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Footnotes: Education of the Child

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Footnotes: Education of the Child

On-line since: 23rd June 2002


  1. It is not to be inferred that Anthroposophy has only to do with the greater questions of life. Anthroposophy, as the passage would express, is destined to afford a basis on which the solution of the greater questions may be sought; at the same time it is no less true that Anthroposophy is able to bring help to each individual person wherever he may find himself placed in life, that it can be a source whence he may draw the answers to the most everyday questions, whence he may draw comfort, strength, confidence for life and work. Anthroposophy can give strength for meeting the great life-problems, and just as surely also for meeting the immediate needs of the moment, even in the seemingly most insignificant matters of daily life.

  2. It is necessary to lay stress on this point, for there is in our time a great want of clearness on such matters. Many people obscure the distinction between a plant and a sentient being, because they are not clear themselves as to the real nature of sensation. If a being or thing acts in some way in response to an impression, that is made on it from without, one is not therefore justified in saying that it has a sensation of the impression. It can only be said to have sensation if it experiences the impression in its inner life, that is to say, if there is a kind of inward reflection of the outer stimulus. The great advances of Natural Science in our time, for which the true spiritual investigator has the highest admiration, have none the less brought about a lack of clearness with regard to higher concepts. Some biologists do not know what sensation is, and hence they ascribe it to a being that has none. What they understand by sensation, they may well ascribe even to non-sentient beings. What the Anthroposophical Science must understand by sensation is altogether different.

  3. A distinction must be drawn between the experience man has of the sentient body within himself, and the perception of the sentient body by a trained seer. It is what lies open to the sentient body by a trained seer that is here referred to.

  4. The reader must not take offence at the expression ‘Body of the Ego.’ It is certainly not used in any grossly material sense. But in Anthroposophical Science there is no other possibility than to use the words of ordinary language; and as these are ordinarily applied to material things, they must, in their application to a spiritual science, first be translated into the spiritual.

  5. To raise the objection that the child has memory and so forth before the change of teeth, or that he has the faculties connected with the astral body before puberty, would argue a misunderstanding of this passage. We must clearly understand that the etheric body, and the astral body too, are present from the beginning, only that they are within their protecting envelopes. It is, indeed, the protecting envelope which enables the etheric body, for example, to evolve and manifest the qualities of memory very evidently before the change of teeth. But the physical eyes, too, are already present before birth, beneath the protecting envelope of the mother's womb. In the embryo the eyes are protected, and the external physical sunlight must not work upon their development. In exactly the same sense, external education must not endeavour to effect a training, or influence the moulding, of the memory before the change of teeth. If, however, we simply give it nourishment and do not try as yet to develop it by external measures, we shall see how the memory unfolds in this period, freely and of its own accord.

    It is the same with those qualities of which the astral body is the bearer. Before the age of puberty one must supply them with nourishment, always bearing in mind, however, that the astral body, as explained above, still lies beneath a protecting envelope. It is one thing before puberty to nurture the seeds of development already inherent in the astral body; it is another thing after puberty to expose the now independent astral body to those influences in the outer world which it can receive and work upon, unprotected by the surrounding envelope. The distinction is certainly a subtle one; but without entering into it one cannot understand what education really is.