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Esoteric Education: Restoring the Wonder

Esoteric Education: Restoring the Wonder

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Oberon Zell-Ravenheart's Opinion on restoring the joy and wonder of education to the current generation of students by reviving esoteric traditions.
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart's Opinion on restoring the joy and wonder of education to the current generation of students by reviving esoteric traditions.

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Published by: Baron Daniel Cureton on May 09, 2012
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07/03/2012

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Esoteric Education: Restoring the Wonder
By Oberon Zell-RavenheartHeadmaster, Grey School of WizardryOnce, not too long ago . . . education was considered a rare privilege to be earned or granted, a goal to achieve,a dream to fulfill. Schools were seen as repositories of esoteric knowledge that would unlock the keys to theuniverse, and the secrets to success. Scholars were held in the highest esteem by all members of society. Whatwe take for granted today was once considered a cherished opportunity to be strived for at any cost. Considerthis: less than a century ago, women in traditional European Jewish culture (which prides itself on educationand scholarship) were not even allowed to learn how to read! And many women today in traditional Moslemand Hindu societies are still not allowed the
luxury
of literacy. Indeed, throughout most of human history,education
 — 
even the basic ability to read, was limited to a small and privileged class of literati. Now, at least inAmerica
 — 
it is available to everyone, and anyone.Did you know that 60% of high school graduates cannot find their own country on an unmarked globe of theworld? These same graduates think cave men lived with dinosaurs! Indeed, there is a deliberate anti-intellectualand anti-educational current running through our entire country, which is even influencing the outcome of national elections! Pop Culture has supported disdain for education, How did a terminally depressing song--
The Wall,
by Pink Floyd, with the recurrent line,
We don
t need no education
--become the hit of a decade,and the theme song of an entire generation?I have always had an obsessive love of learning. I want to know everything! As soon as I learned to read, atabout age two, I began to devour every book and magazine in the house. When I visited friends, I
d spend mytime just reading the books on their shelves. My reading compulsion even extended to the fine print on cerealboxes! The first time I saw the inside of a library, I was agonizingly torn between sheer delight at the vastnumber of books available to me, and utter dismay at the realization that I could never possibly read all of them.My own personal library today has several thousand treasured volumes
 — 
many of them dog-eared fromfrequent consultation. And I am constantly obtaining more, and reading them. When I
m not actually writing,I
m usually reading.Unlike many of my friends when I was growing up, I passionately loved school. I could hardly wait
til summervacation ended and I could return to classes, armed with fresh questions for my teachers from my summer of reading everything I could get my hands on about everything that interested me. When I wasn
t actually inclass, I spent as much time as possible in the public library, and was on a first-name basis with the librarian,who would always set aside new arrivals in my favorite areas for me. In high school, I served as a teacher
sassistant in biology, edited the school literary journal, published a student newspaper, was very active in theLatin and chess clubs, and had a major role in every school play. And I continued most of these activities andinvolvements all through college.I have spent most of my life in learning and teaching. When in college I read A.S. Neil
s
Summerhill,
B.F.Skinner
s
Walden Two,
and learned of Maria Montessori
s schools. After receiving a BA from WestminsterCollege in Pre-Med, Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology, I shifted my interests to DevelopmentalPsychology and Education, entering the graduate program in Clinical Psychology at Washington University,and earning a Teacher
s Certificate at Harris Teacher
s College. My first post-graduate job was with the newly-launched Head Start program, and I served as a public school teacher and school & family counselor for severaldecades.
Student Attitudes
Oprah Winfrey said this about why she chose to build a new school in South Africa rather that in the US:
Ibecame so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn
 
 just isn
t there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers.
(
 Newsweek,
 Jan. 8. 2007)From my own observations growing up in public schools, college and university, and from working many yearsas a teacher, one simple fact became overwhelmingly clear at all levels: Most students hated school! They onlyattended because it was compulsory. They did everything they could to get out of actually studying, fromwatching TV and not doing homework as kids, to partying all night in college. Their interests centered aroundtheir friends and relationships, not around actually learning anything. Many of them barely scraped by, some bycheating (often in elaborately creative ways), and many simply dropped out as soon as they could. When I wasin high school, one of the most popular songs proudly proclaimed:Don
t know much about historyDon
t know much biologyDon
t know much about a science book Don
t know much about the French I took . . . . . . . . .Don
t know much about geographyDon
t know much trigonometryDon
t know much about algebraDon
t know what a slide rule is for.(Sam Cooke,
Wonderful World,
1958)So what was wrong with all these U.S. schools? How is it possible that generations of students could comeaway from classes in history, science, geography, literature, foreign languages, and mathematics feeling boredout of their skulls
 — 
believing that these were terminally dull subjects with no relevance whatsoever to anythingthey considered important in life? How could such fascinating studies as natural history, evolution, astronomy,cosmology, geology, archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, biology, and all thoseother wonderful
logies
fail to engage the interest of young minds
 — 
even in the passionate era of the
60s?How can students and their families sit idly by, unprotesting, as
controversial
books and essential topics of study are systematically removed from their school libraries and classrooms by illiterate religiousfundamentalists and corrupt politicians?In lamenting the sorry state of our public schools, and the many failures in our American educational system,analysts have blamed just about everything--television, video games, teachers, parents, the home, society,politics, lack of funding, and
the younger generation.
And all of these may indeed be factors. But few seem tohave considered that perhaps the entire concept of education as it is presented today may be fundamentally atfault.And I think this is the core of the problem. School and education is no longer viewed by students, or the public,as something special, something to aspire to. Learning is seen more as a distasteful and onerous drudgery, akinto working in a factory (as in that Pink Floyd song). Something one must do, perhaps, but hardly as somethingone would
want 
to do. This is clearly, an untenable situation for public education.
Harry Potter and the X-Men
And then (drum roll) along came Harry Potter! After numerous rejections by short-sighted publishers whocouldn
t imagine any reader interested in stories taking place in a school, Scholastic Inc. had the good sense topublish J.K. Rowling
s delightful Harry Potter series, and the rest is history. The Harry Potter books havebecome the biggest-selling books of all time. With seven novels and movies, and more toys, games, clothes,ancillary books, and other tie-ins and spin-offs than you can wave a wand at, Harry Potter is the greatest literaryphenomenon ever known.
 
 And here
s the truly important thing: These books are being most eagerly read by kids! Clearly something ishappening here, and understanding it may be the key to an entirely new concept in education.Every kid (and many adults as well!) who reads Harry Potter wishes more than anything that they could attendHogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The very fact of its exclusivity makes it irresistible, to saynothing of the lure and wonder of forbidden and arcane knowledge it promises. Magic and Mysteries, spellcraftand sorcery, hidden history, secret societies, wands and wortcunning, bedknobs and broomsticks, bell, book,
and candle, things that go bump in the night…everything that the mundane (“
muggle,
in Rowling
s parlance)world doesn
t know about, or believe in. Hogwarts epitomizes all the reasons why Halloween and
 Dia de los Muertos
are the most popular holidays of the year for kids (and many grown-ups!). Embracing the dark, ratherthan fearing it, is exhilarating and liberating!Consider also the enduring popularity of the
X-Men
comics, Marvel
s best-selling series
 — 
which beganpublishing in 1962, and have spawned an ongoing animated TV series and three feature-length movies. As withthe Harry Potter stories, the X-Men saga centers around a very special school for mutant misfits with variousuncanny abilities and powers:
Professor Charles Xavier
s School for Gifted Children.
 
Mystique
Young people find the lure of secret societies and esoteric associations irresistible. They yearn to be on the
inside
of an exclusive group, to access forbidden knowledge and arcane secrets unknown to their parents andtheir contemporaries.
Knowledge is power,
they know, and
with great power comes great responsibility.
 The enormous appeal of the classical
Hero
s Quest
in literature and films bespeaks its intense relevance toevery adolescent. They identify with Harry Potter; Frodo Baggins; Luke Skywalker; Dorothy Gale of Kansasand Oz; Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy of Narnia
 — 
and every other young hero and heroine of every story, asthey discover who they truly are, and what they are truly here for. For the Quest is always and ultimately todiscover one
s own life mission and destiny.And every Hero
s Quest story begins with a wise mentor figure
 — 
the
Wizard
”— 
imparting crucial knowledgeto the young hero that he or she must know in order to fulfill their destiny. And this is where the idea of a veryspecial and exclusive school of mystical knowledge and arcane wisdom enters the picture.One of the most learned men of all time, Confucius (551-479
BCE
), became the first privateteacher in history. Such was his reputation, that people sought him out to teach their sons.Confucius took any student eager to learn, and along with the regular subjects, taught hispersonal wisdoms on developing responsibility and moral character through discipline.In ancient Greece, (long acknowledged as the seat of philosophy and wisdom), the value of educating their children was recognized very early on, with some households engaging their ownteacher. Through the first centuries
CE
,
 
Roman families often had educated slaves to teach theirchildren. (Teaching Through the Ages: http://historyeducationinfo.com/edu1.htm)The first known school of 
philosophy
(meaning
love of wisdom
) was Plato
s Academy in Athens, founded in385
BCE
. Plato was Socrates
greatest student. Later, in 335
BCE
, Aristotle opened his
Peripatetic
 philosophical school at the Athens Lyceum. Other
Mystery Schools
were founded by Pythagoras and others.In fact, all early schools and academies were really exclusive
Mystery Schools,
and in that very mystique laytheir appeal.In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church took charge of teaching the sons of nobility,entrusting that charge to monasteries or specially designated learning
centres.
Many of these

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