Maria Montessori and Thomas Berry, Birds of a Feather

Maria Montessori and Thomas Berry agree on the importance of making room for the universe in how we look at the world. 

“Children learn through play; the role of play in the life of a child is paramount. Even more so is…outdoor play in a natural environment…” West Side Montessori

Montessori writes: 

If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him/her admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying.

This is quite a promise. 

But Berry speaks to the same reality, that of wonder and its importance, when he writes:

We will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred [notice that for Berry they are the same thing] only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things come into being.  Indeed, the universe is the primary sacred reality.  We become sacred by our participation in this more sublime dimension of the world about us. 

Montessori elaborates on her point spoken above when she says:

“The Littlest Astronomer.” Photo by Jeff on Flickr.

The knowledge [the child] then acquires is organized and systematic; his or her intelligence comes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been present to him or her and their interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which their mind is centered.  The stars, the earth, stones, life of all kinds form a whole in relation with each other, and so close is the relation that we cannot understand a stone without some understanding of the great sun!*

*Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, p. 361.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Playing in the River.” Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Montessori talks of “the mind being centered on the universe.” And this beginning when we are young, our capacity for the whole. Do adults have their minds “centered on the universe” and are we teaching the children such matters?

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9 thoughts on “Maria Montessori and Thomas Berry, Birds of a Feather”

  1. Avatar

    Margaret Mead, the anthropologist said: “Children need to be taught how to think, not what to think”

    The Student/Teacher relationship is constantly interchanging. That is every apparent Teacher is a student, and every apparent Student is A Teacher. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me” though his apostles objected at first.

    I share my article “Embrace Each Child and You Embrace Yourself”

  2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you open with a wonderful quotation from Maria Montessori. She writes: “If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him/her admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying.” Thomas Berry agrees with Montessori’s philosophy on this point as well. You ask us: “Montessori talks of ‘the mind being centered on the universe.’ And this beginning when we are young, our capacity for the whole. Do adults have their minds ‘centered on the universe’ and are we teaching the children such matters?” I think many more adult minds are “centered on the universe” now that we have seen the pictures from outer space from the Webb Telescope. Adults need to walk hand and hand with children–mentoring them in the blessings of the universe!

  3. Avatar
    Dr Celia Simpson

    Stimulated by today’s meditation, I’m thinking about the permissions that being in nature gives to the whole self, and particularly the embodied self. In the exploration there is mess and interaction with the living environment, which stimulates the inner vitality of the body. The children in the Montessori Minute here are taking risks, striding out, developing physical skills and muscles. How different from sitting still and ‘tamed’ in the classroom. There is something about facing fears in a held, relational context. Many of us may still hear that internal message of “Be careful” “Watch out”, learnt from parents and authority figures, that may have overprotected and held us in over the years.

  4. Avatar

    Said Jesus, adults must “become like little children” to regain cosmic consciousness, the capacity to see in wholes. This implies childhood is where things go awry in traditional development, education, and the (mal)formation of the psyche. So there must be a major re-set, which Montessori implies is unnecessary if one understands that children are already born integrated (naturally seeing in wholes). They dis-integrate via traditional education, and must reintegrate later, usually in the second half of life, which for most is too late. Once congealed, it’s hard to unscramble the eggs. The goal of psychic development is the self, which is why play in nature is important, as our imagery for reality is deeply tied to spatial reasoning with which we circle the truth that forms our world view. Everything in nature points to a center, leading to a Center of centers awaiting discovery. Such is the mystery and wisdom of circling the labyrinth:

  5. Avatar

    Many children today are being labeled with ADD or ADHD, which is in my opinion a symptomatic result of our current educational system. Recently I spent over an hour engaged with one such child outdoors while curiously engaged in relationship with a single slug. Together through the use of a magnifying glass we entered the world of wonder, closely seeing the unique beauty of this tiny creature sliding around in the palm of his tiny hand, enraptured with awe at what we were seeing and learning. Later, this little boy tenderly returned this slug back to the earth, its home, making sure the soil was moist and cool. He never would have had such an experience looking into the face of a computer screen. I noticed that he never lost his focus of attention during this personal encounter with the slug, but rather he had learnt some very important things about being in relationship with his new friend, which he drew a picture of later.

  6. Avatar

    God bless our daily sacred lives within us, with one another in our small communities, with Mother Earth and all Her creatures, and our multidimensional and multiverse evolving co-Creation~Cosmos in the Sacred Process and Loving Diverse Oneness of the Eternal Present Moment….
    Blessings ?❤️??

  7. Avatar

    I wrote and submitted a comment yesterday. It is the first time I have done so
    It did not get published.
    Please would you tell me why?
    Thank you

  8. Avatar

    From Fox’s teachings and the above comments by others there appears to me to be something spiritually innovative in connecting experiential learning to my soul’s journey. What might happen to my inner listening, being in wonder, connection to nature’s creativity, and love of learning and growing if I noticed something new?

    There may be a strong connection between the teachings of Jesus and other wisdom prophets about “becoming a child” in awe with those of Dr. Montessori. I feel called to experiment on myself with Montessori experiential principles as ways for my young soul to grow that is similar to the ways I grew my body, mind, heart, and spirit. Could this be a way of perceiving order to growing my soul while an earthling rather than just reflecting upon the apparent randomness of my spiritual experiences?

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