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Curative Education

Schmidt Number: S-5816

On-line since: 21st August 2004


7th July, 1924

What we have really been endeavouring to do in our talks together here is to delve a little more deeply into Waldorf School pedagogy, in order to find in that pedagogy the kind of education with which we can approach the so-called abnormal child. It will have been clear to you from our discussions that, if you want to educate an abnormal child in the right manner, you will have to form your judgement and estimation of him in quite another way than you do for the so-called normal child — and of course differently again from the way he is regarded in ordinary lay circles, where people are for the most part content merely to specify the abnormality and not trouble themselves to look further and enquire into the causes of it. For there is no denying it, the man of today is not nearly so far on (in his study, for example, of the human being), as Goethe was in his study of the growth and nature of the plant. (And, as we saw, Goethe's work in this direction was a beginning, it was still in its elementary stage.) For Goethe took a special delight in the malformations that can occur in plants; and the passages where he deals with such are among the most interesting in all his writings. He describes, for example, how some organ in a plant, which one is accustomed to find in a certain so-called normal form, may either grow to excess, becoming abnormally large, or may insert itself into the plant in an abnormal manner, sometimes even going so far as to produce from itself organs that would normally be situated in quite another part of the plant. In the very fact that the plant is able to express itself in such malformations, Goethe sees a favourable starting point for setting out to discover the true “idea” of the archetypal plant. For he knows that the idea which lies hidden behind the plant manifests quite particularly in these malformations; so that if we were to carry out a whole series of observations — it would of course be necessary to make the observations over a wide range of plants — if we were to observe first how the root can suffer malformation, then again how the leaf, the stem, the flower, and even the fruit can become deformed, we would be able, by looking upon all these malformations together, to arrive at an apperception of the archetypal plant.

And it is fundamentally the same with all living entities — even with beings who live in the spirit. More and more does our observation of the human race lead us to perceive this truth — that where we have abnormalities in man, it is the spirituality in him which is finding expression in these abnormalities.

When once we begin to look at the phenomena of life from this aspect, it will at the same time give us insight into the way men thought about life in olden times; and we shall understand how it was that education was regarded as having an extremely close affinity with healing. For in healing men saw a process whereby that in man which has received Ahrimanic or Luciferic form and configuration is made to come nearer to that in him which, in the sense of good spiritual progress, holds a middle course between the two extremes. Healing was, in effect, the establishment of a right balance in the human being between the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic. And then, having a more intimate and deep perception of how it is only in the course of life that man comes into this condition of balance, of how he needs indeed to be brought into it by means of education, these men of an older time saw that there is something definitely abnormal about a child as such, something in every child that is in a certain respect ill and requires to be healed. Hence the primeval words for “healing” and “educating” have the very same significance. Education heals the so-called normal human being, and healing is a specialised form of education for the so-called abnormal human being.

If it has become clear to us that the foregoing is a true and fundamental perception, we can do no other than carry our enquiry further along the same road. All the illnesses that originate within the human being have, in reality, to do with the spiritual in him, and ultimately even the illnesses that arise in him in response to an injury from without; for when you break your leg, the condition that presents itself is really the reaction that arises within you to the blow from without — and surgery could certainly learn something by looking at the matter in this light. Starting therefore from this fundamental perception, we find ourselves ready to approach in a much deeper and more intimate manner the question: How are we to deal with children, having regard to the whole relationship of their physical nature to their soul and spirit?

In the very young child, physical and spiritual are intimately bound up together, and we must not assume — as people generally do today — that when some medicament or other is given to a child, it takes effect physically alone. The spiritual influence of a substance is actually greater in the case of a very little child than it is with a grown person. The virtue for the child of the mother's milk, for example, lies in the fact that there lives in it what was called in the archaic language of an earlier way of thought the “good mummy” in contrast to the “bad mummy” that lives in other products of excretion. The whole mother lives in the mother's milk. Mother's milk is permeated with forces that have, as it were, only changed their field of action within the organisation. For up to the time of birth, these forces are active in the region that belongs in the main to the system of metabolism and limbs, while after birth they are chiefly active in the region of the rhythmic system. Thus they migrate within the human organisation, moving up a stage higher. In doing so, the forces lose their I content, which was specifically active during the embryonic time, but still retain their astral content. If the same forces that work in the mother's milk were to rise a stage higher still — moving, that is, to the head — they would lose also their astral content and have active within them only the physical and etheric organisation. Hence the harmful effect upon the mother, if these forces do rise a stage higher and we have all the abnormal phenomena that can then show themselves in a nursing mother.

In mother's milk we still have therefore astral formative forces that work spiritually; and we must realise what a responsibility rests upon us when the time comes to let the little child make the transition to receiving his nourishment directly for himself. The responsibility is particularly great for us today, since there is now no longer any consciousness of how the spiritual is active everywhere in the external world, and of how the plant, as it ascends from root up to flower and finally to fruit, becomes gradually more and more spiritual — in its own nature and also in its activity and influence. Taking first the root, we have there something that works least spiritually of all; in comparison with the rest of the plant, the root has a strongly physical and etheric relation to the environment. In the flower however begins a life which reaches out, in a kind of longing, to the astral. In a word, the plant spiritualises, as it grows upwards.

Then we must carry our study a stage further, and enquire into the place of the root within the whole cosmic connection. Its part and place within the cosmos is expressed in the fact that the root has grown into the soil of the Earth, has embedded itself right into the light. The truth is that the root of the plant has grown into the soil in the same way as we have grown with our head into the free expanse of air and into the light. We can therefore say that here below

 Figure 6
Figure 6
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we have that which in man is of the head nature and has to do with perception; while here above we have the part of the plant that in man has to do with digestion, with nourishment. The upper part of the plant contains the spirituality that we long for in our metabolism-and-limbs system, and is on this account related to that system in us. One who is able with occult perception to regard first the mother's milk, and then the astral which hovers over the plant and for which the plant longs and yearns, can behold — not indeed a perfect similarity, but an extraordinarily close relationship between the astrality that comes from the mother with the mother's milk, and the astrality that comes from the cosmos and hovers over the blossoms of the plants.

These things are said, not in order that you may possess them as theoretical knowledge, but in order that you may come to cherish the right feeling towards what is in a human being's environment and enters thence into the sphere of his deeds and actions. As you see, we shall have to take care that we find the right way to accustom the little child — gradually — to external nourishment, stimulating him with the fruiting part of the plant, fortifying his metabolic system with the flowering part, and coming to the help of what has to be done by the head by means of a gentle admixture of root substance in his food. The theoretical mastery of these relationships will serve merely to start you off in the right direction; what should then happen is that in the practice of life the knowledge of them flows into all your care for the child, not as theory but more in a spiritual way.

In this connection we cannot but recognise how extraordinarily difficult it is in our day to “behold” a human being as he really is. Again and again, in every field of knowledge into which we enter, our attention is drawn away from that which is essential in man as man. Modern education and instruction is not calculated to enable us to see man in his true being. For it is a fact that in the course of the first half of the nineteenth century the power to behold what is essential in man died right away. Up to that time, and even still during that time, an idea was current which survives now only in certain words that have remained in use — lives on, here and there, so to speak, in the genius of language. We might describe this idea in the following way.

Surveying the whole human race, we find it subject to all manner of diseases. We could, if we chose to be abstract, write these all down. We could take some plane surface and write upon it the names of the various illnesses in such a way as to make a kind of map of them. In one corner, for instance, we might write illnesses that are inter-related one with the other; in another corner, illnesses that are fatal. In short, we could classify them all so nicely as to produce in the end a regular chart or map, and then it would not be difficult to find the place on the map where a child with a particular organisation belonged. One could imagine how some special pre-disposition in regard to illness could be shown in a kind of diagram on transparent paper and then the name of the child be written in on the region of the map where he belonged. Let us suppose, then, that you regarded illnesses in this way and made such a map as I have described. In the first half of the nineteenth century people still had the idea that whenever the name of an illness had to be written in, they could always write in, for that illness, the name of some animal. They still believed that the animal kingdom inscribes into Nature all possible diseases, and that each single animal, rightly understood, signifies an illness. For the animal itself the illness is, so to speak, quite healthy. If however this same animal enters into man, so that a human being, instead of having the organisation that properly belongs to him, is organised on the pattern of that animal, then that human being is ill.

It was not superstitious people alone who continued to hold such conceptions in the first half of the nineteenth century; this idea of the nature of disease in man was held, for example, by Hegel — and a very fruitful and productive idea it was. Think what a light can be thrown upon the nature and character of a particular human being if one can say: he “takes after” the lion, or the eagle, or the ox; or again, he gives evidence of being wrenched away in the direction of the spiritual — the spiritual works too powerfully in him. Or, let us say, carrying the idea a step further, suppose the ether body of a certain human being is too soft and flabby and shows obvious affinity to physical substance, then that would be for one an indication of a type of organisation that generally occurs only in the lower animal kingdom. These are fundamental conceptions of a kind that it is important for you to acquire.

And now I would like to go on to speak of what you as educators must undertake for your own self-education. You can take your start from certain given meditations. A meditation that is particularly effective for a teacher is the one I gave here two days ago. Meditating upon it inwardly with the right orientation of heart and mind, it will in time bear fruit within you. For you will discover that as you are carried along in your feeling on the waves of an astral sea, borne hence away from the body, you will begin to find yourself in a world — you can liken it only to a world of gently surging billows — where you are given the possibility to see around you the very things that provide answers to your questions.

But here, I must warn you that if you desire really to make your way through to the place where such things are possible, you must comply with the conditions — I do not mean merely knowing them in theory, I mean faithfully fulfilling in real earnest the conditions that are necessary for development on the path of meditation, and that are described in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. [Now published by the Rudolf Steiner Press as Knowledge of Higher Worlds — how is it achieved? ] You will remember how mention is made there of egoism as a hindrance on the path of development — egoism in the sense that man centres his attention upon his own I, values his I too highly. What does it mean when we hold our I in such high esteem?

We have, as you know, to begin with, our physical body, which derives from Saturn times and has been gradually formed and completed with such wonderful artistic power in four majestic stages of development. Then we have the etheric body, which has undergone three stages of development. And we have besides the astral body, which has undergone only two. These three members of man's being do not fall within the field of Earth consciousness; the I alone does so. Yet it is really no more than the semblance of the I that falls within the field of Earth consciousness; the true I can be seen only by looking back into an earlier incarnation. The I that we have now is in process of becoming; not until our next incarnation will it be a reality. The I is no more than a baby. And if we are able to see through what shows on the surface, then, when we look at someone who is sailing through life on the sea of his own egoism, we shall have before us the Imagination of a fond foster-mother or nurse, whose heart is filled with rapturous devotion to the baby in her arms. In her case the rapture is justified, for the child in her arms is other than herself; but we have a spectacle merely of egoism when we behold man fondling so tenderly the baby in him. And you can indeed see people going about like that today. If you were to paint a picture of them as they are in the astral, you would have to paint them carrying each his child on his arm. The Egyptians, when they moulded the scarab, could at least still show the I carried by the head organisation; but the man of our time carries his I, his Ego, in his arms, fondling it and caressing it tenderly. And now, if the teacher will constantly compare this picture with his own daily actions and conduct, once more he will be provided with a most fruitful theme for meditation. And he will find that he is guided into the state I described as swimming in a surging sea of spirit.

Whether we are able to get in this realm the answers to our questions will depend upon whether we have in our soul the inner peace and quiet which we must seek to preserve in such moments. If someone complains that things are constantly happening that prevent him from meditating, the complaint will of itself afford a pretty sure indication as to whether or not he is in a fair way to make progress in this direction. For you will never find that one who is genuinely undergoing development will complain that this or that hinders him from meditating. In point of fact we are not really hindered by these things that seem to come in our way. On the contrary, it should be perfectly possible to carry out a most powerful meditation immediately before taking some decisive step, before doing a deed of cardinal importance — or, on the other hand, to carry out the meditation after the deed, in entire forgetfulness of what has been experienced in the performance of the deed. Everything depends, you see, upon having it in our power to wrest ourselves away from the one world and live for the time being completely within the other world; and whenever we want to summon up our inner spiritual powers, right at the very beginning must come the ability to do this.

Watch for yourselves and observe the difference — first, when you approach a child more or less indifferently, and then again when you approach him with real love. As soon as ever you approach him with love, and cease to believe that you can do more with technical dodges than you can with love, at once your educating becomes effective, becomes a thing of power. And this is more than ever true when you are having to do with abnormal children.

Wherever people have the right feeling about their activities, these activities do work together in the right way. Just as in the physical organism heart and kidneys must work together if the organism as a whole is to have unity, so must the Constituents work together for the great end they all have in view, while each of them fosters within itself that element in the whole for which it is in particular responsible. And anyone who then sets out to undertake some new task in the world, must bring what he is doing into co-ordination with what emanates from the Constituents.

Suppose you have the intention of undertaking work with backward children. The first thing you have to do is to study and observe the pedagogy that is followed in the anthroposophical movement. That whole living stream of activity must flow into all that you do and undertake. For within this educational stream is contained that which can heal the typical human being, and enable him to take his place rightly in the world. And then you will find that the Medical Section is able to give you what you need in order that you may deepen this pedagogy and adapt it to the abnormality of the individual in question. If you set out in all earnestness to accomplish this, yon will soon realise that there can be no question of expecting simply to be told: This is good for this, that is good for that. No, what is wanted is a continual living intercourse and connection between your own work and all that is done and given in the educational and in the medical work of the [Dynamic] movement. No break in this living connection must ever be permitted. Egoism must not be allowed to creep in and assert itself in some special and individual activity; rather must there always be the longing on the part of each participant to take his right place within the work as a whole.

Curative Eurythmy having come in to collaborate with Curative Education, the latter is thereby brought into relation also with the whole art of Eurythmy. Here too it should be evident that you must look for a living connection. This will mean that anyone who practises Curative Eurythmy must have gone some way towards mastering the fundamental principles of Eurythmy as an art. Curative Eurythmy has to grow out of a general knowledge of Speech Eurythmy and Tone Eurythmy — although the knowledge will not necessarily have been carried to the point of full artistic development. Nor must we lose sight of the importance before all else of human contacts. If Curative Eurythmy is being given, the one who is giving it must on no account omit to seek contact with the doctor. When Curative Eurythmy was first begun, the condition was laid down that it should not be given without consultation with the doctor. You see from all this how closely, how livingly interlinked the different activities have to be in Anthroposophy.

It will thus be necessary to take care that the work you are initiating at Lauenstein — a work, let me say, that I regard as full of hope and promise — is carried on in entire harmony with the whole Anthroposophical Movement. You can rest assured that the Anthroposophical Movement is ready to foster and encourage any plans with which it has expressed agreement — naturally through the channels that have been provided in accordance with the Christmas Foundation Meeting. And conversely you should keep constantly in mind that whatever you, as a limb or member of the movement, accomplish — you do it for the strengthening of the whole Anthroposophical Movement, for the enhancement of its work and influence in the world.

This then, my dear friends, is the message I would leave with you. Receive it into your hearts, as a message that comes verily from the heart; may it go with you, and may its impulse continue to work on into the future.

If we who are in this spiritual movement are constantly thinking: how can this spiritual movement be made fruitful for practical life? — then will the world not fail to see that it is verily a movement that is alive.

And so, my dear friends, let me wish you all strength and good guidance for the right working out of your will.

Last Modified: 03-Jul-2017
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