What was Martinus’s schooling?

A Child Visiting his Grandparents on Sunday by Laurits Andersen Ring (L.A. Ring)
A Child Visiting his Grandparents on Sunday by Laurits Andersen Ring (L.A. Ring). A supplement to schooling perhaps?

What was Martinus’s schooling? It is always interesting when people come forward with a new expression of spirituality. Naturally, we wonder about the basis and background of this expression. Schooling is here as good a place as any to start with. What kind of education did these people receive? Did all their ideas come from their teachers? Who were their teachers?

From the account of his own life, Martinus suggests that he had no formal education or training in spiritual matters during his early life. He received a basic schooling, until the age of 14, but he did not go to high school or university or form part of any spiritual circles or groups. In this regard, he was very much a typical, rural Dane. Despite a longstanding and deep religiosity, he does not appear to have been a student of esoteric subjects.

On this basis, the education that Martinus received would have been quite simple by today’s standards. It would have consisted of a training in simple arithmetic and functional writing skills, perhaps what in England we used to call the “three Rs” (“reading, writing and arithmetic”). In 1814, there were educational reforms in Denmark that made education for all children up to the age of 14 compulsory. The reforms established the well-known “folkeskole” or folk schools[1]. It was this basic education that Martinus would have received.

Grundtvig & religious education

Nikolaj Severin Frederik Grundtvig (b. 1783) played an important part of the religious and cultural revival that laid the foundations for the kind of folk education that Martinus would later be a benefactor of[2]. Undoubtedly, as a Lutheran minister and writer, a “Prophet of the North as the Germans have called him”[3], he also played a part in imbuing the future of folk education with its religious character. Martinus relates how he learned, “Psalm verses and [the] catechism. And a little geography and arithmetic. And sometimes a little Danish history and nature study”[4]. It was probably a basic Grundtvig-style of religious education that was provided, mediated of course through the teachers at the school he attended in Sindal.

As Peter Manniche writes about Danish folk life, “It is not easy to gain a personal impression of the religious life of a village”[5], but which may have consisted of the “natural mysticism of the old peasant religion”, bound up of course with Lutheran Christian doctrines. It will be difficult to determine for sure what Martinus’s early education consisted of. And we do not know Martinus’s teachers, or what they taught him. However, we can be reasonably confident that it would not have been so very different from what many rural people at the time, either in Denmark or across Europe, were taught.

So one may ask, is school religion a significant part of Martinus’s story? Can it account for some of the content of his writings and teachings on spirituality later in life?

Notes:

[1] http://eng.uvm.dk/Education/Primary-and-Lower-Secondary-Education/The-Folkeskole/About-the-Folkeskole

[2] Rørdam, Thomas. 1980. The Danish Folk High Schools. Edited by Alison Borch-Johansen. 2nd rev. e. Copenhagen: Danske Selskab.

[3] Manniche, Peter. 1969. Rural Development and the Changing Countries of the World: A Study of Danish Rural Conditions and the Folk High School with Its Relevance to the Developing Countries. Oxford: Pergamon Press. P 86

[4] Martinus, [Martinus Thomsen]. 1992. “Erindringer (Memoirs).” Kosmos, no. 3

[5] Op. cit., pp 179-182