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Goals and Objectives | Christian Education | Resources for teaching| WV News | Articles

Moffett’s Mystical March

By Karl Priest January 14, 2017 (revised 1-18-17)

In 1974 James Moffett tried to (according to his own words) “spiritualize some of public education.” (Moffett, James. Storm in the Mountains. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988. More about that book is below.) The Courageous Corps of 74 busted him and seven of the eight vilest books that the Board quickly rejected were from his Interaction series. (pg. 94)

Moffett defended his insertion of yogism into his textbook stating that any religious person can practice Yoga because he “usually forms his own relationship with the Ultimate Reality once he has come closer to it.” He admitted that the main goal of yoga is “spiritual illumination.” Amazingly, Moffett included a quote from the section that told students to direct their thoughts to the “Infinite Light, which is God. He used the liberal trinity of Marx, Darwin, and Freud claiming they were “geniuses” who “have played masterful roles in raising consciousness to higher levels than before.” (pg. 35)

Alice Moore described how money motivated him. (pg. 208) Page citations are from Protester Voices—The 1974 Textbook Tea Party.

Mr. Moffett did not give up. Twenty years later he published The Universal Schoolhouse: Spiritual Awakening Through Education ( San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994). I have not read the book, but have found enough evidence to declare that it was part of the New Age-One World religion that is sweeping the government school system.

Here are some chapter titles:

1. Spirituality and Education
3. Education to Transform Culture
4. Education to Transform Consciousness
10. Global Thinking
11. A Spiritual View of Growth
14. Soul School

The Library of Congress subject headings for his book include “Moral education” and “Humanistic United States”.

Reviews reveal a lot.

From the Library Journal: “This is the New Age approach to education: spirituality as self-growth into the full realization of one's true nature as Spirit incarnated into matter…In an equitable society based on spiritual principles, the "universal schoolhouse" would integrate social services with education, creating a network of public facilities available to all, as lifelong learners. Moffett's approach to education resembles Rousseau's and Rudolf Steiner's, with religious overtones.”

From the Inside Flap of the book: “Can schooling transform society?...Education is a sacred, not an economic quest…In this book, noted teacher and thinker James Moffett sets forth a controversial, daring, and inspiring vision of what schooling can and should be. His highly personal, philosophical inquiry into the nature and purpose of education offers us a view of schooling as a lifelong spiritual quest with the power to promote the highest potential of the individual. Moffett challenges the school reform movement to reach beyond conventional goals that cater to bureaucratic and corporate interests and to take on a more "transformative" mission…”

A customer review: “The book will appeal most to readers who share the author’s interest in metaphysical and esoteric spirituality, individualized learning models, and social justice issues.”

From a professional educator: “Learning should be centered on spiritual growth, says James Moffett…His solution is to offer a smorgasbord of cosmic perspectives.”

From another professional educator: “Several of Moffett’s final chapters describe ‘a spiritual view of growth,’ ‘integrating public services’ and ‘reinvesting and reapportioning.’ He firmly believes that spiritual growth occurs in unison and harmony with physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development.”

From two college professors (Under the title “Toward a Spiritual Curriculum”): “Educators avoid the word ‘spiritual.’ It makes them uncomfortable….We focus on outcomes rather than have students explore the fundamental questions of life. These questions should include such issues as: ‘What is the purpose of human life? What is our role in the universe? What is the nature of reality?...We must explore and experience them through art, literature, science, and the various spiritual traditions and practices. It is admirable, then, that James Moffett has tackled the issue of spirituality in his book….At the beginning of his book Moffett maks a strong case for spirituality and for its central place in education. He suggests that a spiritual approach to life is the most inclusive…’All spiritual leaders regard ordinary life as a kind of sleep. That is why their goal is awakening.”

The Universal Schoolhouse is listed on a “Transformative Education Resource List”( for an “Integral Yoga in America: Knowledge, practice, and community” website along with these resources:

“Magical Child, Magical Child Matures, and Evolution's End, all by Joseph Chilton Pierce
“Educating for an Ecologically Sustainable Culture: Re-thinking Moral Education, Creativity, Intelligence, and Other Modern Orthodoxies, by C.A. Bowers
“Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect, by David Orr”

On the same list there is “Spinning Inward, by Maureen Murdock” which has a review elsewhere saying, “If you have ever wished you could show children and teenagers how to enrich their lives with meditation and visualization, this book will delight you. It presents simple exercises in guided imagery designed to help young people ages three through eighteen to relax into learning, focus attention and increase concentration, stimulate creativity, and cultivate inner peace and group harmony.”

This excerpt from Moffett’s Universal Schoolhouse closes the case:

"...the Arabian alchemist Abipipi:...'O man, know thyself! In thee is bid the treasure of treasures'." ( Kingsland, p.86, quoting Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol.2, p.617)

"A human being partakes of all emanations or planes of reality at once without knowing it until he or she achieves cosmic consciousness ... This is the esoteric meaning of know thyself, which post-Freudian people are apt to understand as merely making the unconscious conscious, as psychological awareness ... But the ultimate meaning of 'know thyself' seems to be 'know thy Self'" (pg. 344)

Mr. Moffett died in 1996. A tribute in his honor was published by the Journal for Expanded Perspectives on Learning ( JAEPL, Vol. 3, Winter 1997-1998, 1-12 ) which is the publication for The Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning (AEPL)*. The AEPL is “an official assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English. The JAEPL is interested in “Topics of interest include but are not limited to: intuition, inspiration, insight, imagery, meditation, silence, archetypes, emotion, attitudes, values, spirituality, motivation, body wisdom, and felt sense.” (

According to the tributes Moffett “was AEPL's very first member. A member of the AEPL Advisory Board, he also served as featured speaker at the first AEPL conference and at other AEPL events.” (1) Moffett and his wife “started a sort of ashram at his house on Spruce Street in Berkeley” where people would gather on Saturday mornings to do “Prana Yoga exercises, led by Jim and his co-teacher, Pingula.” (1) Moffett wrote “"Writing, Inner Speech, and Meditation”. (2) One contributor wrote, “We all know that education fiercely separates "church and state," and Jim could easily have written about meditation from a secular point of view, the way many do in such fields as sports, drama, music, business, and medicine. Instead, he acknowledged his own training in an Ashram and described the mystic traditions, both ancient and modern, that gave birth to meditation. This essay is a rock-solid theoretical foundation, and Jim helped us to build on it through his work with AEPL.” (3) Another contributor noted in one of Moffett’s “ presentations his amusing stories of his friend and mentor, an East Indian yogi, made us laugh out loud.” (5)

As stated in the opening, Mr. Moffett admitted that he “expected to spiritualize some of public education.” (103) Regarding the unholy trinity, he wrote, “Darwin said we evolved from lower animals. Marx said our history is about competition for money. Freud said instinct (mostly sexual) determines our behavior. All three philosophies place humankind at the mercy and mechanistic forces in our environment and inour nature and exclude reference to transcendent or spiritual dimensions to life…I do not myself accept Dawin, Marx, Freud, or any materialistic doctrine as more than a sort of truth limited by its very materialism, but I think materialism is coming to a head—for purposes of spiritual evolution which it is serving.” (234) “The ‘universal truths’ just keep getting more comprehensive as we integrate our understanding of the world and evolve in consciousness.” (235) “How to save one’s soul and how to save the world are the same. The spiritual way is the practical way. As we identify so we know only by identifying with the culture-free and cosmic nature of a Christ or Buddha does one learn what they tried to teach us and assume their power.

He also defended his attempt to insert yoga into the schools via his textbooks. He quoted from a New Age spiritual master before concluding, in the book’s last paragraph, that “we are evolving in consciousness through Darwin, Marx, and Freud to ‘higher truths’ but we cannot obtain those ‘higher truths’ through literally believing the Bible. Instead the ‘individual consciousness partakes of cosmic consciousness and so achieves that direct and full knowledge called gnosis.’ (Gnosis is spiritual knowledge of a mystically enlightened human being.)” (pgs. 93-94 emphasis added)

If the above is not enough to convince an open-minded reader that Moffett was a very religious (Yes, yoga is a religion.) man, the following should close the case.

Professor Russel K. Durst wrote an article about the career of Mr. Moffett [“The Stormy Times of James Moffett.” English Journal Vol.47 No.2 (January 2015): 111-130]. Durst noted that Moffett’s “later work drew upon New Age philosophies, self-actualization movements, and Eastern religious practices.” Moffett moved “to Northern California, home to much of the alternative spirituality movement he had become active in.” (112) In the 1980s Moffett’s work centered “more around an increasing fascination with mysticism, yoga, meditation, and spirituality” and “he came to advocate regular and systematic classroom use of meditative techniques.”(126 Emphasis in the original.) In his book, The Universal Schoolhouse, Moffett talked “approvingly about how schools of the future will come to focus more and more on these notions of inner growth and spiritual development.” (126)

There is no doubt that, like all people, Moffett had his religious convictions. In his case, Moffett tried to spread his message in the public schools. He was stopped in Kanawha County West Virginia in 1974, but his disciples continue to evangelize innocent school children.


*Here are excerpts from the history of the AEPL:

“The Dance of Spirit in AEPL and Beyond” (By Susan Schiller, JAEPL , Vol. 20, Winter 2014–2015)

We advocated for a pedagogy that aimed at global change and one that allowed students to develop such qualities as love, compassion, patience, gen­erosity, courage and wisdom.

Concern about the direction of educational trends created other organizations also concerned about the same matters which had drawn us in AEPL together. The Alterna­tive Education Resource Organization (AERO) was founded in 1989, and in 1990, a retreat of holistic educators wrote “The Chicago Statement on Education.” This docu­ment defines holistic education and its principles. GATE, The Global Alliance for Trans­forming Education, directed by Phillip Gang, held conferences over the next few years. In 1991, they issued a paper titled “Education 2000: A Holistic Perspective.” Outside of the United States, the first International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) was held in Israel. In Mexico, Dr. Ramon Gallegos was establishing a foundation that offered higher degrees in Holistic Education to teachers seeking a spirit-based pedagogy. These groups, along with AEPL, were radically arguing a whole-system change—one that acknowledges the spiritual side of learning…

The first AEPL conference, “Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Spirit,” Winter Park, Colorado, had James Moffett as the keynote speaker. (2)

Spirituality is the core of holistic education, and it was expected to be included in everything we did…

In 2013, Dr. Ramon Gallegos, founder of the International Foundation for Holistic Education, invited me to be a keynote speaker at the Foundation’s annual conference, The World Holistic Education Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico. My presentation, “Spiri­tuality: The Core of Holistic Education,” was based on a new chapter just added to my book…While Ramon has written many books, a principal book translated into English is Holistic Education, Pedagogy of Universal Love. He sees holistic education as a social movement, rather than an educational one, and he seeks to spread the holistic vision across the world…It is vital for those of us in AEPL to stay connected to others around the globe so that we are strength­ened in our efforts to create change.

Today, I believe a spiritual pedagogy is founded upon and develops our wonder and awe of the infinite mystery of the cosmos, of all people and gifts of the Earth, and of our mental, physical, emotional and creative abilities. With this definition we can see that (5)

spirituality is easily identifiable outside of religion; it is a flexible and varied topic that can sustain and enrich education. However, we still have much ground to gain before spirit-based education is more widely respected…

Although spirituality in education is only one of AEPL’s pioneer topics, AEPL sig­nificantly contributes to keeping it in the national discussion. As strong as AEPL, if not stronger, are those in the holistic education groups. When we all move together by put­ting spirituality at the core of how we teach and what we research, we are sending the invitation to all educators to join our dance—a vital dance that functions in part to off­set the damage imposed by the current craze for standardized testing. (6)

What is Holistic Education?

Over the last decade research has demonstrated that emotional development, or what has become known as "emotional literacy," is of fundamental importance. Learning emotional literacy has been shown to be crucial for intellectual development, social development, aesthetic development, and health.

That we face ecological challenges, perhaps even perils, seems generally accepted, if not widely acted upon. Information about these challenges has been widespread for several decades now, but very little behavior has changed to address them positively. That education should play a vital role in meeting these challenges or perils is less accepted…Of course, children must acquire information about the environment and about the dangers currently posed by our relationship to nature.