Published November 11, 2016
[Editor’s note: The following is the second part of a ten-part series of reflections on education, presented by Wayne Weiseman. These remarks are reprinted from his Facebook site with his permission.]
A Rumination on Relevant Education and Great Teachers (Part 2)
Healing Our Educational System
“Modern life, with its over valuation of intellectual thinking and its neglect of feeling and willing- especially in education- forms man’s physical constitution in a pathologically one-sided way. This raises once again the deep connection of education and healing…All education should be healing, just as all healing must ultimately be educational.” (Rudolf Steiner)
The ideal of the religious mystic is to merge with God. If we could, through our limited human perspective, assign attributes to God, we might conjecture that God is the Perfect Being, perfectly balanced, perfectly integrated and perfectly whole. We might also say that God is all-encompassing, all-knowing, creating everything always. As such, we might also conjecture that this great archetypal being has created and will create infinite beings and systems that always seek and are always evolving back into the balance and equilibrium that is the perfection of God. What we witness is that if biological systems deviate from a state of homeostasis, a mechanism is set in motion to recreate homeostasis. We might also conjecture that there must be a series of archetypal, creative principles that give birth to all beings in this created world. This seems to be how nature works.
From an ecological perspective, it has been said that the natural evolution of a piece of land begins with a disturbed or empty site, which then evolves through a series of steps from annual plants to biennials, perennials, shrubs, vines, small trees and large trees which ultimately form a canopy known as the climax forest. The archetypal climax forest is considered the most balanced and diverse of all ecosystems. To achieve this state, there must be an integrated movement and a balanced rate of growth in all the species within the system. From observation, we can see that while our own human form is constantly going through a metamorphosis, beneath these shifting points of growth, we are still human. The ideal form of the human being remains. Thus, our conjectures lead us to believe that all created beings in the universe posses an underlying perfected form to which we continually make reference.
Let us take another point-of view. From the perspective of medicine, a healer is someone who acts as guide and intermediary to help another find the balance and full potential that is their ideal form. If, for instance, the human body is dis-eased, the healer seeks to understand the natural and essential movement of the body beneath the disease. The healer then attempts to help draw the body’s deeper essence to the surface and allow natural wisdom to bring the dis-eased organism back into its “normal” state of homeostasis and equilibrium. This sensitive balance lies on the fulcrum between opposites whose tendency is to tip the scales one way or another. We wish to heal the rift between our essential and earthly natures, between our animal and Divine natures and find the means to keep the scales centered while we move on a path from the crude to the subtle. Some people call this attempt to create balance in motion the “middle path”, that which guides us to find true purpose and meaning in this gift of life.
But having said this, what is an “archetype of education”? How do we move toward its perfection? We have all been a part of the education system. Does it reflect our ideal? In this book we will explore the theoretical and practical applications of relevant learning, from both the educator’s and student’s perspectives.
As we journey through life, at times we find ourselves in states of ecstasy, at other times in states of depression, pain and suffering. It is in the balance between the highs and the lows, between yesterday and tomorrow, between all the contradictions between this and that – it is here on the “middle path” that whole learning is made possible. It is here where growth and understanding blend into a sense of unity beyond our programming and all our inherited preconceptions of reality. If the mystic seeks ideally to merge with God, we wish also to walk beside the mystic and, hopefully, through the mercy and compassion that lie deep within the recesses of the human heart, uncover a natural model of education where students and educators merge in their work with each other.
On many occasions, through trials and tribulations, as an explorer in the complex jungle of the education process, I would find myself asking, “Where do I go from here?” Here I am standing in front of a group of students and I am completely stuck. What to do next? I know intrinsically that the responsibility in the classroom rests solely upon the shoulders of the instructor, and that the students need some kind of structured guidance. In order for them to learn optimally the teacher has to find a method to integrate all their varied learning styles, temperaments, moods and propensities into something inspirational, something that makes them feel proud of themselves and carry over into their lives outside the classroom.
In our Western culture we are entrenched in what German philosopher Ernst Lehrs has entitled, the “onlooker consciousness”, which has developed unmistakably from our scientific point-of-view in which we objectify and quantify all phenomena as something outside ourselves. Even our languages have developed the perspective of subject against object: a separate entity viewing separate entities. We describe persons, places and things through qualifying adjectives that delimit and delineate the objective being of the “thing” in all its vested glory. We grasp the forms in time and place but don’t see the essence, its inherent perfection. What of the spirit?
Benjamin Lee Whorf, a brilliant linguist, astutely clarified this aspect of the underlying structures of language that permeates our thinking. His study of the Hopi Indian language brought new insight into how our linguistic thought forms inbreed in us the way we view the world around and inside us. Everything in the language of the Hopi creates a universe that is in constant transformation and dynamism. Nothing is stagnant or static. Nothing is separate from our perceptions. Everything moves together in a unitary process. Life is always alive and we are as much a part of this whole process as a tree with its sap rising in spring and a rock being weathered by water and wind. The human being is as much a microcosm of mineral, vegetable, animal and cosmic energy transmuted through time as anything in the external world around us.
How can I see the world of the Hopi? As I stand in front of my class we are all changing, communicating, exhibiting our emotions and thought process. We are in vital relationship with each of the students, their histories and dynamics and the four walls in the room and the sunlight streaming in, the dust flying around and the insects buzzing past our ears. Every minute the dynamics of everything in the space are affecting everything else in the space. Every action is another action acting on another action. Every thought acts on every other thought. We cannot separate anything from anything else in that room. Subject and object merge and disappear. The classroom becomes a great breathing in and breathing out. The divide between learning and teaching breaks down. If we possess the skills to observe this interaction we can take a giant step toward honest and truthful human relations.