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The Basic Role of Spirituality in Education

The vital role of education as the supreme factor responsible for the strength and vigour of societies has been admitted by all schools of thought. It is not possible to ignore its fundamental role in the welfare of individual men. However, what is crucial is the real meaning of 'education' as well as the educational principles and criteria that are acknowledged as standards for evaluating the individual's intellectual and spiritual personality and applied to guide human beings to a free and happy life.

Since man is made of the two constituents of spirit and body, we require an educational principle that may harmonise his bodily urges with the spirit. This principle can either be one based on religion or one that is a product of the human mind. When we compare the two, we clearly observe the primary and authentic character of the educational principle based on religion. That is because the religious motive is innate in man's nature and is evident in him before he becomes the victim of various kinds of blindness. If there be no external factor to obstruct the course of his innate religious inclination, early in life its radiance illuminates man's heart and conscience. As a result, he makes himself conform to this inner urge, and with the increasing awareness of this hidden power he becomes ever more compliant to its dictates.

On the other hand, the philosophers, with their divergent perceptions of facts cannot attain a unanimity of opinion regarding education and man's spiritual refinement. And even if supposedly such a unanimity were attainable, that cannot, as a matter of principle, serve as a means of educating the masses who are incapable of understanding philosophical discourses. That is because the force of moral restraint should emerge from the depths of the human spirit in order to meet the demand of man's innate urges; otherwise the prescriptions of ethical philosophy, being a man-made product, are incapable of penetrating to the hidden reality that lies at the core of man's being and are thus inadequate for educating individuals and leading them to a life of felicity. Even for individuals who accept to abide by them, these man-made rules would be a tiresome burden to be carried about. Hence, on this basis, we must admit the superiority of the religious principle-which is rooted in the depths of man's inner being and conscience and is an eternal reality that lies at the centre of his innate nature-over all other methods that have been suggested in the field of education, and adopt it in order that human endeavour may attain its desired goals.

It was through the admission of the pre-eminence of this principle that man found a convinced faith in his genuine duties before humanity fell into the captivity of materialism. As a consequence he became intensely committed to it, and all the sublimest of human souls in the course of history have discovered the delight resulting from compliance to its commands and obeyed it with dedication.

Briefly, this is the same path as has been shown by the prophets and revealed scriptures, which allows human nature to flow in its true channel and satisfies all the aspects of man's being. Its objective is no other than to guide human nature to its goal of eternal felicity. Hence, if this primary principle be made the basis of education, all individuals would be able to advance on the path of development and perfection in its light and remain secure from every kind of deviation.

A glance at the people who lead a mechanistic existence-a phenomenon of this perverse era-reveals the fact that despite the remarkable advancements made by man in the field of science and the many breakthroughs made in the knowledge of physical nature and in unravelling its mysteries, he has, unfortunately, undergone a retrograde and decadent course in regard to the knowledge of himself. Not only this, he has failed to rescue his world-which is his only nursery and place of development- from devastation and wretchedness; rather, his multifarious sciences themselves have become a means of its destruction and chaos. Moreover, the human spirit itself has fallen captive to profound nescience in the valley of an illusory civilisation.

The Western world has made man a means of its goals of industrialisation, and it takes what is means for an end in itself. As a consequence it has created a society based either on the principle of conflict on the plane of the individual or that of conflict among social classes. None of these two kinds of societies are worthy of man. Man cannot attain his true humanity without resolving the contradiction between his own being and civilisation.

Eric Fromm writes:

Modern man's feeling of isolation and powerlessness is increased still further by the character which all his human relationship have assumed. The concrete relationship of one individual to another has lost its direct and human character and has assumed a spirit of manipulation and instrumentality. In all social and personal relations the laws of the market are the rule. It is obvious that the relationship between competitors has to be based on mutual human indifference...

Not only the economic but also the personal relations between men have this character of alienation; instead of relations between human beings, they assume the character of relations between things. But perhaps the most important and the most devastating instance of this spirit of instrumentality and alienation is the individual's relationship to his own self. Man does not only sell commodities, he sells himself and feels himself to be a commodity. The manual labourer sells his physical energy; the businessman, the physician, the clerical employee, sell their "personality." They have to have a "personality" if they are to sell their products or services. This personality should be pleasing, but besides that its possessor should meet a number of other requirements: he should have energy, initiative, this, that, or the other, as his particular position may require. As with any other commodity it is the market which decides the value of these human qualities, yes, even their very existence. If there is no use for the qualities a person offers, he has none, just as an unsaleable commodity is valueless though it might have its use value. Thus, then self confidence, the "feeling of self", is merely an indication of what others think of the person, It is not he who is convinced of his value regardless of popularity and his success on the market. 4

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4. Fromm, Eric, The Fear of Freedom (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul) pp. 102-103.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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