Posted in Book Review, Culture, Philosophy

Trivium: Secret Art of Learning

Etymologically, the latin word of “Trivium” means “the place where the roads meet.” The elements within the Trivium represent a crossroads or intersection where the public meets [1]. We would call it a public square, where public meets to discuss or chit-chat the usual topics of the day: How was the weather? How was the harvest? And so on and so forth.

We used to say that people who excel at remembering common experience and knowledge are good at trivia. Trivia is at the center of everyday knowledge.

The term Trivium was comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These three elements were essential to a classical education.

Grammar teaches the mechanics of language to the student. This is the step where the student “comes to terms”. It can be divided into two: technical and exegetical grammar. Learning sentence structure (subject, verb, and object) is technical while learning the meaning and its nuance is exegetical.

Logic is the mechanics of thought and of analysis: identifying fallacious arguments, removing contradictions, thereby producing factual knowledge. Logic directs and guides us after the truth. It leads us to conclusions based on our knowledge. We use all of our faculties of conceiving, judging, reasoning, and disposing of questions before us. Logic trains the mind to think clearly. Dialectics is the term used to describe critical thinking. We observe the world. As we see patterns, we begin to make predictions and convey it to our action plans.

Rhetoric is the application of language in order to instruct and persuade the reader or listener. Sometimes we thought that rhetoric is unimportant as a meaningless throw-away line. Rhetoric is important: it has substance. Rhetoric adds force and elegance to our thoughts. It is essential for the study of law and regulations. Ancient Romans used to learned to speak in public with fluency. Even pre-Islamic Arabs used to read poetry in public and challenge the other poets.

The representation image of Trivium in the middle ages (from Wikipedia)


Grammar, rhetoric, and logic are the trivium, or first three, of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences [2]. Some would say The Trivium is the three arts of language pertaining to the mind. Logic is the art of thinking; grammar, the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought; and rhetoric, the art of communicating thought from one mind to another, the adaptation of language to circumstance [3]. Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric can be described as Input, Process, and Output.

The whole of the Trivium, in fact, was intended to teach the student the proper use of the tools of learning. First, he learned how structure in language was put together, and how it worked. Secondly, he learned to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in it. Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language elegantly and persuasively. This whole teaching system arguably is now crumbled, because we are too much focusing on the “subjects” itself, hence obsessed with the results from science, technology or any subjects [4].

Learning these three elements in Trivium will shape us into a formidable force in the world. These are the most powerful tools that human beings have. Luther King knew them, Malcolm X knew them, both of them moved large numbers of people and nation.

Prophet s. is the most logical, grammatically correct and rhetorically effective human being that ever lived. He moved one-sixth of humanity because of that. This is why they are so important in our civilization.

Freemasons up until now are obsessed with the Seven Liberal Arts. Freemasons is a network of very powerful people around the world and they know this tools very well. They are learning seven liberal arts to shape themselves to become a better man in masonry [5].

Winding Stairs, one of the common symbolism in Freemasonry. There are 12 steps, the first 5 are human senses, the second 7 representing the school of learning (Seven Liberal Arts)

Some civilizations though kept these knowledge hidden, some sort of secret arts. They do not want these arts known widely among mankind. Because these arts will free people and not let others think for them. They will be liberated. 

We can see through people lacking in this knowledge if we have mastered it. There is a lot of gaps to fill in the case of President debates in the United States nowadays compare with two or three decades ago. Mastering this knowledge means increased in literacy capacity [6].

In debates, a good argumentation should be delivered well. There are certain things that need to look at, the usage of rhetoric might be a missed hit if the content was not elaborated enough or the method of rhetoric is not well-delivered. The worst scenario is the usage of foul language when someone cornered. This is when debates getting ugly.

Foul language was what people that didn’t have words resorted to. When you lose the ability to speak out of frustration you begin to use foul language. Breakdown of language leads to violence. Wars occur because of breakdowns in communication. Later maybe developing an article explaining language and communication might be a good idea.

Simply put, mastering all three of these elements, you can move masses and nations. But if not properly used, wars will be triggered. Careful with your words.

إِيَّاكُمْ وَالْفِتَنَ فَإِنَّ اللِّسَانَ فِيهَا مِثْلُ وَقْعِ السَّيْفِ

“Beware of tribulations, for at that time the tongue will be like the blow of a sword.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)


  2. Trivium is one-third of the total seven, the rest are called Quadrivium: Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy)
  3. Joseph, Sister Miriam (2002). The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric. Paul Dry Books, Inc.

  4. Sayers, Dorothy L., (1947). The Lost Tools of Learning. an essay presented at Oxford University.
  6. Adler, Mortimer J and van Doren, Charles, How to Read a Book, 1972 ed. (see my article: