Tag Archives: Jan Amos Comenius

De Pansofie Van Comenius * Henk Woldring (2016)

Early 2015 I somehow heard that professor H.E.S. Woldring would present his first book about Jan Amos Comenius with a lecture at the university where he used to lecture. That first book was a biography of Comenius. Two years later the author presents a book about Comenius’ “pansophy” as he called it himself.

The book is only 200 pages and relatively expensive, but like the first book it is a good-looking hardcover. In a large number of short chapters Woldring analyses Comenius’ philosophy and how it developed. He starts with some general remarks about the man Jan Amos Comenius and about his ‘project’. Then follow, roughly chronologically, analyses about Comenius’ philosophy and the books he wrote in different periods. Woldring also uses Comenius’ own “syncritical” method on his own ideas.

Especially towards the end Woldring compares Comenius to contemporaries. The last chapters are inquiries about Comenius’ “style of thinking” and then those of René Descartes and Baruch de Spinoza. read more

The Labyrinth Of The World and The Paradise Of The Heart * John Comenius (1663)

This review is based on a Dutch translation from the hand of R. Oosterhuis from 1925 that was slightly revised and republished in 1983. It was published by Rozekruis Pers, the publishing house of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum. Involved in the Lectorium is Joost Ritman, the founder of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, who published Comenenius’ most famous book Via Lucis which was how I came to know Comenius many years ago.

The present book is a very amusing read, much easier than Comenius’ other titles. It is somewhat of a novel and an autobiography, but then put in the form of a pilgrimage, a popular way of writing in Comenius’ days (compare, for example, the Chymical Wedding of Christiaan Rosencreutz by Comenius’ acquaintence Johann Valentin Andreae.

The book starts with a pilgrim who wants to discover the world. He gets company of two guides and from the start it is clear that this is not a pilgrimage through the ‘normal’ world. The pilgrim sees the world from a distance and reports what he sees and what he thinks about it. It appears to be the guides’ task to find a fitting place in the world for the pilgrim. Starting his journey, the pilgrim gets a couple of glasses, apparently to see the world in a certain way, but he can look underneath the glasses to see how things are ‘in reality’. First the pilgrim sees the world from above in the form of a labyrinthic city. On entering the city, everybody is assigned a group. The pilgrim gets the priviledge of looking around. He sees groups such as married people, philosophers, Rosicrucians, judges, knights, the rich and the poor, the lucky and the unlucky.
Every time the pilgrim has something to complain, driving his guides insane. Even when the pilgrim is allowed to visit the tower of Fortuna and the castle of Wisdom, he is not pleased. He proves to be right in his criticism, leaves the world and then the book goes over into “the paradise of the heart” in which the pilgrim meets Christ and even God. read more

Unum Necessarium * Jan Amos Comenius (1668/1983)

That is odd. I cannot find an English translation of this book. Unum Necessarium (‘the only thing necessary’) is the last book that Comenius (1592-1670) wrote. He dedicated it to “earl Ruprecht of the Palts on the Rhein”. The way Comenius wrote, my guess is that this Ruprecht was still alive when the book was published, but which Ruprecht we are talking about, I do not know. But, Comenius’ last book lacks translation to English? This Dutch translation is from 1929; this 1983 printing is a second and revised print. The translation was made by R.A.B. Oosterhuis.

Unum Necessarium is but a little book, 155 pages including introductions and notes. Comenius wrote a massive amount of books about a wide range of subjects. The current title is small and simple; of course, when there is just one thing you really need.

Comenius starts with referring to three Greek myths. Daedalus and his labyrinth, Sisyphus and his stone and Tantalus and his punishment. Comenius keeps talking about labyrinths, Sisyphusstones and Tantalus-disappointments throughout the book. So what is this only thing necessary. Comenius uses several discriptions, but all come to the point of “returning to Christ” (p. 125). Man does not need fancy cloths, lots of money, too much to eat, not even a library full of books (Comenius lost three of his libraries though). Set your mind to Christ and you will have all you need.
Indeed, Unum Necessarium is a very pious and Christian book. Comenius adhered a very specific (and endangered) form of Christianity, the “Unity of the Brethern” (or “Moravian Brethern”), a Moravian Protestant current inspired by the ideas of John Huss (1369-1415).

Comenius travelled around, mostly because he (and his brethern) were forced to leave. He spent many years in the Netherlands. This book was published in the city where he died: Amsterdam.

Unum Necessarium is not really a highly inspirational read (to me). Like I said, it is very piously Christian. Comenius proves himself a realistic and simple religious man who -however he acknowledges other faiths- would like to see ‘his religion’ be the Universal Religion it deserves to be.

‘The only thing necessary’ shows the religious life of a ‘minimalistic believer’.

1983 Rozekruis Pers, isbn 9070196972

Symposionreeks 16 J.A. Comenius (2007)

I even managed to miss the Comenius “symposion” of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum on 7 October 2006… The booklet is almost sold out as well, but can still be ordered here and there. From the publisher for one.

Since the Lectorium Rosicrucianum is a modern Rosicrucian society, this little book mostly focusses on Comenius’ connections to the original Rosicrucians and the ideas that the two has incommon. Comenius was in his early twenties when the manifestoes were published and apparently they inspired them greatly. So much even, that later in his life Comenius got in contact with the author of the manifestoes, Johann Valentin Andrea, who shared Comenius’ ideas of a worldwide, yet reformed, Church of Christ.

The speakers were Hans Knevel (about Comenius’ spiritual path), Hanneke van Alderwegen (on his educational writings), Peter Huijs (about the Christian group that Comenius came from and of which he would be the last bishop) and Rachel Ritman (about the Rosicrucian connections). Of course the Ritman library brought some original printed books, the texts of the exhibition as -as always- included. read more

Comenius Und Die Freimaurer * Wilhelm Begemann (1906)

I know Jan Amos Comenius because of a book of his (Via Lucis that was translated to Dutch and published by In De Pelikaan, the publishing house of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam. Apparently I have had that book for so long that I did not write reviews when I bought it.
A while ago I got a catalogue of the publishing house of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum, a contemporary Rosicrucian society founded in the Netherlands. They have more titles of Comenius available in Dutch, so after reading the biography about the man, it seemed like an idea to read some more of Comenius’ works. Setting out to order a few of these titles, I found this little book in German with the enigmatic title Comenius and the Freemasons. There are two lodges in my country named after Comenius who died in the Netherlands, but he lived before Freemasonry, so what would the book be about then?

Begemann starts with a short investigation of Comenius (1592-1670) and his possible links to Masonic lodges that existed before the foundation of what is nowadays the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. That investigation was short. However Comenius certainly knew, and had ideas incommon with, the original Rosicrucian manifestoes that were published in 1614 and after, Begemann found no indication that Comenius has ever been in contact with an early lodge.

Apparently in the time that Begemann wrote his book, there were theories linking Comenius to Freemasonry and it took a while before I realised that the author was not trying to prove this link, but he was to debunk it. This he did and it was not even too hard.
For the record, Begemann investigated influences of Comenius’ thought on the early Masonic movement, but his conclusion is Comenius is hardly mentioned by the earliest authors such as Andersson and Desagulier. At some point an interest in Comenius’ writings does appear, but this is only later and in a time that Masonic authors showed a wide interest in thinkers of the past.

Begemann’s conclusion is that there are no links between Comenius, or even his ideas, in early Freemasonry. A conclusion that is perhaps not surprising, but he just wanted to have it stated it seems.

Comenius and the Freemasons makes an alright read to learn a bit about early Freemasonry and about Jan Amos Comenius, but do not expect any big revelations. The book is old enough to be available in cheap reprint and as download on a few places on the world wide web, so should you be interested to read it, just look around a bit.

Jan Amos Comenius * Henk Woldring (2014)

However available since november 2014 this book was officially presented a couple of weeks ago during a seminar in the Vrije Universiteit (University Amsterdam) where the author used to lecture. Woldring is professor in political philosophy and invited colleagues of various breed to say something about Comenius’ message in our own day and age. I was positively surprised that also scholars on ‘materialistic’ fields seem to have ears for a spiritual thinker as Comenius.

Jan Komenský lived from 1592 to 1670, born in Nivnice, Moravia, died in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The “Amos” part of his name he added himself when he was a student and also by himself, his name is usually written Latinised as Comenius. I have a few translated books of the author, but before this biography I was mostly unaware of the vast amount of literature on the vast amount of diffent subjects that he wrote about. Comenius was adherrant to what in English is called the “Moravian Church”, but in Dutch they are called “brotherly community”, a Protestant church founded by Jan Hus (John Huss). During the Reformation, but mostly during the Counter-Reformation the situation was very difficult for (other kinds of) Protestants and Comenius continually had to flee. Being an original thinker who was well-respected by many, but maligned by others, Comenius had friends all over Europe and travelled a great deal. A few times Comenius lived in my country and since he died here and is burried in Naarden (Amsterdam was too expensive), we have a Comenius mausoleum and a museum (which I have not yet visited). It was mostly on demand of the museum that this biography of Comenius was written, simply because there was no descent overview of the man’s life and ideas.

The book is not large, only 215 pages, but there is too much to summarise in a short review. Comenius was groundbreaking in the fields of pedagoy and didactics. He wrote books that are still praised today. Also he wrote a lot about religious tolerance, strove for peace whereever he came, had friends in various religious, political and industrial circes. Surviving several wives and children, continuously having to flee, but trying to help his brothers and sisters in whatever way he can, Comenius had a stressfull life. Yet he managed to write over 250 books, many of which were published in his own day (often by himself), others after his death.

Woldring interweaves biographical notes that he drew from many different sources with Comenius’ ideas on different subjects. This sometimes runs strangely through eachother like the part in which the author describes a visit between Comenius and Descartes which starts by describing how the meeting came about, goes over in a comparison of the ideas of both men and ends again biographically. Nonethess, the parts in which the ideas of Comenius are described are the most interesting to me. For the rest, the man seems to have been an interesting character with an eventfull life.

The many different subjects Comenius wrote about, everything was part of a ‘grand scheme’ which he called “Pansophia”. Comenius strove to bring together all ways of knowing things, find out the connections between seemingly unrelated things and thus come to overarching knowledge. He was much aware of the rise of rationalism in his time, religious strive and conflict and political and economic wars, but his ideas are certainly still worth thinking over and this well-written book makes a very nice introduction into this versatile person. As of now, it is only available in Dutch though.

2014 Damon, isbn 9460361994