The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart
The wit and wisdom of Comenius, also his frustration and his deep spirituality, are seen most clearly in the book he wrote in 1623, The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart. He wrote it while in hiding, in the wake of the Battle of White Mountain. The Brethren weren’t welcome in Bohemia anymore. Comenius was a stranger in his own land.
His anguish took refuge in allegory. He wrote of a young man trying to find his way in the world—but what a strange world it was. The Labyrinth strikes one as a cross between John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Ecclesiastes. Of course, Comenius wrote five years before Bunyan was born. His work is more of a social commentary than Bunyan’s, with a cynical edge to it. Comenius’s pilgrim finds that all in this world is vanity, until…Well, we’re getting ahead of the story.
We quote some excerpts from The Labyrinth on succeeding pages, but we were so struck by the cleverness of this allegory that we wanted to give you a plot summary as well. Perhaps, if you’re interested, we’ll publish a modern version of this classic work, but for now sit back and enjoy this condensed travelogue of Comenius’s adventures in a strange world.
The Labyrinth of the World strikes the reader as a mixture of Pilgrim’s Progress and Ecclesiastes. The narrator is a pilgrim, wandering through an allegorical world, and he sees only futility. Tie-ins to Comenius’s own life are evident—he wrote this in hiding, after the death of his first wife and their children, as the Hapsburg forces were beginning to run the Protestants out of Bohemia and Moravia.
As a young man, the narrator wonders what to do with his life. He decides to test out all occupations before choosing. With two guides, Searchall and Delusion, he comes ...