Sydney/Blue Mts/Hunter SECA Regional Meeting - 11 March 2023


The ‘etheric bond’ between the kindergarten teacher and the children in their care is the foundation of a health-giving education for young children in the first seven years.


This title needs to be explained:

We are focusing today on an aspect of the teacher-child relationship, which is commonly seen as belonging to the ‘imponderables’ of human relationships. The question we will pursue today: What kind of relationship needs to be there between child and kindergarten teacher so that the child can develop and flourish also in their spiritual being?

In Steiner Early Childhood Education, facilitating healthy development of young children in body and soul is recognized as the foremost task of teachers/carers, but I want to add today the third aspect: the nurturing and honouring the spiritual child, not through conveying knowledge or establishing habits, but rather by us teachers becoming  guardians of the process of incarnation in which the care for the soul-spirit being of the child comes first, and then in consequence also the care for the wellbeing of the physical child.

I would like to draw your attention to the care for the spiritual child as the fundamental task of the educator, in comparison with the general pedagogical orientation towards the physical and soul needs of the young child only.

When nurturing the spirit child, we have to consider the realm of the etheric forces. However, the nurturing of the child’s etheric forces can only be successful if etheric forces are also radiating from the inner being of the teacher, so that they can be received and become alive within the child

i.e. if the teacher ‘knows’, and forms an inner connection to these etheric forces working in the child.

If we consider embryonic development in its spiritual dimension, we have to imagine the etheric body as surrounding the child’s evolving physical body like an aura. This etheric body/aura has been formed out of the vast cosmic ether during the &me when the spirit-child was still in the Moon sphere, and this etheric body will contract more and more as the spirit child moves away from the spiritual surroundings and incarnates into the earthly physical body, a


process which takes place in the first 7 years and is completed only at the end of the seventh year.

We usually identify three major developmental phases of early childhood:

In the first phase, the emphasis is on the development of movement which comes to a kind of conclusion in the third year of life. The second phase is related to ages 3 - 5 years, and to speech development. It comes to a certain conclusion in the fifth year (speech – middle part). The third phase is related to the head and to thinking, coming to a kind of conclusion in the 7th year (thinking, head). At this stage the etheric body is fully present in the child, fully ‘born’.

Do we take this process seriously enough into consideration in child care and kindergartens? Do we teach out of the knowledge that, in the first seven years of life, the etheric body, - the life-giving body and supporter of all learning - is not fully ‘born but still in the stage of evolving?’ Are we conscious enough of this long birth-process of the etheric body and its pedagogical consequences when working with young children?

Steiner mentions the ‘clever’ 4-year-old, who thinks they know everything, and is hooked on receiving ever more information. Steiner also tells us that people in old times would have regarded such early cleverness as a misfortune, because it meant that the child was already inwardly separated from the realm of the Spirit at an early age, separated from the spiritual place of the child - even when asleep!

Steiner’s earnest advice to not interfere with the process of the birth of the etheric body, (which occurs around the seventh year,) and not to make demands on thinking too early in life, makes sense because, once etheric forces are weakened, they cannot be replenished at will, and the loss of etheric strength in the child cannot be made good by more intellectual learning.

Steiner refers to Goethe’s observations, that etheric forces which are used in one part of the organism will lead to a lack of available forces and reduction of activity within another part of the organism. On the other hand, the availability of formative forces within the body means that organs can become stronger; lack of formative forces means that organs become weaker, including and even foremost the sense organs of the human being.


Steiner has confirmed Goethe’s observations on the growth forces and then has extended these findings in his own spiritual research, by showing that the same law also applies to soul-spiritual forces in the child. If there is a high demand on etheric forces through early intellectual education, then these etheric forces are taken away and are unable to fulfil their task for the child’s soul-spiritual being.

Exploring the world through play is the only activity in which such one-sided focus on the human being’s physical forces can be avoided. This is true

because real, intense play is a spiritual activity for the child: helping to maintain the balance between etheric forces active in the body, and those spiritually active around the soul-being of the child, and present in the child’s unique way of exploring the world around him.

Steiner indicates that in phases of such play, the not- incarnated, spiritual ‘I’ of the child may be present, hovering lightly, ethereally above the playing child. Such is the situation in ‘healthy play’, and the ‘knowing teacher’ would be a silent observer of this play, inwardly participating in this experience as loving observer. Then one can get a feeling for the spiritual presence of the ‘not - incarnated I-being’ of the young child.

But Steiner has more to tell us about the etheric forces working, not only within the child, but around the human beings in general:

He points to the spiritual reality of the already mentioned ‘free’ etheric forces

which never were, or will be, incarnated into a human body.

Such free etheric forces are not involved in growth and development, and can be found only in human beings, not in animals or plants. These forces are linked to what the human being will, and must, become in the spiritual future.

If all etheric forces were absorbed in physical growth, in learning and working on what is already there, there would be no spiritual future for human beings.

However, this is only the case in childhood, and will be different at a later stage in adult life. Some etheric forces remain, which have not been used in the body. Such ‘free’ etheric forces, whose existence manifests in human thinking, (and also in processes of healing), can become even stronger. These free etheric forces can simultaneously be working in the current spiritual development of the human being, as well as in what the human being will become and be in the long- term future.


Becoming a member of the School of Spiritual Science, that is: not only reading Steiner, but also beginning a life of meditation, and striving for experiences in spirit out of a deeper level of knowledge, can be an important step in this direction, as long as such a step arises out of the longing for the spirit, and the will to develop as searcher and student of the Spirit, and experiencing oneself on the way to the spirit realm.

This is something that a teacher or carer of young children must consider: that these young children – entrusted into our care – are waiting for such human beings who know where they, the children, come from and whither they go.

Children will feel comfortable and at home in the presence of such adults who have made the conscious decision to search for their spiritual home, and who have become a co-worker for a world into which young children are born and enter into life with deep trust and a feeling of being acknowledged as the spirit being, who they really are: human spirit beings who have chosen to take on a life in the physical world.

Children feel well in the presence of adults who are themselves on a spiritual path, who have found a kind of relationship to the beings of the Spiritual World, who know that they themselves are in their essence spiritual I-beings, who have the long -term task to work towards the spiritualising of the earth; adults who are aware of the importance of this spiritual striving, rather than remaining in the realm of who they are in what normally is called professionalism.

The connecting link between early childhood teachers and the children in their care must be sought in the realm of spirit, the true home of the soul. It is the home of all of us, but we don’t know much about it, and we have forgotten the past experiences which we had in that realm before birth.

This is one reason why an early childhood teacher or parent may decide to meditate: to learn to look at themselves and the children differently, regarding a child as somebody who knows on a deeper level who they are, and where they come from; to look at oneself as a being who did not come to be ‘instructed’, but who incarnated as this particular human being, because one has something to bring to earth: namely themselves as a messenger from the spirit world, and meet young children who are also such messengers.

In knowing this, a teacher of young children will not lose the long-term perspective as to who the human being is and what he/she has to do on earth.


Then such a teacher can become a messenger, telling of the need for love on earth, as well as the need for knowing oneself, and one’s fellow human beings, as spiritual beings belonging to the ‘other’, the spiritual world as well as the human world.

Then children will feel drawn towards such a teacher/person, because this is like ‘coming home’ to the place which children left when incarnating.

These things cannot be ‘understood’, these things need to be deeply inwardly felt, as much as possible, and ‘experienced’. It is a promise to be faithful to our inner spirit-being: to that being in us who goes back to the spiritual world every night, meeting children one has cared for and other human beings with whom one is spiritually connected, and preparing for the tasks which were given to oneself in this earthly life.