“Theater of Man’s Life”

Sir Francis Bacon and the

Advancement of Learning


Saturday, Mar. 21, 2009

1:30 p.m.

Room 111-A Chancellor’s Complex, UCSD Campus


Cathy Blecki

Cathy Blecki, one of our members, gave a version of this talk  at  the National Coalition of Independent Scholars meeting in Berkeley,  October 24, 2008.  It is titled: "An Independent  Scholar’s Perspective on Sir  Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning (1605).”

 Francis Bacon (1561-1625) combined an ambition to reform learning with a desire to be a public servant. As he notes in the Advancement of Learning, "in this theater of man’s life, it is reserved only for God and Angels to be lookers on."

A few biographical points will offer a perspective on what Bacon learned from his family, especially his talented mother, Ann Cooke Bacon, from his formal education, and from his travels in France during his adolescence. The sudden death of his father when he was eighteen left Bacon without a father and without an estate. Although he was raised by a family of wealth and position, Francis Bacon would now have to earn a living.

 Without a fortune or a patron, Bacon continued to have scholarly ambitions. While working as a lawyer and Member of Parliament, Bacon wrote the Advancement of Learning during breaks when Parliament was not in session. He had it printed and did his own publicity, writing to King James I, to Thomas Bodley and to other friends and people in authority. Blecki will also look at a few passages from the Advancement of Learning, explaining what Bacon wanted to reform in the humanities and the sciences.

Cathy Blecki received her B.A. from CSU, Los Angeles, and a doctorate in English Literature from UCLA. During the time between her B.A. and doctorate, she taught in high school and at the College of San Mateo. Blecki was a Professor on the San Jose State University faculty, teaching English and American literature until her retirement in 1999. When she and her husband David moved to Southern California, she discovered the San Diego Independent Scholars where she has had many lively discussions and found many friends.



In 2007, Ron Stadsklev arrived in China’s Hunan Province to participate in a fascinating experiment that he told us about at our February meeting. His task was to help train Chinese young people for life in the West. The students spent two weeks to three months, speaking English only, at Red Horse Lake Training Center. The center included a small town designed like an American one, complete with hamburger stand, bookstore and other shops. Stadsklev taught English as a second language and coached basketball. As a specialist in gaming simulation, he also put the students through various games that simulated American life. The aim was to get students thinking about Western culture. The students took on various roles according to their simulated situations and communities. They developed language in that context, learning to  negotiate and collaborate within a specific type of community.

While in Hunan, Stadsklev also observed the variations of Chinese life, including an emphasis on the commons, that is, the value of common interests. He learned that strong personal, even family, ties are important for doing business in China. Hunan is famous for its spicy food, but Stadsklev could not take advantage of it, because he can’t eat spicy food! He also had some difficulty accepting other elements of the cuisine: white rice at every meal and meals cooked with dog meat. Stadsklev said that he was surprised that every man in the town smoked continuously; he even spotted a young basketball player on the court with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Nonetheless, Stadsklev noted that China’s GDP had been growing at 8-9% annually before the current economic crisis. Until this year, Germany led the world in wind energy, while now China and the U.S. are tied in the use of this energy. Unfortunately, the Red Lake project failed after one year because of natural disaster and mismanagement.—Cathy Robbins



Works in Progress

The next meeting will be on Saturday, Mar. 7, at 1:30 p.m. at Alice Marquis’ home, 8963 Caminito Fresco (La Jolla). Aline Hornaday will present a summary of the paper she plans to give at the Medievalists' conclave in Kalamazoo ,  on  a panel titled "Saints and Their Hagiographers." It will be based, of course, on her research about the lively saints of Hainaut.

Colloquy Café

Sam Gusman will host the next meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 18, at 1 p.m., at his home, 8515 Costa Verde Blvd., Apt. 1808. The subject of the meeting is Language. Contact Sam for more information at


Betty Cortus will host the next meeting of the Literature group at 10:30 a.m., Monday, Mar. 16, at La Costa Glen Retirement Community in Carlsbad. Having read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, they will have the first of two discussions on the novel; the second is planned for April. The group is using the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation. Contact:



The Science Group (aka Brain Study Group), now in its ninth year, will meet on Friday, Mar. 13, 3-5 p.m., at the home of Bea Rose, 8515 Costa Verde Blvd., #1909,  to discuss Chapters Eight and Nine of Patricia Churchland’s Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy and related ideas. Bea notes that the invitation to visitors is temporarily rescinded, not because the group is asocial but because, with three new members, the limit of comfortable seating in her apartment has been reached.  The group is limited to 10 participants. Call Bea for more information at 858.458.9263.


From the President

After every news cycle, chance meeting or casual reading I find my interest tugged in new directions.  Especially rich are the surprises I glean from our monthly meetings and presentations.  So many topics, so little time!  These delights make me appreciate our group of “independent scholars.”  

Who are these scholars?  People of curiosity, of imagination, of generous of spirit; people open to new slants on old ideas and old perspectives applied to new knowledge.  People who work at making contact with the past, with the present, with each other, and who stand in awe of what is possible.  We may not all put out tomes of discovery; nor do we all pursue specific projects over months and miles.  All, however, bring to our world a dynamism and intellectual enthusiasm that supersedes individual projects or the narrow definitions of our fields of interest.  In SDIS we have the depth and variety to make us world-class conversationalists. 


An Independent Scholar?

 Who are these scholars? Donna Boyle just asked. Certainly one of the greatest was Leonardo DaVinci. No PhD, no great tomes (except perhaps for his journals), no university appointment. But you have an opportunity to see some of the workings of his mind in The DaVinci Experience, a new show that has just opened at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. Florentine artisans have spent years building functional and interactive models of devices that had existed only in DaVinci’s drawings, such as a two-wheel bicycle. The models are on loan from the Museum of the History of Science, which too many tourists overlook; it's located along the Arno, near the Ufizzi.

La Jolla’s Athenaeum offers another way to explore the creativity of one of the world’s greatest collections of independent scholars.  On Tuesday evenings, from May 7-28, Art historian James Grebl, Ph.D., will present four talks about Renaissance artists and thinkers. The discussions will cover a powerhouse list:  Masaccio, Ghiberti, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bramante, Eyck, der Weyden, Memling, Dürer, Bruegel the Elder and El Greco. The second week will include a Renaissance music performance by the ensemble Pacific Camerata.  Information about the DaVinci show is at  For the Athenaeum series, go to —Cathy Robbins




About SDIS

San Diego Independent Scholars (SDIS) supports unaffiliated writers and researchers and welcomes everyone who appreciates creative and intellectual activities in the humanities, science, and the arts.  SDIS is a non-profit organization and an affiliate of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars.

Donna Boyle,


Scholar’s Notebook is the newsletter of SDIS. Please send your news for the Notebook to Cathy Robbins, the Notebook editor: or 3720 First Ave., San Diego, CA 92103. The deadline for submissions is the 25th of the month prior to publication date

PDF attachment: