Lecture given to faculty at Dartmouth College
Chapter 8 from, I AM AN IMPURE THINKER, Argo Press
Feringer notes
Notes started: 7-7-97
Last edited: 11-98

1.The goal of the author is to make three points: 1) The time has come to build a science of timing, of which teaching and learning are its principle elements. 2) Society will be (is) doomed without the timing of teaching – we suffer every day from “brain erosion.” 3) Every individual must be trained in the importance of timing in all of his experiences – the greatest sin of which is being either too early or too late.

[RF – ERH assumes that learning means understanding some experience, taking it into one’s deepest values and being willing and capable of applying that learning in the right situation.  `Applying’ means acting in an efficacious way, at the right time.  The opposite definition would be that learning is achieved by scheduling and teaching by the clock. This is artificial and ineffective, for the most part. One can schedule rote exercises, but not understanding.]

2.A convincing anecdote makes a case for the importance of timing in teaching. A town has prevented its own destruction during the Peasants War in Germany.  It anticipated the possibility of a social breakdown from corruption in the Catholic church 40 years before the Reformation. Town leaders entered into a self education program promoting continued social peace between diverse religious groups. After the inception of the Reformation (1525 A.D.),  marauding bands of religious zealots roamed the countryside, destroying towns in their path. THE RESULT OF THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM WAS THAT THE TOWN WAS ONE OF THE FEW THAT SAVED ITSELF, BECAUSE IT WAS UNITED IN ITS BELIEF IN  RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE. IT WAS CAPABLE OF DEFENDING ITSELF AGAINST THESE BANDS.  An important fact of this successful educational program was that it broke monastic rules of that time.

3.Academe faces a crisis today. Curricula is peripherally relevant to today’s needs, and teaching depends mainly on rote memorization.  The social meaning of studies is largely ignored. THIS IS DISASTROUS IN THE STUDY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES.

Objectivity is its god.  It would treat all realities as things external to the mind, things in which we as thinkers have no roots, which may accordingly be touched, weighed, measured, and manipulated without reference to common destiny in which we and they are jointly bound.  This may do for physics.  It will not do for human society. (p.93)

4.Social time is created by humans, not a given datum of nature, and lasts according to our making.  It must be won and preserved by vigilance, “…otherwise our `present’ is starved and distorted.”

5.The past and the future are an “abyss” before and ahead of us.  [RF – I believe he means, by this statement, that our penchant to think mainly in terms of the present consequences of our decision-making is destructive to both ourselves and to the community.  Sacrificing discomfort in the `present’ is always the price one pays for efficacious consequences in the future, for both ourselves and for our communities.]

6.When we speak, we are not only speaking and acting for ourselves, but we are also acting for others.  One is a father or mother, a representative of a group, a son or daughter, a friend, a community member.  ALL THESE FORCES MUST BE BALANCED IN ADDRESSING IMPORTANT DECISIONS.

7.We are able to become more than thinking animals; but in order to rise above this animal state into which we are born, we must communicate with others.  Our ability to do this rests on our willingness to speak the truth and on the preservation of language.

8.As teachers we not only speak for ourselves, but also in the name of great causes through history. Socrates, Jesus, Newton, Abelard, Billy Mitchell sacrificed in order to speak the truth to improve the community. Today these lessons must be passed on. “Man’s dignity is not in producing private opinions, but in timing public truth.” (p.95)

9.Truth must come at the right moment, then the words take on full meaning.  Otherwise, lacking such a timing element, they are abstract, not vital, as seeds fallen on barren earth. Truth becomes concrete (demonstrated) only at that moment. “For these reasons teaching involves the central problems of timing.” (p.95)

10.Any decision, especially teaching, is preparation.  Often it must be too late, because it occurs when we have seen the consequences of action; certainly this learning moment is a pregnant, but only for future use.

Just as often, teaching is too early because we must anticipate – it is “life in advance.”  Facts and anticipation are thus the paradox in timing.  Facts are understood by analysis from past events.  Anticipation conversely is entered only through love, faith, and hope.  Concern for students, faith that the knowledge will prevent harm, move one forward, and hope that the right consequences will evolve.

11.Facts are past events, and are “poison” when their occurrence is not motivated by some problem that must be acted upon to create a future, i.e. when they are “…treated as an agenda.”

12.Learning from others is borrowing (from others’ experience), dead knowledge until brought to life by our applying it (thereby bringing it back to life). Until then, knowledge is only words or formulas.  And when we learn from others, we owe them gratitude for not making us re-invent that reality (completely). We lack enough time to learn what we need to learn as it is. And, of course when one does not learn about reality, one must re-invent it – like reinventing the wheel.

Thus, there must be a close relation between thinking and experience. To separate these is disastrous.

13.Gambling is the short-term substitute for faith. (p.99)  ERH tells the story of a talented son of a missionary who left the studies of his ancestors for a profession in sociology and human relations. But, because modern social science utilizes the methods of the physics – incomplete for understanding our experience.  What was his fate in these studies?

He often feels like going crazy, his big powers being wasted in separation between his sociological head that classifies everything like a botanist, and his living soul and body that must love and hate.  …He tries to analyze himself with modern psychology to find out what is wrong.  OF course nothing is wrong with him; he is sane in a madhouse. But he is overcome by his academic environment that he denies himself his own rescue; he could jump to freedom by serving in a more than personal and more than “objective” cause …(p.99)

The solution of course is to connect the thought with action in service to the community.

14.We tend to teach that no relation between learning and obligation and practice exists.  Other examples in the text testify to this gap between learning and meaning and obligation and fulfillment (living).

We, in teaching, tend to destroy or punish those who live in, or for, the future.   Individuals are usually somewhat self-denying, but groups are ever more greedy in their quest for power. [RF – or is group life the dark side of good individuals?] In groups we tend to be more self-serving. Such indulgence can only be rectified by following goals beyond ourselves.

15.How does one live beyond one’s self-interest?  By the realization that civilization, or our community and ourselves, or successors, will perish unless we act for goals beyond ourselves.   By uniting both “production” and “reproduction,” by connecting facts with meaning. As teachers we must refuse to bury students in an avalanche of facts.

By resting, and reflecting, a willingness to experiment and risk for a good cause we reach  understanding of the subject matter.  Separating fact from meaning creates two types: 1) the prodigy who knows numerous facts [RF – R.M. HUTCHINS coined the phrase, “knowing everything about nothing of importance.”] And, 2) the playboy who can’t take any learning seriously. Both types fail to contribute toward a future.


As academics, we tend to become stuck in the stage of disbelief. Our revolt against an overbearing religion has led us to this.  But after several hundred years of this disbelief people are longing for some meaning in life, something more stable than ever-changing social norms.

Sans more fundamental beliefs, one degenerates into despair.  One cannot be an atheist forever. It is useful only for transitions between stages when useful at all.  Social survival is based on the reformation principle, to think anew about one’s beliefs, to be re-deemed. [RF – By this he means to renew the way basic truths must become manifest.]

17.There are basically three life-stages for people; as children, as adults, and as elders. Each has an essential role. The elders reflect wisdom and prophecy – reminding others of the standards to be maintained.  They are suited for this role because they no longer need to compete for power, or sex prowess, or status.


18.Colleges cannot degenerate into trade schools for people to maintain “systems” (maintaining institutions like medicine, manufacturing, education, etc.)

Students must be taught to have an expectancy of a better society, to be taught facts in the context of meaning and use them to that end.

19.The Enlightenment of 1750, with science as a dominant ideal, persists today and creates no social expectancy. No motive to improve society, or for “…a great miraculous, surprising future.”  Expectancy carries one beyond mere doubt, beyond burnout and despair in middle age.

Education must therefore give promise to have a better life as a fruit of knowledge. Life is more desirable than any abstraction, any ideal, any separation of mind from body (i.e. the separation declared by Descartes).

20.Our education today fails to produce genuine elders.  The growth and anticipation of students is stunted; as a consequence it fails now in preparing them to see through quacks and tyrants, whatever their form.

Quackery and tyranny is more often than not subtle and refined in its ability to convince people to give up their power. The only antidote to such a condition is the elder, who warns and prophesies.   Every student cannot become an elder, of course, but he/she can learn to identify one, and be instilled with the courage to identify wisdom and to speak out the truth.

The antidote to facts is “fienda.” The cultural lag represented by teaching, through which society has to assimilate each newcomer, can be balanced by crediting out students with being ancestors of as many generations to come as have gone before.  When we look at teaching from the end of man, from the regeneration of the universal order, we shall treat the student as the founder of centuries. (p.108)

21.What present problems must students be taught to solve?  We must teach them what the ultimate end should be, and what a decent society might be as a standard.  Teaching students their obligation to speak out as determined by that end. THE END DETERMINES THE BEGINNING, in the present. Facts come to life when used to renew society.

We must teach about the dreams of our ancestors, and what is yet unfinished. We must revivify the commonplace, such as that the lack of justice leads to gangsterism.  THIS TAKES GREAT EFFORT AND DEDICATION, AND OFTEN RISK.

22.Three levels of reality must be taught students so that they properly exercise their powers:  1) about “things,” over which we humans are superior; about the ethics of manipulation of things in nature,  in other words, about science, its limits and its purpose.  2) About that which is our equal, our fellow humans, with whom we must learn to  respect and cooperate in order to survive. Achieving meaningful agreement requires an exercise of power “with,” rather than power “over.”  3) We must learn how to deal with those things which have power over us, (natural catastrophes, famine, earthquakes). Perhaps most of all, we must teach the power to instill in ourselves courage and the will to act appropriately. Finally teaching that as we are mortal, and to expect death as a part of nature, but also the difficulty in surviving the change in stages of maturing.  OUR PRESENT CURRICULUM REPRESENTS ONLY THE FIRST OF THESE THREE.

23.Passage from one stage in life to another is a wrenching transformation, a spiritual phenomenon.  Transformation is empowered by two forces, expectation and a sense of time and timing.  How, for instance, do we transform and give hope and power to the down-trodden, so that they will not revolt?  One needs to educate to such assimilation.

Transformation is manifest in our senses.  Science relies mainly on sight.  Wisdom relies figuratively on smell, on suggestion and intimation and intuition.

As a closing statement ….

24.One lecture is never enough for influence. What is necessary is many contacts, so that everyone can be both speaker and listener.  One can never predict when ideas will take seed in one’s thinking.  WHAT THE COLLEGE CAN TEACH IS AN UNDERSTANDING AND RESPECT FOR TIME AND TIMING IN SOCIETY – THIS IS THE HEART AND SOUL OF EDUCATION.


Feringer notes
Last edited: 11-98


Lecture 1

1.What is a university expected to achieve?:   ERH asserts that the university, as with all schools,  is intended to prepare one for the future, and that in the present day, not only has it lost its way, but students also are concerned only with the present, the next course, the next exam! “The world of the universities has detached itself from the human future.”  (p.3)

2.The professors may be interested in the future of physics, or of math, but not of the human race.  The well-known aphorism defining the attitude of academics is – knowledge is good for its own sake.

3.Today the university seems to be “…a workshop for plumbers…” (p.11)

4.A university —

…is only a university if the questions of human race are kept in obeyance there, and alive in these little groups, so that at a decisive moment they can come forward and speak with authority to the rest of the world and make them see this in union.  (p.4)

Here ERH refers to the original purpose of the university to convene, or to consult with the community councils for the purpose of speaking out on issues of the day.  In those days their chief concern was the future of the community.

5.These issues cannot be discussed out of the context of history and of what is to be done to create a future. Issues cannot, or should not, be discussed without such reference. He reminds us that any issue;

…is not a moment in time without relation to past and future, but it is a relation to everything positive that has gone on before, and everything that depends on you and me to achieve in the future.  The university has the longest breath–just as the president of the United States has the shortest breath. (p.4)

6.Here ERH defines past and present.  It is not the time of the physicist, because the purpose of the community is to survive and change, so that it progresses. In social life, if there is no beginning of time, as assumed by natural scientists, there can be no progress.  Progress forces us to cite a time when some movement in a community began.  That is why the Bible begins with the statement, “In the beginning…”

The future is known as much as the past.  Only the present is not known, because we don’t know what cowards we are, what criminals we are, what liars we are.  Because you and I are unknown–we are the X in the equation–it is not known what the present will be like tomorrow…Will you stand up and tell the truth? Will you? It probably doesn’t pay, I mean, in your eyes.  (p.7)

Social time relates to phases of social processes, time spans for making peace, for a courtship or a friendship, or trust, or a reputation to be established.

7.The timespan of the future is proportional to our memory of the past, in the sense that the longer our historical reach, the greater the insight we have into the range and  consequences of human actions; of what we need to know about continuing issues into the future and what is yet undone.  For instance, few people seem to believe that all of humankind is one, and thus, war continues. The essential orientation of thought is that without thinking about direction, the society tends to drift.

The University – 1968 – Review

Here the author summarizes his “dis-ease” with the modern university.  He sees its present emphasis on “knowledge for its own sake” as having rendered the university impotent, because it does not deal with each subject in the context of its relevance in creating a future for the community.  In some detail he lays out what it should be if it is to serve this crucial purpose.


Lectures 1-3 complete
Vershire, VT
Feringer notes
Last edited: 11-98


Lecture – 1

1.The notion of the peace corps is a fundamental new direction and must be preserved. “You must have to restore the Peace Corps even if the government of the United States would abolish it.” (p.1)

We are entering a new epic. Previously relations between countries were determined by each nation’s self-interest. Theodore Roosevelt, in  1905, was the first “voice in the wilderness” to speak against this policy, saying that the world was now too small for such a policy, and nations must now work for the benefit of all mankind.

This idea, now taking hold, is the major foundation of the Peace Corps. It heralds a new era and portends the possibility for more peace in the world.

2.The necessity for a “peace corps” is that the world has become so divided, so fragmented, that it will tear itself apart if it doesn’t solve its problems in a different way, A WAY THAT WILL ENGENDER PEACE – peace in terms of common agreement!  Examples of fragmentation in terms of decision-making are, 1) the new electric company, centered in another state, shifted power from community, 2) airplanes built in another country eliminated local jobs, 3) the highway dept. in Washington D.C. decides on distant roads and bridges rather than local constructions.

3.Every technological development causes such fragmentation, and every new development expands the space in which we move, shortening the time we have to adapt to the change. (p.7)

Each new invention requires reorganization, not only of government offices, but new laws, and newly-trained people.

4.We are on this earth to unify its peoples.  Technological change destabilizes the basic ties of unity because it increases the rate of social change.

5.People, for the most part, do not recognize that technological change destroys old groupings. This fact needs to be more broadly communicated and understood, as only a few, exceptional people see this.  New gadgets invented everyday destroy old groupings.

Lecture – 2

1.Because of the rapid change, to which adaptation is far behind, our institutions are near the breaking point. [RF – Today, in 1997 this institutional breakdown continues. The other day a prominent doctor said, “The roof is caving in on the practice of medicine.” There is little confidence in most government agencies, least of all in legislatures. Almost every decision made is justified on the basis of advantage in the short range, for commerce, regardless of the social and environmental havoc that results.)

2.There is little peace in the world, and what peace exists is only apparent.

It is unknown what peace is. You must think that the United States have not made peace in 1865.  They have not made peace in 1921.  They have not made peace in 1945.  We live in a country in which the three greatest wars have ended without peace.  It’s only a semblance of peace. (p.12)

Just below the surface of decision-making there seems to be little ability to solve social problems, regardless of massive efforts to do so.  Is peace the absence of war, or the reverse?  Is it imposed by the victor?

PEACE CANNOT BE WILLED, like love, one can work at it, but it just seems to break out when the time is right! But by itself…”Will cannot make peace.”  Quoted from Goethe, (pp.13)

3.There is no common root for the term, PEACE. Two groups disagree on the method for achieving it. . One group believes in contract as a basis, the other  believes in rational formulation. ERH believes both are wrong.

4.The only basis for peace is for people to do something for nothing. (p.16) This they can only do if they admit that peace is neither will, nor rational, nor a “feeling,” but is sacrificed for. Often well-meaning people cause great friction, so he admonishes the Peace Corps candidates to be aware that their actions in other countries can be productive, or destructive.

Your going to India is under the same stars…You will only make peace there if you can do something – something that is not prescribed by your instructions here….the real problem is: will you find the inventive step that constitutes your experience of peace with these people:  …The main point is that peace is not found in us.  It befalls us.  We may support it.  We may help that it can unfold.  But you can’t even call it your own plant.  It is not like a seed, where we put a seed into the ground,..because it takes so many other people’s peaceful endowment.  (p.18)

5.The gap between the old and new orders has yet to be filled, and the Peace Corps is an attempt to do so.  Only later, after some experience, after looking back on your history, will you know. To the candidates ERH repeats, “You are dangerous people.” (p.9)

Lecture – 3

1.To establish peace, to re-found communities after disasters, one must, through actions, expose oneself to misunderstanding. Only then will one understand.  One can understand the nature of situations only by looking back.

b.For the formation of human character, nothing that lasts shorter than a lifetime is important. And three generations are needed to agree on something before peace is possible. (p.2)

c.When we are exposed to so many events and experiences in a lifetime of new technical advances, how are we to understand them?  So little of each event is left in our memories.

d.Peace is brought about by unifying space and time.  With each new technological invention, expanded space and shifting groups, and contracted time are the factors for which appropriate adaptation must be made if peace is to be established.

e.We are on earth to do the necessary things, without which life cannot go on. We need to understand what needs to be done ahead of time, and with each succeeding generation there is less lead time to discern this.

f.Our lives must be spent being willing to fulfill an indispensable task in the community:

He who does the one thing necessary all alone, against an army of enemies, he’s of course the greatest.  That’s why the Crucifixion ranks as the one greatest act in humanity, because He was the only one who grasped that it was necessary, to show that in defeat we can be victorious. ….I say this because you must not think that everything in human history is natural. Everything is supernatural. (pp.6,7)

g.Language is not natural; there is no natural language. Incest is natural, and it must be a taboo.  Language was created by humans because it was necessary for them to communicate in order to find peace between themselves. But this is not a natural process – it is more super-natural. Little progress in social life is “natural,” it is “super-natural.”

h.Mankind, from the beginning, has always tried to outlast the individual life.  Everything of any importance must last longer than a single lifetime.

PEACE CORPS  –  1966 – Review

Peace is one of the central themes in all of Rosenstock-Huessy’s thought, because it represents a primary measure of a vital community.  This series of lectures presents an outline of major themes, which  present barriers to peace today.  The major barrier, he argues, is defined by his “law of technology,” namely, that each advancement in technology shortens the time available to adapt to change – and widens the space (geographic boundaries) of the effects of the old procedures it replaces.   He suggests that the Peace Corps has the potential as a tool of foreign policy, for success in creating true peace,  where previous policy only created new wars.  For these reasons it offers an important link in his thought for social regeneration.


Lectures 1-20
Feringer notes
Last edited: 11-98


A series of lectures given at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Lecture – 1

1.A primary cause of community disintegration in modern times is technology. ERH formulated the rule,  ANY TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION EXPANDS THE SPACE IN WHICH WE MOVE, CHANGES GROUP RELATIONS, AND SHORTENS THE TIME IN WHICH WE CAN ACHIEVE ADAPTATION.  We can see its manifestations most clearly in third-world countries where there is destruction of groups — a family,  a village,  a town, or a country.

The issue of facing war and endowing peace is the problem dealt with in this series, as war of one type or another has been a major consequence of this disruption.

2.One aspect of this disruption is the inability of people to speak a common language. In disciplines, too much specialization creates barriers between individuals, social classes, and countries. The implication is the dying of hope all over the globe.

3.ERH claims Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud were influential voices whose messages contributed to social disruption in a major way.  He dubbed them `disangelists.’ [RF – At the moment it is unclear to me how he defines the term “angelist,” regarding the four scholars who were original thinkers intending to change the way we think. Like all original thinkers they were certainly ex-angelists at their inception. To evangelize is to preach the gospel. My best guess is that since ERH saw Christianity as a unifying force, these four scholars preached ideas that would create further disunity.]

People are separated by social classes, race, language, culture, country; there is discontinuity between ideas, specialization between disciplines, incompatible philosophies.  The Lonely Crowd is what Riesman titled industrial culture.  What will cure this sickness of fragmented realities, generations separated and unable to understand each other?

4.This breakdown of communication between generations must be cured simply because we cannot establish social truths in one generation. In another essay he asserts, that each generation evolves its own myths, and to separate these into truth and non-truth one requires the next generation to either prove or disprove.

5.Prophecy and fulfillment! Were these four scholars prophets?  ERH asserts that Christian doctrine (and history) reveals four stages that define an era: 1) the prophecy, 2) the event prophesied, 3) the defeat (or decline), and 4) the gospels (the stories by apostles of that era). And this seems to be a yardstick to describe how the four were disruptive! “Prophets of doom”, and “devil writers” –  he called them. (p.7)

He points out parenthetically how fulfillment of the prophet is never recognized within the group; the Jews never recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of a prophecy.

6.What these four proclaimed dissolves history as we have lived it!

a.Darwin espouses the survival of the fittest, i.e. the brutes (or the strongest) of the world will always rule. In reality it is the child who starts a new generation. A new idea never has power in the beginning, and other examples can be given whereby a theory for animals does not apply to a world of humans, although his theory has indeed been so interpreted.

b.Marx preached endless class wars, but in the end there is to be peace in his time. How was peace to be brought about?  We are not advised by Marx, in the historical record on this question.

c.Nietzsche preached that there is nothing inherently true, beautiful and good, in this world – only our thinking makes it so.  There are, in other words, no absolutes.  According to Nietzsche true, beautiful, and good are the same as love, faith and hope from Christianity. His logic was, that since we always have change, knowledge is what we wish to believe, rather than anything depending upon historical verification.  The Greeks believed in the ultimate truth as represented in theories, in abstractions, in thought by itself.  Christianity believes that thought must be validated by experience over time, and the meaning of faith, love, and hope are sequential elements revealing progress.  The Greeks didn’t believe that humankind could cause progress – that was up to the gods, which controlled man.

7.The value of these four thinkers was that they forced the Christian theologians to separate the humanist (Greek) thinking  from the “Cross,” i.e. from Christian principles. (p.10)  These four also give evidence from their experiences in life, that for one to proclaim truth, one must be indifferent to the forces of their own time. Nietzsche eschewed academe, Marx eschewed safety (he was chased out of several European countries before living in England), Darwin had to be indifferent to the church at a time when it mattered, and Freud had to disregard concerns of the medical profession about work..

ERH, while not believing in their ideas, did believe in their genius, their sincerity in seeking truth,  “…their way of life.”  He also believed however, that they were out of tune with their own time.

Still another lesson they teach us (following Marx) is that social change must, come about only with war. ERH subscribed to this idea, if one broadens the definition of war to include non-violent revolution. In other words, significant change does not occur incrementally.  Pacificim therefore is not a viable principle for change because, were it commonly held as a belief, the brutes would rule the world. Peace would exist only from the barrel of a gun.

Question & Answer Period

1.Q – What I would like to ask about the distinction between Christianity and myth?

A – In order for any growth, at the beginning we go through a period of frenzy, of mythologizing about the consequences of our change.  The myths and legends in our story books reflect this stage of change metaphorically. “The sleeping Beauty is a much truer love — everything taken together.” (p.22)

Every nation has their myths, George Washington and the cherry tree, etc. And at the time of our change, of our frenzy, do we understand what we are going through? “…this is the human situation, that at no one time where we are acting (taking action) are we allowed to know what’s happening.”

If we attempt to be objective at these moments, we suddenly become impotent.  For example, if we are self-conscious in giving a speech, attempting to assess our impact in the middle of the speech, we fail as a speaker. THESE MOMENTS ARE NOT TO BE OBJECTIFIED, BUT TO BE ENDURED. At these creative moments our passion is obsessive, unconscious, and we totally believe in our acts, that a significant contribution to the world will hang on our invention or act.

2.Q – What was the myth from which Marxism stood apart, in order to create its own myth?

A – The myth of harmony in humanism, that humanism would create the good, true, and beautiful.

3.Q – Was Christian idealism ever a creative myth?

A – There is no relationship between idealism and Christianity.  The idealist (philosopher/humanist) believes that at any moment he can call on all of the creative powers in the world, as with any divine spirit. This is to say that the “ideal” is like a tool on our tool bench. The Christian, on the other hand knows that he/she can never be complete, because for any significant achievement or truth to be revealed, three generations must pass.  This is the meaning of the Trinity, that one must sacrifice oneself in order for any achievement

FULFILLMENT  in one’s life, as demonstrated by the story of Jesus, is described by four phases;

…everything that goes on in Christianity is having to do with these great four phases of promise, of fulfillment, of apostolate, and of the story — the Gospel.  Every one of us, if he is really living at all, goes through these four phases, because you have to be true to your calling, to your own moment of divinity. (p.25)

ERH clarifies this statement — following one’s calling is paralleling the life of the cross,  “…to carry through one thing which at one moment got hold of him and he knew that nobody else was going to do it if he didn’t do it.”  It takes 30 or 40 years to know the consequences.  This is easy for some to accept, and not for others.  But we will never feel fulfillment unless we follow “our bliss,” as Joseph Campbell describes it.

4.Q – Dr. Freud came in for attack here. Where is the crux of Freud’s error, as opposed to the other three dis-evangelists?

A – Freud was wrong in 4 things:  he was philosophically with the Unitarians, who believe that philosophy had to rule theology and that you didn’t need anything more.  Why are they wrong?

a.They didn’t know that war was natural and peace is miraculous, they thought the opposite.

b.They thought that speech was natural, and thought  or philosophy was miraculous or divine.  We know now that it is very easy to have thoughts privately, but to be understood by others is miraculous.

c.They thought that love was natural and sex is divine.  We know that it is just the opposite, that sex is natural and love is supernatural (divine).  We know that there is no love without sacrifice.  Love is desire and sacrifice in balance.

d.It is a victory to be loved, and only then comes a willingness to love in return. The great error of our society in America today is that sex is confused as love.

The evolution of real love is that to be loved is a miracle; it is overwhelming, and calls for love in response.  There is first faith on the part of the girl that her love will be returned,  then love in response because of the realization of that miracle. ALL OF THESE HUMANISTIC BELIEFS WERE OPPOSED TO THIS IDEA, AND WERE HELD BY MR. FREUD

Chapt. 2

1.To summarize, the message of Christianity was in response to the Greeks, who had invented philosophy (pure thought), and advocated science as the sole method for a description of the universe.  Christianity raised the question, how is a community to be created, one in which  people live together freely, in peace?  They found the key in formulating the fruitful cycle from promise to fulfillment:  1) the promise, 2)  the prophesy and command to take action, 3) the apostolic, where others take over the cause, and finally 4) the telling of the story, the Gospels.

2.In sum, these four disangelists dissolved the pillars of community, made us back into animals, into individuals and class warriors, and into  “…insane men in a frenzy.” (p.2)

3.ERH asserts that these “disangelists” represented only one quarter of reality, and that for any generation to have meaning someone must speak out and represent all of reality.  By this he means the “man in business, and the  worker.” They represented also the “scourge of Christianity, pacificism.” He points out that in America in the last 150 years, organized religion was pacifist. This country has had more wars than anywhere else. This means that our wars have been economically motivated, and this is caused by our lopsided view of “the man of business.”

4.During the last 1500 years there have been 3 eras when the time-span of peace was extended, by monasteries, by cities of the late Middle Ages, and by Capitalism. WHAT ERH IS ASSERTING IS THAT WE MUST STUDY WAR AS WELL AS PEACE, THAT OUR EXISTENCE IS AN ALTERNATION BETWEEN THE TWO,  AND FINALLY THAT IT IS WAR THAT IS THE NORMAL CONDITION OF EXISTENCE, AND PEACE THAT IS THE MIRACLE.  (p.5)

5.The mind and the body are not free to do what they please, but each must attend to  obedience to the creator.  This is to say that war is a natural given in nature, and peace is a creation of the living word (which allows us to understand each other)  “…world without the living word is at war.” (p.6)

6.The second generation after the end of a war becomes complacent about paying the price for peace, and then war breaks out once again!  Once again ERH pillories the liberals [RF – in what reads like his half- serious, facetious mood] “…who have doubts about everything and an unwillingness to sacrifice for peace.”

7.ERH charges that the intelligentsia of the West was unable to connect the times between generations with two different values.  Marxism’s downfall was that it assumed all conflicts would be between Capital and Labor. Proudhon predicted in 1836 that the ultimate state in society would not be between capital and labor, nor world government, nor something resembling a league of nations, but rather THE CREATIVE ANTAGONISM BETWEEN TWO GREAT WORLD POWERS. “There is husband and wife, so I don’t see why there shouldn’t be Communism and America.” (p.14)

8.Because in the last century the “church” has been impotent, it has been without prophecy, or fulfillment, without crucifixion and fulfillment  “The church had to leave it to these disangelists to prophesy and to gospelize…” (p.15)  Christianity is not a power in life today because it (the organized churches) has eschewed these acts, to connect the generations by detailing what must come about, or will come about if action is not taken. The great accomplishments after the depression of 1929 were that a liability (unemployment) was turned into an asset.

This was caused by a shift in values. Before 1846 labor was treated as a commodity to be sold over the counter. In 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed this notion, and stated that the unemployed were not “labor” as a commodity, but human beings. Then unions became strong, social security was instigated, with collective bargaining, better compensation, etc. THE POWER OF MARXISM WAS ADDRESSED AND RISEN ABOVE, and a liability was turned into an asset.

9.Here ERH re-introduces a definition of the term METANOIA, a rethinking of old values, of one’s place in the world. Marxism failed, and Capitalism did not crumble by its own injustices, it became socialistic. But Marx as a person deserves a place in history because he was willing to sacrifice for his own ideas, (sacrificing his ability to make a living).  By this standard, his life was a great success!

10.So this new era in America (and Europe) in 1936 is now over. Unions are now broken; there are to be no “dialectics,” that is ideologies.  RATHER OUR NEW ERA MUST BE A DIALOGUE (A CONVERSATION) BETWEEN TWO POWERS.  Not just a theory, but explaining between opponents, “…for war, solidarity; for peace, conversation…”  And Marx’s prophecy was fulfilled?

Strikes have always been fought for the dignity of man and for the solidarity of workers. And that is a religious item.  (p.22)

Thus Marx’s prophecy (of dignity for the working man) must be continued, but the downfall of unions now invites a new prophecy, which is necessary when one prophecy has been fulfilled. The fight of unions was in the end a religious fight. WILL THIS BRING ABOUT A MORE SERIOUS STUDY OF WAR?

11.In the question and answer period the question was raised, that isn’t a study of war, of the warring side of human psyche, opening a Pandora’s box? YES, ERH answers, the devil must be given his day in court, but not allowed to conquer us!

Q – Have not these four disangelists revealed the dark side of mankind, that is, the war between conscious and unconscious, between the animal species, between human groups?

A – Yes, we will always need this, to address ourselves to the reality of the human psyche, BUT ALSO BY DOING THIS, LEARN TO RISE ABOVE IT. But the disangelists have only revealed this side of man, they have not explored it.  (p.26)

Q – Is there no such thing as a war between ideas? Do we always have to have armed conflict?

A – Idealists are the war mongers, because they see their views as absolute, as non-negotiable, because to them the mind is divine!.  The only person you can deal with is the one who can make up his mind, as contrasted with those who follow some idea regardless of real-life situations.  So ideals make for war. (p.27)

Q – How is the next era to begin, through dialogue?

A – Today, dialogue between East and West is not possible.  We have many philosophies, just as in Christ’s time, and these have little common ground.

What unites people is a similar life-style. Generals of opposing armies understand each other, just as do workers in all countries understand each other. The Christian churches have done this, taught us that war is wicked. It can be, but we are kept alive by the conflicts, by the misunderstandings, because our survival is tested in each conflict.  The churches, by avoiding the study of war, have been a barrier to our rising above it!

PEACE CORPS – 1966 Vershire, VT

Lectures given to a group of Peace Corps Volunteers – An Exploration of War!

1.The idea of a peace corps is a necessity; but one must be aware of the destructive nature of fashions that are superficial and impotent.

“The Peace Corps is too serious to leave it to anybody official. You would have to restore the Peace Corps even if the government of the United States would abolish it. (p.2)

War is caused, in part, when a nation oversteps its duty to other nations. The English/Chinese opium war is an example.  When one country damages another war becomes inevitable.  THE PEACE CORPS IS AN ATTEMPT TO BREAK WITH THIS PAST WHEREBY ONE COUNTRY EXPLOITED ANOTHER WITH NO CONSIDERATION FOR ITS PEOPLE AS FELLOW HUMANS. Rather, governments must begin to act “in the interest of mankind.”  HOW THEN IS NATIONAL SELF-INTEREST TO BE BROKEN DOWN?  This is the question of these lectures.

2.ERH repeats once again the evidence from which his stated LAW OF TECHNOLOGY is derived.  This is, that we now live in an age with rapidly changing inventions (technology), and that each new major invention widens the space in which we move, changes fundamental human relationships (i.e. destroying familiar groups such as family, village, town, or country), and decreases the time we have to adapt to these changes.  We are now, therefore constantly off-balance.

Learning the meaning of our experience rests on a striving to unify the forces effecting our lives. It is too casual to call this “the push-button” age, it is much deeper.  It is threatening our ability to fend off fragmentation of parts of our lives, our sense of basic “groupings,” our sense of what is valuable and necessary, and what reality is. Most of all it threatens our ability to maintain a balance of these forces. HOW THEN DO WE CREATE A FUTURE FOR OURSELVES WHEN CHANGE IS SO CONSTANT?

3.How do we bring up our children, and adapt ourselves to rapid change and imbalance?

Lecture 2

1.The town in which these lectures were held, Vershire, VT, has been destroyed by technology. Its fate is controlled by a regional government, or by state and federal funds, where the community has little voice. The meaning to the townspeople, of social and economic forces  derives from another source, rather than their town meetings as in the past.

I mean, we are talking about daily processes that eat the marrow out of our daily life, of our work, out of our friendships. (p.6)

In this situation people lose their jobs, but are held accountable for their behavior in many ways by outsiders, causing them to feel dislocated. Our schools, courts, and all professions are not functioning properly, much of what they do is dis-functional to the community. ON THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, THIS IMBALANCE IS A CONSTANT CAUSE OF WARS, BECAUSE NEW ISSUES ARISE, OLD ENEMIES BECOME ALLIES, OLD ANTAGONISMS ARISE IN NEW FORMS, COMMUNICATION BREAKS DOWN AND MUST BE SOMEHOW RE-ESTABLISHED.

2.THE FUNCTION OF THE PEACE CORPS MUST ATTEMPT TO FILL THE GAP BETWEEN THE OLD AND  NEW ORDER (of rapid change). ERH goes on to explain that this has been the focus of all his professional life!  (p.11)

3.If our grassroots are disappearing, or have disappeared, THEN THEY MUST BE REPLANTED.

One must get involved in community issues.

4.It is not trade between countries that will cause wars in the future, but constant technological change. We are all guilty of this malfunction in societies around the world, because we all participate in the technology. Therefore it is incumbent upon all of us that we participate in establishing a cure.

5.Part of the cure is to re-establish our attitudes (this gets to psychological principles we are taught to follow).  At present we are taught that peace and love are acts of will:

…peace has been omitted in the thought of mankind as a task or as a problem for the past 200 years.  It has been replaced by will. Peace will not be brought about by your will. (p.16)

One, for instance, cannot will that someone else falls in love with him/her. One can only act in a way so that this might happen. Peace may come to men ofgood will. ERH refers to a Greek text that says, “Peace to all men of His grace.” (p.17)

6.Peace cannot be imposed.  If a strong power dominates, the peace does not come about by the free will of both parties, only one party, rendering it only temporary.

Friendliness is not peace, in the sense that its time-span may be short.

Contracts, as peace agreements, are insufficient because even if one follows the letter of the agreement, the intent may be destroyed, just as with any law. Just as no lasting marriage between a man and woman could survive if each party followed the letter of some contract.  It must be from the heart, from a desire on both parties to be fair and trustworthy, etc.

Peace and love are also like citizenship, which cannot be defined by some printed formula.  Citizenship occurs when breakdowns bring forth persons who work to rebuild the community. (At this point ERH tells the story of a Nazi speaking in the U.S. south, attempting to sell the idea of a dominant Aryan race. Dissention in the community was quelled by a senior citizen reminding listeners how, historically, peace had been maintained by people of good will.  The citizens responded by escorting the Nazi out of town.

To create peace, at each instance of a threat, “citizens” must invent a solution that may never have been thought of before. THEREFORE, ONE OF THE CONSTANTS OF PEACE IS A WILLINGNESS TO BE INVENTIVE. “You will only make peace if you can do something that is not prescribed by your instructions…” (p.24)


Lecture 3

1.ERH begins this lecture by identifying the basis for understanding, explaining why three lectures are a minimum.  One must have time to think and ask questions.  Understanding never really comes before there is first mis-understanding. [RF – My own experience has taught me that, corrective action only occurs where there has been adequate time and discussion to articulate the root problems. Only then can solutions be discussed.  It seems to be the norm that solutions are discussed first, which, of course, never bears fruit.]

2.There seems to be little understanding of the importance of time, and of timing. We have educational programs run by the clock – and thus all that can be measured is some quantity of memorization.  Serious issues cannot begin to be comprehended in less than 3 months. AND MORE LASTING TRUTH ONLY AFTER 3 GENERATIONS. THEN ONE CAN KNOW IF PEACE HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED. Only after persons from a generation have been replaced, and the spirit has been transmitted and interpreted by others.

3.Peace is the form in which transitions between people can take place without”shaking” the old order. He cites the example of Indira Gandhi, whose relationship to a past respected leader allowed a transition in which there would be no bloodshed.


…would mean that your children would be barbarians, and would upset everything you have created or you have done.  And this danger is very large. …The danger is that all the good there is discarded, in favor for the latest news. (p.5)

In other words, time treated as a commodity to be banked is a curse, but this is the most common way people view it. Time (social time, psychological time, not the time of the physicist) is not the sum of moments.  It has fits and starts, interruptions, moments when important things happen (historical moments), and time when nothing happens of significance in the community.

5.Important tasks must be addressed for community survival in the long run. And for this to happen, only a few people need to know what is necessary ahead of time, even though the rest of the community does not understand.  THIS IS WHAT LEADERSHIP IS! This is the stuff of prophets and fulfillment.  ERH cites the example of Jesus, who was perhaps the only person who understood the significance (necessity) of his crucifixion.

6.ERH suggests, therefore, that these significant events in human history are not natural, but supernatural. They  are not assured.  For instance, animals naturally perform incest. But human tribes early on discovered that this would destroy the tribe; thus, he asserts the first law of the tribe. History has little to do with nature; the human and holy spirits know the ends.

And mankind is “the strange animal” that is allowed to make mistakes, because when he acts rightly (for the community), he is forgiven his sins. ( This is the true meaning of the concept of redemption.)

This is another reason why three generations are necessary to establish what is significant truth. We seldom if ever know the fruits of our own efforts.  One good test for identifying significance  is when our children and grand children tell others to follow our prescriptions!.  SO DON’T LOOK FOR ANY LASTING RESULTS OF YOUR WORK IN YOUR LIFE-TIME.

7.We often fail from the sin of impatience.  And when the going gets tough, when we believe all we have done has failed, perhaps the only thing we can do is to develop (in ourselves and our clients) a strong spirit to survive and begin again or carry on when time permits.

Another source of sin is our failure to address only what is our own business, what is our charge, and our authority to carry out?  The guide to our actions must always begin with an understanding of the problem at hand, or it that is not known, to begin to articulate the problem. Agreement on this is a primary step in articulating our authority. -16

8.These type of social problems test our claim to creativity, because our very survival depends upon their being addressed.  Sewer systems are a technical problem, obtaining agreement of citizens, even thought they may not like the solution, is a social problem.

9.Our society, dominated as it is almost solely by commercial attitudes (where important projects are determined by what they cost rather than by a realization of what must be done) is contemptible, because it diminishes the community.



Feringer notes
Last edited: 11-98


1.If the university is one where the student is promoted for answering questions on tests, it is no place to ask serious questions.

2.ERH makes a distinction between “people” and “public.” Public is the group with which one must agree, must get along, and therefore he characterizes these as persons who are drawn together by some abstract principle, such as the American Rifle Assoc or the Republican party, or the Democrat party. .  The members of these groups are not known to each other, other than by common belief in a “principle.”

3.Where one belongs to a group in order to put all of one’s values together, such as Christian or Jew, then that is a people.  The politician addresses the “public.”  Academe, in general, addresses “the public.”  One idea today, another tomorrow; that is the public.

4.Four types of groups to which we can belong;

a.people of our blood.

b.people of the spirit (same values).

c.public,  “…which comes together in common mental spirit, intellectual pursuits, such as college students.”

d.mass man, people who are starved, fearful, who can be manipulated  “…under the promise of food,”  for instance.

(Category b contains the people to which one can give a life, a group upon which the           maintenance of the community depends. To study abstractions is not serious business; rather one must put ideas into practice.  “…anybody who is           interested in the life of Jesus doesn’t know what Christianity is.”  (p.7)

5.What is serious business is those ideas that infer or describe actions that can last for generations.  Most intellectual thought is entertainment, an interim, but one which has no lasting import. A thought of lasting import is about something that “…is necessary.”  And – necessary for “the people”.  To shovel snow is necessary for the individual, but not for the people.

6.The “eye” shows us what is only physical about a person, but if you wish  to find the spirit of the person, listen to him/her. (p.11)

7.Four divisions of human physiology:

a.Genitals, directed by the sense of flair, smell, anticipation – sensitivity for the future.

b.Heart, one has sound, song, praise, curses you hear.

c.Eyes, go directly to the brain – mass man worships the brain.

d.Skin, hands, feet  equal the individual “for the moment.”

Heart is for the future, and academic thinking is of the eye.

8.Figuratively, “people of God” live in opposition – those of the heart and of the genitals  make the long- range decisions while those of the skin and the eye make the immediate decisions.

9.People of the heart and genitals are thus capable of being members of a “people” that lasts at least four generations.

Individually we are between our parents and our children; “we” are in the present.  “If you can bring yourself to see your decisions in the light of these two generations…that’s enough eternity, so to speak.”  (p.13)

If we look at our own lives only, we cannot tell what is “really” important.  If we look at these two generations, then we can see what must serve those generations.

ERH quotes from Hugo of St. Victor (11th Century),  “…the church (true religion) has existed since Adam and Eve — Christ has only made it visible.”   Therefore, all denominations have the same root. (p.14)

Important decisions are those that will allow the human race to continue through time, and to make such decisions that when one acts on them one has joined into “the holy spirit.”

10.It is a “people,” then, that through time represents the “holy spirit.”  (p.16)  ERH defines, in greater detail, as to how this takes place.  And what we call reason  is of a secondary order BECAUSE REASON ALONE, OR AS A PRINCIPLE GUIDE, CANNOT LEAD US TO JOIN THE “PEOPLE.”

11.Christianity is based on the brittle, frail, next-to-impossible proposition that the Word will unite two or more people in the spirit,  when they had no idea of each other’s existence before. The consequences of organizing to bring about this unity cannot be predicted.

12.If one belongs to a “people,” one lives in three streams of consciousness,

a.How I think of myself and call myself.

b.What others say to my face (tending to be polite rather than candid).

c.What others say behind my back.

Hell is when all three of these streams are different, and heaven is the opposite. And of course, it is the latter that we must strive for all our lives.  (p.19)

13.Death as the fountainhead  of life  is the problem of Judaism and of Christianity, that the word and wisdom of one generation can inspire the next generation. Thus, Jews and Christians are special only in that they have focussed on this problem.

Liberal Arts College – 1960 – Review

The thrust of this essay is to argue how colleges and universities today do not prepare us for creating a future.  The author describes different types of groups we belong to, what those groups mean to us in terms of past, present, and future, and how traditional colleges should not be mistaken in teaching about the past and present only.  The essay thus serves as a useful foundation for curriculum development;  by inference one may assume ERH also indicates what the liberal arts college should be.


Air Force Academy – 1952
Feringer notes
Last edited: 11-98


Lecture – 1

1.Where does teaching occur?  And what might be said to be a normal situation? In one way or another teaching occurs everywhere, and most people are teachers. With children the normal situation is within the family at first. In the home, teaching occurs when it is necessary, when some situation requires it. It is the same outside the classroom, in the work place and elsewhere, for instance,  learning to ski.  In the classroom the timeliness is out of kilter because it is arbitrary.

2.What other barriers are there to classroom teaching?  One question is, how much time is there for teaching?  The less time, the more general the teaching must be, and it would follow, the less learned. ERH cites the example of the history teacher who was asked, how much time is needed to teach universal history, he replied, “From one minute to ten years.”  How much time is available?

3.Finally, to whom is the teacher speaking? Outside the classroom teaching occurs individually. In a classroom one must speak to a “mass,” to everyone, but no one in particular.

In sum, one could say that the classroom is the least normal (and least effective) situation for teaching.  The classroom:

a….is too impersonal.

b….too general.

c….too late or too early. Timing is not geared to need.

4.There are three elements to a possible learning situation that define it:

a.Training may be said to deal with automatic responses whereby the method would be practice. These methods derive from science, mainly physiology.

b.Instruction can be defined as the passing on of information. The methods for instruction would also derive from science and deal with the mind.

c.Both (a,b) above are necessary, but do not speak to the issue of what the student might do outside the classroom, where responses to real-life situations are called for. Real teaching  may be said to deal with basic changes in behavior outside the classroom, where personality is changed. Teaching addresses issues of the “soul.”

Category (a) above addresses reaction, something mechanical,  organic. Category (b) deals with transmission, something memorized. But true teaching addresses the transformation of the student, because in real life our goal is always to make things better than they have been, which requires constant thought and action. Knowledge is transformed in the process.

5.All of these three dimensions occur together, but real teaching subsumes the other two and is the most important. Ultimately the student must teach him/herself. The end (goal) of teaching determines its content and methods, of course. Ultimately, it is the spirit, one’s attitude toward engaging in life, whereby there arises a need to  prepare the student to be a teacher.

6.Teaching embodies the basic experience of the culture, passing on what the community believes is the “truth.”  It must therefore deal with the past, present, and future times; e.g. what do we need know today, what has been known about this in the past, and what actions need to be taken by us that will enhance our future?

7.The child doesn’t live in either the past, present, or future.  He/she lives “out of time,” without a consciousness of time except for the moment.

Lecture – 2

1.To summarize up to this point, 1) a trainer is a man who can mold a body, 2) an instructor is a man who can mold a mind, 3) a teacher is a man who can change a mind. (p.1)

A teacher is a time-binder, having assessed the needs of today, of his generation,  to the point where the next step is prepared for.  Education does not mold a person for his own sake, but to prepare him to create a future for himself and the community.

2.Life processes occur in phases.  In marriage, for instance, first a casual meeting, then passionate courtship, then commitment (marriage), then establishing a home are all different phases of this process, each different from the next in intensity. In a like way,  as all of the important parts of living occur in different phases constantly,  TEACHING AND LEARNING ARE THE SAME.  One can never teach the same idea in its different phases, from introduction to practice, in exactly the same way. Just as one could not gauge the whole of marriage experience by learning about courtship only.

3.The first step is mechanical, one involving memory and repetition. This is a preconscious, “sinking in”, non-rational step. This seems like “dead weight,” nothing instinctive (organic).

4.The second step is organic, getting a feeling for the subject, getting an instinct for it.

5.Another step involves passion, a love of the subject, an intense desire to formulate one’s knowledge and practice.  And the next step is enthusiasm. Finally,   comes learning the structure of its principles, the rational part.  This must always be the final step, because only then can one understand the meaning of any of the preceding elements.

6.The sequence of the phases is crucial, as there is a natural rhythm.  When one addresses merely a number of “thinking machines,” irrespective of the personalities, one  taps only one phase of a complex process, and this renders that aspect of the learning incomplete and of little use. One learns to change when one is spoken to on a personal basis. A well-known aphorism about teaching is that learning is greatly enhanced when the teacher cares whether the student learns the subject. This is a personal act.

7.Different methods may be used for each step; certainly no single method will suffice.  How, for instance, does one become infected with the teacher’s love and enthusiasm of the subject? These come from the soul of the teacher and have nothing to do with logic. The rhythms of learning, the mechanics of beginning information, the organic investment, the love, enthusiasm and finally, the logical order  (the theories about its cause/effect aspects) all form a rhythm that can be felt quite naturally.  One might call each progressive step a state of “aliveness,” from  sleep to intense consciousness – Beware of university schools of education which begin with the last step and miss parts along the way.  Is it any wonder most of our school teaching is so ineffective, except of course for training in the simplest sense.


In POTENTIAL TEACHERS the author raises the question, “What are the barriers to teaching?” Real learning, he asserts, arises from real life, which is specific and personal and where significant learning occurs unpredictably and only “at the right time.”  The classroom, by contrast, is general and impersonal, and comes either too early or too late (because it must be arbitrarily scheduled).  Because it is difficult to surmount these barriers the norm is to forsake teaching for training or instruction.  Real teaching blends these approaches in a natural rhythm from one phase to another; “Learning dies by being taught with only one rhythm.” These essays help us understand comments he makes  throughout other essays in which teaching is only touched upon in passing.


written about 1940
From: Vol.I Argo Press, Norwich, Vt. 1981
Feringer notes
Notes started: 8-13-91
Last edited: 3-3-99


Sociology of Teaching and Augustine

1.ERH describes the historical situation of 4th century Western culture; the scene is the transition from classical times to the rise of the Catholic church. Augustine finds himself defining his role as a teacher and priest on the one hand, and as a father on the other. Could he, and did he, have the right to attempt to educate his son?  And if so, what were to be the elements of creative teaching?  ERH uses the term “creative teaching” to mean the transmission of the spirit,  as in recreating the human spirit in students (engaging oneself in living, in participating in community life toward its regeneration)


2.ERH suggests that  with the break-up of the family today,  the question is relevant once again.  In the 4th century the family was the primary teaching link for society.  Still,  Augustine puts the question to himself, “Can parents teach their children, and if so, by what intellectual authority?”  Today, with institutionalized education, the family no longer has such a primary influence.  It was Augustine’s faith that he can be a rightful candidate.  Another title for the essay could be, “Who is your teacher when I, your father, seem to teach you?”  (p.2)  The thrust of the essay, then, is the method by which his teaching was accomplished.  THIS ESSAY IS NOT AN INTELLECTUAL MONOLOGUE, BUT A STRUGGLE BETWEEN TWO WILLING SOULS, FATHER AND SON.

3.ERH classifies this essay as neither fiction nor philosophy nor theology, nor even autobiography, but rather correspondence, “…a sociological phenomenon.” (p.3)  It is not “personal” in the sense of interest only for the two parties;  rather it has a wider scope, two hearts searching for a general truth. To understand social affairs, all forms of literature must be called upon:

We think for our personal salvation.  And all social forms result from this fight for salvation of persons.  Of this, the De Magistro, is a telling example. (p.3)

4.The essay says a great deal about education, but the treatment would be unheard-of in present-day institutional literature on the subject.  Augustine is not writing as a professional,  a scholar, or Bishop, but personally, with an interest in the state of society.  And ERH makes such a point of the setting and reasons for this dialogue because:

…it is possible that social science springs from personal bias and passion and belonging.  Then, it is true that we do not teach others to do good because we, like Augustine, are compelled to teach by our own life’s forces,  even with the odds as in this case, against our qualification to act the teacher. (p.3)

Teaching, in this sense, is an integral part of life, a necessity implying a new view of education, as the reader will discover below.

5.ERH contrasts his view with that of John Dewey, who, having written voluminously on education,  HAS NEVER STATED WHY HE WRITES. The teacher is taken for granted by Dewey, but not granted any articulated intention.  Is the only reward for the public school teacher his pay?  And if not, do we assume this teacher’s goal is the passing on of information?  Can this situation be the role of a good teacher?  Can there be an unarticulated personal “agenda” of the teacher, and if so, is this a healthy situation?

To raise such questions as who should teach and why, ERH asserts, puts education into the realm of social science and politics.

But as it is, education is a humanistic and even humanitarian specialty since it is mere giving to somebody, with the teacher receiving a salary, in reward. (p.4)

6.ERH’s point in raising all of these issues is to point out Augustine’s relevance for our time.  He developed the ideas of metalogic, which assigned the highest purpose for education,  and of metaphysics, freeing mankind to study nature objectively and thereby de-demonize it.  With metaphysics, the old myths of demonized nature could be overcome, and principles of modern science methodology could be articulated. Descartes later advocated separation of mind and body to articulate the method in greater detail, opening the way for modern science.

Augustine suggests a third method to enlighten us about the understanding of experience, because neither of these first two methods addressed society.   Augustine assumed that humans think, so that they can survive; that this knowledge would be a universal curriculum, and therefore everyone needed to teach. Why is he teaching, by what authority, with what conditions?  He saw that the relation of teacher and  student, and the orientation of both, are therefore of crucial importance in social science! Furthermore, Augustine asserts that a vital science of society must unite all three of these methodologies into a single study of human experience, i.e. the creative powers of the universe (religion), nature, and human society. In other words, human experience cannot be understood without such integration.

The Distemporanity of Education

1.To summarize, Augustine recognized that there needed to be three different methods for understanding experience: 1) meta-ethics for the understanding of the creative powers of the universe, describing  the goals of mankind, 2) metaphysics to study nature so that man could understand the concrete world around him in a de-demonized way, and 3) a science of society in order to understand human behavior. Each of these methods would have to be different, because each phenomenon was intrinsically different. Finally, he recognized that at the core of these methodologies would be different concepts of the phenomenon of time, which he saw  as intrinsically different from space. The concentration on space is the orientation of natural scientists, who define time as the fourth dimension of space.

Since thought requires time, one cannot observe it, although one can know it exists.

If we are products of our time, we shall never know this same time as we may know a fact outside nature. (p.6)

Thought and education both take time.  Modern thinkers have dissected time into “atoms” of before and after, the concept of “present” being a split-second, a fiction.  While this seems satisfactory for physics, it doesn’t work for society.  For if time units are disconnected, unrelated to each other, then education is not possible.  Planning, for instance, can be for hours or even years,  whereby,  psychologically, time appears to stand still. (p.6)

2.The notion that time flows, but also appears to stand still, is paradoxical.  But undeniably all action, including thinking and teaching  takes time.  The teaching act is central to a philosophy of time, because there is an “older'” and  “younger,”  and when interacting they both exist in a conscious “present.”  Another way of stating this is that the teacher has a prior knowledge of the subject, the student a later exposure.  THIS CONCEPT ALSO DESCRIBES THE BASIS FOR ALL SOCIAL RELATIONS. (p.9)   People with different points of view (experience of times) are linked together in the present.

3.The concept of different “times” of people means each has different ideas, different interests, etc. Differences are a prescription for acrimony,  of course, but when persons can function in a group, in harmony in the “present,”  they share the same “times.”

In learning, in teaching, in education, the miracle is achieved of bringing both together in a third time.  This bridge is called the present. (p.7)

ERH goes on the point out that if this harmony were not created, people would be unable to communicate. He  confesses that in all his searches he has found no other thinker before Augustine who has articulated social problems according to this time perspective.

In the “present,” ERH tells us,  “Here, the darkest division of man stares us in the face.” The abyss of time is ahead of and behind the group. The teacher’s preparation is based on knowledge from the past, and the student’s anticipation looks to the future. But ERH wonders why, in all the treatises on education, the teacher is not mentioned. He/she is considered an “objective” observer, without a particular time perspective,  rather than a crucial participant in the act of transforming. IT IS THIS TRANSFORMATION THAT SPELLS OUT THE EDUCATIONAL TASK. Without the transforming role of the teacher, we lack of ability to communicate adequately, to achieve cooperation, and thereby are primed to destroy our communities. To understand, one must have a sense of time and timing. (p.8)

4.Throughout history, movements die, people and ideas pass on, epochs pass on, generations fade. “And yet the spirit’s bloodstream survives every one age.” (p.8)  Where cultures survived, it is precisely this that was their accomplishment and revitalizing engine.  As Augustine and ERH assert, it is this spirit that must lie at the heart of all teaching, because it is the only way that the times, from age to age, can be united and integrated. It is the only way the student can understand his own experience in context.

5.Unless we reach back into history, then forward in anticipation, and strive to build a better future,  we will not rise above animal cultures, which are imprisoned in relearning all of reality each generation.  This concept is the difference between Christian and secular sociology.

When curriculum is based on subject matter only, it becomes hopelessly departmentalized into specialized “disciplines.”  When it is based on mandates from the “state,” it degenerates inexorably into propaganda and lies. The only avoidance of these pitfalls is to put the transformation of the spirit at the center of teaching and learning.

We need an answer to the simple question: How can people who are not contemporaries live together successfully? And Augustine’s answer is: They succeed if they admit that they form a succession, if they affirm their quality of belonging to different times.  If the time difference is admitted, they may build a bridge across the times, in corresponding acts.  By these acts, that which is called “the present” is produced.  The present is not a given data of nature but a fruit of social efforts. (pp.8,9)

Analysis of the Text

1.There are 14 chapters in the “De Magistro” text.  In the first seven,  Augustine and son Adeodatus engage in a dialogue about semantics, which Adeotatus sums up:

All speech is teaching.  Words are signs.  Signs need not be words.  Acts may be shown without a sign.  (p.10)

2.Chapter 8 seems to be a play of ideas back and forth about the reality of words and signs, as differentiated from actions.

3.Chapter  9:  “A sign may be equally or more valuable than the reality signified.  But our cognition of the sign is less precious than our cognition of the reality signified.” (p.10)

4.Chapter 10: There must be a connection between signs and real objects or acts.

5.Chapter 11:  Understanding results from connecting words and signs to concrete things and acts. While words alone can challenge us to “seek reality,”  we must then seek understanding by making the connection between the words and concrete events.

6.Chapter 12:  “Sensations and mental perceptions are two classes of our perceptions.  Sensations never are replaceable through words of others, except on faith.”

This is to say, hearing speech from others is either doubted, or received skeptically, or taken on faith. In no case does this represent proper learning, however. Obviously, with “proper learning,” words must be connected with experience.

7.Chapter 13:  The listener is always the judge of the speaker, that is,  judging speech. The problem, of course, is to determine if the speaker is speaking his mind, or is lying.  Just as often, we may fail to speak our true thoughts, and quarrels or misunderstandings result.

8.Chapter 14:  “Nobody sends his children to school to let them think the teacher’s ideas.  They ought to get the objective knowledge.  This they only learn by spontaneous consideration inside themselves.”  During the teaching act, or dialogue, no time seems to pass (consciously).

Words from outside us should be taken as admonitions; one learns (understands, as contrasted with mere recall of information) only by thinking about the words, and thus, in the final analysis, one must teach oneself.

Repentance for a Social Situation

1.ERH points out that in “De Magistro,” Augustine has laid foundations; foundations are necessary so that regeneration can take place. These foundations are the assumptions to which one can return  as a new starting point.

He also asserts that the essay is not laid out along the lines of a Platonic dialogue. The descriptive part in the beginning does not assume to judge the “traditional” way of seeing teaching at that time, but rather to describe what is being jettisoned in the next part of “De Magistro.”  The dialogue is political, dealing with the relations between father and son, and with little theory per se.

It establishes the difference between Greek and Christian thought, whereby the Greek mind can revel in pure ideas  and the Christian believes in meaning, in terms of the intended consequences of action.  In Greek thought, a dualism  separates theory from practice.  In Christian separation doesn’t exist, but another dualism does,  between seriousness and play.  “…the only dualism admitted by a Christian community.” (p13)  

The first half of “De Magistro” is a prelude to an exercise for more serious topics.

2.ERH goes into a long discussion about the interrelation between work (struggle) and play, which, summarized, turns out to mean both are natural and necessary. To find the truth among us, we must both work and play together. Thus, it was appropriate for Augustine and Adeotatus to play with ideas as a prelude to the   struggle to follow.

If they would analyze the impact of this one little fact, they would face the real educational mystery, which is that man meets his fellow man only when he meets him on different levels. This is not a logical proposition; and it is not a psychological proposition.  It is a social and historical phenomenon…The student plays, the teacher struggles with the truth. (p15)

3.He goes on to explain that the natural attitude of the student, even in the best circumstances, is to come to the classroom with an anticipation to learn.  But, by its very nature, the experience inside the classroom is vicarious reality.  Even though the teacher comes to the same scene with seriousness and conviction, he must allow the student to play with the ideas.  “We need a transformer, to bring the truth from the form of conviction to the form of play.”

Other transformations must take place.  The student must realize that one day the knowledge will have serious meaning in his life, and so his attitude must eventually change from play to seriousness.  “Good teaching begins with a joke and ends with a challenge.”

4.Two dangers degrade teaching into puerility (childishness), or sublimating it into crusading.  When the aforementioned transformations take place, on the other hand, “…all that which education can do, has been done.”

There is, of course, always risk involved; the teacher can be, and often is, misunderstood.  Methods of teaching for rote memory can easily be done, sans risk. Being misunderstood naturally arises when each party believes he/she is a master of the language, and leaves the situation believing he has been understood. This is seldom the case.  Nothing of importance transpires between student and teacher with rote learning.

Both teacher and student must struggle, both must change levels of attitude, and most importantly, the result of this mutual struggle and play must progress beyond how the two conceive of it.

5.That “beyond” lies in use of the knowledge.  At some point in the conversation, the logic, pragmatism, science, and scholarship transform into reality.

6.The “struggle” of the teacher signifies that he has put his heart and soul into the act, and good teaching requires this. Modern educational psychology ignores this fact. Augustine’s meta-ethics requires that the teacher be satisfied with his ethical role.

To teach as defined above portrays the struggle of the teacher to balance duties to the truth with love of the student. These oppose each other.

The conflict which the teacher takes upon himself lies between his thought in his own time and the survival of this thought beyond his own time. (p.17)

To survive these opposing forces, one must have a “soul,” which is the power one needs to rise above these conflicting forces.

7.If this struggle of the teacher can be recognized by the student, the student may be transported into a serious and beneficial fellowship of learning.

8.There are two forces that must be present for good teaching and learning; faith and love underpin the power of the soul. For the student of good will, faith in the teacher and love of truth.  For the teacher, faith in the truth and love for the student.  Without such good will, significant teaching and learning cannot occur.

The Correspondence of Human Beings

1.The power of teaching, of instilling creativity,  is beyond both student and teacher. God is the source of both love and truth.  In modern educational psychology, the teacher is mere facilitator to the student’s intellect.  In antiquity it was the teacher who was the fountainhead of truth.

2.Augustine’s view of these formulations was that they were both deficient.  Dualisms usually turn into exploitation by the half of the duality  that obtains and maintains power over the other. Capitalist exploits labor, husband exploits wife and family, although that power is always limited in practice.

IT IS INSTINCTIVE AMONG HUMANS THAT THEY WISH TO BE CONSIDERED HUMAN BEINGS.  They wish to be loved by someone. ERH points out that we have many names – teacher, doctor, boss, husband, wife, American, Christian – and could abandon any or all of these and survive, with one exception.  We insist on recognition as “being” and as a “human being” (p.19),  without which we could NOT survive.

3.     All specific social functions are mere surface roles compared to this underlying lasting role.  This role consists of a correspondence between my names for myself and society’s names for me. This correspondence binds us.  Without it, we lose our being and our humanity.  Most moderns take this correspondence so much for granted…(p.19)

THE IMPLICATION OF THIS NOTION COULD NOT BE MORE FUNDAMENTAL; THAT A GOAL OF MERE GROWTH IN INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM AND EVEN SURVIVAL IS NOT ENOUGH. “Foxes are intelligent and weeds grow tall.”  Our fundamental goal for all education must be for individuals to acquire the status of being recognized, addressed, and thought of as a human being.  We risk life and limb and would submit to abuse and endless suffering every day to maintain our need for personal dignity.  The truth of this may be seen in the struggles all around us.

This need for being addressed as human,  the listening for our name to be called, derives of course from our language, which exists only in correspondence with others.

4.No one, then, is self-taught. Neither teacher nor student can claim supremacy. Their humanity arises from a common spirit, a correspondence of spirits.  “Hence the two Egos must be made to perceive this common basis, background, condition of one spirit.” (p.21)

For one’s ego to be sacrificed in an atmosphere of love and faith also means that the creative power from teaching and learning and the willingness to sacrifice for the welfare of the group comes from outside both parties. This outside power is what ERH identifies as God.

The Biographical Place of “De Magistro”

1.What does dialogue achieve in the personal life of the two involved?

There is always the danger that the student can become a follower of the teacher, tied to his ideas and unable to become an independent thinker in his own right! So Augustine makes very clear that he is not the teacher, or leader; he strives in the end to provide (spiritual) emancipation to his son/student.

[RF – This seems to me another paradox in life, where one must have teachers who are not teachers.  Obviously Augustine’s message is that no good teacher attempts to tie the student permanently to his (teacher’s) thinking.  Therefore, teaching and role models can only be temporary.  The student borrows the ideas and behavior until, and only until he rises to the capability to think for himself, and hopefully in time go beyond his teacher.]

Augustine, as a cleric,  states that only God can be our ultimate teacher and leader.

2.This appears to be the logic behind ERH’s view of history – it must be biographical and autobiographical (the professional term is “narrative history”). Otherwise, one reading about Socrates or Plato or any other great figure of the past is very likely to catch too tight a hold on one’s thinking, rendering it narrow and incapable of change.  It would be precisely the teacher’s function to insure that the student then becomes emancipated and free, transformed into  an independent thinker. (see pp.21-23).

As Augustine exclaims in the tenth book of the Confessions: “People must be connected by the bond of charity before they can listen and speak to each other with profit. (p.23)  [emphasis mine – RF]

3.He goes on to explain that teaching is charity, not “thought.”  He asserts that one cannot teach science scientifically, because trust and respect cannot be established by formulae.  In elaboration he explains that love and will are not the same, and modern psychology (especially educational psychology) mistakes them for being the same.  One can force students to do exercises because of the power of  position. One cannot will the student to believe (respect) by this method. The teacher, he reminds us, has no spiritual (lasting) authority outside the classroom.

4.Teaching is the model for establishing efficacious relationships, because it is the model for creating time (gaining time, in other words).  [RF – Armed with knowledge, one is relieved from the necessity of re-inventing it.]

Our life experience is full of stimuli, which pushes us to change, redirecting our attention and dedication too quickly. What is important in life is that which is lasting; behavior, formulations that work, basic principles – truth.  The protection against these fragmenting forces is therefore the teaching situation, which acts to encapsulate teacher and student, literally taking them out of the time of demands from outside the classroom. (Using the term classroom in the broadest sense; it may be inside a building, or beside a shade tree.)

5.Teacher and student give each other time. By the mutual willingness to speak and listen to each other, by the opportunity for each to express their (always different) experiences in reality, by taking time to think and time to understand and grow (a period of incubation), they create an environment of peace. Peace can be defined as the process by which people give each other time.

This requires faith on the part of the student that truth is worth seeking, and love (desire) on the part of the teacher for the student to grow.  This body of time incorporates three times – past, present, and future. The teacher  already has had time with the subject matter, the student  will have time in the future, and both meet in the present to communicate.

6.These then are the principles for establishing transformation.  None of this is incorporated in the modern psychologists’ theories of cognition, or conditioning, or humanistic interaction.

Former Evaluations

1.ERH  evaluates what three other scholars have said ” De Magistro”  was about. Each of these took from the text according to their biases. Leckie, a modern scholar,  was looking for educational method, and  wrote about cognition, the humanities, and Rhetoric.

In 1527, Erasmus of Rotterdam commented on the text.  Being a humanist, he was looking for the basic philosophy; his question was, “What is the fundamental system of ideas he is representing?”  Put another way, Erasmus  assumes religion is one of several philosophies. In the middle ages Bonaventura was looking for God.

2.Each of these scholars put aside parts of the text that were not relevant, according to their biases.  Rosenstock-Huessy does the same, by his own admission, but asks the reader to consider that he left out nothing in his analysis.

Bonaventura separates Heaven and earth as different entities. Erasmus assumes that thought is the principle creative force of the world. And Leckie, the modern scientist,  looks for the scientific method of teaching.

3.Rosenstock-Huessy’s bias is that all of these are part of the same reality, and that the goal of society is to create peace (cooperation).  To do this is no small effort;  teaching is not scientific, but educational and political in essence. The power to speak the truth, to speak and listen,  is a miracle, and its accomplishment represents the creative spirit within us.  This source is not within us, but has been passed down to us,  and of course its carrier is true speech. This ERH calls the Holy Spirit.  Rosenstock-Huessy asserts that St. Augustine was the first great scholar to understand and articulate these concepts.

4.Teaching and learning, by this concept, only truly occurs when a “present” is created between teacher and student.  This present represents a living cell, a time capsule in which the spirit of the discipline and its place in creating community is established.  The living cell creates time and space in which the living spirit can be realized, a social and psychological phenomenon.

Contrarily, modern so-called “sciences” of learning are inadequate descriptions of this more vital educational process. Memorization and logic do not describe the creative act, they are merely mental manipulations,   characteristic of dead cells.  No viable society can be made up from dead cells!

The Creation of a Body of Time

1.Dialogue at the time of Augustine was not new; however, there was a difference between Christian dialogue as articulated by Augustine, and pre-Christine (Platonic) dialogue. In the Platonic dialogues, students were “taught” by the “master.”  The interlocutors were either proven wrong, or all participants were  proven inadequate to the task.  There was play at the beginning, then serious discussion.

2.Augustine introduced a third element, in which each participant would trade roles as speaker and listener, as teacher and student. In this third part there was a free examination of ideas, especially questioning of old ideas. An atmosphere of equality was created, which was to lead to a formalizing agreement about the future.  Formalizing meant articulating a new situation from the past, what should be carried forward, what should end, what possible new or revised methods of examination might be needed. All this indicated  a vitalizing break between past and future.

3.In this new situation, the past can accept change because the teacher (representing past experience) participates.  Future, then,  is in part a continuation, and in part a portent of new directions.

Each generation is made up  partly of the past and partly unique newness.   The goal  is to unify time (correspondence) in the present,  of past, and future. Eugen says:

…my knowledge of this break produces in me the forwardizing energy called teaching by which part of my experience can be regenerated in somebody else. (p.30)

4.Man possesses an innate desire to pass something on, to connect with the future.  He knows death is inevitable.  Consciousness of our own mortality leads us to disregard any importance of the automatic flow of time,  in favor of  influencing life past our own death.  What is important to us personally is the continuation of our spirit, our ideas, our influence.  For example, we desire  less crime, or the welfare of our family, a cleaner environment, more justice, less greed – whatever we fought for in life.

5.There is a reciprocity between teacher and student in this three-part dialogue. The student is relieved of the burden of re-inventing all of reality, while at the same time being given freedom to renew old practices, invent new ones, and in turn leave his own mark on the future. He is free to re-experience the past, without having to be manacled to it.  THIS EMANCIPATION FROM OLD THINKING IS A CRUCIAL GOAL OF AUGUSTINE’S CONCEPT.

The teacher, in his turn, is listened to, receiving validation by having been unburdened of his heart-felt concerns for the future of society.

Man does not live in the present alone but, by merit of the forwardizing energy he reaches a beyond-himself time. The teacher is forced to enter a relation to human beings whom he can teach because he must make this connection with a beyond-himself time.  Once he has determined this beyond-himself time, he is relieved. …Man is he who can inherit faculties acquired by other members of the race. (p.31)

6.The student, by “backwardizing,”  re-enters the ranks of those who determined the past.  He no longer feels a need to be determined by it, rather he determines it by looking at the past from the perspective of questions from the present.  IN THIS WAY, THIS THREE-PART DIALOGUE HOLDS POWERFUL PAYOFFS FOR BOTH STUDENT AND TEACHER. The reciprocity creates a forceful binding process, of cooperation between student and teacher, of past, present, and future, and explains the necessary quality of creative thinking required by everyone who wishes to grow.

[RF – This section of the monograph might have been titled, “The psychology of true teaching.”  In my own experience and reading, this seems far more insightful than any other books by famous modern scholars.]

7.By contrast, Humanism asserts lasting divisions between past, present, and future.  ERH’s binding of all times then unifies all of humankind.  Its basic accomplishment lies in the creation of a “super-time,” a fusion of past and future, and creation of an expanded present (as compared to a momentary present).

Another accomplishment of super-time is that it fends off loneliness, connecting one with all times of history and of the future. It extends one’s relationships beyond personal life restricted to the present.

8.IN SUM, THE CREATION AND ARTICULATION OF A SUPER-TIME IS THE SECRET TO A VITAL SOCIETY.  It is the product of a social cooperation and a method by which one becomes capable of rising above one’s mere animal nature, to be transformed into a maturing human being. It is how human beings conquer death!

9.Antiquity didn’t know how to do this. It lived a life of endless cycles.  Modern views of Humanism, as reflected in all social science today,  accept these fragmenting, Platonic beliefs as well.

Super-time is a conscious creation of energy to transform society, derived from faith, love, and hope.  The  student has faith that the teacher is telling the truth, and a love for the truth.  The teacher has love (and respect) for the student, and faith in the truth.  They both have hope for fulfillment.

The academic world which is Greek in origin still cultivates a disdain for super-time, and for the energies which alone are able to produce it.  Faith, Love, and Hope, are not considered worthy of scientific investigation.  They are called irrational, unproven, non-existent, cobwebs of mystics. ( p.34)

10.         The church in teaching the secrets of the creative life and the standstill present, teaches them in a non-creative and pre-Christian manner.  And she does so to this day, either in the Aristotelian forms of the middle ages or in the Platonic manner of the Liberal Arts college. (p.38)

11.THIS EDUCATIONAL PROCESS BETWEEN STUDENT AND TEACHER IS THE SMALLEST ATOM OF SUPER-TIME.  IT VISIBLY CONNECTS TWO GENERATIONS, AND EXPERIENCES FOUR DIMENSIONS OF TIME: past, future, the fleeting moment, and the timeless present. In our personal lives we experience a tiny speck of reality.  Only through a truly consciously creative educational process can we hope to expand that speck into our human potential.

No teaching of this nature can be based on traditional scientific methods.  Contrary to popular and professional assertions,  teaching is not and cannot be scientific.  The creation of super-time is based on speech.

This power of speech is not an appeal to man’s rational or intellectual faculties only, although it appeals to them too.  But it appeals to the whole man.  Speech is four times as rich as thought.  And without this wealth of appeals it could not move man into super-space and super-time.  Society is built by the energies which enable us to get outside our own short living time and living space and which make us to desire to melt into the world, be born into the future, enter the graves of the past, and reach our own innermost centre. (p.40)


(Translation from Soziologie by R. Huessy)
Feringer notes
Last edited: 6-29-99

1.The problem focus of this essay is how humankind overcomes death.

All “men”  kill, because  they must seize living things in order to live.  All men die.  So nothing that happens could become history  if there were no cure for death.

The history of mankind is composed on one theme alone:  how does love (of life) become stronger than death?  (p.1)

[RF –  I believe it is useful to add a personal comment here, raising the question as to what Rosenstock-Huessy means by the term “death.”  I have often puzzled over attempts at interpreting his work, until I reminded myself of his specific definitions and assumptions. The reader will find it useful to keep  these in mind.  What Rosenstock-Huessy is referring to here is “spiritual death,” since that is the only form of death we are empowered to overcome.

If the reader reviews several other essays, such as SPEECH AND REALITY, PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE SOUL, or the lecture transcripts on COMPARATIVE RELIGION, he/she is reminded of the three basic concepts of reality Rosenstock-Huessy articulates, with three separate methodologies for the analysis of our experience.  The three methods are, of course, natural science, social science, and religious science.  Yes, “religious science.”  (See the first chapter of SPEECH AND REALITY for a detailed defense of his logic.)  It seems to me these form the bedrock of his concept of reality, upon which the GRAMMATICAL METHOD is founded. Speech  unifies the three phenomena of nature, society and the soul.  The soul being the driving force for one’s journey toward change, growth and fulfillment.

A fountain of youth, or any other  power which claims to extend both  physical and spiritual life, depends upon a vital community and that, in turn, rests on individual strength of character, a willingness to make sacrifices to maintain  community; inner strength he defines as, “the soul.”  For instance, the body of Socrates has been ashes for some twenty five centuries, but his spirit (soul) has survived through history to influence any who desire to be enlightened by it.  Rosenstock-Huessy’s  subject therefore is no irrelevant, abstract artifice of religion.]

All serious religions were created solely to address this issue of death.  That some religions teach a belief in reincarnation of a physical form  is not what Rosenstock-Huessy is defending here.  [RF – The Dalai Lama, presenting himself as living in different bodies for thousands of years, describes the spiritof these lives through history, not  physical continuation. The spirit of previous Dalai Lamas is taught to the next generation.]

2.       Since early times, beginning with the oral tradition, the word has been carried from one generation to the next.  The message is in the form of  stores of how to survive: the strength of heros and failures of villains, in a word, what is reality. Our  earthly existence is determined in part by physical needs; we are born, live for a while and die.  Our social life is ruled by different laws, of initiation, of  celebration of our physical powers (exemplified by sex and passion), and our power to influence our lives (through ceremony, and sacrifice (in modern times, sacrifices in war or other community service).  All religions in all ages have celebrated these basic needs in one way or another.

3.       Tribes throughout history that survived, we can assume, lived a reality that, at some minimal level, engendered survival. But Rosenstock-Huessy attributes the articulation the bringing them to consciousness, to Jesus of Nazareth. The method for achieving regeneration was thus revealed. “This,”  ERH interprets  here what Bible is about, it is the process by which we overcome death.  But the reader may be surprised to learn that this survival may not be what he thinks it does.

4.       The journey to salvation, of both individuals and society, is a journey from “outside to inside,” from  the physical wants of our natural animal nature to the evolution of a spiritual strength of humankind. Another way of putting it is the building of an inner core of strength to face problems and act to correct them – the development of a personality, of a soul.  The method requires giving part of our lives to community service, building inner strength by developing the courage to constantly seek and act on truth as we know it when appropriate, and perhaps most of all,  constantly working at re-discovering reality (truth).

5.       Outer life is ruled by physical needs and described by “natural laws.” Laws that describe the inner life of intuition and thought and that curb grievous animal instinct are vastly different from laws of nature. We live in two worlds, then, and while these worlds are different and ruled differently,  they are inexorably intertwined, forming the unity we call living, coming to life, moving toward human potential.

6.       Natural science cannot comprehend the chasm between natural and spiritual life, between the  “outer,” and the “inner.” Nor  does traditional theology, as interpreted today,  concern itself with how a natural man (Jesus as a child and later, a carpenter) became  supernatural.  Yet, we all change in one way or another. Physical changes derive from nature, but learning which transforms us from one level to another is miraculous. We are the animal which holds the potential to become part god, by virtue of our learning to grow and become creative. While this may seem nonsense, because we do not create seeds or any other living form, one may ask just what we do create.  The answer should be obvious, we create communities which are the environment in which we, individually, may become capable of thinking something never before thought of. Each stage in this transformation is a small miracle in every sense of the word.

Traditional explanations of religions the world over, including Christianity, seem to believe that gods are gods and ever are, and shall be.  Although Christians are in awe of Jesus as a miracle worker, Christian denominations fail to concern themselves with his incredible change represented in this story.

The relevance of this issue, the path from outer to inner, is simply, that the human spirit is the master key to moving in the direction of human potential.   The story of Jesus from the Bible tells us of a journey that we also can make, in part. Science explains nature; it has little to say about non-physical phenomena.The problem caused by the gap, as Rosenstock-Huessy describes it,  between “outer and inner” life is that it creates a barrier to learning how we change from a lustful animal into what we presumptively call, “a vital human being.”  We are born totally demanding of our physical needs but with a potential to become creative.  None would deny that the goal of all cultures is to teach people to think for themselves, to seek truth, to speak out and otherwise act in efficacious ways, on what we believe.  And all of this must culminate in the creation of a decent community because without it we would remain as jungle animals.

7.       Spiritual growth is the linchpin to all such learning. Teaching, as traditionally practiced, is mere transfer of information leading to the creation of drones.  Vital teaching seeks a transformation of the listeners. To be transformed means to become a new type of being with a new nature.  Such growth requires more than thought alone; it must fire involvement, testing of ideas through experience and analysis. This, of course, is not to be taken without risk. The meaning of the Crucifixion of Jesus is that transformation is bought at the price of sacrifice, whatever its form may be.

8.       Creativity needs to be defined. Basically, the term means thinking for ourselves as contrasted with a life of living on the ideas of others; which we all do, by necessity,  much of the time.  Creativity must be a constant process of developing new tools in art and science to constantly refine our knowledge of reality and our changing environment. Even using the thought of others demands that we consider and accept or reject that thought; it demands that we be accountable for our thought and actions. A community, at peace with itself, is the essential environment to engender all of these elements of survival.  So the notion of creativity in this sense is essential to our survival and therefore the central goal of all education. [RF – One doesn’t need to reflect long to understand that survival also depends on a social (religious) morality.]  Heaven is not separate from human experience, not a place of sugar-plumb fairies we go to after death; that is the child’s vision.  The sublime meaning of heaven and hell is as a metaphor for the communities we build.

Thus, the path (method) to our development into creativity is the lesson ERH  takes from the Bible.  What then is the essence of this method, not entirely original with, but articulated by Jesus?

9.       Natural science methods do not claim to inform us about many (the most crucial) aspects of social life, such as the  phenomenon of creativity and inner strength. It was created to deal with description of inanimate phenomena which are predictable and amenable to precise measurement.  Yet many social scientists do indeed use  natural science  method for social analysis. [RF – perhaps as the noted psychologist Edward Guthrie averred, The scholastics systematized a world of unripe knowledge and thereby protected it from its enemies, but at the same time they denied it the chance for progress.

The method is inappropriate for social phenomena because many social events remain inexplicable as to cause, and hardly amenable to meaningful numerical measurement, timing, or useful prediction. This is to say, we often cannot explain why  one or more persons may have taken some action or why they had some insight.  We can only reveal a change by describing a chain of events telling the story of what happened.]

The essence of  human experience is that one witnesses transformation of people; an event may change a person from civil behavior into that destructive psychotic, an honest person may become a criminal, a coward becomes a hero, or an inspiration may cause a person to take action that changes history. Many social events suddenly occur surprisingly.  Such transforming events are not predictable in specific ways. They seem miraculous.  Natural scientists, by their own admission cannot explain the origin of their own creative hypotheses.

10.     Why should we take such interest in spiritual (creative) growth?  Because it is the driving power for all original thought, for perseverance in the face of indomitable force, for our own transforming process as well as the ultimate necessity for the survival of all mankind. Power, unmitigated by ethics tears the community apart.   We enter this world as a powerless, complaining animal interested only in personal gratification and living by the moment with the potential to evolve toward that of  a courageous, intelligent person, willing to confront difficult  problems and having acquired the capability of regenerating ourselves and our community. Some miracle!

11.     Spiritual growth cannot be understood by a method of “pairing opposites” (measurements between acid/base, hot/cold, fast/slow, weak/powerful, etc.  Transformations of the human spirit are seldom logical. Rather, the process can only be understood in its unfolding, like scenes in a moving picture where a person  experiences a number of acts and evolving  stages of  behavior; “after knowledge.”.    But narration can produce crucial aspects of understanding of spirit. We commonly witness fundamental changes in persons.


Such witnessing holds the power, either directly or vicariously, to change one. Example, as an effective method of teaching  was known by my grandmother’s grandmother. ERH asserts that this mystery is exemplified by the life of Jesus, who began as a natural person (a carpenter), became a visionary teacher, and finally, Christ.  The message speaks to us – that human beings are capable of similar transformation. The power of witness is the method by which a new “spirit” can enter and transform us.

12.     The term, “nature,” defines entities which cannot change; this is usually dead matter. this lack of ability to change allows for predictable cause/effect relationships to be discovered and cast into useful theoretical concepts with a logical unity.  Paradox, on the other hand is common in social life:  behaviors are often contradictory,  a person evolving from a squalling infant into an Einstein is in one sense the same person that has undergone momentous change.    Tom Jones was Tom Jones from one to seventy-five years.   Speech by itself lacks the power to change one, it must be accompanied by witness.

13.     Logic holds power to inform, but never to transform. Measurement in social experience more meaningfully reckons by mile-stones, before-and-after significant events, a before one had emerged into something else. The “divine world” of spirit is briefly revealed by such witnessing; never by words alone.

14.     A vital life is not the life of mere plodding repetition day after day. Building a community and a vital personality requires an integrated set of evolving behaviors over a lifetime.   One must participate in community life by responding to experience and in the process, learning from it and responding efficaciously to it.  We advance in leaps, as each successful era in our lives ends and the next begins.  Creation is a never ending process of the end (death) of one behavior and resurrection in renewal.  In a small way this takes place in imitation of Jesus, from one stage of evolution to the next, Rosenstock-Huessy implies.

15.     Each advance represents a new spiritual redefinition of the world.  The world (our perceptions of it) has been redefined when we learn; sensitivity to this new stage will carry the power to overcome our fears and risk action on these new insights. The process of growth carries a moral responsibility because one cannot improve oneself without community.  This process of growth by successive stages of transformation advance is trinitarian; we enter the process responding to our world as we have seen it, living what we believe to be a true reality. This, obviously,  accepts the past as our authority. Then some experience creates what seems to be a new insight, a new, advanced concept of truth. This “vision” motivates us in the present to act on (test) the idea.  In the process of living it, we discover its validity. Discovery of a new truth and acting on it reflects a faith that our change will portend a better future.  Obviously, Easter symbolizes this continuous process of creativity.

16.     The transformation occurs in three discrete stages of before, during, and after – living in the past, present and future. The essence of growth is to think in new ways.  Our everyday thinking always looks to the past.

All thought is afterthought, thought about a finished world…The creative speaker on the other hand is the mouth of an unfinished world, one which is becoming a word in him….All discovering thought…happens in just this way. (p.5)

The concept of the Trinity in Christian speech, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,reflects this discovering process.  This is to say, our views from the past always represent a tentative understanding of the world, but that understanding is enlarged by a discovery of previously unseen reality rather than a conceptualization from the past.  While that conceptualization is a part of the process, it is eternally incomplete by itself.  We only grow through constant stages of change. [RF – certainly this implies the right kind of change at the right time, not change for its own sake.]

17.     Thinking for oneself is a necessary, everyman’s everyday manifestation of creativity.  Rosenstock-Huessy describes the actions of Jesus as demonstrating this trinitarian process available to the human race, unlocking the mystery of growth.  He also explains it in this essay in terms of “Life, Teaching and Wirkung,” that is,  living out of the past, teaching the vision of newness, and being an activist (living the faith in the vision in the present).  It engenders the power which “brings us to life.

Change, of course, can result in either success or failure, for  better or worse.  What does it mean to be overwhelmed by what we believe to be truths we have thought? We must prove (or disprove) the worth of our thought; otherwise it is mere entertainment. Thought, un-acted on, remains impotent speculation. The  creative force of the spirit comes after one has lived the vision. And our words only have power influencing others when they are backed by our own actions.  Failure, negative consequences are be just as valuable as success because knowing what does not work is useful.

18.     ERH cites the metaphor of the seed, blossom and fruit as parallels to creative thought.  The seed must be germinated and the blossom pollinated, then, under the right conditions, the fruit will appear.  No one element of this trinity has power in isolation; the three parts must be a whole and the proof, of course, is the existence of the fruit.

The boy awakens as a youth so his feelings may “be thought through” as thoughts; the youth ripens to manhood so that his thoughts may become deeds.  If the youth does not eventually overcome glorious squandering of self, if the academic remains tangled in systems and analyses of his own free will, the man who grows from them willy-nilly and who must somehow deal with life and its myriad circumstances, will deal with them poorly, lamed as he is in soul and spirit. (p.12,13)

19.     True learning involves accepting the call of the vision, acting on it, describing to others what happened as a result, then, analyzing for generalizations.  What changes us from ordinary to extraordinary  is developing this spirit.

20.     In sum, this essays describes the path from total dependence on “outer” influences to an “inner” weighing of life. In a sense one may say that experience must be filtered through a spirit, the inner life to be matched against a vision.   What is the fruit of  creativity?

The “sinner” looks for life in busy-ness.  The man of action/influence knows that busy-ness  is only death. He has lived.  This life has been transfigured in his vision.  If he looks back at life, it is no longer his life that he rediscovers.  He has sailed forth from his life, steering a strange ship into the world… (p.13)

Having changed, one has unavoidably acquired a new perspective on life and both memory and anticipation of the future take on different colors.  Our vision has put us in touch with divinity for a moment, but only a moment before we are returned to earth, drawn onward, impelled to recreate the world in the direction of that vision.

Connected to the star that stood over it, destined to prove the worth of what it has viewed, it climbs back down from the bright space of the spirit into life on earth … (p.13)

To truly change in this way is one of life’s everyday miracles.  It is to think things never thought before, and to act against odds and even in the face of danger if need be; it is taking on traditional powers and  propelling us beyond the common earthly animal state in which we were born.  We have gone beyond the natural, toward the supernatural state.

…we are not gods. But we can live in the supernatural, and take life from the supernatural which confronted us in the act of vision and illumination, rebirth and change; and that means accepting a call and working. (pp. 13,14)

21.     Mortals are not gods; they are the animal which is capable of being touched by some creative power. Mortals are part children of nature who are totally influenced from outside forces. This part of us is self-centered, taking  no responsibility for the community. We must also become workers, laboring to survive on earth. These qualities of humanness describe our animal nature. Touched by creativity, however, we are also part visionary.

The profound meaning of the Trinity teaches a necessary balance between these three orders of man that  can bear the fruit of transformation.  Transforming from animal to “human,” comes at a price. The moral obligation of intelligence and action is that sacrifice must be made to build the community.

22.     There exists different moralities, one for each of the “stages of man.” The natural animal part of us explains our need to satisfy  selfish  wants and defensiveness.  The worker part of us describes the necessary energy required to accomplish deeds. Both of these qualities, left to themselves, take us down the narrow path toward abuse of others, self indulgence, greed, hatred, all of which leads to destruction.  Individuals and people in groups,  public or private, become killers when not led by a principled soul.

Absolute power in any form, but especially that of the state and large bureaucracies, becomes monstrous when led by pure self-interest. This force destroys social life sooner or later.

The polemics of both Machiavellian “realist politicians” and the ethical fanaticists are so unappealing because they seek the divine in men in mere dictatorial imposition on the one hand, and in mere bourgeois morality on the other.  That is why the full miracle of the trinity had to take on personality in one man, so that the division of man into a diabolical giant and a divine dwarf, into state and individual, could be done away with once and for all.  (p.16)

23.     The final link in the process of  creativity, then, must be one of divine selflessness.  The individual must  pay dues to the community for his survival because a community, fed by both physical and spiritual food, is the creator of language, which is singly responsible for the transformation from the Darwinian society to one which engenders the true human potential.  The creative spirit of the individual which brings one to life is, at once, engendered by the community, and the community gives it everlasting life.  And religion, in the most sublime sense, can never be merely personal.  It too can give us power individually, but that power can only derive from a moral community.  And it is for this reason that every living person owes a commitment of some kind to the community. All three moralities – of natural man, of the visionary, and of the worker/activist   must remain in compatible balance within each of us.

Survival occurs because man is free to move back and forth among these three roles, keeping them in balance.  The “statesman” at the head of government is essential to prevent it from acting as absolute and adrift.  The state, and all organizations within it, must be led by carriers of “divine ethics,” not just those of “natural man.”