A good education enhances spiritual growth, promotes right human relationships, develops good citizens and contributes to world goodwill.
There are so many aspects of education, that within the scope of this discussion the spotlight can only be briefly focused on a few particular points of interest.
1. As a rule the concept of education is associated with children or young people, and although the accent should primarily lie in this quarter, because of the need of preparing them for life’s experiences, the wise man will recognize that his education can never be regarded as fully completed. The deeper truths of life can in fact only be learned after reaching maturity, and after gaining some measure of life experience based on earlier education. The endeavour should therefore be made to keep the mind viable and keen, even though over the years a certain amount of deterioration in the physical vehicle might become noticeable. Therefore, how fortunate the man who manages to keep on experiencing his consciousness right to the end of his present spell in the material body, and who can then pass over to the spiritual worlds with full retention of consciousness.
2. When considering the mass of knowledge and all the facts of life which every unfolding personality must step by step accumulate and then assimilate in his brain, one often marvels at the complexity and efficiency of that wonderful computer with which man has been equipped. All this knowledge is of great importance, and will play a distinct role in his future development, provided always that all this information is considered with a sense of balance, and that certain essential life values are retained. One of the most fundamental principles which should be recognized is surely the value of the individual, the fact that he forms an integral part of that one whole — Humanity — and the consequent responsibility which rests upon each individual to contribute his full share towards the promotion of good relationships within that overall community. And the fair share to be subscribed by the individual will not be calculated in accordance with the mathematical fraction which his life constitutes as a small part of the whole of humanity — no, his share of the responsibilities will be determined by, and will increase in direct ratio to, the amount of spiritual light with which he has been endowed.
3. In its broader aspects education might be considered as constituting three steps:
The process of acquiring facts from all spheres of life, both past and present. The effectiveness of this procedure will be subject to several factors, of which some of the more significant are: The inborn intelligence of the individual and the efficiency of the computer with which he has been equipped; his natural inclinations as determined by the several Rays of Energy to which his life is subjected; the setting in which destiny has placed him, such as the quality and sex of the vehicle which the soul has assumed, the nationality in which he has been born, and the nature of his environment and circumstances. The candidate must then learn how to apply the information and knowledge that is gradually gathered, to maximum advantage under the circumstances where he finds himself.
The process of gradually transmuting the acquired knowledge to wisdom, and the persistent attempt to grasp and understand something of the meaning and nature of the subjective realms which are closely related to and support the outer facts and appearances. This implies the power to apply knowledge to produce sane and balanced living conditions, and the development of intelligent techniques of conduct to qualify the candidate to occupy a suitable position in his community and to contribute his share towards promoting right human relations. This will also involve training for specialized activities, commensurate with his inborn and ruling qualities and tendencies.
Effective education should lead to a sense of synthesis and of recognition of the bonds and relations stretching beyond family ties, to include the local community, then the nation, and eventually encompassing world relationships, and thus all of humanity. This training should begin by suitable preparation for parenthood and good citizenship, but should not end before the pupil has been brought to an evaluation of the position and responsibilities he carries in relation to the rest of the world of men. This training would basically be psychological, and should convey a reasonable understanding of man’s own constitution and functioning, and how this relationship stretches beyond the self, eventually becoming all-inclusive. He should also be made aware that the main causes of disharmony are based on selfishness, possessiveness, intolerance, separativeness and the lack of love. These objectionable qualities should first be eradicated in the pupil, and this will then gradually lead to better relations between individuals, and subsequently will follow a similar pattern with regard to group, national and international relations.
4. One of the first educational objectives should be to eliminate the competitive spirit and its substitution with a spirit of loving cooperation. Competition is definitely not a sine qua non for reaching high levels of attainment. What is needed is to surround the child with an atmosphere which will foster a sense of responsibility and which will set him free from the inhibitions generated by a perpetual sense of fear of life, and which then becomes the stimulus for competition. These qualities of responsibility and goodwill will be encouraged by stressing a new approach in the child’s education:
(a) Surrounding him with an atmosphere of love and trust, which will suppress the causes of timidity and will largely contribute to cast out fear. This love must be based on true and deep compassion and tenderness and not on emotional demonstrations. It should lead to courteous treatment of the child, and the expectation of equal courtesy to others. Loving compassion and a true understanding of the difficulties and complexities produced by the necessary adaptations to daily circumstances and the demands of life must inevitably bring forth the best that is in the child. Such reaction could be further stimulated by displaying sensitivity to a child’s normal affectionate response.
(b) An atmosphere of patience will contribute considerably towards engendering the rudiments of responsibility. It will require patience, but the parents and teachers should persist with the effort of increasingly shouldering the youngsters with small duties and responsibilities, thus making them aware of their fundamental usefulness in the community, and inculcating self-confidence.
(c) For the developing child an atmosphere of understanding is absolutely essential. So often older people, by their negative approach, are apt to foster, even from very early years, a sense of wrong-doing with children. The emphasis is constantly laid on petty little things, which may be annoying but are not basically wrong. To the child they are, however, being blown up and represented out of all proportion. Psychologically this must have an adverse effect on the child’s character, developing a warped sense of values, and an attitude of defensive resistance towards its elders. Instead of a purely negative attitude, one should reason with a child, explaining relative values and the reasons for the state of affairs, and the natural consequence of actions. In this way the elementary principles of the Law of Cause and Effect should also be introduced, and it will be found that such explanations will inevitably evoke response and build self-respect, confidence and responsibility.
Many of the so-called wrong actions of a child are prompted by a thwarted, inquiring spirit, or by an impulse to retaliate for that which the child, because of lack of understanding, regards as injustices. Other irresponsible reactions from the child may also be caused by an urge to attract attention, or by frustration because of an inability to employ time correctly and usefully, either with play or with small responsibilities. It should also be recognized by the educator that the developing standards of children must inevitably be influenced by daily observing the evil which is constantly being perpetrated both in their direct surroundings as well as in the wider world. Quite often such evil is committed before their very eyes and in their own homes, but if not, modern news media will quickly ensure that everybody is made aware of all that is unwholesome in the world. As a rule the same procedure is being followed in everyday conversation, the accent usually being put on that which is wrong and ugly, instead of focusing the attention on that which is good and uplifting. With lack of understanding, love and patience, and with unreasonable demands being made on them, such children will be apt to become anti-social and uncooperative.
5. Every youngster should from an early age be taught the principles of discipline, and that a certain measure of discipline in one’s attitude towards others is an essential in every decent and law-abiding community, where the human and moral rights of fellow citizens must be respected. But of equal consequence for the building of character is that children should be taught the principles of self discipline, that emotions and appetites should be controlled, and that this could save them from considerable distress and misery in later life.
6. Education therefore consists in the training of youth to enable them to deal intelligently and sanely with their environment and the circumstances of life which they are bound to encounter, and to be able to adapt themselves to the unexpected. It should equip them to play the role of worthwhile citizens, not only in their own community, but also as subjects of their nation, and as members of the greater human family.
7. In the New Age, which man has entered, youth will increasingly be trained in the ‘Art of Right Human Relations’ and the improving of social organization. This does not imply changing the existing curriculum, but rather the use of quite a different approach. It is man’s objectives and motivations which must be redirected. The accent must be changed from self-interest to communal benefits, from competitive concerns to cooperation, from the needs of the individual to those of the group or nation, and from individual effort to team or group work. To achieve this altered approach, it is essential that he must be made aware of the inner Self, recognizing that it is the soul which is now taking charge and bringing a new outlook to the personality.
The child must be taught the value of apparent barriers on his way of progress, and that these should be regarded as challenges, and their overcoming as opportunities for better qualifying himself in service of fellow human beings. He must be taught that all life’s problems will fade when approached with altruistic motives and with goodwill and loving understanding.
8. The principles of goodwill and right human relations must also be extended to include the development of the creative ability in every human being, according to temperament, natural talents, qualifications and capacities. This should cover all fields of human activity and thought, including both the arts and sciences. Man should be induced to contribute his share to all that is beautiful in the world, or if his bent is more of a technical or scientific nature, then let him contribute something towards making the world a better place to live in by creating or producing something on the physical side that will be of common benefit. The main underlying principle is that man should be taught to relinquish the purely selfish attitude, and to develop the altruistic outlook, which is a soul quality, and therefore lies dormant in each and every man, and only needs awakening.
9. What all the above really amounts to is that various soul qualities in man should be developed from as early an age as possible. Many have not reached the stage where they can consciously be made aware of the existence and functioning of the soul, whilst others will readily accept this and will do their best to adapt their lives accordingly. The teaching of the constitution of man, definitely including a description of those most significant aspects, the etheric body and the soul, should form part of every educational curriculum, and could be adapted to each required level of teaching. The next step should be to indicate the intrinsic position occupied by man, and the purpose which he should fulfill in the general scheme or Plan of Life. Such education should awaken human interest, human potential and achievement. In other words sound subjective motives for living will be supplied, leading to spiritual idealism, which should contribute towards the transmutation of the present selfish pursuits for gain and possessions, for power and status, at all cost and without consideration of the fellow man. Therefore train man to realize that if he allows his soul to rule his daily activities, all will be well!
Excerpted from the book Bridges by Aart Jurriaanse, ISBN 3-929345-11-0, further info: www.bridges-publishing.com