THE PHILOSOPHY OF INTERNATIONAL
Phyllis Wallbank, M.B.E.
with the kind permission of Fr. Ivo Cuello, SDB
of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and
of Hermeneutics and Method: The ‘Universal
Viewpoint’ in Bernard Lonergan
We need to look at the plan for learning that God has put within EVERY human being. When this inner need is not recognised and used, it causes tension within young people and also within teachers.
Bernard Lonergan’s favourite walk when in Rome was in the Borghese Gardens. A
young child was running down a ramp ahead of his mother, when he tripped and
fell. Lonergan says that he found himself beinding down as if to scoop up the
young child, although he was at least twenty feet too far away. He realised
that this was an involuntary action that came from a natural link that human
beings have with one another. I think that this link should also be recognised
within our education system.
education changed much since Lonergan’s time?
“It is state control that
brought to birth the function and the class of educationalists. To obtain money
from taxpayers, politicians, the rich, foundations, to plan and construct
buildings, their adjuncts and equipment, their libraries and laboratories, to
devise curricula, set standards, impose tests, to select, train, organize,
direct, inspect, hire and fire teachers and professors – for such tasks there
were needed, not mathematicians nor scientists nor linguists nor litterateurs
nor bistorians nor economists nor sociologists nor psychologists nor
philosophers nor theologians nor even pedagogues. There had to be created a new
caste, a new priesthood of the new philosophy, the men of universal wisdom able
to consult and judge specialists in any particular field. To be able to select
and judge all the specialists and pass the ultimate pronouncements on all
issues, there was needed a universal wisdom; and the universal wisdom that is
the justification of the educationalist is philosophy of education.”2
Certainly within England
it hasn’t changed much except to have even more pressure imposed in the hope of
I recently read how Jesus’
great Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes) might be met by the students and the
hierarchy today. I’m afraid I don’t know the author, but it went something like
Simon Peter: Will this count?
Andrew: Will we have a test on it?
James: When do we have to know it
Philip: How many words?
Bartholomew: Will I have to stand up in front of the
John: Does everyone have to learn
Matthew: How many points do we get for
Judas: What is it worth?
Then one of the Pharisees
asks to see Jesus’ lesson plan, and asks what are his terminal objectives in
the cognitive domain!
It is very amusing and yet
it is also desperately sad that unwittingly we go against the way that GOD has
programmed us to learn. Montessori, Newman and Lonergan understood, but have
been crying in the wilderness. Here is a suggested scheme based on their
The stages for certain
ways of development are universal. They are, according to Montessori, birth to
six, six to twelve, twelve to eighteen, and eighteen to twenty-four.
President of The Lonergan Institute for the ‘Good Under Construction,’
Washington, D.C., has linked these to Lonergan’s stages which he calls
immediate, mediation, self-mediation, and mutual self-mediation stages.
When then is the problem?
We turn to Lonergan: “[W]ith regard to the philosophy of education itself, the
fundamental problem is the horizon of the educationalist…. So the genuine
function of a philosophy of education is to bring the horizon of the
educationalist to the point where he is not living in some private world of educationalists,
but in the universe of being.”3 This is for everyone. Lonergan stresses this
point of ‘for everyone’ when he says about truth: What once is true is always
true. It can be transported to make it accessible to all men, and all places,
all natures and all cultures.
I realise that in all the
phases, the way time plays a part is very important, as it is perceived
diferently at each stage. This is a way of knowing what is important for the
fullest development of that age group. Pythagoras (Plutarch’s Morals), when
asked what Time was, said that it was the soul of this world.
1. Birth to Six Years
For the first stage (birth
to six years), time in the PRESENT is what matters to the children. They repeat
actions of interest many many times without being conscious of time passing.
There is always an urgency in the present activity.
Montessori says of this
stage: The child has an intense sensitivity, in consequence the things about
him awaken so much interest and so much enthusiasm that they become
incorporated into his very existence.4
Lonergan says of time
perception: ‘Now’ is not a mathematical point. It is the psychological present.
The psychological present is not a mathematical limit.
This first stage of
development is so important to understand as it is the basis for all the other
All children need to know
love at this stage to be able later to give love. It is the whole of the
environment which is taken in like a photograph in its entirety, so that by the
end of the third year the child has become a little Indian, or American, or
African, or whatever, and has the complete language and all the cultural
differencs of behaviour.
When absorbing the
language or languages around him, the frontal lobes are active and absorb all
language around him easily. Later when we come to learn a language, these lobes
are not available for this purpose and we have to learn with a different part
of the brain and the power of easy absorption has gone!
The mind is so absorbent
at this stage that the adopted child during these first six years absorbs the
speech of the adoptive parents and so becomes like them, copying the intonation
and also their mannerisms.
As the children at this
stage take in all the traditions and reactions around them through this
absorbent mind, we can understand how important the later ‘self-appropriation’
of Lonergan is, to weed out from what has been absorbed whatever is
inappropriate to real loving action. The will is important for this later
stage. Freedom to use the will to explore the environment through the senses is
a characteristic of this first stage, forming the basis for future
Lonergan speaks of the
underlying flow, the practical insight, the process of reflection, the
decision.5 This is how the mind works at this stage.
To give a description of
this within a young child, here is the story of Christopher. Christopher in a
Montessori class, at the age of three, liked to fit a tray of triangles into
their right shapes. He loved feeling the shpaes and when just four he wanted to
know the name of each. He was very interested in the right-angled triangle.
Some weeks later he asked me very urgently to go outside, he wanted to show me
something. He showed me a ladder against a wall and said with great excitement:
“Look! A right-angled triangle!”
Lonergan says: reflection
has no internal term, it can expand indefinitely.6
I have so much to say for
each stage, but here I can only just touch upon the content.
Of course at every stage
the great attributes of humanity are important: dancing, singing, music, art,
and the joy of movement. Through drama, physical activities and team sports,
children learn to submit their own wishes to the greater good.
2. Six to Twelve Years
The next stage of
development in all humans is from six to twelve years. Time in the PAST has now
a fascination for this age group as well as the present. They are interested in
everything to do with the earth itself; with living creatures and with past
ones such as dinosaurs. They enjoy the wonder and awe of the world and show
great interest for instance in fossils and volcanoes.
This is the green age for
interest in facts and definitions, and if they are not made to answer other
people’s questions, then their own questions come very fast. We tend to make
children think that all they have to do is to put up their hand and answer our
questions, whereas the way we acquire knowledge is to ask our own questions
based on our own unique experience. Then we enjoy the chase, for our answers when
found always lead us on to other questions that form within our consciousness.
This is the way advances in understanding are made. They are not made by being
programmed to regurgitate other people’s answers by rote.
All subjects really are
linked because everything comes from or goes back to the real world. Through
this linking children are conscious of their Creator.
In the first stage they
absorbed the religion of home and now during this stage they like to take an
A very important part of
education at this time are the History Time Lines with pictures, models, etc.
to put beside the time lines. Through this process of putting down against the
right dates pictures, objects and data, they get to know and understand the
progression of humankind’s understanding and question for knowledge. For
instance, through seeing the inventions throughout the ages, the child realises
how understanding develops from what is already known. When he places cards
showing the discoveries he realises that science is not finished, it is on the
Through these time lines
and the placing of information, pictures, objects, writing against them, the
child sees the development and attributes of humankind as a whole. All these
materials have their special place within the environment and by their
groupings within the areas, the child is helped to understand the diferent
types of thought. The child sees the patterns of thought for mathematics and
sciences, for literature and for poetry.
The surroundings are kept
in order by the students themselves, which makes for self-discipline and
caring. Children are able to repeat activities and take time so that they
really understand. This understanding rather than rote learning is the most
valuable gift to our children. In Topics
in Education Lonergan quotes Einstein saying that there was so much to be
prepared for examinations that it was impossible to be intelligent!8 The
thing that saved Einstein was coming across a series of volumes that presented
knowledge as a LINKED WHOLE. Newman believed that all knowledge forms an
organic whole or unity. We have done education a great disservice by dividing
learning up into such tight subject compartments. One piece of knowledge in one
science always has connections with the others, and this should be seen and
Children at this stage
enjoy writing a great deal and it is useful to have perhaps a retired person
for a few hours just to proof-read the writing and to direct the children to
exercises for remedying constant mistakes. These should be done before more
writing is done. The teachers should still mark the writing for the content.
Our present system
encourages children to think of learning as being for self-aggrandisement, the
end being examination honours. Although achievement is great, they must be
helped to understand that learning is for the development of society and part
of their education should be to give some of their interest and knowledge in
return back to the placesof learning and, whenever possible, to society in
The teaching materials for
this age (from six to twelve) should be made during the last two years of the
STAGE ABOVE, during the penultimate year before their present senior exams.
During their craft work for a short period of time, the older students should
choose their favourite subjects and make three dimensional self-corrective
sensory materials and also two dimension materials with definition booklets for
this younger age group. This is like a practical brain map and helps the students
with their own basic revision and understanding. They should provide charts and
other ways for self-correction for the younger children. They should research
to find places of interest to visit and videos and films that show what their
materials teach, but within the context of the child’s real life.
One of the great ways to
stimulate children at this six to twelve age group is to get people at the top
of their fields, who are in love with their subjects, to come and give a talk
about them. I had Buckminster Fuller, the great American scientist and
geophysicist, who came and talked about ‘Space Ship Earth.’ We were also
privileged to meet the first spacemen who went to the moon. All types of
presentations such as videos, films, computer programs, and visits of all kinds
should be used to delight the children and arouse their questions.
It is easy to help a child
to find the answers to its questions today with modern technology. When I knew
that someone was coming to talk, I prepared mateials and put within the
environment things that I thought would be useful to follow their interested
Children enjoy tests when
they understand a piece of work. I envisage Achievement Centres where
examinations may be taken at any level at any age and at any time. These should
be placed if possible at Leisure Centres. The candidate knows the right time
for success. Random questions can be made available at each stage of any
subject. People enjoy learing at all ages and some children may have reached an
advanced stage in a subject whilst an adult may be at the first stage. Ages and
dates should not be involved in true understanding and testing. They should be
free to try at any stage. It is so dangerous when we make someone feel no good
and a failure.
The children change
physically and also in character at this age. The birth parents’ genes become
active within their development and the child now begins to look like the birth
parents. The character begins to develop and no longer is the famoly sufficient
but the child now seeks out friends in any spare time. The family still plays a
very important part in safeguarding the child but at the same time the need is
to be helped towards more independence.
3. Twelve to Eighteen Years
The young people of this
age are very unlike their previous years. They are changing spiritually,
physically, mentally and emotionally. Time for them, like for the very young
child, is so very important in the present, and their great need in the present
is for friendships and companions. In the West they spend hours on the phone
and with their mobile messagers, going in and out of friendships. They enjoy
meeting and laughing and exchanging views and during these the time flies for
them. Time at other periods goes slowly!
During this time of great
transition the results of surveys show that both sexes do better when separated
for a time. I would suggest separation for this first year whilst they get used
to their new identity. They have changed so much and now need affirmation of their
new self. Every cell in their bodies has altered and they are a mixture of both
birth parents and their environment. They need to get to know and to like
themselves as being of God’s creation if they are to be able to love their
neighbour ‘as themselves.’ This fundamental self-liking is essential for mental
In our present society
adolescents rebel to make parents and others realise that they are no longer
the same person as they were and that they are still altering. They need help
now to know themselves and to understand how they form opinions and make
By helping to prepare the
nursery equipment before a term beings, they will become interested and begin
to understand more the different types of meaning: meaning in symbols, non-linguistic
meaning as in art; literary meaning, technical meaning. They experience
communication meaning and that special intersubjective meaning during this
special age for friendships and communication. As Newman says in his motto,
“Heart speaks to heart.” There is great sensitivity at these ages and they are
very easily hurt. They feel uncertain in their new role and we have a duty to
help them to know themselves.
In many countries of the
East, thirteen is a marriageable age. This previous year is important for all
of this age, to be sure of their own identity and for learning physically and
psychologically about both sexes. Thankfully, we now have more equal
opportunities, but it is vital that we begin to appreciate the very real
differences of the genders.
Modern brain research identifies differences. Modern brain research has shown that in males, the area in the brain activated for fighting overlaps with that activated in intercourse. Now we know why throughout the ages when wars are fought there is usually rape. To understand is half way to prevention.
The physical power of women
is less than that of men, as is seen in the categories of the Olympics. There
is so much to be discovered by the children during this year. They need to know their own body and how
best to keep it healthy, but most of all they need to realise the need for
integration of body mind and spirit for a fulfilled life.
We should at this stage,
find out what these young people would like the world to be like, and to think
for themselves what values would be needed to bring this about.
In order to help them feel
good about their basic character it is helpful to let them find the character
that is most like themselves, choosing from the ancient main categories used
thoughout the ages. When they have chosen the one they think most like
themselves then they should think of the talents that go with these character
traits. These talents are for their use within society. These are the talents
that they are here to use rather than to bury, so that they help their ideal
world to come about.
The young person is then
affirmed and knows that he has a role to play. He needs to realise that there
is actually no other person like them in the world and so no one can take their
Here are the main characteristics.
They should choose the character that they think is the most like themselves.
They may see themselves in more than one but should pick the one that their
friends say that they most resemble. No character is better than another! These
are the choices:
Again, there are certain
TALENTS that go with the characters. These are the talents that must not be
buried but must be used to help society. (The numbers are the same as those for
the character traits)
out for right values. Encourage order.
after the materially and spiritually poor.
confidence and support to those in difficulty.
possibilities and help bring about.
at spotting the difficulty and solving problems.
active nature to help others achieve.
your leadership for promoting true values.
Now that they are able to
feel good about themselves, they are ready to make their own interior and
fascinating journey as suggested by the philosopher Bernard Lonergan.
Born within each one of us
is this potency to be free. They have seen the strength of the Absorbent Mind
stage when they were with the nursery age children. They have seen how the
children absorb the environment and accept all the tradition and culture from
their parents and surroundings. These traditional actions were sometimes
suitable for the previous generation and they often came from even earlier
times. These often were not applicable but were actions arising out of
inherited habit. Sometimes arising from these are actions not applicable for
the present new generation and sometimes actions without positive loving
respect for fellow human beings.
They can now see the need to
question, and they seek to know the foundations for their present actions. They
are now ready to receive the truth through illumination as to the real source
of their actions. Now they may begin this exciting journey of self-mediation as
described by Lonergan. No one else can make this journey for them and no one
else can play their part within society.
The goal is to know the
operating structure of their own way of knowing. They do this by shifting their
attention from the content of knowing to the actual activity of knowing itself.
As they become aware of the procedure, they will be both subject and object.
They can correct their ideas and make judgments after collecting and viewing
relevant data, questioning and reviewing before looking and judging the
foundations of the action. They will find that they have sudden illumination,
not only as to the source of their actions, but also as to links with other
pieces of knowledge. Suddenly the link will be made by their minds as other
synapses of the brain links up to other points of understanding and shows even
new applications of the knowledge.
Before any action they must
learn to review their collected data and make a judgment. They must be taught
always to act responsibly as a result of their findings.
They will now get to know
the source of their action, where their own will arises from deep within
themselves. They will understand the source of their loving actions originating
from deep within their own uniqueness.
This experience meets a very
deep human need within for the unbounded intimacy that results from this
communication of love, and they themselves will feel part now of the
fundamental universal viewpoint.
But first, they should know
the common forms of escape that we all tend to use, as noted by Lonergan in Insight. (1) To avoid this
self-consciousness, we may give the explanation of our avoidance by referring
to our environment and our ancestry. (2) We may talk of ‘extenuating
circumstances.’ (There must never be this inconsistency between knowing and
doing. The two must always be in harmony.) (3) We may confess, and yet say
within ourselves that there is really no hope of being able to mend our ways!
We deceive ourselves by rationalising.9
Knowing all this they are
now ready for this extraordinary ongoing journey where the roots of their
actions will be illuminated. T.S. Elliot in Little
“We shall not cease from exploration
And in the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
When both genders join
together, when they are affirmed in themselves and so feel confident in
themselves, then we have to prepare them for the society in which they live.
The age of fourteen is a
wonderful one for apprenticeship to learn a skill of their choice. It has been
found that at fourteen they are ready to watch before trying whereas at sixteen
they think that they know more than they do!
They can now learn useful
home skills such as cooking, plumbing, sewing, carpentry, repairs, or other
things needed for their society.
Sixteen is the age when they
really hate ‘being bored’. This is the stage when they need excitement. We can
see this whenever there is trouble in the world, for this is the stone-throwing
age. They enjoy the danger. Leisure activities should include thrills such as
bike racing and possibly a motor bike track. Virtual reality is useful too. In
early humans this was the hunting stage and this urge for danger and excitement
has to be met and given a legitimate outlet. The work that they now do in all
subjects should contain topics that they will need to know about, for them to
be able to take a proper place within society. We tend to leave this too late
and many young people miss this help because they leave school without further
education. We have to make sure that before leaving school all students
understand how their society works so that they will feel part of it. Many
aspects of each topic should be explored, bringing the linking together of many
Here are some suggested
Rules within families
Rules within schools
Age and the law
Business and profit
Budgeting for imaginary incomes
Practical ways should also
be available for earning money. Through the school shop there comes an
understanding of bookkeeping, stocktaking, prices and profit margins. Everyone
is expected to earn through helping with the whole environment. Jobs are priced
and chosen, the less popular jobs being priced higher. Money is earned in
school currency; this may be used at the school shop or exchanged at the school
bank where the exchange rate is fixed and where a charge is made for the
The university students near
the end of their time might give to this age group a glimpse of some of their
topics in their chosen discipline by bringing round to the schools a mobile
classroom. It could show for instance a study with examples of different types
of soil and textures. The aim is to widen the understanding of the world around
to get a glimpse of advanced detailed study.
Religion for this age group
has developed from the Absorbent Mind stage, through the active and understanding
stage, to the personal and mystical relationship stage where relationship is
now so important.
Their self-mediation will
have strengthened their knowledge of God because when they are in contact with
their own uniqueness, true values become clear, and they will develop a oneness
of faith and reason. The Holy Father speaking of Cardinal Newman on the
bicentenary said: He came to a remarkable synthesis of faith and reason like
two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the Truth.
Now that the development of
their own religion has a personal mystical content, it is time to explore the
meaning of life and death. At this age the aim should be to fit the person for
their life. One of the topics explored through different ways can be death, as
that is an attribute of life.
Their own faith
Death and customs
Burial customs of own faith
Wars and death
Another popular one amongst
the older student is the brain:
The human brain
Types of intelligence
Types of personalities
The mystery of the mind
The stages of development in all humans
The characteristics of great people in history
Disorders of the mind
During this time, outings
and communal activities like bonfires and singsongs, poetry and drama, choirs
and orchestras are so very valuable because within these individual has to
learn to curb their individuality and relate to others for the sake of the
During their penultimate
year they can sum up the linking of all subjects by making Mind Maps. They can make a game by making separate
labels to place at the correct places.
4. Eighteen to Twenty-four Years
As they come to the next age
group and many go on to university they come through self-meditation and
jettison unwanted absorbed behavior; now they come to MUTUAL self-mediation.
Lonergan gives the example
of contingent parts of a watch working together to make for smooth accurate
running. Our contacts and our actions resulting from these relationships – our
loves, our anger, our worries, all our contacts and actions with others – are
now a means of mutual self-mediation and consequent growth. This is a natural
progression. Lonergan says in “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer”: “In this process,
which is universal, which can regard every act, thought, word, deed, and
omission, there is a complete universality, a possibility of the complete
growth of every aspect of the person.” It is self-mediation through others, and
the others are we and all men.10 And again: It is NOT a matter of study of
oneself or analysis. It is a living, a developing, a growing in which one
element is gradually added to another, and a new whole arises and prayer
This age group has
sensitivity to time in the FUTURE. They have very strong ideals and great vigor
and enthusiasm, which they are ready to use in the world. Throughout history
many of this age group has been ready to die for what they believe. Ideals,
however, without the Holy Spirit inspiring loving actions to gain the ideal, go
sadly wrong and profit no one. Many great ideals have gone wrong because action
for an end was perpetrated without love being with the will, the willingness,
and the willing.
Montessori, Lonergan and
Newman say that for each to play their part in God’s creation, the knowledge of
the way of truth and love must be present. This is why it is of utmost
importance that the young people at this age undergo mutual self-appropriation
as well as self-transcendence, and that they discover within themselves the
loving communion with God.
Lonergan linked vocational
courses such as law and medicine under one roof. He envisaged exchange of ideas
and theories through all the various disciplines. Newman saw this as very
important because any advance in any subject, if true, will have an effect on
the knowledge within other subjects and will throw light there.
I suggest that after the
first year as outlined by Newman, with a unity of exchange of learning, the
student should be free for the next year to sit at the feet of an exponent of
their subject but in a different country and culture. Those not at university
would also gain by an exchange, living and working also in another county. It
should not be difficult to arrange this. Where Newman saw the need for unity of
learning we now see also the importance of unity with other cultures and
There are many wonderful
exponents of Newman’s vision for the university. If we follow through much that
is suggested, we shall bring through our education, students who realize what
Fr. Joseph Flanagan S.J. says in Quest
for Self-Knowledge, that “Truly authentic knowers are continuously
struggling knowers, always on the alert for further questions that will advance
their accumulative knowledge and reverse their mistaken assumptions.”12
As Brian Cronin says on
self-appropriation: When practiced it engenders the values of truth,
attentiveness, intelligence and reasonableness.13
And Montessori in Functions of the University: “Every
contribution able to bring out the latent power of love and to throw light upon
love itself, should be welcomed with avidity and considered of paramount
Following God’s own pattern
placed within all humans is this UNIVERSAL WAY FORWARD.
* * *
 This article by Phyllis Wallbank was originally published in India in the Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 12/2 (2001) 193-209.
Bernard Lonergan, Topics in Education: The Cincinnati Lectures of 1959 on the Philosophy of Education, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 10, ed. Robert M. Doran and Frederick E. Crowe (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993) 13.
 Lonergan, Topics in Education 106.
 Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (New York: Dell, 1982) 24.
 Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 3, ed. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992) 632-639.
 Lonergan, Insight 634.
 Lonergan, Topics in Education 136.
 Lonergan, Topics in Education 17.
 Lonergan, Insight 622-623.
 Lonergan, “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer,” Philosophical and Theological Papers 1958-1964, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 6, ed. Robert C. Croken, Frederick E. Crowe, and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996) 180.
 Lonergan, “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer” 179.
 Joseph Flanagan, Quest for Self-knowledge: An Essay in Lonergan’s Philosophy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997) 232.
 Brian Cronin, Foundations of Philosophy: Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and Epistemology (Nairobi: Consolata Institute of Philosophy Press, 1999) 42.