Philosophy in a time of tribulation – Part 2

Jan Amos Comenius experienced a turbulent life

Philosophy in a time of tribulation – Part 2

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Children are God Learned

That winged statement of the famous Czech philosopher, educator and theologian, Jan Amos Comenius (1608-1670), occurred to me when I recently read a special message in an evening paper:

Children from Indian cities were in shock when, at the height of the virus crisis, they suddenly discovered that the very busy and noisy traffic they were used to, had come to a halt, and the stench and pollution that usually surrounded them dissipated to nothing.  To their utter surprise, and for the first time for many, they saw that their city was surrounded by beautiful mountains, and they could even catch a glimpse of the far off Himalayas.  And they wondered, not understanding why their parents had never told them how beautiful the world that surrounded them, really looked.

Four centuries ago, Comenius indicated with some foresight, what the status of the child should be in such a situation.  Children are like theologians, he stated with conviction.  Any questions they raise must be taken seriously.  Children have a unique and natural insight into the connection of things.  They carry within them an untainted view of reality and the truth.  Life itself, the visible and tangible reality, is their school and teacher.  Yes, Comenius was convinced that children are wiser and more spiritual than adults.

It is important to nurture a childs’ natural insights through good education and appropriate training.  The sources for this can be found in spiritual texts such as the Bible, and, being newly rediscovered, in nature itself.  By living in harmony with nature and it’s laws, the child, and later the adult too, can come to deeper insights by positively experiencing the lessons that nature affords us.  And the first of these is to the responsibility to live in harmony with its laws and not to exploit or abuse that relationship.  According to Comenius, this has its foundation in the understanding that children come from the Light, and will return to the Light.

Painting by Jurriaen Ovens of Jan Amos Comenius 

Comenius experienced what to most of us would be considered a turbulent life, and hence he demonstrated that life should be lived through detachment, by letting go through faith.  Three times in his life, Comenius experienced major upheavals by losing his wife and children, his possessions, and his home.  This happened to him through fire, the plague, and persecution.  Forced to live an itinerant life each time this happened, still Comenius produced an impressive 250 books by the end of his life.  In his most well known book, ‘Unum Necessarium (The One Thing Necessary – 1669), he looks back on his journeys’ and shares his life experience:

1.  Do not burden yourself with things you do not really need, but be content with the little that is convenient for you and always praise God.

2.  If you lack all comforts, be content with what is strictly necessary.

3.  If this too is taken away from you, focus on saving yourself.

4.  If you cannot save yourself, then let yourself go, but see that you hold onto God.  Whoever has God can miss all things, for he has the most precious thing a person can imagine.  He has eternal life with God and in God forever (…).  This is the goal and the end of all that a person can desire.

It is a text of great confidence, of letting go by faith.  It is a constant bed side table companion.


To be continued in part 3


[1] This column was published in the journal LOGON Netherlands year 1, 2020, nr. 4, 69

[2] A radio interview with Dick van Niekerk discussing J.A. Comenius is available online at:

[3] Jan Amos Comenius, Via Lucis translated from Latin by J. Schad and R. Bouthoorn (Amsterdam 2002)

[4] J. Kok and A. Molnar, Kinderen zijn God-geleerd [Children are God-Learned] (Gorinchem 1992)

[5] Veit-Jakobus Dieterich, Jan Amos Comenius  (Baarn 1992)

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Date: November 27, 2020
Author: Dick van Niekerk (Netherlands)
Photo: Olga Boiarkina

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