June 4, 2009

When life was simple...

The object of education is to give man the unity of truth. Formerly, when life was simple, all the different elements of man were in complete harmony. But when there came the separation of the intellect from the spiritual and the physical, the school education put entire emphasis on the intellect and the physical side of man. We devote our sole attention to giving children information, not knowing that by this emphasis we are accentuating a break between the intellectual, physical and the spiritual life.

I believe in a spiritual world, not as anything separate from this world, but as its innermost truth. With the breath we draw, we must always feel this truth, that we are living in God. Born in this great world, full of the mystery of the infinite, we cannot accept our existence as a momentary outburst of chance, drifting on the current of matter towards an eternal nowhere. We cannot look upon our lives as dreams of a dreamer who has no awakening in all time. We have a personality to which matter and force are unmeaning unless related to something infinitely personal, whose nature we have discovered, in some measure, in human love, in the greatness of the good, in the martyrdom of heroic souls, in the ineffable beauty of nature, which can never be a mere physical fact, nor anything but an expression of personality.

Experience of this spiritual world, whose reality we miss by our incessant habit of ignoring it from childhood, has to be gained by children by fully living in it and not through the medium of theo logical instruction. But how this is to be done is a problem difficult of solution in the present age. For nowadays men have managed so fully to occupy their time that they do not find leisure to know that their activities have only movement but very little truth, that their soul has not found its world. 

—Rabindranath Tagore, “My School” (lecture delivered in America, published in Personality, London: MacMillan, 1933)


  1. What he's lamenting about the loss of; I've got to wonder how he would view our schools now. Students graduating without knowledge, no sense of morality, and extreme indulgence in materialism and sexless sexuality. I sit in wonder and fear for Western Civilization, nay! humanity.

  2. What he said can be applied in whatever century of civilisation. But unfortunately, although it's always worth promoting such a way of seeing things, not every child (or adult) is sensitive enough to appreciate it. And history shows that this has always been and perhaps will always be the case.

    Maybe one can make a parallel between this and the appreciation of art. Some children are naturally sensitive to art. They see everything. Others see nothing. In this respect there is no difference between children and adults because sensitivity can't be taught.

    To appreciate the perspective of our being a minute but integral part of this fabulous cosmic adventure, to see ourselves as so privileged to be able to live our lives in a world still full of beauty and mystery, such sensitivity, which also determines humility, is essential.

    It would be of no use to go to church to listen to someone read a passage from the Bible, unless that person was also capable of appreciating and conveying this truth.

    One wonders what percentage of the clergy, in any religion, not only has the necessary sensitivity, but also is intelligent and able enough to successfully convey such truth.

  3. "One wonders what percentage of the clergy, in any religion, not only has the necessary sensitivity, but also is intelligent and able enough to successfully convey such truth."

    You are tragically right, Mirino.

  4. Steven, being a teacher, unfortunately I am perfectly aware of what you are talking about.

    Nevertheless I am not pessimistic: appearances are against us and our time, but the ways of the Lord are infinite...