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Discovering the threefold nature of the human being.

Rudolf Steiner emphasised the importance of achieving balance in the three different ways in which a person relates to the world - through physical activity, the life of the emotions and the realm of thinking. He also showed how these three spheres stand in relation both to human physiology and to one another. Head, heart and hand are all equally important for the development of the child and are the basis of the Waldorf approach.

The way children learn about the nature of the human being is one of the most important elements in education. If young people are merely offered a reduced, highly abstract image of the world or one that is ideologically one-sided, it becomes extremely hard for them to learn to know themselves as they grow up.

In Waldorf schools, teachers try to give the later, adult process of self-knowledge a sound basis. It is necessary to develop an understanding for the many facets of the human being. This understanding can be orientated by a phenomenological approach. So for example, all nature study is prefaced by looking at the human being and finding characteristic analogies. This begins when the children are about ten years old.

Looking at the forms of the human body the children are made aware of the spherical shape of the human head, of the linear, radial shape of the limbs and the synthesis of these opposite principles in the trunk. These observations are generally supplemented by exercises in modelling or in drawing, so that the formative principles at work in the body are actually "grasped". in the curriculum, every opportunity is taken to deepen an understanding of the nature of the human being through comparison with the realms of nature, whether this be in connection with the laws of mechanics and levers, the chemical composition of bone structures, the soul gestures of the plant and animal worlds, the principles of the Golden Mean in geometry or the relationships between the intervals in music and eurythmy.

Furthermore the children learn to experience how the human being relates to the outer world in a threefold way. Within the enclosed sphere of the head the human being has the possibility of reflecting the world in images. The rhythmic processes of breathing and circulation enable the human being to enter into a continuous interchange between self and the world. Through the activity of the limbs we are in constant contact with the surrounding world. Enriched through such perspectives, the study of the realms of nature becomes more meaningful through an understanding of the human being and the corresponding deepening of that understanding stimulates and opens the approach to nature.

Hartwig Schiller

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