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The Impulse for Renewal in Culture and Science

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The Impulse for Renewal in Culture and Science

Schmidt Number: S-4780

On-line since: 15th July, 2018


Lecture Four by Rudolf Steiner given in Berlin, 8 March 1922

“Anthroposophy and Pedagogy.”


My dear venerated guests! To render the Anthroposophical world view understandable, it is always accused of having its ideas and results as based on research by people who first need to be schooled for it, therefore results of Anthroposophical research can't be verified from the outset by anyone and that nevertheless these observations are presented to unprepared people.

Yet this accusation, however justified it seems, belongs to the most unjustified ones that can be made against the Anthroposophical Movement, because it doesn't stipulate that every single person is to be immediately directed towards becoming a researcher in a supersensible area, but it deals with their research results being presented in such a way that every other individual can prove it for themselves, simply with ordinary human understanding and ordinary healthy logic. In any case this doesn't make it unnecessary that at least the first steps towards supersensible research must be striven for, and therefore there are indications in various publications which have been mentioned here already. Everyone can to a certain degree become an anthroposophical researcher — simply out of the conditions of present civilisation — but as proof of results of anthroposophical research this is not necessary because this proof can simply come through a healthy human understanding. One of these areas in which results can really be practically proven, is in the pedagogical area.

Dear friends! The Anthroposophical world view for a long time had to work purely through people coming continuously closer to ideas about the supersensible, before it became possible to bring them into present-day cultural conditions, into practical life, where they felt themselves particularly ready to actually penetrate. This was only possible in a limited area — and also only to a small degree — when Emil Molt founded the Waldorf School in Stuttgart, whose office was given to me. Already before that, as shown in the small publication “The education of the child from the point of view of spiritual science”, the attempt was undertaken to represent certain educational principles from the basis of Anthroposophy. Only through the founding of the Waldorf School did it become possible to apply these things in practice, and since this time it is also possible to carry out the pedagogical-didactic side of Anthroposophy in detail. It will of course not be possible for me to give more than a few indications in this introductory lecture, but I think other lectures during these days would be able to accomplish more.

Whatever is taken up through anthroposophic ideas, when they are simply verified through healthy human understanding, is not merely theoretical observation, are no mere ideas of abstraction which one can have in order to satisfy some or other need for theoretical knowledge. No, these conveyed ideas are being created out of an anthroposophical source, this is real human power; this is something which passes into the whole person, this makes love more intense, transforms human vigour. While the ideas and thoughts of usual science, which only draw on the sense world, have their peculiarity by being in the service of theoretical interests, and being of the sense-world its characteristic is to only relate practical interests to the sense world, by contrast it is characteristic of the ideas from anthroposophic research that their results work on the entire human being, on his empowerment, on his — if I might call it so — life skill, on his understanding of life, and it is this understanding which enables him to grasp the most varied of life's opportunities. If one takes on this life and fructify it through anthroposophical ideas, one can see how the actions of people, when they allow themselves to be directed by these ideas, acquire greater power, greater urgency and so on. This is what must be especially treasured in the pedagogic didactic sphere.

When we founded the Waldorf School we didn't have the opportunity to choose the outer conditions for the education and teaching of our children. In the present it is repeatedly asserted that for a satisfactory education, satisfactory teaching to be established, then some or other place for the school, for the educational institute or its equivalent, must be chosen. Certainly, much is said about these claims and in practice they are to some extent successful. We didn't have all of this. The next thing was the attempt to use the given circumstances and start with the children in the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette factory. Next, we had a very specific kind of material environment for the children, we had to house ourselves in a place which was obviously hardly suited — it had previously been a tavern — to begin our teaching and education. So we couldn't rely on anything but on what began on a purely spiritual basis for the pedagogical and didactic aspects themselves.

Here it must be stressed again: while Anthroposophy doesn't strive for an abstract head knowledge — if I might use this expression — but an insight into the world and its secrets, it involves the whole human being, possibly leading to self-knowledge, to a self-understanding which one can't achieve in some or another theoretical sphere. In the end all education, all teaching is based on the understanding of the human being, which is proven in the relationship of the teacher, the educators to the emerging, growing adolescent, to the child. For this reason, our Waldorf pedagogy is developed upon an intimate knowledge of the growing person, the child. I only need to give one detail in which it can be seen how true insight into the whole human being must prove in practice.

Today we have a psychology which has more or less been proven by recognized science. However, this psychology theorizes around many questions which always leave unsatisfactory results. They pose the following question, for example: what is the relationship between the soul-spiritual and the physical-bodily aspects of the human being? They have developed all possible kinds of theories about this. Here we have three types of theories. The one tries to come from the soul-spiritual and try to define this in some way, to formulate an abstract concept and then to try in how far the soul-spiritual can work on the bodily-physical. Another, more materialistically coloured theory assumes that the bodily-physical should form the basis, so that the bodily-physical brings forth the soul-spiritual as one of its functions. A third theory is that of psycho-physical parallelism, which assumes that the soul-spiritual and bodily-physical matter equally, and only to pursue how the functions of the one takes place beside the other, without looking for any exchange taking place between them. These are all psychological speculations. At the moment a practical situation is present, through psychology, through soul knowledge, it finds driving forces into the pedagogic didactic impulses.

One can simply say our sphere of observation of the soul-spiritual human being has not yet reached a principle which we are accustomed to follow naturally according to science. In natural science for example, when we look at the phenomena where warmth appears, without the usual kind of warmth coming forth as usual, then this warmth from other circumstances is considered as so-called latent warmth and how it had developed out of latent conditions, and now appears as warmth. Such principles which are common practice in science must — obviously metamorphosed in corresponding manner — also be taken up in the observation of the totality of the human being, in which the soul-spiritual is included.

One comes to such an approach of observation which is fully justified by science — if it hasn't yet been seen today — if one focuses on the first important transformation which happen in the human organisation with the change of teeth around th seventh year of life. Such transformations in the human being are usually only observed outwardly. However, the change of teeth is something which penetrates the entire human life deeply. Whoever trains his abilities of observation will learn to recognise how with the change of teeth an entire change in the child's soul life takes place. He learns to recognise how the child in the fullest sense of the word, didn't really live “in himself”, but completely absorbed his soul-life in his environment. He learns to perceive the most essential of the driving forces in the child organism before the change of teeth, which is imitation. Through imitation the child learns movement.

One can through unbiased observation determine precisely how the movements from the father and mother or others in the child's surroundings enter into the childlike organism itself. One can follow how under healthy conditions speech is learnt under the influence of imitation. One can see how the child, in the fullest sense of the word, comes from his surroundings, with his whole being. This alters completely with the development at the change of teeth. Here we see how forces develop in the child, enabling the child to bring forth independent imagination, in which the inner child up to a certain degree is set free from the surroundings, which is not so before his seventh year of life. With the change of teeth, the child acquires a certain introspection and becomes gradually more accessible to abstraction.

Now the childish nature is again conditioned by everything which lives inwardly in the people surrounding the child, as it is absorbed by the child. That is why in the second period of life which begins with the change of teeth up to adolescence, is seen in such a way that everything which develops in the child is an adaptation of the people surrounding it. Not what the people do in the child's surroundings, because that is imitated, but in what lives in these people, this means what comes to expression in their words, their attitude, the direction of their thoughts, these are passed on to the child — as it were not through imitation but through taking up a power which is as part of him or her, as growth and nutritional powers in them: the power of authority. What is meant by the power of authority is not to be misunderstood because for someone who has written “The Philosophy of Freedom” it is necessary to point out how this authority principle comes under scrutiny in a certain phase of life. This means not the entire education should be put down to what is referred to today as the principle of authority. If one applies the corresponding value to such observations then things become ever more clearly differentiated and one gains the ability gradually to not only being able to observe the transformation in people from year to year, but also from month to month. What then happens actually between the change of teeth and puberty?

When you direct your gaze in order to learn what really happens there between the seventh and fourteenth year — those are of course only approximate numbers — the hidden forces within the child's soul now come to be expressed outwardly. This is hidden in the bodily nature and activates the expression of the human organism, works also in the formation of the brain in the first years of life and in the preparation of the speech organs, works also in everything the child develops in his bodily nature. Thus, you can say the following. Just as for instance the warmth in a body is hidden and can become free under certain circumstances, so the soul-spiritual, which works latently in the first seven years in the physical organism, expressed in every single movement, in every bodily process, only becomes free later. After the seventh year of life the body is left to itself more; the soul-spiritual does not withdraw completely out of the bodily, yet it does to a high degree. The change of teeth is then a kind of termination point of the first developmental phase, where the soul-spiritual was still in harmony with the bodily-physical.

You see that through this manner of observation you can reach a position where you are able to recognise a real relationship between the soul-spiritual and the bodily-physical. People don't theorize only around the question of how the one works upon the other, and so on. People simply see the soul-spiritual during one period of life as completely in the physical — this is clearly seen in the child's development — and later, after acquiring freedom, the form appears. So a comparison isn't made of what had been understood as abstract concepts earlier, but the reality is followed in the process of the soul-spiritual in the bodily form during the various periods of life. This means, however, that that which in natural science had been openly researched through the outer senses is lifted up into the spiritual sphere.

If you were to enter more into the details, which Anthroposophy wants to do, to penetrate it and not remain stuck in superficial definitions, you would soon see what kind of a faithful continuator of the justifiable scientific thinking of the spiritual scientific anthroposophical viewpoint actually is. Then, however, when in this way you gain the world of concepts and ideas of human knowledge, then the accusations regarding the alienation of the world of ideas is solved by itself.

Dear friends! Anthroposophy is the last to be in opposition to big and important events particularly during the 19th century in the pedagogical sphere, presented by great educators of humanity on pedagogical principles. Anthroposophy fully acknowledges the existence of great, meaningful educational principles and does not stand back before anyone in the recognition of the great educators. Only, you have to admit nevertheless, with all great educational principles there is often a certain dissatisfaction today regarding educational practice, educational methods; the most diverse kinds of educational practices bear witness to the fact that this is so. Why is this so?

It is often just a result of the intellectualism of our time. This intellectualism results — more than one normally believes — in a particular hostility towards life, especially in the social areas. It breeds in relation to ideation actually only abstraction. The abstract has no life-forces, it is in a certain way the corpse of the spiritual and is experienced as such. Even in having the most beautiful principles in which you can almost glow with enthusiasm — as long as these principles remain abstract, they can't obtain any kind of favourable influence. Only when these principles are permeated through with spirituality, living spirituality, which merges with the beings of people, could these principles become practical. Thus, Anthroposophy doesn't want to propose new educational principles in an abstract manner; it only wants to be an introduction for pedagogical and didactic skills, for the implementation of the art of education and art of instruction, and wants to present what the most beautiful educational principles can't give: spiritual foundations for the practical implementation, for the inner talents of teachers, to work in the school and in education.

For this reason, the Waldorf School is not so geared — as is often believed — to take our world view as it is conveyed to grownups, and to stuff it into our children. As a result, we have to particularly stress that as far as religious instruction go, the Catholic children are left to the Catholic priests, and the evangelist children to the evangelist priest. We have only arranged free religious instruction for those dissident children and if these lessons had not been organized they would have no religious education. As a result, some experience of the religious feeling can be accomplished because those parents who withdraw their children from religious instruction, send their children now into religious instruction in which we make the effort not to lecture Anthroposophy but to present it as is required at that particular age of the child. So it's not about depositing Anthroposophy into the childish mind, but it comes down to the teachers working through Anthroposophy, the pedagogical didactic methods employed in such a way that they really fulfil true human education.

This results in, simply through the practical implementation of such education and such teaching, not only in the child being looked at but the whole person being considered. It would be highly foolish to take the feet or hands as they are at a child's age and regard them as something complete and force them to remain as they are in childhood. It is obvious that we consider a child's organism as something coming into being, which has to be different later in life. However, in relation to the soul-spiritual we don't always do the same thing. We often even see rigid concepts introduced and that the child is frequently taught from a young age as having something like sharp contours in its soul. This is false! With anything which we want to allow incorporation into the childish organism, it must be introduced in a growing way, that it can gradually be transformed so that the human being later, in his thirtieth year for example, not only has a memory of what he had absorbed in his childhood but that the content of this has been as transformed by him as he had transformed his limbs. Everything of a soul-spiritual nature we give the child must also contain powers of growth, powers of transformation; that means we must make our teaching more and more alive.

Certainly this could be expressed as an abstract principle but practically it can only be accomplished when true intimate human knowledge is present. Such a kind of intimate human knowledge makes it possible to deduce everything from the childish nature into what is understood as the syllabus and goal of learning. Out of this the Waldorf School has taken its syllabus and the objectives of learning from actual human knowledge which can be read from month to month in the developing childish nature itself. The effort has been made to bring all of this about in a living sense.

I only want to mention one thing. Today in various ways teaching has improved even in some public tuition. But, you all know that during the school year the child becomes even more conscious than one is aware, and suffers under a system where the progress of the child is judged. It depends on the one side on the child's performance and on the other, the teacher's judgement of this performance, and is expressed as: “satisfactory”, “nearly satisfactory”, “nearly not satisfactory”, “less satisfactory” and so on. I have to confess to you, I was never really capable of differentiating between “nearly satisfactory” and “nearly not satisfactory” and so on. With us in the Waldorf School it involves that out of the totality of progress made by the end of each school year, the child is given a kind of witnessing presented by the teacher which characterises each individual child and that he simply writes this on a piece of paper as his experience of that child. So the child sees a kind of mirror image of himself, and this practice — which doesn't depend on “satisfactory”, “nearly satisfactory” and so on for the individual items — has been accepted with a certain inner satisfaction and received with joy, even when there is blame. The child also receives a kind of powerful verse which echoes with his own nature, which he takes up and which serves as a mission statement for the following year.

In this way one can, if one has the love for it, enter in a lively way into education, even working through unfavourable relationships in a lively way.

As a result, we come again to something which needs to be overcome, needs to be conquered in pedagogy and didactics in our epoch. Today one will hardly find any evidence in the outer historic descriptions, of how souls' constitutions have changed during the single evolutionary epochs. Whoever is without bias can readily understand how the spiritual utterances which were revealed to souls during the 10th, 11th and 12th Century for instance, are of a completely different character than what had been presented since the middle of the 15th Century to the soul constitutions of civilised humanity. Yes, up to the 20th century intellectualism in humanity has developed up to a culmination point. Intellectualism has the peculiarity, that it — just like the principle of imitation or authority — only shifts at a particular human age out of its latent position and in the case of intellectualism it is related to a later period in life. We see how the human being only when he has reached puberty, actually even later, becomes suitable to progress towards intellectuality. Before this age intellectualism works in a paralyzing, deadening way into soul activity.

As a result, we can say we live in an epoch which is only appropriate for grownups, which has as its most important cultural impulse, something which should only come into expression in adults. As a result, because our entire cultural tone is set towards grown adults, we are actually unable to understand the child — and even young people!


This is the most important aspect our civilization needs to look at. We need to be clear that precisely through those powers which our sciences and our technology have triumphed and have been brought to such a great blossoming, we must take up the possibility to fully understand the child and enter into the human nature of the child. It just needs our own effort to strike our bridge across to the young people and the child. What appears in various forms as the youth movement — one can say whatever one likes — has its deepest entitlement; it is nothing other than the cry of the youth: ‘You grownups have a civilization which we simply don't understand, when we bring our basic natures to it!’ — This bridge between the adult and the child's world must be discovered again, and to this Anthroposophy will contribute.

When you go down from the general cultural point of view to the individual you will once again find that these syllabi which are deduced from the essence of the child itself, teach us what syllabus we need to develop for the phases in the child's life. Reading and writing were in earlier times something quite different to what they are today. Take for example the letters: they are something abstract, strangers in relation to life actually. If we go even further back, we find something in the pictorial writing which is directly related to life. We often today don't even think about how intimately life was connected to this image rich writing and how strange these are in life: reading and writing. Yes, we stand within a civilization in which it is natural to have the strangest elements in life developed into civilization's goals. When we in an open-minded way look at for instance a stenographer or a typist sitting at a typewriter, we know that with such activities humanity has been sucked into the strangest civilization.

My dear friends, we don't want to be hostile to culture or become reactionaries, when we express this. Nothing is to be said about these means which have entered in modern times; they must be there. Yet, powers of thought need to be developed which can heal this once again, this, which if it is left to work all by itself could only lead to a definite decline of culture and lead to decadence. The most important moment in which a healing remedy can be introduced, lies in education and in the classroom, to be designed through education.

When the child enters elementary school, then it is indeed so, that the intellect is drowsy. The ability for abstract thinking, which first needs to be experienced through others, only appears later. As a result, abstract forms of writing and reading introduced to the child as it arrives in school, cannot be related to. We can only take something which can reach the child in a lively way, which works in the child itself already as an artistic soul principle, something more pure and splendid than any other art. This works on a subconscious level. We must continue this way and try to find forms of a particular nature, through which the child in an artistic way can be active in his total being in the artistic form of writing which can evolve into reading. With relevance to pedagogy, when the children haven't learnt to read or write at the age of nine or ten, one must have the courage to say: ‘Thank goodness that these children can't read or write yet!’ — because it isn't important for the child to learn this or that but that he or she learns in the right way at the right age.

This is why the Waldorf School education is orientated in an artistic way. Out of pedagogic-artistic principles it commences and gradually leads over into the intellectual. We take into account that music must appear early in education while this has a relationship to development of the will forces. As a result, we take into account that the usual physical education, as animated gymnastics are given as Eurythmy, is inserted into the lessons. It needs to be metamorphosed, transformed pedagogically-didactically, then those who have observed it discover that through this art of movement, the soul and spirit have been provided with something meaningful. One discovers that the child in his school-going education experiences him or herself into the art of movement in a similar way as a small child finds its way into speaking, with inner pleasure and inner naturalness.

Working from an artistic basis results in the child handling colours from very early on. Even though it is also sometimes inconvenient and might mean more stringent cleaning rules need to be applied, it will still affirm that the child enters more deeply into life than otherwise. Brought into the bargain is the development of a sense for life, that life doesn't go by but that the child lives with the outer world, that it becomes sensitive for everything which is beautiful, every encounter in nature and in life being meaningful. This is more important than the transference of details from this or that sphere on to the child.

Added to all that I've only indicated in an outline, the Anthroposophical foundation is what flows into the teacher's mindset, what the teacher simply through his entire being attributes to the pedagogical-didactic imponderables, when he closes the classroom door behind him, when he steps in front of the children. Whoever looks in a lively sense — not with abstract ideas — how the child copies and adapts to his environment, knows what works in the child in a soul-spiritual way. The teacher gets to know the child and as a result obtains the requirements with which to judge in quite a different way than is usually done. I want to present an example of this.

You learn quite a bit when you look at life in the following way. Once parents came to me and said their young son, who up to that point had been quite neat and tidy, had suddenly stolen something. I asked: “How old is the child?” The parents answered: “Five years.” I said: “Then you must first examine what the child has actually done because perhaps he has not stolen anything.” — What had he done in fact? He took money out of the drawer in the same way his mother takes money every morning when she wants to go shopping. From the money the little boy had bought treats which he didn't keep for himself but had given to other children. In this case a person can say: There is no reason to see this as stealing; the child simply saw what the mother did each morning and felt capable of doing the same. The child is an imitator. Each relationship of a child to the norms of adults, in which the expressions “good” and “bad” appear, only become applicable when the change of teeth has taken place. Therefore, we must obtain a completely different way to form judgements and learn that everything we do in the child's surroundings need to be so orientated that the child can copy them, can imitate them right into the imponderable thoughts within them. This proves the reality of thoughts. Not only our actions but also the manner and way of our thoughts give substantiality. In the child's surroundings we should not give in to any random thought because this works in on the child. Therefore, we need to look into even the imponderables in thoughts.

If one looks at how the child up to his seventh year lives in his environment one can get the impression of what the child had been before he came down into the physical sense world. Up to then — this is shown in anthroposophic research — the person is surrounded by a soul-spiritual world which is permeated by the cosmos, just like in the physical world his body is connected to the physical world. We become able to see that in the child's life, up to his seventh year, it has been a true continuation of life before birth or conception. This however must be transformed in the pedagogic-didactic experience so the teacher, standing in front of the children, must say to himself: The super-sensible worlds have given me something to unravel, which I must level out in the path of my life.

Teaching and education really becomes an act of sacrifice towards the whole world. There is a conviction being uttered about teaching and education being a force and without which in real teaching and real education, nothing can come about. This conviction which hasn't been adopted from outside, but has come through inner work, through the anthroposophical world view, this is the most important in pedagogical-didactic work. You stand with shy religious reverence to what is hidden within the child's body, you look at one who has risen from eternal world foundations which is gradually revealed in childish movements, gestures and so on, and you know that the riddle of life needs to be solved in a practical way. Only in this way are the entire teach, and educational convictions directed correctly. This atmosphere which spreads in all activities, which needs to take place in the school life, is what Anthroposophy above all wants to have within the teaching and educational being and from where all details need their direction. However, to be master of them, it is necessary that you, through true inner observation of the smallest movement of the child's life, see how the spirit works right into its very fingertips. The teacher will acquire an inner overall view so that he out of an ability, which must become an instinct, meets his class in the spirit and skilfulness that come from his internal processing of the anthroposophical world view.

Here are a few indications which I was able to give; they could be implemented further in the next lectures. These indications should show that Anthroposophy doesn't want to be radically against great pedagogic accomplishments but that it will be the assistant to the great one, if we are not to remain stuck in abstractions, so that we can enter practical life in a vital way, in order for the art of education to become a real impulse, an effective factor in our social life!




Last Modified: 07-Oct-2019
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