Jan Amos KOMENSKÝ - life, work, legacy

Knowledge as Light


Light has an important position in Comenius’ philosophy. In the philosophy of nature it is one of the three principles, the foundations of the world (alongside materials and the soul), bringing motion and order into the world. Comenius’ is a burning light, which spreads over things and causes them to become apparent; it thus leads to an understanding of things, and both activity and life are associated with it. The dark, on the other hand, means ignorance, and binds itself to death. Man was given reason; this is his inner light, seeing things in their true form, and not merely some seeming, or the mere shadows of things. It therefore leads to knowledge, and not to mere guesswork. In this sense, a knowledge of things – i.e. the truth, buttressed by reasoned argument – is the light of the human spirit, and if the burning of this light leads to a prudent use of all things, then it gives rise to wisdom. With such wisdom, Man can use all things to his real benefit, electing what is truly good and having pleasure therein, growing in inner happiness with learning the truth and from participating in the good. The inner light is given to all men for an understanding of all things from all points of view, and is thus a universal light. It has three sources or lamps:


1. the world and all things created therein, as the abiding workshop of God’s wisdom;

2. our own intellect, constantly offering reasoned evidence;

3. the Word of God (Divine Revelation) in the Bible, a permanent shield against error and

its corrector.


It is surely for this reason that Comenius was so fond of the Biblical naming of God as the “Father of lights” (James 1:17).


The light of human intellect must disperse the darkness of human perplexity, ignorance and error, and through the combination of all these sources a person should grow to the one radiance of undevelopable knowledge, which like a light operates by itself without being forced, to which Man submits convinced of its irrevocability. This is the aim of the rearing and education of Man in Comenius’ conception of the universal improvement of human affairs, of society. In the concept of knowledge as light, Comenius is in touch with the Neo-Platonic metaphysical light. It plays a key role in his pan-remedial treatises, in particular the Way of Light (the Via lucis) and in the second part of the General Consultation on the Improvement of Human Affairs (the Consultatio), entitled the Panaugia (the Way of Universal Light).




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