Education and Spiritual Science
24th January, 1907
When we discuss
subjects such as that of today's lecture, we must keep before
our mind's eye mankind's whole evolution. Only then can we
understand the evolution of the individual, and guide the
young through education. At the center of education is the
school. We shall attempt to understand what is required of
education on the basis of human nature and a person's
evolution in general.
We see a
person's being as consisting of four distinct members:
physical body, ether or life body, astral body, and at the
center of the being, the “I.” When an individual
is born, only the physical body is ready to receive
influences from the external world. Not until the time of the
change of teeth is the ether body born, the astral body not
until puberty is reached. The faculties of the ether body,
such as memory, temperament, and so on, are, up to the change
of teeth, protected by an etheric sheath, just as the
physical senses of eyes and ears are protected before
physical birth by the material body. The educator must during
this time leave undisturbed what should develop naturally of
expressed it by saying that no world traveller learns as much
on his far-flung journeys as the little child learns from his
nurse before the age of seven. Why then must we have schools
evolves after the physical birth has taken place is in need
of a protective covering just as the embryo needs the
protection of the maternal body. Not until a certain stage of
development is reached does the human being begin a life that
is entirely new. Up to then his life is a repetition of
earlier epochs. Even the embryo repeats all primordial stages
of evolution up to the present. And after birth, the child
repeats earlier human evolutionary epochs.
Friedrich August Wolf (1759–1805) was a philologist.
describes the stages through which a human being evolves from
childhood onwards as follows: The first epoch, lasting up to
the third year, he calls the "golden, gentle, harmonious age"
corresponding to the life of today's Indian and South Sea
Islander. The second epoch, up to the sixth year, reflects
the Asiatic wars and their repercussions in Europe, and also
the Greek heroic age, as well as the time of the North
American savage. The third epoch, up to the ninth year,
corresponds to the time from Homer
Homer (8th centure B.C.) was a Greek epic
poet who wrote the Iliad and Odyssey.
to Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) was king
of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire.
The fourth epoch,
up to the twelfth year, corresponds to the time of the Roman
Empire. The fifth epoch, up to the fifteenth year, when the
inner forces should be ennobled through religion, corresponds
to the Middle Ages. The sixth epoch, up to the eighteenth
year, corresponds to the Renaissance. The seventh epoch, up
to the twenty-first year, corresponds to the Reformation, and
in the eighth epoch, lasting up to the twenty-fourth year, a
human reaches the present.
This system is
on the whole a valuable spiritual foundation, but it must be
widened considerably to correspond to reality. It must
include the whole of a human being's evolutionary descent. A
person does not stem from the animal kingdom, though
certainly from beings who, in regard to physical development,
were far below what human beings are today. Yet in no way did
they resemble apes.
science points back to a time when human beings inhabited
Atlantis is a mythical continent, said to have sunk into the
sea. Plato describes it in the Timaeus and Critias,
and Steiner mentions it frequently.
compared with modern human beings the Atlantean's soul and
spirit were differently constituted. Their consciousness
could be termed somnambulistic; the intellect was undeveloped
— they could neither count nor write, and logical
reasoning did not exist. But they beheld many aspects of the
spiritual world. The will that flowed through their limbs was
immensely strong. The higher animals such as apes were
degenerate descendants of the Atlanteans.
consciousness is a residue of the Atlantean's normal
pictorial consciousness, which could be compared with that of
a person experiencing vivid dreams during sleep. But the
pictures of the Atlantean were animated, more vivid than
those of today's most fertile imagination. Furthermore, an
Atlantean was able to control his pictures, which were not
chaotic. We see an echo of this consciousness when young
children play, investing their toys with pictorial
The human being
first descended into physical bodies during Lemurian time. A
person repeats that event during physical birth. At that
time, having descended into a physical body, a person begins
developing through soul and spirit to ever higher levels. The
Lemurian and Atlantean epochs are repeated in a child's
development up to the seventh year. Between the change of
teeth and puberty that epoch of evolution is repeated in
which great spiritual teachers have appeared among men. Buddha,
Buddha, Guatama (c. 563–483 B.C.) the
founder of Buddhism.
Plato (c. 427–347 B.C.) was a Greek
philosopher who founded the academy where Aristotle studied.
Pythagorus (c. 570–c. 500 B.C.) was a
Greek philosopher who founded the Pythagorean school.
Hermes was a Greek god and messenger of the gods. He was the god
of roads, commerce, invention, cunning, and theft. Identified by
the Romans with Mercury.
Moses (c. 13th century B.C.) was a Hebrew
lawgiver and prophet who led the Israelites out of Egypt.
Zarathustra (c. 6th century B.C.) was a Persian.
The religion Zoroastrianism is based an his teachings.
are some of the latter. In
those days, the influence of the spiritual world was much
greater, a fact we find preserved in heroic legends and
sagas. It is therefore important that what is taught during
this period of the child's life conveys the spirit of the
earlier cultural epochs.
between the seventh and fourteenth years corresponds in the
child to the time up to the twelfth century, the time when
cities were founded. The main emphasis must now be on
authority and community. The children should experience
something of the power and glory that surrounded the early
leaders. The most important issue that concerns a school is
therefore the teacher. The teacher's authority must be
self-evident for the children, just as what was taught by the
great teachers was self-evident to the human soul. It is bad;
it does great harm if the child doubts the teacher. The
child's respect and reverence must be without reservation, so
that the teacher's kindness and good will — which he
naturally must have — seem to the child like a
blessing. What is important is not pedagogical methods and
principles, but the teacher's profound psychological insight.
The study of psychology is the most important subject of a
teacher's training. An educator should not be concerned with
how the human being ought to develop, but with the reality of
how the student in fact does develop.
As every age
makes different demands, it is useless to lay down general
rules. It is not knowledge or proficiency in pedagogical
methods that matter in a teacher, but character and a certain
presence that makes itself felt even before the teacher has
spoken. The educator must have attained a degree of inner
development, and must have become not merely learned, but
inwardly transformed. The day will come when a teacher will
be tested, not for knowledge or even for pedagogical
principles, but for what he or she is as a human being.
For the child
the school must be its life. Life should not just be
portrayed; former epochs must come to life. The school must
create a life of its own, not draw it from outside. What the
human being will no longer be able to receive later in life
he must receive at school. Pictorial and symbolic concepts
must be fostered. The teacher must be deeply aware of the
truth that: “Everything transient is but a
semblance.” When the educator presents a subject
pictorially the teacher should not be thinking that it is
merely allegory. If the teacher fully participates in the
life of the child, forces will flow from his or her soul to
that of the child. Processes of nature must be described in
rich imaginative pictures. The spiritual behind the
sense-perceptible must be brought to life. Modern teaching
methods fall completely in this respect, because only the
external aspects are described. But a seed contains not only
the future plant, it contains forces of the sun, indeed of
the whole cosmos. A feeling for nature will awaken in the
child when the capacity for imagery is fostered. Plants
should not merely be shown and described, the child should
make paintings of them; then happy human beings for whom life
has meaning will emerge from their time at school.
ought not to be used; one must do sums with the children on
living fingers. Vigorous spiritual forces are to be
stimulated. Nature study and arithmetic train the power of
thinking and memory; history the life of feeling. A sense for
what is noble and beautiful awakens love for what is worthy
of love. But what strengthens the will is religion; it must
permeate every subject that is taught. The child will not
immediately grasp everything it is capable of absorbing; this
is true of everyone. Jean Paul made the remark that one
should listen carefully to the truth uttered by a child, but
to have it explained one must turn to its father. In our
materialistic age too little is expected of memory. The child
first learns; only later does it understand, and only later
still will it grasp the underlying laws.
seventh and fourteenth years is also the time to foster the
sense for beauty. It is through this sense that we grasp
symbolic meaning. But most important is that the child is not
burdened with abstract concepts; what is taught should have a
direct connection with life. The spirit of nature, in other
words the facts themselves existing behind the
sense-perceptible, must have spoken to the child; it should
have a natural appreciation of things before abstract
theories are introduced, which should only be done after
puberty. There is no need for concern that things learnt may
be forgotten once school days are over; what matters is that
what is taught bears fruit and forms the character. What the
child has inwardly experienced it will also retain; details
may vanish but the essential, the universal, will remain and
can be conducted without a religious foundation; without
religion a school is an illusion. Even Haeckel's Riddle
of the Universe contains religion. No theory can ever
replace religion, nor can a history of religion. A person who
is basically of a religious disposition, who has deep
conviction, will also be able to convey religion. The spirit
that lives in the world also lives in humans. The teacher
must feel that he or she belongs to a spiritual world-order
from which a mission is received.
There is a saying
that a person's character is formed partly by study and partly
by life. But school and education should not be something apart
from life. Rather should it be said that a person's character
will be rightly formed when study is also life.