Tuesday, May 7, 2019
O Tempora! O Mores! Regarding Education
Rudolf Steiner, 1922
The present is the age of intellectualism. The intellect is that faculty of soul in the exercise of which man's inner being participates least. One speaks with some justification of the cold intellectual nature; we need only reflect how the intellect acts upon artistic perception or practice: it dispels or impedes. And artists dread that their creations may be conceptually or symbolically explained by the intelligence. In the clarity of the intellect the warmth of soul which, in the act of creation, gave life to their works, is extinguished. The artist would like his work to be grasped by feeling, not by the understanding. For then the warmth with which he has experienced it is communicated to the beholder. But this warmth is repelled by an intellectual explanation.
In social life intellectualism separates men from one another. They can only work rightly within the community when they are able to impart to their deeds — which always involve the weal or woe of their fellow beings — something of their soul. One man should experience not only another's activity but something of his soul. In a deed, however, which springs from intellectualism, a man withholds his soul nature. He does not let it flow over to his neighbor. It has long been said that in the teaching and training of children intellectualism operates in a crippling way. In saying this one has in mind, in the first place, only the child's intelligence, not the teacher's. One would like to fashion one's methods of training and instruction so that not only the child's cold understanding may be aroused and developed, but warmth of heart may be engendered too.
The anthroposophical view of the world is in full agreement with this. It accepts fully the excellent educational maxims which have grown from this demand. But it realizes clearly that warmth can only be imparted from soul to soul. On this account it holds that, above all, pedagogy itself must become ensouled, and thereby the teachers' whole activity.
In recent times intellectualism has permeated strongly into methods of instruction and training. It has achieved this indirectly, by way of modern science. Parents let science dictate what is good for the child's body, soul, and spirit. And teachers, during their training, receive from science the spirit of their educational methods.
But science has achieved its triumphs precisely through intellectualism. It wants to keep its thoughts free of anything from man's own soul life, letting them receive everything from sense observation and experiment. Such a science could build up the excellent knowledge of nature of our time, but it cannot found a true pedagogy.
A true pedagogy must be based upon a knowledge that embraces man with respect to body, soul, and spirit. Intellectualism only grasps man with respect to his body, for to observation and experiment the bodily alone is revealed. Before a true pedagogy can be founded, a true knowledge of man is necessary. This Anthroposophy seeks to attain.
One cannot come to a knowledge of man by first forming an idea of his bodily nature with the help of a science founded merely on what can be grasped by the senses, and then asking whether this bodily nature is ensouled, and whether a spiritual element is active within it. In dealing with a child such an attitude is harmful. For in him, far more than in the adult, body, soul, and spirit form a unity. One cannot care first for the health of the child from the point of view of a merely natural science, and then want to give to the healthy organism what one regards as proper from the point of view of soul and spirit. In all that one does to the child and with the child one benefits or injures his bodily life. In man's earthly life soul and spirit express themselves through the body. A bodily process is a revelation of soul and spirit.
Material science is of necessity concerned with the body as a physical organism; it does not come to a comprehension of the whole man. Many feel this while regarding pedagogy, but fail to see what is needed today. They do not say: Pedagogy cannot thrive on material science; let us therefore found our pedagogic methods out of pedagogic instincts and not out of material science. But half-consciously they are of this opinion.
We may admit this in theory, but in practice it leads to nothing, for modern humanity has lost the spontaneity of the life of instinct. To try today to build up an instinctive pedagogy on instincts which are no longer present in man in their original force would remain a groping in the dark. We come to see this through anthroposophical knowledge. We learn to know that the intellectualistic trend in science owes its existence to a necessary phase in the evolution of mankind. In recent times man passed out of the period of instinctive life. The intellect became of predominant significance. Man needed it in order to advance on his evolutionary path in the right way. It leads him to that degree of consciousness which he must attain in a certain epoch, just as the individual must acquire particular capabilities at a particular period of his life. But the instincts are crippled under the influence of the intellect, and one cannot try to return to the instinctive life without working against man's evolution. We must accept the significance of that full consciousness which has been attained through intellectualism, and — in full consciousness — give to man what instinctive life can no longer give him.
We need for this a knowledge of soul and spirit which is just as much founded on reality as is material, intellectualistic science. Anthroposophy strives for just this, yet it is this that many people shrink from accepting. They learn to know the way modern science tries to understand man. They feel he cannot be known in this way, but they will not accept that it is possible to cultivate a new mode of cognition and — in clarity of consciousness equal to that in which one penetrates the bodily nature — attain to a knowledge of soul and spirit. So they want to return to the instincts again in order to understand the child and train him.
But he must go forward; and there is no other way than to extend anthropology by acquiring Anthroposophy, and sense knowledge by acquiring spiritual knowledge. We have to learn all over again. Men are terrified at the complete change of thought required for this. From unconscious fear they attack Anthroposophy as fantastic, yet it only wants to proceed in the spiritual domain as soberly and as carefully as material science in the physical.
Let us consider the child. About the seventh year of life he develops his second teeth. This is not merely the work of the period of time immediately preceding. It is a process that begins with embryonic development and only concludes with the second teeth. These forces, which produce the second teeth at a certain stage of development, were always active in the child's organism. They do not reveal themselves in this way in subsequent periods of life. Further teeth formations do not occur. Yet the forces concerned have not been lost; they continue to work; they have merely been transformed. They have undergone a metamorphosis. (There are still other forces in the child's organism which undergo metamorphosis in a similar way.)
If we study in this way the development of the child's organism we discover that these forces are active before the change of teeth. They are absorbed in the processes of nourishment and growth. They live in undivided unity with the body, freeing themselves from it about the seventh year. They live on as soul forces; we find them active in the older child in feeling and thinking.
Anthroposophy shows that an etheric organism permeates the physical organism of man. Up to the seventh year the whole of this etheric organism is active in the physical. But now a portion of the etheric organism becomes free from direct activity in the physical. It acquires a certain independence, becoming thereby an independent vehicle of the soul life, relatively free from the physical organism.
In earth life, however, soul experience can only develop with the help of this etheric organism. Hence the soul is quite embedded in the body before the seventh year. To be active during this period, it must express itself through the body. The child can only come into relationship with the outer world when this relationship takes the form of a stimulus which runs its course within the body. This can only be the case when the child imitates. Before the change of teeth the child is a purely imitative being in the widest sense. His training must consist in this: that those around him perform before him what he is to imitate.
The child's educator should experience within himself what it is to have the whole etheric organism within the physical. This gives him knowledge of the child. With abstract principles alone one can do nothing. Educational practice requires an anthroposophical art of education to work out in detail how the human being reveals himself as a child.
Just as the etheric organism is embedded in the physical until the change of teeth, so, from the change of teeth until puberty there is embedded in the physical and etheric a soul organism, called the astral organism by Anthroposophy. As a result of this the child develops a life that no longer expends itself in imitation. But he cannot yet govern his relation to others in accordance with fully conscious thoughts regulated by intellectual judgment. This first becomes possible when, at puberty, a part of the soul organism frees itself from the corresponding part of the etheric organism. From his seventh to his fourteenth or fifteenth year the child's life is not mainly determined by his relation to those around him in so far as this results from his power of judgment. It is the relation which comes through authority that is important now.
This means that, during these years, the child must look up to someone whose authority he can accept as a matter of course. His whole education must now be fashioned with reference to this. One cannot build upon the child's power of intellectual judgment, but one should perceive clearly that the child wants to accept what is put before him as true, good, and beautiful because the teacher, whom he takes for his model, regards it as true, good, and beautiful.
Moreover the teacher must work in such a way that he not merely puts before the child the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, but — in a sense — is these. What the teacher is passes over into the child, not what he teaches. All that is taught should be put before the child as a concrete ideal. Teaching itself must be a work of art, not a matter of theory.