The Universal Order - Study Group Paper 7

Education

“Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things…TO KNOW rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendour may escape.” - Browning

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I. Education is one of the most fundamental and important of all human activities, in relation to the perfection of individual and collective life. By it the individual is enabled to find his true place in the general scheme of things, to fill that place by doing his own particular work with efficiency, and, at length, to arrive at that state of perfection which consists in the actualisation of all his capacities.

In the widest sense of the word all life is education, for it is by living that we learn the purpose of life and the means by which that purpose is to be fulfilled; but in the more restricted sense education is the training which a human being undergoes in order to fit himself for his work in the world. In this sense education is an art which is practised by the teacher for the benefit of his pupil. It is, indeed, one of the highest of all arts, for by it the developing consciousness of a human soul is unfolded and made to blossom, its energies are directed into the most useful channels, and it is brought gradually to that complete fulfilment of its potentialities in which alone is true happiness to be found.

The dignity, therefore, of the educationalist, as an artist in this special sense, whose material is a living human soul, far surpasses that of the artist in stone or colour, and if inspiration can enter into the works of the one so too can it transfigure and intensify that of the other. The true teacher is the spiritual parent of his pupil, and just as a mother trains her child to walk and to enjoy the physical world so does the teacher train his pupil to appreciate the beauties and utilities of the world of knowledge and intellect.

II. The purpose of education is that of educing, or bringing out, that which is latent in the soul. Truth and knowledge, as Plato has pointed out, do not come to us from outside since we already possess them within ourselves, though in a latent or unconscious condition, so that contact with externalities is necessary in order to bring them to our attention and make us fully conscious of them. The purpose of education, therefore, is not to push in but to draw out, not to ‘cram’ the mind with an accumulation of more or less unrelated and sometimes unimportant facts, but, by training and developing the real faculties of the soul, to confer on the individual the power to gain any kind of knowledge for himself in such a way that he is not dependent upon the testimony of others, but can prove for himself at every stage the truth of that which he learns. The storing of the mind with facts does not constitute real knowledge. For facts are effects and cannot be said to be truly known unless they are related to their causes. Moreover, knowledge which is dependent solely upon the acceptance of the opinions of others is not personal knowledge but mere belief. Real knowledge of any truth confers the capacity to demonstrate that truth to another in such a way that the latent knowledge of it which they possess becomes actual and the result is not mere opinion but unshakeable conviction. It is because truth and knowledge are within the human soul that this process of educing is possible, and the teacher should thus be able to make evident not only the veracity of his teaching but also the reasons for it. Real knowledge is easily distinguishable from that which is not real, from the fact that the one who possesses it can give the reasons for all he knows. It is this knowledge which is the only kind that is really worth having; to educe it is the highest aim of the teacher.

The fact that the mind has these innate ideas of truth is evident from the process whereby, for example, a proposition in Euclid is demonstrated. When all the steps are followed out the resultant conclusion is known to be true, but if the mind had no idea or criterion of truth within itself, no amount of demonstration would suffice to satisfy it. Thus, education is the art of educing truth.

An education which merely fits man to supply his immediate needs and desires, without reference to his ultimate purpose and final destiny, is superficial and inadequate. The true purpose of education must have a close and definite relation with the true purpose of man, and no teacher who has not solved for himself the question of the real purpose of human life can be a true educator. Man has a spiritual as well as a physical nature, he has an immortal principle as well as a mortal body, and the education which neglects the higher for the sake of the lower is a spurious imitation. That which is latent and dormant in man is the knowledge of eternal truth which belongs to his immortal self, and the purpose of education is to make actual this knowledge, which is permanent and unchanging, to enable man to know himself, with all that this implies.

III. The process of education, or the process by which latent and potential knowledge is made actual and conscious, is the orderly presentation to the consciousness of the pupil of self-evident aspects of truth adapted at every point to the stage of his unfoldment. It is also the training and perfecting of the faculties which contact these aspects. Thus, in the education of a child, he first becomes aware of shadows and sounds, then gradually he recognizes particular persons and physical objects; after this he is told simple stories and facts. But behind all facts are laws, and behind all laws are principles. The human mind, which has the capacity to cognize abstract and spiritual things as well as those which are concrete and material, is able, when properly trained, to deal with these and to derive knowledge from them as easily as from the facts which result from them. Therefore, when the faculty which receives and accepts facts has been developed, the next stage should be the systematic unfoldment of the faculty which deals with abstract ideas, laws, and principles, and derives knowledge from them. This faculty is Reason which, although more or less dormant in the vast majority of human beings, is nevertheless that which constitutes man a self-conscious human being and distinguishes him from the animals. The process of education is therefore the process of training the various faculties by which man acquires knowledge. But since man’s nature is both spiritual and corporeal, inward and outward, and since that which is corporeal is the result of that which is spiritual, it follows that man’s real fulfilment and lasting happiness depend upon the proper functioning of his more spiritual faculties; hence the process of education, if it does not give a man the capacity to know with certainty the truth about the spiritual and invisible part of his nature, and unfold to him his real purpose and final goal, is not complete.

IV. The criterion of education is Adequacy. Any system of education is to be judged by the measure in which it fits a man to work efficiently with his whole nature, to take his real place in life, to utilize all his powers, and to actualise all his potentialities. An education, the results of which are merely temporal and superficial, is not true education, for man is more than physical body and his education, in order to be adequate, must give permanent and truly fundamental results. But in order to judge the adequacy or inadequacy of any system of education it is first necessary to know the true nature of man. Until this is known there can be no certainty that all his faculties are being developed, all his needs supplied, and all his energies utilized.

The primary faculties of a human being are the volitional, emotional, and intellectual nature, or the will, the heart, and the mind. Each of these requires appropriate exercise in order to make it fulfil its true purpose, and when, in a truly adequate system of education, the balance of the three is maintained, a condition of normality and happiness is the result.

All sin, misery, and inharmony are caused by a lack of true education. Every man always and everywhere seeks that which is good, and it is only through the ignorance caused by deficient education that he seeks a lesser good instead of a greater good, a merely personal and particular good which may cause harm to others, rather than the wider and more comprehensive good which will bless himself and others alike. Therefore Right Education is the most vital and imperious need of the human race and the surest means of bringing it to happiness and harmony. But those who would be teachers must first know truth themselves. As a consequence of abnormalities the intellectual world becomes a chaos of confused theories, systems, and schools, dealing with every conceivable subject, and the earnest inquirer may well become bewildered and give up the task of disentangling them as hopeless.

The System of Instruction of The Universal Order provides a graduated and orderly means of attaining the fundamental truth upon all problems, the solution of all difficulties, and the means of reconciling all theories – even those apparently most contradictory. Applied to education, it sets forth the nature and destiny of man, his real purpose and the means by which that purpose may be fulfilled; the faculties for acquiring knowledge which every human being inherently possesses and the methods by which they may be trained; the means for classifying all the sciences and relating them to each other in the education of the pupil; and, in fact, the basic principles which must underlie any real system of education which is to have permanent results.

To follow the Order’s System it is not necessary to give up any views already held or to accept anything blindly, for independence of thought is encouraged at all stages. By following this system one who so aspires may become a real teacher, conferring on those whom he teaches not merely some temporary and worldly benefit, but gifts which will bless them for all eternity.

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“Traditional learning is basically qualitative and synthetic, concerned with essences, principles and realities behind phenomena; its fruits are integration, composition and unity. Profane academic learning – whether in the arts or sciences – is quantitative and analytical by tendency, concerned with appearances, forces and material properties; its nature is to criticize and decompose; it works by fragmentation.” - Plato Alcibiades

© The Universal Order 2001