The Spiritual Embryo

The Spiritual Embryo

The child at birth appears almost nothing. He cannot walk, cannot talk, and he can’t even eat on his own. The same child, within two years, learns so much. He walks, runs, talks continuously; how did it happen within such a short time? For the same work, an adult takes years. How does it happen with the child?

Unlike other animals, the human being is provided with two embryonic periods. One is prenatal and another one post-natal, i.e., before birth and after birth. The prenatal period is the period when physical development takes place. All beings have only a prenatal period. But the human being has another embryonic period which is post-natal. Any animal immediately after birth starts to walk, eats on its own, and looks almost like an adult animal, whereas the human being has prolonged infancy in order to achieve the same level of independence. The baby at birth is like a mass of flesh without spirit. He has the physical organs but they are not coordinated. the eyes not focused, hands do not grasp, legs do not move. After birth, the child gets this spirit to his flesh. Hence, the period after birth is called the Spiritual Embryonic period or Psychic Embryo since this is the beginning of mental life.

The Laws of Development or nature has provided the Spiritual Embryo with certain powers to aid him in his development, which the child is not conscious of. These non-conscious powers are the Absorbent mind, Horme, Mneme and Sensitive Periods.

The Absorbent Mind could crudely be compared to a sponge. The Absorbent Mind helps the child absorb whatever comes in contact with. Like a sponge absorbs whatever it is put into. The sponge absorbs milk if it is put into milk, water if it comes in contact with water and dirty water if it comes in contact with. The Absorbent Mind absorbs everything without differentiating whatever it comes in contact with. The child absorbs the language and other minute aspects of culture just by living there or just by being there. The child absorbs whatever elements present in his environment and makes it into a part of his personality.

Horme is a driving force which is like Will Power. Dr Maria Montessori says it is a very poor analogy, though. It helps the child to achieve independence. The great purpose of the child in the world is to reach the norms of adult species. This drives the child to achieve mastery over any activity. Take an example of a child learning to walk. The child starts with a step or two and falls down. Again he tries and falls. He will not stop there. He continues trying. If anybody stops him from trying, he may even start crying and slip away from his mother’s grip and starts his work of mastering his walking. At one point in time, he achieves the art of walking. He can walk without falling down. He will not keep quiet by just learning to walk. He starts running. This running is for mastering his newly acquired skill of walking. Once he is confident about walking and running, he will concentrate on some other aspects of development. Thus Horme in the child drives him to master any skill.

Mneme is a special kind of memory. It cannot be compared to the memory of adults. Adult’s memory is a conscious power. They have to consciously record and remember. Mneme just incarnates whatever the Absorbent Mind has been absorbed. While our memory could be compared to a painting, the child’s memory could be compared to an automatic camera. (Mneme is much, much higher than the camera. It is just an example) The painting takes a long time, and it may miss out on some details, whereas the automatic camera captures everything in a fraction of a second with the minutest details.

Sensitive Periods are certain periods in the development of the child where the child is drawn towards certain elements in his environment. During sensitive periods the child learns fast with less energy. Dr Maria Montessori calls them flames burnt without consumption. These periods are transitory will not be lost long.

Thus spiritual embryo is an embodiment of powers. These powers help the child to achieve independence and develop into an adult. We as adults have to understand these powers help the child develop naturally according to his own pace.