Sometimes blogging takes off. In this case, Lindsay Jordan, a fellow academic and doctoral student’s reflection on the philosophy of education – sometimes hers, sometimes more generally – produces some really worthwhile stuff. Go and have a look: she makes a good case, for instance, here, around holistic views of higher education.
And this is why it was worth paying attention when Lindsay tweeted Jonathan Rowson’s report for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce on spirituality. It is a really good report. It says to me that the spirituality component of our Masters’ module on Children’s Imaginative Worlds should be asked to read, mark and inwardly digest it as a matter of course, and that it is a really useful document for the Undergraduate work on Spirituality that I’ve discussed before, e.g. here and here, where I start from Rowson’s blog.
At a personal level, the passage in which Rowson discusses “the myriad addictions of apparently normal behaviour and [how] what passes for everyday consciousness begins to look like a low-level psychopathology” hits me almost with the force of a passage of Lectio Divina. Perhaps I have to follow the instruction with which the report ends, where Richard Rohr exhorts us to “live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
And this is where my own argument falters, and I have not yet worked out how to allow this holistic view of spirituality to develop my (sometimes uncomfortable) position as a member of a faith community teaching spirituality in a secular university. Perhaps, perhaps, it is time to move to a teaching of spirituality that is more open to (respectful) conflict and less eclectic, that allows, as one Muslim student remarked recently, “allows me to really re-evaluate what I believe – not so that I come to disbelieve it, but so that I know what I believe and I believe it stronger.” But does that mean that the academic demands are “best answered through practice rather than theory”? That the module looks at practising spirituality rather than examine it theoretically? Bonaventure, the great Franciscan theologian who recieved his doctorate at the same time as Thomas Aquinas is clear:
“…if you want to understand how this happens, ask it of grace, not of learning; ask it of desire, not of attentive reading; ask it of the betrothed, not of the teacher; ask it of God, not of humanity; ask it of darkness, not of radiance.”
Is this an anti-intellectual stance, or one that is simply demanding learning though practice? And what are its implications for the mixed community of a secular UK university?