From ancient to modern times, people have been commanded to study the Seven Liberal Arts. But what are they?
In the Western world, our perception of the history of the Liberal Arts is very much focused on the Greek version, not least because they were the first to write it down! But before forming their own schools, Aristotle and Plato studied in Egypt, where these arts were taught as part of an ancient oral tradition, that in turn has roots within oral teachings and traditions in Sumeria and India.
The Greek seven liberal arts comprised two groups of studies: the trivium and the quadrivium. Studies in the trivium involved grammar, dialectic (logic), and rhetoric; and studies in the quadrivium involved arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy.
The Quadrivium was first formulated and taught by Pythagoras as the Tetraktys around 500BC, in a community where all were equal, even materially and morally, and where women had equal status to men. It was the first European schooling structure that honed education down to seven essential subjects, later known as the seven liberal arts.
Plato continued this; when he returned to Athens in 387BC, he purchased a site on the outskirts of the city that would become the school of this science. The site was close to the barrow of a Bronze Age hero called Akademos. The school took its name from this obscure relic, and became the Akademeia.
Plato's academy was open to anyone with the leisure and inclination to frequent its premises. It continued the example of Pythagoras and also admitted women. This was highly unusual for other Greek schools, but they were not teaching the Seven Liberal Arts, which were taught in Plato’s Academy for a thousand years from 500BC until about 450AD.
The Seven Liberal Arts were bequeathed to us by the Ancient Greeks as the basic required study for those participating in a democracy.
Crucially in the West, these were not lost but came back to mainstream consciousness as part of Renaissance thought in the 15th and 16th centuries, with Architecture being worthy of study by adult gentle-folk. In pursuit of the Renaissance ideal, the “Universal Man”, people once again sought to learn all the arts central to human knowledge, including mathematics and astronomy.
These Renaissances ideals of the Universal Man, and the Great Architect of the Universe, formed a central theme in the Constitutions of the Freemasons, written by James Anderson in 1723, just six years after the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England in 1717.
Vestiges of them are found in most school curriculums today, in masonic ritual, and personal development courses at places like the Thorpe Institute.
The seven arts were and are taught in parallel, but when conjoined, they form a set of steps to a greater understanding and heightened intuition into the beauty and meaning of the universe and world around us.
1 - http://www.thorpeinstitute.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63&Itemid=66
2 - http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=161452§ioncode=22
3 - http://www.thorpeinstitute.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=54
4 - http://www.bluecob.com/FFTM/?page_id=209
5 - http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/features/item/120-the-seven-liberal-arts
6 - http://www.rgle.org.uk/RGLE_Liberal_arts.htm
7 - http://bluecob.com/tboard/
8 - http://www.gardenstrusts.org.uk/7-archive-freemasonic-pgranziera.html
I may have to do some more landscaping in my garden. :-)
Posted by Keith MacDonald 11:44:24 AM