Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
In Integral Education a teacher’s own inner work to discover the spark of divine within is a key factor in facilitating students’ inner un-foldment. Everything else – curriculum, course texts, learning materials, assignments etc. – has its importance, but nothing is as important as the teacher and his or her own inner progress. In the educational thought of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, one may say that in a profound sense, the environment for learning is the curriculum. And I am tempted to broaden the definition of “environment for learning” by including teacher as part of that environment that supports and facilitates a child’s true education – education that is aimed at unfolding of a learner’s psychic being.
This brings us to something quite fundamental to Integral Education. How essential it is for an “integral” teacher to have some sense of (even if it is on an intellectual level) or at least an open-minded curiosity to “experience” something that is called “soul”? How essential it is to have a faith in this entity called “soul” or psychic being? If someone is intellectually convinced that there is no such thing as psychic being and that only through a clear rational thinking and reason can one dig deep into oneself, can such a person ever be a truly integral educator? In other words, if someone is convinced that only through an intellectual reasoning one can know oneself and that there is no other deeper layer to oneself other than what can be understood by reason, will such a person ever be able to facilitate the “integral” un-foldment of the learner?
I guess I am actually asking an even more fundamental question. How important it is for someone interested in learning about Integral Education to have a faith in or at least an open-minded curiosity to conceive of the possibility that there is something Divine in the Universe and in all of us? We can seek to discover something only when we can sense in some way that it exists. I guess in some way this goes back to the perennial argument between materialists and spiritualists – materialists asking for a proof of the God before they can believe in It, and spiritualists arguing that proof is in seeking of the God itself, a seeking based on a faith that all including the matter is a manifestation of God.
So no education will be truly “integral” if it misses out this core aim of education and life – to seek Divine, to realize God.
“The most profound element for child raising and education within Steiner’s, Aurobindo’s and Inayat Khan’s common vision is the understanding that we must have faith in the child’s inner teacher to guide her own becoming.”
This applies equally to the teacher herself – to have a faith in her own inner teacher, psychic being, soul, spark of Divine within. And to work constantly to unfold this inner teacher, so that she can be guided by this inner teacher which is beyond mind’s reasoning ability. We are reminded that
“we can only enact the teachings of the common vision with integrity to the extent of our unfoldment as whole and integrated persons, and no more. We can only give the child as much respect for her inner teacher, as much freedom for her becoming, as the state of our current unfoldment empowers us. If we extend beyond that limit in our enthusiasm or pride, we will inevitably betray the understandings of the common vision and act out hypocrisy or contradiction, most likely through indirect or unconscious authoritarian behavior.”
So instead of worrying about whether these high ideals of Integral Education can be applied in real-world classrooms and schools with all the deeply entrenched problems that ail the system, all of us interested in more Holistic or Integral approaches to Education should be asking ourselves – to what extent are we working on our un-foldment as whole and integrated persons?
How significantly it changes the aim and purpose of our learning! And at the same time we, all of us interested or involved in any work related to the education of our future generations – as teachers, parents, guardians, adults – are given something clear to use as a mirror in which to look at our own practice as educators, and more importantly, as learners.
 David Marshak, 1997. The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness (Counterpoints, vol. 48), New York: Peter Lang, p. 115
 ibid, p. 209
 ibid, pp. 210-211
Full citation for this paper:
Two Reflections on Integral Education (2008). Aspiration: An Inner Call. Vol II, No. 2, pp. 21-26. Aspiration is a journal published by Sri Aurobindo Institute of Education, Kolkata.