For all autodidacts who want to practice the art of becoming human, in this third volume in the series Cultura Animi we are publishing essays intended to serve both as inspiration and as exercise material.
Cristina Campo’s ‘The Unforgivables’ is a brilliant apologia for the aristocracy of the spirit and all who strive for such perfection. The essay ‘Universitas?’ by George Steiner, a text that he gave us as a friend of the Nexus Institute, then argues for the true university as a place where — in contrast to academia and the countless institutions that so shamelessly dare to call themselves universities — still cultivates the universitas ideal and where aristocracy of the spirit can be acquired. Ingrid Rowland takes us with her to the two Greek patriarchs of the aristocracy of the spirit, philosopher Plato and poet Sophocles, who with their work attempted to liberate humanity from a timeless lockdown, that dark cavern of soullessness.
There are many traditions, both religious and philosophical, that feature stories about the need for human beings to discover the truth and the meaning of existence because it is hidden from us, or even lies beyond our power. Such stories tell us that becoming human is an endless quest. (…) Where will their quest lead? How can we learn the art of becoming human?
Perfection, beauty. What do these words mean? There is only one
possible definition: aristocratic character. Indeed, perfection is the
ultimate aristocracy. Of nature, the species, ideas. Even in nature it is
Universitas: what a proud word! An institution comprising the totality of knowledge. An organism aspiring to the dynamic concept of both abstract and empirical totality.
Plato’s contradictions are one of the reasons he needs to be read again and again, with the changing understanding that we ourselves gain with increasing maturity. The same goes for Sophocles, who charges courageously into the dark heart of human hurt (…) And thus, despite all the technological marvels our own era has brought us, we should still treasure Plato, and together with him, treasure Sophocles