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Under Construction I am not very organized or methodical in my reading. Web pages seem like a good way to keep track of the various threads I'm pursuing so I can find my way back to the main one--I'm trying to understand the context in which Montessori worked, so I can better understand what she wrote and where she got her ideas. To keep track of my reading, I write down quotes I find interesting and add thoughts in brackets as they occur to me. My goal is to one day have more notes than quotes on these pages, and maybe even develop something coherent and interesting. Until then, the "under construction" icon will remain as a warning for those who might mistakenly think there's something readable on these pages.

Science and Religion

"...A confrontation with religious phenomena has repeatedly been an experience of decisive importance in the unfolding of twentieth century thought."

(Hughes, 1977, p. 284)

[Check out for a history of evolution]

[Antonio Rosmini Serbati (1797-1855)]

[Antonio Stoppani (1824-1891)]

[Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)]

"In the second half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century, Italian pedagogics followed in general lines of Catholic spiritualism and contributed effectively to the preparation for the unity, liberty and independence of Italy... The most eminent pedagogue in this historic period was Antonio Rosmini (1797-1855), who, both in his life and in his writings, succeeded in merging philosophy, religion and patriotism in a single affection. He dealt with pedagogics not only in his philosophical works to which he chiefly owes his fame, but also in the Educazione cristiana (Christian Education), and in the Principio supremo della Metodica (Supreme Principle of the Science of Method, 1857). Education must have unity of aim, of doctrines and of powers, and it must embrace the whole of life. In the various periods of human life five orders of intelligence may be distinguished, corresponding to the various degrees of abstraction and the various phases of volition. Didactics must conform to this gradual development. The Christian religion is the supreme unifying principle of all healthy education..."

(Watson, 1921, p. 898)

[Stoppani was a follower of Antonio Rosmini Serbati (1797-1855). See p.347-8. Journal of Social Science, Containing the Proceedings of the American Association, 1896. Accessed April 8, 2016. A Trio of Sub-Alpine Scholars. If that link is broken, you can view this pdf. The article starts on page 144 of the pdf document.

References to the Trio article and the following two books were sent to me by Rudy Andras. Rosmini's book The Ruling Principle of Method as Applied to Education has children under five as its subject. Rudy mentioned that Rosmini incorporated much of the early childhood observation done by Madame Necker de Saussure.

Following up on the Rosmini-Montessori connection, Rudy sent me this essay by Luigi Sturzo, who was a proponent of Rosmini's philosophy. The essay is part of a collection called Universality and culture in the thought of Luigi Sturzo.

In his article, Deepening Cosmic Education, George Leonard, "Stoppani's book Acqua ed aria was the major influence on [Montessori's] expansive and deep understanding of the idea of the cosmic task."

[also see Galleni, 1995]

[Modernism, encyclical of 1907]

Catholic geologists and the concordismo

Probably one of the best-known nineteenth-century Italian popularizers of geology was Catholic priest, Antonio Stoppani (1824-1891), another self-taught naturalist who had assembled a remarkable geological-paleontological collection as a result of his extensive fieldwork undertaken mostly in Lombardy to study the Triassic formation (Fig. 2). His scientific career was remarkable, as he was appointed Professor of Geology at the University of Pavia in the academic year 1861-1862 and later at the newly established Polytechnic in Milan (Daccò, 1991). Stoppani published Il Bel Paese (The Beautiful Country) (Stoppani 1875) a book of popular geology for young readers and teachers, which achieved an enormous readership in Italy for several decades well into the twentieth century. It consisted of a series of evening conversations in which an uncle, returned from his holiday, described the natural beauties of Italy to his little nephew. It proved to be so popular with the general reader that in the mid-1920s Il Bel Paese had already gone well beyond 120 paperback editions and was used in many schools as a textbook. Although Stoppani was well aware of the advances in geological science in Europe (e.g. in 1877 he translated Archibald Geikie's Physical Geography), he was also declared a supporter of the so-called concordismo; that is the full concordance between an allegorical interpretation of the Bible and the results of geological research (although he did not put this into Il Bel Paese). Only in his later years did Stoppani become a reference for some Italian Catholic geologists and anti-evolutionists: in particular, after the publication of some long treatises on the role of the clergy in resolving the conflict between science and religion (Stoppani, 1884), on the 'Mosaic Cosmogony' (Stoppani, 1887) and on a history of creation according to reason and faith (Stoppani, 1893), where he vigorously attacked the supporters of the 'man-monkey' (Pinna, 1991).

Stoppani was a priest, active scientist, teacher and popular writer, but he was not the only figure in geological sciences who tried to reconcile geology and Genesis. The case of Guglielmo Jervis is also significant... In 1902 he published a booklet on the 'glorious revelation concerning the Creation of the world' with scientific demonstrations in favour of the Bible, in which he reinforced the question of the 'geologically interpreted' chronology of the six days of the creation: 'don't worry, believers in the truth of the Holy Scriptures. The world was actually created in six successive stages, which were represented in the human language as days. Six days, not in man's terms, but in God's terms; and it is certain that these six 'days' were some millions of years long, and even more than millions of the age of human beings' (Jervis, 1902, p. 24).

The Catholic Church in Italy was not silent or inactive during these crucial decades in the nineteenth and twentieth century (Redondi, 1980, pp. 782-811). On the contrary, scientific arguments, more than a historical method of biblical interpretation, were freely used to combat the possible impiety of the philosophical consequences of modern science. Consequently, whereas the Catholic authorities firmly opposed the idea of human evolution with not only ideological but also scientific criticism (as in the case of Bianconi's work), in the field of geology they adopted a double strategy. Beside supporting fervent Catholic geologists (such as Jervis), although some conservative authors criticized Stoppani's concordismo as being too liberal, the Roman Catholic Church produced its own official scientific denfense of the biblical Flood... Catholic authors (parish priests and clerics) published popular books or booklets on the subject of the 'Mosaic cosmogony' in relation to geology and the Darwinian theory (e.g. Cetta 1886; Baroldi 1901, 1902). This work, although it was probably encouraged by senior figures in the Italian Catholic Church, was not carried out systematically, but a detailed study of such 'submerged' and 'minor' sources would be valuable in helping to understand their influence on the general public.

The references to 'creation', 'religion', 'Genesis' and 'the Flood' (in either a negative or positive sense) usually did not appear in the specialized writings of professional geologists, but were much more evident in the popular literature. However, at the end of the nineteenth century the fashionable and popular sciences in Italy were astronomy and physics rather than geology and palaeontology. Popular science was not a genre that became highly developed and diffused in Italy, as was the case in France or Britain; for this reason the most famous foreign authors, such as Louis Figuier (1819-1894) and Camille Flammarion (1842-1924), although considered as being nearly atheist by some Italian Catholic geologists as well as Zimmermann and others, were well known and read. Significantly, however, in the titles of most of the relevant books translated into Italian between the 1850s and the 1920s, the emphasis on the words 'creation', and 'the Flood' remained.

(Vaccari, 2009, 272-273)

In 1908, a... significant event occurred: the parliament’s rejection of the "Bissolati’s motion" for the suppression of the teaching of Catholic religion in the Italian schools. Italian Masonry divided itself on this point; in fact, the Masonic members of parliament who had voted against Bissolati’s motion founded a new national Masonic organization that was an alternative to the Grand Orient of Italy, which was considered too politicized (Conti, 2003). This event led to a breach within both the liberal left and the feminist movement, where different positions concerning secular education emerged (cf. Consiglio Nazionale delle Donne Italiane, 1912).

In short, in 1907 and 1908, Montessori was actively involved in significant political and institutional events: creating proclamations, signing political posters, publishing militant articles arguing for women’s voting rights and for new methods in the administration of social problems. After the women’s conference of 1908 and the disillusionment accompanying the rejection of the suffragist petition in 1907 and of the Bissolati motion, she returned, as we will see, to a cautious policy of mediation between secular and Catholic cultures (Babini & Lama, 2000, p. 196)

In general, this period in Italy was thus characterized by the rejection of policies promoting a modernization and secularization of the state. It was also characterized by a renewed interest of the Catholic forces in politics, returning as Catholics did to the polls after an absence of more than thirty years, which had begun with the loss of papal temporal power and imposition of an explicit papal prohibition [the so-called Non Expedit (1874)] following Italian unification (on Montessori’s university career and biography, see also Babini & Lama, 2000; Catarsi, 1995; Direzione Generale Istruzione Superiore, n.d.; Kramer, 1976/1988; Maccheroni, 1947; Matellicani, 2000–2001; Università “La Sapienza” di Roma, n.d.; Standing, 1957/1984; Trabalzini, 2003; on Montessori’s bibliography, see Tornar, 2001).

(Foschi, 2008)


Archival research shows that the end of Montessori’s collaboration with the IRBS marked the beginning of a new stage in her life and career, one that has received little attention from scholars. This stage was characterized by collaboration with Catholic circles, in particular with the Generalate of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM). It was at the main convent of this monastic order, located in Rome at 12 Giusti Street, that an important Children’s House was founded in 1910 and that the first international courses on the Method were held in 1913 (Anonymous, 1915; cf. Honegger Fresco, 1996).

Founded by Hélène de Chappotin (1839–1904), in religion Mary of the Passion, the FMM advocated the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and was involved in several humanitarian causes; it is still today a congregation that pays great attention to the interconfessional and multicultural dialogue (Launay, 2003). Maria Montessori established a special relationship with this congregation and with the Superior of the Institute, Jeanne de Geslin de Bourgogne (1860–1917), Mary of the Redemption, a pupil of Hélène de Chappotin. The sources show that by 1910 Maria Montessori had already begun to reestablish her Catholic faith and had started, with her closer collaborators, a training course in Catholic doctrine at the FMM novices’house in Grottaferrata—Mary Elisabeth of the Annunciation, alias Elisabeth de Grünne de Hemricourt (1876–1938) had been their catechist (cf. Godinot, 1985, p. 70).

(Foschi, 2008)

While in the initial phases of Unification and state formation the Church concentrated all its energies on the struggle against those changes it deemed dangerous... and while the Church found itself clearly displaced by the new power elite and no longer a principal ally of the ruling class after 1870, the Church soon formed an alliance, as Lucetta Scaraffia has argued, with the two 'losers' of the newly established society: peasants and women (Scaraffia 1999, 249).

...As Antonio Labriola put it in 1903, "While the liberals were worried about the legitimacy of the new lay state, the priests, having changed course and adopted a new tactic, set themselves to clericalizing society." Furthermore, "Rather than crystallizing in a true and proper political party, clericalism has come to take on the characteristics of a widespread infection" (Labriola 1970, 506, 505). It did so by relying above all on women, in particular mothers. It was because of their roles as mothers that the Church came to realize the strategic importance of women's role in defending the Church and its rights against male secularization. Montessori's work may be understood as a deconstruction of the opposition between state and Church whereby she proposed a resacrilization of life but in the form of a displacement of older Catholic meanings. While herself never becoming an operative of the Church nor espousing Catholic doctrine, she delved deeply into a kind of cultural unconscious and made it serviceable for modernity and for the secular state. In effect, Montessori took what Annarity Buttafuoco has called the essentially Catholic feminist "philanthropy as politics" and offered it to the secular state (Buttafuoco 1988).

(Stewart-Steinberg, p. 292)


Look at Bergson, Jung. What about Nunn? Lead into Madame Blavatsky, Theosophy, Steiner.

Montessori and Theosophy

["...On May 23, 1899, Maria Montessori joined a para-Masonic society that accepted
women as members: the Theosophical Society, inspired by Madame Blavatsky (1831–1891)
and directed in this period by Annie Besant (1847–1933). The Theosophical Society was an esoteric organization based on a rationalist religiousness with a strong impulse toward social action and infant education, a secret organization in which women played a managing role.  Until late in her life, Montessori remained associated with the international theosophical movement (Wilson, 1985). It was as a theosophist that Montessori established a certain friendship with Francesco Randone (1864–1935), a sculptor and founder of a school for educational art whose theories and methods were widely represented in the first edition of the Method (deFeo, 2001, 2005; Wilson, 1985; cf. Montessori, 1909/2000, pp. 328–330)." (Foschi, p. 241). ]

"...the publication of a papal encyclical, Pascendi Dominici gregis(1907), which had given rise to a real “hunt” for those Catholics who collaborated, in an anti-dogmatic way, with the secular and the Protestant people, brought about a period of increasing persecution of those Italian intellectuals looking for a compromise between progressivism and Christian theology within a theoretical frame called Modernism (Bedeschi, 2000). These were the contexts and the relations surrounding Montessori between 1908 and 1913, when liberal Catholic circles at first welcomed her Method, only later to become hostile to it, when the creeping antimodernism allied itself with the most conservative and obscurantist elements of Italian society.

Montessori moved carefully within this difficult social scene. Between 1910 and 1913, she preserved a cautious secular, positivist, and feminist public image—because she did not want to fall, like Ferrer, victim to it. In fact, until the 1920s, Maria Montessori made no public reference to her official approach to the Catholic Church; but we know that after the break with the IRBS she did in fact approach the Church. In 1918 she even received a blessing from Pope Benedict XV and then, between 1922 and 1932, she wrote three volumes explicitly deal- ing with the Christian education of the child (Montessori, 1922; cf. Montessori 1931, 1932; see also Trabalzini, 2003, pp. 87–88)."

"Montessori undoubtedly attempted to pursue a middle ground between positivism and religion that seemed to favor a modernization of the educational sphere. But each of these 'compromises' proved to be a failure and, at the end of her life, the only surviving and valid relationship was that between Montessori and theosophy (see Lama, 2002), a relationship that probably represented the most radical attempt of synthesizing positivism, female emancipation, modernization, and religious feeling (Wilson, 1985)."

(Foschi, 2008)

[Montessori first encountered Besant some time "after the establishment of the first Casa dei Bambini in 1907" but before Montessori was famous (Kramer, 1988, p. 341). At this time, Montessori attended a meeting in London at which Besant spoke of her work in "glowing terms" (Kramer, 1988, p. 341).

As an aside, Rudolph Steiner (the first president of Germany's Theosophical Society) left the Theosophical Society to establish Anthroposophy and the Waldorf School in 1910. The first Waldorf school was established in 1919, twelve years after the first Casa dei Bambini. Also in 1919, “Montessori lectures at a training course in England; her lectures now include methods and materials for 6-11 year olds.

"Although she did not introduce herself to Dr. Besant on that occasion, she did meet her later and formed a friendly relationship that was renewed whenever Dr. Besant came to Rome in the years before World War I and Montessori's move to Barcelona." (Ibid, pp. 341-342).

It was Besant's successor as president of the Theosophical Society, George Arundale, who persuaded Montessori to come to India in 1939.]

  Pedagogical Anthropology Montessori Method
God 2 3
Jesus 0 1
Christ 2 1
Scripture 1 0
bible 4 0
Catholic 0 1
church 0 1
St. 3 5
Moses 0 1
Total 12 13

"Montessori realized that humankind is not fulfilling its function and potential. Instead , it is wasting its special energy in greed, competition, hostility and war. She deplored the possibility of humankinds' decline and extinction through entropy, the unwinding of energy, as suggested by the French philosopher Eric Bergson. Instead, she wholeheartedly embraced the theory of another French philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, that the antidote to entropy is agape, the universal unconditional love. " (from

see also Talbot School of Theology: Christian Educators-Montessori