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 7 september 2018