where milk comes from; we ought also to be able to discover where thoughts are. Where then shall we look for these thoughts.

We are surrounded by the physical world. But we have around us also the etheric world, from which, as you know, our own etheric body is taken, immediately before we descend to physical incarnation. The etheric body of man comes from the cosmic ether, which is all around us in every direction. Now it is this cosmic ether, my dear friends, that is the bearer of the thoughts. The cosmic ether, which is common to all, carries within it the thoughts; there they are within it, those living thoughts of which I have repeatedly spoken in our anthroposophical lectures, telling you how the human being participates in them in pre-earthly life before he comes down to Earth. There, in the cosmic ether, are contained all the living thoughts there are; and never are they received from the cosmic ether during the life between birth and death. No; the whole store of living thought that man holds within him, he receives at the moment when he comes down from the spiritual world — when, that is, he leaves his own living element, his own element of living thought, and descends and forms his ether body. Within this ether body, within that which is the building and organising force in man, are the living thoughts; there they are, there they still are.

If we have here the symptomatic life of soul — thinking, feeling and willing — and here behind, the real life of soul, then the thoughts constitute a part of this real life of soul: and these thoughts which we take from the universal cosmic ether build up in us, first of all, our brain, and then in the wider sense, our whole nerves-and-senses system. For it is the living thinking that forms our brain — forming it into an organ of demolition, an organ that deals with matter in a way we might describe somewhat as follows.

When we look out upon our environment, we have around us the world of earthly substance, in all its various processes and ways of working. These processes, which in Nature are living processes, are gradually broken down by the activity of the living thinking, so that here — in the brain — a continual demolition is going on; the processes — which are, as I said, Nature processes — are arrested. Thus, in the brain, a beginning is actually made in the direction of a stoppage of Nature processes; matter is continually being secreted and then falling away. The matter that has fallen away, the matter that has been excreted and become useless, is the nerves. And the nerves, arising in this way as a product of living thinking but with the life in them being perpetually killed all the time, become in consequence endowed with a faculty that resembles the faculty possessed by a mirror. They acquire the faculty of enabling the thoughts of the surrounding ether to be reflected in them; and this is the origin of subjective thinking, the superficial thinking which consists in reflected pictures, the thinking we carry within us between birth and death. Through the fact, therefore, that living thinking is active within us, we are enabled to hold up our nerves-and-senses system to the world like a mirror, and can then produce there pictures of the impressions that are living in the surrounding ether, and throw them back into our consciousness. This means that the thinking, and the forming of mental pictures, which belongs to the superficial life of soul is nothing else than the reflection of the thoughts that live in the cosmic ether.

When you compare yourself with your reflection in a mirror, you realise at once that you are something altogether different from that reflected picture. Similarly, you can compare thoughts with their reflections, and you will find that the latter are “dead” thinking, just as the picture of you in the mirror is dead, whilst you yourself, standing in front of it, are alive. There cannot ever be in the cosmic ether a distorted, an illogical or a deranged thought. Yet the thoughts that are contained in the ordinary, superficial life of soul are, as we have seen, reflections of the thoughts in the cosmic ether; how, then, does a deranged or senseless thought come about? How can it ever arise? The answer is, through the mirror not being in order. The whole process that originated in the structure of the brain has not succeeded in producing a perfect mirror. In order, therefore, to explain the presence of distorted thoughts, we have to go back to what takes place in the brain and the nerves-and-senses system, which the human being constructed for himself from the real living life of thought. It is most important to be clear from the outset that it is not the thoughts themselves that we can in any way assail; for the thought-content as such, the thoughts themselves, are in the cosmic ether in their full validity and truth.

We must make every endeavour to enable the pupil with whom we are dealing, who has been given into our charge, to find his right relation to this cosmic ether. We shall never do so unless we, as teachers, are permeated through and through with the feeling that the thoughts in all their rightness and in all the power of their livingness are contained in the cosmic ether, are present all the time in the cosmic ether. Without having ourselves this religious feeling towards the cosmos, we cannot possibly develop a right attitude towards the child. And the attitude, the whole relation that we bear to him, is what matters most of all. Let me explain why this is so.

What is it that is influencing the child, and what is it that is living in the child, when he gets distorted thoughts? And what is able then to work from the teacher upon the child? What can the teacher do? From all that I have said, you will be able to see that in such a child the etheric body has not been formed in the right way. When the human being is descending from pre-earthly existence, there are of course, at that moment, as always, only right and true thoughts in the cosmic ether; but these right thoughts have to be received by the being who is providing himself, clothing himself, with an ether body. And now let us go back to our milk jug. We cannot accuse the milk of having a wrong form or shape: it is obliged to take on the form that the jug can give it. If we have a sensible vessel, then our milk will be properly and sensibly “housed” in it. But suppose it occurred to an eccentric person to make a milk jug like an hour glass with the waist stopped up. [A drawing was made.] He pours in the milk and it cannot get down to the bottom. And yet, in reckoning up the cubic content of the jug, he reckons in all this part down below! I have given you an extreme case. All sorts of mistakes are, in fact, possible. One could, for example, make a jug that very easily tips over, and more often than not, the milk is spilt. The point is, of course, that the way in which the milk will be in the jug, will depend upon what the jug is like. And the way in which the ether body with all its livingness will be in the human being, will depend upon how the human being — as he arrives from pre-earthly existence, bringing with him his karma — is able to receive into himself the ether body. It is important to recognise this and have it in our consciousness.

It can actually happen that a human being, owing to his karma, arrives from pre-earthly existence with something that is not at all unlike this very inadequate milk jug. For his karma may not enable him, for instance, to permeate the metabolism-and-limbs system properly. This system will then be poorly provided with etheric body. The child will have in the region of the head a properly developed etheric body, and in the region of the abdomen and limbs, a poorly developed etheric body. In these parts he will lack the formative thoughts. It is actually most important for you to know that in very many cases of backward children we have to do with an imperfectly developed etheric body. And we teachers must ask ourselves the question: What is it that can influence the etheric body of a growing child?

Here we encounter a law, of the working of which we have abundant evidence throughout all education. It is as follows. Any one member of the being of man is influenced by the next higher member (from whatever quarter it approaches) and only under such influence can that member develop satisfactorily. Thus, whatever is to be effective for the development of the physical body must be living in the etheric body — in an etheric body. Whatever is to be effective for the development of an etheric body must be living in an astral body. Whatever is to be effective for the development of an astral body must be living in an ego; and an ego can be influenced only by what is living in a spirit-self. I could continue, and go beyond the spirit-self, but there we should be entering the field of esoteric instruction.

What does this mean in practice? If you find that the etheric body of a child is in some way weakened or deficient, you must form, you must modify, your own astral body in such a way that it can work upon the etheric body of the child, correcting and amending it. We could, in fact, make a diagram to demonstrate how this principle works in education:


Child            Teacher
Physical body : Etheric body
Etheric body : Astral body
Astral body : Ego
Ego : Spirit-Self


The teacher's etheric body (and this should follow quite naturally as a result of his training) must be able to influence the physical body of the child, and the teacher's astral body the etheric body of the child. The ego of the teacher must be able to influence the astral body of the child. And now you will be rather taken aback, for we come next to the spirit-self of the teacher, and you will be thinking that surely the spirit-self is not yet developed. Nevertheless, such is the law. The spirit-self of the teacher must work upon the ego of the child. And I will show you how, not only in the ideal teacher, but often in the very worst possible teacher, the teacher's spirit-self — of which he is himself not yet in the least conscious — influences the child's ego. Education is indeed veiled in many mysteries.

What concerns us at the moment is that the weakened etheric body of the child must receive the influence of the teacher's health-giving astral body. How is the astral body of the educator to be “educated” for this purpose? Self-educated too, as it needs must be today! For Anthroposophy can at present do no more than give suggestion and stimulus; we cannot right away establish colleges and arrange courses for all the necessary branches of training. The astral body of the teacher must be of such a character and quality that he is able to have an instinctive understanding for whatever debilities there may be in the child's etheric body. Say, the child's etheric body is weak and deficient in the region of the liver. As a result, we shall notice that the child stops short at intention, he cannot get beyond it; it constantly happens that he has an impulse of will, but the impulse comes to a standstill before the actual deed. If the teacher can feel his way right into this situation (where the child's will ought to push through to deed), if he is able himself to feel the stoppage that the child feels, and able at the same time out of his own energy to evoke in his soul a deep compassion with the child's experience, then he will develop in his own astral body an understanding for the situation the child is in, and will gradually succeed in eliminating in himself all subjective reaction of feeling when faced with this phenomenon in the child. By ridding himself of every trace of subjective reaction, the teacher educates his own astral body.

Let us say, the child wants to walk, has the will to walk, but cannot. This can become a pathological condition, can become quite conspicuous; it may even happen that at last the child comes to be described as “incapable of learning to walk”. But we will suppose that the condition shows itself in only a slight degree. So long as the teacher meets the situation with any kind of bias, so long as it can arouse in him irritation or excitement — so long will he remain incapable of making any real progress with the child. Not until the point has been reached where such a phenomenon becomes an objective picture and can be taken with a certain calm and composure as an objective picture for which nothing but compassion is felt — not until then is the necessary mood of soul present in the astral body of the teacher. Once this has come about, the teacher is there by the side of the child in a true relation and will do all else that is needful more or less rightly. For you have no idea how unimportant is all that the teacher says or does not say on the surface, and how important what he himself is, as teacher.

How may one set about acquiring this kind of understanding? By developing greater and greater interest in the mystery of the human organisation. All sense of its mystery — in fact, any real interest in the organisation of man — is completely lacking in present-day civilisation; consequently, one thing present-day civilisation does not know [A gap occurs here in the text.] ...

Suppose someone is suffering from severe mental disease. How is that regarded in our time? For obviously whatever is done in such a case has to be done within the civilisation of the present day; there is no alternative. This will mean that while we must do our best to come to an understanding of such illnesses, we cannot expect to be able at once in each single case to use methods and treatment that accord with the picture we have in our understanding. It is, on this account, very important that there shall be no fanatics among you. It will not do for you to set out on this work of Curative Education in a fanatical spirit, not knowing how to judge the scope and bearing of some truth, when it is a question of applying esoteric knowledge in practical life. For this reason the circles within which these truths are communicated cannot be too carefully restricted; for people of the present day have not the insight to see why, in very many cases, it is quite impossible to follow at once some particular guidance that has been given. We must know the truth, and then try to act wisely and sensibly, applying the guidance where it can be applied, as in the education of backward children, within the given limits. In dealing with adult mental patients you will not be able to apply the guidance in the same way; for something extraneous comes in there — namely, the law. And the moment you have to reckon with factors other than those that arise out of the nature of the case, the moment you have to do with hard and fast laws, the thing becomes unworkable. For what the law lays down is general; it cannot be individual in its application, it has to be general. So far as treatment of abnormal human beings is concerned, the law is a veritable poison. It is there in the world, however, and you have to reckon with it. The things of which we are speaking here cannot be applied fanatically; you have to let them percolate into life, in ways that are possible and practicable.

Let us suppose then that you have this person who is said to be suffering from grave mental illness. You can, as is generally done nowadays, describe the case psychographically — that is, describe the symptoms. According to the view of the case that is certain to be adopted in our present-day civilisation, the person does the maddest possible things. But people do not stop to consider what they may have before them in this mad person! As a matter of fact, it may quite well be that the person who is now passing his life in complete insanity has had in earlier ages a very significant incarnation, he may at one time have been a genius. But suppose this manifestation of genius came two incarnations ago and then, in the intermediate incarnation, the man was imprisoned when comparatively young, and had from that moment on no contact with the world. He passed then through the gate of death, and lived on further in the spiritual world. Then he appeared again on Earth — insane. Because what he took in during that incarnation remained completely outside the field of experience of the physical and the etheric body, he had not the opportunity of elaborating it, and therefore returns to incarnation in entire ignorance of the interior of the human body. He cannot get into the physical body and ether body, he remains outside them all the time; and so, being unable to make use of the physical body, he is, you see, insane. His manner of life is such that we shall not be able to see him as he really is, until we look right away from his physical and his etheric body and give our attention to his astral body and ego.

Let us now imagine, we have such a person before us in childhood. There will be a constant effort on the part of the child to come into the physical and into the etheric body, and then again, he will experience a resistance, he will be pushed back. It may very well be that owing to the predetermined conditions some of the organs are not in order. Imagine you have here physical body and etheric body. [A drawing was made.] The astral body and ego want to come in. And they do come in, everywhere, but here they do not enter in a proper and orderly manner. They have to make a special effort. Every time, they want, let us say, to penetrate liver and stomach, the astral body and ego have to make an effort. And now this effort works itself out — regulates itself, as it were, in a curious way. A kind of rhythm is set up, an abnormal rhythm. At one moment the ego strengthens itself, then it become feeble again. So that we find in the child this alternation — first, a strong liver-stomach feeling, and then, before this has come to consciousness, a weakened liver-stomach feeling. The child oscillates continually between the two. And the consequence is, he has not, as it were, time to make use of his body in the so-called normal way. For he could make use of the body only if this rhythm were not present and astral body and ego were able to take possession of the several organs quietly.

How can we learn to recognise and understand such a condition? It will help us to do so, if we look at the whole process in somewhat the following way.

Imagine you have before you a clever man, an exceedingly clever man — but a man who is definitely not a watchmaker. It happens one day that he is in the predicament of having to mend his watch, which has stopped. Instead of mending it, he completely ruins it. That does not gainsay the fact that he is an exceedingly clever man. He fails, not from lack of cleverness, but because he has not sufficient mastery of the situation. Similarly genius may, under certain circumstances, fail and come to grief, when descending from pre-earthly to earthly existence. Only, in this case the failure is not so quickly finished with, but lasts for the whole of that earthly life.

There is a real call to us here to look with love upon the soul-and-spirit nature that descends from the spiritual world, to look with love upon it, even where it comes to expression in so-called insanity — yes, to look with love upon the very details of the insanity. And then we shall feel impelled to go beyond the symptomatology that can furnish a psychography of the case, and look rather at the karmic connections into which this insane human being comes. We shall have to observe his relation with the outer world, and note carefully the situations of life into which he comes, for these are incredibly interesting. And then, watching all this objectively, we shall find that insanity is really something that can arouse our deepest interest. We shall see in it a distorted image of the highest wisdom; it will be for us like the opening of a door from the direction of the spiritual world — though the spiritual world has then to come in through a rather twisted and contorted passage of entry! And as our interest in the whole process grows — without of course becoming sensational — the particular abnormalities will become deeply and inwardly interesting to us. Suppose an abnormality gets hold of the physical and the ether body and a rhythm such as I have described is set up: first, a powerful development of astral and ego activity, so that physical body and etheric body are taken hold of strongly; then, that is all reversed, and the activity of astral and ego becomes weak again. Suppose there is this rhythm, and we come to the point of being able to observe what happens, first in the moment when firm hold is taken of the physical and etheric bodies, and then again in the moment when this hold is weakened. If we are able also to enter into the experience the child goes through inwardly, entering into it with a great capacity of love, it can come about that, as time goes on, the rhythm is overcome, and that then as a result of it all, liver and stomach are gripped with quite unusual intensity — and behold, the child begins to do things that are a manifestation of genius! Otherwise the condition has to remain as it is until these things can be adjusted in the further life between death and a new birth. For it is indeed true, and we must be conscious of the fact: in educating backward children we are intervening in a process which in the normal course of development — were there no intervention, or were there misguided intervention — would find its fulfilment only when the child had passed through the gate of death and come to birth again in the next life. We are making, that is to say, a deep intervention in karma. Whenever we give treatment to a backward child, we are intervening in karma. And it goes without saying, we must intervene in karma in this way. For there is such a thing as right intervention. Certain prejudices in these matters need to be overcome. How necessary that is, let me demonstrate to you from another example.

In the Agricultural Course at Koberwitz, [A course held at the Estate of Count Carl Keyserlink near Breslau, 7th – 16th June, 1924.] at which one or two of those here were also present, I indicated guiding lines for agriculture. An elderly farmer attended the course, who is also an old member of the Society. Throughout the whole of the course he could not rid himself of a feeling of misgiving; it kept coming out in the discussions. Again and again he would say: “But if we do that, we shall be using occult means for practical ends; won't that be steering too close to the sphere of ethics? Could not these truths be applied also in a wrong way?” He was never able to get rid of this scruple; he was always suspicious of black magic in the application. Needless to say, these things do become black magic when they are not handled as they ought to be handled. And it was for this reason that I said once on that occasion quite explicitly: “A high standard of morality is absolutely essential in dealing with these matters; therefore I assume at the outset that those who attend this course attend it on purely ethical grounds, desirous only to serve humanity and help agriculture. The Agricultural Experimental Circle has accordingly to be regarded also as an ethical circle, which definitely sets itself the task of seeing that the truths are applied in the right and proper way.” The Gods use magic, and the difference between white and black magic consists only in this: in white magic one intervenes in a moral, selfless way, and in black magic in an immoral, selfish way. There is no other difference. And so, in the nature of the case, since all talk about education of backward children is mere talk and leads to nothing, obviously this education can only be effective when it uses measures which are capable also of immoral application. And that brings us once again to the imperative need for a deep sense of responsibility.

If only one could count upon a more serious sense of responsibility, one could at this time do a great deal. I must, however, frankly admit that silence has to be maintained today about many things, just because conscientiousness is not sufficiently developed. When people hear that this can be done, and that can be done — they want to do it! An eagerness to be doing something — that they have. But that is not enough. As soon as it comes to the doing of a real deed, and no mere continuation of some old impulse, as soon as it is a question of bringing in new impulses from the spiritual world — and that is what is needed, new impulses from the spiritual world! — then it becomes imperative to demand a high standard of conscientiousness and responsibility. And there is only one way in which these can be awakened in us, namely, that we have knowledge of what is really involved. Thus, we must know that in the education of backward children it is a matter of deep intervention in karmic activities which would otherwise come to fulfilment between death and the next birth. It is actually so: what is done by us now, intervenes in the work of God which would otherwise be brought to fulfilment at a later time. If we are not satisfied for this to remain merely a piece of theoretical knowledge, if we are ready to let it work powerfully upon our minds and hearts, then we shall find ourselves continually faced with the alternative of doing what has to be done or of leaving it undone. Let us never forget that every step taken at the prompting of the spiritual world leads us into a situation where we have to look right and left, and make a new decision — and these decisions that are continually facing us have to be made with courage, with inner courage of life.

In ordinary life, man is protected from the necessity of this inner courage, for in ordinary life he can simply continue doing what he has been accustomed to do. He can jog on in conformity with the motives and standards that are so deeply rooted in him, taking for granted that these are correct, and feeling no necessity to adopt new ones. This answers quite well for the life that proceeds merely in the physical world. But when we come to working out of spiritual sources, we are inevitably confronted, daily and hourly, with decisions; in regard to each single action, we stand face to face with the possibility of either doing it or leaving it undone — or else maintaining an entirely neutral attitude. And the decisions require courage. This inner courage is the very first thing needed, if we want to accomplish anything in the domain of Curative Education. And it can be aroused in us if we hold continually before our minds the greatness of that which we have undertaken. We must be constantly thinking: “I am doing something which generally God does in the life between death and new birth.” The fact that you know this is of untold significance. Receive it as a meditation. To be able to think it, is most important. If we bring it before us every day in meditation — as one says a prayer every day — if we place it there before our soul day by day, it will endow our astral body with the character and tone that we need to give it if we are to deal in the right way with backward children.

It is really only possible for us to go on in these lectures and speak together of further things, if we are ready to acknowledge that we must in this way prepare ourselves for the task before us. Therefore, let us resolve to take what has been said as a necessary introduction, providing the groundwork for what follows; and let us ponder it with all earnestness. For in approaching tasks like those of which we are speaking here, it is indeed a matter of undergoing preparation of mind and heart.




Last Modified: 16-Aug-2017
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