Defending Steiner Rudolf Steiner  
Home Biography Allegations Misconceptions Refutations Articles About this Site Links
Rudolf Steiner as a Tutor
I have collected a number of quotes by Steiner concerning his activities as a private tutor. These demonstrate his extensive practical experience in pedagogy with pupils of all ages (from early elementry to post-graduate) and all levels of skill.

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 2:

From my fifteenth year on I taught other pupils of the same grade as myself
or of a lower grade. The teachers were very willing to assign me this
tutoring, for I was rated as a very "good scholar." Through this means I was
enabled to contribute at least a very little toward what my parents had to
spend out of their meagre income for my education. I owe much to this
tutoring. In having to give to others in turn the matter which I had been
taught, I myself became, so to speak, awake to this. For I cannot express
the thing otherwise than by saying that I received in a sort of dream life
the knowledge imparted to me by the school. I was always awake to what I
gained by my own effort, and what I received from a spiritual benefactor,
such as the doctor I have mentioned of Wiener-Neustadt. What I received thus
in a fully self-conscious state of mind was noticeably different from what
passed over to me like dream-pictures in the class-room instruction. The
development of what had thus been received in a half-waking state was now
brought about by the fact that in the periods of tutoring I had to vitalize
my own knowledge.

On the other hand, this experience compelled me at an early age to concern
myself with practical pedagogy. I learned the difficulties of the
development of human minds through my pupils.

To the pupils of my own grade whom I tutored the most important thing I had
to teach was German composition. Since I myself had also to write every such
composition, I had to discover for each theme assigned to us various forms
of development. I often felt then that I was in a very difficult situation.
I wrote my own theme only after I had already given away the best thoughts
on that topic.

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 2:

His teaching gave me much to do. For he covered in the fifth class the Greek
and Latin poets, from whom selections were used in German translation. Then
for the first time I began to regret once in a while that my father had put
me in the Realschule instead of the Gymnasium. For I felt how little of the
character of Greek and Roman art I should get hold of through the
translations. So I bought Greek and Latin text-books, and carried along
secretly by the side of the Realschule course also a private Gymnasium
course of instruction. This required much time; but it also laid the
foundation by means of which I met, although in unusual fashion yet quite
according to the rules, the Gymnasium requirements. I had to give many hours
of tutoring, especially when I was in the Technische Hochschule(4) in
Vienna. I soon had a Gymnasium pupil to tutor. Circumstances of which I
shall speak later brought it about that I had to help this pupil by means of
tutoring through almost the whole Gymnasium course. I taught him Latin and
Greek, so that in teaching him I had to go through every detail of the
Gymnasium course with him.

This quote shows not only that Steiner derived money from tutoring, but also
that he was familiar with scientific method and laboratory work, and
conducted experiments:

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 4:

"In the views at which I had arrived in the physics of optics there seemed
to me to be a bridge between what is revealed to insight into the spiritual
world and that which comes out of researches in the natural sciences. I felt
then a need to prove to sense experience, by means of certain experiments in
optics in a form of my own, the thoughts which I had formed concerning the
nature of light and that of colour.

It was not easy for me to buy the things needed for such experiments; for
the means of living I derived from tutoring was little enough. Whatever was
in any way possible for me I did in order to arrive at such plans of
experimentation in the theory of light as would lead to an unprejudiced
insight into the facts of nature in this field.

With the physicist's usual arrangements for experiments I was familiar
through my work in Reitlinger's physics laboratory. The mathematical
treatment of optics was easy to me, for I had already pursued thorough
courses in this field. In spite of all objections raised by the physicists
against Goethe's theory of colour, I was driven by my own experiments
farther and farther away from the customary attitude of the physicist toward
Goethe. I became aware that all such experimentation is only the
establishing of certain facts "about light" - to use an expression of
Goethe's - and not experimentation with light itself. I said to myself: "The
colours are not, in Newton's way of thinking, produced out of light; they
come to manifestation when obstructions hinder the free unfolding of the
light." It seemed to me that this was the lesson to be learned directly from
my experiments. Through this, however, light was for me removed from the
properly physical realities. It took its place as a midway stage between the
realities perceptible to the senses and those visible to the spirit.

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 4:

Now, by reason of an inner necessity, I had to strive to work in detail
through all of Goethe's scientific writings. At first I did not think of
undertaking an interpretation of these writings, such as I soon afterward
published in an introduction to them in Kürschner's Deutsche National
Literatur. I thought much more of setting forth independently some field or
other of natural science in the way in which this science now hovered before
me as "spiritual." My external life was at that time not so ordered that I
could accomplish this. I had to do tutoring in the most diverse subjects.
The "pedagogical" situations through which I had to find my way were complex
enough. For example, there appeared in Vienna a Prussian officer who for
some reason or other had been forced to leave the German military service.
He wished to prepare himself to enter the Austrian army as an officer of
engineers. Through a peculiar course of fate I became his teacher in
mathematics and physical-scientific subjects. I found in this teaching the
deepest satisfaction; for my "scholar" was an extraordinarily lovable man
who formed a human relationship with me when we had put behind us the
mathematical and scientific developments he needed for his preparation. In
other cases also, as in those of students who had completed their work and
who were preparing for doctoral examinations, I had to give the instruction,
especially in mathematics and the physical sciences.

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 4:

My activity as a tutor, which afforded me at that time the sole means of a
livelihood, preserved me from one-sidedness. I had to learn many things from
the foundation up in order to be able to teach them. Thus I found my way
into the "mysteries" of book-keeping, for I found opportunity to give
instruction even in this subject.

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 6:

IN the field of pedagogy Fate gave me an unusual task. I was employed as
tutor in a family where there were four boys. To three I had to give only
the preparatory instruction for the Volkschule and then assistance in the
work of the Mittelschule. The fourth, who was almost ten years old, was at
first entrusted to me for all his education. He was the child of sorrow to
his parents, especially to his mother. When I went to live in the home, he
had scarcely learned the most rudimentary elements of reading, writing, and
arithmetic. He was considered so subnormal in his physical and mental
development that the family had doubts as to his capacity for being
educated. His thinking was slow and dull. Even the slightest mental exertion
caused a headache, lowering of vital functions, pallor, and alarming mental
symptoms. After I had come to know the child, I formed the opinion that the
sort of education required by such a bodily and mental organism must be one
that would awaken the sleeping faculties, and I proposed to the parents that
they should leave the child's training to me. The mother had enough
confidence to accept this proposal, and I was thus able to set myself this
unusual educational task.

I had to find access to a soul which was, as it were, in a sleeping state,
and which must gradually be enabled to gain the mastery over the bodily
manifestations. In a certain sense one had first to draw the soul within the
body. I was thoroughly convinced that the boy really had great mental
capacities, though they were then buried. This made my task a profoundly
satisfying one. I was soon able to bring the child into a loving dependence
upon me. This condition caused the mere intercourse between us to awaken his
sleeping faculties of soul. For his instruction I had to feel my way to
special methods. Every fifteen minutes beyond a certain time allotted to
instruction caused injury to his health. To many subjects of instruction the
boy had great difficulty in relating himself.

This educational task became to me the source from which I myself learned
very much. Through the method of instruction which I had to apply there was
laid open to my view the association between the spiritual-mental and the
bodily in man. Then I went through my real course of study in physiology and
psychology. I became aware that teaching and instructing must become an art
having its foundation in a genuine understanding of man. I had to follow out
with great care an economic principle. I frequently had to spend two hours
in preparing for half an hour of instruction in order to get the material
for instruction in such a form that in the least time, and with the least
strain upon the mental and physical powers of the child, I might reach his
highest capacity for achievement. The order of the subjects of instruction
had to be carefully considered; the division of the entire day into periods
had to be properly determined. I had the satisfaction of seeing the child in
the course of two years accomplish the work of the Volkschule, and
successfully pass the examination for entrance to the Gymnasium.
Moreover, his physical condition had materially improved. The hydrocephalic
condition was markedly diminishing. I was able to advise the parents to send
the child to a public school. It seemed to me necessary that he should find
his vital development in company with other children. I continued to be a
tutor for several years in the family, and gave special attention to this
boy, who was always guided to make his way through the school in such a way
that his home activities should be carried through in the spirit in which
they were begun. I then had the inducement, in the way I have already
mentioned, to increase my knowledge of Latin and Greek, for I was
responsible for the tutoring of this boy and another in this family for the
Gymnasium lessons.

I must needs feel grateful to Fate for having brought me into such a life
relationship. For through this means I developed in vital fashion a
knowledge of the being of man which I do not believe could have been
developed by me so vitally in any other way. Moreover, I was taken into the
family in an extraordinarily affectionate way; we came to live a beautiful
life in common. The father of these boys was a sales-agent for Indian and
American cotton. I was thus able to get a glimpse of the working of
business, and of much that is connected with this. Moreover, through this I
learned a great deal. I had an inside view of the conduct of a branch of an
unusually interesting import business, and could observe the intercourse
between business friends and the interlinking of many commercial and
industrial activities.

My young charge was successfully guided through the Gymnasium; I continued
with him even to the Unter-Prima. By that time he had made such progress
that he no longer needed me. After completing the Gymnasium he entered the
school of medicine, became a physician, and in this capacity he was later a
victim of the World War. The mother, who had become a true friend of mine
because of what I had done for her boy, and who clung to this child of
sorrow with the most devoted love, soon followed him in death. The father
had already gone from this world.

A good portion of my youthful life was bound up with the task which had
grown so close to me. For a number of years I went during the summer with
the family of the children whom I had to tutor to the Attersee in the
Salzkammergut, and there became familiar with the noble Alpine nature of
Upper Austria. I was gradually able to eliminate the private lessons I had
continued to give to others even after beginning this tutoring, and thus I
had time left for prosecuting my own studies.

From "The Course of My Life" by Rudolf Steiner, Chapter 13:

When I was fourteen years old I had to begin tutoring; for fifteen years, up
to the beginning of the second phase of my life, that spent at Weimar, my
destiny kept me engaged in this work. The unfolding of the minds of many
persons, both in childhood and in youth, was in this way bound up with my
own evolution. Through this means I was able to observe how different were
the ways in which the two sexes grow into life. For, along with the giving
of instruction to boys and young men, it fell to my lot to teach also a
number of young girls. Indeed, for a long time the mother of the boy whose
instruction I had taken over because of his pathological condition was a
pupil of mine in geometry; and at another time I taught this lady and her
sister aesthetics.

In the family of these children I found for a number of years a sort of
home, from which I went out to other families as tutor or instructor.
Through the intimate friendship between the mother of the children and
myself, it came about that I shared fully in the joys and sorrows of this
family. In this woman I perceived a uniquely beautiful human soul. She was
wholly devoted to the development of her four boys according to their
destiny. In her one could study mother love in its larger manifestation. To
co-operate with her in problems of education formed a beautiful content of
life. For the musical part of the artistic she possessed both talent and
enthusiasm. At times she took charge of the musical practice of her boys, as
long as they were still young. She discussed intelligently with me the most
varied life problems, sharing in everything with the deepest interest. She
gave the greatest attention to my scientific and other tasks. There was a
time when I had the greatest need to discuss with her everything which
intimately concerned me. When I spoke of my spiritual experiences, she
listened in a peculiar way. To her intelligence the thing was entirely
congenial, but it maintained a certain marked reserve; yet her mind absorbed
everything. At the same time she maintained in reference to man's being a
certain naturalistic view. She believed the moral temper to be entirely
bound up with the health or sickness of the bodily constitution. I mean to
say that she thought instinctively about man in a medical fashion, whereby
her thinking tended to be somewhat naturalistic. To discuss things in this
way with her was in the highest degree stimulating. Besides, her attitude
toward all outer life was that of a woman who attended with the strongest
sense of duty to everything which fell to her lot, but who looked upon most
inner things as not belonging to her sphere. She looked upon her fate in
many aspects as something burdensome. But still she made no claims upon
life; she accepted this as it took form so far as it did not concern her sons. In relation to these she felt every experience with the deepest emotion of her soul.

There are more references in a number of Steiner's lectures, but I don't
have the time to collect them now.

Copyright © 2004-2015 Daniel Hindes