Values and creativity are the two pillars of developmental learning. This article examines how to incorporate these two vital factors in our systems of learning.
The Need for Both
The ancient mind emphasized on values. Our modern mind, especially the corporate one, is enamored of creativity and innovation. Both are necessary for a balanced system of education which leads to the integrated individual. Creativity without values will only lead to brilliant or innovative crooks who will destroy the fabric of the society. On the other hand, values without creativity may lead to ineffective idealists who cannot actualize what they think.
How to incorporate these two factors in an integrated format into our system of education? To answer this question effectively, first we have to understand and give the right meaning to these terms. There are many equally valid ways of looking at values and creatively. We will not enter into this debate on semantics. We must arrive at a definition or meaning which can lead to the harmonious, integral and highest flowerings of the human potential and its creative self-expression in the outer life.
The Source of Values
Let us begin with values. Looking at it from the higher aims of education, values are all ideals which lead to the higher evolution of the individual and collectivity in the mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual domain of our consciousness. They are part of the common, cultural and spiritual heritage of humanity discovered by the higher intuitive wisdom of human kind –truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, unity and numerous other derivative values. We all know them intuitively because our higher spiritual self is made of these values, and intrinsic to its consciousness. As Sri Aurobindo explains , “ . . . this spiritual stuff is immaculate and luminous and because it is perfectly luminous, it is immediately, intimately, directly aware of the truth of being and truth of nature, it is deeply conscious of truth and good and beauty because truth and good and beauty are akin to its own native character, forms of something that is inherent to its own substance” .
In Sri Aurobindo’s integral psychology, this spiritual self within us, and beyond or behind our physical, vital and mental being, which grows and evolves by gathering the essence of all our experiences through many births, is called the psychic being. This psychic being is the spiritual source of all values. Our higher nature, made of the ideal mind, deeper feeling, ethical and aesthetic faculties, has an intuitive affinity to truth, beauty and goodness, They are closer and more open to the psychic being than our physical and vital parts in us which seek power, wealth and pleasure. So opening our consciousness to our psychic being through awakening our higher nature holds the key to effective “value- education” which is so much talked about at present in debates on education.
The Meaning of Creativity
What is the essence of creativity? The popular conception equates creativity with poetry, painting or writing. The corporate world views creativity in terms of new ideas or innovation. All these are part of creativity. In a wider perspective, creativity means the ability to conceive, express, live, manifest or execute an idea or ideal in thought, feeling and action, or give a material or vital form to it in the outer life. Our concept of creativity must include not only conception and creative expression in poetry, art or literature but also living practice and execution. The key to creativity lies in development of faculties. The primary creative faculties in the domain of conception are intuition and imagination and in the field of execution they are concentration, observation and will.
Intuition may be defined as a direct insight into the deeper truth of life behind outer appearances or the hidden pattern behind events or which can resolve contradiction, dilemmas or dualities. Imagination is the ability to visualize the unmanifest possibilities and convert an abstract idea into a concrete image or symbol which is attractive or sizable to emotions. Intuition and imagination, and not reason or logic, are the primary creative faculties which can usher in the new idea and lead to a new creation. Reason and logic are only instruments for working out what the intuition or imagination discovers. Another important point to note here is that intuition or imagination can bring not only the new but also rediscover the eternal verities of the past and give a fresh and appropriate form which is in harmony with the present age. For example , universal truths such as truth, beauty and goodness are not something new. The great discoveries of ancient seers , for example , the unity and interdependence of all life are still in the process of being rediscovered in modern sciences.
In the domain of execution, the most important faculties are concentration and will. Concentration means the ability to focus our attention on a single point which may be an idea, object or an activity. The second faculty is the power of will which has a cognitive and a dynamic aspect. The cognitive element is the choice or choosing a course of action towards a goal or an aim , and the dynamic element is the firmness, persistence or endurance in holding on to the choice or action against all obstacles and resistance or opposition until the goal is realized.
There are two more faculties which are needed for effective execution: Observation and flexibility. Soaring idealism or futurism of the imagination has to be complemented by scientific objectivity in observation which gives a clear grasp of the present facts of life. Similarly, in our dynamic fast-changing world, firmness in will has to be complemented by flexibility in responding to the changing needs or situations of life.
How to Integrate Them
This brings us to the question –how to incorporate the perspectives we have discussed so far in an integrated manner into our system of education? As we have indicated earlier , the ideal of value education is to awaken and bring forth the psychic being, the spiritual source of values and make it the conscious guide and governor of our life. For a child this is relatively less difficult because, in a child, this psychic being is more or less in front, much less hampered by vital or mental interference. Two things are required for the full flowering of the psychic being. First, and the most important, is a teacher who is making a conscious and sincere effort to awaken his or her own psychic being and trying to mould his /her inner and outer life in the image of the true, beautiful and the good. Second, an outer environment which reflects the psychic being, something beautiful, harmonious, loving, caring, with objects that can give an indication of the natural inclination and talents of the child. As the child grows she has to be gently awakened to the joy of the true, good and the beautiful and the joy of obeying the inner psychic guidance or impulse and conversely to the inner psychic uneasiness or sorrow , when she does something contrary to her psychic nature .
For fostering creativity, the keyfactor is to understand the unique interest, inclination or talents of the child and provide sufficient freedom, opportunities and encouragement to express them. As the child grows and her mental, vital and emotional being begins to develop, each of these parts have to be given appropriate educational inputs which are in sync with the child’s unique nature and will help it to open itself to the psychic being. For example, mental education must include lessons on how to silence the mind and receive intuitive knowledge from the deeper layers of the mind or psychic being; learning to concentrate; synthesize contradiction; understanding the meaning of values such as truth, beauty and goodness and how to internalize them in consciousness and materialize them in the outer life; how to find answers to fundamental questions like what is God or what is the nature of the universe through study, contemplation and inner silence; how to think deeply and express one’s thoughts with simple clarity.
Similarly, vital and emotional education must include development of aesthetic sense and how to make our whole life beautiful and harmonious; strengthening the muscles of our will; emotional purity by rejecting negative feelings and cultivating a constant goodwill in the heart; how to live and work in the present without brooding over the past and having anxiety about the future. In this stage, the foundation of all education must be self-knowledge and self-mastery. The key to self-knowledge is awareness and increasing consciousness, becoming more and more conscious of the different parts of our being and the inner sources of our thought, feelings, motives, action and behavior. The key to self-mastery is the intelligent Will, what is called ‘ Budhi ‘ in Indian thought, watching all our thoughts and feelings as a detached witness, admitting only those which are in harmony with our ideals and rejecting all that are contrary to it.
In the higher stages when the child grows further and becomes an adult, the quest for truth has to be more consciously pursued via diverse fields of knowledge such as arts, science and philosophy. In this stage, the main stress has to be on understanding the deeper truth and purpose or the higher aims of each discipline of knowledge; what are the faculties which come into play in each and how to develop them consciously; unity and connectedness of all knowledge. In this stage, the learner has to be awakened to the spiritual source of all knowledge, which is within him or her. The person has to be made aware that the source of knowledge is not outside, but within, and lies hidden in the depths of his or her own consciousness.