Yehuda H. Zeilberger's Essay on A. Ferriere in the Encyclopedie Philosophique Universelle

Translated from French by Doron Zeilberger (Jan. 18, 1997)

This is a translation of the article on Ferriere, written, in French, by Yehuda Zeilberger, that appeared on pp. 2401-2402 of v. 3 of Encyclopedie Philosophique Universelle (PUF).

FERRIERE Adolphe 1879- 1960

Ferriere is scion of an old Geneva Protestant family that counts among its ancestors watchmakers, physicians, and eminent educators. After classical studies in the college de Geneve and of zoology at the University, and after founding the International Bureau of New Schools, end of 1899, at Geneva, he discovered in Germany the great educator Hermann Lietz, and taught for two years(1900-1902) in his ``New School at the Country'' (Land-Erzeihungs-Heim) at Ilsenberg. A progressive deafness forced him to renounce his work as teacher, and he became the world-renowned theoretician and promoter of these ``New Schools''. When he returned to Geneva, he passed, in 1902, his doctorate in sociology on `The Law of Progress in biology and sociology'. Based on solid philosophical foundations, his inspirations came from his master Gourd,a s well as Guyau, Fouille, Bergson, Hoeffding, and Dewey. His thinking was close to that of Karl Jaspers. When the Institut J.-J. Rousseau(1912) opened, he accepted the invitation of its founder, E. Claparede, to profess his avant-garde ideas in pedagogy. He constructed a vast theory of education on the double basis of genetic psychology and differentiation of psychological types, that lead him to extol a pedagogy adapted to the `measure of the [individual] student' (after Claparede), but also-and that was his original contribution to education-adapted to the `measure of the [individual] teacher'. In 1921, he contributed to the founding of the International League of the New Education and became the editor-in-chief of its revue in French (Pour l'ere nouvelle). In 1925, he founded, with Pierre Bovet, the International Bureau of Education.

[Summary of Ferriere's Works]

The Spiritual Progress [Le Progres spirituel]

This work was the beginning of a vast project of studies on `Constructive Education' that, taking the form of conversational essays with parents and teachers on genetic psychology attempted to search, in the education of the young, the way to a material and spiritual renewal of humanity. It is divided into nine chapters, that Ferriere designed its plan in comparing it to a symphony. First came the prelude:(chap. 1) The `Prime Reality', the song of all that is alive, of all that imbued with vital and spiritual energy. This chapter begins with the phrase: In living creatures, the prime reality is the `elan vital'; in man, it is the `elan spirituel'-- key phrase of this work, and perhaps of all Ferriere's oeuvre. Then he dedicates three long chapters to `the analysis of the soul' where are described and analyzed the theories of Freud, Adler, and the other followers of Freud, as well as the autosuggestion system of Emile Coue and yoga, the later under the title `the profound will'. Then came the major chapter on `The interest and the effort' that is based on the pedagogical views of the great educator J. Dewey, emphasizing its philosophical and psychological aspects.

The last two chapters (VIII and IX) on the `Liberation of the Spirit' and the `Elan Vital of God', reveals the religious and spiritual viewpoints of his world view and view of education, and terminates with the conclusion: `The spiritual progress of the child is the orientation of his elan vital towards God'.

My Great Journal (Diary of Thoughts) 1930-1960

`Mon grand journal' is a work of more than five thousand pages, written during the last thirty years of Ferriere's life.

The first two notebooks indicate the general direction of the entire manuscript: autobiographical notes, meditations, and opinions on problems of the moment (political, economic, and social). Yet, the essential part is reserved for thoughts, philosophical and religious reflections. For example, in the last pages of the first notebook, that concerns meditations on Spinoza's famous words: `sub specie aeternitatis', where he analyses the elements of his multiple heredity: as descendant of watchmakers, of physicians, of theologians, and educators... And our author concludes: ``Thus I have lived, `sub specie aeternitatis'. Party and partisanism, nations and nationalism, confessions and religions always appeared to me as negligible quantities(...) And I have caught a glimpse of how the world would be if everybody lived `sub specie aeternitatis'.. Truth, science-science in the universality of its applications: Quinquennial plan for the world; but also understanding, harmony, love.''

The essential. Introduction to the symbolism of religions, in their relation with the philosophy of the one and the multiple(1952)

An unfinished work because of Ferriere's state of health. ``This book, wrote the author in the introduction, aims to describe the essential in religions of the past, and what they tried to express in the language of their time, by means of revealing symbols''. The work is divided into three parts, with five important appendices. The first part, that is entitled: `The one, the duality, and the multiple', contains reflections on philosophy in general, and on the `philosophy of the one and the multiple', in particular. In the second, entitled `Projections and symbolisms', the author ``attempts to show the processes that, implicitly- individually and collectively, directs the spirit, by way of projections and symbols, to `retrust'[reifier] (term due to the Swiss philosopher Mieville) certain of its images that respond to subconscious processes'' The third part, ``The universal symbolism of religions'', presents certain facts of collective psychology and shows that these processes, stemming from the philosophy of the one and the multiple, have been conceived, projected, and symbolized by thousands of founders of religions, religious sages, and philosophers of all ages.

What gives this work its particular value is, on the one hand, the bridge that it erects between the universe of philosophy and that of religion, more precisely: that of religions; on the other hand, its documentary side, thanks to its five appendices, to wit: 1) on the Absolute in philosophy, 2) on `The being and the beings' according to Maurice Blondel, 3) on the `graphical symbols' due to the author, that provide a key to his `typo-cosmology', an astrological science due to Ferriere, 4) a table summarizing the psychological types and levels, and especially 5) an excellent historical survey on the `one and the many', that reviews the history of this fundamental idea in philosophy, since the Eleatics, Plato, Aristotle (his `Physics') and especially Plotin, also mentioning master Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa, concluding with the modern thinkers: Blondel, Marcel, and Bergson. (J. H. Zeilberger)

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