Excellence in Literature All books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour, and the books of all time.
Looking forward to teaching the classics?
1857 McGuffey Readers —John Ruskin
Excellence in Literature helps you teach classic literature to your high school students, even if you don’t know Virginia Woolf from Beowulf!
When you are ready to introduce your students to the great books, Excellence in Literature study guides present full-length classic literature in its historic and artistic context, while developing skills in writing and literary analysis.
• • • •
• Self-directed courses encourage independent learning and college-style study habits for grades 8-12. Each study guide contains nine four-week modules with weekby-week lesson plans so you know what to do when. Honors Option provides the opportunity to earn advanced placement or college credit. Modules may be mixed and matched to create a custom study plan, and each volume is available as a print book or e-book. Context resources, including poetry, art, short stories, music, and video clips are hosted at Excellence-in-Literature.com for your convenience.
It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.
—C. S. Lewis
The 1857 Readers are now in print! Each volume contains the complete original text from McGuffey’s expanded 1857 edition, the last edition with which William Holmes McGuffey was personally involved and the first edition with more extensive teacher helps. You will be able to practice reading, spelling, and writing, using stories, poems, essays, and speeches that reinforce virtues such as courage, honor, diligence, stewardship, independence, frugality, perseverance, and kindness. In addition, • Vocabulary and spelling are taught and reinforced in context. • Increasingly challenging reading selections, many from classic literature, provide material for Charlotte Mason-style copywork, narration, recitation, and dictation for grades K-12. • Each volume contains age-appropriate instructions on elocution (the art of speaking) and articulation. • A new 18-page introduction by Janice Campbell, author of the Excellence in Literature curriculum, provides instructions on using Charlotte Mason language study techniques with the readers. Whether used as a primary text or a supplement, this new edition will make it easy to include Mason and McGuffey’s time-tested, virtue-building, language arts instruction into your homeschool.
F E AT U R E S
THE DISTORTED IMAGE:
COLUMNS 6 EDITOR’S LETTER: WHY A “GR EAT BOOKS” ISSUE? 37 CULTURAL CURRENCY: OFF STAGE: WHAT EMPTY STAGES SAY ABOUT OUR WOR LD by Tim McIntosh 41 QUO VADIS: WHY HOMER IS SUCH A BIG DEAL by Andrew Kern
WORDS OF WISDOM 10 THE MIND IS A FIRE: A N INTERV IEW WITH DAV ID HICKS
GREEK MYTHOLOGY AND THE GOSPEL by Angelina Stanford
THE HAPPY STUDENT:
WHY JOY AND REPENTANCE ARE THE HEART OF CLASSICAL EDUCATION
12 HARD CHOICES: 9 CLASSICAL EDUCATORS CHOOSE THEIR
by Dr. Christopher Perrin
16 BOOK REVIEWS by Brian Phillips and Angelina Stanford
FAVOR ITE GR EAT BOOKS
E S S AY S 18 THE BLESSED USELESSNESS OF THE HUM A NITIES by Devin O’Donnell
AROUND THE RENEWAL:
EVENTS IN CLASSICAL EDUCATION
27 AGAINST THE RISING TIDE: WHY A MOVE FROM R EASON TO THEOLOGY CA N
HELP US STA ND FAST AGAINST PROGR ESSIV ISM A ND MODER NISM by Stratford Caldecott
This magazine is published by the CiRCE Institute. Copyright CiRCE Institute 2014 . For a digital version, and for additional content, please go to mag.circeinstitute.org.
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The CiRCE Institute is a non-profit 501 (c)3 organization that exists to promote and support classical education in the school and in the home. We seek to identify the ancient principles of learning, to communicate them enthusiastically, and to apply them vigorously in today’s educational settings through curricula development, teacher training, events, an online academy, and a content-laden website.
Publisher: Andrew Kern, President of the CiRCE Institute, Managing Editor: David Kern, Art Director: Graeme Pitman, Copy Editor: Rebekah Leland, Layout: Aaron Harlow, Blackwood Media Group
CO NTRI B UTO RS ANGELINA STANFORD
Angelina Stanford has an MA in English literature and has taught in various Christian classical classrooms for almost 20 years. She also works as a freelance writer and editor and is a columnist for Home Educating Family magazine. This year she completed her tenth year of homeschooling and she recently joined the online teaching community at the Harvey Center for Family Learning.
Tim McIntosh has been a tutor at Gutenberg College since 2008. He received his B.A. from Bryan College (TN) and his M.A. in Theology from Reformed Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching writing to Gutenberg freshmen and sophomores, he is a playwright, screenwriter, and actor. His play Søn of Abraham received a “Best New Plays” award, and the film of his screenplay Mandie was released by Kalon Media in spring 2009.
DEVIN O’DONNELL Devin O’Donnell was born and raised on the foggy coasts of Santa Cruz, California. He recently took a position as the Upper School Head at Dominion Classical Christian Academy. He has a beautiful wife and four adventurous children who love stories, the ocean, and good feasts. Devin holds an MA in the Humanities and has been teaching literature for over 10 years. He also teaches Latin. He has written for Classis and has published fiction and poetry elsewhere. He currently writes for CiRCE, and he and his family attend Holy Cross Anglican Church.
DR. CHRISTOPHER PERRIN Christopher Perrin has been a part of the classical education movement for the last 13 years: as a headmaster (and Latin teacher) of a classical, Christian school in Pennsylvania and as a publisher, author, and consultant with Classical Academic Press. He also serves with the Institute for Classical Schools, an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting classical, Christian education in the US and abroad. His love of classical education began in college as a classics minor. He continued to study Latin and Greek through college and graduate school, studying at St. Johns College and Westminster Seminary in California and Philadelphia. Chris holds a B.A. in history, a M.Div and a Ph.D. (theology/apologetics). Christopher is the author of An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents. He is also the author of Greek For Children Primer A and the Greek Alphabet Code Cracker, and is a co-author of the series. He is married to Christine Perrin, a poet and teacher at Messiah College. They have three children and live near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
BRIAN PHILLIPS Brian Phillips is the Headmaster of The CiRCE Academy and Director of CiRCE Consulting, in addition to writing a regular column for the Institute. Having been involved in classical education for about a decade, Brian has served as a Head of Rhetoric School and a teacher of humanities and rhetoric. He is the pastor of Holy Trinity Reformed Church in Concord, NC, a Board member of the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Cabarrus County, and the author of Sunday Mornings: An Introduction to Biblical Worship. He has a B.A. and M.A. in Theological Studies, as well as an Ed.D. in Humanities/Classical Education. More importantly, Brian is joyfully married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, with whom he has four little ones - Temperance, Ian, Asher, Ellie.
STRATFORD CALDECOTT Stratford Caldecott (1953-2014) was a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative, the editor of the Humanum Review, and co-editor of Second Spring. He authored Beauty for Truth’s Sake, Beauty in the Word, All Things Made New, The Power of the Ring, The Seven Sacraments, and The Radiance of Being. Dr. Caldecott was also a Research Fellow at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford. Dr. Caldecott is the posthumous recipient of 2015 Russell Kirk Paideia Prize, given by the CiRCE Institute for lifetime contribution to Christian classical education.
WHY A “GREAT BOOKS” ISSUE? What’s your favorite thing about books? The smell, perhaps? The way the pages slip and slide through your fingers like memories drifting through your consciousness? The first experience with a particularly awe-inducing work? The wonder of a beautifully turned phrase? Last summer my grandmother moved out of the house she and my grandfather lived in for many years, where I spent my childhood summers, and where our family gathered for holidays and reunions and funerals and so many other events worth remembering. So I flew up to Wisconsin to say goodbye to the place, to water, if you will, the seeds of memory that have long been rooting in my mind. While I was there my grandmother, the generous person that she is, gave me the option to pick out a selection of my grandfather’s books, many of which he had been collecting and displaying for years before he died in 2006. I chose a classic old set of Churchill’s A History of the English Speaking Peoples, a few works of theology, and a gorgeous embossed set of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. These books are now proudly displayed in prime position in my own modest library and occasionally I pull one of them off the shelf late at night and think of my grandfather, and of the things these works have meant to people over the years - and of what they mean to me. Books are mysterious things, the way they catalog cultures and the memories therein, the way they represent the values and virtues of a people. My dad used to remind me that what you collect says a lot about who you want to be. I suppose that for the book-lovers among us, our affections suggest that we wish to be mysterious, dusty, old guardians of culture. On second thought, that sounds just about right. This third issue of our magazine is “The Great Books Issue” not because we need reminding of why Great Books matter, although we do, daily. Rather, this issue is a celebration of what great books - and the cultures they preserve - can do. Ultimately, classical education won’t change the world solely because a group of dedicated, moderately counter-cultural parents and teachers decided to rise up and educate in a uniquely, well, counter-cultural way. If classical education changes the world it will be because the greatest works of art the world has ever seen have preserved the fast-fading memory of cultures too important (and life-giving) to forget. And because those parents and teachers, by the Grace of God, passed them on to the next generation. Yes, books are magical. Especially the truly great ones. They’re healing and transforming and world-changing. So read on, and remember.
David Kern M a n a g i n g Ed i to r,
G o o d w i l l D i r e c to r C i R C E i n s t i t u te
A Fresh Take on Ancient Ideas. Join the Conversation at www.albrittoneducation.com An uncluttered social forum for educators who value robust classroom practice.
Words of Wisdom: Interview
The Mind Is A Fire AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID HICKS By David Kern
23 years after the publication of his seminal work, Norms and Nobility, David Hicks discusses school reform, progressive education, and education as a process of discovery.
David Hicks has long been a leading light in the world of classical education. His book, Norms and Nobility, is one of the seminal works in the movement and his call for pedagogical reform a key instigator in the growth of the renewal. So, of course, it’s a great honor for us to be able to say the he was the first recipient of the Russell Kirk Paideia Prize, way back in 2002, at just the second of our now annual national conferences. But, what’s more, Mr. Hicks has become a fast friend of our little organization, a fact that is, to say the least, humbling. Over the years, Mr. Hicks has worked for a variety of schools and organizations, but his firm commitment to the truth of classical education has been unwavering. And inspiring. His knowledge of the works of the western tradition (especially Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations he has translated alongside his brother) as well as the Church fathers is perhaps unparalleled. To listen to one of his lectures or to read his books or articles is to be transported to another place, to be filled up and inspired and challenged. And even as the classical Christian renewal sees new growth his words resound as clearly and truthfully as ever. Your book, Norms and Nobility, was first published in 1981, a very different time for education in America. Since then we’ve seen myriad attempts at so-called reform within public education, the rise of homeschooling and charter schools, and of course the renewal of classical education in schools and homes all across the nation. In what ways have you seen improvement in the way American children are schooled? Do we have any reason to be optimistic or are things as gloomy as they often seem? 10
Honestly, I feel ill-equipped to answer for the state of education generally. I know of many good things going on, of course, and I’m also aware of our nation’s lackluster PISA results and the conflicts over standardized testing and the Common Core. What to do? What to do? At heart, in spite of the impression Norms may have left readers with, I’m a teacher, not a public policy wonk. My optimism is born not of statistics, but of the difference a rigorous, inspiring education along “classical” lines can make in an individual child’s life. How it can fan his curiosity and make her a reader, a questioner, a lover of beauty, an investigator into truth with a relentless hunger to push beyond knowledge to understanding and eventually to humility and wonder in the face of the Mystery. With this end in mind, where should an education begin? What strikes me is just how at odds such an education is with the pedagogical principles of modern progressive education, where advancement and progress can only be quantified by statistical analysis (preferably of large sample sizes). Of course this “progressive” education largely dominates our day and our schools. Yet for all the analysis and all the talk, we seem to have no real sense of what a rigorous education should actually look like. How do you define that word and how can it be practiced? Do you know Paul Johnson’s essay on Karl Marx? I don’t have it in front of me, but as I recall it illustrates his general critique of the intellectual’s preference for big, sweeping, theoretical solutions that “save souls” by the millions, not one at a time, in the belief that we humans merely reflect our socio-economic
Words of Wisdom: Interview
conditions. Change those conditions and you change us. Your hated statistics are his proof text. I suppose this would make me an anti-intellectual. A “rigorous” education is for me one that saves souls one at a time and pulls that soul out of his socio-economic context, whatever that is, and gives him an “out of body” experience, so to speak. It frees him from his passions or at least puts him at odds with them, makes him aware of the assumptions underlying the arguments swirling around him, causes him to recognize and detest cant and mediocrity, and establishes in him an insatiable hunger for whatever is good and true and beautiful. It gives him a star to follow, whatever the crowd is doing. Makes him a Magus. And how is this rigor attained? I’m not sure, as I once was, that there is only one answer to that question, but I still believe that an education broadly termed classical is one way of attaining it. That is, through the close reading of timeless literature and sacred texts, through the close study of history and the instructive lives of the saints and scoundrels who have made history, and through the close observation of nature whether through the lens of an artist, a scientist, or a mathematician. How does one make a close reading, a close study, a close observation? The Magister knows — or ought to know — and shows the way. Many teachers, alas, have no idea because they themselves were never taught. And that returns us to your first question. Remember T.S. Eliot on the importance of the Christian church in Chorus VI of “The Rock” (1934):
So what’s to be done then? What do we do to stand against the rising tide? Do we simply push back in whatever meager ways we can and then hope for the best? Eliot also wrote, possibly in The Family Reunion, that the person marching against the rising tide will only appear to be running away, or retreating. We march on knowing that our strength lies in our weakness, as opposed to delusions of power and self-importance, and that our hope is not for the best, but in the Best. So I suppose, then, what’s to be done is to pray for a greater abundance of faith, hope, and love (in and for our students, the Truths we are teaching, and the One who gave them to us)? What would you say to the teacher in the small classical school somewhere in the deep south or the homeschooler in middle America who believes deeply in a classical Christian approach to education, but who is discouraged by her own lack of that kind of education, who feels as if she can’t provide it for her beloved students?
I would say that there is no reason to be discouraged. This is a journey we are all on, and there are reasons to be glad you will be making this journey with your children and not ahead of them. This sort of education is a process of discovery, a discovery of the self and of all things visible and invisible. The resources for that discovery are all around us, not just in great books, although these are the touchstones for an education of discovery by showing how the best minds have Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws? made these discoveries for themselves and shared She tells them of Life and Death, and all that they would forget. them with us. She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft. I remember years ago meeting with a homeShe tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts. schooling family of five daughters. One of their They constantly try to escape weekly assignments was to scour the local papers From the the darkness outside and within and discover what interesting things their neighBy dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good. bors were up to. When they read about someone or something that interested them, they would send That’s beautiful. So is there a way to convince the culture an art-directed invitation to that person for dinner, a dinner at-large that perhaps the escape that Eliot mentions there which they painstakingly planned, prepared, and served, and isn’t as grand as it perhaps sounds? Is there a way to impress at dinner and afterwards they peppered their special guest upon it the need for a “close reading of timeless literature with the questions they had prepared in advance. Think of and sacred texts”? the extraordinary multi-dimensional learning that grows out of a routine like this! And this parent, who happened to have Is there a way? If you know of any way to convince the a degree in biology, simply conducted the orchestra without culture-at-large of anything, you should run for President. playing a single instrument. I quoted Eliot to support my last point, but I believe most of To sum up, the greater cause for discouragement, I would us make the “escape” through denial, not “by dreaming of say, is the know-it-all parent who thinks that homeschooling systems.” Gazing into the abyss is beyond human endurance. is about imparting everything he or she knows to the children. Easier to anesthetize ourselves, or to distract ourselves with What a disaster that is! As Plutarch reminded us, “The mind toys and entertainments, or to pursue the false promises of is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” power and popularity. As my wife is fond of saying, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.”
Words of Wisdom: Book Reviews
9 CLASSICAL EDUCATORS PICK THEIR FAVORITE GREAT BOOKS When we began asking around about what the greatest Great Book is, we received essentially two kinds of response: people who believe that one particular work is absolutely greatest and who are willing to express why; and, on the other hand, people who can’t imagine having to make such a defense and so simply shared their favorites. You’ll find each kind of response well represented in the responses below.
CINDY ROLLINS author ordo-amoris.com
Homer’s THE ILIAD I suppose it might seem like I am just being contrary, but I pick The Iliad over The Odyssey as the greatest “Great Book.” I will admit that The Odyssey is easier reading with a more overtly moral tone but that may also be another good reason to pick The Iliad. I suppose I love The Iliad more than The Odyssey because its gold is mined with more difficulty. I love it because of its desperation- Achilles’ desperation, that pre-Gospel longing for significance and meaning. I suppose I love it because I have found a better country and it reminds me from whence I have come. Being contrary, I much prefer to remember the past than to be told which way to go. I cannot trust the future, or myself to follow the right path, but the past is an open book full of pathos which I dare not forget.
and family, marriage, philosophy, theology, animal husbandry, law and medicine, literature and poetry, myth-making and pictorial drawing, dramatic production, music, astronomy, arithmetic and geometry, rhetoric and logic, metaphor and the imagination – in short, all of the liberal and imaginative arts, the professions, the art of city-making and its defense, while helping us come to see the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, including Justice Itself! This Book is an inexhaustible resource for learning how to make a life worth living, and it does so by asking us to ask the questions that will help us find our way to the answers of life’s biggest questions: Who am I? How should I live my life? Why should it matter how I live my life?
DAVID HICKS author of Norms and Nobility
Abstainer I haven’t responded to this request on the strength of Marcus Aurelius’ reminder that one doesn’t have to have an opinion. Likewise, who is my favorite child? I don’t have an opinion.
president, St. John’s College
Plato’s THE REPUBLIC My nominee for the greatest book, Bible excluded, is Plato’s Republic. The dialogue is emblematic of liberal education. There is no aspect of human endeavor that it does not address with thoughtful engagement and challenge. It comprehends politics, psychology, government, city planning, education, child-rearing
E. CHRISTIAN KOPFF author of The Devil Knows Latin
Virgil’s THE AENEID The Aeneid is the most central of the Great Books. It is
Words of Wisdom: Book Reviews
doubly traditional. Looking back to Homer, Apollonius and the lost Greek Cyclic epics, it tells again the tragic fate of Troy and the story of Aeneas, who rescued a remnant of the Trojans and led them to a new home. The Aeneid is also the beginning of the great tradition of European literature. Christian Europe’s greatest poet, Dante, tells us as his Comedy begins that Virgil taught him to be a poet. The Aeneid shaped and encouraged English poetry from Spencer to Milton and beyond. Dryden’s Aeneid set the standard for Neo-Classic English verse. John Keats learned the interaction of sound and meter that he made his own, as he translated the Aeneid for his classical Christian school’s Latin prize. But can the Aeneid speak to those who are not great writers? C. S. Lewis argued that Virgil rejects the individualism of Achilles and Odysseus for a heroism based on Aeneas’ divine mission for family and people. Lewis wrote to Dorothy Sayers, “I have just re-read the Aeneid again. The effect is one of the immense costliness of a vocation combined with a complete conviction that it is worth it.” Lewis developed these ideas in his Preface to Paradise Lost. “It is the nature of a vocation to appear to men in the double character of a duty and a desire, and Virgil does justice to both…. To follow the vocation does not mean happiness: but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow…. With Virgil European poetry grows up…. No man who has read [the Aeneid] with full perception remains an adolescent.” The theme of mission is linked to that of destiny. For pagan Romans this is fatum, a key word in the Aeneid. For Christians it is almost Providence. Destiny and Providence come from different worldviews, but they touch in the speeches of Jupiter and Anchises. At the end of Book Eight Aeneas picks up his mother’s gift, a shield covered with scenes from Rome’s future history. “He rejoices in the pictures, though he does not know the events.” (rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet.) Tolkien, who also loved the Aeneid, may have remembered this line as he composed the Council at Rivendell, where Frodo accepts his mission. “I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.” Lewis wrote, “In making his one legend symbolical of the destiny of Rome, [Virgil] has, willy-nilly, symbolized the destiny of Man.” As T. S. Eliot saw, “Our classic, the classic of all Europe, is Virgil.”
JOHN MARK REYNOLDS author of When Athens Met Jerusalem
Plato’s THE REPUBLIC The Greatest of the Great Books is the Republic. Any other choice is so wrong as to be amusing. Why? First, the Republic touches on almost every important theological concept except for the Incarnation. We need a good God. We would crucify
any man who was just, but did not seem just. We need a story to save us about a man who comes back from the dead and tells us the cosmos is just. It is all there. Second, the Republic presents the best example of the dialectic in action outside of the life of the Logos Himself. Plato allows Socrates to be overly hasty in discussion (Book I), give up on discussion (Book II), see the very forms of evil (Book IV), and then rise to the heights of myth making (VII, X). Third, the pattern of classical education is found in Republic. We begin in bewilderment (I). We try several thought experiments (Books II-IV). We reach a digression better than our original project (V-VII) and then end in worldview formation. Finally, one either agrees with Plato in Republic or disagrees with him, but no writer ignores him. If philosophy isn’t quite a footnote to Plato, then all of human thought is at least forced to talk to Plato, and Plato is at his best in Republic. Timaeus is more profound, Phaedo is a better story, Parmenides more philosophically challenging, but it is the Republic that brings all of Plato in one package.
CHRIS PERRIN Classical Academic Press
Chesterton’s ORTHODOXY Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is the greatest book of the Great Books I have read. Of course, there is a subjective element largely at play in my assessment. I don’t claim Orthodoxy is the greatest book for all, but it may be the greatest book for anyone interested in Christian apologetics. And herein lies my subjective bias—I came across Orthodoxy while completing a PhD in apologetics. My first read of Orthodoxy turned me upside down, as Chesterton is want to turn the world, himself, and his readers upside down in order to see things afresh, and therefore as they really are. At that time in my life (my late 20s) I had been reading all manner of books on apologetics and finding myself inundated and strained with tight-woven argumentation and hard-edged points and counter points. Chesterton used logic, but he also used poetry and imagination. He burst through several doors at once, laughing, playing, and clearly enjoying himself. But he was doing Christian apologetics, while trying not to. In Orthodoxy (writing at age 34), Chesterton disarmed me almost immediately: I soon stopped preparing for my counter points, because he was engaging me not with points like pistol shots, but with narrative, story, and imagination. I relaxed into the book and found myself not so much in the midst of an argument as swimming in the sea by the shore with wave after wave of paradox, parallelism, analogy, and story turning me round and round. It was fun, but I was in the end sandy, wet, and exhausted. Was this apologetics? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted more—and wrote my dissertation on Chesterton. CIRCEINSTITUTE.ORG 13
Words of Wisdom: Book Reviews
CHRISTINE PERRIN Classical Academic Press
Dostoevsky’s THE IDIOT My greatest book suggestion is controversial: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It will wound you: one of my students said after reading this book, “Dostoevsky is hard on his readers.” Indeed, my chest felt like it was separating in half during the period that I read this book twice. The main character, Myshkin—the idiot—is a man who is pure of heart. He is a character that touches your sense that the world lacks beauty and innocence. His author calls him a “positively beautiful man.” Oddly, his faith in people, his vulnerability, and his absolute goodness toward all has disastrous results. Figuring out why is something that even the excellently written and time worthy Schmoop literature guide can’t do. Here is a clue: “Fantasy is the only place where God is not” said Dostoevsky once. This book is essential as you read your way from Crime and Punishment to The Brothers Karamazov. It is crucial toward trying to understand what Dostoevsky means by grace, what he sees as the solution to our degradation. It is possibly the most complex answer to that puzzle. It will give you headache, I promise. It indicts our naïve belief in basic goodness. In contrast, Alyosha, the pure-hearted character from Brothers, understands red-blooded lust and the stink of humankind that resides close to him, even within him. His ability to offer charity that brings good to others is tied to a paradox: he must both deny the fantastical about himself and others and still hope and be with them while carrying this fire for them in his heart. He cannot answer Ivan with a reasonable defense of this hope in the midst of degradation, he can only kiss him. On the other side is Crime and Punishment ’s Raskolnikov—a terrible man whose life is utterly changed by love. Intentions and character are always confused in these novels as they are in life, no method will make it all clear or give us a purely reasonable path. I’m grateful for this. It helps me to live in the uncertainty and dirty looking glass that is life. The Idiot destroys some of my illusions and helps me to understand how desperately we are in need of goodness, yes, but of more than that. Take a year and read all three—they are talking to each other. Read the version translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
MATT BIANCO Classical Conversations
Homer’s ILIAD & ODYSSEY The greatest great book is, hands-down, Homer’s duo, The
Iliad and The Odyssey. And I am allowed to list them together
as one book. If you’ve always considered them as two separate books, you’re doing them wrong. Homer, to borrow Aristotle’s words, “deserves praise for many other things but especially because he alone of poets is not ignorant of what he himself ought to do as a poet.” Homer portrays men and women and gods, warriors and cowards and lovers of home, fathers and sons and wives unlike any other poet, any other writer, we might encounter. Every human being today, no matter how intelligent or ignorant, from the scholar to the inmate, from the student to the preacher, from the soldier to the fatherless son, can identify with the characters of his work in ways that will change them, that will teach them what it means to be human, that will help them to understand who they are and what this world is we live in. Homer is the author of the greatest great book, and every person ought to consider encountering him some day, at a time when they can read him rightly, slowly, with much contemplation and with a community of others with whom they can consider him and his work. If we would only seek to encounter him that we might see what we can learn, for what he has to say about humanity and creation, we might be a better people. His book is that kind of greatest great book.
MARTIN COTHRAN Memoria Press
Tolstoy’s ANNA KARENINA Tolstoy may have been the greatest novelist of all time, and Anna Karenina was his greatest novel. What many people don’t understand about this story is that it is just as much about Levin, a young agnostic nobleman with all the secular prejudices becoming common at the time, as about Anna, the seductress whose affair with a dashing young army officer is her moral and psychological undoing. Through his courtship with the adorable and earthy Kitty, the barricades of his heart are broken through and he begins to see his life in the moral context of the economy of God. In one scene, his future brother-in-law reminds him before his Orthodox wedding that he is obliged to perform the sacrament of Confession, something his agnosticism has prevented him from doing for many years. The priest who, during the liturgy, Levin thought had just been going through the liturgical motions, surprises him in the confessional with his piercing questions and his understanding of Levin’s spiritual conditions. It rocks Levin’s world. By the end of the book, Levin realizes, partly through the Christian love of his wife, that his opposition to Christianity is intellectually groundless, and is the result, not of any sound rational objections, but only of his own intransigent attitude.
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works of Western philosophy, literature, history, political science, theology, economics, music, mathematics, and the laboratory sciences. Students forgo lecture-and test-based coursework and instead participate in small (14-20 students) discussion-based classes supplemented with written essays and oral examinations. Graduates are nimble thinkers, lucid communicators, discerning listeners, and confident collaborators.
www.sjc.edu ANNAPOLIS email@example.com 800.727.9238
SANTA FE firstname.lastname@example.org CIRCEINSTITUTE.ORG 15 800.331.5232
Words of Wisdom: Book Reviews
THE LIBERAL ARTS TRADITION
by Ravi Scott Jain & Kevin Clark
Reviewed by Brian Phillips
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity What is classical education? By far, this is the most frequently asked question posed to the classical educator and, among a number of answers that should be given, one could add that classical educators progress by “doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.” But, what is the right road? The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain seeks to answer that question, pointing the reader back to the rich, beautiful heritage found in the seven liberal arts. In the book’s foreword, Dr. Peter Kreeft points out that not everyone favors such an “about-turn” to the liberal arts tradition. In fact, some reject it precisely because it represents a turning back. Kreeft writes, “It’s old, outdated, unfashionable. Yes it is, like honor, courage, integrity, and honesty. It doesn’t try to tell the truth with a clock; it doesn’t practice chronological snobbery. In an age which has embraced every novelty, the true rebel is the traditionalist.” As Clark and Jain begin their call for this about-turn, they note that: “The traditional seven liberal arts are part of the wealth we have inherited from the classical world. Many in the Christian classical renewal reflect this heritage by identifying the major divisions in their schools according to the names of the first three of these liberal arts – grammar, dialectic, rhetoric – the three arts constituting the medieval Trivium (from
the Latin meaning ‘the three paths’). The latter four liberal arts – arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, known as the Quadrivium (from the Latin meaning ‘the four paths’) – have been somewhat less celebrated though they are just as traditional. The ancients believed that these seven ‘arts’ were not merely subjects to be mastered, but sure and certain ways of forming in the soul the intellectual virtue necessary for acquiring true wisdom.” In large part, the remainder of The Liberal Arts Tradition serves to unveil these ideas with the “simple, though perhaps controversial” thesis that “the seven liberal arts were never meant to stand on their own as the entire curriculum, for they are designed particularly for cultivating intellectual virtue. Since human beings are more than just intellects, however, the curriculum must develop more than just intellectual virtue. Creatures formed in God’s image must be cultivated in body and soul – mind, will, and affections.” Clark and Jain argue that the seven liberal arts are rightly seen as part of a larger model that is built upon the central tenet of piety (defined as “the proper love and fear of God and man”), with theology offering “nourishment to their basic principles from within”, and that includes both gymnastic and musical education to train body and heart. Thus understood, Christian classical education stands as the only model that so cultivates wisdom
Words of Wisdom: Book Reviews
and virtue in the heart, mind, and body of students. While The Liberal Arts Tradition possesses the weakness of being painfully short (less than 150 pages, including appendices), it serves as a superb introduction to the seven liberal arts. Clark and Jain’s discussion of the history and development of liberal arts education is helpful and enlightening. In this respect, their treatment of piety and its place of importance is particularly noteworthy. From Augustus Caesar’s Rome to St. Paul’s letters, from St. Augustine’s writings to John Calvin’s Institutes, Clark and Jain powerfully demonstrate that piety must be the foundation or “ground” of the curriculum, making its rejection by modern cultural revolutions all the more tragic. In introducing the seven liberal arts, Clark and Jain address the Trivium (grammar, dialectic or logic, and rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) separately. And, though the Trivium and Quadrivium are parts of the same whole, this separate treatment should prove helpful for many readers, given the great attention paid to the former and the great neglect of the latter among classical educators. The writers even point out that “By now, the Trivium has been so widely discussed by pedagogues within the Christian classical renewal that we engage in discussing it with some degree of trepidation.” Yet, even their description of the Trivium goes well beyond the all-toocommon description of it as memorization (grammar), argument (dialectic/ logic), and eloquent presentation (rhetoric). Building upon the medieval saying “Gram loquitur, Dia verba docet, Rhet verba colorat” (grammar speaks, dialectic teaches words, and rhetoric colors words), Clark and Jain show that the Trivium, coupled with the Quadrivium, “lay the paths to all further studies,” rather than being the “end all” of classical education. Perhaps this is the greatest contribution of The Liberal Arts Tradition: it moves the conversation beyond the Trivium. While noting that the classical education renewal is greatly “indebted” to Dorothy Sayers, Douglas Wilson, and others, for their work in recovering the place of the Trivium, Clark and Jain urge us further on, saying, “Hitherto thinkers in the renewal have understood the Trivium itself … as constituting the Christian classical tradition. What we present here is a vision of the And among its innumerable liberal arts as a central part of a and more robust paradigm benefits, wisdom and virtue larger of Christian classical education.” enable one to make sound A final noteworthy trait of The Liberal Arts Tradition is its pracdecisions. What could be ticality. While the educational more practical than that? approach Clark and Jain advocate is far from pragmatic – that is, obsessed with test scores and driven by college admissions – it is certainly practical. Piety, theology, rhetoric, and philosophy are not mere abstractions, but paths that lead the student to wisdom and virtue, which are the real aim of Christian classical education. And among its innumerable benefits, wisdom and virtue enable one to make sound decisions. What could be more practical than that? Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain have done a great service to the Christian classical renewal, providing an accessible introduction to the seven liberal arts that moves beyond rehashed discussions of the Trivium and on to a more complete picture of what it means to cultivate wisdom and virtue in the whole student – mind, body, will, and affections.
TEACHING FROM REST
By Sarah Mackenzie
The nervous breakdown that homeschooling moms give themselves would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Hours and hours researching and agonizing, trying to pick out the most thorough, most dynamic, most learning-style appropriate, most theologically accurate, complete with hands-on activities, kindergarten science program! Curriculum catalogs the size of telephone books show up in our mailboxes and all of our previous curriculum choices are weighed, measured, and found wanting—or at least seriously second-guessed. Sarah Mackenzie, homeschooling mom of six, was determined to break this maddening cycle of anxiety and find the unshakeable peace that God promises His children. She spent the next year learning everything she could about teaching from a state of rest. The result of that quest is her new book, Teaching from a State of Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace. Do yourself a favor. Stop the cycle of anxiety and fear. Don’t start your school year before you seriously contemplate the ideas and advice in this book. Your children will enjoy learning more; you will enjoy your children more; and you just might get more sleep this year!
- Angelina Stanford FOR A LONGER REVIEW PLEASE VISIT OUR DIGITAL VERSION.
It was early, and I had just boarded the 17 Express, the bus that navigated a rather treacherous passage of road through the redwoods of the south Bay Area to my university. The bus was populated with businessmen and women, students young and old, travelers on their way to the airport, and everything in between. It was rush hour, which meant the bus was packed. Passengers jockeyed for position in line, awkwardly searching for a seat amid the rows of vacant-faced people who were already seated and who feigned ignorance at the need of their fellow passengers. Relieved, I spotted a friend, her open seat a haven from the strangeness of American public transportation. I settled in, and we soon fell into a long conversation regarding our college majors. She was getting a degree in Hotel Management, a fact for which she expressed a great deal of pride. I recall her enthusiasm. “I’m so excited,” she said. “Finally, I get to study what I want to.” Having recently finished general education credits, she felt free to pursue the degree of her dreams. She was free to get a license from the state that said she was able to do a certain kind of labor. Hotel Management. 18
It should not surprise us that At the time, I was not able to detect the full weight of irony that hung heavy upon the air of that conversation. But I did at least wonder why she was spending money on something that she could do on her own, without license from the state, without the cost of time and energy, without taking extra courses in business theory. When I asked her why she wasn’t simply working her way to managing hotels and getting a degree in something less defined, her response was, if I recall, that she wanted her schooling to count for something. She wanted her schooling to be useful. In Wisdom and Eloquence, Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans defend the liberal arts and the teaching of Humanities. They open their discussion of our current
education in the 21st century is essentially training in usefulness educational system with a noticeable fact: “Too many have dismissed the liberal arts as an inappropriate paradigm for a technological age” (15). The correlation between technology and usefulness is a frightful one, and the valuation of usefulness as a good in itself permeates the West (or what is left of it). Even the Island of Sodor is not free from the Marxist praise of the proletarian, for the accolades Thomas the Tank Engine receives are ever in praise of utility—that he was a very “useful” engine or that he’s “right on time” or that “a train is only as good as its track” and so on. It should not surprise us that education in the 21st century is essentially training in usefulness. And this is true not only for the public schools or those who might be Christian but not classical. All schools
that are “accredited”—a sinister word today—must run the hamster wheel of appointed school days, maintaining the proper “seat time” to appease the genius of the state. And higher education is no different; many colleges now dangle the carrot of specialized vocation before the money-hungry eyes of students. Love of wisdom? Virtue? Please. The cynicism of Pilate shall disabuse us of such ideals. That colleges now offer degrees for things such as “Hotel Management” before requiring a degree in the Humanities proves that education thus far has not become more human but rather less so. In the factory of degree-making, modern universities have not succeeded in making the student freer to do what they want, though they might feel like it, CIRCEINSTITUTE.ORG 19
THE BLESSED USELESSNESS OF THE HUMANITIES
The aim of the Humanities then is not simply to learn what it means to be human in some vague or abstract sense. The aim of the Humanities is ultimately to learn about God and our neighbors; and then, with God’s help and for His sake, we might achieve the ever higher aim of loving them as ourselves.
as my friend did. It is the opposite. Today university students graduate often shackled to a certain kind of job they think they want. But we know how stable the fancies are of even the most prudent college students; so when their interests do change, which will almost certainly come to pass, they change majors as well, or, even better, they pursue a graduate degree, adding to the already swollen sore of academic inflation. Last year the Washington Post reported that only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major. Gone are the days when the majority would work the same job for more than 10 years. But the majority of colleges today insist on coming up with new majors, new degrees, new ways to license as many vocations as possible. In other words, our universities have made the student less liberal in his arts, bound tightly to the pragmatic concerns of such economic augury that would attempt to foretell the rise and fall of the market. Nursing degrees? Turn in here. Real estate’s hot? Get a degree in it. Like to build things? Go into engineering. Technology—that’s where the future is! We’ve all heard it before, and one can hardly do anything online without being accosted by some such advertisement. It is not that the business of real estate, for instance, is bad, or that “Hotel Management” is a vulgar enterprise. On the contrary, they are good only insofar as the human who does them is morally good. Even St. Paul was involved in commerce, but he understood that one works not to the satisfaction of oneself only, nor to that of the state, but as unto the Lord does he work. The point is that an education should make the human free to pursue “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do” (Ecc. 9:10). However low or high the work might be, Scripture’s chief concern is that it pleases the Lord. But before we jump at doing this or that, we must first ask and answer what it is that pleases the Lord. For this, after all, is what education is about. Education is a primary
thing. It must principally address what it means to bear the image of God. It must address first the fact that we don’t live by bread alone, or by government cheese, or even by the insurance agency bearing us up lest we dash our foot against a stone. The fact of man is that he lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4). Biblically speaking, education is the delight in and meditation on God’s law that precedes the fruit and prospering in all one does (Psalm 1). If today’s universities wish to truly educate the human creature, then they must first rid themselves of the egalitarian romance that sees all subjects of study as equal. The field of study called “Actuarial Science” can hardly stand with dignity next to the disciplines of philosophy, art, music, literature, and history, whose shadows ever lengthen from the morning of time across the ancient and revolving earth. The collective disciplines of the Humanities pierce deep into the facts of Man. Surely the university should have the wisdom to value the businessman or banker who understands the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. The capitalist who has first been taught to delight in art and music is more likely to be a delightful person. Regardless of the vocation, a degree in the Humanities, for instance, is the best preparation for life because it is the best preparation for what it means to be human. But perhaps the real reason for its superiority lies in a paradox: The Humanities is the most important field of study because it is the most useless. Think of babies. Love. Poetry. Excellent food. That something is useless does not mean it is without value. In the end, the useless things can prove the most valuable. And yet the Humanities is not useless in the sense that it is without reward. As Littlejohn and Evans write, it cannot be disputed that “Liberally educated people, whose intellectual skills are transferable to the learning of any subject or craft, are increasingly important in an economy in which the average
THE BLESSED USELESSNESS OF THE HUMANITIES
adult changes careers multiple times over the course of his life” (22). The education trend today is to meet the challenges of a changing world with job placement; the emphasis is on “skills.” With more training in technology students will be prepared for an ever increasing digital age. But what happens when a technology becomes extinct, when we have to deal with real people again? What happens when the IT guy cannot find the grace of human words? He is fired. He is fired because he cannot relate with other humans. So much for Computer Engineering. This is why movies like Office Space or the comedy series The Office, both the British and the American versions, receive such wild acclaim. It is true that these shows palliate the addictive cravings of irony in modern man. But it is more than that. What their satire exposes is the loss of humanity in the modern work world, especially in the office environment, where bosses who should not be bosses manage people who are much more human and large-hearted than they are. A business degree will not help a Michael Scott or a Dwight Schrute. An education in the Humanities, however, might at least restrain their folly or make them conscious of it, even if they continue to play the fool. That evening I boarded an empty bus. It had been a long day on campus; rush hour was now past. San Jose was electric with city lights. And as the bus drove I thought of my conversation that morning. I was pleased with myself, with what I had said to my unthinking friend. One might even say I was feeling a sense of pride, for I challenged someone to rethink their major. After all, she was wasting her money on a silly degree. I, one the other hand, loved literature. I loved poetry and story. I loved books, how crisis reveals character, how the human spirit is in desperate need of redemption. Just then the bus made its last stop before making the final leg of its journey over the mountains and into the fogwrapped coast of Santa Cruz. A man boarded, and I was pleased to see him take a seat a quickly, near the front. His appearance was inconsequential and unthreatening. All his other features were forgettable. Then another man followed. He had on layers, but each article of clothing was worn and slightly indistinguishable from the others. His longish hair, clumped and matted in parts, had clearly not been washed or combed, and where his skin was exposed it seemed red and raw and flaked. His hands shook a bit. With mildly unsteady gait, he started walking down the
aisle, clearly not satisfied with the several empty seats in the front of the bus. I quickly shoved my bag into the empty seat beside me to indicate that it was taken. He kept walking towards me. Of all the seats in the all the world, I thought. He stopped just in front of my seat and took the one across from me. I have the feeling he then stretched one leg out and made for himself a chaise. I sighed. I was immensely relieved that he didn’t insist on sitting with me yet still annoyed that he was sitting somewhat near me. And there I was, repulsed at the sight of my neighbor— not because I was protecting little children from strangers. Perhaps I felt threatened by such people. Perhaps I felt unsafe. Perhaps. But I didn’t care. I simply didn’t want to be near people like that, even if they were my “neighbors.” I wanted to have my space and to enjoy my book about fictitious humans. So convinced of my approbation for the arts, I had lost sight of what was most important in them. “The more I love humanity in general,” Dostoevsky cautions, “the less I love man in particular.” If the Humanities is essential even for those of us who love the arts naturally, then how much more is the Humanities essential for the banker whose passions could be corrected by the humane admonishments of Homer and Shakespeare, rather than the Wall-Street-Wolf whose passions lead him without scruple into the Nietzchean twilight of sic volo; sic jubeo. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident in my commute, and I often found myself hiding from others I didn’t know in self-preservation. When I reflect on this scene, however, I am reminded of the words of Ivan Karamazov to his brother Alyosha. Loving humanity is the easy part. But, as Ivan confesses, “I could never understand how one can love one’s neighbors. It’s just one’s neighbors, to my mind, that one can’t love, though one might love those at a distance”. It is easy to level criticism at people in the tech industry who could really benefit from an education in the Humanities. But the truth is that we all need the Humanities, even those of us who delight in those disciplines and love them. The aim of the Humanities then is not simply to learn what it means to be human in some vague or abstract sense. The aim of the Humanities is ultimately to learn about God and our neighbors; and then, with God’s help and for His sake, we might achieve the ever higher aim of loving them as ourselves.
Greek Mythology & the Gospel BY ANGELINA STANFORD
The often heated debate about the propriety of Christians studying the ancients is not new. From the very birth of Christianity, Christians have been trying to figure out what to do with pagan literature.
Many of the Church Fathers justified the study of pagan works by arguing that the gods of myths were once actual menâ€“real, live kings who came to be treated as gods. Mythology, then, is simply fictionalized history. Much later Sir Walter Raleigh argued that not only were myths the stories of real historical figures; they were specifically corruptions of Bible stories, deliberately corrupted and distorted in order to mislead men.
In his History of the World (1614), Raleigh lines up the Pantheon of gods with their biblical counterparts and demonstrates how each pagan god is a corruption of a real person found in the Bible. Likewise, he explains how certain themes and archetypes in mythology are corruptions of true Biblical stories and themes. He builds on the work of Justin Martyr, who is the first Christian, at least that I can find, who dealt with the similarities between Christianity and pagan mythology. In circa 155 AD, he wrote a defense of Christianity, which included a discussion of “heathen analogies to Christian doctrine.” Martyr acknowledges that many elements of Christianity can be found in pagan myths. But, he points out, Christianity is not imitating the pagans; rather, the Christian myths came first. All other myths were developed by men who Justin believes were misled by wicked demons in order to deceive and lead astray the human race. They were “under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.” And judging by the popularity of certain Facebook memes, the demons are still succeeding at this very thing. CS Lewis, in an essay called “Myth Became Fact”, addresses this same issue. He says that, ultimately, “We must not be nervous about “parallels” and “pagan Christs”: they ought to be there--it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t.” We should get excited when we find mythological parallels to our Christian stories, not worried! Christians already believe that the stories of the Old Testament all point to Christ. So do all the other ancient stories—even when they are deliberately trying to mislead us. They are corruptions and distortions, but the seeds of truth are still there. The fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” illustrates how a story created after the coming of Christ can present the Gospel. At her christening the princess is cursed by an embittered fairy: she will prick her finger and die. Another fairy steps in and changes the curse of death. Death no longer has its sting; it will be transformed into sleep. The king tries to protect his daughter by having all the spindles in the kingdom destroyed, but despite his efforts the princess pricks her hand and invokes the curse. The failure of the king to protect her demonstrates the futility of works-righteousness. We cannot escape the curse of death by our own power. After the princess falls asleep, the whole of her kingdom sleeps as well, and a hedge of thorns covers the palace. The effect of the curse is over the whole creation, not just the princess. And of course, it’s notable that the curse is not only sleep but a hedge of thorns, which is a picture of the curse in the garden. Many attempt to rescue the sleeping princess but they cannot penetrate the hedge; they get stuck in the thorns and are pricked to death. However, when the true prince approaches, the thorns turn into flowers and separate. There is only one 24
prince who can reverse the curse, redeem the creation, conquer the sting of death, and bring the princess back to life. The prince finds sleeping beauty and awakens her with a kiss, which is a picture of the Resurrection when Christians will indeed be called out of sleep by their prince, Jesus Christ. When sleeping beauty awakens, her entire kingdom awakes as well: her attendants, the horses and dogs, even the flies on the wall. Likewise when Christ calls for His bride, the whole of Creation will be redeemed. The fairy tale ends with a wedding, which is the end of the story of the Gospel as well. In the end, Christ will be united with His bride, the Church, in the marriage supper of the Lamb--having defeated death. And like sleeping beauty and her prince, Christians will live happily ever after. Now consider how these same archetypes and patterns play out in the pagan myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Right away we are presented with a common mythological Christ-like figure: Orpheus is not only the son of the king, he is also half god and half man. Orpheus marries Eurydice, and immediately after the wedding, she is pursued by another man and flees. In her flight she is bitten by a serpent on the heel and dies, which brings to mind Genesis 3:15, when God prophesies the central conflict of the Scriptures: the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent, and the seed of the serpent will strike the heel of the woman’s seed. Determined to rescue his bride, Orpheus descends into Hades. He gets Hades to agree to return Eurydice to the land of the living but on one condition: Orpheus can’t look back at her until they are completely out of the underworld. He of course violates the rule and loses her forever. Overcome with grief, he wanders around and is eventually killed. While Sleeping Beauty presents a successful redemption story--the prince redeems his bride from death--Orpheus is a failed redemption story. All the elements are there. Half-god, half-man, son of the king, descends into Hades to rescue his bride from death, but he blows it. Orpheus failed to redeem his bride, and Plato tells us why. In Symposium 179d Plato explains that Orpheus failed because he was unwilling to die for his bride. The only way to conquer death is by death! It was insights like this that led the Church Fathers to consider Plato a pre-Christian saint. Now let us consider a successful redemption story in mythology: the story of Psyche and Cupid. Psyche is a princess whose beauty is so great that it provokes the wrath of jealous Venus. Venus asks her son Cupid to bring about Psyche’s ruin, but instead Cupid falls in love with Psyche himself and secretly sets a different plan in motion. Psyche discovers that she has angered Venus and asks Apollo what she should do. He says that Psyche should dress in mourning and sit on a hill—alone—to meet her destined husband, a fearful winged serpent. Believing that she is about to die, Psyche climbs to the top of the hill and is whisked away to a beautiful palace, where she finds herself married not to a monster, but to a wonderful husband (Cupid). She
lives in paradise and is cared for and beloved. But in this garden paradise, there is one command and one consequence. Cupid tells Psyche, “Do not try to see me. If you do we will be separated forever.” Eventually, persuaded by her two jealous sisters, Psyche sneaks a peek at her husband one night. Cupid awakens and discovers her disobedience. He says, “Love cannot live where there is no trust,” and he leaves. The palace and the gardens vanish. She has broken the one commandment and been cast out of paradise. Having lost everything, Psyche tries to earn her way back to paradise. She offers to serve Venus in order to earn forgiveness and restoration, and she is given three impossible tasks. But Psyche receives supernatural help (in some versions, Cupid himself is behind the help) and she is able to accomplish the tasks much to Venus’ displeasure. For her final task Psyche must venture into Hades. Despite the aid she receives, Psyche fails, and as a result she encounters a sleeping curse that leads to death. She falls asleep, but Cupid shows up and awakens her. Assuring her that everything will be alright, he sends her back to Venus with the last completed task. Cupid hurries to Olympus and begs Jupiter for help. To rescue Psyche from the wrath of Venus, Jupiter formally unites Psyche and Cupid in marriage and then grants Psyche immortality. And they live together forever in a union that cannot be broken. The standard interpretation is that this myth is about the perfect union of love and the soul. The soul overcomes obstacles to obtain immortality, and in the end, Psyche earns her place among the gods. But I think there’s more going on here, and in fact I think we can find echoes of the Gospel story here. The myth starts out with Psyche under a curse for transgressing a god and stealing a god’s glory. Essentially, her transgression is that she is trying to be like God! But Cupid (who is both a god himself and the son of a god), out of love for Psyche, rescues her by marrying her. This is a twist on the redemption story. Here we don’t have a loving god who sends his son to undo the curse and redeem his bride by dying for her; instead, we have a jealous, vain goddess who sends her son to punish the one under the curse by wedding her to a snake-monster. But Cupid, out of love, instead secretly rescues her through marriage and brings her to paradise. But Psyche’s disobedience (of the single prohibition given to her) destroys her loving union with Cupid and results in her expulsion from paradise. Filled with regret, Psyche tries to earn her redemption through her own good works, but she can’t do it. It’s impossible to earn forgiveness; she has to have supernatural help. In the end, when trying to earn the love of Cupid by opening
Persephone’s box, Psyche, like Sleeping Beauty, discovers the futility of works-righteousness and she falls under a sleeping curse and begins to die. But Cupid rescues her by awakening her from this deathlike sleep. He completes the final task for her, but even that is not enough for Psyche to earn her restoration. Cupid must go to Olympus to intercede on behalf of Psyche. He asks for mercy. Cupid (a god, who is also the son of a god, and the god of love) asks Jupiter to deliver Psyche from the curse she is under. Jupiter does this by uniting Psyche with Cupid in marriage and granting her immortality. And the story ends with the pronouncement that they live together forever in a union that cannot be broken. This myth was composed before Christ, by a people who supposedly have no hint of the truth. And yet these Gentiles have this idea of what it would take to gain immortality and to be united with God: it takes a god, who is also a son of a god, who rescues you from the curse, who helps along the way, who intercedes with God on your behalf, who marries you, which gives you perfect union with God and eternal life for no other reason than that he loves you! The early Christians saw in the philosophy and mythology of the Greeks seeds of Christian truth. And they took as their example St. Paul who modeled how Christians can interact with the pagan world in his speech at Mars Hill. Six hundred years earlier, the Athenians, devastated by plague, consulted the Oracle of Delphi to determine how to stop the plague. The Oracle told them that despite having made offerings to every conceivable god, there remained a god who was unappeased. They must travel to Crete and find Epimenides. He would know what to do. When Epimenides arrived in Athens, he was amazed at the hundreds of gods the Athenians honored. But, he thought, there must be some unknown god who is both great enough and good enough to deliver them from this plague. He instructed them to release a flock of sheep on Mars Hill. Then he prayed to the unknown God for forgiveness, asking him to choose which sheep he would for sacrifice. Soon some sheep began to separate from the flock and lie down. Epimenindes declared those sheep chosen for sacrifice and then ordered altars to be built on the site, inscribed with the words, “Agnosto theo,” “to the unknown god.” The next morning the plague stopped. Fast forward to the first century AD, when St. Paul, standing on the same spot, addresses a group of Epicureans and Stoics, groups he understood well having been educated, not only as a Jew, but as a Greek. Paul’s writings are filled with references to Greek philosophers and poets. Throughout his letters, he references Socrates, Plato, the Roman Seneca, and many poets. Even such famous Paul quotes as “Bad company corrupts good
And that’s why we should study the ancients—the philosophers and the poets—because they point the way, even when they aren’t trying to.
character” (1 Cor. 15:33) is actually a quote from the comedy Thais written by the Greek poet Menander. Sometimes Paul quotes; sometimes he paraphrases; sometimes he alludes. Paul knows his stuff, and when he stands on Mars Hill in Athens, before the altar to the unknown god, there is no question that he knows the whole history of this altar. In fact, in Titus 1:12 when Paul writes, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, ‘The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons,’” he is quoting Epimenides! The same Epimenides who told the Athenians to build the altar to the unknown god! Paul even quotes Epimenides when he is standing next to that very altar! As recorded in Acts 17, Paul encounters a group at Mars Hill who want to know about this strange new god that he’s preaching. But, instead of instructing them about a new god, Paul points to the altar of the unknown God and says, this God who you’ve been worshipping, I’m going to tell you who he is. He’s the God who made everything but he doesn’t dwell in temples. He made all the nations “so that they should seek the Lord in the hope that they might grope for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (v. 22-27). What a great image! Paul is telling the Greeks that God has never been far from them and that he made them in the hope that they might find him. They have been in the dark, groping in their blindness, but God has been right there wanting to be found. To further prove that he is not teaching a new doctrine, throughout these verses Paul liberally quotes the stoic philosopher Seneca to this group of Stoics. Essentially, he argues that they have been groping all along for the truth that Paul is now speaking, and he explains the fullness of what they have been searching for. Then Paul continues with yet another quote, “for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (28). That’s a quote from the Stoic poet Aratus who wrote, “For we are indeed his offspring” -about Zeus! Paul takes this line, written about Zeus and says it’s really about this God he was preaching right then. Further, the first part of verse 28 would have been easily recognized by the Athenians. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Epimenides, the savior of Athens, wrote those words in his Cretica. Again and again Paul drives his point home: you already know this. But then he explains where they have been wrong: “Therefore since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like gold, or silver, or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (29). They’ve been groping for the truth, but the truth is not an idol crafted by men. They have been blind and ignorant. Paul concludes with quite a shocking statement: “And the
times of this ignorance God overlooked; but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” Paul refers to the idolatry of the Greeks, the pagan religion, the false gods and the whole shebang as a “time of ignorance” that “God overlooked.” But no longer, Paul says, because Jesus is risen and the Day of Judgment is coming. Paul claims that the Greeks have been blindly searching for God and that God was right there the whole time, overlooking their ignorance. He concludes by telling them the fullness of what they were searching for: the risen Christ. And some became believers that very day. Ever since the Enlightenment recreated the narrative of history, we’ve looked at history as the greatness of the classical world, followed by the tragic loss of that greatness due to Christianity which then cast the world into the Dark Ages until the rebirth of the light of classical wisdom in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That’s a great little narrative, except that it’s complete nonsense. Where did the classical wisdom that ushered in the Renaissance come from? It wasn’t just discovered one day. It came from Christians. Monks in the East and in the West preserved and protected these pagan manuscripts, many times with their own lives. That’s the part that’s always left out of Enlightenment-influenced history books. Christians were responsible for the Renaissance. But why did the Church preserve those manuscripts? Why were monks willing to risk their lives to protect Plato and Homer and Hesiod? They did it because they saw truth in those manuscripts. They saw genuine wisdom. They saw something that could aid a Christian in his walk with the Lord. Is it saving knowledge? No. Paul makes that clear when he calls the Athenians to repentance and preaches the risen Christ. But it points us in the way we should go. And I think it demonstrates how great our God is, that everyone everywhere has told His story—even if it’s a fragment, even if it’s distorted, even if it’s only the seeds of truth. His imprint is everywhere. In a monastery in Romania are icon paintings of all the great heroes of the faith. But on the outside walls of the monastery are paintings of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. European cathedrals have the same thing going on. At the Cathedral of Chartres there are statues of heroes of the faith inside the cathedral; outside the cathedral, there are statues of the Greeks. That’s a great image to illustrate my entire point. The Greeks point the way home. They can’t get us inside. But they can get us right up to the door. And that’s why we should study the ancients—the philosophers and the poets—because they point the way, even when they aren’t trying to. Because that’s how big our God is. Even the rocks cry out that Jesus is Lord.
How should Christian classical educators in the early 21st century evolve, and on what points should we stand fast in the face of the rising tide of progressivism and modernism? In answering this question for this essay, I want to focus on one point in particular, namely the teaching of sexuality and sexual ethics. In the last few years, we have seen a rapid change in the behavior of teens amounting to a catastrophic decline of sexual morality. It is hard to see how this might be reversed. How can we teach children in a class of mixed beliefs that one doctrine applies to all? The answer, if there is one, is to start from a fundamental anthropology. If all men are the same, in some basic respect, we have a reason for treating them the same way. This fundamental anthropology is taught by, or at least implicit within, the Great Books and the sources of classical tradition. It is one of the elements that are under attack by the forces of progressivism and modernism. And because it goes to the heart of who we are, it is one of the most important. BROADENING OF REASON
The problems of modernity are largely the result of our disconnection from the Logos
Corresponding to a universal anthropology is a universal reason or rationality. Logos or “reason” was a recurrent theme in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, who often wrote on its importance as the counterpoint to his “dictatorship of relativism”. Only true rationality and intelligence can see through relativism and attain some kind of absolute. But the word “Logos” does not simply mean “reason”; or at least, there are subtleties here that are worth our attention. In an endnote to my book Beauty in the Word, I explain that “Logos” originally meant speech, account, reason, definition, rational faculty, or proportion. For Heraclitus, logos was the name of the underlying organizational principle of the universe, related to its common meaning as proportion and therefore harmony, but also identified with a material element – cosmic fire. Plato used the word rather more abstractly, meaning an analytical account, distinguishing it from mythos or a fanciful tale of the gods. For Aristotle it meant the definition of a whole, or else reason or rationality, particularly in an ethical context. It could also mean mathematical proportion or ratio (from which we get the word “rationality”). The Roman Stoics employed the word in a way reminiscent of Heraclitus, to refer to the divine principle of organization – the fiery, active seed-force in the universe. With all this in the background, it is fair enough to translate Logos as Reason. But then the focus becomes the human subject – the consciousness that “tunes into” or grasps the Logos. This may be leading us to miss an important distinction between two types of reasonableness or rationality: discursive (or conceptual) rationality on the one hand, and intuitive rationality on the other. Medieval writers sometimes drew the distinction between upper and lower reason. For Aquinas, the faculty of reason in its upper part touches on the realm 28
of the angels, who know things intuitively (On Truth, Q 16, a 1). He therefore distinguishes reason or ratio, which arrives at knowledge step by step, from understanding or intellectus, which “reads the truth within the very essence of the thing” (Q 15, a 1). This is not Platonism, but it is closer than Aquinas is normally thought to go. The faculty of understanding, or “intellect”, is not a separate faculty from reason, but we need to distinguish it, and to speak of it, when we come to metaphysics. Benedict says with reference to the Logos, “it leads from empiricism to metaphysics and with this to another level of thought and reality.” But it cannot do so by way of ratio alone. The lower ratio may be able to discover the logoi, but to discover the Logos we need the “upper part” of reason or intellectus, since this grasps unity in diversity, and therefore glimpses the Logos that holds all things together. Benedict has set us thinking about thinking. The problems of modernity are largely the result of our disconnection from
the Logos – our failure to understand what it is and where it may be sought, and by which human faculty. Ignorance of ourselves goes along with ignorance of the world. Our need for a philosophy of “metaphysical range,” a philosophy of being as such, was stated by Pope John Paul II in Fides et Ratio. Without it we fall into the errors of positivism and even materialism. The question is, how do we develop our capacity for metaphysics? How do we re-start a conversation that was interrupted so long ago? GATEWAY TO HUMAN SEXUALITY We need to move from reason to theology. Here we find that the widely debated question of sexual behavior has opened a gateway for us – a gateway leading directly to the Trinity. Pope John Paul II has taken us over that threshold in a way that few other modern thinkers have even appreciated. His thinking is partly theological (because theology is an opening of philosophical thinking to new horizons) and partly scriptural (because theology is based on a penetrating reflection of the Bible). I want to build on my work on the theology of the body in Not As the World Gives to explain how the Pope has opened up this gateway to a new understanding of human sexuality. Without going into too much detail here, ideas derived from theology (itself largely derived from Holy Scripture) can help us interpret the opening of the Book of Genesis in a way that
sheds light on the theology of the body. For the earliest chapters of the Bible are not really about the earliest days of the world, the origin of humanity, or even the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang. What these chapters are about is not so much “history” as relationships and meaning. They are about the relationship of the world to God, first of all, and of the parts of the world – especially us – to the whole and to each other. They are about the purpose and meaning of things in relation to God and each other. The events described in Genesis occur in a world intermediate between time and eternity, among the archetypes of created things. The Fall narrative does not describe events that happened exclusively in the past and are now over. It is the account of a catastrophe that is still happening. The Fall is still going on – “up there,” we might say, or “in here.” This gives the Genesis accounts an immediate relevance and applicability to each of us, and that is how the Church Fathers always insisted on reading them. With this in mind, John Paul II has given us the “gospel of the body” as a way of healing our souls in a broken society. He tries to read Scripture in the light of the higher reason and the mystery of love, just as he tries to read man and woman in the same light, a light that penetrates to the heart of the world. He focuses much of his attention in the discourses on the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, the Song of Songs, the Book of Tobit, some passages of the Gospels, and the Letters of St Paul (especially Ephesians). He concentrates less on the first creation account in Genesis, the narrative of the Seven Days, than on the second account, which starts in Chapter 2 of the Sacred Writings. This account adopts a different ordering of events. St Augustine in fact thought that while Chapter 1 described creation from the perspective of the Angels, Chapter 2 described it from the point of view of Man. The first account of the creation (Gen. 1:1–2:3) describes the creation of light and even of living plants as preceding that of the sun, while man appears at the end, as a kind of culmination of the process, after which God rests. But the second account (Gen. 2:4–25) is rather different. Man comes first, followed by plants, animals, and finally woman. Both accounts describe the same archetypal creation. The first, however, describes it from an objective, angelic, or divine point of view; that is, from the point of view of the ontological center. The component parts of the world are set out in relation to man, as though for his sake: the world reveals its human meaning. Man is formed from the earth; the plants are raised up to create a garden for him to dwell in; the animals and birds are formed to give him companionship and help. The day ends with a night, or at least a sleep, in which woman is drawn out of man. THE THREE TEMPTATIONS “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and
she also gave some to her husband, and he ate” (v. 6). These are the three perennial temptations, or rather the beginnings of those temptations that Jesus experiences in the desert in a particularly intense form – to turn stones into bread, to delight people with miracles, and to rule the world like Solomon. The three aspects of the temptation correspond also to the three elements of the human being: body, soul, and spirit. John Paul II calls this the birth of the “man of (threefold) concupiscence.” In this way the passions of man are set free, and the result is that by being indulged they grow stronger and end by consuming us altogether (Man and Woman, p. 284). Pope Benedict said that St Maximus “demonstrates that man finds his unity, the integration of himself, his totality not in himself, but in surpassing himself, by coming out of himself. Thus, also in Christ, man, coming out of himself, finds in God, in the Son of God, himself. Adam – and Adam is us – thought that the ‘no’ was the apex of liberty; that only he who can say ‘no’ is truly free; that to truly realize his liberty, man must say ‘no’ to God. Only in this way, he thinks, he is finally himself; he has arrived at the summit of liberty. This tendency was also present in Christ’s human nature, but he overcame it, because Jesus saw that “no” is not the greatest liberty.” “The greatest liberty is to say ‘yes,’ to conform with the will of God,” Pope Benedict underlined. “Only in saying ‘yes’ does man really become himself.” “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (v. 7). To hide from each other? What has become of the pure self-giving of their original innocence? John Paul II says that they have lost the sense of the image of God in themselves. The fear that the man and woman feel for the first time after the Fall is partly a response to the emergence of lust, as a result of their separating themselves from God by disobedience. The initial purity and transparency of self-giving love has been compromised. Lust begins, however, not with the naked human body, but with the fruit. The spiritual dimension of these three temptations is due to the fact that they each represent a turning away from God, seeking fulfillment in taking instead of receiving. The consequences of this threefold sin quickly become evident in the changed relationship of man and woman, a relationship now shaped by desire and power rather than mutual delight (3:16). The three temptations are only finally defeated by human nature in the person of the Son, who rejects them in the wilderness (Matt. 4:3–11), making possible the restoration of Marriage for those who join themselves to him in Baptism. Woman reveals Adam’s own nature to him. At the same time, she differs from him, and the nature of the difference is due primarily to fecundity. In this potential fecundity lies the divine image to which Gen. 1:27 refers. In other words, the divine image is only perfected by dividing man into male and female in such a way that a third, a child, can be born of them. In this fact John Paul II sees both an implicit revelation of the Trinity and a revelation of the nature of marriage as covenant, as well as a revelation of the nature of man as CIRCEINSTITUTE.ORG 29
oriented to self-gift. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (v. 24). A covenant is a union in the flesh, which overcomes the separation between two individuals without destroying the difference between them. In fact it depends upon the difference between them. This is an image both of the Trinity and of the union between divine and human natures in the person of Christ – which extends itself into the union of Christ and the Church. But the covenantal union of marriage is not automatic or mechanical; it requires the deliberate pouring out of the one into the other (in a vow expressing mutual consent to self-gift, and eventually in the sexual act). In this, too, something is revealed of the Trinity’s nature as love – infinitely joyful, overflowing with an abundance of life. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. THE GREAT BOOK OF GENESIS From all this it is possible to read the first two chapters of Genesis as one of the greatest of the Great Books, and Pope John Paul II invites us to teach it as such. Read in this way, it reveals the basis of a Christian anthropology that underpins the teaching of sexual morality in the modern age. It also explains the best way to live our sexuality. Any other leads to the trivialization of sex. Relationships that could be profoundly life-changing begin to dissolve into the flux of modern life. They mean nothing. The sadness of autumn begins to pervade them. Morality makes no sense if taught as a list of do’s and don’ts, which are easily swept away on the tide of progressivism. In my book I have tried to go further, but here I can only offer a series of hints. John Paul II teaches Original Solitude, Original Unity, Original Nakedness, and Original Sin, as aspects of the original state in which Man discovers his own nature. Christian anthropology explains how we are easily caught up in the three temptations, leading us into a relationship shaped by desire and power, and reveals the consequences of breaking the Trinitarian image that shows human nature as oriented to self-gift. Nothing but Christian anthropology, in fact, can explain the reasons behind the teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae (1968) – the encyclical that, more than any other, represents and defends the great tradition in which the Great Books stand.
The Happy Student WHY JOY (AND REPENTANCE) ARE THE HEART OF TRULY CHRISTIAN EDUCATION BY DR. CHRISTOPHER A. PERRIN, PHD
When you review your years in school, do you remember yourself as a happy student? The Christian knows that he is to live an abundant life, one that partakes in the very joy of Jesus himself. When we lose that joy, we have lost our birthright as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, and we are obligated to repent and call upon the Spirit who delights in giving love, joy, peace . . . The Apostle Paul seeks to re-direct the Christians in Galatia, prompting them to repent by asking “What has happened to all your joy?” (Gal. 4:15) So we might be justified in asking, “Where is the joy in your Christian education?” How can it be that joyful Christians could create dull and dreary teaching and learning? Why are Christian schools and homeschools often so staid and stuffy? I think there are three reasons. First, when it comes to learning routines, methods, and practices, we largely do what was done to us. Twenty years of secular, progressive education has deeply imprinted within us a sense of what education is. We unconsciously pass on that same kind of education to our children. We are inside a box and can’t think outside of it, not really knowing we are in a box at all. Consider for a moment the practices we employ without hesitation: fluorescent lighting, rectangular buildings, students in batches (grades), students taking 8 classes, numerical grading, multiple choice exams, standardized assessments, desks in rows, scripted curricula. We just . . . do these things. Second, we don’t think that students can be happy, blessed, and joyful. This may be related to our own imprinted understanding of education (my school experience sure wasn’t joyful) and it may be related to our own loss or lack of Christian joy generally. Third, we simply don’t know how to imagine teaching and learning as a joyful enterprise. Joyful learning is not a part of our educational history, virtually absent in our culture, and so is absent from our imagination and expectations. It simply doesn’t occur to us that learning can be joyful. To remedy this situation, we could start first with a call for general repentance and recover our Christian joy, and then work our way down to exploring how to bring that joy to our children and students. Since I am writing an article about education, I prefer to start at the other end: with the student herself. If we start with the particular needs of the student, I
think we will find our whole world soon caught up in divine joy. Here is what’s surprising. Our young student already knows that learning is joyful and enthralling. She is born with a natural wonder at the cosmos and delights in embedded divine beauty all around her—the “dearest freshness deep down things.” Not that she can become her own teacher and invent her own curriculum for 12 years of schooling—but at age six she knows how to revel and is immediately receptive to the thrilling nature of water, water bugs, clouds, and crows. She is happy to count crows and delighted to learn to spell their name, even mastering the “cr” consonant blend. She will gladly learn Latin or Spanish vocabulary, or learn two languages simultaneously. She will dance to music, sing, memorize poems, and learn the names of dozens of flowers and birds. She senses that she is made for this world, is fitted for it, and should be happy in it. She is, after all, a creature in the midst of creation, and both she and the creation belong to a Creator who has designed them to fit. Secular schooling, employing different assumptions about the world and human beings, will work against this natural joy of our young student and slowly stifle it. She will find herself in large classes (all her same age) moving through long halls, in large buildings with fixed casement windows (no breezes, no smells from outside), prompted by a buzzer. She will fill out countless worksheets, year by year, be pushed to “get through another chapter” and earn awards based on “good grades.” During her elementary years, her favorite period will likely be recess. For these 20 minutes a day, she can once again search for water bugs and make a house of gathered rocks and twigs with her friends—the great delight of each school day. Then she will return to “class” where “education” happens. I will stop the narrative here at elementary school. You know what happens in junior high and high school, for you have had the same experience we all have. We have been fully trained and have become like our teachers. Remember your school days. Those days have passed on to you your practice, your habit of education. Anyone trying to teach differently knows that it is a habit hard to break. Yet try we must for we have been awakened to something better: the prospect of a truly happy student. Just what is a happy student?
Six tips for teaching more joyfully 1
Daily: Contemplate God’s kindness, then repent. Kindness leads us to repentance.
Daily: Contemplate one thing that is true, good or beautiful. Share with students.
Weekly: Read something relative to the classical tradition—and enjoy it. Let your reading seep into your teaching (it will anyway).
Weekly: Go for an hour long walk (alone or with a friend) and observe and praise the beauty you see. Talk about the things that matter most.
Monthly: Go somewhere beautiful for half the day, with good food and drink, with a friend(s) you love and talk about the things that matter most. Hint: bring a book from your weekly reading. See ScholeSisters.com for more inspiration.
Yearly: Spend a week in a beautiful place with your family and/or friends. Walk and talk a good deal; read aloud each evening, sing or recite poetry. Talk about the things that matter most. Eat and drink well. Repeat.
For Further Reading
Liberal Arts Tradition (Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain) The Great Tradition: Essential Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human (Editor, Richard Gamble) Leisure: The Basis of Culture (Joseph Pieper)
Surprised by Joy (C. S. Lewis) Heretics (G. K. Chesterton) Orthodoxy (G. K. Chesterton) Confessions (Augustine)
BLESSED IS THE STUDENT…WHO IS BLESSED
REPENT AS NEEDED
The happy student is a blessed student, and knows she is. To be blessed means to be gifted, to be aware that something beautiful has come to you undeserved and by a wonderful Giver. Our awareness of blessing may be slight or great at various times, but the blessed person is a thankful person, which of course implies she is thanking Someone. Chesterton remarks that there is nothing so sad as a person who is thankful but with no one to thank. The happy student knows that this life and world is charged with the grandeur and glory of God. She sings about what she sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels. She admires and praises much of what she finds. She blames the ugly precisely because she is so taken with the beautiful. We should study the words happiness and blessed carefully since they are now cloudy and poorly understood. One old word for happiness is beatitude, derived from beatitudo in Latin and related to the word beatus (happy). Beatus is related to the Latin verb beare (to bless). And if this were not enough, our word beauty comes from beatus as well. Yes, beauty blesses. The beatitudes of Christ are his pronouncements of blessing: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God. When Paul asks the Galatians what has happened to their joy he uses the Greek word makarismos often translated “blessing.” Jerome translated makarismos in this verse with the Latin beatitudo. We could render Galatians 4:15 as “What has happened to your blessedness? “ or “What has happened to your beatitude?” Bless comes from an old English word which originally meant “to consecrate” and then later came to mean “to pronounce or make happy.” Bless is related to another word—bliss. In biblical context, the word bless is used to translate the Greek word eulogein (to speak well of) and the Hebrew barak (to bend the knee, worship, praise, invoke blessings). Finally, a word about happy. Happy comes from the Old English gehaep which means “suitable or fitting.” We use the word this way when we say “happy lot” or “unhappy lot” or “happy event.” We have also retained the word hap at the root of happiness in our word hapless, as in the phrase “hapless orphan.” Hap refers to luck or lot, and thus a hapless orphan is unlucky indeed. Gehaep is also retained in our word “happen” and refers to an accident or occurrence—what happens. As we have lost our sense of what it means to be happy and blessed, to the same degree we have lost our sense of what it means to raise up and educate our children. If we have lost our joy is it any surprise that we lost our students? Of course by losing our students, we have lost our schools. Our students are no different than we were. They too will become like their teachers (Luke 6:36). To reverse this trend, we should teach with joy and model our own delight in the cosmos, we should become a child again. What does it look like to teach with joy? How do we recover it?
Certainly we repent. We acknowledge what is true in this regard: we have had poor models ourselves and we have become like our teachers; we have not kindled the fire of joy in our own breasts as we should have; we have been lazy and content to let others teach our children according to the customs of the day; we have been distracted with other matters profoundly less important than the education of our children. We acknowledge our need. Having been poorly educated, it will be a great challenge to give to our children that which we have not received ourselves. We will need help; we will need community, we need wisdom and endurance. We will need the very virtues that we are called to cultivate in our students: love, humility, courage, temperance, constancy. We begin. There is only one way to begin and that is to start. We take the first step; we start moving, we lean in, we warm up. We believe we are human beings created in the image of God, fit to know and love this world, its people and its Creator. We are confident that we will do this, even not knowing precisely how at every step—but we take the first one. We share. A joyful education is not meant to be enjoyed alone. We go nowhere alone; we give what we have received; we employ our gifts and gratefully receive the gifts of others; we are glad for those with greater experience and ability than ours for their gift is our gift. We grow and are blessed in community.
One of our sins of negligence has been to ignore the riches handed down to us, to side-step our rich tradition. WANTED: A SCHOOL OF SCHOLÉ We can summarize: no repentance, no joy. Repentance is the condition for joy, but repentance is both general and specific—and it never ends. The Westminster Confession of Faith advises us to confess our particular sins, particularly; we should therefore repent root and branch, all the way down and all the way up. One of our sins of negligence has been to ignore the riches handed down to us, to side-step our rich tradition. Our preceding brothers and sisters worked for centuries to craft and calibrate a means of education that would honor God, his world and his creatures—one that would prepare children to live joyfully not only in this life but in the life to come (a conception about as far away from modern education as I can imagine). Believing that the world was indeed charged with the grandeur of God, our forebearers did much to arrange teaching and learning to CIRCEINSTITUTE.ORG 35
engage and delight in truth, goodness, and beauty. We now call that education “classical” but this is only because something new came along and supplanted it—secular, progressive education. Our forbearers educated imperfectly, and there are examples of joyless education in the Christian tradition—but these were aberrations and corruptions. From the early monastic schools, catechesis schools in churches, cathedral schools, and palace schools to the municipal establishment of schools in towns and cities, to tutorial instruction in homes, Christians have sought to “raise up the sons and daughters of the church” without exasperation in the “paideia of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This being the case, we must repent in at least one more way: We must read and recover. The traditional, classical approach to education waned in the early 1900s so that it has been about 100 years since we have seen widespread classical education, joyful or not, Christian or not. This means that the models are few, and we must read to discover what they once were. No serious Christian educator can educate well without reading about what Christian education once was. Not all of us need be scholars, but we all must be connected to the tradition that preceded us and that means reading. A Christian educator who scoffs at reading . . . well, he is not worthy of the name. We must read as part of our repentance. Thankfully, the renewal of classical Christian education has been underway for almost 30 years now. We do not have to jump into the vast ocean of literature without boat and compass. At the end of this essay I will suggest a list of readings for newcomers to classical education. As we repent and read, we discover that one core element of the Christian and classical tradition of education is indeed joy, and is often connected to contemplation and leisure, or what the Greeks originally called scholé. From the Greek word scholé we get the Latin word schola, the German word schule, and the English word school. Scholé meant restful learning, involving conversation about the most important matters with the people you cared about most, in a relaxed setting, often with food and drink. This was one of the highest things to which humans aspired; the Greeks had another word for one’s wage-earning work: ascholia (not being at leisure). We need more scholé in our schools. Since scholé involves contemplation, we are brought back once again to happiness. In the Christian tradition many have argued that without contemplation, we do not experience deep happiness. We see this in Psalm 27, where David pines for the time to dwell in the temple of the Lord, gazing on the beauty of the Lord. We see this in the episode involving Mary and Martha recorded in the Gospel of Luke in which Martha is annoyed that Mary will not help her with dinner while Mary sits in rapt conversation with Jesus. “Martha, Martha, you are busy about many things but Mary has chosen what is best.” No one to my knowledge has recovered the importance of scholé and contemplation better than Josef Pieper has in his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture and his assorted essays on the subject (see the Josef Pieper Anthology, published by Ignatius Press). Regarding contemplation Pieper writes, “Not only in the life to come, but also in his material existence in history, man is, to the very roots of his being, a creature designed for and desiring vision; and this is true to such a degree that the extent of a man’s happiness is only as great 36
as his capacity for contemplation.” It is Pieper who cites Gerard Manley Hopkins as a worthy example of a man who contemplated the variegated beauty of the world and put in verse what he saw, knowing his poetry could not fully contain the beauty on which he gazed. For Pieper the deep and beautiful things of the world are known in contemplation and are ultimately incommunicable but bring about happiness and longing simultaneously. C. S. Lewis, too, speaks of this kind of incommunicable joy that he says is a “divine longing greater than any human satisfaction.” You see it in Scripture, in the church fathers (Augustine: Late have I loved thee, O Beauty, so ancient and so divine, late have I loved thee), in Aquinas, in Pascal, in Sertillanges, in Chesterton, in Lewis, and in Pieper. We must rest, gaze, linger and contemplate or there will be no joy. Now we can conclude with one more attribute of the happy student. The happy student knows that as glorious as this world is, it is not all there is—there is something more coming, even more beautiful and glorious. This is at the heart of the Christian notion of scholé and contemplation. What is beautiful (and imparts joy) in this world partakes of the divine glory that is yet to come. Put another way, we see in part now as through a mirror (1 Cor. 13); later we shall see fully. Our present joy is but a part, a deposit, of the coming Joy. It is in this vein that Chesterton shows us that any particular happiness is connected to eternal joy: It is true enough, of course, that a pungent happiness comes chiefly in certain passing moments; but it is not true that we should think of them as passing, or enjoy them simply “ for those moments’ sake.” To do this is to rationalize the happiness, and therefore to destroy it. Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized. Suppose a man experiences a really splendid moment of pleasure. I do not mean something connected with a bit of enamel, I mean something with a violent happiness in it--an almost painful happiness. A man may have, for instance, a moment of ecstasy in first love, or a moment of victory in battle. The lover enjoys the moment, but precisely not for the moment’s sake. He enjoys it for the woman’s sake, or his own sake. The warrior enjoys the moment, but not for the sake of the moment; he enjoys it for the sake of the flag. The cause which the flag stands for may be foolish and fleeting; the love may be calf-love, and last a week. But the patriot thinks of the flag as eternal; the lover thinks of his love as something that cannot end. These moments are filled with eternity; these moments are joyful because they do not seem momentary... Man cannot love mortal things. He can only love immortal things for an instant. Chesterton points out that joy can break in at any time we truly love. If we love the true, good, and beautiful, we love something eternal, for we are loving something from the hand of God. We may not experience joy as a constant stream, but one moment can follow another, loving immortal things step by step, walking a path that can rightfully be called a happy life. The happy student is walking this path, following a truly happy teacher.
Hamlet ponders suicide. Iago destroys Othello without reason. And Glouster suggests the gods play with us for sport. Shakespeare’s preoccupation with futility has prompted contemporary producers and critics to interpret him as a prophet of our secular era. A proto-existentialist. A modern nihilist. Hamlet especially is brushed with the strokes of postmodern desolation. Ethan Hawke (2000) filmed the “or not to be” speech in the bleak fluorescence of a Blockbuster video. Jan Kott famously described Hamlet as an Elizabethan James Dean -- a young man who would have read Sartre (Shakespeare Our Contemporary, 1961). Another contemporary critic called Hamlet “the model of the existential man who lives in symbolic exile” (Tekiney, 2010). The desolate Hamlet resounds in our desolate times. But Shakespeare’s time was different. Hamlet was cast, not against a backdrop of secularity, but of Christianity. English Catholics, Protestants, and Anglicans disagreed about the Eucharist and salvation, but they agreed that the universe was reasonably governed by a reasonable God. Shakespeare’s theater confirmed this vision through physical fixtures on and around the stage. Hamlet was not performed originally under tactless fluorescent bulbs. Instead, his soliloquies were spoken under a gorgeous painted canopy representing the order of the heavenly bodies. Beneath his feet lay a trap door that led to the cellarage -- or hell. Behind Hamlet stood a decorative area constructed to symbolize a castle, throne, city gate, and altar — an “intertwined social space” that reminded audiences of the “unchanging social and religious order which their theatre was built to affirm” (Alvin Kernan, 1965). As Hamlet wondered if life is meaningful, the Elizabethan stage said yes. Theatres reveal unspoken beliefs. From Greece to Rome to Elizabethan England, theatres have physicalized cultural convictions through fixtures on and around the stage. This essay examines important fixtures from earlier eras of theatre. Then it answers a question: What does our stage say about us? The Greek chorus was the first theatrical fixture in the Western world. Greek tragedies were not acted by individuals but were chanted by choruses. According to legend, the first “play” began when one member stepped forward and began dialoguing back to the chorus. (This actor’s name was Thespis, from which we derive our word “thespian.”) With this development, our model of Western theatre was born. The chorus reveals shared Greek assumptions about wisdom, honor, and justice. In Oedipus Rex, the chorus consists 38
of wise elders. In Agamemnon, the chorus tells the history of the Trojan War. In Antigone, the chorus plays the role of conservative tradition. While the chorus’s purpose shifts slightly from play to play, it reliably speaks of unified Greek ideals. Another Greek fixture: costuming. Greeks dressed their heroes to look larger than life. The Greeks believed great heroes acted, suffered, and fought until divine mysteries were solved. Their costuming illustrates this belief. English stages revealed assumptions about the afterlife and Greek stages portrayed belief in heroic men.* But what do our stages say about us? Much, through absence. Modern theatre spaces contain virtually no symbols, no physical fixtures, and no consistent theatrical devices. Before being dressed for a play, our theatres consist of bare, black walls, and aluminum rigging for lighting. Compare this with the medieval theatre, in the centuries leading up to Shakespeare’s time. After being banned for centuries, medieval plays were reestablished within churches. Virtually every square inch of a medieval church, whether Saxon or Gothic, was packed with symbols, colors, and signals alluding to biblical characters. Saint Peter clutches the keys given to him by Christ; Saint Paul carries a sword representing biblical truth; Jonah prays near a great fish; the Virgin Mary wears the lily of chastity. Today’s theatre starkly avoids religious and cultural references. Astute critics draw attention to this absence. Alvin Kernan noted that our theatre has no “built-in symbols,” but is a “small illuminated island lost in the vastness of space” (1965). Francis Fergusson argued that our era has no true theatre because true theatre focuses “at the center of the life of the community the complimentary insights of the whole culture” (The Idea of a Theater, 1949) Barna surveys report residual belief in a quasi-Protestant God. But there is an increasing recognition that our bare stage is accurate: We live in a secular age. Theologian James K. A. Smith likened the change to the closing of the Toronto Sky Dome during a game: whereas the Western world once gazed at the heavens, now a steel roof has closed and we just gaze at the players (How Not To Be Secular, 2014). The Christian Classical movement is a reconstruction project. It reconstructs Western Civilization’s house of meaning by reacquainting students and teachers -- not just with information and skills -- but with a cultural legacy. A visit to Washington D.C., for the classical student, is a visit through that cultural legacy; our capitol city is enmarbled with memories of Greece, Rome, and Christendom. In the House Chamber, the student recognizes the sculptured
portraits of Solon, the great Athenian statesman, Gaius, the noble Roman jurist, and Moses, Israel’s giver of the law. A visit to Washington D.C. also evokes frustration and sadness. Our capitol city conjures memories of a lost inheritance. The relief sculptures in the House gallery are now meaningless
The Christian Classical movement is a reconstruction project. It reconstructs Western Civilization’s house of meaning by reacquainting students and teachers -- not just with information and skills -- but with a cultural legacy. decorations; most Americans have never heard of Solon or Gaius; many fear any reference to Moses is pretext for conservative politicians to stump for religious votes. The great library of Alexandria was destroyed by fire; ours is ignored in favor of fashion and a lust for the ready-made. Despite these frustrations, much goodness is found in our era. Contemporary medical care is unrivaled in the history of the world. Infant mortality is but a sliver compared to earlier rates. And we live in a time of near-universal literacy. It is no sin to be grateful for modern blessings. Yet modern blessings trivialize without a deep vision of the past. My favorite production of Hamlet plants a foot firmly in two
We are small. We read the classics. we take faith seriously. we value conversation.
eras. It was filmed at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in Manhattan in 1964. Director John Gielgud famously costumed his actors in street clothes: a soft blazer, wool slacks, cotton skirts. Not a single thread alludes to majesty or high governance. Gielgud’s stage is intensely modern: No symbols, no signs, no emblems. It is not merely bare, but incomplete, leaving unpainted the rough-hewn steps between bedroom and castle. Yet the starkness of the stage highlights the incredible power of Hamlet’s yearnings. Richard Burton as Hamlet cries, “What should such fellows as I do, crawling between heaven and earth!” His longing leaps off the bare stage, an incandescent reminder that God has planted eternity in the hearts of men. Christian classical educators might be tempted to sulk at loss of an old world. But such frustration opposes the vivacity of reconstruction. Instead of bemoaning loss, the movement will thrive by nurturing students toward faithful lives in both worlds –- a world of memory and transcendence and the present secular age. --A variation of this ar ticle was first published under the title “ The Stage Is Not The Thing” for G u te n b e r g C o l l e g e i n S e p te m b e r, 2 0 1 4 .
At Gutenberg College, we read not to memorize the thoughts of others, but to stimulate the great conversations of our own questions. Join us.
Around The Renewal UPCOMING CLASSICAL EDUCATION EVENTS
SCL SUMMER CONFERENCE
A CONTEMPLATION OF HARMONY
Society for Classical Learning
CiRCE Institute’s National Conference
Pre-Conference June 24, 2015 Conference June 25-27, 2015
July 15-18, Charleston, SC
Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Resort Atlanta, GA
THE INSTITUTE FOR CATHOLIC LIBERAL EDUCATION The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education will be hosting a conference for Catholic classical schools July 2015 in Cleveland. Keep up on this and other summer events through CatholicLiberalEducation.org.
MEMORIA PRESS MEMORIAPRESS.COM Be on the look-out for two regional conferences by Memoria Press, one on each coast! Dates and Locations TBD. For more information please visit memoriapress.com
Featuring Ken Myers, Wes Callihan, Tracy Lee Simmons, John Hodges, Andrew Pudewa, and others, this conference will contemplate the purpose, essence, and practice of Christian classical education
A LITERARY RETREAT ON HOMER’S ILIAD CiRCE Summer Institute CIRCEINSTITUTE.ORG/SUMMERINSTITUTE
June 7 - 12, 2015, Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, NC Hosted in the beautiful North Carolina mountains and led by Andrew Kern this discussion-based retreat is offered to just fifteen participants. Claim your spot now!
To promote your classical education event in a future issue of this magazine, or on our website, please email email@example.com.
Why Homer Is Such A Big Deal
Most modern readers are amused when they read Nestor’s speeches in the Iliad. They tend to think he is somewhere between a windbag and a sentimental old man. They are wrong. Nestor is rightly regarded by the Greeks as the wisest of their counselors. Homer could present him that way because Homer himself is the wisest of ours. Every book in the Iliad turns on choices, generally one big one and multiple little ones. Time after time, a hero or a god or some character has to act in crisis. Homer shows us these people making decisions and while some reach for the heights of folly (e.g. Thersites and Dolon), others display great wisdom and foresight (esp. Odysseus and Nestor). Homer is constantly inviting us to enter into a character’s decision making process. This way he teaches his listeners and readers how they can make wise decisions - how to think, how to persuade, and how to avoid being persuaded by fools. When the Greeks rush to folly, Nestor slows them down with a story from his youth. When they slack, he propels them with a myth. When they are confused, he clarifies with a history lesson. Perhaps honey-tongued Nestor is the poetic version of Homer himself. If you want to be wise, there are three things you must do: contemplate the Bible, digest Homer, and live what you learn. FIVE TIPS FOR READING HOMER 1. Engage the issues characters have to deal with. Should Achilleus withdraw? Should Zeus defend Achilleus’ honor? Should the Achaians rush home? Should Achilleus send Patroklos into battle? Should Achilleus return Hektor’s body? 2. Find someone to discuss these issues with. Students make great victims, er, I mean, partners for discussion. 3. Take sides and then test your opinion against the text. 4. Don’t be distracted by names and analysis. At first, just stay on the beautiful surface of the text. The questions above will lead you deeper without turning it into an academic exercise. 5. Use a guide or two if you think they’ll be helpful, but don’t be distracted. Once you stop asking the types of questions in #1, you are distracted. The only reason for analyzing the text and getting background information and exploring themes and motifs and schemes is to help you think about the foregoing questions.
Andrew Kern P r e s i d e n t , C i R C E I n s t i t u te
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