Saturday, January 30, 2021
The Growing Child: Morality, Beauty, and Truth. The Study of Man: lecture 9 of 14
Rudolf Steiner to the first Waldorf teachers just before the opening of the first Waldorf school, Stuttgart, August 30, 1919:
If you yourselves have a well-developed knowledge of the growing child, permeated by your own will and feeling, then you will be able to teach and educate well. Through an educational instinct which will awaken within you, you will be able to apply the results of this will-knowledge in the different departments of your work. But this knowledge must be truly real, which means it must rest upon a true understanding of the world of facts.
Now, in order to come to a real knowledge of the human being we have sought to place him before our minds from the standpoint first of the soul, and then of the spirit. We must be clear that a spiritual conception of man makes it necessary for us to consider the different conditions of consciousness, and to know that, primarily, our life spiritually takes its course in waking, dreaming, and sleeping; and that all the different manifestations of human life can be characterized as fully awake, dreaming, or sleeping conditions. We will try once more to descend gradually from the spirit through the soul to the body, so that we have the whole human being before us and also may be able to sum up these observations at the end into a kind of hygiene of the growing child.
Now, as you know, the period of life which concerns us in teaching and education is that which includes the first two decades; and this time, as we know, is further divided into three periods. Up to the change of teeth the child bears a very distinct character, shown in his wanting to be an imitative being; he wants to imitate everything he sees in his environment. From the seventh year to puberty we have to do with a child who wants to take on authority what he has to know, to feel, and to will. And only with puberty comes the longing in man to gain a relationship to the world through his own individual judgment. Therefore in dealing with children of primary-school age we must remember that at this age they long for the sway of authority from the innermost depths of their beings. We shall educate badly if we are not in a position to hold our authority in this age.
Now what we have to do is to survey the whole life activity of the human being in a spiritual description. This activity, as we have already shown from varied points of view, includes thinking-cognition on the one hand, and willing on the other; feeling lies between. Now, with regard to thinking-cognition it is man's task between birth and death gradually to permeate it with logic, with all that enables him to think logically. But what you yourselves, as teachers, have to know about logic must be kept in the background. For logic is, of course, something pre-eminently scientific; it must be brought to the children only through your whole general attitude. But as teachers you will have to have a mastery of logic.
Our exercise of logic, that is, of thinking-cognition, is an activity of three members. Firstly, in our thinking-cognition we always have what is called conclusions. In ordinary life thinking is expressed in speech. If you examine the structure of speech you will find that in speaking you are continually forming conclusions. This activity of forming conclusions is the most conscious of all human activities. Man could not express himself in speech unless he were continually uttering conclusions, nor could he understand what another person said to him unless he were continuously receiving conclusions.
Academic logic usually dismembers conclusions, thus falsifying them at the outset, in so far as conclusions appear in ordinary life. Academic logic takes no account of the fact that we form conclusions every time we look at any one single thing. Suppose that you go to a menagerie and see a lion. What do you do first of all when you perceive the lion? First you bring what you see in the lion to your consciousness; and only by this bringing to consciousness do you gain an understanding of your perceptions of the lion. Before you went to the menagerie, in your ordinary life, you learned that beings that have the form and habits of the lion you are now looking at are “animals.” This knowledge acquired in ordinary life you bring with you into the menagerie. Then you look at the lion and find: the lion is doing just what you have learned that animals do. You connect this with what you have brought with you out of your knowledge of life and then you form the judgment: the lion is an animal. It is not until you have formed this judgment that you can understand the particular concept “lion.” The first thing you form is a conclusion; the second is a judgment; the last thing you come to in life is a concept.
Of course you are not aware that you are continuously carrying out this activity; but it is only by means of this activity that you can lead a conscious life which enables you to communicate with other human beings through speech. It is commonly thought that one comes to concepts first of all. This is not true. The first thing in life is conclusions. And in reality, if when we go into the menagerie we do not exclude our perception of the lion from the rest of our experience, but bring it into line with the whole of our previous experience, then what we accomplish first in the menagerie is the drawing of a conclusion. We must be clear on this point; going into the menagerie and seeing the lion is merely a single act and it belongs to the whole of life. We did not begin living when we entered the menagerie and turned our attention to the lion. This action is linked on to our previous life, and our previous life plays into it too, and what we take out with us when we leave the menagerie will again be carried over into the rest of life.
If now we consider the whole process, what is the lion first of all? He is first of all a conclusion. That is absolutely true: the lion is a conclusion. A little later, the lion is a judgment. And a little later still, the lion is a concept.
If you open a book on logic — that is, one of the older sort — you usually find among the conclusions the following famous one: “All men are mortal. Caius is a man. Therefore Caius is mortal.” Caius is indeed the most famous logical personality. Now actually this splitting up of the three judgments: “All men are mortal. Caius is a man. Therefore Caius is mortal,” is only to be found in the teaching of logic. In real life these three judgments weave into one another, forming a unity, for the life in thinking-knowing is in continual flux. You make all three judgments simultaneously when you approach the man Caius. What you are thinking of him already contains these three judgments within it. That is to say: first comes the conclusion. And only after that do you form the judgment, which is here put as the conclusion: “Therefore Caius is mortal.” And the last thing you get is the individualised concept: “The mortal Caius.”
Now, these three things — conclusion, judgment, and concept — exist in the knowing process, that is, in the living spirit of man. What is their relation to each other in the living spirit of man?
The conclusion can only live in the living spirit of man: only there can it have a healthy life; that means: the conclusion is only completely healthy when it occurs in fully waking life. This is very important, as we shall see later.
Therefore you ruin the soul of the child if you make him commit to memory ready-made conclusions. What I am now saying — and shall work out in detail with you later — is of the most fundamental importance for your teaching. In the Waldorf School you will get children of all ages who bear the result of former teaching. The children will have been taught in conclusions, judgments, and concepts, and you will soon experience the result of this. You will have to build on the knowledge that the children have already acquired, for you cannot begin at the beginning with each child. We are so placed that we cannot build our school up from the bottom but have to begin with classes of all ages. You will thus find that the children's souls have already been prepared, and in your method of teaching in the early days you will have to be very careful not to worry the children to draw ready-made conclusions out of their sum of knowledge. If these conclusions are too firmly fixed in the children's souls it is better to leave them dormant and try to appeal to the child's present life in the making of conclusions.
Judgment, also, will make its appearance, and this of course in the full waking life. But judgment can also sink into the depths of the human soul, to where the soul is dreaming. The conclusion should not sink into the dreaming soul; only the judgment can do this. Thus every judgment that we form about the world sinks down into the dreaming soul.
Now, what does this really mean? What is this dreaming soul? It is more of the nature of feeling, as we have already learned. When in life we form judgments and then pass on from them and continue on our way, we carry these judgments with us through the world. But we carry them through the world in feeling. This has also the further implication that forming judgments brings about a kind of habit of soul. You will be forming the soul habits of the child by the way you teach the children to form judgments. You must be absolutely aware of this fact. For it is the sentence which expresses judgment, and with every sentence you say to a child you are contributing a further atom to the habits of that child's soul. Hence the teacher, who possesses authority, must always be conscious that what he says will become part of the habits of soul of the child.
Now, to come from judgment to concept: we must realize that when we form a concept it goes down into the profoundest depths of man's being; regarding the matter spiritually, it goes down into the sleeping soul. The concept makes its way right down into the sleeping soul, and this is that part of the soul that is constantly at work upon the body. The waking soul does not work upon the body. The dreaming soul works upon it a little; it produces what lies in its habitual gestures. But the sleeping soul works right into the very forms of the body. In forming concepts — that is, in formulating the results of judgments in men— you are working right into the sleeping soul, or in other words, right into the body of the human being.
Now, when the human being is born, he has reached a high degree of completion as far as his body is concerned; and the soul can only develop in a finer way what has been given to the human being by the stream of inheritance. But the soul does carry out this refining work. We go about the world and we look at people. These people we meet with have quite distinct faces. What is the content of these physiognomies? They contain, among other things, the result of all the concepts which teachers and educators inculcated in these people during their childhood. From the face of the mature man streams out to us the content of the many concepts poured into the soul of the child; for, in forming the man's physiognomy it is with fixed concepts — among other things — that the sleeping soul has wrought. Here we see what power educational work has upon the human being. He receives his stamp right down into his very body through the forming of concepts.
The most striking phenomenon in the world today is that we find men with such unpronounced features. Herman Bahr in the course of a lecture in Berlin once described an experience of his in a very spirited manner. He said that even as far back as the 1890's, if you were to go to the Rhine in the neighborhood of Essen, and walking down the street were to meet people coming out of the factories, you would have the feeling: no one of these people is different from another; I am really looking at one single person who is coming out like a picture in a duplicating machine; it is impossible to distinguish these people from one another. A very significant observation! And Herman Bahr made another observation which is also very significant. He said: when in the '90s you were invited out to dinner in Berlin you had a lady on your right and on your left hand, but you really could not distinguish them from each other, except that you knew one was on your right hand and the other on your left. Then another day you were perhaps invited somewhere else, and it might easily happen that you could not be sure: is this yesterday's lady, or the lady of the day before?
In short, a certain uniformity has come over humanity, and this is a proof that there has been no true education in the preceding years. We must learn from these things what is really necessary in the transformation of our educational life, for education has a deep and far-reaching influence on the whole cultural life of the times. Therefore we can say: at those times in life when man is not confronted with any one particular fact, his concepts are living in the unconscious.
Concepts can live in the unconscious. Judgments can only live as habits of judgment in the semi-conscious, in the dreaming life. And conclusions should really only hold sway in the fully conscious waking life. That is to say, you must take great care to talk over with the children beforehand anything that is related to conclusions, and not let them store up ready-made conclusions. They should only store up what can develop and ripen into a concept. Now, how can we bring this about?
Suppose you are forming concepts, and they are dead concepts. Then you graft the corpses of concepts into the human being. You graft dead concepts right into the bodily nature of man when you implant dead concepts on him. What kind of a concept should we then give the children? It must be a living concept if man has to live with it. Man is alive, thus the concept must also be alive. If in the child's ninth or tenth year you graft into him concepts which are meant to retain their same form in him until he is thirty or forty years of age, then you will be imbuing him with the corpses of concepts, for the concept will not follow the life of the human being as he grows and develops. You must give the child such concepts as are capable of change in his later life. The educator must aim at giving the child concepts which will not remain the same throughout his life, but will change as the child grows older. If you do this you will be implanting live concepts in the child.
And when is it that you give him dead concepts? When you continually give the child definitions, when you say: “A lion is ...” this or that, and make him learn it by heart, then you are grafting dead concepts into him; and you are expecting that at the age of thirty he will retain these concepts in the precise form in which you are now giving them to him. That is to say: the making of many definitions is death to living teaching.
What then must we do? In teaching we must not make definitions but rather must endeavor to make characterizations. We characterize things when we view them from as many standpoints as possible. If in Natural History we give the children simply what is to be found, for example, in the Natural History books of the present day, then we are really only defining the animal for him. We must try in all branches of our teaching to characterize the animal from different sides — showing, for example, how men have gradually come to know about this animal, how they have come to make use of its work, and so on. But in a reasonable curriculum this characterization will arise of itself, if, for instance, the teacher does not merely describe consecutively, say: first the cuttlefish, and then the mouse, and finally man, each in turn, in natural-historical order — but rather places cuttlefish, mouse, and man side by side and relates them with one another. The interrelationships will prove so manifold that there will result not a definition but a characterization. A right kind of teaching will aim, from the outset, at characterization rather than definition.
It is of very great importance to make it your constant and conscious aim not to destroy anything in the growing human being, but to teach and educate him in such a way that he continues to be full of life, and does not dry up and become hard and rigid. You must therefore distinguish carefully between mobile concepts which you give the child and such concepts as need undergo no change.
These concepts will give the child a kind of skeleton in his soul. Therefore you must realize that you have to give the child things which can remain with him throughout his life. You must not give him dead concepts of all the details of life — concepts which must not remain with him — rather must you give him living concepts of the details of life and of the world, concepts which will develop with him organically.
But you must connect everything with man. In the child's comprehension of the world everything must finally flow together into the idea of man. This idea of man should endure. All that you give a child when you tell him a fable and apply it to man, when in natural history you connect cuttlefish and mouse with man, or when in teaching the children Morse telegraphy you arouse a feeling of the wonder of the Earth as a conductor — all these are things which unite the whole world in all its details with the human being. This is something that can remain with him. But the concept “man” is only built up gradually; you cannot give the child a ready-made concept of man. But when you have built it up then it can remain. In fact it is the most beautiful thing you can give a child in school for his later life: the idea, which is as many-sided and comprehensive as possible, of man.
What is living in the human being tends to transform itself in life in a really living way. If you succeed in giving the child concepts of reverence and devotion, living concepts of all that we call the mood of prayer in the widest sense, such a conception, permeated by the mood of prayer, is then a living conception and it lasts right on into old age; and in old age it transforms itself into the capacity of blessing, of being able to impart to others what comes from a mood of prayer. I once expressed this in a public lecture in the following way: a man or woman will only be able to impart blessing in old age if he or she has learned to pray rightly as a child. If as a child one learned to pray rightly then as an old man or old woman one can bless rightly and with greatest power.
Thus to give children concepts of this kind, which have to do with the most intimate nature of man, is to equip them with living concepts; and this living element is open to change, it transforms itself, changing with the very life of man.
Let us once more consider this threefold division of childhood and youth from a rather different point of view. Up to the change of teeth man has a desire to imitate; up to puberty he longs for an authority to look up to; after this time he wants to apply his own judgment to the world.
This can be expressed in another way. When the human being comes forth from the world of soul and spirit and receives the garment of his body, what is it that he really wants to do? He wants to make actual in the physical world what he has lived through in the past in the spiritual world. In certain respects the human being before the change of teeth is entirely involved in the past. He is still filled with the devotion that one develops in the spiritual world. It is for this reason that he gives himself up to his environment by imitating the people around him. What then is the fundamental impulse, the completely unconscious mood of the child before the change of teeth? This fundamental mood is a very beautiful one, and it must be fostered in the child. It proceeds from the assumption, from the unconscious assumption, that the whole world is of a moral nature. This is not exclusively the case in souls of the present day (I have already drawn attention to this in a lecture here) but by the very fact of becoming a physical being man has the tendency at birth to proceed from the unconscious assumption that the world is moral.
It is good therefore for the whole education up to the change of teeth, and even beyond this age, that one should bear in mind this unconscious assumption that the world is moral. I drew your attention to this by reading you two extracts, for which I had first shown you the preparation; this preparation rested entirely on the assumption that one describes things from a moral aspect. [In the lectures Discussions with Teachers.] I tried to show in the first piece — about the sheep-dog, the butcher's dog, and the lap-dog — how human morals can be reflected in the animal world. And in the poem about the violet, by Hoffman von Fallersleben, I aimed at giving a moral without pedantry for children up to seven or beyond; thereby working in harmony with this assumption that the world is moral. This is the greatness and sublimity in the outlook of childhood, that children are a race who believe in the morality of the world, and therefore believe that the world may be imitated. Thus the child lives in the past and is to a great extent a revealer of the pre-natal past — not of the physical past, but of the past of soul and spirit.
From the change of teeth up to the time of adolescence the child really lives continually in the present, and is interested in what is going on in the world around him. When educating we must constantly keep in mind that children of primary-school age want always to live in the present. How does one live in the present? One lives in the present when one enjoys the world around one — not in an animal way, but in a human way. And indeed the child of this age wants also to enjoy the world in the lessons he receives. Therefore from the outset we must make our teaching a thing of enjoyment for the children — not animal enjoyment, but enjoyment of a higher, human kind — not something that calls forth in them antipathy and repulsion.
There have of course been various good educational experiments on these lines. But here we are faced with a certain danger, namely that this principle of making teaching a source of pleasure and enjoyment can easily deteriorate into something paltry and commonplace. This must not happen. But the only sure preventative is for the teacher and educator to be ever willing to raise himself above what is commonplace, pedantic, and philistine. This he can only do if he never neglects to make a really living contact with art. For in seeking to enjoy the world in a human and not in an animal way one proceeds from a definite assumption: namely that the world is beautiful. And from the time he changes his teeth until puberty the child really proceeds on the unconscious assumption that he shall find the world beautiful.
This unconscious assumption of the child that the world is beautiful is not met by the regulations laid down for “object lessons,” regulations which are often very crude and are drawn up purely from a utilitarian point of view. But this assumption is met if one will try and immerse oneself in artistic experience so that the teaching in this period may be artistic through and through. It sometimes makes one extremely sad to read present-day books on education and to see how the good principle that education should be made into a source of joy does not come into its own because what the teacher discourses on with his pupils is inartistic and commonplace. Today it is much in favor to conduct object lessons on the Socratic method. But the nature of the questions asked is utilitarian in the extreme, instead of partaking of the beautiful. And here no demonstrations or showing of set examples will be of any help. It is not a question of instructing the teacher that he shall adopt this method or that when choosing set pieces for his object lesson. What is essential is that the teacher himself by living in art should see to it that the things he talks about to his children are artistic.
The first part of a child's life, up to the change of teeth, is spent with the unconscious assumption: the world is moral. The second period, from the change of teeth to adolescence, is spent with the unconscious assumption: the world is beautiful. And only with adolescence dawns the possibility of discovering: the world is true. Thus it is not until then that education should begin to assume a “scientific” character. Before adolescence it is not good to give a purely systematizing or scientific character to education, for not until adolescence does man attain a right and inward concept of truth.
In this way you will come to see that as the child descends into this physical world out of higher worlds the past descends with him; that when he has accomplished the change of teeth the present plays itself out in the boy or girl of school age, and that after fourteen the human being enters a time of life when impulses of the future assert themselves in his soul. Past, present and future, and life in the midst of them, this too is planted in the growing child.