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Rudolf Steiner: Handling Everyday Life

Steiner shows us how exercises in thinking may bring a calm and centred sense needed to lead purposeful, healthy lives.

Nervosität und Ichheit (GA 143) was given in Munich, January 11, 1912, and is included in Volume 143 of the Bibliographic Survey, 1961. It was translated from notes unrevised by the lecturer, by George Adams (1929) with some emendations. The translation is named "Nervous Conditions in Our Time".

It was also translated from the German original by R. M. Querido and Gilbert Church in 1969, titled, "Overcoming Nervousness".

Below are contracted, juxtaposed, and in part shuffled statements - they are maxims of Rudolf Steiner. Headings and highlighting are added.


Steiner's spiritual science views man as a fourfold being:

1. The physical-mineral body man has in common with the mineral kingdom.

2. The etheric or life body is the carrier of all life and growth forces. It is the element man has in common with the plant kingdom. Plants have physical and etheric bodies.

3. The astral body is the carrier of feelings, instincts, etc., that man has in common with the animals, which posess a physical, etheric, and astral body.

4. The ego, unique spark of divinity in man. It makes possible self-awareness and enables man to become a free being capable of choice between good and evil.

Lecture Points

The things anthroposophy has to teach can be extremely useful in everyday life. - Rudolf Steiner


There are many people who complain of nervousness. ⚶ Many of the men who hold high and responsible positions in public life have had to study as one does today.

[Exam] cramming . . . is dreadful. ⚶ What are the consequences [?].

From the Art of Forgetting

There is no one who is not forgetful to some degree. ⚶ Forgetfulness, so common and such a nuisance [may be] harmful to health.

Many upsets bordering on severe illness can be avoided if people would only be less forgetful.

Even a simple experiment repeated with diligence can work wonders.

Consider the numerous cases in which people can never find where they put things. One has lost his pencil, another cannot find his cufflinks, etc., etc..

Exercise for gradually curing such forgetfulness. Suppose, for example, a lady is forever putting her brooch down when she takes it off in the evening, and then cannot find it in the morning. You might think the best cure for her forgetfulness would be to remember to put it always in the same place. There is, however, a far more effective means of remembering where it is. This does not, of course, apply to all objects but in this case the lady should say to herself, "I will put my brooch in a different place each evening, but as I do so I will hold the thought in mind that I have put it in a particular spot. Then I will form a clear picture in my mind of all the surroundings. Having done this, I will go quietly away. I realize that if I only do this once, I probably will not succeed, but if I make a habit of it, I will find that my forgetfulness gradually disappears."

Connecting the ego, that is, the spiritual kernel of man's being, in this way with a pictorial image, sharpens memory.

Further results can also be attained from such an exercise. When it becomes habit to hold such thoughts when things are put aside, it represents a strengthening of the etheric body . . . the bearer of memory.

Against Jerks: Try to Improve Your Handwriting

The physical body is normally the servant of the etheric body. When, undirected by the astral body, the physical body executes movements on its own, it is symptomatic of an unhealthy condition. These jerks represent the subordination of the etheric to the physical body [so that] the weak etheric body is no longer fully able to direct the physical.

In a healthy man all his movements are subordinated to the will of the astral body working through the etheric.

Again, there is a way of helping a person with such symptoms, provided the condition has not progressed too far, -- try to strengthen [the etheric body]. -- stop writing automatically and try practicing for fifteen minutes a day to pay attention to the way to form the letters you writes. Shape your handwriting differently and cultivate the habit of drawing the letters.

The point is that when a man consciously changes his handwriting, he has to pay attention to, and to bring the innermost core of his being into connection with what he is doing. The etheric body is strengthened in this way and the person is made healthier.

it will doubtless be a long time before leading educators will consider such pedagogical advice anything but foolish.

Reverse Sequencing

[It] is of immense importance to strengthen the etheric body because in our time weakness of the etheric body leads to many unhealthy conditions.

The etheric body can be strengthened by performing another exercise, in this case, for the improvement of memory. By thinking through events, not only in the way they occurred but also in reverse sequence, that is, by starting at the end of an event and pursuing it through to the beginning, will help to make the etheric body stronger. Historical events, for example, can be followed backwards. Or a play or story can be thought through in reverse from end to beginning. Such exercises when done thoroughly are highly effective in consolidating and strengthening the etheric body.

The restless daily bustle of modern life does not allow most people the opportunity to come to that inner quiet required for such exercises, and in the evening after the day's work they are generally too tired to be bothered.

See how many things done in the bustle of modern life could be dispensed with, and . . . find the time to practice such exercises.

Watch Attentively

With certain things we do, no matter whether or not they are of enduring importance, it is good practice to look carefully at what is being done. This is comparatively easy in writing and I am quite sure many people would soon correct their hideous handwriting if they really looked at the letters.

In still another exercise a person should endeavour to watch himself the way he walks, moves his head, laughs, etc. In short, he should try to form a clear picture of his movements and gestures. Few people actually know what they look like when they are walking, for instance.

While it is good to make this experiment, it should not be prolonged because it would quickly lead to vanity. . . . [yet] his exercise also tends to consolidate the etheric body. When a man cultivates an awareness of his gestures and involuntary actions, the control of the astral becomes increasingly stronger over the etheric. Thus, he also becomes able, if necessary, to suppress certain actions or movements out of his free will.

Do At Times Quite Differently

It is good to be able to do quite differently on occasion the things we do habitually

If a man, however, is occasionally able to do with his left hand what he commonly does with the right, he will strengthen the control of his astral over his etheric body.

Carry Out Some Things

The cultivation of the will, as we may call it, is most important. . . . Some people do not know what they want and, if they do, they never manage to carry it out. Others, still, cannot bring themselves to will firmly what they should.

The way to strengthen one's will is not necessarily to carry out something one wishes, provided, of course, it will do no harm to leave the wish unfulfilled. . . .

Consider Well and Refrain from Jumping to Conclusions

A most important means of strengthening the control of the ego over the astral body [lies in] being flexible enough to consider what is said not only for, but also against, an issue to be able, as it were, to see both sides of a problem. . . . We would do well to acquire the habit of always adducing the pros as well as the cons in a case.

Man would so much like to be "good" [However:] People are not nearly as good as they think. [Hence, make it] a practice in everything that is done to consider also what might be left undone.

Place yourself in consciousness before a choice of alternatives, [and] in this way the control of the ego over the astral body is greatly strengthened.

You will . . . weaken your will if, instead of acting under the influence of what speaks for one course as opposed to another, you were out of slackness to do nothing.

If you feel limp and weary, it would be better not to attempt to make a choice until you are inwardly strong and . . . eventual pros and cons you place before your soul . . . at the right time.

The more we make ourselves independent of what confronts us, the better.

You should not immediately jump to conclusions. There is another way. We can observe . . . and let this . . . form a basis for our judgment.

A personal relationship . . . should be disregarded in order that you may view [another] quite objectively.

It is advisable for the strengthening of the ego . . . that in all cases we might well refrain from a considerable portion of the judgements we pronounce.

Self-education and an influence on the education of children can follow.


Rudolf Steiner thought, Steiner Education, Waldorf Education, Literature  

Steiner, Rudolf. 1929. Nervous Conditions in Our Time. GA 143. Tr. George Adams. A lecture. Munich, January 11, 1912. (From notes unrevised by the lecturer, with some emendations.)

Steiner, Rudolf. 1973. Overcoming Nervousness: A Lecture. GA 143. Trs. R. M. Querido and Gilbert Church. Munich, January 11, 1912. The Anthroposophic Press.

Harvesting the hay

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