Saturday, October 11, 2008

God’s Dwelling Place

God’s Dwelling Place; A Family Constitution, I

By John Taylor; 2008 Oct 11, 14 Mashiyyat 165 BE

The Particular Reform of Families; Panorthosia, Chapter Twenty-One

This past spring and summer I went through Comenius's Panorthosia in detail. Looking back over the whole two volume opus, I am persuaded more than ever that this is one of the most important books ever written, little known as it may be. Its title in Latin means "universal reform," and its universal approach is unique and essential, not just from the perspective of the history of ideas but that of the futurist and reformer, anyone who asks, "Where do we go from here?" I have been working for decades on plans and proposals for world governance, and yet this book, written in the 16th Century, is in many ways far in advance of my boldest ideas, my most high tech proposals and imaginative prognostications.

When I came across the twenty-first chapter, The Particular Reform of Families, I knew immediately that this was where I had to begin writing, not because it is better than the rest of the Panorthosia but because we, as a society, are most in need of it. As the West sets into decline and fall, the family, the foundation of all corporate life, is under siege. Its walls are routinely breached for implacable enemies to rush impetuously in from all quarters.

But most of all I am starting here because Comenius offers in this chapter, for the first and only time in history that I know of, a constitution for the family. As the head of a large extended family household, the sort which is rare to non-existent in otherwise advanced nations today, Comenius was in a position to offer a clear set of criteria by which a large home's health can be measured and improved. Nor is he dogmatic about it, he offers his experience in applying a constitution only as a model for what we would now call an open Wiki document, revised in light of local experience and of professionals researching more universal factors. We will discuss his suggested constitution in detail in upcoming essays. Let me start, though, before going into detail, by taking a step back to take a more distant overview of Comenius's family constitution.

In the last sentence of this twenty first chapter Comenius offers an official reward and public face to the household's constitution. If it attains to the highest excellence in living up to its standards and goals, a family gains the right to post above their door the following inscription:

"THIS IS THE DWELLING PLACE OF VIRTUE, ORDER, AGREEMENT, AND GOD AMONGST MEN! Therefore let nothing that is evil ever enter it!"

This public notice, placed over the door of a successful, thriving household, ties that family to its laws, to a constitution that Comenius proposes be posted within the household, as well as a sheet listing clear tasks and duties for every member of the household. This public declaration is very similar to the badges of merit that I have been proposing be designed into standard personal and national websites. Such merit badges are commonplace in industry --a local pickle factory in Dunnville sports on its wall facing the road a large placard proclaiming that it has lived up to the standards of some ISO professional standards organization with a long alphabet soup acronym. However, there are no such systematized rules and standards for the foundational political entity, the family.

Nor is this declaration restricted to families. Comenius devised similar mottos for individuals, churches, research institutes, nations, and many other types of institutions, based on his overall plan for what the title of the book says, universal reform. In post-Internet language, these mottos would form a portal by which surfers could enter the various levels of society. For example, a tourist might wish to tour most advanced households in an area, or the most in need, or the most improved, and so forth. Thus the public face of a household is tied directly to universal standards, to real achievements of its members, individually and collectively. Merit rather than wealth or pride determines the beauty and impressiveness of its facade, both real and virtual.

Note that, characteristic of Comenius, this family "merit badge" ends with a protective statement: "let nothing evil enter here."

It is the clear duty of every political entity not only to grow but to protect what it has from attack. This is especially so when there are children involved, who do not have the defences that adults have, and whose wounds, psychic and physical, often last a lifetime. And the family household is the only political institution that has direct contact with children in their tenderest stages of development. That is why I love the fact that the second half of this declaration makes the family irreconcilably opposed to letting the slightest evil enter. The need for this generally was recognized by Heraclitus as well,

"The people should fight for their laws, as for their walls." (Frag. 44)

In earlier times the walls of a city were its only defence against the assault of wild beasts, human or animal. Heraclitus saw that in future the true wall of protection will not be physical walls but laws and constitutions, and that the lives and safety of everybody within a political grouping will depend upon its defence. Thus Comenius's succinct declaration above the doors of a home assures that all are aware, members and outsiders, that the true walls of protection of a family are its laws and constitution.

There are many enemies to the family, but nobody can doubt that its most dangerous foe are, as we detailed in yesterday's essay, commercial values and self-help ideas.

Advertising invades the mind from the tenderest age. International corporations spend vast sums brainwashing the young against the one institution designed primarily for them, the family. As we saw yesterday, materialistic values "maintain that the purpose of life is pleasure and happiness, while a spiritual view holds that the purpose of life is service to humanity and the development of virtues." ( It is the declared goal of advertisers to get around what they call the "gatekeepers" of the hearts and minds of children; in the case of the Internet, they have done this by removing all gates completely. Now, the most vulnerable members of society, the ones in whom our future rests, are entirely unprotected from the worst that animal passions can spew out to them.

How are we "gatekeepers" of society ever to erect protective legal walls for households in the face of constant assaults by siege-works made by wealthy, powerful enemies? Whatever the walls we erect look like, they would be improved by Comenius's suggestion for a universal plan.

Next time I will plunge into the details of his learned, theoretical argument for a family constitution.

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