Monday, March 25, 2013

Maria Montessori and Spirituality


                When I was being trained in the Montessori Method it seemed to me that many people were unwilling to discuss the spiritual impact that her method has on both the child and the adult.  People also seemed unwilling or unable to have a conversation about its depth and implications.  By spirituality I mean to be aware.  To be spiritual is to utilize those inherent qualities that are within all of us.  My perception is that Montessori saw this and wanted to foster it.  I even read that Montessori referred to the child as the little messiah.  The child could teach us so much about ourselves and we as guides would never be the same.  Montessori obviously had a strong faith and relationship with Catholicism.  However, she seemed to use that faith and her relationship with Catholicism to find inherent universal qualities in all of us which could remind us of or make our relationship to God stronger. 
                I was always interested in the possibility of some relationship that she may have had with Theosophy.  This inquiry always seemed to be perceived by people as a taboo conspiracy.   Yet, I have delved a little further and came to what I think is an interesting conclusion.  Theosophy is about the spiritual hierarchy helping humanity to evolve to a greater so called perfection.  I interpret perfection as a greater union with God or one’s higher self (soul or spirit, tomato, tomatoe) so to speak.  Theosophy says that each religion has a portion of the truth.  It is interesting to me that Montessori was “forced” to stay with prominent members of the Theosophical Society towards the end of her life.  While it is pretty obvious that her work was not necessarily influenced by Theosophy directly, I am left with an interesting thought.  How perfect is it that Montessori ended up there of all places?  Montessori was a religious and Universalist woman with a different “religious” but Universalist group. 

I would love to read your comments and thoughts about this!!!

12 comments:

Krista Riihimaki said...

Where do you find the information that she was "forced to stay with prominent members of the theosophical society towards the end of her life."?

I attended Montessori schools as a child and am a Montessori primary and Erdkinder guide currently... This theory you have has been something in the back of my mind, not about Theosophy specifically but all of the traits that go along with that philosophy.

Matthew Simberg said...

Well, she stayed there during the war because it was safe. You can Google it and find reputable sources plus its been talked about at refresher courses. I don't think its a theory that she stayed there.

M E Maunz said...

I have been meditating on this spiritual aspect of Montessori. The appeal to rhe spirit is present in her writings and she brings what we might call integrity to her work...she integrates all part of man, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual into the one, the integer, of the human being. She knows we dare not ignore any part of man if we want him to truly thrive.

"Authentic" Montessori comes when we fundamentally accept the inner teacher of each child, and we can only fo that when we are in attunement with our own inner teacher.

And yes, it is no theory that Montessori was at the Theosophical Society for a time. She was invited to come and speak as their guest. During the war she was sent to a hill station in the south of India called Kodikanal, where she spent four years with my mentor, Dr. Elisabeth Caspari, a Swiss national who could not get home during the war and worked at an American Missionary school there.

Matthew Simberg said...

Wow, well said, and thank you so much for sharing. Do you have any more information? Can you share anything about your mentor? If you like you may email me at msim2393@gmail.com.

Capricorny said...

According to an article by Carolie Wilson, Univ Sydney, see link
www.kelpin.nl/fred/artikelen/theosophist.pdf, records kept at the Theosophical Society's (TS) centre at Adyar shows that Maria M applied for, and was granted membership, in the TS in 1899, three years before an Italian branch was formed. She does not seem to have stayed there for long, but there seems to be some connection between her and TS leader Annie Besant around 1907.

So the connection is much older than the 1939 invitation from the Indian TS that was accepted and led to her stay in India 1939-46. But Carolie Wilson reports that when asked during her stay whether she had in fact become a Theosophist, the Dottoressa retorted, "I am a Montessorian".

While an early influence from Theosophy is probable, it does not seem to have been decisive.

Emnidel said...

I am a 0-3 teacher of a Parent-Infant class. I came across this blog while preparing for a discussion on the spiritual life of the young child. There is so much to it, starting from birth. Thanks for writing this!

Chandra Fernando said...

Mathew, I just came across this blog while researching Dr. Montessori's time at the Theosophical Society in Adyar. I am preparing an article for the 70th anniversary of the Montessori movement in Sri Lanka inaugurated by Dr. Montessori in 1944. She gave her first lecture on Infant/toddler level in Colombo. I also found the spiritual connections between Montessori and Theosophists very interesting. The respect for all religions, the spiritual nature of humans and a method based on observation are all intertwined. I have discovered that Dr. Montessori met the Theosophist, Annie Besant before she lived in India and Dr. George Arundale one time President of the Theosophical Society,is the person who invited her to India.

Heather Kinser said...

I too am researching Maria Montessori and her connection to the Middle East. If anyone has any information they would like to share please feel free to contact me. I am very interesting in the above post, but unfortunately there is not a link to the poster.

Lavanya Suresh said...

Very nicely written. I feel the connection between Montessori and spirituality this way. As a Montessori teacher myself trying everyday to shed one's ego and omnipotence and surrender to the spirit of the child; taking a child afresh every morning forgetting the past and showering unconditional love to him leaving aside any judgments are my baby steps in the path of spirituality.

Matthew Simberg said...

Lavanya,

Thank you for your comment, that is beautiful!

Matthew Simberg said...

Heather Kinser, How did your research go?

Charmian Colombage said...

I am a 3-6 Montessorian. I am constantly reminded of the mindful aspect a montessori classroom develops in a child. As a Buddhist i believed Montessori's time spent in India would have had a great influence on her deep connection with mindful learning.

Charmian Colombage