Monday, February 1, 2021
The Growing Child. The Study of Man: lecture 11 of 14
Rudolf Steiner to the first Waldorf teachers just before the opening of the first Waldorf school, Stuttgart, September 2, 1919:
In yesterday's lecture I treated of the bodily nature of man from the standpoint of spirit and of soul, and if you understand this survey you will readily be able to fit into it all that you need to know of the body's structure and growth. Thus, before we pass on in the remaining lectures to a description of the human body, we will throw further light on the subject from the side of soul and spirit.
You have realized that man is a threefold being: head man, trunk man, and limb man; and you saw how each of the three parts has a different relationship to the world of soul and spirit.
First let us consider the head formation of man. Yesterday we said that the head is mainly body; the chest is body and soul; and the limb man body, soul, and spirit. But of course it is not an exhaustive description of the head to say that it is principally body. In actual truth things are not sharply divided from one another. Therefore we may equally well say that the head is also soul and spirit, but in a different manner from that of chest and limbs. Even at birth the head is principally body. That is to say the soul and spirit of the head have set their seal on the bodily form. The head (the first thing to evolve in the embryo) is a manifestation of what is essentially human, of the human soul and spirit. What relation has the bodily head to the soul and spirit? Because the head has reached something like completion in its bodily aspect, having evolved in former epochs through the necessary stages from animal to man, it is therefore capable of fullest physical development. The manner of the soul's relation to the head is this: at birth and throughout its earliest years the child's soul is dreaming in the head; while his spirit in the head is asleep.
Thus we find body, soul, and spirit related to each other in the human head in a remarkable way. In our head nature we have a very highly developed body, a dreaming soul — truly a dreaming soul — and a spirit that is still asleep.
Now we must see how we can bring this into harmony with the whole development of man. The characteristic feature of this development up to the change of teeth is that man is an imitative being. He imitates everything that he sees going on around him. He is able to do this owing to the fact that his head spirit is asleep. Hence in his head spirit he can dwell outside the head body. He can remain in the environment. For man's spirit and soul are outside his body in sleep. The child in spirit and soul, in his sleeping spirit and dreaming soul, is outside his head; he is with those who are around him. Because of this the child is an imitative being. Because of this, love goes forth from the dreaming soul towards his environment, particularly love towards his parents. Now when the child changes his teeth, and the second ones appear, this is an actual indication that the head development has reached its final stage. Even though the head as body is born complete, yet it goes through a final stage of its development during the first seven years of life. The last stage culminates in the change of teeth.
What is it that is thus brought to an end? It is the molding of the form. Man has now poured into his body all the hardening elements, all that gives him form. When we see the second teeth appear we can say that the first stage in man's intercourse with the world has come to an end. He has accomplished the formation of his body, its molding and configuration. But while the head is occupied during this time in giving man his form and figure, something different is happening in the chest system.
For things are essentially different in the chest. From the very beginning, from birth, the chest is an organism both of body and soul. It is not solely body, as is the head, it is body and soul; but its spirit is still dreaming and outside of itself. When we observe a child in his early years, we see clearly that the chest organs, as contrasted with the head organs, are much more awake and more living. It would be quite wrong to look upon the human being as a chaotic conglomeration of parts.
With the limbs it is different again. Here from the first moment of life spirit, soul, and body are intimately connected; they all flow into one another. Moreover it is here that the child is first fully awake, as those who have to bring up these lively, kicking little creatures in their babyhood very well know. Everything is awake, but absolutely unformed. This is the great secret of man: when he is born his head spirit is already very highly developed, but asleep. His head soul, when he is born, is very highly developed, but it only dreams. The spirit and soul have yet gradually to awaken. The limb man is indeed fully awake at birth, but unformed, undeveloped.
All we have really to do is to develop the limb man and part of the chest man. For after that it is the task of the limb man and chest man to awaken the head man. Here we come to the true function of teaching and education. You have to develop the limb man and part of the chest man, and then let this limb man and part of the chest man awaken the other part of the chest man and the head man.
From this you will see that the child brings something of great consequence to meet you. He meets you with a perfected spirit and relatively perfected soul, which he has brought through birth. All you have to do is to develop that part of his spirit which is not yet perfect, and that part of his soul which is as yet still less perfect.
If this were not so, real education and teaching would be utterly impossible. For suppose we had to teach and educate the whole of the spirit which man brings into the world only in germ: then our stature as teachers would require to be equal to whatever the human beings in our care might become. If this were so you might as well give up teaching at once, for you could only educate people equal in brilliance and ability to yourselves. But you must of course be ready to educate people who, in some ways, are much more clever and brilliant than you are. This is only possible if in education we have to touch only one part of man, for we can educate this one part even if we are not as clever, as brilliant, perhaps not even as good, as the child potentially is.
The thing we can accomplish best in our teaching is the education of the will, and part of the education of the feeling life. For we can bring what we educate through the will — that is, through the limbs — and through the heart — that is, through part of the chest man — to the stage of perfection we have reached ourselves. And just as a man servant (or even an alarm clock) can be trained to awaken a much cleverer man than himself, so a person much inferior in cleverness, or even in goodness, can educate someone who has greater possibilities than he. We must of course realize that we do not need to be equal to the developing human being in intellectual capacity; but as, once again, it is a question of the development of the will, it is for the attainment of goodness that we must strive to the uttermost. Our pupil may become better than we are, but he will very probably not do so unless in addition to the education we give him he gets another education from the world or from other people.
I have shown you in these lectures that there lives a certain genius in language. The genius of language is truly gifted; it is cleverer than we are. We can learn a great deal from the articulation of language and the way its spirit dwells within it.
But genius is to be found in other parts of our environment as well as in language. Let us consider what we have now discovered: that the human being enters the world with a sleeping spirit and a dreaming soul, as far as his head is concerned; that hence it is necessary right from the beginning, from birth onwards, to educate him through his will, for we can only approach his sleeping head spirit by working upon his will. But if we could not approach his head spirit in some way we should inevitably have a great gap in human development. Man would be born — his head spirit would be asleep. We could not make the little child who lies kicking his legs do gymnastics, for instance, or Eurythmy. It wouldn't do. Nor can we give him a musical training as long as he can only kick his legs or yell. Neither can we bring art to him as yet. We find, as yet, no distinct bridge from the will to the sleeping spirit of the child. Later on, when we have managed to approach the child's will, we can work upon his sleeping spirit simply through the very first words we say for him to repeat. Here we have a direct access to the will. For now what we release in the vocal organs through these first words will penetrate the sleeping head spirit as an activity of will, and will arouse it. But in the earlier years we have no direct bridge. No stream passes over from the limbs — where the will, the spirit, is awake — to the sleeping spirit of the head. Another mediator is needed here. We human educators have nothing at our disposal.
But now comes something, apart from us, which is both genius and spirit. Language indeed has its genius, but in the very earliest babyhood we cannot appeal to the spirit of language at all. But Nature has her own genius, her own spirit. If it were not so we human beings would perish, because a discontinuous education in babyhood would create a breach in our development. Here the genius of Nature intervenes and creates something which can build this bridge. Out of the limb system it produces a substance which partakes of the limb nature, as it is bound up with its development, and has something of that nature in it. This substance is milk. In woman the production of milk is connected with the upper limbs, with the arms. The milk-producing organs can be said to be a continuation of the limbs, inwards. Both in the animal and human kingdoms milk is the only substance which has an inner connection with the limbs, which is, as it were, born of the limbs, and hence retains the power of the limbs within it. And as we give the child milk it works upon the sleeping spirit and awakens it — the only substance, essentially, which can do this. Here the spirit that dwells in all matter asserts itself in its rightful place. Milk bears its own spirit within it, and this spirit has the task of awakening the sleeping spirit of the child. This is no mere picture, it is a profound scientific truth that the genius in Nature, which creates the substance milk from out of secret depths, is the awakener of the human spirit in the child.
We must learn to penetrate into these deep and secret relationships in the world, for only then shall we understand the wonderful laws that hold sway in the universe. Only then do we come to see what horrible ignoramuses we are when we theorize about matter as though it were some uniform mass that could be divided into atoms and molecules. Indeed it is no such thing. Matter is of such a nature, rather, that when milk, which is an integral part of it, is produced it has the inner need to awaken the sleeping human spirit. As in human beings and in animals we can speak of an inner need, namely of the force that lies at the basis of will, so can we speak of a “need” in matter generally. And if we want fully to comprehend the nature of milk we must say: when milk is produced it seeks to be the awakener of the child's human spirit.
Thus everything we see around us springs to life if we regard it aright. Nor do we ever lose the relationship between man and what is in the world outside.
Thus, it is the genius of Nature herself which cares for the early years of human development. And when we educate and develop the child we are, in a certain sense, taking over the work of this genius. Through our words and actions, which the child copies, we begin to work upon the child through his will, and in so doing we continue the activity which we have left to the genius of Nature to carry out; for Nature has made use of the adult merely as a means to the process of nourishing the child with milk. From this you will perceive that Nature educates naturally; for her nourishment by milk is the first medium of education. Nature educates in a natural way. But we, as human beings, working to educate the child through language and through our actions, begin to educate in the realm of soul.
For this reason it is so important to be conscious in our teaching and education that we cannot really undertake much with the head. At birth the head brings with it what it is destined to become in the world. We can awaken what is in the child, but we cannot implant a content into him.
Here we must indeed be clear that it is only certain definite things that can be brought into the physical Earth existence through birth. The spiritual world has no concern with things which have come into civilization only through external convention. For instance, the child naturally does not bring with him our conventional methods of reading and writing — I have shown this before in other connections. The spirits do not write, neither do they read. They do not read out of books, nor do they write with pens. It is only an invention of spiritualists that spirits use human language and can write. Language and writing as we know them are conventions of our civilization. They belong to life on Earth. And only when we bring this conventional reading and writing to the child — not by way of his head alone, but by way of his chest and limb systems too — can we really do him any good.
Now, of course, when the child is seven years old, he has not merely been lying in his cradle all the time: he has achieved something, he has been helping himself forward by imitating grown-up people, and he has seen to it that his head spirit is in some respects awake. Then we can, of course, take advantage of this awakening to introduce reading and writing to him in a conventional way.
But as soon as we do this we have a damaging effect upon the head spirit. This is why I told you that in good teaching reading and writing must only be given by way of art. The first elements of drawing, painting, and music must precede it. For these work upon the limbs and chest man, and only indirectly on the head. But in time they awaken what is within the head man. They do not misuse the head nature as we misuse it when we teach children the conventional reading and writing of today in a merely intellectual manner. If we first let the child draw, and then develop the written forms from its drawings, we shall be educating through the limb man up to the head man. When, for instance, we make an “F” on the board for the children, and let them look at it and follow its form with their hands, we are then working through perception directly upon the intellect. That is the wrong way round. The right way is, as far as possible, to awaken the intellect through the will. We can only do this by passing over to intellectual education by way of artistic education. Thus, even in these early years when the child is first given into our charge, we must teach him reading and writing in an artistic way.
You must bear in mind that the child you are teaching and educating has something else to do besides what you do with him. He has all manner of things to do which only indirectly belong to your sphere of work. The child has to grow. Yes, he must grow, and while educating him you should realize that he must grow rightly. What does this mean? It means that you must not by your teaching, by your education, disturb the child's growth. You must not effect a disturbance of his growth; rather your teaching and education should only be such as is compatible with the child's growth. What I am now saying is of special significance for the primary school period. For just as up to the change of teeth there takes place the building up of forms from the head, so during the primary school period — from the change of teeth to adolescence — there takes place life-development, growth, and all that goes with it. This belongs to the primary school period. This life-development which proceeds from the chest only reaches completion with the onset of adolescence, Thus during the primary school period you have chiefly to do with the chest man. You cannot teach rightly unless you know that, while you are teaching and educating the child, he is growing and evolving through his chest organization. Thus you are called upon to be the comrade of Nature, for Nature is developing the child through his chest organization, through breathing, nourishment, movement, and the like. And you must become a good comrade to Nature's development.
But how can you be this if you are ignorant of natural development? How can you teach if you do not know by what means you can work through the soul to retard or accelerate growth? It is within your power, to a certain extent, so to affect the healthy growth of the child, by way of the soul, that he shoots up, lanky and lean — a thing which could have bad results. Similarly it is within your power, to a certain extent, to check the child's growth in an unhealthy way, so that he will remain short and stumpy. You have this power, of course, only to a certain extent — but you have it. Thus you must have insight into the conditions of human growth. You must have this insight from the point of view of the soul and also of the body.
Now, how can we gain an understanding of the growth forces from the point of view of the soul? For this we must turn to a better kind of psychology than that current today. This better psychology tells us that all that accelerates the growing forces of the human being, or makes him shoot up too rapidly, is related to a certain aspect of memory formation. Now, if we over-stimulate the memory, we cause the human being, within certain limits, to grow tall and thin. And if we over-stimulate his imagination and fantasy, we retard his growth. Memory and imaginative fantasy have a certain secret relation to the forces of life development in man. And we must acquire the power of perceiving such a relation.
For example the teacher should be able to do as follows: At the beginning of the school year he must pass his pupils through his mind in a comprehensive review; this is particularly important for those turning points of the ninth and twelfth year which I have described to you. [See Practical Course for Teachers] He must, then, hold a review, so to speak, of the bodily development of his children, and he must notice what they look like. And then at the end of the school year, or of some definite period, he must pass them once more in review and see what changes have taken place. And the result of these two reviews must be that he knows if some child or other has not grown as much as he should during that time; or perhaps another has shot up too much. Then the teacher must ask himself: How can I get the right balance between imagination and memory in the next school year, or period, so that I can counteract this irregularity?
This is why it is so important to keep the children right through their school life; why it is such a mad arrangement to pass the children on to another teacher every year. And, to look at the matter the other way round, at the beginning of the school year, or of the periods of development (seventh, ninth, twelfth year) the teacher gets to know his pupils. He gets to know those who are typically children of imagination, who transform everything in their minds, and those on the other hand who are typically children of memory, who easily notice and remember things. The teacher must get to know all this. And he does so by twice passing the children in review, as I have explained.
But he must come to know whether a child threatens to grow too quickly or too slowly, not only by watching the outward physical growth, but also by means of the powers of imagination and memory themselves; for the child would be in danger of growing too fast if he had too good a memory, and too slowly if he had too much imagination. It is not enough to acknowledge the connection between body and soul in catchwords and phrases, we must be able to observe in the growing human being the working together of body, soul, and spirit. Imaginative children grow differently from children endowed with a good memory.
The psychologists of today look upon everything as a finished product. Memory exists, and a description of it is given in the psychological book. Imagination exists; it, too, is described. But in the world of reality all things are in mutual relation to one another. And we can only come to know these mutual relations if we adjust ourselves and adapt our understanding to them. That is, we must use our power of understanding not in strict definition of everything, but in exercising mobility, so that the child can himself transform what he has acquired — transform it inwardly, in thought.
You see how the spiritual-soul element leads over of itself into the bodily element. So much so that we can say: through bodily influences, through milk, the genius of Nature educates the child in his earliest years. From the change of teeth onwards it is we who educate the child by nurturing him in art in the way that is proper to him at this period. And as the end of the primary school age approaches, there is another change. More and more there appear flashes of what is to come in later years, namely, the power of independent judgment, a feeling of personality, the independent impulse of will. We must meet all this by so arranging our curriculum as to make a right use of all that has to be contained in it.