Paul Nash: Models of Man (1983)

John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) was a member, and eventually Bishop, of the [Moravian] Brethren. His membership in this group was determining influence in his life, for after the outset of the Thirty Years’ War, which began when he was twenty-six, he became part of a persecuted and hounded minority. In the face of political and religious persecution, he was forced to become a refugee across Europe. But, to this challenge to his life and ideals, Comenius responded with energy and resourcefulness. His wanderings brought him into contact with some of the intellectual leaders of Europe, especially in Germany, Poland, Sweden, England, and Holland. From his wide friendships he obtained stimulation and support. From his experience of persecution, hardship, and divisiveness he forged a philosophy that emphasized political unity, religious reconciliation, educational cooperation, and intellectual harmony. He created a model of the educated person as a pansophist, one who seeks knowledge from all sources in order to become more like the God in whose image he is made—omniscient and universally compassionate. All of Comenius’ life and writings were marked by this striving for unity and brotherhood. Although a passionate lover of his own language, people, and religion, he transcended his parochial loyalties and gained a breadth of perspective that its still an inspiration to us as we face this perennial problem. He was the precursor of modern attempts at educational, scientific, and cultural cooperation, best epitomized today in UNESCO. It was all of humanity, rather than a part of it, that educed his concern: he sought educational opportunities for people of all classes, sexes, and levels of intelligence.