Taken partly from: "Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way " by the Afghan sufi-author Idries Shah, published near 1968.
A Curriculum of a School
"Q: Could you give us a view of the curriculum
of a School, from 'inside the School' so to speak?"
"A: In our teaching, we must group correctly these elements: the pupils, the teacher and the circumstances of study. Only at the right time and place, with the teacher suitable to these, and with the right body of students, can our studies be said to be capable of coherent development."
"Does this sound difficult or unreasonable? Let us compare these requirements with an analogy of our needs: the ordinary educational institution."
"If we are learning, say, physics, we must have a man skilled in physics [having successfully completed his own training; able also to teach; and with a mandate to teach]; students who want to learn and who have capacity and some background for the study; and adequate laboratories and other facilities for the studies to take place."
"A physics teacher could not make any real progress with a class of idiots, or people who primarily wanted power or fame or gain through physics. These factors would be getting in the way of the teaching. A class of brilliant students, faced with a man who knew no physics, or who only had a smattering, would make little progress. A good teacher, with a student body, could do little unless the instruments and equipment, the building and so on, were available as and when needed."
"Yet this principle, so well established in conventional studies of all kinds, is largely passed over and has fallen into disuse, among esotericists. Why? Because they have a primitive and unenlightened attitude towards teaching. Like an oaf who has just heard of physics or only seen some of its manifestations, the would-be student wants it all *now*. He does
not care about the necessary presence of other students. He wants to skip the curriculum and he sees no connection between the building and the subject of physics. So he does not want a laboratory."
"Just observe what happens when people try to carry on learning or teaching without the correct grouping of the three essentials:"
"Would-be students always try to operate their studies with only one, or at the most two, of the three factors. Teachers try to teach those who are unsuitable, because of the difficulties of finding enough people to form a class. Students who have no teacher try to teach themselves. Transpose this into a group of people trying to learn physics, and you will see some of their problems. Others group themselves around the literature and methodology of older schools, trying to make the scrap material of someone else's physics laboratory work. They formalize rituals, become obsessed by principles and slogans, assign disproportionate importance to the elements which are only tools, but which they regard as a more significant heritage."
"Anyone can think of several schools, cults, religions, systems of psychology or philosophy which fall into the above classifications."
"We must categorically affirm that it is impossible to increase human knowledge in the higher field by these methods. The statistical possibility of useful gains within a reasonable time is so remote as to be excluded from one's calculations."
"Why, then, do people insist on raking over the embers and looking for truth when they have little chance of finding it? Simply because they are using their conditioning propensity, not their capacity for higher perception, to try to follow the path. There is intellectual stimulus and emotional attraction in the mere effort to plumb the unknown. When the ordinary human mind encounters evidences of a higher state of being, of even when it conceives the possibility of them, it will invariably conclude that there is some possibility of progress for that mind without the application of the factors of teaching-teacher-students-time-and-place which are essentials."
"Man has few alternatives in his search for truth. He may rely upon his unaided intellect, and gamble that he is capable of perceiving truth or even the way to truth. This is a poor, but an attractive, gamble. Or he can gamble upon the claims of an individual or institution which claims to have such a way. This gamble, too, is a poor one. Aside from a very few, wo/men in general lack a sufficiently developed perception to tell them:"
- Not to trust their own unaided mentation;
- Who or what to trust.
"There are, in consequence, two main schools of thought in this matter. Some say 'Follow your own promptings'; the other says: 'Trust this or that intuition'. Each is really useless to the ordinary wo/man. Each will help
him use up his time."
"The bitter truth is that before man can know his own inadequacy, or the competence of another man or institution, he must first learn something which will enable him to perceive both. Note well that his perception itself is a product of right study; not of instinct or emotional attraction to the individual, nor yet of desiring to 'go it alone'. This is 'Learning How To
"All this means, of course, that we are postulating here the need for preparatory study before school work takes place. We deny that a man can study and properly benefit from school work until he is equipped for it: any more than a person can study space-navigation unless he has a grasp of mathematics."
"This is not to say that a man (or a woman) cannot have a sensation of truth. But the unorganized and fragmented mind which is most people's heritage tends to distort the quality and quantity of this sensation, leading to almost completely false conclusions about what can or should be done."
"This is not to say, either, that man cannot take part in studies and activities which impinge upon that portion of him which is connected with a higher life and cognition. But the mere application of special techniques [often to everyone, regardless of their current state and requirements] will not transform that man's consciousness. It will only feed into, and disturb, more or less permanently, centers of thought and feeling where it does not belong. Thus it is that something which should be a blessing becomes a curse. Sugar, shall we say, for a normal person is nutritionally useful. To a diabetic, it can be poison."
"Therefore, before the techniques of study and development are made available to the student, he must be enabled to profit by them in the direction in which they are supposed to lead, not in short-term indulgence."
"Thus our curriculum takes two parts: the first is in the providing of materials of a preparatory nature, in order to equip the individual to become a student. The second is the development itself."
"If we, or anybody else, supply such study or preparatory material prematurely, it will only operate on a lower level than it could. The result will be harmless at best. At worst, it will condition, train, the mind of the individual to think and behave in patterns which are nothing less than automatic. In this latter way one can make what seem to be converts, unwittingly play upon emotions, on lesser desires and the conditioning propensity; train people to loyalty to individuals, found and maintain institutions which seem more or less serious or constructive. But no real progress towards knowledge of the human being and the other dimension in which he partly lives will in fact be made... ... ...."