What is a Sacred Arts Education?


Your mind is not someone else’s bank, but our dominant model of education sure acts like it is.

I have written before that the word education is originally Latin (educare), and means to draw something out from within, rather than stuff something in. Strange to say, it means the opposite of what we all think popularly and traditionally education is.

Our default, go-to idea of education – what dominates schooling certainly in America from primary to post-graduate education – is what some have called the “banking model”.

It works like this: you deposit inert facts into a vault of the mind. Actually, let’s specify: someone else, usually with a specific agenda that may or may not be in your best interest, encourages you to deposit their preferred facts and figures into your sacred self.

If it sounds off, that’s because it is.

When we look at the actual root of the word education and all that it implies, we see that true education is much more like a well going down thousands of feet into the bedrock, tapping into a great underground river of intuition and vast inner resource. This is especially true for soulful seekers and Sacred Arts education – our entire premise is that the Sacred Arts occurred not one upon a time, but throughout all time. Meaning that they are here, right now, within you right as you read these words.

A Sacred Arts Education is discovery and recovery: we discover how to find that deep well, we learn what it means for us, and we learn how to use it with wisdom and power.

I am absolutely in love with this approach. Not only does it go against the grain of the current orthodoxies about schooling and learning, but it points the way to a North Star that is exactly true to our real lived experience, to the heart of learning at its most soulful, moving, personal, and healing. I love it because it works.

As the Latin word might already indicate, the idea of real education hearkens all the way back to, within the Western tradition, the ancient Greeks, and, in particular, Socrates. But the notion that you already possess the wisdom that you are seeking is one found in all times and all places; one of those perennial truths that has endured precisely because it is true.

Currently, it is often said like this: “You are your own best Guru.” Sounds good, right? Most of us can get on board. What is NOT often said though is the next part:

Though you carry your own wisdom and deep knowings without a doubt, what you may not possess, or remember so easily, and what you might in fact be looking for, are the best means by which to find, access, and work with that wisdom and deep knowing.

That’s what real education does for you, certainly what a Sacred Arts education should do: it provides the means to recollect and draw out what you already hold within yourself, what is truly your own. The practical force of this ability to draw effectively from within – the well that springeth out of thee – cannot be understated.

In other words, learning is not about memorizing random facts, nor is it about following any kind of blueprint step by step, word for word; it is not about imitating a teacher or lifestyle expert who tells you to go drink green smoothies or go bathe naked under the moon or learn to balance your checkbook. (No offense to green smoothies, moonlight, and checkbooks!)

Learning is most definitely not about letting someone/something else decide what you get to have access to and what you don’t. No. Thank You.

Learning is about you, and about what you can become in this life. It is about being given (by yourself) the time, space, and material that inspires and enlivens you to discover and re-acquaint yourself with – and create anew – your practices, ideas and your thoughts, your beliefs and your very deep knowings.

All of the work that I do, including the work of Spinning Gold, holds at its core this idea of learning. This approach to learning allows us to encounter truly rooted texts and ideas that carry real weight in our magical learning.

Consider what J.R.R. Tolkien said about one such work and one of his favorite stories, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

“For it belongs to that literary kind which has deep roots in the past, deeper even than its author was aware. It is made of tales often told before and elsewhere, and of elements derived from remote times, beyond the vision and awareness of the poet: like Beowulf, or some of Shakespeare’s major plays, such as King Lear or Hamlet. It is an interesting question: what is this flavour, this atmosphere, this virtue, that such rooted works have…”

Tolkien loved the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for many reasons. But what I see in the above quote is that he loved it because, in reading it and spending time with it, he was able to actually learn something. That is, he was able to remember something of himself and put it into practice.

This is because the story is rooted, it speaks to, as C.S. Lewis says: time out of mind. It holds depth, scope, and as a consequence of both, reality. One can wrestle with it, ask questions, dig deeper, disagree; one can learn from it, and as it feeds and heals your heart and mind, it quickens the life within. You begin to discover and recover what is your very own.

In Spinning Gold, we learn how to root discoveries and our practices in the experience of six deep stories, primary source well-springs, of the Sacred Arts. This process quickens life and practice, broadens the mind and heart, sharpens discernment, opens new magical doors.

It also puts your money where your mouth is: for we often say we want more enchantment, more magic, more beauty, more miracles, more meaning…well guess what? What you do is how you live. You want more enchantment? Then you have to start practicing it. You already have what it takes, so let the stories show the way.

But, can we really do all of this online? You bet! If you, like me, start to get itchy when you have been in front of a screen for too long, or if the idea of an “online forum for discussion” makes you break out in hives don’t fret: I made a handy-dandy guide for how to get the most out of your online learning experience without living online, access it here.

Wishing you a week of deep discovery, real pen and paper, and a practice that is full of enchantment!


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