Topical CM Series

Charlotte Mason's ideas are too important not to be understood and implemented in the 21st century, but her Victorian style of writing sometimes prevents parents from attempting to read her books. This is an imperfect attempt to make Charlotte's words accessible to modern parents. You may read these, print them out, share them freely--but they are copyrighted to me, so please don't post or publish them without asking.
~L. N. Laurio

The Charlotte Mason Series in Modern English Arranged Topically

The Great Recognition

Volume 2, Parents and Children, pg 129-131

Defining Things as 'Sacred' or 'Secular' isn't a Religious Distinction

We have some involuntary resistance to any teaching that includes the profound things of faith with the natural physical laws that govern the way we develop as human beings. We prefer for the communion between God and our soul, in which is our very life, to be totally supernatural. We want it to be separate from the physical rules of ordinary life. We want it to be arbitrary, unexplainable, beyond reasoning. Maybe we're wrong, but at least it's an error of reverence. Our thinking may be too incomplete and simple in this, but our motivation is only to honor God's divine name, and the only way we know how to do that is to set it apart. Yet, although our mistake is an error of reverence, it's still an error. And motives don't make up for wrong actions in the spiritual world any more than they do in the physical world. This misconception of our relationship with God causes us to lose the sense of unity in our lives. It erects an unnatural and irreligious wall between sacred things and secular things. It makes it impossible for us to be at one with God in all things. There are a few examples of beautiful lives that show no trace of this separation, whose goals are confined to the things we think of as sacred. But too many thoughtful, sincere people are painfully aware of the need for a concept of God that embraces all of the human experience as sacred--a concept that accepts art, science, politics, whatever men who aren't in rebellion think about and care about, because it all works together in the evolving of God's Kingdom.

Every Person Develops His Own Philosophy

Our religious thought is a direct result of our philosophy far more than we think, just like our educational thought. Let's not assume that philosophy is only for a few gifted scholars. It's not--every living soul develops his own philosophy of life. We fashion our philosophy from current popular thought modified by our own experiences.

It would be interesting to trace the effect of the two great philosophic schools of thought--Idealism and Scientific Naturalism--on religious thinking. But that's beyond my ability, and beyond our purpose here. We need to limit ourselves to what's practical in the here and now. The bottom line for us today is that naturalistic philosophy is on the rise, our religious concepts are idealistic, and therefore many noble minds are in revolt. They feel like they can't honestly consider something true if it's opposed to human reasoning. Others who make their faith their first priority make a less than honest compromise with themselves and just refuse to examine certain issues--they only scrutinize secular matters. Although we hear it all the time, it isn't that the times are so distorted, or that Christianity is no longer effective, or that there's a natural breach between the facts of physical life and the facts of spiritual life. It's our philosophy that needs to be adjusted. Somehow we've managed to get life out of focus. The initial ideas we started with are false, but we've built our essential truth from them by taking logical inferences from them. We haven't realized that our reasoning capacity doesn't deal with spiritual truth, or even with what we call facts. Reason is merely the logical inferences from any premise that the mind accepts.

Volume 2, Parents and Children, pg 132-140

It's Obvious and Natural that the Father of Spirits Should Maintain Open Access to Men's Spirits

It's only obvious, real, natural and necessary that the Father of spirits should graciously keep open paths to intimate access with the spirits of people and communication with them.

'I wish it would be granted to me, Lord,
To find only You.

That You alone would speak to me, and I to You,
In the same way that a lover talks to his beloved
Or a friend talks over the dinner table with his friend.'
[adapted from The Imitation of Christ]

That's what all devoted souls aspire to. This constant yearning towards the closest communion possible is the prayer of faith, whether the prayer is spoken or not. Skeptics claim that such a desire is a vain, sentimental dream that comes from the emotions, just like Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection. What can we respond to that? Nothing. Such a person can't understand that, when he loves his fellow human being, it isn't the physical form that endears him, it's the spiritual being that's within the material manifestation of his body. How can he be expected to comprehend that God's Spirit draws the spirit of man with irresistible attraction, and that the spirit of man encompasses the whole person? After all, the body is nothing more than a garment that the spirit shapes to suit its own purposes.

Many Minds Accept the Easy Way of Tolerance

It's easier to accept the temporary outward form and ignore the reality of the inner spirit. People say things like 'prayer is flung into the air like a kite that a child throws upward, only to come down again.' Or 'all men are mere pawns of circumstance and they don't have any power to determine their own fate.' Or 'all beliefs are valid, and whether a person worships Christ or Buddha depends on where he's born.' This kind of tolerance is an easy way of thinking, and many minds are taking the easy way out.<

Thackeray's Thoughts About Easy, Skeptical Attitudes

'And where does an easy, skeptical way of life lead a person? . . . What does this skepticism lead to? It leads a person to shameful loneliness and selfishness--it's all the more shameful because he's so casually good-humored and conscienceless and serene about it. 'Conscience? What's that? Why accept guilt and remorse? What is corporate or personal faith? Nothing but antiquated myths wrapped in fancy traditions.' Arthur, if you can see and acknowledge the lies of the world as I know you can with your gift of an almost fatal clearness, and if you let them go with no more protest than a laugh, if you can immerse yourself in a life of luxurious sensuality while the world suffers and groans and you don't even care, if you're able to lie on your balcony smoking your pipe in the noise and danger while the fight for truth is taking place and honorable men are taking their places in the battle--then you would be better off dead, or never having been born at all, rather than be such a sensual coward.' [from Pendennis, by Thackeray]

Man Lives by Faith, Whether He's Dealing With God or Man

Canon Beeching's Eleven Sermons on Faith are a refreshing contrast to this kind of modern Sadduceeism. He says that faith isn't a mystical, supernatural thing that's exceptional. It's the common foundation for the way we deal with one another. The framework that society rests on is credit, trust, and confidence. The worst thing we can say to another person is, 'I can't trust you.' The law recognizes that every man has the right to have the confidence of his fellow men, and it considers a man innocent until he's proved otherwise. Our whole business and banking systems are no more than huge systems of credit. Only rarely do people neglect to make good on their credit. Family and social life rest on a different kind of credit. We might call it moral credit. Very few people forfeit that kind of trust. Every once in a while, someone gives others a reason to be suspicious, jealous or mistrustful--but the exception only proves how rarely it happens. When people deal with each other, they rely on credit. When people deal with God, they rely on faith. We can use the same word in both cases. Man is a spiritual being, and in his dealings with both God and other men, he lives by faith. When we look at it that way, faith becomes a simple, easy thing! It's especially easy for children, who trust everybody, and are willing to follow any guide. If only we could get rid of our materialistic notion that our finite minds can't understand spiritual things, and that believing in God is different than trusting a friend. Then the questions that stagger our faith would be so easy.

Faith is Simple Trust in Another Person

Meanwhile, God's Kingdom is coming upon us in all its power. It's time to break down this foolish barrier that comes from our carnal mind. We need to recognize that our relationships with each other are spiritual relationships, and spoken and written words are only the outward visible forms that convey ideas. The ideas themselves are spiritual. If we understood this, then the presence of God would be inevitable, incessant and all-encompassing. Faith is merely the simple trust that one person puts in another Person. That makes us realize with reverent joy that God is all around us wherever we go, or when we lie in bed, and He sees everything we do--not because he's looking to see what we're doing wrong in order to punish us, but with the loving, firm guidance of a caring parent. That makes it easy for our human spirit to understand the never-ceasing, always inspiring communication of God's Holy Spirit. Every morning, He awakens our ear, too. The manner and degree that His inspiration and guidance comes to us depends on our ability to receive them. We're no longer baffled when an uninstructed heathen shows gentle traits of compassion and generosity, because we know that 'his God instructs and teaches him.' We're not confounded when we hear of a decent person lifting his voice to heaven to declare, 'There is no God.' We know that God causes the sun to shine on both evil and good people, and as much moral enlightenment and guidance that a person will open himself up to receive is what he'll be freely given. Even if a person squeezes his eyes shut and insists that 'There is no sun,' he'll still be warmed and fed and comforted by the very light that he denies. This strong, passionate sense of intimate nearness to God is the kind of faith that we need to raise our children in. If we're firm in this conviction, then the controversies of our day might intrigue us, but they won't make us anxious because, once we know Him in whom we've believed, we'll be on the other side where doubt can't affect us.

Faith is an Aspect of the Soul That Needs to Be Studied

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. We progress in this knowledge in direct proportion to how much study we devote to it. All of us who deal with raising children should be very thankful for every word of help and insight that reveals spiritual realities. From this perspective, parents will appreciate reading and reflecting on the sermons in Beeching's book. He expresses profound thought in pure, simple language. The sermons are relevant to current thought and not at all sentimental or even an attempt to pressure the reader into a certain behavior. On the contrary, they're strengthening and refreshing. You read them and go away rejoicing in a strong sense of how real the unseen things are. Maybe this is because Beeching presents the naturalness of faith.

The Naturalness of Faith

'We can't help noticing that, although Jesus is always demanding our faith, He never offers a definition of the kind of faith He wants from us. That's why we presume that what He meant by faith was different than what men usually mean by it. And it gets even more presumptuous when we remember that faith in the Lord began as faith in human qualities before those human qualities were thought of as divine. The Apostles' faith increased under the training of Jesus. It became both deeper and broader. But in the time between the first attraction that drew men like Peter from their fishing nets, and the last declaration of Peter's worship on the shores of Lake Gennesarat, there was no breach of continuity. In fact, as if to prove that the Apostles' human faith hadn't been converted to a more supernatural vague theological virtue after the resurrection, we discover that the word used to express it is, of all the words used to express faith, the one most deeply mixed with human feeling: 'Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me more than these?' Therefore, we need to ask ourselves what's commonly meant by Faith when it refers to the faith between two people. Then we can consider whether our explanation fits the various Scripture passages.'

Faith is Not an Impulse That We Generate Ourselves

The text quoted above from the very thoughtful and educational preface of Beeching's book shows what we mean by the naturalness of faith. It isn't something that comes by itself of its own will and effort. It's acceptable, suitable, and appropriate to our nature, no matter when and from where it comes. As Beeching says, 'Faith itself isn't an impulse that originates from within ourselves. It's a person's heart springing up in response to the surrounding hug of God's 'Everlasting Arms' and its reward is to feel the support of those divine arms even more and more deeply.'

The eleven sermons in the book are The Object of Faith, The Worship of Faith, The Righteousness of Faith, The Food of Faith, National Faith, The Eye of Faith, The Ear of Faith, The Activity of Faith, The Gentleness of Faith, The Discipline of Faith, and Faith in Man.

The Compassion of Christ

In the chapter called 'The Object of Faith,' Beeching poses a question: So then, what is God like? What kind of countenance does the God have who shines out from the pages of the Gospel? Let's open the book and see!' We read the story of how Jesus was touched with compassion when he saw two blind men by the road on the way to Jericho. So He touched their eyes and healed them. But Jesus didn't only have compassion on physical problems. 'Jesus also has compassion on ignorance, on the aimless wandering of people who are trying to satisfy their own wants because they have no Master to guide them, and on the weary spirit that results from such a life of aimless wandering.' Beeching also writes, 'Jesus doesn't just have compassion on sickness and ignorance. He also has compassion on sin, and on the sinner who repents.' The Bible tells the story of the woman whose many sins were forgiven because she loved so much. And it tells about Jesus as His face is turned towards the young man, and 'Jesus looked at him and loved him.' 'In the face of Christ, we've seen compassion for suffering, ignorance, repentant sin, and love for enthusiasm.' As one more example, we're invited to consider how the Lord turned and looked at Peter. 'Can you imagine the look on His face as He looked at Peter, who had denied Him three times after insisting that he would die with Him? If only that face would look at us in reproach any time that we deny Him by our words or our actions, so that we can also remember and weep.' The heart rises to this kind of teaching--the simple presentation of Christ as He lived among people. He said rightly, 'If I'm lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself.' How tragic that He, Who is so totally beautiful, is so seldom lifted up for us to gaze at with adoration. Maybe when our teachers invite us to look at Christ's face, we'll understand the full meaning of the word 'adoration.' He'll draw all men to Himself because it's impossible for any human soul to resist His divine beauty once it's fairly and fully presented so he can see it.

The Worship of Faith

In Beeching's sermon, 'Worship of Faith,' he says that 'Worshiping Christ means to bow down with love, wonder and thankfulness to the most perfect goodness that the world has ever seen, and to believe that that goodness is the perfect image of God the Father.' Any and all aims or ideas that aren't Christ's aims and ideas are against this kind of worship. Any person who entertains these wrong kinds of foreign ideals can't call himself a Christian. Once we examine the spirit attitude towards Christ that leads to the proper worship of faith, the rest of Beeching's sermon is very practical. The next sermon, 'Work is Worship,' is his keynote. Since Beeching knows so well how to touch the secret springs of our hearts, you wish that he had used this opportunity to move us closer to that 'heart's adoration' that's so dear to God. But, really, the book has this tendency. It's good to remember that 'thoroughly and willingly doing any duty, no matter how important or trivial, is like offering well-pleasing, acceptable incense to Jesus.'

The sermon about the 'Righteousness of Faith' is very important and educational. Beeching spends a lot of time talking about the 'deplorable chant' we use to label ourselves as 'miserable sinners,' combining the 'inner smugness of the Pharisees in the parable with what the publican said.'

Righteousness is a Particular Human Spirit-Attitude Towards the Spirit of God

'Christ's words about man's sinfulness have no trace of vagueness or exaggeration. When He casts blame, He names definite faults that we all can relate to. He never says that man can't do any good thing. Instead, He assumes that, if a person is in the proper state of dependence on God, he'll be fully capable of doing what's right. Jesus said that 'whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother, or sister, or mother.' But we still wonder--considering our shortcomings, how can any of us be called righteous right now by Christ? Paul wrote two of his letters to answer this very question. His answer was that a person isn't considered righteous because of his own works, but because of his faith in God. Human righteousness isn't a conclusion stamped on a person after his whole life has been analyzed. It's reckoned to a person at a certain point in time when his spirit becomes willing to trust, love and revere God. It's the disposition of a dutiful son to a loving father . . . Righteousness in the only sense that men can have it means believing and trusting God.'

Volume 2, Parents and Children, pg 252

Divine Cooperation

In this great work, we seek and are certain to receive the Spirit's cooperation. We recognize that He is the Supreme Teacher of mankind, teaching them everything that's considered secular as well as all things sacred, although this concept is new to our modern way of thinking.

Volume 2, Parents and Children, pg 268-277

Chapter 25 - The Great Truth That Parents Need to Recognize

Ruskin Writes About the 'Vaulted Book'

John Ruskin did modern thought a great service when he interpreted for us the harmonious and inspiring presentation of education and philosophy that's recorded on one of the four walls of the Spanish Chapel attached to the Church of St. Maria Novella, in Florence. He calls it the 'Vaulted Book.'

Many of those reading this book have probably studied, with Ruskin's help, the enlightening lessons of the frescoes that cover the roofs and walls. But I don't think any will mind being reminded of the message they reflected on with reverence and awe. 'The descent of the Holy Spirit is on the left (of the roof) as you enter. The Madonna and the Disciples are gathered in an upper room. Underneath them are foreigners such as Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc., all hearing the Disciples as if they're speaking their own language. There are three dogs in the foreground. They symbolize the lower animals made gentle as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit . . . On this side and the opposite side of the Chapel, the artist has represented the Spirit of God's power to teach, and the saving power of the Son of God working in the world, shown according to the understanding of Florence at the time of the fresco.

'Let's look at the intellectual side of the fresco first. In the point of the arch, underneath the outpouring Holy Spirit, are the three Evangelical Virtues [love, faith, hope]. Florence believed that without these, you couldn't have science. Without Love, Hope and Faith, there could be no intelligence. Under these are the four Cardinal Virtues--Moderation, Caution, Fairness and Resoluteness. Underneath these are the great Prophets and Apostles. Under the group of Prophets are the mythic figures of the seven religious sciences and the seven natural sciences, as if they're powers that were summoned by the Prophets' voices. Under the feet of the sciences are the Captain/teachers of those sciences who presented those subjects to the world.'

The Seven Natural Sciences

I hope you will continue to study Ruskin's teaching about 'the Vaulted Book,' which is part of his book, 'Mornings in Florence.' It's full of wonderful teachings and suggestions. But our immediate concern is with the seven mythic figures who represent the natural sciences, and the Captain/teacher of each one. First is Grammar, pictured as a gracious figure teaching three children of Florence. Its Captain/teacher is Priscian. Next is Rhetoric, who is strong, calm and composed. Its Captain/teacher is Cicero, who has a beautiful face. Then comes Logic, with perfect poise and a lovely expression. Her Captain/teacher is Aristotle, who has keen, searching intensity in his half-closed eyes. Next is Music, with her head inclined to one side as she listens intently to the sweet, solemn notes she's playing on her antique instrument. Her Captain/teacher pictures Tubal Cain (not Jubal) as the inventor of harmony. That might be the most marvelous statement that Art has ever created about the impact of a great idea on the soul of a man [Tubal Cain] who was only semi-civilized. Astronomy is next. She has a majestic brow and her hand is upraised. Her Captain/teacher is Zoroaster, pictured as exceedingly beautiful, a 'delicate Persian head made even softer with its elaborate crown of silky hair.' Next, Geometry looks down, contemplating some practical geometry problem, with a carpenter's square in her hand. Her Captain/teacher is Euclid. And last is Arithmetic, holding up two fingers as an aid in calculating a sum. Her Captain/teacher is Pythagoras, and he's wrapped up in solving some math problem.

'The thoughts of God are broader than the whole span of man's mind.'

Yet in this fresco, we have minds that are so broad and wide in the sweep of their intelligence, and so profound in their insight, that we're almost startled to realize that, here, pictured on these walls, we see a true measure of the thoughts of God. Now let's take a look at the concept of education in our own time.

Education Isn't Both Religious and Secular

First of all, we divide education into religious and secular. Those of us who are more devout insist that religious education be covered as well as secular ['academic'] education. Many people don't mind completely foregoing religious education, and prefer what we label as a 'secular' education, but they limit secular to only this tangible, visible world.

The Great Thing We Need to Recognize

Some Christians expect a little more and have a bit of a higher standard. They recognize that even grammar and arithmetic can be used for God in some vague way. But the truly great thing we need to recognize is that God the Holy Spirit is personally the One who imparts knowledge. He is the One who instructs our youth, He inspires genius. This concept is so far lost to us that we think it's irreverent to imagine the Holy Spirit cooperating with us when we teach our child something secular, such as his arithmetic lesson. But the Florentines in the Middle Ages went even beyond this. They believed that, not only the seven Liberal Arts were under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, but every productive idea, every original concept, be it Euclid, grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with no concern about whether the person chosen to disseminate the idea to the world claimed to be a Christian, or even recognized where his inspiration came from. All seven of the captain/teachers are people we'd consider to be pagans, and who would be considered outside the arena of divine inspiration. It's difficult for our minds to wrap themselves around this bold concept about the education of the world, although the people of ancient Florence accepted it in simple faith.

Knowledge, like Virtue, is Divine

But we shouldn't accept any idea blindly, even an inspiring one. Were these people in the Middle Ages correct in their plan and concept? Plato hints at similar thoughts when he insists that knowledge and virtue are fundamentally the same. Therefore, if virtue has a divine origin, then knowledge must, too. Ancient Egypt was also aware of this concept. 'Pharaoh said to his servants, can we find someone like this, a man who has the Spirit of God within him?' [Gen 41:38] This Egyptian king didn't consider practical discernment, knowledge of everyday matters, and dealing with emergencies, as teachings that were beneath God's Spirit. 'The Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied among them,' the Bible says about Saul, and we can safely believe that this is how it worked with every great invention and every great discovery of Nature's secrets. 'Then David gave his son Solomon the details of everything that he had received from the Holy Spirit pertaining to the courts of the Temple.' This suggests where every concept of beauty that's expressed in the various art forms comes from.

Science, Art and Poetry Come 'By the Spirit'

But the Holy Spirit doesn't only concern Himself with exalted matters of science, art and poetry. Sometimes we wonder who first invented the most basic necessities for living. Who first discovered how to produce fire, or nail two pieces of wood together, or shape iron, or plant seeds, or grind corn?

Concepts of Common, Routine Things

We can't even imagine that we ever lived without knowing these things, yet each of them must have been a great idea when it first came to the person who discovered it. Where did he get the idea from? Fortunately, we're given the answer in an example that's so typical, we can apply it to the others.

'Doesn't the plowman plow all day to prepare for sowing? Doesn't he open and break up the clods of dirt on his land? When he's prepared the ground, he tosses the spelt, scatters the cummin, and plants the wheat, barley and rye in their appropriate places. For his God instructs him wisely and teaches him. Spelt isn't threshed with a threshing machine, and cummin isn't ground with a wheel. No, spelt has to be beaten out with a staff, and cummin has to be beat with a rod. Corn meal has to be ground, otherwise you'd be threshing it forever. A wheel would crush it and his horses would ruin it. This knowledge also comes from the Lord of Hosts. It's beautifully wise, and practically effective.' (Isa. 28: 24)

'God Instructs Him'

In matters related to science, art and practical living, 'God instructs him and teaches him (or her!) This should be the mother's key to all of education for each boy or girl. I don't mean her children collectively, because the Holy Spirit doesn't work with plural nouns. He works with each individual child. He is infinite, so even the entire world isn't too big a school for this inexhaustible Teacher. And since He's infinite, He's able to give all of His infinite attention for the entire time to each of His many students. We don't rejoice nearly enough in the abundant wealth that God's infinite nature provides for us.

Subjects That are Divinely Taught

So, what subjects are taught under the direction of this Divine Teacher? Faith, hope, love--we already knew that. Moderation, fairness, discretion, perseverance--we probably could have guessed that. Grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic--we might have forgotten these if the fresco in Florence hadn't reminded us. Practical skills in the use of tools and instruments from silverware to microscopes, and the sensible managing of the affairs of life--these also come from the Lord, and they're beautifully wise and practically effective. For his God instructs him wisely and teaches him. The mother should visualize this thought as if it's an illuminated scroll on her infant's T-shirt. She should never contemplate any kind of deliberate instruction for her child, unless it's under the guidance of the Holy Spirit's co-operation. But we need to remember that, in this matter, just like everything else, the infinite and almighty Spirit of God works under certain limitations.

Our Co-operation is Required

Our cooperation seems to be the one requirement for every work of the Spirit. We recognize that this is true in what we think of as spiritual matters, which means things that relate to how we approach God. But the concept that's new is that subjects like grammar can be taught in such a way that we invite and get the cooperation of the Divine Teacher, or taught in such a way that God's enlightening presence is excluded from the schoolroom. I don't mean that the teacher manifests spiritual virtues and encourages them in her students during the grammar lesson. This is undoubtedly true and worth keeping in mind. But the point I'm talking about is that, by its guiding ideas and simple principles, without an elaborate presentation and long-winded lecture, we believe that the true, direct and simple teaching of even a grammar lesson can be accompanied by the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, Who is all knowledge.

What Kind of Teaching Invites or Repels Divine Co-operation?

The opposite is just as true. Elaborate, long-winded lessons wrap the child's mind in so many words that his own thought can't penetrate it. He gets rules, definitions and tables instead of living ideas. This is the kind of teaching that excludes the Spirit and makes Divine cooperation impossible.

This Concept Resolves Discord in our Lives

Recognizing this great truth resolves that disjointedness in our lives that most of us are aware of. We're willing to subordinate the tangible things of the senses to the things of the spirit. At least, we're willing to make an effort in that direction. We lament our failures and try again, certain that this is like the Armageddon of every person's soul. But that's debatable. Isn't it true that our spiritual life is a real fact, and demands our single-minded interest and focused effort? Yet we have a brain, too, and the demands of the intellectual mind and the aesthetic sense of taste press on us persistently. We need to think, we have to know, we're compelled to appreciate and create beauty. If all the passionate, burning thoughts that stir in the minds of men, and all the beautiful creations they give rise to are things that are separated from God, then we must have a separate life, too--a life separated from God. That would mean that we ourselves are divided into secular and religious, or discord, which implies discord and unrest. I believe that this is the source of the doubt and lack of faith we see today, especially in young, passionate minds. The demands of the intellect are urgent. Our mental life is a necessity that won't let us neglect it. It's impossible for these intense young thinkers to conceive of themselves as having a dual nature. How can they have a dual spirituality? If there's another claim that opposes their intellect, then they reject that claim. Thus, the young person, so full of promise and ability, becomes an agnostic free-thinker, or whatever you want to call him. But once the intimate relationship of Teacher to student in all things of the mind and body is recognized, then our feet are set in a large, spacious room. There's room to develop freely in every direction, and this free, natural joyous growth, whether it's growth of the heart or mind, is recognized as being a step that brings us closer to God.

This Concept Protects Us from Intellectual Sin as Well as Moral Sin

Various activities that share a united aim help to bring peace and harmony into our lives. Even more, this perception of how God's Spirit deals intimately with our spirits in intellectual matters as well as moral matters keeps us aware and alert in both areas for any sign of temptation or evil. We become aware that sin is possible in our intellectual lives, not just our moral lives. We see that, even in the area of pure reason, we need to be careful not to enter into temptation. We can rejoice as much in the expanding and evolving of our intellect as we can in the broadening and enlarging of our heart, and the easy freedom we have because we're always in direct contact with the inspiring Teacher who graciously provides infinite stores of learning, wisdom, and virtue for our use.

This Concept Brings Harmony to Our Efforts

When we recognize the Holy Spirit's work as mankind's Teacher of intellectual things as well as moral and spiritual things, we have 'new thoughts of God, and new hopes of heaven.' It gives us a sense of harmony in our efforts, and helps us to accept all that we are. So, what is it that prevents us from this realization that could make our lives more blessed? We don't fully see ourselves as spiritual beings who live inside a living, emotional physical body. These bodies, which are sometimes a snare to us, and sometimes a joy, are nothing more than tools and instruments of our spiritual intention. When we realize that, every time we're with a friend, our spirit is dealing with his spirit, and the people who serve us are beings whose spirits connect with our spirits, then we'll understand how constant the communication is between our spirit and the Divine Spirit. That realization will be like when a person stops talking and stops thinking in the springtime, only to realize that the world is full of birds singing that he hadn't heard before. In the same way, we'll learn to pause our thoughts, and then we'll hear the clear, sweet, encouraging and inspiring tones of our spiritual Guide in our intellectual and moral beings. I'm not specifically talking about the religious life, or deliberate approaches to God in the form of prayer and praise. Almost all Christians understand these things fairly well. I'm talking about our intellectual mind. Developing children's intellectual minds is the whole aim of our subjects and educational methods.

Conditions of Divine Co-operation

What if we're willing to recognize this great truth, and to make it our business to accept and invite the Spirit's participation in our children's school lessons every day, and every hour? How should we adjust our own actions to make this Divine cooperation happen, or to even make it possible? We're told that the Spirit is life. So, it follows that anything that's dead, dry as dust, nothing but bare bones devoid of any life, can have no part with Him. All it can do is smother and deaden His life-giving influences. Therefore, the first condition of this Spirit-filled, life-giving teaching is that all the thoughts that we offer to children need to be living thoughts. Mere dry summaries of facts won't do. If children are given the vitalizing ideas, they'll be quite capable of hanging dry facts on those living ideas, which will be like pegs strong enough to hold everything that's needed. We begin by having faith in children as spiritual beings who have unlimited intellectual, moral, and spiritual abilities that can receive and constantly enjoy intuition from intimate communication with the Holy Spirit.

Volume 3, School Education Education, pg 95-96

A Medieval Concept of Education

We have always strived to present education as something that springs from and rests on our relationship to God. We are firmly committed to this idea. We don't seek to provide a 'religious education' as an alternative to some other kind of education, like secular education. We believe that all education is divine. Every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from God. God the Spirit is, ultimately, the One who educates mankind. The culmination of all education (which is approachable even for a little child) is personal knowledge of God, and an intimate relationship with Him. In that relationship, our being finds its fullest perfection. In fact, we agree with the great concept of education that the Medieval Church held. It's illustrated on the walls of the Spanish chapel in Florence. It shows the Holy Spirit coming down on the twelve apostles. Directly under them, fully covered by the illuminating rays of the Spirit, are seven noble figures representing the seven liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, astronomy, geometry and arithmetic. Under these are pictured the seven men who received and expressed the original concept in each of those subjects, as far as the artist could tell. Pictured are such men as Pythagoras, Zoroaster and Euclid. We might think of them as pagans, but the early church recognized that they had received divine knowledge and enlightenment.

Volume 3, School Education Education, pg 117-118

Great Eras Come from Time to Time

The knowledge that's given to us seems to come to us in meals. There are great eras of scientific discovery or ages of literary activity or poetic insight or artistic creativity that seem to come from time to time, followed by long intervals so that there's time for the world to assimilate the new knowledge or idea. After that, the world seems to be swept off its feet with a flurry of great minds involved with that idea. Yet we haven't learned to discern the signs of the time, or realize that this is the routine way that God provides us with knowledge which is, after all, just as divine as God's nurture and admonition. The medieval church recognized this great truth. John Ruskin eloquently explained how the 'Captain Figures,' or inventors, of grammar, music, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic and logic all spoke what had been put inside them as a result of the direct outpouring of the Holy Spirit--even though none of them had any recognition of God as we know Him. We could revolutionize education if we could understand that seemingly dry and dull subjects like grammar and math are supposed to come to children in a living form, revealed by the power of the Spirit who 'shall teach you all things.'

Volume 3, School Education Education, pg 152-155

One of the Faces is Education is a Life

Jesus said, 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' The importance of the occasion when He spoke those words has tended to make us think that the words are limited to what we call the life of the soul. But actually, they include a great educational principle that the Medieval Church understood better than we do. I'd like to describe again a painting that so visibly expresses our educational creed. You may be familiar with the frescoes on the walls of the Spanish Chapel in the Church of S. Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. Middle Age philosophy dealt with theology as its subject matter. There's a lot of religious culture of that time that we don't relate to on some of the walls, but on one specific part of the wall and roof, we have a uniquely satisfying illustration of educational thought. At the top of the picture, we see the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. Immediately below in the upper part are the disciples who first received the Spirit's inspiration. Under them is a random crowd of various nationalities who were brought indirectly under the influence of that first outpouring of the Spirit, including a couple of dogs to illustrate that even the animals benefited from this new grace. In the lower part, we see the angelic figures who represent the cardinal virtues, which we all agree are divinely inspired. They are floating above the seated apostles and prophets, who Scripture says 'spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.' So far, this Medieval concept of philosophy reveals nothing new to those of us familiar with the elements of Christian truth. But below them are 28 people--those on the right at the top are the captain figures, or idealized representations of the seven Liberal Arts. They are graceful and beautiful and represent the familiar subjects of grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic, all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Medieval philosophy manifests itself as even more liberal when we see that, directly at the feet of each of these idealized figures is the person they considered to be the leader and representative of that particular science: Priscian, Cicero, Aristotle, Tubal Cain, Zoroaster, Euclid, and Pythagoras. Later, a narrower view of religion would place these men outside the barrier of Christianity, inferring that their teaching was outside of God's spirit and thus secular. But in this picture, they're all shown receiving the same divine outpouring as the disciples near the top.

A Creed That Unifies Life

We naturally crave unity. Current thinking, as thinking has done for as long as we can tell, seeks to establish some kind of principle that will unify life. In this fresco we have a magnificent plan of unity. We tend to think of spiritual holiness as one thing, and intellectual and artistic yearnings as something totally separate, and moral virtues as something we pick up from our environment and by inheritance. We don't consider them as something related to our conscious religion. That's why we often have so much discord in our lives, especially young, devoted people who want to be pure and holy but who can't escape from the overpowering draw of art, intellect and pure physical enjoyment. But they've been taught that these things are worldly and alien to a religious life and they need to choose one or other. So they make a choice, and their choice isn't always what those who are nonscripturally and unphilosophically narrow-minded would consider a godly choice. We should be thankful for Taddeo Gaddi and Simone Memmi [for painting the fresco, although the fresco is now attributed to Andrea da Firenze] because they gave us a creed that shows that our devotion, virtue, intellect and even our physical beauty come from the same source--God Himself. They're all inspired by the same source--God's Holy Spirit. (Copies of the fresco could be purchased to hang on our walls from 'La Discessa dello Spirot Santo' and Allegoria filosofica della Religione Cattolica' in care of Mr. G. Cole, 1 Via Torna Buoni, Forence; shilling size, numbers 4077 and 4093.) The generations that were brought up in this creed were productive in all kinds of areas. Venice's noble industry was more dignified and sobered because of this concept that all ideas were inspired by God--trade, justice, fair weights and measures, and practical use. Coleridge writes that Columbus, informed by the divine idea, ventured out to discover a new world. Coleridge adds that 'great inventions and ideas about nature were given to men who were selected by a divine power even higher than nature herself. These ideas suddenly unfold in a prophetic kind of succession, these systematic views were destined to produce the most important revolutions in the state of man.' When Columbus returned after discovering a new world, the people and rulers assumed his discovery was a gift from God and sang praises to God.


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Paraphrased by L. N. Laurio; Please direct comments or questions to AmblesideOnline.