Course WC1 5
The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy - Part 1
Rudolf Steiner published "The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" in 1907.
In this publication Steiner presented the basis of the educational approach that later would become the foundation of what is today known as Waldorf Education, and has been developed from the beginnings of the first Waldorf School founded by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 to being today a worldwide movement that has established itself all over thee world as the most innovative and dynamic educational movement in our modern time.
In "The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" Steiner developed first the basic ideas that later became the cornerstones of this new form of education. Steiner addresses the nurture versus nature and the clash of cultures and worldviews surrounding this theme from a spiritual point of view. Steiner presented the basic concepts of the essential nature of the human being in body, soul and spirit, and Steiner discusses the physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego. Steiner presents the background to what is truly age appropriate education with the idea that the child in growing up recapitulates the development of consciousness of humanity while going through stages or phases of incarnation. Steiner outlines the differing educational approaches necessary to teach children during early childhood, during the grade school years, during high school and during later life as an adult.
Study Material for this Lesson WC1 5 1.5.
"The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" by Rudolf Steiner (Section 5)
From what has been said, it is clear that we may speak of four members of man's nature: the Physical Body, the Etheric or Life-Body, the Astral or Sentient Body, and the Body of the Ego. The Sentient Soul, the Intellectual Soul, and the Spiritual Soul, and beyond these the still higher members of man's nature — Spirit-Self, Life-Self, Spirit-Man — appear in connection with these four members as products of transformation. Speaking of the vehicles of the qualities of man, it is in fact the first four members only which come into account. It is on these four members of the human being that the educator works. Hence, if we desire to work in the right way, we must investigate the nature of these parts of man. It must not be imagined that they develop uniformly in the human being, so that at any given point in his life — the moment of birth, for example — they are all equally far developed. This is not the case; their development takes place differently in the different ages of a man's life. The right foundation for education, and for teaching also, consists in a knowledge of these laws of development of human nature.
Before physical birth, the growing human being is surrounded on all sides by the physical body of another. He does not come into independent contact with the physical world. The physical body of his mother is his environment, and this body alone can work upon him as he grows and ripens. Physical birth indeed consists in this, that the physical mother-body, which has been as a protecting sheath, sets the human being free, thus enabling the environment of the physical world thenceforward to work upon him directly. His senses open to the external world, and the external world thereby gains that influence on the human being which was previously exercised by the physical envelope of the mother-body.
A spiritual understanding of the world, as represented by Anthroposophy, sees in this process the birth of the physical body, but not as yet of the etheric or life-body. Even as man is surrounded, until the moment of birth, by the physical envelope of the mother-body, so until the time of the change of teeth — until about the seventh year — he is surrounded by an etheric envelope and by an astral envelope. It is only during the change of teeth that the etheric envelope liberates the etheric body. And an astral envelope remains until the time of puberty, when the astral or sentient body also becomes free on all sides, even as the physical body became free at physical birth and the etheric body at the change of teeth. (See Footnote 5)
Thus, Anthroposophical Science has to speak of three births of the human being. Until the change of teeth, certain impressions intended for the etheric body can as little reach it as the light and air of the physical world can reach the physical body so long as this latter is resting in the mother's womb.
Before the change of teeth takes place, the free life-body is not yet at work in man. As in the body of the mother the physical body receives forces which are not its own, while at the same time it gradually develops its own forces within the protecting sheath of the mother's womb, so it is with the forces of growth until the change of teeth. During this first period the etheric body is only developing and moulding its own forces, conjointly with those — not its own — which it has inherited. Now while the etheric body is thus working its way into liberation, the physical body is already independent. The etheric body, as it liberates itself, develops and works out what it has to give to the physical body. The ‘second teeth,’ i.e. the human being's own teeth, taking the place of those which he inherited, represent the culmination of this work. They are the densest things embedded in the physical body, and hence they appear last, at the end of this period.
From this point onward, the growth of man's physical body is brought about by his own etheric body alone. But this etheric body is still under the influence of an astral body which has not yet escaped from its protecting sheath. At the moment when the astral body too becomes free, the etheric body concludes another period of its development; and this conclusion finds expression in puberty. The organs of reproduction become independent because from this time onward the astral body is free, no longer working inwards, but openly and without integument meeting the external world.
Now just as the physical influences of the external world cannot be brought to bear on the yet unborn child — so until the change of teeth one should not bring to bear on the etheric body those forces which are, for it, what the impressions of the physical environment are for the physical body. And in the astral body the corresponding influences should not be given play until after puberty.
To raise the objection that the child has memory and so forth before the change of teeth, or that he has the faculties connected with the astral body before puberty, would argue a misunderstanding of this passage. We must clearly understand that the etheric body, and the astral body too, are present from the beginning, only that they are within their protecting envelopes. It is, indeed, the protecting envelope which enables the etheric body, for example, to evolve and manifest the qualities of memory very evidently before the change of teeth. But the physical eyes, too, are already present before birth, beneath the protecting envelope of the mother's womb. In the embryo the eyes are protected, and the external physical sunlight must not work upon their development. In exactly the same sense, external education must not endeavour to effect a training, or influence the moulding, of the memory before the change of teeth. If, however, we simply give it nourishment and do not try as yet to develop it by external measures, we shall see how the memory unfolds in this period, freely and of its own accord.
It is the same with those qualities of which the astral body is the bearer. Before the age of puberty one must supply them with nourishment, always bearing in mind, however, that the astral body, as explained above, still lies beneath a protecting envelope. It is one thing before puberty to nurture the seeds of development already inherent in the astral body; it is another thing after puberty to expose the now independent astral body to those influences in the outer world which it can receive and work upon, unprotected by the surrounding envelope. The distinction is certainly a subtle one; but without entering into it one cannot understand what education really is.
The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy - Part 1
Lesson 1: Introduction
Lesson 2: Physical Body and Etheric Body
Lesson 3: Astral Body and Ego
Lesson 4: Ego and Conscience
Lesson 5: The Three Births
The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy - Part 2
Lesson 1: Waldorf Education for Early Childhood and Kindergarten
Lesson 2: Waldorf Education for Elementary School
Lesson 3: Waldorf Education for High School
Lesson 4: The Soul Faculties of Willing, Feeling and Thinking
Lesson 5: The Anthroposophical Spiritual Impulse
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