Saturday, May 28, 2016

God the Holy Spirit is the Divine Teacher....

Principle 20

We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life. 

How exciting it was to open the final pages of the reading for our Start Here 20 Principles study and find Charlotte Mason recognizing the value of 'Subjects Divinely Taught', including The Seven Liberal Arts. In Chapter XXV of Parents and Children, Charlotte begins by telling us about Mr. Ruskin's 'Vaulted Book', or Mornings in Florence, where he describes the frescoes in the Spanish Chapel attached to the Church of Sta. Maria Novella, in Florence.  Charlotte tells of "seven mythic figures representing the natural sciences, and with the figure of the Captain-teacher of each."  These of course being Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Music, Astronomy, Geometry, and Arithmetic.

Charlotte goes on to explain Education not Religious and Secular...
In the first place, we divide education into religious and secular.  The more devout among us insist upon religious education as well as secular.  Many of us are content to do without religious education altogether; and are satisfied with what we not only call secular but make secular, in the sense in which we understand the word, i.e. entirely limited to the uses of this visible world.  (Vol. 2, Parents and Children, p. 270)
She then takes it a step further with The Great Recognition...
Many Christian people rise a little higher; they conceive that even grammar and arithmetic may in some not very clear way be used for God; but the great recognition, that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius, is a conception so far lost to us that we should think it distinctly irreverent to conceive of the divine teaching as co-operating with ours in a child's arithmetic lesson, for example.  But the Florentine mind of the Middle Ages went further than this: it believed, not only that the seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, without any thought at all as to whether the person so inspired named himself by the name of God, or recognized whence his inspiration came.  All of these seven figures are those of persons whom we should roughly class as pagans, and whom we might be lightly included to consider as outside the pale of the divine inspiration.  It is truly difficult to grasp the amazing boldness of this scheme of the education of the world which Florence accepted in simple faith.  
Knowledge, like Virtue, Divine. - But we must not accept even an inspiring idea blindly.  Were these people of the Middle Ages right in this plan and conception of theirs?  Plato hints at some such thought in his contention that knowledge and virtue are fundamentally identical, and that if virtue be divine in its origin, so must knowledge be also.  Ancient Egypt, too, was not in the dark in this matter... (Vol. 2, Parents and Children, p. 270-271)
Charlotte is not saying that every man who's ever made a discovery or advancement in technology is a Christian, however, she's suggesting that the initial conception of their idea was divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, whether or not they recognize(d) it.

Next, Charlotte uses examples of Pharaoh, Saul, and David to show how their discernment and wisdom of everyday matters was inspired by the "Spirit of God".  She's quick to mention that the Holy Spirit is not just involved in 'high themes', but in the 'Ideas of Common Things' as well.  She uses Isaiah 28:24-29 to show how basic wisdom and knowledge, of which we use to meet our everyday needs, comes from the Lord.
'God doth Instruct.' - In the things of science, in the things of art, in the things of practical everyday life, his God doth instruct him and doth teach him, her God doth instruct her and doth teach her.  Let this be the mother's key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child.  Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for this indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils.  We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us. 
God is the Divine Teacher!  Whether or not we acknowledge it, He is the logos or the center, and not just of subjects such as "faith and hope and charity...temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude", but also of "...grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic - this we might have forgotten, if these Florentine teachers had not reminded us; his practical skill in the use of tools and instruments, from a knife and fork to a microscope, and in the sensible management of all affairs of life..."  Once again, we see Charlotte relieving the parent/teacher of carrying the solitary burden of what or how to teach.  She advises us to never contemplate any kind of instruction for our children without prayer and petition to the Holy Spirit.

Now, Charlotte does caution us that this does not mean only that "spiritual virtues may be exhibited by the teacher, and encouraged in the child in the course of a grammar lesson", but "that the teaching of grammar by its guiding ideas and simple principles, the true, direct, and humble teaching of grammar, without pedantry and without verbiage, is, we may venture to believe, accompanied by the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, of whom is all knowledge."  Yes, we should be good role models exhibiting virtue, but this alone will not lure our children to see the hand of God.  We should not be the talking head, but must let each subject, whether it be grammar, math, etc., speak for itself.  We don't need to make it cute or fun or whatever else.  We need to simply let the Holy Spirit guide the child's mind through the lesson in a straightforward, no nonsense kind of way.   Charlotte reiterates this below...
Teaching that Invites and that Repels Divine Co-operation. - The contrary is equally true.  Such teaching as enwraps a child's mind in folds of many words that his thought is unable to penetrate, which gives him rules and definitions, and tables, in lieu of ideas - this is teaching which excludes and renders impossible the divine co-operation.  (Vol. 2, Parents and Children, p.274) 
Charlotte wraps up her proposal of Divine Teaching with the proposition of living ideas and the best books.
A first condition of this vitalising teaching is that all the thought we offer to our children shall be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do; given the vitalising idea, children will readily hang the mere facts upon the idea as upon a peg capable of sustaining all that it is needful to retain.  We begin by believing in the children as spiritual beings of unmeasured powers - intellectual, moral, spiritual - capable of receiving and constantly enjoying intuitions from the intimate converse of the Divine Spirit. (Vol. 2, Parents and Children, p.277)
If a book is stale, flat, and dull to me, more than likely it will be to the children as well and I should drop it.
No neat system is of any use; it is the very nature of a system to grow stale in the using; every subject, every division of a subject, every lesson, in fact, must be brought up for examination before it is offered to the child as to whether it is living, vital, of a nature to invite the living Intellect of the universe.
We need not say one word about the necessity for living thought in the teacher; it is only so far as he is intellectually alive that he can be effective in the wonderful process which we glibly call 'education.' ( Vol. 2, Parents and Children, p.279)
Charlotte closes with the importance of the parent/teacher being filled with that which is beautiful in order to give back to the student.  We cannot pour out what has not been put in.   I believe she is strongly endorsing 'Mother Culture' here.

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