The Frenzy of the West – and how to curb it*
Manifesto for a cultural recovery
*Amstelveen, June 4, 2008. Translated by Mark Lester
1. The frenzy
And how to curb it
2. Statements in world literature in which the humanities, the world and the past are rejected in favor of salvation and enlightenment
Clement of Alexandria
Johann Amos Comenius
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Carl R. Rogers
1. The Frenzy
A frenzy rages in the West. Those who know the West also know the frenzy; those who are born there know no better. The frenzy is the passion for the new that frees itself from the old. Renewal is to the West like a language is to a land, a trademark to a product. Those in the West who rid themselves of the old (“away with that old junk, we want the new”), do so with the flair of a liberator. ‘New’ stands for youth, promise, spring, future. ‘Old’ stands for shabby, worn out, outstripped. ‘Old-fashioned’ often has a negative connotation. ‘New’ is publicity for everything that is better than before; ‘old’ or ‘ancient’, not at all. ‘Old trash’, ‘old wretch’, ‘old hag’ (doubly discriminating) are terms of abuse. ‘Young trash’, ‘young hag’, or ‘young wretch’ do not work in the same way; they are contradictions. In the West, instead of maturity, depth, or substance, the past represents tediousness and limitation. To rid oneself of the old is to act with passion. With its drive towards improvement in every domain, in its products, its peak performances, its knowledge, and in its attitude towards other cultures, the West reveals its true nature. However, the West is also the home and and breeding place of the notion that progress gives meaning to existence only after existence gives up something in return. Western man invented the passion for the new and reconciled himself to the kind of pain that goes with it, of melancholia and loneliness. The regret for things lost.
This frenzy is an all-consuming fire. It radiates a scorching heat. It reduces family ties and common memories to ash. The success of this idea of progress can be measured by the heat of its fire. The frenzy frees things of their past, delivers them from decline and erosion, purifies them of tradition. The West celebrates the fire of deracination, not feeling it as a loss, or as a senseless pain, but as the legitimate price for its triumph over the present. As when you buy a new mixer or computer you have longed for. The old receives the status of ‘garbage’ or junk. The new degrades, devalues the old. After the final examination, the school books are burned. The old submits to the new. The farm landscape submits to steel wind turbines for energy production. The old house is subjected to yet another complete dismantling of its interior by the latest owner. Western history offers numerous examples. From the New Testament that heralded the degradation of Judaism, to the New World where the indigenous population needed to be wiped out and the Old World was rejected. (Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass: “All the past we leave behind/ We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world/ Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labour and the march,/ Pioneers! O pioneers!”) Or the ‘new learning’ when the old learning served its purpose. Whenever the excitement over a new and grand project arises, the past, be it nature or culture, is always the dupe. The new takes the old hostage and puts it in chains. The act of igniting in enthusiasm for a new idea, in so many different forms and variations, is the flywheel of progress. The West cherishes this sensation as its ultimate legacy.
Commerce, ‘money’, and technology are usually considered to be the flywheel of progress. Still, they are, up to a point, merely mediators and facilitators. Their intentions hardly extend (and they should be more often held responsible for this) beyond serving with maximum advantage the customer, usefulness, and the cause of supply and demand. No matter where, no matter how. The mechanization and factorization of the world are not the features by which the West in principle distinguishes itself. But rather by the onslaught of materialism on the collective memory, causing so much alienation, isolation, and bareness. It is important here to keep what is typically western in focus, not to confuse the effects with the causes. Numerous universal qualities, such as avarice, megalomania and hunger for power, arrogance, exploitation and violence, including warmongering, do not belong in this essay. It is the ‘rücksichtslose’ zeal, devoid of historic perspective, by which things can get so out of hand, that typifies the West. That ruthless enthusiasm. As when preparing for a crusade.
A more apt characteristic of the frenzy than commerce and technique is revolution. Revolutions take place in every domain: governmental, industrial, technological, artistic, philosophical. In a sudden outburst of rapidly expanding inspiration, the new forces a transformation out of the old. Nothing remains of the latter other than a scorched mental and physical landscape. The word revolution owes its meaning to a victory over that which deserves to be destroyed. Then the new, like the phoenix rising out of its ashes, is liberated and allowed to blossom. Or, to use another image, the West cherishes its desire to climb onto the giant’s shoulders in order to crush him, after perceiving the light of a truth awaiting its liberation from the fetters of tradition. Western man alone recognizes that light.
While mining raw materials, producing waste, and emitting toxic gasses that devastate the environment, industry still cannot dispense with a contagious pride over its accomplishments. And it has definitely fared well by them. Health, well-being, and recreation profit from it. The introduction of the terrain vehicle is presented as the triumph over the older automobile. Cell phone conversations drown out with gusto the sound of non-digital communication in trains, busses, or in stations. The light of progress cannot shine without doing damage. Generations of students in the United States looked up to Thomas Alva Edison as an industrial and technological role model. During a trip Edison made with his secretary to a beautiful valley, he uttered, without the slightest touch of irony, the following remark, so characteristic of the man: “I am going to make this valley even more beautiful. I am going to fill it with factories.” Thomas Alva Edison’s statement was not the result of any analysis of assets and costs, but of something totally different. He was transforming the valley into a superior mode of being. And nature was expected to surrender its glory to this higher cause.
Revolution, such as the industrial one, brought freedom and progress. Free choice was exalted to an end in itself and to a basic human right. The choice, however, between the new and the old never became free. How free is someone who is only allowed to look forward? How free is anyone who has to accept that the old, nature, and tradition are all relegated to an inferior position? The ideal of freedom promises to supplant the old with the new. But how free is someone with a refugee status, living in Holland in a flat, bereft of his own language, family, and traditions? What does ‘freedom’ mean in this case? How free is the western man who only talks at parties about plans for the future, while he does not even notice his family members anymore? (Celebrating Christmas without the ‘stress’ of family is often seen as an improvement. You’d rather lose ‘them’ than put up with them.) You’d rather talk about the latest news than about heroes or legends. You only start to appreciate an encounter when you can talk about your profession and the successes you’ve booked. The down side of freedom, the devaluation of all that is old and traditional, is lost in the festive intoxication of visions of the future. The man who has bought an expensive car does not want to be constantly reminded of the price he paid. But it is this down side, along with the accompanying pain of collective remorse (“This prosperity is wonderful, but something’s bothering us and it’s getting worse”), which demands our attention here. As well as a plan of action for restraining what I call the frenzy.
Keeping to the mechanical imagery of the flywheel, the lubricant of the passion for novelty is individualism. ‘Being oneself’, or rather, becoming oneself, after renouncing imitation and tradition. The sense of self-sufficiency fills the hearts and minds. The enthusiasm for the new that is purified of the old, as in the ‘revolution’ of the mixer, applies likewise to the self. The self is a notion that arose out of Neo-Platonism and early Christianity. Thanks to its liberation from the collective heathen memory by the Christ ideal in the Middle Ages (see later), the notion of the individual self as a hidden treasure of inner purity was able to be unearthed during the Renaissance in order to give birth to a Christian-humanistic individualism. It also enabled philosophers, at the dawn of the Enlightenment, to confer meaning on the amnesia of the secular cult of the self, of which we are still a witness to this day. How the Enlightenment laid down the groundwork for the Christian revolutionary ideal, and how this ideal continues to inform modern thought – these issues are dealt with in the books of the philosopher John Gray. (See also later. For American history, see Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform by William G. McLoughlin. )
With its individualistic ideal of progress, its technology, democracy, and human rights, the West is the universal role model. The present time is witness to the wonder of an endless series of triumphs that are exciting as well as exacting. Even a distant and critical country like China follows the West with great interest. Serious human dramas in the daily news mainly take place in non-western countries. Progress appears to be a success that, taking into account the necessary adjustments to the environment, the still existing poverty, and to terrorism, can look forward to a glorious future. Marvelous, if it all succeeds. Still, those are not the most important problems that accompany progress. Lack of self-knowledge is the real problem.
The price of progress is too high. Culture, or rather the realization of its historical significance, with its ability to alleviate intercultural tensions, has met its end. We can view the price for this every day in the news. The West knows no equal when it comes to lack of insight concerning the clash of cultures. Substantial comprehension is lacking as to what a tribe is, a family, or a tradition. The most pertinacious notion is the fable that tradition hinders modernity. Given the availability of so many books, encyclopedias, and archives, never before so easy to find thanks to the Internet, the obtuseness regarding these issues is quite disconcerting. With the same superficiality with which the media spotlights the latest ‘tribal warfare’ in Africa, the above obtuseness is explained away by blaming the ‘Sixties’. The dismantling of traditional authority and knowledge is maintained to have taken place in that era of demonstrations, hippies, and pop music. Anyone who asserts this (and there are quite a few who do, so ‘excusez’ to you all) is like a person suffering from dementia who contends that he lost his memory only yesterday.
What transpired in the Sixties was, compared to the above mentioned revolutions, Spielerei. What collapsed – the replaceable ‘tradition’, the security of the old values– was a house of cards that was ready to collapse. The rise of ‘traditions’ in the nineteenth century, through calculated and romanticized projects designed to unite national sensibilities, and the trends in education that accompanied these, created, together with the ecclesiastic and civil traditions, the precarious basis for those so-called old values. Alongside the brutality of the industrial revolution, the fruits of this ‘second golden age’ remained too unripe to forge a collective memory. (Fascism profited from this. It could indulge in its pathological lust for destruction thanks to the great chasm of ignorance regarding these matters. Fascism became hereby the most shameful excess of the frenzy.) Revolutions that were bent on destroying a collective memory – such as the European conversion to Christianity, the Reformation, the French Revolution, the industrial and communist revolutions – left behind great scars and up to this day reveal open wounds. The traces that remain of the ‘velvet’ revolutions of the nineteenth century and the Sixties for creating/distorting tradition – such as commemoration rituals in front of statues, weekly sports events in stadiums, and warm memories of having occupied a dean’s office and then ending with cries of “uche, uche” around the statue of the ‘Lieverdje’ in Amsterdam – these are not the traces of renewal to which I am referring. The Sixties offered a platform for youth who were shouting loudly that the emperor wore no clothes; it was little more than this. The resulting educational policies reveal an all too easy capitulation to an all too welcome enemy. (See also, for the deeper cultural causes of the demise of educational traditions, the book Cultural Capital by the literary scholar John Guillory.)
The standard analyses of how the old has, aided by large revolutions, been continuously opposed (I am talking about centuries, not decades) soon evoke suspicion. Knowledge of history (this time not as a science, with the unavoidable narrowness of vision any scientific analysis entails, but as a game of elements out of popular memories) is so limited, in relation to what the West has produced in the realm of industrial activity, that even an awareness is absent of the corresponding loss this incurs. The absence of a proper feeling of pride and admiration for these matters is no less evident. Here, the knowledge of origins is an imperative. Of all the artifacts, institutes, or inventions – and where there are many of these, so is the knowledge gap greater – that exist around us, how much do we know of their origins, the heroes and the families who figure in them? We do not miss this knowledge, but we nevertheless do take offense when blamed for our lack. Still, the lack is there. Historical museums, memorials, the canon of history – all these contribute little to resolving the lack. The preservation of old-timers, antiques, and museums, the growing interest in antiquity and in the hand-me-down (in fashion and furniture) resonate in perhaps a spontaneous, but misleading way with the slackened string with which the collective memory once played its rhapsody (in “a foreign country,” according to L.P. Hartley and David Lowenthal). In a non-western country, no child, or anyone else, can avoid that song.
Its origins, …
The origin of the progress dogma can be found in Christianity. Awareness of this was already present in the nineteenth century. But what of the frenzy? The enthusiasm for the new with its corresponding penchant for holding the old in disdain – is that also originally Christian? If so, how, and to what extent? What does the redemption dogma, that actually wants the good, have to do with frenzy, denial of the past, and annihilation of traditions? How is Jesus to be equated with the destructive in man? Was it ‘the role of Satan’, the one to be converted, who, because of his resistance, generated the inevitable collateral damage? Philosophers and historians leave us here in the lurch. When seeking the origins of the frenzy, cultural criticism goes mute. Important sources of information remain concealed. Such as the establishment of the Christian redemption dogma in the early Middle Ages. The greatest drama of the West, the Christianisation of the indigenous peoples, is still wrapped in darkness. There is enough self-criticism, but due to the lack of historical insight, the West falls short on self-knowledge.
To asses the origins of the frenzy for renewal, a closer look needs to be taken at God’s jealousy. In monotheism, hate and love, redemption and condemnation, are constant companions. The man who honors the creation and not the Creator, who opts for worldly temptation with its gods and idols instead of for the God of Israel, deserves, as far as He is concerned, merciless punishment. God couples His jealousy with a boundless energy for judgment and retribution (see the quotations that end with abr/ido). Because of this severity, young Abram, who already believed in the One and Nameless, destroyed his ancestral images. Upon seeing the golden calf that had incited the divine jealousy, the old Moses, with the first commandment in mind, fell into a rage and threw down the tablets, smashing them to pieces. Psalm singer David sang, in chorus with the prophets, of the justice of God and, in the same breath, of the most gruesome desecration of the godless. All this was done under the banner of the ‘new’: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Is. 65:17). “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”” (Rev. 21:5). The New Testament describes how Jesus commanded his disciples to forsake the world, family, and life for God (Matth. 10:39, 16:25, 19:29). “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Paul gave the same instructions. He proclaimed that the one thing that mattered to him was to pursue the Goal. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14). To the Hebrews he writes: “By calling this covenant “new”, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13). He enjoined Timotheus “that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith” (1 Tim. 1:3-4).
Where denial of the old turns into contempt, we find frenzy in full throttle. Augustine, in turn, touches upon the theme, but this time linked to the Greco-Roman ancestor cult. This greatest of all the church fathers brands this cult as ripe for the book of oblivion, at any rate after ‘the treasures of the Egyptians’, which may be of some use to the faith, are extracted (Exodus 3:22; De doctrina christiana II, xl, 60 – xlii, 63.). As auctor intellectualis of the West (“We have Augustine in our bloodstream in the western tradition, we’re all augustinians in the West”, according to the American researcher Philip Cary during a lucid lecture series over Augustine), the Bishop of Hippo denied the culture that had produced education, erudition, and eloquence, in order to write his slanderous texts. In Confessiones I he allows Homer and Virgil, the storytellers/mentors of Hellas and Rome, to be removed from their throne in favour of the God of Israel.
Roman emperors put the idea of a jealous God into stone-hearted practice. The taboo nature of what follows renders this essay, I must admit, into a diatribe. So be it. How great the degree of religious/political violence that was measured out during those centuries! It is a page of history we to this day prefer to ignore. In the name of God, emperors forbade rituals, destroyed holy sanctuaries, and passed death sentences. The anti-heathen, anti-Jew, and anti-heretic laws, assured of their effectiveness for centuries by the Codex Justinianus, were unrelenting. The Merovingers used this to convince the Franks and Celts of the new ideals; Charlemagne converted the Germanics with even more fire and force of persuasion. The convert received the sacrament of baptism (“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”, Rom.6:4) in the form of a pledge. The first part, the abrenuntio or abjuration, grafted the jealous god image unto the soul. Ancestors and gods were christened with the names of saints, their memory wiped out. When the church fathers realised that the gods had originally been ‘merely’ humans and the basis of tribal memory, they had even more reason for pursuing them. A collective memory of the ancestral families was replaced by that of ‘church families’. In speech and writing, Latin became the official language in churches and schools. The psalter became the primer for every student. Greek disappeared, as did Greek books. As did the runic shrift. Historiography was adjusted to the requirements of the time, transformed into what we today would call propaganda. Aristocratic songs of heroism and chronicles of royal houses were converted into the vitae and legends of saints and bishops.
The jealousy of God expanded to include peoples who knew neither desert nor nomadic tents, lions nor terebints, who never fled from a pharaoh, who recognised no ancestor in Adam, Moses, or Abednecho, who were ignorant of original sin, and for whom no golden calf figured in their legends. Once transported from its origins, God’s jealousy ran amok like a baby cuckoo in a nest. Everything that displeased it was thrown out. It even overwhelmed its own caretakers. Anyone who, in the Middle Ages, disseminated old tales, customs, and lifestyles was banished from society. The Word of God was the only voice, and any other the voice of Satan. “ Let us therefore morn as long as the heathens are happy, so that we can be happy when they begin to morn” (Tertullian).
The Latin name for the Celtic temples that were to be destroyed, fana, is evident in the word ‘fanaticism’. The significance of this term coalesced with the world view and ideals of the West. For the first time, though far from Canaan, a religious entity saw the light of day, which light it now no longer can tolerate. The circumstances surrounding this are dark. There are no films or books about monks who convert sacred shrines, break sacred images, or erase classical texts. The cult of the saint became the pass-partout of the Christianisation program. His/her martyrdom became the archetypal role model. The heretic and the witch were purified by the same fire that had previously beatified the saint. God’s jealousy has extended to the very heart of western culture. The abolishment of ancestor worship is not a by-product of progress, but intimately bound with it. No other culture has proclaimed this as its main principle. The West alone turned forgetfulness into a motivating force for the new. I would be so bold as to maintain that ancestral murder, parenticide, was the intended result of the fury that raged through the Occident.
In this context, the storyteller, the keeper of the collective memory, is rendered checkmate. The battle against the heathen storytelling tradition was waged both in its oral as in its written form. My intention is to highlight the Christian attack on paganism in terms of the tradition of the minstrel and the storyteller. The storyteller is to a community, to use computer terminology, as the hard disk is to the computer, as essential as it is vulnerable. Anyone who fails to backup and update his files is the dupe in the event of a crash. The West is the dupe of such a crash. The storytelling tradition was so damaged during the Middle Ages that the hope placed on those monks who wrote them down in shrunken form had to be fruitless. It did indeed prove idle, for too much was destroyed. Erasmus lamented over this in a heartbreaking manner in his Liber antibarbarorum, and the Renaissance lamented along with him. The ability to preserve a collective memory was smothered by the Christianisation process.
The historian who is more concerned with deeds than words will be disappointed here. Most of the studies over Christianisation do not mention the role of the law book and the soldier. My computer does not recognise the term ‘heathen persecution’, as it does Christian persecution. Is my computer in league with these studies? Perhaps. However, it is a conspiracy fostered by the consensus of western conscience. ‘We’ do not talk about this. The persecution of priests, storytellers, and historians during the Middle Ages is not the subject of any study. Recent atrocities in Africa teach us that those who massacre their parents are capable of the worst of crimes. Does that also count for ‘murdering’ ancestors? Is parenticide, as it was practised then, a crime? Does the darkness that covers those times hide a religious and political program that no longer can be excused? Does the sudden loss of freedom of speech for the above mentioned career groups point to persecutions and banishment? If so, then to what degree? Is there another reason for the lack of historical investigation into the disappearance of classical texts during those centuries? In short, does the Church of Rome need to add parenticide to her list of mea culpa? (The Second Vatican Council has at least suggested that ancestor worship should no longer be allowed to be destroyed. The Church would do well to make its part in the fate of the world, in both the positive as well as the negative sense – the West envelops itself in the benefits of its naivety – available through serious investigation into what happened then.)
Determining where the blame lies must surely be a legitimate concern for those who are willing to undergo self-study. Notions like ‘the Church’ or ‘religion’ are no longer qualified as candidates for blame. The Church and the criticism of it by the Enlightenment, communism, and atheism, are, contrary to common opinion, no longer clearly defined issues. The churchgoer and the critic both share the ideal of redemption and liberation. They can pass the blame to each other. They have been allies for centuries when it comes to inciting large, and the daily course of small, revolutions and individual aspirations. Anyone who has grown up today in the West is, whether he wants to be or not, conditioned by the idea of progress. The point is to curb the frenzy that accompanies this, the impulse to that destructive passion for novelty.
The process of secularisation took place during the Enlightenment. The French Revolution was the model for sanctioning the right, in this life, to liberate oneself from the old through the new. Humanists and reformers had already advocated this during the Renaissance. Those who struggled for progress on earth could prepare for heaven through personal effort. Since the Counter-Reformation and the growing antagonism between different beliefs, Christianity constantly increased its efforts to distance itself from the past. Augustinian thinkers, like Descartes and Pascal, and in their footsteps the Jansenites, Puritans, and Pietists, advocated combining rational, empirical thought with a religious emphasis on the individual and suspicion towards tradition. Augustine, here again the main instigator, poured the ideal of redemption like oil onto the cogwheels of the soul. The convert could find eternal truth, soaked in tranquility, in the deepest recesses of the soul, by removing those outdated, false assumptions and customs, ‘shadows’, and replacing them with the ‘Christ in me’. (See quotations that end with sel.) Man finds God’s truth, according to les Modernes with their teachings gleaned from antiquity, in the reflection of the eternal in the self.
With Rouseau’s Émile où de l’éducation, the emphasis shifted to the discovery of the secular self, personal conviction, and the unique, autonomous being. In the secular condition, the individual self, according to Rousseau and after him Emerson, appears also to contain pure truth. Here too, custom and tradition are obliged to suffer. The idealism of ‘the self’, which in small children still retains pure veracity and authenticity, will become enormously popular in the U.S. after Emerson and his followers. So much so that it will crystallise into a new belief, propagated with the same fiery urge to exorcise (“away with books, let the child think for himself”, “conformity is suicide, realise yourself”, “do what your heart desires”), which used to be traditionally evoked by Divine jealousy in cleansing the society. The triumph of the purified self was so successful that in those days it turned into a plague. The “I’m the one who decides” evolved into an all-encompassing creed. Nevertheless, the realisation is also growing that ‘authentic purity’ sometimes does stand for something, but without a cultural context it signifies often nothing more than emptiness (and the kind of sadness that I have called the pain of loss). In line with Rousseau, his followers, the Philanthropinum, erased the humanities from the school curriculum, while promoting the child’s own talent and experimentation. The frenzy buried its claws into the arts as well. The sculptor, poet, and novelist exchanged their talent for giving meaning to things, in favor of a completely personal expression that spurned tradition. The revolt of the self lead to the cult of loneliness and self-reflection, and in education to a kind of unlimited assertiveness with regard to everything and everyone.
(Allow me now to pay tribute to the philosopher Pascal Bruckner and his La tentation de l’innocence. With a whole gamut of expressions for his virulence, delectable as a French cuisine, he takes up arms against the ‘fashion’ of the self. More recently published books are also worthy of mention. During the writing of this essay, the Dutch translation of John Gray’s Black Mass. Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia was released. The same holds true for Peter Sloterdijk’s Zorn und Zeit. Both books are relevant to the premises of this essay. The former for its convincing recognition of the secularisation of Christian ideals in modern ideals, the latter for revealing the establishment of ‘anger banks’, ‘anger masses’, and ‘anger reserves’ as characteristics of the western idea apparatus. What I find disappointing in these books is that neither of the authors takes the Middle Ages into account in his arguments. Violence and jurisprudence, administered for the sake of the introduction of the Christian redemption ideal (Gray) in the name of an envious God (Sloterdijk), appear, as far as I am concerned, to be essential historical dimensions in the kind of critical analysis these books profess to be.)
How destructive do renewal, redemption, and liberation become with destruction in their pendant? How well does the westerner know himself, if he proclaims himself to be an example for others? If he is no longer in touch with the Middle Ages? Which separate fire drives the politician, journalist, and foreign aid worker who only sees what is lacking in Africa regarding trust in the ideals of progress. In spite of not wanting to demur what has already been accomplished there, the desire to do so is still present. “The coldest rage writes its diary entries in the style of the most fiery idealism.”, I read in Sloterdijk. In seamless congruence with Johm Gray’s “”What is unique to the modern West is the formative role of the faith that violence can save the world.” For foreign aid the adage seems best fitting ‘all well and good, but keep your values to yourself’. The burning desire to want to make everything new and in one’s own image by misjudging what already exists: history, stories, family ties, and collective values. With thanks to Sloterdijk: “the fire of rage consumes the majority of those who want to remain as they are.” With the hitherto lack of awareness of amnesia as the hallmark of the West, much has been destroyed of that which wants to stay the way it always was. A people that desires change does so in its own tempo and without any shame of speaking about ancestors who had other ways of doing things.
… and how to curb it.
A wind of change wafts through the present. The old is rising up again to redress the excesses of the passion for novelty. Not top-down, as in the nineteenth century when tradition was revived by the government, nor through the efforts of a Mecenas, wealthy citizens, or intellectuals, as in the Renaissance, but bottom-up and through ‘the people’. Since the Second World War, that most horrible breakdown of culture, the generation involved in rebuilding has, pedagogically speaking, given up. Traditional authority has capitulated. ‘Youth’ is challenged to find answers where authority has failed. Now that ‘youth’ has become somewhat older, the answer has finally appeared. The present circumstances reveal themselves in as sudden, massive, and chaotic a manner as in the Sixties, but the goal of ‘action’ is different. The attention has shifted from failing authority relations and the emancipation of population groups to, shall we say, ‘the end of the night’, the dead, recently demised heroes, ‘ancestors’, victims of violence, and history programs on TV. Although its freshness stills feels unsure, a light breeze blows through the flames of futurism. The revival seems to have begun in all its tentativeness, still uncontrolled, uncontrollable. As in the wake of the French Revolution, but this time without pretension, unhindered by higher ideals. The old is digitalised and archived, genealogies and ethnic annals are exhumed and cherished, nature reserves and buildings restored to their former glory. Damage to the environment forces companies to adopt ecological production methods. The aged suddenly receive more attention. The comeback of the school for handicraft is also on the drawing board. Progress is no longer sacrosanct, there are ‘limits to growth’. The longing to look back is irrepressible.
Meanwhile, the frenzy is still far from abating. Long-term, established anger assets still wait to be disbursed. As in the impulse to bring democracy to a people, to implement a universal ideal, to replace techniques and institutions. To uplift the school system with ‘the new learning’. The frenzy still rages, not in the least place, in schools, in the classroom. The breeding ground of progress is mainly found there. Children receive their first lesson in historical blindness while working with words. ‘Tree, rose, fish’ is implicitly meant to removing any meaning. Tree and rose one can imagine in a garden – see, feel, and smell them – but fish on that list teaches reading without context. Knowledge turns into isolated subject matter. The child learns implicitly to de-contextualise, to strip away meaning, to aim at abstraction. It learns to read words, sentences, complete texts, without any context. This has been the case for centuries, but now, for the sake of meaning and relationship, ‘the new learning’ invented the self-chosen theme for the self-made assignment with its own search engine on the Internet. Independent endeavour, seemingly meaningful, becomes here devoid of meaning by the individualisation of knowledge. The insight that shared knowledge through social interaction is more meaningful than knowledge not shared has not dawned on the innovators. The old monkey-nut-mies system, as was used in Holland (‘aap-noot-mies’), with its shared knowledge of stories, taught spelling rules as effectively as the new tree-rose-fish. Spelling rules, provided they are distinguishable, are as easy to combine with social values, as progress is with tradition or belief with science. Denominational universities and Asiatic cultures attest to this through their success and adaptability. The discordant either/or thinking, which we find in both the tree-rose-fish system as well as in Carl Rogers’ Freedom to Learn (see the quotation), is once again a western phenomenon.
‘Aap-noot-mies’ made its revolutionary leap forwards in ‘tree-rose-fish’. With this, the frenzy took education by the nose. The old made way for the new, but received in the bargain neither credit nor perpetuity. The teacher in the West celebrates the feast of sensorial alienation and meaninglessness. Though a precious memory for many, the old readers, branded as cute children’s soaps with pretty pictures, were discarded like trash. The result being a two-fold amnesia, for the shared experience and knowledge of life in Drenthe, as well as an encounter with a snail. How western this development is, can be illustrated by a pedagogue who has been accepted but never questioned. We have referred to the great Augustine who usurped the teacher’s sceptre from Homer and Virgil. By separating storytelling from education, the then already very famous teacher of rhetoric, once he was christened a bishop, initiated with ingenuity and inventiveness the educational revolution. The zeal with which he took upon himself this, to non-western minds incomprehensible, task is reflected in a sentence like the following: “Again, if I should ask which would cause the greatest inconvenience in our life, if it were forgotten: reading and writing, or these poetical fictions, who does not see what everyone would answer who had not entirely lost his own memory?” Augustine created a rift and thought it out to its ultimate consequence. In his De doctrina christiana, a textbook that would become the bible of medieval education, he formulated the principle that would determine the appearance and identity of the West: the separation of the pleasant (frui, superfluous, unless in accord with biblical faith) from the useful (uti), the poetical from the practical, the image from the fact. (See quotations 23-39, especially 38, 39.)
As acceptable as this is as theological doctrine, separating the story from the facts deprives the facts of their meaning. The new receives its meaning and purpose from the old. Things only become meaningful in a story. According to the principle of tree-rose-fish, everything is basically meaningless. Every word carries with it old values and meanings, but here its eloquence is stolen from it. Pedagogues want us to believe that words are less than things. Words conceal, things reveal, according to the theory still being defended by those proponents of the ‘new learning’. Still, in lending a name to things, their greatest presence is guaranteed. The didactic that Helen Keller, blind, deaf, and dumb from childhood, underwent, serves as a paradigm of this. By the age of seven, she had learned the alphabet by feeling the separate letters when etched in the palm of her hand. In his Essay on Man, Ernst Cassirer, philosopher of the symbol, quotes the description how Helen discovered the wonder of language through the meaning of letters written in a particular order: “This morning, while she was washing, she wanted to know the name for “water.” When she wants to know the name of anything, she points to it and pats my hand. I spelled “w-a-t-e-r” and thought no more about it until after breakfast. … [Later on] we went out to the pump-house, and I made Helen hold her mug under the spout while I pumped. As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled “w-a-t-e-r” in Helen’s free hand. The word coming so close upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light came into her face. She spelled “water” several times. Then she dropped on the ground and asked for its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis, and suddenly turning round she asked for my name. All the way back to the house she was highly excited, and learned the name of every object she touched, so that in a few hours she had added thirty new words to her vocabulary. From that day on her behavior changed remarkably. She learned to speak, and later on she went to university. Her world had gotten meaning to her and was worth living now.”
Helen recounts the same experience later: “Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! … Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me.”
The word represents the object for which it stands, but in addition to this common values, ritual and culture also play a role, which is, according to Ernst Cassirer, “the principle of symbolism”. The discovery of these values was what moved Helen so deeply, what gave meaning to her life. Those who assign only semantic value to a word , without any context in common values or, in other words, those who deny a child his ‘Helen Keller moment’, his initiation into meaning, deny him his instinct for meaningfulness. The Middle Ages filled the gap in storytelling lore, brought about by the battle against storytelling traditions and folklore, with the story of Christ. Everything was made to conform to that one light, in ways bordering on the absurd (see Johan Huizinga’s Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen). Therefore, the lessons of Erasmus in his De ratione studii were vital for the New Age. Verborum prior, rerum potior, according to the great literary humanist on commencing his dissertation on education. “Knowledge of words comes earlier, but that of things is the more important. But some, the ‘uninitiated’ as the saying goes, while they hurry on to learn about things, neglect a concern for language and, striving after a false economy, incur a very heavy loss. For since things are learnt only by the sounds we attach to them, a person who is not skilled in the force of language is, of necessity, short-sighted, deluded, and unbalanced in his judgment of things as well.”
Before a child can find his way among things , before the assignment ‘look it up in Google’ becomes useful, things have to be named, and language must have performed its miracle. What is lacking is the awareness of literary values. The act of centring awareness, through words, on the presence of objects. Literature brings things closer, introduces them to you, and, like for Helen Keller, makes them for the first time present in the here and now. At the same time, it draws attention to beauty and emotion. In a fictional realm of make-believe, it confers validity and sense. Not the sense, but a sense is conferred. Together, all this makes literature the vehicle par excellence for forging a collective memory.
There is no profession in the West so tethered as that of the storyteller/writer. The writer is banned from that domain where the mind is moulded. What should be a higher institution of universal education is denied the child. The West reigns supreme in how it squanders the writing profession. This is hard for the writer and for those who promote his writing, but even harder for the young in need of moulding. On the other hand, the storytelling industry in the West is unequalled. The superior quality of Walt Disney, Hollywood, and computer games is meant to compensate for what has been lost. (And they succeed to a certain extent as well. In the movie, Who is Cletis Tout?, one of the main characters designs his life around famous movie quotes – an often heard linchpin in the wheel of social contact in the U.S.) ‘The public’ revels on a daily basis in movies and movie stars, allows itself to be bewitched by the most splendid novels. In the West, the writer writes ‘a book for a rainy day’. The film maker makes films as a form of recreation. In terms of education, the West looks upon the writer as a waste of time, a dreamer who cannot keep up. Little or no research has been made into the importance of stories and their value as role models for moulding the thinking process. No research has been done into the didactic applicability of the story. We therefore do not know what we are missing. While the world of language crumbles apart and becomes one-dimensional, while politicians no longer can find the right words for their ideas and thus grow steadily more devoid of ideas (in the words of Erasmus: short-sighted, deluded and unbalanced), today’s writer retreats into the ivory tower of his guild.
Experiencing the new through media, mail, and emails, leaves no room for attending to the things that pass by. The latest record destroys all the others before it, the latest scoop in the news is what gives meaning to existence. Not the recitation of an old poem. The world passes by in the collective memory of a day, a week, or at the most a month. The feverishness of debates, the short fuses, the tone that constantly sounds the alarm – these are the consequences. But what does it mean to stand still before what is happening? What is a Moslem actually, an Iraqi, a tribal chief, or, moving closer to home, a broken marriage, a squalid neighbourhood. Things not known through experience become part of the collective unknown. What is a farm, a pig, or a pork chop? The latest news and advertisements are the only sources of information. Things lose their past and therefore miss the attention they deserve. The globalizing labour of a familiar search engine or a word processor, which claims attention, in every country of the world and at every hour of the day, to the symbolism of its icons, is powerless to impart any social significance to the information it provides.
It is a matter of setting priorities. A core group of literary texts has the ability to put novelty in its proper place in a hierarchy of collectively preferred values. The undermining of this literary core (see quotations that end with abr/lan) has helped promote the cause of progress, but has also created a problem. Now is the time to redress this issue. An open competition between the old and the new can contribute to the containment of the frenzy. Besides a literary core of values, other ideas are possible. A ‘histotax’, an extended form of ecotax, could be placed on everything that claims the label of ‘new”. Whenever advertisers, journalists, and designers of symbols and logos put their ‘memory-for-the-day’ on the market, where dissertations and patents are made, historicity must claim its place. By gradually and retroactively introducing this, the mutual relation between things will automatically become evident. Anyone who makes money off the new must take equivalent responsibility for distributing common knowledge.
Let us now turn to this core of values. And let us begin with the writer, that force of unparalleled pedagogic talent. It is the writer who offers the reader inspiration, insight, empathy, vibrancy, memorability, polymorphic perception (and thus social tolerance as well), and so forth. From within the classroom, he ought to be animating the daily commerce between politicians and civil servants, nurses, manufacturers, shopkeepers, economists, garage attendants, journalists, scientists, and athletes. The writer can regenerate the degenerate, replant the uprooted. The writer is “the unacknowledged legislator of the world”, Percy Bysshe Shelley writes in his A Defence of Poetry, acknowledging his debt to the humanists of the Renaissance. Well then, Mr. Percy Shelley, why not re-legitimise the legislator? Restore the writer to his function of pedagogue and ‘lawmaker’? Northrop Frye, the Canadian creator of a monumental body of literary criticism, has adorned the literary core of values, which a culture needs to sustain itself, with the interesting name of ‘myth of concern’. “The myth of concern exists to hold society together, so far as words can help to do this.”
A literary core of cultural values, a myth of shared interest, is what I deem capable of conquering the frenzy. No culture exists that did not originally possess such a core. With suitable methods for capturing the attention such as stories about heroes, initiations, and recitations, future generations are brought into contact with this core. With all its institutions and rituals, it is a culture’s most important possession. In education, it is represented by those subjects that know the art of combining the old with the new, namely, the humanities, such as languages, history, and philosophy. Classical texts differ from non-classical ones in their ability to propagate. They harbour in potential the new. They earn their right to be called ‘classical’ from this ability. The function of a folk tale for a community is like that of de-fragmentation for the hard disk of a computer. Fragments of meaning gone astray are reunited in the course of time, not digitally but according to their significance, by bringing together what belongs to each other. It is a kind of literary Darwinism that brings order, structure, and arrangement to vital cultural knowledge. Like the Japanese painter, who learns to sketch with one sweep of his brush a bamboo shoot or a water buffalo, the storyteller undergoes an extensive schooling in skilfulness and social studies. When a cultural core grows to complete literary maturity, it becomes – like any text of stature such as a law, song, saying, folk tale, or treaty – a guideline in many ways, one which teaches history in other cultures and is able to do the same thing in the West. Antiquity, the Renaissance, and neo-humanism brought forth great minds and still cherished monuments in art and science, thanks to their prolific cultivation of the humanities. What the talent of a Rembrandt, Bach, or Shakespeare owed to his schooling, has never been investigated. What can surely be determined is that, without any discipline in the humanities, talent of this type is unthinkable.
The first steps towards a shared knowledge of the past are being taken in our country. Still wavering and hesitant, in the shape of a – still barely literary – canon of history, but hopeful. More and more room shall have to be given to the thought process of the writer. The stage and the microphone are now reserved for the pedagogue and the storyteller. On both simultaneously, since in order to construct a literary core of values, the one cannot do without the other.
In the West, the Middle Ages are never distant. With its pretence of accomplishments and its records, its overt celebration of a freedom that is ignorant of its own nature, the West is nevertheless like an adolescent who sabotages the values of his parents. As long as the West is not able to open a mental door to the East and the South, as well as to its own ancestral history, as long as it pretends to be a stranger who only wants to hear his own voice and to justify itself, so long will it be and remain medieval. Whether it is eternally justified or not, without ancestral history and a good relation with its neighbours, its promise of redemption remains an unavoidable nightmare scenario. What matters here is not ethics but memory. Erasmus, not Spinoza, revealed where the shoe pinches. In the western parade, places in line have to be exchanged; who goes first, who follows? Erasmus exchanges places with Spinoza, Voltaire and Descartes with Hugo and Fénelon; Goethe, Schiller, and Herder with Kant, Tolstoy and Pushkin with Karl Marx. In Hume’s and Locke’s place comes Arnold, in Franklin’s and Tocqueville’s come Emerson, Walt Whitman and Harald Bloom. The Enlightenment Project makes way for the Republic of Literature. A shared memory needs a well nourished and cultivated Republic of Literature, like a garden that provides a yearly harvest. It was Herder, not Kant, and Goethe, not Voltaire, who kept the torch of the Republic burning, even after the age of the Humanists. The flame of the imagination in education is kept weakly flickering in our time by a man like Frye. Fire against fire: fire of the past against fire of novelty. What the imagination in the West needs now is historicity and pedagogic skill.
2. STATEMENTS IN WHICH THE WORLD AND THE PAST ARE REJECTED IN FAVOUR OF SALVATION AND ENLIGHTENMENT
Before we put promotion of the humanities in education on the agenda, allow me to suggest that we take a look at a number of statements, which nowadays receive no attention, but precisely because of this can contribute to the identity of the West. As I have already shown, promotion of the humanities traditionally went hand in hand with its suppression (see my Clio’s Christening: Pedagogical Literary Criticism from Plato to Luther). The theme of the following quotations leaves much to be desired in terms of their appeal, but whether we want to admit it or not, in the West the humanities are under fire. The quotations on my list concern the rejection of both the world and the humanities, beginning with – predictable in view of the foregoing – the Bible and the Ten Commandments.
The latter represent these days, according to some, the compendium of standards and values that need to be restored; they are even considered to represent western morality ‘an sich’. But how does one in this context interpret God’s jealousy? The first two commandments form, as we have seen, the basis for the values that the West holds dear. Are we therefore to conclude that putting the Ten Commandments into practice still implies punishing the godless, creating a division in society between the baptised and the non-baptised, with or without the inclusion of immigrant groups? On the contrary, this is definitely not what we have in mind. We want rather to dampen the fervour of resentment against dissidents with the help of commonly shared values. Therefore, by the ‘Ten Commandments’, we usually imply only the last eight. (Anselm Grün, the pious German populariser of the Word, offers a modern interpretation of the Ten Commandments, but in the process manoeuvres himself into such excruciatingly wonderful corners in order to make the first two commandments palatable for today’s readers; a fruitless yet praiseworthy endeavour.) By spotlighting the commandments, no intention at all is meant here to once again hone their fervour. The main purpose of the quotations is to investigate and bring to light the heretofore accumulated record of repressed fervour.
As with the first two commandments, the significance of the following quotations is frequently played down. When it comes to the Christianisation project, historians and philosophers tend to stick their heads in the sand as we saw here above, the same behaviour reappears with the attack against the humanities. Were Augustine to see the extent to which his texts have been edited down, shaved clean, and planed smooth to appeal to a modern ear and particularly to gain a positive response from those who prefer to look at the ecclesiastical legacy in a humanistic, rather than a dogmatic, manner, he would turn in his grave. Augustine was no humanist, in the sense of an advocate of the humanities, and he never claimed to be one; on the contrary (as he emphasised in the end, old age upon him, in his Retractationes), he was a passionate anti-humanist. Those who drag Augustine by the hair into the humanistic camp (as Petrarch, Matthew Arnold, and Harold Bloom have done), as if the bishop ever raised his voice in favour of a literary upbringing, ignore the following quotations of his and of his epigones in order to hold up to themselves the false mirror of a humanistic West. No, the West is not humanistic, but dualistic, and entangled in a constant inner conflict. Everyone who takes up the cause of cultural progress should become aware of the arguments with which the subject he promotes is being constantly bombarded. The renowned Querelles des Anciens et des Modernes refers to a French affair in the seventeenth century, but represents the kind of conflict that has been consistently present since the Middle Ages. In my dissertation (see above) I have delved into texts of classic works that have this conflict as their theme. Here, theological and secular arguments frequently merge together.
As an illustration of the recurrence of this phenomenon, I would like to comment on an incident that took place during a crucial recent event in my land, the introduction of the ‘Canon of the Netherlands’. The criticism this aroused in a prominent theologian is, however marginal and modest, like verifying a jealous God’s accounts. The theologian posits that national states, in contrast to God’s people, have no spiritual significance and therefore do not need a canon. The Christian canon is the canon, and its language is crystal clear: “It is consummated”. “Apparently [liberal humanism that hereby thrusts its vision upon society] ignores what transpires on Sundays in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, in Putten, in Drachten – and in so many other places where a flourishing (often youthful) congregational life exists.” Even without a rational basis for his argument (which exists only by the grace of a warm feeling for the exclusive sense of belonging to the chosen people), the one cannot, must not, and shall not exist without the other, according to this theologian. In this way he points to a value that is pre-eminently and unshakeably western. Certainly more western and more self-conscious than that of the humanists who fruitlessly contend for Augustine’s approval.
Finally, a tribute. Included in the following quotations are a number belonging to the American poet/theologian and language juggler Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was the founder of Transcendentalism and with his subtle use of language he struck a balance between the autonomous self and the practice of relying on classical authorities. He was able to temper his former excessive belief in self-reliance (“imitation is suicide”) with a correspondingly excessive endorsement of borrowing from the classics. He did this by expressing the unavoidable singularity of both subjects and the incompatibility of their qualities (see quotations 86-88, 101) While Nietzsche, who found in Emerson a teacher, stands as the symbol for many of the self-pity of his culture (a genre that he unmistakably managed to raise to unparalleled heights), the master parried the, in his own age, already dramatically declining cultural awareness with the following show of self-control: “How few thoughts! In a hundred years, millions of men, and not a hundred lines of poetry, not a theory of philosophy that offers a solution of the great problems, not an art of education that fulfils the conditions. In this delay and vacancy of thought we must make the best amends we can by seeking the wisdom of others to fill the time.” Lively, uncomplaining language, which we can put to use, even up to and including the classroom. Mindful of Emerson’s adage, let us ‘fill the time’ that rests with the help of the classics, in the absence of any greater thoughts of our own.
The following quotations represent a chronological series of influential statements from the history of western culture that emphasize renunciation of the world and the past as a way of deliverance and liberation from them. Many quotations that, in the West, are considered to be the most sublime that the mind has ever brought forth, raise the question as to why hatred, virulence, and bitterness are accompanied by renunciation of the world, while this is as harmful as it is superfluous, unreasonable and avoidable.
I have made a distinction between following categories:
Renunciation, abrenuntio (abr) of the world (wor), idols (ido), art (art), science (sci), language (lan), history (his), custom (cus), glory (glo), imitation (imi), ancestors (anc), family (fam),
on behalf of deliverance (del) from the past and liberation of the self (sel).
Bible (transl. New International Version)
The Old Testament
1. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:3). abr/ido
2. “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles” (Ex. 34:13-14). abr/ido
3. “Even from birth the wicked go astray/ from the womb they are wayward and speak lies/ Their venom is like the venom of a snake/ like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears/ that will not heed the tune of the charmer/ however skillful the enchanter may be./ Break the teeth in their mouths, O God/ tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!/ Let them vanish like water that flows away” (Ps 58:3-12). abr/ido/del
4. “If only you would slay the wicked, O God!/ Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!/ They speak of you with evil intent;/ your adversaries misuse your name./ Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,/ and abhor those who rise up against you?/ I have nothing but hatred for them;/ I count them my enemies.” (Ps 139:19-22). abr/ido
5. “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. (Ecc. 1:2-18) etc. abr/sci/his
6. “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Is. 8:19). abr/sci/anc
7. “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Is. 65:17; see also Rev. 21). abr/wor/del
8. “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth” (Jer. 9:23-24). abr/sci/glo
9. “Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!” (Jer. 16:19-20). abr/sci/anc/ido
10. “I will lay the dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you live, the towns will be laid waste and the high places demolished, so that your altars will be laid waste and devastated, your idols smashed and ruined, your incense altars broken down, and what you have made wiped out. Your people will fall slain among you, and you will know that I am the LORD” (Ez. 6:5-7). abr/ido
The New Testament
11. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26, cf Mt.19:29). abr/fam
12. “If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. … So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor. 3:18-23) abr/sci/glo/del
13. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God” (1 Cor. 8:1-3) abr/sci/glo/del
14. “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:5-6; “Ce thème est au coeur de toute la théologie augustinienne”, Ph. Sellier in: Pascal et Saint Augustin p.316). abr/glo/lan/del
15. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). abr/his
16. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8-9; cf. Comenius: Did. magna 25, 14). abr/cus/sci
17. “As I urged you …, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith” (1 Tim. 1:3-4). abr/anc/lan/cus
18. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Joh. 2:15-17). abr/wor/del
19. “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5). abr/his/del
Clement of Alexandria
Protreptikos pros Ellenas (about 210; transl. G.W. Butterworth; in my dissertation, Clio’s kerstening, pedagogische literatuurkritiek van Plato tot Luther, I related Augustine’s repudiation of literary texts in education in Confessions I 16 to this work of Clement. In patriarchal treatises the rejection of poetry in education was fairly unanimous. See also my lecture Myth in Education, published on this website.)
20. “Let poetry also approach, – poetry, which is occupied entirely with what is false, – to bear witness now at last to truth, or rather to confess before God its deviation into legend” (Exhortation VII 62). abr/lan
21. “Let us then shun custom; let us shun it as some dangerous headland, or threatening Charybdis, or the Sirens of legend. Custom strangles man; it turns him away from truth; it leads him away from life; it is a snare, an abyss, a pit, a devouring evil. Let us flee, comrades, let us flee from this wave. It belches forth fire. … Pass by pleasure; she beguiles. … Sail past the song; it works death. … [B]ound to the wood of the cross thou shalt live freed from all corruption” (Exh. XII. 91). abr/lan/cus/del
Soliloquies (386; transl. Rose Elizabeth Cleveland)
22. “I see nothing else except the soul, unless it be God, which I can suppose the habitation of Intellect” (Solil. 2, 3, 3). abr/sci/del
23. In dialogue: “Augustine: I wonder why it seems to you that poems and jests and other fictions should be excluded from this class?
Reason: Because to will to be false is one thing, and to be unable to be true is another. Thus the works themselves of men, whether comedies or tragedies or mimes, and other things of that sort, we are able to classify along with the works of painters and sculptors. For a painted man cannot be so true, however much he approximates the appearance of a man, as are those things which are written in the books of the comic poets. For these neither will to be false, nor are they false by any appetite of their own: but by a certain necessity they carry out, as much as possible, the intention of their author. Thus Roscius, by his own will, was, upon the stage, a false Hecuba: though by nature he was a true man, but a true tragedian by that very will by which he filled the rôle as such, and a false Priam, in that he was simulating Priam though not he himself. And from this comes to pass a certain marvel, which, however, no man doubts to be an actual fact.
A. What is that?
R. What do you suppose, except that all these things are true in some respects from the fact that they are false in others, and that their proper rôles can be produced by them only because they are false to others? Wherefore if they desist from these falsities, they can by no means achieve that which they wish and are in duty bound to do. For by what possibility could he whom I have cited be a true tragedian if he were unwilling to be a false Andromache, a false Hector, a false Hercules, and countless others. Or whence would a picture of a horse be a true picture, if it were not a false horse? And whence is that reflection from the mirror a true reflection if it be not a false man? And why, since, in order that certain things may be true in something, they must be false in something, do we so greatly fear falsities and so eagerly hunger after truth?
A. I do not know and I much wonder, except it be that I see these examples to be in nothing worthy of emulation. For, in order to be true in our own individual characters, we ought not to become false, by imitating and taking the rôle of others, as do actors, and the reflections from mirrors, and Myron’s brazen cow: but to seek the true, which is not double-faced, and self-contradictory, nor in order that it may be true on one side, false on the other.
R. Great and divine things are these which you demand. And if we shall have found them, shall it not be confessed that Truth itself, after which everything which is in any way true is discriminated and named, has been, as it were, created and breathed into life by what has preceded?
A.: I do not withhold my assent” (Solil. 2, 10, 18). abr/sel/imi
24. R.: “The soul, then, is immortal. Believe now your own argument, believe the Truth! She cries aloud that she dwells within you, that she is immortal, that by no death whatsoever of the body can her throne be filched away from her. Turn away from your shadows! Turn back to yourself! Nothing of you is mortal, save your forgetfulness of your own immortality” (Solil. 2, 19, 33) abr/sel/imi
De magistro (389; transl. Robert P. Russell)
25. “Nothing is learned by means of its signs. For when I am shown a sign, it cannot teach me anything if it finds me ignorant of the reality for which the sign stands; but if it finds me acquainted with the reality, what do I learn from the sign?” (Mag. 33). abr/lan
26. “So far, the most I can say for words is that they merely intimate that we should look for realities; they do not present them to us for our knowledge. … So by means of words we learn only words. … It is by knowing the realities that we also come to a knowledge of their words, whereas, by the sound of words, we do not even learn the words. For we cannot learn words we already know, and, as for those which we do not know, we cannot profess to have learned them until we have seen their meaning. And this comes about, not by hearing the sounds they make, but from a knowledge of the realities they signify. … If we know, [words] recall rather than teach something to us; if we do not know, they cannot even recall something, though they may lead us to inquire” (Mag. 36). abr/lan
27. “As for all those things which we “understand”, it is not the outward sound of the speaker’s words that we consult, but the truth which presides over the mind itself from within, though we may have been led to consult it because of the words. Now He who is consulted and who is said to “dwell in the inner man,” He it is who teaches us, namely Christ, that is to say, “the unchangeable Power of God and everlasting wisdom” (1 Cor. 1.23-24) (Mag. 38). abr/sel/lan
28. “Even when I say what is true, and [the pupil] sees what is true, it is not I who teach him. For he is being taught, not by my words, but by the realities themselves made manifest to him by the enlightening action of God from within” (Mag. 40). abr/sel/lan
De vera religione (390; transl. )
29. “That which allows itself to be embellished by taste, such as poetry, is to a certain extent an imitation of truth. And here it is that we find the reason why we must avoid such theatrics: we must not become confused by the shadows of objects, so as not to digress from the objects themselves. Therefore it is only the godless souls and the damned who are a displeasure to the world as it is, and to its administration” (ver. rel. 22, 43). abr/sel/lan
30. “Oh stubborn souls…. Show me someone who resists the temptations of the flesh, …..he also resists human customs and human fame” (ver. rel. 34, 64). abr/glo/cus
31. “Inquire therefore into where the greatest agreement is to be found, but do not turn for this towards the outside, turn towards yourself. In the inner part of man, truth lives…..Strive towards where the very light of reason is kindled” (ver. rel. 39, 72). abr/sel
32. “To this end does truth itself call us back to our earlier perfect nature and commands that we resist the fleshly life….. We must hate that from which we wish to be liberated. We may therefore hate those temporal bonds when we ignite in love for the eternal” (ver. rel. 46, 88-89) abr/sel
33. “Let us not love the world… Let us not love the affectations of the eye, so that we do not stray from the truth, hold shadows dear, and be cast into darkness. May religion be no delusion….May religion be no man-made cult….May religion be no cult of animals….May religion be no cult of the dead…. We shall honour them to be sure, when we imitate them, but they are not the object of a religious cult……May religion be no cult of demons…. May religion be no cult of lands and crops” (ver. rel. 55, 107-108) abr/imi/lan/wor
34. “No creature stands between our intellect, by which we recognise the Father, and the truth, or the inner light, by which we perceive them” (ver. rel. 55, 113). abr/sel
Confessiones (397; transl. Albert C. Outler. In Confessiones XIII-XVI Augustine proclaims, in a passionate and impressive climax of a rhetorical crescendo – from confessions about his youth which was full of worldly temptations to the truth finding of a horrible custom of humanity to seduce children at schools by storytelling – the end of a educational culture of storytelling.)
35. “If I should ask which would cause the greatest inconvenience in our life, if it were forgotten: reading and writing, or these poetical fictions, who does not see what everyone would answer who had not entirely lost his own memory? I erred, then, when as a boy I preferred those vain studies to these more profitable ones, or rather loved the one and hated the other. “One and one are two, two and two are four”: this was then a truly hateful song to me. But the wooden horse full of its armed soldiers, and the holocaust of Troy, and the spectral image of Creusa were all a most delightful—and vain–show!” (Conf. 1, XIII, 22). abr/lan/art
36. ““Sed vae tibi flumen moris humani!” But woe unto you, O torrent of human custom! Who shall stay your course? When will you ever run dry? How long will you carry down the sons of Eve into that vast and hideous ocean, which even those who have the Tree (for an ark) can scarcely pass over? Do I not read in you the stories of Jove the thunderer–and the adulterer? How could he be both? But so it says, and the sham thunder served as a cloak for him to play at real adultery. Yet which of our gowned masters will give a tempered hearing to a man trained in their own schools who cries out and says: “These were Homer’s fictions; he transfers things human to the gods. I could have wished that he would transfer divine things to us.” But it would have been more true if he said, “These are, indeed, his fictions, but he attributed divine attributes to sinful men, that crimes might not be accounted crimes, and that whoever committed such crimes might appear to imitate the celestial gods and not abandoned men.” And yet, O torrent of hell, the sons of men are still cast into you, and they pay fees for learning all these things. And much is made of it when this goes on in the forum under the auspices of laws which give a salary over and above the fees. And you beat against your rocky shore and roar: “Here words may be learned; here you can attain the eloquence which is so necessary to persuade people to your way of thinking; so helpful in unfolding your opinions.” Verily, they seem to argue that we should never have understood these words, “golden shower,” “bosom,” “intrigue,” “highest heavens,” and other such words, if Terence had not introduced a good-for-nothing youth upon the stage, setting up a picture of Jove as his example of lewdness and telling the tale” (Conf. 1, XVI, 25-26). abr/lan/art/cus
37. “I entered into my inward soul, guided by thee. This I could do because thou wast my helper. And I entered, and with the eye of my soul–such as it was–saw above the same eye of my soul and above my mind the Immutable Light. It was not the common light, which all flesh can see; … It was not like that light, but different, yea, very different from all earthly light whatever. … He who knows the Truth knows that Light, and he who knows it knows eternity. Love knows it, O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity! Thou art my God, to whom I sigh both night and day” (Conf. 7, X, 16). sel/del
De doctrina christiana (396-426 ; transl. CCEL)
38. “If we set ourselves to enjoy those which we ought to use, are hindered in our course, and sometimes even led away from it; so that, getting entangled in the love of lower gratifications, we lag behind in, or even altogether turn back from, the pursuit of the real and proper objects of enjoyment. For to enjoy a thing is to rest with satisfaction in it for its own sake.To use, on the other hand, is to employ whatever means are at one’s disposal to obtain what one desires, if it is a proper object of desire; for an unlawful use ought rather to be called an abuse. Suppose, then, we were wanderers in a strange country, and could not live happily away from our fatherland, and that we felt wretched in our wandering, and wishing to put an end to our misery, determined to return home. We find, however, that we must make use of some mode of conveyance, either by land or water, in order to reach that fatherland where our enjoyment is to commence. But the beauty of the country through which we pass, and the very pleasure of the motion, charm our hearts, and turning these things which we ought to use into objects of enjoyment, we become unwilling to hasten the end of our journey; and becoming engrossed in a factitious delight, our thoughts are diverted from that home whose delights would make us truly happy. Such is a picture of our condition in this life of mortality. We have wandered far from God; and if we wish to return to our Father’s home, this world must be used (uti), not enjoyed (frui)” (De doctr. chr. 1, 3, 3 – 1, 4, 4). abr/wor
39. “But in regard to pictures and statues, and other works of this kind, which are intended as representations of things, nobody makes a mistake, especially if they are executed by skilled artists, … this whole class are to be reckoned among the superfluous devices of men, unless when it is a matter of importance to inquire in regard to any of them, for what reason, where, when, and by whose authority it was made. Finally, the thousands of fables and fictions, in whose lies men take delight, are human devices, and nothing is to be considered more peculiarly man’s own and derived from himself than, anything that is false and lying. Among the convenient and necessary arrangements of men with men are to be reckoned whatever differences they choose to make in bodily dress and ornament for the purpose of distinguishing sex or rank; and the countless varieties of signs without which human intercourse either could not be carried on at all, or would be carried on at great inconvenience; and the arrangements as to weights and measures, and the stamping and weighing of coins, which are peculiar to each state and people, and other things of the same kind. Now these, if they were not devices of men, would not be different in different nations, and could not be changed among particular nations at the discretion of their respective sovereigns. This whole class of human arrangements, which are of convenience for the necessary intercourse of life, the Christian is not by any means to neglect, but on the contrary should pay a sufficient degree of attention to them, and keep them in memory” (De doctr. chr. 2, 25, 39-40). abr/imi/art
(transl. Fred H. Blume. Book I.II.I deals about “pagans, offerings and temples”. Pagans that persevere in their customs will be either executed or tortured.)
40. “We forbid the teaching of any doctrine by those who labor under the insanity of paganism, so that they may not in that manner pretend to instruct those coming to see them in a way to excite pity, while in fact they corrupt the souls of their disciples. Nor shall they receive any salary (annona) in as much as they are not permitted to claim anything of the kind pursuant to a rescript or pragmatic sanction. If there shall be any approved men here or in the provinces who shall not hasten to our holy churches with wife and children, as above mentioned, he shall undergo the aforesaid punishment, the fisc shall receive his property, and he himself shall be sent into exile” (Cod.Just. 1,11,10). abr/sci/cus/anc
Johann Amos Comenius
Prodromus pansophiae (1639; transl. Mark Lester)
41.“With regard to pansophia, it shall most evidently be necessary that one learn about objects, not through the outer evidence of objects, by means of research conclusions, but rather through the objects in themselves. For though authorities can indeed illuminate objects, they can also embellish them, and at the very least confuse the pupil and distract him from objects….If the senses are insufficient, reason may complement them, and where reason falls short divine Revelation can come to its aid. These three principles of knowledge must be adopted as the foundation of pansophia, so that not everything that comes forth out of the mouth of a philosopher be taken for an oracle, but rather that we remove our spectacles and see objects as they are……So much has been superficially presumed by great men, which the people, who look up in admiration to these men, are in the habit of indiscriminately worshipping” (Pr. pans. 29). abr/lan/glo
42. “It is truly excessive when, for the explanation of objects, exaggerated and japing words are used, especially when poets and orators…. describe objects, in order to embellish or diminish them in their own manner, to enhance and make them up, so that they usually receive a different countenance…. The truth of objects wants in any case to be placed in a pure daylight, without strange coloration” (Pr. pans. 30). abr/lan
Didactica magna (1656; transl. M.W. Keatinge)
43. “The proper education of the young does not consist in stuffing their heads with a mass of words, sentences, and ideas dragged together out of various authors, but in opening their understanding to the outer world, so that a living stream may flow from their own minds, just as leaves, flowers, and fruit spring from the buds on a tree. … Terrible deviation in schools. – Hitherto the schools have not taught their pupils to develop their minds like young trees from their own roots, but rather to deck themselves with branches plucked from other trees. … They have no trouble to open the fountain of knowledge that is hidden in the scholars, but instead have watered them with water from other sources. That is to say, they have not shown them the objective world as it exists in itself, but only what this, that, or the other author has written or thought about this or that object, so that he is considered the most learned who best knows the contradictory opinions which many men have held about many things. The result is that most men possess no information but the quotations, sentences, and opinions that they have collected by rummaging about in various authors, and thus piece their knowledge together like a patchwork quilt. “Oh you imitators, you slavish pack!”cries Horace. A slavish pack indeed, and accustomed to carry burdens that are not their own” (Did. magna 18, 22-23). abr/lan/sci
44. “We arrive therefore at the following conclusion: men must, as far as is possible, be taught to become wise by studying the heavens, the earth, oaks, and beeches, but not by studying books; that is to say, they must learn to know and investigate the things themselves, and not the observations that other people have made about the things. We shall thus tread in the footsteps of the wise men of old, if each of us obtain his knowledge from the originals, from things themselves, and from no other source. We may therefore lay it down as a law: I. That all knowledge should be deduced from the unchanging principles of the subject in question. II. That no information should be imparted on the grounds of bookish authority, but should be authorised by actual demonstration to the senses and to the intellect” (Did. m.18, 28). abr/lan/sci
45. “If we wish our schools to be truly Christian schools, the crowd of pagan writers must be removed from them. … Our zeal in this matter is cuased by our love of God and of man; for we see that the chief schools profess Christ in name only, but hold in highest esteem writers like Terence, Plautus, Cicero, Ovid, Catullus, and Tibullus. The result of this is that we know the world better than we know Christ, and that, though in a Christian country, Christians are hard to find. For with the most learned men, even with theologians, the upholders of divine wisdom, the external mask is only supplied by Christ, while the spirit that pervades them is drawn from Aristotle and the host of heathen writers. Now this is a terrible abuse of Christian liberty, a shameless profanation, and a course replete with danger” (Did. magna 25, 1-2). abr/lan/sci/art
46. “But books are not idols,” some one will say. I reply: They are the works of the heathen, whom God has destroyed from before the face of His Christian people, as He did of old. Nay, they are more dangerous than idols. For these only led away those who were fools at heart (Jer. 10:14), while books deceive even the wisest (Col. 2:8). … Do you still deny that pagan books are idols? … What is it that in these days leads so many learned Italians and others towards Atheism? Would that there were none in the reformed Church of Chist who have been drawn away from the Scriptures by Cicero, Plautus, and Ovid, writers that reek of death” (Did. magna 25, 12). abr/lan/sci/art
47. “Leprous is his imagination who prefers Abana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, to Jordan and the waters of Israel (2 Kings 12). Blind is the eye to which Olympus, Helicon, and Parnassus seem more beautiful than Sinai, Sion, Hermon, Tabor, and Olivet. Deaf is the ear to which the lyre of Orpheus, of Homer, or of Virgil sounds sweeter than David’s lute. … With them all is romance, a mere shadow of truth, while with us all is reality and the very essence of truth” (Did. magna 25, 20). abr/lan/sci/art/del
(Both Pascal and Bernard Lamy hereafter had an important influence on Rousseua. In western spiritual history they are like blockheads between Augustine and Rousseau.)
Pensées (1660; transl. W.F.Trotter; numbering according to Brunschwicg)
48. “How useless is painting, which attracts admiration by the resemblance
of things, the originals of which we do not admire!” (B134) abr/art/imi
49. “Glory. Admiration spoils all from infancy. Ah! How well said! Ah! How well done! How well-behaved he is! etc. The children of Port-Royal, who do not receive this stimulus of envy and
glory, fall into carelessness” (B151). abr/glo
50. “We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. The sceptics, who have only this for their object, labour to no purpose” (B282). abr/sel
51. “Instinct, reason. We have an incapacity of proof, insurmountable by all dogmatism. We have an idea of truth, invincible to all scepticism”(B395). abr/sel
52. “Two things instruct man about his whole nature; instinct and experience” (B396). abr/sel
53. “The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to be miserable” (B397). abr/glo/sel
54. “Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves. Thus without the Scripture, which has Jesus Christ alone for its object, we know nothing, and see only darkness and confusion in the nature of God and in our own nature” (B548). abr/sel/del
(In his Confessions Rousseau writes about Lamy: “Those which mingled devotion with science were most agreeable to me, particularly Port Royal’s Oratory, and I began to read or rather to devour them. One fell into my hands written by Father Lami, called ‘Entretiens sur les Sciences’, which was a kind of introduction to the knowledge of those books it treated of. I read it over a hundred times, and resolved to make this my guide” (transl. David Widger). The virulent hatred that Rousseau developped against literature as a medium to educate is also to be found inNouvelles réflexions, an earlier work of Lamy.)
Entretiens sur les sciences (1681; transl. Mark Lester)
55. “Poetry that forms the reading matter of youth…. makes them indifferent to religion…. They do not know the poisonous pleasure that comes from reading books…. and so they remain for the rest of their lives unable to achieve anything…. Poets sustain this evil, they only consider matters of the senses, they only cultivate their imagination, which they strive to keep alive and sensitive, for this is what makes them poets” (Pr. Univ. France 130-131). abr/lan/art
56. “The most dangerous pitfall when reading poets and historians is whether you do it out of curiosity or out of necessity” (Pr. Univ. France 154). abr/lan/art
Nouvelles réflexions (1676; transl. Mark Lester)
57. “Poets maintain men’s illusions… and amuse them with a vain appearance of grandeur…. They embellish the world as if it were their fatherland” (Honoré Champion 142-143). abr/lan/art
58. “A Christian who knows that God is jealous, and who does not want his heart to be divided between his love and that of the world, cannot witness without lamentation how all the affection of one person is directed towards creatures, as in the art of poetry” (Hon. Ch. 156). abr/lan
59. “Man is made for truth; from this arises the great desire to know, which lapses into a criminal curiosity that is nourished by poetry” (Hon.Ch.166). abr/lan/art
60. “Even when poetry does not arouse any bad passions, it shall always remain criminal, because it renders useless all good impulses in our hearts” (Hon. Ch.185). abr/lan/art
61. “Poetry becomes ever more dangerous, the more the rules of art are observed” (Hon.Ch.198). abr/lan/art
Discours sur les sciences et les arts (1750 ; transl. G.D.H. Cole)
62. “Almighty God! thou who holdest in Thy hand the minds of men, deliver us from the fatal arts and sciences of our forefathers; give us back ignorance, innocence and poverty, which alone can make us happy and are precious in Thy sight” (Librairie Générale Française 75). abr/sci/art/anc/del
63. “Why should we build our happiness on the opinions of others, when we can find it in our own hearts? Let us leave to others the task of instructing mankind in their duty, and confine ourselves to the discharge of our own. We have no occasion for greater knowledge than this. Virtue! sublime science of simple minds, are such industry and preparation needed if we are to know you? Are not your principles graven on every heart? Need we do more, to learn your laws, than examine ourselves and listen to the voice of conscience, when the passions are silent? This is the true philosophy, with which we must learn to be content, without envying the fame of those celebrated men, whose names are immortal in the republic of letters. Let us, instead of envying them, endeavour to make, between them and us, that honourable distinction which was formerly seen to exist between two great peoples, that the one knew how to speak, and the other how to act, aright” (Libr. Gén. Fr. 77-78). abr/lan/sel/art/glo
Émile ou de l’éducation (1761; transl. Grace G. Roosevelt)
64. “Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man” (Garnier-Flammarion 35). abr/glo
65. “The only habit the child should be allowed is that of contracting none. Let him be carried on either arm, let him be accustomed to offer either hand, to use one or other indifferently; let him not want to eat, sleep, or do anything at fixed hours, nor be unable to be left alone by day or night. Prepare from afar the reign of his liberty and the use of his own forces by letting his body keep its natural habit, by putting him in a condition of being always master of himself, of following his will in everything as soon as he has one” (Garn.Fl. 71). abr/sel/cus
66. “Man imitates, as do animals. The love of imitating is well regulated by nature; in society it becomes a vice. The monkey imitates man, whom he fears, and not the other animals, which he scorns. He thinks what is done by his betters must be good. Among ourselves, our harlequins imitate all that is good to degrade it and bring it into ridicule. Knowing their owners’ baseness they try to equal what is better than they are, or they strive to imitate what they admire, and their bad taste appears in their choice of models. They would rather deceive others or win applause for their own talents than become wiser or better. Imitation has its roots in our desire to escape from ourselves. If I succeed in my undertaking, Emile will certainly have no such wish. So we must dispense with any seeming good that it might produce” (Garn.Fl. 128). abr/sel/glo/imi
67. “The pedagogues, what do they teach? Words, more words, and still more words. Among the various sciences they boast of teaching their scholars, they take good care never to choose those which might be really useful to them. For then they would be compelled to deal with the science of things and would fail utterly. The sciences they choose are those we seem to know when we know their technical terms — heraldry, geography, chronology, languages, etc. — studies so remote from man, and even more remote from the child, that it is a wonder if he can ever make any use of any part of them. … Minds are formed by language, thoughts take their colour from idioms; reason alone is common to all” (Garn.Fl. 134). abr/lan/zaa
68. “No, if nature has given the child’s brain the suppleness which enables him to receive every kind of impression, it was not that you should imprint on it the names and dates of kings, the jargon of heraldry, the globe and geography — all those words without any sense for his age and without any use for any age, only to overwhelm his sad and empty childhood” (Garn.Fl. 139). abr/lan/sci
69. “Emile will never learn anything by heart, not even fables, not even the fables of La Fontaine, as naive and charming as they are. For the words of fables are no more fables than the words of history are history. How can people be so blind as to call fables the child’s system of ethics, without considering that the child is not only amused by the moral but misled by it? He is attracted by what is false and he misses the truth, and the means adopted to make the teaching pleasant prevent him from profiting by it. Men may be taught by fables; children require the naked truth. As soon as one covers truth with a veil, they no longer take the trouble to lift it” (Garn.Fl. 139). abr/lan
70. “Let us keep to those fables which the author seems to have written specially for children” (Garn.Fl. 140). abr/lan/sel
71. “I hate books. They only teach us to talk about things that we do not know” (Garn.Fl. 238). abr/sci/lan
72. “When we stimulate the child’s curiosity and follow its lead, we have great opportunities of studying his tastes, his inclinations, his tendencies, and perceiving the first spark of genius, if he has one that is clearly marked. You must, however, be on your guard against … a spirit of emulation, common to men and monkeys …The world is full of artisans, and even more of artists, who have no natural talent for the art which they practice but into which they were driven in early childhood either through the conventional ideas of other people or because those around them were fooled by an apparent zeal that could have led them in a similar way to any other art they saw practised. This one hears a drum and fancies himself a general; that one sees a building and wants to be an architect” (Garn.Fl. 257-258). abr/imi/glo
73. “I do not derive these rules from the principles of the higher philosophy, I find them in the depths of my heart, traced by nature in characters which nothing can efface. I need only consult myself with regard to what I wish to do; what I feel to be right is right, what I feel to be wrong is wrong; conscience is the best casuist; and it is only when we haggle with conscience that we have recourse to the subtleties of argument” (Garn.Fl. 372). abr/sci/sel/del
74. “Let us return into ourselves, my young friend!” (Garn.Fl. 374). abr/sel
75. “The old paganism gave birth to abominable gods … but the moral instinct refused to admit it into the heart of man. … The most unworthy gods were worshipped by the noblest men. The sacred voice of nature was stronger than the voice of the gods … There is therefore at the bottom of our hearts an innate principle of justice and virtue, by which, in spite of our maxims, we judge our own actions or those of others to be good or evil; and it is this principle that I call conscience” (Roosevelt 1030-1031). abr/sel/ido
76. “Conscience! Conscience! Divine instinct, immortal voice from heaven; sure guide for a creature ignorant and finite indeed, yet intelligent and free; infallible judge of good and evil, making man like to God! In thee consists the excellence of man’s nature and the morality of his actions; apart from thee, I find nothing in myself to raise me above the beasts–nothing but the sad privilege of wandering from one error to another, by the help of an unbridled understanding and a reason which knows no principle. Thank heaven we have now got rid of all that alarming show of philosophy; we may be men without being scholars; now that we need not spend our life in the study of morality, we have found a less costly and surer guide through this vast labyrinth of human thought. But it is not enough to be aware that there is such a guide; we must know her and follow her. If she speaks to all hearts, how is it that so few give heed to her voice? She speaks to us in the language of nature, and everything leads us to forget that tongue. Conscience is timid, she loves peace and retirement; she is startled by noise and numbers; the prejudices from which she is said to arise are her worst enemies. She flees before them or she is silent; their noisy voices drown her words, so that she cannot get a hearing; fanaticism dares to counterfeit her voice and to inspire crimes in her name. She is discouraged by ill-treatment; she no longer speaks to us, no longer answers to our call; when she has been scorned so long, it is as hard to recall her as it was to banish her” (Garn.Fl. 378). abr/sel/sci
77. “The grandest ideas of the Divine nature come to us from reason only. Behold the spectacle of nature; listen to the inner voice. Has not God spoken it all to our eyes, to our conscience, to our reason? What more can man tell us?” (Garn.Fl. 385). abr/sci/sel
78. “How many men between God and me!” (Garn.Fl. 388). abr/del/sel/cus
79. “Every beauty that is to be found in the works of man is imitated. All the true models of taste are to be found in nature. The further we get from the master, the worse are our pictures. Then it is that we find our models in what we ourselves like, and the beauty of fancy, subject to caprice and to authority, is nothing but what is pleasing to our leaders. Those leaders are the artists, the wealthy, and the great, and they themselves follow the lead of self-interest or pride. Some to display their wealth, others to profit by it, they seek eagerly for new ways of spending it. This is how luxury acquires its power and makes us love what is rare and costly; this so-called beauty consists, not in following nature, but in disobeying her. Hence luxury and bad taste are inseparable. Wherever taste is lavish, it is bad” (Garn.Fl. 446). abr/imi/art
De l’imitation théatrale (1764 ; transl. Mark Lester)
80. “Let us therefore inquire as to whether those who place the art of poetry on the level of the sublime do not do so under the coersion of the imitative skills of the poets; whether their admiration fo1r those immortal works do not prevent them from seeing how far removed they stand from the truth, from sensing how it is a matter of hues without any consistency, vain imaginings, shadows; and that, in order to recall those self same images, they are the least that are needed for the apprehension of the truth: or whether any usefulness at all can be found in them, and whether the poets in fact have any insight into the variety of things of which the people find they speak so well” (Hachette 361). abr/lan/imi/art
81. “In general, the art of imitation carries out its duties at a great distance from the truth, while it allies itself to a part of our soul that is devoid of caution and reason, and that is not capable of apprehending what in itself is real and true. Therefore, the art of imitation, which is inherently as well as regarding that part of the soul to which it is directed, ignoble, can only do so by dint of its products” (Hachette 365). abr/lan/sel
Réponse au Roi de Pologne (1782 ; transl. Mark Lester)
82. “We have an inner guide who is much more infallible than all books taken together” (Oeuvres Complètes, Hachette 35). abr/sci/sel
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The American Scholar (1837)
83. “Help must come from the bosom alone. … The world is nothing, the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature; … in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all, it is for you to dare all.” (Essays & Lectures 70). abr/wor/del/sel
Literary ethics (1838)
84. “The perpetual admonition of nature to us, is, ‘The world is new, untried. Do not believe the past. I give you the universe a virgin today.’” (Essays & Lectures 101). abr/del/his
85. “but nothing is great, – not mighty Homer and Milton, – beside the infinite Reason.” (Essays & Lectures 104). abr/del/glo
Essay I, History. In: Essays, first series (1841).
86. “There is one mind common to all individual men. … Of the works of this mind history is the record. … Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. … A man is the whole encyclopeadia of facts.” (Essays & Lectures 237). acceptance/his/sci
87. “Thus in all ways the soul concentrate and reproduce its treasures for each pupil. He, too, shall pass through the whole cycle of experience. He shall collect into a focus the rays of nature. History no longer shall be a dull book. … A man shall be the Temple of Fame.” (Essays & Lectures 255). acc/del/sel/his/glo
88. “I am ashamed to see what a shallow village tale our so-called History is. … What does Rome know of rat and lizard? … The idiot, the Indian, the child, and unschooled farmer’s boy, stand nearer to the light by which nature is to be read, than the dissector of the antiquary.” (Essays & Lectures 256). acc/his/del/sel
Essay ii, Self-Reliance
89. “There is a time in man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” (Essays & Lectures 259). abr/imi/sel
90. “This conformity [to a communion of opinion] makes [men] not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true.” (Essays & Lectures 264). abr/imi/sci/sel
91. “I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistancy.” (Essays & Lectures 267). abr/imi/cus
92. “If a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. … but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury” (Essays & Lectures 270). abr/del/sel/his/imi
93. “Live only avails, not the having lived.” (Essays & Lectures 271). abr/del/anc/his
94. “Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions … for God is here within.” (Essays & Lectures 272). abr/del/sel/sci
95. “Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearences hetherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s. … I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you.” (Essays & Lectures 273). abr/fam/del/sel
96. “The moment [the young man] acts for himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him” (Essays & Lectures 275). abr/del/sel/ido/cus/sci
97. “Insist on yourself; never imitate.” (Essays & Lectures 278). abr/imi/del/sel
98. “The great genius returns to essential man.” (Essays & Lectures 280). abr/del/sel
Books. In: Society and solitude (1870)
99. “We must have idolatries, mythologies” (Works 255). acc/ido
Quotation and Originality. In: Letters and Social Aims (1875).
100. “How few thoughts! In a hundred years, millions of men, and not a hundred lines of poetry, not a theory of philosophy that offers a solution of the great problems, not an art of education that fulfils the conditions. In this delay and vacancy of thought we must make the best amends we can by seeking the wisdom of others to fill the time” (Works 467). acc/anc/sci
101. “It is inevitable that you are indebted to the past. You are fed and formed by it. … Every individual is only a momentary fixation of what was yesterday another’s, is to-day his, and will belong to a third to-morrow. So it is in thought. Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds: our language, our science, our religion, our opinions, our fancies, we inherited. Our country, customs, laws, our ambitions, and our notions of fit and fair, – all these we never made; we found them ready-made; we but quote them. … But there remains the indefeasable persistency of the individual to be himself. One leaf, one blade of grass, one meridian, does not resemble another. … To all that can be said of the preponderance of the Past, the single word Genius is a sufficient reply. The divine resides in the new. The divine never quotes, but is, and creates. The profound apprehension of the Present is Genius, which makes the Past forgotten. … And what is Originallity? It is being, being one’s self, and reporting accurately what we see and are. … If to this the sentiment of piety be added, if the thinker feels that the thought most strictly his own is not his own, and recognizes the perpetual suggestion of the Supreme Intellect, the oldest thoughts become new and fertile whilst he speaks them. … The great deal always with the nearest. … Genius flings its fire into some old mummy, and, lo! It walkes and blushes again here in the street. We cannot overstate our debt to the Past, but the moment has the supreme claim. The Past is for us: but the sole terms on which it can become ours are its subordination to the Present. Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor. … The divine gift is ever the instant life, which recieves and uses and creates, and can well bury the old in the omnipotency with which Nature decomposes all her harvest for recomposition” (Works 472-473). acc/his/sel
Carl R. Rogers
Freedom to learn I (1969)
102. “I want to speak about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff which is crammed into the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity which drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his “hotrod”. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along the line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!” (Merrill Publ. 3). abr/sel/cus/sci
103. “[I]f a five-year-old child is moved to a foreign country, and allowed to play freely for ours with his new companions, with no language instruction at all, he will learn the new language in a few months, and will acquire the proper accent too” (Merrill I 4). abr/lan/sel
104. “How can students be set free if this is a required course, which they did not elect to take?” (Merrill I 29). abr/sci/sel
105. “Learning which involves a change in self organization – in the percprion of oneself – is threatening and tends to be resisted” (Merrill I 159). abr/sci/sel
106. “Self-initiated learning which involves the whole person of the learner – feelings as well as intellect – is the most lasting and pervasive. … Independance, creativity and self-reliance are all facilitated when self-criticism and self-evaluation are basic and evaluation by others is of secondary importance. … The most useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning, a continuing openness to experience and incorporation into oneself of the process of change” (Merrill I 162-163). abr/sci/sel
107. “I want to be real: … Communicating the realness in me. … Encountering realness in others” (Merrill I 227-229). abr/del/sel
108. “It is no longer possible, as it was in the not too distant historical past, to settle comfortably into the value system of one’s forebears or one’s communitu or one’s church and live out one’s life without ever exemining the nature and the ssumptions of that system. In this situation it is not surprising that value orientations from the past appear to be in a state of disintegration or collapse. Men question whether there are, or can be, any universal values” (Merrill I 240). abr/sci/sel
109. “The fundamental discrepancy: … By taking over the conceptions of others as our own, we lose contact with the potential wisdom of our functioning and lose confidence in ourselves. Since these value contstructs are often sharply at variance with what is going on in our experiencing, we have, in a very basic way, divorced ourselves from ourselves; and this accounts for much modern strain and insecurity” (Merrill I 247). abr/imi/sci/sel
Carl R. Rogers & H. Jerome Freiberg
Freedom to learn II (1994)
110. “As I stopped doing things for someone else I began to realize what I was interested in; what I wanted to learn; what was important to me; essentially, who I was. I began to emerge from the shell of mij parents’ and teachers’ expectations and into my own self” (Merrill II 143). abr/imi/fam/sci/sel
111. “But there is more in my attitude than this. I have a negative reaction to teaching. Why? I think it is because it raises all the wrong questions. As soon as we focus on teaching, the question arises, What shall we teach? What, from our superior vatage point, does the other person need to know? I wonder if, in this modern world, we are justified in the presumption that we are wise about the future and the young are foolish. Are we really sure as to what they should know? … The only person who is educated is the person who has learned how to learn; the person who has learned how to adapt and change; the person who has realized that no knowledge is secure, thet only the proces of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security. Changingness, a reliance on process rather than on static knowledge, is the only thing that makes any sense as a goal for education in the modern world” (Merrill II 152). abr/anc /sci/sel
112. “Learning through projects: We have read about the need to prepare our youth for a future where information and change become one, wher yesterday’s knowledge becomes today’s history and is outdated in a year or two. Many teachers have made their classrooms person-centered by encouraging their students to help build the curriculum by projects” (Merrill II 195). abr/anc /del/sel
113. “Why the lecture is regarded as a major means of instruction is a mystery. It made sense before books where published, but its current rationale is almost never explained” (Merrill II 210). abr/sci/sel
114. “The politics of conventional education: It is the politics of a “jug and mug” theory of education. The faculty (the jug) possesses the intellectual and factual knowledge and cuases the student to be the passive recipient (the mug) so that the knowledge can be poured in. … This system is simply accepted as the inevitable system” (Merrill II 212). abr/cus/sci/sel
115. “The politics of person-centered education: … The learner is the center. This proces of learning represents a revolutionary about-face from the politics of traditional education” (Merrill II 214). abr/cus/sci/sel
116. “There will be fewer “teaching” positions and more “facilitator” positions opening during the next twenty years. The potential for freeing the learning environment will be exhilarating. People who become facilitators of learning will have a greater role in the development of the whole person” (Merrill II 358). abr/del/sel
Amstelveen, June 4, 2008