Schools without walls
An interview with the Master – about the need for change in educational institutions based on the autonomy of the child as a soul in incarnation.
Benjamin Creme’s Master kindly agreed to offer his views on the educational crisis which, in a variety of ways, is affecting many countries around the world today.
Patricia Pitchon: In many cities around the world, education is in crisis. Particularly in the West, the authority of both teachers and parents seems to be declining and the problem of discipline in the classroom is a major one. What, in your view, are the causes and what are the remedies?
The Master: The problem is not one of discipline. It is a question of freedom and a new sense of the validity of the child: his need and right for self-expression. Each child — at whatever level — comes into the world with his or her own set of purposes. A main one is to learn to live in peace and harmony with all others and in right relationship with his own environment. The possibility for this to take place is very rare. So great are the inequalities of opportunity and educational standards that few find themselves in a situation where their true worth and needs can be respected and served.
The world today is saturated with a new spiritual energy, the energy of equilibrium, focused by Maitreya. It drives everyone in two directions: inwards to his source, which gives a person an added and often powerful sense of himself as a unique individual, and also outwards to society, where he seeks to stake his claim.
The problem of discipline is connected with this crisis in the psychology of the child, and with the need to recognize all young people as unique sons of God evolving towards the manifestation of that Sonship.
All educational establishments today without exception are in a state of transition, some more, some less. It will take a considerable time for the necessary adjustments in educational theory and practice to take place before the problem of discipline can be solved.
The young everywhere need and are demanding their freedom and the right to be treated not as subservient imbibers of predigested knowledge but as adventurers seeking the answers to their questions and the fulfilment of their dreams.
PP: In Japan there is an intensely competitive atmosphere in education. Children in Japanese society study long hours, and many go to extra classes after school returning home quite late to do their homework. What is your view of this trend?
The Master: This problem is not confined to Japan but has reached its acme there. As a result of the commercialization of learning, vast numbers of children are being subjected to these injurious conditions. The results will show as the present generation reaches maturity.
However, people everywhere are amazingly resilient and quickly replenish their reserves when invited to do so. This will happen in Japan in the not too distant future and increasingly elsewhere.
A new dimension — the dimension of the soul — will become more and more accepted as the basis for the child’s need. When this has become the case each child will be seen as an evolving soul moving towards the fulfilment of his or her potential for this given life. The new science, the psychology of the soul, will be the basis of all future educational efforts and will transform life for both the child and the teacher.
Schools and colleges will lose their institutional aspects and integrate more and more with the society in which the child is found. A closer relationship, therefore, between school and work will become the norm, and open the way for "schools without walls".
PP: Recently an article on education in The Independent, a London newspaper, described the creation of several unusual schools in Harlem, a well-known black neighbourhood in New York. One is a marine science school, another emphasises the arts, a third has a strong business orientation, and so on. The academic results of children emerging from such schools have soared, which seems to prove that, even in neighbourhoods riddled with severe social problems, the creative potential of many children is there to be tapped. Are these schools the beginning of experiments in the direction you are describing?
The Master: Yes. These are the first signs of the new awareness of multiple experience, wide-ranging action and interests, rather than the narrow specialization predominant at present.
Each child brings to life the sum of his or her many achievements in the past, and much is lost to the world of talent and gifts when the opportunity for their expression goes unprovided. Out of these many experiments much will be learned of the true needs and inner capacities of the child, which today are severely underrated. This is the source of much of the ‘indiscipline’ and lawlessness which abounds.
PP: Do you mean, by this, that education will become individually tailored?
The Master: Precisely. Each child is unique and the education must reflect that individual need. With the new science will come an understanding of the Rays*.
When the individual rays of children are known, their gifts and limitations can be better assessed. The role of the teacher, therefore, will change profoundly. Each teacher will become a mentor.
PP: In parts of the West, consensus between families, schools and governments has broken down. How should this consensus be re-established?
The Master: In my eyes, there never was such a consensus.
PP: Education has always been taken seriously in Eastern Europe, but how will schools adapt to a waning of ideological content? Will an exacerbated nationalism or, in some cases, a religious content replace political ideology?
The Master: The nations are evolving at different rates and inevitably the changing structures of schools and educational theory will vary. The loss of an ideological basis should not be seen as a calamity.
On the contrary, it provides a new sense of freedom to the unconditioned mind of the child. This is a healthy and wholesome process. It is not ideology or religion but the imposition of these conditioning factors which brings harm to the expanding mind of the child.
PP: What can India do, via education, to lessen strife due to religious and caste differences?
The Master: Education is the answer to India’s problems, as it is throughout the world. The difficulty for the Indian subcontinent is the problem of implementation. No one denies the need, but the problems of educating 800 million people steeped in superstition, caste envy and hatred have until now baffled all governmental efforts. India, together with many other countries, requires the concerted aid of the developed world to ease this immense burden. Once tackled in depth, there will grow in India a new awareness of the stranglehold which ancient religious and social taboos have had throughout the centuries.
A start is being made and great teachers like Sri Sathya Sai Baba are initiating new and far-reaching procedures to this end. It will take time. The roots of superstition, separation and greed are deep, but a new time is coming for India as for all the world.
PP: What, in your view, are the immediate aims of education? What are the first steps in laying a more appropriate foundation?
The Master: The first step is to accept the autonomy of the child. Each child requires education, otherwise he cannot fulfil his potential. However, that education must fit him as you would require a pair of shoes to do, and as the shoes become outgrown and must be changed, so too must the educational structures, outlook, curriculae and concepts respond to the child’s changing needs.
Basically there are two educational structures in many countries: one for a small élite, preparing them for the higher echelons of influence and power, and another for a broadly based, egalitarian rump which is equipped for the lesser posts in industry and other fields.
Each has advantages and disadvantages, but takes no account of the variety of gifts and levels of evolution to be found among children everywhere. The truly gifted child must find the environment to fulfil his gifts. This is relatively rare today.
The broad mass of children produce a less sustained level of achievement but must feel that all resources are at their disposal. It is of course true that the truly gifted child will achieve eventually under most conditions, but much valuable time is lost for many, for want of the necessary stimulus at high level. This is an essential requirement if the needs of the new time are to be met.
* According to the Masters, seven types of energy sweep through our solar system; they affect every atom within it and are referred to as the Seven Rays. Man, considered as a personality with physical, emotional and mental bodies, and as a soul, responds to, and is coloured by, a particular combination of these rays, depending on the individual concerned. At each level (physical, emotional, mental, personality and soul) a particular ray predominates, and the effects are expressed via particular strengths and weaknesses. PP.