The attitude of the educator will be of one who always remembers that there is an immortal soul behind the child’s personality
- Abstract by Jan Kuniholm: (This is a collection of notes rather than an essay.) There are three stage of spiritual education. In the first stage devotion is developed in the child; in the second stage the adolescent is helped to understand himself; in the third stage, there is a true spiritual awakening in the young adult. The steps in the Montessori Method can be used in these stages. In the child there is a soul behind the mask of the personality. Approaching the child as soul to a soul changes the educational attitude. The Synthetic principle of education is: Work on the Subconscious; Evoke and awaken the Superconscious; Collaborate with the Conscious. Other notes.
The spirituality of children certainly cannot be compared with that of adults. However, children can be given a spiritual predisposition and preparation. It can greatly ease the way. One can prepare the spirituality of children so that the soul can more easily take possession of it.
These [steps] correspond to the methods of education that we advocate, which contradict the current methods but avoid excessive freedom in children: The Montessori Method.[i] When people talk about spiritual education they say, “but that is a most difficult thing.” Not at all, it can be done; courageous teachers already do it.
If it is done before adolescence, spiritual education avoids the crises that almost all of us have to go through, of having to go beyond formal religion and then being able to find an inner faith. Spiritual truths are intellectually very simple and can be grasped by intuition without complex mental motions.
Children and adolescents are particularly receptive and open to the spiritual sense because their souls are not yet blanketed by all the conventionalities that often form a barrier. Their spirituality is still latent, which is why it must be educated; however, a few appeals are enough to awaken it.
Spiritual education will have to be:
From the assignment that has been read and a copy of which will be kept in our educational archives,[ii] it is apparent how easily the spirituality of the pupils emerges. Respect the spontaneous spirituality of children; do not chill it with criticism.
The Second Stage[iii] [is] in adolescents, in whom there is often an inner emotional crisis, but also often a spiritual one. There is a wave of mysticism and idealism. It is a matter of understanding this crisis and disciplining it, but not repressing it, instead making it conscious. The adolescent must be helped to understand himself. He often stifles, represses his feelings and aspirations, his desire to know, precisely because he feels surrounded by misunderstanding.
The Third Stage (which can occur at any age): this is when there is a true Spiritual Awakening; it is a conversion, a “turning around” of one’s aspirations. Usually those who have this Spiritual Awakening may not understand themselves, and go through many crises.
These are three well-defined stages in which different methods are adopted.
The attitude of the educator will be of one who always remembers that there is an immortal soul behind the child’s personality. So the attitude changes completely; then the Soul is respected by removing all personal and possessive elements [from interactions with the educator]. Remember that children are sacred repositories entrusted to us by God.
Respect them in their upbringing by being God’s co-workers. When this is consciously planned, it will then no longer be a crisis, but a natural occurrence.
* * *
What education consists of:
Working on the unconscious — Collaborating with the conscious — Awakening the Superconscious.
3 Stages: Adolescent
In the first stage (in the child) we can develop devotion, curiosity for mystery, etc. This can be done with pictures, poems, music, stories, etc. I mean spirituality in the inner sense.
On this there is not much to say, but much to do. But all this can be limited in scope if there is no spiritual life in the family. True spiritual education would mean weaving spiritual life into daily life.
Mutual frank confession with children is an excellent method. What is worse than anything is “fathering.”[iv] It is much better to place oneself in a spiritual atmosphere with the babies. This is the basis of spiritual education. This method can be enlivened with games, etc.
Try to be able to arrive at: first, prayer in common; second, mutual confession.
The Oxford Group[v] movement teaches how to create this atmosphere of clarity in families.
Pre-adolescence, [generally] not very spiritually inclined.
At this age young people have a fantastic sensitivity; they should not be laughed at. In fact a true, often tumultuous, effervescent spirituality now arises in them. This can be a decisive moment for adolescents. It is the time to introduce them to the Great Instructors of Humanity. Offer them spiritual food, but do not impose it, because they have a jealous spirit of independence. The point is to create a spiritual atmosphere around them. One must maintain the trust and the confidence of adolescents. Demand what is right objectively, for their sake.
* * *
Synthetic principle of education:
Work on the Subconscious;
Evoke and awaken the Superconscious;
Collaborate with the Conscious.
Stage 1 – Capture, nurture, keep alive children’s spontaneous spirituality. Awaken and cultivate in them the sense of admiration, mystery, love, and communion with beings and things. Catch “memories” or glimmers of other lives and other planes.
In the First Stage address the unconscious using symbols, shapes, colors, music.
Stage 2 – Profit from the rising idealistic awakening and mystical urge of adolescents. Disciplining them, making them self-conscious, encouraging and directing them, anchoring them, so that their spiritual richness does not evaporate in “flashes in the pan,” etc. (develop this)
Stage 3 – In the young adult, when there is crisis, facilitate awakening, nurture, direct, etc. (develop this)
Above all I advise you to do a preparatory work by narrating and reading to children the lives of great men (and women), founders of religions, prophets, saints, heroes, great artists, scientists, philanthropists.
And in those lives you can naturally weave religious elements: tell how those people prayed to God, how they were helped by God and by good ways — how they loved God, gave thanks to Him for their victories, etc.
And you can say that God is the One who created all things and all living things, that God loves us all, and loves us more when we are good, when we love Him and others.
You can then make useful observations to discover children’s tendencies, noting which lives interest and excite them most.
* * *
In the child, “behind” the child there is a soul, a creature of God, waiting to express itself through the little personality (the mask) in formation. Recognize and respect this spiritual center, this soul. Children are not our creation, they are not soft wax to be molded to our liking. They are sacred repositories entrusted to us by God.
This spiritual conception of children completely changes the educational attitude. One loses the sense of possession of children — one recognizes their inherent spiritual autonomy. Thus mistakes and conflicts are avoided, especially when they become youngsters and begin to manifest their thirst for independence.
The painful period of separation from the mother is facilitated, straightened out and enlightened. One learns to turn early, and gradually more and more, to the soul behind the child rather than to the external personality; one learns to speak at the proper times, soul to soul, thus creating a bond that is more intimate, deeper and more essential than that of blood itself.
* * *
In education one must listen more and speak less. We must reduce education to its proper limits, which are willed and respected by God Himself who creates indefinite nuances of His perfections. . . Omnis spiritus laudat Dominum:[vii] every spirit has so much beauty and goodness in it that it is worthy to render praise to God. Let the voices of human spirits therefore be heard, for they are as sacred as that God from whom they came forth. Let not their flights be saddled with burdens that neither your fathers nor you can bear . . . Let them breathe in all goodness spontaneously, whatever it may be.
— E. Brianza, The Modern Abulia, pp. 96-97.[viii]
Actively foster the manifestation of the soul.
Education of adults
Education of supernormal youth, geniuses
Training, preparation of “workers,” “samurai”[warriors], “guides” in various fields
Recognition and training of aspirants and disciples
Education of the Will
Educators should recognize the power of the Second Ray[ix] that permeates our solar system and have faith in it.
V. II. 20, p. 3[x]
[i] Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician and educator best known for her philosophy of education and her writing on scientific pedagogy. There are Montessori societies and schools throughout the world —Ed.
[ii] From a previous session of this presentation. —Ed.
[iii] The First Stage was apparently given in that previous session. See stages listed later in this essay. —Ed.
[iv] This does not refer to the religious practice of confession. It seems Assagioli here is emphasizing the mutual open sharing of thoughts and feelings (“confession”) rather than didactic lecturing on spiritual matters (“fathering”). —Ed.
[v] The Oxford Group, until 1928 called First Century Christian Fellowship and after 2001 renamed Initiatives for Change, was a Christian organization founded by American minister Frank Buchanan in 1921. The tenets and practices of The Oxford group greatly influenced the steps later adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. The group proclaimed a “moral re-armament” to combat the fear and selfishness that it believes are the root of all problems. —Ed.
[vi] This editor does not know the referent of this phrase. —Ed.
[vii] Latin: literally “every spirit praises the Lord.” —Tr.
[viii] Enrico Brianza, L’abulia moderna, Milan, 1910. A study of the causes and therapy for lack of will. —Ed.
[ix] This refers to an esoteric teaching of the emanation of divine energy of love and wisdom (the second ray) from the Universal Source. There are seven rays, and each aspect of a human being is aligned with a particular ray.—Ed.
[x] Reference Unknown, possibly from the series of lessons for Meditation Group for the New Age. —Ed.
[i] Because much of this document is not in complete sentences it is inferred that it comprises lecture notes that were later typed as the manuscript that is in the Archives. The text has been re-formatted for easier reading. —Ed.
[ii] Editor’s interpolations are in [brackets]. —Ed.