The Genius of Language: Observations for Teachers
6 lectures, Stuttgart, Dec. 26, 1919 – Jan. 3, 1920 (CW 299)
To one who understands the sense of speech
The world unveils
Its image form. To one who listens to the soul of speech
The world unfolds
Its true being.
To one who lives in the spirit depths of speech
The world gives freely
To one who lovingly can dwell on speech
Speech will accord
Its inner might.
So I will turn my heart and mind
Toward the soul
And spirit of words.
In love for them
I will then feel myself
Complete and whole.
Rudolf Steiner (Translated by Hans and Ruth Pusch)
During the first year of the first Waldorf school, Rudolf Steiner agreed to give a science course to the teachers, which was to be on the nature of light. At the last minute, he was asked to give an additional course on language, which he improvised. “The Genius of Language” is the result.
Steiner demonstrates how history and psychology together form the different languages and how ideas, images, and vocabulary travel through time within various cultural streams. He describes how the power to form language has declined, but that we can still recover the seed of language, the penetration of sound by meaning.
He also explains how consonants imitate outer phenomena, whereas vowels convey a more inner sense of events; he talks about the differentiation of language as it is influenced by geography; he speaks of the “folk soul” element and the possibility of “wordless thinking”; we hear about the capacity of language to transform us and of its importance to our spiritual lives.
This is not just a course on language for those who love words but demonstrates ways to teach children. This little book will prove tremendously valuable to both educators and parents-in fact, to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of language and its significance for our lives.
This volume is a translation from German of Geisteswissenschaftlische Sprachbetrachtungen (GA 299).
C O N T E N T S:
Introduction by Ruth Pusch
A Note by the Translator
1. Language from a Historical Standpoint
2. The Evolution of Language from an Organic Point of View
3. The Transforming Powers of Language in Relation to Spiritual Life
4. History of Language in Its Relation to the Folk Souls
5. Language and the Sense for Reality or Its Lack
6. The Inner Path of the Genius of Language
Afterword by Ádám Makkai
Further Reading on Speech and Language
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up. As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Christopher Bamford is Editor in Chief Emeritus for SteinerBooks (Anthroposophic Press) and its imprints. A Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, he has lectured, taught, and written widely on Western spiritual and esoteric traditions. He is the author of Healing Madonnas: Exploring the Sequence of Madonna Images Created by Rudolf Steiner and Felix Peipers for Use in Therapy and Meditation (2017); An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (2003); and The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (1990). He has also translated and edited numerous books, including Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science (2001); The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz (1984); and Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness(1982). HarperSanFrancisco included an essay by Mr. Bamford in its anthology Best Spiritual Writing 2000.