The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness

The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness

By David Marshak
New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Paperback, xii + 246 pages.

This book is a valuable tool for parents and educators. The author, currently a professor in the School of Education at Seattle University, Washington, describes the philosophies of early twentieth-century spiritual teachers Rudolf Steiner, Aurobindo Ghose, and Hazrat Inayat Khan relating to human unfoldment, child rearing, and educational practices from birth to age twenty-one.

This work is unique in its scope both because it describes a spiritual dimension lacking in other parenting and educational literature and because it compares and contrasts the writings of three teachers from distinctly different traditions. Steiner, Aurobindo, and Inayat Khan were contemporaries, all publishing major works early in the twentieth century. Each found that his spiritual quest led him beyond the limitations and values of his own particular religion, culture, and history. In the end, the three shared a common vision of human unfolding based on a spiritual understanding of reality.

As Marshak describes the common vision, the human being is a system of interrelated and interpenetrating energy fields-physical, vital, mental, and spiritual. All beings are organic wholes, with their own spiritual natures, innate wisdom, motive force, and inner teacher. The fields are interrelated with each other and the external world as they unfold. The "qualities" that parents and teachers express are important in this process. Love and wisdom are keys that help to guide and nurture children so that they can recognize their own inner teacher. According to the common vision, parents and teachers are as effective as their commitment to their own self-unfolding.

Maria Montessori, another contemporary who developed a philosophy and methodology of spiritual education, has not been left out of this treatment. Although she differed in some fundamental principles and methodologies, she also articulated much of the common vision. Some of the most important ways in which her vision is identical with or similar to that of Steiner, Aurobindo, and Inayat Khan are listed in an endnote (223-6).

Marshak has written a guidebook to spiritual education. He writes simply and clearly, without losing the depth of his subject. The book is well-organized and user-friendly. The Common Vision sketches the lives of the three spiritual teachers, describes their concepts, takes us to classrooms where each of the visions are being applied, reports the views of teachers and administrators on both applications and methodology, points out commonalties and differences, shares the author's concerns about particular philosophical principles, and focuses on the principles that he regards as relevant today.

Marshak makes it clear that the common vision doesn't end with his book. Readers are invited to build on the common vision with their own insights, discrimination, and common sense. They are called to action-to share the common vision with others-because the future of our world depends upon all of us actively participating in the ongoing evolution of this planet. This is a worthwhile book for anyone interested in parenting and education.


July/August 1999