Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a closer look at the classical trivium. Yesterday, you may have seen Kaylyn Wilson’s overview here, and I’ve also mentioned some specifics of the Grammar Stage here and of the Logic Stage here. What could possibly come next?
Why, just so. The Rhetoric Stage.
The Rhetoric Stage is the capstone of the trivium. It is the telos of all prior years of study since Preschool, the goal, the crown and glory of the whole classical-ed show. Until this stage is reached, the Grammar and Logic stages are only incomplete preparation — valuable in their own right, but weakened and compromised without unification. Rhetoric is a queen with her crown, the picture of unity, strength, and power.
Rhetoric brings true beauty to knowledge. And so rhetoric is wisdom adorned. Far from the byword it is today — “That’s just a buncha rhetoric . . .” — this stage fixes all knowledge to the standard of God’s beauty, and it speaks like he speaks. It writes like he writes, creates like he creates, and loves like he loves. Unless that universal model of beauty is learned, what might happen to knowledge? To a disconnected Grammar and Logic?
Many things, from the silly to the tragic. Sans beauty, brilliantly-educated minds give soporific speeches via monotone PowerPoint. Those that conceived the great cathedrals are gone, and “the architecture of servitude and boredom” (as Russell Kirk once said) produce industrial slums. The “suicide art” of Jackson Pollock and the irreverent and nihilistic “Piss Christ” of Andres Serrano are hailed as masterpieces. The ruling elite see the stunning magic of the infant human form as inventory to be chopped up and sold to the highest bidder. And if there is no beauty, no standard for loveliness, who are we to object? Let our children use their classically-educated minds to find their own truth.
But the earth is full of God’s glory, and it is crying unending praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. What is all our knowledge and logic without the living Word? What is beauty without the Glory of Christ? What is love without incarnate Love? We lay all our learning at His feet — from Grammar to Logic to Rhetoric and beyond — in recognition that He is the author and finisher of all.