Cultura Animi 3
Cultura Animi

Becoming Human Is an Art

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.

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Becoming Human Is an Art

Translated by Liz Waters

Based upon the work and sources of inspiration of Cristina Campo, Rob Riemen shows in this rich essay which great existential questions preoccupied her during her life - and how she can be an example for us in practicing the art of becoming human.

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?

The Unforgivables

Translated by Will Schutt

This essay is an unparalleled defence of the 'unforgivables': poets and thinkers - like Marianne Moore, Gottfried Benn and Boris Pasternak - who dared to write and act against the spirit of the age.

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 culture.


There are still educational institutions called universities in our times, but do they still strive towards universitas, the all-encompassing ideal of knowledge that the West inherited from Athens and Rome? In a matchless indictment against the spirit of the age, world-renowned literary scholar and cultural critic George Steiner lectures modern universities about true education. His critique contains an exhortation to us all.

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.

Out of the Cave

Despite all the technological miracles in our times, it is imperative that we keep reading and re-reading the classics of Greek and Latin literature. The works of Plato and Sophocles, argues Ingrid Rowland, still contain a beauty and precision that can help us to properly grasp human emotions as well as ethical norms and values.

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

Also recommended


The New Jerusalem by Patti Smith. A stunning long prose poem in the tradition of St. John and William Blake, The New Jerusalem presents a prophetic vision of art and humanity, faith and freedom. Find out more.

Order The New Jerusalem