Monthly Archives: May 2013

Article: From Ugly Duckling to Swan: Education as Spiritual Transformation in the Thought of Edith Stein

An excerpt from an article by Ann W. Astell appearing in the latest issue of Spiritus (Spring 2013) based on her 2012 SSCS Presidential Address:

On August 17, 1931, Edith Stein wrote to her former student Anneliese Lichtenberger: “Among the books you got as a child, do you have Andersen’s Fairy Tales? If so, read the story of the ugly duckling. I believe in your swan-destiny.” One can hardly imagine a more encouraging word from a brilliant teacher to a young woman, a girl, who has just been placed on academic probation. Charming as the allusion is, it also serves as parable for Stein’s educational thought. The little bird in the tale of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), we recall, is ugly as a duckling and scorned by the ducks, because it never really was a duckling at all. It comes to recognize itself for what it truly is – a beautiful swan – through a process of suffering and maturing, of mysterious, connatural attraction to other swans, and, finally, in a moment of longing self-sacrifice and rebirth, a revelatory sight of its own reflection in the water, accompanied by the recognition of its swaneity by others. For Stein, the real purpose of education, in life and in the schools, is to promote a person’s true and transformative self-knowledge, which opens into the knowledge of God’s love. In this process the educator plays a key, contemplative role. “I believe in your swan-destiny,” Stein writes to Anneliese. “Just don’t hold it against others if they haven’t discovered this yet.”

Scholars of Edith Stein usually focus either on her scholarly achievement as a phenomenologist in the philosophical circle closest to Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) or on her devotional and theological writings as a Carmelite nun, first in Cologne and then in Echt, Holland, where she was arrested by the S. S. on August 2, 1942. The blurb on the cover of Waltraud Herbstrith’s biography of Stein reflects these two poles of interest: “The Untold Story of the Philosopher and Mystic Who Lost Her Life in the Death Camps of Auschwitz.” In this essay I meditate on Stein not principally as philosopher and mystic (although she never ceases to be both), but rather as an educator and a theorist of education who understands the learning process to be a spiritual path.

Paper: Spirituality of Human Sexuality: A Theological and Anthropological Perspective

A paper presented by Zoltán Szalos-Farkas Adventist Theological Institute, Cernica, Romania, at the Annual Scientific Symposium of the Adventist Theological Institute, Bucharest-Cernica, Romania, April 10, 2012.  The paper is going to be published as a chapter in a new book to be released by the Biblical Research Institute, Silver Springs, Maryland, USA, entitled, Marriage: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Aspects.

Abstract: The purpose of the paper is to probe into the theological and anthropological foundations of the spirituality of human sexuality. The methodological tool that has been deployed in the current research has been the biblical definition of spirituality. As a guiding point of reference, the biblical view of spirituality has helped the author in reaching the conclusion that the “humanness” and “spirituality” of human sexuality are closely interlinked, and are firmly rooted in the first and foremost of the two creationist purposes of human sexuality within the covenantal bounds of marriage. This is to say that the spirituality of human sexuality resides in the ongoing achievement and deepening, wrought by the Holy Spirit on behalf of the Trinitarian God of Scripture, of the oneness and union of the binitarian man (Gen 5:1-2) made up of a male and a female in their covenantal relationship (Gen 2:24).

Book: Spirituality: A Brief History, 2nd Edition, by Philip Sheldrake

This new edition has just been published.  The following review is from the publisher’s web page for the book: “The best available introduction to a fascinating subject. This new edition expands the geographical coverage to Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with new material on apocalyptic movements, Eastern Christianity, and the historical development of spiritual practices. No one can match Sheldrake for a winning combination of accuracy, comprehensiveness, and lively writing.” Arthur Holder, Graduate Theological Union