Catching Fire! A Neohumanist Love Story

By Marcus Bussey

Neohumanism is a socio-spiritual philosophy for personal and global transformation. But what does this mean? Essentially it means that any change in the world comes about from changes at the individual level. Gandhi’s ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ is where it begins. As teachers this means we must be the change we want to see in our classrooms, schools, communities and lives. Being means becoming. Being also has its socio-ecological dimension and implies, inter-being.

We are because of others — the human, the non-human and even the inanimate. We exist only in relationship. We find meaning only through relationship. So our being-becoming is relational in nature. That means we respond to the world and the world responds to us. The logic then dictates that if we wish to see less violence in our classrooms, we must become less violent. If we wish to see more creativity in our classes then we need to be more creative. If we wish to see more curiosity, spirituality, love, care and hope, then we must embody these things. Not as perfect exemplars but as people walking the path, doing the hard yards. Neohumanism is therefore a philosophy of becoming ‘more’ than we are now. This means we are always becoming neohumanists. That is the beauty and paradox.

Each of us is always complete and responding to the world as becoming-neohumanists. Yet that completeness and response is always also provisional. We are always yearning to be more, called into being by our relational context. This means there is a distinction between the curriculum as content, and the curriculum as lived being-becoming. The neohumanist teacher is working to trust this distinction and allow for their own process — their being-becoming — to infuse their classroom with expansive possibilities generated by their own becoming-more.

So, if universal love is on the curriculum it infuses the math class with its own sweetness. The love of the subject, the trust involved in mathematical inquiry, the joy and playfulness of all deep learning, the respect and nurturance of each student are part of the broader ethos that generates its own tacit knowing. This is a relational quality, it is not the content but the conduit. How do we do this? Simple, but hard and elusive: we grow universal love in ourselves. We nurture it through conscious practice and unconscious allowing. This is a kind of mindfulness — to hold and transmit the sweetness of an abstract love is no mean feat. We must practice it, observe it, notice what happens when we can feel it more, and what happens when it evaporates in the heat of the moment.

The becoming-neohumanist teacher is a scientist and they and their classrooms are the laboratory. Each teaching-learning encounter is reciprocal. Each lesson an opportunity to revisit the key question — your question. One that grows out of your unique path. This question will remain unanswered if you do not allow time for it to come into focus, grow and evolve. You need to build time into your lives to reflect, time to share and cross examine with colleagues, time to go within and meditate on the cosmic connection, to grow the feeling of relatedness.

This is how we deal with the core problem facing us today in schools: that in a secular world, spirit is shy and retiring and that to think of bringing it into education seems to challenge old taboos. No, spirit lies at the heart of education and it is our birth right to go deep into spirit to bring magic into the class so that every subject catches fire; So that students become passionate participants in knowing this sublime world we inhabit! If we for a moment, imagined the classroom as a temple filled with the sacred, we might reframe the instrumental and give it deeper richer possibilities. Of course such a classroom is a microcosm of the Cosmos which is a temple, though conditioning and habit have cast a veil over our appreciation of this fact.

The promise of neohumanist teaching is an invitation for us all to catch fire and fall ever more deeply in love with the sacred at the heart of learning.

“Through action mixed with devotion and knowledge you will find the meaning of your life, the supreme treasure of your heart.” –Shrii P. R. Sarkar