Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


H.R. Rookmaaker - What is Reality lecture video

Hans Rookmaaker: What is Reality? (lecture on YouTube)

With a introduction by Byrne Power

Hans Rookmaaker's lecture, What Is Reality?, is a recording I would conservatively estimate that I have listened to at least 40 times since I discovered it in the L'Abri cassette library in Huémoz Switzerland back in 1978. I had arrived at L'Abri coming out of a Jesus People group that had developed some cultish habits since the heyday of the movement back in 1972. I had discovered Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri the year before I crossed the seas from my home base in Northern California. It was all that I could think to do to resolve my problems. I ended up staying for nearly a year. When I arrived I had hardly heard the name Rookmaaker before. I may have seen his book, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, sitting on a bookstore shelf, but at that point the topic meant very little to me. But I knew something had been brewing beneath the surface of Western culture. Schaeffer pointed that way, yet there was still much more that I needed to know. And then one of the other students recommended I listened to Hans Rookmaaker's lecture on reality. He said it was the best lecture he'd discovered in the L'Abri library. I soon came to concur with that opinion.

On the surface of it, Rookmaaker was asking about the limitations of the scientific world view, versus a world view that allowed a place for meaning. But in fact Rookmaaker was doing much more. He was pointing the way towards the questions that we needed to ask. This 'simple' lecture proved to be extraordinarily dense. I think philosophy students might find his language a bit on the naïve side. But then again the majority of academics in the realm of thought have almost no understanding of art history. And they have since ceded most of that ground to 'critical theory'. Rookmaaker had a vast understanding of the problems of art, and while the lecture does not deal directly with his specialty, it is completely informed by it.

The point of the lecture is to prod the question, What Is Reality? And prod it does. His examples from vacationing to anatomy have the refreshing feel of bringing issues most folks don't ever consider into plain view. Whether he is discussing the Middle Ages, the relationship of Renaissance artistic perspective to Descartes ideas of space, or asking a poignant question on the nature of water, I have found that he is stirring up a very deep well indeed. As the years passed by I find piece after piece of his jigsaw puzzle and fit them into the overall picture exactly where he claimed they should be. This lecture is a product of the last phase of his life. It was recorded at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts in 1976. Sadly Rookmaaker died in early 1977. And when I discovered this and his many other lectures in the L'Abri library I keenly felt the loss of his voice. There were so many questions I wished I could ask him. And I chose in my own explorations to follow the path laid out by him. And to seek resolutions to the problems he had elucidated.

A couple of years ago I started a YouTube channel called The Anadromist (anadromous means swimming against the stream). At a certain point I thought it's time to take Rookmaaker down off the historical shelf and present him to a new generation. And so, with his daughter Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker's permission, I created this visually annotated and cleaned up version of What Is Reality? So far it's been greatly appreciated by the hundreds who have heard it over on my channel. Now it's your turn. If you haven't heard of Hans Rookmaaker, or only know him by name, it's time to hear his voice.



Hans Rookmaaker: What Is Reality? (Annotated L'Abri Lecture 1976) Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, art

Who was Hans Rookmaaker? Hans Rookmaaker (1922 - 1977) Dutch Art Historian - Born in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in 1922. He was converted to Dutch Re...