Revelation and values

Values and ethics cannot be derived just by reason, anymore than spiritual experience can. So values and ethics can only be realized or derived from feeling-premises of the heart or by discussions of the heart. So any real study of values and ethics, and their development in students, would have to involve another factor besides reasoning and mere study of facts –   This extra teaching-resource would have to be any material, media or text that may inspire a personal experience of values and ethics. So here is where high-culture teaching would bring in sources of value/ethical inspiration (even ‘spiritual inspiration’ – though this does not need to be explicitly stated in any [public] curriculum objective).


The main point and argument here is that all students (not just religious students) of education should receive study and development in Values and Ethics, besides the other subjects like science, social studies, literature and math. And what needs to be included in this [what should be a requirement] subject of Values/Ethics is not merely a study of what others say or a study of ethical issues+discussions (Though this is certainly important); BUT ALSO an important objective should be the actual character development of students and the actual personal realization of values and ethics within each student. In other words, the goal is not just to accumulate information (whether it be about discourses of Plato or Muhammad); but that values and ethics actually emerge from and develop in the student.    


Of course, as a footnote here, values/ethics and overall character development (including a hidden spiritual component) could be categorically included in the subject objectives of literature and humanities. This is certainly what many educators would hope, as well as being included in philosophy requirements. But right now in education this is quite vague and there is a tendency in secular thought to intentionally avoid any presentation or lesson that seems religious in nature or that falls outside of the Box called objective facts or empirical science.    


Another point here is that a true study and development of Values and Ethics would have to include feelings, sentiments, sympathies, and experiences of the heart. Just the mind and intellect are insufficient to understand values and ethics, and also insufficient to derive values and ethics. Once this is clearly acknowledged in the philosophy of education, the heart must then have to be admitted into the Full education scheme; for values and ethics cannot just be studied with intellect and reason, and cannot be just reduced to facts or to history. In other words, the knowing-heart and its development must be included in any real character development or in any real value/ethical understanding. Thus, any complete education would have to include Inspirational Teachings – or that which awakens our values/ethical knowledge – or that which awakens heart experiences and inner knowing. {Rather than just keep adding facts to the mind and developing the faculties of intellect and reason}  Intellect and reason and experimental observation would still, of course, be the major player in education {it would be a mistake to try and defeat this or provoke it with insults} , BUT heart and inspiration needs to be allowed into this educational picture, to complement the intellect. And certainly in the subject of Values and Ethics, this complementation is absolutely necessary – {and any argument against this thesis can be soundly cut to pieces, (even by reason itself)}


So it is here, as a needed resource for inspiring and developing the heart-understanding of values and ethics, that we should bring in the inspirational discourses, poetry and narratives from religious and cultural traditions around the world. Here is where we bring in sacred texts or what some call ‘revelation’. Yet, importantly, this kind of material should not be classed as ‘sacred’ or ‘revelation’ (except in the sense that some people believe it is). In other words, an impartial-humanistic non-denominational education can state that some people consider a particular text (or piece of literature) as sacred or as divine revelation) [or that some people believe a piece is absolutely and unquestionably true]; BUT education should not present anything as [a presupposed] Truth – which the terms ‘sacred’ and ‘revelation’ linguistically imply. So this is a little caution that educators of inspirational materials should avoid presuppositions of this or that being ‘sacred-revealed truth’ (which is the significant difference between religion/+faith and non-parochial inquiry).


And as part of this idea, any presented spiritual-religious-inspirational material cannot be [presupposedly] regarded as a basis of truth that would be used to either confirm or de-confirm reasoning or personal experience {which by the way, is precisely how it has been used in many religious cultures and in history} We (the non-dogmatic) don’t test our reasoning nor our personal experiences/intuitions upon some [presupposed] ‘sacred text’ ; though we might compare and hold an honest inquiry about any discrepancies. Instead, these spiritual-religious texts must be truth-tested by a combination of personal experience and rational reasoning. They must prove themselves worthy to us; not us having to prove ourselves worthy to them (which harks back to the dogmatic dangers of Christian and Islamic Inquisitions). Any ways, religions and sects can do what they want with this epistemological issue; but non-sectarian education could not accept the presuppositions and leaps of faith that religion is often based on. Instead, and here is the important point, religious or spiritual texts can be rightly used as possible Inspirational Sources – to inspire the heart and bring forth understanding and personal convictions regarding Values and Ethics (and maybe also metaphysical or spiritual intuitions).


Presenting such texts and resources in this manner would be fair, non-sectarian, and also part of a rational educational plan that includes human character development (which is really what the subject of Ethics was originally about; not merely a study of historical facts and figures, nor dialectical arguments about ethical proofs).   This kind of ethics-studies is NOT seeking to prove anything as true or absolutely certain; Rather, its intention is to present possible inspirations for values and ethical character development. And Then, rather than beating this stuff into people or trying to indoctrinate them or trying to make absolutist Truth-dogmas; the objective would be to simply present such material for the heart/mind, similar to how art impartially presents pieces for possible aesthetic appreciation. It would then be up to the receiving persons to feel and decide for themselves what value this has. That is, a presented piece of ethical-inspirational material (much like a presented piece of art) would be valued or appreciated – depending on how well it inspires or evokes value/ethical feelings and recognitions. There is no need for presupposition in this, nor any need for a faith-premise. Simply, whatever is found to inspire or evoke an ethical/value response (or an opening/awakening of heart) in a student would then be regarded as significant text  - and the best of the best would eventually rise to the top of useful significance in the teaching of Values/Ethics. This then avoids epistemological problems involved with presupposing certain texts as unquestionable sacred revelations (like here are the Words of God). If some people feel or experience a certain whole text (or ayat piece) as being definitely ‘from God’, then of course that can be respected; but we cannot agree that any text or material should be presupposed or dogmatically presumed as higher truth   (just because the text itself claims its own truth or importance, or just because many wonderful people faithfully claim this text as sacred or absolutely true). 


So in human education, revelation can be combined with reason, and also combined with personal experience and intuition; but what we now mean by ‘revelation’ are those pieces of literature and oral tradition that have some reputation for being inspirational to human values, ethics and spiritual intuition. These would be presented to students (as possible inspirations for heart/mind knowing), but without any sense of coercion nor presupposition of truth. The students would then judge the value of such material, on the basis of their own heart/mind response and evocation of personal values/ethics. Revelation is then redefined as whatever successfully reveals truth or value to the human heart/mind. If something inspires love, values and sensitive ethics; then it can be regarded as a sacred revelation.  And whatever in a so-called sacred text that does not inspire us or awaken our own spiritual intuition  - this then would not be regarded as sacred revelation, but could be relegated to a limbo classification of maybe-but-no-evidence-as-yet.