The Arts Engage the Will

The focus of this lecture on Day Three of the Teacher’s Seminar (given by Rudolf Steiner on August 23, 1919) is the formative quality of the arts. The arts engage a child’s whole being, “particularly his will life.”

Steiner divides everything artistic into “two streams” – the sculptural, pictorial and the musical, poetic. And even though these two streams are opposites, they are “capable of a higher synthesis.” And in this lecture, Steiner discusses drawing, sculpture and painting, music and poetry.

If you are actually reading Practical Advice to Teachers and are new to reading Steiner, you may find this slow-going! I admit that there are moments when I’m reading where I am overtaken by a sense of all the words – like cosmos and duality and mankind — and all the sentences seemingly running together until they read something like this: they are all working together gradually, calling forth the forms urgently needed for the proper relationship to the external world in today’s culture that finds particular expression in things we don’t yet understand!

Perhaps a lame parody on Steiner’s writing, but I hope you get the point! This is not easy reading. (If you wish to follow along but would prefer to listen to this lecture, you can listen to Lecture Three from Rudolf Steiner Audio Lecture Three.)

Here are some key quotes from this lecture:

  • “If you wish to be true educators you must be on your guard against making everything abstractly uniform.”
  • We want to raise things into awareness “without losing our naivety.”
  • “We should introduce the child to colours as early as possible and it is good to let him use coloured paints on coloured as well as white surfaces.” We want to let the child live in the world of colors, to feel the color.
    The Arts Engage the Will
  • “Education comes to life only if what is taken in is carried for a while in the depths and then brought back to the surface later.”
  • “The principle that is in force today, that one should teach the child only what it understands, is wrong.”
  • “Human beings are brought together as one (our social life) through music and poetry; they become individuals through sculpture and painting.”
  • “In the sculptural, pictorial realm we look at beauty, we live it, whereas in the musical realm we ourselves become beauty.”

Parts of this lecture that I love: we should allow all children to experience music, not just the musically talented ones. We don’t ever want to interpret poems line by line or abstractly explain them, we want to experience poetry! Recitation and music are linked. And in nature, we want to feel the beauty and save the analyzing of nature for indoors!

This is a great description of studying a beetle given by Steiner at the end of his lecture:

“The scientific description of a beetle belongs in the classroom! When we take the children out into the open we have to arouse in them delight at the sight of the beetle, delight in the way he runs about, in his drollness, delight in his relationship to the rest of nature.”

And as teachers, only when we work out of this place of wonder and beauty “can the right solemnity emerge so that teaching really becomes a kind of service to God, a consecrated service.”

 

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

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 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.

About Jean

Hi, I'm Jean. And I'm here to help you overcome the overwhelm!

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