Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Beginning

Lord willing, this Fall of 2014, we will offer here (at ArgusandPhoenix), seven different tutorials. The following will give a rough idea of what their content & purpose & intended audience will be. At the top of this website, under the Omnibus headings and other titles, you will find a precise syllabus for each class.

The purpose, which almost goes without saying, is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. However, since words are cheap, & since it’s easy to say this, one must be more specific. We aim, in short, to make this enterprise part of the restoration of the fallen West, which was first to enter the Night of Revolution and Decay, & ought to be the first to exit it. It is our choice, to take either the gate of Horn or the gate of Ivory.

Stranger, dreams verily are baffling and unclear of meaning, and in no wise do they find fulfilment in all things for men. For two are the gates of shadowy dreams, and one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those dreams that pass through the gate of sawn ivory deceive men, bringing words that find no fulfilment. But those that come forth through the gate of polished horn bring true issues to pass, when any mortal sees them. But in my case it was not from thence, methinks, that my strange dream came.

Education is not the same as training. Yet training is the precinct of the Holy, or else we simply serve Revolution. Here at Argus& Phoenix, we do both. We train, disciplining the mind with the “text” of history, literature, and Latin (to name a few), but the goal is ultimately the freeing of the mature student through the sublimation of his or her mind in union with the Good, which is the summit, or apex, of classical training. We train, because those who are lazy and corrupt cannot possibly hope to climb Parnassus. But we remember, always, that the goal truly is the liberated mind, sublimated through spirit, since education means literally to “lead out of/or into” in Latin, so that the “liberal arts” are the arts that make free.

Although this maturity is not usually seen until later in life, and is more properly the goal of collegiate study, yet we know that our young people are capable of more than they are given credit for, if the work is begun soon and early, woven into the fabric of their studies from an early age. Argus&Phoenix is an online collegiate preparatory school, for those who wish to go into the world fully armed with the whole panoply of God, with a mind already prepared and stocked with the raw material that will resist corrosion. Here, as in all things, the first rule is, do not be digestible. The goal of education is to help the student remember what they already know, & we mean this in an almost literal sense. We are born with the image of God, defaced, it is true, but not completely eradicated, which contains within itself, by God’s help, that which can re-assimilate the soul to God. Hence, we see no conflict between religion and free-thinking. They are impossible, the one without the other.

To quote JRR Tolkien,

The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.

So the seven liberal arts, both the Trivium & the Quadrivium, are properly the formalized study of the precincts of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, which are One in God. “He who finds them, finds more,” to quote Dr. Michael Bauman.

As a matter of housekeeping, we are obliged to define what these tutorials are NOT, so as to more clearly see what they can properly give. They are not a means of making money, for either student or teacher. I have worked, and continue to work, in other jobs in order to pay all the bills, and I will not become either rich or famous in doing these lessons. Neither will the student, at least not directly. If you are interested in “cramming” in order to get into a prestigious school, in order to practice Law or Medicine or Politics or Art, so that you too can get in on the American get-rich-quick Ponzi scheme, you will be disappointed, and are hereby warned. Likewise, if you are wanting your child to grow up to be a good little Presbyterian or even Catholic, with no sense of what life outside the Church might look like, you are hereby given notice: we are not attempting to indoctrinate children in any kind of religious theology, although we officially recognize in our teaching here that God has given Christianity to the West as a Providential vehicle for re-unifying with the Son of God and Son of Man, the Logos Tomeus Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, if a child’s soul naturally inclines towards a certain tradition within the body of Christ, for example towards an Eastern Orthodox understanding of piety and prayer and philosophy, our goal at Argus& Phoenix would be to cultivate that tendency, to enhance it, to provide it with aids and helps on the soul’s journey. In short, we believe in cutting WITH the grain here, & not trying to fit make violins out of bois d’arc wood, or Indian short bows out of cedar. If a student is not a Christian, we are not going to shove theology full-fledged down their throats to make ourselves feel superior. Nor will a student with a learning style that is not formally “Classical” be discouraged in his studies here. Students are individuals, with unique abilities and needs, which not to recognize, is a sign of stupidity and incompetence in a teacher.

However, that said, we do think that a strong case can be made that Classical training will enhance the natural potential of any child:

We really ought not to think that studying Latin will impede a student’s progress to becoming a competent scientist or “knowledge worker.” The study of Latin will actually lead people to become scientists and engender a love for science, especially if they study Latin well before college. Latin opens up a vast vocabulary of science (scientia: knowledge), as every creature (creare: to create) and plant has a Latin name and virtually every scientific discipline is steeped in vocabulary derived from Latin. If students learn to enjoy the puzzle-solving inherent in Latin translation, they may find that the puzzle-solving that is the scientific method is a natural and enjoyable extension. Once Dr. Charles Zubrod, one of the founders of chemotherapy, was asked what led him into a life of cancer research. He replied, “The study of Latin and Greek as a child.” Could there be link between Latin and chemotherapy?

While I am not a big fan of chemotherapy or Science as an ersatz religion the way it is for virtually all Americans, I think there is a point to this. In Medusa and the Snail, renowned biologist Lewis Thomas remarks that there should be no segregation of medical students into “pre-med” courses, but rather, they should have been expected to master Latin in elementary school and high school, and commence studies in Greek at the collegiate level. “Greek is a fit study for the collegiate mind.” While this tutor has never attempted to learn Greek, I have substituted a reading knowledge of German, as a kind of “second-best”; German is the Greek of antique Europe, the language of high art and pure Science.

In previous ages, our ancestors and founding fathers even in this country, had mastered at least Latin by the time they even left their log-cabin secondary schools.

The same holds true, presumably, for all “classical” studies. Since the Past is not a remote and humble log cabin remaining in a state of rot & decay on the vast cosmos of the Present, but rather, the Present is instead itself a tiny province of the infinite kingdom of the Past, it is true to say this:

“Not knowing what happened before you were born is to be stuck in childhood forever. What does a person’s life amount to without the historical consciousness that weaves one’s life into the life of earlier generations?”

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur? Cicero, Orator XXXIV [120].

Just as travel improves the eye and mind and soul, in offering a change of appearances, so that one sees more clearly the outlines of one’s own place and what is permanent and what is transitory, so does travel into the mind of the past offer the mind something it can get in no other way, since the Future does not yet exist. Without this change of circumstances, the mind will be in the condition of the Swiss peasant who had never left his Alpine vallies, of whom it was said that the natural scenery did not so much impress them, as it simply “was”. In fact, this psychological fact was so noteworthy that it was primarily Swiss immigrants who showed up in the doctor’s office with physical manifestations of “nostalgia“. Unlike the lucky Swiss, who at least were affected purely at a physical level, and who had grown up in beautiful surroundings they didn’t appreciate until they were separated from it, we live in largely ugly spiritual conditions, and don’t seem to realize that we’ve left anything behind. Why is it, in the modern era, where we have achieved “everything”, that people are so profoundly, even routinely, unhappy, without even knowing it, let alone Why?

That is the question which drove me to dig into classical studies, and which guides the purpose behind this tutorial service. If we had eyes to see it, we would say, with the prophet:

Thus saith Jehovah: Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the ancient paths, which is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Therefore, we offer here an Omnibus class which proceeds from Ancient World, to the Medieval Era, through to the Renaissance and Modern Period, including our own wintery day of Post-Modernity. These Four Seasons correpond to Spring, Summer, Fall, & Winter. After our day, comes the Age of Gold, which we have the honor of helping to rebuild, by carrying the flame, hiding the seeds. This is the foundation of the four upper grades, ideally taken in that same sequence, although I do not insist that a student do so. Additionally, we offer a Quadrivium class, which, in the course of one year, covers Number, Geometry, Astronomy, & Music. These classes have a wide range of scope, & include the history of these subjects, various tangents, as well as odd modern developments such as Game Theory, which can be fit into several categories. Additionally, we have a cursory over-view, here, of Statistics, which is used to distort a great many facts these days, & is important in things such as polling & genetic research. The foundations of these class lie in Euclid and other such authors, however, which retains a kind of pre-eminence. As Plato posted on the Academy, “Let no one ignorant of Geometry, enter here”. It was assumed that someone who had no taste for abstractions and logical analysis, could not possibly hope to understand enough to love Wisdom. We assume the same thing. There is a Quod Libeta (“As you like”) course, for those who have taken at least two other courses. This was a traditional practice in medieval universities, and signified the student’s right to ask the teacher anything, to put him on the spot, &, if they could, trip him up, or pick his brain, as it suited them.

Please look under each subject title heading at the top for a complete syllabus.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized