Igniting the spirit

By Mathias Maurer, October 2020

Adolescence is a time of transition – it turns the world on its head in order to give birth to the “inner human being”. The impetus for action should come not from outside but from within the person. But everything of an intellectual nature, all “rigidified, objective science which encompasses what is dead” – as Steiner says – thrusts a “stake into the heart” of youthful vitality.

Anyone who attentively follows young people will notice that motifs of their life begin to appear, the first flashes of later vocations flare up, their imagination still floats on a cloud – these impulses seek connection and community. At the same time they unfold immense pleasure in making judgements and in argumentation and with their insistence on being right turn what we say upside down ...

From the perspective of Waldorf education, a judgement has to be founded in the whole human being. In other words: not until there has been thorough observation and perception and the latter has passed through the feeling, not until we can “hear” what others say that is different, are we in a position to form – not have – a judgement. Steiner even refers in this connection to the development of an educational sense the cultivation of which requires a great deal of sensitivity. Because a judgement cannot be separated from human experience but has to be individually ensouled, indeed be subject to the voice of the human conscience.

Why is there the threat of a kind of death of the soul here – when all we want to be is insightful and speak “reasonably” with one another? Reason understood as the sum of our judgements drives out what is alive when human beings can no longer experience their contact with events and their existence in freedom. Facing up to our prejudices means creating space, sensing our way forwards with our feeling and thinking, without preconceptions and affirming the future, wholly following our individual nature. That (still) lives in the forces of youth and youthfulness. They bring what is unexpected and authentic, what is new and different.

In Waldorf education, spirit does not mean something aloof, a rarefied atmosphere floating above things, but it desires to nourish the longing for the spirit in life, fire the soul, encourage brave deeds. Spirit is where thoughts ignite. It is this spirit that young people are looking for in particular – not habituated thinking, not a know-it-all attitude, not lecturing.


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