The Lost Book and Master
While researching the history and values concerning an old game known as The Philosopher’s Game or Rithmomachia (battle of numbers), I came across an interesting comparison. It is one with a historical significance and one to consider in realizing the possible deeper, underlying meanings of tales highlighting the attainment of wisdom.
The full appreciation for playing the Philosopher’s Game is lost to history, but those who played the game in Cathedral schools or universities throughout the 11th to 16th century were believed to have enriched their soul by playing it. The principles practiced and experiences given during the play of the game provided insights into Truths not easily taught by mere words.
The game was a tool to encourage and promote ideas and thoughts. Like an instructor of Dance who does better teaching by demonstrating, rather than speaking, the game’s play offered students the better opportunity to learn through their actions that were initiated by understanding the secrets of numbers.
Rithmomachia embraced the mathematical philosophy of Boethius. It transmitted the proportions, means, and ratios of numbers, and how these, observed in nature, conveyed the harmony of creation. Boethian thought was expressed in the seven Liberal Arts, and so the game, too, was shown to educate players on the Trivium and Quadrivium. A mind which received and realized these Divine principles would be able to then reflect them.
The above belief, where achieved wisdom is reflected through the person, was an important aspect to early teachings. Someone who was seen as rigid or rough in appearance or manners was believed to not have acquired the inner wisdom yet in order to display these higher virtues. If the knowledge was conquered, then the outer appearance would be in harmony of such. And this is where I find an interesting connection.
It is said Hugh of St. Victor compared the body of a Master to a book. The Master’s body; his expressions, his tone, his dress, his posture, his temperament, etc., revealed the Master’s inner wisdom and soul. The body could be ‘read’, and the apprentice of such a man would learn by reading and imitating the Master. He could develop harmony, and become like his Master. Hugh of St. Victor described this as that of a seal being pressed upon wax. (teacher upon student)
It reminds me of the sentence in the Maranatha Puzzle’s introduction; For to know the Seal (the teacher/master), would be like a death to the present self (student). To truly know the Master one followed and read, he became him. His present self was transformed.
This knowledge reflected through the Master was understood by Bernard of Clairvaux. In referring to the body as an ‘ornament’, Bernard stated: “The best and most desirable is that ornament which even angels might envy.” The book, The Envy of Angels, written by C. Stephen Jaeger, is entitled after this sentence. Jaeger explains since Angels do not have physical form they are denied the ability to transform their bodies into a reflection of their Divine character. They cannot become an admired piece of art,like a man can, and so might envy the shaping of human being.
What I find intriguing in the above is the awareness that if a Master’s body is missing, then so is a book lost or the knowledge it expressed. The reverse can then be said of a lost book. If a book is considered lost, then so could be the Master.
Related in the Maranatha puzzle is the fact that the book to which Nicolas Flamel received his wisdom was said lost. Although the tale describes it as a book, I have to question if this is just an allegory for something more. It also makes me wonder about Christ’s empty tomb and a hidden belief concerning it.