The Kingdom of Childhood
18 August 1924, Torquay
We will now continue our discussions by speaking of certain matters of method, and here I should like to say that in these few lectures our purpose cannot be to give detailed indications but only general principles. You can also study the Waldorf School Seminar Courses, and with the indications you have received here you will be able to understand them thoroughly. We must get a clear picture of the child between the change of teeth and puberty; we must know that in the years before the change of teeth the inherited characteristics are the determining factors, and that the child receives from his father and mother a “model” body which is completely thrown aside by the time he changes his teeth, for during the first seven-year period it is being replaced by a new body. The change of teeth, indeed, is only the external expression of this replacing of the old body by a new one, upon which the soul and spirit are now at work.
I have already told you that if the spirit-soul is strong, then during the school period from the change of teeth to puberty the child may go through great changes as regards the qualities he formerly possessed. If the individuality is weak, the result will be a body that very closely resembles the inherited characteristics, and with the children of school age we shall still have to take into account deeply-rooted resemblances to the parents or grandparents.
We must be clear in our minds that the independent activity of the etheric body of man only really begins at the change of teeth. The etheric body in the first seven years has to put forward all the independent activity of which it is capable in order to build up the second physical body. So that this etheric body is pre-eminently an inward artist in the child in the first seven years; it is a modeller, a sculptor. And this modelling force, which is applied to the physical body by the etheric body, becomes free, emancipates itself with the change of teeth at the seventh year. Then it can work as an activity of soul.
This is why the child has an impulse to model forms or to paint them. For the first seven years of life the etheric body has been carrying out modelling and painting within the physical body. Now that it has nothing further to do as regards the physical body, or at least not as much as before, it wants to carry its activity outside. If therefore you as teachers have a wide knowledge of the forms that occur in the human organism, and consequently know what kind of forms the child likes to mould out of plastic material or to paint in colour, then you will be able to give him the right guidance. But you yourselves must have a kind of artistic conception of the human organism. It is therefore of real importance for the teacher to try and do some modelling himself, for the teachers' training of today includes nothing of this sort. You will see that however much you have learnt about the lung or the liver, or let us say the complicated ramifications of the vascular system, you will not know as much as if you were to copy the whole thing in wax or plasticine. For then you suddenly begin to have quite a different kind of knowledge of the organs, of the lung for instance. For as you know you must form one half of the lung differently from the other half; the lung is not symmetrical. One half is clearly divided into two segments, the other into three. Before you learn this you are constantly forgetting which is left and which is right. But when you work out these curious asymmetrical forms in wax or plasticine, then you get the feeling that you could not change round left and right any more than you could put the heart on the right hand side of the body. You also get the feeling that the lung has its right place in the organism with its own particular form, and if you mould it rightly you will feel that it is inevitable for the human lung to come gradually into an upright position in standing and walking. If you model the lung forms of animals you will see or you will feel from the touch that the lung of an animal lies horizontally. And so it is with other organs.
You yourselves therefore should really try to learn anatomy by modelling the organs, so that you can then get the children to model or to paint something that is in no way an imitation of the human body but only expresses certain forms. For you will find that the child has an impulse to make forms that are related to the inner human organism. You may get some quite extraordinary experiences in this respect in the course of your lessons.
We have introduced lessons on simple Physiology in the school, and especially in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh classes, as this is obviously an integral part of the Waldorf School method. Our children paint from the very beginning, and from a certain age they also do carving. Now if you simply let the children work freely it is very interesting to see that when you have explained anything about the human being to them, the lung for instance, then out of themselves they begin to model such forms as the lung or something similar. It is really interesting to see how the child forms things out of his own being. That is why it is essential for you to take up this plastic method, and to find ways and means of making faithful reproductions of the forms of the human organs exactly in wax or plasticine — even, if you like, as our children often do, in mud, for if you have nothing else that is very good material to work with.
This is an inner urge, an inner longing of the etheric body, to be at work in modelling or painting. So you can very easily turn this impulse and longing to account by deriving the letters of the alphabet out of the forms which the child paints or models, for then you will be really moulding your teaching out of a knowledge of man. This is what must be done at this stage.
Now to proceed. Man consists not only of his physical body and etheric body, which latter is emancipated and free at the seventh year, but also of the astral body and ego. What happens to the astral body of the child between the seventh and fourteenth year? It does not really come to its full activity till puberty. Only then is it working completely within the human organism. But whilst the etheric body between birth and the change of teeth is in a certain sense being drawn out of the physical body and becoming independent, the astral body is gradually being drawn inwards between the seventh and fourteenth year, and when it has been drawn right in and is no longer merely loosely connected with the physical and etheric bodies but permeates them completely, then the human being has arrived at the moment of puberty, of sex maturity.
With the boy one can see by the change of voice that the astral body is now quite within the larynx, with the girl one can see by the development of other organs, breast organs and so on, that the astral body has now been completely drawn in. The astral body finds its way slowly into the human body from all sides.
The lines and directions it follows are the nerve fibres. The astral body comes in along the nerve fibres from without inwards. Here it begins to fill out the whole body from the outer environment, from the skin, and gradually draws itself together inside. Before this time it is a kind of loose cloud, in which the child lives. Then it draws itself together, lays firm
hold upon all the organs, and if we may put it somewhat crudely, it unites itself chemically with the organism, with all the tissues of the physical and etheric body.
But something very strange happens here. When the astral body presses inwards from the periphery of the body it makes its way along the nerves which then unite in the spine (see
drawing). Above is the head. It also forces its way slowly through the head nerves, crawls along the nerves towards the central organs, towards the spinal cord, bit by bit, into the head, gradually coming in and filling it all out.
What we must chiefly consider in this connection is how the breathing works in with the whole nervous system. Indeed this working together of the breathing with the whole nervous system is something very special in the human organism. As teacher and educator one should have the very finest feeling for it; only then will one be able to teach rightly. Here then the air enters the body, distributes itself, goes up through the spinal column (see drawing), spreads out in the brain, touches the nerve fibres everywhere, goes down again and pursues paths by which it can then be ejected as carbon dioxide. So we find the nervous system being constantly worked upon by the in-breathed air which distributes itself, goes up through the spinal column, spreads out again, becomes permeated with carbon, goes back again and is breathed out.
It is only in the course of the first school period, between the change of teeth and puberty, that the astral body carries this whole process of breathing, passing along the nerve fibres, right into the physical body. So that during this time when the astral body is gradually finding its way into the physical body with the help of the air breathed in, it is playing upon something that is stretched across like strings of an instrument in the centre of the body, that is, upon the spinal column. Our nerves are really a kind of lyre, a musical instrument, an inner musical instrument that resounds up into the head.
This process begins of course before the change of teeth, but at that time the astral body is only loosely connected with the physical body. It is between the change of teeth and puberty that the astral body really begins to play upon the single nerve fibres with the in-breathed air, like a violin bow on the strings.
You will be fostering all this if you give the child plenty of singing. You must have a feeling that the child is a musical instrument while he is singing, you must stand before your class to whom you are teaching singing or music with the clear feeling: every child is a musical instrument and inwardly feels a kind of well-being in the sound.
For you see, sound is brought about by the particular way the breath is circulated. That is inner music. To begin with, in the first seven years of life, the child learns everything by imitation, but now he should learn to sing out of the inward joy he experiences in building up melodies and rhythms. To show you the kind of inner picture you should have in your mind when you stand before your class in a Singing lesson, I should like to use a comparison which may seem a little crude, but which will make clear to you what I mean. I do not know how many of you, but I hope most, have at some time been able to watch a herd of cows who have fed and are now lying in the meadow digesting their food.
This digestive process of a herd of cows is indeed a marvellous thing. In the cow a kind of image of the whole world is present. The cow digests her food, the digested foodstuffs pass over into the blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, and during this whole process of digestion and nourishment the cow has a sensation of well-being which is at the same time knowledge. During the process of digestion every cow has a wonderful aura in which the whole world is mirrored. It is the most beautiful thing one can see, a herd of cows lying in the meadow digesting their food, and in this process of digestion comprehending the whole world. With us human beings all this has sunk into the subconscious, so that the head can reflect what the body works out and sees revealed as knowledge.
We are really in a bad way, we human beings, because the head does not allow us to experience the lovely things that the cows, for example, experience. We should know much more of the world if we could experience the digestive process, for instance. We should then of course have to experience it with the feeling of knowledge, not with the feeling that man has when he remains in the subconscious in his digestive process. This is simply to make clear what I want to say. I do not wish to imply that we now have to raise the process of digestion into consciousness in our teaching, but I want to show that there is something that should really be present in the child at a higher stage, this feeling of wellbeing at the inward flow of sound. Imagine what would happen if the violin could feel what is going on within it! We only listen to the violin, it is outside us, we are ignorant of the whole origin of the sound and only hear the outward sense picture of it. But if the violin could feel how each string vibrates with the next one it would have the most blissful experiences, provided of course that the music is good. So you must let the child have these little experiences of ecstasy, so that you really call forth a feeling for music in his whole organism, and you must yourself find joy in it.
Of course one must understand something of music. But an essential part of teaching is this artistic element of which I have just spoken.
On this account it is essential, for the inner processes of life between the change of teeth and puberty demand it, to give the children lessons in music right from the very beginning, and at first, as far as possible to accustom them to sing little songs quite empirically without any kind of theory: nothing more than simply singing little songs, but they must be well sung! Then you can use simpler songs from which the children can gradually learn what melody, rhythm and beat are, and so on; but first you must accustom the children to sing little songs as a whole, and to play a little too as far as that is possible. Unless there is clearly no bent at all in this direction every Waldorf child begins to learn some instrument on entering school; as I say, as far as circumstances allow, each child should learn to play an instrument. As early as possible the children should come to feel what it means for their own musical being to flow over into the objective instrument, for which purpose the piano, which should really only be a kind of memorising instrument, is of course the worst possible thing for the child. Another kind of instrument should be chosen, and if possible one that can be blown upon. Here one must of course have a great deal of artistic tact and, I was going to say, a great deal of authority too. If you can, you should choose a wind instrument, as the children will learn most from this and will thereby gradually come to understand music. Admittedly, it can be a hair-raising experience when the children begin to blow. But on the other hand it is a wonderful thing in the child's life when this whole configuration of the air, which otherwise he encloses and holds within him along the nerve-fibres, can now be extended and guided. The human being feels how his whole organism is being enlarged. Processes which are otherwise only within the organism are carried over into the outside world. A similar thing happens when the child learns the violin, when the actual processes, the music that is within him, is directly carried over and he feels how the music in him passes over into the strings through his bow.
But remember, you should begin giving these Music and Singing lessons as early as possible. For it is of very great importance that you not only make all your teaching artistic, but that you also begin teaching the more specifically artistic subjects, Painting, Modelling and Music, as soon as the child comes to school, and that you see to it that he really comes to possess all these things as an inward treasure.
The point of time in the life of the child which falls between the ninth and tenth year must be very specially borne in mind in the teaching of languages. I have characterised for you this turning point between the ninth and tenth year as the time when the child first learns to differentiate between himself and his environment. Up to this time they have been as one. I have already indicated the right method of teaching for the child entering school, but he ought not really to come to school before he begins to change his teeth; one might say that fundamentally any kind of school teaching before this time is wrong; if we are forced to it by law we must do it, but it is not the right thing from the point of view of artistic education. In a true art of education the child should not enter school until the change of teeth. Our first task, as I have shown you, is to begin with something artistic and work out the forms of the letters through art; you should begin with some independent form of art as I have explained to you, and treat everything that has to do with nature in the mood and fashion of fairy tales, legends and myths, in the way I have described. But for the teaching of languages it is specially important to consider this epoch between the ninth and tenth year.
Before this point of time is reached language teaching must under no circumstances be of an intellectual nature; that is to say it must not include any grammar or syntax. Up to the ninth or tenth year the child must learn to speak the foreign language just as he acquires any other habit; he must learn to speak as a matter of habit. It is only when he learns to differentiate himself from his environment that he may begin to examine what he himself is bringing forth in his speech. It is only now that one can begin to speak of noun, adjective, verb and so on, not before. Before this time the child should simply speak and be kept to this speaking.
We have a good opportunity for carrying this out in the Waldorf School, because as soon as the child comes to us at the beginning of his school life he learns two foreign languages besides his mother tongue.
The child comes to school and begins with Main Lessons in periods, as I have already described; he has the Main Lesson for the early part of the morning, and then directly after that the little ones have a lesson which for German children is either English or French. In these language lessons we try not to consider the relationship of one language to the other. Up till the point of time I have described to you between the ninth and tenth year, we disregard the fact that a table for instance is called “ Tisch” in German and “table” in English, that to eat is “ essen” in German and “eat” in English; we connect each language not with the words of another language, but directly with the objects. The child learns to call the ceiling, the lamp, the chair, by their names, whether it is in French or in English. Thus from the seventh to the ninth year we should not attach importance to translation, that is to say rendering a word in one language by a word in another, but the children simply learn to speak in the language, connecting their words with the external objects. So that the child does not need to know or rather does not need to think of the fact that when he says “table” in English it is called “ Tisch” in German, and so on; he does not concern himself with this at all. This does not occur to the children, for they have not been taught to compare the language in any way.
In this manner the child learns every language out of the element from which it stems, namely, the element of feeling. Now a language consists, of course, of sounds, and is either the expression of the soul from within, in which case there is a vowel, or else it is the expression of something external and then there is a consonant. But one must feel this first of all. You will not of course pass on to the children exactly what I am saying here, but in the course of your lesson the child should actually experience the vowel as something connected with feeling, and the consonant as a copy of something in the outside world. He will do this of himself because it lies in human nature, and we must not drive out this impulse but rather lead on from it.
For let us think, what is the vowel A [In these references to A and E the sounds of Ah and Eh should be considered, not the names of the letters.] (ah)? (This does not belong to the lesson, but is only something you ought to know!) What is A? When the sun rises I stand in admiration before it: Ah! A is always the expression of astonishment, wonder. Or again, a fly settles on my forehead; I say: E (Eh). That is the expression of warding off, doing away with: E. The English sounds are somewhat differently connected with our feelings, but in every language, English included, we find that the vowel A expresses astonishment and wonder.
Now let us take a characteristic word: roll — the rolling of a ball, for instance. Here you have the R. Who could help feeling that with the R and the L together, the ball rolls on (see drawing a.). R alone would be like this (see drawing b.):
R. L. goes on. L always implies a flowing on. Here you have an external process imitated in the consonant (see drawing c.).
So the whole language is built up in the vowels out of a feeling of inner astonishment, wonder, self-defence, self-assertion, etc., or out of a feeling of imitation in the case of the consonants. We must not drive these feelings out of the child. He should learn to develop the sound from the external objects and from the way in which his own feelings are related to them. Everything should be derived from the feeling for language. In the word “roll” the child should really fed: r, o, l, l. It is the same thing for every word.
This has been completely lost for modern civilised man. He thinks of the word simply as something written down or something abstract. Man can no longer really feel his way into language. Look how all primitive languages still have feeling within them; the most civilised languages make speech an abstract thing. Look at your own English language, how the second half of the word is simply cast aside, and one skips over the real feeling of the sounds. But the child must dwell in this feeling for language.
This must be cultivated by examining characteristic words in which such a feeling plays. Now in German we call what one has up here “Kopf.” In English it is called “head,” in Italian “testa.” With the abstract kind of relationship to language that people usually have today, what do they say about this? They say, in German the word is “Kopf,” in Italian “testa,” in English “head.” But all this is absolutely untrue. The whole thing is nonsense.
For let us think: “Kopf,” what is that? “Kopf” is what is formed, something that has a rounded form. Theform is expressed when you say “Kopf.” When you say “testa” — you have it in the word “testament” and “testify” — then you are expressing the fact that the head establishes or confirms something. Here you are expressing something quite different. You say of that organ that sits up there: that is the establisher, the testator — testa. Now in English one holds the opinion that the head is the most important part of man, (although you know of course that this opinion is not quite correct). So that in English you say “head,” that is, the most important thing, the goal of all things, the aim and meeting-place of all.
Thus different things are expressed in the different languages. If people wanted to designate the same thing, then the Englishman and the Italian too would say “Kopf.” But they do not designate the same thing. In the primeval human language the same thing was expressed everywhere, so that this primeval language was the same for all. Then people began to separate and to express things differently; that is how the different words came about. When you designate such different things as though they were the same you no longer feel what is contained in them, and it is very important not to drive out this feeling for language. It must be kept alive and for this reason you must not analyse language before the ninth or tenth year.
Only then can you pass on to what a noun, a verb or an adjective is and so on: this should not be done before the ninth or tenth year, otherwise you will be speaking of things which are connected with the child's own being, and this he cannot yet understand because he cannot yet distinguish himself from his environment. It is most important to bear in mind that we must not allow any Grammar or comparison of languages before the ninth or tenth year. Then what the child gets from speaking will be similar to what he gets in his singing.
I have tried to illustrate this inner joy in singing by picturing to you the inner feeling of pleasure that rises up out of the digestive organs of the cows in the meadow when they are digesting their food. There must be present an inner feeling of joy of this kind, or at least some feeling for the thing itself, so that the children feel what is really contained in a word, that they feel the inward “rolling.” Language must be inwardly experienced and not only thought out with the head. Today you mostly find that people only “think” language with their head. Therefore when they want to find the right word in translating from one language into another they take a dictionary. Here the words are so put together that you find “testa” or “Kopf” and people imagine that that is all the same. But it is not all the same. A different conception is expressed in each word, something that can only be expressed out of feeling. We must take this into account in language teaching. And another element comes in here, something which belongs to the spirit. When the human being dies, or before he comes down to earth, he has no possibility of understanding the so-called substantives, for example. Those whom we call the dead know nothing about substantives; they know nothing of the naming of objects, but they still have some knowledge of qualities, and it is therefore possible to communicate with the dead as regards qualities. But in the further course of the life after death that soon ceases also. What lasts longest is an understanding of verbs, words of action, active and passive expressions, and longest of all the expression of sensations: Oh! Ah! I (ee), E (eh); these interjectional expressions are preserved longest of all by the dead.
From this you can see how vital it is that if the human soul is not to become entirely un-spiritual it should have a living experience of interjections. All interjections are actually vowels. And the consonants, which as such are in any case very soon lost after death, and were not present before the descent to earth, are copies of the external world. This we should really experience in our feeling, be aware of it in the child, and see that we do not drive it out by giving lessons on nouns, adjectives and so on too early, but wait with these until the ninth or tenth year is reached.
From the first class of the Waldorf School upwards we have introduced Eurythmy, this visible speech in which, by carrying out certain movements either alone or in groups, man actually reveals himself just as he reveals himself through speech. Now if there is the right treatment in the language lessons, that is to say if the teacher does not ruin the child's feeling for language but rather cherishes it, then the child will feel the transition to Eurythmy to be a perfectly natural one, just as the very little child feels that learning to speak is also a perfectly natural process. You will not have the slightest difficulty in bringing Eurythmy to the children. If they are healthily developed children they will want it. You will always discover something that is pathologically wrong with children who do not wish to do Eurythmy. They want it as a matter of course, just as when they were quite little children they wanted to learn to speak, if all their organs were sound. That is because the child feels a very strong impulse to express his inward experiences as activities of will in his own body. This can be seen in the very early years when he begins to laugh and cry, and in the various ways in which feelings are expressed in the face.
It would have to be a very metaphorical way of speaking if you were to say that a dog or any other animal laughs. In any case it does not laugh in the same way as the human being does, neither does it cry in the same way. Indeed in the animal all gestures and movements which carry over inward experience into the element of will are quite different. There is a great difference between animal and man in this respect.
What is expressed in Eurythmy rests upon laws just as language does. Speaking is not an arbitrary thing. With a word like “water” for instance, you cannot put another vowel in place of the “a,” you cannot say “wuter,” or anything like that. Speech has laws, and so has Eurythmy. In the ordinary movements of the body man is in a sense free, although he also does many things out of a certain instinct. When he is cogitating about something, he puts his finger to his forehead; when he wants to show that something is not true, he shakes his head and his hand, extinguishing it, as it were. But Eurythmy leads inward and outward experiences over into ordered movements, just as speech leads an inward experience over into the sound: this is what Eurythmy is, and the child wants to learn it. For this reason the fact that Eurythmy is not yet taught in modern education proves that there is no thought of drawing forth the human faculties out of the very nature of man himself, for if you do that then you must come to Eurythmy in the natural course of things.
This will not mean any interference with Gymnastics, the teaching of physical exercises. This is something quite different, and the teacher and educator must recognise the difference. Gymnastics as taught today and all kinds of sport are something quite different from Eurythmy. You can quite well have both together. For the conception of space is very often considered in quite an abstract way, and people do not take into account that space is something concrete. For people have become so accustomed to think of the earth as round that when someone who lives in this part of the world makes a jump he says he jumps “up.” But when someone in the Antipodes, who has his legs down here and his head up there, jumps, he jumps “down” — or so we imagine. But this is not anything we can experience. I once read a book on Natural Philosophy where the author tried to ridicule the idea that the sky is above us by saying: Down there in the Antipodes the sky must be below! But the truth is far richer than that. We do not make judgments about the world and about space in such a way that we leave ourselves out of it altogether and simply consider space by itself as something abstract. There are certain philosophers who do this — Hume and Mill and Kant. But this is all untrue. It is really all nonsense. Space is something concrete of which man is sensible. He feels himself within space and he feels the necessity of finding his place in it; when he thus finds his way into the balance of space, into the different conditions of space, then Sport and Gymnastics arise. In these man is trying to find his own relationship to space.
If you do this gymnastic movement (arms outstretched), you have the feeling that you are bringing your two arms into a horizontal direction. If you jump you have the feeling that you are moving your body upwards by its own force. These are gymnastic exercises. But if you feel you are holding within you something which you are experiencing inwardly — the sound EE — and you reflect upon it, then you may make perhaps a similar movement, but in this case, the inner soul quality is expressed in the movement. Man reveals his inward self. That is what he does in Eurythmy, which is thus the revelation of the inner self. In Eurythmy there is expressed what man can experience in breathing and in the circulation of the blood, when they come into the realm of soul. In Gymnastics and in Sport man feels as though space were a framework filled with all sorts of lines and directions into which he springs and which he follows, and he makes his apparatus accordingly. He climbs a ladder or pulls himself up on a rope. Here man is acting in accordance with external space.
That is the difference between Gymnastics and Eurythmy. Eurythmy lets the soul life flow outwards and thereby becomes a real expression of the human being, like language; Eurythmy is visible speech.
By means of Gymnastics and Sport man fits himself into external space, adapts himself to the world, experiments to see whether he fits in with the world in this way or in that. That is not language, that is not a revelation of man, but rather a demand the world makes upon him that he should be fit for the world and be able to find his way into it. This difference must be noticed. It expresses itself in the fact that the Gymnastics teacher makes the children do movements whereby they may adapt themselves to the outside world. The Eurythmy teacher expresses what is in the inner being of man. We must feel this, we must be sensible of it. Then Eurythmy, Gymnastics, and Games too, if you like, will all take their right place in our teaching.
We will speak further of this tomorrow.