Remembering & Forgetting + the Twelve Senses

Here we are with Lecture Eight from The Foundations of Human Experience, the morning lecture which Steiner gave to the first Waldorf teachers on the morning of August 29, 1919. Two topics emerge: how to work with remembering and forgetting (hint: sleep), and the twelve senses.

First, Steiner’s ideas about remembering and forgetting. I think back to my post last Sunday about Healthy Sleep; what a coincidence! After reading this lecture, I see healthy sleep as even more important!

Steiner: “If we carefully observe what people lose through restless sleep, we can infer something about how the failure to bring forgetting into proper relationship with remembering disturbs all human soul life.” Steiner’s belief is that the states of awakening and sleeping are crucial to learning and correlate to the states of remembering and forgetting. He goes on to describe how we are more sensitive and things disturb us more the day after a poor night’s sleep!

The critical role that sleep plays in learning is one of Steiner’s unique contributions to the field of education and a cornerstone of Waldorf education. We present new material one day, allow the child to “sleep on it,” and then come back for a review the next day. In this lecture, Steiner is saying that we cannot teach a subject “in a single day,” rather, interest develops and awakens gradually.

Interest leads to a strong memory by making use of the rhythm of awakening and sleeping, remembering and forgetting. 

Steiner then discusses the twelve senses with his teachers. Education aims to awaken our relationship to the world, and this is achieved by teaching through the twelve senses. Steiner groups the senses into three groups according to thinking, feeling and willing.

Steiner's lectures to teachers at the Steiner Cafe

“Because we do have twelve senses, we have a large number of possible ways to reunite what has been separated…The twelve senses separate things into their basic elements, and the human being must be able to put them back together again…You can, therefore, understand how immensely important it is that we educate children and develop each of the senses in balance, since we can then systematically and consciously seek the relationships between the senses and perception.”

What does all this mean for us as homeschoolers? We want to plan and teach lessons in a two day rhythm to help strengthen interest and thus memory. And we want to develop all twelve senses in order to deepen our children’s relationship and connection to the world and each other.

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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