XI. Memory, Temperaments, Bodily Culture and Art
Ilkley, 16th August, 1923
There are two sides to be considered in teaching and education. One is connected with the subject-matter of the lessons and the other with the child whose faculties it is our task to unfold in accordance with what we learn from a true observation of the human being. If we adopt the methods described in these lectures, our teaching will always appeal to the particular faculties that should be unfolded during the different life-periods. Very special attention, however, must be paid to the development of the child's memory and here it must be realized that on account of a deficient understanding of the being of man our predecessors have been prone to burden the memories of children and, as I said yesterday in another connection, there has been a reaction from this to the very opposite extreme. The tendency in the most modern systems of education is to eliminate memory almost entirely. Now both methods are wrong. The point really is that the memory ought to be left alone up to the time of the change of teeth, when in the ordinary way the child is sent to school. I have already said that during this period of life physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego-organization are working in unison. The way in which the child works out by imitation everything he unconsciously observes around him has the effect of stimulating, even in the physical body itself, the forces underlying the development of memory. During these years of life therefore the memory must be left to develop without interference.
On the other hand, from the time of the change of teeth, when the nature of soul and spirit is in a certain sense released from the body, systematic training of the memory is of the greatest importance. Through the whole of a man's life the memory makes claims on his physical body. Unless there is an all-round development of the physical body the memory will be impaired in some way. Indeed it is well known to-day that any injury to the brain at once results in defective memory.
When we are dealing with children, it is not enough to notice how in illness an element of soul is involved. As teachers, we must always be on the alert for every little intimate effect that is being produced on the bodily nature of the child by the soul and spirit. An undue development of memory will injure the child for the whole of life, will even injure his physical body.
How then can we rightly unfold the faculty of memory? Above all we must realize that abstract concepts, concepts built up by the rationalizing intellect, are a load on the memory in the period of life between the change of teeth and puberty.
Perceptions of a living nature, plastic ideas conveyed to the child in his art lessons on the other hand call forth those living forces which play down even into the physical body and allow the memory to unfold in the right way.
The best foundation for the full development of memory is laid when the whole teaching during the Elementary School period is informed with artistic quality.
Art rightly taught leads to perfect control of bodily movement. If we are able to stimulate the child to self-activity in art, if as he paints, writes or draws, his bodily nature bestirs itself together with his qualities of spirit, we shall rightly unfold the forces that must proceed from the soul and come to the aid of memory in the physical body. In to-morrow's lecture I will explain how this is achieved in Eurhythmy. We must not fall into the error of believing that a complete elimination or an insufficient feeding of memory can ever be of benefit to the child.
There are three golden rules for the development of memory: Concepts load the memory; Concrete artistic activity builds it up; activities of will strengthen it. We have splendid opportunities for applying these three golden rules if we teach nature-study and history in the way I have been indicating during these lectures. Arithmetic too may be used for the same end, for in arithmetic we ought always to begin with an artistic understanding of things. But when the children thoroughly understand the more simple operations with numbers up to ten or twenty, let us say, we need not be afraid of working upon the memory afterwards. It is not more right to overload the child with too many concrete pictures than it is to put too great a strain on his powers of memory, for concepts carried too far into complexity have the same effect. We must therefore carefully observe how the memory is unfolding in the case of each individual child. Here we see how necessary it is for the teacher and educationalist to have some understanding of tendencies to health and disease in the human being. Strange experiences have often come one's way in this connection. A gentleman whose whole life is concerned with education once came to visit the Waldorf School and I tried to explain the spirit underlying the teaching there. After a little while he said: “Yes, but if you work on those lines the teachers will have to know a great deal about medicine.” It seemed to him quite impossible that they could understand medicine to the extent necessary in such a school. I said that even though this would arise naturally out of a knowledge of the nature of man, a certain amount of medical instruction ought to form part of the training course for teachers. Questions concerning health ought not to be left entirely to the school doctor. I think we are particularly fortunate at the Waldorf School in that our school doctor himself is on the staff of the College of Teachers. Dr. Eugen Kolisko is a doctor by profession and besides looking after the children's health, he is also a member of the teaching staff. In this way everything connected with the bodily health of the children can proceed in fullest harmony with their education.
This, in effect, is necessary: our teachers must learn to understand matters connected with health and sickness in the child. To give an example: a teacher notices a child growing paler and paler. Another child may lose his natural colour because his face begins to be excessively red. The teacher will find, if he observes accurately, that the latter child is showing signs of restlessness and peevishness. We must be able to connect all such symptoms in the right way with the spiritual nature. Abnormal pallor, or even the mere tendency to it, is the result of over-exertion of the memory. The memory of such a child has been overstrained and one must put a stop to this. In the case of a child with an abnormally high colour, the memory has not been given enough to do. This child must be given things to memorize and then we must make sure that he has retained them in his mind. The memory of a child who grows paler and paler must therefore be relieved, whereas in the case of a child with excessive colour, we must set about developing the memory.
We only approach the whole human being if we are thus able to handle his nature of soul and spirit in intimate harmony with his physical body. In the Waldorf School, the child, the growing human being, is handled according to his qualities of spirit, soul and body, above all according to his particular temperament.
In the classroom itself we arrange the children in a way that enables the various temperaments — choleric, sanguine, melancholic or phlegmatic — to be expressed and adjusted among themselves. The very best way is to make the choleric children or again the melancholic children sit together, for then they tone each other down. One must of course know how to judge and then deal with the different temperaments, for this in turn affects the very roots of bodily development.
Take the case of a sanguine child, inattentive in his lessons. Every impression coming from the outer world immediately engages his attention but passes away again as quickly. The right treatment for such a child will be to reduce the quantity of sugar in his food, not unduly, of course. The less sugar he absorbs, the more will the excessively sanguine qualities be modified and a harmonised temperament take their place.
In the case of a melancholic child who is always brooding, just the opposite treatment is necessary. More sugar must be added to his food. In this way we work right down into the physical constitution of the liver, for the action of the liver differs essentially according to whether a large or small quantity of sugar is taken. In effect, every activity of outer life penetrates deeply into the physical organism of man.
At the Waldorf School we take the greatest care that there shall be an intimate contact between the teaching staff and the parents of the children. A really intimate contact of course is only possible to a certain degree, for it depends on the amount of understanding possessed by the parents. We try however to the greatest possible extent to induce the parents to come to the different teachers to obtain advice as to the most suitable diet for the individual children. This is just as important as what is taught in the classroom.
We must not imagine in a materialistic sense that the body does everything, for obviously a child with no hands cannot be taught to play the piano. The role of the body is to be a suitable instrument. Just as one cannot teach a child with no hands to play the piano, one cannot rid a child whose liver is over-active, of melancholy, no matter what physical measures are employed by abstract systems of education. If, however, the action of the liver is regulated by increasing the quantity of sugar in the child's diet, he will be able to use this bodily organ as a fit instrument. Then only and not till then will spiritual measures begin to be effective.
People often imagine that reforms can be introduced into education by the reiteration of abstract principles. All the world knows what is desirable in teaching and how education ought to proceed. Yet true education demands an understanding of the human being that can only be acquired little by little, and so, although I neither attack nor belittle the knowledge possessed by nearly everyone on the subject of education, I say that it is of no practical use. This kind of knowledge seems to me just like someone who says: “I want a house built; it must look nice, be comfortable and weather-proof ...” And then off he goes to someone who knows quite well that the house must have all these qualities and thinks he can set about building. But to know these things is of no practical use. That is approximately as much as people in general know about the art of education and yet they think they can bring about reforms. If I want a house properly built, I must go to an architect who knows in detail how the plans must be drawn, how the bricks are to be laid, how massive the girders must be to bear the weight upon them and so on. The essential thing is to know in detail how the human being is constituted, and not to speak vaguely about human nature in general as one speaks about a house being weatherproof, comfortable and beautiful to look at.
The civilized world must realize that technique, a spiritualized technique of course, is necessary in every detail of the art of education. If it becomes general, this realization will indeed be a boon to all the very praiseworthy efforts in the direction of educational reform that are making themselves felt to-day.
The significance of these principles is revealed above all when we come to consider the very different individualities of children. It has become the practice in schools not to allow children who cannot keep up with the work in a particular class to go on to the next. Now in an art of education where the child is taught in accordance with his particular age of life, it must gradually become out of the question to leave a child behind in a class, for then he will fall out of the sequence of the kind of teaching that is suited to his years. In the Waldorf School, of course, each class consists of children of one particular age. If therefore, a child who ought to go up to the fourth class is left behind in the third, the inner course of his education comes into variance with his age. As far as we can we avoid this in the Waldorf School. Only in very exceptional cases does it happen that a child stays behind in his class. We make every effort to handle each child individually in such a way that it will not be necessary for him to stay behind.
Now as you all know, there are children who do not develop normally, who are in some way abnormal. At the Waldorf School we have instituted a special ‘helping’ class for these children. This helping class provides for children whose faculties of thinking, feeling and willing are under-developed and it has become very dear to our hearts. A child whom we cannot have in a class because of a weakness of some power of soul is taken into this separate class. And it is really delightful at the Waldorf School to find a kind of competition among the staff of teachers arising round a child when it is found necessary to move him from his normal class into the helping class. After all I have been saying, you will realize that there is the greatest harmony between the members of the teaching staff at the Waldorf School, but there is always a certain struggle when such a thing has to be done. It means that Dr. Karl Schubert to whom, on account of his wonderful qualities, the helping class has been entrusted has to face a regular onset! The teachers never like giving up a child to him. The children too feel it rather against the grain to have to leave their normal class and the teacher whom they love to go into the helping class. But again it is a blessing that before very long they do not want to leave the helping class because they have such a love for Dr. Schubert. He is extraordinarily well-fitted to have charge of this helping class on account of his qualities of character, temperament and his great capacity of love. This capacity of love, devotion and unselfishness — and they are really the foundation of the art of teaching — are specially needed when it is a matter of bringing on children in an isolated class of this kind to a point where they can again return to the class corresponding to their age; and this is the goal we set ourselves with the aid of the helping class.
True knowledge of the nature of man brings the following facts to light. It is really nonsense to speak of abnormalities or disease of the spiritual part of man's being, although of course in colloquial language and for the purposes of everyday life there is no need to be fanatical and pedantic about such matters. Fundamentally speaking the spirit and the soul are never ill. Illness can only occur in the bodily foundation and what then passes over from the body into the soul. Since however in earthly existence the being of soul and spirit can only be approached through the instrument of the body, it is above all necessary in the treatment of so-called abnormal children to know that the body, precisely through its abnormality, makes this approach to the soul and spirit impossible. As soon as we overcome a defect of body or of body and soul in the child and are able to approach his nature of soul and spirit, we have done what is necessary. In this connection therefore our constant aim must be to perceive the delicate and intimate qualities and forces of the bodily nature of man.
If we observe that a child is slow of apprehension, that something hampers him from connecting concepts and ideas, we must always realize that there is some irregularity in the nervous system. Individual treatment will do much in such a case, perhaps by going more slowly in the teaching or particularly in rousing the will and the like. When a child is abnormal, our treatment must always be individual and we shall do infinite good by such measures as I have indicated, perhaps by teaching slowly or stimulating the element of will into greater activity. Great attention of course must be paid to bodily training and culture in the case of such a child. Let me explain certain principles by giving you a simple example.
Suppose it is difficult for a child to put together ideas. We shall achieve much by giving the child physical exercises in which his own body, his whole organic system is made to act in accordance with an activity in his soul. We may tell him for, instance, to touch the lobe of his left ear with the third finger of the right hand and make him quickly repeat the exercise. Then we may tell him to touch the top of his head with the little finger of the left hand. Then we may alternate the first and second exercises quickly, one after the other. The organism is brought into movement in such a way that the child's thoughts must flow swiftly into the movements he makes. Thus by stimulating the nervous system we make it into a good foundation for the faculty which the child must exercise when it is a question of connecting or separating ideas.
In such ways we can experience how the spiritual nature of the child may be stimulated by the culture of the body. Suppose, for example, a child returns again and again to one fixed idea. This tendency is obviously a great weakness in his soul. He simply cannot help repeating certain words or returning over and over again to the same ideas. They take a deep hold of his being and he cannot get rid of them. If we observe such a child closely, we shall generally find that he walks too much on his heels and not with the toes and the front part of the foot. (All these symptoms of course take an individual form in each child and that is why a true knowledge of the human being, by means of which one can make individual distinctions, is so necessary.) Such a child needs exercises in which he must pay attention to every step he takes and these must be repeated until they gradually become a habit. And then, if it is not too late — in fact a great deal can be achieved in this direction between the seventh and twelfth years — we shall see an extraordinary improvement in the inner condition of the child's soul. We should, for example, understand too how movement of the fingers of the right hand influences the speech organism, and how movement of the fingers of the left hand works upon all that which comes to the help of thinking out of the speech organism. We must know too how walking on the toes or walking on the heels reacts upon the faculties of speech and thought, and specially on the will. The art of Eurhythmy, working as it does with normal forces, teaches us a great deal when we come to deal with the abnormal. The movements of Eurhythmy also, although they are founded upon that which is normal, are extremely valuable where the abnormal is concerned. For while for the normal human being they are artistic in their nature, for abnormality they can be adapted for therapeutic use. Since the movements are derived from laws of the human organism itself, the faculties of spirit and soul, which always need stimulus during the period of growth, are given an impulse that proceeds from the bodily nature. This proves how very necessary it is to realize the unity between spirit, soul and body when we have to deal with abnormal children at school.
The excellent course of teaching that is being developed by Dr. Schubert in this branch of work at the Waldorf School is achieving really splendid results. A great power of love and unselfishness is of course necessary when it is a matter of individual treatment in every case. These qualities are absolutely essential in the helping class. In many cases, too, resignation is required if any results at all are to be achieved, for one can only work with what is there or can be brought out of the human being. If only a quarter or a half of what would make the child absolutely normal is attained, the parents are apt not to be quite satisfied. But the essential thing in all human action that is guided and directed by the spirit is to be independent of outer recognition and to become more and more deeply aware of the sustaining power that grows from a sense of inner responsibility. This power will increase step by step in an art of education that perceives in these intimate details of life the harmony between the child's spirit, soul and body. Insight, perception, observation, these are what the teacher needs; if he has these qualities, speech itself will come to life in his whole being. Quite instinctively he will carry over into his practical teaching, what he has learnt from observation of the human being.
At a certain age, as I told you yesterday, the child must be led on from the plant- and animal-lore which he grasps more with his faculties of soul, to mineral-lore, to physics and chemistry, where greater claims are made on his conceptual faculties and intellect, but it is all-important that these subjects shall not be taught too soon. During this period of life when we are conveying the idea of causality to the child and he learns of cause and effect in nature, it is essential to balance the inorganic, lifeless elements in nature-study by leading him into the domain of art.
If we are to introduce art to the child in the right way, not only must all our teaching be artistic from the beginning, but art itself must play its proper part in education. That the plastic-pictorial arts are to be cultivated you can see if only from the fact that the writing lessons begin with a kind of painting. Thus, according to the Waldorf School principle, we begin to give painting and drawing lessons at a very tender age of childhood. Modelling too is cultivated as much as possible, albeit only from the ninth or tenth year and in a primitive way. It has a wonderfully vitalizing effect on the child's physical sight and on the inner quality of soul in his sight, if at the right age he begins to model plastic forms and figures. So many people go through life without even noticing what is most significant in the objects and events of their environment. Learning to see is what we must learn, if we are to stand rightly in the world. And if the child is to learn to observe aright, it is a very good thing for him to begin as early as possible to occupy himself with modelling, for what his head and eyes perceive is thus guided into the movements of fingers and hand. In this way we shall not only awaken the child's taste for the artistic around him, in the arrangement of a room perhaps, and distaste for the inartistic, but he will begin to observe those things in the world which ought to flow into the heart and soul of man.
By beginning musical instruction with song, but leading on more and more to instrumental playing, we develop the element of will in the human being. This musical instruction is not only a means of unfolding his artistic qualities, but also his purely “human” qualities, especially those of the heart and will. We must of course begin with song, but we must pass on as soon as possible to an understanding of instrumental music in order that the child may learn to distinguish the pure element of music, rhythm, measure, melody from everything else, from imitative or pictorial qualities of music and the like. More and more he must begin to realize and experience the purely musical element. By leading the child into the sphere of art, by building a bridge from play to life through art, we can begin, between the eleventh and twelfth years, and that is the proper time, to teach him to understand art. In the principles of education which it is the aim of the Waldorf School to realize, it is of vital importance for the child to acquire some understanding of art at the right age. At the age when the child must realize that Nature is ruled by abstract law, by natural law to be grasped by the reason, when he must learn in physics the link between cause and effect in given cases, we must promote an understanding of art as a necessary counterpoise. The child must realize how the several arts have developed in the different epochs of human history, how this or that motif in art plays its part in a particular epoch. Only so will those elements which a human being needs for all-round development of his nature be truly stimulated. In this way too, we can unfold the qualities which are essential in moral instruction.
If he acquires an understanding of art, the relation of the human being to his fellow-men will be quite different from what it could be without such understanding. For what is the essence of the understanding of the world, my dear friends? It is to be able at the right moment to reject abstract concepts in order to attain insight into and true understanding of the affairs of the world.
The mineral kingdom and also the domain of physics can be understood in the light of cause and effect. When we come to the plant-world, however, it is impossible to grasp everything through logic, reason and intellect. The plastic principle of man's being must here come into play, for concepts and ideas have to pass into pictures. Any plastic skill that we develop in the child helps him to understand the formations contained in the plants. The animal kingdom can only be comprehended if the ideas for its understanding are first implanted and developed in us by moral education. This alone will activate such inner powers as enable us to understand the forces building up the animal structure from the invisible world. How few people, how few physiologists to-day know whence the form of an animal is derived! Indeed the origin of the animal form is the structure of organs which, in man, become the organs of speech and song. That is the origin of the organic forms and structure of the animal. The animal does not come to the point of articulate speech; it only comes to the point of song as we know it in the birds. In speech and song, form-giving forces stream outwards, giving shape to the air-waves, and sound arises. That which in the organism of speech and song develops from out of a vital principle passes back into the form of the animal. It is only possible to understand the form of an animal if we realize that it develops, musically as it were, from organs which at a later stage are metamorphosed in the human being into the organic structures connected with the element of music.
To understand man we need an all-round conception of art, for the faculty of reason can only comprehend the inorganic constituents of man's being. If at the right moment we know how to lead over the faculty of mental perception to artistic feeling, then and only then is a true understanding of man possible. This understanding of man's being must be awakened by the teaching we give on the subject of art. If the teacher himself is possessed of true artistic feeling and can introduce the child to Leonardo's “Last Supper” or Raphael's “Sistine Madonna” at the right age, not only showing the definite relations between the various figures, but how colour, inner perspective and so forth were treated in the time of Leonardo or Raphael, in short, if nature and history alike are imbued with an inner quality of soul through teaching that conveys an understanding of art then we are bringing the human element into all education.
Nothing must be left undone in the way of imbuing the child with artistic feeling at the right age in life. Our civilization will never receive an impulse of ascent until more art is introduced into schools. Not only must the whole teaching be permeated with art, but a living understanding of art, called into being by the teacher's own creative power, must set up a counterpoise to prosaic conceptions of nature and of history.
We deem this an all-essential part of Waldorf School education. True indeed it is, and every artist has felt the same, that art is not a mere discovery of man but a domain wherein the secrets of nature are revealed to him at a level other than that of ordinary intelligence, a domain in which he gazes into the mysteries of the whole universe. Not until the moment when man realizes the world itself to be a work of art and regards Nature as a creative artist, not until then is he ready for a deepening of his being in the religious sense. There is profound meaning in these words of a German poet: ‘Only through the dawn gates of beauty canst thou pass into the realm of knowledge.’ It is so indeed; when we understand the whole being of man through art, we generate in others too an all-embracing conception of the world. That is why our aim in education should be to add to what is required by prosaic culture and civilization, the purely human element. To this end, not only must cur teaching itself be full of artistic feeling, but an understanding of art must be awakened in the children.
Art and science will then lead on to a moral and religious deepening. But as a preliminary to religious and moral progress, education and teaching must set up this balance: in the one scale lie all those things that lead into prosaic life, that bind men to the earth; in the other scale lie the counterbalancing factors leading to art, factors that enable man at every moment of his life to sublimate and raise to the spirit what must first be worked out in the ‘prose’ of life.