In his book Propaganda, Jacques Ellul proposed that the purpose of education, in the modern state, is to more easily propagandize the educated classes. The effectiveness of this is seen today in the ability of socio-political ideas and movements to take hold with such rapidity and vehemence. The question of the truth of those ideas or the beneficiaries of particular policies is not addressed. To the contrary, these ideas are accepted as dogma and questioning them leads either to a confused look or a defensive reaction. The real crisis in education, therefore, is the inability of the student to properly process and integrate all the facts and opinions they absorb.
The fundamental cause is the lack of a sense of spirit to contemporary man. Tradition teaches that beyond the rational mind — which is the sole interest of educators today — there is a higher mind, that intuitively grasps ideas in their wholeness. This is not a theory or dogma, but rather something directly knowable and experienceable.
In Lectures on Divine Humanity, Vladimir Solovyov distinguishes between mechanical and organic thinking. He writes:
Mechanical thinking takes concepts in their abstract separateness, considers objects under some particular, one-sided definition, and then contrasts them one with another in an external manner of compares them in an equally one-sided but more general connection.
Organic thinking considers an object in its all-sided wholeness and, consequently, in its inner bond with all the other objects. This allows one to deduce from within each concept all the others or to develop a single concept into the fullness of the whole truth.
Therefore, organic thinking can be called a developing or evolving type of thinking, while mechanical or rationalist thinking is only a contrasting and combining type of thinking.
Solovyov then points out that organic thinking is really that direct intuition or grasping of the integral idea of an object, that is, the higher level of thinking of Tradition. Only when intuition is united with a clear consciousness and accompanied by reflection, can there be true philosophy or Wisdom. This is an option only for the few, or the true elite.
Yet this is far from elitism. Solovyov continues:
If speculative thinking remains in its immediacy and does not clothe its concrete patterns in logical forms, is it the kind of living thought characteristic of people who have not yet emerged from the unreflective life in their common tribal or national unity. Such thinking expresses the folk spirit, which manifests itself in folk creation in art and religion — in the living development of language, in myths and superstitions, in ways of life and traditions, in folk tales, folk songs, and so forth.
So we see that in an organic, traditional society, there is no conflict or class struggle between the elite and the folk. They share the same direct intuition into reality; the former is reflective and will express that intuition in philosophic and metaphysical terms; the latter expresses it spontaneously in popular art and religion. Solovyov writes:
In its two aspects, organic thinking belongs, on the one hand, to the true philosophers, and, on the other, to the masses of the people.
The issue, therefore, with the modern world is the emergence of a third group consisting of the majority of so-called educated or enlightened people. As a result of a greater formal development of intellectual activity, this “intelligentsia” of educators, lawyers, journalists, sociologists, and activists is detached from the worldview of the masses of the people yet has not attained an integral philosophical consciousness. Solovyov elaborates:
These so-called enlightened people are limited to the abstract mechanical thinking that breaks up, differentiates, and analyzes immediate reality, but are not in a position to give it a new, higher, unity, and union.
This capacity to analyze is necessary as a transition from the instinctive folk mind to the integral, but conscious, worldview, but it is absolutely sterile, even harmful, if one limits oneself to it. Thus limited, this capacity is the pride of half-educate people, among whom are the majority of the learned specialists who these days understand little outside their own specialty. This pride is felt in relation to the “unenlightened masses drowning in superstitions,” as well as in relation to true philosophers devoted to mystical fantasies. However, the significance of these groundless negators is as illusory as their knowledge is superficial.
In today’s world we see the results of this group. They are logical in the details, yet illogical in the totality. Therefore, they propose policies that seem reasonable to them in themselves, yet fail to see how the sum total of such policies are destructive of social cohesion. The common folk, however, do understand that destruction, since they have an intuitive grasp of the whole. This intuition is not the result of a faulty and lopsided education, but rather comes from the traditions of their religions, family, nation, and race.
This leads to a class conflict as the folk resist the intelligentsia. Since the latter dominate public discourse and are more articulate than the former, the folk are always characterized in the most derogatory terms. The intelligentsia recognize the sources of the reactionary desires of the folk, but not the truth embodies in those sources. Therefore, there is a constant attack on religion, family, nation, and race, and the attempt to replace them with the propaganda of modern education.