The Ecumenical Institute: Chicago

Spring, 1971



All of us have our conscious or unselfconscious methods for dealing with life as it comes to us. These life methods -intellectual, social and religious - are human methods, which is to say that all human beings have practical ways of coming at the intellectual, social and religious dimension of their lives.

To talk about human methods is to talk about prowess in using, your own humanity. These methods of charting, seminar planning, lecture building, model building, and using the grids of the New Religious Mode 144 charts are human methods. They are the use of your own being. They are internationalizing what is already there.

One of the most unlikely characters you could have thought of to introduce 20th Century methods is Thomas Aquinas: "Man has a certain innate aptitude for virtue, but the perfection of virtue must accrue to him by discipline and training." If you want to translate a little bit, man has a certain innate aptitude for intellectual methods, or social methods. This is just the way humanness functions when it's given by the Lord of history.

Actually the way life functions is that the social environment makes demands on you to bring intentional use of your being into the being that's already there to be intentionally used. Religious, intellectual and social methods are simply trying to get objectivity upon the resources of your own life so that you can use those resources on behalf of your neighbor. If you're building a model, you are doing what human beings have to do if they are to be human build a practical frame in which their imperatives are set before them. If you are doing intellectual methods you are doing what human beings have to do - getting images of the real.

All intellectual methods-charting, lesson planning, lecturing and course building are human methods and not something very particular over to the side. Charting is pointing to studying in general, or at an even more basic level, charting is pointing to thinking. Every person who is thinking is charting. And if you're not charting you are not thinking. If you are thinking you are charting. That kind of awareness has to dawn on us.

In lesson planning, the same thing goes on. Lesson planning is just getting on top of material and arranging it in such a way that you can help somebody else get on top of it. That is a very human going-on-ness that everybody is always doing. That's not something added on to life or some particular department of life. It's a polarity never absent.

And similarly with lecturing. Lecturing has to do with witnessing to your grandmother about the way life is. Lecturing has to do with popular preaching on the lab. One of our colleagues prepared a four by four by four for visiting his bishop. He was ready for a lecture that went in four or five different directions. I suspect that helped. This method also is pointing to something that is utterly everywhere. The problem is bringing intentionality to it.

Similarly with course-building. Building a four-day program for the region is course-building. Arranging your week in a diagrammatic helpful way for the mission is also course-building, of a sort.

To be self-conscious about these actual human functions and to get it clear once and for all that there is nothing mechanical, or impersonal about them - this is one of the areas in which we've discovered the movement needs a hard push. Intellectual methods are nothing added on to life. They Just are life. They are practical lucidity about the intellectual pole of humanness that allows you to intensify the intellectual pole in your own humanness.

You can't ever get to the bottom of intellectual methods. It's not as if after you've had the academy's three weekends on intellectual methods you've got it. Intellectual methods is as boundlessly deep as religious methods, and most of us are clear that you never get to the bottom of that. Social methods also is an infinite universe. You never get to the bottom of that. This is human prowess, and human prowess is bigger than the next fifty generations will get to the bottom of. 0ne of the sins of modern man is that he wants to get things settled. When someone says, "I've got my intellectual methods settled." I always want to smile a little bit. "I've got charting down, I've got lesson planning down." My experience with charting and lesson planning, is that they blow loose in a new corner every quarter. You never get them down.

And yet to get said to yourself that you never have anything settled is not to give permission to yourself that "Any old sloppy way is good enough for me. If there is no such thing as consensus on what charting is, then my way is as good as anybody's," or "My sloppiness will do." No, a deep tension has to be held here. Humanness is what it is. In one sense that is settled. Yet you and I experience the necessity to invent our appropriation of humanness, and humanness is such a big thing we never get it appropriated. But there is an obedience there. You are appropriating the way it is, and so any way you chart is not right, any way you lesson plan is not right, any way you lecture is not right. There is humanness there that has to be appropriated. But because you have to appropriate it and you never get it appropriated, there is phenomenal creativity in charting, phenomenal creativity in lesson planning, phenomenal creativity in lecturing.

We have to keep in mind that humanness comes, in the first instance, as, "And God said . . .." Then I try to say what God said to you and me and to myself. God always has the last word. He comes back and says: "You said it, brother!" Or he says, "You said it wrong! Say it over again." So I have to say it over again, I think that is an image that will help us in all of our methods. God is always saying to us, "This is the way to chart," and then asking us to create the way it is, that is, the chart, or the lesson plan or the lecture that is required by history at this moment.

The intellectual methods for RS-I that follow are not exhaustive of the topic. The Movement is always pushing these methods to greater depth. Nor should they be in any why thought of as restricted to RS-I teaching - if they are authentically RS-I methods, they are life methods, and applicable to all of life. And to be able to teach RS-I is to equip ourselves to be able to extract the core of any book in two or three hours, or enable any group to deal seriously and effectively with any seminar or workshop situation, or to be able to give instant or highly prepared talks, short courses, contextual statements, sermons, etc., in any situation. To be able to chart RS-I papers at four levels and to create a dynamic dramatic seminar or lecture is to be equipped with the prowess demanded in this age - the prowess to be able to inject humanness into every structure and dynamic, the prowess to be able to deal creatively with every situation in which we find ourselves.

Joseph W. Mathews