Institute Seal


Conference Room in Concord House

Suggestions for Study
Circles are always welcome.

Donna at worldculture dot org

Newcomers are welcome to join at any time.



Tthe Study Circle meets on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 - 9:00 pm
Readings will be posted to the website in advance of each meeting
Groups meet at Concord House, 1407 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara, CA


FALL 2018 and WINTER 2019


THE INSTITUTE STUDY CIRCLE is currently focusing on diverse expressions of the distinctive visions of America
nurtured in American
history. The ideas and ideals of the Founding Brothers such as Jefferson, Paine and Franklin will provide a framework for focus on
the aims and purposes of the American experiment. The distinctive visions of the Transcendentalists, the Progressive Reformers and the cultural innovators in
literature, art and music will be explored. How the development of educational opportunities and civic participation drew out the potential for individual
freedom and social progress will be analyzed. The expansion of an inclusive global vision embedded in the promise of American ideals will be evaluated.
We will explore the concept of "vision" and how these visions have influenced 20th century and contemporary society will be identified.
Readings will be posted and questions will be encouraged.

Frederick Douglas Thomas Paine Great Seal of the United States native basketmaker
Utopian Experiments John Muir Thomas Jefferson Transcendentalists Frederick Douglass Thomas Paine Great Seal of the U.S. Edward Bellamy Native American Basketmaker

“Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed.
Man cannot make principles, he can only discover them.”  ~Age of Reason, Thomas Paine



March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018






WINTER 2019: VISIONS OF AMERICA (Study Circle continued from 2018)

January 8

The Transcendental Vision: Transcendentalism and The Oversoul
A brief explanation of Transcendental philosophy will be presented followed by discussion of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on the Oversoul. Passages will be read aloud and questions raised for the group to explore.

Suggested reading:
"The Over-Soul" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 15

The Transcendental Vision: The Oversoul and Its Contemporary Relevance
Study of Emerson’s essay on the Oversoul will continue. Questions about the ethical and practical influence of Transcendental ideas will be considered along with the scientific and social relevance of this perspective.

Suggested reading:
"The Over-Soul" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 22

The Transcendental Vision: Henry David Thoreau's "Higher Laws"
Discussion will focus on Chapter 11 of Thoreau’s Walden, entitled: "Higher Laws". Embedded in his description of what he learned while living at Walden Pond is his recognition of “Higher Laws.” The laws point to a more natural and universal basis for ethical living.

In 2014, Joseph Miller gave an inspiring talk on Henry David Thoreau at the Institute of World Culture. The lecture is entitled: "Henry David Thoreau–Still in the Mail: Messages from the Imagination", which centers on Thoreau's first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and his correspondence with Harrison Blake. To listen to that talk, click on the link to the left.

Suggested reading:
Click here for printer-friendly version of "Higher Laws"

Click here for an audio version of "Higher Laws"

Click here for audio lecture on Thoreau:

January 29

The Transcendental Vision: Educational Reform and the Ideals of Bronson Alcott
An introduction to an era of educational reform will review how Bronson Alcott pioneered in setting up schools based on a vision of education that evoked a creative, nonviolent and cooperative spirit in children. His vision challenged the traditional practices of strict discipline and rote conformity.

Suggested reading:

Link to Observations on the Principles and Methods of Infant Instruction:
Click on the book to turn the pages.

Reading on Bronson Alcott from "A Republic of Mind and Spirit"
by Catherine L. Albanese

February 5

The Transcendental Vision: Margaret Fuller and the Role of Women

Suggested reading:
Click here for printer-friendly version of "The Great Lawsuit" by Margaret Fuller

February 12
The Transcendental Vision: The Vision of Walt Whitman

Suggested reading:
Click here for "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman

Links to segments of an original performance of "Walt Whitman: Radical Patriot" by Joseph Miller to be taken up at the meeting:

“Take my leaves, America” & “I hear America singing” Link HERE (4:55)

“Beat! Beat! Drums!” & “To Thee, Old Cause”. Link HERE (3:41)

“Oh Captain, My Captain” Link HERE (3:01)

“We Two” Link HEREE (2:41)

Click here for a video of the entire performance of "Walt Whitman: Radical Patriot"

February 19

New Approaches to Religion: The Emergence of Metaphysical Religion

Suggested reading: Theosophy and New Thought
February 26

New Approaches to Religion: The First Parliment of the World's Religions (1893) and Its Legacy

Suggested reading: NA

March 5

Principles and Leadership for Change: William Lloyd Garrison &"The Liberator," and Frederick Douglass
Strong leadership emerges that gives organization to and offers highly public statements of the goals and values of the
abolition movement.

Suggested reading: The Liberator

March 12

Principles and Leadership for Change: Voices of Protest: David Walker and Sojourner Truth
A diversity of voices expand the protests to slavery and encourage
active efforts to change laws so as to abolish slavery. The personal sacrifice and vision of African American abolitionists is recognized.

Suggestsed reading:
"David Walker's Appeal"

March 19

Principles and Leadership for Change: The Leadership of Abraham Lincoln and The Gettysburg Address
The abolution movement reaches into Presidential thinking. A commitment both to national unity and a first step to the legal abolition of slavery by the federal government is taken.


March 26

The Influence of the West on Visions of America: Impact of the Frontier on the American Imagination
The West becomes both an imaginative ideal and a practical
experience of self-reliant life-styles far from the urban centers of modern American life. Writers such as Mark Twain
capture the values of frontier living

Click here for suggested reading on Colonel Daniel Boone





More to follow in April and May

Scroll down for meeting topics dating back to the start of the Study Circle in October 2018  

FALL 2018

October 2

Early Visions in Colonial America
The concept of "vision" and its relevance to America; John Winthrop on the beacon light on the hill; the Mayflower Compact on civil obligation; Roger Williams on religious freedom and the seperation of church and state; William Penn on the principles of conscience and non-violence; Anne Hutchinson on the inner light.

Suggested readings:
1. Universal Visions of America

October 9

Founding Vision of the Republic (1776–1821)
The Declaration of Independence, self-evident truths, liberty, equality, consent of the governed, and the pursuit of happiness; Thomas Paine on Deism, the rights of man, and the right of revolution.

Suggested readings:
1. Religious and Poltical Thought of Tom Paine, James Tepfer
2. U.S. Declaration of Independence, Wikipedia
3. U.S. Declaration of Independence
4. U.S. Bill of Rights
. . . more to follow

October 16

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Thomas Jefferson on education and natural law; a brief video presentation of Clay Jenkinson, award-winning, first-person interpreter, portraying Thomas Jefferson  

Suggested readings:
1.Thomas Jefferson on Education, Wikipedia

October 23

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Benjamin Franklin on civil society and the value of science; the Great Seal of the United States

Suggested readings:
1.The Great Seal
Powerpoint presentation on The Great Seal

October 30

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Benjamin Rush on practical innovations and education for young women; the voices of women, including Mercy Otis Warren and Abigail Adams

Suggested readings:

November 6

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Hector de Crevecoeur on "What is an American?"

Suggested readings:
1. What is An America?
November 13
Utopian Visions of Community
Visions of America in art: The Hudson River School; Contemporary communal experiment: Occident Arts and Ecology Center
Suggested readings:
November 20
Utopian Visions of Community (continued)
Communal experiments: the Shakers, Brook Farm, eco villages and green communities
Suggested readings:
November 27
Utopian Visions of Community (continued)
Native American visions and contributions: The Iroquois Confederacy, Black Elk and the vision quest; Native American relationships with nature (Ishi)
Suggested readings:




December 4

The Transcendental Vision
Ralph Waldo Emerson on self-reliance. We will read parts of the first half of the essay aloud during the meeting and discuss.

Suggested reading:
"Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

December 11
The Transcendental Vision
We will continue with reading Emerson's essay on self-reliance, the second half. We will read parts of the essay aloud during the meeting and discuss.

Suggested reading:
"Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson