It is only when we have the right conception of man’s life as a connected whole that we come to realise how different from each other the various ages are. The child is a very different being before shedding its first teeth from what it becomes afterwards. Of course, you must not interpret this in crudely formed judgments, but if we are capable of making finer distinctions in life, we can observe that the child is quite different before and after the change of teeth.
Before the change of teeth we can still see quite clearly at work the effects of the child’s habits of life before birth or conception, in its pre-earthly existence in the spiritual world. The body of the child acts almost as though it were spirit, for the spirit which has descended from the spiritual world is still fully active in a child in the first seven years of its life. You will say: A fine sort of spirit! It has become quite boisterous; for the child is rampageous, awkward and incompetent. Is all this to be attributed to the spirit belonging to his pre-earthly life? Well, my dear friends, suppose all you clever and well-brought-up people were suddenly condemned to remain always in a room having a temperature of 144° Fahrenheit? You couldn’t do it! It is even harder for the spirit of the child, which has descended from the spiritual worlds, to accustom itself to earthly conditions. The spirit, suddenly transported into a completely different world, with the new experience of having a body to carry about, acts as we see the child act. Yet if you know how to observe and note how each day, each week, each month, the indefinite features of the face become more definite, the awkward movements become less clumsy and the child gradually accustoms himself to his surroundings, then you will realise that it is the spirit from the pre-earthly world which is endeavouring to make the child’s body gradually more like itself. We shall understand why the child is as he is, if we observe him in this way, and we shall also understand that it is the descended spirit which is acting as we see it within the child’s body.
Therefore for one who is initiated into the mysteries of the spirit there is nothing that can fill him with such wonder and delight as to observe a little child. In so doing one learns not of the earth, but of heaven; and this not only in the so-called “good children.” In their case, as a rule, the bodies have already become heavy, even in infancy. The spirit cannot properly take hold of the body; such children are quiet; they do not scream and rush about, they sit still and make no noise. The spirit is not active within them, because their bodies offer such resistance. It is very often the case that the bodies of the so-called good children offer resistance to the spirit.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 311 – The Kingdom of Childhood: Lecture 1 – Torquay, 12th August 1924
Translated by Helen Fox