I had an opportunity while in Cape Town, South Africa, recently to offer a training to a group of teachers and caregivers at the Novalis Ubuntu Institute. Many of them teach children from a hard lifestyle in a violent community full of gangs and difficult living conditions. The teachers have feelings of desperation and exhaustion.
It was wonderful to be with them and to talk about what it means to be a teacher. It brought me to think deeply about the education that we offer for children and adults, which in many respects follows the same principles. I reflected on what happens typically in the educational institutions of our society, where children are told that their childlike flow state doesn’t matter. Their childish concerns and what they know as a child doesn’t matter.
Here, read out of this book. Forget about what you think you know. Forget about what you want, and then forget about who you are experiencing yourself to be. I’ll tell you who you are. And by the way, you’re not such a good person!
I think that’s often how it goes. The child should have the opportunity to grow and develop, and should be capable of entering the adult world, but with the confidence of what they know for themselves.
What they know should evolve over a lifetime. It should grow. Originally, the child knows just the very immediate things of what they’re feeling in their body, what they’re feeling of their mother’s body, their crib, and then their room and their home. It should grow to encompass something far larger. But is that what actually happens? Do we really know what’s happening in our world today? Do we really know what’s happening in our communities, or even in our own families? Or are we listening to news reports that are giving us only a jaundiced vision of what’s happening? An incomplete, biased perspective that misses the larger reality of the world in which we live?
We need to know what is happening in our world and in ourselves. So we need an education that confirms to the child what they know and encourages them to let that knowing grow to include the space in which they live.
I’ve had the privilege of developing and offering personal growth courses intensively for 15 years or more, depending on how I count it. I witness the impact of education and culture on the human experience. What is mystifying—and even shocking—is the degree to which people don’t know what is happening, not only in the larger world around them, and in their own communities and families, but right within their own soul.
It’s extraordinary when you think about it. There are feelings, there are thoughts, there are energies and dynamics that are happening within a person, and they can be almost totally unaware of them. They don’t know why they are feeling what they are. They just know there is some kind of inner turbulence. They ask themselves:
Why do I feel these things? Why do I feel the necessity to go out and take a drug to make me feel better? Why am I finding it so hard to connect with other people? Why am I walking around sad all the time? Why am I finding it so hard to find fulfillment in work or to feel at home in the world? What’s happening inside me and where did it come from?
Often, they can’t see the most primal things about their own experience. And it’s really hard to be masterful around something you cannot see.
Humankind as a whole is having a hard time being masterful in the world, and we are getting all kinds of reports on how much we are screwing it up. But it’s hard to be masterful about something you cannot see. Even though we receive what we believe to be factual reports, data alone does not constitute real seeing or knowledge of what is going on. But let’s set aside the world at large for a moment. If you cannot see and understand yourself, how can you truly see even another person, much less the world around you?
What has happened to the average person who doesn’t know the breadth and depth of their own soul? Our educational institutions are a major factor. Most of us went to school as a child and were told that what we were seeing and what we were knowing of ourselves didn’t matter. Forget that! And so as a child we said, Okay, teach me.
We have our schools asking children to abandon their own firsthand experience in favor of an intellectual model of reality.
In the Primal Spirituality course we just conducted, I asked the participants whether the Freudian concept of personality had been of any great benefit to them in their personal development—the concepts of id, ego and superego. I asked, Has that really helped you see yourself and know yourself and understand yourself better? I got a rousing No!
I don’t mean to pick on Freudian psychology. Most conceptions of human psychology don’t really assist the average person to see what is happening in themselves and others. They offer an intellectual model that becomes a substitute for what is really happening. But we can’t live our lives as an intellectual model.
We need an education that doesn’t substitute what we know someplace inside—but may have lost track of—for some kind of book learning. We need a teaching that confirms what is already present inside a person and helps them get their eyes on it.
I believe this is urgent. It’s urgent for any person in their life to get eyes on what’s happening, because you cannot be masterful about what you’re thinking and feeling and what’s happening in your life if you cannot see it. So I believe being able to see is vital. The corollary to that is, when you do see what is happening within your own experience, you have a natural authority over what you see. Leading a happy, fulfilling life is really not hard if you see. If you can’t see, it is almost impossible.
So I believe that this kind of sight is urgent for each of us. But I also believe it’s urgent for our world. We need an education that helps us see. And we need to start with the simplest things. How can we understand the more complex things—periodic tables, quantum mechanics, calculus and more—if we cannot see the most simple and primal things of our human experience? Without that, nothing else has a holistic context in which to be understood. We might be able to build a rocket, create plastic or engineer a microchip. But where is it going? How does anything we do contribute to a thriving planet with a thriving human culture?
With a real understanding of ourselves, we can move out from there to understand others and gain a holistic worldview.
The Primal Spirituality courses we have developed do not ask people to give up what they already see and know to adopt what we teach them. The courses assist people to find what they already see and know, but which they may have lost track of. It leads them to their primal knowing and the natural authority for their own life that is born from it. Through this enlightened form of education, we assist people to undo the unfortunate consequences of a prevailing educational system that robs us of our sight, and thereby robs us of our freedom if we let it. We assist people to see, and through their sight to reclaim their birthright as a Creator Being.
We need education that sets us free.