Interview with Marion Spielmann
by Andrea Bistrich
Marion Spielmann, founder of The School of Life in the Austrian provence of Steiermark, discusses a new model for education based on the heart’s natural connection with nature. This new approach fosters Aquarian qualities in character development, ecological sustainability, and honest relationships within communities. May 2013
Marion Spielmann founded the ‘School of Life’ in 1990 in the Austrian province of Steiermark, also known as Styria, which campaigns for a new culture of thinking and a spirituality in harmony with the laws of nature. Along with the School of Life she is involved in many further projects; amongst others she instigated the idea of a World Future Day, on 21 December. For the last seven years Marion Spielmann has been an ambassador for ‘Peace through Culture’ and is engaged in the development of national, international and inter disciplinary co-operation between different scientific and cultural groups. Marion Spielmann was interviewed by Andrea Bistrich for Share International.
Marion Spielmann with author and metaphysician Anton Ponce de Leon.
Share International: What exactly is the School of Life?
Marion Spielmann: We all know that daily life is the best teacher. With the School of Life we want to create a possibility where people can consciously work together on a project. Today, future generations lack examples and role models of true human relationship and situations to connect with nature through direct communal co-operation and in this way to experience the connections between nature and the laws of life. It is hoped that the School of Life will act as model for new educational and teaching possibilities. In the School of Life we place emphasis on free development of character, good organic nourishment along with the ability of observation and perception. The major theme of the Aquarian Age, in which today we find ourselves, is community. The School of Life wishes to pick up at this point. When, within community work, we become aware of our self-created surroundings, our illusory worlds, of the neglect and commercialization of culture and philosophy we rediscover that cultural and ethical communities play a vital role in public life.
SI: Why did you found the School of Life?
MS: Topics like justice, sustainability and social problems have always been a great concern to me. I’ve observed that in our modern society, thinking from the heart has been swept under the carpet and, instead, we live in materialism and competition, and hence in illusion. At some point the need to create something to oppose this trend and in its place to emphasise the unity and integrity of people amongst themselves and with nature, grew in me.
SI: When were you able to implement this idea?
MS: It was around 1990. My then-partner and I, together with the support of many others, managed to purchase a small plot of land west of Weiz in the Austrian state of Styria. It was initially a barren monoculture which we transformed, through careful renovation of the buildings along with the planting of thousands of trees, into a wonderful nature reserve.
From the very beginning we incorporated forward-looking technologies like a purification plant, solar power, photovoltaic, infra-red vital heating and organic substances, all with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. We placed great importance on saving resources, biodiversity, air, water, and earth improvements. We had to fight through this sector as in 1995 nobody in this rural area was interested in environment and climate protection.
SI: What value do you attach to nature?
MS: Nature, for me, is the link between heaven and earth and is the best teacher on the path to truth, unity and love. If we feel connected to nature, we draw closer to our own nature, the source of our origin, which is also the source of a new consciousness.
SI: Who may come to your School? What themes do you have?
MS: The School of Life is a sort of training ground for youth as well as adults. Intercultural contacts and networks develop between individuals and various institutions, schools, sustainable establishments and universities, amongst others with the University College for Agrarian and Environmental Pedagogy in Vienna. Our most important themes are heart and character building along with the development of a new culture of thought. For this we offer seminars, for example: ‘Development of psychic energy’, ‘Heart development and psychic energy’, ‘Simply be human’, ‘Nature, our teacher’. Many people do not think with their hearts and have lost the necessary connection to nature. The heart that strives towards the good and beautiful recognizes nature as basis of all life, as a harmonious play of forces, that we call life. In order to come closer to ourselves and not to be caught in illusions we learn through daily tasks to build bridges from egoism to altruism, from ‘me to we’.
SI: How is this schooling of consciousness arranged?
MS: We use group work, the exploration of natural laws and the interconnectedness between man and nature, as well as reflection, honest community participation in methodology, and also in the practical conception and implementation of projects. The learners are encouraged to think and act and to apply their creativity independently and consciously.
To my mind, the most important attributes for community work are inner gratitude, co-operation, modesty, friendliness, tolerance, exactness, also discipline and awareness, honesty, understanding and compassion. Every step towards consensus and unity makes things possible, things that without unified work would be impossible! We, again and again, experience this here in the ups and downs in the natural movements of development of the School of Life. Conflict and times of crisis have served every individual, as well as the community, as a maturing process.
SI: You once said that the School of Life should especially serve young people. Do you have special programmes for young people?
MS: We offer a training internship for students with self-evaluation. Here the future is considered as an open and formable process and the students can reflect on the connections between man and nature looking towards the future. The students are supported to recognize connections between ecological, economic, social and humanitarian factors, so as to integrate them into the challenges of daily life. The young people are also supported to engage with the values of the model of sustainable development – justice, fairness, equality, collaboration and the development of new thinking.
SI: Do you co-operate with any other initiatives and institutions?
MS: We co-operate with regional initiatives for the protection of nature, climate and environment, for the development of public welfare economies, for the construction of a democratic bank in Austria, with social institutions, the Jane Goodall Institute in Vienna, the Jung Library in Salzburg and especially with the University College for Agrarian and Environmental Pedagogy in Vienna.
The intercultural connections of the School of Life serve the purpose of stretching a net between the various cultures, nations and generations. Among other things we organise group educational trips to the Sekem Farm in Egypt; we support, together with sponsors, schools, educational projects and micro-credits in the Sekem Development Foundation. Earlier projects that we supported still exist: in Sri Lanka a school and home for abused children, and in Samana Wasi, Peru, a ‘school of values’, directed by my good friend and colleague, the author and metaphysician Anton Ponce de Leon. I also support actively the World Future Council in Hamburg as well as Centro de Investigacion Medicina Tradicional (CIMT) in Lima, Peru. Through these friendships in Peru I am also in contact with the indigenous communities from whom I repeatedly learn of the simplicity and modesty of being human.
SI: You spoke of the World Future Council, with which whom you are involved? What is your wish for the future?
MS: Last year we made an application to UNESCO for the introduction of an international World Future Day on 21 December [focusing on a global return to traditional values for positive perspectives on the future, and the renewal of unity and fraternity among mankind]. On the 21 December 2012 the Bolivian President Evo Morales and the Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca Cespedes, along with many other people, inaugurated the beginning of a new era of unity, brotherhood and co-operation.
Personally I wish for a global awakening to the necessity to take responsibility, to ensure more justice and to heal the heart of our world. This is only possible when each of us addresses their own heart. Communally we can do much good. We cannot arbitrarily change the world, but we should be aware that with our decisions, thoughts and actions we influence it strongly.
Further information: www.schule-des-lebens.at
Source: © Share International