Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Announcing the Way of Beauty Online Course for 3 College Credits

For artists, for architects, for priests and seminarians, for educators, for all undergraduates!
Have you ever wondered why this painting by Vermeer is still admired by so many centuries after it was painted?


Or why a painting like Christ Crowned with Thorns by the 15th century Italian artist Fra Angelico can draw thousands of people to an art exhibition in the 21st century?

Fra Angelico

Yet they blew this building up less than 50 years after it was built?

housing project blow up

Why do you think this 18th-century mass housing has become a holiday destination...


while few wanted even to walk close to this 20th century mass housing, let alone live there, even a decade after it was built?

housing project

A significant reason, I suggest, is that the beauty in their forms, or the lack of it, makes them desirable or undesirable and this in turn affects their utility. Beauty and utility are inseparable. The form of these paintings and buildings are reflections of the worldview of those who created them, which are in turn a manifestation of the culture of the society they lived in. Although not all the were made for the liturgy, the forms are profoundly connected to how people in that society worship, as with the whole culture, for this is what shapes all that we believe most powerfully.

If you want to understand how all these things are connected, and how the forms of Western culture are connected to the way in which a society worships and most profoundly the Sacred Liturgy, then you you will find answers in the online course, the Way of Beauty, which can now be taken for college credit.

The Way of Beauty online has been available since the Fall in reduced form for audit or continuing education units. I have now expanded and enhanced the material for college credit, so that it is a much more thorough and deep investigation into the roots of Western culture. It  is accredited by Thomas More College of Liberal Arts  and is available through www.Pontifex.University. Mine are the first courses for this new education platform which has been created to provide courses that guarantee fidelity to the teachings of the Church in every course it offers.

Have you ever wondered what exactly connects the cosmos to the liturgy and Western culture? Or how, precisely, the patterns of musical harmony, the cosmos and the liturgy are connected to the proportions of beautiful buildings and paintings?


Would you like to know how to be formed, or to educate others, to apprehend and create beauty as great artists always were in the past; and why should this formation should be part of every education?

The photograph above is of a college chapel at Cambridge University. Do you know why they made a college chapel look more beautiful than a modern Catholic cathedral, and spent so much time making even the libraries of colleges beautiful in the past? It is not simply ostentatious display, as some might suggest, it is linked directly to a deep understanding of the nature of education.


If these are the sorts of questions that you think about when you look at, for example, the contrast between modern and traditional cultures, then I think you are going to find this course fascinating. The course draws on the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Church Fathers from Boethius, Augustine and Aquinas through to Newman, John Paul II and Benedict XVI...and on the methods and practices of  those who have created objects of beauty through centuries.

For more information feel free to contact me through this website, or go to the Online Courses page on my blog, thewayofbeauty.org or go direct to the Catalog at www.Pontifex.University.

This is so much more than an art history course...it does precisely what the Church tells us all education should: an 'integral formation through a living encounter with a cultural inheritance' The Catholic School, 26, pub Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education


For those who wish to read further here, the following is the information as it appears on my website:
The Way of Beauty: for artists, for architects, for priests and seminarians, for educators, for all undergraduates who want to understand what forms the culture. An ideal formation for anyone who wants a formation in beauty, to understand the basis of Western culture and to contribute to a new epiphany of beauty! 

3 College-level transferable credits, accredited by Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, just $300 per credit 

This is the most thorough and complete presentation yet of how to follow the via pulchtritudinis, to teach others how to do it too and transform the culture in the process! Includes detailed material available for the first time and which is not available anywhere else.

So much more than an art history course...it does precisely what the Church tells us such a course should and so it will affect the whole of your education: it offers an 'integral formation through a living encounter with a cultural inheritance' [The Catholic School26; pub the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977.]

You will receive a foundational overview of the great Catholic tradition of art and architecture, so that you understand how the forms are connected to the theological and philosophical outlook of each artist and the society from which he came. As such it also gives you deep understanding of what forms a whole culture of beauty.
It draws on a tradition that starts with the ancient Greeks, with figures such as Pythagoras and Plato, through the Church Fathers, such as Boethius and Augustine, to the more recent writings of  Bl John Henry Newman, St Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. For all these writers the good life has been equated with the beautiful life. This course teaches you how to live that life of transforming beauty.
  • A four part e-book, The Way of Beauty: Liturgy, Education, Art and Inspiration written exclusively for the course. See a chapter by chapter summary here: Contents.chapter.by.chapter
  • 18 fascinating and attractively produced half hour videos giving you chronologically presented history of art and architecture in the West from the ancient Greeks to the present day.
  • Plus longer video presentations of the connection between the pattern of religious life and the cosmos; and how modern astrophysics reinforces the ancient understanding of the cosmos.

Who is it for?
It is designed to accompany and enrich all other educational programs:
It is for all undergraduate students as part of a general core or Catholic studies program. You will understanding of what constitutes the essence of a Catholic culture and why this is essential to any Catholic education no matter what your major.
It is or high school students seeking college level credit before going to college.
It is for all those who love and want to help create a beautiful culture. If you love art, architecture and music and want to know what makes these or indeed any aspect of the culture Catholic; if you who wish to know how we can reestablish a culture of beauty in the West and wish to contribute to it creatively in any discipline, then you will love this course too.
For artists who are looking for a formation that accompanies the skills they are learning elsewhere. This offers a formation that will enhance their creativity and understand how to make their work more beautiful.
For architects and architecture students who want to gain a thorough understanding in how to incorporate traditional harmony and proportion into what they do, and why this will make their buildings more beautiful.
For patrons of the arts and especially priests and seminarians who are in a position to affect the whole culture profoundly by patronizing beautiful art and architecture in our churches.
For all teachers and educators, and anyone involved in adult formation this will give you a deep understanding of why a formation in beauty is an essential aspect of every Catholic education and then teach you how to pass on that formation to your students.

How is it taught?
We provide the information through 34  video presentations and detailed reading material attractively presented and which was written especially for this course. You develop your understanding through interactive online discussion groups in which students and teachers communicate, and quizzes that test understanding and allow you to ask follow up questions if you do not understand the answers. The grading is done via a series of essay questions in a mid-term and final exam. All is done in your own time and at your own pace.

What topics does it cover?
The course contains both a conventional art history course, which works chronologically through the main developments in Western art from the ancient Greeks to the present day; and a course that teaches you how to connect the changing worldviews through these periods to the actual forms of the culture. You will understand why modern art looks different from ancient Greek art and why both are different to the Baroque of the 17th century. Then by extension these arguments are applied to the culture as a whole and through this the student will understand what shapes culture, what constitutes a Catholic culture and how we can re-establish a culture of beauty in the West. In not only informs people about beauty, culture and art and architecture, it also forms them so that can apprehend beauty more readily. It explains the essential aspects of a formation in beauty, so that people grow in love for what is beautiful, become more creative and can be open to inspiration.
Of special interest to many will be my most detailed description yet of the numerical basis for traditional harmony and proportion, in which the student is taken right back to those sources which shaped the tradition including Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, Augustine as well as the scriptural basis for such ideas. There is an examination of their application through the centuries by consideration of, for example, the works of Vitruvius, Alberti and Palladio in the field of architecture. Through this the student will understand the common thread that runs through all that is ordered and beautiful. He will understand how the same numerically describes patterns are reflected in time and space and run through the whole culture. We see, for example, the same numerical patterns in the rhythms for living and of our worship in the sacred liturgy; we see them too in the structure of the cosmos at all levels of scrutiny from particle physics to astrophysics; and see these patterns in traditional Western culture.

For those who are aware of my book, co-written with Leila Lawler, the Little Oratory, A Beginner's Guide to Prayer in the Home, this is a much deeper exploration of the theology and theories which are the foundation of the practices of prayer and worship it describes. It is the soundness of its foundation in the Faith that caused Scott Hahn to describe the book as follows:  'This is one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen. It is inspiring yet practical, realistic yet revolutionary. If one book has the potential to transform the Catholic family (and society), this is it.'

Other areas of study are:
  • Cult and culture: how culture in general is derived from our worship and why it is the strongest influence on is in our formation and our education, bar none - not social factors, not economics, not politics.
  • The Catholic traditions in figurative art with case studies on a number of paintings in each figurative tradition. You will know, for example, what makes the gothic, the baroque and the iconographic styles distinct; and what connects them so that each tradition is appropriate for the liturgy. We contrast and compare these with the forms of art that reflect modern philosophy and from traditional non-Christian cultures.
  • Creativity, Intuition and Love These are the fruits of a traditional education in beauty. It develops us as people so that we have more ideas and better ideas and can grasp the relationship between particulars and the whole in any context better. It also increases our capacity to love God and man and our inclination to do so. This is demonstrated not only by reference to the traditional understanding of these things, but also to modern scientific research which supports the points made. While this is presented as a discussion about these topics as subjects to learn, we provide guidance also to those who wish to become more creative, intuitive and loving by actually practicing and experiencing the principles described.

The Way of BeautyTM, SM is a service mark and trade mark wholly owned by David Clayton and cannot be used by others except with his permission.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: