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THE LIFE OF THE SPIRIT AND EDUCATION
In the past six chapters we have been considering in the main our own position, and how, here in the present, we as adults may actualize and help on the spiritual life in ourselves. But our best hope of giving Spirit its rightful, full expression within the time-world lies in the future. It is towards that, that those who really care must work. Anything which we can do towards persuading into better shape our own deformed characters, compelling our recalcitrant energy into fresh channels, is little in comparison with what might be achieved in the plastic growing psychic life of children did we appreciate our full opportunity and the importance of using it. This is why I propose now to consider one or two points in the relation of education to the spiritual life.
Since it is always well, in a discussion of this kind, to be quite clear about the content of the words with which we deal, I will say at once, that by Education I mean that deliberate adjustment of the whole environment of a growing creature, which surrounds it with the most favourable influences and educes all its powers; giving it the most helpful conditions for its full growth and development. Education should be the complete preparation of the young thing for fullness of life; involving the evolution and the balanced training of all its faculties, bodily, mental and spiritual. It should train and refine senses, instincts, intellect, will and feeling; giving a world-view based on real facts and real values and encouraging active correspondence therewith. Thus the educationist, if he be convinced, as I think most of us must be, that all isn't quite right with the world of mankind, has the priceless opportunity of beginning the remaking of humanity from the right end. In the child he has a little, supple thing, which can be made into a vital, spiritual thing; and nothing again will count so much for it as what happens in these its earliest years. To start life straight is the secret of inward happiness: and to a great extent, the secret of health and power.
That conception of man upon which we have been working, and which regards his psychic life on all its levels as the manifold expressions of one single energy or urge in the depths of his being, a life-force seeking fulfilment, has obvious and important applications in the educational sphere. It indicates that the fundamental business of education is to deal with this urgent and untempered craving, discipline it, and direct it towards interests of permanent value: helping it to establish useful habits, removing obstacles in its path, blocking the side channels down which it might run. Especially is it the task of such education, gradually to disclose to the growing psyche those spiritual correspondences for which the religious man and the idealist must hold that man's spirit was made. Such an education as this has little in common with the mere crude imparting of facts. It represents rather the careful and loving induction of the growing human creature into the rich world of experience; the help we give it in the great business of adjusting itself to reality. It operates by means of the moulding influences of environment, the creation of habit. Suggestion, not statement, is its most potent instrument; and such suggestion begins for good or ill at the very dawn of consciousness. Therefore the child whose infancy is not surrounded by persons of true outlook is handicapped from the start; and the training in this respect of the parents of the future is one of the greatest services we can render to the race.
We are beginning to learn the overwhelming importance of infantile impressions: how a forgotten babyish fear or grief may develop underground, and produce at last an unrecognizable growth poisoning the body and the mind of the adult. But here good is at least as potent as ill. What terror, a hideous sight, an unloving nurture may do for evil; a happy impression, a beautiful sight, a loving nurture will do for good. Moreover, we can bury good seed in the unconscious minds of children and reasonably look forward to the fruit. Babyish prayers, simple hymns, trace whilst the mind is ductile the paths in which feelings shall afterwards tend to flow; and it is only in maturity that we realize our psychological debt to these early and perhaps afterwards abandoned beliefs and deeds. So the veritable education of the Spirit begins at once, in the cradle, and its chief means will be the surroundings within which that childish spirit first develops its little awareness of the universe; the appeals which are made to its instincts, the stimulations of its life of sense. The first factor of this education is the family: the second the society within which that family is formed.
Though we no longer suppose it to possess innate ideas, the baby has most surely innate powers, inclinations and curiosities, and is reaching out in every direction towards life. It is brimming with will power, ready to push hard into experience. The environment in which it is placed and the responses which the outer world makes to it—and these surroundings and responses in the long run are largely of our choosing and making—represent either the helping or thwarting of its tendencies, and the sum total of the directions in which its powers can be exercised and its demands satisfied: the possibilities, in fact, which life puts before it. We, as individuals and as a community, control and form part of this environment. Under the first head, we play by influence or demeanour a certain part in the education of every child whom we meet. Under the second head, by acquiescence in the social order, we accept responsibility for the state of life in which it is born. The child's first intimations of the spiritual must and can only come to it through the incarnation of Spirit in its home and the world that it knows. What, then, are we doing about this? It means that the influences which shape the men and women of the future will be as wholesome and as spiritual as we ourselves are: no more, no less. Tone, atmosphere are the things which really matter; and these are provided by the group-mind, and reflect its spiritual state.
The child's whole educational opportunity is contained in two factors; the personality it brings and the environment it gets. Generations of educationists have disputed their relative importance: but neither party can deny that the most fortunate nature, given wrongful or insufficient nurture, will hardly emerge unharmed. Even great inborn powers atrophy if left unused, and exceptional ability in any direction may easily remain undeveloped if the environment be sufficiently unfavourable: a result too often achieved in the domain of the spiritual life. We must have opportunity and encouragement to try our powers and inclinations, be helped to understand their nature and the way to use them, unless we are to begin again, each one of us, in the Stone Age of the soul. So too, even small powers may be developed to an astonishing degree by suitable surroundings and wise education—witness the results obtained by the expert training of defective children—and all this is as applicable to the spiritual as to the mental and bodily life. That life is quick to respond to the demands made on it: to take every opportunity of expression that comes its way. If you make the right appeal to any human faculty, that faculty will respond, and begin to grow. Thus it is that the slow quiet pressure of tradition, first in the home and then in the school, shapes the child during his most malleable years. We, therefore, are surely bound to watch and criticize the environment, the tradition, the customs we are instrumental in providing for the infant future: to ask ourselves whether we are sure the tradition is right, the conventions we hand on useful, the ideal we hold up complete. The child, whatever his powers, cannot react to something which is not there; he can't digest food that is not given to him, use faculties for which no objective is provided. Hence the great responsibility of our generation, as to providing a complete, balanced environment now, a fully-rounded opportunity of response to life physical, mental and spiritual, for the generation preparing to succeed us. Such education as this has been called a preparation for citizenship. But this conception is too narrow, unless the citizenship be that of the City of God; and the adjustments involved be those of the spirit, as well as of the body and the mind.
First, he said, we must teach self-preservation in all senses: how to keep the body and the mind healthy and efficient, how to be self-supporting, how to protect oneself against external dangers and encroachments.
Next, we must train the growing creature in its duties towards the life of the future: parenthood and its responsibilities, understood in the widest sense.
Thirdly; we must prepare it to take its place in the present as a member of the social order into which it is born.
Last: we must hand on to it all those refinements of life which the past has given to us—the hoarded culture of the race.
Only if we do these four things thoroughly can we dare to call ourselves educators in the full sense of the word.
Now, turning to the spiritual interests of the child:—and unless we are crass materialists we must believe these interests to exist, and to be paramount—what are we doing to further them in these four fundamental directions? First, does the average good education train our young people in spiritual self-preservation? Does it send them out equipped with the means of living a full and efficient spiritual life? Does it furnish them with a health-giving type of religion; that is, a solid hold on eternal realities, a view of the universe capable of withstanding hostile criticism, of supporting them in times of difficulty and of stress? Secondly, does it give them a spiritual outlook in respect of their racial duties, fit them in due time to be parents of other souls? Does it train them to regard humanity, and their own place in the human life-stream, from this point of view? This point is of special importance, in view of the fact that racial and biological knowledge on lower levels is now so generally in the possession of boys and girls; and is bound to produce a distorted conception of life, unless the spirit be studied by them with at least the same respectful attention that is given to the flesh. Thirdly, what does our education do towards preparing them to solve the problems of social and economic life in a spiritual sense—our only reasonable chance of extracting the next generation from the social muddle in which we are plunged to-day? Last, to what extent do we try to introduce our pupils into a full enjoyment of their spiritual inheritance, the culture and tradition of the past?
I do not deny that there are educators—chiefly perhaps educators of girls—who can give favourable answers to all these questions. But they are exceptional, the proportion of the child population whom they influence is small, and frequently their proceedings are looked upon—not without some justice—as eccentric. If then in all these departments our standard type of education stops short of the spiritual level, are not we self-convicted as at best theoretical believers in the worth and destiny of the human soul?
Consider the facts. Outside the walls of definitely religious institutions—where methods are not always adjusted to the common stuff and needs of contemporary human life—it does not seem to occur to many educationists to give the education of the child's soul the same expert delicate attention so lavishly bestowed on the body and the intellect. By expert delicate attention I do not mean persistent religious instruction; but a skilled and loving care for the growing spirit, inspired by deep conviction and helped by all the psychological knowledge we possess. If we look at the efforts of organized religion we are bound to admit that in thousands of rural parishes, and in many towns too, it is still possible to grow from infancy to old age as a member of church or chapel without once receiving any first-hand teaching on the powers and needs of the soul or the technique of prayer; or obtaining any more help in the great religious difficulties of adolescence than a general invitation to believe, and trust God. Morality—that is to say correctness of response to our neighbour and our temporal surroundings—is often well taught. Spirituality—correctness of response to God and our eternal surroundings—is most often ignored. A peculiar British bashfulness seems to stand in the way of it. It is felt that we show better taste in leaving the essentials of the soul's development to chance, even that such development is not wholly desirable or manly: that the atrophy of one aspect of "man's made-trinity" is best. I have heard one eminent ecclesiastic maintain that regular and punctual attendance at morning service in a mood of non-comprehending loyalty was the best sort of spiritual experience for the average Englishman. Is not that a statement which should make the Christian teachers who are responsible for the average Englishman, feel a little bit uncomfortable about the type which they have produced? I do not suggest that education should encourage a feverish religiosity; but that it ought to produce balanced men and women, whose faculties are fully alert and responsive to all levels of life. As it is, we train Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in the principles of honour and chivalry. Our Bible-classes minister to the hungry spirit much information about the journeys of St. Paul (with maps). But the pupils are seldom invited or assisted to taste, and see that the Lord is sweet.
Now this indifference means, of course, that we do not as educators, as controllers of the racial future, really believe in the spiritual foundations of our personality as thoroughly and practically we believe in its mental and physical manifestations. Whatever the philosophy or religion we profess may be, it remains for us in the realm of idea, not in the realm of fact. In practice, we do not aim at the achievement of a spiritual type of consciousness as the crown of human culture. The best that most education does for our children is only what the devil did for Christ. It takes them up to the top of a high mountain and shows them all the kingdoms of this world; the kingdom of history, the kingdom of letters, the kingdom of beauty, the kingdom of science. It is a splendid vision, but unfortunately fugitive: and since the spirit is not fugitive, it demands an objective that is permanent. If we do not give it such an objective, one of two things must happen to it. Either it will be restless and dissatisfied, and throw the whole life out of key; or it will become dormant for lack of use, and so the whole life will be impoverished, its best promise unfulfilled. One line leads to the neurotic, the other to the average sensual man, and I think it will be agreed that modern life produces a good crop of both these kind of defectives.
But if we believe that the permanent objective of the spirit is God—if He be indeed for us the Fountain of Life and the sum of Reality—can we acquiesce in these forms of loss? Surely it ought to be our first aim, to make the sense of His universal presence and transcendent worth, and of the self's responsibility to Him, dominant for the plastic youthful consciousness confided to our care: to introduce that consciousness into a world which is really a theocracy and encourage its aptitude for generous love? If educationists do not view such a proposal with favour, this shows how miserable and distorted our common conception of God has become; and how small a part it really plays in our practical life. Most of us scramble through that practical life, and are prepared to let our children scramble too, without any clear notions of that hygiene of the soul which has been studied for centuries by experts; and few look upon this branch of self-knowledge as something that all men may possess who will submit to education and work for its achievement. Thus we have degenerated from the mediæval standpoint; for then at least the necessity of spiritual education was understood and accepted, and the current psychology was in harmony with it. But now there is little attempt to deepen and enlarge the spiritual faculties, none to encourage their free and natural development in the young, or their application to any richer world of experience than the circle of pious images with which "religious education" generally deals. The result of this is seen in the rawness, shallowness and ignorance which characterize the attitude of many young adults to religion. Their beliefs and their scepticism alike are often the acceptance or rejection of the obsolete. If they be agnostics, the dogmas which they reject are frequently theological caricatures. If they be believers, both their religious conceptions and their prayers are found on investigation still to be of an infantile kind, totally unrelated to the interests and outlook of modern men.
Two facts emerge from the experience of all educationists. The first is, that children are naturally receptive and responsive; the second, that adolescents are naturally idealistic. In both stages, the young human creature is full of interests and curiosities asking to be satisfied, of energies demanding expression; and here, in their budding, thrusting life—for which we, by our choice of surroundings and influence, may provide the objective—is the raw material out of which the spiritual humanity of the future might be made. The child has already within it the living seed wherein all human possibilities are contained; our part is to give the right soil, the shelter, and the watering-can. Spiritual education therefore does not consist in putting into the child something which it has not; but in educing and sublimating that which it has—in establishing habits, fostering a trend of growth which shall serve it well in later years. Already, all the dynamic instincts are present, at least in germ; asking for an outlet. The will and the emotions, ductile as they will never be again, are ready to make full and ungraduated response to any genuine appeal to enthusiasm. The imagination will accept the food we give, if we give it in the right way. What an opportunity! Nowhere else do we come into such direct contact with the plastic stuff of life; never again shall we have at our disposal such a fund of emotional energy.
In the child's dreams and fantasies, in its eager hero-worship—later, in the adolescent's fervid friendships or devoted loyalty to an adored leader—we see the search of the living growing creature for more life and love, for an enduring object of devotion. Do we always manage or even try to give it that enduring object, in a form it can accept? Yet the responsibility of providing such a presentation of belief as shall evoke the spontaneous reactions of faith and love—for no compulsory idealism ever succeeds—is definitely laid on the parent and the teacher. It is in the enthusiastic imitation of a beloved leader that the child or adolescent learns best. Were the spiritual life the most real of facts to us, did we believe in it as we variously believe in athletics, physical science or the arts, surely we should spare no effort to turn to its purposes these priceless qualities of youth? Were the mind's communion with the Spirit of God generally regarded as its natural privilege and therefore the first condition of its happiness and health, the general method and tone of modern education would inevitably differ considerably from that which we usually see: and if the life of the Spirit is to come to fruition, here is one of the points at which reformation must begin. When we look at the ordinary practice of modern "civilized" Europe, we cannot claim that any noticeable proportion of our young people are taught during their docile and impressionable years the nature and discipline of their spiritual faculties, in the open and common-sense way in which they are taught languages, science, music or gymnastics. Yet it is surely a central duty of the educator to deepen and enrich to the fullest extent possible his pupil's apprehension of the universe; and must not all such apprehension move towards the discovery of that universe as a spiritual fact?
Again, in how many schools is the period of religious and idealistic enthusiasm which so commonly occurs in adolescence wisely used, skilfully trained, and made the foundation of an enduring spiritual life? Here is the period in which the relation of master and pupil is or may be most intimate and most fruitful; and can be made to serve the highest interests of life. Yet, no great proportion of those set apart to teach young people seem to realize and use this privilege.
I am aware that much which I am going to advocate will sound fantastic; and that the changes involved may seem at first sight impossible to accomplish. It is true that if these changes are to be useful, they must be gradual. The policy of the "clean sweep" is one which both history and psychology condemn. But it does seem to me a good thing to envisage clearly, if we can, the ideal towards which our changes should lead. A garden city is not Utopia. Still, it is an advance upon the Victorian type of suburb and slum; and we should not have got it if some men had not believed in Utopia, and tried to make a beginning here and now. Already in education some few have tried to make such a beginning and have proved that it is possible if we believe in it enough: for faith can move even that mountainous thing, the British parental mind.
Our task—and I believe our most real hope for the future—is, as we have already allowed, to make the idea of God dominant for the plastic youthful consciousness: and not only this, but to harmonize that conception, first with our teachings about the physical and mental sides of life, and next with the child's own social activities, training body, mind and spirit together that they may take each their part in the development of a whole man, fully responsive to a universe which is at bottom a spiritual fact. Such training to be complete must, as we have seen, begin in the nursery and be given by the atmosphere and opportunities of the home. It will include the instilling of childish habits of prayer and the fostering of simple expressions of reverence, admiration and love. The subconscious knowledge implicit in such practice must form the foundation, and only where it is present will doctrine and principle have any real meaning for the child. Prayer must come before theology, and kindness, tenderness and helpfulness before ethics.
But we have now to consider the child of school age, coming—too often without this, the only adequate preparation—into the teacher's hands. How is he to be dealt with, and the opportunities which he presents used best?
"When I see a right man," said Jacob Boehme, "there I see three worlds standing." Since our aim should be to make "right men" and evoke in them not merely a departmental piety but a robust and intelligent spirituality, we ought to explain in simple ways to these older children something at least of that view of human nature on which our training is based. The religious instruction given in most schools is divided, in varying proportions, between historical or doctrinal teaching and ethical teaching. Now a solid hold both on history and on morals is a great need; but these are only realized in their full importance and enter completely into life when they are seen within the spiritual atmosphere, and already even in childhood, and supremely in youth, this atmosphere can be evoked. It does not seem to occur to most teachers that religion contains anything beyond or within the two departments of historical creed and of morals: that, for instance, the greatest utterances of St. John and St. Paul deal with neither, but with attainable levels of human life, in which a new and fuller kind of experience was offered to mankind. Yet surely they ought at least to attempt to tell their pupils about this. I do not see how Christians at any rate can escape the obligation, or shuffle out of it by saying that they do not know how it can be done. Indeed, all who are not thorough-going materialists must regard the study of the spiritual life as in the truest sense a department of biology; and any account of man which fails to describe it, as incomplete. Where the science of the body is studied, the science of the soul should be studied too. Therefore, in the upper forms at least, the psychology of religious experience in its widest sense, as a normal part of all full human existence, and the connection of that experience with practical life, as it is seen in history, should be taught. If it is done properly it will hold the pupil's interest, for it can be made to appeal to those same mental qualities of wonder, curiosity and exploration which draw so many boys and girls to physical science. But there should be no encouragement of introspection, none of the false mystery or so-called reverence with which these subjects are sometimes surrounded, and above all no spirit of exclusivism.
The pupil should be led to see his own religion as a part of the universal tendency of life to God. This need not involve any reduction of the claims made on him by his own church or creed; but the emphasis should always be on the likeness rather than the differences of the great religions of the world. Moreover, higher education cannot be regarded as complete unless the mind be furnished with some rationale of its own deepest experiences, and a harmony be established between impulse and thought. Advanced pupils should, then, be given a simple and general philosophy of religion, plainly stated in language which relates it with the current philosophy of life. This is no counsel of perfection. It has been done, and can be done again. It is said of Edward Caird, that he placed his pupils "from the beginning at a point of view whence the life of mankind could be contemplated as one movement, single though infinitely varied, unerring though wandering, significant yet mysterious, secure and self-enriching although tragical. There was a general sense of the spiritual nature of reality and of the rule of mind, though what was meant by spirit or mind was hardly asked. There was a hope and faith that outstripped all save the vaguest understanding but which evoked a glad response that somehow God was immanent in the world and in the history of all mankind, making it sane." And the effect of this teaching on the students was that "they received the doctrine with enthusiasm, and forgot themselves in the sense of their partnership in a universal enterprise." Such teaching as this is a real preparation for citizenship, an introduction to the enduring values of the world.
[1 Jones and Muirhead: "Life and Philosophy of Edward Caird," pp. 64, 65.]
Every human being, as we know, inevitably tends to emphasize some aspects of that world, and to ignore others: to build up for himself a relative universe. The choices which determine the universe of maturity are often made in youth; then the foundations are laid of that apperceiving mass which is to condition all the man's contacts with reality. We ought, therefore, to show the universe to our young people from such an angle and in such a light, that they tend quite simply and without any objectionable intensity to select, emphasize and be interested in its spiritual aspect. For this purpose we must never try to force our own reading of that universe upon them; but respect on the one hand their often extreme sensitiveness and on the other the infinitely various angles of approach proper to our infinitely various souls. We should place food before them and leave them to browse. Only those who have tried this experiment know what such an enlargement of the horizon and enrichment of knowledge means to the eager, adolescent mind: how prompt is the response to any appeal which we make to its nascent sense of mystery. Yet whole schools of thought on these subjects are cheerfully ignored by the majority of our educationists; hence the unintelligent and indeed babyish view of religion which is harboured by many adults, even of the intellectual class.
Though the spiritual life has its roots in the heart not in the head, and will never be brought about by merely academic knowledge; yet, its beginnings in adolescence are often lost, because young people are completely ignorant of the meaning of their own experiences, and the universal character of those needs and responses which they dimly feel stirring within them. They are too shy to ask, and no one ever tells them about it in a business-like and unembarrassing way. This infant mortality in the spiritual realm ought not to be possible. Experience of God is the greatest of the rights of man, and should not be left to become the casual discovery of the few. Therefore prayer ought to be regarded as a universal human activity, and its nature and difficulties should be taught, but always in the sense of intercourse rather than of mere petition: keeping in mind the doctrine of the mystics that "prayer in itself properly is not else but a devout intent directed unto God."147147 "The Cloud of Unknowing," Cap. 39. We teach concentration for the purposes of study; but too seldom think of applying it to the purposes of prayer. Yet real prayer is a difficult art; which, like other ways of approaching Perfect Beauty, only discloses its secrets to those who win them by humble training and hard work. Shall we not try to find some method of showing our adolescents their way into this world, lying at our doors and offered to us without money and without price?
Again, many teachers and parents waste the religious instinct and emotional vigour which are often so marked in adolescence, by allowing them to fritter themselves upon symbols which cannot stand against hostile criticism: for instance, some of, the more sentimental and anthropomorphic aspects of Christian devotion. Did we educate those instincts, show the growing creature their meaning, and give them an objective which did not conflict with the objectives of the developing intellect and the will, we should turn their passion into power, and lay the foundations of a real spiritual life. We must remember that a good deal of adolescent emotion is diverted by the conditions of school-life from its obvious and natural objective. This is so much energy set free for other uses. We know how it emerges in hero-worship or in ardent friendships; how it reinforces the social instinct and produces the team-spirit, the intense devotion to the interests of his own gang or group which is rightly prominent in the life of many boys. The teacher has to reckon with this funded energy and enthusiasm, and use it to further the highest interests of the growing child. By this I do not mean that he is to encourage an abnormal or emotional concentration on spiritual things. Most of the impulses of youth are wholesome, and subserve direct ends. Therefore, it is not by taking away love, self-sacrifice, admiration, curiosity, from their natural objects that we shall serve the best interests of spirituality: but, by enlarging the range over which these impulses work—impulses, indeed, which no human object can wholly satisfy, save in a sacramental sense. Two such natural tendencies, specially prominent in childhood, are peculiarly at the disposal of the religious teacher: and should be used by him to the full. It is in the sublimation of the instinct of comradeship that the social and corporate side of the spiritual life takes its rise, and in closest connection with this impulse that all works of charity should be suggested and performed. And on the individual side, all that is best, safest and sweetest in the religious instinct of the child can be related to a similar enlargement of the instinct of filial trust and dependence. The educator is therefore working within the two most fundamental childish qualities, qualities provoked and fostered by all right family life, with its relation of love to parents, brothers, sisters and friends; and may gently lead out these two mighty impulses to a fulfilment which, at maturity, embrace God and the whole world. The wise teacher, then, must work with the instincts, not against them: encouraging all kindly social feelings, all vigorous self-expression, wonder, trustfulness, love. Recognizing the paramount importance of emotion—for without emotional colour no idea can be actual to us, and no deed thoroughly and vigorously performed—yet he must always be on his guard against blocking the natural channels of human feeling, and giving them the opportunity of exploding under pious disguises in the religious sphere.
Here it is that the danger of too emotional a type of religious training comes in. Sentimentalism of all kinds is dangerous and objectionable, especially in the education of girls, whom it excites and debilitates. Boys are more often merely alienated by it. In both cases, the method of presentation which regards the spiritual life simply as a normal aspect of full human life is best. No artificial barrier should be set up between the sacred and the profane. The passion for truth and the passion for God should be treated as one: and that pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, those adventurous explorations of the mind, in which the more intelligent type of adolescent loves to try his growing powers, ought to be encouraged in the spiritual sphere as elsewhere. The results of research into religious origins should be explained without reservation, and no intellectual difficulty should be dodged. The putting-off method of meeting awkward questions, now generally recognized as dangerous in matters of natural history, is just as dangerous in the religious sphere. No teacher who is afraid to state his own position with perfect candour should ever be allowed to undertake this side of education; nor any in whom there is a marked cleavage between the standard of conduct and the standard of thought. The healthy adolescent is prompt to perceive inconsistency and unsparing in its condemnation.
Moreover, a most careful discrimination is daily becoming more necessary, in the teaching of traditional religion of a supernatural and non-empirical type. Many of its elements must no doubt be retained by us, for the child-mind demands firm outlines and examples and imagery drawn from the world of sense. Yet grave dangers are attached to it. On, the one hand an exclusive reliance on tradition paves the way for the disillusion which is so often experienced towards the end of adolescence, when it frequently causes a violent reaction to materialism. On the other hand it exposes us to a risk which we particularly want to avoid: that of reducing the child's nascent spiritual life to the dream level, to a fantasy in which it satisfies wishes that outward life leaves unfulfilled. Many pious people, especially those who tell us that their religion is a "comfort" to them, go through life in a spiritual day-dream of this kind. Concrete life has starved them of love, of beauty, of interest—it has given them no synthesis which satisfies the passionate human search for meaning—and they have found all this in a dream-world, made from the materials of conventional piety. If religion is thus allowed to become a ready-made day-dream it will certainly interest adolescents of a certain sort. The naturally introverted type will become meditative; whilst their opposites, the extroverted or active type, will probably tend to be ritualistic. But here again we are missing the essence of spiritual life.
Our aim should be to induce, in a wholesome way, that sense of the spiritual in daily experience which the old writers called the consciousness of the of God. The monastic training in spirituality, slowly evolved under pressure of experience, nearly always did this. It has bequeathed to us a funded wisdom of which we make little use; and this, reinterpreted in the light of psychological knowledge, might I believe cast a great deal of light on the fundamental problems of spiritual education. We could if we chose take many hints from it, as regards the disciplining of the attention, the correct use of suggestion, the teaching of meditation, the sublimation and direction to an assigned end of the natural impulse to reverie; above all, the education of the moral life. For character-building as understood by these old specialists was the most practical of arts.
Further, in all this teaching, those inward activities and responses to which we can give generally the name of prayer, and those outward activities and deeds of service to which we can give the name of work, ought to be trained together and never dissociated. They are the complementary and balanced expressions of one spirit of life: and must be given together, under appropriately simple forms. Concrete application of the child's energies, aptitudes and ideals must from the first run side by side with the teaching of principle. Young people therefore should constantly be encouraged to face as practical and interesting facts, not as formulæ, those reactions to eternal and this-world reality which used to be called our duty to God and our neighbour; and do concrete things proper to a real citizen of a really theocratic world. They must be made to realize that nothing is truly ours until we have expressed it in our deeds. Moreover, these deeds should not be easy. They should involve effort and self-sacrifice; and also some drudgery, which is worse. The spiritual life is only valued by those on whom it makes genuine demands. Almost any kind of service will do, which calls for attention, time and hard work. Though voluntary, it must not be casual: but, once undertaken, should be regarded as an honourable obligation. The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides have shown us how wide a choice of possible "good deeds" is offered by every community: and such a banding together of young people for corporate acts of service is strongly to be commended. It encourages unselfish comradeship, satisfies that "gang-instinct" which is a well-known character of adolescence, and should leave no opening for self-consciousness, rivalry, and vanity in well-doing or in abnegation.
Wise educators find that a combined system of organized games in which the social instinct can be expressed and developed, and of independent constructive work, in which the creative impulse can find satisfaction, best meets the corporate and creative needs of adolescence, favours the right development of character, and produces a harmonized life. On the level of the spiritual life too this principle is valid; and, guided by it, we should seek to give young people both corporate and personal work and experience. On the one hand, gregariousness is at its strongest in the healthy adolescent, the force of public opinion is more intensely felt than at any other time of life, that priceless quality the spirit of comradeship is most easily educed. We must therefore seek to give the spiritual life a vigorous corporate character; to make it "good form" for the school, and to use the team-spirit in the choir and the guild as well as in the cricket field. By an extension of this principle and under the influence of a suitable teacher, the school-mob may be transformed into a co-operative society animated by one joyous and unselfish spirit: all the great powers of social suggestion being freely used for the highest ends. Thus we may introduce the pupil, at his most plastic age, into a spiritual-social order and let him grow within it, developing those qualities and skills on which it makes demands. The religious exercises, whatever they are, should be in common, in order to develop the mass consciousness of the school and weld it into a real group. Music, songs, processions, etc., produce a feeling of unity, and encourage spiritual contagion. Services of an appropriate kind, if there be a chapel, or the opening of school with prayer and a hymn (which ought always to be followed by a short silence) provide a natural expression for corporate religious feeling: and remember that to give a feeling opportunity of voluntary expression is commonly to educe and affirm it. As regards active work, whilst school charities are an obvious field in which unselfish energies may be spent, many other openings will be found by enthusiastic teachers, and by the pupils whom their enthusiasm has inspired.
On the other hand, the spare-time occupations of the adolescent; the independent and self-chosen work, often most arduous and always absorbing, of making, planning, learning about things—and most of us can still remember how desperately important these seemed to us, whether our taste was for making engines, writing poetry, or collecting moths—these are of the greatest importance for his development. They give him something really his own, exercise his powers, train his attention, feed his creative instinct. They counteract those mechanical and conventional reactions to the world, which are induced by the merely traditional type of education, either of manners or of mind. And here, in the prudent encouragement of a personal interest in and dealing with the actual problems of conduct and even of belief—the most difficult of the educator's tasks—we guard against the merely acquiescent attitude of much adult piety, and foster from the beginning a vigorous personal interest, a first-hand contact with higher realities.
The heroic aspect of history may well form the second line in this attempt to capture education and use it in the interests of the spiritual life. By it we can best link up the actual and the ideal, and demonstrate the single character of human greatness; whether it be exhibited, in the physical or the supersensual sphere. Such a demonstration is most important; for so long as the spiritual life is regarded as merely a departmental thing, and its full development as a matter for specialists or saints, it will never produce its full effect in human affairs. We must exhibit it as the full flower of that Reality which inspires all human life. "All kinds of skill," said Tauler, "are gifts of the Holy Ghost," and he might have said, all kinds of beauty and all kinds of courage too.
The heroic makes a direct appeal to lads and girls, and is by far the safest way of approach to their emotions. The chivalrous, the noble, the desperately brave, attract the adolescent far more than passive goodness. That strong instinct of subjection, of homage, which he shows in his hero-worship, is a most valuable tool in the hands of the teacher who is seeking to lead him into greater fullness of life. Yet the range over which we seek material for his admiration is often deplorably narrow. We have behind us a great spiritual history, which shows the highest faculties of the soul in action: the power and the happiness they bring. Do we take enough notice of it? What about our English saints? I mean the real saints, not the official ones. Not St. George and St. Alban, about whom we know practically nothing: but, for instance, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley, Elizabeth Fry, about whom we know a great deal. Children, who find difficulty in general ideas, learn best from particular instances. Yet boys and girls who can give a coherent account of such stimulating personalities as Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror, Henry VIII. and his wives, or Napoleon—none of whom have so very much to tell us that bears on the permanent interests of the soul—do not as a rule possess any vivid idea, say, of Gautama, St. Benedict, Gregory the Great, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis Xavier, George Fox, St. Vincent de Paul and his friends: persons at least as significant, and far better worth meeting, than the military commanders and political adventurers of their time. The stories of the early Buddhists, the Sufi saints, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius, the early Quakers, the African missionaries, are full of things which can be made to interest even a young child. The legends which have grown up round some of them satisfy the instinct that draws it to fairy tales. They help it to dream well; and give to the developing mind food which it could assimilate in no other way. Older boys and girls, could they be given some idea of the spiritual heroes of Christendom as real men and women, without the nauseous note of piety which generally infects their biographies, would find much to delight them: romance of the best sort, because concerned with the highest values, and stories of endurance and courage such as always appeal to them. These people were not objectionable pietists. They were persons of fullest vitality and immense natural attraction; the pick of the race. We know that, by the numbers who left all to follow them. Ought we not to introduce our pupils to them; not as stuffed specimens, but as vivid human beings? Something might be done to create the right atmosphere for this, on the lines suggested by Dr. Hayward in that splendid little book "The Lesson in Appreciation." All that he says there about æsthetics, is applicable to any lesson dealing with the higher values of life. In this way, young people would be made to realize the spiritual life; not as something abnormal and more or less conventionalized, but as a golden thread running right through human history, and making demands on just those dynamic qualities which they feel themselves to possess. The adolescent is naturally vigorous and combative, and wants, above all else, something worth fighting for. This, too often, his teachers forget to provide.
The study of nature, and of æsthetics—including poetry—gives us yet another way of approach. The child should be introduced to these great worlds of life and of beauty, and encouraged but never forced to feed on the best they contain. By implication, but never by any method savouring of "uplift," these subjects should be related with that sense of the spiritual and of its immanence in creation, which ought to inspire the teacher; and with which it is his duty to infect his pupils if he can. Children may, very early, be taught or rather induced to look at natural things with that quietness, attention, and delight which are the beginnings of contemplation, and the conditions, under which nature reveals her real secrets to us. The child is a natural pagan, and often the first appeal to its nascent spiritual faculty is best made through its instinctive joy in the life of animals and flowers, the clouds and the winds. Here it may learn very easily that wonder and adoration, which are the gateways to the presence of God. In simple forms of verse, music, and rhythmical movement it can be encouraged—as the Salvation Army has discovered—to give this happy adoration a natural, dramatic, and rhythmic expression: for the young child, as we know, reproduces the mental condition of the primitive, and primitive forms of worship will suit it best.
It need hardly be said that education of the type we have been considering demands great gifts in the teacher: simplicity, enthusiasm, sympathy, and also a vigorous sense of humour, keeping him sharply aware of the narrow line that divides the priggish from the ideal. This education ought to inspire, but it ought not to replace, the fullest and most expert training of the body and mind; for the spirit needs a perfectly balanced machine, through which to express its life in the physical world. The actual additions to curriculum which it demands may be few: it is the attitude, the spirit, which must be changed. Specifically moral education, the building of character, will of course form an essential part of it: in fact must be present within it from the first. But this comes best without observation, and will be found to depend chiefly on the character of the teacher, the love, admiration and imitation he evokes, the ethical tone he gives. Childhood is of all ages the one most open to suggestion, and in this fact the educator finds at once his best opportunity and greatest responsibility.
Ruysbroeck has described to us the three outstanding moral dispositions in respect of God, of man, and of the conduct of life, which mark the true man or woman of the Spirit; and it is in the childhood that the tendency to these qualities must be acquired. First, he says,—I paraphrase, since the old terms of moral theology are no longer vivid to us—there comes an attitude of reverent love, of adoration, towards all that is holy, beautiful, or true. And next, from this, there grows up an attitude towards other men, governed by those qualities which are the essence of courtesy: patience, gentleness, kindness, and sympathy. These keep us both supple and generous in our responses to our social environment. Last, our creative energies are transfigured by an energetic love, an inward eagerness for every kind of work, which makes impossible all slackness and dullness of heart, and will impel us to live to the utmost the active life of service for which we are born.148148 Ruysbroeck: "The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage," Bk. I, Caps. 12-24.
But these moral qualities cannot be taught; they are learned by imitation and infection, and developed by opportunity of action. The best agent of their propagation is an attractive personality in which they are dominant; for we know the universal tendency of young people to imitate those whom they admire. The relation between parent and child or master and pupil is therefore the central factor in any scheme of education which seeks to further the spiritual life. Only those who have already become real can communicate the knowledge of Reality. It is from the sportsman that we catch the spirit of fair-play, from the humble that we learn humility. The artist shows us beauty, the saint shows us God. It should therefore be the business of those in authority to search out and give scope to those who possess and are able to impart this triumphing spiritual life. A head-master who makes his boys live at their highest level and act on their noblest impulses, because he does it himself, is a person of supreme value to the State. It would be well if we cleared our minds of cant, and acknowledged that such a man alone is truly able to educate; since the spiritual life is infectious, but cannot be propagated by artificial means.
Finally, we have to remember that any attempt towards the education of the spirit—and such an attempt must surely be made by all who accept spiritual values as central for life—can only safely be undertaken with full knowledge of its special dangers and difficulties. These dangers and difficulties are connected with the instinctive and intellectual life of the child and the adolescent, who are growing, and growing unevenly, during the whole period of training. They are supple as regards other forces than those which we bring to bear on them; open to suggestion from many different levels of life.
Our greatest difficulty abides in the fact that, as we have seen, a vigorous spiritual life must give scope to the emotions. It is above all the heart rather than the mind which must be won for God. Yet, the greatest care must be exercised to ensure that the appeal to the emotions is free from all possibility of appeal to latent and uncomprehended natural instincts. This peril, to which current psychology gives perhaps too much attention, is nevertheless real. Candid students of religious history are bound to acknowledge the unfortunate part which it has often played in the past. These natural instincts fall into two great classes: those relating to self-preservation and those relating to the preservation of the race. The note of fear, the exaggerated longing for shelter and protection, the childish attitude of mere clinging dependence, fostered by religion of a certain type, are all oblique expressions of the instinct of self-preservation: and the rather feverish devotional moods and exuberant emotional expressions with which we are all familiar have, equally, a natural origin. Our task in the training of young people is to evoke enthusiasm, courage and love, without appealing to either of these sources of excitement. Generally speaking, it is safe to say that for this reason all sentimental and many anthropomorphic religious ideas are bad for lads and girls. These have, indeed, no part in that austere yet ardent love of God which inspires the real spiritual life.
Our aim ought to be, to teach and impress the reality of Spirit, its regnancy in human life, whilst the mind is alert and supple: and so to teach and impress it, that it is woven into the stuff of the mental and moral life and cannot seriously be injured by the hostile criticisms of the rationalist. Remember, that the prime object of education is the moulding of the unconscious and instinctive nature, the home of habit. If we can give this the desired tendency and tone of feeling, we can trust the rational mind to find good reasons with which to reinforce its attitudes and preferences. So it is not so much the specific belief, as the whole spiritual attitude to existence which we seek to affirm; and this will be done on the whole more effectively by the generalized suggestions which come to the pupil from his own surroundings, and the lives of those whom he admires, than by the limited and special suggestions of a creed. It is found that the less any desired motive is bound up with particular acts, persons, or ideas, the greater is the chance of its being universalized and made good for life all round. I do not intend by this statement to criticize any particular presentation of religion. Nevertheless, educators ought to remember that a religion which is first entirely bound up with narrow and childish theological ideas, and is then presented as true in the absolute sense, is bound to break down under greater knowledge or hostile criticism; and may then involve the disappearance of the religious impulse as a whole, at least for a long period.
Did we know our business, we ought surely to be able to ensure in our young people a steady and harmonious spiritual growth. The "conversion" or psychic convulsion which is sometimes regarded as an essential preliminary of any vivid awakening of the spiritual consciousness, is really a tribute exacted by our wrong educational methods. It is a proof that we have allowed the plastic creature confided to us to harden in the wrong shape. But if, side by side and in simplest language, we teach the conceptions: first, of God as the transcendent yet indwelling Spirit of love, of beauty and of power; next, of man's constant dependence on Him and possible contact with His nature in that arduous and loving act of attention which is the essence of prayer; last, of unselfish work and fellowship as the necessary expressions of all human ideals—then, I think, we may hope to lay the foundations of a balanced and a wholesome life, in which man's various faculties work together for good, and his vigorous instinctive life is directed to the highest ends.
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