In my last post, Tabula Rasa, I began with a reconsideration of our tremendous wisdom heritage. Occurring in three parts, which are the universal, planetary and human, I showed that, given the extent of that heritage, we clearly have no shortage of opportunities to become wiser and more enlightened beings. The main question raised was how to reclaim that heritage. For this purpose I pointed out that we needed recourse to two main languages: the verbal, whether spoken or written:
and the numerical language of mathematics:
Going on from this, we saw that the language of words provides the necessary foundation for the trivium, whose three subjects are grammar, dialectic and rhetoric:
While the language of mathematics provide the foundation for the quadrivium, whose four subjects are arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy:
This made grammar and arithmetic particularly important, in that between them, they establish the foundation for their two respective domains, which are the trivium, in the case of grammar, and the quadrivium, in the case of arithmetic. Now, the triad of three (the trivium) added to the tetrad of four (the quadrivium) makes seven, embracing the complete spectrum of liberal arts needed to fully reclaim that incredible wisdom heritage:
We then looked at the first liberal art, grammar, with which this process of reclamation may begin. Defying conventional views upon the subject, we saw that as a liberal art, grammar is something different to what we might, at first, suspect. As a liberal art, grammar is all about the power of the word, a power so great, that for many cultures, it was considered supreme. This, in itself, was enough to alert us to the fact that grammar is so much more than the subject we learned at school.
In this post, I will be further discussing what grammar is, as one of the seven liberal arts. This is where, as we discover more and more about grammar, we begin to get really excited at the prospect of having such a powerful tool at our disposal. And by using the word powerful, I am probably understating the fact. The liberal art of grammar, is and can be, all-powerful – giving us access to an inspiring source for personal creativity, that can totally transform our lives – if we let it.
As an indication of this, picture in your mind a cauldron, filled with the effervescent energy of pure inspiration. Imagine immersing yourself in this cauldron, and being filled with that inspiring energy. Notice as you do so, how all of your cares and worries are just being washed away. You are, in fact, being remade anew and as a result, you now feel fresh, inspired and completely transformed.
This provides us with an accurate picture of the sheer power of the word. It also shows us just why teaching is an essential feature of the liberal arts. However, I am not referring to teaching as the transmission of facts that an intelligent student can assimilate for themselves anyway. Neither am I referring to the teaching of career skills that a person is going to need to enter into their chosen profession.
I am referring to teaching as an ongoing dialogue on the incredible power of the word: founded in grammar, developed in dialectic and then eloquently expressed through rhetoric. This is the power that is clearly revealed by the wisdom of the past, and as it continues to be revealed, in the present, it guides us towards a brighter and more hopeful future. As examples of this, consider:
Need I go on?
This is but a taste of some of the incredible wisdom of the world of which we are a part. A wisdom revealed in, and through, the power of the word. And, if we take the time and trouble to notice it, we will soon discover that our world is, literally, overflowing with this wisdom.
Yet, this is not even considering the most powerful element of all of this, which is our own capability, as human beings, to make use of the word for the purposes of our own self-transformation. The logic of this, is that as the word has inspired and enlightened countless people before us, so too, may it inspire and enlighten each one of us today.
To understand how this works, try thinking of yourself in terms of that age-old analogy of the chariot. According to this analogy, the carriage represents your body, while the horses that pull it signify your emotions – both positive and negative. The rider of the chariot, in this case, represents your mind: informed, inspired and enlightened by the power of the word. Accordingly, it is through this power, that you yourself can then become transformed.
This transformation largely comes down to a process of realignment. Because of our way of life to date, many of us have lost all sense of our natural alignment with the real world. And in its place we now find ourselves moving through an illusory world that happily uses up all of our vital life-energy just in order to maintain itself.
However, if we can find that right alignment with the real world, we will find ourselves living more in harmony and sympathy with it. And, as human beings living upon the planet Earth, this will transform us in all sorts of incredible ways. We will feel the joy, love and presence of the real world once more, rising up within us, like a beautiful, healing fountain. As it does so, we will then know, once and for all, that we are no longer living in exile from our true home, which is the real world itself.
The workings of our own mind will always be key to this process of self-transformation. We need to get our mind working more productively towards the fulfilment of our aims and purposes. We need to stimulate our mind into being productive once more, and as a result, actively engaged with creative, inspiring projects that bring more light into both our world and the worlds of others.
This is why, as liberal arts students, we study the trivium, whose three arts aim to develop and cultivate the true power of our mind. A good analogy for this is a garden. If our mind were likened unto a garden, the study of grammar would give us the tools needed to tend the garden, dialectic would be ourselves cultivating that garden and finally, rhetoric would be that garden coming into full bloom and producing beautiful flowers and fruit.
Have you ever wondered why the pine cone was so revered by ancient cultures? One reason is that the pine cone is the flower of the tree that remains forever green. It, thus, proves symbolic of that perennial wisdom heritage that never loses its freshness, lustre or appeal.
And this again shows why the study of the trivium is, or can be, so important to us. The study of grammar will raise our awareness of that heritage, dialectic will enable us to think for ourselves from the sound platform of that heritage and finally, rhetoric will enable us to contribute to the transmission of that heritage to future generations.
Of course, when working with our own mind, we do need to take great care. We do not want to start interfering with the workings of our mind, To do so would clearly be disastrous. What we do want, however, is to give our mind the chance to thrive, blossom and bloom, which it will do, when we give it the opportunity to do so. For this purpose, all that the mind really needs is a bit of gentle encouragement in the right direction. This encouragement is provided to us by our studies of the trivium, which positively celebrate the incredible creative capabilities of an inspired mind.
It does help if we have an understanding of the way in which our mind works. For we will then see, and understand, how the growth and development of our mind works according to a threefold or triangular process. Here again, I am referring to the three subjects of the trivium. When assessing the value of these, I have always found it helpful to see the mind as having three basic functional capabilities, which are input, processing and output.
In this sense, the mind works as a system, and like any system, it depends upon the processing of matters from outside of it. In this case, these matters are the signals that the mind is capable of receiving, processing and then transmitting:
Input refers to the signals received through our sensory impressions.
Processing concerns the mind’s handling of those signals, together with the production of new signals that our mind is capable of independently generating.
Output refers to signals being transmitted from the mind by way of characteristic expressions such as speaking, gesturing, eye movement, posture and so on.
As a system, therefore, the mind works very much like a signal processor, the flow of which we may usefully refer to as the mind-stream. The inputs of this stream correspond to the incoming flow of impressions, while the outputs correspond to the outgoing flow of expressions. As a complete dynamic system that includes the signal flow of the mind-stream, our minds, thus, have five aspects:
This, in itself, is fascinating to ponder, because it shows that our mind is capable of growth towards higher levels. This occurs through the way in which we handle the signals of the mind-stream. What we take into our mind through impressions, and what we then output from our mind by way of expressions are clearly vital features of this.
This observation then helps to explain the subjects of the trivium in a beautifully clear manner. These subjects address the three vital capabilities of our mind. These are: the receptive capability based on inputs; the formative capability based on processing; and the communicative capability based on outputs. To clarify how these work, when you:
Once we understand how this works, we can then see just why the trivium needs to have three subjects. Each subject aims to develop one main department of the mind. Grammar aims to develops the receptive mind through learning the skills of listening and reading. Dialectic develops the formative mind through learning to think and reason for ourselves. Finally, rhetoric develops the communicative mind through the skills of speaking and writing.
The concept of the threefold mind then explains why grammar is such an important liberal art. Grammar provides us with the basic tools which all of the above abilities used by the mind will make use of. Here, I am referring to reading, listening, thinking, speaking and writing, all of which are unthinkable without a knowledge of grammar.
The most important of these abilities, so far as being able to function as a part of society is concerned, seem to be reading, writing, speaking and listening. Thinking, however, tends to receive minimal attention. Because of this, although a person might be able to speak and listen, if they cannot think freely for themselves, they will find great difficulty adding anything new to the dialogue.
Similarly, even though a person might be able to read and write, if they cannot think freely for themselves, they will have great difficulty creating any new or original written content. In this sense, an ability to think is vital if we are ever going to be able to contribute anything new to the world. The importance of thinking is reflected in the following diagram, which places it at the very heart and centre of the five-fold scheme:
Thinking, in this sense:
It is for this reason that the liberal art of dialectic is such an important subject. Dialectic teaches how to think and reason for ourselves. By doing so, it confirms that each one of us is, indeed, the centre of our own universe, entirely responsible for our own life and thoughts. And, it is here that the process of self-transformation really begins: with taking responsibility for ourselves and the workings of our own mind. When we do so, we will also begin to activate some of the most incredible creative abilities that our mind has.
One such capacity, which always proves vital in the process of self-transformation, is an ability to consciously create our own reality. Here, it might seem curious to hear me speak of reality creation, as if it were an art in its own right. Yet that is what it is and always has been:
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven.
So speaks Jaques, in his monologue from Shakespeare’s, As You Like It (1599).
Characteristically, the reality through which we move is cast up as being akin to theatre, each one of us playing our own particular part, rather like a role in a play. Of course today, we have largely forgotten about this, so seriously do we now take our roles. Therefore, gone is the sense of delight in artistically creating the part that we play, gone is the sense of playfulness, as we have fun doing so, and gone is the sense that each one of us has the power to alter our own destiny, often in the mere turning of but a single brief moment.
However, this newfound sense of seriousness is understandable. Many of us now subscribe to a belief in what is, increasingly, turning out to be a very foolish idea. This is the perceived dichotomy between the objective and the subjective. We have all been informed, time and time again, that the objective reality through which we move, operates independently of our own subjective perception. In this way, we tend to be cast up as being the passive perceivers of reality, rather like goldfish living in a bowl, staring out upon the wonders of the world beyond.
Generally speaking, we only accept these views because we have not taken the time and the trouble to think them through. Although from our own subjective viewpoint, we look out upon this so-called objective reality, the fact is, we are also an essential part of it. As a part of it, we can also, therefore, function as an instrument through which that reality can be changed.
If you doubt that this is even possible, just look at what a skilled gardener can do: transforming an uncultivated piece of land into an earthly paradise, filled with the most beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees imaginable. And from where did these transformations originate? They originated in the mind and imagination of the gardener. Having conceived these changes, the gardener then set about practically realising them, and as a result, helped to co-create a more beautiful world.
This process follows a clear pattern and most of it takes place within the mind of the gardener. First comes the desire, the impulse to transform that land into a vision of beauty. Then comes the inspiration, the exciting vision to bring that desire about. So the gardener thinks about it, mulls it over and works out a plan to bring that vision about. The final stage is then realising their vision in physical terms.
This is an example of reality creation par-excellence. It is a creative partnership between ourselves and the universe; an inspired dance between the subjective and the objective, that then becomes capable of driving our co-created reality towards an ever higher level. In this sense, the reality of which we are a part is never frozen or fixed. Instead, it is soft and malleable like clay, and each one of us can help to give shape to it.
If you are still not convinced, try the last person on earth exercise. Imagine in your mind, that you were the last person left on Earth. Where would your native country be? This, of course, is a silly question, because your country would no longer exist. All that would be left would be the landmass where your country formerly was and the crumbling relics that were once the physical anchors of its reality.
So, where has the country gone? It has not gone anywhere. What we thought to be our country, was largely a communally agreed to construct of our minds. And a sense for the theatrical always played an important part of that construct. In this context, consider costumes and uniforms. The policemen, the soldier, the sailor – all wear costumes appropriate to their assigned roles.
However, now that you are the last person left on earth, this has all changed. There is nobody left to play the parts or create all of the carefully devised props. As a result, what we thought to be the objective reality of our country has all now simply collapsed. And this just goes to show: reality is not, and can never be, just one-sided. It is a working partnership between the subjective and the objective that literally fizzles with creative potentials.
So, what is the secret to this art of reality creation? It is that each one of us is part of an ever-fluid creative flux, a dynamically evolving symbiosis between ourselves and the universe, in which we have the privileged function to act as co-creators. Essential to this, as the diagram below shows, is the workings of our own mind:
This is why the power of our imagination is so important to us. It is upon the screen of our imagination that we become capable of projecting completely new realities, ideas and visions. Having conceived them in the imagination, we can then set about bringing them into realization. And doing this, of course, all begins in the realm of thought.
Consider also, the nature of thought itself. What is thought? It is basically a mental dialogue that develops through use of our own imagined vocalisations. This is why, when we do think, we tend to do so in our own voice. Try thinking for a moment, but using somebody else’s voice. The fact that you can, shows you that the voice with which you do think is imagined into being.
As such, the power of our imagination is even more primary than thought, because without imagination, it would be impossible for us to internally vocalise. Any real system of education as such, should not only encourage the birth of independent and original thought, but also the vivid use of one’s own imagination.
This is also why beauty is so important. Although in some circles, beauty has now become an ugly, almost unmentionable word, there is a lot more to beauty than we realise. Beauty is the eternal standard by which we can measure the results of our co-creative partnership with the universe. Therefore, if what we create turns out to be beautiful, uplifting and awe-inspiring, we can be pretty sure that we are on the right track. The perfect demonstration of this is the universe itself, a creation of such incredible beauty and wonder, that we would have to be already dead, not to be moved or inspired by it.
Relevant to this, is the fact that we cannot just step outside of the real world. In effect, this means that everything that we do, think, feel, or say, registers as a part of the real world. To help envision this, just think of a single drop of water falling into the ocean. Then ponder the fact that the moment that drop falls, the entire ocean adapts and transforms precisely in accordance with the gain of volume corresponding to that drop. A tiny gain it may be, but it does, nonetheless, causes a change to the entire ocean.
This, in turn, means that as individuals, we each represent the seat of a tremendous world-transforming power. As the universe is but one vast ocean of vibrating, shimmering energy, means that every single thought that we have, or every single word that we speak, goes on to transform and change the world. And once thought or spoken, that change cannot be undone. It might be possible in certain circumstances to remedy it, but each thought that we have or word that we utter has the potential to change and transform the whole world — either for good or ill.
This is why words are just so important to us. If, for example, we think to ourselves, I am a failure, we are, unwittingly, using our power to co-create with the universe in such a way as to transform ourselves into the very image of those words. Clearly, therefore, what we think is very important. Not just for ourselves, but also for the world at large. If we focus upon nothing but problems, for example, they will only get worse, and as a result we will never be able to escape them. However, if we focus upon solutions, our lives will then improve accordingly. For this very reason, we need to learn how to guide our thoughts in the direction of what we do want.
Here, the precise words that we use are very important. We need to find words that adequately reflect what we do actually want. They also need to be words that resonate with us on a deep level. Therefore, what is productive in the above case, is not thinking of oneself as a failure, but instead focusing one’s mind upon one’s successes, even if those successes are at first, very small.
The thought of these successes will begin to call forth more of the same. In this way, we will gradually transform ourselves into the very image of the successes that we are now building upon. Notice that the power to direct these efforts, comes from the exact words that we are using. As such, through the sheer power of our words, we are not passive, we are not inert and we are not powerless. We are all tremendous world-movers, world-shakers and world-transformers.
The proof of this is human civilisation as it stands, which was brought into being in the first place, through the direct use of that world-transforming power. When Christ said, ‘turn the other cheek’, he was creating the seed from which a new world might grow. That new world was the Christian dispensation. When Confucius stated his Golden Rule, ‘what you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’, he was also creating the seed from which a new world might grow. That new world was the Confucian society.
And there are countless more examples where courageous individuals went on to transform the world through the sheer power of their words. So when you listen to people speak, think of the kind of world that their speech is trying to call forth. And when you speak, do so with the intention of positively calling for the kind of world that you want to live in.
Here, there is a simple rule. Whatever you focus your mind and attention upon will grow in abundance. Therefore, if you allow yourself to think and speak of hateful things, you will land up living in a world completely consumed by that hate. On the other side of the coin, if you think compassionate, caring thoughts, and speak words to match, you will land up living in a world filled with those very same qualities. In this way, do we continually create our own realities. The real art of it, of course, is to learn to do it consciously.