Saturday, August 12, 2006

Spirituality of Learning

The Violence of Our Knowledge: Toward a Spirituality of Higher Education

Parker J. Palmer
The Michael Keenan Memorial Lecture, Berea College, Kentucky
The Seventh Lecture 1993

Palmer as usual never fails to amaze me with the depth of his wisdom and understanding about the spirituality of education. In this lecture, he correctly pointed his finger on the three weak points of contemporary epistemology: objectivism, analytic and experimentalism. As he put it, “everyway of knowing becomes a way of living”. For him, true higher learning involves a “healthy dance of between the objective and the subjective, between the analytic and the integrative, between the experimental and what (he) will call the subjective.”

The spirituality of learning or a “transformed understanding of knowing” comes from 4 components:

(1) learning is personal
“In contrast to modern objectivism, the wisdom traditions say truth is personal, not propositional. The modem academy is very hung up on the notion that truth is to be found in our propositions about things. But the spiritual traditions drive our understanding of knowing to a deeper level where it is said, "Truth is personal and, yes, we need propositions to share our person hood with each other, but unless it is incarnate, unless it is embodied, unless we are attempting to 'walk the talk' or 'talk the walk', it cannot be truth."”

(2) learning is communal
“It means that our movement toward truth is a corporate movement in which we must wrestle with each other, we must have conflict with each other, we must reach consensus with each other - and then we must break that consensus because some new observation has been made or some more powerful interpretation has been offered. Truth emerges between us and among us and through us as we wrestle together with the great and small questions of life.”

(3) learning is reciprocal
“There is something powerful about the spiritual understanding that we are not only seeking truth, but truth is seeking us…At the heart of all great knowing is a sense that the "object" of knowledge isn't an object at all. It has some kind of personal quality to it that speaks to the knower, that reaches for the knower; great knowing is always involved in that mutuality, that reciprocal dance between the knower and the knowing.”

(4) learning is transformational
“I will be changed by truth, and there is no way to evade that. It will be a daily struggle with what I know, to live my life more fully and more deeply. Knowing, teaching and learning will transform me if my knowing, teaching and learning are guided by the images and norms that I have just been trying to articulate.”



Blogger Sivin Kit said...

this is one article all those in theological education need to read and see what adjustments can be made in the curriculum and method of teaching. Then again perhaps, the whole church leadership needs to relook at what "learning" is all about. There's bound to be some level of un-learning (which most would be afraid), and fresh new learning (which requires risk!)

1:29 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Palmer writes about the violence to our learning. I agree with him. In our teaching in our churches, we then to be too objective, analytical and experimental. We emphasis too much on objective prepositions (systematic theology) at the expense of experiential life with God (spiritual theo

We need to understand what learning is. Teaching is not learning. Just because we have completed a teaching event does not means learning has taken place. In the church we need to recognise the difference between teaching and learning. Maybe that is why our churches are so immature. There is much teaching but not enough learning.

Thanks for your comments


10:19 AM  

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