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educational plan entirely on his cosmic spiritualistic anthropology: If we wish to detect the essence of the growing individual, we must set out from a consideration of the hidden nature of man as such. 16

For the Goethean Steiner, man is a microcosm in which all the forces or ideas that determine the maturing phases of nature are manifested. The development of the child and adolescent is understood as a process of growth and metamorphosis in which the vegetative, animal and intellectual cosmic forces develop in successive phases. In Steiner’s scheme of things, the drama of crisis, transformation and rebirth is revealed in the changing manifestations of the child, following the cosmic rhythm of seven-year periods.

At the end of the first seven years, the structure of the child’s organism has been completed by the ethereal forces of growth from the tips of the toes to the new teeth. These physical growth forces are now born, i.e. they are metamorphosed into forces of learning; the child develops its inner senses and is ready for school.

In the second seven-year period, astral spiritual forces that are still hidden shape the world of drives, passions, and feelings. These astral forces are liberated at sexual maturity and transformed into abilities of conceptual thinking and human judgement. They help the hidden ego forces to attain intellectual and social maturity that is achieved with the birth of the individual personality at the end of the third period of seven years. In this perspective, Steiner therefore understands development in the platonic sense as a strictly successive process of upward movement. First the outer senses are formed by active imitation, and then the inner senses are formed by imitative imagination. Following this, the categories of reason are developed through personal thought, while the ideas of the universe are finally reflected in the individual personality.

Steiner as a theosophist sees the educational development of the child as something resembling a process of reincarnation. An eternal spiritual ego moves down into a new body and shapes it—in a seven-year cycle—from the head via the heart to the hands. When the third seven-year period begins, this spiritual ego will have taken over the whole body down to its extremities. The spiritualization of the soul and conceptual world can now begin.

The concepts of development and personality are the two cornerstones of Steiner’s educational theory of man. His personality concept also stands in opposition to contemporary psychological research that followed an empirical trend: against the background of his spiritual world-view, he joins forces once again with the old European doctrine of the four temperaments. The unique character of an individual human being must be capable of clear definition by one of the four types of humor defined by Galen: melancholic, phlegmatic, choleric and sanguine. Each of these four temperaments represents a total psycho-physical type recognized psychologically by the kinds of stimuli to which the individual is most receptive and physically by the shape of the body. Steiner believed that a particular temperament is shaped by the dominance of one of the four cosmic forces (physical, ethereal, astral, spiritual) in the process of reincarnation.17 One important task for education is therefore to harmonize and balance out the biased tendencies of the temperament.

In short, Rudolf Steiner’s concept of education has neither an ethical-philosophical foundation (as was the case with Kant and Herbart) nor a socio-cultural dimension (as in Durkheim and Dewey) and also no empirical psychological origin (as in Claparède and Montessori). It is deduced from anthroposophical neo- mythology and has a metaphoric character. In the light of his interpretation of the microcosm, education takes the form of growth and metamorphosis—the educator is a gardener and a person who moulds others. From a belief in reincarnation stems the image of education as an aid to incarnation and spiritual awakening—the educator becomes a priest and a leader of people’s souls. The theory of the four temperaments leads on to the educational task of harmonization—the educator then being understood as a master of the healing art. With these organological metaphors of leaving the child to grow and to heal, and with the religious metaphor of awakening with these vérités à faire, Steiner built the levers that are still being actuated by teachers and educators in his schools and kindergartens today.

The physiognomy of the New Education

For a decade, Steiner’s ideas on education remained no more than abstract rhetoric. It was not until the year of the German Revolution in 1919, at the height of the international movement in favor of a New Education, that


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