The ancient Greek philosopher Plato described the method of teaching utilized by Socrates, known today as the “Socratic method”. Socrates understood that education was not the process of stuffing knowledge into an individual, but rather, as the root of the word ‘education’ implies, a drawing out of the knowledge already held within. He propounded a series of questions intended to provoke the person to express that knowledge and formalize it thereby in their external being.
We observe in the animal kingdom the precise knowledge to which we apply the term ‘instinct’. This is clearly a detailed knowledge that is ‘involved’ within the being and which expresses itself when the conditions for it are ripe. We also see that the seed contains the knowledge that grows into the being encoded in that seed, and in some cases, this encoding is extremely detailed, such as the formation and activities of the human being and all the complex chemical, electrical-nervous, and organ-system operations that make up the human being.
All of these things exemplify the fact that knowledge is embedded, or in Sri Aurobindo’s terminology, ‘involved’ within the being and needs only the right conditions and timing to express itself, or ‘evolve’. What we are, what we are meant to become, what our destiny as a species, and as individual representatives of the species, are all things which are hidden within awaiting the right time to overtly manifest and make themselves known to our external being.
The great sages of the world counsel ‘know thyself’ as the means to learning. The sages of the Upanishads remind us that “Thou art That” and counsel the seeker to find the deepest knowledge within.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “Nothing can be taught to the mind which is not already concealed as potential knowledge in the unfolding soul of the creature. So also all perfection of which the outer man is capable, is only a realising of the eternal perfection of the Spirit within him. We know the Divine and become the Divine, because we are That already in our secret nature. All teaching is a revealing, all becoming is an unfolding. Self-attainment is the secret; self-knowledge and an increasing consciousness are the means and the process.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pp. 45-46