Why the Czech Appeal

An aspect underplayed in my blogging thus far has been the Czech Heritage of The Labyrinth of the World. The author of Labyrinth was John Amos Comenius was Czech. Today, in the Czech Republic, he is revered with an honor near to that of a saint. The significance of both may not seem obvious to us today, which is the point of this post.

Comenius is perhaps the pinnacle of Czech Reformation writers, or what is known of them. In Labyrinth of the World, Comenius displays the Czech influence of his time. This area of the world had already been part of a Protestant-type Reformation for nearly 150 years by the time of Luther’s 95 theses. The influences of the Czech Reformation did not come from a sharp reaction to the Catholic church, as much as a hammering out of a new reality in contrast to it. Influence on the Czech Reformation came from the Lollards (John Wycliffe), the Waldensians, and other lesser-known dissident faith groups who found synergy in Prague.

The Czech Reformation

Comenius was very late to the dance of the Czech Reformation as he was born in 1592. The cultural reformation in the Czech lands abruptly ended between 1620 (the Battle of White Mountain) and 1626 when non-Catholics were expulsed from the country, eliminated, or forced into re-Catholicization under the Hapsburgs. Comenius left the Czech lands with a beleaguered band of his persecuted sect: the Bohemian Brethren. Even so, Comenius made the Czech people famous for raising his circumstances to what an “American educator, Nicolas Murray Butler said of him that his relation to our present teaching is similar to that held by Copernicus and Newton toward modern science….” No matter the religious differences, Czechs still in the republic have been proud of Comenius.

The Influences of Labyrinth

The influences of the Czech Reformation figured into The Labyrinth of the World. Comenius favored poverty and pacifism to power and cultural dominance. He favored education towards character development and bringing knowledge together into pansophy—a synergy of knowledge and wisdom where various intellectual pursuits balance each other in a unified understanding. This approach directly opposed the Reformer’s practices of bullying their way into power structures and using education as one part of their dominance over society. Comenius was a finesse man.

Czech Reformation thinking dealt more with the heart—an interior spirituality utilizing a reflection upon Christ’s sacrifice resulting in a heartfelt relationship with God through Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the system of the Puritans, and that of other western European Reformers, was more focused upon the establishments of codified confessions—beliefs in a belief. This over-rationalizing religious thought resulted in wars of ideas and continues today in so-called culture wars.

“Heart religion,” as western Europeans Reformers derisively referred to it, was much more of a dynamic than an establishment. Comenius moved from place to place using education reform to keep his flock together while they moved about in exile. This distinctive kept them differentiated, but it also gave them the power to maintain the reality of ekklesia, something eminently biblical but also fundamentally missing through the Reformers. In the following generation, this heart religion became an evangelistic missions juggernaut that affected the entire world for the next 150 years in the embodiment of the Moravian Brethren. They were direct descendants of Comenius, the Czech Reformation, and heart religion.

The heart religion of Comenius is most depicted in the second half of the book The Labyrinth of the World -and- The Paradise of the Heart. Comenius’s pilgrim meets Christ for himself in his own heart. Christ speaks to Pilgrim and draws him into his own heart to deal with Christ in ways of revelation, conviction of sin and guilt, repentance, and the seeking of forgiveness, which is perhaps one of the most intimate depictions in literary history. Czech writing seems to be more effusive, feeling, and sensory to me than that of most western European Reformers or their descendants in religious circles today.

Since Labyrinth of the World was one of Comenius’s first works, it sets his trajectory to affect people. He went on to influence many through education and through his beliefs. So significant was his impact that he continues to pop up in history because his philosophy, teaching, ideals, and passion still work. This is as much a credit to his time and personal character as to his extraction from Czech lands.

In Conclusion

Perhaps you thought Czechs were just the stereotypical happy, ethnic-dressing people who love beer and polka dances. They are very much so. But more importantly, they also have a ton of luminaries like John Amos Comenius, who were premium thinkers, creatives, and even prophetic in a sense that has affected the world. Czechs outside of the Czech Republic can take note of Comenius, do a little research, and find a person of which they can be proud. Additionally, they will find a man that will encourage them spiritually.

Comenius was a fine philosopher. But he was a prince on the level of matters of the heart. He is less known as a devout man, yet The Labyrinth of the World -and- The Paradise of the Heart teems with the fact that Comenius was profoundly spiritual and a follower of Christ in life and an allegory. Labyrinth is a feather in the cap of Czech Heritage because Comenius, in his devout non-Catholic faith, is as much a part of Czech Heritage as all the culture that is still celebrated today in cultural festivals. Were you aware of Comenius and his importance to Czech culture or his devout side? Find out more in this new release:

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