What is the Lyceum Institute?
Not to be overly dramatic, but the Lyceum Institute is something new, bold, and challenging: it is a persistent online, digital, archival, communal educational institution dedicated to helping all of its members foster better habits of intellectual living–and most especially of living within the digital sphere which has become an integrated part of our lives.
Does an online educational institution actually work?
“Doesn’t this just turn into a Facebook group or a Discord server, where everyone just echoes the thoughts of the others or gets kicked out?” Skepticism is understandable: most of our experience of social relationships online has been undermined by a technological structure which, rather than encouraging personal relations, inclines us instead toward popularity and ideological conformity. By deliberate and conscientious awareness of the medium in which we interact–as well as the private nature of our community–we avoid the pursuit of likes and reactions; we seek, instead, the challenges which come both from ourselves and from others to better ourselves and our understanding.
Therefore, one may approach use of the Lyceum in two ways: passively or actively. The passive way is to sit on the sidelines and observe content: reading and listening. This has its own benefits, for the development of the mind: one may quietly engage in the collective dialogue, thinking through the questions it raises with humility and a contemplative attitude.
The second way, the active way, is to engage in developing the habit of questioning: asking why and what, how, by whom, through what, and so on. This may require profferring one’s own thoughts on a given topic. It seems, perhaps, scary. But one develops this habit, like all others, only through practice and with a certain fearlessness of criticism, a fearlessness of being shown to be wrong or in need of correction. In the words of Thomas Aquinas:
If anyone wishes to write back against this, it would be most welcome to me. For no method better opens the truth and confutes falsity than making a stand against contradictions; as according to Solomon, “iron sharpens iron, and a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).1269-70: Liber de perfectione spiritualis vitae, c.26, n.5.
We are friends, challenging and thereby sharpening one another’s countenance.
Thus, every member is encouraged to write–short treatises, questions, dialogues, whatever emerges from thought–or record an audio file, comment on a resource (PDF, lecture), and so on. To engage with anything and everything; sharing thoughts, whether positive or critical (though always positively, with cognizance that everyone here is in pursuit of truth); commenting on lectures or posted writings–challenging the person delivering them, asking questions, making suggestions–charitably and courageously, accepting that we may be shown up as wrong from time to time, and that this is, indeed, something right.
Is everyone a Thomist?
Hardly. Though Thomism plays an important role in many members’ philosophical studies and understanding, the presence of Thomistic thinking is but one element of our whole.
Further: it is held that the spirit of Thomism entails of its adherents a receptivity to truth whatever its origin. While not every Thomist behaves in such a manner, it remains nonetheless one of the key and undeniable principles of Thomas Aquinas himself.
Is this a cult?
No. Well, at least, not except insofar as one may hold wisdom as something belonging to the divine, such wisdom being the object of our daily pursuit.
Why should I pay for this, when I can find endless videos and articles for free, online?
You shouldn’t, if all you are looking for is content and idle stimulation: that is, a stimulation of the mind which functions primarily as a salve for the neglect of intellectual habit. But it is just that habit–and particularly the habit of a dialectical sharpening, iron against iron–that the Lyceum Institute strives to offer. If the motto of the Lyceum Institute were not inquirere, ordinare, memorare, it might well be, “What do you mean?”
That is: the value of an education is not what one derives as information accumulated from diverse sources, but a thinking which deftly navigates the true and false. Information alone provides no training in the skill of such navigation. Such can only be gained from personal interaction, the dialectic between individuals, between professor and student, between friends–or even enemies–in the common pursuit of understanding. The Lyceum Institute offers just such an environment.
How does it work?
Rather intuitively: the Lyceum Institute currently operates through the use of Microsoft Teams, which has applications available for desktop PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android, and which is always available. Through those applications, one can engage the thoughts of others lectures, threads, group chats, video conference sessions, and more. Some sessions are scheduled for live participation, but much can be done on one’s own schedule–fitting the busy and varied lives of people far-flung while nevertheless enabling a communal growth and interaction.
The technical adaptation may take some time to figure out, but a short amount of time spent navigating the application–on whatever platform–and it quickly becomes an integral part of one’s digital life.