Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From Quadrivium to... Trivium

New from
Beauty for Truth's Sake was about the four liberal arts known collectively as the Quadrivium. I wanted it to be as practically helpful as possible to people working to reintegrate wisdom and a sense of beauty and the sacred back into education. On this blog and on the main site where the book is listed I continue to place material to supplement what is in the book. One of the resources I recommended is a series of little paperbacks published by Wooden Books on topics such as Harmony, Sacred Geometry, Astronomy, etc. Now the publisher has rolled all these little books into one impressive textbook, the cover of which is reproduced on the right. I thought you'd like to know!

So that is the Quadrivium. But that is only four of the seven liberal arts. Maybe now we should turn our attention to the remaining three, the Trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric. According to Hugh of Saint Victor, summarizing the tradition in the high Middle Ages, "Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing." The Quadrivium is about mathematical symbols and geometry (numbers and shapes), while the Trivium is about verbal symbols and the arts of language. The interest of educators in the Trivium and in the Classical Curriculum generally was fuelled by a famous essay of Dorothy Sayers called "The Lost Arts of Learning". (There is also a classic textbook on the subject by Sister Miriam Joseph). It is widely agreed that the skills of speaking, thinking, remembering, communicating and debating are endangered by a culture of instant electronic social networking, images and sound-bites. Yet if we cannot think for ourselves, what becomes of our freedom?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Look and Learn

Classical Montage by Angus McBride
For a boy like me, growing up in England in the 1960s as part of the middle class, Look and Learn is a phrase to conjure with. It evokes whole worlds of imagination and knowledge. Look and Learn was a weekly educational magazine that was carefully built up over the years into a bound set of encyclopedias, each issue full of wonderfully informative and interesting stories and pictures. (This picture is used by kind permission.) Many of these educational treasures have since been reprinted in a limited number of volumes, but the whole archive is available on a web-site for the use of teachers and parents in the 21st century. Do go there and explore - I highly recommend it.

And while I am looking back, I may as well mention the other magazine I received each week - the Eagle, with its very English space-hero Dan Dare being the main attraction. The artwork and tone of the whole thing beat most other comics into the ground, and the artist Frank Hampson won all kinds of awards from the comic art community. There is a Dan Dare web-site where you can see a lot of what went on in this splended series.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In space no one can hear you sing...

The old idea of the "music of the spheres" seems to be coming back into fashion. Astronomers at the University of Sheffield have managed to record for the first time the "eerie musical harmonies" produced by the magnetic field in the outer atmosphere of the sun. They found that huge magnetic loops coiling away from the outer layer of the sun's atmosphere, known as coronal loops, vibrate like strings on a musical instrument.

Other astronomers have done the same for a much more distant and larger star, KIC 11026764, nicknamed Gemma, about 3,100 trillion miles away from the Earth. "Essentially stars resonate like a huge musical instrument," said Dr Bill Chaplin. "Stars make sounds naturally but we can't hear this as it is has to travel through space. Like a musical instrument, stars are not uniformly solid all the way to their core, so the sound gets trapped inside the outer layers and oscillates around inside. This makes the star vibrate causing it to expand and contract. We can detect this visually because the star gets brighter and dimmer and so we can reconstruct the sounds produced from these vibrations."

The scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (where high-energy collisions of subatomic particles result in temperatures of ten trillion degrees) have also turned their readings of the energies released by particle collisions into sound, and are planning to stage a concert of the resulting music.

All of this is very reminiscent of Pythagoras and the search for cosmic harmonies that started off the history of science in the first place. But silence is coming back into fashion too. A successful film (Into Great Silence) and TV series (The Big Silence) have transfixed viewers with the deep, meditative silence of prayer. A record featuring two minutes of complete silence is tipped to rise to the top of the music charts this weekend, for Remembrance Sunday. The director general of the Royal British Legion said "we felt the UK public would recognise the poignancy of silence and its clear association with remembrance." In his recent exhortation, Verbum Domini, the Pope emphasizes the important role of silence in the Liturgy. "The word, in fact, can only be spoken and heard in silence, outward and inward." Thus people must be "educated in the value of silence."  "Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose.... Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence."

The silence of space is due to the fact that sound cannot travel through a vacuum. But sound is just a particular vibration, and the whole universe is made of vibrations of various sorts, so the music of creation is everywhere. Composers and musicians simply "tune in" to some deep harmonies in nature and filter out the dissonance. That seems to be the message of a sweet modern fairy-tale of a movie, August Rush, mentioned in the sidebar. But everything takes place against a background of silence, which - a bit like the "vacuum" of space - is anything but empty, but rather full of potential energy. By listening to silence we still the unnecessary turmoil of our minds and hearts, allowing the meaning of creation to sound forth.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To affirm the material

In my book I write about 'poetic knowledge' and the importance of imagination as a vehicle of truth. One of the key figures in the English Romantic movement - worth more than a brief mention - is William Blake, who died in 1827. He was influenced by, among other things, Jacob Boehme’s and Emmanuel Swedenborg’s astonishing visions of inner worlds and the “new Church” of the Spirit; but also by his friend Thomas Taylor’s powerful translations of the works of Plato. Blake worked as an engraver and painter, designing visionary images that are nearly always striking, if not startling. He was also a poet and a prophet, expressing his prophetic inspiration through a vast and obscure mythology. These mythological writings represent the triumph of human freedom and the liberation of human energies by means of a cosmic war that rages from Eden through America and Albion to the end of the world.

In keeping with the spirit of these works, Blake was a radical in social thought, and a heretic in religious belief. He raged against the “dark, satanic mills” of the Industrial Revolution that were destroying Nature and the traditions of human craftsmanship, and against “Newton’s sleep”, the Rationalism that he believed was destroying the life of the Imagination. Interestingly, despite Blake's heretical tendences, in the biography that G.K. Chesterton published in 1910 he presents Blake and St Thomas Aquinas as warriors fighting in the same war, and even on the same side. Chesterton contrasts two types of mysticism, that of Christendom and that of Orientalism. The latter is the mysticism of oversimplification, of the dissolution of many into one. But Blake, he argues, “was on the side of historic Christianity on the fundamental question on which it confronts the East; the idea that personality is the glory of the universe and not its shame”.

So Blake’s heathen mysticism was on the side of Christendom against the Orient. And thus Blake and St Thomas are agreed that “the highest dogma of the spiritual is to affirm the material”. Aquinas confirms Blake’s fundamental intuition that things are more real, not less real, than they appear to us. “And there is an upper world of what the Schoolman called Fruition, or Fulfilment, in which all this relative relativity becomes actuality; in which the trees burst into flower or the rockets into flame”.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Pope on the Pavement

When Pope Benedict XVI visited the United Kingdom in September, one of the most striking images was of him sitting side by side with the Archbishop of Canterbury, trading polite speeches, on the Cosmati Pavement of Westminster Abbey. That pavement is worthy of some attention, especially if, like me, you are interested in the symbolic meaning of geometrial forms and their role in the great cathedrals of Christendom. (The following notes are abridged from the official website description. But PLEASE WATCH this excellent documentary about the pavement. Bear in mind that the image I have chosen is just a detail.)

The pavement was laid down in 1268 by order of King Henry III who had started re-building St Edward the Confessor’s Abbey in the new Gothic style in 1245. The workmen came from Rome, with a man called Odoricus at their head. It is 24 feet 10 inches (7 metres 58 centimetres) square, with dimensions calculated in Roman feet, and consists of geometrical patterns built up from pieces of stone of different colours and sizes cut into a variety of shapes: triangles, squares, circles, rectangles and many others. The basic layout is a four-fold symmetry, but in detail the variations are endless. No two roundels are the same. Of the four "orbiting" roundels one is circular, one hexagonal, one heptagonal and one octagonal. The infill patterns are all different.

The inscriptions that accompanied the design, now damaged, read in part: "If the reader wisely considers all that is laid down, he will find here the end of the primum mobile" and "The spherical globe here shows the archetypal macrocosm."

The round stone at the centre contains colours representing the four elements. It is on this stone that every king or queen of England was crowned. [See also here.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Another Keyword Optimization / Ranking Tip!

Just wanted to do a quick tip on keyword optimizing. Okay it's not really quick but I think it's informative : )

Here are some simple rules that you can follow as far as trying to rank for your keywords.

When I optimize a site, I base all of my SEO packages or Custom quotes off of the competitive nature of a keyword.

If a keyword is competitive then I know the campaign has to be on a long term basis. If the keyword is low in competition, then I know that basic work will need to be done and not so much on a long term basis.

So here's somethings that you can jot down in your BIG THICK BOOK OF SEO ADVICE.

If your keywords are low in competition i.e. usually three to five words in a phrase.

Here's some things you can expect to do (of course there are other things but these are just quick tips):

Make sure your keyword is in your meta title and meta description.
Put your keyword in a Header tag.
Make sure it's in your on page content i.e. descriptions.

If your keywords are medium in competition i.e. Between 700K to 900K in competition for example purposes.
  • Follow all the steps above
  • Start link building with your keywords i.e. add your site to directories, other related websites, blogs.
Now if your in a competitive market. It's not just enough to optimize your meta tags, have super great content on your site and just leave your SEO work alone because you feel that you've done what you have read to do out of your BIG THICK BOOK OF SEO ADVICE!

No Sir-E

Not only do you have to follow the steps above, it will be a must to make sure, without a doubt that you are link building with your COMPETITIVE keywords.

Many think that by optimizing your onpage content or website pages that you should be on the first page of Google with no problem. WRONG!

What you will find is that your endless hours of searching for your ranking, will be wasted because 9 times out of 10 not only will you not be in the top pages, you will not be in the top 100 pages for a very long time.

Well unless the internet Gods are watching over you.

Here's what you want to do if your in a competitive niche or market and you want to eventually rank for one of your "competitive" keywords.


I know, you're tired of hearing those words, and I get tired of it too sometimes but the truth is, it's effective.

  • Link Build using your keywords in your link i.e


The section that states your KEYWORD HERE is going to be the part of your link that is clickable.

You always want to make sure your keyword(s) are in the clickable area of your link.

  • Make sure to change up your Keywords and Descriptions. Natural link building is important. It's not so natural for each and every site to have the same exact linking information to your site. So switch it up here and there.

  • Submit your site to directories. YES, this still works. There are still some great directories out here that are being listed in backlinks everywhere.
  • Create great articles and submit them to articles directories like or These are also great ways to create backlinks with using your keywords.
  • Contact blog owners and see if you can get listed in their blogrolls. Blogrolls are an excellent way to help with backlinks and ranking.
  • Do a quick search for the keyword phrase you want to rank for. Take note of who is already listed on the first page for that phrase. Contact them and try to get listed on their site. Their current ranking can help you out as well.
  • Check and see which pages you are currently listed on the first page of the search engines for and add your keyword phrase on that page that you are ranking for. Simply place your keyword phrase on that page somewhere in the content. Link that keyword phrase to your page that you want to rank for and repeat with other pages that may be indexed on the first page.
  • Last but not least. Try getting your website on high quality websites. Site with high page rank may be a bit harder to get a link from but it doesn't hurt to try!

There are tons of ways to get links to your site, by link baiting (creating a fuss to get people to link to your site, whatever a fuss means to you, go for  it), one way links to your site are the best, create blog post and link back to your site from your blog, and don't forget the internal links on your site. It helps to link from your own website pages to others. A great place to do this is from your home page, but don't go overboard. Linking to a few deep inner pages can help that page get indexed and may help with ranking as well.

DISCLAIMER: Keep in mind the word "competitive" exist for a reason. Ranking will be harder to achieve and requires patience and determination because this is not something that is going to happen overnight, expect to wait at least 6 months to a Year before you start to see some real ranking results in the search engine result pages.


Not a patient person? Consider Adwords for quick traffic for your keywords, while your waiting on your SEO work to take effect. The two tactics can compliment each other very well.
If you choose not to do any link building. You'll have to wait until the age of your site becomes a ranking factor for you. Sorry to sound harsh, but GOOD LUCK WITH THAT : )

Hope I didn't make your head spin to much with all of this wonderful and exciting keyword ranking and link building!

Just take it one page at a time and you will be okay!

Got a question or just confused. Leave me a comment and I'll try to ease the confusion.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A dance of light

Following on from my previous post (The Sea, the Sea), it is worth noting that G.K. Chesterton had a very different and less sympathetic impression of Impressionism. To quote Fr Aidan Nichols' brilliant study, G.K. Chesterton, Theologian:
At the Slade Chesterton also acquired an extremely hostile attitude to the painterly mode called Impressionism, a hostility that not only later defined much of his attitude to art at large but was formative for the development of his realism in metaphysics. Consider his 1907 novel, The Man Who Was Thursday. As Gabriel Syme, fleeing from the agents of Sunday, dives into a patch of woodland, the play of light and shade on the leaves causes him to muse:
Was not everything, after all, like this bewildering woodland, this dance of dark and light? Everything only a glimpse, the glimpse always unforeseen, and always forgotten. For Gabriel Syme had found in the heart of that sunsplashed wood what many modern painters had found there. He had found the thing the modern people called Impressionism, which is another name for that final scepticism which can find no floor to the universe.
'The identification of Impressionism as a symptom of cultural and, especially, epistemological decadence also finds expression in, for example, his 1910 study of William Blake. Seeking to express how for Blake lucidity and decisiveness of outline were the chief desiderata in draftsmanship, Chesterton risks the anachronism of writing that “the thing he hated most in art was the thing which we now call Impressionism — the substitution of atmosphere for shape, the sacrifice of form to tint, the cloudland of the mere colorist.” 
I think Chesterton had a point - there are tendencies of that sort in Impressionism, although I see in several of the impressionists a very different spirit, and Claude Monet (one of whose pictures is reproduced above) I would even call a mystical realist, which is something very different from a sceptic. As for Blake, Chesterton's study of him will be the subject of a future post.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Sea, the Sea

Golden Wave, by Piers Browne
What is it about the seaside? Is there anyone who does not feel liberated and uplifted by standing on the shore and looking out to sea? Feet planted on the rocks, gazing at the living waters, breathing the charged air, seeing the horizon-line where the sea meets the sky... just add a bonfire, or stars overhead, and all the archetypal elements are represented - as though we were present at the creation of the world. Piers Browne's paintings at Art Jericho in September captured this experience, and particularly the beautiful radiance of light on the ocean; evoking not just the origins of the mundane world but somehow the promise of paradise on earth. I suspect this is the effect that Monet was seeking in his exploration of waterlilies and haystacks and the canals of Venice - the intuition of an eternal heaven glimpsed in the transient effects of sunshine on air and water.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are women more beautiful than men?

In ancient thought, it was often assumed that the male of our species is more beautiful than the female. Certainly this was the assumption in Greece, and Plato’s dialogues reflect a virtual cult of male beauty. However, I think I have theological proof to confirm my longstanding suspicion that woman are more beautiful than men. See what you make of it.

According to John Paul II’s theology of the body, discussed in the latest issue of Second Spring, the real source and meaning of gender lies in the Trinity. The Trinity is love, which means self-gift. Love includes within it both activity and receptivity, and it is an act that necessarily involves three Persons. We might say the Father is the divine nature as Giver, the Son is that same divine nature as Receiver (and then, as Receiver, in turn a Giver, since he is the perfect image of the Father), and the Holy Spirit is the divine nature as Gift. (John Paul II names the Holy Spirit in his encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem “Person-Gift”.) Thus the Spirit is Gift, both given and received, and unites Father and Son in the act of giving.

In the creation, Woman is brought to Man precisely as “gift”, crowning the gift of creation in general, which has been made for him. Woman is brought to man not just as wife but as friend, sister and eventually mother as well, all rolled into one in a way that will never again be the case until the advent of the Virgin Mary, who will form with her Son the new beginning of the human race. (In fact the original gift of Woman could be said to include – obscurely and distantly – the gift of Christ himself, who will descend from her in the fullness of time.) Here in this moment of creation Adam represents the Son, the Receiver of the Father’s Gift, and Eve the Holy Spirit, or that which the Father gives. (Perhaps this is why St Maximilian Kolbe describes Mary, the Second Eve, as a "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit.) She is the breath of life, the living essence of the man, taken out of him and returned in the one form in which he can find himself in his own solitude – that is, in the form of another person to whom he can give himself.

The nature of Woman, then, the deepest meaning of her gender, is to be Gift for Man, to manifest the Spirit, just as the deepest nature of Man is to be the Receiver of the Gift, and to manifest the Son to her. Thus femininity in its totality, at its deepest level, is the essence of humanity made visible to itself as the definitive beauty and glory of creation. (Similarly the essence of masculinity consists in the loving response to this gift which awakens Woman to her own self.)

Adam and Eve fresco by Masolino da Panicale, 1424.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lost Tools of Learning

I thought readers might like to know about an article by Brad Birzer (author of a good book on Christopher Dawson) over on the "Imaginative Conservative" blog concerning the importance of the Liberal Arts revival for the future of Western civilization: What Might Help Hold Us Together. Also recommended is The End of Literature by Ben Lockerd.

Barbara J. Elliott writes on the same blog. In her The Power of Beauty, she says:
Art has the twin functions of reflecting a culture and shaping it. The problem that contemporary artists face is a difficult one: how to express meaning to a world which has become culturally over-stimulated by the spectacular, hyper-sexualized, dumbed-down by inanity, and increasingly antagonistic to manifestations of Christianity. Some of the artists who are here this week struggle to believe that the vocation as an artist – especially a Christian artist – has any meaning or value at all. They are at the edge of redefining and creating anew with moral imagination a vision of the True, the Good and the Beautiful that has been all but exterminated in Western culture.
She goes on to analyse the defects and influence of modernism in the arts, and calls for a "second culture". I get nervous when words like "conservative" are used as labels, so it is worth mentioning that these guys are in the tradition of Russell Kirk, Christopher Dawson and T.S. Eliot.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Holiday Optimization Tips : Getting Your Ecommerce Site Ready For The Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner. Is your site ready for the holiday shopping season?

If not now is the time to start focusing on getting your site ready for the holidays.

I get a lot of questions from website owners like yourself, wondering when they should begin optimizing their holiday categories and products for the holidays. My answer to them is always, YESTERYEAR!

As I know you are already aware that holidays are competitive and the sooner you began optimizing your site and products for the holidays the better.

Here are some examples of when you should start optimizing:

If you have any products that are holiday specific like Halloween, and Thanksgiving you should have already begun to optimize your site months ago.

If your products are Christmas related you should begin to optimize your products and categories Today! 

Don't wait until October or November to try to start ranking for Christmas baby outfits or Holiday themed photo cards. Get started on your optimization today.

Holiday products especially Christmas themed products are very competitive and difficult to rank for if you wait until the last minute. By knowing this here are some tips that you can do to help with ranking:

1. Go through your site and pick out all of your holiday related products whether that be Halloween products, Thanksgiving Products or Christmas products.

2. Start working on your keyword research now. You will find more Halloween related search terms now since October is right around the corner. Make a long list of keywords that are being searched for. You can use Google's free keyword tool at the link below or Wordtracker's tool. Whichever you prefer. Narrow down your list of keywords to low to medium competition keywords.

3. Take those keywords and start optimizing your holiday themed category. If you don't have one set up yet but have holiday related products. Set one up now. Actually set one up for each holiday. You can have a main category that says Holiday Products and the sub categories can be Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc..

4. Next use those low to medium keywords in your product's title, your product's description (very important), your product's meta description and meta title (if your hosting company has separate fields for meta tags), and your product's images. Make sure that each product has it's very own unique meta title, on page description etc..

Examples are always fun, so here's an example:

You have two products that are similar. One is a red and white holiday dress and one is a red, white and green holiday dress. Here is what you can do to separate the two:

Meta title: Red and White Holiday Dress
Meta Title: Red White and Green Christmas Dress for Girls

Always differentiate your products by including the colors, who it is made for and any other specifics to help with creating unique content for each product.

5. Once you have optimized each holiday themed category and the products within the categories, now it's time to start doing some off page optimization. Start taking each one of those categories and start link building with them. Submit your categories to social bookmarking sites for the quickest exposure. Some sites would include Stumble Upon, Kaboodle, Mom Faves, Fave and others.  Create a blog post based off of each category. Once you create each blog post, submit your blog post to Stumble Upon, Digg, Delicious, Share it on Facebook and Twitter. Ask other's to pass it along.Create articles or Squidoo lenses (MY FAVE!)

Contact blog owners to see if they can do a product review and or add your link to your holiday category from their blog roll. This can be achieved here at the Circle. There are many members who would love to add your site to their blog roll.

6. Last but not least, invest a little money in Adwords especially for Halloween items, since that is right around the corner and steadily creeping up and even Back to School items. I know Adwords is intimidating but it's not impossible. Sign up for an account and set your daily budget to something you feel comfortable with. You can pause your ad campaigns whenever you want to. Keep an eye on your ad suggestions that Google makes and keep an eye on keywords that aren't preforming so well. Make sure that each ad you place has keywords in the ad that are related to the page that your visitors will see. Direct your visitors to your holiday pages, not your home pages. You have a higher chance of converting a sale that way. The less your visitors have to click to find what they are looking for, the better.

If you follow those tips, you have a great chance of benefiting from being listed on the first page of the major search engines.

Holidays are big money makers and there is no reason why you shouldn't be getting a piece of that holiday pie too!

So start on your holiday optimization right away, especially any Halloween or Thanksgiving related products. Don't wait until the last minute to start!

When all else fails, consult with a search engine optimization specialist to help you get your site prepared for the holidays.

Good Luck to you all and I hope to see you at the top!

Here are your resource links:

For all of your Holiday SEO needs visit My SEO Gal

Contact Us to find out how you can get 15% off our services for the holidays.

Carla Phillips

Friday, July 2, 2010

Images of heaven

We live in an age of images, in which photography and photoshop, CGI and advertising, surround and enfold us in an inescapable cascade of pictures and fragments of pictures, sometimes to the extent of seeming to create a whole artificial world. The elderly are often dependent on the TV that serves as a companion and tranquillizer, the young live their lives through the computer screen on their phone or laptop. The word "icon" now signifies for most people something purely secular - a tiny image that opens up into an application, or else the trademark appearance of some celebrity. Paradoxically, in this Age of the Image, we have lost the ability to read images - to see through them into their meaning. Instead we go through them to other images, and are caught in an endless chain of distraction. To read images we must appreciate symbolism. The image signifies something ultimately real yet invisible, something grasped by intuition or intellect using the image as a support. We need a revival of "mystagogy". This is something church architects and artists have rediscovered, and as a result many new churches may be easier to pray in than some built in the last generation. Matthew Alderman writes about this in "Heaven Made Manifest" from Antiphon magazine ("The crucifixion is just a symbol, but symbols still have meaning, especially in this age so starved of symbol, sign, and iconography"). The symbolism of the Christian temple is analysed in great detail by Jean Hani in a book of that title. The leader of the new movement in church architecture is Duncan Stroik, who directs the Institute for Sacred Architecture at Notre Dame and its brilliant journal. Take a look, also, at Liturgical Environs by Steven J. Schloeder. The beacons are lit...

Photo of Westminster Cathedral by Rose-Marie Caldecott.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In praise of tradition

The word tradition derives from trans- "over" and dare "to give".  In every traditional society or civilization, a process takes place that can be called a “handing over” of the stories, the knowledge, the accumulated wisdom of one generation to the next. It is a handing over which makes each new generation into a source of wisdom for the one that will follow. What is handed over is a “gift”. It is not simply a bundle of property whose title deed is being transferred to the next generation. Rather, it carries within it something of the giver. Its transmission is an act of love. Thus the gift of tradition involves and transforms the interiority of both the giver and the recipient.

Tradition in the sense I am describing is of the highest value because it is not something we simply manufacture, nor something cooked up by our parents, but something our parents themselves have received with gratitude and respect. Its origin is what makes it sacred.  Some kind of revelation of truth, or what is believed to be a revelation, forms the seed of every great tradition. Tradition is venerated because of this. The moment we suspect that our tradition is based on a lie is the moment it loses its authority over us. Thus tradition is based on the act of faith. I adhere not simply because it has been handed down to me, but because I believe it is “true” (even if I cannot directly verify its truth for myself).

The receptivity proper to love makes possible the transmission of tradition from one generation to the next. And when that spirit is present, tradition is never felt like a dead weight on the present. Only a tradition that has lost this spirit can become a deadening force.

Photograph of the Vatican Library by Br Lawrence Lew OP, used with permission.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Golden Circle

In chapter 4 of my book I talk about a rectangle inscribed within a circle. Naturally there are an indefinite number of such figures. Take the diagram on the right, kindly produced by Michael Schneider. Look at the outermost circle, and the largest rectangle that lies inside it, touching its circumference at A, B and C. You could move points A and B nearer to the left-hand end of the horizontal diameter of the large circle, or else push them further apart towards the two ends of the vertical diameter, producing an ever-thinner oblong shape. Halfway between these  extremes the rectangle would become a square. But the shape Michael has drawn is a Golden Rectangle, so we can call the whole figure a Golden Circle ("Golden" because of the presence of the Rectangle). The G.R. is famous for being the "most beautiful" of rectangles, possessing the peculiar property that its sides are in the ratio of 1 to Phi (1.618...), so that if you cut off a square portion what remains is a smaller Golden Rectangle - and so forth, forming a logarithmic spiral, as in the following image.

When I wrote the book I was intending to use the Golden Circle as a way of exploring the relationship between Pi and Phi, but I never got around to it. My reason for being intrigued is simple. What we learn from Simone Weil - and what she learned from the Greeks - is that geometry is full of theological meaning. We have forgotten how to make those connections. It is not that we can prove the Trinity or the Incarnation with diagrams, but that the mathematical world is full of analogies that echo theological and spiritual truth. You might even say that mathematical necessities are a portrait of divine freedom, since in God freedom and necessity coincide. The beauties of geometry and arithmetic are a world of metaphors and help to raise our minds towards the contemplation of divine truth. My book only touches on this, but a much fuller and richer account is given by Vance G. Morgan of Providence College in his book Weaving the World: Simone Weil on Science, Mathematics and Love, reviewed here.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The use of analogy is fundamental for human thought and language, and in particular for theology. Derived from the Greek analogia "proportion" (ana- "upon, according to" + logos "meaning" or "word"), it refers to the way we compare one thing with another on the basis of some likeness or similarity. It is more complicated than a simile, which happens when I straightforwardly compare one thing to another ("God is like a light"). It is also more complicated than a metaphor, which is when in poetic language I simply assume the similarity in the way I describe something ("God is a light for my eyes and a path for my feet").

An analogy is built out of similes and metaphors - it extends them not just to things but to relationships between things. If a simile is like a ratio (A : B), an analogy is a ratio of ratios (A:B : C:D, or "the relationship of A to B is like the relationship of C to D"). So to form an analogy we might say, for example, "Clay is to the potter as the world is to God". But "analogy" is also used more generally to cover all the ways we compare things that are similar to each other in some respect but not others. Everything we say about God relies on metaphor and analogy, because the words we use necessarily come from the things we can see and touch.*

So God-talk has to be taken with a pinch of salt. When we talk about God we mustn't take ourselves too literally. There is an analogy here with the problem of "graven images", or the temptation to mistake the image for what it represents. But what if God talks about God? In Jesus, we believe, God spoke as a man. Just as the Incarnation gave a justification for icons, so it gave a justification for saying certain things about God and believing them to be true. Philosophy and mysticism were possible before Christ - but now there is also theology. The things in the world were always "like" God in certain ways, not just as signs of his presence and activity but as expressions of his nature, or natural symbols of him. But now they can also be sacraments and sacramentals.

All of this perhaps serves as background to the use in my book of geometrical and mathematical "analogies" to the Trinity. Thomas Aquinas was perfectly clear on the fact that the Trinity cannot be proved by anything in nature - nevertheless, once we know by revelation that God is triune, we can see traces or impressions of the Trinity everywhere. So, for example, all things (1) subsist, (2) have a definite form, and (3) are ordered to an end (echoing Father, Son and Spirit). Following Simone Weil, I wanted to show that fundamental numbers and shapes also "echo" the Trinity in this way. There is no attempted proof here, just an intellectual intuition or an aid to contemplation, but the point is that knowledge of the Trinity enables us to appreciate the beauty of creation by seeing in its ordered harmony a meaning that we could not know before. Mathematics, in its own way (and you won't hear this said too often!), is a picture of love.

* There is much talk in theology about the "analogy of being", or attempts to compare the existence of God and that of the world. For an interesting discussion of that topic go here.

The photograph is by Tom Bree and is used by kind permission.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Exploring patterns

If you enjoy geometrical patterns or colouring or even if you are contructing a tiling system for your kitchen or bathroom, you might want to look at this site from Altair Design. Teachers and parents might like to look too, to see some activities to get kids painlessly interested in geometry. Explore the site - it has a huge variety of patterns that you can colour online, a competition you can enter, and a gallery of the best examples done by other people. The middle button at the top gives you some history and context for the site.

I also recently stumbled on some nice tiling patterns based on Escher's drawings in the Alhambra (one of which is shown in the picture). If you go to the page via the link, click on the individual patterns and you'll open up some spectacular PDFs.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Symmetry is one element of beauty, and in the book I describe how a physicist attempted to locate all particles on a grid consisting of the most symmetrical object conceivable – and failed. Does this failure disprove the coinherence of beauty and truth? Hardly. For in fact a slight departure from symmetry can be even more beautiful. This is true at many levels. In the early moments of the big bang, if matter and antimatter had been exactly balanced the universe would have destroyed itself. I recently read of some research into the shape of the neutron, which at present appears perfectly symmetrical, having an electric charge (or more precisely “electric dipole moment”) of zero. Researchers hope to find some slight asymmetry in order to explain the excess of matter over antimatter which enables us to exist. Zero is the most symmetrical of numbers but not the most beautiful, and existence is always a departure from it. The pattern of human love has been described by Angelo Scola in terms of “asymmetrical reciprocity”. Thus a theologian might say that the tension of asymmetry runs right the way through creation, from top to bottom, as the mark of the Creator, and is only resolved by the Trinity in a way that eternally preserves difference within unity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Twitter Tips ! : 7 Tips For Using Twitter For Your Business

When it comes to using any social media site, forum or any online community. There's a right and wrong way to do it.

Below are some tips to get you moving in the right direction, if you are thinking of using Twitter to get more exposure for your business or if you are already using Twitter for your business and are just looking for some refresher tips, then this post is for you too!

Tip 1:
Help out your fellow follower: One of the really great benefits of being part of the whole social networking movement, is you have the ability to help those in need. If you see a post that ask a question that you are knowledgeable about or know something that may help. Respond to it. When responding you can use the persons id in your response to let them know that you are replying to their message. You do this by using the @ symbol then their user name. By helping someone out whenever you can, you will start to establish trust with your followers. They will start to remember you and your brand and you can become an authority figure in your industry. Helping is a great way to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and others too! So contribute when you can.

Tip 2:
Update on a regular basis : Okay, this one is easier said than done and if anyone knows that having time to post updates on a daily basis is just sometimes not possible, I know oh to well. So what I recommend doing is to put aside a couple of minutes out of your day to drop by your Twitter account and post something informative. Now don't have a cow if everyday isn't possible. Take a deep breathe it's okay if you don't have the time. I would recommend posting at least three times a week. It's a great way for your followers to get to know more about you and your business. The more they get to know you the better your chances are in establishing a relationship with your followers and maybe gaining a customer and friend.

Tip 3.
Be informative and Professional : I'm quite sure we've all seen the Twitter post by some that we follow letting us know about their everyday events. From updates about what they just had for breakfast to what time they woke up. It's okay to let people know about personal things and I even encourage it. Your followers can get to know you on a personal level which is great , but I have something that's even better when speaking about getting exposure for your business! Be informative, you only have 140 characters that you can use, so keep it simple. Keep your followers informed about things that are going on in your industry, special deals you may be having or events that will be going on. I don't think they will mind hearing about something that is going to benefit them. Not to sure if knowing that you just had your teeth pulled is going to be something that they are going to look forward to knowing about. Then again, it depends on which industry you are in.

Tip 4.
Show some Retweet Love : If you see an update made by someone else that you think will be a benefit to others, Retweet it! What is a Retweet you ask, well a Retweet is when you take a post made by someone else and copy it into your updates with the following : RT @theusernamehere. It's actually even more easier than that, with a simple click, you can choose to retweet a post.
You can also add a Retweet button to your blog or website like I have here. You can get the code to add to your website at the following website : Tweetmeme

Tip 5.
Follow , Follow, Follow : So you've noticed that you have some new followers. Great! Now you must return the favor and follow them. WRONG! Just because someone follows you, it does not mean that you have to follow them back. Follow those that you have interest in. If you do, you'll just get annoyed quickly, if those you follow post a ton of advertisements and nothing that interest you and those that really interest you will be left behind quickly due to the large amount of updates you will be getting.

Tip 6.
Be Grateful : If you notices that someone took the time to Retweet one of your post or a blog post or your website. Thank them, it's the right thing to do. Although the Retweet may have been done out of pure like, people still like to be appreciated and maybe even caught off guard by your appreciation.

 Tip 7.
Don't over market your business : Last but definitely not least. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT over market your business on any social networking site. Advertising your business is great and to be expected by those that follow you, but there comes a point in Social Networking when enough is a way to get people to unfollow you. Post about specials you have going on, new products or services, freebies etc.. Just don't do it in excess. Post sales and specials here and there, around once or twice a week.  I would say 10 to 20% of your updates can be advertising related, others can be about other things going on in your industry or terrific resources or even a shout out to a fellow business owner. A little promotion for others goes a long way! 

So get your tweets together , make a list about what you want to discuss and what you think will be of benefit to your followers and get to Tweet, Tweet, Tweeting away!

See you on the Twitter side.

Carla Phillips

Monday, May 17, 2010

6 Tips on How to Increase Your Blog Traffic

I know that I have been away for a while and haven't been posting that much this month and I truly apologize for not providing you with your weekly SEO fix, but rest assure that there will definitely be some great tips, and resources to come.

To start off the tips, I have decided to do a blog tip about getting traffic to your blog.

I got a question from one of our members at the Network Circle about driving traffic to a blog and I thought that this would be a great topic to blog about.

The great thing about blogs is that when you are a frequent poster, the search engines fall in love with you and will reward you by listing your blog post in their top search engine result pages.

Search engines love fresh content and blog posting is a great way to give them what they want.

Here are a few quick tips that I have used for my blog and other's to get some traffic to your blog:

1. Post, Post, Blog Away: The key to your blog success is to post and post frequently. When you are posting on your blog each week. Visitors will see that you are dedicated to providing your readers with up to date content as well as the search engines and you will find that your blog post are being pinged or indexed right away. I would recommend posting at least 1 to 2 a week.

2. Be informative: Make sure you are providing your readers with market related information. This can be how to's , or how not too's, tips, specials, reviews etc.. If your readers see that your blog is a benefit to their daily lives, they will come back to your blog and even follow it!

3.  Post contest or Giveaways: A great way to generate traffic to your blog is sponsoring a contest or hosting a contest directly on your blog. The best contest are those that give away a bunch of items from numerous companies. The growing trend is to post your contest on Facebook, which has a promotions app now available I think there are some rules that you have to follow in order to post contest there, but you can always team up with other blog owners to help you promote the contest and contact store owners or niche specific sites or stores to see if they would like to donate a prize in exchange for some free publicity. Who can turn down that! We have some amazing blog owners her that can help you out. Just visit our blog section.

4. Have a newsletter sign up box on your blog. There's nothing better than being able to keep in touch with your fans! So why not take advantage of those that love you and have them sign up for newsletters so you can keep them informed of any events, important information in your industry etc.

If you dont have an email campaign company yet, you can check out a list of them here:

5. Submit your blog to blog directories: Another great way to get traffic to your site if I haven't mentioned it yet, is to submit your site to blog directories.

Submit your blog to these sites below then after that you can ping your blog by using It's very easy, you just enter in your blog url, name of your blog and RSS feed url if you have one and click submit and your blog post will be updated in some popular blog directories.

Blog Daisy


Blog Wise

Blog Catalog








Blog Street


We Blog Alot

Globe of Blogs




Ice Rocket

6. Last Tip but definitely not least: Market, Link Build, Market.
Make sure you are getting your blog the exposure it needs. Add your site to as many niche related directories. Top 100 sites have become a great traffic generator, so I would suggest adding your site to as many of them as possible. Team up with other blog owners and see if you can get listed on their blog rolls. If you do, then your latest blog post will show up on their blog for their readers to see. Take some of your blog post and revise them a bit and create a Squidoo lens, once you create your lens, share it with your facebook fans, twitter followers etc. Include a link to your blog in your lens.

Make your blog post into articles and submit them to popular article directory sites like or This is a great way to generate traffic and backlinks to your blog.

Submit your blog to blog directories and Digg and Stumble upon. These social bookmarking sites can generate a lot of traffic for you.

The more you get your name out there the more you will start to see an increase in traffic and readers for your blog.

Just remember to always be consistent. Keep your logos the same, so you can start creating brand recognition and stay in the spotlight without being annoying. Meaning, keep your blog name out there by constantly posting on your Twitter account, Facebook account, blog etc. Remember that humans are forgetful unless you keep your name out in the open. If someone is constantly seeing your blog name, they will start to look for your post and want to know what the fuss is all about.

If you own a blog and have been successful , make sure to chime in below about what has worked for you as well.

Carla Phillips

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Two Cultures

The phrase was made famous by C.P. Snow’s Rede Lecture of 1959, in Cambridge, England, which was viciously attacked by the critic F.R. Leavis in 1962 and later, more moderately, by Lionel Trilling in America, generating a major controversy in academic circles concerning the relationship of arts and sciences. (See C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures, with an Introduction by Stefan Collini, Cambridge University Press, 1998.) The controversy recalled a famous exchange in the 1880s between T.H. Huxley and Matthew Arnold. Snow, like Huxley before him, took the side of the scientists against the men of letters. Not being able to describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics, he thought, was equivalent to confessing that one had not read a work by Shakespeare. His critics argued that the contrast drawn between the two cultures was crude and misleading, that his celebration of consumerism and the industrial revolution showed him to be a rabid philistine, and so forth.

When Snow and Leavis were writing, the English education system forced children to choose between the humanities and the sciences as early as the age of fourteen. As Stefan Collini points out in his
Introduction to the book, if it is hard to speak of one simple dividing line between art and science any more, the underlying problem has not gone away. The fragmentation of the disciplines has continued, and we have lost a sense of how of these each fits into the larger cultural whole. This problem afflicts even liberal arts colleges in the United States, and connects with deeper problems that need a spiritual and not just a bureaucratic response. In an article in The New Atlantis called "Human Dignity and Higher Education", Peter Augustine Lawlor writes:

It is no secret that most of our colleges that give lip service to “liberal education” do not deliver it, and what they do teach exaggerates — not moderates — the undignified confusion of our time. They certainly do not give students the impression that there is much — if any — moral or humanistic content (as opposed to method, like critical thinking or analytical reasoning) that they need to know. And so they do not give students the impression that their education is about who they are or what they are supposed to do. Moreover, the permissive and indulgent atmosphere of our colleges extends adolescence far more than it serves as a bridge between childhood and adulthood. Our colleges inculcate habits that are positively antagonistic to the formation of moral virtue, and they often undermine the good habits and confident beliefs that students sometimes bring with them to college in the first place.
 Lawlor praises some of the smaller liberal arts colleges in the US for offering a real education, but he points out that secular institutions tend to be victims of the culture around them - all the more important, then, when choosing a college, to go for one that is explicitly religious in its foundation and ethos (one like Thomas More College, perhaps, shown in the picture). Luigi Giussani's book The Risk of Education: Discovering Our Ultimate Destiny (Crossroad, 2001, reviewed here by Joel Garver) makes a refreshing read on this subject. "Never before," he writes, "has society... had so many tyrannical tools to invade our consciousness. Today, more than ever, society is the sovereign educator or perhaps more correctly, mis-educator. In this climate, the educational crisis appears first as a lack of awareness in which teachers the,selves become unknowing promoters of society's flaws." Giussani goes on (p. 74):

It also appears in a lifeless approach to teaching, in which teachers lack the energy to wage war against a pervasive negativity, choosing traditional, formalistic positions instead of renewing the eternal redeeming Word in the face of the new struggle.
Does a religious commitment belie the term "liberal" by contricting academic freedom? Not necessarily. It all depends on the spirit and the people involved. Faith should be an act that deepens our freedom to love, not one that inculcates fear and suspicion. For Giussani, education is a calling that appeals to all the dimensions of the human spirit, and that is why love is always the key. "To love is first of all a way of conceiving oneself as 'sharing one's life', thus as being ontologically linked to everything" (p. 79). God, the origin of being, is precisely this sharing of life - the ultimate and inexhaustible meaning of life, the world, and history.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Alhambra

In their early period of rapid expansion the Arabs took over the Middle East, acquiring and preserving much of the ancient learning. They also developed it, picking up in many ways the intellectual torch of the Greeks. There was a brief shining moment some centuries later when Europe was able peacefully to absorb the knowledge of the then vastly superior Islamic civilization, through translations made in Toledo and the efforts of adventurers like Adelard of Bath. This transmission, as much or more than the redicovery of ancient learning in Italy, lay the foundations of the Renaissance and the rise of modern science. The story is told by historian Bettany Hughes in her accessible TV history documentary about the Moors in Spain - part of a larger series of excellent history programmes. Readers may like to see this clip about the Alhambra Palace in Granada, one of the wonders of the world, in the second half of which she talks about the legacy of Pythagoras and the geometrical principles that made possible this stunning architectural achievement.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Essence of Beauty

Traditionally, truth, goodness and beauty are properties of all being, of everything that exists, in one degree or another. Truth is being as known - the correspondence and coherence of the idea and the reality. Goodness is being as willed - acting in accordance with the fullness of that which is. What, then, is beauty? Beauty is being as enjoyed, as rejoiced in – that which, when seen, pleases. This is why Etienne Gilson can say that man is a creature “who knows other beings as true, who loves them as good, and who enjoys them as beautiful” (The Unity of Philosophical Experience, p. 255).

The association of beauty with joy is important to reflect upon. What is this joy that beauty gives? It is surely the feeling we get of liberation. “For the experiences which should be produced by that which is really beautiful are wonder, and sweet amazement, and desire, and a pleasant fluttering of the wings of the soul” (Plotinus, Ennead 1:6). Beauty liberates or expands us beyond the boundaries of the self.

At the level of eros, we recognize that there are two main ways to expand the self by uniting it with a desired beauty. The feminine way is to receive the beautiful into ourselves. The masculine way is to project or inject the self into the beautiful. At the spiritual level we do both, and both ways are rooted in God, who both receives himself and gives himself in the three Persons.

In order to recognize something as beautiful, there has already to be some connection with it, some element of recognition, as well as an inclination to affirm if not unite ourselves with it. In that sense, beauty cannot be separated from truth and goodness, and from the faculties of knowledge and will. There is something in us by which we judge the beautiful to be such, and this means that we have the essence of beauty already within ourselves, even though it is also beyond us.

Image: Stars in the Water, by Rosie Caldecott

Friday, April 30, 2010

The I of the Beholder

May is such a lovely month in Oxford, with the blossom coming out everywhere. But many people remain convinced that it is purely subjective - that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". The architect Christopher Alexander developed an empirical test that points in another direction. He calls it the "Mirror of the Self". Subjects who disagree when asked which of two objects are most “beautiful” will suddenly show a remarkable degree of agreement when asked instead, “Which of these two objects would you prefer to spend eternity with?” or “Which would you prefer to offer to God?” or "Which is the best picture of your whole self?" The reason is, surely, that the question causes us to give the object our full attention, so that we start to respond to it as a whole and with our entire selves. When forced to focus in this way, observers quickly come to agree on which object they prefer, on which is the more wholesome and nourishing to their humanity.

What Alexander has proposed is nothing less than an extension of scientific method in which the self is used as a measuring instrument. This escapes the Cartesian paradigm based on the elimination of the self of the observer. What it points towards is that “science of qualities” prophesied by Goethe, based on the accurate observation of inner feeling in relation to the parts of the world. It is complicated by the fact that in order to judge the objective value in things we have at the same time to refine (that is, educate) the instrument with which we measure, the faculty of discernment itself. His test is also a method by which to teach people to discriminate between what they have been taught (by fashion or ideology or habit) to like, and what truly moves, attracts, and inspires them at a deeper level. These are not always, or even usually, the same thing.

"Our apparent liking for fashions, post-modern images, and modernist shapes and fantasies is an aberration, a whimsical and temporary liking at best, which has no permanence and no lasting value. It is wholeness in the structure that we really like in the long run, and that establishes in us a deep sense of calmness and permanent connection."
Christopher Alexander’s most influential book was A Pattern Language (1977), but the Mirror of the Self test can be found in The Phenomenon of Life, the first of a four-book series called The Nature of Order.

[Image: Garden in Shoreham, by Samuel Palmer, from Wikimedia Commons.]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Help in teaching math

I have come across a number of books and websites that math teachers may find helpful - or, come to that, teachers of other subjects who want to build bridges for their students to the mathematical aspects of their own topics. There are the classics, such as Constance Reid's From Zero to Infinity: What Makes Numbers Interesting, and H.E. Huntley's The Divine Proportion: A Study in Mathematical Beauty. Several others are mentioned in my bibliography, including Michael S. Schneider's and Clifford A. Pickover's. These books are full of exercises, drawings, puzzles and anecdotes. One book that isn't in my Bibliography because I only just heard about it is Alex's Adventures in Numberland, by Alex Bellos, but it looks fun. Another is 50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need to Know by Tony Crilly - highly recommended by several readers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Everything connects

In practical terms, what can a university do to encourage the sense that "everything connects", that the individual disciplines concern aspects of a "whole", that the meaning of those disciplines depends on that which transcends them? In many cases it is not possible to redesign the curriculum. Nevertheless, it must be possible to do things within existing structures that will move things gradually in the right direction. We spoke, for example, of the importance of allowing opportunities for students to acquire first-hand experience of nature, whether through gardening or field trips, and also of other cultures
and points of view through excursions, pilgrimages, visiting speakers and debates. Film, drama, literature, music and art also brings people together across the university. Interdisciplinary research projects and discussions can always be encouraged and facilitated.

Christopher Dawson would argue that we need to introduce more study of cultural history. Every discipline has a fascinating historical dimension, through which the student can glimpse a broader human and cultural meaning beyond the present content and procedures of the field. But we must not "abstract" the discipline in another way, by forgetting that it lives in us and in the students, not just in a set of textbooks or even in a history. There are personal reasons and experiences which have led us into this field of study, and often these are linked to the search for truth, beauty and meaning. Admittedly many students will respond that they have come the college for economic and vocational reasons, simply to earn a qualification for a profession. Yet surely they need to ask themselves some deeper questions about the profession they have chosen and its ultimate meaning and purpose.

Thus in addition to the focus on history, and the cultivation of a broader imagination, and the facilitation of contact across disciplines, a key role will be played by philosophy, precisely in helping to awaken those deeper questions and assist in finding answers to them. What makes philosophy so important is the fact that, while we may not all be chemists or medical students or mathematicians, we are all philosophers, whether we realize it or not. We all try or pretend to think rationally, we all operate on philosophical assumptions, we all have moral views - the more unexamined, the less coherent these are likely to be. Thus as well as a historical dimension, each subject has a philosophical dimension that cannot be evaded, and some exploration of this dimension must lead in the direction of the "whole truth" where the University finds its principle of unity.

As for theology, it cannot be separated from spirituality and from the life of prayer and service. Thus, as one of the faculty pointed out to me, we should not forget friendship and also humility as playing an essential role in the healing of the university. It is friendship that really transcends the barriers between one subject and another, and humility that enables each of us to participate in the community and tradition of scholarship, keeping us open to the possibility that we may have something more to learn, even (or perhaps especially) from colleagues in another field.

These thoughts are being set down during my enforced layover among my new friends in Houston, while the ash cloud hangs over Europe. Readers may not be aware of an earlier discussion of Beauty for Truth's Sake on our community pages. There I try to list the particular books from my bibliography that would particularly help with further and deeper study of these questions - one is certainly Vance Morgan's excellent book on Simone Weil's approach to mathematics and geometry, Weaving the World (summarized and reviewed here), elements of which are woven into my fourth chapter.

Illustration - The University in 1350, by Laurentius de Voltolina, from Wikipedia Commons.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Are we being modern, postmodern or premodern when we seek to recover and integrate the "lost wisdom" of the ancient world within the contemporary university? In discussing the point among the faculty of the University of St Thomas in Houston after the Earth Day lecture recently, we came up with the term "transmodern". It contains echoes of the "transcendent", and the prefix trans- suggests we are looking "across" the modern world, as well as beyond it, to find the elements of our synthesis. The goal is not to impose a Catholic or theological vision on all the disciplines, but to foster a deeper conversation within and between disciplines against a theological "horizon". That is, theology serves as a placeholder for the truth that lies beyond all of us.

We need in each case to seek within our own discipline for the direction in which truth lies, even if we never lay hold of it entirely. To give up the search or aspiration for truth would be to abdicate our reason. As McIntyre argues in God, Philosophy, Universities, there has to be the "conception of a whole to which each discipline contributes as a part" and towards which it is reaching by its own methods. It is in the search that we will find some convergence with other disciplines, or some opening towards them, some basis for conversation. And it is when we assume that we have attained all important truth within our own field, or alternatively when we have decided that truth is unobtainable, that we become closed off to one another. At that point the university (like the universe) fragments into a myriad shards.

Once again I want to recommend the Pope's lecture to La Sapienza University, before talking next time about some practicalities that came up during our discussion in Houston.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Checking Your Organic Keyword Ranking Data Just Got Easier!

Have you ever wondered how many times your listing appears in Google's organic search engine results? Want to know how effective your listing really is? How many times someone clicks on your listings and in which position your link gets clicked on?

Well, the wait is over! You can now see which keywords are performing the best and in which positions on Google!

It's one thing to be listed on the first page of Google but it's a whole different ball park when your listing is actually being clicked on by potential customers.

Up until now there hasn't really been any really good tools to tell you exactly where your site is listed and how many times someone has actually clicked on your listing to get to your site.

There are some techniques and some tricks of the trade that let you know these things but nothing that most website owners/ webmasters would know.

Guess what,

No you no longer have to wonder if your listings are actually being clicked on.

Google webmaster tools now tells you what keywords your site is being listed for in their search results and in addition to letting you know which keywords they also tell you how many times your site shows up in their search results plus how many times your listing is actually being CLICKED ON!

How cool is that!

You can also know which positions your listings were in and how many times your listing was clicked on in that position plus so much more!

You may be shocked to see that being #1 doesn't always mean your listing will be clicked on. You may see that your listing in the 4th or 6th position is doing better than your listing in the 1st position.

This to me is excellent news as far as SEO is concerned. This will give you the opportunity to see what's actually working for you.

This new data will let you know if you need to spruce up your on page content / meta tags or change around some wordings if you find that a keyword is getting a lot of impressions but the CTR (click through rate) is at a very low rate.

This tool is also great for seeing how your branding is working. You can check and see how many times someone actually types in your business brand opposed to typing in your actual keywords. If you see that your brand name is showing a lot of impressions and click throughs, that is a clear indication that there is some buzz going on about your business and you are moving in the right direction.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of webmasters to help improve their keyword ranking in Google , Yahoo and Bing and increase their website traffic and conversion rate. Our packages have always included Google Webmaster Tools set up but I urge webmasters to sign up for an account more than ever now.

I have been granted permission from one of my long term seo clients (Fleur Lilly) to use their data to show you how the new feature in Google's webmaster tools can help you with optimizing your site or improving your visibility in Google's search engine result pages (SERPS).

Below is the data for one of 358 top search engine queries or targeted keywords. We targeted this keyword phrase for them in the beginning of March 2010. From the data (March 18,2010 to April 18,2010) , we can see that our optimization for this keyword phrase is on the right track. This keyword has generated a lot of traffic to their site and they have seen a tremendous increase in conversions for this brand, so much that they told us that they had sold out of many of their styles and have had to order close to 200 new pairs!

In the images below, you will see the number of times their site shows up in Google's search engine result pages (Impressions), the number of times potential customers clicked on their listing (Click Through Rate) and the percentage between the two.

This image shows their top search query, how many times their site showed up and the number of traffic they got for just this keyword phrase for the past 30 days:

This next image shows a break down of the keyword phrase, which you can see by clicking on the + sign right next to your keyword. The data shows the position their site / listing showed up in their SERPS. It also shows how many times their listing showed and the number of times her listing / link was clicked on.

If you pay close attention you will see that her site performed better in the 3, 4, and 5th position. Guess what!? Their site did okay on the 2nd page too! Their site showed up 1000 times and was clicked on 46 times. Not to bad for 2nd page listing. The site has showed up on the third page too but no clicks. So from their data their site performs great on the first page and still has traffic from the second page but being listed on other pages is not something that is too beneficial.

This image data shows something that is very interesting. This image shows which pages are getting the most click throughs and impressions. What was interesting about this data is that their product pages are getting the most traffic. This goes back to my comments about not abandoning your product pages. It's great to focus on your categories and main categories but definitely more beneficial when you focus on the actual product landing page. So don't neglect your product pages. Make sure you optimize the meta tags and your on page content.

Using your data in your webmaster tools can help you improve your website by letting you know which keywords you are ranking for, and how many times your site is being clicked on. If you see that you have keywords that have a high impression amount but a low CTR and more importantly no sales. Then go back to the drawing board and change things around a bit to increase your CTR. I'll do another post to give you tips on increasing your CTR. If you have a low percentage in click throughs but your conversion is high, you can still be on the right track and just may need some minor updates.

You can also use this data to increase your branding.

If you are not getting any traffic with your business name as a keyword, this lets you know what you need to improve on as far as branding.

If branding is part of your business strategy then you will have to start focusing on building your brand through social media avenues, building business relationships with others in your industry and getting your name out there by participating in events or even partnering up with blogs.

This new feature in your Google Webmaster tools gives you so much insight and data that you definitely want to look into if your organic listings are important to you and your business online success in Google's search engine result pages.

Now is the time to get focused and make a decision about how serious you want to be about moving in a positive direction with your search engine optimization and website traffic needs.

The tools are available to you, it's up to you to take advantage of them.

If your not sure what all the data is or how to improve your organic search engine listings. Consult with an SEO specialist.

Special Thanks to for allowing me to use their data!

Got any questions or comments about what you have done to improve your keyword ranking and CTR, leave us a comment, I'd love to hear from you!

Carla Phillips

A veiled presence

While in Houston I took the opportunity to visit the Rothko Chapel right across the road from the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, near the University of St Thomas and the Menil Gallery. Both chapels use modern materials to create an appropriate space to serve the art within. The Byzantine frescoes from the Church of Cyprus show Christ Pantokrator and the Blessed Virgin, with angels.They are displayed in a glass chapel at the heart of the structure and evoke a sense of the sacred in the traditional manner of sacred art. The Rothko Chapel is equally effective in a very
different style. An octagonal room with light entering from above, the walls are occupied by eight huge sets of panels of grey-blue and brown and dark purple. If the ceiling had been low and flat, instead of raised and full of light, holding the octagonal structure together, the impression might have been oppressive. Rothko ended his life in suicide, and some have seen his obsession with darkness as a psychological and spiritual dead end. Yet strangely I did not find the effect to be one of sadness or spiritual despair. These panels set in a space of great integrity invited me into an interior space and dialogue that seemed both uplifting and refreshing. Like mirrors yet without the distraction of images seen in glass, the panels reflect one's interior landscape and allow one to hear the voices inside one's own head. The surfaces are not plain but full of texture and subtle variation; the forms are not mass-produced but each unique, and marked with the traces of human labour; the geometry is harmonious both with the building and its play of light, and between the panels, three of which (on three of the main walls facing the Four Directions) are triptychs and the fourth possibly a Golden Rectangle.

I felt a bit like an early hominid or spaceman from Kubrick's 2001 confronting the black monolith. Yet these were far from black, and seemed full of quiet life like shadowed water, or dark oceanic horizons, or the shrouded mountainsides of a Japanese landscape. The texture of brushstrokes suggested in one the northern lights, in another a vast cave of stalactites. You bring yourself into that room, and the paintings in that space help one to become entirely present. If prayer is attention (Simone Weil) then the Rothko Chapel can be a place of real prayer. Yet the shape of the space is crucial. The paintings have an intensity and a presence of their own, but it is the geometry of the structure in which they are set that completes the effect. And although the Chapel is a place of worship, meditation and prayer for persons of all faiths, the room feels to Christians a bit like a baptistry. Sacred geometry speaks a language of its own, giving the spiritual traditions some kind of common ground. And if the visitor does not find his way across the gardens to the Byzantine frescoes where the Presence is less veiled, he at least is brought to the threshold of a revelation, the open Book of Nature that is the cosmos itself, and the Self that awaits in quiet expectation.

The illustration is gratefully borrowed from a fellow blogger at  

[Since I wrote this post, the journal Communio has published a wonderful article on art by Rodolfo Balzarotti which contains a detailed analysis of the Rothko Chapel in section 3. Please read the article, which is mainly about William Congdon.]