Do-It-Yourself Alternative High School

High School in the United States is about training for conformity, and molding for obedience. High School gets in the way of becoming educated, in the same way that organized religion gets in the way of realizing spirituality (“knowing God”). The following is a list of 20 books I would gave to a student for a do-it-yourself education (an intellectual expansion) of a type American High Schools cannot deliver. I offer this list to you, and to American teens today, because I think that as a set they represent an entry to the endless path of awakening to the great wide world (reality), and to the art of self-teaching. Anyone who would read all these books, and work out the problems in them (if such), would merit the Alternative High School Diploma, which comes in the form of the personal satisfaction in having enjoyed learning many interesting things, and in how to think better.

How To Solve It
(G. Polya)

Desert Solitaire
(Edward Abbey)

Cat’s Cradle
(Kurt Vonnegut)

The Divine Proportion
(H. E. Huntley)

The Periodic Table
(Primo Levi)

The Ancestor’s Tale
(Richard Dawkins)

Gods, Graves and Scholars
(C. W. Ceram)

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court
(Mark Twain)

The Oedipus Trilogy

Slaughterhouse Five
(Kurt Vonnegut)

David Copperfield
(Charles Dickens)

Four Plays by Oscar Wilde:
– The Importance of Being Earnest
– An Ideal Husband
– Lady Windermere’s Fan
– A Woman of No Importance
– and if you want a 5th one: Salomé

Stranger In A Strange Land
(Robert Heinlein)

The Lathe of Heaven
(Ursula K. Le Guin)

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(George Orwell)

Animal Farm
(George Orwell)

Brave New World
(Aldous Huxley)

On The Road
(Jack Kerouac)

Eichmann In Jerusalem
(Hannah Arendt)

Cadillac Desert
(Marc Reisner)


God And Country

“My own mind is my own church”
— Thomas Paine, (1737-1809) The Age Of Reason

“God is in His heaven, and all is right with the world”

“If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to church?” The inability of adult authority to give a six year old boy an unequivocal answer planted a freethinking seed that flowered into liberation.

To criticize religion is unkind, like ridiculing a child’s thumbsucking and security blanket. Then why discuss it, since for many discussion is equivalent to critique? Because concepts of God are at the root of attitudes about community, security and power, and these in turn affect our shared external reality — country. Church and State, God and Country, they are never far apart. The ideal would be to keep our Gods contained within ourselves so they do not destroy what we enjoy together. Reality is otherwise.

Belief and Religion

Religion is organized belief in response to psychological need.

“Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand.”
— Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), (1)

There are two aspects to consider, a personal one of belief or unbelief in the existence of God, and the social one of communities of organized belief or unbelief: religions or societies of freethinkers, secularists and humanists. How do the beliefs within these communities affect the politics between them?

First, let us consider belief.

The Age Of Reason

In January 1794 in Paris, Tom Paine began his last important work, The Age Of Reason, of which he completed Part 1 six hours before his arrest by the Jacobins. Paine escaped the guillotine by accident, but nearly died of illness during his ten month incarceration. This patriot of the American Revolution, who had been elected an honorary French citizen and returned to the Convention (in Paris) by three different constituencies in 1792, had seen the promise of the French Revolution debased by the concentration of power, the self-aggrandizement of “leaders,” and a loss of vision and human connectedness by many others. A Robespierre who could believe “I am of the people because I feel all their wants, their hurts, their pains, their sufferings,” was a man elevating himself to godlike heights — with glacial empathy. (2)

Paine’s response was to write about religion because:

“The circumstance that has now taken place in France of the total abolition of the whole national order of the priesthood, and of everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest, in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of the theology that is true.” (3)

The Age Of Reason shocked Paine’s contemporaries, even many who agreed with his politics. The nature of his belief was shared by Jefferson, Washington and Adams, but they were careful to avoid any public expression of unorthodoxy. (4)

Paine wrote:

“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” (3)

The incendiary phrase is “and no more.” Paine spelled out the “no more” at length, generally a criticism of the Old Testament from a moral point of view, (4) and a dismissal of the Jewish, Roman, Greek, Turkish and Protestant orthodoxies. (3) Though Paine’s belief is now commonplace, these three words still keep it beyond the permissible limits of many today.

For Paine, belief was personal — not organized — and it informed personal acts, in his case an unwavering opposition to slavery (in America), oligarchy (in England) and unnecessary bloodshed (in France). He was a democrat opposed to cruelty in any form.

The Undiscovered Self

A more recent voice speaking eloquently about personal belief was that of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). He was separated from Paine’s lifespan by 66 years, and from today (2004) by 43 years. Jung had no need of faith, he was an empiricist who observed that natural processes of growth and decay included a natural process of psychological integration, which he called individuation. For him, that this happened of its own was God, and being aware of the process within oneself was knowing. And no more.

“The fact is that what happens to a person is characteristic of him. He represents a pattern and all the pieces fit. One by one, as his life proceeds, they fall into place according to some predestined design.

“All that I have learned has led me step by step to an unshakable conviction of the existence of God. I only believe in what I know. And that eliminates believing. Therefore I do not take His existence on belief — I know that He exists.” (5)

One can hear an echo of Herakleitos (c. 500 BC) in Jung, “Character is fate.” (6) Jung recommends that you dive in, that you know for yourself, and in particular that you “beware of childishness.” And what could be more childish than unquestioning obedience?

“Discovering yourself provides you with all you are, were meant to be, and all you are living from and for. The whole of yourself is certainly an irrational entity, but this is just precisely yourself, which is meant to live as a unique and unrepeatable experience. Thus, whatever you find in your given disposition is a factor of life which must be taken into careful consideration.

“If you should find, for instance, an ineradicable tendency to believe in God or immortality, do not allow yourself to be disturbed by the blather of so-called freethinkers. And if you find an equally resistant tendency to deny all religious ideas do not hesitate: deny them and see how that influences your general welfare and your state of mental or spiritual nutrition. But beware of childishness: whether you call the ultimate unknown “God” or “Matter” is equally futile, since we know neither the one nor the other, though we doubtless have experiences of both. But we know nothing beyond them, and we cannot produce either the one or the other.” (7)

Who was Jung’s God?

“The collective unconscious, it’s not for you, or me, it’s the invisible world, it’s the great spirit. It makes little difference what I call it: God, Tao, the Great Voice, the Great Spirit. But for people of our time God is the most comprehensible name with which to designate the Power beyond us.” (8)


“Without knowing it man is always concerned with God. What some people call instinct or intuition is nothing other than God. God is that voice inside us which tells us what to do and what not to do. In other words, our conscience.

“In this dark atomic age of ours, with its lurking fear, man is seeking guidance. Consciously or unconsciously he is once more grasping for God. I make my patients understand that all the things which happen to them against their will are a superior force. They can call it God or devil, and that doesn’t matter to me, as long as they realize that it is a superior force. God is nothing more than that superior force in our life. You can experience God every day.” (5)

The Sound Of One Hand Clapping

What makes Gods godly is their remoteness from human scale. This remoteness is one of power, emotion and concern. The ancient Greeks understood this about the Gods, they could be magnanimous or unearthly cruel, and they could equally well be completely oblivious about our individual fortunes or misfortunes. Jung’s great insight about God was this evenhandedness between the right hand of sweetness and light, and the left hand of darkness and cruelty; the mandala, the yin-yang of the Tao. Jung presented this in his work Answer To Job (1952), which of his writings most disturbs his religiously orthodox critics.

Does the image we have of God or Not-God inspire humility and satisfaction in “doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy?” Or, does the image we have of God or Not-God support a feeling of power and exclusivity, something that sets us above the unanointed with a superior sense to “feel all their wants, their hurts, their pains, their sufferings?” The first attitude as a social norm is essential to civic health, and to this end it does not matter whether any individual’s image is of God or Not-God. The second attitude as a social norm would be the left hand of God playing the religion card.

It is not what you believe that determines the worthiness of your religion (or non-religion) and the merit of your practice, but what you do, how you act, what you support.

If I call the unimaginably vast and ancient, powerful and impersonal universe the superior force in my life — God — and I view my own existence as an insignificance of such scant proportion that mere random chance can easily explain it, do I hold a belief in God that inspires humility and appreciation, even exultation in being alive, or have I crossed over into unbelief? Is there any difference?

The opposition of God and Not-God may be a false dichotomy if the practical outcome for the adherents of each is Paine socialism. If the social outcome is a Robespierrean absolutism, then the belief or atheism of the perpetrators is irrelevant, despotism is despotism. Where under Paine socialism the widest variety of personal conviction and religious practice would be tolerated, despotism would eliminate all competing thought in favor of one compulsory system of belief — a theocracy even if atheistic.

Only those religions or non-religions intent on achieving a Robespierrean absolutism (saving the country, saving the world) will be concerned that their particular form of the God or Not-God image dominates popular attention. If they have a mission, they are a threat to society, a mental health epidemic. Orthodoxy is the enemy of the people.

In April 1961, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934-1968) became the first human to orbit the Earth. During his 89 minute orbit he radioed “I don’t see any God up here.” This led to many apocryphal stories and jokes, like the following. Yuri Gagarin is interviewed by Western journalists after his historic flight. An American journalist asks “Did you see God when you were in space?” Gagarin answers, “Yes, she’s black.” I heard this from Brother Kieran, OSF in my high school biology class of 1966. This was a Franciscan Brother, and it was the 1960s. Another entertaining story is told in (9). Gagarin’s documented quote is included in compilations of interesting quotes about atheism, (10) religion, science, skepticism and nonbelief. (11)

Now, let us consider nonbelief.

Why I Am Not A Christian

“The objections to religion are of two sorts — intellectual and moral. The intellectual objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are now and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow.”
— Bertrand Russell, (12)

In 1925 Bertrand Russell published a booklet called What I Believe, “to say what I think of man’s place in the universe, and of his possibilities in the way of achieving the good life.” This booklet, and other writings, were presented as evidence in court that Russell was unfit to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York. The court agreed and Russell was barred from accepting his professorship in 1941. The successful campaign against Russell was carried on by “ecclesiastical journals, the Hearst press, and just about every Democratic politician joined [in a] chorus of defamation.” Of the sad result John Dewey said “As Americans, we can only blush with shame for this scar on our repute for fair play.” (13)

In What I Believe, Russell said this on the existence of God:

“God and immortality, the central dogmas of the Christian religion, find no support in science. It cannot be said that either doctrine is essential to religion, since neither is found in Buddhism… But we in the West have come to think of them as the irreducible minimum of theology. No doubt people will continue to entertain these beliefs, because they are pleasant, just as it is pleasant to think ourselves virtuous and our enemies wicked. But for my part I cannot see any ground for either. I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian God may exist; so may the Gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.” (14)

In Why I Am Not A Christian, Russell succinctly demolishes five major arguments advanced to prove the existence of God. A summary might be as follows (C = Christian, R = Russell, J = Jungian Christian):

First Cause Argument
C: Everything in the world has a cause, and the root of this causal cascade — the First Cause — is called God.
R: “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God.”

Natural Law Argument
C: Processes in nature, like the planets orbiting the sun, follow natural laws, pointing to a divine lawgiver.
R: “Human laws are behests commanding you to behave in a certain way…but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being mere description[s]…you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing there were, you are then faced with the question ‘Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?'”
C: God did so for his own good pleasure, without reason.
R: Then there is something which is not subject to law, and your train of natural law is interrupted.
C: In fact, God does have a reason for each law, to create the best universe.
R: “You would never think it to look at it,” but if there were such reasons “then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary.”

Argument From Design
C: Everything in the world is designed just so that we can manage to live in it, pointing to a supreme designer, for if the world were ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it.
R: Since Darwin we know that creatures evolve to adapt to their environments, not that environments are created just so for existing creatures — there is no evidence of design. “When you look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world…should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think, that if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists?”

Moral Argument
C: There would be no right or wrong unless God existed.
R: “[If] there is a difference between right and wrong…is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer significant…to say that God is good. If you are going to say…that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning that is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them.” If so, “it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but they are in their essence logically anterior to God.”
J: God can be bad.
R: A Gnostic hypothesis — “which I often thought was a very plausible one” — is that “this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.”

Argument For Remedying Injustice
C: The existence of God is required to bring justice into the world.
R: “In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.”
C: To have justice in the universe as a whole there is a future life, with heaven and hell, to redress the balance of life here on earth.
R: The simplest logic is to assume that this world is a fair sample of the rest of the universe unknown to us, “and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also. Supposing you got a crate of oranges…and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue ‘The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.’ You would say, ‘probably the whole lot is bad,'” and a similar argument would apply to the universe. “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in this world,” which in turn forms “a moral argument against deity.”

But belief in God is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of imprinting and emotion. We humans are very similar to geese (read Konrad Lorenz), we imprint many images and associations very early in life, often our most indelible images and compelling associations. “Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it,” as Russell observes right after concluding his five counterproofs of deity, just described. The emotion is “the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you.”

Russell summed up his own guiding principle this way, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” (15)

Why I Am A Pagan

Lin Yutang (1895-1976) like C. G. Jung was the son of a Christian preacher and seriously considered a life in the ministry, until his college years. The many doubts easily accessible to keen young Christian intellects — who use their minds as intended (if they were intentionally designed) — reached a head for Lin Yutang when he was a college instructor, one day in conversation with a Confucian colleague:

“Why,” I reasoned with a colleague, “if there were no God, people would not do good and the world would go topsy-turvy.”

“Why?” replied my Confucian colleague. “We should lead a decent human life simply because we are decent human beings,” he said.

“This appeal to the dignity of human life cut off my last tie to Christianity, and from then on I was a pagan.”

“It is all so clear to me now. The world of pagan belief is a simpler belief. It postulates nothing, and is obliged to postulate nothing. It seems to make the good life more immediately appealing by appealing to the good life alone. It better justifies doing good by making it unnecessary for doing good to justify itself. It does not encourage men to do, for instance, a simple act of charity by dragging in a series of hypothetical postulates — sin, redemption, the cross, laying up treasure in heaven, mutual obligation among men on account of a third-party relationship in heaven — all so unnecessarily complicated and roundabout, and none capable of direct proof. If one accepts the statement that doing good is its own justification, one cannot help regarding all theological baits to right living as redundant and tending to cloud the luster of a moral truth. Love among men should be a final, absolute fact. We should be able just to look at each other and love each other without being reminded of a third party in heaven. Christianity seems to me to make morality appear unnecessarily difficult and complicated and sin appear tempting, natural, and desirable. Paganism, on the other hand, seems alone to be able to rescue religion from theology and restore it to its beautiful simplicity of belief and dignity of feeling.” (16)

Lin Yutang went on to become a prolific writer, whose works include classics of philosophical commentary like The Wisdom Of Laotse, and of pedagogy like The Lin Yutang Chinese-English Dictionary Of Modern Usage. Lin Yutang’s 1937 bestseller, The Importance Of Living, is a work in the style of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays imbued with wu-wei, the Taoist concept of no-action.

Thinking Is Freedom

Is Russell’s freethinking unbelief of less value than morality compelled by orthodoxy? Russell makes an excellent case for the opposite. Is it possible that what Paine, Jung, Russell and Lin Yutang share is that their ideas of God or Not-God are motivated from their morality and not vice versa? Is it possible that both belief and unbelief are distractions, illusions, maya obscuring the living reality that has any value, which is adherence to the morality of “doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy,” of being “inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” of “leading decent human lives simply because we are decent human beings,” of “discovering yourself” with Jungian diligence, echoing the inscription at Delphi to “Know Thyself,” and Buddha’s dying words to “work out your salvation with diligence.”

Orthodoxy is the death of intellect, and in that there is no God, as Paine and Jung intuit, Russell proves and Lin Yutang eloquently confirms.

Church, Incorporated

Why have orthodoxy and churches?

Church is community, it is what people seek beyond family — or instead of it — to find belonging. At its best, such community can be very warm and accepting, and of great psychological and financial help in times of personal crisis. Many people find great comfort by association with others who mirror their concerns, and with whom they can form cooperatives for educating children and performing good works in their communities.

The church is the physical plant of a religion, which is an organized system of belief, which in turn is maintained by a priesthood or professional ministry who set about creating and interpreting theology to justify their existence, and creating community to maintain the attraction of their churches to ensure the continuing operation of this earthly enterprise. In the United States, religion is defined by the Internal Revenue Service, and religions are tax-exempt corporations. The original quid pro quo of this arrangement was that Churches would stay out of politics, and the State would stay out of the Church treasuries (“separation of church and state”). However, like all corporations Churches have preferences as to government policies, which can affect existing operations, income and the prospects for growth. So, churches engage in politics as the 1940 case of Bertrand Russell, and much else before and since has demonstrated. The role of the Catholic Church as a barrier to social and political reform is historic — read Bertrand Russell. In a recent (2004) article, Gary Leupp describes how the Catholic Church in France thwarted the aims of the Revolution of 1848. (17)

When the Catholic Church became a progressive force with “a preferential option for the poor” in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, it found itself opposed to oligarchy instead of allied with it as had been traditional, for example with Franco in Spain. Then, instead of having national armies protecting the Church, they attacked, murdering its priests and nuns, and even Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. Since these Central American oligarchies are extensions of US imperialism, what occurred was a war by the US government through proxies against the Catholic Church. What was true in Rome in 250 during the reign of Emperor Decius was true in America in 1980 during the reign of Ronald Reagan, Christianity seen as a threat to the State was persecuted. The subsequent retreat of the Church is evident in its shift from the liberation introduced by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II in 1962, to the renewed fundamentalism of Pope John Paul II. From the perspective of empire the spread of “liberation theology” among the masses is socialism and not to be tolerated, and from the perspective of the Churches fundamentalism that reinforces oligarchy and the status quo is the surest guarantee of its physical safety and financial security.

Religious orthodoxy is an element of social control and thus of political power.

If we taxed the Churches and allowed them to engage in politics in the same manner as any other corporation, there would be much less confusion all around about both the politics and the religions.

There is a great deal of hate and prejudice that aspires to suffocating political control, and appropriates the language of Christianity to elevate its self-image to god-like stature. Such so-called American Christianity is hate masquerading as religion to operate as tax-exempt corporation, giving an illusion of power to the ignorant, and a vent of cruelty to the fearful.

Orthodoxy opposed to intellect is religion addiction, and of this the United States has a mental health problem of epidemic proportions. We are not the only country so affected. Our “War On Drugs” does not now include the “opiate of the masses” because the present mass addiction serves the interests of the ruling elites.

The Levers of Control

The four major levers of control by any government are: guns (and armaments), money (the supply and use of, including gambling), drugs (including mass psychosis and religion) and women (libido, fecundity). Religions at the service of the State will facilitate its use of these levers.

We can see that people whose God/Not-God image springs from Paine socialist convictions will be most likely to oppose government oppression and oligarchy. They are also the people least likely to contribute to the support of Church, Incorporated, though a good number may be very socially, civically and charitably engaged. These people can be troublemakers because they are inquisitive, outspoken, uncowed, principled, responsible, disobedient, uncontrolling, witty and irreverent.

Being in control is an illusion, but one that obsesses many.

People who are intimidated by the prospect of thinking, who are fearful and seek security, willingly surrender funds, the free range of their intellect and their freedom of action to a higher authority in exchange for protection, also transferring with a sense of relief their personal responsibility for the social consequences of Church actions and policies. Recall Jung’s comment about childishness. They do their duty, follow the obligatory strictures, perhaps complain now and then about “having to go to mass,” or “having to keep kosher at grandma’s house,” but generally coast along without the burden of thinking with its frightening possibility of erupting doubts that would undermine the well-oiled routines of their daily lives and their personal concerns to make money, push their children to success, amplify the comfort of their homes, gain social status and all the usual preoccupations. Their existential problem has been put on autopilot, and many will fly to their graves without once looking back on the settings. For some, “the left hand of God” may pull them up short — a fateful accident, a tragedy — and force them to reevaluate, and out of such crisis to break through the religion spell and discover themselves.

If misery loves company then so does doubt and so does resentment over obligatory religion — if this is salvation, even immortality, where is the joy? Joy is what attracts the charismatics, they find group acceptance to act stupidly, babbling, whooping, writhing and feeling physically excited like children. Perhaps all we need are some playgrounds for adults, some shedding of public inhibitions, and police trained to understand the difference between a natural psychological outlet and an actual public disturbance.

Joy comes with the freedom of using your mind, of “being your own church.” Then you are part of the world, which is both good and bad, but most importantly you are not trying to push it away or control and suffocate it to end its threat to your ignorance — your fear. The politics of religious orthodoxy is an apartheid politics, it projects its fears externally then seeks to contain and punish these projections — sinners and people attributed with lower value — in a delusion that this is an escape to safety, an elevation to prosperity and righteousness.

Jesus had it right when he said “By their works shall ye know them.” Don’t you think he would get along well with Tom Paine, Carl Jung, Bert Russell and Lin Yutang? Wouldn’t that be a fun party to attend? God is the ultimate reality, which we create for ourselves by our own actions. And no more.

Concepts of God or Not-God that come from humane morality will characterize just societies.


[1] Bertrand Russell, “Why I Am Not A Christian,” lecture of 6 March 1927, printed in Why I Am Not A Christian, And Other Essays On Religion And Related Subjects, edited by Paul Edwards, 1957 (George Allen & Unwin Ltd.), NY: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster, Inc.), ISBN 0-671-20323-1

[2] Howard Fast, Citizen Tom Paine, 1943, NY: Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3064-X

[3] Thomas Paine, The Age Of Reason, 1794, see also [2].

[4] Bertrand Russell, “The Fate Of Thomas Paine,” 1934, see [1]

[5] C. G. Jung, “Men, Women, And God,” 1955, in C. G. Jung Speaking, Interviews And Encounters, edited by William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series XCVII, Princeton University Press, 1977, ISBN 0-691-09894-8

[6] Guy Davenport, Herakleitos And Diogenes, San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1994, ISBN 0-912516-36-4, see page 9 on Fragment 69.

[7] C. G. Jung, “The Art Of Living,” Gordon Young, Sunday Times (London)17 July 1960, see [5].

[8] C. G. Jung, “On The Frontiers Of Knowledge,” 1959, see [5]

[9] S. Wesley Ariarajah, “Many Voices, One God: Remodeling Christianity for a Pluralistic World” [active 25 November 2004]

[10] Cliff Walker, Positive Atheism’s Big List of Quotations
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934-1968) Soviet cosmonaut who, in 1961, became the first person to orbit the earth. He rode Vostok 1 around the Earth (24,800 miles) and experienced weightlessness for 89 minutes. “I don’t see any god up here.” — Yuri Gagarin, speaking from orbit in 1961.
[an extensive site, active 25 November 2004]

[11] Quotations on Philosophy and Religion [active 25 November 2004]

[12] Bertrand Russell, “Has Religion Made Useful Contributions To Civilization?,” 1930, see [1]

[13] Paul Edwards, “How Bertrand Russell Was Prevented From Teaching At The College Of The City Of New York,” 1957, see [1]

[14] Bertrand Russell, “What I Believe,” 1925, see [1]

[15] Bertrand Russell, “What I Believe,” 1925, see [1]

[16] Lin Yutang, The Importance Of Living, 1937 (William Morrow & Company), NY: Quill, 1998, ISBN 0-688-16352-1

[17] Gary Leupp, “The Wrong Side Wins, Democratic Elections in Historical Perspective,” CounterPunch, 2 November 2004 [active 25 November 2004]


Originally published as:

God and Country
17 January 2005


For Darwin’s views on belief versus nonbelief in God, see:

Darwin’s Living Legacy
13 February 2017


15 February 2017:

All religions are expressions of the fear of death.

The greater the ignorance of nature, the greater the likelihood of being a fearful person who believes in a god: a hoped for supernatural protector against the fearful uncertainties of life.

Some people will combat their fears by challenging their ignorance, through reading and study, to learn more about reality. Expanded knowledge gradually diminishes irrational terrors and irrational beliefs, and strengthens the confidence to conduct your life. Such people value gaining insights more than avoiding the discomforts of making personal changes.

Other people prefer to defend their ignorant irrationality — their prejudices and their religions — against the potential enlightenment offered by rational thought and scientific knowledge. They value their comfort in remaining unchanged more than the gaining of insight about reality.

Darwin’s Living Legacy

Dickinsonia costata

Dickinsonia costata

This February 12th, 2009, is the bicentennial birthday of one of the greatest minds in history. This man’s inquisitive nature, generous spirit, strong character and hatred of slavery led him to ideas that jolted the society of his times, led to protracted conflict, and caused a seismic shift in how civilized society thought of human beings and life itself.

Abraham Lincoln?, the Civil War?, the abolition of slavery in the United States? Well, yes it is also Lincoln’s 200th birthday, but no, our man is Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882). While the celebration of Abraham Lincoln (12 February 1809 – 15 April 1865) is important in the United States because of his role in the abolition of slavery there, the celebration of Charles Darwin is of wider significance because he opened a cornucopia of scientific knowledge, which helped free the minds of so many from the stunting influences of prejudice and religious fantasy. Just as Abraham Lincoln is the iconic marker for a major advancement in the social, political and economic nature of the United States of America, so is Charles Darwin the marker for a vast expansion in the understanding of this living world.

A Biographical Summary

Darwin was the son of a wealthy doctor, and soon showed an interest in natural history. He received an excellent education, first at the University of Edinburgh and then Cambridge, drifting from medicine to taxidermy, and numerous topics in natural history: marine biology, geology, botany, entomology. Darwin gravitated to the company of other gentlemen naturalists and parsons-to-be, who viewed their scientific studies as religious natural theology, the elaboration of the details of the divine design. At 22, he was invited to join Captain Robert FitzRoy, as a self-financed naturalist and gentleman companion, on the planned two-year voyage of the HMS Beagle to chart the coastline of South America.

The voyage of the Beagle lasted nearly five years. They sailed south from England to the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of northern Africa, across the mid Atlantic Ocean to Brazil, and south along the Patagonian coast to Tierra del Fuego at the cold and stormy tip of the South American continent, then into the Pacific Ocean and north along the coast of Chile and Peru, west from Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, then southwest across the Pacific to New Zealand, southern Australia and Tasmania, then into the Indian Ocean and north to the coral atolls known as the Keeling Islands, southwest to the island of Mauritius and Cape Town, South Africa, then across the southern Atlantic to Brazil again, and finally home to England. Darwin spent most of his time on land, making observations on the flora, fauna and geology, and collecting specimens. The 27 year old Darwin who returned to England in 1836 was already a celebrated scientist because of his many revelations in the form of his specimens, fossils and written reports, which had preceded his return to Cambridge.

Darwin plunged himself into the work of analyzing the profusion of data he had gathered, and information he caused to be generated. Data was in the form of his journals, the geo-physical data gathered by FitzRoy for the Royal Navy, and the wide variety of specimens he had retrieved. As geologists, ornithologists, botanists, entomologists, zoologists and early paleontologists studied the specimen collections and described their findings, Darwin was drawn to integrate all this information on the observed patterns of adaptation and geographical distribution, with corresponding environmental conditions. The central questions were: how do species come about?, and why have many passed away? In 1838, he conceived his theory of natural selection. In 1842 he wrote a 35 page synopsis of his idea, which was expanded to 230 pages by 1844. He instructed his wife, Emma, to publish this monograph in the event he died before publishing his theory.

Organizing his scientific findings from the Beagle’s voyage, and publishing them, was Darwin’s major task between his return to England and 1854. During this time he married, had children, developed a recurring illness (lactose intolerance?, Crohn’s disease?), and made geological and other field observations. He studied the role earthworms in soil formation, published separate books on the formation of coral reefs, and geology, and published two monographs on barnacles, in 1851 and 1854. Darwin’s work on barnacles earned him the Royal Society’s Royal Medal in 1853, and made his reputation as a biologist. Darwin had made his detailed eight-year study of barnacles so as to fully understand at least one species prior to publishing the generalizations in his theory of evolution by natural selection.

In 1856, Darwin began writing a “big book on species.” He was a methodical man intent to justify his radical generalizations with a profusion of specifics. This took time. Sir Charles Lyell, the foremost geologist of his day, urged Darwin to establish precedence by publishing a short paper on his ideas, because Lyell had seen similarities to Darwin’s thinking in a recent paper by Alfred Russel Wallace, a British biologist exploring Borneo. Darwin saw enough difference to remain unconcerned, but wrote a short draft updating material from his manuscript of 1844, for possible later use. In June 1858, Darwin was shocked to receive a scientific essay from Wallace, describing an independently arrived at theory of natural selection, which he sought comment on. Wallace had also asked Darwin to send this paper on to Lyell, which Darwin did with a recommendation it be published if Wallace consented. Darwin left the matter in Lyell’s hands because he was in the midst of a family crisis. There had been an outbreak of scarlett fever in his village, which Darwin’s baby son (Charles Waring Darwin) had contracted and would soon die from. Lyell and his editorial colleague decided to combine Wallace’s essay with Darwin’s short draft for a joint presentation on natural selection, on July 1st, which was published later that summer. Darwin was too grief-stricken to attend or notice, and the scientific community paid little attention to the new idea. Darwin returned to his writing in the fall, working hard, despite ill health, for thirteen months to complete a streamlined version of his “big book.” On The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection, Or The Preservation Of Favoured Races In The Struggle For Life, his most famous publication, premiered on 22 November 1859. The essential idea was stated in the introduction:

“As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.”

Variations occur among each new generation of any species. Some of these variants are better adapted to the conditions of their environment, and such individuals are more likely to survive and produce offspring, some of which may inherit the new trait. Over very long periods of time, small changes between generations can accumulate, mutating one species into another. Physiological and behavioral changes in harmony with the trend of environmental conditions shape the nature of successful species; traits that are maladapted to environmental conditions drive a species toward extinction. The greater reproductive success of well-adapted variants is a natural selection that drives the development of new species.

Darwin would live another twenty-two years, during which time he would write eleven more books on topics including: orchid fertilization by insects, variation in domesticated plants and animals, human evolution and sexual selection, human and animal expression of emotion, climbing plants, insectivorous plants, the action of worms; and an autobiography intended for his children. He would see himself lionized by scientists, and excoriated by religious fundamentalists; and he would see his ideas diffused widely among the public by sales of his own publications as well as by the popularization of his ideas by many speakers and other writers.

Darwin’s ideas breathed life into so many lines of scientific research, and were such a refreshing liberation of thought from the confines of ignorant religious dogma, that after Darwin’s death his colleagues at the Royal Society requested he be given the rare honor of a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey, which was done.

To give some idea of the nature of Western society during the course of Darwin’s maturity, we can mention a few notables who died within a year or so of Darwin: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid, and James A. Garfield in 1881; and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jesse James, Mary Todd Lincoln and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1882. Darwin’s life had spanned the interval from the Napoleonic period to the dawn of the electric age (Napoleon divorced Joséphine and married Marie Louise of Austria in 1810; Nikola Tesla conceived the induction motor in 1882).

Darwin Day 2009 is a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin Of Species. Darwin Day in any year is always a celebration of the many triumphs of the human mind over backwardness, ignorance and superstition. Many Darwin Day events are planned around the world.

The Evolution of a Scientist

Darwin was born advantageously into a family of comfortable means and humanistic intellectual orientation. His father, Robert Waring Darwin (30 May 1766 – 13 November 1848) was a doctor, financier and freethinker who was reserved on the topic of religion so as not to antagonize his wealthy Anglican clientele.

Darwin’s paternal grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (12 December 1731 – 18 April 1802), was a quite amazing man: a successful doctor, natural philosopher, inventor, poet, freethinker and abolitionist. Erasmus developed a theory of evolution — absent natural selection — that anticipated the ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who in turn is regarded to have foreshadowed Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace. Erasmus had also written a poetical cosmological speculation of the universe as a recurring cycle of, in modern terms: big bang, expansion then collapse.

Charles Darwin’s older brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin (29 December 1804 – 26 August 1881), was also a freethinking abolitionist. Both Erasmus Alvey and Charles Robert were pensioned off by their father in their late twenties, so each could pursue their interests: literary Whig activities and naturalist studies, respectively.

Charles Robert was baptized into the Anglican Church for social reasons though both the Darwins and Wedgewoods (his mother, Susannah’s family) were traditionally Unitarian. Charles and his siblings were taken to Unitarian chapel by their mother, and his religious belief — in the literal truth of the Bible — into early adulthood was both sincere and typical; his education at Cambridge was for the Anglican ministry.

During his years on the expedition of the Beagle, Darwin observed too many natural artifacts, like fossils and geological marine formations raised to great heights, and clear physiological evidence of adaptation by plants and animals, to continue believing the dogma of separately created and immutable species. The varieties of finches and tortoises on the Galapagos Islands were especially telling in this regard. By his return to England, in 1836, he viewed the Bible as fiction, and all religions as equally valid. Two years later:

“In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population [An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798], and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work…”

Malthus had asserted that unless human population was held in check — a very stone-hearted suggestion in the 18th century — it would increase in geometric progression until the food supply was exhausted, and catastrophe result. Darwin could see how this would apply to the struggle for survival between species, and to the natural maintenance of a rough stability of the populations of existing species. Random variations within any species are always occurring. Those best adapted to the demands of the times are most likely to be passed on to offspring — a natural selection instead of the intentional policy of some overseeing Malthusian breeder — so the best variants select themselves by passing through the filter of natural conditions; “the most beautiful part of my theory” thought Darwin.

Life is evolution, it is a continuum of variation in harmony with the history of the geo-physical environment. Natural selection produces the good of adaptation without requiring an assumed Malthusian Omnipotentate whose “intelligent design” requires mass die-offs by starvation, and such individual agonies as that of a caterpillar paralyzed by an ichneumon wasp as live food for its eggs. What is most admirable about Darwin was that his objections to the Malthusian Omnipotentate are both intellectual — scientific and logical — and also compassionate. Why believe in a cruel god?

Darwin still believed in God during the 1840s, but one far removed from the orthodox conception of his contemporaries. He continued to take an active role in the activities of his parish church, no doubt from altruistic motives, sociability, and finally out of consideration for his observant wife, Emma Wedgewood Darwin (also a cousin). From about 1849, Darwin went for Sunday morning walks in the country while his wife and children attended church services. In late May 1876, Darwin began his autobiography, which he intended as a posthumous memoir for his family. In it he frankly described the evolution of his religious views, but these passages were omitted in the published edition, because Emma and Darwin’s son Francis were concerned about a negative impact to Darwin’s reputation. The unexpurgated autobiography was published in 1958 by Emma Nora Barlow, a granddaughter of Charles Darwin. A selection of six passages of this material follows.

“By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, — that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible, do miracles become, — that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, — that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, — that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitness; — by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.”

“Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but at last was complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.”

“I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”

“The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection had been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.”

“At the present day (ca. 1872) the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomadans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favor of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddists of no God…This argument would be a valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God: but we know that this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists.”

“Nor must we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps as inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.”

In his later years, Darwin would call himself an agnostic in the rare instances he spoke of his religious views. At a dinner with the Darwin family in 1881, Edward Bibbens Aveling (an English Marxist and partner of Karl’s daughter Eleanor Marx) advocated atheism because he “did not commit the folly of god-denial, [and] avoided with equal care the folly of god-assertion.” The essentials of the subsequent exchange were as follows:

Darwin: “I am with you in thought, but I should prefer the word Agnostic to the word Atheist.”

Aveling: “after all, ‘Agnostic’ is but ‘Atheist’ writ respectable, and ‘Atheist’ is only ‘Agnostic’ writ aggressive.”

Darwin: “Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind? It is all very well for educated, cultured, thoughtful people; but are the masses yet ripe for it?”

Aveling: social progress required the wide dissemination of new and radical ideas, as was the case with The Origin Of Species.

Darwin was by nature non-confrontational, his methods of study and argument were logical, steady, incremental and based on a wealth of physical data. Also, we cannot neglect the fact that he was an old man not in the best of health, and might prefer to maintain the peacefulness of his life by keeping his peace in public on religion. Darwin had already responded to Aveling’s last point, on the possible benefits of speaking out publicly in favor of “atheism,” in a private letter to Aveling in 1880:

“Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, and I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biased by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.”

In 2008 and in anticipation of Darwin’s 200th birthday, the Church of England published an apology to Darwin “for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still”.

Darwin’s Influence On Today’s Science

Evolution by natural selection is the core phenomenon in the scientific study of life, and Darwinian logic is applied to questions as varied as the spread of viruses, and the interactions between human cultures. “Darwinian thought” has been so fruitful to life scientists that investigators in other fields, like psychology and computer science, have been drawn to mimic it. The word “Darwinian” has even appeared in papers on thermodynamics, quantum physics and black holes.

Within the life sciences, evolutionary theory has evolved and expanded with new complexities. One new development is “evo-devo,” the combination of evolutionary theory, embryology and genetics, to study the evolution of structure and form in organisms. Evo-devo makes use of modern capabilities for the analysis and manipulation of DNA, as well as computation.

While Darwin thought evolution was invariably a gradual process, Niles Eldredge, in 1971, proposed that it could also have sudden bursts of activity. This idea, called punctuated equilibrium, was further developed by Stephen Jay Gould, a prominent paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, and one of the most popular writers on science from the 1970s to 2000, when he died.

The theory of punctuated equilibrium proposes that instead of just being a uniformly gradual progression of change, the evolution of most species is characterized by long periods of evolutionary stability punctuated by rare instances of rapid change. The theory was advanced to explain the overwhelming trend of the fossil record, and those periods of exceptional efflorescence of life, such as the 20 million year Cambrian explosion that began 520 million years ago.

Recent efforts in evolutionary biology involve the combination of evolutionary theory with genetics to study questions of bio-diversity and ecology, and involved interdisciplinary problems such as the impact of climate change and invasive species on ecosystems.

The application of modern molecular evolutionary science to medical applications is obvious: predicting next year’s strain of the influenza virus, or the next pandemic pathogen, so as to devise vaccines; and understanding how bacteria and parasites develop resistances to our antibiotics.

Mind and Freedom

The unknown and the unknowable are united anthropomorphically in the human imagination, and called God. As we evolve, God recedes. Our projections of fear, desire and anxiety onto the opacity of the unknown are reflected back to us as the mirages God, heaven and hell. These phantasms fade as we learn more about the nature we are a part of, by using our brains for rational and scientific thought. This enlarges our experience of freedom and our human potential. Darwin’s comment on religion stunting the mental development of children is chilling (“…the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps as inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed…”). Indeed, religious fundamentalism is a mental illness, and a great deal of religious training is mass child abuse. All gods are human inventions, and their societies of mind-limiting veneration are cults. Church is cult politics. Because all religions are cults of mass participation, the Hitler Youth and the Stalin Cult were religions. As long as we have temporal potentates on this planet there will be efforts to deify them, and to expand their cults into religions that seek to devour their rivals. This is the “clash of civilizations” debilitating the Judeo-Christian West and eroding the Islamic East. These psycho-viral infections of collective consciousness evolve resistantly over the course of human history, and we can only hope they all soon fall extinct before the evolution of the human mind.


Charles Robert Darwin

Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle

Publication of The Origin Of Species’s_theory

Darwin Day

Erasmus Darwin

Robert Waring Darwin

Erasmus Alvey Darwin

Emma (Wedgewood) Darwin

Charles Darwin’s views on religion’s_views_on_religion

Darwin turns 200
(Science News, Vol. 175, No. 3, January 31, 2009)

Stephen Jay Gould

History (and evolution) of Darwin Day

Appendix: Darwin And Lincoln Parallel Lives


12 Feb 1809
Darwin (birth): in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Lincoln (birth): in southeast Hardin County, Kentucky (now part of LaRue County)


27 Dec 1831
Darwin (22):
– embarks on 2nd exploratory voyage of HMS Beagle
– a believer in literal truth of the Bible

Lincoln (23):
– unsuccessful campaign for the Illinois General Assembly, as a Whig
– parents were Hardshell Baptists, he never joined any church

Mastering Professions

2 October 1836
Darwin (27):
– HMS Beagle returns to England
– skeptical of religion

Lincoln (28):
– first protest against slavery in the Illinois House
– slavery was “founded on both injustice and bad policy.”

Darwin (29): conceived his theory of natural selection


Lincoln (49): Lincoln-Douglas debates

Darwin (50): On the Origin of Species

Lincoln (51): Cooper Union Address; 1st Republican president-elect


Lincoln (56): assassinated

Lincoln was reserved about his religious views so as not to offend public sentiment, or upset his wife. Intellectually, he was at least a deist, like Tom Paine, and at most a skeptic. During the depths of his depression in 1861-1862, when the Union suffered catastrophic and bloody military defeats, and during which time his young son Willie died, his speech was more infused with religious sentiments than ever before. One can see the “religious” tendencies of his life as being expressions of both deep emotional pain, and the pull of consoling socialization.

The following is from Forrest Church’s sermon of 17 February 2002:

Lincoln’s religious beliefs were far from conventional. Raised by Free-will Baptists in Kentucky, the young Lincoln found Thomas Paine’s Deism more attractive than his parents’ Christianity. But as he grew older, suffering through the death of brother, sister, and two sons, and contemplating the carnage of war, Lincoln gradually adopted a more Christian outlook. Even then he held no truck with theologians. “The more a man knew of theology,” he once said, “the further he got away from the spirit of Christ.” When asked why he refused to join a church, Lincoln replied, “Because I find difficulty without mental reservation in giving my assent to their long and complicated creeds,” adding that, “When any church inscribes on its altar, as a qualification for membership, the Savior’s statement of the substance of the law and the Gospel–’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind … and thy neighbor as thyself’–that church will I join with all my heart and soul.”

Darwin (73): dies.

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

— from the Introduction of Darwin’s 1871 book, The Descent Of Man.


Original publication:

Darwin’s Living Legacy
6 February 2009

Personality Types Chart

Carl Gustave Jung worked out a theory of personality types (in the 1920s), where he identified four psychological functions, each with two possible forms. The functions are:

#1, inward or outward personal focus,
#2, how the self evaluates the outer world,
#3, what basis the self uses to make decisions,
#4, how the self deals with multiple possibilities.

The paired forms of each function are:

#1, introvert/extrovert,
#2, intuitive/sensorial,
#3, thinking/feeling,
#4, judging/perceptive (open-to-possibilities).

The eight elements from which sixteen personality types can be defined are:

Introvert (I):
An inward personal focus.

Extrovert (E):
An outward personal focus.

Intuitive (N):
Evaluate the external world by focusing on ideas.

Sensorial (S):
Evaluate the external world by focusing on things.

Thinking (T):
Basing decisions on thought (analysis).

Feeling (F):
Basing decisions on feeling (emotion).

Judging (J):
Seeking to close possibilities and capture the moment.

Perceptive (P):
Seeking to open the possibilities of the moment.

Using the letter symbols for each of the eight elements, one can list the sixteen types, (grouped by temperament) as follows:

(NF temperament): ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, INFP.

(NT temperament): ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP.

(SJ temperament): ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ.

(SP temperament): ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, ISFP.

The sixteen types were used (in the 1950s) by Isabel Myers and Katheryn Briggs, who formulated the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a test for identifying an individual’s default pattern of action. By the 1980s, David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates had grouped the sixteen types into four temperaments (as above), and expounded on this in their book: Please Understand Me, Character & Temperament Types. Keirsey and Bates used the following temperament labels:

NF temperament: Apollonian
(seekers of fulfillment through metaphysical insights),

NT temperament: Promethean
(fulfilled by seeking power over nature through knowledge),

SJ temperament: Epimethean
(seeking fulfillment through duty, service and social structure),

SP temperament: Dionysian
(seeking fulfillment by the direct sensation of life through action).

My parenthetical characterizations (above) of K&B’s four temperaments are necessarily incomplete; read their book for their detailed intentions.

My chart shows that:

People have either a sensorial (S; hands-on) or intuitive (N; mind-based) manner of interacting with the world external to the self.

SPs and SJs have a sensorial (S) self-world interaction.

NTs and NFs have an intuitive (N) self-world interaction.

SPs aim to open the possibilities of the moment by focusing on things (sensation of the world); where the T-type variety use thought to decide how to act, and the F-type variety use emotion to decide how to act.

SJs aim to close possibilities and capture the moment by focusing on things (the nuts-and-bolts of “reality”); where the T-type variety use thought to decide how to act, and the F-type variety use emotion to decide how to act.

NTs are naturally instinctive analysts; the P-type variety use thoughtful analysis to expand the possibilities of the moment (options), while the J-type variety use thoughtful analysis to close off possibilities and capture the moment (finality).

NFs are naturally instinctive empaths; the P-type variety use intuitive emotion to expand the possibilities of the moment (options), while the J-type variety use intuitive emotion to close off possibilities and capture the moment (finality).

A set of secondary features, shown in the chart, are these:

SPs will extrovert (interact with others by talking about and showing) things and concrete details.

SJs will introvert (base their behavior on a hidden internalized mulling over of) things and concrete details.

P-type NTs will extrovert (interact with others by talking about and showing) their ideas.

J-type NTs will introvert (base their behavior on a hidden internalized mulling over of) their ideas.

P-type NFs will extrovert (interact with others by talking about and showing) their feelings.

J-type NFs will introvert (base their behavior on a hidden internalized mulling over of) their feelings.

The chart is my attempt to abstract all the above into one graphical image.

C. G. Jung did not linger too long with his personality type theory (the basis of all subsequent formalizations) because he knew that real people can mature with experience, and round out their personalities beyond the default patterns they were born with. Introverts (I) can learn how to make public addresses, Extroverts (E) can learn how to keep silent and listen to others, Sensorials (S) can learn how to be patient and listen to the elaboration of ideas and theories, Intuitives (N) can learn how to evaluate data and calculate specifics, Thinkers (T) can learn how to accept emotions, Emoters (F) can learn how to be logical, Judgmentals (J) can learn to be flexible, and Perceptives (P) can learn to arrive at useful conclusions. Jung believed that most people should be able to round out their psychological functioning by the age of 37.

So, the personality type model above is best taken as a rough guide of the general patterns of habitual individual behavior, rather than some robotic psychological horoscope.


The Ignorance-Prejudice Cycle

Ignorance is the source of fear,
which leads to prejudice, greed and superstition.

Many people are emotionally attached to
their prejudices, grasping and superstitions,
considering them the essence of
their personalities, identities, cultures and traditions.
So, they defend them against all attacks by
contradicting facts and evident moral responsibilities,
often even preferring death to enlightenment.

This is the vicious ignorance-prejudice cycle:

-> Ignorance defensively resorting to prejudice for protection,
instead of bravely exposing itself to change by seeking knowledge;

and in turn

-> Prejudice maintaining stupidity by defending ignorance
in order to preserve the self-image of fearful people
of weak mind and character,
who wish to appear powerful, moral and successful.


Outline History of Life and Human Evolution

The following Outline of the History of Life on Earth, and Human Evolution was written by my friend HWPTRA, a Life Sciences scholar. This outline history is a list of some of the significant events during the 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history. Any one of the entries in this list is itself a vast topic with an enormous literature (both scientific and popular) behind it; the brief descriptions here are little more than labels pointing the interested reader toward that literature (as on the Internet) for all the details.

The years and periods listed for the events are always to be taken as very approximate. As science advances, the time or period estimated for a listed event can be found to be different than previously thought, sometimes significantly different, and the sequence of events can even change as a result of new knowledge. So, this list is a snapshot of our knowledge today, where we understand that there are limits to the precision of that knowledge. Even so, it is a fascinating and enlightening presentation, which can help us gain a bare-bones yet integrated overview of the natural history that eventually produced us, Homo sapiens sapiens.

Following the outline history of life on Earth, I post a Histo-Map of human civilizations, compiled by John B. Sparks in 1931. To help the reader, I have posted six images of this map: one of the entire map, and five of sequential sections of the map. Also, I list a link to a website that shows a “big” version of the entire map. In all cases you will find lots of tiny print, and may wish to expand an image for easier reading (until it becomes fuzzy due to the low resolution of the original). The Histomap covers the interval of 2000 BC to 1930 AD, perhaps half of human history, and a very late 0.86 millionths of Earth’s history. Enjoy.


Outline of the History of Life on Earth, and Human Evolution

If the entire 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history were compressed into a single year:

1. January and February: it was too hot for any life to evolve.

2. March 1st to July 25th: bacteria were the only life forms on the planet.

3. July 25th: oxygen in the atmosphere was finally at near modern levels, and oxygen-using eukaryotic cells evolved.

4. November 20th: animals with backbones appeared.

5. December 22nd: first placental mammals appeared.

6. December 29th: the first apes appeared.

7. December 31st, 6:00 PM: Homo erectus appears.

8. December 31st, 11:46 PM: Homo sapiens (modern man) appears.

9. December 31st, from 11:59 PM to 12:00 AM (midnight): all of human history.











Histomap 2000BC-1930AD


Two Flowers, Two Thoughts

“The fact that your talents and contributions go unrecognized does not mean they lack merit. Many excellent accomplishments and worthy actions by individuals go unnoticed, because neither awareness nor gratitude are as common among the population as one could wish. If what you achieve and what you do causes no harm and does some good, however limited and unnoticed, then you can be heartened by a justifiable and realistic self-esteem.”

— Albert B. Coutras


“As the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and perfume, so let the sage wander in this life.”

— The Dhammapada, 49 (translation by Juan Mascaró)