Anthroposophy embraces a spiritual view of the human being and the cosmos, but its emphasis is on knowing, not faith. It is a path in which the human heart and hand, and especially our capacity for thinking, are essential. It leads, in Rudolf Steiner's words, "from the spirit in the human being to the spirit in the universe," because only if we first come to experience the spirit in ourselves can we know the cosmic spirit. But anthroposophy is more than self-development. Through it we recognize our humanity. Humanity (anthropos) has the inherent wisdom (Sophia) to transform both itself and the world.
Anthroposophical Society in America
What is Anthroposophy? in the words of Rudolf Steiner... Anthroposophical ideas are vessels fashioned by love, and man's being is spiritually summoned by the spiritual world to partake of their content. Anthroposophy must bring the light of true humanness to shine out in thoughts that bear love's imprint; knowledge is only the form in which man reflects the possibility of receiving in his heart the light of the world spirit that has come to dwell there and from that heart illumine human thought. Since anthroposophy cannot really be grasped except by the power of love, it is love-engendering when human beings take it in a way true to its own nature. That is why a place where love reigned could be built in Dornach in the very midst of raging hatreds. Words expressing anthroposophical truths are not like words spoken elsewhere today; rightly conceived, they are all really reverential pleas that the spirit make itself known to men. - from Awakening to Community, Lecture I, Stuttgart, January 23, 1923
Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe. It arises in man as a need of the heart, of the life of feeling; and it can be justified only inasmuch as it can satisfy this inner need. He alone can acknowledge Anthroposophy, who finds it in what he himself in his own inner life feels impelled to seek. Hence only they can be anthroposophists who feel certain questions on the nature of man and the universe as an elemental need of life, just as one feels hunger and thirst. - from Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (Letters to Members, 1924) excerpt from www.steinercollege.org
Anthroposophy, from the Greek "knowledge of the human being," was introduced in the first quarter of this century by the Austrian Rudolf Steiner. It may be characterized as a method of knowing the nature of the human being and of the universe, extending the knowledge obtained with conventional scientific methods, and its application in almost every field of human life.Here is a list of aspects which characterize Anthroposophy and how it distinguishes from other ideas, philosophies and practices:
1. Comprehensiveness. It covers the whole of human and nature life - hence its applications in almost every field of life. The most popular of these practical realizations, Waldorf Education - which still represents a revolution in educational terms - has its visible results in more than 800 schools all over the world
2. Conceptual framework. It is presented under the form of concepts which are directed to the thinking capacity and to the search for knowledge and understanding of the modern human being.
3. Spiritualism. Through its method, it arrives to the conclusion that the universe is not constituted just of physical matter and energy, reducible to pure physical-chemical processes. Anthroposophy discovers a spiritual world, structured in complex forms in various levels. For instance, human beings have a level of spiritual, non-physical "substance" higher than that of plants and animals, hence their distinction in relation to the latter. It also describes purely spiritual beings, who do not have physical expression, and who act in different levels of spirituality. Some of these beings are in levels above those of the human constitution. Nevertheless, they are understandable by a comprehensible thinking, and may be consciously perceptible through a direct supersensible observation. For Anthroposophy, physical substance is a condensation of the spiritual, non-physical "substance." Therefore, it is a "state" of the spiritual being. In the realms of the microcosms of the atomic and sub-atomic "particles," as well of the macrocosms of stars and galaxies, one is already entering a non-physical world. In this sense, Anthroposophy represents a monism: for it, there exists no paradox of the spirit acting upon matter: the spirit is the origin and permeates everything.
4. Anthropocentrism. Its starting point for the understanding of the whole universe is the human being, who is the reason for the existence of the physical universe. In its evolution, the human being originated the world of animals, which represent specializations of the latter. Even the evolution of the spiritual world depends on humans.
5. Development of extra-sensorial organs of perception. Anthroposophy demonstrates that the spiritual world may be observed with as much (or even higher) clarity as we observe the physical world with our eyes. For this, it is necessary to individually develop organs of perception which exist in a latent state in every human being; individual meditation exercises are given for this purpose. What is commonly called "intuition" is, for Anthroposophy, a spiritual perception. Nevertheless, it is not a conscious and self-controlled inner activity, as spiritual observations which are adequate for the modern human being should be. Modern humans want to absorb ideas with the understanding of their intellect, want to make their own observations and do not want to have beliefs and superstitions. Anthroposophical meditation is based upon the activity of conscious thinking, which should preserve its clarity, should be fully controlled and should be strengthened and developed to the point of not being dependent on concepts and images stemming from the physical world.
6. Development of consciousness, self-consciousness, individuality and freedom. Anthroposophy proposes that these four human characteristics (we have the first one partially in common with animals) should be radically preserved and even developed.
7. Open view of the world. The works of Rudolf Steiner (about 40 books written by himself or with collections of his own writings, and 6,000 lectures grouped into 270 volumes) have been published. There is absolutely nothing secret in Anthroposophy.
8. Historical perspective. Anthroposophy gives a grandiose perspective for the evolution of the Earth and of the human being, encompassing the whole of the historic and pre-historic past. Through it, it is possible to conceptually understand much of what was transmitted in ancient times through images such as oriental and occidental myths, as well as the Old and New Testaments (in particular, of the Christ cosmic being and his manifestation), the Greek philosophy, the heretical movements, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, up to modern materialist movements. Thus, it re-establishes historical continuity, showing how the human being is the consequence of a sequence of spiritual and physical processes since the origins of the universe. In Portuguese, a good introduction to this perspective may be found in Lanz, R. Promenades through History under the Light of Anthroposophy, Sπo Paulo: Editora Antropos≤fica, 1985.
9. Renewal of scientific research. Anthroposophy indicates how scientific research could be enlarged, becoming more humane and more coherent with nature. It has provided for excellent results in the development of drugs, in the understanding of animals and plants, etc. In this sense, it may be considered as an evolution of Goethe's scientific method. In particular, his Theory of Colors has been extended and better understood from research done and published by Anthroposophists.
10. Moral development. Anthroposophy recommends a moral development which should be done individually, based upon the knowledge of the essence of the human being and of the universe. For it, moral development grounded on unselfish love is the mission of the human being on present Earth. Moral attitudes should preserve individual freedom, that is, should not depend upon external commandments, dogmas and laws, but irradiate from unselfish love and individual knowledge in full freedom.
What Anthroposophy is not:
a) It is not a mystic movement or set of ideas. Mysticism is essentially based upon feelings and is transmitted under the form of images and metaphors. Anthroposophy is transmitted to the conscious thinking under the form of concepts.
b) It is not a religion. It has no cults. It is cultivated individually, in open study groups and in the institutions where it is practised.
c) Does not employ mediumism. The development and the use of extra-sensorial organs should be done in a full awaken consciousness, preserving self-awareness and individuality.
d) It is not sexist, racist or nationalistic. On the contrary, it shows that the essence of each human being, what it calls the "Superior I," and whose evolution is our mission in the present Earth, has no sex, no race, no religion and no nationality.
e) It is not moralist. There are no behavior rules for those that adopt it as a life principle. Each person has to establish her own rules of conscious behavior, according to knowledge and not from unconscious impulses.
f) It is not dogmatic. Rudolf Steiner referred many times to the fact that one should not believe in what he expounded, but take it as a working hypothesis awaiting for personal observation. In particular, one should always verify if what he transmitted agrees with what one observes in nature, forms a coherent whole, and does not contradict scientific facts. (Attention: one should distinguish scientific facts from theories and judgments based upon these facts - obviously, there may be contradictions to the latter.) He also said that Anthroposophy was adequate to his time, and should be dynamic and follow the evolution of the human constitution, which does not remain static.
g) It is not a sect, much less a secret one. Nobody who studies Anthroposophy receives secret indications; everything has been published and study groups may be visited by anyone.
h) It is not a closed society. Everyone may become a member of the General Anthroposophical Society, directly or through the branches of the national Society. Admission to the Society does not depend on ethnic, religion, social-economic status or education.
You can contact the author of this article at firstname.lastname@example.org
In order that you may better understand the Law of Karma as it works in human life, I shall speak of what happens immediately after the death of a human being. We heard of the memory-tableau which appears when he is freed from the physical body and is living for a short time in the etheric and astral bodies before passing through the Elemental World.
To help you understand the inner working of karma, let me describe a strange feeling that arises during the experience of this great tableau. It is the feeling of expansion, growing out of oneself. This feeling becomes stronger and stronger as long as the human being is living in the etheric body. He has a strange experience in connection with this tableau. To begin with, he sees pictures of his past life as in a panorama. Then a moment comes where he feels: I am myself all these pictures. He feels his etheric body growing and expanding as if it embraced the whole sphere of the Earth, as far as the Sun.
Then, when the etheric body has been abandoned, another very remarkable feeling arises. It is a feeling of expansion into wide cosmic space but as though one were not actually within every place. The individual feels as though with one part of his being he were in Munich, with another part of his being in Mainz, with a third in Basle, and with another far outside the Earth sphere, perhaps in the Moon. He feels as though he were dismembered, as though he were not connected with the spaces in between.
This experience lasts throughout the entire time man is living through his life backwards to his birth. The individual feels as though he were within that human being with whom he was last connected and then, retrogressively, within all the persons and other beings with whom he was associated during his life.
Suppose, for example, you once thrashed a man in Mainz. After your death, when the time comes, you experience the thrashing you gave him, with its accompanying pain. If this man is still in Mainz, a part of your astral body after your death feels as if it were in Mainz, experiencing the event there. If the person you thrashed has died in the meantime, you feel yourself where he now is. You have, of course, been related not only with one but with many human beings and it is thereby possible for you to experience, within all these others, the associations you had with them, and you thus form a lasting connection with everyone with whom you have come into contact. You are linked by a kind of bond with everything with which you were associated.
Five Vehmic Judges in the Middle Ages condemned a man to death and executed the sentence themselves. In his previous life, this man had been a kind of Chief and had ordered the death of the five. After his death he was transported into the others at the place where they now were and he was obliged himself to experience what they had felt when they had been put to death. This is the starting point of forces of attraction which bring human beings together when they return to the Earth, in order that the law of Karma may be fulfilled.
You see from this that there are forms of existence, kindred ties, which begin already on the astral plane. On the physical plane there is continuity of substance; on the astral plane, however, related yet separated parts of the bodily nature may be experienced. What arises in one human life-cycle is the outcome of many causes which lie in past lives. How is the law of Karma to be reconciled with heredity? It is said that there are many contradictions between heredity and this law.
People are apt to say of a gifted man that he must be the off-spring of a gifted family, that he must have inherited his talents from his forefathers. When we observe the physical processes from the occult standpoint we know that it is not like this. We can however in a certain sense speak of processes of physical heredity, and we will take an example.
Within a period of 250 years, 29 musicians were born in the Bach family, among them the great Bach. A good musician needs not only the inner musical faculty but also a well-formed physical ear, a special form of ear. Laymen cannot perceive the differences here. Although the differences are very slight, a particular inner form of the organ of hearing is necessary if a man is to become a musician, and these forms are transmitted by heredity; they resemble those which have been present in the father, grandfather and so on.
Suppose that on the astral plane there is an individual who acquired great musical faculties hundreds or thousands of years ago. He is ready for reincarnation and is seeking a physical body. If he cannot find a physical body possessing suitable ears, he cannot be a musician. He must look around for a family which will provide the musical ear; without it his musical talents could not manifest, for the greatest virtuoso can do nothing unless he has an instrument.
Mathematical talent also needs something quite specific. A particular construction of the brain is not, as many people think, necessary for mathematicians. Thinking, logic, is the same in the mathematician as in others. What is needed here is a special development of the three semi-circular canals in the ear which lie in the three directions of space. Special development of these canals determines mathematical talent. This is a physical organ and its form must be transmitted by heredity. It will be remembered that eight first-class mathematicians were born in the Bernoulli family.
A man of high moral principles also needs parents who transmit a physical body suitable for the functioning of his moral gifts. And he has these parents and no others because he is this particular kind of individuality.
The individuality himself seeks his parents, although under the guidance of higher Beings. From the point of view of mother-love many people take exception to this fact. They are fearful that they might lose something if the child were not to inherit certain qualities from the mother. True knowledge, however, deepens mother-love, for it reveals that this love is present before birth, even before conception, as a force which guided the child to the mother. The child loves the mother even before birth and mother-love is the reciprocal force. Spiritually regarded, therefore, mother-love extends to the time before birth; it is rooted in mutual feelings of love.
It is often imagined that the human being is subject to the irrevocable law of karma in which nothing can be changed. Let us take a simile from everyday life to explain the working of this law.
A merchant makes entries of debits and credits in his account books; taken together, these entries tell him the state of his business. The financial state of his business is subject to the inexorable law governing the calculation of debit and credit. If he carries through new transactions he can make additional entries and he would be a fool if he were unwilling to embark on other business because a balance was once drawn up. In respect of karma, everything good and true that has been done by a man stands on the credit side; evil or foolish deeds stand on the debit side. At every moment he is free to make new entries in the karmic book of life. It must never be imagined that life is under the sway of an immutable law of destiny. Freedom is not impaired by the law of Karma. Bearing within us the effects of past deeds, we are the slaves of the past, but the masters of the future. If we are to have a favourable future, we must make as many good entries as possible in the book of life.
It is a great and potent thought to know that nothing we do is in vain, that everything has its effect in the future. The law of karma is the reverse of depressing; it fills us with splendid hope and knowledge of it is the most precious gift of Spiritual Science.
When a human being is suffering, people sometimes say: "He deserves his suffering and must bear his karma; if I help him, I am interfering with his karma". This is nonsense! His poverty, his misery is caused through his earlier life, but if I help him, new entries will be made in his book of life; my help brings him forward.
Many people dispute the law of karma from the standpoint of Christianity. Theologians maintain that Christianity cannot acknowledge this law because it is irreconcilable with the principle of the vicarious Death. And there are certain Theosophists who say that the law of karma contradicts the principle of the Redemption, that they cannot acknowledge the help given to the many by an individual. Both are wrong for neither has understood the law of karma.
Suppose some human being is in distress. You yourselves are in a more fortunate position and can help him. By your help you make a new entry in his book of life. A more influential person can help two, and affect the karma of both of them. A man who is still more powerful can help ten or a hundred people, and the most powerful can help unnumbered human beings. This does not run counter to the principle of karmic connections. Precisely because of the absolute reliability of the law of karma we know that this help does indeed influence the destiny of the human being. There is no variance between Christian Esotericism and Spiritual Science when both are rightly understood.
The aims Emil Molt is trying to realize through the Waldorf School are connected with quite definite views on the social tasks of the present day and the near future. The spirit in which the school should be conducted must proceed from these views. It is a school attached to an industrial undertaking. The peculiar place modern industry has taken in the evolution of social life in actual practice sets its stamp upon the modern social movement. Parents who entrust their children to this school are bound to expect that the children shall be educated and prepared for the practical work of life in a way that takes due account of this movement. This makes it necessary, in founding the school, to begin from educational principles that have their roots in the requirements of modern life. Children must be educated and instructed in such a way that their lives fulfill demands everyone can support, no matter from which of the inherited social classes one might come. What is demanded of people by the actualities of modern life must find its reflection in the organization of this school. What is to be the ruling spirit in this life must be aroused in the children by education and instruction.
It would be fatal if the educational views upon which the Waldorf School is founded were dominated by a spirit out of touch with life. Today, such a spirit may all too easily arise because people have come to feel the full part played in the recent destruction of civilization by our absorption in a materialistic mode of life and thought during the last few decades. This feeling makes them desire to introduce an idealistic way of thinking into the management of public affairs. Anyone who turns his attention to developing educational life and the system of instruction will desire to see such a way of thinking realized there especially. It is an attitude of mind that reveals much good will. It goes without saying that this good will should be fully appreciated. If used properly, it can provide valuable service when gathering manpower for a social undertaking requiring new foundations. Yet it is necessary in this case to point our how the best intentions must fail if they set to work without fully regarding those first conditions that are based on practical insight.
This, then, is one of the requirements to be considered when the founding of any institution such as the Waldorf School is intended. Idealism must work in the spirit of its curriculum and methodology; but it must be an idealism that has the power to awaken in young, growing human beings the forces and faculties they will need in later life to be equipped for work in modern society and to obtain for themselves an adequate living.
The pedagogy and instructional methodology will be able to fulfill this requirement only through a genuine knowledge of the developing human being. Insightful people are today calling for some form of education and instruction directed not merely to the cultivation of one-sided knowledge, but also to abilities; education directed not merely to the cultivation of intellectual faculties, but also to the strengthening of the will. The soundness of this idea is unquestionable; but it is impossible to develop the will (and that healthiness of feeling on which it rests) unless one develops the insights that awaken the energetic impulses of will and feeling. A mistake often made presently in this respect is not that people instill too many concepts into young minds, but that the kind of concepts they cultivate are devoid of all driving life force. Anyone who believes one can cultivate the will without cultivating the concepts that give it life is suffering from a delusion. It is the business of contemporary educators to see this point clearly; but this clear vision can only proceed from a living understanding of the whole human being.
It is now planned that the Waldorf School will be a primary school in which the educational goals and curriculum are founded upon each teacher's living insight into the nature of the whole human being, so far as this is possible under present conditions. Children will, of course, have to be advanced far enough in the different school grades to satisfy the standards imposed by the current views. Within this framework, however, the pedagogical ideals and curriculum will assume a form that arises out of this knowledge of the human being and of actual life.
The primary school is entrusted with the child at a period of its life when the soul is undergoing a very important transformation. From birth to about the sixth or seventh year, the human being naturally gives himself up to everything immediately surrounding him in the human environment, and thus, through the imitative instinct, gives form to his own nascent powers. From this period on, the child's soul becomes open to take in consciously what the educator and teacher gives, which affects the child as a result of the teacher's natural authority. The authority is taken for granted by the child from a dim feeling that in the teacher there is something that should exist in himself, too. One cannot be an educator or teacher unless one adopts out of full insight a stance toward the child that takes account in the most comprehensive sense of this metamorphosis of the urge to imitate into an ability to assimilate upon the basis of a natural relationship of authority. The modern world view, based as it is upon natural law, does not approach these fact of human development in full consciousness. To observe them with the necessary attention, one must have a sense of life's subtlest manifestations in the human being. This kind of sense must ran through the whole an of education; it must shape the curriculum; it must live in the spirit uniting teacher and pupil. In educating, what the teacher does can depend only slightly on anything he gets from a general, abstract pedagogy: it must rather be newly born every moment from a live understanding of the young human being he or she is teaching. One may, of course, object that this Lively kind of education and instruction breaks down in large classes. This objection is no doubt justified in a limited sense. Taken beyond those limits, however, the objection merely shows that the person who makes it proceeds from abstract educational norms, for a really living an of education based on a genuine knowledge of the human being carries with it a power that rouses the interest of every single pupil so that there is no need for direct "individual" work in order to keep his attention on the subject. One can put forth the essence of one's teaching in such a form that each pupil assimilates it in his own individual way. This requires simply that whatever the teacher does should be sufficiently alive. If anyone has a genuine sense for human nature, the developing human being becomes for him such an intense, Living riddle that the very attempt to solve it awakens the pupil's living interest empathetically. Such empathy is more valuable than individual work, which may all too easily cripple the child's own initiative. It might indeed be asserted - again, within limitations - that large classes led by teachers who are imbued with the life that comes from genuine knowledge of the human being, will achieve better results than small classes led by teachers who proceed from standard educational theories and have no chance to put this life into their work.
Not so outwardly marked as the transformation the soul undergoes in the sixth or seventh year, but no less important for the art of educating, is a change that a penetrating study of the human being shows to take place around the end of the ninth year. At this time, the sense of self assumes a form that awakens in the child a relationship to nature and to the world about him such that one can now talk to him more about the connections between things and processes themselves, whereas previously he was interested almost exclusively in things and processes only in relationship to man. Facts of this kind in a human being's development ought to be most carefully observed by the educator. For if one introduces into the child's world of concepts and feelings what coincides just at that period of life with the direction taken by his own developing powers, one then gives such added vigor to the growth of the whole person that it remains a source of strength throughout life. If in any period of life one works against the grain of these developing powers, one weakens the individual.
Knowledge of the special needs of each life period provides a basis for drawing up a suitable curriculum. This knowledge also can be a basis for dealing with instructional subjects in successive periods. By the end of the ninth year, one must have brought the child to a certain level in all that has come into human life through the growth of civilization. Thus while the first school years are properly spent on teaching the child to write and read, the teaching must be done in a manner that permits the essential character of this phase of development to be served. If one teaches things in a way that makes a one-sided claim on the child's intellect and the merely abstract acquisition of skills, then the development of the native will and sensibilities is checked; while if the child learns in a manner that calls upon its whole being, he or she develops all around. Drawing in a childish fashion, or even a primitive kind of painting, brings out the whole human being's interest in what he is doing. Therefore one should let writing grow out of drawing. One can begin with figures in which the pupil's own childish artistic sense comes into play; from these evolve the letters of the alphabet. Beginning with an activity that, being artistic, draws out the whole human being, one should develop writing, which tends toward the intellectual. And one must let reading, which concentrates the attention strongly within the realm of the intellect, arise out of writing.
When people recognize how much is to be gained for the intellect from this early artistic education of the child, they will be willing to allow art its proper place in the primary school education. The arts of music, painting and sculpting will be given a proper place in the scheme of instruction. This artistic element and physical exercise will be brought into a suitable combination. Gymnastics and action games will be developed as expressions of sentiments called forth by something in the nature of music or recitation. Eurhythmic movement - movement with a meaning - will replace those motions based merely on the anatomy and physiology of the physical body. People will discover how great a power resides in an artistic manner of instruction for the development of will and feeling. However, to teach or instruct in this way and obtain valuable results can be done only by teachers who have an insight into the human being sufficiently keen to perceive clearly the connection between the methods they are employing and the developmental forces that manifest themselves in any particular period of life. The real teacher, the real educator, is not one who has studied educational theory as a science of the management of children, but one in whom the pedagogue has been awakened by awareness of human nature.
Of prime importance for the cultivation of the child's feeling-life is that the child develops its relationship to the world in a way such as that which develops when we incline toward fantasy. If the educator is not himself a fantast, then the child is not in danger of becoming one when the teacher conjures forth the realms of plants and animals, of the sky and the stars in the soul of the child in fairy-tale fashion.
Visual aids are undoubtedly justified within certain limits; but when a materialistic conviction leads people to try to extend this form of teaching to every conceivable thing, they forget there are other powers in the human being which must be developed, and which cannot be addressed through the medium of visual observation. For instance, there is the acquisition of certain things purely through memory that is connected to the developmental forces at work between the sixth or seventh and the fourteenth year of life. It is this property of human nature upon which the teaching of arithmetic should be based. Indeed, arithmetic can be used to cultivate the faculty of memory. If one disregards this fact, one may perhaps be tempted (especially when teaching arithmetic) to commit the educational blunder of teaching with visual aids what should be taught as a memory exercise.
One may fall into the same mistake by trying all too anxiously to make the child understand everything one tells him. The will that prompts one to do so is undoubtedly good, but does not duly estimate what it means when, Later in life, we revive within our soul something that we acquired simply through memory when younger and now find, in our mature years, that we have come to understand it on our own. Here, no doubt, any fear of the pupil's not taking an active interest in a lesson learned by memory alone will have to be relieved by the teacher's lively way of giving it. If the teacher engages his or her whole being in teaching, then he may safely bring the child things for which the full understanding will come when joyfully remembered in later life. There is something that constantly refreshes and strengthens the inner substance of life in this recollection. If the teacher assists such a strengthening, he will give the child a priceless treasure to take along on life's road. In this way, too, the teacher will avoid the visual aid's degenerating into the banality that occurs when a lesson is overly adapted to the child's understanding. Banalities may be calculated to arouse the child's own activity, but such fruits lose their flavor with the end of childhood. The flame enkindled in the child from the living fire of the teacher in matters that still lie, in a way, beyond his "understanding," remains an active, awakening force throughout the child's life.
If, at the end of the ninth year, one begins to choose descriptions of natural history from the plant and animal world, treating them in a way that the natural forms and processes lead to an understanding of the human form and the phenomena of human life, then one can help release the forces that at this age are struggling to be born out of the depths of human nature. It is consistent with the character of the child's sense of self at this age to see the qualities that nature divides among manifold species of the plant and animal kingdoms as united into one harmonious whole at the summit of the natural world in the human being.
Around the twelfth year, another turning point in the child's development occurs. He becomes ripe for the development of the faculties that lead him in a wholesome way to the comprehension of things that must be considered without any reference to the human being: the mineral kingdom, the physical world, meteorological phenomena, and so on.
The best way to lead then from such exercises, which are based entirely on the natural human instinct of activity without reference to practical ends, to others that shall be a sort of education for actual work, will follow from knowledge of the character of the successive periods of life. What has been said here with reference to particular parts of the curriculum may be extended to everything that should be taught to the pupil up to his fifteenth year.
There need be no fear of the elementary schools releasing pupils in a state of soul and body unfit for practical life if their principles of education and instructions are allowed to proceed, as described, from the inner development of the human being. For human life itself is shaped by this inner development; and one can enter upon life in no better way than when, through the development of our own inner capacities, we can join with what others before us, from similar inner human capacities, have embodied in the evolution of the civilized world. It is true that to bring the two into harmony - the development of the pupil and the development of the civilized world - will require a body of teachers who do not shut themselves up in an educational routine with strictly professional interests, but rather take an active interest in the whole range of life. Such a body of teachers will discover how to awaken in the upcoming generation a sense of the inner, spiritual substance of life and also an understanding of life's practicalities. If instruction is carried on this way, the young human being at the age of fourteen or fifteen will not lack comprehension of important things in agriculture and industry, commerce and travel, which help to make up the collective life of mankind. He will have acquired a knowledge of things and a practical skill that will enable him to feel at home in the life which receives him into its stream.
If the Waldorf School is to achieve the aims its founder has in view, it must be built on educational principles and methods of the kind here described. It will then be able to give the kind of education that allows the pupil's body to develop healthily and according to its needs, because the soul (of which this body is the expression) is allowed to grow in a way consistent with the forces of its development. Before its opening, some preparatory work was attempted with the teachers so that the school might be able to work toward the proposed aim. Those concerned with the management of the school believe that in pursuing this aim they bring something into educational life in accordance with modern social thinking. They feel the responsibility inevitably connected with any such attempt; but they think that, in contemporary social demands, it is a duty to undertake this when the opportunity is afforded.
THERE are two experiences whence the soul may gain an understanding for the mode of knowledge to which the supersensible worlds will open out. The one originates in the science of Nature; the other, in the Mystical experience whereby the untrained ordinary consciousness contrives to penetrate into the supersensible domain. Both confront the soul of man with barriers of knowledge - barriers he cannot cross till he can open for himself the portals which by their very essence Natural Science, and ordinary Mysticism too, must hold fast closed.
Natural Science leads inevitably to certain conceptions about reality, which are like a stone wall to the deeper forces of the soul; and yet, this Science itself is powerless to remove them. He who fails to feel the impact, has not yet called to life the deeper needs of knowledge in his soul. He may then come to believe that it is impossible in any case for Man to attain any other than the natural-scientific form of knowledge. There is, however, a definite experience in Self-knowledge whereby one weans oneself of this belief. This experience consists in the insight that the whole of Natural Science would be dissolved into thin air if we attempted to fathom the above-named conceptions with the methods of Natural Science itself. If the conceptions of Natural Science are to remain spread out before the soul, these limiting conceptions must be left within the field of consciousness intact, without attempting to approach them with a deeper insight. There are many of them; here I will only mention two of the most familiar: Matter and Force. Recent developments in scientific theory may or may not be replacing these particular conceptions; the fact remains that Natural Science must invariably lead to some conception or another of this kind, impenetrable to its own methods of knowledge.
To the experience of soul, of which I am here speaking, these limiting conceptions appear like a reflecting surface which the human soul must place before it; while Natural Science itself is like the picture, made manifest with the mirror's help. Any attempt to treat the limiting conceptions themselves by ordinary scientific means is, as it were, to smash the mirror, and with the mirror broken, Natural Science itself dissolves away. Moreover, this experience reveals the emptiness of all talk about 'Things-in-themselves,' of whatsoever kind, behind the phenomena of Nature. He who seeks for such Things-in-themselves is like a man who longs to break the looking-glass, hoping to see what there is behind the reflecting surface to cause his image to appear.
It goes without saying that the validity of such an experience of soul cannot be 'proved,' in the ordinary sense of the word, with the habitual thoughts of present-day Natural Science. For the point will be, what kind of an inner experience does the process of the 'proof' call forth in us; and this must needs transcend the abstract proof. With inner experience in this sense, we must apprehend the question: How is it that the soul is forced to confront these barriers of knowledge in order to have before it the phenomena of Nature? Mature self-knowledge brings us an answer to this question. We then perceive which of the forces of man's soul partakes in the erection of these barriers to knowledge. It is none other than the force of soul which makes man capable, within the world of sense, of unfolding Love out of his inner being. The faculty of Love is somehow rooted in the human organisation; and the very thing which gives to man the power of love - of sympathy and antipathy with his environment of sense, - takes away from his cognition of the things and processes of Nature the possibility to make transparent such pillars of Reality as 'Matter' and 'Force.' To the man who can experience himself in true self-knowledge, on the one hand in the act of knowing Nature, and on the other hand in the unfolding of Love, this peculiar property of the human organisation becomes straightway apparent.
We must, however, beware of misinterpreting this perception by lapsing again into a way of thought which, within Natural Science itself, is no doubt inevitable. Thus it would be a misconstruction to assume, that an insight into the true essence of the things and processes of Nature is withheld from man because he lacks the organisation for such insight. The opposite is the case. Nature becomes sense-perceptible to man through the very fact that his being is capable of Love. For a being incapable of Love within the field of sense, the whole human picture of Nature would dissolve away. It is not Nature who on account of his organisation reveals only her external aspect. No; it is man, who, by that force of his organisation which makes him in another direction capable of Love, is placed in a position to erect before his soul images and forms of Reality whereby Nature reveals herself to him.
Through the experience above-described the fact emerges, that the scientific frontiers of knowledge depend on the whole way in which man, as a sense-endowed being, is placed within this world of physical reality. His vision of Nature is of a kind, appropriate to a being who is capable of Love. He would have to tear the faculty of Love out of his inner life if he wished no longer to be faced with limits in his perception of Nature. But in so doing he would destroy the very force whereby Nature is made manifest to him. The real object of his quest for knowledge is not, by the same methods which he applies in his outlook upon Nature, to remove the limitations of that outlook. No, it is something altogether different, and once this has been perceived, man will no longer try to penetrate into a supersensible world through the kind of knowledge which is effective in Natural Science. Rather will he tell himself, that to unveil the supersensible domain an altogether different activity of knowledge must be evolved than that which he applies to the science of Nature.
Many people, more or less consciously aware of the above experience of soul, turn away from Natural Science when it is a question of opening the supersensible domain, and seek to penetrate into the latter by methods which are commonly called Mystical. They think that what is veiled to outwardly directed vision may be revealed by plunging into the depths of one's own being. But a mature self-knowledge reveals in the inner life as well a frontier of knowledge. In the field of the senses the faculty of Love erects, as it were, an impenetrable background whereat Nature is reflected; in the inner life of man the power of Memory erects a like background. The same force of soul, which makes the human being capable of Memory, prevents his penetrating, in his inner being, down to that experience which would enable him to meet - along this inward path - the supersensible reality for which he seeks. Invariably, along this path, he reaches only to that force of soul which recalls to him in Memory the experiences he has undergone through his bodily nature in the past. He never penetrates into the region where with his own supersensible being he is rooted in a supersensible world. For those who fail to see this, mystical pursuits will give rise to the worst of illusions. For in the course of life, the human being receives into his inner life untold experiences, of which in the receiving he is not fully conscious. But the Memory retains what is thus half-consciously or subconsciously experienced. Long afterwards it frequently emerges into consciousness - in moods, in shades of feeling and the like, if not in clear conceptions. Nay more, it often undergoes a change, and comes to consciousness in quite a different form from that in which it was experienced originally. A man may then believe himself confronted by a supersensible reality arising from the inner being of the soul, whereas, in fact, it is but an outer experience transformed - an experience called forth originally by the world of sense - which comes before his mental vision. He alone is preserved from such illusions, who recognizes that even on a mystic path man cannot penetrate into the supersensible domain so long as he applies methods of knowledge dependent on the bodily nature which is rooted in the world of sense. Even as our picture of Nature depends for its existence on the faculty of Love, so does the immediate consciousness of the human Self depend upon the power of Memory. The same force of the soul, endowing man in the physical world with the Self-consciousness that is bound to the bodily nature, stands in the way to obstruct his inner union with the supersensible world. Thus, even that which is often considered Mysticism provides no way into the supersensible realms of existence.
For him who would penetrate with full conscious clarity of understanding into the supersensible domain, the two experiences above described are, however, preparatory stages. Through them he recognizes that man is shut off from the supersensible world by the very thing which places him, as a self-conscious being, in the midst of Nature. Now one might easily conclude from this, that man must altogether forego the effort to gain knowledge of the Supersensible. Nor can it be denied that many who are loath to face the painful issue, abstain from working their way through to a clear perception of the two experiences. Cherishing a certain dimness of perception on these matters, they either give themselves up to the belief that the limitations of Natural Science may be transcended by some intellectual and philosophic exercise; or else they devote themselves to Mysticism in the ordinary sense, avoiding the full enlightenment as to the nature of Self-consciousness and Memory which would reveal its insufficiency.
But to one who has undergone them and reached a certain clarity withal, these very experiences will open out the possibility and prospect of true supersensible knowledge. For in the course of them he finds that even in the ordinary action of human consciousness there are forces holding sway within the soul, which are not bound to the physical organisation; forces which are in no way subject to the conditions whereon the faculties of Love and Memory within this physical organisation depend. One of these forces reveals itself in Thought. True, it remains unnoticed in the ordinary conscious life; indeed there are even many philosophers who deny it. But the denial is due to an imperfect self-observation. There is something at work in Thought which does not come into it from the faculty of Memory. It is something that vouches to us for the correctness of a present thought, not when a former thought emerging from the memory sustains it, but when the correctness of the present thought is experienced directly. This experience escapes the every-day consciousness, because man completely spends the force in question for his life of thought-filled perception. In Perception permeated by Thought this force is at work. But man, perceiving, imagines that the perception alone is vouching for the correctness of what he apprehends by an activity of soul where Thought and Perception in reality always flow together. And when he lives in Thought alone, abstracted from perceptions, it is but an activity of Thought which finds its supports in Memory. In this abstracted Thought the physical organism is cooperative. For the every-day consciousness, an activity of Thought unsubjected to the bodily organism is only present while man is in the act of Sense-perception. Sense-perception itself depends upon the organism. But the thinking activity, contained in and co-operating with it, is a purely supersensible element in which the bodily organism has no share. In it the human soul rises out of the bodily organism. As soon as man becomes distinctly, separately conscious of this Thinking in the act of Perception, he knows by direct experience that he has himself as a living soul, quite independently of the bodily nature.
This is man's first experience of himself as a supersensible soul-being, arising out of an evolved self-knowledge. The same experience is there unconsciously in every act of perception. We need only sharpen our self-observation so as to Observe the fact: in the act of Perception a supersensible element reveals itself. Once it is thus revealed, this first, faint suggestion of an experience of the soul within the Supersensible can be evolved, as follows: In living, meditative practice, man unfolds a Thinking wherein two activities of the soul flow together, namely that which lives in the ordinary consciousness in Sense-perception, and that which is active in ordinary Thought. The meditative life thus becomes an intensified activity of Thought, receiving into itself the force that is otherwise spent in Perception. Our Thinking in itself must grow so strong, that it works with the same vivid quality which is otherwise only there in Sense-perception. Without perception by the senses we must call to life a Thinking which, unsupported by memories of the past, experiences in the immediate present a content of its own, such as we otherwise only can derive from Sense-perception. From the Thinking that co-operates in perception, this meditative action of the soul derives its free and conscious quality, its inherent certainty that it receives no visionary content raying into the soul from unconscious organic regions. A visionary life of whatsoever kind is the very antithesis of what is here intended. By self-observation we must become thoroughly and clearly familiar with the condition of soul in which we are in the act of perception through any one of the senses. In this state of soul, fully aware that the content of our ideation does not arise out of the activity of the bodily organism, we must learn to experience ideas which are called forth in consciousness without external perceptions, just as are those of which we are conscious in ordinary life when engaged in reflective thought, abstracted from the enter world. (As to the right ways of developing this meditative practice, detailed indications are given in the book 'Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment' and in several of my other writings.)
In evolving the meditative life above-described, the human soul rises to the conscious feeling perception of itself, as of a supersensible Being independent of the bodily organisation. This is man's first experience of himself as a supersensible Being; and it leads on to a second stage in supersensible self-knowledge. At the former stage he can only be aware that he is a supersensible Being; at the second he feels this Being filled with real content, even as the 'I' of ordinary waking life is felt by means of the bodily organisation. It is of the utmost importance to realise that the transition from the one stage to the other takes place quite independently of any co-operation from outside the soul's domain - namely from the mere organic life. If we experienced the transition, in relation to our own bodily nature, any differently from the process of drawing a logical conclusion for example, it would be a visionary experience, not what is intended here. The process here intended differs from the act of drawing logical conclusions, not in respect of its relationship to the bodily nature, but in quite another regard; namely in the consciousness that a supersensible, purely spiritual content is entering the feeling and perception of the Self.
The kind of meditative life hitherto described gives rise to the supersensible self-consciousness. But this self-consciousness would be left without any supersensible environment if the above form of meditation were unaccompanied by another. We come to an understanding of this latter kind by turning our self-observation to the activity of the Will. In every-day life the activity of the Will is consciously directed to external actions. There is, however, another concomitant expression of the Will to which the human being pays little conscious attention. It is the activity of Will which carries him from one stage of development to another in the course of life. For not only is he filled with different contents of soul day after day; his soul-life itself, on each succeeding day, has evolved out of his soul-life of the day before. The driving force in this evolving process is the Will, which in this field of its activity remains for the most part unconscious. Mature self-knowledge can, however, raise this Will, with all its peculiar quality, into the conscious life. When this is done, man comes to the perception of a life of Will which has absolutely nothing to do with any processes of a sense-perceptible external world, but is directed solely to the inner evolution of the soul - independent of this world. Once it is known to him, he learns by degrees to enter into the living essence of this Will, just as in the former kind of meditative life he entered into the fusion of the soul's experiences of Thinking and Perception. And the conscious experience in this element of Will expands into the experience of a supersensible external world. Evolved in the way above described, and transplanted now into this element of Will, the supersensible self-consciousness finds itself in a supersensible environment, filled with spiritual Beings and events. While the supersensible Thinking leads to a self-consciousness independent of the power of Memory which is bound to the bodily nature, the supersensible Willing comes to life in such a way as to be permeated through and through by a spiritualized faculty of Love. It is this faculty of Love which enables the supersensible self-consciousness of man to perceive and grasp the supersensible external world. Thus the power of supersensible knowledge is established by a self-consciousness which eliminates the ordinary Memory and lives in the intuitive perception of the spiritual world through the power of Love made spiritual.
Only by realizing this essence of the supersensible faculty of knowledge, does one become able to understand the real meaning of man's knowledge of Nature. In effect, the knowledge of Nature is inherently connected with what is being evolved in man within this physical world of sense. It is in this world that man incorporates, into his spiritual Being, Self-consciousness and the faculty of Love. Once he has instilled these two into his nature, he can carry them with him into the super sensible world. In supersensible perception, the ordinary power of Memory is eliminated. Its place is taken by an immediate vision of the past - a vision for which the past appears as we look backward in spiritual observation, just as for sense-perception the things we pass by as we walk along appear when we turn round to look behind us. Again the ordinary faculty of Love is bound to the physical organism. In conscious supersensible experience, its place is taken by a power of Love made spiritual, which is to say, a power of perception.
It may already be seen, from the above description, that supersensible experience takes place in a mood of soul which must be held apart, in consciousness, from that of ordinary Perception, Thinking, Feeling and Willing. The two ways of looking out upon the world must be kept apart by the deliberate control of man himself, just as in another sphere the waking consciousness is kept apart from the dream life. He who lets play the picture-complexes of his dreams into his waking life becomes a listless and fantastic fellow, abstracted from realities. He, on the other hand, who holds to the belief that the essence of causal relationships experienced in waking life can be extended into the life of dreams, endows the dream-pictures with an imagined reality which will make it impossible for him to experience their real nature. So with the mode of thought which governs our outlook upon Nature, or of inner experience which determines ordinary Mysticism: - he who lets them play into his supersensible experience, will not behold the supersensible, but weave himself in figments of the mind, which, far from bringing him nearer to it, will cut him off from the higher world he seeks. A man who will not hold his experience in the supersensible apart from his experience in the world of the physical senses, will mar the fresh and unembarrassed outlook upon Nature which is the true basis for a healthy sojourn in this earthly life. Moreover, he will permeate with the force of spiritual perception the faculty of Love that is connected with the bodily nature, thus tending to bring it into a deceptive relationship with the physical experience. All that the human being experiences and achieves within the field of sense, receives its true illumination - an illumination which the deepest needs of the soul require - through the science of things that are only to be experienced supersensibly. Yet must the latter be held separate in consciousness from the experience in the world of sense. It must illumine our knowledge of Nature, our ethical and social life; yet so, that the illumination always proceeds from a sphere of experience apart. Mediately, through the attunement of the human soul, the Supersensible must indeed shed its light upon the Sensible. For if it did not do so, the latter would be relegated to darkness of thought, chaotic willfulness of instinct and desire.
Many human beings, well knowing this relationship which has to be maintained in the soul between the experience of the supersensible and that of the world of sense, hold that the supersensible knowledge must on no account be given full publicity. It should remain, so they consider, the secret knowledge of a few, who have attained by strict self-discipline the power to establish and maintain the true relationship. Such guardians of supersensible knowledge base their opinion on the very true assertion that a man who is in any way inadequately prepared for the higher knowledge will feel an irresistible impulsion to mingle the Supersensible with the Sensible in life; and that he will inevitably thus call forth, both in himself and others, all the ill effects which we have here characterized as the result of such confusion. On the other hand - believing as they do, and with good reason, that man's outlook upon Nature must not be left to grope in utter darkness, nor his life to spend itself in blind forces of instinct and desire, - they have founded self-contained and closed Societies, or Occult Schools, within which human beings properly prepared are guided stage by stage to supersensible discovery. Of such it then becomes the task to pour the fruits of their knowledge into life, without, however, exposing the knowledge itself to publicity.
In past epochs of human evolution this idea was undoubtedly justified. For the propensity above described, leading to the misuse of supersensible knowledge, was then the only thing to be considered, and against it there stood no other circumstance to call for publication of the higher knowledge. It might at most be contended that the superiority of those initiated into the higher knowledge gave into their hands a mighty power to rule over those who had no such knowledge.
None the less, an enlightened reading of the course of History will convince us that such conflux of power into the hands of a few, fitted by self-discipline to wield it, was indeed necessary.
In present time, however - meaning 'present' in the wider sense - the evolution of mankind has reached a point whenceforward it becomes not only impossible but harmful to prolong the former custom. The irresistible impulsion to misuse the higher knowledge is now opposed by other factors, making the - at any rate partial - publication of such knowledge a matter of necessity, and calculated also to remove the ill effects of the above tendency. Our knowledge of Nature has assumed a form wherein it beats perpetually, in a destructive way, against its own barriers and limitations. In many branches of Science, the laws and generalizations in which man finds himself obliged to clothe certain of the facts of Nature, are in themselves of such a kind as to call his attention to his own supersensible powers. The latter press forward into the conscious life of the soul. In former ages, the knowledge of Nature which was generally accessible had no such effect. Through Natural Science, however, in its present form - expanding as it is in ever widening circles - mankind would be led astray in either of two directions, if a publication of supersensible knowledge were not now to take place. Either the possibility of a supersensible world-outlook would be repudiated altogether and with growing vehemence; and this would presently result in an artificial repression of supersensible faculties which the time is actually calling forth. Such repression would make it more and more impossible for man to see his own Being in a true light. Emptiness, chaos and dissatisfaction of the inner life, instability of soul, perversity of will; and, in the sequel, even physical degeneration and illhealth would be the outcome. Or else the supersensible faculties-uncontrolled by conscious knowledge of these things-would break out in a wild tangle of obtuse, unconscious, undirected forces of cognition, and the life of knowledge would degenerate in a chaotic mass of nebulous conceptions. This would be to create a world of scientific phantoms, which, like a curtain, would obscure the true supersensible world from the spiritual eye of man. For either of these aberrations, a proper publication of supersensible knowledge is the only remedy.
As to the impulse to abuse such knowledge in the way above described, it can be counteracted in our time, as follows: the training of thought which modern Natural Science has involved can be fruitfully employed to clothe in words the truths that point towards the supersensible. Itself, this Science of Nature cannot penetrate into the supersensible world; but it lends the human mind an aptitude for combinations of thought whereby the higher knowledge can be so expressed that the irresistible impulsion to misuse it need not arise. The thought-combinations of the Nature-knowledge of former times were more pictorial, less inclined to the domain of pure Thought. Supersensible perceptions, clothed in them, stirred up - without his being conscious of it - those very instincts in the human being which tend towards misuse.
This being said, it cannot on the other hand be emphasized too strongly that he who gives out supersensible knowledge in our time will the better fulfill his responsibilities to mankind the more he contrives to express this knowledge in forms of thought borrowed from the modern Science of Nature. For the receiver of knowledge thus imparted will then have to apply, to the overcoming of certain difficulties of understanding, faculties of soul which would otherwise remain inactive and tend to the above misuse. The popularizing of supersensible knowledge, so frequently desired by overzealous and misguided people, should be avoided. The truly earnest seeker does not call for it; it is but the banal, uncultured craving of persons indolent in thought.
In the ethical and social life as well, humanity has reached a stage of development which makes it impossible to exclude all knowledge of the supersensible from public life and thought. In former epochs the ethical and social instincts contained within them spiritual guiding forces, inherited from primeval ages of mankind. Such forces tended instinctively to a community life which answered also to the needs of individual soul. But the inner life of man has grown more conscious than in former epochs. The spiritual instincts have thus been forced into the background. The Will, the impulses of men must now be guided consciously, lest they become vagrant and unstable. That is to say, the individual, by his own insight, must be in a position to illumine the life in the physical world of sense by the knowledge of the supersensible, spiritual Being of man.
Conceptions formed in the way of natural-scientific knowledge cannot enter effectively into the conscious guiding forces of the ethical and social life. Destined as it is - within its own domain - to bear the most precious fruits, Natural Science will be led into an absolutely fatal error if it be not perceived that the mode of thought which dominates it is quite unfitted to open out an understanding of, or to give impulses for, the moral and social life of humanity. In the domain of ethical and social life our conception of underlying principles, and the conscious guidance of our action, can only thrive when illumined from the aspect of the Supersensible. Between the rise of a highly evolved Natural Science, and present-day developments in the human life of Will - with all the underlying impulses and instincts - there is indeed a deep, significant connection. The force of knowledge that has gone into our science of Nature, is derived from the former spiritual content of man's impulses and instincts. From the fountain-head of supersensible Realities, the latter must now be supplied with fresh impulsive forces.
We are living in an age when supersensible knowledge can no longer remain the secret possession of a few. No, it must become the common property of all, in whom the meaning of life within this age is stirring as a very condition of their soul's existence. In the unconscious depths of the souls of men this need is already working, far more widespread than many people dream. And it will grow, more and more insistently, to the demand that the science of the Supersensible shall be treated on a like footing with the science of Nature.