A Brief Introduction to Durie’s Life

     Born 1596 in Scotland, John Durie was a descendent of noblemen, diplomats, ministers and rebels. When John was a child, James VI forced the family into exile. After extensive school and university studies in France and Holland, John tutored the son of a Huguenot merchant in France. A multi-linguist, he passed as a native citizen of Britain, France, Germany and Holland using variations of his name in each country. In Germany, he was always ‘Johannes Duraeus’.

     From 1625-30, Durie served as a diplomat and preached to the merchants and soldiers in Elbing, Prussia, which became Gustav Adolf’s administrative seat in 1626. He started writing on education in 1628. Durie then campaigned with Swedish and British leaders for Pan-European co-operation in state, church and educational policies. Both nations realised that a united Protestant Church with an educational curriculum formed on Durie’s lines would help promote peace in Europe. Durie’s agent in England was Samuel Hartlib, born in Elbing of Anglo-Polish parents.

    Durie was accredited by the British Court and clergy as their Continental representative in matters of Protestant unity. In Germany, the Leipzig Colloquy of 1631, the Heilbron Conference of 1633 and the Frankfurt Diet of 1634 backed Durie. Gustav Adolf, Axel Oxenstierna and Frederick V took his side in his initial work.

     After moderately-successful transactions in Sweden from 1636 to 1638, Durie chaplained the Dutch and English Courts and served the English Parliament. He was elected to the Westminster Assembly in 1643, becoming Member for Winchester in 1645. His programme was international Protestant unity; education for all; international, national and local libraries as part of the education system; new sciences and asylum for religious refugees including Jews. He was appointed custodian of the Westminster records, co-author of the Westminster Standards, tutor to Charles I’s children, keeper of the dethroned King’s library, pastor of a Cathedral church and Cromwell’s special Ambassador to Switzerland. The so-called Invisible Society he founded with Samuel Hartlib is said to have developed into the Royal Society of scientific fame. This attracted Anglicans and Independents but few Presbyterians.

    Throughout the reigns of Charles I, Cromwell and Charles II, Durie authored hundreds of pamphlets and corresponded with prominent people world-wide, fighting for religious, educational, agricultural and scientific reforms. The Bodleian Library, the British Library, Sheffield University Library, the Swedish Court and Church Archives, the Wolfenbüttel Library and the Hessen State Archives, together contain most of his two hundred and fifty or so extant works.

    Durie travelled so frequently throughout Britain and the Continent that Westminster Assembly expert William Shaw claimed he was ‘ubiquitous’. Cromwell gave Durie full ambassador status but doors shut when Cromwell had Charles executed. Nevertheless, Durie’s integrity, diplomatic skills and vast learning usually triumphed and reopened doors. Cromwell withdrew Durie from diplomatic activities in Sweden where church and state would accept no other agent. Thinking mistakenly all was settled, he replaced Durie by Bulstrode Whitelocke, his former opponent, and sent Durie to other countries on irenic missions. So the planned church, military and political union with Sweden failed, Christina abdicated and Carl Gustav was too heavily in debt and encumbered by foreign wars to think of peace. At the Restoration, Charles II sought a Unionist path but Scotland and Parliament rejected his Protestant peace plans.

     Durie was called as chaplain to the Hessen Court in 1661. The tolerantia ecclesiastica had been signed at Cassel and Frederick William of Brandenburg had once again given the right hand of fellowship to Reformed believers in accordance with Durie’s proposals. However, fifteen years later Unionism had almost collapsed and a dejected Durie told the Swedish Parliament shortly before his death: “I have done what I could to advance the union of saints. Henceforth I shall solicit the help of no one because I have asked them all. Neither do I see any Patron in Germany, whom God would point out to me as fit for the work.” He died at Cassel on 28th September, 1680 aged 84.

Durie’s View of Learning in its Secular and Divine Aspects

Pan-Protestant education needs Pan-Protestant peace

    John Durie believed it was useless developing pan-European Protestant educational curricula unless a pan-European Protestant interest accompanied it. So, from 1628, he pursued peace amongst Protestants as the first stage in advancing universal learning, soliciting the aid of Europe’s most powerful Protestant leaders. The Leipzig Diet of 1631 asked England to take the initiative and also introduce educational and doctrinal reforms into German universities through Durie’s Practical Divinity. Durie attended political, Reformed, Lutheran and inter-church Diets all over Germany, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and Britain. winning kings, clergy and people to his cause. Acts were passed affirming mutual co-operation between Reformed and Lutheran parties. The Ascanian rulers of Saxon-Anhalt and George William, Gustav Adolf’s brother-in-law, the Elector of Brandenburg, supported Durie, backed by the Helmstedt school, the Wetterau Lords and those of the Palatinate, Hessen, Brunswick, and Baden-Württemberg. Prominent individuals in these debates were also Philip-Reinhardt von Solms, George Hans von Peblis, John Jacob Löffler of Württemberg, John Conrad Freiherr Varnbüler and John VIII, Duke of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein. Hamburg, Heilbron, Cassel, Marburg, Frankfurt and Herborn became centres of Durie’s irenic and educational activities. See Prof. Gerhard Menk’s work Die Hohe Schule Herborn in ihrer Frühzeit, for the Reformed status of Herborn.

     In Sweden, politicians like the Oxenstiernas and de la Gardie, merchants like de Geer, educators like the Skyttes and clergy such as Matthiae supported Durie’s ecclesiastical endeavours, introducing them to the Baltic nations. Queen Christina, with Matthiae’s and Durie’s help, was a firm Unionist. However, recognition came slowly in Sweden due to the political complexities of a conglomerate empire and the independence of the district churches. Holland was divided due to political turmoil and the Synod of Dort’s anti-Lutheranism. The Swiss Cantons, where church and state were closely connected, were unanimous behind Durie. So were Protestant parts of Poland, Moravia, Bohemia, Hungary, Romania, Austria and Italy. Seen by their many united churches and the EKD, Germany has profited most from Durie’s work.


Procuring the public good

    Thinking success was near, Durie published A Motion Tending to the Publick Good in 1642, showing ‘how by the best means of reformation in learning and religion it may be advanced’. Here he outlines:

1. What being truly good means: As all goodness and knowledge is of God, to be experienced meaningfully through the life of God in us, public good is the universal private good of every man standing in relation to God. As this goodness is universal, none can grasp it for himself. It is for everyone.

2. How goodness is attained: Christ is the fullness of the Godhead bodily and the way to Pansophia, ‘all knowledge’ (Rom. 16:27), so goodness and goal-orientated knowledge can only be found in Christ.

3. How goodness is propagated: By a. educating the whole natural and spiritual being of mankind and rejecting methods below this standard. A person who is not educated naturally, cannot be educated spiritually. b. Educating parents to implant seeds of virtue and eagerness to learn in their children. c. New ways of teaching children, especially to read and write, in the form of play and pastimes (ludus literarius). Read, for instance, Comenius’ Latin illustrated dictionary of animal noises.


    Religion must be taught alongside the arts, history, geography and the sciences; and the mother-tongue before learning foreign languages. Pupils must know where they come from and where they are going. Durie emphasises didactical, methodical learning, teaching how to learn as much as what to learn. Durie was light years before Leibnitz’ Epistemology, John Dewey’s Pragmatism and Project Learning and Melvil Dewey’ Knowledge-recording Management.

    True education must be universal and every male and female child must be free to enjoy it up to university level. As it is universal, it must be multi-lingual, so text books must be available in the language of the area supplying the knowledge. Language learning has priority. Translation pools must be set up. Academics must be well-paid and scholarships made available for poor students. The Triumvirate of Dury, Comenius and Hartlib drew up a pact in 1641 to foster this, Comenius taking the ‘material’ side, Durie the ‘spiritual’, and Hartlib the administrative. However Durie worked out the curricula, coordination and methodology, drafting much of the work for the others. Scientist like Robert Boyle, men of letters like John Milton, Church historians like Archbishop Usher, educators like Henry Oldenburg and mathematicians such as Sir John Pell joined his circle.

    Next Durie calls for a reform of secular and theological colleges based on his ‘Practical Divinity’. He worked out the international scope of such an education, and organised teachers’ salaries, government lobbies and government departments for the gathering and spreading of all learning natural and spiritual, campaigning for pansophic think-tanks all over Europe.


Practical Divinity: A synergism of secular and divine learning

   Durie, rather than create a dichotomy between the material and the spiritual, treats them initially as separate merely as a didactic preparation of the understanding to show that they are really one. The aim of all education, whether concerning the material world or the spiritual world, he explains in A Seasonable Discourse, is to lay the corner-stone of world-wide Reformation by re-bringing mankind into empirical and spiritual union with God. He thus speaks of Reformed Schoolmasters; Reformed Ministers; Reformed employers, Reformed farmers and Reformed Magistrates. They must be supporters of universal learning which includes fitting every one out for meaningful employment in the society of men. Whether a pupil deals with material matters or spiritual matters, he must learn how they show God’s purpose in teaching them faith, piety, morals, justice, temperance, faithfulness, truth and diligence. Knowledge separated from these features is an encyclopaedic viewing of isolated effects, leaving the pupil ignorant of their cause. It is learning without wholeness or purpose. It is merely forcing dictionaries to produce dictionaries, or teaching for teaching’s sake. True learning must be utilised to the common good. For instance, Durie gives rules for analysing all forms of literature, starting with the Word of God, but not as entertainment for its own sake. One must be brought nearer to a common good by it. So the bounds of schools, universities, churches, politics, indeed, all human institutions must be adjusted to the boundlessness of divine revelation, human rational striving and the needs of mankind. Growing nearer the eternal mind of God is our aim in preaching, teaching and occupational activities.

    To reach Durie’s pan-scientific goal, there must be a Reformation in all kinds of learning. This learning must be internationalised, universalised and made available to all as a world-wide exchange of knowledge, whether it be religious, secular, political, social, cultural, occupational, recreational or scientific. Half of Durie’s work on education is therefore centred on educating national leaders, scholars, the nobility and employers. They must stop their selfish and inhuman rivalry and pull together as senior educators of the nations. If international rivalry ensues, it must be in competitive learning, the gains of which will be shared by all. We must stop teaching subjects and start teaching mankind.

    Durie laid great emphasis on the press and his inner circle of some forty scholars, linked to cells all over Europe, and some in the New World, produced pamphlets on every subject under the sun, Durie himself producing three or four a month. The amount of research material is absolutely enormous but it is mostly forgotten, wrapped up in brown paper parcels and dumped in archive cellars. Even the Bodleian Library, Oxford has not yet catalogued much of their Durie material.

    Libraries and archives, however, are key centres of universal learning for Durie and his book The Reformed Librarie-Keeper has been one of his most influential works hitherto. His standards, however, have still to be achieved. Libraries are think-tanks for the nations and an essential part of the learning process. They should be under international care and agencies must be established to which everyone can forward new ideas and everyone be partakers of them. All individuals and institutions who publish literature must see that they are library-recorded and made available to all learning establishments.


A Brief Selection of University Based Research

   Durie was so multi-sided that concentrated research into any one sphere of his works is blind-alley scholarship. His works must be viewed as pieces in a jig-saw puzzle and fitted together before his Pansophism takes shape. Most research students have neglected this comprehensiveness. Before Durie died, academic Durie studies had commenced. The earliest at Wittenberg were brief and biographical; hardly academic. At Helmstedt, Archbishop Benzelius had sent his son Carl Jesper to be fitted out for a Swedish career where Doctorates were scarce. Mosheim made Benzelius Junior his temporary assistant, giving him documents to arrange and then at a pompous university celebration in 1744, quickly created Benzelius ‘Doctor’. The work was Dissertatio Historico-Theologica De Johanne Duraeo. It was a compilation of Swedish documents with no real thesis set up, demonstrated or proved.

    In 1905, Harry J. Scougal presented his thesis Die pädagogischen Schriften John Durys (1596-1680): Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der englischen Pädagogik to Jena University. His bibliography lists only 28 secondary works with no publishing details. Thirteen pages are devoted to only three Durie works, concluding that The Reformed School is ‘die bedeutendste und umfangreichste der pädagogischen Schriften Durys’. This gained him a Dr. Phil. Though rather letting Academia down, Scougal demonstrates clearly the superiority of Durie’s educational agenda over that of Comenius.

    At Marburg in 1907, Karl Brauer presented his Die Unionstätigkeit John Duries unter dem Protektorat Cromwells, a better work. It is an amazing performance of well-documented industry, but there is a disproportion of information concerning Cromwell and the Protectorate, in relation to the space spent on Durie’s Swiss transactions followed in lesser scrutiny by his later Germany and Dutch work. Durie’s Practical Divinity hardly has a say. Only 30 of 253 pages deal with evaluation, although this is done with deep insight.

     Joseph Minton Batten presented Chicago University with his John Dury – Advocate of Christian Reunion in 1930. He maps out the eight-fold scope of Durie’s work concerning the alignment of Catholics against Protestants; of the Lutherans who accepted the Formula of Concord against the Lutherans who rejected it; of Lutherans against the Reformed; of Calvinists against Arminians; of Anglicans against Scottish Presbyterians; of Puritans against strict Anglicans; of Anglicans against Separatists; and the alignment of English Presbyterians against English Independents.’[1. P.p. 9-10.] Some of these contrasts are more imaginary than scholarly. Batten sees Durie’s concept of education as a development of Bacon’s and Comenius’. Durie is demonstrably nearer Bacon than Comenius and had presidency over Comenius in the twenties and thirties. During the forties, Durie drafted much that Comenius took over in the fifties. Why is thus Comenius more praised than Durie? It is because Comenius is extensively researched today in a narrow field, whereas Durie’s broader field is almost unknown. Research means continually gaining new, broader and deeper knowledge, not marking time at status quo.

    Daniel Neval, for instance, in his 2007 Habitationsschrift for Zürich University Comenius’ Pansophie: Die dreifache Offenbarung Gottes in Schrift, Natur und Vernunft, which sounds more like Lessing than Comenius, does not mention Durie at all and drops the name of Comenius’ other mentor, Samuel Hartlib, a sturdy pioneer of Pansophism and patron of Comenius, only by the way in one footnote. [2. See Daniel Neval’s ‘Comenius Pansophie’.] He forgets that Comenius had signed Durie’s pact that ‘we (Durie, Comenius and Hartlib) shall do nothing except it be by mutual design and consent; and that in these concerns no one of us will, apart from the others, make any decision by himself:’

Are Durie’s plans realisable?

    Durie’s major aim was utility. If a theory is not demonstrably practicable, it must be rejected. Can we attain universal learning today as desired and promulgated by Durie? The answer must be ‘yes’: but first a brief look at the failures, great and small.

    We start with Comenius (1592-1670. He never reached Durie’s heights because of his tripartite rule-of three system of Wisdom, Nature and God as three equal parallels to be compared. His Analysis, Synthesis and Syncrisis were equally goalless. This might have been good Neoplatonism but bad Durie-ism.

     Leibnitz (1646-1716), who had taken over Durie’s filum ariadnes and filum meditandi via Henry Oldemburg, Durie’s son-in-law, nevertheless followed the kabbalistic idea that bereshiit in the opening words of Genesis means ‘in the mind’ not ‘in the beginning’. He soon put human mind and idealism where Elohim’s mind ought to be. His Pansophism became a bundle of parts. Glenn Alexander Magee, who re-founded Durie’s Invisible Society, nevertheless, in his Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition says that Durie’s Pansophisism was a dream which Hegel put into practice. Hegel merely turned Comenius’ parallelogramic dream into a triangular one. His theory is defined in his never-ending triangular dialectic, explained in his Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Science as: The thesis: ‘God is God only so far as he knows himself. The anti-thesis: His self-knowledge is a self-consciousness in man and man’s knowledge of God, The synthesis: This proceeds to man’s self-knowledge in God.’

     This leaves us back where we started with the question how complete is God’s knowledge of Himself and how does man partake of it? Hegel compares at best three parallels but does not give new information. So we must go on like a dog chasing its tail setting up further never-ending triangles. This again, is the kabbalistic eternal logoic triangle, but Hegel calls it ‘the eternal idea’ but only as ‘fundamental concepts of the particular sciences.’ Thus his ‘eternal idea’ was a mere collection of ethical, logoic and magical ideas on departmentalised cultic knowledge. Eric Voegelin thus rightly calls Hegel’s scientific mysticism a ‘grimoire’; a book of magic. No government set up a Parliamentary committee to study Hegel’s kabbalistic gnosticism, but Cromwell’s Parliament actually set up a Committee to put Duries’ Christian ‘dream’ into practice. Modern communication scientists and socio-linguists are now praising John Durie’s input, but they all lack his comprehensiveness and synergism.

    Frank and Frizie Manuel in Utopian Thought in the Western World, criticise the filum Ariadnes in Durie’s Pansophism. Using Aristotelian logic, which Durie, following Francis Bacon, rejected as ‘unscientific’ they back-tracked through the Labyrinth of knowledge, cutting up the all-vital thread to ‘logically’ analyse it, actually examining only selected parts. They appear to believe that destruction makes for construction. This, by the way, is what our Systematic Theologies do, following Roman Catholic Aristotelianism. Durie’s wholeness the Manuels see as an unrealistic dream; their own cognitive chaos as ‘Science’.

    Now to the winners. Jim Merriman (1915-1997) was different. He was trained by Sir Edward Victor Appleton, as a war-time communications expert. Merriman became Engineer-In-Chief and Senior Director of Engineering of British Telecom; Professor of Electronic Science and Telecommunications at Strathclyde; Member of the Council of the Imperial College; President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Director of the Organisation and Methods Department at Britain’s Treasury and Member of the Council of a famous theological Seminary. A man with the Christian ideals of a Durie, he deplored in a Hunter Memorial Lecture the fragmentation of religion and knowledge going on in modern church life, education and science, quoting Henry Francis Lyte’s hymn-line ‘change and decay in all around I see’.

    In a 1969 Faraday Lecture Merriman presented his plans for instant inter-communication through optical fibres (notice the filum Ariadnes again!). He planned think-tank computers to relay sight, sound, voices and music from all over the world, instantly and perpetually. In 1982, Merriman was asked to give his reason for his Pansophic, universal mentality in a film made by the Institution of Electrical Engineers. Without hesitation, the Christian universal thinker said, “It is the fear of the Lord and the concern for his creation that is the beginning of wisdom’.

    Young scholars of today: the way is clear before you. Go, think and do likewise.