The forcible, comprehensive, stimulating life stimulated me too, and seized upon me with all its comprehensiveness and all its force. It is true it could not blind me to many imperfections and deficiencies, but these were retrieved by the general tendency and endeavour of the whole system; for this, though containing several absolute contradictions, manifest even at that time, yet vindicated on a general view its inner connection and hidden unity. The powerful, indefinable, stirring, and uplifting effect produced by Pestalozzi when he spoke, set one's soul on fire for a higher, nobler life, although he had not made clear or sure the exact way towards it, nor indicated the means whereby to attain it. Thus did the power and manysidedness of the educational effort make up for deficiency in unity and comprehensiveness; and the love, the warmth, the stir of the whole, the human kindness and benevolence of it replaced the want of clearness, depth, thoroughness, extent, perseverance, and steadiness. In this way each separate branch of education was in such a condition as to powerfully interest, but never wholly to content the observer, since it prepared only further division and separation and did not tend towards unity.
The want of unity of effort, both as to means and aims, I soon felt; I recognised it in the inadequacy, the incompleteness, and the unlikeness of the ways in which the various subjects were taught. Therefore I endeavoured to gain the greatest possible insight into all, and became a scholar in all subjects—arithmetic, form, singing, reading, drawing, language, physical geography, the natural sciences, etc.
I could see something higher, and I believed in a higher efficiency, a closer unity of the whole educational system; in truth, I believed I saw this clearer, though not with greater conviction, than Pestalozzi himself. I held that land happy, that man fortunate, by whom the means of true education should be developed and applied, and the wish to see this benefit conferred upon my country naturally sprang from the love I bore my native land. The result was the written record of 1809 already referred to.
Where there is the germ of disunion, where the whole is split up, even sometimes into contradictory parts, and where an absolute reconciling unity is wanting, where what connection there may be is derived rather from casual outward ties than from inner necessary union, the whole system must of necessity dig its own grave, and become its own murderer. Now it was exactly at such a time of supreme crisis that I had the good or the evil fortune to be at Yverdon. All that was good and all that was bad, all that was profitable and all that was unprofitable, all that was strong and all that was weak, all that was empty and all that was full, all that was selfish and all that was unselfish amongst Pestalozzi and his friends, was displayed openly before me.
I happened to be there precisely at the time of the great Commission of 1810. Neither Pestalozzi nor his so-called friends, neither any individuals nor the whole community, could give me, or would give me, what I wanted. In the methods laid down by them for teaching boys, for the thorough education of boys as part of one great human family,—that is, for their higher instruction,—I failed to find that comprehensiveness which is alone sufficient to satisfy the human being. Thus it was with natural history, natural science, German, and language generally, with history, and above all, with religious instruction. Pestalozzi's devotional addresses were very vague, and, as experience showed, were only serviceable to those already in the right way. I spoke of all these things very earnestly and decidedly with Pestalozzi, and at last I made up my mind, in 1810, to quit Yverdon along with my pupils.
But before I continue further here, it is my duty to consider my life and work from yet another point of view.
Amongst the various branches of education, the teaching of languages struck me with especial force as defective, on account of its great imperfection, its capriciousness and lifelessness. The search for a satisfactory method for our native language occupied me in preference to anything else. I proceeded on the following basis:—
Language is an image, a representation of our separate (subject) world, and becomes manifest to the (object) world outside ourselves principally through combined and ordered sounds. If, therefore, I would image forth anything correctly, I must know the real nature of the original object. The theme of our imagery and representation, the outside world, contains objects, therefore I must have a definite form, a definite succession of sounds, a definite word to express each object. The objects have qualities, therefore our language must contain adjectives expressing these qualities. The qualities of objects are fundamental or relative; express what they are, what they possess, and what they become.
Passing now to singing and music, it happened very luckily for me that just at this time Naegeli and Pfeifer brought out their "Treatise on the Construction of a Musical Course according to the Principles of Pestalozzi." Naegeli's knowledge of music generally, and especially of church music, made a powerful impression upon me, and brought music and singing before me as a means for human culture; setting the cultivation of music, and especially of singing, in a higher light than I had ever conceived possible. Naegeli was very capable in teaching music and singing, and in representing their function as inspiring aids to pure human life; and although nearly twenty years have elapsed since I heard those lessons of his, the fire of the love for music which they kindled burns yet, active for good, within my breast. And further, I was taught and convinced by these two super-excellent music teachers, who instructed my pupils, that purely instrumental music, such as that of the violin or of the pianoforte, is also in its essence based upon and derived from vocal music, though developed through the independent discovery of a few simple sound-producing instruments. Not only have I never since left the path thus opened to me at its origin, but I have consistently traced it onwards in all care and love, and continue to rejoice in the excellent results obtained. This course of music-teaching, as extended and applied later on, has always enjoyed the approbation of the thoughtful and experienced amongst music teachers.
I also studied the boys' play, the whole series of games in the open air, and learned to recognise their mighty power to awake and to strengthen the intelligence and the soul as well as the body. In these games and what was connected with them I detected the mainspring of the moral strength which animated the pupils and the young people in the institution. The games, as I am now fervently assured, formed a mental bath of extraordinary strengthening-power; and although the sense of the higher symbolic meaning of games had not yet dawned upon me, I was nevertheless able to perceive in each boy genuinely at play a moral strength governing both mind and body which won my highest esteem.
Closely akin to the games in their morally strengthening aspect were the walks, especially those of the general walking parties, more particularly when conducted by Pestalozzi himself. These walks were by no means always meant to be opportunities for drawing close to Nature, but Nature herself, though unsought, always drew the walkers close to her. Every contact with her elevates, strengthens, purifies. It is from this cause that Nature, like noble great-souled men, wins us to her; and whenever school or teaching duties gave me respite, my life at this time was always passed amidst natural scenes and in communion with Nature. From the tops of the high mountains near by I used to rejoice in the clear and still sunset, in the pine-forests, the glaciers, the mountain meadows, all bathed in rosy light. Such an evening walk came indeed to be an almost irresistible necessity to me after each actively-spent day. As I wandered on the sunlit, far-stretching hills, or along the still shore of the lake, clear as crystal, smooth as a mirror, or in the shady groves, under the tall forest trees, my spirit grew full with ideas of the truly god-like nature and priceless value of a man's soul, and I gladdened myself with the consideration of mankind as the beloved children of God. There is no question but that Pestalozzi's general addresses, especially those delivered in the evening, when he used to delight in evoking a picture of noble manliness and true love of mankind and developing it in all its details, very powerfully contributed towards arousing such an inner life as that just described.
Yet I did not lose myself in empty fancies; on the contrary, I kept my practical work constantly before my eyes. From thinking about my dead parents my thoughts would wander back over the rest of my family, turning most often to that dear eldest brother of mine, who has now not been referred to for some time in these pages. He had become the faithful watchful father of several children. I shared in his unaffected fatherly cares, and my soul was penetrated with the desire that he might be able to give his sons such an education as I should feel obliged to point out to him as being the best. Already, ever since I was at Frankfurt, I had communicated to him my thoughts on education and methods of teaching. What now occurred to me out of my new knowledge as applicable to his case, I extracted, collected together, and classified, so as to be able to impart it to him for his use at the first opportunity.
One thing which greatly contributed to the better consideration and elucidation of the Pestalozzian mode of teaching was the presence of a large number of young men sent from various governments as students to Yverdon. With some of these I was on terms of intimacy, and to the exchange of ideas which went on amongst us I owe at least as much as to my own observation.
On the whole I passed a glorious time at Yverdon, elevated in tone, and critically decisive for my after life. At its close, however, I felt more clearly than ever the deficiency of inner unity and interdependence, as well as of outward comprehensiveness and thoroughness in the teaching there.
To obtain the means of a satisfactory judgment upon the best method of teaching the classical tongues, I took Greek and Latin under a young German, who was staying there at that time; but I was constructing a method of my own all the while, by observing all the points which seemed valuable, as they occurred in actual teaching. But the want of a satisfactory presentation of the classical tongues as part of the general means of education and culture of mankind, especially when added to the want of a consideration of natural history as a comprehensive and necessary means of education, and above all the uncertain wavering of the ground-principles on which the whole education and teaching rested at Yverdon, decided me not only to take my pupils back to their parents' house, but to abandon altogether my present educational work, in order to equip myself, by renewed study at some German university, with that due knowledge of natural science which now seemed to me quite indispensable for an educator.
In the year 1810 I returned from Yverdon by Bern, Schaffhausen, and Stuttgart to Frankfurt.
I should have prepared to go to the university at once, but found myself obliged to remain at my post till the July of the following year. The piece-meal condition of the methods of teaching and of education which surrounded me hung heavy on my mind, so that I was extremely glad when at last I was able to shake myself free from my position.
In the beginning of July 1811 I went to Goettingen. I went up at once, although it was in the middle of the session, because I felt that I should require several months to see my way towards harmonising my inward with my outward life, and reconciling my thoughts with my actions. And it was in truth several months before I gained peace within myself, and before I arrived at that unity which was so necessary to me, between my inward and my outward life, and at the equally necessary harmony between aim, career, and method.
Mankind as a whole, as one great unity, had now become my quickening thought. I kept this conception continually before my mind. I sought after proofs of it in my little world within, and in the great world without me; I desired by many a struggle to win it, and then to set it worthily forth. And thus I was led back to the first appearance of man upon our earth, to the land which first saw man, and to the first manifestation of mankind, his speech.
Linguistic studies, the learning of languages, philology, etc., now formed the object of my attack. The study of Oriental tongues seemed to me the central point, the fountain head, whither my search was leading me; and at once I began upon them with Hebrew and Arabic. I had a dim idea of opening up a path through them to other Asiatic tongues, particularly those of India and Persia. I was powerfully stimulated and attracted by what I had heard about the study of these languages, then in its early youth—namely, the acknowledgment of a relationship between Persian and German. Greek also attracted me in quite a special way on account of its inner fulness, organisation, and regularity. My whole time and energy were devoted to the two languages I have named. But I did not get far with Hebrew in spite of my genuine zeal and my strict way with myself, because between the manner of looking at a language congenial to my mind and the manner in which the elementary lesson book presented it to me, lay a vast chasm which I could find no means to bridge over. In the form in which language was offered to me, I could find and see no means of making it a living study; and yet, nevertheless, nothing would have drawn me from my linguistic studies had I not been assured by educated men that these studies, especially my work on Indian and Persian tongues, were in reality quite beside the mark at which I aimed. Hebrew also was abandoned; but, on the other hand, Greek irresistibly enthralled me, and nearly all my time and energy were finally given to its study, with the help of the best books.
I was now free, happy, in good mental and bodily health and vigour, and I gained peace within myself and without, through hard work, interrupted only by an indisposition which kept me to my room for a few weeks. After working all day alone, I used to walk out late in the evening, so that at least I might receive a greeting from the friendly beams of the setting sun. To invigorate my spirit as well as my bodily frame I would walk on till near midnight in the beautiful neighbourhood which surrounds Goettingen. The glittering starry sky harmonised well with my thoughts, and a new object which appeared in the heavens at this time, aroused my wonder in an especial degree. I knew but little of astronomy, and the expected arrival of a large comet was, therefore, quite unknown to me; so that I found out the comet for myself, and that was a source of special attraction. This object absorbed my contemplation in those silent nights, and the thought of the all-embracing, wide-spreading sphere of law and order above, developed and shaped itself in my mind with especial force during my night-wanderings. I often turned back home that I might note down in their freshness the results of these musings; and then after a short sleep I rose again to pursue my studies.
In this way the last half of the summer session passed quickly away, and Michaelmas arrived.
The development of my inner life had meanwhile insensibly drawn me little by little quite away from the study of languages, and led me towards the deeper-lying unity of natural objects. My earlier plan gradually reasserted itself, to study Nature in her first forms and elements. But the funds which still remained to me were now too small to permit of the longer residence at the university which that plan necessitated. As I had nothing at all now to depend upon save my own unaided powers, I at first thought to gain my object by turning them to some practical account, such as literary work. I had already begun to prepare for this, when an unexpected legacy changed my whole position. Up to now I had had one aunt still living, a sister of my mother's, who had spent all the best years of her life in my native village, enjoying excellent health and free from care. By her sudden death I obtained, in a manner I had little expected, the means of pursuing my much-desired studies. This occurrence made a very deep impression upon me, because this lady was the sister of that uncle of mine whose death had enabled me to travel from Gross Milchow to Frankfurt, and so first set me upon my career as an educator. And now again the death of a loved one made it possible for me to attain higher culture in the service of this career. Both brother and sister had loved with the closest affection my own mother, dead so far too soon, and this love they had extended to her children after her. May these two loving and beloved ones who through their death gave me a higher life and a higher vocation, live for ever through my work and my career.
My position was now a very pleasant one, and I felt soothing and cheering influences such as had not visited me before.
In the autumn holidays, too, a friendly home was ready to receive me. Besides the country-clergyman brother, who so often was a power for good in my life, I had another brother, also older than I, who had been living more than ten years as a well-established tradesman and citizen in Osterode, amongst the Harz Mountains; head of a quiet, self-contained, happy family, and father of some fine children. My previous life and endeavours as an educator had already brought me into connection with this circle; for I had not failed whenever I found anything suitable to my brother's needs to let him know of it, as he was the conscientious teacher and educator of his own children. It was in this peaceful, active family-circle of an intellectual tradesman's home that I passed all the vacation time during which the university regulations released me from vigorous work. It could not prove otherwise than that such a visit should be of the greatest service to me in my general development, and I remember it with thankfulness even yet on that account.
I return now to my university life. Physics, chemistry, mineralogy, and natural history in general, were my principal studies.
The inner law and order embracing all things, and in itself conditioned and necessitated, now presented itself to me in such clearness that I could see nothing either in nature or in life in which it was not made manifest, although varying greatly according to its several manifestations, in complexity and in gradation. Just at this time those great discoveries of the French and English philosophers became generally known through which the great manifold external world was seen to form a comprehensive outer unity. And the labours of the German and Swedish philosophers to express these essentially conditioned fundamental laws in terms of weight and number, so that they might be studied and understood in their most exact expression, and in their mutual interchange and connection, fitted in exactly with my own longings and endeavours. Natural science and natural researches now seemed to me, while themselves belonging to a distinct plane of vital phenomena, the foundation and cornerstones which served to make clear and definite the laws and the progress of the development, the culture, and the education of mankind.
It was but natural that such studies should totally absorb me, occupy my whole energies, and keep me most busily employed. I studied chemistry and physics with the greatest possible zeal, but the teaching of the latter did not satisfy me so thoroughly as that of the former.
What in the current half-year's term I was regarding rather from a theoretical standpoint, I intended in the next half-year to study practically as a factor of actual life: hence I passed to organic chemistry and geology. Those laws which I was able to observe in Nature I desired to trace also in the life and proceedings of man, wherefore I added to my previous studies history, politics, and political economy. These practical departments of knowledge brought vividly home to me the great truth that the most valuable wealth a man can possess lies in a cultivated mind, and in its suitable exercise upon matters growing out of its own natural conditions. I saw further that wealth arose quite as much from vigour of production as from saving by economical use; and that those productions were the most valuable of all, which were the outcome and representation of lofty ideas or remarkable thoughts; and finally, that politics itself was in its essence but a means of uplifting man from the necessities of Nature and of life to the freedom of the spirit and the will.
While I received much benefit from the lectures on natural history at the university, I could not fall in with the views held there as to fixed forms—crystallography, mineralogy, and natural philosophy. From what I had heard of the natural history lectures of Professor Weiss in Berlin, I felt sure that I could acquire a correct view of both these subjects from him. And also since my means would not allow me to stay even so long as one entire session more at Goettingen, whilst on the other hand I might hope at Berlin to earn enough by teaching to maintain a longer university career there, I came to the conclusion to go to Berlin at the beginning of the next winter session to study mineralogy, geology, and crystallography under Weiss, as well as to do some work at physics and physical laws.
After a stay of a few weeks with my brother at Osterode, I went to Berlin in October 1812.
The lectures for which I had so longed really came up to the needs of my mind and soul, and awakened in me, more fervent than ever, the certainty of the demonstrable inner connection of the whole cosmical development of the universe. I saw also the possibility of man's becoming conscious of this absolute unity of the universe, as well as of the diversity of things and appearances which is perpetually unfolding itself within that unity; and then, when I had made clear to myself, and brought fully home to my consciousness, the view that the infinitely varied phenomena in man's life, work, thought, feeling, and position, were all summed up in the unity of his personal existence, I felt myself able to turn my thoughts once more to educational problems.
To make sure of my power to maintain myself at the university, I undertook some teaching at a private school of good reputation. My work here, beyond the sufficient support it afforded me during residence, had no positive effect upon the endeavour of my life, for I found neither high intelligence, lofty aims, nor unity in the course of instruction.
The fateful year 1813 had now begun. All men grasped weapons, and called on one another to fly to arms to defend the Fatherland. I, too, had a home, it is true, a birthplace, I might say a Motherland, but I could not feel that I had a Fatherland. My home sent up no cry to me; I was no Prussian, and thus it came about that the universal call to arms (in Berlin) affected me, in my retired life, but little. It was quite another sentiment which drew me to join the ranks of German soldiers; my enthusiasm was possibly small, but my determination was firmly fixed as the rocks themselves.
This sentiment was the consciousness of a pure German brotherhood, which I had always honoured in my soul as a lofty and sublime ideal; one which I earnestly desired might make itself felt in all its fulness and freedom all over Germany.
Besides the fidelity with which I clung to my avocation as an educator also influenced my action in this matter. Even if I could not say truly that I had a Fatherland, I must yet acknowledge that every boy, that every child, who might perhaps later on come to be educated by me would have a Fatherland, that this Fatherland was now requiring defence, and that the child was not in a position to share in that defence. It did not seem possible to imagine that a young man capable of bearing arms could become a teacher of children and boys whose Fatherland he had refused to defend with his blood and even with his life if need were; that he who now did not feel ashamed to shrink from blows could exist without blushing in after years, or could incite his pupils to do something noble, something calling for sacrifice and for unselfishness, without exposing himself to their derision and contempt. Such was the second main reason which influenced me.
Thirdly, this summons to war seemed to me an expression of the general need of the men, the land, and the times amidst which I lived, and I felt that it would be altogether unworthy and unmanly to stand by without fighting for this general need, and without taking my share in warding off the general danger.
Before these convictions all considerations gave way, even that of my bodily constitution, which was far too weakly for such a life.
As comrades I selected the Luetzowers; and at Eastertide 1813 I arrived at Dresden on my road to join the infantry division of Luetzow's corps at Leipzig. Through the retired nature of my self-concentrated life it came about naturally that I, although a regularly matriculated student, had held aloof from the other students, and had gained no settled acquaintance amongst them; thus, out of all the vigorous comrades whom I met at Dresden, many of whom were like myself, Berlin students, I did not find one man I knew. I made but few new friends in the army, and these few I was fated to encounter on the first day of my entrance into my new work of soldiering. Our sergeant at the first morning halt after our march out from Dresden, introduced me to a comrade from Erfurt as a Thueringer, and therefore a fellow-countryman. This was Langethal; and casually as our acquaintance thus began, it proved to be a lasting friendship. Our first day's march was to Meissen, where we halted. We had enjoyed lovely spring weather during our march, and our repose was gladdened by a still lovelier evening. I found all the university students of the corps, driven by a like impulse, collected together in an open place by the shores of Elbe and near a public restaurant; and some old Meissen wine soon served us as a bond of union. We sat about twenty strong in a jolly group at a long table, and began by welcoming and pledging one another to friendship. It was here that Langethal introduced me to a university friend of his at Berlin, the young Middendorff, a divinity student from the Mark. Keeping together in a merry little society till the middle of the lovely spring night, we united again next morning in a visit to the splendid cathedral of Meissen. Thus from the very first did we three join fast in a common struggle towards and on behalf of the higher life, and even if we have not always remained in the like close outward bonds of union, we have from that time to this, now near upon fifteen years, never lost our comradeship in the inner life and our common endeavour after self-education. Both Langethal and Middendorff had a third friend, named Bauer, amongst our comrades of the camp. With him also, as I think, I made acquaintance as early as at Meissen, but it was more particularly at Havelberg, later on, that Bauer and I struck up a friendship together, which has ever since endured. Even when we have not been together in outward life, we have always remained one in our endeavours after the highest and best. Bauer closed the narrow circle of my friends amongst our companions in arms.
I remained true to my previous way of life and thought in the manner in which I viewed my new soldier life. My main care was always to educate myself for the actual calling which at the moment I was following; thus, amongst the first things I took in hand was an attempt at finding the inner necessity and connection of the various parts of the drill and the military services, in which, without any previous acquaintance with military affairs, I managed, in consequence of my mathematical and physical knowledge, to succeed very fairly and without any great difficulty. I was able to protect myself, therefore, against many small reprimands, which fell tolerably frequently on those who had thought this or that instruction might be lightly passed over as too trivial to be attended to. It came about in this way, when we were continually drilling, after the cessation of the armistice, that the military exercises we performed gave me genuine pleasure on account of their regularity, their clearness, and the precision of their execution. In probing into their nature I could see freedom beneath their recognised necessity.
During the long sojourn of our corps in Havelberg previously alluded to, I strengthened my inner life, so far as the military service permitted, by spending all the time I could in the open air, in communion with Nature, to a perception of whose loveliness a perusal of G. Forster's "Travels in Rhineland" had newly unlocked my senses.
We friends took all opportunities of meeting one another. By-and-by we set to work to make this easier by three of us applying to be quartered together.
In the rough, frank life of war, men presented themselves to me under various aspects, and so became a special object of my thoughts as regards their conduct, and their active work, and most of all as to their higher vocation. Man and the education of man was the subject which occupied us long and often in our walks, and in our open-air life generally. It was particularly these discussions which drew me forcibly towards Middendorff, the youngest of us.
I liked well our life of the bivouac, because it made so much of history clear to me; and taught me, too, through our oft-continued and severely laborious marches and military manoeuvres, the interchanging mutual relations of body and spirit. It showed me how little the individual man belongs to himself in war time; he is but an atom in a great whole, and as such alone must he be considered.
Through the chance of our corps being far removed from the actual seat of war, we lived our soldier life, at least I did, in a sort of dream, notwithstanding the severe exertions caused by our military manoeuvres, and we heard of the war only in the same sleepy way. Now and then, at Leipzig, at Dalenburg, at Bremen, at Berlin, we seemed to wake up; but soon sank back into feeble dreaminess again. It was particularly depressing and weakening to me never to be able to grasp our position as part of the great whole of the campaign, and never to find any satisfactory explanation of the reason or the aim of our manoeuvres. That was my case at least; others may have seen better and clearer than I.
I gained one clear benefit from the campaign; in the course of the actual soldier life I became enthusiastic upon the best interests of the German land and the German people; my efforts tended to become national in their scope. And in general, so far as my fatigues allowed, I kept the sense of my future position always before me; even in the little skirmishes that we had to take part in I was able to gather some experiences which I saw would be useful to me in my future work.
Our corps marched through the Mark, and in the latter part of August through Priegnitz, Mecklenburg, the districts of Bremen and Hamburg, and Holstein, and in the last days of 1813 we reached the Rhine. The peace (May 30th, 1814) prevented us from seeing Paris, and we were stationed in the Netherlands till the breaking up of the corps. At last, in July 1814, every one who did not care to serve longer had permission to return to his home and to his former calling. Upon my entrance into a corps of Prussian soldiers I had received, through the influence of some good friends, the promise of a post under the Prussian Government—namely, that of assistant at the mineralogical museum of Berlin, under Weiss. Thither then, as the next place of my destined work, I turned my steps. I desired also to see the Rhine and the Main, and my birthplace as well; so I went by Dusseldorf back to Luenen, and thence by Mainz, Frankfurt, and Rudolstadt to Berlin.
Thus I had lived through the whole campaign according to my strength, greater or less, in a steady inner struggle towards unity and harmony of life, but what of outward significance and worth recollection had I received from the soldier's life? I left the army and the warlike career with a total feeling of discontent. My inner yearning for unity and harmony, for inward peace, was so powerful that it shaped itself unconsciously into symbolical form and figure. In a ceaseless, inexplicable, anxious state of longing and unrest, I had passed through many pretty places and many gardens on my homeward way, without any of them pleasing me. In this mood I reached F——, and entered a fairly large and handsomely-stocked flower garden. I gazed at all the vigorous plants and fresh gay flowers it offered me, but no flower took my fancy. As I passed all the many varied beauties of the garden in review before my mind, it fell upon me suddenly that I missed the lily. I asked the owner of the garden if he had no lilies there, and he quietly replied, No! When I expressed my surprise, I was answered as quietly as before that hitherto no one had missed the lily. It was thus that I came to know what I missed and longed for. How could my inner nature have expressed itself more beautifully in words? "Thou art seeking silent peacefulness of heart, harmony of life, clear purity of soul, by the symbol of this silent, pure, simple lily." That garden, in its beautiful variety, but without a lily, appeared to me as a gay life passed through and squandered without unity and harmony. Another day I saw many lovely lilies blooming in the garden of a house in the country. Great was my joy; but, alas! they were separated from me by a hedge. Later on I solved this symbol also; and until its solution image and longing remained stored in my memory. One thing I ought to notice—namely, that in the place where I was vainly seeking for lilies in the garden a little boy of three years old came up trustfully and stood by my side.
I hastened to the scene of my new duties. How variously the different outward circumstances of my life henceforth affected me as to the life within, now that this had won for itself once more an assured individual form, and how my life again resumed its true and highest aspect, I must pass over here, since to develop these considerations with all their connections would take me too long.
In the first days of August 1814 I arrived at Berlin, and at once received my promised appointment. My duties busied me the greater part of the day amongst minerals, dumb witnesses to the silent thousand-fold creative energy of Nature, and I had to see to their arrangement in a locked, perfectly quiet room. While engaged on this work I continually proved to be true what had long been a presentiment with me—namely, that even in these so-called lifeless stones and fragments of rock, torn from their original bed, there lay germs of transforming, developing energy and activity. Amidst the diversity of forms around me, I recognised under all kinds of various modifications one law of development.
All the points that in Goettingen I had thought I traced amidst outward circumstances, confirmatory of the order of the soul's development, came before me here also, in a hundred and again a hundred phenomena. What I had recognised in things great or noble, or in the life of man, or in the ways of God, as serving towards the development of the human race, I found I could here recognise also in the smallest of these fixed forms which Nature alone had shaped. I saw clearly, as never yet I had seen before, that the godlike is not alone in the great; for the godlike is also in the very small, it appears in all its fulness and power in the most minute dimensions. And thereafter my rocks and crystals served me as a mirror wherein I might descry mankind, and man's development and history. These things began to stir powerfully within me; and what I now vaguely perceived I was soon to view more definitely, and to be able to study with thoroughness.
Geology and crystallography not only opened up for me a higher circle of knowledge and insight, but also showed me a higher goal for my inquiry, my speculation, and my endeavour. Nature and man now seemed to me mutually to explain each other, through all their numberless various stages of development. Man, as I saw, receives from a knowledge of natural objects, even because of their immense deep-seated diversity, a foundation for, and a guidance towards, a knowledge of himself and of life, and a preparation for the manifestation of that knowledge. What I thus clearly perceived in the simpler natural objects I soon traced in the province of living Nature, in plants and growing things, so far as these came under my observation, and in the animal kingdom as well.
Soon I became wholly penetrated and absorbed by the thought that it must be beyond everything else vital to man's culture and development, to the sure attainment of his destiny and fulfilment of his vocation, to distinguish these tendencies accurately and sharply not only in their separate ascending grades, but also throughout the whole career of life. Moreover, I made a resolution that for some time I would devote myself to the study of the higher methods of teaching, so as to fit myself as a teacher in one of the higher centres of education, as, for example, one of the universities, if that might be. But it was not long before I found a double deficiency, which quickly discouraged me in this design. For, firstly, I wanted a fund of specially learned and classical culture; and next, I was generally deficient in the preparatory studies necessary for the higher branches of natural science. The amount of interest in their work shown by university students was, at the same time, not at all serious enough to attract me to such a career.
I soon perceived a double truth: first, that a man must be early led towards the knowledge of nature and insight into her methods—that is, he must be from the first specially trained with this object in view; and next, I saw that a man, thus led through all the due stages of a life-development should in order to be quite sure to accomplish in all steadiness, clearness, and certainty his aim, his vocation, and his destiny, be guarded from the very beginning against a crowd of misconceptions and blunders. Therefore I determined to devote myself rather to the general subject of the education of man.
Though the splendid lectures I heard on mineralogy, crystallography, geology, etc., led me to see the uniformity of Nature in her working, yet a higher and greater unity lay in my own mind. To give an example, it was always most unsatisfactory to me to see form developed from a number of various ground-forms. The object which now lay before my efforts and my thought was to bring out the higher unity underlying external form in such a self-evident shape that it should serve as a type or principle whence all other forms might be derived. But as I held the laws of form to be fixed, not only for crystals, but also just as firmly for language, it was more particularly a deep philosophical view of language which eventually absorbed my thoughts. Again, ideas about language which I had conceived long ago in Switzerland crowded before my mind. It seemed to me that the vowels a, o, u, e, i, ae, au, ei, resembled, so to speak, force, spirit, the (inner) subject, whilst the consonants symbolised matter, body, the (outer) object. But just as in life and in nature all opposites are only relatively opposed, and within every circle, every sphere, both opposites are found to be contained, so also in language one perceives within the sphere of speech-tones the two opposites of subject and object. For example, the sound i depicts the absolute subject, the centre, and the sound a the absolute material object; the sound e serves for life as such, for existence in general; and o for individual life, for an existence narrowed to itself alone.
Language, not alone as the material for the expression of thought, but also as a type or epitome of all forms and manifestations of life, appeared to me to underlie the universal laws of expression. In order to learn these laws thoroughly, as exemplified in the teaching of the classical languages, I now returned again to the study of these latter, under the guidance of a clever teacher; and I began to strike out the special path which seemed to me absolutely necessary to be followed in their acquisition.
From this time onwards I gave all my thoughts to methods of education, whereto I was also further incited by some keen critical lectures on the history of ancient philosophy. These again afforded me a clear conviction of the soundness of my views of Nature and of the laws of human development.
Through my work at the dynamical, chemical, and mathematical aspects of Nature I came once more upon the consideration of the laws of number, particularly as manifested through figures; and this led me to a perfectly fresh general view of the subject—namely, that number should be regarded as horizontally related. That way of considering the subject leads one to very simple fundamental conceptions of arithmetic, which, when applied in practice, prove to be as accurate as they are clear. The connection of these (dynamical and arithmetical) phenomena was demonstrably apparent to me; since arithmetic may be considered, firstly, as the outward expression of the manifestation of force, secondly (in its relationship to man), as an example of the laws of human thought.
On all sides, through nature as well as through history, through life as well as through science (and as regards the latter through pure science as well as through the applied branches), I was thus encountered and appealed to by the unity, the simplicity, and the unalterably necessary course, of human development and human education. I became impelled by an irresistible impulse towards the setting forth of that unity and simplicity, with all the force, both of my pen and of my life, in the shape of an educational system. I felt that education as well as science would gain by what I may call a more human, related, affiliated, connected treatment and consideration of the subjects of education.
I was led to this conviction on another ground, as follows:—Although my friends Langethal, Middendorff, and Bauer served with me all through the war in the same corps, and even in the same battalion, we were a great deal apart towards the close of the campaign, especially at the time we were quartered in the Netherlands, so that I, at all events, at the disbanding of the corps, knew not whither the others had gone. It was, therefore, an unexpected pleasure when, after a while, I found them all at Berlin again. My friends pursued their theological studies with earnestness, and I my natural science; therefore, at first we came little into contact with one another.
So passed several months, when suddenly life threw us closer together again. This came about through the call to arms in 1815. We all enlisted again together as volunteers. On account of our previous service, and by royal favour, we were at once promoted to officer's rank, and each one was appointed to a regiment. However, there was such a throng of volunteers that it was not necessary for any State officials to be called upon to leave their posts, or for students to interrupt their studies, and we therefore received counter-orders commanding us to stay at home. Middendorff, who felt sure of his speedy departure for the army, preferred not to take lodgings for the short time of his stay in Berlin, and as there was room enough in mine for us both, he came and stayed with me. Yet we still seemed to draw very little closer together at first, because of the diversity of our pursuits; but soon a bond of union wove itself again, which was all the stronger on that very account. Langethal and Middendorff had endeavoured to secure a sufficiency for their support at the university by taking private tutorships in families, making such arrangements as that their university studies should not be interfered with. In the beginning of their work all seemed simple and easy, but they soon came upon difficulties both as regards the teaching and the training of the children entrusted to them. As our former conversations had so often turned upon these very subjects they now came to me to consult me, especially about mathematical teaching and arithmetic, and we set apart two hours a week, in which I gave them instruction on these matters. From this moment our mutual interchange of thought again became animated and continuous.
* * * * *
Here the autobiography breaks off abruptly. Herr Wichard Lange had some trouble in deciphering it from Froebel's almost unreadable rough draft, and here and there he had even to guess at a word or so. Froebel had intended to present this letter to the Duke of Meiningen at the close of 1827, when the negotiations began to be held about a proposed National Educational Institution at Helba, to be maintained by the duke, after the similar proposal made to the Prince of Rudolstadt for Quittelsdorf earlier in the year had broken down. It is not known whether the present draft was ever finished, properly corrected, and polished into permanent form, nor whether it was ever delivered to the duke. It is highly probable that we have here all that Froebel accomplished towards it. It may be added that soon after Froebel's repeated plans and drafts for the Helba Institution had culminated in the final extensive well-known plan of the spring of 1829, the whole scheme fell through, from the jealousy of the prince's advisers, who feared Froebel's influence too much to allow him ever to get a footing amongst them.
Another fragment of autobiography, going on to a further period of his life, occurs in a long letter to the philosopher Krause, dated Keilhau, 24th March, 1828, in reply to an article written by Krause five years before (1823) in Oken's journal, the well-known Isis in which article Krause had found fault with Froebel's two explanatory essays on Keilhau, written in 1822, separately published, and appearing also in the Isis, because Keilhau was there put forward as "an educational institution for all Germany" (Allgemeine Deutsche Erziehungs-Anstalt), whereas Krause desired it should rather style itself "a German institution for universal culture" (Deutsche Anstalt fuer Allgemeine menschliche Bildung). The rapid growth of Keilhau gave Froebel at the time no leisure for controversy. In 1827 began the cruel persecutions which eventually compelled him to leave Keilhau. Now whenever Froebel was under the pressure of outward difficulty, he always sought for help from within, and from his inward contemplation derived new courage and new strength to face his troubles. Out of such musings in the present time of adversity the long-awaited reply to Krause at length emerged. The disputative part, interesting in itself, does not here concern us. We pass at once to the brief sketch of his life contained in later parts of the letter, omitting what is not autobiographical. The earlier of these passages relate more succinctly the events of the same period already more fully described in the letter to the Duke of Meiningen; but we think it better to print the passages in full, in spite of their being to a great extent a repetition of what has gone before. Certain differences, however, will be found not unworthy of notice.
The Krause letter succeeded the other and more important letter (to the Duke of Meiningen) by some few months. Its immediate outcome was a warm friendship between Krause and Froebel; the latter, with Middendorff as his companion, journeying to Goettingen to make the philosopher's personal acquaintance, in the autumn of 1828. Long discussions on education took place at this interesting meeting, as we know from Leonhardi, Krause's pupil. Krause made Froebel acquainted with the works of Comenius, amongst other things, and introduced him to the whole learned society of Goettingen, where he made a great, if a somewhat peculiar, impression.
PART OF FROEBEL'S LETTER TO KRAUSE, DATED KEILHAU, 24TH MARCH, 1828.
... You have enjoyed, without doubt, unusual good fortune in having pursued the strict path of culture. You have sailed by Charybdis without being swallowed up by Scylla. But my lot has been just the reverse.
As I have already told you in the beginning of this letter, I was very early impressed with the contradictions of life in word and deed—in fact, almost as soon as I was conscious of anything, living as a lonely child in a very narrowed and narrowing circle. A spirit of contemplation, of simplicity, and of childlike faith; a stern, sometimes cruel, self-repression; a carefully-fostered inward yearning after knowledge by causes and effects, together with an open-air life amidst Nature, especially amidst the world of plants, gradually freed my soul from the oppression of these contradictions. Thus, in my tenth and eleventh years, I came to dream of life as a connected whole without contradictions. Everywhere to find life, harmony, freedom from contradictions, and so to recognise with a keener and clearer perception the life-unity after which I dimly groped, was the silent longing of my heart, the mainspring of my existence. But the way thither through the usual school course, all made up of separate patches, considering things merely in their outward aspect, and connected by mere arbitrary juxtaposition, was too lifeless to attract me; I could not remember things merely put together without inner connection, and so it came about that after two of my elder brothers had devoted themselves to study, and because my third brother showed great capacity for study also, my own education was narrowed; but so much the more closely did a loving, guiding providence bind my heart in communion with Nature.
In silent, trustful association with Nature and my mathematics, I lived for several years after my confirmation. In the latter part of the time my duties led me towards the study of natural laws, and thus towards the perception of the unity so often longed for in soul and spirit, and now at last gradually becoming clear from amidst the outwardly clashing phenomena of Nature.
At last I could no longer resist the craving for knowledge which I felt within me. I thrust on one side all the ordinary school-learning which I utterly failed to appropriate in its customary disconnected state (it was meant only to be learned by rote, and this I never could recognise as the exclusive condition of a really comprehensive culture of the human mind), and I went up in the middle of my eighteenth year to the University of Jena. As I had been for two years past living completely with Nature and my mathematics, and dependent upon myself alone for any culture I might have arrived at, I came to the university much like a simple plant of nature myself. I was at this time peculiarly moved by a little knowledge I had picked up about the solar system, including particularly a general conception of Kepler's laws, whereby the laws of the spheres appealed to me on the one hand as an all-embracing, world-encircling whole, and on the other as an unlimited individualisation into separate natural objects. My own culture had been hitherto left to myself, and so also now I had to select my own studies and to choose my courses of lectures for myself. It was to be expected that the lectures of the professors would produce a singular effect upon me, and so they did.
I chose as my courses natural history, physics, and mathematics, but I was little satisfied. I seldom gained what I expected. Everywhere I sought for a sound method deriving itself from the fundamental principle lying at the root of the subject in hand, and afterwards summing up all details into that unity again; everywhere I sought for recognition of the quickening interconnection of parts, and for the exposition of the inner all-pervading reign of law. Only a few lectures made some poor approach to such methods, but I found nothing of the sort in those which were most important to me, physics and mathematics. Especially repugnant to me was the piece-meal patchwork offered to us in geometry, always separating and dividing, never uniting and consolidating.
I was, however, perfectly fascinated with the mathematical rules of "combination, permutation, and variation," but unhappily I could not give much time to their study, which I have regretted ever since. Otherwise, what I learned from the lectures was too slight for what I wanted, being, unluckily, altogether foreign to my nature, and more often a mere getting of rules by heart rather than an unfolding of principles. The theoretical and philosophical courses on various subjects did not attract me either, something about them always kept me at a distance; and from what I heard of them amongst my fellow-students, I could gather that here, too, all was presented in an arbitrary fashion, unnaturally divided, cut up, so to speak, into lifeless morsels; so that it was useless for my inner life to seek for satisfaction in those regions of study. But as I said above, there were some of the lectures which fostered my interest in the inner connection of all vital phenomena, and even helped me to trace it with some certainty in some few restricted circles.
But my financial position did not permit me to remain long at the university; and as my studies were those which fitted the student for practical professional life, though they were regarded from a higher point of view by myself in the privacy of my own thoughts, I had to return to ordinary every-day work, and use them as a means to earn my living. Yet, though I lived the outward business life to all appearance, it remained ever foreign to my nature; I carried my own world within me, and it was that for which I cared and which I cherished. My observation of life (and especially that of my own life, which I pursued with the object of self-culture), joined with the love of Nature and with mathematics to work creatively upon me; and they united to fill my little mental world with many varied life-forms, and taught me at the same time to regard my own existence as one member of the great universal life. My plan of culture was very simple: it was to seek out the innermost unity connecting the most diverse and widely-separated phenomena, whether subjective or objective, and whether theoretical or practical, to learn to see the spiritual side of their activity, to apprehend their mutual relations as facts and forms of Nature, or to express them mathematically; and, on the other hand, to contemplate the natural and mathematical laws as founded in the innermost depths of my own life as well as in the highest unity of the great whole, that is indeed to regard them in their unconditioned, uncaused necessity, as "absolute things-in-themselves." Thus did I continue without ceasing to systematise, symbolise, idealise, realise and recognise identities and analogies amongst all facts and phenomena, all problems, expressions, and formulas which deeply interested me; and in this way life, with all its varied phenomena and activities, became to me more and more free from contradictions, more harmonious, simple, and clear, and more recognisable as a part of the life universal.
After I had lived for some years the isolated life I have described, though I was engaged the whole time in ordinary professional pursuits, all at once there broke upon my soul, in harmony with the seasons of nature, a springtime such as I had not before experienced; and an unexpected life and life-aim budded and blossomed in my breast. All my inner life and life-aims had become narrowed to the circle of self-culture and self-education. The outer life, my profession, I carried on as a mere means of subsistence, quite apart from my real inner self, and my sphere of operation was limited. I was driven perforce from pillar to post till at last I had arrived where the Main unites herself with the Rhine. Here there budded and opened to my soul one lovely bright spring morning, when I was surrounded by Nature at her loveliest and freshest, this thought, as it were by inspiration:—That there must exist somewhere some beautifully simple and certain way of freeing human life from contradiction, or, as I then spake out my thought in words, some means of restoring to man, himself, at peace internally; and that to seek out this way should be the vocation of my life. And yet my life, to all appearance, my studies and my desires, belonged to my purely external vocation, and to its external citizenlike relations; and by no means to mankind at large, either regarded in itself or in its educational needs. Therefore this idea of mine was in such violent contrast with my actual life that it utterly surprised me. In fact, and perhaps greatly because of this contrast, the idea would undoubtedly have been quite forgotten, had not other circumstances occurred to revive it. On myself and on my life at the time it seemed to have not the slightest effect, and it soon passed from my memory. But later on in this same journey, as I climbed down from the Wartburg, and turned round to look at the castle, there rushed upon me once more this thought of a higher educational vocation as my proper life-work; and again, being so far removed from my actual external life, it only flashed upon me with a momentary effulgence an instant, and then sank. This, unconsciously to me, and therefore quite disregarded by me, was the real position of my inner life when I arrived at the goal of my journey, Frankfurt, from whence my life was so soon to develop so largely. My energies at the moment were devoted towards attaining some definite professional position for myself. But in proportion as I began to examine my profession more closely in its practical aspect, so did it begin to prove insufficient of itself to satisfy me as the occupation of my life. Then there came to me the definite purpose of living and working at my profession rather to use it as a means to win some high benefit for mankind.
The restlessness of youth, nay, that chance, rather, which has always lovingly guided me, threw me unexpectedly into relations with a man whose knowledge of mankind, and whose penetrating glance into my inner being turned me at our very first interview from the profession of an architect to that of a teacher and an educator, two spheres of work which had, never previously occurred to me, still less had appeared to me as the future objects of my life. But the very first time I found myself before thirty or forty boys from nine to eleven years old, for that was the class allotted to me to teach, I felt thoroughly at home. In fact, I perceived that I had at last found my long-missed life element; and as I wrote to my brother at the time, I was as well pleased as the fish in the water, I was inexpressibly happy. Yet here from the very first moment (and what a number of sacrifices had to be made, what a wealth of activity was poured out!) I had to give information, advice, and decisions on matters which hitherto I had not thought it necessary seriously to consider, and so also here, in my new position, I soon came to feel myself isolated, to stand alone.
I sought counsel where I had so often found it. I looked within myself and to Nature for help. Here my plan of culture, hitherto followed only for my own needs, came opportunely to my assistance. When I was consulted by others, I looked to Nature for the answer, and let Nature, life, spirit, and law speak for themselves through me; then the answer was not merely satisfactory. No! its simple, unhesitating confidence and youthful freshness gladdened and quickened the inquirer.
This was all well enough when universal human interests were concerned, but how about matters of instruction? I could, in fact, fairly confess that in many respects I had no title to call myself a cultured man, for hitherto all my culture had been fragmentary or imaginative.
Once again I found myself in conflict with my environment; for I could not possibly torture my scholars with what I myself had refused to be tortured with—namely, the learning by heart of disconnected rules. I was therefore compelled to strike out fresh paths for myself, which indeed my post rendered a delightful task; because I not only had full liberty accorded me in this matter, but was even urged onwards in that direction by my duty, since the institution was a model school for the higher development of teaching. My past self-culture, self-teaching, and self-development, and my study of Nature and of life now stood me in good stead.
But this letter is not intended to contain the whole history of the development of my mind; and I will therefore pass quickly forward, just mentioning that from this time for six years onwards, during which I thrice completely changed the conditions of my life, I held most earnestly by this same temper of mind and this same endeavour; and although I still always lived in isolation as to my personal inner life, yet I was at many points in full contact with the brisk mental effort and activity of that stirring time (1805 to 1810), as regards teaching, philosophy, history, politics, and natural science.
But the nobler, the more varied, the more animating was the life surrounding me, and the more I found all without me, as also all within me, striving and tending towards harmony and unity, by so much the less could I longer be restrained from seeking out this unity, even should it be at the sacrifice of all that was dear to me, if need were for that. I was impelled to seek to develop this unity all bright and living within my own soul, and to contemplate it in definite, clear, and independent form, so that finally I might be able to set it forth in my actual life with sureness and certainty.
After nine years' interval I visited the university a second time; first (spring of 1810) at Goettingen, and then a year and a half later (autumn of 1811) at Berlin.
I now began to pursue the study of languages. The linguistic treasures which recent discoveries had brought us from Asia excited my deepest interest wherever I came into contact with them.
But in general the means of acquiring languages were too lifeless, too wanting in connection to be of any use to me; and the effort to work them out afresh in my own way, soon led me to a renewed study of Nature. Nature held me henceforth so fast that for years I was chained uninterruptedly to her study, though truly languages went on as a side-study during the time. Yet it was not as separate entities that I considered the phenomena I was working at; rather was it as parts of the great whole of natural life, and this also I regarded as reposing in one supreme unity together with all mankind; Nature and man, the two opposite mutually casting light upon each other and mirroring each other.
After the German war of the spring of 1813 had interrupted my studies at Berlin, and I had made acquaintance with a soldier's life, its need, and its habits in Luetzow's corps, I returned in 1814 to my studies and to a scientific public post in Berlin. The care, the arrangement, and in part the investigation and explanation of crystals were the duties of my office. Thus I reached at last the central point of my life and life-aim, where productiveness and law, life, nature, and mathematics united all of them in the fixed crystalline form, where a world of symbols offered itself to the inner eye of the mind; for I was appointed assistant to Weiss at the mineralogical museum of the Berlin University.
For a long time it was my endeavour and my dearest wish to devote myself entirely to an academical career, which then appeared to me as my true vocation and the only solution of the riddle of my life; but the opportunities I had of observing the natural history students of that time, their very slight knowledge of their subject, their deficiency of perceptive power, their still greater want of the true scientific spirit, warned me back from this plan. On the other hand, the need of man for a life worthy of his manhood and of his species pressed upon me with all the more force, and, therefore, teaching and education again asserted themselves vigorously as the chief subjects occupying my thoughts. Consequently I was only able to keep my mind contented with the duties of my post for two years; and, meanwhile, the stones in my hand and under my eyes turned to living, speaking forms. The crystal-world, in symbolic fashion, bare unimpeachable witness to me, through its brilliant unvarying shapes, of life and of the laws of human life, and spake to me with silent yet true and readable speech of the real life of the world of mankind.
Leaving everything else, sacrificing everything else, I was driven back upon the education of man, driven also to my refuge in Nature, wherein as in a mirror I saw reflected the laws of the development of being, which laws I was now to turn to account for the education of my race. My task was to educate man in his true humanity, to educate man in his absolute being, according to the universal laws of all development. Therefore, leaving Berlin, and laying down my office, I began late in the autumn of 1816 that educational work which, though it still takes its impulse from me and exists under my leadership, yet in its deepest nature is self-sufficient and self-conditioned.
Although I was not perhaps then capable of putting my convictions into words, I at once realised this work in my own mind as comprehensive and world-embracing in its nature, as an everlasting work to be evermore performed for the benefit of the whole human race; yet I nevertheless linked it, and for this very reason, to my own personal life; that is, since I had no children of my own, I took to me my dear nephews whom I most deeply loved, in order through them and with them to work out blessings for my home and my native land, for Schwarzburg and Thuringia, and so for the whole wide Fatherland itself. The eternal principles of development, as I recognised them within me, would have it thus and not otherwise.
Timidly, very timidly, did I venture to call my work by the title of "German," or "Universal German" education; and, indeed, I struck that out from one of my manuscripts, although it was precisely the name required to start with as it expressed the broad nature of my proposed institution. An appeal to the general public to become thorough men seemed to me too grandiose, too liable to be misunderstood, as, indeed, in the event, it only too truly proved; but to become thorough Germans, so I thought, would seem to them something in earnest, something worth the striving for, especially after such hard and special trials as had recently been endured by the German nation.
With your penetrating judgment you quarrelled with that term "German education;" but, after all, even the appeal to be made thorough Germans proved to be too grandiose and liable to be misunderstood. For every one said "German? Well, I am German, and have been so from my birth, just as a mushroom is a mushroom; what, then, do I want with education to teach me to be a thorough German?" What would these worthy people have said, had I asked them to train themselves to become thorough men? Now had I planned my educational institute altogether differently, had I offered to train a special class, body-servants, footmen or housemaids, shoemakers or tailors, tradesmen or merchants, soldiers or even noblemen, then should I have gained fame and glory for the great usefulness and practical nature of my institution, for certain; and surely all men would have hastened to acknowledge it as an important matter, and as a thing to be adequately supported by the State. I should have been held as the right man in the right place by the State and by the world; and so much the more because as a State-machine I should have been engaged in cutting out and modelling other State-machines. But I—I only wanted to train up free, thinking, independent men! Now who wants to be, or who cares to suffer another to be, a free-thinking, independent man? If it was folly to talk about educating persons as Germans, what was it to talk about educating them as men? The education of Germans was felt to be something extraordinary and farfetched; the education of men was a mere shadow, a deceitful image, a blind enthusiasm.
From this digression I now return, to continue my attempt at making myself known to you, as far as is possible, in a letter; by which I mean my real inner self, as manifested in my endeavours and my hopes.
Permit me, therefore, to go a step nearer towards what lies deepest in my soul, at least that of it which is communicable to another person. I have started by stating my position from the side of knowledge, now let me state it also from another side. My experience, especially that gained by repeated residences at the university, had taught me beyond a doubt that the method of education hitherto in use, especially where it involved learning by rote, and where it looked at subjects simply from the outside or historically, and considered then capable of apprehension by mere exercise work, dulled the edge of all high true attainment, of all real mental insight, of all genuine progress in scientific culture, of self-contemplation, and thus of all real knowledge, and of the acquisition of truth through knowledge. I might almost go further, and say that its tendency was towards rendering all these worthy objects impossible.
Therefore, I was firmly convinced, as of course I still am, that the whole former educational system, even that which had received improvement, ought to be exactly reversed, and regarded from a diametrically opposite point of view—namely, that of a system of development. I answered those who kept asking what it was that I really did want after all, with this sentence: "I want the exact opposite of what now serves as educational method and as teaching-system in general." I was, and am, completely convinced, that after this fashion alone genuine knowledge and absolute truth, by right the universal possessions of mankind, shall find once again, not alone single students here and there, but the vast majority of all our true-hearted young men and of our professors spreading far and wide the elements of a noble humanised life. To bring this into a practical scheme I held to be my highest duty, a duty which I could never evade, and one which I could never shake off, since a man cannot shake off his own nature.
Our greatest teachers, even Pestalozzi himself not excepted, seemed to me too bare, too empirical, and arbitrary, and therefore not sufficiently scientific in their principles—that is, not sufficiently led by the laws of our being; they seemed to me in no wise to recognise the Divine element in science, to feel its worth, and to cherish it. Therefore I thought and hoped, with the courage and inexperience of youth, that all scientific and learned men, that the universities, in one word, would immediately recognise the purport of my efforts, and would strive with all their might to encourage me by word and deed.
In this I was egregiously mistaken; nevertheless I am not ashamed of the error. But few persons raised their voices for me or against me; and, indeed, your article in the Isis is the single sun-ray which really generously warmed and enlightened my life and lifework. Enough! the Universities paid no heed to the simple schoolmaster. As to the "able editors," they, in their reviews, thought very differently from me; but why should I trouble myself further with remembering their performances, which were written simply with the object of degrading me and my work? They never succeeded in shaking my convictions in the least.
I regard the simple course of development, proceeding from analysis to synthesis, which characterises pure reasoned thought, as also the natural course of the development of every human being. Such a course of development, exactly opposite to the path taken by the old-fashioned methods of education, I now see mankind about to enter upon; nay, it has been actually entered upon already in a few single cases, though these cases are almost unknown and therefore unregarded; and with this new course of development a new period is to begin, a new age for all mankind, and therefore in the higher inner sense a new world; a world, perceiving and understanding, perceived and understood; a world of crystal clearness, creating an altogether new life for science, and carrying onward therefore the true science, that is, the science of being, and all that is founded upon this and conditioned by this.
I may image forth the position of my educational establishment with regard to the universities, under the figure of family life.
In a healthily constituted family it is the mother who first cares for, watches over, and develops the child, teaches him to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest," deriving everything she teaches from its central unity, and gathering up her teaching into that unity again.
The father receives his son from the hand and the heart of the mother; with his soul already full of true active life, of desire for the knowledge of causes and effects, for the understanding of the whole and its ramifications; with his mind open to the truth and his eyes to the light, and with a perpetually nourished yearning for creative activity, able to observe while building up, and to recognise while taking apart; such in himself and his surroundings, always active, creative, full of thought and endeavour, does the father receive his son in his home, to train and teach him for the wider life outside. Thus should it be with my educational institute and the universities; as regards the growth and development of man I only desire to take the place of the silently working, tenderly cherishing mother.
The life, the will, the understanding, these three must form the common chord or triad of the harmony of human life, now one tone, now another, now two of the three, rising powerfully above the rest. But where these tones are separate and inharmonious there they work to discord, as we see but too clearly in daily life:—
"Wrestling with life and with death, suspended between them we hang."
In whatever family this chord is from the first set sweetly in tune, its pure concords uniting to form the fundamental harmony of existence, there all the hobgoblins of ordinary life, which even yet often unite to annoy us, will be driven far away, there will joy and peace perpetually inhabit, there will heaven descend to earth and earth rise up to heaven; to a heaven, moreover, as full of contentment, as responsive to every yearning of the soul as ever the Church has painted.
But since all true and earnest life must arise from and return to the ideal life, to life in itself, so must a school of development, which is to lead men, by means of their ordinary life, towards that higher life, be itself a true school of religious training in the most comprehensive sense of the word.
Man ought not to be contented with teaching merely directed to satisfy his needs as a child of earth, but must demand and receive from education a true foundation, a creative, satisfying preparation for all the grades of development of nature and the world which mankind encounters, and for the everlasting here and beyond of each new moment of existence, for the everlasting rest, the everlasting activity, the everlasting life in God.
As, however, it is only as a Christian, be he consciously or unconsciously so, baptised or unbaptised, taking the Christian name or rejecting it, that he can think and act after this fashion, you can see at once the reason why my system of education feels itself to be, and in fact claims to be, an education after the true spirit, and following the precepts of Jesus Christ.
Through love, mutual faith, and a common aim towards acquiring, manifesting, and acting out knowledge, there has grown up round me a little company of men bound together by beautiful human bonds, the like of which you would with difficulty find elsewhere. In your last letter you desired to have some account of these friends and members of my household. I will describe them for you.
But if my account is to be anything more than a lifeless list of names, and if, though it cannot be the closely-branched tree of life which actually exists, it is at least to come as near it as a garland or a nosegay to the tree, you must permit me to go back a little into my past life; for out of the self-same spirit, whence arose my own endeavours and which gave its direction to my own life, arose also the circle of those friends who are now so closely united with me.
The German war of 1813, in which so much seed-corn was sowed that perhaps only the smaller part of it has yet sprung up, to say nothing of blossoming and fruitage, sowed also the seed whence sprang the first beginnings of our association, and of our harmonious circle. In April 1813 Jahn led me and other Berlin students to meet my future comrades in arms, Luetzow's "Black Troop;" we went from Berlin to Dresden, and thence for the most part to Leipzig. On this march Jahn made me acquainted before we reached Meissen with another Berlin student, Heinrich Langethal, of Erfurt, as a fellow-countryman of mine; and Langethal introduced me to his friend and fellow-student in theology, Middendorff, of Brechten, near Dortmund.
A wonderfully lovely spring evening spent together by the friendly shores of Elbe, and a visit to the magnificent Cathedral of Meissen, brought me nearer to these and other comrades; but it was the pleasant banks of Havel at Havelberg, the charming situation of the grand cathedral, the "Rhine Travels" of Georg Forster, a common love for nature, and above all a common eager yearning for higher culture that bound us three for ever together.
The war in all its exhilaration and depression, its privation and pleasure, its transient and its permanent aspects, flowed on; sometimes nearer to us, sometimes further away. In August 1814 I was released from service, and returned to Berlin, there to enter upon the post at the University Museum, which I have already mentioned.
Soon after, quite unexpectedly, I ran against my friends again, who had come back to Berlin to finish their studies. After being somewhat separated by the nature of our work, they as eagerly studying theology as I did natural science, our common need and inner aspiration brought us once more together. They had taken some private teaching, and were frequently driven to seek my counsel and instruction by the difficulties of their new position. When the war broke out afresh in 1815, Middendorff had been living for several months previously with me as room companion. Thus had life thrown us closely together, so that I could see each one exactly as he was, in all his individuality, with his qualities and his deficiencies, with what he could contribute, and what he would have to receive from others.
In October 1816 I left my post, and quitted Berlin, without as yet confiding to any one exactly what outward aim I had in view, simply saying that I would write and give some account of myself as soon as I had found what I set out to seek. In November of the same year my dearly loved brother, the eldest now living, whom I made my confidant so far as that was possible, and who was at that time a manufacturer at Osterode in the Harz district, gave me his two sons to educate. They were his only sons, though not his only children; two boys of six and eight years old respectively. With these boys I set out for a village on the Urn called Griesheim, and there I added to my little family, first two, then a third, that is, altogether three other nephews, the orphan sons of my late dearest brother, he who had always best sympathised with me through life. He had been minister at Griesheim, and his widow still lived there. He had died of hospital fever in 1813, just after the cessation of the war. I reckon, therefore, the duration of my present educational work from November 16th, 1816.
Already I had written from Osterode to Middendorff at Berlin, inviting him and Langethal to join me and help in working out a system of life and education worthy of man. It was only possible for Middendorff to reach me by April 1817, and Langethal could not arrive until even the following September. The latter, however, sent me, by Middendorff, his brother, a boy of eleven years old; so that I now had six pupils. In June of the same year (1817) family reasons caused me to move from Griesheim to this place, Keilhau. Next came other pupils also, with Langethal's arrival in September. My household was growing fast, and yet I had no house of my own. In a way only comprehensible to Him Who knows the workings of the mind, I managed by November to get the school that I now occupy built as a frame-house, but without being in possession of the ground it stood on.
I pass over the space of a year, which was nevertheless so rich in experiences of trouble and joy, of times when we were cast down, and other times when we were lifted up, that its description would easily fill many times the space even of this long letter. In June of the following year I became in the most remarkable way possessor of the little farm which I still hold, in Keilhau, and thus for the first time possessor also of the land upon which the schoolhouse had already been erected. As yet there were no other buildings there.
In September 1818 I brought to the household, still further increased, and now so rich with children and brothers, its housewife, in the person of a lady whom a like love of Nature and of childhood with my own, and a like high and earnest conception of education, as the preparation for a life worthy of man, had drawn towards me. She was accompanied by a young girl whom she had some time before adopted as a daughter, and who now came with her to assist her in the duties of the household.
We had now a severe struggle for existence for the whole time up to 1820. With all our efforts we never could get the school house enlarged; other still more necessary buildings had to be erected first, under pressing need for them. In the year 1820, on Ascension Day, my brother from Osterode, whose two sons were already my pupils, came to join me with his whole family and all his possessions; urged by his love for his boys, and a wish to help in the advancement of my life's purpose. As my brother, beyond the two sons I have mentioned, had three daughters, my family was increased by five persons through his arrival.
The completion of the school-house was now pushed on with zeal; but it was 1822 before we got it finished. Our life from this point becomes so complex that it is impossible to do more than just mention what applies to the Association formed by our still united members.
In 1823, Middendorff's sister's son Barop, till then a divinity student in Halle, visited us; and he was so impressed by the whole work that he was irresistibly driven soon afterwards to join us in our life-task. Since 1823, with the exception of such breaks as his work in life demanded, he has been uninterruptedly one of our community, sharing in our work. At this moment he is in Berlin, serving his one year with the colours as a volunteer, and devoting what time he has to spare, to earnest study, especially that of natural science. We hope to have him back with us next spring. In the autumn of 1825 Langethal became engaged to my wife's adopted daughter, who had come with her from Berlin; and Middendorff became engaged to my brother's eldest daughter. Ascension Day 1826 was the wedding-day for both couples. Heaven blessed each marriage with a daughter, but took back to itself the little one of Langethal.
Still another faithful colleague must I remember here, Herr Carl from Hildburghausen, who has been since New Year's Day 1825 a member of our Institute, his particular work being to teach instrumental music and singing. He lives and works in the true spirit of the Institute, and is bound up heart and soul with its fortunes. Of other teachers, who have assisted us in the Institute for greater or less time, I need not speak; they never properly belonged to our circle. Amongst all the specially associated members of our little band, not one breach has occurred since the beginning of our work. I would I could feel that I had accomplished what I have aimed at in this letter—namely, to make you acquainted with the inner deep seated common life which really binds together the members composing our outwardly united association; although it has only been feasible rather to suggest by implication the internal mental phenomena of the external bonds of union than properly to indicate them and to set them clearly forth.
* * * * *
This ends the autobiographical part of the Krause letter. Here and there in the footnotes the present editors, profound admirers of the great master, have ventured to criticise frankly the inordinate belief in himself which was at once Froebel's strength, and his weakness. On the one hand, his noble and truly gigantic efforts were only made possible by his almost fanatical conviction in his principles and in his mission. On the other hand, this dogmatic attitude made it very difficult to work with him, for persons of any independence of mind. He could scarcely brook discussion, never contradiction. This is most characteristically shown by a fragment of Froebel's dated 1st April, 1829, as follows:—
"I consider my own work and effort as unique in all time, as necessary in itself, and as the messenger of reformation for all ages, working forwards and backwards, offering and giving to mankind all that it needs, and all that it perpetually seeks on every side. I have no complaint to make if others think otherwise about it; I can bear with them; I can even, if need be, live with them, and this I have actually done; but I can share no life-aim with them, they and I have no unity of purpose in life. It is not I, it is they who are at fault herein; I do not separate myself from them, they withdraw themselves from me."
To get a view of Froebel's work from the practical side, so as to supplement the account we have received from Froebel himself as to the origination and development of the principles upon which that work was based, we have selected a sketch by Barop entitled "Critical Moments in the Froebel Community;" written for Dr. Lange's edition by Barop (then the principal and proprietor of Keilhau) about the year 1862.
CRITICAL MOMENTS IN THE FROEBEL COMMUNITY.
Under this heading Barop writes as follows:—
About 1827 we were in an unusually critical position. You know how little means we had when we began to create our Institution. Middendorff had sacrificed his entire inheritance from his father, but the purchase of the ground and the erection of necessary buildings called for considerable sums, so that Middendorff's addition to the capital had disappeared like drops of water falling on a hot stone. My father-in-law, Christian Ludwig Froebel, had later on come forward and placed his entire fortune unconditionally in the hands of his brother, but even this sacrifice was not sufficient to keep away care and want from the door. My own father was a man of means, but he was so angry at my joining the Froebel community at Keilhau that he refused me any assistance whatever. Mistrust surrounded us on all sides in these early years of our work; open and concealed enmities assailed us both from near and far, and sought to embitter our lot and to nip our efforts in the bud. None the less for this, the institution blossomed quick and fair; but later on, through the well-known persecution directed against associations of students, it was brought to the verge of ruin, for the spirit of 1815 was incarnate within it, and it was this spirit which at the time (about 1827) was the object of the extremest irritation. It would carry me too far were I to attempt to give a complete account of these things. At times it really seemed as if the devil himself must be let loose against us. The number of our pupils sank to five or six, and as the small receipts dwindled more and more, so did the burden of debt rise higher and higher till it reached a giddy height. Creditors stormed at us from every side, urged on by lawyers who imbrued their hands in our misery. Froebel would run out at the back door and escape amongst the hills whenever dunning creditors appeared. Middendorff, and he alone, generally succeeded in quieting them, a feat which might seem incredible to all but those who have known the fascination of Middendorff's address. Sometimes quite moving scenes occurred, full of forbearance, trustfulness, and noble sentiment, on the part of workmen who had come to ask us for their money. A locksmith, for instance, was strongly advised by his lawyer to "bring an action against the scamps," from whom no money was to be got, and who were evidently on the point of failure. The locksmith indignantly repudiated the insult thus levelled against us, and replied shortly that he had rather lose his hard-earned money than hold a doubt as to our honourable conduct, and that nothing was further from his thoughts than to increase our troubles. Ah! and these troubles were hard to bear, for Middendorff had already married, and I followed his example. When I proposed for my wife, my future father-in-law and mother-in-law said, "You surely will not remain longer in Keilhau?" I answered, "Yes! I do intend to remain here. The idea for which we live seems to me to be in harmony with the spirit of the age, and also of deep importance in itself; and I have no doubt but that men will come to believe in us because of our right understanding of this idea, in the same way that we ourselves believe in the invisible." As a matter of fact, none of us have ever swerved one instant from the fullest belief in our educational mission, and the most critical dilemma in the times we have passed through has never revealed one single wavering soul in this little valley.