Logo Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Gesellschaft Unterwegs zu einer planetarischen Solidarität Menü

Rosenstock-Huessy: Supertime (1942)

The Correspondences of Society

Investigations in the Fields
Biography, Time, Politics, and Education

[in den Zwischenraum handschriftlich eingefügt:]
Geh in die Stille, lieber Freund; Geheimnis
sei im Geheimen, selbstentdeckt, gelesen.
Und mach Dir einen guten Tag. Dann reim’ es
Mit Krieg und Frieden, Kreuz und Hexenbesen.

Geheimnisse wirst Du bewahrt hier finden,
an denen Intellekt sich blutig stösst,
wie Geister jeweils uns zu Zeiten binden
und wie Der Geist zur Ewigkeit uns löst;
Wie erst wenn Liebe Gegenwart gegründet,
Die Räume sich in Welt und Innres grenzen.
Des Gottes Strahlen, der die Welt gerundet,
In jedem Kühnen Wort sie wieder glänzen.
9. August 1944.

[weiterer handschriftlicher Zusatz im Zwischenraum:]

an Inge. Der Freund versagte sich, ein Hasenheld.
Du aber hast des Mutes Liebesstille:
„Kein blinder Zufall lenkt die Welt
Es waltet doch ein höh’rer Wille.“
20. Mai 1949

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy


Introduction: Space and Time are “unnatural,” social data.

Man Must Teach:

Part I


The Augustinian Dialogue De Magistro
as Basis for a science of Time


Space and time are “unnatural,” social data

A reader who reads this essay because he looks for a contribution to Augustinian scholarship, be warned. Although interpreting the dialogue on the teacher, we take it as the starting point for a new science.

The theologian who sees the saint in Augustine, and the philosopher who sees the Platonist in him, will not accept our thesis that the dialogue De Magistro, is neither theology nor philosophy.

But neither will the literary critic or the linguist be satisfied with us when he finds us treat this dialogue on de dialogue as though it was neither literary criticism nor philology.

Augustine was more than a theologian or a philosopher. And a dialogue needs a new science which is not yet fully acknowledged, to be understood.

These are the two theses of this investigation.

The difficulty with which it is faced, is obvious. Our system of coordinates, in our thinking, is deeply engraved on everybody’s mind: Saint Augustine wrote a dialogue. Saints belong into theology; dialogues belong into literature. Or, Augustine wrote as a deep thinker; texts belong into philology, thoughts into philosophy. No third classification seems to be available.

I wish to give briefly the reasons why the four modes of treatment, theology, philosophy, literary criticism, philology, are specifically excluded. It is always possible to stretch — definitions. And it may seem nothing but bizarre and sensation lusting to make so much fuss about the character of the investigation. What does it matter how it is labeled if the following examination is good? And if it is worthless, can it be saved by a new classification?

I feel that Augustine made a new start in the De Magistro. As he influenced the Middle Ages by giving the scholastics their central idea of “Credo ut intelligam,” as he was godfather to the modern philosophy through Luther and Descartes, so he seems to have one more contribution to make, as godfather of a new science of temporality, of time. It is universally known that nobody has said deeper things on time than Augustine. And it is equally obvious that our times are haunted by the spectre, What is time?, with new energy. Hence, it is at first sight quite probable that a new organon may be needed and may be available by bringing together the modern trend (Bergson, James, Alexander, Nietzsche, Rosenzweig) and Augustine’s elements of a new approach to time. [ii]

But the approach cannot be made without Including that form of human intercourse which is taken for granted by the modern time-philosopher, the dialogue between interlocutors. Platonic dialogues are rightly famous. In their case, the form has often been treated as part of Plato’s philosophy. And dialogues were treated by philosophers as campaigns of thinking, as communication of ideas, as philosophy in themselves. How dubious this is, may become clear when we think of Galileo’s dialogues on physics. Does this form belong to physics because the content is the science of physics? Obviously not. At this point, our linguist may come and take over: “This is my domain because the form is language.” Alas, we would have to say: “The last unit which you investigate, is the sentence. But in the dialogue, sentences are not the highest unit. Their dramatic relation is the main point.” Hearing the term “dramatic,” the literary critic lifts his finger menacingly: “Drama belongs under my sway and please leave it there.”

And again, we have to insist: We do not mean the play form of theatrical dialogue, we mean the social and political and religious processes of conversation, of being on speaking terms with each other. We mean dialogue as an Instrument of peace or war, in the most drastic and brutal sense of these two states of man’s affairs.

In speaking, some social order is created, in breaking off relations of speech, some social order is destroyed. Under these aspects, we here analyze the dialogue De Magistro. Augustine discovered this fact that the destruction and the construction of a social order, proceeds through conversation. And he discovered that not until speech has built a social order, does man find himself inside time and space. Time and space, for Kant and all the moderns, empirical data of individual and “natural” experience, are social data. They are unnatural.

The value of Augustine’s little pamphlet — it is not more — lies in the fact that it proves this case in the smallest possible unit: a group of two people. Any other investigation in this direction has gropingly discussed the origin of speech in whole tribes or nations. Augustine isolates the elements so neatly that we are able to see the atoms of the social cosmos as under a microscope. But it is the whole social cosmos on which light is shed. [S. 1]


Sociology of Teaching and Augustine

Aurelius Augustine was the last Latin Father who fought Greek and Roman Paganism. When he died, the Vandals were in Africa, and swiftly, the Roman Christians joined the battle of ancient civilization against the pre-city tribes. The new battlefront produced a union between Christian, Roman, and Greek elements. Soon, the monasteries became the archives of the whole ancient world.

When we read Augustine, we see for the last time the Church sharply separated from the ancient “World.” Augustine had been a fine specimen of classic antiquity, and later he was bishop of Hippo for more than thirty years. In his “philosophical” student days, he had begotten a son — he had been seventeen years then — and now this son, Adeodatus was nearing the same age. Father and son were baptized on the same day. Legend has it that Ambrosius and Augustinus alternatingly intoned the

Te Deum Laudamus
Te Dominun confitemur
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur ….
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Sabaoth ….

Augustine, the unlawful father, invoking the Holy Father of creation! The legend is magnificent. Unfortunately, it is silent about the son. On the other hand, Adeodatus did not live to see his father become a bishop.

Between Augustine’s conversion and the son’s death, these two people found themselves in a social situation for which neither Greek philosophy nor Christian doctrine had to offer much. For, here was physical relationship of a father to a son, born out of wedlock. By the act of conversion, this relationship was admitted to be based on sin. Here was religious comradeship, by simultaneous baptism of a thirty-three year old father and his adolescent son. And there was the intellectual giant and roaring lion Augustine, and a young, inarticulate boy. Obviously, this situation was not harmonious. And no logic could harmonize it.

The father, however, seized on this bizarre situation. Adeodatus, at that moment, seems to have appeared to him as the new plantation the Lord had entrusted now to his passionate soul. And he decided to write a library, a collection of books or pamphlets for the benefit of Adeodatus.

This was in contrast to Christian usage. Flesh and blood shall not inherit the spirit, was a fundamental axiom of the Church; and the dogma of the Virgin Birth, the calling of Paul who had never met Jesus in the flesh, the institution of godfather and godmother, were only a few of the symptoms of this foundation. Sonship and discipleship, marriage and priesthood, were as strictly severed in the new zion as they had been identified in the old Israel. Augustine, then, was faced with the dilemma of becoming the Christian teacher of his carnal son. [S. 2]

Augustine saw the paradox of his task. He plunged right into the center of it. The De Magistro was the preamble of faith by which he tried to prove to himself that it could be done. The library never was written. But the De Magistro allows us to relive this peculiar station on his way through life on which the separation of flesh and spirit for which the Church stands, was to be reconciled. This is very modern. We are faced with exactly this issue. Can parents teach their children? We have broken up families on the one hand, and hear of Oedipus complexes on the other. Pressure from powerseeking mothers, helplessness of wavering fathers, inarticulatedness of all the members of the family on questions of faith, are mentioned to us daily.

The preamble of faith for any parent today must make answer to this: By what authority do I teach the children whom I have begotten physically and who are called my children legally? For, neither the physiological bond nor the legal relation explains the scope and limitations of a father’s intellectual authority towards his son. The title De Magistro raises exactly this doubt. “Who is your teacher when I, your father, seem to teach you?” would be the full title.

In other words, the booklet tries to arbitrate between the roles of father, companion, hero, teacher, sinner, which all five were united in Augustine and might well confuse the son. We do not know if this son was as hot-tempered as his father; if so, an early death might have saved him from an intolerable quandary. In his Confessions, the father perorates about the sin of begetting this son, and the innocence of this fruit of sin, a rather unsavoury declamation one might feel for a son to hear or even to sense. What a weight was laid on this son: the illegitimate child, the co-convert, the pupil, the follower, of a truly lion-like man.

If the waters of truth could pass through such a strange channel and yet be pure truth, this certainly deserved some clarification. The dissertation before us, then, is not an academic investigation on the merits of teaching in general, but a searching of hearts on the merits of this father’s right to guide his son, in particular. Behind the dialogue, I cannot help feeling, looms the great question: Did Augustine have the right to have this son baptized with him? That had been done. The same step which in Augustine was the climax of a passionate life, had been taken by Adeodatus because he was this man’s son.

This, then, is the significance of this booklet. It originated in a unique situation when Augustine paused between “world” and ecclesiastical hierarchy and came nearest to our own uninstitutional life-situation. Outwardly, the dialogue has been adjudicated to philosophy or to theology. But it belongs to a third type of literature. Of this third type, we usually only recognize biographical writings, letters or autobiographies. The De Magistro may draw our attention to the fact that these writings which are written to solve my own most personal problem, cover a wider field than merely autobiographical papers. Genuine sociological sources belong here, too. After all, a letter is part of a correspondence. And an important correspondence constitutes a fight, a wrestling between two souls. The correspondence between Abelard and Heloise is not a philosophical or theological treatise, neither is it autobiographical. It is [S. 3] because it is a correspondence, a sociological phenomenon. Strangely enough, sociology has shyed away from this phenomenon. A pair of lovers seemed perhaps too close to each other to be considered specimens of the social and group process. But the dialogue between Father and Son which is under our consideration now, cannot be classified correctly as long as we do not widen our categories. In this dialogue, father and son fight out the battle of fatherhood and son-hood. Now, what kind of literature is this? To call it personal, is quite as unsatisfactory as to call it biographical. For the two do not wish a personal solution; they are looking for a definite, for a true, and even for the scientific solution.

The exciting thing about the De Magistro is that it challenges our idea as though we could have a science of social affairs without this personal, biographical basis, at their root, or that we could enjoy letters and diaries, without the social truth and universal solution as their crown. We think for our personal salvation. And all social forms result from this fight for the salvation of persons. Of this, the De Magistro, is a telling example. And this brings the book into sharp contrast to the usual literature on education. If it is true that it is written not by the famous professor of rhetorics Augustine nor by the bishop of Hippo, but by a father who felt uneasy about his prerogatives as a teacher, father, Christian, with relation to his son, student, fellow Christian, if it is true that he tried to find the truth and nothing but the truth not because he was in a scientific and detached mood, but because he was violently attached to his role in society — if, in other words, Augustine wrote this because he wanted to remain rooted and integrated, then 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 but because we, like Augustine, are compelled to teach by our own life’s forces, even with the odds as in his case, against our qualification to act the teacher.

An objective adviser might have counseled Augustine to send his son to a public school or to an Episcopal school, and thereby to ease the strain put upon the younger man. Not so Augustine. Even he, who had sinned when begetting Adeodatus, wished and desired to teach this same son. Handicapped he well might consider himself. But teach he must. Teaching as an integral requirement of the right way of life, as a necessity even when the teaching is bad — that certainly strikes a new note in our discussions on education: Man must teach. When we compare John Dewey’s writings on education, and they are numerous and influential, we see the contrast. Never once does Dewey tell us why he must write his books or go on teaching. In discussing the foundations and underlying principles of education, the only regard he shows, is for the little victims of our educational activities. The teacher is simply taken for granted. That he might be just as vitally affected as the student, injured, harmed, shellshocked, perfected, is no concern of most educational discussions. Does this lack of reciprocity result from the idea that a teacher is a paid employee and that his salary is his reward? But if [S. 4] the pay is all he gets out of teaching, then teaching would be nothing in his life; and then, he can’t be a good teacher. Nevertheless, educational theory modestly treats the sufferings of the teacher as pudenda not to be mentioned in good society. The parents, the pupils, the alumni, the public, are told why such and such a treatment will give the boy or girl the best possible education. A ware is sold. And this discredits our theories of education as advertising.

Any realistic approach would have to show how and why and that an adult can be induced to fool around with young people In this business of teaching and learning, some sporadically, some professionally, but all passionately.

The fact that John Rockefeller taught Sunday School all his life, that he did it, why he did it, how he did it, and if he should have done it, belongs as much in a scientific investigation as how and why and that John Doe should be taught the ABC. But the difference of these two questions is obvious. Question two can be debated in the absence of little John Doe who is too little to understand. The student’s part in education lends itself to all kinds of abstractions, vague ideals, wonderful systems, statistics. But John Rockefeller or my first cousin, or an illegitimate father — their authority and qualification to teach piety and religion and history, must be debated in full view of their individual personalities and deficiencies and idiosyncrasies.

These people are real people, adult people, members not of the playgrounds of the schools, nay, taxpayers, adult social phenomena themselves. If the teacher’s problem would form the basis of educational discussion, if we would ask: Can anybody teach? Must everybody teach? Should nobody teach? education suddenly would become politics and social science. 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.

A sociological treatment of education must explain the lives of deans, scholars, assistants, janitors, alumni, college presidents just as much as of boys and girls. Now, it would seem that Augustine was compelled to focus on the one point where all agencies involved in the educational process are fused. The overflow that is teaching and the influence that is learning, appeared to him as meaning one and the same energy. And man’s relation to this energy stumped him.

Augustine is inexhaustible. He gave the Middle Ages and the Modern Times their clue. And now he seems to be able to fuse the two separated streams of our own consciousness, education and politics, into one new beginning. How might we call this third role of the man?

He gave the Middle Ages the basis of its axiom on faith and reason. Anselm took from Augustine his Credo ut intelligam, his metalogic. For a metalogic this truly may be called when I am informed for what to use my logic. Anselm used, and all the schoolmen followed him, the power of his logic to rethink all the experiences [S. 5] of man with his maker. After this legacy of a “metalogic” had been squeezed dry. Augustine gave to the modern ages their metaphysics, through Luther and Descartes. The world of nature was dedemonized and as a created world lent itself to infinite rational inquiry. This complete severing of the ties between man and nature, mind and body, made possible the progress of science. In back of it is Augustine’s metaphysics because Descartes could quote his doctrine that God was extramundane and man his rational agent with regard to the world if man purified his mind from all worldly attachment, if all scientists cooperated as one mind.

In both cases, of metalogic and metaphysics, Augustine placed the processes of logic and of physics, into a wider realm, into the life of the human soul. A certain soul, he taught, was capable of using its logic about God with impunity and usefully. A certain soul, he also said, was capable of using its physics about the world, without error and progressively. Under the condition that man loved his neighbor as himself, he could indeed know all these things without ending in witchcraft or gnostics. Hence all our science is universal and open as daylight since it is Augustinian.

Now, in his De Magistro, Augustine describes a third start. Here, he does not write the preamble to all reasoning about God by showing that he who makes any true statement, already must believe in the power by which we overcome our selfish interest and blind spots. He does not recommend detachment from the world before examining its facts. He writes the preamble for any member violently attached to his society, and trying to remain attached to it, despite the full use of his rational and critical faculties. In the search for a realistic sociology, we are beleaguered by abstract theories of education. Augustine says: that sociology must include the passions of the sociologist himself, his need for salvation. I the writer of this pamphlet, and you the reader, John Dewey despite his quest for impersonality, and all the students, both must receive functional satisfaction in a truthful order of education.

Augustine gives us the metaethics of utterance and communication. Before we can use our ethics of human relationships, we must be told whose life may use the functions and roles offered in these relations. Who is to become a father or a son, or a student? It is a certain being only which can escape unscathed from all these overwhelming formative influences and habits without being vitiated. He who enters into any correspondence, is to have certain qualities if his correspondence shall be worth anything.

Metalogic, Metaphysics, Metaethics — truly a giant the man from whom light may be derived three times, for three tasks, for theology in 1100, for philosophy in 1500, and now for sociology or social thought in general, in 1900. [S. 6]

The Distemporanity of Education

It is not difficult to determine more closely the principle of Augustine’s metaethics. And this will explain why he sponsors a science of society which puts education into the very center of all social processes and facts.

No thinker saw deeper into the riddle which “time” put before man, than Augustine. His remarks on “time” in the Confessions are rightly famous. But we will be able to quote many other usually neglected passages, on this subject.

Now a thinker who has something to say on the topic of “time” is ultramodern. The most energetic thinkers of our days, fret under this mystery of time. They are confounded by the fact that the mind may be thought of as observing the bodies in space, but that this same mind takes time to function at all. True enough that the mind observes the facts of the world of space. But we seem to be unable to observe time since our own thinking takes time. The subject of the thinker is subject to the time stream, is conditioned by time. But how can that which is conditioned by some force, ever be empowered to understand this same force? If we are the products of our time, we shall never know this same time as we may know a fact of outside nature.

Thinking takes time, education takes time. We send our children to school for a dozen of years. But modern scepticism has dissected time and found that it consists of disconnected atoms, seconds. The largest school of thought in this country teaches that time knows of past and future only, that the present is of a razor-blade short-livedness, and that when we speak of “the present period,” we are handling a fiction. They call all usage of a present in this larger sense, a “specious present,” a fictitious unit of time. An hour in the classroom, a war, a revolution in which we find ourselves, are all fictitious, according to these logicians. And logic seems to be on their side.

But if this is so, then farewell to education. If a class consists of disconnected split seconds, education is impossible. For, all education plans a curriculum of years as though time stood still, in a certain sense.

Augustine suffered from this contradiction. And he pointed out the direction in which the solution may be found. And the snobbery of the modern sceptic which declares the present as not existent and believes in past and future only, melts like a snow flake before his scrutiny.

The De Magiatro would be too fragmentary if we would not read it within the framework of Augustine’s philosophy of time. And vice versa, our reasoning about time receives a sound basis, if we fathom the depth of the fact that our own thinking about time takes time. For nowhere is this more in evidence than in the classroom of educational institutions. Teaching is not peripherical for a science [S. 7] of time because it makes transparent the fact that thinking takes time. In any act of teaching, time is of the essence. So much is this the case, that time appears there in at least three qualifications at once. First, there is the schedule of the whole curriculun, second, there are two kinds of people, one older, the other younger, both with a time of their own, and yet thrown together into this identical schedule.

It seems that we have here in a nutshell the time-compound of all social relations. The teacher and the student are not contemporaries; yet they are synchronized. Hence two “times,” two lifetimes, seem to be able to join. Without this basic belief, teaching would be impossible. Whatever else teaching may be, if we restrict its aspect to the purely chronological skeleton in it, it always shows two people at least one of which is, with regard to the subject matter taught, ahead of the other. Now to be ahead is here simply an expression for the teacher’s pre-acquaintance with the matter. Five minutes earlier than his student, he must have come to know it at least, whereas in all other cases, the difference between old and young may be glossed over or forgotten, in teaching, this discrepancy is made the cornerstone of the whole process. Here, a difference in time is necessary to make the flow of experience possible.

Teaching is based on a succession in time, willy nilly. And the reason why the teacher should give his time to a young brat and why the young should place his faith in an old ass, remain to be explained.

Augustine does exactly this. He sees that a social itinerary must link together the young and the old, the primitive and the educated.

Indeed, in teaching, the social system reveals itself to be based on a harmony of innunerable times. People of different age are made to coexist. But different age also means different ideas, different interest, different outlook, different taste, different beliefs. And yet teaching? Yet a flow of light from the representative of one time to the representative of another? This is not an academic question. How many parents actually did say, during the last decades, that the times are so different that we can teach little to our children?

Yet, as long as anything is taught, the collision between various times and their different truths is considered to be superable. The relative character of all differences in time-truths is therefore the basis of all teaching. But this means that all teaching makes definite assumptions about our relation to time and submersion in it. And this is indeed true.

The difference in age between coworkers may be accidental; the time difference between teacher and pupil exists by establishment. They are, therefore, distemporaries, not contemporaries. Two times exist of which one is embodied by the teacher, the other by the pupil. In learning, in teaching, in education, the miracle is achieved of bringing both together in a third time. This bridge is called the present. [S. 8]

Now, I cannot find that anyone except Augustine has pondered over this situation. I have looked up, for the purpose of verifying this proposition, a long list of books on ethics, medieval and modern. Nowhere did I find that they saw a problem of the first order in the time abyss between teacher and pupil. Here, the darkest division of man stares us in the face. And our handbooks on ethics deal with justice and property and crime and labour and government. Education comes as an appendix, with all the optimistic colours of the easiest part of the ethical system. And the teacher in us is mentioned nowhere, with his rights. Augustine saw that all our troubles spring from the educational task. For, to him, we small men are expected to form together one great man through the ages. From Adam to the end of times, man is one. The ages die. The generations die; the individual passes through at least seven ages during his little life. And yet the spirit’s bloodstream survives every one age. For this grandiose task the different times and ages of man must be made co-existent although every one of them only lasts a short time. Augustine says in De genesi ad Manichaeos I, 43, ‘The age of the mature man corresponds to the fifth day of creation when fishes and birds are created. Hence, this man must teach, pervading the air like a bird, with the winged words of celestial teaching. And he breaks through the waves of time, like a whale, with the power of contempt. His students, on the other hand, and their aetas, compare to the second and third day of creation. For, whereas as infants, they are bathing in the undivided light of the first day, the boy and girl begin to remember and to distinguish. And the very first distinction is between heaven and earth, high and low, carnal and spiritual. In this way, the ages may imitate eternity by their co-existence.’1

It is, therefore, in line with St. Augustine to put the process of teaching in the centre of all sociology. This is the only important distinction between a Christian sociology that is based on the word, and a naturalistic sociology. Usually, people derive the authority of a teacher merely from his expert knowledge. When we do this — and St. Thomas does it — we fall into the abyss of departmentalisation. When people deduce the right to teach from the ‘State,’ they fall into the abyss of propaganda and lying. It is only when teaching is based on no other, external or logical, process outside itself, when education is recognized as an original and irreducible situation between two souls that we escape the hell of -isms, of inquisition and propaganda, we all 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 [S. 9] of nature but a fruit of social efforts.

The teacher’s unrelated lifetime before he acts the teacher and the student’s unrelated lifetime before he becomes this teacher’s student know of no present except as the razor blade between past and present. When the two converse, the man A by acting the teacher, concedes that he represents the past, and the man B by acting the student, volunteers to represent the future, between them. And by taking upon themselves these two roles, a present emerges which stands above the past and the future as their common ground.

Analysis of the Text

In two chapters, we have dealt with the situation of the dialogue between Augustine and Adeodatus, and with the problems of time and education which it raises and against which it should be pitted. We now proceed to an analysis of the text. The text consists of fourteen chapters. We shall sum them up, one after the other.

  1. By speech, albeit prayer, song, or teaching proper, we cause the very things to come into the mind of which the words are signs.
  2. In commenting on poetry, we are expounding words with words, signs well known by signs equally well known.
  3. In as far as man asks questions by means of words, he usually must put up with words as his reply. He may, however, get his answer through other signs or gestures, or the act itself may be performed.
  4. A sign may point to things or to other signs. The word ‘noun’ or ‘conjunction’ points to signs; horse and river point to realities.
  5. Every sign is both: sign and meaningful, words are signs with regard to the ear, and meaningful nouns with regards to the soul. Any word (for instance: ‘if,’ ‘because’) can be used as the subject of a sentence. I.e. as a noun.
  6. Some signs signify themselves like the word “word.” Others are reciprocal like vocabula and nomina. Some signs are synonymous. Words from different languages differ acoustically only.
  7. Adeodatus sums up:
    • All speech is teaching.
    • Words are signs.
    • Signs need not be words.
    • Acts may be shown without a sign. [S. 10]
  8. Augustine himself sees these points clearer now quam cum ea inquirendo ac disserendo de nescio qulbus latebris ambo erueremus. (Tourscher: by questioning and arguing we both were drawing them from some unknown obscurity; Leckie: we unearthed them from unknown hiding places.) The goal of this discussion is difficult to explain. Adeodatus may either consider this to be a game or expect some small result or he may become impatient because he is hoping for a big result. Augustine although playing is not aiming at a toy thing: “On the other hand. It may seem rather ridiculous when I pretend that it is some blessed and eternal life to which I wish to be led with you here under the guidance of God, and that is to say, of truth, namely by some steps that will be appropriate to our poor gait. For, I have entered upon this highroad not by studying the objects that we signify, but their signs only. Yet, this prelude exercises the very energies by which the warmth and light of the region of the blessed life may be not just forborn but truly loved.”
    The two syllables ho-mo may mean a real being, or these two phonetic fragments. Generally, the presumption is in favour of the reality of which the word is a sign. When we ask about the word as a word only, we should qualify our question. It is legitimate to answer an unqualified question as though the real thing was the object of the question. Sophists are abusing this righteous attitude.
  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. Examples are “filth” and “vice.”
  10. The assumption in chapter III and VII that certain acts like walking are self-explaining, is refuted. Result: Nothing is taught without symbols. Adeodatus feels uneasy. Augustine, in fact, turns the tables now and shows that everything under the sun may teach us without the use of signs. We even understand new words only when we see the object which they signify.
  11. “To give the maximum of credit to words, words challenge us to seek reality.” We may and shall believe words. Understanding, however, should follow as frequently as possible. And understanding is not produced by words. It is not even achieved by the speaker although his words may challenge us. Tantum cuique panditur quantum capere propter propriam sive malam sive bonam voluntatem potest. (Leckie: there is revealed to each one as much as he can apprehend through his will according as it is more perfect or less perfect. Tourscher: It is opened out so far to each one as each one is capable to grasp by reason of a good or a bad habit of life.) See our criticism on page 17.
  12. Sensations and mental perceptions are the two classes of our perceptions. Sensations never are replaceable through words of others, except on faith. In a case of mere belief, nothing is learned. The same is true of mental processes. “The auditor [S. 11] whom I tell that I saw a flying man, will answer: ‘I don’t believe you.’ In the same way, he will deny the spiritual truth which he is not fit to know.” Any auditor will either accept on faith, or deny, or consent by his own spontaneous testimony. In no case, then, will he have learned, properly speaking.
  13. The listener is the speaker’s judge, or at least, he is judging his speech. The speaker may quote texts in an attempt to refute them, and the listener still may approve of this very quotation. Sometimes, it is true, we succeed in speaking our minds. However, we are talked to by as many lying people as by truthful men. Besides, by inattentive talking, slips of the tongue, etc., any number of quarrels and misunderstandings may be produced.
  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. That we should call the man who speaks to us, ‘magister,’ springs from the fact that no time seems to intervene between the moment of his speaking and the moment of our cognition. Because this time element is overlooked, the students think that what they learn from the interior truth, has been learned from the external admonisher.

The general usefulness of words which, well considered, is not small, we shall investigate elsewhere. Here, however, I wish to restrict their importance. I only have admonished you. We should not only believe but also understand why it is written with divine authority that nobody is our master on earth since one master is in heaven. Matthew XXIII, 8: “but be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9. And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your father which is in heaven. 10. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even Christ.”

With all my questions, with all your answers, you have not learned from me. Confirm me, Adeodatus. And Adeodatus affirms:

Words from outside are admonitions. He only teaches that dwells inside. And I have experienced this during your talk which I have enjoyed. All doubts were dissolved by the inner “oraculum.”

Some discarded digressions in De Magistro:
Ch. I. what is the intention and value of music?
II. “Nothing” is a difficult problem.
III. The words of prayer are not the essence of prayer; still, they have their proper social function.
IV. It remains unsolved how a term like ‘ex’should be defined.
IX. A thing that serves another object need not be inferior to that object, Adeodatus thinks. Augustinus holds the opposite view.
XIV. The positive usefulness of words is not to be discussed in this dialogue. [S. 12]

Repentance for a social situation.

The dialogue deals first with the meaning of speech, and then with the origin of truth for the boy who is spoken to. The dialogue takes place between father and son after they have left Italy and wish to establish themselves as baptised Christians in Africa again. As a dialogue, it still preserves the technique of that academic life that Augustine and his friends, including the son, had led together in Italy. On the other hand, this is the only piece in which father and son are on their own resources, without anybody else. The instinctive loyalty to the form of production that the life in Italy had asked for, is obvious; on the other hand, the death of Adeodatus left this dialogue as a mere fragment. Augustine’s life in Africa soon followed a new pattern, of public and ecclesiastical character. Thus, the De Magistro is the obituary of a boy who must have been full of life and wit. And the boy no longer was a boy. He was seventeen; at that very age, Augustine himself had begotten Adeodatus! Adeodatus is on the verge of independence and maturity.

At the end of the last chapter, Augustine hints at the situation in which the dialogue is written. It is meant to be the fore-runner# of more to come. The intervening death of Adeodatus has kept from us the sequence of De Magistro. And what does Augustine plan as a sequence? This is very important to know when we wish to interpret that what we have and what is a fragment only of what we would have without the loss of the son. For, if Augustine announces what he is going to do later, we may be sure that he does not think to have given us this same thing in De Magistro. And this indeed is the case. Augustine promises to write on the usefulness of words “which when rightly considered is not small.” The De Magistro shows how the use of words should be “rightly” considered, without being Itself the positive treatment of this usage.The De Magistro is not concerned with the positive teaching of grammar, speech, etc. as the modern significationists would like to find. “Foundations” are laid. Today, the use of the word “foundations” is handled so loosely that the meaning of this word is forgotten. Mr. Leckie thinks that the first chapters of De Magistro contain Augustine’s final ideas on the subject. The whole dialogue, however, moves away from these introductory chapters. And any “foundation” has to do so. Why is that so? Foundations wish to get away from a surface that is unable to carry a building. We go against the surface and away from the surface not by building a skyscraper, but by excavating the ground when we lay foundations.

In the Liberal Arts community, in the situation existing between Augustine and Adeodatus, between any teacher and any student, there is danger, there is abuse. The foundation must be laid anew for the rebirth of the school. Everything will sound in the reborn school differently from what it now seems to be in the unregenerated school. Hence, all the grammatical and rhetorical arguments in the first part of De Magistro only serve the purpose of describing the processes in the unregenerated environment without passing any judgment on their final value. The purely descriptive character of the first part of De Magistro as a specimen of what people use to talk in schools removes our book from the Platonic pattern. It is not imitative of a [S. 13] Platonic dialogue. A social and scholastic situation is described and enacted so that it may do repentance and be lifted upon new foundations. The first half might be compared to Abraham’s attempt of sacrificing Isaac. We are told this because at the end, Abraham instead sacrifices his own will. In the same way, the first half is narrated by Augustine so that it may be jettisoned in the second! The dialogue is a biographical event in the life of the two partners. Thought is political; this dialogue does not dwell in the realm of theory; it is an act within the practical life of Augustine and Adeodatus. Guitton has some very beautiful remarks on this difference between Greek and Christian thought; he says (Le Temps et L’Éternité chez Plotin et Saint Augustin, Paris 1933, p. 359), “The unsurmountable abyss between Greek and Christian thought is the Christian rehabilitation of the unique end temporal event. The moral order is general and abstract to every philosophical or Greek mind. In Christianity the time of every human existence receives a superior quality in its smallest fragments.” One of these smallest fragments is the hour between 8 and 9 in which I am writing this essay or the classroom lecture in which logic is taught. By the Greek mind, or as we call this mentality today not quite as sharply, by the academic mind, this fact is ignored, a lecture was thought to be a theoretical display of thought. Hence, it would seem that in the classroom, the events, the ideas, the people that the teacher mentions enter into a merely Platonic realm of ideas. In imitating the ancients, the classroom, the teacher and the students feign to have timeless minds. On these minds, the events, people, ideas mentioned in class leave an imprint, as a movie does on our imagination, with the movie moving and ourselves sitting unmoved. In the dialogue De Magistro, this academic atmosphere and disposition disappear. Here, we have no difference between theory and practice. Augustine and Adeodatus think out their salvation as chapter 8 clearly says. The dialogue is not academic but biographical for both. It is a social struggle.

The whole dialogue and especially the break in chapter 8 remain ununderstandable as long as we think in academic terms of a difference between theory and practice. However, a dualism is here too; the book is obviously made up out of two parts. Only, this is another dualism, the only dualism admitted by a Christian community. It is the dualism between play and seriousness. This dualism is at the bottom of the dialogue, and Augustine says so himself. We never are “academic,” but we alternate between play and struggle.

The dualism of one non-committal and one definite part divides the dialogue right in the middle into two septenaries of chapters. Out of fourteen the whole consists. In chapter seven, Adeodatus sums up the results of the first six chapters: “What do we do when we speak?”

Many sides of this question have been mentioned and left unsolved. They are listed at the end of the summary as unfinished digressions. The father has freely avowed# his ignorance in some cases; and the son has been as often right against the father as the father has been against the son. They have cracked a number of jokes. For instance, in discussing the word “nothing,” they discover that it is a wonderful sport for sophisms on “nothing” when this alternatively may mean the word “nothing,” or the difficult concept “nothing.” [S. 14] Augustine gives up after e while, jokingly: Come on lest “Nothing” us delay.

The whole first part is remarkable for its good humour and its poor results. And no wonder. For, we learn in chapter 8 that this was a play, a prelude, and an exercise only. And to prove that he means what he says, all the dearly bought results of part One are refuted or given up in part Two. At the end, we do not know what is true in this respect; and what is more, we do not care. What has happened? Augustine says explicitly that he wishes to lead both into a quest for the good and blessed life; however, he has taken an unusual start. Mostly, when a moral issue is involved, we plunge directly into the material problem involved. Instead, this time, the conversation begins with a reflection on the means of discussion, of speech and the signs used in speech. These very signs may be taken too seriously. And that is why Augustine wanted them to be shown up in their relative importance. The first half of the dialogue plays with the unimportant; the second is seriously concentrating on the essence.

Some of the modern Augustinians will dislike the idea of dismissing a part of the discussion as less important. To the logicians, a difference in importance is a foreign idea. They are serious all the time; and so they become ponderous. I suggest that just this has happened to Mr. Leckie. The conditions of play and work are nearly unknown today to the philosopher.2 Yet, it is a fact that people who live together must play and work together, both, we play together in our state of innocence. We must work together for our sins. 75 years ago, Horace Bushnell wrote an essay on play and work in which he said that play was the normal thing, and work should be lifted up to the level of play. And the church holds that the liturgy is a play of humanity in the face of their Father. In Heaven and so far as we are in heaven, we play; on earth, and in so far as we must work out our salvation, we struggle. The dualism that divides human activities, is the dualism between play and struggle. The difference between theory and practice is a fallacy. Thought is struggle as much as any other doing. Of course when we compare leisurely thought, irresponsible talk on one side, and responsible labour and toil on the other, the division between mere theory and realistic practice is very tempting, we are misled by the fact that in this case the act of thought is a play, the act of our hands is serious. Serious thought and wilful practice would be divided the other way round: the practice of the player is quite irresponsible, purely “theoretical,” the thought of the doctor who tries a diagnosis, is strictly responsible, hence the most real practice. Let us replace the futile division: theory versus practice, by the realistic: play versus struggle.

In allowing Adeodatus first to play with him, Augustine prepares for the full warmth and light of that region where the blessed life is lived. Today when we work with one kind of people and play with another, our beat thoughts remain our private property. Why has everybody today a private religion only? Because we cannot find the truth together when we do not play together. For that reason, we find little truth together; most truth that we find remains our private affair. The dialogue itself, in its method, is a specimen of how [S. 15] people may find the truth together.

By this method, Augustine is able to lift Adeodatus from one level of thought to another. This shift of level is the real goal of education. As long as people think of teaching merely as the instruction of facts, this shift in level is overlooked or even denied. Many teachers would say that we move on one and the same level during a lecture. That this is not true is proved by the simple fact that even they cannot help cracking a joke once in a while. If they would analyse 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. And this is Augustine’s problem all through the De Magistro. The student plays, the teacher struggles with the truth. The student is faced by a question in the classroom which to him has not yet become personal. For, we anticipate life’s experiences by going to school and by learning from others. Hence, the things to be learned even by the best and most eager student, are faced from afar, and this gives the student an attitude towards these questions as though he might toy with them. He, every adolescent, plays with ideas. As a friend of mine said to me: “Never take a man up on what he has thought before he was thirty.” Hence, the play situation is represented by the student. The teacher, it need hardly be said, is the more entitled to the function of teaching, the more he has wrestled with the question in dead earnest. He may not struggle any more; but at one time, he must have struggled with the truth he is going to propound.

The past though past is serious. The future though approaching can still be played with. And the student’s playing with ideas, compared to the teacher’s convictions, compare like regular current and power current. We need a transformer, to bring the truth from the form of conviction to the form of play. Otherwise, it will not be accessible to the student. Hence, Augustine did play with Adeodatus first, and was quite willing to jettison part of his truth as having not much weight.

But this is not the whole process of teaching. For, the student must be made aware that the teacher is in earnest and that he, too, one day, will have to be in earnest. The transformer must work in the other direction, too. The playboy-attitude must be stepped up to seriousness. In the same manner in which the teacher shifts from his own plane to the student’s level, the student will have to move from his lukewarm and aloof attitude to eagerness and enthusiasm. He must be aroused to two acts. One, he must recognize and respect that the teacher is reporting a struggle, not a play with truth. The other, he must follow him into this struggle himself. Good teaching begins with a joke and ends with a challenge. They represent the two levels which wait to be equalized by the transformer called teaching or education.

To degrade teaching into puerility or to sublimate it into crusading, are the two dangers of teaching. Play and struggle, low voltage and high voltage, shall be equalized. When they are, all that which education can do, has been done. Both partners enter into this [S. 16] process as completely as electricities enter the transformer. Neither the teacher nor the student are master of this free process. It has an elementary character. It may succeed or it may miscarry. As long as we overlook this aspect of teaching; the relation of struggle and play, of conviction and idea, we may think of education as a safe trade in which some ware changes hands. And our recipes on “techniques” betray this evaluation of education as a thing which can be mastered by the teacher and of learning as a process to be mastered by the will of the student. And it is true, instruction can be drilled in by relatively safe methods. Knowledge and information can be imparted by sound techniques. However, nothing of importance about man himself can be transmitted without the full investment of two real lives in a situation which is and remains risky. The more important the topic of teaching, the more risk is involved. The struggle and seriousness may be misunderstood, the jokes of the teacher may be misinterpreted. And when Hegel said: “I had one student who understood me, and he misunderstood me,” he had the courage to crack a joke which was much more than a joke. He who has never been misunderstood, may be sure that that which he had to say, was not important.

The truth, conveyed by play and struggle both, must emerge beyond these two forms in which the student and the teacher conceive of it.

And this is the text of the second half of the dialogue. Since teaching miscarries so often, Augustine tries to eliminate some frequent causes of the miscarriage. The simple fact that we get involved into any kind of conversation and social intercourse, invariably exposes us to the danger of misunderstanding and of being misunderstood. The signs and words used in speech, learning, teaching, seem to be “owned” by the interlocutors, we credit them with their meaning. We view them as the masters of the situation. The term “original sin” is not used by Augustine with regard to this situation. And it is well known that he never was able to solve the mystery of this concept of original sin to his own satisfaction. But the situation in which we find ourselves by conversing, is not far distant from the dilemma which the church described by this term. We are near it when we see Augustine describe# the indecisive and arbitrary plays of mere sagacity and dialectics and how they becloud the moral issue which props up in every conversation. As soon as we are unaware of the risk and consider the partners of a conversation as its overlords and not as elements in an unforeseeable risky event, of which they are mere subjects subjected to undergoing it, we attribute to them a power which they do not have, what happens when we have played together? What does it mean when we become serious? Does it mean that we become thinking machines? Understand the decisive turn by which the teacher’s role is transposed from a rational, logical, pragmatic, scientific, and scholastic role into the realm where it really belongs and within which it becomes clear that every man must teach. And why human beings are by nature obliged and authorized to teach as much as we assume that every child should take the opportunity to learn.

The teacher is stripped of his logical togs. He may be a great scholar or an expert or a logician or a scientist. But in the act of teaching, he does not function in this capacity of a “mind” or intellect. In the process of teaching he gets involved because he has a [S. 17] soul. In Augustine’s metaethics, it becomes obvious that the teacher must be satisfied with an ethical role. Any such role is enacted not by the mind in us or by the intellect but by the little something without which the modern mind would like to explain education and teaching. William James thought that our rational explanation of the universe did not stand in need of this little something. And modern psychology and John Dewey’s philosophy dismiss it with a shrug of their shoulders. William James, at least, admitted that the little thing might have to be allowed in again if a champion could be found who could show some pragmatic significance for it. Now, Augustine is this champion of the exercised term “soul” because teaching cannot be explained if the teacher has no soul.

For, the teacher is torn between his duties to the truth and his love for the pupil. AND WE CALL “SOUL” THE POWER WHICH CAN TOWER OVER OUR TORNTOPIECESHOOD BETWEEN CONTRADICTORY TENDENCIES IN US. The soul is the power to forbear conflict. 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.

What is the situation? The man of good will learns, Augustine says (chapter 11). The boy of bad will falls. The teacher may infect the will of the student by combining his love for the truth and his love for the student. If the teacher testifies to his membership in the fellowship of truth and at the same time keeps his membership in the play community which he has formed with the student, his testimony may take the boy up into the serious fellowship.

Since this is the core of the dialogue, it is worth the trouble to consult our present day translations. We find that Leckie is uneasy when he is confronted with the bold sentence: Tantum cuique panditur quantum capere propter propriam sive malam sive bonam voluntatem potest. Leckie translates this: there is revealed to each one as much as he can apprehend through his will according as it is more perfect or less perfect. Augustine says, however, much more bluntly that the truth is spread as a linen or a rug, on our good will and cannot be spread if it would have to be laid upon a wicked will. We are so unaccustomed to the harsh statement that a student’s will might be wicked and that only on a good will the linen of truth may be spread, that it is quite understandable to find our text mitigated in the translatlon. This character of the modern mind is brought out even more sharply in the translation by Tourscher: “It is opened out so far to each one as each one is capable to grasp by reason of a good or a bad habit of life.” I doubt if the term Habit of Life, arouses in the modern reader the full sound of Augustine’s word which sums up all our habits of life into “will.” Habit of Life, it seems to me, is used by us too much in the sense of specific habits. Augustine calls a spade a spade. To call wicked or evil will merely “less perfect,” or the central direction of man’s decision a habit of life, conceals the antilogical character of the educational situation. The man of good will is the man who is open to the two forces: faith in the teacher, and love of the truth, without which learning cannot proceed. Reciprocally, the teacher must have faith in the truth, and love for his student. The dualism in the student is echoed by the dualism in the teacher, but not mechanically. There where the student has good will, the teacher employs faith. There where the teacher is bound by his interest [S. 18] in the student, the student is bound by his faith in the good will of the teacher.

The Correspondence of Human Beings

The second part of the De Magistro dethrones the teacher from his Lordship over logical truth. The great Guru in India, the heads of the schools in antiquity were fountainheads of truth. Augustine insists on a triangular relation. God who is love and truth both, instills love in the teacher, truth in the student.

The modern reader will say: “Well, we know this. We no longer exalt the great teacher. We consider the teacher just one facility like any other.” The student is admired by our progressives who tell him to be creative. Behind the child, the teachers disappear today as hired men, as the impersonal tools of the child’s growth.

However, if Augustine’s analysis is right, the modern attitude although topsyturvy compared with antiquity, is just as deficient as the pagan. Neither the child nor the adult carry the process responsibly. They can carry it only correspondingly. And their correspondence goes on in a medium common to both. Neither has the teacher a private claim to the truth which he has either heard or discovered nor does the child discover the world all by himself. When people think of a human relation as a purely dual relation, husband and wife, capital and labor, teacher and students, it nearly always seems to happen that the dualism soon is reduced by one faction to one half of the two, and by another faction to the other half of the pair. Labor says: I am everything, and we have communism. Capital says: I am everything, and we have exploitation. The husband says, I am everything, and we have the autocrat at the breakfast table. The wife says: I am everything, and we have — but I shall not say what. Now, in education, after giving nearly everything to the Guru, the teacher, we now hear people declaim about the learning genius of the child. In our age of the masses, the leader hides behind the masses which he leads, the teacher hides behind the sucklings whom he indoctrinates. Another fiction. This time, the truth is as much distorted as it was before.

May I suggest that all over our social world, any dualism runs the risk to be reduced to a monism when and as long as it is not interpreted as a trialism? Therefore it is of the essence that we understand the trialism as advocated by Augustine. Before I am “labor” or a “capitalist,” I am a man. Before a man acts as teacher or as student, he is a human being. But what is a human being? How does the human being assert himself after I am disguised as a teacher, a husband, a capitalist?

The human being, not the teacher, is bound. As a capitalist, I “can” exploit or I “could” exploit labor; as a human being, I cannot. As a teacher, I can argue ad infinltum and sell my brand of truth like the sophists of all times, for big money. As a human being, I cannot. An exploiter, a communist, a reform school child, a tyrant, may deny this “I cannot”; they may shout: “In the devil’s name, why can I not do as I have power to do?” Yes, why not? They all can overplay their social role, and we see them abuse it often. But is it not strange [S. 19] that the abuses do not range much farther? As a boy, I always pestered my father who had been to Russia and reported on the bribes and corruption under the Czar; with the one question: How can a country live in this way? How does one know that the bribe buys the goods? Why don’t people accept the bribe and then simply refuse to make their promise good? I must have asked the question a hundred times. And my father always replied: It costs you from 15 to 25% of the sum under litigation; but at this expense, you are perfectly sure of the outcome. The abuse is in itself limited and restricted to this margin.

Now I understand what I failed to understand then. Even the corrupt judge, it seems, — and he is I suppose the worst sooial weed of all — is bound by one little claim which he makes himself. He wishes to be called a human being. Even Richard III while he has resolved to become a monster, expects to be loved, to be called a human being by some woman. This terrible dependence of man on being called man, is the whole fence which prevents him from going mad with conceit, or crime. As long as I pride myself of being a human being, I make two claims which are extremely difficult to push and to put over. One is that I have being, that I am real, and the other that I really am a human being. These two claims are just as bold as a claim to a gold mine, and as difficult to protect. Incessantly, others brush me aside as having no real importance, and that is, no being. And all the gossip in town, at one time or another, makes inroads on my claim to being human.

There exists an algebraic equation of a severity as 2 and 2 equals 4, whenever a man claims to bear a name. I call myself A: then I want to be called A, by others. Speech is a severe bondage. It is based on the golden rule that the name which I use shall be applied by others. When I say A, I start a mathematical operation in my community. I set out for an algebraic equation, holding on to my name A and the operation is going on until either the community has come round to my nomenclature and then: the equation reads: my A equals your A. Or, I may abandon my claim, and be satisfied with the name B or C conceded me by the rest of the world.

Now, I may abandon all particular names: American, Christian, teacher, lieutenant, and yet survive. But I cannot survive the loss of my two titles as “being” and as being human. If I loose my claim to the second, I am proscribed and treated as an outcast. If I lose my claim to the first, I am put in a lunatic asylum, as hopelessly unreal. So, any human being, to his ending day, holds out these two claims: Treat me as being real and as being human, and waits for the social algebra which bears him out. 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 that Mr. Hitler was needed to prove to them that it was a perpetual miracle that this correspondence should make itself heard and felt. John Dewey, born in 1859, in the year of Darwin’s book on the survival of the fittest, is so completely naive about the operations which in this year of the Lord, surrounded the birth of John Dewey, gave him his name, his schooling, his career, his freedom, and his reputation all over the world, that when we read his [S. 20] books on education, the humanity of teacher and pupil and their reality are taken for granted. He only wants to see them grow, and act intelligently. But grow into what; into chauffeurs who are so efficient at 100 miles an hour that they break all speed laws? into women who decline to have children because it does harm to their slimneas? Foxes are intelligent, and weeds grow tall.

Nowhere in modern education a word is said about the roles which precede social action and intelligence and growth. The roles of being real and of being human, as a claim and a response, as a hope of the society, and an acceptance by us, as a name bestowed on us, and an equation of self-consciousness and social reputation. Because it all was quite safely assumed to be taken care of, in 1859 when John Dewey was born, and the struggle for survival was proclaimed.

But a human being does not struggle for survival; man goes to war. This is the very opposite of the struggle for survival. We struggle for other things than for our own survival. Why? because we hold on to the phantastic claim that we are real, alive or dead and that we are in a conversation in which we make claims or give answer to claims made on us. I know of course that the survival of our social group is today identified with the Darwin theory. But this is not true either. However, this is not the place to prove the fact that a man who goes to war may fight and die without this hope. WE# may be content with the obvious. A human being is not primarily interested in his own survival. No marriage, no childbed, no war, no religious persecution, no ordeal, no, not one of all these events, could take place ever, if man were primarily interested in his enlightened self-interest.# Growth and intelligence do not suffice to direct our lives. Both are too self-centered. No man has ever lived by them, except the victims of pragmatic education. But we do live by the great human bondage which precedes any division of labor in society, and which stirs us into action and suffering and adventure and risk, all our life. This correspondence is like an unending conversation which is carried on with us. Elsewhere, I have shown that we do not start this conversation ourselves; the first thing we know about it, is a claim made on us.3 We are called long before we call back. On the other hand, since this conversation keeps us alive, we are for ever curious about the next answer, in this correspondence with the universe. It makes all of us thirst for some witness outside our transitory social function. Teacher or student wish to correspond to somebody outside the classroom because they wish to insure themselves against the loss of their human reality during the hour. The correspondence must get them outside their “roles.”

It is of great historical interest to see Augustine unfold this primary relation of the man in the teacher and the man in the student to a third, corresponding voice. As long as either the teacher or the student think too highly of their own role in the process of conversing, they will say: “I teach,” “I learn.” These two expressions show a lack of correspondence. The medium inside of which the alleged two “Egos” find themselves is not considered. And yet, this medium of a common atmosphere is the astounding an tremendous fact preceding [S. 21] their own activities. “Atmosphere” is one of these wonderful academic avoidances of religious taboos. “Atmosphere” stands for common spirit, for what people breathe together, in as well as out. Atmosphere seems to be a natural fact; but since the term is nothing but a translation of “Spirit” it now to us becomes transparent as a social fact. The two, teacher and pupil, already form a “we” before they split into two Egos. Their possibility of conversing at all is conditioned by this common spirit which makes them meet with pencils instead of with shot guns. Hence the two Egos must be made to perceive this common basis, background, condition of one spirit.

He quotes from the prophet Isaiah the very word from which later Anselm of Canterbury took his “I believe so that I may understand” and which reads: “Unless you have given credit, you shall not understand.” Augustine says that the student must first believe the teacher — modern theory notwithstanding — and from there go on to come in touch with the truth directly. We begin rightly by trusting our elders; in as far as they love us; they deserve our trust. Love is a claim to being trusted. But we must go on from there because God is not Love alone. He also is Truth and he asks us to meet him as truth as much as before we may have met him as Love. As truth we shall not meet him through other people’s glasses. All our qualities of a human being must be brought into play one after another. The teacher should not overtax his love, the student not overdo his faith. They must admit their greater partner, God, to their relation. Then, teaching is regenerated and converted and “rightly” treated. In teaching and learning, both partners undergo a process of reciprocal nature. We are cleansed of our distemporary limitations the teacher by sacrificing to the future, the student by sacrificing to the past. Then, they have remained human, despite the moral risks of childishness and austerity implied in teaching.

The Biographical Place of De Magistro

Let us stop here and raise once more the question: What does this dialogue achieve in the personal life of the two people involved in it?

A great teacher of the world, Professor of Rhetorics in the Roman Who Is Who? is speaking about rhetorics to his natural son. Adeodatus, at seventeen, is bright and mature. He is a real student besides being a son. This means that twice as much is put on this boy’s shoulders than on the average boy who has to deal in the crisis of his puberty with a teacher here and a father there. Adeodatus is his father’s student for years now. And this is not all. This same father and teacher has become a moral hero. He has dragged his son from one excitement to the next by taking him through the phases of his conversion to Christianity. Adeodatus went to baptism with his father. Where a normal child labours under one pressure, Adeodatus labours under three. Physical father, intellectual teacher, and moral hero, are present in one and the same person. It is true, the father had been baptised, and the son had been baptised. However, the relationship father-son was not baptised, so far. Augustine now was a Christian; Adeodatus was a Christian. Their fatherhood and sonhood [S. 22] were as before. Usually, a godfather and godmother take care of a child against the bodily parents. In our case, this was out of the question. Adeodatus was far too old, and had lived with his father all his life. The baptism happened far too late in life to protect Adeodatus against his father’s spiritual despotism.

And here was Augustine, only 35 years of age, and his boy 17, both in the stage of fighting still. All the odds are against Adeodatus.

In this dilemma, Augustine himself serves the sacrament of spiritual emancipation to his son. And this is achieved by the dialogue. The dialogue ends on a tone which is unusual, personal, biographical. “I am not your real father, I am not your rabbi, (= teacher), I am not your master and hero,” these verses from St. Matthew XXIII become so eloquent in the mouth of Augustine. And he felt it; for in his Retractations, he sums up the whole dialogue after this quotation from the Bible!

He first shoots his summersaults together with Adeodatus in his respectable fields of grammar and rhetorics. He pokes fun at his authority as a grammarian and rhetorician. And then, he steps down or up to his real and serious role as loving admonisher. Thereby he completes his boy’s spiritual emancipation. The history of the world hardly contains another case in which the words of the New Testament, these three verses 8, 9, and 19 against fathers, teachers, and bosses, resound with more meaning, more jubilance, more vigour than in our dialogue where they are meant to save the soul of Adeodatus. I do not know of any other case where a son was going to have his spiritual liberty sponsored and warranted by so imposing, so violent, so colossal a father. Would you or I have liked to be the son of Aurelius Augustinus?

Alas, his later students had no easy task. The dire need for De Magiatro is proved by the besetting sin that we find in Augustine’s own classroom at work. His disciple Eraclius preached in the presence of his teacher and the whole class one day and immediately went off in the same mood which Augustinus so violently refuted in De Magistro. Eraclius says: Quidquid enim tibi in nostro sermone placuerit, agnosce quia tuum est; quidquid autem displicuerit, ignosce, quia meum est.4 This is the language in which our Saint might speak of God and himself, but which repudiated between mortals. The father did better than the bishop. This depressing example of adulation shows what the style of life still was and how very practical Augustine’s considerations were. The contrast between Adeodatus and Eraclius may be taken as a test for the vital character of De Magistro, and our right of interpreting it as such. Augustine’s own promise to give the positive doctrines later, is also a valuable testimony in this direction since it proves the programmatic character which he ascribed to our text.

To sum up, the sacrament of baptism of 387, is supplemented in 389 by the sacrament of spiritual emancipation. It has often been said that Augustine is personal. The whole history of the world, to [S. 23] him is his autobiography. The De Magistro is truly Augustinian. When we lift it to the level of a sacrament that purifies his last natural and pre-Christian loyalty, its form and content both are perfect. All other interpretations are at a loss to explain parts of the whole satisfactorily. When looked at biographically, the dialogue says: the Christian democracy is re-established; Teacher and Student move on one level of spiritual equality.

One cannot speak highly enough of the scientific potentialities eradiating from De Magistro. Many pre-Christian, pre-Augustinian fallacies about teaching linger in our classrooms. The greatest fallacy seems to me the most widely spread, namely that to teach logic means to be logical, or to teach science means to be scientific. This is simply not true, and we must be completely illogical, unscientific and irrational when we want to teach. For teaching is not indexed in the department of logic or science, it comes under the department of biography, and politics. 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. ‘Indicabo me tallbus’ (Then I can show myself to them).”# Or as his disciple Eraclius said in the bad sermon with this one grain of gold: “What we see in him, is ours when we are in love with him.” Teaching is charity, not thought; it comes nearer to the actus purus of charity than most human activities which are tainted by the will. The difficulty of modern psychology seems to me the constant confusion between will and love. Psychology believes in the wrong pagan triad: will, reason, feelings, and love must be squeezed in as a kind of will which it is not. Love and will have as little to do with each other as a wedding ring with a gun. Will turns against external things, love is the creator of one body. How, then, can the oneness between teacher and student be explained in terms of will [Komma?#] and reason? They form, from charity, a body of time; they are incorporated into an organism of time. A very practical consequence must be drawn from this distinction between will and love in regard to education. The pre-Christian world which is always around us, exalted the teacher into something of a hero or mountain of authority. The world of today does the opposite: teachers are discarded in favour of the student’s self. We are told that the student makes all the discoveries himself. And the progress of education shall lead us into a time where the children need no teaching. Poor children. They will be cheated out of the body of unity in which old and young, teacher and student, become one. Both enter into one hour of foregetting time and space, by playing and thinking together, and therefore are released from fear. The hour from eleven to twelve in the classroom in a course of logic is a battlefield of reality, is a full present. The teacher is not teaching in the name of his science as Thomas Aquinas thought; he is not teaching in the name of a board of education or of the State as most people think today. Teaching has not any authority outside its own realm of charity and faith by which it establishes the fellowship between an older and a younger specimen of the human race. Teaching is the model social situation because it gains time. The contribution of the teacher’s interest in the student, the student’s faith in the teachers creates the time gain underlying society. Any sociology, that omits to put teaching in its centre, is unreal. That is why we have so many unreal sociologies. They do not see that the gaining of time is man’s political problem. Of this later. Let us first do full justice to Augustine himself. [S. 24]

The De Magistro must make up for a tremendous danger of Augustine’s doctrines. To him who saw everything as biography, everything as transition and change in the human life, the soul is in every moment in danger of being nothing but passing.5 The educational situation as I shall show in a moment is the antidote against too much temporality, too much transition and rush in our inner life. How can we avoid to overtax our poor soul by too much change? St. Augustine is anxious to put humanity in its place between the divinity and the world of matter. Change, history, progress is inherent to man; God is in eternity; matter is in space. Augustine literally says that time is the special property and qualification of man. You easily see how dangerous such a doctrine may be for the individual. Mere change is so fatiguing, so exasperating, because it makes you lonely time and again, from one of our ages to the next. Although growing in wisdom, man’s growth must be balanced by achievement. This is done by the educational situation, between human beings. The experience of an old and the growth of a young person are welded in an hour of communication. In this hour, the partners are lifted beyond their individual age. They now represent two different ages, at least, in one “body of time.” Together, they represent different tenses in the grammar of society or, with a favourite term of Augustinus, two different verses in the dramatic song of creation. The teacher and the student do not and cannot think the same things in this hour of communication. It would be blasphemy for a teacher to identify his thought with the student’s thought. The itineraries of their minds are personal and must differ. But because this difference is survived and overcome, because the partners in the dialogue give each other three times, one to express experience, another time to grow, and a third time to communicate, they represent the model opportunity for man to have peace. By giving each other time, we communicate and become brothers; peace is nothing else but a state of society in which we are able and willing to give each other time. In war, in the struggle for life, in the jungle, there is no time. When fellowship joins men of different ages, the times cease to be out of joint.

As an epilogue, or as a summary, I would like to look for a last time into the text. In chapter 14, we read that people are apt to overlook the time element in teaching. We perceive so quickly, it could seem that the teacher does what in fact the lapse of time does for the student. Augustinus says: Mostly (plerumque) no time passes between the teacher’s exposition and the listener’s grasp. Although this occurs perhaps in the majority of cases, the fact that it does not happen always, is sufficient proof that it is a fortuitous coincidence. And the key to the educational process is furnished by the minority of cases in which time passes (mora interponitur) between the teacher’s words and the student’s grasp. This interval is precious for our understanding, and it may be given a special name; Richard Cabot for instance called it incubation. Here we have a point which I recommend to over-accentuate in the future. This period of [S. 25] incubation is at the heart of education. Augustine allows for incubation. Our summer vacations allowed for incubation. It is barbarism to abolish them. To deal with time, between human beings, requires not less than all the three cardinal virtues. Faith is indispensable on the side of the Student before he can understand. Love is required on the aide of the Teacher who must take an interest in the growth within the Student. And both must hope that their contributions meet in the opportunity to communicate. The reality of teaching is in need of all three qualities and of the three times. “The body of the time,” to use the Shakespearian phrasing, contains past, future, and present in order to attain reality. Left to themselves, these times are abstractions. Incarnation is due to the possibility of communication. And Augustine’s remark on incubation shows as strongly as his pet phrase: Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis, and his combining love (charity) with truth, that all the elements of the process are keenly observed by him.

And his own book is the best illustration of his program. De Magistro is the full incarnation of two people in their biographical conflict and harmony. It is easy to define the beauty of this piece. A great man and an adolescent play together. In doing so, they eventually forget their earthly station as father and son, magister and discipulus, hero and follower, and go beyond their accidental roles. They move before us like two verses in one song of praise. And with an Augustinian notion, we see the beauty of temporal vicissitude, and see the orbits of their times associated to the song of the universe.6

Former Evaluations

Our result is rather unexpected. At least, it does not coincide with the evaluation put on De Magistro by either one of the three groups that have commented on it. It is only fair to hear how De Magistro has been interpreted in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance, and today. The extreme character of the three evaluations may well amaze us. To begin with our own times, we may say that the De Magistro is remarkably popular. Mr. Gilson gives it a number of pages in his study of Augustine. Twenty years ago, Father Tourscher published the Latin text; in 1924, he printed an appealing translation. Finally, in 1938, there was published a new edition by a friend of Mr. Scott Buchanan, George Leckie, which I must mention despite the shocking fact that Leckie does not mention Tourscher. I must mention him because his long and very solemn introduction is the best illustration of what people in our days think that they can get out of De Magistro. Leckie’s thirty eight pages of introduction deal with cognition, the liberal arts, especially grammar. The boy Adeodatus to whom Augustine is talking, the situation in which father and son were in 389, after leaving their academic friends in Italy, are not mentioned. The doctrine of the book is investigated because Leckie believes that the Greek trivium, Grammar, Rhetorics, Dialectics, still offers ultimate truth to us, at least in the purified form in which Augustine presents them. Science, intellectual virtue, not moral energies, emanates from [S. 26] De Magistro, for this school of thought.

Now, let us look back into the Middle Ages, to the Augustinian Bonaventura. His interpretation is condensed in a picture. You probably all are familiar with Fra Angelico’s painting of the scene which might be called Bonaventura’s commentary of De Magistro. Bonaventura who wrote the famous “Itinerary of the Mind to God” in the Augustinlan tradition, received the call of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas when entering his colleague’s cell was surprised to find it devoid of bookshelves along the walls. “Where is your library?” he seemed to ask. Bonaventura withdrew a discrete curtain: a crucifix hanging from the wall, was his library. Christ was the Master of this great soul. Not just the teachings of the living Jesus as found in the Scriptures, to be sure; but the inner Cross and the inner Christ on the Cross were his books. The last words of our dialogue constituted the centre of the book for its medieval readers, not the trivial chapters on the trivium. Their earthly teaching was left behind much more definitely than in Augustine himself.

But it would be too simple, to see a dualism only: Bonaventura driving too fast on to the Christian goal, Leckie and the modern logicians getting stuck on the pagan road of the dialogue. For, we have a third tradition, that of humanism. In 1527, the Prince of the Humanists, Erasmus of Rotterdam, commented on Augustine’s De Magistro. And in his few remarks, he gives the quintescence of humanistic criticism against Holy Writ as it has been applied ever since. He makes two points. 1. A few, plain truths of philosophy and theology (mark that philosophy has precedence) are obscured and frustrated by Augustine’s skill in saying nothing in many words. The low scientific standard of his days led to this vicious performance. 2. The content of the dialogue may be reduced to the Platonic truth of the Logos, as the universal reason of all men. This Platonic notion has been quoted by St. John and was rhetorically expounded by Augustine. — To this, Erasmus adds the maxim of all reductionists: This dependance should be carefully kept in mind by all readers of the Fathers; we cannot understand the Fathers without investigating from which philosophy they got their ideas.

In short, Erasmus says: What is good in Magistro, is Plato; And the form which is bad, is the only property of Augustinus. I was surprised to find as early as 1527 the same scathing method of the source-hunters that has dissolved in dust Homer and the Bible, the Nibelungen and only by a narrow margin, has missed out with Shakespeare. The Erasmus of every age reduces a text to its alleged sources; the text so reduced appears as a pure and poor contamination and loses all value. Well we shall have to face this reductio ad Platonem too. Is Bonaventura right in forgetting the human relations of the learning soul completely, putting her behind a curtain with her one Master in heaven? Is Leckie right that it is the best basic doctrine for a renewal of the ancient world’s ways of grammatical, logical and dialectical teaching? Is Erasmus right that the nucleus is Platonic, and that Augustine puffs this nucleus up rhetorically?

If any of these three judgments were right, I should not care for the booklet. However, they all treated the De Magistro as though [S. 27] it was written by Rhetor or Bishop. Therefore, they could not see the act of jettisoning the play-section by which act the book became biographical. True biographical acts have objective value. Biography is at the core of sociology. That is the masterful doctrine of “De Magistro.” For all biographical events correspond. Our lives are reciprocal.

Undoubtedly, then, we stress an aspect completely neglected by others, and we neglect the aspects stressed by them. Yet, we may hope to justify our view if we can do justice to theirs. And indeed, these judgments were quite justified when we consider the central interest of the writers … Bonaventura expected to meet the saintly Bishop of Hippo. Erasmus expected an imitator of Plato. Leckie thirsted for some solid foundation for teaching the elements of the trivlum. They all concentrated on that element in the dialogue which represents their expectation.

After all, we did likewise. We concentrated on the biographical situation of Augustine and Adeodatus — in a vacuum between academic world and holy church. But we feel that we could do justice to all the parts of the dialogue; we did not have to be choosy. In the first half, the two interlocutors were distemporaries, one old, one young. In the second half, they lived in the presence of God, as his children. And in the light of eternity, their temporal differences had disappeared. The transformation of the two, from part one to part wo, was the topic that put all the interpretations together.

The De Magistro — and I think, the variety of interpretations confirms my thesis — makes biographical reciprocity — an event in time — the core of education, of social life. We who are submerged by an economic, naturalistic, speechless, sociology in which education forms an annex to the “facts” — may take heart that a legitimate science of society has a sound basis and a great tradition. Where a man transcends his own time, there does he enter society. All societies create presents. The highest aim is to create the greatest, most comprehensive present. But the frail present created between Adeodatus and his father Augustinus contains all the elements which go with the most grandiose scheme of social organization. Here is the living cell and a society which intends to live will consist of living cells or not at all.

The Creation of a Body of Time

The “De Magistro” is a dialogue in which something happens to the type called “a dialogue” itself. In the pagan dialogue somebody taught somebody else, proved him wrong, or proved, perhaps, that both interlocutors were ignorant.

When the ancient dialogue tried to become positive, it sloughed off its dialogical character. The late Platonic dialogues no longer were dialogues, but dissertations. St. Augustine put this old form before us and employed it first as a playform of the human mind. Plato, too, used to play before he came to the point. But that which would be the content of the serious part in a Platonic dialogue, like Gorgias or Cratylos, is now the play [S. 28] part! Thereby, Augustine makes room for a third part (= his second) in which the dialogue itself is taken out of the hands of the two people who conduct it. The man of our era is in a position to know of the backstage from where the human drama is directed. In our era, human speech has changed its character. In an inspired conversation, all the interlocutors may change their opinions during the conversation. The spirit moves freely. At the end, the one and the other may have changed roles and convictions, both. The words spoken are not to be put over by one, and understood by the other. The partners acknowledge a third power which does the moving of their minds and which allows them the complete freedom from their initial role or principles because their hearts are united.

This freedom is especially difficult for a teacher. Since in his case, the onesidedness of the direction of the current is so much in evidence: he seems to know; the student does not know.

How, then, is it possible to say that In a lesson, the two partners both unite in a third unifying element and are both equally changed? How is “teaching” truly reciprocal?

If the process was merely the exercise of our rational faculties, no reciprocity would be obtainable. The teacher would be a faucet turned on by a more or less eager or fastidious child to sip some bit of information. If teaching were information, the telling of facts, then the teacher would be a paid facility. And as a facility, teachers have been labelled by modern speakers on education quite regularly. If this were true, teachers would be the most exploited class of society, proletarians who should fight for losing their chains as bored and abused “proletarians” sucked dry by impertinent brutes.

The modern theory of education, with a bland front towards the parents, alumni, pupils, flatters their demands; and from fear of disquieting these customers, is silent about the moral status of a teacher. John Dewey actually allows the teacher to be merely a wage-earner#. In his fundamentals of education, the teacher does not appear at all as a human being. He is a slot machine. His lubrication may come from heaven or from good pay; but it is not made the deepest riddle of the whole process. But why should anybody teach? Why does John Dewey write fanatically and inexhaustibly on education? Which passion drives him on? Is it a hidden, unscrutinized fever that makes him do all that he has done and does? Or is it a legitimate social energy and as accessible to investigation as the needs of the students?

If the teacher is not a real “liver” inside the educational field of force, if teaching means nothing in his life, then teaching must go out just as other forms of human servitude. A transcription over one big radio perhaps could replace it. If teaching is work, let us have teaching machines!

Everybody knows that all these assumptions are futile. Teaching is an integral part of any human being’s true life. How is this possible if the teacher knows all the contents of his teaching before he enters the classroom, and if teaching is a rational process? [S. 29] [Absatz?#]

Teaching would be mere duplication of my reasoning. Repetition, not life would be the whole process. Well it would be impossible if teaching were a rational process. But it is not. When John Dewey writes a book, he does so for utterly irrational reasons, for joy, pity, exuberance, sympathy, aggressiveness, hope, fear, for instance. And he does it by utterly irrational tools: patience, industry, justice, persuasiveness, learning, etc. Any teaching, when we forget emoluments, social rating, traditions of official schools and salaried teachers and all the things which make teaching a business, any teaching is based on three elements which place the people A and B in a time relation.

Let us now study this time relation as soberly as possible. A must be “older” than B with regard to the subject matter to be taught. He must have been involved in the matter before the lesson starts or he would not be the teacher. B is supposed either not to have been involved in the matter before at all or at least less than A. This makes B younger. Young and old are here clearly definitions of a relation to the theme of conversation. They have no foundation in physical age necessarily. The process of teaching forces us to consider “old” and “young” as relations of members of society to certain social experiences. Old and young, are not biological facts; they are social facts.

This is quite new and quite important. The ambiguity of “old” and “young” has concealed this social aspect of the terms too often. Of course, now after having defined our terms, we could use “teacher” and “student” again, instead of old and young. However, these two terms are overlaid with prejudices at this juncture; hence we better stick to our social usage of old and young somewhat longer.

What do we gain by doing so? Old and young stress a time relation. Man grows old by experience. He becomes saturated with “process” which enters him, and in this process, he is consumed and finally dies. The old are nearer death; the young nearer birth. Not because the old will not survive perhaps many of the young but because he is more informed and formed and moulded. To be old, we then may go on to say, means to be full of form. To be young, means to be less formed.

Now, “form” means dying. The most genuine life in us also is the most shapeless. To be young means to give the formative powers in us free rein. Formative powers will set to work only in plastic matter. The old person has abandoned a part of his plasticity. We are as old as we are definitely formed. Conclusion: a teacher renounces part of his own plasticity for the sake of teaching. For, when we teach we must try to represent old age in the face of younger ones. A teacher needs something statuesque against which the waves of the future, the young, can break. Lindberg’s Wave of the Future meant exactly this: an unbroken youth of the Nazi type, merely young and untaught by the experiences of older mankind, running on in waves of sheer youthful mentality.

Why should a teacher renounce youth for the sake of teaching? Is this not the most inhuman sacrifice? Teachers are made old by their students. Any student thinks that his teacher has his life behind him. The teacher-student situation conceals to the young the [S. 30] sufferings and battles and uncertainties of the older man. Every student looks into the teacher a kind of certainty and stability which the latter may not have at all. The classroom gives him the appearance of firmness, stability, certainty at least with regard to his subject matter. I always found that my students considered me infinitely older even when I was perhaps younger than they. What, then, does a teacher get in reward for renouncing his plasticity?

His reward is that he determines the future beyond his own time. With his interest in his student, he is effective after his own limited time and enjoins his experience on the younger generation. He sows into the physically younger a seed begotten on his own field of life; he conquers new territory for this experience or truth. When we listen to the call of teaching we are pulled by our love of an afterlife after our own individual death. “Ne ulla virtus pereat,” Let no energy be lost, is a general law of reality. Forces which do not know of their own death, might waste themselves. The force “Man” cannot do so without sinning against the law “Ne ulla virtus pereat,” because it is conscious of its own end. Man is forced to teach, to transmit his experiences in the form of sowing them into younger men because the law of the conservation of energy plus his foreknowledge of his own death combine to make him seek an outlet into the future beyond him. Man, in other words, wants to determine the future. One form of determining the future is teaching.

The element which forces men to teach is then the connection a man strives to have with the future beyond his own time. There is in man, then, a time-arc holding out towards a time which he himself will not enter. By this element, man reaches out into a second time beyond his own. Let us call this feeler not with the trite name “Love” but with the most abstract purely chronological term of the forwardizing force.

This forwardizing force is not to be thought as mere expansion into the future. It is based on the assumption of a break between my own time and the following time. The future is somebody else’s time. In teaching, the relation between present and future stands revealed as the relation between my life time and the times after my own death has occurred. A definite break is posited between present and after-present, and 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.

The analysis of a teaching man clarifies the relation of our time sense to our death-consciousness. Man knows of time because he knows that his own time is limited. Hence, he is forced in every moment of his life to distinguish between his own lifetime and all times beyond or after this inevitable event. Man handles two times “all the time,” so to speak. And he tries to transport as many particles of his life from the section of his own time to the section of time in general as he possibly can. The mechanic aspect of time as uninterrupted flow is not to be found in us. We have a split time sense. And the present and the future are separated by the grave. May be that this grave is not very tragic and does not even include our whole [S. 31] man. Between this present extant moment when I teach you the ABC, and your applying it, not much time has to elapse. I may very well live on beyond this lesson, and forget all about it. But still there yawns an abyss between the present of this lesson and the future although no complete physical death intervenes. The abyss simply means that my energy has found its outlet into a future beyond my own time, by telling you. The importance and beauty of the ABC made me wish that it should not be forgotten. I did something about it by testifying to its importance and by insisting on your taking it in. As soon as I have done so, I feel relieved, and I feel free to forget about this part of my experience. An experience successfully transmitted to others frees the transmitter from the burden under which he labors before he has gotten the transmission out of his system. And so, even in the most superficial form of teaching, there is a break between present and future. The forwardizing energy when it has left me, leaves me with a feeling of freedom I did not have before.

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.

Now, the pupil, too, is not shut in into his own lifetime. He, too, holds out an arc of time into the times beyond him and seeks to make a connection there with other times. But as a student, I try to make this connection with the past; I backwardize, chronologically. I wish to experience preceding experience. If I would decline to learn, I would be a brute. Nature has not found the secret of teaching the young the new experiences of the old. The transmission of newly acquired faculties is the privilege of a small part of nature’s chaos, especially of man. Man is he who can inherit faculties acquired by other members of the race.

The pupil, then, is not compelled to go beyond his death but he wants to get before his birth. Again, the term birth covers a multitude of situations, as the term grave did before with the teacher. I wish to learn how to ride. I must learn how others did ride before me, before the hour of my being born to the horse, so to speak, struck. It is the relations to specific experiences into which birth can be subdivided. As many varied experiences I undergo, as many births occur in my life. And as many times shall I try to learn the antecedents of this my new birth to this specific matter. I wish to get back behind my birth, into my so-called “background.”

In other words, or to coin a purely chronological term, a young man who learns, penetrates into the before-himself time, by backwardizing. He holds out a feeler into the past. He is compelled by his consciousness of birth to go back of his birth. Before him, men lived already. Whether he likes them or disapproves of them, they have formed all the matters and objects and words and laws and habits and rituals which he may conform with or reform. His freedom depends on his getting back of these forms into the time when they were still in process. To learn means to go before the forms into their formative moment. Because then, the past and my background cease to be rigid determinants of my own form and habit. In backwardizing, we re-enter [S. 32] the ranks of those who determined the past. The parallel to the teacher, then, is quite literal. The man who teaches determines the future by his experiences. The man who learns determines the past instead of being merely determined by it. And he distinguishes therefore between past and present clearly. There is a break between his present and the past, a break caused by his “birth.” To backwardize stresses the chronological aspect of the faith we have in the world as we find it, into its character as good, as a created order to be appropriated by us as heirs. To forwardize, stresses the chronological aspect of the hopes we entertain with regard to the future, to a time when we shall not be wasted and not have lived in vain, but form an integral part of reality, and remain inscribed into life as founders.

Now, how to get teacher and student together? One holds out his feeler into an “after-me” time; the other feels his way into a “before-me” time. In the hour in which they communicate, they build out of these two elements a common present.

The individual A, in his own time, plus his time-arc into an after-himself time, and the individual B, plus his time-arc into a before-himself time, step together on a platform created by their common effort but not existing outside this effort. During the hour during which pupil and teacher converse, time is forgotten in a very definite sense. What is said during this hour from eleven to noon is all simultaneous! What a teacher says at eleven twenty and eleven forty, does not belong to different times. How is this to be understood? Obviously, in physics, the moment 11.20 and the moment 11.40, are considered outside of each other. They are disconnected and they are separated by innumerable other moments between them. But this is true of physical, external time only. It is quite untrue of the classroom hour. During this hour, times are inter-twined which in one individual cannot be found. Alone, by myself, I cannot get before my birth or after my death. In the classroom or in any situation of teaching, I can. Here, the teacher in his impulse to reach the time shore which lies beyond his life (or beyond the liveliness of a certain period of his life with experiences which crave for succession), and the student in his impulse to reach the time shore before his own bursting into consciousness, are moving in opposite directions; one backwardizing because he asks for his first cause, his fatherland, his mother tongue, mother nature, his alma mater, his roots, his pedigree, the “evolution” of his universe and how all these innumerable labels for the “before-my-birth” impulse run. The boy and girl in us always ask: why? which is the birth-question. The backwardizing impulse of a person makes this person into a young person. To be young, is a relation to the past by which I try to unveil my mysterious antecedents. An unveiling tendency towards the world proves that this animal tries to become human by getting behind himself, by becoming its own author.

On the other hand, the quality of “old” means that the forwardizing impulse is active in a being. The senior’s animality tries to become human by reaching the time shore in front of it. The shore beyond my lifetime carries as many labels as the “why”-front?# Hence we have an accurate correspondence of old and young. The causal front of the junior who asks “why” and pierces the wall before his birth is not more numerously labelled than the “purpose” front of the old with its “wither?” This front contains all the “oughts” of the ethical code, [S. 33] all the anger of the sterile who are not in a harmless contact with future generations and who therefore get to the young only by slandering them. It includes all the reformers, revolutionaries, rebels, radicals, “-ists,” endowers of gigantic plants with no soul in the buildings, and also the real parents and ancestors and legislators of the future as well. They all try to become their own apostles. We all are driven beyond ourselves by craving authorship before our time and embodiment after our own time.

Now whenever one man’s “why” and another man’s “wither” can be soldered together, something happens. They found a body of time. It’s like a pipeline for the stream of consciousness, our psychologists might say. But I fear, the metaphor is not rich enough to make clear what really is attained when a “wither” and a “why” soul, an old and a young person fall in hope that they can help each other out.

Any Body of Time constitutes a fusion by which one’s time in the form of future and another’s time in the form of past are made accessible to each other by hope, faith, love. Without the mobilization of these three energies, the animal cannot become human, and the roving individual cannot ascend to the quality of reality, of being. It is the condition of your humanity, reader, that you read and write, listen and command, ask “why” and feel answerable for the “wither,” that you contain the two elements of old and young in you. The three tenses of grammar: past, present, future, do not exist unless the three energies or potencies called faith, love, hope, have become activated and effective.

We have discovered the great fallacy of our own humanistic tradition. Humanism accepted the division into past, present, and future# as a natural fact which seemed to be inherent in the world outside of man.

Humanism was mistaken. To divide time into past, future, present, is a creation of society. It is an expression for the “suppertime” which comes into being when more than one generation are made coexistent with each other. Wherever young and old learn to coexist, a creation takes place which allows them to contribute their two time horizons to one pool, inside a common hope. Inside this body of time, that into which the young wishes to penetrate is called the past; that into which the old desires to advance is called the future. But both, past and future, are qualified in that they remain outside the real grasp of the desiring individual itself.

The historical or social creation mediates between this frustrated individual and the time shore which he is longing for, by binding him to another individual with the opposite “time-shore” complex.

In this binding process, the span over which the two oppositely facing individuals overlap, is the present. I have as much present as I contain meeting ground within myself between my great great grandchildren and my great great grandparents. If I can hold a meeting between Old Methusalem and the man of 5678 A.D., in my chest, I am representative of so much past and so much future that my present is extensive. The present does not exist in nature. It is a gradual product of the three cardinal time-producing energies in society, and [S. 34] it has to be reproduced incessantly. The present may be lost. And then, the world breaks apart into individuals who are neither young nor old but unteachable urchins and unimpressible martinets.

Since the great fallacy of the “scientific” era took time for a natural we contemporaries of two world wars now have to use the term “supertime” for the processing of articulated time. Natural time is inarticulate. It is so fleeting that we do not bath a second time in the same river. The supertime allows for the articulation of one part as past, another as future, and the common life in between as present. The supertime is the superman in that it builds two “time shores” before and after the flood of my own life. These shores are assured only if I care for predecessors and successors of “my” life and am willing to identify myself partly at least with ways of life which went before me and shall come after me.

Past and Future “are” not. They are a process of frantic waving backward and forward and enlightening our comrade in hope about the time shore from which we stem or towards which we are heading.

It is necessary to replace “past” i.e. the world of facts by some such word which expresses dynamic movement backward, and “future” similarly by a term of process. Science has preempted the two terms “fact” and “future” which come from the New Testament. This Christian origin of the two terms is overlaid by the intervention of science which inherited them from the Church. In the New Testament, the “future” was the time in coming, the time shore beyond your or my life. And the “fact” of which Jesus spoke when he said, “It is done,” was the time “done” which from then on could form the background of every child born into our era. There now was one fact which formed the background back of every human being, a fact older than anybody’s life who would come into the world after Jesus, a fact to which the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve could look as naturally as they looked before to all the pedigrees of their tribes. They now were the brothers and sisters of one who had placed himself between all past and between all future, between all backwardizing impulses of the young and all forwardizing impulses of the old.

Antiquity did not know of any way of conquering time as I have shown elsewhere. Antiquity lived in mere cycles and ceaseless revolutions. Future and progress were unknown.

No wonder that those institutions of ours which we took over from the ancient world, try to ignore the social character of our time notions to this day. The academic world which is Greek in origin still cultivates a disdain for supertime, and for the energies which alone are able to produce it. Faith, Love, and Hope, are not considered worthy of scientific consideration. They are called irrational, unproven, non-existent, cobwebs of mystics. They are left to Sunday school teaching, by these humanists and scientists who in their timeless academic world look down upon the people who have to righten the times in war and peace and who support science, by their faith, love and hope.

Faith, hope, and love must have done a lot of special work before one course on logic may be announced at Wabash College. Love, [S. 35] faith# and hope# are the most real, most practical, most tested social energies. In fact, the virtues of which the world makes so much, justice, prudence, temperance, simply could not work unless there first is a society welded together of a number of generations. These generations must have created a cooperative present with common hopes, common past, common future before the pagan virtues can adorn the city. Supertime precedes the humanity of each individual. We become human by entering into a body of time.

We now are able to give these definitions:

A body of time is the product of social cooperation of at least two individuals who create a tripartition of time, a supertime which consists of a present between a past represented by one of the members of the team, and a future represented by the other. The present is held by both in a clasp of mutual trust.

When we speak of past, future, present, we always presuppose a more than individual or biological time. The supertime is based on the display of faculties in man which he owns in as far as he has a stake on time shores which lie in back and which lie in front of his own time.

Time is a standstill as one elongated extant moment, in the classroom, when and while the real past, the real future, and the real present are contributed. These tenses are real when they are separated from each other by a clear break, through the recognition of an interruption between past, present, future. The interruption is realized as a birth, between present and its background in a past; it is realized as a death, between the present and the after-me future. Birth and Death may be restricted to the birth or death of one particular part of the man. But it remains essential that man realizes them as absolute lines which hinder him to cross them in the flesh. Before we become “real,” we must have tasted birth and death. Reality is not to be had without first realizing our time shores. I cannot get into my background, into the formative energies which moulded my plasticity, in my own flesh, but only by faith in other people. And I cannot get in front of my own lifetime, except by my love for other people. But I want to get back and forward. I and everybody else backwardizes and forwardizes with might and main and we recognize each other in this human trait. And our hopes that one may help the other, draw us together. And we do create a timeless present.

The educational process is only one specimen of this social creation of time at a standstill. It visibly connects only two generations, one old, one young. And that is very little. But it is enough for a scientific study of the “time cell” out of which the whole body politic of society is composed. The educational situation is the smallest atom of supertime. The actual time of man is experienced in four dimensions: as past, as future, as physical fleeting moment, and as the standstill present.

The past means a before-my-time background, to be conquered by faith. The future means an after-my-life-time to be conquered by love. The timeless present is based on the common hopes of distemporaries [S. 36] that by pooling their time sense, they might become contemporaries of one standstill-present. And how about the fleeting time of science, this strange dogmatic concept of time which is used in our astronomical reckoning? Fleeting time becomes observable on the outside of any group which is bound into one supertime. The Eastern Standard Time is the external time which a supertime society fastens on the objects which are incapable of entering a present. That which we cannot incorporate into society, our outside world, is measured by this artificial time which its objects can’t realize. A “timeless” present is unknown to man. What is called so, is a standstill present in which the past, before birth, the future after death, and the physical present, are made coexistent. The success of this blending of the three tenses consists in our freedom to treat an earlier moment as later and a later moment as earlier, and to treat large stretches of time as having all one and the same “time,” of being contemporaneous. Whenever I can say, that the first moment and the last moment of an event, are actually indiscernible in their time character — for instance in a piece of music, or in a movie play, in which beginning and end obviously form one indivisible unit — I have attended the successful creation of the standstill present which is a blend of the three tenses, past, future, present, into one compound time. The success is based on the contribution which we make by bringing our time energies into play. Where we backwardize and have faith in the times before our birth, and forwardize by loving the times after our death, and have hopes in the present moment, we may create this standstill present by becoming representative of mankind in general. A representation of the whole including the before myself and the after-myself, has the soothing character of bringing time to a standstill.

He who does love the times after his death by energetic forwardizing is not rushed by his constant fear of death. He who does not fear the times before his birth, is not haunted by spectres and ghosts of his imagination.

But what do we see? Innumerable people seem to be haunted by the “before-themselves” and the “after-themselves” times. Psychoanalysis of the young and rejuvenation cures of the old are the two most advertised processes of our times. The standstill present between the generations must have broken down. Man is rushed and haunted, in even proportion. Could it not be that the misinterpretation of teaching and education has its share in this distortion of human times. In this case, the Augustinian dialogue might form the rallying point for a science of teaching and of society which includes the teacher’s own life problems, and thereby makes education the nucleus of all social life.

As the coexistence of more than one moment of time end as the articulation of the many times of man are the foundation of education, so is this same coexistence the central fact between nations, races, classes, professions. All our activities end functions in society, entered society at some day in history in a powerful birth and eruption. And all which proved their mettle had to rejoin the standstill present beyond their own partial existence and scope. They all entered a wider tapestry of life in which their background as well as [S. 37] their after-their-lifetime future were reconciled to their peculiar time span. No way of life can pose as the first or the last way of life, not even “the classless society” or the master race who both tried exactly this!

In this sense, my Autobiography of Western Man showed the coexistence of many “times” which the great nations of the West undertook to represent, one after the other. Each one of them broke into reality with an absolute claim of being the absolute and only form of being. Each one of them, in the course of an educational process was made a member, a relation of the family. We, in our days, are experiencing this process in the story of the Russian Revolution. Out of the only and absolute truth about economics, it has become one truth. Living at first to itself as though in its own times it was the only contemporary and as though everybody else was antiquated simply because his way of life had preceded Bolshevism, the Russians now join the Virginia reel of time, as one partner in the vast conversation of the whole race.

In many other monographs, on the polychrony of the people, on our economics, on the forms of government, on the shift in emphasis to various phases of our life cycle, the same fundamental law of time, of human time, was verified: Man can insist on one element of time, on his own time; but he has to become a correspondent in a body of time or his specific time will be wiped out. Times which wish to make a lasting contribution, have to develop the specific organs by which they can embrace their own predecessors and successors in time.

Each period, at first, is drunk with its own purposes. But each period is more than any one of its own purposes. It also is a tone in a symphony. Love, faith and hope, are the ears and voices by which the individual time can speak to all other times and be acclaimed by them as their brother. All the innumerable times receive their consecration from this acclamation and from their addressing themselves to all other times. Hence, the situation between one teacher and one student, is the paradigms of all social happening which comes into the world with the power to stay.

In the De Magistro, the creation of a common, standstill present is experienced. The ancient form of the Platonic dialogue is transformed into a biographical scene in the life of father and son. The son is emancipated. The dialogue is converted into an instrument of complete freedom.

Perhaps that this explains why Augustine could not compose the little library for his son which was to follow. The De Magistro had done something beyond formal instruction. It had made epoch. And an event of a strictly epoch making or biographical character cannot be repeated.

We shall never know this because Adeodatus died and Augustine became a bishop. And as our terrible example from Augustine’s own student has shown, inside the institutionalized church, teaching was deprived of this biographical character. 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 [S. 38] day, either in the Aristotelian forms of the middle ages or in the Platonic manner of the Liberal Arts college.

The Church as Magistra in as far as she transmits her secrets, Is not yet converted. Ecclesia Magistra est nondum Christiana. She teaches Christian things in pre-Christian, timeless style.

It was only in the interval between his Greek philosophy and his Christian theology, that Augustine for once, dropped the distinction between living and teaching, from love to his son. The dialogue is like a flash, holding out the promise of a life in which even education would not talk about life or report of life but be something in the life of the teacher.

There is a very simple criterion which shall show when this happy moment has come. When people today reform education — and show me the person who does not reform education — they discuss and plan and try to sell their new wares to parents or students directly as the case may be. They never take time out to become first of all new teachers themselves. The institution which would ask first how the salvation of the teachers can be achieved, and what they feel they must know and must transmit, and which would give infinite time to this question, would inherit the spirit of Aurelius Augustinus, not of the philosopher, not of the theologian, but of the man. Since we meet Augustine here as a human being, as the swimmer to the same time shores which we also have to reach in order to become human, the new science of time and supertime, is free to become a universal science.

From the frog’s perspective, the eternal Body of Christ which Augustine entered as bishop, is visible only in the fragmentary form of the individual’s limited contacts. I realize in my own lifetime only sketchy and small bodies of time through the precarious fellowships in which I am allowed to move. Hence, a science of time which expects to be recognized by us little frogs as dealing with facts, cannot begin in the sky of the most comprehensive experience of all mankind. It can appeal only to the minimum of social experience which every human being has because he has been called and wants to be called; because he wants to be real and wants to be human.

A science of time stands on the shoulders of Augustine but it cannot help being strictly secular.

On the other hand, this same science of time is as opposed to the method of natural science as science itself once was to the methods of the schoolmen in 1600. For the philosophy behind all science knows of fleeting, external and objective time only. It ignores the creation of supertime although it depends on its creation by society before any artificial Greenwich time or Eastern Standard Time can be established. The Republic of Science is occupied with nature, and that is, with the leftovers of the body politic, the objects which offer too much resistance to being incorporated into our body of time. These objects preferably are inanimate, are mere bodies of space. Hence the natural science has developed methods which apply to bodies in space only. Such science of objects is without any method to cope with the task of creating supertime. Science takes supertime of families, countries, nations, churches, schools, for granted, and matches [S. 39] them by its objective time for objects. The secular science of time is, then, neither philosophy in the sense of the sciences of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment nor theology in the sense of Thomism or Bonaventura. And this is the reason why we claimed at the beginning that the De Magistro and the science of time belonged to a third Body of Time, to our era in which we must rediscover the heat which begets supertime.

Outlook into Part II

By speaking, we create something which did not exist before, and this something is society itself. The analysis of Augustine’s dialogue enables us to see this process in operation in a small and isolated experiment. The experimental character of the group which comes into existence through this dialogue, is, however, a model situation for all human relations. We speak in order to create a common space and a common time between people who by this creative action are transformed into beings and humans, or more briefly, into human beings. These common spaces and common times precede the secondary concepts of time and space used by the natural scientists.

The supertime and the superspace of which we here heard, must have been established, before anything that is said by Newton or Einstein or Kant on time, makes any sense. Science uses its power to organize the things of nature outside in a time and space continuum as a delegated power. The power is delegated to science by society because it exists as a supertime and superspace through dialogue, correspondence, and conversation of all its members.

The physicists sit inside this supertime and superspace and look out from it into the world of objects. In order to measure these objects at all or even to observe them, they persistently borrow one fundamental creation from society which does not exist in nature. The unrest in modern science comes from this naive loan of a quality of supertime which mere observed time or time in nature does not possess.

Laplace, the author of the famous hypothesis on the formation of the universe, wrote one sentence which gives away the precarious and dependent state of science. He wrote: “We ought then to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of the anterior and the causation of the one which is to follow.” The very word “ought” would suffice to the critic that social obligations here must have been pre-established. But I do not stress this now. But the relation of the tenses of supertime is here completely relied upon. Because in society the generations embrace each other beyond their individual birth and death, they receive the peace of a present between one generation’s future and the other’s past into themselves. Science then, for its external research, reverses the sequence and speaks of past, present, future, in this order. But this turning of the glove outside presupposes a glove woven for the human hand first. And there the order is Past, Future, Present because the knitting together of more than one individual’s time spans alone makes the present come to exist. [S. 40]

Supertime is created by correspondence between human beings. This correspondence is operative when people converse. The analysis of supertime, for this reason, opens the path to an understanding human speech. Speech was not made to think out loud. Speech was instrumental in the creation of a common space and a common time around people who individually have no time and no space, or for the modern, already socially sophisticated observer, have an isolated time and isolated space.

In speech, the homo sapiens of the animal kingdom can keep his unity through all his innumerable individuations of births and deaths. Through speech he is one man, the everlasting man, the human being. He is moved into a not objective and not natural common space and time.

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 superspace and supertime. 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. Speech, far from expressing a man’s thought, enables him to think at all, as a representative of the One Man of all times and spaces.

If this is true as Augustine seems to suggest, then the study of language must reveal this truth to us. It must be possible to explain the structure of all language by exactly this one criterion: Does it create supertime and superspace? If so, our thesis is verified. If not, it is refuted.

In a second part, we shall therefore examine the linguistic material. And we shall try to determine the necessary concepts of a universally applicable grammar.


Korrekturstand: 4.12.2007,fh fertig bis auf #
vgl. Atem 95-165; SprMG II 368-427.

transcribed by
Fritz Herrenbrück

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  1. Tempora fabricantur et ordinantur aeternitatem imitantia. Orbes temporun numerosa successione quasi carmini universitatis associant. (The times are manufactured and ordained as to imitate eternity. The periods of the times by numerous succession organise themselves as parts of the song of the whole.) De Musica, Migne, Patrologia Latina. Opera Augustini I, 1179. 

  2. See my Soziologie 1925 on these two points. 

  3. Angewandte Seelenkunde 1924; Modern Man’s disintegration and the Egyptian Ka. 1939. 

  4. Migne 39, 1717 ff. “Any thing you like in my sermon, recognize as being yours. Any thing which you dislike, forgive as being mine.” 

  5. “Quot optas gradus aetatis tot simul optas et mortes aetatum. Non sunt ergo istae … Aetates labuntur, fluunt.” Enarratio in Psalmos 127 Migne IV, 1686. This is quite unheard of in the pagan world where the various ages of man were considered as individual blocks. Especially in India, each age formed an entity. 

  6. de vera religione 23; de musica VI, 29.