From “The New Ideal in Education,”
an address given before the League of the Empire on July 16th, 1916
by Nikolaj Velimirovic, 1880-1956
If we do not want war we must look to the children. There is the only hope and the only wise starting point. It is not without a deep prophetic significance that Christ asked children to come unto him. In all the world-calamities, in all wars, strifes, religious inquisitions and persecutions, in all the hours of human misery and helplessness, he has been asking, through centuries, the children to come unto him.
I am sure, if anybody has ears for his voice today, amidst the thunderings of guns and passions and acts of revenge, one would hear the same call: “Let the children come unto me!”
Not kings and politicians, not journalists and generals, not the grown-up people, but children. And so today also, when we ask for a way out of the present world misery, when we in the depth of darkness today ask for light and in sorrow for tomorrow ask for advice and comfort, we must look to the children and Christ. Why does Christ not ask the kings to come to him, the kings and politicians and journalists and generals? Because they are too much engaged in a wrong state of things and because they are greatly responsible themselves for such a wrong state of things and because consequently, it is difficult for them to change their ways, their hearts and their minds.
Every generation is laden with sins and prejudices. That is the reason why Christ goes only a little way with every generation, and then he becomes tired and asks for a new generation, he calls for children. Christ is always new and fresh as children are. Every generation is spoiled and corrupted by long-living and struggling. But for a new generation, the world is quite a new wonder. Christ is getting tired of an old generation. Sadly he calls for a new one for children. In our distress today, I think, we should multiply his voice, calling for him, for a new generation and for a new education.
The education which makes for war is called by a very attractive name, the individualistic education. The true name of it is selfishness or egotism. It is born in the heart of Europe, in Germany. It was brought up by Schopenhauer and Goethe. It was subsequently supported by the German biologists, by the musicians, sculptors, philosophers, poets, soldiers, socialists and priests, by the wisest and by madmen. Unfortunately, France, Russia and even Great Britain have not been quite exempt from this pernicious theory of individualistic education.
War is the result of this old ideal of education. The old European ideal of education was so-called individualistic. This ideal was supported equally by the churches and by science and art. Extreme individualism, developed in Germany more than in any other country, resulted in pride, pride resulted in materialism, materialism in pessimism. Put upon a dangerous and false base every evil result followed quite naturally. If my poor personality is of limitless value, without any effort and merit of my own, why should not I be proud? If the aim of the world’s history is to produce some few genial personalities, as Carlyle taught, why should not I think that I am such a personality for my own generation, and why should I not be proud of that? Once filled with pride I will soon be filled also with contempt for other men. Selfishness and denial of God will follow my pride; this is called by a scientific word materialism. Being a materialist, as long as I possess a certain amount of intellectual and physical strength, I will be proud of myself. But as soon as my body or spirit are affected by any illness
(it may be only a headache or toothache), I will plunge into a dark pessimism, always the shadow and the end of materialism.
When will wars really stop in the world’s history? As soon as a new ideal of education is realised. What is this new ideal of education which makes for peace? I will give it in one word: “pan-humanism.” This word includes all I wish to say.
Individualism means a brick, pan-humanism means a building. Even the greatest individuality (may it be Caesar, or Raphael, or Luther) is no more than a brick in the pan-human building of history. The lives of individuals are only the points, whereas the life of humankind is a form, a deep, high and large form.
If a great and original individuality were the aim of history, I think history should stop with the first man upon earth, for our first ancestor must have been the most striking individual who ever existed. If one striking individual is the aim of history, history should close with the death of Adam. But history still continues. Why? Just because Adam was not its aim, but humankind; not one, or two, or ten heroes, but millions of human creatures; not a few great people, but all people, all together, all without exception.
Voluntary obedience is the education of tomorrow. It is a stage where all people will see their mission in their collective work and, therefore, voluntarily enchain themselves into the pan-human organism, plunging their imaginative, point-like personalities into a big and mystic personality of humankind.
This voluntary obedience will mean voluntary slavery. We are going to be slaves again, but not by royal or papal compulsion, but by our goodwill; we are going to be slaves as the parts of a body are slaves and servants of each other, and as the bricks are slaves and servants of a great building. We are going to be ” prisoners of the Lord,” as Saint Paul says, instead of being, as now, the prisoners of our dreams, imaginations and ambitions.
There is no hope for the future in the politicians, or generals, now struggling. The only hope and guarantee lie in the children. A new education in personal goodness making for social greatness is the only beneficial way forward. Therefore, let us look to the children!