soul

The Task of Education is Connected with the Development of Humanity

Now that I am at the beginning of what I actually want to dis-

cuss about education, you can see that I do not wish to begin

with some theoretical discussion, but rather with a feeling. We

cannot begin with a pedagogy of rules, but with a feeling. We

must feel that the content of the human soul has been given to

those who are to teach and educate young people. It is healthy to

feel within ourselves the future of humanity. That is the proper

starting point, not whether we know one thing or another, but

when we feel that the entire task of education is connected with

the development of humanity. - Rudolf Steiner


The beauty of the educational ideals espoused by Rudolf Steiner can be seen in his reverence for human development. He crafted his lectures and shared his indications for an educational model that is responsive to the needs of children and the world in which they live.

As I read Steiner’s lectures, I am encouraged to read and then think about how those words can change the way I feel about the children I am guiding as a parent. It must begin with the sense of feeling if we are to support the development of future generations. I encourage you as teachers, parents, grandparents, and community members to read Steiner’s words on education and then allow them to transform your individual gifts as a guiding force in your communities.

Kathy Donchak


THE TEACHER AS SCULPTOR OF THE HUMAN SOUL

Rudolf Steiner

Basel, April 23, 1920

Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread. - Rudolf Steiner

Up to now I have tried to show how we can approach the human being from the outside. Today I would like to approach our task from the other side, from the side of inner experience. Through this way of considering things—the way of science in the future—the human being becomes transparent from the outside. In a sense, this kind of consideration of the human being, of the activities of the organs and all of human nature, can lead us to discover a person’s inner experiences, what he or she experiences as thinking, feeling, and willing. The commonly held perspective confronts us with a dark, impenetrable, incomprehensible being.

At the same time, we are concerned with more or less abstract inner experiences of thinking, feeling, and willing that we cannot perceive or feel concretely. We have seen that the human being has three aspects: thinking, feeling, and willing. Let us look at these three aspects from within. We will soon see how the inner and outer paths of consideration are connected. The content of thoughts is essentially very abstract. As teachers, we cannot approach the developing human being through these thoughts. In a certain sense, there is an impenetrable wall between us. That wall exists in social life and brings us many social problems. It also exists in areas such as teaching and education.

Through the scientific materialism that has taken over all our thinking and, to an extent, our feeling, everything we have to say about the soul or spirit has slowly become empty words. We cannot work out of empty words. We can find no relationship to other adults through empty words, nor can we find a relationship to children through them. We need to move forward to reality. We cannot encounter reality if we have only the abstract intellectual reasoning that modern science has implanted in us. We do, however, come to the spirit through this reasoning. The entire content of reasoning within our intellectually oriented education is spirit, but it is a filtered spirit. It is a spirit that in a way cannot break out of its own confines, which cannot experience itself as real content, and thus remains brutal. This spirit controls our lives. This spirit penetrates nothing; it is a spirit that in art creates only the external form instead of developing the form out of the material itself. It is a spirit that wants to force itself upon the external social relationships connected with the shape of human society instead of developing those relationships directly from living human beings. We can arrive at a very different position in regard to the spirit if we hold to what spiritual science can give us. The way spiritual science approaches things is much more important than its actual content. If you stay with what is knowledge today, you will find that it simply reflects what already exists. That is how we have arrived at a kind of naturalism that only recreates the external world in art, because our understanding does not penetrate beyond the external world; it has no independent content. We move about in a mere copy of the external world. We do not understand how living content can germinate from the human being, since this living content cannot arise from anything other than the spirit. Let us contrast spiritual science and conventional science. When they first hear what spiritual science has to say, many modern people understand it as something silly, a fantasy. Why? Simply because people are not accustomed to hearing in the way that spiritual science speaks. People are accustomed to speaking about the world so that it is possible to compare what is said with what we see, with what the eyes perceive or we perceive in other ways.

Spiritual science presents things to which we cannot find any correspondence in the external world, things we cannot find when we observe only with our senses. It presents things we can understand only when we work out of our own spirit. Of course, what we create comes from a deeper aspect of the world, but we must actually produce that out of the spirit. This creation out of the spirit is important. When we study spiritual science, we do not wait until we encounter a tree or an animal that we can then conceptualize. Instead we form the concept in our inner life. In a moment, we will see some examples of how we create concepts inwardly through spiritual science and how they can become alive in the human being. We can therefore say that our intellectual reasoning has slowly lost all meaning, and that spiritual science gives our reasoning something through which it can regain some content. If you take my book An Outline of Esoteric Science and read it like any other book, you may not understand it. Today, even with art, we ask ourselves where in the world we would find something like it. In dramas and novels, that is, in products of our imagination, we demand that their content can be found in exactly, or nearly exactly, the same way as in the world. You cannot do that with the content of Esoteric Science. You have to do something else, which is why there is so much opposition to spiritual science: people must do something quite different than in modern conventional science or art. You need to carry out an inner activity for each step described by the writer of such a spiritual scientific book. You will gain nothing from reading such a book if you do not produce something from yourself according to the directions in the book. In this way spiritual science runs quite counter to our modern way of thinking. Today people love to attend lectures that present what they are to learn through slides or other perceptible means. People go to movies because they can see something there. They do not value the fact that there are also some words. People want to remain passive; they just want to be people who watch. You will gain nothing from a spiritual-scientific book or lecture if you allow these modern habits to predominate, as spiritual scientific lectures or books contain nothing of that sort. Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread.







How Can Today’s Poverty of Soul be Overcome?

8 lectures in Germany and Switzerland, February 16 – December 3, 1916 (CW 168)


The Connection between the Living and the Dead

(CW 168)

“What may be seen in the thoughts and memories left behind in the souls of those who love the dead is certainly added to the world that the dead need directly, but it also elevates, improves the existence of the dead. We could compare this to art in the physical world, but there is no comparison, because it is uplifting for the dead, an improvement, in a sense far superior to the way in which art improves the physical world for us. Thus, it has a deep meaning when we unite our thoughts with those of the dead.” (from the first lecture)


The year is 1916. Europe is entering the third year of the most devastatingly brutal war yet known. The high hopes and idealistic expectations for the newly dawned twentieth century have been very quickly met with the murderous visage of modern warfare. (The death toll would eventually reach 35 million souls.) Such is the context and ever-present background to these presentations, informing both their mood and content. 

Rudolf Steiner gave these eight lectures to the members of the Anthroposophical Society in various European cities throughout 1916, and they are all heartfelt attempts to address—practically—some of the fundamental questions living strongly in his listeners, who must be always be considered, to some degree, as co-creators of the content:



Given the fundamental reality of reincarnation, how do the so-called dead remain connected to us? What meaning do these countless sacrificial deaths have? What are the immediate experiences of those who have died?


These are a few of the burning questions addressed. The answers given are anything but theoretical. But there is something else here, as well. It could be summed up by the title of the lecture given in Zürich on October 10, 1916, that forms the heart of this collection: “How Can Today’s Poverty of Soul be Overcome?” “Today” refers not just that early-twentieth-century today; rather, it means the epoch in which we are now living, and overcoming our “poverty of soul”—and Steiner's wholeheartedly human advice for doing so—becomes increasingly valid and more urgent with each passing moment.

Lecture 4: How Can Today’s Poverty of Soul be Overcome?

Rudolf Steiner, Zürich, October 10, 1916

What we seek as spiritual-scientific truths should not be just a dead knowledge for us, but a living one. It should be knowledge that can really find its way into our life, into all aspects of our life, and at the most important points in our life. Spiritual science today is often taken in quite abstractly. And people—especially those who have little understanding of spiritual science—may even come to a sort of detached knowledge that initially proves to be unfruitful for life, and they then have the following impression: “What does it matter that we know human beings are made of so-and-so many parts or members, and that humanity has evolved through different cultural epochs and will continue to evolve, and so on?” For those who believe, according to today’s demands, that people should be completely present in practical life, spiritual science often seems quite unproductive. And it is often conveyed as being unproductive, even by those who already have some heart and feeling for it.

Nevertheless, spiritual science itself, as it is, is something infinitely full of life; it can come alive even in the most exoteric practices in life; and it also must come alive for the sake of the future. Today I would like to make this clear with a particular example by choosing something from our spiritual science that we all presumably know, that is well known to us, and to show how it will gradually become even more enlivened by our looking at it as being full of life.

Most of you will have heard before that our time was preceded by the so-called fourth post-Atlantean cultural period, in which the Greeks and Romans were the most important peoples. The impulses of this fourth post-Atlantean cultural period influenced the following centuries into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. We have been Lecture 4 How Can Today’s Poverty of Soul be Overcome? Zürich, October 10, 1916 How Can Today’s Poverty of Soul be Overcome? h 71 in the fifth post-Atlantean cultural period since the fifteenth century. We have been born into this period in our current incarnation, and human beings will live in this fifth cultural period for many centuries to come. We know, furthermore, and have often let it flow through our souls (at least, most of us have) that humanity particularly advanced outer culture and outer work during the fourth post-Atlantean—the Greco-Roman—cultural period, which developed the so-called intellectual- or mind-soul at that time. Our task now is to develop the consciousness soul.