Anais Nin said about America:
“All around there is excitement in place of exultation;
rush and action in place of depth; humor in place of feeling.”
Throughout Thelema and as well, in many other religious and philosophical traditions, leaders have focused on gaining a large number of adherents; usually through some form of proselytizing. The problem with this is that most go for quantity over quality. And it is to this that we say: let your ambition be to follow your heart…not to make followers of others…because then you will find yourself following them and won’t be able to find your heart at all.
Excerps from:Ayn Rand’s forward to the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fountainhead:
[See also the Howard Roark trial summation from this novel further down towards the bottom of this page.]
Religion’s monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man’s reach. “Exaltation” is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. “Worship” means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. “Reverence” means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one’s knees. “Sacred” means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc. But such concepts do name actual emotions, and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man’s dedication to a moral ideal. Yet apart from the man-degrading aspects introduced by religion, that emotional realm is left unidentified, without concepts, words or recognition. It is this highest level of man’s emotions that has to be redeemed from the murk of mysticism and redirected at its proper object: man. It is an emotion that a few—a very few—men experience consistently; some men experience it in rare, single sparks that flash and die without consequences; some do not know what I am talking about; some do and spend their lives as frantically virulent spark-extinguishers. A cruder variant of the same hatred [for man] is represented by those concrete-bound, “statistical” mentalities who—unable to grasp the meaning of man’s volition—declare that man cannot be an object of worship, since they have never encountered any specimens of humanity who deserved it. The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man’s highest potential and strive to actualize it. The man-haters are those who regard man as a helpless, depraved, contemptible creature—and struggle never to let him discover otherwise. It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man’s proper stature—and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning—and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me they will betray: it is their own souls.
AL III.49: “I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.”
THE NEW COMMENT
The evident interpretation of this is to take the word to be “Do what thou wilt,” which is a secret word, because its meaning for every man is his own inmost secret. And it is the most profound blasphemy possible against all ‘gods of men,’ because it makes every man his own God.We may then take it that this Solar-Phallic Ra Ha is Each Man Himself. As each independent cell in our bodies is to us, so is each of us to Heru-Ra-Ha. Each man’s ‘child’-consciousness is a Star in the Cosmos of the Sun, as the Sun is a Star in the Cosmos of Nuith. Motta’s Comment:Serious students should consult Chpater 2 of Liber 333, and the Commentary thereof. “Q.V.I.F.” is “Quif”, an onomatopaeic rendition of the cry of a hawk in flight.
AL III.50: “Curse them! Curse them! Curse them!”
To “curse them” is part of the Initiatic process. You can’t rise above them as long as you are psychologically in awe of them. Eventually you learn to ignore them, but until you do, you must make cursing them an actual rite. Particularly those “gods” which you were taught to worship by your parents.Emotional habits are just as difficult to eradicate or to create as any other habits. You drill yourself out of them or into them by routine—dreary, long routine. The difference is—and it is the whole difference!–that you create or destroy your habits deliberately. As a rule, it takes at least three months—a station of the sun—to establish a momentum in consciousness. It may take a lifetime to get rid of it.
AL III.51: “With my Hawk’s head I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross.”
THE NEW COMMENT
We are to consider carefully the particular attach of Heru Ra Ha against each of these ‘gods’ or prophets; for though they be, or represent, the Magi of the past, the curse of their Grade must consume them. (See Liber Magi.) Thus it is the eyes of ‘Jesus’ — his point of view — that must be destroyed; and this point of view is wrong because of his Magical Gesture of self-sacrifice.One must not for a moment suppose that this verse supports the historicity of ‘Jesus.’ ‘Jesus’ is not, and never was, a man; but he was a ‘god,’ just as a bundle of old rags and a kerosene tin on a bush may be a ‘god.’ There is a man-made idea, built of ignorance, fear, and meanness, for the most part, which we call ‘Jesus,’ and which has been tricked out from time to time with various gauds from Paganism, and Judaism.The subject of ‘Jesus’ is, most unfortunately, too extensive for a note; it is treated fully in my book 888.
Motta’s Comment: The main source of the ‘Jesus” of the New Testament was the unnamed ‘Master of Righteousness’ of the Essenes; but it is impossible nowadays to separate what is historical and about him from what is historical about Ionas, or the Rabbi X, or the Rabbi Y. To say nothing of the legendary and hieratic details cribbed from the hagiographies of Dionysis, Meithras, Attis, Osiris, and others.But even if it were possible to winnow the genuine form the spurious in the ola podrida of the Gospels—for what? Sixteen hundred years of ‘Jesus’ ought to be enough for nay healthy stomach.Unhealthy stomachs may keep their Isa, for all we care. See AL I, 49, and the Commentary thereof.
AL III.52: “I flap my wings in the face of Mohammed & blind him.”
THE NEW COMMENT
Mohammed’s point of view is wrong too; but he needs no such sharp correction as ‘Jesus.’ It is his face — his outward semblance — that is to be covered with His wings. The tenets of Islam, correctly interpreted, are not far from our Way of Life and Light and Love and Liberty. This applies especially to the secret tenets. The external creed is mere nonsense suited to the intelligence of the peoples among whom it was promulgated; but even so, Islam is Magnificent in practice. Its code is that of a man of courage and honour and self-respect; contrasting admirably with the cringing cowardice of the damnation-dodging Christians with their unmanly and dishonest acceptance of vicarious sacrifice, and their currish conception of themselves as ‘born in sin,’ ‘miserable sinners’ with ‘no health in us.’
AL III.53: “With my claws I tear out the flesh of the Indian and the Buddhist, Mongol and Din.”
THE NEW COMMENT
“The Indian.” The religion of Hindustan, metaphysically and mystically comprehensive enough to assure itself the possession of much truth, is in practice almost as superstitious and false as Christianity, a faith of slaves, liars and dastards. The same remarks apply roughly to Buddhism. ‘Mongol:” presumably the reference is to Confucianism, whose metaphysical and ethical flawlessness has not saved its adherents from losing those ruder virtues which are proper to a Fighting Animal, and thus yielding at last a civilization coeval with history itself to the barbarous tribes of Europe.”Din” — ‘severity’ or ‘judgment’ may refer to the Jewish Law, rather than to the Faith (ad ‘din’) of Islam. Assuming this, the six religions whose flesh must be torn out cover the whole globe outside Islam and Christianity. Motta’s Comment:It should be noted that these religions are mentioned impersonally, while Christianity and Islam are mentioned in the person of their founders, or alleged founders. Obviously, ‘Din’ refers to Mosaic Law; Islam has already been disposed of in the previous verse. Crowley’s Comment Continued:Why assault their flesh rather than their eyes, as in the other cases? Because the metaphysics, or point of view, is correct — I take Judaism as Qabalistic — but the practice imperfect. Motta’s Comment:Orgnaized religion is the death of Theurgy. But at least it should not be the death of common sense. You are free to make a fool of yourself, but leave your neighbor alone. He may make a Fool of himself—who knows?
Quotes from Liber Aleph
DE MAGO ARABICO MOHAMMED
Behold! In these Chapters have I, thy Father, restricted myself, not speaking of any immediate Echo of a Word in the World, because, there Men being long since withdrawn into their Silence, it is their One Word, and that Alone, that resoundeth undiminished through Time. How Mohammed, who followeth, is darkened and confused by His Nearness to our own Time, so that I say not save with Diffidence that His Word ALLH may mean this or that. But I am bold concerning His Doctrine of the Unity of God, for God is Man, and he said therefore: Man is One. And His Will was to unite all Men in One reasonable Faith: to make possible international Co- operation in Science. Yet, because He arose in the Time of the greatest possible Corruption and Darkness, when every Civilisation and Every Religion had fallen into Ruin, by the malice of the great Sorcerer of Nazareth, as some say, He is still hidden in the Dust of the Simoom, and we may not perceive Him in His true Self of Glory. Nevertheless, behold, o My Son, this Mystery. His true Word was La ALLH, that is to say: (there is) No God, and LA AL is that Mystery of Mysteries which thine own Eye pierced in thine Initiation. And of that Truth have the Illusion and Falsehood enslaved the Souls of Men, as is written in the Book of the Magus.
DE INfERNO SERVORUM
Now, o my Son, having understood the heaven that is within thee, according to thy will, learn this concerning the hell of the slaves of the slave-gods, that it is a true place of torment. For they, restricting themselves, and being divided in will, are indeed the servants of sin, and they suffer, because, not being united in love with the whole Universe, they perceive not beauty, but ugliness and deformity, and, not being united in understanding thereof. Conceive only of darkness and confusion, beholding evil therein. Thus at last they come, as did the Manichaeans, to find, to their terror, a division even in the one, not that division which we know for the craft of love, but a division of hate. And this, multiplying itself, conflict upon conflict, endeth in hotchpot, and in the impotence and envy of Choronzon, and in the abominations of the abyss. And of such the Lords are the Black Brothers, who seek by their sorceries to confirm themselves in division, yet in this even is no true evil, for love conquereth all, and their corruption and disintegration is also the victory of Babalon.
DE FORMULA DEORUM OCCISORUM
Alas, my son! this hath been fatal constantly to many a man of noble aspiration, that these words were hidden from his understanding. For there is a balance in all things and the body hath charter to fulfil his nature, even as the mind hath. So to repress one function is to destroy that proportion which is wholesome, and wherein indeed all health and sanity have consistency. Verily, it is the art of life to develop each organ of body and mind, or, as I may say, each weapon of the will to its perfection, neither distorting any use, nor suffering the will of one part to tyrannize over that of another. And this doctrine (be it accursed!) that pain and repression are wholesome and profitable in themselves is a lie born of sin and of ignorance, the false vision of the Universe and of its laws that is the basis of the averse formula of the Slain God. It is true that on occassion one limb must be sacrificed to save the whole body, as when one cutteth away one hand that is bitten by a viper, or as when a man giveth his life to save his city. But this is a right and natural subordination of the superficial and particular to the fundamental and general will, and moreover it is a case extraordinary, relating to accident or extremity, not in any wise a rule of life, or a virtue in its absolute nature.
Note this quote from Liber AL vel Legis: AL II.52:
“There is a veil: that veil is black. It is the veil of the modest woman; it is the veil of sorrow, & the pall of death: this is none of me. Tear down that lying spectre of the centuries: veil not your vices in virtuous words: these vices are my service; ye do well, & I will reward you here and hereafter.”
Particularly, note the word ‘spectre’.It is defined as a ghost or apparition. Why is it that none of those presently calling themselves Thelemites can understand Motta’s teachings on the Christist egregore?…and equate this with that lying spectre?When I say I curse Christianity, Judaism and Islam (the three desert religions), why do they think that I am including the people as well? I curse the religions and what those religions are doing to the people that adhere to them. The rape of women, the destruction of the healthy sexual drive and subsequently a healthy psychology. Yes, this Christist egregore, this “lying spectre of the centuries” has been slowly destroying our race for over 1500 years!
But all these Thelemics, they’d rather practice their blind religiosity and their knee-jerk, fascist PC-ism. They’re actually envious of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the councils of Rabbis and Imams. They want to be just like them…to spread their hatred all over the Earth…from Inquisition to Jihad; the denigration of woman (check out the misogyny in all these Thelemic bodies!) and the suppression of free speech. Though they will spend a lot of time covering their vices with virtuous words…they are misanthropes; the lot of them!!!
The third chaper of Liber AL vel Legis is about cursing these spectres, cursing these false apparitions. Don’t confuse this with hating these gods by quoting Liber Librae…that’s just veiling your vices in virtuous words. There’s a difference between that scarecrow, Jesus, and the Christ (the center of us all…Hadit); there’s a difference between that angry and jealous demiurge, Jehovah, and the Tetragrammaton. But don’t hate these things…for that’s but a separate way to loving them. Rather as the third chapter of AL teaches us…
“Curse them! Curse them! Curse them!”
But these Thelemics don’t like the third chapter at all. They’d just as soon ignore it. And they’ve condemned me for accepting the whole of this great Holy Book as they being the dupes of the Black Lodge (without any and every doubt!), can only accept the parts of AL that they like…that fit their cushy, feel-good, blind religiosity. And they are destroying this wonderful philosophical system. They’ve even turned Crowley into a god, worshipping him…particularly the Caliphate drones. And the Mottants would set up a papacy with their “Office of the Beast.” How ridiculous is that?!
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which has two major effects on learning:
- if someone is called upon to learn something which contradicts what they already think they know — particularly if they are committed to that prior knowledge — they are likely to resist the new learning. Even Carl Rogers recognised this. Accommodation is more difficult than Assimilation, in Piaget’s terms.
- if learning something has been difficult, uncomfortable, or even humiliating enough, people are not likely to admit that the content of what has been learned is not valuable. To do so would be to admit that one has been “had”, or “conned”.
Cognitive dissonance was first investigated by Leon Festinger and associates, arising out of a participant observation study of a cult, which believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood, and what happened to its members — particularly the really committed ones who had given up their homes and jobs to work for the cult — when the flood did not happen. While fringe members were more inclined to recognise that they had made fools of themselves and to “put it down to experience”, committed members were more likely to re-interpret the evidence to show that they were right all along (the earth was not destroyed because of the faithfulness of the cult members).
Ordeal is therefore an effective — if spurious — way of conferring value on an educational (or any other) experience. “No pain, no gain”, as they say.
- the more difficult it is to get on a course, the more participants are likely to value it and view it favourably regardless of its real quality.
- ditto, the more expensive it is.
- the more obscure and convoluted the subject, the more profound it must be. This has of course been exploited for years to persuade us of the existence of the emperor’s clothes, particularly by French “intellectuals”.
It is not, however, the qualities of the course which are significant, as the amount of effort which participants have to put in: so the same qualification may well be valued more by the student who had to struggle for it than the student who sailed through.
ATHERTON J S (2002) Learning and Teaching: Editorial Cognitive dissonance [On-line]: UK: Available: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~jamesa/learning/dissonance.htm Accessed: 6 June 2011 4 August 2003
The Christian Myth about the Founding Fathersof the United States of America
“The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine.”-George Washington (1732-1799) From the Treaty of Tripoli
The Religious Right is a dangerous group. They are the greatest agents of Propaganda the world has seen since the Communist Party in Russia was in power. The great lie brought forth by the Religious Right is the false belief that this nation was a “Christian Nation” in it’s inception, and is still a “Christian Nation.” This is completely and utterly FALSE. To prove this point, we present quotes (below) from the Founding Fathers of this country.
In 1797 the U.S. government concluded a “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary,” now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:
“As the Government of the United States… is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate’s history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.
From and article by Gene Mirabelli in Metroland Magazine:
“…Adams had a rock-hard belief in God and the soul, but in his public life he was a secular rationalist. Washington was not a chruchgoer; no, he didn’t kneel down in teh snow at Valley Forge, despite the paintings and legends. Franklin, a lifelong deist, doubted the divinity of Christ and, as he quipped shortly before he died, “It is a question i do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when i expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble.” Jefferson believed in a hands-off creator, not in the divinity of Christ, and, using scissors and paste, cut out all references to the superantural in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, producing a Gospel according to Jefferson wherein Jesus is a secular humanist.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) 3rd American president, author, scientist, architect, educator, and diplomat. Deist, avid separationist.
“Christianity…(has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. …Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus.”
Thomas Jefferson Quoted in Six Historic Americans by John E. Remsberg:
“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.”
“His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did.”
“Their [Presbyterian’s] ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power.”
“It is not to be understood that I am with him [Jesus] in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist. It is error, alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”
“If by religion, we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your [John Adams’] exclamation on that hypothesis is just, ‘that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it’.”
More quotes from Jefferson:
“Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”
“Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.”
“To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus told us indeed that ‘God is a spirit,’ but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the ancient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter.” [letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820]
“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” [Notes on Virginia]
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes” [Letter to von Humboldt, 1813].
“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” [Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823]
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own” [Letter to H. Spafford, 1814].
Nation’s third president compiled the four Gospels into a single text without miracles that ends with Jesus’ burial rather than the resurrection.By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times Staff WriterJuly 5, 2008
Making good on a promise to a friend to summarize his views on Christianity, Thomas Jefferson set to work with scissors, snipping out every miracle and inconsistency he could find in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Then, relying on a cut-and-paste technique, he reassembled the excerpts into what he believed was a more coherent narrative and pasted them onto blank paper — alongside translations in French, Greek and Latin.In a letter sent from Monticello to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson said his “wee little book” of 46 pages was based on a lifetime of inquiry and reflection and contained “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”
He called the book “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Friends dubbed it the Jefferson Bible. It remains perhaps the most comprehensive expression of what the nation’s third president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence found ethically interesting about the Gospels and their depiction of Jesus.”I have performed the operation for my own use,” he continued, “by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter, which is evidently his and which is as easily distinguished as diamonds in a dunghill.”
The little leather-bound tome, several facsimiles of which are kept at the Huntington Library in San Marino, continues to fascinate scholars exploring the powerful and varied relationships between the Founding Fathers and the most sacred book of the Western World.
The big question now, said Lori Anne Ferrell, a professor of early modern history and literature at Claremont Graduate University, is this:
“Can you imagine the reaction if word got out that a president of the United States cut out Bible passages with scissors, glued them onto paper and said, ‘I only believe these parts?’ “
“He was a product of his age,” said Ferrell, whose upcoming book, “The Bible and the People,” includes a chapter on the Jefferson Bible. “Yet, he is the least likely person I’d want to pray with. He was more skeptical about religion than the other Founding Fathers.”
In Jefferson’s version of the Gospels, for example, Jesus is still wrapped in swaddling clothes after his birth in Bethlehem. But there’s no angel telling shepherds watching their flocks by night that a savior has been born. Jefferson retains Jesus’ crucifixion but ends the text with his burial, not with the resurrection.
Stripping miracles from the story of Jesus was among the ambitious projects of a man with a famously restless mind. At 71, he read Plato’s “Republic” in the original Greek and found it lackluster.
Ever the scientist, he inoculated his wife, children and many of his slaves against smallpox with fresh pus drawn from infected domestic farm animals, according to Robert C. Ritchie, W.M. Keck Foundation director of research at the Huntington Library.
“For a lot of people, taking scissors to the Bible would be such an act of desecration they wouldn’t do it,” Ritchie said. “Yet, it gives a reading into Jefferson’s take on the Bible, which was not as divine word put into print, but as a book that can be cut up.”
Jefferson, a tall vigorous man who preferred Thucydides and Cicero to the newspapers of his day, was not the only 18th century leader who questioned traditional Christian teachings.
Like many other upper-class, educated citizens of the new republic, including George Washington, Jefferson was a deist.
Deists differed from traditional Christians by rejecting miraculous occurrences and prophecies and embracing the notion of a well-ordered universe created by a God who withdrew into detached transcendence.
Critics of the time regarded deism as an ill-conceived attempt to reconcile religion with scientific discoveries. For rationalists in the Age of Enlightenment, deism was one of many efforts to liberate humankind from what the deists viewed as superstitious beliefs.
Jefferson was a particular fan of Joseph Priestley, a scientist, ordained minister and one of Jefferson’s friends. Priestley — who discovered oxygen and invented carbonated water and the rubber eraser — published books that infamously cast a critical eye upon biblical miracles. Jefferson was particularly fond of Preistley’s comparison of the lives and teachings of Socrates and Jesus.
Discussions and letters between Jefferson and another friend, Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush, led Jefferson to compile his “wee little book.” In a letter to Rush on April 21, 1803, Jefferson said his editing experiment aimed to see whether the ethical teachings of Jesus could be separated from elements he believed were attached to Christianity over the centuries.
“To the corruption of Christianity I am indeed opposed,” he wrote to Rush, “but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.”
Therefore, Ritchie said, “for Jefferson, the Bible was a book that could be made and unmade.”
The Jefferson Bible remained largely unknown beyond a close circle of relatives and friends until 1904, when its publication was ordered by Congress. About 9,000 copies were issued and distributed in the Senate and the House.
Today several editions of the Jefferson Bible are available through booksellers. A few online versions exist, including one on the website of the Jefferson Monticello, www.monticello.org/library/links/jefferson.html.
It is hard to say whether Jefferson would have objected to publication of the book.
“Say nothing of my religion,” Jefferson once said. “It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote:
“The Infinite Father expects or requires no worship or praise from us.”
“I conceive, then, that the Infinite has created many beings or gods vastly superior to man.”
“It may be these created gods are immortals; or it may be that after many ages, they are changed, and others supply their places.”
“Howbeit, I conceive that each of these is exceeding good and very powerful; and that each has made for himself one glorious sun, attended with a beautiful and admirable system of planets.”
John Adams 1735-1826, 2d President of the United States”This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” [ in a letter to Thomas Jefferson]
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.
The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.
But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed.
Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1500 years.
The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles.
Thomas Paine wrote:(On the Religion of Deism)
“The Christian religion and Masonry have one and the same common origin: Both are derived from the worship of the Sun. The difference between their origin is, that the Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun.”
“There is scarcely any part of science, or anything in nature, which those imposters and blasphemers of science, called priests, as well Christians as Jews, have not, at some time or other, perverted, or sought to pervert to the purpose of superstition and falsehood.”
“The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion.”
James Madison (1751-1836) American president and political theorist. Popularly known as the “Father of the Constitution.” More than any other framer he is responsible for the content and form of the First Amendment.
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
“Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion.”
“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” [April 1, 1774]
“…the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State [Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819]
“Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together” [Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822].
Abraham Lincoln American president (1809-1865).
“The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.”
In 2000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught, Lincoln is mentioned on pages 125 through 127. From the material presented it would seem that Lincoln as a young man was an avid anti-christian and most likely an atheist. In his later years, he came to believe in God, but still was anti-religious in the sense that he rejected organized religion. Some selections from Haught:John T. Stuart, Lincoln’s first law partner: “He was an avowed and open infidel, and sometimes bordered on Atheism…He went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard.”Joseph Lewis quoting Lincoln in a 1924 speech in New York:
“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.”
Lincoln in a letter to Judge J.S. Wakefield, after the death of Willie Lincoln:
“My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.”
As a young man Lincoln apparently wrote a manuscript that he planned to publish, which vehemently argued against the divine origin of the Bible and the Christian scheme of salvation. Samuel Hill, a friend and mentor, convinced him to drop it, considering the disastrous consequences it would have on his political career.
William H Herndon, a former law partner, wrote a biography on Lincoln titled: “The true story of a great life”. In it Herndon discusses Lincoln’s religious views extensively.Gordon Leidner has collected some quotations from Lincoln’s later years in which he invokes God, and he makes the argument that Lincoln became a sincere believer. It seems to me he did come to believe in God, but he never accepted organized Christianity.
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
Quote from Marcelo Motta
“Certain people have a greater developed astral body than the norm, either due to deliberate training, genetic inheritance, magnetic influences of where they live or the people with which they enter into contact with. For example, trained Initiates, are themselves, developed to a high degree, but not of a degree raised enough to have overwhelmed the Ego, possess intensely magnetic, disturbing personalities for sensible people who are not accustomed to the existing presence of psychic force in high tension. In circumstances in the which Aspirants already of a certain development extend the conscience of the internal vehicles with greater ease, those that are not prepared can become extremely disturbed by the constant presence of an initiate. Therefore, advanced occultists that, without having yet reached total balance and destruction of one’s powers, and allow the profane to enter in one’s circle, are being imprudent and until indiscreet. But they cannot, in all fairness, be accused of abusing their faculties. They emanate force involuntarily, due to its high internal load. The initiates of higher advancement always live away from the multitude, they not only need isolation for their work, but know its influence produces a violent psychic reaction in the profane.”
Act with integrity; search for authenticity in your heart and clarity in your mind.Realize that true power is that which you give to others…not what you can destroy and take away from others as the Black Lodge teaches its dupes.
From R.D. Laing’s Self and Others:
Everyday speech gives us clues we would be wise to follow. It hints that there may be a general law or principal that a person will feel himself to be going forward when he puts himself into his actions, presuming this to be equivalent to self-disclosure (making patent his true self), but that if this is not so, he will be liable to feel that he is ‘going back’ or is stationary, or ‘going round in circles,’ or getting nowhere.’ In ‘putting myself into’ what I do, I lose myself, and in so doing I seem to become myself. The act I do is felt to be me, and I become ‘me’ in and through such action. Also, there is a sense in which a person ‘keeps himself alive’ by his acts; each act can be a new beginning, a new birth, a re-creation of oneself, a self-fulfilling.To be ‘authentic’ is to be true to oneself, to be what one is, to be ‘genuine.’ To be ‘inauthentic’ is to not be oneself, to be false to oneself: to be not as one appears to be, to be counterfeit. We tend to link the categories of truth and reality by saying that a genuine act is real, but that a person who habitually uses action as a masquerade is not real.In everydday speech, and in more systematic theory which, to adpat a remark of William James, is but an unduly obstinate attempt to think clearly, ‘authentic’ action or ‘inauthentic’ action can be viewed from many angles: from each angle different features come to the fore.The intensification of the being of the agent through self-disclosure, through making patent the latent self, is the meaning of Nietzsche’s ‘will to power.’ It is the ‘weak’ man who, in lieu of potentiating himself genuinely, counterfeits his impotence by dominating and controlling others, by idealizing physical strength or sexual potency, in the restricted sense of the capacity to have erections and to ejaculate.The act that is genuine, revealing, and potentiating is felt by me as fulfilliing. This is the only actual fulfillment of which I can prroperly sepak. It is an act that is me: in this action I am myself. I put myself ‘in’ it. In so far as I put myself ‘into’ what I do, I become myself through this doing. I know also that the converse is true, when I feel ‘empty,’ or am haunted by futility. In the light of such impressions of myself, I am compelled to see the other. I suspect ‘frantic’ activity in another. I sense that he senses in his actions a lack of intrinsic meaning: that in clinging to external formulas and dogmas he senses his emptiness. I expect that such a person will envy and resent others. If, from my impression of myself, I see him as not fulfilling himself by not putting himself into his own future, I am alert to various ways in which he will try to fill his emptiness. One fills oneself with others (introjective identification) or lives vicariously by living through the lives of others (projective identification). One’s ‘own’ life comes to a stop. One goes round in a circle, in a whirl, going everywhere and getting nowhere.
The Bene Gesserit Rite
(from Frank Herbert’s Dune)
I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me.And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.Only I will remain.
From Ben Hecht’sA Child of the Century
I have learned–That a wise man remains himself, however foolish his fate.That a wise man does not judge himself or others by things that happen. He knows that most evil is an accident and that calamities are as impersonal as the feet that step on ants. (I do not speak of the calamities that are always with us and that are actually our character.)That a wise man does not judge the hour but the year. He mistrusts his anger and knows it for a bruise that will be healed. He knows that when it has healed it belongs to memory, not judgments.That a wise man knows he has only one enemy–himself. This is an enemy difficult to ignore and full of a cunning lacking in the enemies outside. it assails one with doubts, fears and disgusts. It always seeks to lessen, and leads one away form one’s goals. It is an enemy never to be vanquished by constantly outwitted.That a wise man never measure anything by what he feels for it. A woman is not as wonderful as his love, a dollar is not as big as his need for it.That foolish people look for importance in their friends. the smaller a man is, the happier he is when he sits beside superiors of any sort–even those who may despise him. It is a happiness that never lasts. a beggar, however well treated, ends up full of misery and curses.That a wise man will not trust too much those who admire him, even for his wisdom. He knows that an admirer is never truly satisfied until he can substitute pity for his admiration and disdain for his applause. our admirers are always on the lookout for evidences of our collapse. They find a solace in the fact that our superiority was transitory and that we end as they do–old and useless.that a wise man will always allow a fool to rob him of ideas without yelling, “Thief.” If he is wise he has not been impoverished. Nor has the fool been enriched. The thief flatters us by stealing. We flatter him by complaining.That a wise man, asked how many women have loved him, will divide his conquests by ten, subtract half from the remainder, erase the result and answer, “Only the woman who still loves me, which makes one.”A man’s desire to hear the intimate cry of another’s heart never lessens. When he hears it something more remarkable than peace, honor and solvency appear in his life. He buds again through love. He comes into a sort of spectacular existence in another’s need of him. His humanity fizzes in him because another soul desires him. Love is the magician that pulls him out of his own hat.That a wise man cannot evade pain or rage, but when they come to him he treats the as visitors and not as permanent relatives. A man who suffers too long or remains too long angry is not at grips with any enemy, but coddling a disease.That a wise man will not try to pretend he is improving with age. He knows that the years diminish him, that time rots his body, cools his blood, darkens his brain and, like a furtive embalmer, prepares him for his winding sheet.That a wise man is never impressed by other “wise men.” I noticed early that pompous people have actually less a high opinion of themselves than a desire to create such an opinion in others.Overproud people are also wasted on me, as are faced with granite expressions. I know that excessive pride is a sort of paste that holds an inner rubbish in place. It is also a bid for applause that people make who have done nothing.Fools who specialize in deep silences also fail to disturb me with their grimness or their pauses. I find the pantomimes of stupidity no more impressive than its oralizings.I know a man is hollow who play-acts importance, graceless when he tries to make me feel ill at ease, and a fool if he tries to impress me rather than interest me.I know that a man who struts in my presence hopes to find in my eyes an importance missing in his own.People who glow with success I have found among the most charming of humans. But those seemingly successful ones who try to bulldoze applause out of me, I know for impostors. They have not found success but are still looking for it.The same is true of piety or of happiness or of wisdom. Their true possessors do not need me as an audience.I know that a man who tries to convert me to any cause is actually at work on his own conversion, unless he is looking for funds under the mask of some fancied nobility.I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor one for the alms of my guilt.And last: That a wise man saves his good manners for disaster. A fool practices them when they are useless.
I saw a most marvelous film…a Gary Cooper film, based on an Ayn Rand novel: The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Philosophy reads like a Thelemic prototype. At the end of the film, the protagonist, Howard Roark gives his testimony and summation. It’s a fascinating read and I am fortunate to have found the script and video clip online. See below.
Howard Roark on trial
“Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light. He was considered an evildoer who had dealt with a demon mankind dreaded. But thereafter men had fire to keep them warm, to cook their food, to light their caves. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had lifted darkness off the earth. Centuries later, the first man invented the wheel. He was probably torn on the rack he had taught his brothers to build. He was considered a transgressor who ventured into forbidden territory. But thereafter, men could travel past any horizon. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had opened the roads of the world.
“That man, the unsubmissive and first, stands in the opening chapter of every legend mankind has recorded about its beginning. Prometheus was chained to a rock and torn by vultures–because he had stolen the fire of the gods. Adam was condemned to suffer–because he had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Whatever the legend, somewhere in the shadows of its memory mankind knew that its glory began with one and that that one paid for his courage.
“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received–hatred. The great creators–the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors–stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The first airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.
“No creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers, for his brothers rejected the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lives. His truth was his only motive. His own truth, and his own work to achieve it in his own motive. His own truth, and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane, or a building–that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated, believed, flew or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men.
“His vision, his strength, his courage cam from his own spirit. A man’s spirit, however, is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego.
“The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power– that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He had lived for himself.
“And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.
“Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons–a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man–the function of his reasoning mind.
“But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. it is a secondary consequence. The primary act–the process of reason–must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man con use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.
“We inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the process what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the nest step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single individual men. That which it creates is the property of the creator. Men learn from one another. But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.
“Nothing is given to man on earth . Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways– by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.
“The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.
“The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive.
“The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary.
“The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first. He declares that man exists in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.
“Altruism is the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self.
“No man can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share his body. But the second-hander has used altruism as a weapon of exploitation and reversed the base of mankind’s moral principles. Men have been taught every precept that destroys the creator. Men have been taught dependence as a virtue.
“The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption. It is impossible in concept. The nearest approach to it in reality–the man who lives to serve others–is the slave. If physical slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of the spirit? The conquered slave has a vestige of honor. He has the merit of having resisted and of considering his condition evil. But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures. He degrades the dignity of man and he degrades the conception of love. But this is the essence of altruism.
“Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution–or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
“Men have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. But suffering is a disease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer–in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creators has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man’s body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceive.
“Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.
“Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self.
“Here the basic reversal is most deadly. The issue has been perverted and man has been left no alternative-and no freedom. As poles of good and evil, he was offered two conceptions: egotism and altruism. Egotism was held to mean the sacrifice of others to self. Altruism–the sacrifice of self to others. This tied man irrevocably to other men and left him nothing but a choice of pain: his own pain borne for the sake of others or pain inflicted upon others for the sake of self. When it was added that man must find joy in self-immolation, the trap was closed. Man was forced to accept masochism as his ideal–under the threat that sadism was his only alternative. This was the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.
“This was the device by which dependence and suffering were perpetuated as fundamentals of life.
“The choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence. The code of the creator or the code of the second-hander. This is the basic issue. It rest upon the alternative of life or death. The code of the creator is built on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive. The code of the second-hander is built on the needs of a mind incapable of survival. All that which proceeds from man’s dependence upon men is evil.
“The egoist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. He does not exist for any other man–and he asks no man to exist for him. This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men.
“Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence.
“In all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone. An architect needs clients, but he does not subordinate his work to their wishes. They need him, but they do not order a house just to give him a commission. Men exchange their work by free, mutual consent to mutual advantage when their personal interests agree and they both desire the exchange. If they do not desire it, they are not forced to deal with each other. They seek further. Anything else is a relation of slave to master, or victim to executioner.
“No work is ever done collectively, by a majority decision. Every creative job is achieved under the guidance of a single individual thought. An architect requires a great many men to erect his building. But he does not ask them to vote on his design. They work together by free agreement and each is free in his proper function. An architect uses steel, glass, concrete, produced by others. But the materials remain just so much steel, glass and concrete until he touches them. What he does with them is his individual product and his individual property. This is the only pattern for proper co-operation among men.
“The first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty is to himself. His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others. His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not depend primarily upon other men. This includes the whole sphere of his creative faculty, his thinking, his work. But it does not include the sphere of the gangster, the altruist and the dictator.
“A man thinks and works alone. A man cannot rob, exploit or rule–alone. Robbery, exploitation and ruling presuppose victims. They imply dependence. They are the province of the second-hander.
“Rulers of men are not egoists. They create nothing. The exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects, in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit. The form of dependence does not matter.
“But men were taught to regard second-handers–tyrants, emperors, dictators–as exponents of egotism. By this fraud they were made to destroy the ego, themselves and others. The purpose of the fraud was to destroy the creators. Or to harness them. Which is a synonym.
“From the beginning of history, the two antagonists have stood face to face: the creator and the second-hander. When the first creator invented the wheel, the first second-hander responded. He invented altruism.
“”The creator–denied, opposed, persecuted, exploited–went on, moved forward and carried all humanity along on his energy. The second-hander contributed nothing to the process except the impediments. The contest has another name: the individual against the collective.
“The ‘common good’ of a collective–a race, a class, a state– was the claim and justification of every tyranny ever established over men. Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive. Has any act of selfishness ever equaled the carnage perpetrated by disciples of altruism? Does the fault lie in men’s hypocrisy or in the nature of the principle? The most dreadful butchers were the most sincere. They believed in the perfect society reached through the guillotine and the firing squad. Nobody questioned their right to murder since they were murdering for an altruistic purpose. It was accepted that man must be sacrificed for other men. Actors change, but the course of the tragedy remains the same. A humanitarian who starts with declarations of love for mankind and ends with a sea of blood. It goes on and will go on so long as men believe that an action is good if it unselfish. That permits the altruist to act and forces his victims to bear it. The leaders of collectivist movements ask nothing for themselves. But observe the results.
“The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is–Hands off!
“Now observe the results of a society built on the principle of individualism. This, our country. The noblest country in the history of men. The country of greatest achievement, greatest prosperity, greatest freedom. This country was not based on selfless service, sacrifice, renunciation or any precept of altruism. It was based on a man’s right to the pursuit of happiness. His own happiness. Not anyone else’s. A private, personal, selfish motive. Look at the results. Look into your own conscience.
“It is an ancient conflict. Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time and one civilization fell after another. Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
“Now, in our age, collectivism, the rule of the second-hander and second-rater, the ancient monster, has broken loose and is running amuck. It has brought men to a level of intellectual indecency never equaled on earth. It has reached a scale of horror without precedent. It has poisoned every mind. It has swallowed most of Europe. It is engulfing our country.
“I am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built. We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live.
“Now you know why I dynamited Cortlandt.
“I designed Cortlandt. I gave it to you. I destroyed it.
“I destroyed it because I did not choose to let it exist. It was a double monster. In form and in implication. I had to blast both. The form was mutilated by two second-handers who assumed the right to improve upon that which they had not made and could not equal. They were permitted to do it by the general implication that the altruistic purpose of the building supersede all rights and that I had no claim to stand against it.
“I agreed to design Cortlandt for the purpose of seeing it erected as I designed it and for no other reason. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid.
“I do not blame Peter Keating. He was helpless. He had a contract with his employers. It was ignored. He had a promise that the structure he offered would be built as designed. The promise was broken. The love of a man for the integrity of his work and his right to preserve it are now considered a vague intangible and an unessential. You have heard the prosecutor say that. Why was the building disfigured? For no reason. Such acts never have any reason, unless it’s the vanity of some second-handers who feel they have a right to anyone’s property, spiritual or material. Who permitted them to do it? No particular man among the dozens in authority. No one cared to permit it or to stop it. No one was responsible. NO one can be held to account. Such is the nature of all collective action.
“I did not receive the payment I asked. But the owners of Cortlandt got what they need from me. they wanted a scheme devised to build a structure as cheaply as possible. They found no one else who could do it to their satisfaction. I could and did. they took the benefit of my work and made me contribute it as a gift. But I am not an altruist. i do not contribute gifts of this nature.
“It is said that I have destroyed the home of the destitute. It is forgotten that but for me the destitute could not have had this particular home. Those who were concerned with the poor had to come to me, who have never been concerned, in order to help the poor. It is believed that the poverty of the future tenants gave them a right to my work. that their need constituted a claim on my life. That it was my duty to contribute anything demanded of me. This is the second-hander’s credo now swallowing the world.
“I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.
“I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.
“It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.
“I wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man’s creative work is of greater importance than any charitable endeavor. Those of you who do not understand this are the men who’re destroying the world.
“I wished to come here and state my terms. I do not care to exist on any others.
“I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society. To my country, i wish to give the ten years which I will spend in jail if my country exists no longer. I will spend them in memory and in gratitude for what my country has been. It will be my act of loyalty, my refusal to live or work in what has taken its place.
“My act of loylty to every creator who ever lived and was made to suffer by the force responsible for the Cortlandt I dynamited. To every tortured hour of loneliness, denial, frustration, abuse he was made to spend–and to the battles he won. To every creator who was destroyed in body or in spirit. To Henry Cameron. To Steven Mallory. To a man who doesn’t want to be named, but who is sitting in this courtroom and knows that I am speaking of him.”
The work of any magickal lodge of any sort is to bring new Gnosis to the world, proving contact with the Secret Chiefs. This is its sole validation. New Gnosis means new knowledge and not recycled information or the egoic rantings of self-absorbed, pseudo adepts. The mere fact that one can re-write something into one’s own words and copyright that does not constitute new knowledge, nor does it reveal Gnosis and contact with the Secret Chiefs. Rather it represents the converse, which becomes all the more evident by their actions in declaring themselves to be altruistic in the self-righteous indignation they consistently hold against those creators amongst us. From: The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier:
“The notion of a secret international society composed of men of the highest intelligence, spiritually transformed by the profundity of their knowledge, desirous of protecting their scientific discoveries agasint officialdom and the curiosity and greed of other men, and reserving for themselves the right to use their discoveries at the right moment, or else to conceal them for a number of years or to allow only an insignificant fraction of them to be published–such a notion is both an extremely ancient and an ultra-modern one. It would have been inconceivable in the nineteenth century, or even twenty-five years ago. Today it is quite conceivable. I would even dare to state that, on a certain level, such a society exists today. Some of us who have been received at Princeton (I am thinking especially of my friend Rahah Rao) may have formed the same opinion. Though there is nothing to prove that the secret Rosicrucian society existed in the seventeenth century, we have every reason to believe that a society of this nature is being formed today by the pressure of events, and that there is bound to be one in the future. We should explain, however, what is meant by secret society, the idea of which, seemingly so remote, has its own significance today.To return to the Rosicrucians. The historian Serge Hutin tells us that: “They then represented a group of human beings who had reached a higher state than the mass of humanity, and thus possessed similar internal characteristics which enabled them to recognize one another at all times.”This definition, in our opinion at least, has the merit of being free from high-falutin’ occult terminology. That is because we have a clear, almost scientific, practical and optimistic idea of what is meant by a “higher state.”Scientific research has reached the stage where we can envisage the possibility of artificial mutations that will improve living beings, including man himself. “Radio-activity,” according to a British biologist, “may create monsters, but it will also give us geniuses.” The aim of the Alchemist’s researches was the transmutation of the operator himself; perhaps it is also that of the modern scientist. We shall see presently that, up to a point, this has already happened in the case of certain contemporary scientists.Advanced studies in psychology seem to have proved the existence of a state of hyper-consciousness different from sleep and wakefulness, in which a man’s intellectual faculties may be increased ten-fold. To the psychology of the subconscious, which we owe to psychoanalysis, must now be added a psychology of the heights which opens up a vista of super-intellectuality. Genius may be merely one of the stages through which man must pass in order to achieve the fullest use of his faculties.In normal life, we only us a tenth of our potential resources of attention, prospection, memory, intuition and co-ordination. We may well be on the point of discovering, or rediscovering the keys that will enable us to open within ourselves doors behind which a mass of new knowledge is awaiting us. In this context, the idea of an imminent mutation in humanity is nearer reality than it is to some occult dream.We shall be dealing at length with this point later. No doubt there are already among us the products of this mutation, or at all events men who have already taken some steps along the road on which we shall all be traveling one day.According to tradition, since the term “genius” can hardly embrace all the higher potentialities of the human mind, the Rosicrucians were supposed to have been of another order of intelligence, elected by co-option. It is, perhaps, truer to say that the Rosicrucian legend lends support to a reality: a permanent secret society of men of exceptional faculties–an open conspiracy, in fact.The Rosicruian Society probably came naturally into being, consisting of men of superiuor intelligence seeking similar spirits with whom it would be possible to converse. This suggests an Einstein, who could only be understood by five or six men in the whole world, or a few hundred mathematicians and physicists capable of discussing usefully the implications of the laws governing even numbers.The Rosicrucians were concerned exclusively with the study of nature; but such a study was illuminating only to minds of a different caliber from that of ordinary men. If such minds are brought to bear on a study of nature, they will attain to a knowledge of all things and perfect wisdom. This new, dynamic idea attracted both Newton and Descartes. their name have more than once been associated with the Rosicrucians. Does this mean that they were affiliated members? Such a question is meaningless. We are not thinking of an organized society, but of the establishment of the necessary contacts between exceptional minds, and a common language, not secret, but merely inaccessible to ordinary men at a given epoch in time.”
Politics and the English Language
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.
These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:
I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.Professor Harold Laski(Essay in Freedom of Expression )Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate , or put at a loss for bewilder .Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia )On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side ,the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?Essay on psychology in Politics (New York )All the “best people” from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.Communist pamphletIf a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion’s roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream — as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as “standard English.” When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o’clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma’amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!Letter in TribuneEach of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g. iron resolution ) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed . Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a “rift,” for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line . Another example is the hammer and the anvil , now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.
Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc.,etc . The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill , a verb becomes a phrase , made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render . In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining ). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that ; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion , and so on and so forth.
Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate , are used to dress up a simple statement and give an aire of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable , are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion . Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien r&eacutgime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung , are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g. , and etc. , there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous , and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers. The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard , etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.
Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality , as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.” The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.Here it is in modern English:Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations — race, battle, bread — dissolve into the vague phrases “success or failure in competitive activities.” This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing — no one capable of using phrases like “objective considerations of contemporary phenomena” — would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase (“time and chance”) that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes. As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry — when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech — it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot — it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip — alien for akin — making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:What am I trying to say?What words will express it?What image or idiom will make it clearer?Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?And he will probably ask himself two more:Could I put it more shortly?Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning’s post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he “felt impelled” to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: “[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany’s social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe.” You see, he “feels impelled” to write — feels, presumably, that he has something new to say — and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases ( lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation ) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.
I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned , which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.
To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a “standard English” which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a “good prose style.” On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When yo think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simply accept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to mak on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.Never us a long word where a short one will do.If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.Never use the passive where you can use the active.Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.
Ich bin ein Singularitarian
The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true.
—H. L. Mencken
Philosophies of life rooted in centuries-old traditions contain much wisdom concerning personal, organizational, and social living. Many of us also find shortcomings in those traditions. How could they not reach some mistaken conclusions when they arose in pre-scientific times? At the same time, ancient philosophies of life have little or nothing to say about fundamental issues confronting us as advanced technologies begin to enable us to change our identity as individuals and as humans and as economic, cultural, and political forces change global relationships.
—Max More, “Principles of Extropy”
The world does not need another totalistic dogma.
—Max More, “Principles of Extropy”
Yes, we have a soul. But it’s made of lots of tiny robots.
Substrate is morally irrelevant, assuming it doesn’t affect functionality or consciousness. It doesn’t matter, from a moral point of view, whether somebody runs on silicon or biological neurons (just as it doesn’t matter whether you have dark or pale skin). On the same grounds, that we reject racism and speciesism, we should also reject carbon-chauvinism, or bioism.
—Nick Bostrom, “Ethics For Intelligent Machines: A Proposal, 2001″
Philosophers have long noted that their children were born into a more complex world than that of their ancestors. This early and perhaps even unconscious recognition of accelerating change may have been the catalyst for much of the utopian, apocalyptic, and millennialist thinking in our Western tradition. But the modern difference is that now everyone notices the pace of progress on some level, not simply the visionaries.
I have been engaged in such reflection for several decades. Needless to say, it’s not a process that one can ever complete. I started pondering the relationship of our thinking to our computational technology as a teenager in the 1960s. In the 1970s I began to study the acceleration of technology, and I wrote my first book on the subject in the late 1980s. So I’ve had time to contemplate the impact on society—and on myself—of the overlapping transformations now under way.
George Gilder has described my scientific and philosophical views as “a substitute vision for those who have lost faith in the traditional object of religious belief.”1 Gilder’s statement is understandable, as there are at least apparent similarities between anticipation of the Singularity and anticipation of the transformations articulated by traditional religions.
But I did not come to my perspective as a result of searching for an alternative to customary faith. The origin of my quest to understand technology trends was practical: an attempt to time my inventions and to make optimal tactical decisions in launching technology enterprises. Over time this modeling of technology took on a life of its own and led me to formulate a theory of technology evolution. It was not a huge leap from there to reflect on the impact of these crucial changes on social and cultural institutions and on my own life. So, while being a Singularitarian is not a matter of faith but one of understanding, pondering the scientific trends I’ve discussed in this book inescapably engenders new perspectives on the issues that traditional religions have attempted to address: the nature of mortality and immortality, the purpose of our lives, and intelligence in the universe.
Being a Singularitarian has often been an alienating and lonely experience for me because most people I encounter do not share my outlook. Most “big thinkers” are totally unaware of this big thought. In a myriad of statements and comments people typically evidence the common wisdom that human life is short, that our physical and intellectual reach is limited, and that nothing fundamental will change in our lifetimes. I expect this narrow view to change as the implications of accelerating change become increasingly apparent, but having more people with whom to share my outlook is a major reason that I wrote this book.
So how do we contemplate the Singularity? As with the sun, it’s hard to look at directly; it’s better to squint at it out of the corners of our eyes. As Max More states, the last thing we need is another dogma, nor do we need another cult, so Singularitarianism is not a system of beliefs or unified viewpoints. While it is fundamentally an understanding of basic technology trends, it is simultaneously an insight that causes one to rethink everything, from the nature of health and wealth to the nature of death and self.
To me, being a Singularitarian means many things, of which the following is a small sampling. These reflections articulate my personal philosophy, not a proposal for a new doctrine.
We have the means right now to live long enough to live forever.2 Existing knowledge can be aggressively applied to dramatically slow down aging processes so we can still be in vital health when the more radical life-extending therapies from biotechnology and nanotechnology become available. But most baby boomers won’t make it because they are unaware of the accelerating aging processes in their bodies and the opportunity to intervene.
In this spirit I am aggressively reprogramming my biochemistry, which is now altogether different than it would otherwise be.3 Taking supplements and medications is not a last resort to be reserved only for when something goes wrong. There is already something wrong. Our bodies are governed by obsolete genetic programs that evolved in a bygone era, so we need to overcome our genetic heritage. We already have the knowledge to begin to accomplish this, something I am committed to doing.
My body is temporary. Its particles turn over almost completely every month. Only the pattern of my body and brain have continuity.
We should strive to improve these patterns by optimizing the health of our bodies and extending the reach of our minds. Ultimately, we will be able to vastly expand our mental faculties by merging with our technology.
We need a body, but once we incorporate MNT fabrication into ourselves, we will be able to change our bodies at will.
Only technology can provide the scale to overcome the challenges with which human society has struggled for generations. For example, emerging technologies will provide the means of providing and storing clean and renewable energy, removing toxins and pathogens from our bodies and the environment, and providing the knowledge and wealth to overcome hunger and poverty.
Knowledge is precious in all its forms: music, art, science, and technology, as well as the embedded knowledge in our bodies and brains. Any loss of this knowledge is tragic.
Information is not knowledge. The world is awash in information; it is the role of intelligence to find and act on the salient patterns. For example, we have hundreds of megabits of information flowing through our senses every second, the bulk of which is intelligently discarded. It is only the key recognitions and insights (all forms of knowledge) that we retain. Thus intelligence selectively destroys information to create knowledge.
Death is a tragedy. It is not demeaning to regard a person as a profound pattern (a form of knowledge), which is lost when he or she dies. That, at least, is the case today, since we do not yet have the means to access and back up this knowledge. When people speak of losing part of themselves when a loved one dies, they are speaking quite literally, since we lose the ability to effectively use the neural patterns in our brain that had self-organized to interact with that person.
A primary role of traditional religion is deathist rationalization—that is, rationalizing the tragedy of death as a good thing. Malcolm Muggeridge articulates the common view that “if it weren’t for death, life would be unbearable.” But the explosion of art, science, and other forms of knowledge that the Singularity will bring will make life more than bearable; it will make life truly meaningful.
In my view the purpose of life—and of our lives—is to create and appreciate ever-greater knowledge, to move toward greater “order.” As I discussed in chapter 2, increasing order usually means increasing complexity, but sometimes a profound insight will increase order while reducing complexity.
As I see it the purpose of the universe reflects the same purpose as our lives: to move toward greater intelligence and knowledge. Our human intelligence and our technology form the cutting edge of this expanding intelligence (given that we are not aware of any extraterrestrial competitors).
Having reached a tipping point, we will within this century be ready to infuse our solar system with our intelligence through self-replicating nonbiological intelligence. It will then spread out to the rest of the universe.
Ideas are the embodiment and the product of intelligence. The ideas exist to solve most any problem that we encounter. The primary problems we cannot solve are ones that we cannot articulate and are mostly ones of which we are not yet aware. For the problems that we do encounter, the key challenge is to express them precisely in words (and sometimes in equations). Having done that, we have the ability to find the ideas to confront and resolve each such problem .
We can apply the enormous leverage provided by the acceleration of technology. A notable example is achieving radical life extension through “a bridge to a bridge to a bridge” (applying today’s knowledge as a bridge to biotechnology, which in turn will bridge us to the era of nanotechnology).4 This offers a way to live indefinitely now, even though we don’t yet have all the knowledge necessary for radical life extension. In other words we don’t have to solve every problem today. We can anticipate the capability of technologies that are coming—in five years or ten years or twenty—and work these into our plans. That is how I design my own technology projects, and we can do the same with the large problems facing society and with our own lives.
Contemporary philosopher Max More describes the goal of humanity as a transcendence to be “achieved through science and technology steered by human values.”5 More cites Nietzsche’s observation “Man is a rope, fastened between animal and overman—a rope over an abyss.” We can interpret Nietzsche to be pointing out that we have advanced beyond other animals while seeking to become something far greater. We might regard Nietzsche’s reference to the abyss to allude to the perils inherent in technology, which I address in the next chapter.
More has at the same time expressed concern that anticipating the Singularity could engender a passivity in addressing today’s issues.”6 Because the enormous capability to overcome age-old problems is on the horizon, there may be a tendency to grow detached from mundane, present-day concerns. I share More’s antipathy toward “passive Singularitarianism,” One reason for a proactive stance is that technology is a double-edged sword and as such always has the potential of going awry as it surges toward the Singularity, with profoundly disturbing consequences. Even small delays in implementing emerging technologies can condemn millions of people to continued suffering and death. As one example of many, excessive regulatory delays in implementing lifesaving therapies end up costing many lives. (We lose millions of people per year around the world from heart disease alone.)
More also worries about a cultural rebellion “seduced by religious and cultural urgings for ‘stability’ ‘peace’ and against ‘hubris’ and ‘the unknown’ “that may derail technological acceleration.7 In my view any significant derailment of the overall advancement of technology is unlikely. Even epochal events such as two world wars (in which on the order of one hundred million people died), the cold war, and numerous economic, cultural, and social upheavals have failed to make the slightest dent in the pace of technology trends. But the reflexive, thoughtless antitechnology sentiments increasingly being voiced in the world today do have the potential to exacerbate a lot of suffering.
Still Human? Some observers refer to the post-Singularity period as “posthuman” and refer to the anticipation of this period as posthumanism. However, to me being human means being part of a civilization that seeks to extend its boundaries. We are already reaching beyond our biology by rapidly gaining the tools to reprogram and augment it. If we regard a human modified with technology as no longer human, where would we draw the defining line? Is a human with a bionic heart still human? How about someone with a neurological implant? What about two neurological implants? How about someone with ten nanobots in his brain? How about 500 million nanobots? Should we establish a boundary at 650 million nanobots: under that, you’re still human and over that, you’re posthuman?
Our merger with our technology has aspects of a slippery slope, but one that slides up toward greater promise, not down into Nietzsche’s abyss. Some observers refer to this merger as creating a new “species.” But the whole idea of a species is a biological concept, and what we are doing is transcending biology. The transformation underlying the Singularity is not just another in a long line of steps in biological evolution. We are upending biological evolution altogether.
Money and Freedom
Mises Daily: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 by Joseph T. Salerno
[This talk was delivered at the Mises Institute conference The History of Liberty, January 29, 2000.]
The historical embodiment of monetary freedom is the gold standard. The era of its greatest flourishing was not coincidentally the 19th century, the century in which classical liberal ideology reigned, a century of unprecedented material progress and peaceful relations between nations. Unfortunately, the monetary freedom represented by the gold standard, along with many other freedoms of the classical liberal era, was brought to a calamitous end by World War I.
Also, and not so coincidentally, this was the “War to Make the World Safe for Mass Democracy,” a political system which we have all learned by now is the great enemy of freedom in all its social and economic manifestations.
Now, it is true that the gold standard did not disappear overnight, but limped along in weakened form into the early 1930s. But this was not the pre-1914 classical gold standard, in which the actions of private citizens operating on free markets ultimately controlled the supply and value of money and governments had very little influence.
Under this monetary system, if people in one nation demanded more money to carry out more transactions or because they were more uncertain of the future, they would export more goods and financial assets to the rest of the world, while importing less. As a result, additional gold would flow in through a surplus in the balance of payments increasing the nation’s money supply.
Sometimes, private banks tried to inflate the money supply by issuing additional bank notes and deposits, called “fiduciary media,” promising to pay gold but unbacked by gold reserves. They lent these notes and deposits to either businesses or the government. However, as soon as the borrowers spent these additional fractional-reserve notes and deposits, domestic incomes and prices would begin to rise.
As a result, foreigners would reduce their purchases of the nation’s exports, and domestic residents would increase their spending on the relatively cheap foreign imports. Gold would flow out of the coffers of the nation’s banks to finance the resulting trade deficit, as the excess paper notes and checks were returned to their issuers for redemption in gold.
To check this outflow of gold reserves, which made their depositors very nervous, the banks would contract the supply of fiduciary media bringing about a monetary deflation and an ensuing depression.
Temporarily chastened by the experience, banks would refrain from again expanding credit for a while. If the Treasury tried to issue convertible notes only partially backed by gold, as it occasionally did, it too would face these consequences and be forced to restrain its note issue within narrow bounds.
Thus, governments and commercial banks under the gold standard did not have much influence over the money supply in the long run. The only sizable inflations that occurred during the 19th century did so during wartime when almost all belligerent nations would “go off the gold standard.” They did so in order to conceal the staggering costs of war from their citizens by printing money rather than raising taxes to pay for it.
For example, Great Britain experienced a substantial inflation at the beginning of the 19th century during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when it had suspended the convertibility of the British pound into gold. Likewise, the United States and the Confederate States of America both suffered a devastating hyperinflation during the War for Southern Independence, because both sides issued inconvertible Treasury notes to finance budget deficits. It is because politicians and their privileged banks were unable to tamper with and inflate a gold money that prices in the United States and in Great Britain at the close of the 19th century were roughly the same as they were at the beginning of the century.
Within weeks of the outbreak of World War I, all belligerent nations departed from the gold standard. Needless to say by the war’s end the paper fiat currencies of all these nations were in the throes of inflations of varying degrees of severity, with the German hyperinflation that culminated in 1923 being the worst. To put their currencies back in order and to restore the public’s confidence in them, one country after another reinstituted the gold standard during the 1920s.
Unfortunately, the new gold standard of the 1920s was fundamentally different from the classical gold standard. For one thing, under this latter version, gold coin was not used in daily transactions. In Great Britain, for example, the Bank of England would only redeem pounds in large and expensive bars of gold bullion. But gold bullion was mainly useful for financing international trade transactions.
Other countries such as Germany and the smaller countries of Central and Eastern Europe used gold-convertible foreign currencies such as the US dollar or the pound sterling as reserves for their own domestic currencies. This was called the gold-exchange standard.
While the US dollar was technically redeemable in honest-to-goodness gold coin, banks no longer held reserves in gold coin but in Federal Reserve notes. All gold reserves were centralized, by law, in the hands of the Fed and banks were encouraged to use Fed notes to cash checks and pay for checking and savings deposit withdrawals. This meant that very little gold coin circulated among the public in the 1920s, and residents of all nations came increasingly to view the paper IOUs of their central banks as the ultimate embodiment of the dollar, franc, pound, etc.
This state of affairs gave governments and their central banks much greater leeway for manipulating their national money supplies. The Bank of England, for example, could expand the amount of paper claims to gold pounds through the banking system without fearing a run on its gold reserves for two reasons.
Foreign countries on the gold exchange standard would be willing to pile up the paper pounds that flowed out of Great Britain through its balance of payments deficit and not demand immediate conversion into gold. In fact by issuing their own currency to tourists and exporters in exchange for the increasing quantities of inflated paper pounds, foreign central banks were in effect inflating their own money supplies in lock-step with the Bank of England. This drove up prices in their own countries to the inflated level attained by British prices and put an end to the British deficits.
In effect, this system enabled countries such as Great Britain and the United States to export monetary inflation abroad and to run “a deficit without tears” — that is, a balance-of-payments deficit that does not involve a loss of gold.
But even if gold reserves were to drain out of the vaults of the Bank of England or the Fed to foreign nations, British and US citizens would be disinclined, either by law or by custom, to put further pressure on their respective central banks to stop inflating by threatening bank runs to rid themselves of their depreciating notes and retrieve their rightful property left with the banks for safekeeping.
Unfortunately, contemporary economists and economic historians do not grasp the fundamental difference between the hard-money classical gold standard of the 19th century and the inflationary phony gold standard of the 1920s.
Thus, many admit, if somewhat grudgingly, that the gold standard worked exceedingly well in the 19th century. However, at the same time, they maintain that the gold standard suddenly broke down in the 1920s and 1930s and that this breakdown triggered the Great Depression. Monetary freedom in their minds is forever discredited by the tragic events of the 1930s. The gold standard, whatever its merits in an earlier era, is seen by them as a quaint and outmoded monetary system that has proved it cannot survive the rigors and stresses of a modern economy.
Those who implicate the gold standard as the main culprit in precipitating the events of the 1930s generally fall into one of two groups. One group argues that it was an inherent flaw in the gold standard itself that led to a collapse of the financial system, which in turn dragged the real economy down into depression. Writers in the second group maintain that governments, for social and political reasons, stopped adhering to the so-called rules of the gold standard, and that this initiated the downward spiral into the abyss of the Great Depression.
From either perspective, however, it is clear that the gold standard can never again be trusted to serve as the basis of the world’s monetary system. On the one hand, if it is true that the gold standard is fundamentally flawed, that in itself is a crushing practical argument against the principle of monetary freedom. On the other hand, if the gold standard is in fact a creature of rules contrived by governments, and it is politically impossible for them to follow those rules, then monetary freedom is simply irrelevant from the outset.
The first argument is the Keynesian argument and the second the monetarist argument against the gold standard.
Two recent books have elaborated these arguments against the gold standard. The economic historian Barry Eichengreen published a book in 1992 entitled Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression. Eichengreen summarized the argument of this book in the following words:
The gold standard of the 1920s set the stage for the Depression of the 1930s by heightening the fragility of the international financial system. The gold standard was the mechanism transmitting the destabilizing impulse from the United States to the rest of the world. The gold standard magnified that initial destabilizing shock. It was the principle obstacle to offsetting action. It was the binding constraint preventing policymakers from averting the failure of banks and containing the spread of financial panic. For all these reason the international gold standard was a central factor in the worldwide Depression. Recovery proved possible, for these same reasons, only after abandoning the gold standard.
According to Eichengreen, then, not only was the gold standard responsible for initiating and internationally propagating the Great Depression, it was also the primary reason why the recovery was delayed for so long.
It was only after governments one after another in the 1930s severed the link between their national currencies and gold that their national economies finally began to recover. This was because, unbound by the rules of the gold standard, governments were now able to bail out their banking systems and run budget deficits financed by bank credit inflation without the constraining fear of losing their gold reserves.
Thus, the phrase “golden fetters” in the title of Eichengreen’s book is a reference to Keynes’s statement in 1931, “There are few Englishman who do not rejoice at the breaking of our gold fetters.”
Of course, what Keynes and Eichengreen fail to understand is that the end of the classical liberal era in 1914 caused the removal from government central banks of the “golden handcuffs” of the genuine gold standard. Were these “golden handcuffs” still in place in the 1920s, central banks would have been rigidly constrained from inflating their money supplies in the first place and the business cycle that culminated in the Great Depression would not have taken place.
A second book that inculpates the gold standard as a leading cause of the Great Depression was published in 1998 and is entitled The Great Depression: An International Disaster of Perverse Economic Policies. According to the authors, Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson, one of the most perverse and destabilizing economic policies of the 1920s involved the Fed violating the rules of the gold standard by allegedly “sterilizing” the inflow of gold from Great Britain.
This means that the Fed refused to pyramid inflated paper dollars on top of these newly acquired gold reserves in quantities sufficient to drive US prices up to the inflated level of British prices. This policy would have made US products more expensive relative to British products on world markets and would have helped mitigate Great Britain’s ongoing loss of gold reserves through its balance-of-payments deficits.
These deficits were the result of the fact that Great Britain had returned to the gold standard after its wartime inflation at the prewar gold parity, which, given the inflated level of domestic prices, significantly overvalued the British pound in terms of the dollar.
These deficits could have been avoided if the British government had either deflated its price level sufficiently or chosen to return to gold at a devalued exchange rate reflecting the true extent of its previous inflation.
Hall and Ferguson, however, ignore these considerations, arguing that when the United States sterilizes gold,
The impact on the system is that Britain bears the brunt of the adjustment. Since the money supply in the United States did not rise, neither did U.S. incomes and prices as they were supposed to, which would have helped Britain eliminate their payments deficit. Since Britain was not aided by rising exports to the United States, Britain must experience a more severe decline in incomes and prices than would have been the case if the U.S. money supply had gone up. In this way Britain would bear the brunt of the adjustment in the form of a more severe recession than would have occurred if the United States had been playing by the rules. Thus it was critical that each country play fair.
Thus, in Hall and Ferguson’s view, the rules of the gold standard dictate that when one central bank irresponsibly engages in monetary inflation and subsequently attempts to maintain an overvalued exchange rate, less inflationary central banks must rush to its aid and expand their own nations’ money supplies in order to prevent it from losing its gold reserves.
But if a nation losing gold due to inept or irresponsible monetary policy can always count on those gaining gold to share “the brunt of the adjustment” by expanding their own money supplies, this is surely a recipe for worldwide inflation.
Now, this line of argument indicates that Hall and Ferguson completely misunderstand the true purpose and function of the gold standard. To begin with, a gold standard functions much better without a central bank, because these institutions, as creatures of politics, are inherently inflationary and tend to promote rather than restrain the inflationary propensities of the fractional-reserve commercial banks.
But, second, under a genuine gold coin standard, the choices of private households and firms effectively control the money supply. As I explained above, if the residents of one nation demand to hold more money for whatever reason, they can obtain the precise quantity of gold coin they require through the balance of payments by temporarily selling more exports and buying fewer imports.
This implies that, if a central bank does exist and it wishes to act in accordance with a genuine gold standard, it should always “sterilize” gold inflows by issuing additional notes and deposits only on the basis of 100 percent gold reserves and insisting that the commercial banks do the same. It should not permit these gold reserves to be used as the basis of a multiple credit expansion by the banking system.
In this way, a nation’s money supply would be completely subject to market forces. By the way, this is precisely how the distribution of the supply of dollars between the different states of the United States is determined today. There is no government agency charged with monitoring and controlling New Jersey’s or Alabama’s money supply.
Hall and Ferguson reveal their uneasiness with and lack of insight into the operation of the money supply process under a genuine gold standard with the following example:
Suppose a fad had swept the nation in 1927 because Calvin Coolidge appeared in public wearing one gold earring. Then every teenager in America wanted to wear a gold earring “just like silent Cal”.… The result would be an [increase] in the commercial demand for gold. Since more gold would be used in earrings less would be available for money.… It would be beyond the power of government to do anything about this fact. What a scary thought, the teenagers of America would have caused the U.S. money supply to decline.
While it is true that the commercial demand for gold does play a role in determining the supply and value of money under a gold standard, it is hardly cause for alarm. Rather, it highlights the important fact that the gold standard evolved on the market from a useful commodity with a preexisting supply and demand and was not the product of a set of arbitrary rules promulgated by governments.
Now, Hall and Ferguson conclude that by breaking the rules of the game and persisting in sterilizing the gold inflows from 1929 to 1933, the Fed caused a monetary deflation in Great Britain and throughout Europe. The nations losing gold were forced to contract their money supplies and this contributed to a financial collapse and a precipitous decline in real economic activity that marked the onset of the Great Depression.
Thus while the authors blame the initiation of the Great Depression on Fed sterilization policies, they attribute its length and severity to the gold standard. According to the authors, as long as European countries remained on the gold standard and US sterilization continued, there could be no end of the Depression in sight. The US gold stock would become a huge pile of sterilized and useless gold. Starting with the British in 1931, our trading partners began to recognize this fact, and one by one they left the gold standard. The Germans and ironically the United States were among the last to leave gold and so were hurt the worst, experiencing the longest and deepest forms of the Depression.
So although Eichengreen emphasizes the gold standard as a restraint on government monetary policy and Hall and Ferguson the failure of governments to play by its rules, in effect, they reach the same conclusion: the gold standard, and with it monetary freedom, stands indicted as a primary cause of the greatest economic catastrophe in history.
In the face of the historical evidence they adduce, can any defense be mounted in favor of the gold standard? The answer is a resounding “yes,” and the defense is as simple as it is impregnable. As I have tried to indicate above, the case against the gold standard is from beginning to end a case of mistaken identity. The genuine gold standard did not fail in the 1920s, because it had already been destroyed by government policies after 1914.
The monetary system that sowed the seeds of the Great Depression in the 1920s was a central-bank-manipulated and inflationary pseudogold standard. It was central banking that failed in the 1920s and stands discredited to this day as the cause of the Great Depression.
A detailed case in support of this view can be found in the works of Murray N. Rothbard, particularly in his book America’s Great Depression and a forthcoming book on A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II.
Finally you will read that from 1929 to 1932, the Fed continued to exercise a highly inflationary impact on the money supply, as it feverishly pumped new reserves into the banking system in a vain attempt to ward off the cyclical downturn entailed by its own earlier inflation of the money supply. The Fed was defeated in this endeavor to pump up the money supply and “reflate” prices in the early 1930s by domestic and foreign depositors who reclaimed their rightful property from an inherently bankrupt US banking system. They had suddenly lost confidence in the Fed-controlled monetary system masquerading as a gold standard, when they perceived at last the dwindling prospect of ever redeeming the rapidly expanding mountain of inflated paper claims for their gold dollars.