Letter to Hermann Olpp   

In the book Letters by Rudolf Steiner, there is a letter to a certain Hermann Olpp. But unfortunately, who he was is not known. At the back of the book, it only says that he lived from 1897 to 1955, was an economic and fiscal consultant in Stuttgart and became a member of the Anthroposophical Association in 1916. What exactly he wrote to Steiner is also unknown because that letter is not in the book and probably was not preserved. From Steiner’s reply letter, however, one can see that Olpp worked in some occupation that he felt very unhappy about and did not like.   

On July 24, 1916, Steiner wrote to him:   

Dear Sir,  

It isn’t easy to advise on matters such as yours. If you stay in the position you have now for some time, you will be able to stand on your own two feet and move in a direction that better suits your talents and preferences later on. I cannot share the view that one should feel uneasy with such a livelihood. On the contrary, it is precisely from such a position that someone can develop further. If you look at your current work in a broader sense, you can say that you are not only doing something to develop your capabilities but also something that benefits other people. And it is precisely this realization that gives gratification. Many duties do not directly bring satisfaction through their content; their purpose is to perform something in the service of humanity. If you later acquire some savings with this occupation, you will indeed find an opportunity to find something that suits you. In these challenging times, it does not seem right to me to prepare for the future with borrowed money. I hope you will forgive me for saying this so bluntly. It seems to me that your father’s feelings about the matter are accurate. I can speak from my own experience. I had to stand on my own two feet early on and have done so for a long time as a private teacher. I can say that your current position would not have been less pleasant to me at the time than the job I had, whereby, after all, the concern remains whether one finds something again in due course. I must travel now; therefore, I can summarize my judgment only in these few lines.   

With warm regards,

Dr Rudolf Steiner

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 39 – BRIEFE BAND II 1890-1925 – number 631 (page 465-466)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


Steiner as an educator and home teacher (3 of 3)

My young charge was successfully guided through the Gymnasium; I continued with him even to the Unter-Prima. By that time he had made such progress that he no longer needed me. After completing the Gymnasium he entered the school of medicine, became a physician, and in this capacity he was later a victim of the World War. The mother, who had become a true friend of mine because of what I had done for her boy, and who clung to this child of sorrow with the most devoted love, soon followed him in death. The father had already gone from this world.

A good portion of my youthful life was bound up with the task which had grown so close to me. For a number of years I went during the summer with the family of the children whom I had to tutor to the Attersee in the Salzkammergut, and there became familiar with the noble Alpine nature of Upper Austria. I was gradually able to eliminate the private lessons I had continued to give to others even after beginning this tutoring, and thus I had time left for prosecuting my own studies.

In the life I led before coming into this family I had little opportunity for sharing in the play of children. In this way it came about that my “play-time” came after my twentieth year. I had then to learn also how to play, for I had to direct the play, and this I did with great enjoyment. To be sure, I think I have not played any less in my life than other men. Only in my case what is usually done in this direction before the tenth year I repeated from the twenty-third to the twenty-eighth year.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 28 – The Story of My Life – Chapter VI


Pauline Specht – Mother of Otto

Previously posted on April 30, 2018

Steiner as an educator and home teacher (2 of 3)

This educational task became to me the source from which I myself learned very much. Through the method of instruction which I had to apply there was laid open to my view the association between the spiritual-mental and the bodily in man. Then I went through my real course of study in physiology and psychology. I became aware that teaching and instructing must become an art having its foundation in a genuine understanding of man. I had to follow out with great care an economic principle. I frequently had to spend two hours in preparing for half an hour of instruction in order to get the material for instruction in such a form that in the least time, and with the least strain upon the mental and physical powers of the child, I might reach his highest capacity for achievement. The order of the subjects of instruction had to be carefully considered; the division of the entire day into periods had to be properly determined. I had the satisfaction of seeing the child in the course of two years accomplish the work of the Volkschule, and successfully pass the examination for entrance to the Gymnasium. Moreover, his physical condition had materially improved. The hydrocephalic condition was markedly diminishing. I was able to advise the parents to send the child to a public school. It seemed to me necessary that he should find his vital development in company with other children. I continued to be a tutor for several years in the family, and gave special attention to this boy, who was always guided to make his way through the school in such a way that his home activities should be carried through in the spirit in which they were begun. I then had the inducement, in the way I have already mentioned, to increase my knowledge of Latin and Greek, for I was responsible for the tutoring of this boy and another in this family for the Gymnasium lessons.

I must needs feel grateful to Fate for having brought me into such a life relationship. For through this means I developed in vital fashion a knowledge of the being of man which I do not believe could have been developed by me so vitally in any other way. Moreover, I was taken into the family in an extraordinarily affectionate way; we came to live a beautiful life in common. The father of these boys was a sales-agent for Indian and American cotton. I was thus able to get a glimpse of the working of business, and of much that is connected with this. Moreover, through this I learned a great deal. I had an inside view of the conduct of a branch of an unusually interesting import business, and could observe the intercourse between business friends and the interlinking of many commercial and industrial activities.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 28 – The Story of My Life – Chapter VI


Otto, Richard and Arthur Specht

Previously posted on April 29, 2018

Steiner as an educator and home teacher (1 of 3)

In the field of pedagogy fate gave me an unusual task. I was employed as tutor in a family where there were four boys. To three I had to give only the preparatory instruction for the Volkschule and then assistance in the work of the Mittelschule. The fourth (Otto Specht), who was almost ten years old, was at first entrusted to me for all his education. He was the child of sorrow to his parents, especially to his mother. When I went to live in the home, he had scarcely learned the most rudimentary elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. He was considered so subnormal in his physical and mental development that the family had doubts as to his capacity for being educated. His thinking was slow and dull. Even the slightest mental exertion caused a headache, lowering of vital functions, pallor, and alarming mental symptoms. After I had come to know the child, I formed the opinion that the sort of education required by such a bodily and mental organism must be one that would awaken the sleeping faculties, and I proposed to the parents that they should leave the child’s training to me. The mother had enough confidence to accept this proposal, and I was thus able to set myself this unusual educational task.

I had to find access to a soul which was, as it were, in a sleeping state, and which must gradually be enabled to gain the mastery over the bodily manifestations. In a certain sense one had first to draw the soul within the body. I was thoroughly convinced that the boy really had great mental capacities, though they were then buried. This made my task a profoundly satisfying one. I was soon able to bring the child into a loving dependence upon me. This condition caused the mere intercourse between us to awaken his sleeping faculties of soul. For his instruction I had to feel my way to special methods. Every fifteen minutes beyond a certain time allotted to instruction caused injury to his health. To many subjects of instruction the boy had great difficulty in relating himself.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 28 – The Story of My Life – Chapter VI


Otto Specht

Previously posted on April 28, 2018