Learning and Life Rhythms
Education has often been considered in a somewhat restricted fashion. Here I would like to point to education and particularly the learning process in relationship to the rhythms of life. In order to do this it may be helpful to lay out the spectrum of life, and then speak to education. In order to focus our discussion, our consideration, I’d like to suggest that we rather seriously contemplate what Goethe indicated and Rudolf Steiner quoted again and again. This is that the first 35 years of life man experiences; only after that does he begin to learn. This casts our consideration of learning into a whole picture of life.
If we begin with the periods of life, we can speak to nine 7 year periods. The first period is 1 to 7, we say the physical organization is unfolding. The period between 7 and 14 the etheric is born and develops. Between 14 and 21 the human astral organization is born and has to begin to form itself into a heart organization. Between 21 and 28 a sentient-soul unfolds with a great sensitivity. Between 28 and 35 the intellectual-soul appears. And from 35 to 42 a consciousness-soul element becomes evident. Between 42 and 49 spirit-self begins to show its metamorphosis of the astral. The life-spirit emerges as it metamorphoses the etheric between 49 and 56. Finally spirit-man as a transformation of the physical evidences itself between 56 and 63. After 7 score years, after 70, Rudolf Steiner indicates that actually man no longer then lives out of his organization as a human being but by the grace of gods. The force systems that support man then are cosmic and no longer belong to the course of humanness through the course of the ages. We can say that angel-like force systems have to penetrate into life after that age. Man then exists more like an angel being than as a human being. This may be difficult to see but some contemplation might be given to it.
Let’s for the moment now focus on the age between 21 and 42. This is a period in which the ego organization involves the soul differentiating itself into sentient-soul, intellectual-soul and consciousness-soul. We can also say that it’s the Sun period. If we want to typify the evolution of the sentient soul, it may be very well to consider what Rudolf Steiner has done to reveal this period. It’s not always so clear to us, it’s not always so well indicated, and therefore I like to look to the life of Rudolf Steiner in order to get some indication of how we might grasp this period. It’s at this time that he gave forth his Theory of Knowledge. It’s the period I would like to think is one where the human soul is in fact touched, is very sensitive to, is very sentient about the knowledge process itself. The coming to know, the researching of how the human soul knows, is at this time one of the most sensitive elements that the human being has in the depths of his inwardness.
To be sure many show no such evidences of this depth of sensitivity, but the great sensitivity of the human being to his own reaction to the world is extremely evident. Many a soul withdraws from the world in a kind of sensitive sentimentality about himself, when it’s just the time this could be mastered, looked into, if this same sensitivity is looked at as a basis for coming to know something. This becomes a very appropriate time for the research in to the coming to know, the research into man’s relationship to the world, the looking at the great sensitivity of the human soul which becomes the knower. This is an age when there is almost a maximum sensitivity to the experiences of knowledge.
We look to the next stage, the intellectual-soul. It’s a time when knowledge does not so much need to be focused on, as much as the inwardness that’s connected with knowing. The human faculty of intellectual activity and reasoning activity can be brought to the fore. The use of thinking to serve intellect and reason can be researched and penetrated into its great depth. Thinking can become an expression of the inwardness of the depth of the human ego in its spirituality. The research into thinking Rudolf Steiner has portrayed in his book Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. There’s hardly a deeper treatise existing in mankind’s work that has researched the activity of the spirit, the activity of the human ego in the thinking process. To be true, the thinking that is portrayed there is in the case of Rudolf Steiner evolved to its depth and its greatest intensity. At the same time in this treatise one will find many other forms of thinking activity portrayed. We can say that this is almost like the core time of human life, the greatest intensification of the depths of inwardness that then can be brought into activity. And in the case of activity it can be trained to a certain degree of selflessness by looking to thinking which has to be able to take on idea content, on the one side personal in thinking, but on the other side exceedingly universal. This permits the intensity of the inward depths to be brought totally in connection with the world of idea, which wafts and weaves and is intuited in the souls of all who become deep thinkers. We can indicate for those who consider this thinking to be without any heart, that it’s actually a depth that penetrates to the thinking of the human heart. It’s the thinking that lives in relationship to the world, lives in relationship to one another, it’s the deepest type of social thinking that brings the human spirit into relation to all else that exists.
If we now pass on to the consciousness-soul period, the age between 35 and 42, the sensitivity of knowledge, the inwardness of thinking is transformed to the openness to what exists in the world as object. The object not only is physical object, but an object as evidence of spirituality and a revelation as to how the spirit can live in the objective world. Object consciousness unfolds out of an inward thought relationship with the world, and the great sensitivity that the human soul can have to this object world. This dealing with the object world, the phenomenological expression of the world, is pursued by Rudolf Steiner in his dealing with Goethe. We can also say that he tried in another way to do it in his consideration about the world that is expressed in his treatise called Theosophy. It’s the wisdom of God that has to be revealed in the world around us in the age of the consciousness-soul.
Now if we look to education, we realize in the first 7 years that imitation, the role of the family is important, the second 7 years the development of memory permitting the human being to go through all the cultural history of man. And finally in high school, in the period that then goes into early college, the human being tries to establish his present relationship with the world having reviewed what has gone before. This is all worked out in Waldorf education. What is not so well worked out is what has to be done between the ages of 21 and 28. Many souls begin to go into the world, and can’t quite find what they are looking for, whose great sensitivities are not nourished, whose endless experiences need to be sustained by the world that has not only physical reality but also soul and spirituality. This sensitivity for soul and spirituality of the world has to somewhere be fostered in these types of experience. It’s for this reason that often serving other human beings, coming in contact with other human beings, sensing their sensitivity, is a great nourishment for the soul between 21 and 28. At the same time each person needs to be able to wrestle out in a knowledgeable experience that these experiences actually are sustaining and important.
The next stage of the inwardness of the human being in midlife is very important in so far as a kind of ego fulcrum has to be brought out, and I would say experienced. All of this to midlife is then an anchoring of the individual who then can begin to learn what’s actually happening. The learning process can only develop after the human organization is complete. The human organism generally is not complete until the very beginning of the thirties or the end of the twenties. This final completion of the human organization then sustains the human being in the many experiences that he has. What is given out of the educational process gives him experiences as well. The uniting of the organismic experiences and the educational experiences can flow together to create a kind of a unity that then has to be lifted into the ego itself in order that a true learning can occur. This happens when slowly the human ether organization can begin to withdraw from various organs and the organism of the human being, to become the basis for a whole new and real learning process.
This is why it is so important to have the end of life in the presence of those who begin to step over the age of 30 where another world, an etheric world, becomes available to the human being out of his organization. This giving over of life to the human soul cannot be done merely by living. Those who seek knowledge, the knowledge process, the thinking process and the object consciousness process, actually begin a very slow withdrawal of the etheric organization earlier in life so that they are well sustained in their ego and can learn as further life evolves, less dependent on the human organism.
A little more might be said about the withdrawal of what has formed the organization to come to serve the soul. This is the whole process that I’ve tried to depict as the mystery process that permits an individual to come to freedom. It’s actually through the Aristotelian stream that we have souls trying to grasp that which first is life, forms the human organization, then is withdrawn from the human organization in order that new actual learning processes can occur. And it’s not the human living organization that sustains the soul. Real learning by this method means that the human ego develops its own organization consciously by using formative forces that at one point form the organization, but now come to serve as formative, etheric organs for the learning process. Learning thereby becomes totally related to the ego, and much less related to the organization which the individual has inherited.
If we look at life we can see that some are almost never able to rise above their human organization. They live continually experiencing throughout life. We also see the opposite extreme of those who rush into the future, try to withdraw the life processes from the human organization, and establish themselves almost too early in the etheric world, permitting their organization to dwindle away. It’s a rectification of these two tendencies, looking back too much or swelling into the future too much, that has to be handled if we are to find a proper rhythm and a proper learning process, a proper educative process depending on what phase of life a human being is in. It perhaps should be best considered that we all have a tendency to one extreme or another, and it’s only by holding a kind of archetype of life that it’s possible for us to follow a healthy unfolding out of experience and into learning. One of the great problems we have is those who want to remain eternal students continually experiencing the childhood educational methodology. And there are those who go to the other extreme, wanting to throw the educational activities out the window, rush into the vocational, and have all their experience out of vocational activities, which in fact should lay the basis for true learning. But individuals who do so often do not have the organs necessary. They are not anchored in the ego.
From all of this we see the necessity then for a human being to have some appreciation of the unfolding of the human organism, the liberating of the etheric forces after age 35, and the proper educative method suited to healing and bringing about a proper rhythm in the life of man, a proper rhythm in relationship to learning and education. This activity of being able to deal with the etheric that is liberated from the human organization, from the human organism, Rudolf Steiner has called the art of education. This is not something that belongs solely to the schoolteacher, it belongs to all mankind. It belongs to all those who are alive, all those who are full of experience, need to learn, need to pass from early life into later life, and need to find an art of education so that their spirit can be grounded in a real evolving, ever enlivening etheric organization.