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The Way of Logos - John Dirkx

Soul and Meaning Making

John Dirkx, professor at the Michigan State University, developed an approach to transformative learning through identifying and integrating an important part of transformative learning into the basic theory.   A mainstream contemporary approach to learning in our world has been through a sociotechnical orientation to lifelong learning, a technical-rational view of knowledge.   Dirkx explains, Bubbling just beneath this technical-rational surface is a continued search for meaning, a need to make sense of the changes and the empty spaces we perceive both within ourselves and our world (Dirkx, 1997, Cranton (Ed.), p. 79).

Ancient legends and myths abound with the struggle for our human spirit to evolve, to grow, and to learn through struggles, through reflection, and completing what is sometimes referred to as The Hero's Journey.   When we are courageous enough to encounter disorienting dilemmas and try and make sense of our lives through reflective learning, we often find unknown guides or mentors who appear when we need them, we find struggles on the journey that seem insurmountable, and yet if we are brave, if we push on, and resist the force to return from the quest, then we may find ourselves transformed by the time we have completed the quest. Others may not be aware of our personal transformation, but we will know inside that we have fundamentally changed in how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we may now make sense of the world in a different way.

Dirkx refers us to work by Cranton, Meire and Freire for more insights on the transformative process that occurs from wresting consciousness and knowledge from the forces of unconsciousness and ignorance This ego-based view provides only a partial understanding of the process of change, self-discovery, and social critique inherent in transformative learning.   It represents the way of logos, the realm of objectivity and logic (Dirkx, 1997, Cranton (Ed.), p. 79-80).  

Soulful Learning through Feeling, Intuition and Imagination

Transformative learning through the way of mythos, reflects a dimension of knowing that is manifest in the symbolic, narrative, and mythological (Labouvie-Veif, 1994) (as quoted in (Dirkx, 1997, Cranton (Ed.), p. 80).  

Dirkx introduces us to a new dimension of transformative learning when he tells us, "Our journey of self-knowledge also requires that we care for and nurture the presence of soul dimension in teaching and learning" (Dirkx, 1997, Cranton (Ed.), p. 80).  Transformative theory moves us away from the technical rational view of learning and towards an understanding of patterns and forms of communication, as well as towards a learning that encompasses the learner's experience, as well as how they come to frame their experience.   Dirkx helps us to see through the lens of mythos, as opposed to the singular lens of logos, which allows us to look at our experiences through powerful images, which bring us closer to learning through soul.   This may allow underlying myths, as well as archetypes and symbols, to emerge from our unconscious, and provide clues and guides that may result in us experiencing transformative learning through connection with soul.

?Experiences of mystery – birth and death, incomprehensible tragedies, love, and separation – open up a realm of being that is barely visible to our waking ego consciousness.   It is this realm of being that is expressed in learning through soul? (Dirkx, 1997, Cranton (Ed.), p. 82).  

Mezirow discusses the importance of a ?disorienting dilemma? as a prerequisite to transformative learning, or a part of the transformative learning experience.   If a teacher can provide active and experiential forms of teaching and learning, characterized by high levels of ambiguity, uncertainty and paradox, then these approaches may challenge students to a level of engagement that could provide the stimulus for a transformative learning experience.   These approaches invite ?expressions of the soul.?

Dirxk quotes Brisken in his writings, ?We often sense soul as a kind of dark beauty or as a bittersweet incident.   The experience of soul leads to an appreciation of the multiplicity of selves that make up who we are.?

Soul provides us with a bridge between our self and the broader external world. Our emotions and feelings provide a means for us to understand these connections.   Dirkx mentions, ?Viewing our experiences through soul draws our attention to the quality of experiencing life and ourselves, to matters of depth, values, relatedness, and heart.   Soul has to do with authenticity, connection between heart and mind, mind and emotion, the dark as well as the light. When attending to soul, we are seeking to live deeply, to focus on the concreteness of the here-and-now.   This perspective, in the words of Robert Sardello, of ?facing the world with soul,? deepens our understanding of the meaning of learning in adulthood.   Learning is not simply a preparation for life. It is life, the experience of living.   Coming to know ourselves in the world and how we make sense of the other within this world are critical aspects of learning? (Dirkx, 1997, Cranton (Ed.), p. 80).   Individuation, the Jungian process of becoming who we become, is very much an intuitive, unconscious process that encompasses many years and a myriad of experiences.

For more information on John Dirkx, and Soul in Transformative Learning:

Nurturing Soul in Adult Learning, by John Dirkx, in Transformative Learning in Action: Insights from Practice, Patricia Cranton, Editor, Number 74, Summer 1997, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco