Origin of the work:
1951 Prague, in: G. H. Turnbull, Jana Amosa Komenského dva spisy vševědné, Filozofická bibliotéka ČAVU, series I, no. 12
1974 Prague, J. A. Comenii Opera omnia, vol. 14
This is an attempt by Comenius to set down a conceptual outline of pansophy as the science of existence, on the basis of the terms most commonly used in any scientific field and in any sphere of human activity. The fragment has a foreword to readers and three chapters. The treatise was published by the English Comeniologist G.H. Turnbull from the effects of Samuel Hartlib.
All that is born, that is, and that occurs has certain basic preconditions, small mass, low numbers and simple morphology. Nevertheless, from these things may grow to remarkable size, quantity and diversity.
This is all shown by the facts that: rivers have their springs, trees and plants their seeds or roots, buildings their foundations, the world its elements, art the basic preconditions on the basis of which its creativity is expressed, arithmetic the ten digits, geometry points, lines and figures, music the seven sounds and eight tones, verbal skills the twenty-four phones and writing.
Wisdom, too, has its fundamental preconditions. These have been identified by lovers of wisdom, who have also recognised the need to set down some kind of common teaching, gathering together the principles of cognition that they have collected and presenting them in summaries, and these again in greater summaries. Aristotle named this the first philosophy, placing it after his work on nature (meta ta physica), i.e. after physics. He was convinced, that it should be learned afterwards. In Comenius’ view, he established an error that had remained until his own time. According to Comenius, however, the simple terms (principles) of all human cognition are innate, and are thus known or knowable from nature. This means that the cognition of things in part continues endlessly, as their law and light are innate. For this reason it is necessary to acknowledge the torch of science, philosophy, not after the preceding sciences, but before them. If it is first, why should it be pushed to the rear?
Comenius thus does not accept the Aristotelian presentation of the terms and relationships in its common form, or ultimately the general system after their being obtained by observation, comparison and classification from experience (a posteriori), but rather the idea that they are innate in Man, a priori within him, that they are the unerring criteria of all cognition, volition and behaviour. Comenius is not oriented towards Aristotelism, but rather towards Platonism, or neo-Platonism. His philosophy (metaphysics) does not, therefore, stand at the end, but at the head (the beginning) of the system of sciences, and later became a fundamental phase in the Pansophy contained in the General Consultation (the Consultatio).
There are seven classes of things. The first class comprises things created by God, existing, termed by philosophers substances: the heavens and the earth, air and water, fire and the stars, clouds and winds, rains and snows, stones and metals, plants and animals, men and angels. In the second category are the properties, which are nine: time, space, plurality, quality, activity, passivity, order, use and love. The third class represents insufficiencies, the fourth aberrations (lusts), the fifth complications or irregularities in things, the so-called mutual considerations, the sixth complexities, and the seventh signs, i.e. terms and words. There remains an eighth class, which is the first and last, the highest and greatest of things, which all nations recognise as the invisible divine and to which they give the name God.
A similar attempt to that represented by this treatise is to be found in the Praecognita pansophica (Preliminary pansophic knowledge), of which two fragments have survived: the Janua rerum sive Totius pansophiae seminarium (the Gate of affairs, or a Seminar on the whole pansophy – see the entry for the Pansophiae seminarium) and the Pansophiae Christianae liber III (Christian pansophy, book III – see the entry for the Pansophia Christiana). The Prodromus pansophiae (Foreword to pansophy) and the Pansophiae diatyposis (Outline of pansophy, see the entry for the Diatyposis) are also similar. For more than thirty years, Comenius devoted considerable effort to working up his conceptual works on pansophy, but he was unable to unify his conceptions, and foundered upon this. In 1681, Kristián Vladislav Nigrin published the Janua rerum reserata (Gate of affairs unlocked, see the entry for the Janua rerum 1681) from his effects – again a conceptual treatment, criticisms of which centred on its complexity and insufficiencies. His Prima philosophia (First philosophy), in the Leningrad miscellany, is however completely logically arranged and treated. Given these variations and a lack of time and collaborators, Comenius was unable to achieve a setting out of pansophy himself; a weak replacement is provided by the Lexicon reale pansophicum (Material pansophic dictionary, see the entry for the Lexicon pansophicum).
For further study, see also:
G. H. Turnbull, Jana Amosa Komenského dva spisy vševědné. Prague 1951, pp143-146
J. A. Comenii Opera omnia, vol. 14. Prague 1974, pp164-165
Vybrané spisy J. A. Komenského vol. V. Prague, 1968, pp365-378
V. Schifferová; M. Klosová, Dveře věcí otevřené (1643). Studia Comeniana et historica 29, 1999, no.62, pp211-226 (translation and summary)
Jan Kumpera, J. A. Komenský, poutník na rozhraní věků. Prague & Ostrava 1992, pp248-249