The three aspects of the human being – body, soul & spirit – have different forms, namely head, torso & limbs. Rudolf Steiner describes these three different aspects in lecture ten of the Teacher’s Seminar in 1919. And we can see where the signature line of Waldorf education – head, heart and hands – began to form.
“The head is only body. The chest is body toward the rear and soul toward the front. The limbs are set into the torso: the arms and legs, hands and feet, are developed for the will and are body, soul and spirit.”
Steiner makes a sketch of the human being like the drawing to the right. “We can view the human being as a gigantic sphere that encompasses the entire universe, then a smaller sphere and then a still smaller sphere…In this way the form of the human being is created out of the universe.“
Just like the Greek sculptors, we want to recognize that the head is shaped like a heavenly body and the limbs are like pieces of the entire cosmos. “The Greeks had a beautiful and harmonious picture of this.”
As teachers and homeschoolers, we aim to see the human form as it relates to the whole universe. We are always trying to remind ourselves of the bigger picture!
“Teachers will feel differently when they say to themselves that here is a human being from whom relationships extend out to the cosmos and that when I do my work with every one of these growing children, I do something that has meaning for the entire universe…Think to yourselves how alive this feels and what it means! Think about how the idea of the cosmos and its connections to the human being becomes a feeling that makes each act of teaching holy…Then you are one with the children. Pedagogy may not be a system, it must be an art.”
This is what Waldorf education gives us: an opportunity to teach the whole human being, to engage not only the thoughts but also the feelings and the will so that our children (and ourselves, by the way) can find their place in the universe.
And isn’t that a beautiful goal?
The Steiner Cafe is a place to explore and reflect on the lectures that Rudolf Steiner gave at the Teacher’s Seminar in 1919, the very first Waldorf teacher training. Each month here, we ponder one day of the seminar.
For reflections on previous lectures, check out The Steiner Cafe page.
These lectures are published in three books; the morning lectures in The Foundations of Human Experience; later morning lectures in Practical Advice to Teachers; and afternoon lectures in Discussions with Teachers. We invite you to pick up the books and read along.
If you prefer, you can read online at www.rsarchive.org, or listen at www.rudolfsteineraudio.com. Or, just meet us here each Thursday or Friday at The Steiner Cafe for some lively discussion. Lot’s of options! Hope you’ll join us.
What I beautiful, inspiring post. I absolutely LOVE the last quote. We can feel so invisible in this work – we needed to be reminded that is its indeed an art and moreover a COSMIC art at that! Thank you, I know how challenging it is to distill Steiner’s thought in this way and to make his wisdom applicable to our home schooling. You make it seem so effortless!
Great quote, isn’t it? They are so often buried and it definitely takes wading through his in-depth esoteric descriptions! Yes, to a cosmic art. I think it’s so helpful to remember that there is something bigger than ourselves, some greater purpose. Thanks for being here, my friend!
Oh wow. Thank you for keeping the light of this path right at the foreground. Too often, it is easy to get lost in homeschooling, get confused about Waldorf, and feel so little in this world. What a wonderful description that makes me feel like a bright light, nurturing the next generation of stars.
I love the image of us as bright lights, nurturing the next generation of stars! Thank you, Nicola.