As the butterfly soars up from the chrysalis, so after death the soul of man from the house of the body

It is of vast importance for the child that he should receive the secrets of Nature in parables, before they are brought before his soul in the form of ‘natural laws’ and the like. An example may serve to make this clear. Let us imagine that we want to tell a child of the immortality of the soul, of the coming forth of the soul from the body. The way to do this is to use a comparison, such for example as the comparison of the butterfly coming forth from the chrysalis. As the butterfly soars up from the chrysalis, so after death the soul of man from the house of the body. No man will rightly grasp the fact in intellectual concepts, who has not first received it in such a picture. By such a parable, we speak not merely to the intellect but to the feeling of the child, to all his soul. A child who has experienced this, will approach the subject with an altogether different mood of soul, when later it is taught him in the form of intellectual concepts. It is indeed a very serious matter for any man, if he was not first enabled to approach the problems of existence with his feeling. Thus it is essential that the educator have at his disposal parables for all the laws of Nature and secrets of the World.

Here we have an excellent opportunity to observe with what effect the spiritual knowledge of Anthroposophy must work in life and practice. When the teacher comes before a class of children, armed with parables he has ‘made up’ out of an intellectual materialistic mode of thought, he will as a rule make little impression upon them. For he has first to puzzle out the parables for himself with all his intellectual cleverness. Parables to which one has first had to condescend have no convincing effect on those who listen to them. For when one speaks in parable and picture, it is not only what is spoken and shown that works upon the hearer, but a fine spiritual stream passes from the one to the other, from him who gives to him who receives. If he who tells has not himself the warm feeling of belief in his parable, he will make no impression on the other. For real effectiveness, it is essential to believe in one’s parables as in absolute realities. And this can only be when one’s thought is alive with spiritual knowledge. Take for instance the parable of which we have been speaking. The true student of Anthroposophy need not torment himself to think it out. For him it is reality. In the coming forth of the butterfly from the chrysalis he sees at work on a lower level of being the very same process that is repeated, on a higher level and at a higher stage of development, in the coming forth of the soul from the body. He believes in it with his whole might; and this belief streams as it were unseen from speaker to hearer, carrying conviction. Life flows freely, unhindered, back and forth from teacher to pupil. But for this it is necessary that the teacher draw from the full fountain of spiritual knowledge. His words and all that comes from him must receive feeling, warmth and colour from a truly anthroposophic way of thought.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy – Essay 1907  

Translated by George and Mary Adams

Previously posted on April 30, 2016

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Maurice Maeterlinck – About Death

Recently a book was published which I can enthusiastically recommend, because it was written by a very intelligent man and proves what nonsense even intelligent people can say about spiritual things. I mean Maurice Maeterlinck’s Vom Tode (“About Death”). Among many nonsensical things, he affirms that when a person dies he is a spirit, and can no longer suffer because he has no physical body. Maeterlinck, a very intelligent man, suffers under the illusion that only the physical body can suffer and a dead person can therefore not suffer. He doesn’t notice the phenomenal, almost incredible nonsense it is to affirm that only the physical body, which consists of physical forces and chemical elements, can suffer. As if a stone could suffer! The physical body cannot suffer; it is the soul that suffers. It has come to the point where people think the opposite of what makes sense about the simplest things.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 148 – The Fifth Gospel: Lecture III – Oslo, Norway – October 3, 1913

Translated by Frank Thomas Smith

Previously posted on August 24, 2014

What is it that is not well in a mentally ill person?

What is unwell in a mentally ill person?  In the case of someone who is mentally ill it is the body that actually is sick; the body is unable to use the soul and the spirit in the right way. In the case of someone of whom it is said that he is mentally ill, it is always the physical body that in reality is ill; when the brain is not able to function in the right way it is understood that the person concerned will not be able to think normally. In the same way the feelings of a person with a sick liver cannot function in the normal way.

And so to call someone “spiritually ill” (in German it is called Geisteskrank) is actually the most incorrect expression to use. Someone, of whom it is said that he is mentally ill, actually suffers from a bodily ailment. The body is so ill, that the spirit, which is never ill, cannot be utilised in the right way.

Above all, you must clearly understand that the spirit is always healthy. Only the body can get sick in such a way that it cannot take hold of the spirit in the right way. If someone has an ailing brain it is the same as when someone uses a hammer that keeps on breaking when he uses it. If I call someone who does not have a hammer lazy and tells him he is incapable to function as a woodworker, it goes without saying that I am talking nonsense. He might be able to function as a woodworker if he had a hammer at his disposal. In the same way it is utter nonsense to say that someone is mentally ill. The spirit is perfectly healthy, but his body, his tool, lets him down.


Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 350 – VORTRÄGE FÜR DIE ARBEITER AM GOETHEANUMBAU – Dornach, 28th June 1923 (page 144-145)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on July 6, 2015

Present-day knowledge considers only the outside

In relation to obtaining knowledge of the human being nowadays, it must be said, that it is as if people attempt to understand how a watch works, by only looking at it from the outside. One can learn how it indicates time by looking at it, one can also get to know whether it is made of gold or silver, but one cannot become a watchmaker by observing it from the outside. What we currently call biology, physiology or anatomy, is still only knowledge obtained by way of observing the human being from the outside. A true understanding of human nature will only arise through observing body, soul and spirit. And only then can the human being be treated according to knowledge of body, soul and spirit.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens -Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, January 2,  1922 (page 199)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on August 1, 2017

The theories are very ingenious and astute, but cannot grasp reality

These days human beings speak of the soul and the spirit, for sure; they speak of the body and its physical qualities. And then great philosophies on the relationship between soul and body are engendered. There exist comprehensive theories by the cleverest people. The theories are ingenious, very perceptive, but they cannot grasp reality, for the simple reason that the only way to grasp reality is when the whole human being, the all-inclusive human being, can be seen in direct perception, when the interweaving activity of both the spiritual-psychic and corporal-physical is considered. And the person who truly contemplates contemporary perceptions grasped by humanity, will likewise discover how grey and hazy both outer and inner human knowledge is.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens – Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, 28 December 1921 (page 102-103)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on June 21, 2017