Reactions and Opinions New Approaches to Adult Learning, Embodied, Spiritual and Narrative Learning

Reactions and Opinions Merriam book Learning in Adulthood
Part Three:  New Approaches to Adult Learning, Embodied, Spiritual and Narrative Learning

This commentary is designed not so much to point out the flaws of the Merrian’s section on “Spirituality and Learning” Tisdall’s definition of “Spirituality”, but to caution adult educators from using her spiritual philosophy with religious adult learners.

Before I comment on the Adult Learning theories of Tisdall 2013, it is worth stating my perspective and background on the topics of religion, metaphysics and spirituality in Adult Learning.

             In college, I went on a spiritual quest to know God. That quest had me first study many of the leading cults and groups: Elizabeth Profit, Edgar Casey, Silva Mind Control, NLP, Eckacar and others. I stayed away from the more dangerous social cults, like Scientology. This path lead me to spending time at the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who lead the Transcendental Meditation movement in the 70s and also created the Science of Creative Intelligence. When I would go back to visit him in Switzerland, you could find great minds like Richard Fineman, Jonas Salk and Hans Selye hanging out discussing the relationships of quantum physics, mind body relationships and health with transcendental research. It was an amazing time. Later I became a specialized teacher of Transcendental Meditation (TM) to the US Marines and the US Air force. Because of my previous background, I also taught groups such as Edgar Casey, Urantia foundation, Catholic nuns and Franciscan monks. Today I still can close my eyes in Samadhi on a NYC flight to Africa. In addition, I still can do the Sankara traditional Hindu puja in Sanskrit and siddha techniques. In 2003, I stumbled into a room of 4,000 Christians and choir of 300 people representing every race under the sun, worshipping in waves of love, just a mile from the UN. Here I finally obtained an inner dialog with God and meaning of my life working with poverty.

It is very important to understand the core values that different religious adult learners have when setting up their programs. I will present a few sweeping generalizations about the differences of the religions that are worth the reflection of how we need to approach adult learners of faith. First is that all religions are not remotely alike. All roads do not lead to the top of the mountain, ask any sherpa. Jewish people believe in the obedience of the laws and traditions to draw close to God. Muslims also believe in traditions and laws but also doing the will of God. Hinduism is about self perfection though the Patengeli’s eight limbs of yoga and scripture to one day know God. Christianity is in the concept that God loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. Christianity in the pure sense uses the Holy Spirit of Jesus to transform the person from the inside out. Again these are generalizations, However, if you want to transform the adult learner, you must start from these deeply personal religious frameworks.
A warning about believing Tisdall's theories when working with the religious.
A sensitivity that your religious adult learner’s values and definitions of religious words have very different meaning than Tisdall’s and new age vernacular. Tisdall's definitions of mercy and miracles are highly watered down versions of Chrisitianity. Religious people have clear definitions of right and wrong such as in premarital sex. These values have deep impacts on the learning process. Both Christian and Muslim influence have deep motivations to do God’s will, while Tisdall’s secular values clarification view can seem highly offensive. Faith that God is in control and New Age Intentionalism are in direct conflict with one another.
Deeply religious people (whether Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Christian) have a deep love for God and the theology that comes from God. Speaking on behalf of Christian adult learning, the transformation is based on the fact that in a world that has rejected the student, they can be transformed by a God who loves them and has a purpose for them.
If the Adult Educator adopts Tisdall’s theory (or more honestly her religion of spirituality), they run the risk of insulting the student’s background by denying a core character trait that gives their life purpose and meaning. If academia denies the existence of God, miracles and patterns of behavior laid down in God's / Jesus's teaching can be seen by the learner as supremely arrogant. The learner will become guarded because their heart is not safe.

Tisdall's concept of Spirituality places the Adult Learner in direct conflict with the core cultural and social values of the student. Worse yet, because it is in denial of religious values, the institution can be perceived as arrogant and even as a threat.

I knew a child who was severely ADHD, Bipolar, ODD and had character disorders. On the night of his planned suicide (because of teasing), he was hearing voices, his medicine was giving him AIDs symptoms and he was under 100 pounds. He felt himself surrounded by light and a voice telling him everything was going to be alright. At that same time, people in a village in Africa and men in the Albany Rescue Mission were praying for him. This young 19 year old man started throwing up his medicine and did not take another pill until hit by the stress of a divorce 10 years later. A PhD in Cognitive theory met the boy and upon hearing his story responded, “Sounds like you had a really good day.” He simply smiled at her and thought, “Idiot.”
Arrogance around any religion will shut any readiness to learn down. This follows Malcolm Knowles third androgyny precept. “3. Readiness to learn. As a person matures his readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles.”

Tisdall's System (really an academic religion called Spirituality), is nothing more than a reflection of the 80s and 90s New Age movement. It is critical for the educators of Adult Learners to understand that in Tisdall's quest to come up with a definition of Spirituality that might transcend all religions, she must throw out the foundational value system that makes religions work. Basically she threw the baby out with the bath water.

Tisdall’s view of the Spirit
The rejection of the use of Jesus or God (as a personal relationship) is in fact interpreted as a denial of what is spiritual to the Christian Adult Learner. To the Christian, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one. This trinity embodies what love is. The Holy Spirit serves as a personal guide for transformation within the student, yet Tisdall throws this out.
For people with trauma, rape or people who have committed terrible crimes, the theology that “God forgives and forgets” is critical for the personality to feel set free of the past and create a new life for their future. This was key in the reconciliations in Rwanda and South Africa.
In contrast
·         Tisdall's ideas on religious law seem to be a rejection of religious law and accepts that whatever the collective believes is true (similar to Kirshenbaum and Simon Values Clarification).
·         Tisdall's definition is about the purpose of me and not the purpose of God through me.
·         Tisdalls' Spirituality is in denial of God as a personality and that a relationship cannot be developed with God.
·         Tisdall's Spirituality is in denial that there is a Holy Spirit that can serve as a voice and spiritual guide in daily living. Ironically it disconnects the person from a Spirit personality while calling itself Spirituality.
·         Tisdall's Spirituality defines no moral right or wrong in human behavior.
·         Tisdall's Spirituality is in denial of any sense of holiness, that one type of behavior is more pure and godly than another.
·         Tisdall's Spirituality sanitizes out local culture and rules.
Tisdall's concept of spirituality is what Maharishi used to refer to as “mood making.” It is a false sense of holiness that I would witness in Kripalu and within the New Age movement on a regular basis. Watching the pretty yoga teacher furious because her BMW was scratched in the parking lot is an example.
The tragedy of such mood making is that it does create a false Sacred Face on the outside while the deeper issues requiring painful transformation that needed addressing are ignored.
On a personal note, the rejection is a form of persecutions and Elizabeth Tisdall is at the head of Christian persecution in academia’s culture.  The case of this is public schools covered with posters of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and even Gandhi who all were deep followers of Jesus Christ. Their movements and teachings came directly from the Bible. Even Satyagraha is not solely from the Hindu Scriptures, but a blend of the life of Christ against the powers of oppression. Gandhi quoted the Bible often in the South African revolution. One of Gandhi’s closest friends was Dr. E. Stanley Jones who was an evangelical Methodist intellect who was with him until the end, unlike in the movie made to depict his life.

The denial and silencing of Christians in both higher education and in public is a growing issue of resentment from educators of the Christian faith at all levels of the academic system:

Many years ago, the elite of academia and religion believed the human race was the center of the universe and the universe rotated around earth. All the empirical evidence and religious beliefs seem to point to this as a truth. When science came out that this was an illusion, that we were not the center of the universe, they were persecuted. Today we have a TED lecture room of intellectuals that believe that their individual spirits are at the center of their universe, that there is no supreme Spirit to answer to. They believe only they shape the reality around them or that life is all simply random. The level of arrogance about central power of the solar system is still reflected into similar beliefs of that we are the central personality power and the world spins around me.

Tisdall's concept of Spirituality is in fact a defensive filter of the deeper reality of life. That the meaning of life is not in the acquisition of knowledge or stuff. Meaning and purpose is discovered in how we love and serve another.

A Spiritual Face of Mood Making

In Tisdall’s article, "The Connection of Spirituality to Culturally Responsive Teaching in Higher Education", she talks about how Maureen Abbott left her Catholic upbringing for the Hindu Siddha Yoga (one of the eight limbs of Patengali’s yoga) to find spirituality. TM is Siddha yoga of the Sankara tradition, which I am a part of. It is important to note that although Samadhi is profound, peaceful and healthy, it does not provide a direct experience with the personality of God as referred to in Christianity. Even the state of God Consciousness (the stage after cosmic consciousness), you do not receive a relationship with divine personality, only an awareness of God. Note: she does not discuss the millions of Hindus that are now Christian or why they converted.

To illustrate how disconnected Tisdall’s concept of Spirituality from God is, let’s look at her paper linguistics. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul states, “God is love.” Jesus says that our purpose is to “Love one another.” A word search in three of her papers listed in reference below yields no account of the word "love." Tragically, the value and quality that is more important than any other quality in an Adult Learning Center is “love.” It is not even listed in the index of Merriam’s book. Imagine that loveless Adult Learning Center?

How can an Adult Learning theory about spirituality be so clinical as to not contain words like love or Holy Spirit. How can we create an academic religion called “Spiritual” when we must filter out the Spirit that makes it Spiritual. Like “No child left behind,” I find her papers as simply self righteous mood making and a naive representation of the word spiritual.

However, Tisdall has proven herself successful in developing an academic cult of all those who want to justify their personal religion of the self, and those who share a distain of supreme authority, with no accountability to any higher power than the institutions they report to.

That being said, the educator of Adult Learning must be keenly aware of what their student perceives as spiritual and what they do as two different things.

VOLUME 1, ISSUE 4 October 2004 The Connection of Spirituality to Culturally Responsive Teaching in Higher Education. dn89
DOCUMENT RESUMEED 384 827CE 069 588 AUTHOR Tisdell, Elizabeth J. TITLE Creating Inclusive Adult Learning Environments:
Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy   

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S., and Baumgartner, L.M. (2006).  Part Three Page 187  Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd edition).  San Francisco, CA:  John Wiley/Jossey-Bass.   ISBN:  13: 978-0787975883


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