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Directives for New Life by Dane Rudhyar.


Dane Rudhyar

First Published

This long out-of-print booklet essentializes much of the material from the larger volume We Can Begin Again - Together. Written in response to the pressing needs of the emergent "counter-culture" of the 1960s-70s, this engaging short work explores the deeper side of issues dealing with individualism, group and interpersonal relationships, education, ecology, social activism and more.


Directives for New Life by Dane Rudhyar.

Chapter Four
Instruction, Education, and Initiation

The movement of "progressive education" is based on the belief in the quasi-absolute value of individualism in all human affairs, and therefore in social democracy and economic laissez-faire. It found its earliest expression in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and later was eminently developed by John Dewey, Maria Montessori and more recently by A.S. Neill in his "Summerhill" experiment. John Dewey was essentially a humanist and pragmatist, and he was a strong believer in the power of the American ideal of democracy to bring about, through freedom and individually oriented activity, the full development of human creativity. He was likewise a fervent advocate of the empirical methods of science.

He realized also that the basic approach to education is essentially related to the type of society fostering a particular system of education, even though traditional methods may lag behind social changes and anachronistic structures are retained. This inertia of educational institutions is particularly evident at the present time, because basic social changes have been so rapid. The breakdown of the larger family group and of village communities, and more recently that of the small isolated and conflict-ridden nuclear families, has altered radically the essential character of the education of young children. Not only the working and weary mothers, but the community as a whole in which a young child could learn so much by direct contact with artisans, animals, cultivated fields and open interactions between the villagers, can no longer have a decisive and wholesome educative role. Their functions are taken inadequately by nurseries and kindergartens, private or public; and the Montessori "structured environment" can never be a complete substitute for the experiences a child can have in a healthful and productive community of men and women constantly engaged in vital tasks directly related to natural and functional life-processes.

In our "corporate state" society and its anarchistic, competitive and drugged cities, products of man's technological ambition to master everything, except himself, a complex hierarchy of schools and universities is proving inadequate and depersonalizing. Its planned extension "from the cradle to the grave" will not alter the basic aim of the education. The system is actually, if not theoretically, geared to the production of minds which will be able to operate ever more intricate machines or social mechanisms (legal, medical, administrative, etc.). Whatever else the student may acquire from being involved in, and conditioned by the system is incidental — the frosting of the cake, niceties to show off under the heading of "culture" and "the humanities".

It is against such a de facto situation that so many youths are revolting, with boredom or hatred in their hearts. This situation will not, indeed cannot radically change, except in isolated and borderline instances, until a new society is built on deeply transformed foundations. This transformation requires the reconstitution of the small community. The community as a functional, productive organism, must be the social unit in a global world, not the anarchic individual. As we shall see in the next chapter one must distinguish between the spiritual identity and integrity of an individual person and the functional value to mankind of his activities. Education, in the wide and somewhat confusing meaning of the word, deals with both the spiritual and the functional factors. Children and adolescents have to be "instructed", in the sense that they must learn how to function productively in society, at whatever level it may be. They must even more fundamentally be "educated" — that is, "led out" of the maternal and social matrices and "initiated" into ever more complex and inclusive realms of consciousness and decision-making (which involves the will and imagination aspects of the psyche). To "lead out" means to stimulate in the growing consciousness of the child's total organism the urge to actualize as much as he can of his innate individual potential. It is to help him develop faculties, including the ability to learn how best to adjust to his environment.

INSTRUCTION is the process whereby the accumulated harvest of human experience is transmitted from one generation to another. Man is characterized — to use Korzybski's significant term — by his "time binding" capacity. Through various types of symbols (language, writing, art-forms, etc.) the experience and knowledge of the past is transferred to the young minds during their formative years; and in a period of rapid collective changes and discoveries, this process of transference should last more or less through the whole life so as to avoid an overload of obsolescent concepts and incomplete or inadequate facts. On the other hand, care must be taken not to be swayed by fashionable theories which may soon be disproved or radically reinterpreted; and in that sense a certain amount of resistance to changes of but barely substantiated validity can be constructive.

Instruction is a centripetal process of absorption and assimilation. All eating processes are forms of "instruction"; but man absorbs psychic and mental as well as physical foodstuff. The crucial question is: will this food be assimulated? Unassimilated food easily turns into toxic material. Thus the function of assimilation must be aroused, mobilized for action which means in school, the desire to learn. In order to understand the problem one should realize that the instruction process can, and should operate at two levels. The most common and "natural" type of instruction deals with the process of learning how to satisfy the immediate needs of the organism, and, later on, of the total person desirous to assert his autonomy. But what is taught is conditioned by the social, religious and cultural beliefs of the parents, and the immediate environment. Problems arise when the teen-age mentality is caught into a tide of revolt against these beliefs and the results they have produced. The school seeks to condition the child so that he may willingly and smoothly function in a particular kind of society; but if, consciously and deliberately or under the pressure of a collective fashion or mood, the youth has no vital desire to function in such a society, or positively refuses to do so unless compelled by force, this type of instruction cannot be fruitful, even if a certain amount of knowledge is memorized and useable under pressure.

There is, however, a super-cultural or pan-cultural type of instruction which could not only stimulate the mind of a youth dissatisfied with the increasingly commercial, rigid and depersonalizing pattern of our technological society, but prepare it for a significant participation in the building of a new society. Ever since his cradle days the child would be acquainted with the foods, the music, the images and symbols, the ways of life of all human cultures, and an attempt would be made to develop his mind no longer in terms of the way of life and the taken for granted concepts of a particular culture, but in terms of what is essentially human at the basis of at least those cultures whose basic philosophy is well known.

The inherent meaninglessness of our educational system at this time of international interchange is that it takes for granted that our Western civilization with its concentration on technological achievements is so superior to all other cultures that its accumulation of a particular kind of knowledge alone is worth transferring to the new generations, not only here but all over the globe. It is because many youths refuse to accept this attitude that they become fascinated by Oriental ideas and meditation practices, and seek in "free universities" and "growth centers" another type of instruction as well as a stimulus for the actualization of latent capacities which no official institutions of teaching can or even want to offer them. The arid and obsolete rationalism of European scholasticism combined with the empirical behaviorism and socio-psychological materialism of most American Ph.D.'s is being fed to minds that rebel against absorbing it, then forgetting it the moment the "degrees" are obtained to insure a decent job.

The entire process is career-conscious and profit-oriented. It is "functional", of course, in an institutional sense; but this means that the goal is to feed our various institutions (business, professions, government bureaucracy) instead of individual persons. One used to speak of army-recruits as cannon-fodder; our schools seek to produce machine-fodder for the artificial mechanisms of our corporate state. The process obviously is not new; it was known in Europe in a somewhat different form; but it was not so efficient in depersonalizing individuals because it was, after all, operated by persons, and not by "systems" devised to speak to computers.

INITIATION is a process marking the entrance (or expansion) of an individualized human consciousness into a new field of experience. It implies a more or less lengthy and severe period of preparation and transition necessary for a successful taking of this new step in personal growth. In older human societies it was brought to a conscious focus by tests and "rites of passage".

Initiation implies a reordering of energies and purposes in terms of a new type of experiences related to a changing kind of functional participation in the community. It leads to, yet it also requires a change in consciousness. The preparatory phase of the process refers to the change that is needed before the initiation; that is, the ability to desire, to will and to be ready to take the new step has first to be developed, and in formal rites of initiation its effectiveness must be demonstrated by a successful passage through definite tests — physical, psychological or at least symbolical.

This implies that any initiation is a victory over the inertia of habits of thinking-feeling and behaving in terms of what was once normal functioning, a dying to the past and rebirth to an unfamiliar and uncertain future — thus a victory over fear and an act of faith in the yet-unknown. The victory must be won by the individual person; but in this crisis the individual should be — and always in the past was — sustained by the invisible, yet potent will and love of the community. The group should be the natural helper. It prepares the field of battle through adequate instructions; and it makes it possible for the victorious not to become intoxicated with his success, so that he may fulfill, humbly and devotedly, his new interpersonal and social functions — and whatever more transcendent function it may be at the planetary level of what are called the "great Initiations". At any level the initiate assumes a new function. It is as he acts functionally that he actualizes a new phase of his total human and individual potential of existence; but, of course, there are many levels and modes of activity. A yogi in a mountain cave may be intensely active, fulfilling a definite function in the planetary organism of Man and the Earth.

Rites of passage and initiation were experienced by children reaching adolescence, by men and women leaving the "student life" to enter the phase of full and joint participation in the community, and finally there were rites for the aged ones ready to pass into a new realm of consciousness at what we call death. These tribal rites have been retained in a more symbolical form in the sacraments of the Church. As every day can be a death-rebirth experience, the truly dedicated man can begin his day with the ritual of the Mass, a symbolic participation in the activity of the universal power of unceasing transformation which the Christ-principle represents — and which, in the symbolism of astrology, is Uranus.

EDUCATION, in the largest sense of the term, should be a way of periodical rebirth in consciousness — a constant challenge to function at an ever more inclusive level, in a more effective manner and in terms of a more fully actualized and creatively radiating personality. It requires an individual mobilization of energy, a stirring of the imagination, a wider and ever more responsible dedication to the work of humanity; it requires as well the support of a community. Such a support cannot be replaced by money lavishly spent on fancy buildings and huge salaries for teachers who, in so-called higher education, usually teach very little and are mainly concerned with ego-satisfying "research" insuring greater social prestige as well as a larger income. What is needed is a psychic and focused kind of support. It can only be available in the new type of "group" pervaded by a vital feeling of community and by interpersonal and unpossessive love.

The existence of such groups is essential for a wholesome education of children. First of all, it will make it possible for these children not to be subjected to the tensions, conflicts, arguments and ineffectual disciplining of too busy and too emotional parents in the nuclear family of our technologized society. It will make it possible for a greater number of children to play, experiment and work together in non-adult situations — so that they can develop healthfully, without being like hot-house plants whose growth is "forced" by all kinds of chemicals, and in the case of children, by numerous adult pressures, ego-stimulation and ambitious image-projecting. The child should live with other children in his own world, unbothered by and non-competing with adults. The children-group should maintain its own patterns of order, under the unobstructive supervision of understanding adults who have no possessive claims upon or personal aspirations for the children. Yet, of course, this does mean a constant separation between children and adults; for as soon as possible children should find some form of functional participation in the activity of the group and learn from the examples provided by this communal work.

The ideal of "permissiveness" in child-education is rather meaningless in that it refers to a largely false situation. The young child should be afforded all possible occasions to be what he is as a child and in his own place, but not as a yet-unformed and uninitiated pseudo-adult. The child should be loved, but not sentimentalized about, or over-protected — a mask for possessiveness. As soon as possible the child should be urged — if that were needed! — to ask questions; but the real educator should be able to lead children and adolescents to ask relevant questions; and they are relevant when the child has observed attentively what has happened. He should be led to observe a situation as a whole, as objectively as possible — and to relate it to other situations. The problem of the educator is how to structure life-situations in which the child is interested to participate in a focused manner, a manner which will naturally lead to a demand for critically needed information and experienceable data.

The most important point, and the one most forgotten in our affluent yet vacuous society, is that education and the basic methods of instruction should NOT be made "easy".

What Herman Keyserling called our culture-of-making-things-too-easy does not build spiritual "muscles" or penetrating minds. The kind of will it develops in children is a negative ego-will — the will to take advantage of adults' weakness and conflicts, and to challenge their shaky power that may even seek police support to bolster up or revenge itself.

All this is rather impractical in conditions normally present in our modern families with various marriages and divorces, and with the children being rushed to nurseries, kindergarten and spiritually deadening schools. These are limited to the goal of giving to the children a type of instruction intended to condition them to an unimaginative and benumbing acceptance of narrowly formulated ideals which everyday reality belies. They do neither educate nor initiate. Superficial reforms in schools and universities can no more change the situation than a few laws forbidding big business firms or Federal institutions to dump ecologically destructive waste products into the water or the atmosphere will actually stop the wholesale and world-wide pollution of the Earth. Every person jealous of his or her individual rights contributes to it, actually and morally. The very foundations of our Western world mentality, now being exported to all countries, have to be totally altered, and somehow the most basic feeling-responses of at least a majority of the people must become transformed. And the crucial question is how this can possibly be done.

As one considers all that is outwardly happening in the world today, it is difficult to believe that anything short of a world-wide shock or cataclysm will be sufficient to effect such a total transformation. Yet, as it has been repeatedly said, nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. What is necessary therefore is to induce in as many minds as possible the unshakeable conviction that the time has come.

One may think of this as an educative purpose. A new "seed man" can inseminate the minds of many who are yearning for a change, the character of which they are unable to formulate clearly, and therefore for the actualization of which they are not ready to upset their superficially comfortable way of living. A clear formulation would require a thorough understanding of the deeper causes of the present world-situation — and this refers to the process of "instruction". But a knowledge of causes, effects and expectable end results is not enough. The emotions have to be mobilized; which usually means the dramatization of crucial issues. More than this, the individual should be led to a state of consciousness in which he is willing to accept a personal crisis of growth and a radical change in consciousness. Through "e-ducation" his energies being mobilized in a state of faith in a possible future able to fulfill all that he is deeply aware of today being unfulfilled, the individual-in-crisis may then be "initiated" into a new kind of participation with other individuals in a new life situation.

What the reader of theosophical and mystical writings often fails to grasp is that the much publicized great spiritual Initiations do not merely refer to some wondrous ceremony or even a mere transfer of occult god-like powers; they imply above all an "entrance into" a transcendent community of illumined beings with whom, from then on, active and intelligent participation is not only possible, but required. No person can, in this sense, be initiated unless he or she is ready to take an active part in a new and far more inclusive "field" of existence dynamized by energies of higher vibratory intensity than those available to present-day human beings.

At a lower because far more restricted level, and in terms of the capacities of normally intelligent and especially eager and dissatisfied individuals, the process of education that would lead to some lesser type of initiation demands the realization of the meaning and value of the seed-group; and the seed-group today is to a large extent related to the youth movement toward the formation of communes. These present day communes constitute a preliminary step — a step which in some instances leads to greater emotional confusion. But chaos is the mother of a new order, provided this matrix is fecundated by a vision attuned to, and focusing, in answer to particular needs, the great tide of human evolution.

The most basic initiation, at a strictly human level, would be actual birth as a child in a real seed-group. This could mean truly an entrance into a new world in the making. But to be indeed a real initiation, the parents and the entire group would have to have been instructed in the ultimate purpose and function of the new life of community. They would have been "led out" of their old ego-consciousness and into a reverent and dedicated acceptance of the part they have to play in the planetary process of collective initiation of mankind — a process gradually, even if tragically, unfolding, as a cycle closes and another is about to begin.

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1971 by Dane Rudhyar
All Rights Reserved.

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