Let us begin with the question: what is school?
We will approach the question from two sides.
One answer is that a school is an organisation which facilitates the individual evolution of its student members.
Another answer is that school is a certain influence, originating in a higher world, which acts upon Mankind to assist the general evolutionary process and counterbalance the involutionary flow in the Ray of Creation.
Ultimately, we wish to understand `school' so as to reconcile these two answers, and explain what school is and how it operates on Earth. This will lead us to the question of school as cosmos.
We take `evolution' for an ordinary human being in the sense of awakening, becoming conscious. Schools on a higher level, schools for beings already conscious, probably also exist, as we shall see. But for the moment, let us think about a school of awakening.
Such a school cannot exist without the participation of at least one awakened being: the teacher, organiser or founder of the school. He may or may not be known to the students, but his influence must be there, for without conscious direction the whole idea of such a school comes to nought.
We are now faced with several further questions:
First, what is the objective of the conscious being or beings who create and teach in a school?
Second, how are the students drawn and selected from life?
And third, what form of organisation is needed for such a venture to succeed?
The first question we cannot really answer, except that the creation and existence of schools on Earth must in some way serve the general evolution, or higher school.
We do however have enough knowledge to answer the second question. `B' influences, that is, influences of conscious origin released into everyday life, lead people in varying degrees to a certain awareness that ordinary life is leading nowhere, or that something higher is possible for man; at the same time these influences can lead people to the threshold of a school and the possibility of entering it.
Therefore one of the functions of a school, at least at some stage of its existence, must be the release of appropriate `B' influences into life.
The third question is perhaps the most difficult. At this stage, we must content ourselves with a few principles. What kind of environment is conducive to awakening? Not a comfortable one, and not one that feeds the `inner god, self-calming'. Thus in many ways the inner life of a school must oppose the forces of mechanical life. At the same time the school must exist in the world, so it must assume an outer form which does not oppose those forces. If we take the Moon as the governing force of mechanical life on Earth, we can say that the school must be as far as possible invisible to the Moon, while at the same time helping a few people belonging to the school to overcome her. These people must create moon in themselves.
Let us now approach the question of school from another angle: the idea of School as an influence acting upon mankind. This influence must manifest in life as `B' influence.
Imagine a world without `B' influences: a world without culture, without science, without art, without education, without knowledge, without even folk wisdom. It is difficult to believe that civilisation could continue for long: men would quickly be reduced to animals, or eliminated altogether. Everything that keeps civilisation going, that keeps the human race going, depends upon `B' influences, even in the form of social structures, knowledge of essential crafts and trades, agriculture, and so on.
From another point of view, but not a contradictory one, the influence of School on human life is just to prepare people for school. At certain periods of history school becomes very influential, and visibly directs the course of civilisation; at other times the influence seems to be much less or at any rate less visible. Sometimes school appears more involved with human life, sometimes it is much more hidden, like a tree in winter which is nevertheless still alive.
Evidently mankind exists on Earth for some cosmic purpose: he occupies a certain link in the `diagram of everything living', plays a certain rôle in the general process of reciprocal feeding and maintenance.
In this process, school must play the rôle of a transmitter station. It is rewarding to think about school in relation to Ouspensky's ideas about eternal recurrence. Recurrence applies to everything in one's life that happens, but school, `C' influence, is in a certain sense above recurrence. The principle is that `C' influence is never wasted, it is only given us in the measure to which we make use of it. If we do not make use of school once we have found it, it will not be repeated; or it will be much harder to find next time.
In this connection it is interesting to observe that school can often appear to make our lives worse. We each come to school with our own karmic burdens, and in a school we have to address these; school acts as a kind of magnifying glass on our lives; revealing our inner enemies, and it thus gives us an opportunity to conquer them, and ultimately of escaping from recurrence altogether. We can surmise that school produces a few developed beings, fruits of the school, belonging to a higher dimension, a higher world, a higher level of the Ray of Creation.
When we think about school as a transforming station in this way, the analogy with a cosmos begins to be revealed, for a cosmos is a transmitter station, taking in certain substances as food, transforming them and producing others which go to feed other entities on different levels of Creation.
What `foods' does a school require? One is the student body itself, which the school draws from life as a plant draws water from the soil, exerting a very subtle osmotic pressure which we may liken to the `B' influence put out by a school.
Another `food' for a school of the Fourth Way is the very medium in which the school exists, the world of `A' influence, which not only determines the form of the school but provides the material with which all students have to work on themselves. There is an almost limitless supply of this food, like the air in which a plant lives and breathes.
Finally, school needs a source of `C' influence, or some higher conscious source which informs it. This will be like the sunlight which the plant requires.
School is a living organism, just like a plant, and like a plant it exists in order to bear fruit. The details of the inner organisation of a school would need a much longer study. On this subject, Rodney Collin has some ideas which he sets forth in The Theory of Celestial Influence, including the idea of a circulation among the seven planetary types in a school.
As a final meditation on this theme, consider the following words of Jesus to his disciples:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
These things I command you, that ye love one another.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, he shall testify of me:
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.