Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"The Spiritual Embryo"

                        The Birth of Humankind

Note: Much of this post is directly attributable to  Dr. Maria Montessori's  The Absorbent Mind's seventh chapter - "The Spiritual Embryo". Dr. Montessori was an educator, child psychologist, and doctor of medicine and surgery. Her scientific training and experience was exceptionally broad based and unique among educators, even to this day.

Note: This week I use the pronoun "he/him" to refer to people.


child development and education
Just getting started 
Humans seem to have two embryonic periods. One is pre-natal, like the animals; the other is post-natal and only humans have this for such a long time. For although he is already born, he continues to carry on an embryonic life. He is an inert being who cannot even support the weight of his own head.

Birth and Development


When the child is born, his organs themselves are not finished; the skeleton is far from ossified; the motor nerves are not yet provided with their covering of "myelin", which isolates them from one another and enables them to transmit the brain's orders. Therefore, the body remains inert, as if it were only the design for a body roughly sketched in. Here, we see an essential difference between human beings and all the animals in the world. The baby, far from finished even physically, has to build himself up until he becomes the complex being that humans are. He has no "awakening of instincts" as newly-born animals have in the first stage of their contact with the world. This shows the very real importance of the first months and years.

Psyches Can Smile


early childhood development
Wow! This baby breathes through its ears. :) 
The child's muscular inertia tells us there are psychic patterns of behavior which have to be laid down before he begins to move to any great extent. Thus, the starting point of infantile mobility is not motor, but mental. The first care given to the new-born baby, over-riding all others, must be a care for his
mental life. Many parents focus on the child's physical well being. This is all-good, but adults are short-sighted if they fail to provide for the child's spirit. Everything else waits upon this. The remainder of development takes its form and mode of action entirely from the life of the baby's psyche. I hope I (Papa Green Bean) have made clear that there are risks and consequences of parental misguidance during the decisive first years of life. However, I want to focus on the positive potential, today. So, of course, smile and laugh often! The foundation of man should always include humor, another distinguishing human trait.

The Child As A Means Of Adaptation


The developing child adapts the being he is constructing to the conditions of the world around him. The baby has a very different relation to his environment from the adult. The things his eyes see, and the sounds his ears hear, are not just remembered; they form part of his very soul. The true function of infancy is an adaptive one; to construct a model of behavior, which renders him free to act in the world around him and to influence it. Infancy is a period of utmost importance, because, when we want to infuse new ideas, to modify or better the habits and customs of a people, to breathe new vigor into its national traits, we must use the child as our vehicle. To influence society, we must turn our attention to the child. It is the little ones who are building mankind, and they can work only on the materials we give them.

Big Picture Conclusion


No attempt by governments, institutions, or educators to solve social and moral problems will succeed if they rely only on man-the-adult. They must take a long-term approach. The immense influence that education can exert through children, has the environment for its instrument, for the child absorbs his environment, takes everything from it, and incarnates it in himself. The child brings us great hope and vision. There is much that we parents and educators can do to bring humanity to a deeper understanding, to a higher well-being, and to a greater spirituality. To be clear, it is the young child who determines man's future as an adult member of society. It is a two generation process.

 Thanks,  Papa Green Bean


  1. LOVE this, John! Thanks so much for painting this picture so clearly. ~Ginger

    1. Thank you, Ginger. This concept of the newborn being the foundation of humankind is simple but deep. It is the very basis for a reformation of our educational priorities. If we can help to spread understanding of the great developmental importance of the first 1000 days of a child's life, perhaps, we can spread the growing movement for local and national programs to assist such critical work.

  2. It is intriguing to me how a newborn baby is still developing outside the mother's womb and it is up to us to provide him/her with the adequate nutrition, not only food, but spiritual nutrition. There is where many times, us parents, fail our children. We forget that the environment around them affects their tiny spirit.
    Thank you for such inspirational reading.

    1. Yes, the environment is a huge factor. Many families provide this without realizing it, simply by being loving with singing and music and laughing letting the child observe and explore at his/her own pace.


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