Blind faith in authority

We live in an age of the most careless thinking and at the same time it is an age of the blindest trust in authority. People live to-day entirely under the impression that they must believe in, they must recognise authority, that they must have the sanction of outside powers. They desire a warrant for this or that. For the most part men do not consider to-day that it is an individual concern, that they will eventually have to take up the matter for themselves! So, they go to whom ‘right and law is bequeathed like a hereditary sickness’ and accept conclusions without weighing how those conclusions were reached; for they consider it right to accept authority blindly.

A man is ill — he takes not the least trouble to learn the simplest thing about the illness. Why should he? We have recognised and certified physicians whose business it is to look after our bodies; we need not trouble in the least about them!

If information on any subject be desired, people go to those who ought to know, to the theologian, to the philosopher, to this one or to that.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 165 – ON THE DUTY OF CLEAR, SOUND THINKING – Dornach, 1st January 1916

Previously posted on April 4, 2020


Terrible belief in authority more dreadful than medieval tyranny

We must especially beware of attending too much in any era to what emerges as authority. As long as we lack spiritual insight, this can seriously mislead us. This is particularly true in one area of human culture: the field of materialistic medicine. Here we can discern the decisive influence of authority, and the ever increasing claim to authority, which is in fact far, far more dreadful than any kind of medieval tyranny.

We find ourselves in the very midst of this tendency, which will keep increasing. People may mock the ghosts of medieval superstition, but we can ask if anything much has changed. Has this fear of ghosts faded? Aren’t people actually far more afraid of ghosts than they were back then? What happens in the human soul when people are told they carry 60,000 bacilli on their hands is far more terrible than generally acknowledged.

In America statistics have been calculated about how many such bacilli can be found on a man’s moustache. At least the ghosts of medieval times were, one might say, decent ghosts; but modern bacilli-ghosts are too minuscule to grapple with. The fear invoked by them is only just beginning, and leads, in health matters, to people succumbing to a really terrible belief in authority.

Source:  Rudolf Steiner – The Mission of the New Spirit Revelation – Mannheim, January 5, 1911 (p. 9)  This one is not in RS Archive.

Related posts:

Recommended books: Vaccination in the Work of Rudolf Steiner


Viral Illness an Epidemics in the work of Rudolf Steiner


Education / Morality / Authority

In this period of his life (between the change of teeth and puberty) one must work upon the child through speech. But whatever is to work upon him in this way must do so by means of an unquestioned authority. When I want to convey to the child some picture expressed through speech, I must do so with the assurance of authority. I must be the unquestioned authority for the child when through speech I want to conjure up before him some picture. 

Just as we must actually show the little child what we want him to do, so we must be the human pattern for the child between the change of teeth and puberty. In other words, there is no point whatever in giving reasons to a child of this age, in trying to make him see why we should do something or not do it, just because there are well-founded reasons for or against it. This passes over the child’s head. It is important to understand this. 

In exactly the same way as in the earliest years of life the child only observes the gesture, so between the change of teeth and puberty he only observes what I, as a human being, am in relation to himself. At this age the child must, for instance, learn about what is moral in such a way that he regards as good what the naturally accepted authority of the teacher, by means of speech, designates as good; he must regard as bad what this authority designates as bad. The child must learn: What my teacher, as my authority, does is good, what he does not do is bad. Relatively speaking then, the child feels: When my teacher says something is good, then it is good; and if he says something is bad, then it is bad.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 310 – Human Values in Education: Lecture III – Arnheim, 19th July, 1924


Imitation and Example / Discipleship and Authority

As for the first years of childhood Imitation and Example were, so to say, the magic words for education, so for the years of this second period (7-14 years) the magic words are Discipleship and Authority. What the child sees directly in his educators, with inner perception, must become for him authority — not an authority compelled by force, but one that he accepts naturally without question. By it he will build up his conscience, habits and inclinations; by it he will bring his temperament into an ordered path. He will look out upon the things of the world as it were through its eyes. Those beautiful words of the poet, ‘Every man must choose his hero, in whose footsteps he will tread as he carves out his path to the heights of Olympus,’ have especial meaning for this time of life. Veneration and reverence are forces whereby the etheric body grows in the right way. If it was impossible during these years to look up to another person with unbounded reverence, one will have to suffer for the loss throughout the whole of one’s later life. Where reverence is lacking, the living forces of the etheric body are stunted in their growth.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy


Judgment and authority

We can say that the actual carrier of human judgment, that force within the human that enables him or her to judge a given situation, is basically speaking only born when sexual maturity is reached and slowly matures from the 12th year onwards. When you know this and appreciate it, you are also aware of the responsibility you take on, when you let a child judge independently at too early an age. 

In this respect, the most disastrous prejudices are prevalent in our times: there is a preference to let the child get used to independent judgments as early as possible. We have said that we must focus on the child in such a way that he experiences the influence of an authority, that he accepts something because the authority working alongside him accepts it. When the child is used to this approach by the teacher or educator, and it accepts the truth because the educator represents the authority, we prepare the child in the right way, to exercise free, independent judgment later in life.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 301 – Die Erneuerung der pädagogisch -didaktischen Kunst durch Geisteswissenschaft – Basel, May 6, 1920 (bladzijde 169)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


Previously posted on August 15, 2020