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Parenting and Educating for Wholeness

by David Marshak
Peter Lang Publishing

Appears with permission of Peter Lang Publishing. All rights reserved. More information about the book at: Order the book from Peter Lang at (800) 770-5264 or through the Web at:


A holistic, spiritually based description of the needs and potentials of children and youth from birth through age twenty-one is available to us in the insights of three early twentieth-century spiritual teachers--Rudolf Steiner, SriAurobindo Ghose, and Hazrat Inayat Khan--whose works articulate a common vision of human growth, wholeness, and evolutionary change. This common vision provides detailed responses to three key questions:

What is the true nature of human beings?

What is the course of human growth from birth through age twenty-one?

Given this understanding of human growth, what are the desired functions of child raising and education?

A Common Vision of Human Unfoldment: Birth to Age Twenty-One

The common vision of human becoming from birth through age twenty-one includes these elements:

The process of human becoming from birth through age twenty-one is an unfoldment of inherent potentials that require proper nurture if the young person's nature is to evolve to the extent of her (the female pronoun is used to include both female and male reference) capacities. Thus, what is central in determining the becoming of the young person is her nature and her nurture in relationship to each other.

Each child and youth is an organismic whole who contains within herself her own innate wisdom and motive force, her own spiritually founded innerteacher, to guide and power her unfoldment. This wisdom and motive force directs the child to unfold in a direction and at a pace that are appropriate for her development, if she is not coerced or compelled from them by adults.

The unfoldment of the child and youth follows a course that is relatively consistent, regular, and foreseeable in its large outlines. Yet each individual unfolds at her own pace, which results in wide variations in the particular age when any given child experiences any particular step in her unfoldment; this process of unfoldment includes three major eras, each of about seven years in length:

a. Birth through 6 years of age

b. 6 through 12-14 years of age

c. 12-14 through 21 years of age

A Common Vision of Child Raising and Education

Steiner, Aurobindo, and Inayat Khan also articulate a profoundly similar set of principles to guide the practice of child raising and education.

The parent and teacher must apprehend the child and youth as a unified system, composed of physical, life-force, mental, and spiritual beings and their various aspects and faculties, existing on a path of life that includes the past, present, and future.

The parent and teacher must provide the child and youth with both a safe environment and as much freedom as possible, so she can unfold according to her innate spiritual wisdom, her inner teacher.

The primary external agent in the education of the child and youth is first the parent, then the teacher. It is the qualities of the parent and teacher that most affect the child and youth, not their skills or knowledge. The qualities that have the most positive impact on the child and youth are love and wisdom. Given this responsibility, the parent and the teacher must consciously attend to their own continuing unfoldment in an ongoing and consistent manner.

The parent's and teacher's task is not to shape or mold the child and youth but to help, guide, and nurture her. The parent's and teacher's primary purpose is not to train the child and youth or impart knowledge but to help her learn to develop her own instruments, faculties, and capabilities. The parent and teacher also need to help the child and youth learn to recognize and validate her own inner knowing, her inner teacher.