Ancient Inspirations: A psyche (soul) centered education

Just as modern humankind is relearning ancient reverence for nature, so too we must recognize that the tremendous inner resources within the psuche (soul) of each person are also part and parcel of the magnificent gifts bestowed by the kosmos

The ancient ideal for education according to Platonic teachings was centered on the psuche (soul). Developing each person’s natural gifts and inclinations was recognized as another way of harnessing the power of nature rather than working against it, and this model can provide modern inspiration and guidance for a holistic approach to education. 

Ancient Egyptian musicians & dancers

Ancient Egyptian musicians & dancers.
Banquet scene from tomb chapel of Nebamun, Thebes
Eighteenth Dynasty, New Kingdom.

The essential goal was to develop and harmonize all three parts of the psuche/soul’s nature which were categorized as: appetitive (bodily), spirited (emotional) and philosophical (mental/intellectual). Toward that end education included physical exercise, poetry & music, mathematics and philosophy. This model for individual persons included women as well as men. And on a grand scale, the idea of all parts working together in unison was further extended to the kallipolis or ideal city in its entirety.

Within a whole-system framework our innate abilities, talents, and perspectives are recognized as naturally suited for certain activities. By discovering and cultivating them we can excel in our own unique ways as well as contribute to the greater whole of which we are a part. More importantly, we can do so in a manner that is in alignment or accord with our inner core.  For how can we create outer harmony if we are discordant within?

Innate talents were conceived as a combination of a) having both a strong love or inclination for something as well as b) natural aptitude. Such a perspective is in direct contrast to forcing ourselves into externally imposed mandates, based primarily on monetary priorities, social pressures or other impositions which are foreign to the nature of our psuche (soul). Plato said millennia ago: “…don’t use force to train children in subjects: use play instead. That way you’ll see better what each of them is naturally fitted for“.

Ancient Greek runners

Ancient Greek runners

Does pursuing what you love sound like the “follow your bliss” quote by Joseph Campbell revisited?  It is, for the wisdom of “follow your bliss” has ancient roots, and is part of a holistic philosophy. Campbell’s tremendous work in comparative literature/myth and religion drew on the ancient wisdom traditions of many cultures.

What is imposed upon our essential nature, will be much more difficult, and is not in harmony with our psyche. “…nothing taught by force stays in the psuche (soul)” – Plato

The ideal of a ‘vocation’ rather than just a ‘job’ comes from the Latin ‘vocare’, meaning to call. What are the strongest callings within your psuche/soul? 

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