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Philosophical Meanderings

The Spirituality of Learning

The Spirituality of Learning

  To Begin with…


“A basic premise of holistic education is the belief that our lives have a meaning and purpose greater than the mechanistic laws described by science and greater than the ‘consensus consciousness’ of any one culture. This transcendent purpose is a creative, self-guiding energy which we ought not attempt to suppress.” – Ron Miller

 Please take a moment, to let that quote sink in.  Read it again, allow for the words to flow over your brain and your body.  It is a fantastic quote that was the opening quote of my graduate speech, and that I chose to use as the opening of this post.  Mr. Miller accurately links the words education, belief, our lives, meaning, and purpose in a succinctly beautiful sentence that also suggest their combination is greater to that of laws of science and a consensus consciousness by our cultures.  Continuing, he says that it (the collective of meaning, belief, purpose, life, education) is a transcendent purpose which is creative, a personal guided energy that deserves freedom and liberty without restraint.  This quote opened my eyes to the idea of spirituality of learning, and spirituality in learning. 

   Before everyone decides to become defensive, or has their rebuttal to my assumed post; let me be clear in stating that spirituality of learning and in learning, is not religion of learning or in learning.  I’ve personally, never been a fan of religion or church within or associated with education; mostly because of my firm stance of the separation of church and state, both needed to be in place, in order to protect the other.  However, I have begun to think and more importantly, feel, the idea of faith and spirituality in and of learning.  What is the difference you might ask?  Well, religion can be a place that limits self and limits faith.  It can be structured, detailed, historically complex and filled with opposition.  However, the spirituality and faith of and in learning, asks for the limitless amounts of faith, the limitless amounts of self, and asks as a self-prescribed renewing of the mind, the heart, and the hands.  It suggests cooperation instead of opposition, and an inter-connectivity that while combines ideas, simplifies them through their reliance upon one another.    

    Last summer, a progressive educational friend of mine, left me at college, with the analogy that progressive education, authentic learning, existed like (the now) concluded television series, Lost.  Those unfamiliar with the show may not know what I am saying, but those who are familiar from its inception to its conclusion, may begin to see the parallels.  Without ruining any of it for those unfamiliar with its premise, I will try to explain the similarities in several key phrases.  Lost has two perspectives throughout its theme, two ways to view its storylines and events.  It also has a central mysticism quality to its main set, which is, the island.  And finally, Lost is, at its heart, about relationships and trust.  While these few facts may make it difficult to completely grasp the relationship it has to spirituality in learning, ultimately if you have seen the show and have been so lucky to have been associated with this type of learning, then the elements are striking. 

    About eight months later now, I am on my Facebook account, and I see my progressive education friend Isaac Graves, writing about how he just gave a lecture comparing progressive education to that of Lost.  These two individuals do not know each other, and yet came to a similar conclusion.  It is my contention, that both of them recognize the spirituality, of and in, learning.        

     There is an underlying presence that is involved in this learning that suggests that not only are each of us engaged presently with this trust of the learning, but of our fellow human beings, and of ourselves.  I would go, even as far, to suggest that, it can best be described as a nervousness of excitement that ultimately is a calming peace. 

     While at a coffee/wine house in Port Townsend last month, the conversation with a friend turned from standardized testing, unions of teachers, and fellow classmate’s lives, to seamlessly transitioning into a conversation of and on faith, and its identity as spirituality in our learning.  It was as if we had discovered the missing piece of the puzzle in education, and it was a secret unto only those who have experienced it.  Our willingness to shout it from the rooftops is only muffled by our understanding of having to experience it, oneself. 

     There are no set guidelines to it’s happening, as it only seems to exist through the creative experiential process of the transformation of self.  It can have far lasting and far-reaching effects, especially to our sense of awareness and liberality of mind.  

     Spirituality in and of learning, is different from a spirituality of religion.  It is far more internal and collective, changing the way you think through changing the way you see yourself, the world, and your place within it.  It is the faith within the holistic approach to education, asking oneself to trust who they are, what they know, how they know it, and being willing and open to the exposure to the understanding that all those things can, are, and will change.

About caseykcaronna

A 27 year old Master of Arts in Education Degree holder from the progressive, liberal arts school, Goddard College. I am interested in Holistic, Community, Progressive, Democratic and Student-Centered Education. I am currently a part-time employee with the Boy Scouts of America. I am writing my first book on holistic education and looking for full time employment in education, throughout the United States and Canada. I am interested in all things education and hope to make trans-formative changes to the educational system(s) in America and in the process help to improve the lives of the individuals in whom it serves.


2 thoughts on “The Spirituality of Learning

  1. I love the Miller quote and completely agree that there is a spirituality inherent in the kind of learning that you and Miller describe. I like to think of spirituality as the various ways in which we find meaning in our lives. By this definition, any learning connected with one’s quest for meaning is spiritual. And meaning is not something you can give to someone. We have to find it ourselves. Thus the quandary of trying to engage kids meaningfully in an externally imposed curriculum! Mind sharing the source of the quote?

    Posted by Jim Strickland | March 18, 2011, 1:14 am
  2. Casey,

    Great to see his post. I know Ron reads this blog occasionally. Chime in, if you’re out there Dr. Miller!

    We have to get over our knee-jerk aversion to the concept of spirituality as a part of the educational mission. Essentially, I see education as a spiritual practice inasmuch as it is about helping kids find deep meaning, true passion and personal relevance in their education, and nurturing kids’ capacity to do so. It is partly about exploring one’s inner landscape and partly about the experience of transcendence and oneness. This should not be positioned as some flakey, touchy-feely alternative to RTTT. It should be seen as a basic human right for all learners.

    And yes, as you so rightly point out, education is (or should be) firmly rooted in authentic human relationship. This is an intrinsic foundation for meaningful and meaning-filled education. It is out of a tapestry woven with threads of interiority in interplay with real personal relationship that all “curriculum” could and should grow.

    Thanks for your courage in even using the “S” word, Casey.


    Posted by Paul Freedman | March 21, 2011, 1:57 pm

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