spiritual beings

Education and the Moral Life

Today we have anthropology and we have psychology.

Anthropology’s main concern is the abstract observation of the

physical aspect of the human being, while that of psychology

is the abstract observation of the human soul and spirit as

entities separate from the physical body. What is missing is the

anthroposophical perspective, which observes the human

being—body, soul, and spirit—as a unity; a point of view that

shows everywhere how and where spirit is flowing into matter,

sending its forces into material counterparts.

- Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy Part 2


Education and the Moral Life

Rudolf Steiner

STUTTGART — MARCH 26, 1923

Everyone involved to any degree at all in social life will certainly feel that the moral aspect is one of the most important aspects in the entire field of education. At the same time, one realizes that it is precisely this aspect that is the most subtle and difficult one to handle, for it relates to the most intimate area of education.

I have already emphasized that educational practice needs to be built on real knowledge of, and insight into, the human being. The comprehension, perception and observation that I tried to characterize last night will give the knowledge necessary to train the child’s cognitional capacities. Practically speaking, knowledge of the human being, supported by the science of the spirit, will enable one to reach, more or less easily, the child’s powers of cognition. One will be able to find one’s way to the child. If, on the other hand, one wishes to appeal to a child’s artistic receptivity as described yesterday, which is equally important, it is necessary to find a way to each child individually, to have a sense for the way various children express themselves from an artistic comprehension of the world. When it comes to moral education, all of one’s skill for sensitive observation and all of one’s intimate psychological interest must be kept in mind, so that all the teacher’s knowledge of the human being and of nature can be put at the service of what each child brings forth individually. To reach children in a moral way, the only choice is to approach each child on an individual basis. However, with regard to moral education, yet another difficulty has to be overcome—that is, an individual’s sense of morality can only be appealed to through full inner freedom and with full inner cooperation.

This requires that educators approach moral teaching so that, when later in life the students have passed the age of formal education, they can feel free as individuals in every respect. What teachers must never do is to pass on to developing students the relics of their own brand of morality or anything derived from personal sympathies or antipathies in the moral realm. We must not be tempted to give our own ethical codes to young people as they make their way into life, since these will leave them unfree when it becomes necessary that they find their own moral impulses. We must respect and acknowledge the young person’s complete inner freedom, particularly in the realm of moral education. Such respect and tolerance truly demand a great deal of selflessness from educators, and a renunciation of any self-interest. Nor is there, as is the case in all other subject matters, the opportunity of treating morality as a subject in its own right; as such, it would be very unfruitful. The moral element must be allowed to pervade all of one’s teaching.

Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature (CW 136)

Rudolf Steiner, Lecture 6 Helsinki, April 8, 1912

In the last lecture we tried to consider how a planetary system depends on the various spiritual beings of the three hierarchies, layered, as it were, one above the other. We gained an idea of all that is involved in a planet, and we saw how a planet receives its enclosed form as a result of the activity of the spirits of form. We also saw that the inner life, the inner mobility of the planet, is the result of the activity of the spirits of motion. What we may call the lowest consciousness of a planet, which can be compared with the consciousness present in the human astral body, we assign to the spirits of wisdom. And the impulse by which a planet changes its place in space we allot to the spirits of will, the thrones. The regulation of the individual movements of a planet—so that instead of taking an isolated course in space, it moves in harmony with the whole system—is an activity of the cherubim. Finally, we ascribed to the seraphim what we may call the inner soul life of a planet, whereby the planet comes into connection with the other heavenly bodies, like a human being enters into relation with other people by means of speech. Thus we must see a sort of coherence in the planet; and in this, what comes from the spirits of form is but a kind of kernel. On the other hand, every planet has something like a spiritual atmosphere—we might even say something like an aura—in which the spirits who belong to both of the higher hierarchies that are above the spirits of form do their work. Now, however, if we want to understand all this rightly, Lecture 6 helsinki, April 8, 1912 66 j spiritual beings in the heavenly bodies we must make ourselves acquainted with yet other ideas than those I have just recapped for you in a couple of sentences. These are ideas that we shall attain most easily if we begin with the beings of the hierarchy that stands, so to speak, nearest to humanity in the spiritual world: namely, the beings of the third hierarchy.

We have said that the characteristic of the beings of the third hierarchy is that what is perception in human beings is manifestation in them; and what is inner life in human beings is being filled with spirit in them. We already find this characteristic in the beings who are immediately above the human being in the cosmic order, in the angels or angeloi: namely, that they actually perceive what they manifest from out of themselves. When they return to their inner being, they have nothing independent, nothing self-enclosed like the inner life of human beings. Rather, they then feel the forces and beings of the higher hierarchies above them shining and springing forth in their inner being. In short, they feel themselves filled and inspired by the spirit, by the beings above them. Thus, what we call our independent inner life really does not exist in them. If they wish to develop their own being and if they wish, so to speak, to feel, think, and will what they are, as a human being does, it is all immediately manifested externally. These beings are not like human beings, who can shut up their thoughts and feelings within themselves and can allow their will impulses to remain unfulfilled. What lives as thought in these beings, insofar as they themselves bring forth these thoughts, is also simultaneously revealed externally. If they do not wish to manifest externally, they have no other means of returning into their inner being than by once again filling themselves with the world above them. Thus, the world above them dwells in the inner life of these beings, and when they live a life of their own, they project themselves externally, objectively.