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Cosmic Education

12/9/2011
By Biff Maier, LMS Director of Faculty and Curriculum Development

The child will develop a kind of philosophy, which teaches him the unity of the universe. This is the very thing to organize his intelligence and to give him a better insight into his own place and task in the world.
- Maria Montessori, International Montessori Conference. Amsterdam, 1950

Dr. Montessori’s view of the world and Earthlings was characterized by a grand cosmic vision. She looked at Earthly existence in the context of the universe and all of its interrelationships. She celebrated order in nature, especially at the level of creation. She described “cosmic agents” that enable cosmic order and maintain ongoing creation. She noted that while these agents generally perform their work unconsciously, human agents have the unique potential to act consciously and purposefully.  Montessori talked about a “cosmic plan,” which can be understood more clearly if we think of the world as a great, cosmic household, where all the work has been distributed among the family members. In this way we can understand that everything has tasks to fulfill, cosmic work to accomplish.


The child will develop a kind of philosophy, which teaches him the unity of the universe. This is the very thing to organize his intelligence and to give him a better insight into his own place and task in the world.
- Maria Montessori, International Montessori Conference. Amsterdam, 1950

Dr. Montessori’s view of the world and Earthlings was characterized by a grand cosmic vision. She looked at Earthly existence in the context of the universe and all of its interrelationships. She celebrated order in nature, especially at the level of creation. She described “cosmic agents” that enable cosmic order and maintain ongoing creation. She noted that while these agents generally perform their work unconsciously, human agents have the unique potential to act consciously and purposefully.
Montessori talked about a “cosmic plan,” which can be understood more clearly if we think of the world as a great, cosmic household, where all the work has been distributed among the family members. In this way we can understand that everything has tasks to fulfill, cosmic work to accomplish.

Inorganic agents “work” according to their inherent nature. The Sun is an inorganic agent providing light and heat energy. The lithosphere provides the ground we stand on and the soil we plant in, as well as the container for the seas and oceans. The water in the hydrosphere and the air in the atmosphere provide the environment for a sphere of life, the biosphere, where plants and animals, the organic cosmic agents, “work” according to their inherent nature. It is a vision of indivisible unity made up of energy, sky, rocks, water, and life. Near the end of her life, Dr. Montessori wrote, “Man’s arrival has created a ‘psychosphere’ on Earth. We must understand that mankind, too, has a task with regard to the Earth on which we live. …His scientific work gradually discloses the secrets of Nature and, moreover, makes use of them, thus creating new possibilities.” This reminds me of Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of a Noosphere, a sphere of shared intelligence, superimposed upon the biosphere.

Montessori argued that the human experience can only be understood in the context of the evolution of our species. She believed that Homo sapiens has been guided by “finality,” the drive toward ever-greater complexity, from the time of our appearance. Further, she argued that to know an individual, we must consider the whole of his or her development. We don’t teach a toddler or a middle-schooler, but rather a human being at a particular stage of development. Each individual must be seen in his/her oneness as well as in the developmental differences of diverse stages or “seasons of life.”

“Cosmic education” is a term used by Dr. Montessori and her son, Mario, to describe the Montessori elementary curriculum. It responds to the specific developmental characteristics and needs of the human being during this stage of life. It employs the “age of the imagination” to understand reality and to explore the vastness of culture.
Montessori said, “Cosmic Education gives children orientation and guidance in life. It wants to prepare the growing child for the task awaiting him in adult life, so that he will feel at ease in his own environment, in which he will later have to live as an independent being.” As children learn to understand the world’s evolutionary development, ecological functioning, and the interdependency of various forces, they gain a sense of meaning and purpose. They come to understand and appreciate the importance of collaboration at a cosmic level.

They become aware of the importance of work, but especially of the importance of work that contributes to the well being of others. They come to appreciate how they benefit from the efforts of others, in the past and in the present. Consequently, they begin to seek their own personal ways to contribute.