“What is a human being?”
What is a man? (Meaning, “a human being?”)
How does a child become a fully realized adult? How do we support that process?
How do we become a truly free society of fully-realized adults?
How does humanity reach its collective potential and evolve in a productive and positive way?
How can we educate children without really knowing for ourselves what a human being is? It is through this quest for understanding that we can make wise choices in directing all of our human affairs and activities. Redesigning education or designing new forms of schools and other societal structures cannot effectively begin without a clear picture of the human being.
These bigger, cosmic questions are the primary themes of Rudolf Steiner’s work. I was fortunate to encounter his lectures and writings while teaching in a developing Waldorf school and then becoming a Waldorf-certified teacher. To summarize what I may, a human being can be viewed as both 3-fold and 4- fold and THESE ideas Steiner based on COSMIC WISDOM, an understanding of the planetary cycles and knowledge of the fixed stars, the zodiac.
STEINER’s 3 FOLD VIEW consists of THINKING, FEELING, and WILLING, or, if you prefer, head, heart, and hands, which he outlined with corresponding and distinct stages of human physical and spiritual development.
We don’t come into the world with all of our powers of thinking ready and available to us at birth. A pony is able to stand moments after birth, but humans, the thinkers of the animal world, do not automatically think right out of the womb. It takes many long years for powers of human thinking to develop and mature. Humans develop these three realms in distinct SEVEN YEAR STAGES and this is important to the thought about how to EDUCATE a child. Again, these stages are based on the planetary cycles. (For further reading, visit Rudolf Steiner Archives.)
From ages 0-7, we are developing our WILL, or the use of our hands, our limbs, and the ability to exercise our intent to “do,” “to act,” “to create,” out of our own volition.
From ages 7-14, we are developing our FEELING, or the ability to make meaning out of what lives in our mood life, our emotions.
From ages 14-21, we are developing our THINKING, our judgement, our abstract mind.
By age of 21, we have the ability then to focus on a fourth aspect of the human being, the entrance of the ego, or the “I,” the assertive, adult identity that can stand as one. But, the human ego is not fully matured until much, much later, taking perhaps 3 seven-year cycles to emerge as mature. Thus, at the age of 42, we arrive with a mature ego. This perhaps why the age of 42 is an excellent age for someone to begin to have the ability to take office as President.
STEINER’s 4 FOLD VIEW of the human shows through four bodies: 1. a physical body, 2. an etheric body, 3. an astral body, and 4. the ego – each of these is also the focus of successive seven year cycles of maturation, which comes out of the 7-YEAR SATURN CYCLE.
During these stages, Steiner portions out a particular area to serve as a focus for that stage. This focus gives an overarching theme to help guide decisions on what to provide to a growing child at that stage and out of this framework, Steiner devised what has evolved as Waldorf Education.
Age REALM FOCUS Explanation
0-7 WILL GOODNESS A young child needs to encounter goodness.
7-14 FEELING BEAUTY An older child must encounter beauty as an experience.
14-21 THINKING TRUTH An adolescent must encounter truth in various forms.
With this as a picture of “What is a man?” we can make some informed decisions about how to design an educational path for a growing child using, “The Good,” “The Beautiful,” and “The True,” as headings.
Humanity really must ask these BIGGER questions. Then, through a fluid, changing understanding of ourselves, we create new possibilities that better match the highest definitions of what a human being is. Creating a better incubator for human beings in the form of schools has to begin with these bigger questions, and a clear view of ourselves in light of our place in the universe. It is with this in mind that I point to the planetary cycles and its influence on human biography.