Day Seven in Steiner’s teacher training is really all about middle age. A time of soul development. 

 “If you observe a newborn child…you will get a picture of the human body. However, you will have a complete picture of the human body only when you relate to human middle age and old age.” From Day Seven of The Foundations of Human Experience.

The Foundations of Human Experience

There are many sets of stages in Steiner’s writing on the human being. In childhood, there are the first seven years, ages 7-14, and ages 14-21. But Steiner also wrote of stages of development over the course of our lifetimes and this lecture can be read two ways – as it applies to teaching our children and as it applies to where we are in our own development as their parents and teachers.

“In the child, willing and feeling are grown together…With elderly people…thinking cognition and feeling are grown together.” So in middle adulthood, which is where we all are as parents, we are smack dab in the middle of the middle phase. The space in between. The place of intense feeling.

Here is the in between: “The feeling will of the child develops into the feeling thinking of an older person, and between these two lies human life.”

This is right where our elementary-age children are, too, in terms of the three phases of child development. In the world of feeling right between the world of movement and imitation of the young child below age seven, and the world of cognitive awakening experienced by the child around age 14 and beyond.

In that space in between, we are all just swimming in the pure feeling life. 

“Why do we listen to older people when they tell us about their life experiences?…They do not tell of theories, they tell us about the feelings they have joined to ideas and concepts. From elderly who have really connected their feeling with thinking cognition, concepts and ideas sound warm, they sound saturated with reality, they are concrete, personal.”

Steiner says that from the spiritual perspective, “we can see the human being as sleeping on the surface and deep within, and, during life between birth and death, able to be fully awake only in the space between.” 

So for us as parents: middle age is the space in between when our feelings are detaching from our will lives. At some point, our feeling lives will attach to our cognitive thinking. But for now, we just get to feel the feelings. At a time when we are fully awake.

How does this help in our approach to teaching our children? They cannot really understand abstract principles unless they connect to their feeling life, to people and characters they care about. SO, it comes back to teaching through story and allowing the story to go to sleep and be reawakened again. Cycles of sleeping and wakefulness can help us in our teaching and in our understanding of personal development.

“You learn something. You learn it such that it enters your consciousness. During the time you are concerned with it and when you think about it, it is in your consciousness. Then, your life goes on to something else. Something else gains your interest and takes your attention. What happens now to what you learned before, to the object of your previous concern? It begins to go to sleep, and when you again recall it, it awakens.”

Here is one of my life-can-be-hard mantras: 

The only way around is through

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. 

To read 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, or listen at 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.

Reflections on Steiner's lectures to teachers at the Steiner Cafe

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  1. Jean, I have been reading, but not commenting. When I was on my trip last weekend, I spent time pondering this post. I also loved the image of you standing in the middle of your living room getting centered! Best, Rachel

    1. Thanks so much Rachel. Sometimes we need to let it all sink in! I’ve been doing a simple yoga pose for posture check, and also doing some calf stretches. So simple. And there was a time I would have thought this a waste of time! But all it really takes is a few minutes and if I really focus in the moment, I feel so different afterward. Who would have thought?!?

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