“In some of the larger schools in England and the United States, certain scholars who have developed and manifested the ability to control themselves and their actions are placed on the roll of a grade called the ‘Self-governed grade.’ Those in this grade act as if they had memorized the following words of Herbert Spencer: ‘In the supremacy of self-control consists one of the perfections of the ideal man. …’
“As a help to the student, we will give a brief course of instruction for the cultivation of one desirable trait of character. … The case we have selected is that of a student who has been suffering from ‘a lack of moral courage … an inability to say “No!”, a feeling of inferiority. … You should fix firmly in your mind that you are the equal of any and every man. You come from the same source. You are an expression of the same one Life.” ~William Walker Atkinson
In the United States, the self-governed class may be largely a thing of the past. There were, and possibly still are, self-governed schools. They are generally called Sudbury schools after the originating school of this type located near Sudbury, Massachusetts. In these schools, student meetings are held periodically in which the students themselves set the curricula. While there are good arguments on both sides of this concept, it is not this type of mass self-governing that interests us. We are concerned with it more on the level of the individual.
While spiritual schools are rarely, if ever, followers of the Sudbury school philosophy, they do encourage a kind of self-governed student in their classes. While the school and its leaders decide what to teach, the student must decide himself what to listen to, and what to practice.
Certain groups today have come to think that certain children deemed “special” and given names like ‘Indigo Children,” “Crystal Children,” and so on, should never be disciplined or told to control their behavior. As a result of this belief, they are raising another kind of special children called spoiled brats.
When I write on this subject, I always thing of the movie Karate Kid (original version). In that film, the young student starts getting upset when the teacher has him washing and waxing cars. He thinks he should be practicing Karate. He soon learns that he was being taught patience and self-discipline. Both of those are necessary to be a master of karate. They are even more necessary to be a spiritual master.
The spiritual student must practice self discipline and self-governing just as does any other student. But it means something different to the spiritual student. Just like any other serious student, the spiritual student must resist the desires to not study and go off and have fun. Or to do things his own way instead of listening to the teachers. The spiritual student also has to be self-governed so he can resist the efforts of demons and devils to turn her away from the true path.
A good spiritual teacher rarely demands that a student do certain things, or behave in certain ways. He simply tells the student the correct thing to do and leaves it up to the student. The self-governed student is the one who will listen and do what is necessary to grow spiritually. The one who doesn’t listen and doesn’t do the recommended spiritual practices is not being self-governed but ungoverned, undisciplined. Such a student has little chance of getting anywhere in a spiritual school. They will quickly be rooted out by the teacher and sent on their way. Spiritual teachers don’t have the time to be baby-sitters. They want serious students who can be self-governed to the extent that they do what they need to do to grow and don’t get easily drawn away from it.