“What is Neohumanism, and What is Neohumanist Education?” by Eric Jacobson, Director Progressive School of Long Island, NY, USA.
Presentation at the Global Conference on Neohumanist Education, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela on April 14, 2014.
What is Neohumanism?
If you can imagine two ideas and respond to eight questions, then the answer will become obvious. Shall we try it? These two imaginations and eight questions come from a children’s song that I wrote to help students clearly understand the meaning of Neohumanism. If they are capable of understanding it, you certainly can too! Ready?
1) Imagine that your life is a circle that holds everyone you love, and keeps them safe, and keeps them happy …
Would I be inside your circle?
Can you grow it?
Is your heart big enough to let more in?
What of the creatures, the flowers and the trees, and the fragrance on the breeze?
2) Imagine that God drew a circle to hold everyone He loves …
Just how big would He make it?
Would it go around the world?
Or even greater… would the whole Universe fit inside that cosmic circle?
What if we could draw a circle like that, would we finally know the heart the God?
Upon hearing this song, the meaning of Neohumanism become apparent. Neohumanism is an ever increasing circle of love, and love in action. The understanding that we are all interconnected goes beyond humanity, and includes the animals, plants, and the inanimate (represented in the song with the words “and the fragrance on the breeze.”) And where does this love come from. How can we develop it? When we see that we have a consciousness hidden deep within, a consciousness that bears witness to all our thoughts … when we realize that our very existence depends upon that consciousness, and when we learn to identify with that consciousness, then we find that the exact same consciousness is in everything! We don’t just feel love for all, we are all. It is both an internal realization, and an external practice.
Now we all understand. Correct? The word most similar to Neohumanism in English is Universalism, because we are bringing the entire universe within our concept of family. Universalism does not accept distinctions between the created beings. Don’t you think that a place like this, which is called a “University,” ought to practice “Universalism?”
Okay, maybe we now understand Neohumanism. Although we understand it, we are still left with the question, “What is Neohumanist education?” The bad news is that the author of Neohumanism himself never fully explained it. The good news is that we have logic on our side! Therefore, Neohumanist education is the application of Neohumanism to the practice of education.
Just how is it applied? It is applied to the whole person. This means that our students should be trained to experience and practice the essence of Neohumanism, and this training should be of three types: physical, mental, and spiritual.
Physical training means correct diet, exercises, yoga postures, breath control, dance, and other health practices. Mental training means cultivating rationality. With rationality one may overcome all narrow-minded sentiments. Such limited sentiments create obstacles to the expansion we seek through Neohumanism. This mental training also means studying all academic subjects, philosophy, another language, aesthetic training in the arts, public speaking, logic, etc. Spiritual training means learning meditation, utilizing practices that calm the mind and help it to finds its very origin, receiving inspiration from the example of great souls, and offering service to those in need.
This, in a nutshell, is the meaning of Neohumanist education..