Illustrations on the Four Planes of Development

Reading Seminar, 27 September 2016
Washington Montessori Institute
The Four Planes of Education (AMI pamphlet)
“Montessori’s phases of development”, illustrated by Camillo Grazzini

“Education then becomes a matter of helping these energies; for the soul is not a stone for sculpting according to the artist’s talent, but is free energy whose expression and unfolding obeys its own inner laws.” (The Four Planes of Education, p.31)

Background: the ‘Four Planes’ are the four distinct stages of man’s development. Like Piaget’s and Erikson’s, this is Montessori’s stage theory of development, where each plane has its distinctive characteristics and needs to be met.

15-minute reflection on group discussion:

The mathematical mind is strongly captivated by the charts discussed in today’s seminar. I presented my own interpretations of them, and with supplemental words from my group-mates, I shall summarise below:

Four Planes bulb diagram

“The Bulb”:

  • Bulb diagram is a differential (d/dx), i.e. change. The triangle diagram beneath is cumulative, i.e. sum.
  • Bulb diagram shows organic nature of change, hence ‘artsy’ illustration. The triangle diagram is uniform because of the ‘empty vessel’ concept of traditional, factory-modelled schooling, where input is uniform.

Four Planes constructive rhythm diagram

“Constructive Rhythm of Life”:

  • Again, the triangle diagram is about schooling, or a version of man that is perceived by society. Society sees sum. Accumulation is evident to man. Potential, on the other hand, is unseen to most. It happens ‘in darkness’ like a photograph development. ‘Empty vessel’ is evident again, because size of triangle is proportional to number of upward arrows.
  • Inverted triangle diagram on top is deliberately made up of uniform triangles to stress equal importance of each stage. Red and blue symbolises different types of energy (creative vs. calm), but they are of equal importance. Height of triangle = evidence of characteristics/sensitivity of that stage. Area of triangle is work done in establishing it.

We spent time discussing “The Bulb” diagram, how the organic bulb illustrates human potential, while the bottom diagram illustrates human thought. The accumulation of thought = civilization. Man as a society would of course put emphasis on civilization, and not the unseen, intangible potential. The latter takes spirituality.

In Physics, ‘potential’ and ‘work’ are related concepts. Potential is voltage, work is energy dissipated. One needs to do work to realise potential. The result of this work will present itself as a cumulative diagram much like the one below, except that the rate of change (i.e. slope) could not be uniform (a straight line). The only reason for uniformity is if man is viewed as empty vessels, which man shall only have what he receives in schooling. Since traditional schooling is uniform input, the triangles have straight hypotenuse. Otherwise, if according to the nature of man, it should look something like this:

Four Planes - Ann's graph

Last, we discussed what ‘finality’ means and why it is placed in both graphs. Normally, final can mean fixed, complete, done – this is my ‘final work’, for example. Here, finality can mean ‘my work is done’ too – the work of human development is complete, full human development has been expended, his spontaneous creative energy on character development fully dissipated.

I hate to feel that my ‘creative’ days are over (2 years beyond finality now), but perhaps I can be happy with the character I have created, and work on the accumulation of thought instead.


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