by Neeltje Huppes
This workbook is in two parts. The first, “Self-Preparation”, is “to help all those who want to take the first steps in integrating spirituality in every day life” and for those “who would like to intensify the search for the psychic being”. The second part, primarily though not exclusively for teachers, deals with the theme of Integral Education – education “centred around the soul, as distinct from holistic education where the soul is just one of the areas of concentration.” Numerous exercises are included, based on those the Mother herself gave during her questions and answers sessions. Worksheets and checklists to assist and assess one’s progress are provided.
“Formerly, education was merely a mechanical forcing of the child’s nature into arbitrary grooves of training and knowledge in which his individual subjectivity was the last thing considered, and his family upbringing was a constant repression and compulsory shaping of his habits, his thoughts, his character into the mould fixed for them by the conventional ideas or individual interests and ideals of the teachers and parents. The discovery that education must be a bringing out of the child’s own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible value and must be based on the psychology of the child-nature was a step forward towards a more healthy because a more subjective system; but it still fell short because it still regarded him as an object to be handled and moulded by the teacher, to be educated. But at least there was a glimmering of the realisation that each human being is a self-developing soul and that the business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material. It is not yet realised what this soul is or that the true secret, whether with child or man, is to help him to find his deeper self, the real psychic entity within. That, if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as “the leader of the march set in our front”, will itself take up most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the capacity of the psychological being towards a realisation of its potentialities of which our present mechanical view of life and man and external routine methods of dealing with them prevent us from having any experience or forming any conception.”
These are the words of Sri Aurobindo on modern education in his major work on Social Philosophy, The Human Cycle. Here he hints at the possibility of the soul in man taking up the `business of education out of our hands’. The Mother in Sri Aurobindo Ashram developed this possibility. The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education was started on The Mother’s initiative with a view to promote the free progress system. The teachers took up their work in the spirit of Sadhana with The Mother herself as their guide.
The dominant world-view however continues to be mechanical. Under the circumstances it is very difficult for a man to go beyond the mainstream and mould his life under the influence of the soul. The child-soul too is shackled by the abnormal stress on career and money. The way out for man and society is Psychic Education. This is the title of the book under review. The purpose of this book is to develop the concept of psychic education on the lines suggested by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo in their writings. The book is meant primarily for teachers and educationists but is bound to have an influence beyond its intended audience.
In the Ashram, Yoga is the way of life. But this does not hold good for the world at large. The author attempts to suggest a methodized approach to rescue the spiritual component of the being of man and child and prevent it from being buried under the weight of the vicissitudes of modern life. The book is a workbook. Interspersed with the text are several worksheets, which help to focus on detailed implementation of the numerous creative ideas suggested.
The first part of the book titled Self-Preparation has eleven chapters and aims to introduce the aspiring teacher to a psychology other than the conventional. A prior familiarity with the teachings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo will be found helpful for making the best use of this part. The author is a Sadhika and brings to her writings her insights on the spiritual path. The level of discourse varies from elementary to intermediate. The Intermediate Zone through which most aspirants have to pass before reaching the psychic being has not been touched upon.
The author commences by introducing the psychic being in a simple way. No attempt is made to be philosophically rigourous yet a sensitive reader will find in the concept of the psychic being an epitome of that towards which his deepest instincts have always pointed. She proceeds to talk about the great discovery, suggests methods like self-observation to heal the divisions in one’s being and brings the participant-reader to the threshold where he can commence his journey. A word of caution is thrown in; the complete discovery of the psychic may take years. The next two chapters deal with self-purification. A distinction is sought to be drawn between purification from without and from within. The author does not introduce the idea of reversal of consciousness at this stage, which one feels is necessary for greater clarity.
So long as we are not surrendered to the inner Divine the need for effort must remain. This is the next thing to be discussed. A major form of this effort is rejection of all that impedes our progress. The author distinguishes between true rejection which leads to spiritual purification and suppression which is often done out of fear.
Human beings are different from animal creation in that they have a measure of freewill in their actions. When this free choice is used to put us deliberately on the side of the Divine, change in consciousness occurs which finally culminates in our will being aligned with the Divine will. These and allied movements of consciousness are explored in the chapter Choice and Change.
Surrender is the master movement of the progressive psychic change by which we transform personal effort into `a movement of the Divine force’. The author uses quotations from The Mother and Sri Aurobindo to drive the point home. The psychic change draws to its culmination when being organized around the psyche unifies all the divergent parts of our nature. This is discussed in the chapter Unification that brings us to the close of the first part.
The second half of the book deals with the education of children. It bears the rather unsuggestive title, The Integral Classroom. The contents however are full of a wealth of pedagogic detail which are based no doubt on the author’s considerable experience in this field.
`India is a country where the psychic law can and must rule and the time has come for that here.’ Basing herself on this message of The Mother, the author seeks to introduce Integral Education in the classroom. The three principles of true teaching enunciated by Sri Aurobindo form the kernel of the idea of psychic education in the classroom. They are:
1) The first principle of true education is that nothing can be taught…(The teachers’) business is to help and suggest…
2) The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its own growth…
3) The third principle of education is to work from the near to the far, from that which is, to that which shall be.
The practical consequences of these three cardinal principles are explored in the next chapter, The Learning Process. The important issue of deciding the contents of the children’s education follows this. Several criteria are suggested for this purpose-variety, range and assortment of material, diversity of learning processes, perfection of the faculties and skills, uplifting material and lastly material that caters specifically to the psychic needs and that which explores psychic concepts. The last three chapters deal with evaluation and assessment, the learning environment and attitude (of the teacher).
Practically all the essential ideas, which are necessary to implement the concept of integral education, have been dealt with in this book. The style is simple but not unsustained. The one conspicuous absence is lack of stress on moral education, which has been dealt with by Sri Aurobindo in his writings.
The book is a happy compromise between the Divine ideal and the present conditions of progress. It is indispensable reading for teachers and educationists with a sense of higher values and a willingness to go beyond the narrow utilitarian aims of present day education. The book is very well produced and moderately priced. The significance of the flower on the cover as given by The Mother, Supramental Invocation, sums up the author’s idealism and commitment.
— H. Kapoor
SABDA catalog listing for Psychic Education Workbook