It is undeniable that in the last century humanity has continuously broken the barriers of rational and scientific knowledge. We went to the moon, shortened the geographical distances between us, dissected the human body, programmed computers, packed and refrigerated food, and extended biological life. With these conquests, we placed reason as the dominant function of our psychic interaction with the world and science as the – almost only – keeper of truth. With the expansion of scientific knowledge, we construct costly barriers between the individual and the collective, between one territory and another, between one religion and another, between the human being and nature, between the Earth and the Cosmos.
By creating illusory separations and by making us perceive ourselves as separate from what is external to us, scientific and industrial advancement have not provided humanity with the same level of advancement in happiness, peace, and fullness of human life. We have the know-how to solve major contemporary challenges, such as hunger, illiteracy, violence and depression, but we have not been able to do so and until now we have failed to truly address human suffering. In some cases, it can be said that we create new conflicts, new diseases, new suffering. Advancement in cognitive intelligence levels does not necessarily make us human beings better. We do not advance in the same way in our relationship to our body, in the understanding and management of our emotions, in the development of our mental faculties, or in fine-tuning the mystery of what transcends us. We understand the solar system, but we do not understand our inner universe. We have expanded powers, but we have not expanded our consciousness. We proved the origin of life, but we have not found the meaning of life.
We are conditioned from an early age to perceive ourselves as beings separated from nature and the cosmos. We are encouraged to see reason as superior to emotion, intuition and sensation, concepts we are often not even introduced to. We are directed to look more outward than inward. Seated in desks for hours, responding to bells that play at intervals, children come to know very early on in their school routine that the standards that dictate the society described above, are authority, reason, productivity, control, and separateness.
Our contemporary education system, heavily influenced by the industrialism, is oriented towards training for work and organized in a standardized and content-based way. This model often does not approach the human being in an integral way, disregards the diversity and uniqueness of each child, does not work on self-knowledge and generates internal conflicts, learning problems, emotional disturbances, and stress in children and adolescents. These mental, physical, and emotional patterns developed in childhood will be lifelong, generating future challenges for the balance and happiness of these beings.
Be it at home or at school, from an early age, the child is presented with learning models based on punishment and reward, which reinforce fear, discourage creativity, and disrupt genuine desire free to learn and evolve. In these models, there is often no room for fuller development or a search for self-knowledge.
If education is the cause and consequence of contemporary norms, it is also in education that lies an invitation to a new possibility. It is education that carries the blossoming of a new human being, which can also allow a new society. It is necessary to discuss the role of education, to investigate new alternatives, to reflect on the concept of being human and a child, and to give light to new and existing pedagogical practices that favor integral, spiritual development and self-knowledge.
THEREFORE, WE CAN UNDERSTAND SPIRITUALITY AS THE PROCESS OF KNOWING ONESELF AND RECOGNIZING ONESELF AS CONNECTED WITH A GUIDING FORCE THAT TRANSCENDS YOU.
Facilitating self-observation of the students seems to me a clear path for the development of empathy (by recognizing one’s internal complexity, we can identify and understand the inner universe of the other), resilience, emotional intelligence, dialogue and creative ability. These skills will be necessary throughout life. Being humble in the face of a guiding power that transcends you can also be valuable for the development of humility, social and environmental awareness, love, respect, and collaboration, virtues that are often lacking in adult relationships. This perception of connection with something greater, seems to me a natural consequence of listening to what is inside. It is a feeling that only makes sense when it comes from within; it can not be imposed externally.
We call it spirituality, self-knowledge, integral education, holistic education, transpersonal education, pedagogy of wholeness, education for human values… the name does not matter. The point is that education can show us an amplified perception of man and child, and can stimulate its development in the wholeness of being. This is a natural result of the development of a child – they require very little effort to make these discoveries. Our role must be in stripping away the ways in which we have been conditioned, our limitations, and fears… We need to let children grow more free from this conditioning and more connected with themselves, and consequently, the world.
Who knows… maybe an expanded and integrated look at the child can pave the way for a new kind of human being to flourish? And maybe this new human being can bring forth a new society?