Richard Feringer's Notes on Rosenstock-Huessy's Works

Lectures 1-9
Feringer notes
Last edited: 12-98


Lecture – 1

Theme – How do we regenerate community? This, of course,  is the fundamental question of all human social life, and it generates a series of questions for which humankind has had to find answers through the ages.  Of these, an important question is, “What type of thought and action are necessary?” Another name for such a guide is “religion.”

1.Today, ERH asserts,  the arts are a substitute for religion! This is misguided because, as Goethe wrote to his son, “…the Muse knows how to accompany, but does not know how to guide, or to lead.” (p.1)

2.It is only the church (religion ) that can guide us. Arts and sciences are both only companions, not guides for life.  THE QUESTION TODAY IS ONE OF A DIVISION OF LABOR, WHICH MANY RELIGIONS (and other organizations) ABOLISH. For instance, our worship of youth tends toward firing old people and putting young people into positions for which they are unfit. “Everybody knows everything, therefore nobody knows anything.” (p.3)

3.The Egyptians invented the division of labor, separating priests from laity – priests knew what was in heaven, the laity knew  what is on earth.  The concept of heaven is useful only if it is a metaphor for what humankind should  become, as a guide to our behavior. It was the priest whose division of labor was to communicate this to people, therefore providing a direction for social life by way of unifying heaven and earth.

Today in the USA, the pollsters, psychologists, and news reporters are the American priesthood.  This is a distortion of Luther, who wanted everybody to PARTICIPATE WITH THE PRIEST, as stated in his aphorism, “everybody his own priest.”  This has been distorted today to mean NOBODY A PRIEST. With no single direction, all disciplines become fragmented into their own self-interest. The business man makes money, the writer writes, the reporter reports events for the purpose of selling newspapers, etc. But what is to create community?

The problem with college students today is that they have learned neither a trade nor how to direct their lives.

4.Larger and more complex societies call for more complex organization, but these divisions must be unified. The first division of labor is priest and layman. The second is warrior and peasant. The third is rich and poor. Recognizing these divisions is basic to social survival and while we cannot change them, we can mitigate  the distinctions. The larger the country or the organization, the greater the number of divisions of labor.

                                                                 A few basic definitions

5.The idea of democracy has been distorted by a bloated notion of equality,  which has caused us to lose respect for divisions of labor. In war, the military takes precedence over laymen, and in any crisis the leader must take precedence over the subordinate. IN SHORT, IF PEOPLE’S  EFFORTS ARE NOT COORDINATED BY LEADERSHIP, THEN THERE IS ANARCHY – WHICH PRESAGES THE ULTIMATE TERROR AND DESTRUCTION.

6.Divisions of labor are necessary, and therefore must be filled.   We are always obligated to find our role in society (where we should put our energies) at a given point in time for social benefit. (p.8)  In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh earned the right to leadership because he could predict the floods of the Nile, which united  upper and lower Egypt, he represented the unifier of heaven and earth.

Today in this country, we place faith falsely  in the intellectual as an ultimate authority, as another form of priest. The intellect is not a complete guide for ruling. It takes also hope, faith, and charity to lead, among other qualities! Science is also unqualified,  because it is pure mechanism!

7.Our liberal arts colleges today are ridiculous because they have no direction. They offer us no basis for unifying our experience, they only describe, analyze, compare, and speculate about reality. There is no meaning to any subject outside its internal logic. “Nothing can stand in reality that isn’t necessary.  And God reveals himself only in the things necessary.” (p.14)  The lack of unity in our lives today blurs or erases understanding of the necessity (meaning) of different divisions of labor.

8.The Egyptian cycles of life were symbols of unity depicting necessities of the community:  1) Horus, heaven and earth, 2) Ra, the dominance of the sun, 3) Osiris, the fact of death, 4)  Apis (the bull),  reconciling the new Egyptian science with the values of tribal spirits.  The great historical change represented by Egypt was the discovery of order  in the universe – of science; they discovered that the stars in the constellation of Pleiades returned to their original positions in the sky every 1460 years.

This cycle, of course, is  indifferent to social life on earth, but it had to be integrated somehow. This belief in the mechanism of nature they saw as meaning that life also was  (should be) eternal. To the Egyptian, 1460 years. was like one day.  All of this represented a fundamental change is beliefs from the old tribal values of ancestor worship.

Lecture – 2

1.The major difference between nomadic societies and agricultural societies is that nomads can’t divide labor; each member must be a jack-of-all-trades. Ancestor worship, therefore, was a logical basis for guidance. But with the advent of permanent settlements, an entirely new life evolved. Fortresses instead of “warpaths,” settlement instead of migration, professional soldiers instead of every tribal member fighting, commerce instead of basic self-sufficiency, writing to supplement oral speech.

2.ERH doesn’t like the term “civilization,” because today it  connotes a difference between tribe (nomad) and city; however, both had discipline (order), and the secrets of living in both included religion,  perpetuation of the species, preparation for the future. Civilization means more than plumbing and parking lots. Today modern man is once again a nomad (peripatetic). The temple replaces the nomadic meaning for the grave.

3.The advent of the city created new unifying elements in society. The city  created geographic unity, with Egypt a unifying of the upper and lower Nile, of heaven and earth, in addition to the basic tribal divisions.  Man in the eyes of the Egyptians became superior to nature because  nature, as represented by the stars,  which could only move east to west, while  man could also move north & south. Yet paradoxically, Egyptians preferred the inanimate world because it was more permanent – gold the most enduring material.

4.The present day domination of our lives by commerce is bound to destroy us, as will any worship of material things, because that kind of worship always leads to acquisition of non-necessities. Today we do not live to create a future but rather live for the  moment. Notice, for instance our increasing national debt – whereby our present excesses must be paid for eventually by future generations. We are destroying the future of society.

5.The Greeks  believed (borrowed) the notion of the circular sequences of events, of cycles of nature, from the Egyptians. Plato in the Timaeus, for instance discusses the endless phases of government monarchy, aristocracy, democracy and dictatorship. THE CONCEPT DENIES THE POSSIBILITY OF SOCIAL PROGRESS. One is bound to live from the ideas of the past. THE NOTION OF THE “BUSINESS CYCLE” IS EGYPTIAN IN MENTALITY.

6.To know the movements of the sky was the first profession (the priesthood), and a revolutionary step away from tribal thinking. It proclaimed the elements of heaven were connected to those on earth.

To write was to meet eternity. To carve the hieroglyphs on the temple walls is to proclaim the eternal truths from heaven. The daily order (roles) for the people of the land were likewise proclaimed. The edict is the first use for writing. Real language  was high-brow. Idiomatic language was an after-effect. The first to speak was the judge, priest, commander-in-chief, proclaimer.

7.In sum, the empires created stability in one place, which meant they had to deal with one set of climates  on one land and to care for it.  This required discipline, order, division of labor. Historically all of the “stable” empires have fallen and reverted back to nomadic or more primitive culture, whether Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Mayan, or Incan. Today in our industrial countries we rape the environment, and people don’t wish to pay for the cost of conservation – they want tax reduction,  and cannot bring themselves to sacrifice.  THIS HAS BEEN THE CASE WITH ALL EMPIRES – THEY COULDN’T MAINTAIN  DISCIPLINE AND ORDER NECESSARY TO SURVIVAL.

Lecture – 3

1.The Tribes and Empires had done their work of establishing guidance from past experience (ancestors), and science (order in the universe).  All of this established a starting point for the Greeks and Jews.  The tribes, Egyptians, Greeks, and Jews were four very different ways of life, which were “against” each other.

2.Most of us believe there is order in science, but not in society.  ERH admonishes us to believe in social progress and social order.

…God visits the sins of the parents in the third and fourth generation, and forgives those who serve Him in the thousandth generation— is simply true.  It’s a natural law.  It’s an order of human history.  For a little bit of merit, your great, great, great, great-grandfather’s effort, you are here alive. (p.1)

3.Regarding the necessity to follow these natural social laws, we must either ignore  history, or participate in it.  What has made these four modes of life available to us  (Tribal, Egyptian, Greek and Jewish) is the church. (p.2)  Each of these societies was trapped in its one mode of life. Christianity admonished us to integrate all of them and emphasize any one at the right time.

The Tribes created a past (recognizing that we have fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers who fought for our membership to the ages of founding fathers rather than  existing only in the present moment, isolated in inconsolable loneliness.  AND THIS VENERATION FOR THE PAST, AND FOR BELONGING TO THE AGES, IS NOT “NATURAL” in the sense of what animals can do. We are more than animals.  The CALENDAR of the tribes goes from birth to wedding, from wedding to burial, from war to peace, from initiation to initiation, etc, without conception of dates. The tribes  created the station of KING, with an ancestry to which he is heir.

The empires created the “eternal present” of the heavens.  They discovered from the heavens the perception of the year,  the equinoxes, the return of the seasons as measurements for time, rather than funerals, etc. No tribe could observe the solstice. But since Egyptians discovered that the heavens and earth are connected, they reasoned that time is always the present. [RF – I don’t quite understand the logic of this point although he gives reasons on page five.]

The Greeks subsumed the best of these two notions, then went on to create an order to ideas  (philosophy) and to articulate principles of  art.  These are their contributions – philosophy (the act of generalization and comparison) and poetry (the expression of subjective response to events).

The Jews rejected both the tribal and empire ways of life, investing in their future by way of the notion of prophecy.  THEY CREATED THE IDEA OF FASHIONING THE FUTURE OUT OF THE PAST AND THE PRESENT.

4.These four ways of living formed the four foundations (qualities of mankind)  represented by Christianity, – kingship, priesthood, philosophy and poetry.

“We claim today that we are the heirs to all these four qualities {of man}.” (p.7)

In America we assume all of these possibilities, and have been successful in abusing all of them. Liberty is abused by everyone assuming to be an authority.  The innumerable sects in this country abuse the notion of priesthood. ABUSE CHEAPENS,  THEREBY DESTROYING IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN COMMUNITY.

5.Of course, we possess some of the qualities of these past ways of life.  To a child parents are as royalty.  And we have the power to judge the priest as his edicts apply to our personal lives.

6.Each of these creations of tribes, empires, Greeks, and Jews (and perhaps this notion can be generalized to all real creativity) had to take place independent of the others.  Tribalism could not have arisen in the Egyptian empire, and the Egyptians had to reject the assumptions of ancestry otherwise each of their ideas could not have evolved to prove their validity. But each of the four was incomplete as total guide for organizing social life. They were practiced to extremes, exhausting their validity, and the civilizations upon which they were built declined. .

7.If truth came only out of the past, this meant that all knowledge was assumed to be known at that time. No change was conceivable. With the empires, since the heavens were in constant motion, there was no time to pause and evaluate events. The Jewish God had time; he created the universe from outside it.  The creation of the Sabbath by the Jews was a resting period, a time to evaluate the past week’s events – an action that was otherwise only attributed to the “creator.”

But the belief of Judaism is that we must tend in the direction of rest if we want to have freedom, if we want to be divine.  The discovery of the Jewish people is that — the God who set in motion this world must be superior to motion, that God is rest, eternal peace, that He is the god of peace, and therefore superior …If you keep all things going, nothing new can happen…all mankind’s history is only the record of those actions of freedom by which people did something that had never been done before…All this is newness. (pp.12,13)

The Jews created the notion that man, because he possessed some small part of divinity, could create some new beginnings.

8.The profundity of this idea is that we are free to accept a fact and act before necessity forces us to act, thus having some freedom for decision.  To wait too long is to eliminate our freedom to act willfully. If, for instance, we conserve the environment now, we will have some future options as to how and when to do things.  If all is destroyed before we act, we have forfeited  that freedom; having destroyed animal habitats and therefore the animal species within them, we cannot then decide to regenerate those species.

9.Freedom is the opportunity to create the future. The genius of prophecy, its difference from projection from the past, is that it speaks from the future.  It says that if we wish for a certain type of world in the future we must act a certain way now, or face the consequences .  “All prophets must be partially prophets of doom.” (p.18)

Prophecy is indifferent to temporal orders. That is, it implies WHAT OUGHT, rather than projecting forward WHAT IS.

God created cause and effect, and He created man to supersede cause and effect. (p.19)

10.Prophecy is not based on approval from others, it is not a Gallop Poll. Part of the meaning of Judaism is the willingness (courage) to be unpopular!

“…the whole world is just in a terrible mess today because we have no prophets.  We have only predictors.” (p.21)

11.The Greeks compared different cultures, but accepted them as-is. No judgment is involved. Humanism does not mean everybody accepting each other or being nice, Greeks were warlike and lived by tribal vendetta.  But not being willing to make judgments, not being willing to act on what they knew  in order to change their society for the better, they weakened the power of the great philosophies they created.

Lecture – 4

1.In this chapter ERH discusses the process by which Greeks made two orders into one, and how Jews  rejected both.  First, he declares that in 1945 an era of approximately 1900 years is complete, and now we should be able to combine the four modes of life – tribal (kingships), empire (priesthood), Greek (comparisonism and poetry),  and Jewish (rejectionism and prophecy) – all into a single mode. All of these were embraced by Christianity.

ERH first makes the case that in America we remain “Greek” thinkers; we embrace a mode of living whereby one accepts with equal validity all other modes of living, but observing them from the outside and not taking a stand for a single one. In short, we remain aloof from traditional religious involvement. However, in a broader sense, “Religion is where I have a singleness of purpose…..Nobody who lives can be just Greek.” (p.3)

[By “Greek”, I believe he means, thinking is enough, participation in the affairs of his community is unnecessary.)

2.The notion of “Greek thinking” is important related to his claim that it is the same as “American thinking.” Greek thinking, is secular (or temporal and objective, which is to say not committed to any particular mode of living other than secular. All of this assumes a mechanistic universe over which humankind has no control.  The “mind” – meaning logical thinking – can be controlled, but “nature” cannot be. The Greek separates thought from the body, from the temporal world. The IIliad testifies that mankind is controlled by nature, except for his thinking.

3.The implication of these ideas is profound. Christian Religious thinking assumed that we are under an obligation to create a unity on earth, to unite all peoples and all animals, to be the stewards of the earth,  “…that’s our destiny. We are meant to do this.” (p.11)   THIS IS THE CHRISTIAN MANDATE TO MANKIND.

4.The Christian religious logic is that either man has the power to intervene in the social and natural world,  or he is an automaton. [RF – my own interpretation of these ideas is that our destiny is to build “liveable communities.” This is our common necessity with other peoples on earth, and the idea that should unify us,   mind, spirit, and body. Greek thinking, ERH declares creates schizophrenia.]

Greek thinking therefore is incapable of creating a future, as it tends to remain an observer of what nature has in store for us.

5.Whenever knowledge is acted upon, it has social consequences to which we are never indifferent. Therefore it is impossible for us to be really objective, except in the act of verifying events.

To live in the mind only (as Greeks proclaim) is to separate one’s spirit from inclusion in life. Greek objectivity puts us outside humanity, outside nature. We can therefore usefully examine any subject only by admitting our own superstitions and our own bias. By such admission we become capable of rising above them, limiting the influence of our bias.

6.We can realize some fulfillment in life, (“find our bliss,” as Joseph Campbell terms it) only  by following some cause – and our only worry should be coming to that cause too late! THE MIND IS THEREFORE SUBSERVIENT TO THE HEART, to our loyalties.

…I have never seen a divine reason so far, but I have seen divine beauty in bodies, and I have seen divine hearts, and  divine souls…The mind — most people I know, are stupid. Lazy, prejudiced, blind, wishful thinking…that’s the least  important thing about us. But we have pure-hearted people, fortunately among us. (p.27)

[RF – ERH goes on to provide a number of useful examples pointing to weaknesses of the “mind” and pointing out that thought cannot be separated from our body. It is our logic that creates prejudice, hatred, greed, etc, or it fails to correct these base emotions.]

7.The Jew puts the church ahead of the mind, that is, ahead of our college training. The church must direct our thought and actions. The purpose of the Sabbath is to “have time” to unclutter our minds from daily struggle and action and become re-oriented to our true purpose.

Lecture – 5

1.This chapter is a type of summary explanation of the importance of distinguishing between Greek and Christian thinking. THE PROBLEM ERH raises is, “What is the limitation of Greek thinking, in terms of encyclopedic comparisons of different modes of life?”  A simple answer is that they made comparisons of current events, in the present time only. This led to generalizations about common elements. Generalizations tend not to inspire dedication.  One cannot love, “in general,” for instance.  One must love someone, or some idea or some thing, and act in particular situations. The same is true for any dedication to a cause.

Thus, Greek admonition to the “good” does not inspire dedication to one cause. “We can’t have a pluralistic universe for our worship.” (p.6) So an important idea, to generalize and see the big picture with all its elements, has been rendered impotent by robbing it of an additional concept, which is to select a particular application to a particular problem at a particular time.

In other words, it is one thing to have a tool box full of tools (in this case, intellectual tools), and quite another to know when and how to use a particular tool in a particular situation. Living in a world of abstractions (generalizations only), is artificial. We cannot live (survive) meaningfully in an artificial world for long. Anarchy results.


This Christian mode of thinking also harbors an important historical implication.  That is to say, if having  many tools in one’s tool box makes for the best carpenter (or community builder), then one needs to utilize as many case histories of past experience as possible, to know what tools are available and under what circumstances they seemed to work.

2.For example, ERH claims that:

“…in 1850 God went out of fashion more or less.  And you got universalism, and unitarianism, which is an attempt to have a Greek Christianity.” (p.6)

3.He points out several facets of Greek thinking that if carried to (if practiced by everyone), lead a society astray. For instance, homosexuality results from separation of the mind from the body (ala Descartes). Here ERH does  not refer to what we know today about genetic causes of homosexuality.  His conclusion is not that it was  immoral in itself, but representative of a larger pattern of wrong thinking, and certainly no model  for all of society. This is why Christianity opposed it as a guiding concept. [RF – it would  therefore seem that the fundamentalist Christians today have got the meaning all wrong. That is, they are misreading history by rejecting homosexuality on a moral ground.  They tend to reject other pre-Christian (Greek) contributions as a whole,  e.g.  their mantra against “secular humanism.”]

The aspect of Greek thinking tries to create an artificial world, with a mind, body, and soul outside reality, and  which strives to live in its own ivory-tower existence.  And a mind that tries to create its own world, of course will prefer a friend to a woman who has to bear children with great travail, and which is very expensive to run a household; financially, it costs little comparatively to have a friend. (p.8)

4.Another example of the limitation of Greek thinking (in spite of their great contributions to society) is that of eternal war. Since the mind is dominant above all else in their thinking, Greek humanism posits that man is the measure of all things. Therefore they, the Greeks, are both heaven and earth, and  “…everybody else has to be destroyed, or has to be kept out.” (p.9)

They simply could not, therefore, conceive of a world without eternal war!

5.     Encyclopedic knowledge, pure intellectual curiosity…all the vices of sex, which come from mere keyhole peeping — pluralism for everything,…absorption, annihilation, as Greeks — the Greeks were unable to hold their own politically or morally.  They’re just a closed book.  They ended. (p.9)

6.ERH concludes that our future depends upon, or is directly proportional to, its vitality, to how far we go back into history to see what human experience has been, so that we can see better the nature of our time. And therefore what modes of living are most likely to help us face and rise above our present social problems.

Today he suggests:

If you want to become a writer, your topics are not arbitrary.  They are dictated to you by the spirit of the age.  And if you want to know what you should write about today, you must write about pre-Homeric man. …WE HAVE TO GO FORWARD TO THE END OF TIME BY BRINGING OUT AGAIN THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE PAST. (p.11)

7.ERH dwells on “Greek thinking”  because it reflects our times in America.  We have become too abstract in our thinking in our view and description of the world. Abstractions = generalizations. Buster is not thought of as Buster, but of his classification as a dog. The term “love” is an abstraction until it is felt in corporeal terms, as in our wife, husband, daughter and son. Greek pluralism provides us with many choices, but no direction as to how to guide our efforts.

The spirit of our times, he claims, is based on both Egyptian and Greek thinking about the spirit of prosperity and the spirit of plurality (generalizations or abstracting).  All of this leads to stoicism, cynicism, boredom,    and skepticism – everything is possible (anyone can be president), but nothing is necessarily true. (p.15)  [RF – I believe ERH intends “true” in this instance to mean, of social import.]

Contrarily, the pre-Homeric god-kings or god-men, gave commands and it was the duty of people to follow them.  The spirit of heaven in those times was manifest in real people and therefore could be related to.  What do we hear from people polled about their attitude toward American politics today?  Resoundingly, that we need leaders, someone honest and moral, someone we can be inspired to follow!

8.What the Greeks did then was to strip every proper name and replace it with a concept. God, in pre-Homeric times was the creative spirit within mankind. God, to the Greeks, became a concept, – mind.  In other words, mere description of the world in impersonal terms is adequate, and it is all we can do. The rest lies with the only element humankind can control, the mind. This attitude puts one outside the life of the universe; one is not god-like, but god himself. Such is the extreme of the life of the mind.

Lecture – 6

1. The basic idea of this series of lectures is that the Christian Era represented a new idea, which is that the creation of human community is going on now and every day. All previous views of reality maintained that there existed an established order in the universe, that all things were pre-ordained, that life consisted of endless repetitive cycles. Tribal life, Egyptian thought, and Greek thought were the same, that there was order in the universe and creation was not in the hands of humankind.

With the tribes, the dead judge the living. With Egypt, the living judge the dead (they, the dead, made mistakes which should not be repeated).

2.The Christian view was that humankind was capable of being co-creators of society in partnership with God. THE IMPLICATION HERE IS PROFOUND ACCORDING TO ERH.  It is that to live a fruitful life, we must do thingsdeliberately, according to our own decisions.  It means, therefore, that one does not live by mere imitation of Jesus, or for the sake of impressing others, but rather because it is the way we must live if we wish to improve community life.

[RF – By implication, humankind has the potential of enormous power engendered by language.  If morality is not the guiding principle for behavior, or at the very least of powerful and controlling leaders, society will tear itself apart from inherent animal instincts.]

Is there a difference between blind obedience or understanding and acceptance of a principle? How does one, for instance, tell if one imitates blindly, or intentionally, to impress others, or because one honestly believes in “the way?”  THE ANSWER IS THAT WE MUST ACT INTENTIONALLY AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR ACTS, and not blame others when we fail. If one acts only to attract, it is the beginning of falsehood.

The intent of principles assumes one must act honestly and in the interest of the community. To take  responsibility for our actions is to be invested with the Holy Spirit.

3.The subtle meaning of the term, “To live a life in imitation of Christ.”  then is to be creative, to accept the spirit of responsibility for the state of community, and to act as a co-creator.  The converse, the “childish” view of religion, on the other hand is to accept the notion of “imitation” of good deeds for the sake of being good, more or less acting “mechanically” and unknowingly, assuming a narrow, denotative interpretation of language.

Following from this, the meaning of “Holy Spirit” (language) derives from actions. Words are cheap. Actions reflect their spirit, investing meaning.

4.To learn from past experience and to act to improve our communities is to live in the spirit of both past and future, unifying the two. Thus, one honors the visible and the invisible. Faith is invisible; we must believe that our acts in the present will create movement toward some desired future. The Holy Spirit is a mixture of these three spirits, of past, present, and future.  It is a dead end to be “stuck” in the spirit of past only, or present or future only.  For a fruitful life one must utilize all three. (pp.9-11)

5.The tendency today is to believe we are independent of the obligation to sacrifice if we wish to build a future for our children, or for the community   (it is the same). To be independent in the spirit of self-serving is to live only in the present.  To be logical is to learn from our experience and to reason in terms of what we know and can prove and can feel. IT IS NATURAL TO ACT THIS WAY. But to be creative, to think originally, to sacrifice for some unknown (future)  is not natural. It is “super-natural.”

6.In another sense, “…life is explained by death.” (p.6-14) –  This means that, as a guide to how we should act to be fruitful (live a fulfilled life), we must understand that we must learn from what others have taught us.  To learn from that is to know the significant parts of the past. The significant parts of the past have been created by those who sacrificed to find important truths, truths that tell us how to regenerate the community or to destroy it, as the case may be.

How does one write a constitution, found an organization, raise a child, sit on a jury, inspire love? In our lives, from time to time we reach impasses and don’t know how to act, and therefore require guidance.

7.Christianity tells us the meaning of dying, which is grounded in significant acts, defined as those worth dying for.  Socrates taught us how to die.  Jesus taught us why we must die,. so that an idea might live on past our death. SIGNIFICANT GUIDANCE FOR FRUITFUL BEHAVIOR CAN BE INHERITED FROM THOSE WHO PRECEDED US.  Death and life are intimately connected;  to know how to live includes also knowing how and why to die, or sacrifice, stand for an idea that must live on as a model for those who follow us.

8.We fear death, naturally.  But to die “well” creates new life.

9.Ultimately, the ideas that drive generations exhaust themselves and need to be renewed. Mankind is a strange animal: the evolution of society does not live in a single person or in a single principle, but is renewed during many generations, through many interpretations of the principle.  ERH claims not to be an idealist.  He believed in flesh and blood. “Idealists aren’t crucified,..” (p.19)  Jesus believed in life.

10.Understanding death is fundamental to living, and a broad generalization for the idea of creativity and change.  Life, the community, and movements cannot be renewed if they are not re-interpreted when they are no longer potent. For instance the power of Christianity has ebbed and flowed over the ages.  Christianity stands for renewal. “Creation is now and always.”  Today Christianity as practiced in institutions…

“…has been given to babes and sucklings, and has become this candy stuff for Sunday school, which makes it absolutely impossible to assign Him any importance….if I think of these Sunday schools, (I can’t) do anything but vomit all my Christian tradition.”  (p.21)

The uniqueness of humankind is that it can have the same spirit all over the globe.  This is not possible with any other animal.

11.No one born into this world can know his/her direction.  We must learn it from the experience of others. Prayer is noble when it admits one’s own will is not good enough, and asks for guidance from others.  God is not interested in the individual,  only in the community. (p.24)

12.One cannot organize anything after his/her death, but one can have influence in that one’s spirit enters another person.  This is not the same as prescription (following rotely) because creativity is driven by spirit. It must be free at every moment. Creativity is the ability to express and old idea in a new way, or to see an old problem from a new perspective. Ironically, commerce pays for predictability, which is the opposite.

13.Theology is the “enemy” of faith and religion.  Faith is the willingness to act without clear assurances. Religion is the willingness to carry forward a necessary idea that underpinned someone’s act from the past. Theology is the “philosophy” underlying some particular organization, an organized representation of a set of ideas. Its weakness is that it prescribes behavior, which is antithical to creativity. Prescription of behavior is to be contrasted with prescribing the spirit, or purpose, or hoped-for consequences of some behavior.

Any subject becomes dead in our minds when we believe everything is known about it. It then becomes an object of mechanical response; one can be objective about it when everything is revealed.  If this were true of humans, we would be nothing more than animals. The truth is that to renew ourselves, to be vital, we must continue to grow, to surprise ourselves, to have new revelations about ourselves.

14.Any living thing in nature dies.  Humankind  escapes death only through living on in the memories of others.  If a life was fruitful, then its spirit will influence others positively. One’s death should therefore be given meaning when it engenders a new beginning for another person.

15.The uniqueness of the Christian era was that it connected generations. (p.36) The meaning of the sacrament of marriage is that it creates a future by teaching children there can be peace (between the sexes). A child brought up in peace can hope to find the same peace.

The church therefore connects all peoples and all churches in that it harbors

“…the fruits of previous generations to sow the seeds of future generations.” (p.37)

16.Still another unique quality of the Christian church was that not only drew from past generations, but made those fruits “…total and explicit.”   As long as customs are not articulated explicitly, as long as they remain vague, then future behavior based on learning from past experience remains accidental.

Peace is created by everyone’s willingness to sacrifice. “The church says, `It costs a price to live in peace together’.”  (p.40)

Lecture – 7

1/7Making peace and moving toward solutions to social problems requires, 1) that one define the problem that caused dissention, 2) recognizing that the problem remains, 3) that past solutions are not working and finally, 4) a willingness to try something new.  Each era is confronted with a problem that, if not solved, will eventually terminate that culture or civilization. In this way epochs are identified and rendered explicit.

You have not made peace in 1865. You have not made peace in 1918. You have not made peace in 1945…And the whole life of the Christian era is based on the assumption that to break with one calendar, to break with one order, can only be done explicitly. (p.2)

Western man is living by accident, not having learned the lessons of these wars. A new epoch begins when people begin to think differently. There are two types of historical facts: those that change our thinking, and epochal events that fail to result in a change in thinking. The two world wars were epochal events, but they have yet to change our thinking, and therefore we remain “inside” this epoch, unable to break out by way of addressing the cause.

In America we are bringing on the next world war because we have not learned this lesson, and we support tyrants around the world. (p.6)

2.We remain, therefore, “jellyfish”; foreign policy is based on the immediate needs of commerce. And the churches seem impotent to address these problems.  Historians DO NOT MAKE EPOCHS, but when they are insightful they properly interpret them.

The first Christians suffered for 300 years before the rest of civilization recognized that Jesus brought on a new epoch.

There have been four epochs of the Christian church in 1956 years, soul, culture or role, mind, and nature (these have been defined in the first 5 lectures of this series).

3.People called the Reformation the dawn of a new era. A “counter term” for this era by non-Christian thinkers (whether in the church or not) was Renaissance, when science and art began to guide thought, rather than the church continuing to do so.

One cannot remain capable of regenerating society as long as one believes one must think according to the values of the 20th century; rather one must understand that we live in the much broader Christian epoch. (p.13) Only in this larger context are there regenerating criteria to guide evaluation of epoch-making events. Only thus can we know more completely what are the killing and what are the regenerating forces in that epoch.

4.Epochs are only slowly recognized. The turning points of 1776, 1789, 1917 were at first recognized only by the Americans, or French, or Russians, respectively, but in time the world recognized the consequences of these events that changed the world.  Our thinking about marriage, about what is public and private, about how to do business, about public responsibility, about the nature of the family, about rights and responsibilities has been changed by these events. The common term “community” has drastically changed its meaning.

5.ERH discusses a major outcome of these events.  This is the constant discussion of means as contrasted with  ends.

A good American is a man who declines to discuss ends.  He wants to discuss means…If you have a country that consists of 300 minorities, 300 denominations,..300 languages, you can only discuss means, because you’ll never agree on ends. (p.26)

The lesson to be learned here is something about the difficulties of bringing unity among peoples. Only some modicum of agreement as to what are common,  eternal values unites peoples.

6.The work of Christianity was to create this type of unity. The first 1,000 years of the church was needed to create the church; it looked mainly inward at its own forms. The old temple of Israel was taken over by a New Church, by a new Israel. (p.28)

The second 1,000 years was spent in unifying the world. “Now an empire is a world by itself.” instead of a limited set of borders.  There are no more emperors.

Today, we enter the 3rd millennium, and a new problem has arisen. Science and technology have fragmented the peoples of the world, families and communities, and the institution of marriage has all but been destroyed. Today in America almost 50% of all children are born out of wedlock.  THE GREAT PROBLEM OF THE 3RD MILLENNIUM IS TO RE-INVENT THESE SOCIAL UNITS.  We must bring some unity within and among them, beyond commercial interests and cruise ships.

How else can one account for divorce, the rampant use of drugs, juvenile delinquency, the common need for psychiatrists and other counselors, the general social alienation within national boundaries, as well as distrust between many groups, as evidenced by the present ethnic wars around the world?

7.Another measure of this fragmentation between social units is the over-valuing of commerce as the dominant criterion for judging the efficacy of public decision-making.

This great issue of our time..is one of the greatest experiences of the remaking of the human mind, in the face of great events…Does anybody deal with the real, the great transformation of the human soul and the human spirit?  (p.38)

8.In conclusion, what we need to do now is to find our place between the past and the future, to articulate where we are in our evolution so that we can see what is needed and get started. we must create one society out of these disparate fragments of society. “So that’s the theme of a real universal history.” (p.40)

Lecture – 8

1.Today, especially in America, we seem not to be interested in shaping a future. [RF – Other than for commerce and sewer systems, of course.] Crime, poverty, and alienation are rampant.  No doubt part of this stems from a misplaced faith in science, that it can tell us what is going to happen. But that’s the limitation of the scientific attitude.  If we believe in forces outside ourselves, in commerce and in nature, then we feel powerless to shape our communities.  BUT THE VERY FUNCTION OF RELIGION MUST BE TO DO JUST THAT – TO BELIEVE THAT A BETTER FUTURE FOR SOCIETY IS NOT LEFT TO CHANCE, THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO ENVISION AND THEN DIG IN TO REMAKE IT HAPPEN.

Prophets are no longer fashionable today because we have lost faith in our ability to shape behavior in the direction of improvement. Today our pseudo-prophets are scientists, or “futurists,” who predict how many cars and plastic building materials will be available in the future. “Prophecy believes in the invisible, and is perfectly immune against what it sees before its eyes.” (p.3)

2.Over-population, crime, poverty, unmanageable bureaucracies, reliance on science as a method for pointing the way to a future  – all alienate us from each other. They atomize society, as Martin Buber said,  destroying our communities. WE NEED TO RE-ESTABLISH COMMUNITY AT ALL LEVELS, RE-ESTABLISHING REVERENCE FOR THE FAMILY, FOR DEVOTION AND LOYALTY AND PRIDE. WE HAVE LOST THE ABILITY TO FEAR THE LOSS OF THESE HUMAN VALUES.

When Darwinian concepts are applied to human interaction, when all commerce is “cut-throat” and personal interaction competitive,  then we tend to destroy all trust and integrity; the commercial ethic has a nasty habit of creeping into all interpersonal relations, as it seems to be doing today. Darwinian “evolution in history is decadence.” (p.9)

ERH gives evidence of the way Christianity has stood for regeneration by integrating all previous social accomplishments, i.e. the family, science, poetry and philosophy, prophecy  e.g. the accomplishments of the tribes, of the great empires (Egypt, etc.), Greek thinking, and Judaism.  (pp.10-16)

3.The issue of prophecy touches on the Gospels in terms of their representation as a stage in social change. The Gospels differ because each was addressed to different groups, each with different biases.  Matthew speaks to the Jews, Mark to the Egyptians and Romans, Luke to the tribes, and John to the Greeks. They were written in four different places, addressing different groups and value systems, but essentially with the same message.

So the four Gospels tell you of the march of the church.  In order to penetrate into these four regions, the church had to write its Gospel in four forms. (p.19)

4.THE SIGNIFICANCE OF COMMUNICATION CAN ONLY BE DETERMINED BY AGREEMENT WITH THE GROUP ADDRESSED. Thus, individual experiences by themselves have no meaning. This notion is fundamental because it indicates how language is vital – no group can exist without communication, the method of which is commonly agreed upon and understood.  (p.19)


5.ERH  addresses the relationship of death and dying to generating a future, how death can be fruitful.  (p.15-26)

6.The relationship of the state to the church is important to understand.  The state represents our need to survive in our present physical environment. The purpose of the church is to represent the future, how we solve present problems so that our communities may someday live in peace and prosperity. The church then should organize our will, our soul, our willingness to sacrifice for that future.  THE CITY OF GOD, (St. Augustine), makes the statement that no state must take away our yearning for a better government – no human can be God.

7.           …the mother tongue is not the only tongue in which the life can be expressed.  We know today that the spirit has to be transported in every generation…You cannot preach the Gospel without translation.  A fundamentalist is the enemy of Christianity, because he makes it impossible for a decent man to believe that the God of the Christians is a living God.  He’s just a paper god. Because a fundamentalist cannot translate.  They take the letter vivified, but the letter killeth…` the spirit vivifies, and the letter killeth’ is expressed in this tradition of Jerome where the Bible is translated into Latin….Jerome says the Gospel cannot be preached by repetition. (p.30)

8.How does one convert a number of people to a single spirit?  First, by converting individuals. Then, by groups of individuals.  In the Christian church, the first 500 years. were spent on converting individuals, and the next 1,000 years were spent unifying tribes.

Lecture – 9

1.”It seems to be a law…Nothing important happens unless somebody is willing to die for it.” (p.1)

2.There seem to be four steps to the renewal or founding of either a church or a secular community; ERH noted that for the church these steps were: a) Martyrs, b) fathers, c) monks and d) kings. In a like way the secular version of these steps is a) crusaders, b) discoverers, c) explorers and  d) inventors

Crusaders expose their lives to give to a cause; the discoverer seeks new continents or new aspects of the world; the explorer completes this process; and the inventors explore the inner world increasing knowledge.


3.One of the great problems of learning about others is that one tends to reject what one doesn’t like, judging it unimportant or for some reason objectionable. But to truly learn from social experience is to the reality of the processes, roles and values of different communities, whether we like them or not.

4.In a like way, each academic subject matter deals only with one aspect of a phenomenon.   For instance, science describes almost entirely with numbers. The sun is more than so much energy, it is also a useful metaphor, and it tells us about social phases related to growing food, etc.  This fragmentation of disciplines, which in turn reflects our thinking, results in barriers to understanding the larger context of problems.

…we enter today a third millennium.  There’s no doubt that by the year 2,000 the world will have to have a religion or it will not exist, a different form of our religion.  Mankind, society demands another group of leadership.  You can’t live by discoverers and inventors, if you want to organize peace. (p.11,12)

The two social types, explorers and inventors, are important, but not sufficient to maintain a world at peace, and by over emphasizing there value we are tearing the world apart.

5.This is why we must be interested in history, because there we learn these lessons – if, that is, one hears an organized and comprehensive view of history, a universal history!

True history is interested in transformations, without which human life cannot exist. LIFE IS GREAT BECAUSE, OR WHEN, IT DEALS WITH CREATING COMMUNITY.  Man becomes complete, not as individuals, but in community, where much greater tasks can be performed.  A dam cannot be built by a single individual with a single skill – it takes thousands, who must cooperate.

6.One person cannot know much of reality by oneself.

Get a friend who tells you off when you are wrong, and tell him off when he’s wrong, and you know each other. That’s the only way of living. Any attempt for self-scrutiny leads to the psychoanalyst. (p.13)

7.Holidays group people. “Easter is the holiday by which the members of the Church recognize they are members of the Church….God created man as a corporation-forming animal.” (p.14)

8.One of the major functions of the Church is to remind people that their very existence has been bought by the blood of many martyrs, by soldiers who fought to protect our country against enemies, by our revolutionaries, by those who fought for unions, for the environment, for justice, at great expense to themselves.  TO UNDERSTAND THIS MAKES US INTO  DIFFERENT PERSONS THAN WE OTHERWISE WOULD BE. And those persons are ones capable of creating peace and justice in the world. All of this has been given us without previous merit on our parts, and we therefore owe society a commitment whereby this tradition is carried on. It is this spirit which the church must give us.

9.The family is also a crucial incubator for engendering this spirit. The work-place is not. When, as today all institutions have lost their way, one can only begin to regenerate society by beginning with small groups, – family, neighborhoods, clubs, churches, etc.

Now the family, the tribe, the society of the future, which is the Tribe of tribes, has only one first interest: how can parents and children be of one spirit? How can mother and a daughter be of one spirit? How can mother and son be of one spirit?…What nature cannot give is one spirit between a father who is a banker and a son who is a professor.  Or one spirit between a daughter who is married, and a mother, who is Mrs. Luce.  (p.17)

The only force that will allow people with disparate experiences to live together in peace, must begin with a family (primary social unit) where more than one generation lives, plays, and prays together.

This engendering of one spirit is particularly difficult today, when the churches seem to view themselves as social, rather than spiritual organizations, and where they teach a religion for children. “The spirit is only true when people of different sex, and different age, and different mind serve in this spirit.” (p.19)

10.Part of this sharing of spirit requires one to realize there are different divisions of labor, or roles, for each of us at different times, whereby one is not equal to another. Today we seem not to believe in expertise in many instances. We believe our own experience is equal to, or superior to, that of others.

11.Also we kill the spirit with too much wealth. “Security is the death of life. Don’t ask for it.” (p.21)

ERH informs us of the prophet Malachi,

“I shall turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.  If this does not happen, the earth will be cursed and will perish.”  (p.22)

Generalizing this notion, if generations are not unified:  ERH BELIEVES THAT THIS PROPHECY HAS YET TO BE FULFILLED, AND THAT THIS IS THE JOB FOR THE 3RD MILLENNIUM. Our tendency today is to fragment the generations, and we seem to be “degenerated.”  As Buber says, “Industrial society atomizes society.”

12….children no longer believe what their parents believe…psychoanalysis is just an attempt to do something about this ridiculous disunity between the generations…Where there is one spirit,nobody has any Freudian complex.p.24

…obviously the human society has today a tremendous and dignified task…nothing is gained by running forward…it will be less and less church and more and more Free-masonry,..more philately, and more..Cadillacs..no future to you.  THE MIRACLE WHICH YOU HAVE TO PERFORM IS TO RECREATE THE SPIRIT WITH PEOPLE THAT HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU….

Progress is out, in your sense, technological progress….The only interest, the only field of action, the miraculous new foundation of the universe can only come when, against all expectations, some among us have the power to wait until they can act in two generations. (p.25)

13.The primary notion here is that significant movements and acts must be carried out in more than one generation.  ERH claims that “liberals” tended to believe in change for its own sake, thus, the son believed less than the father, in a shorter time span.  THE TRUTH, ERH CLAIMS, LIES IN JUST THE OPPOSITE. THE BASIC PROBLEMS ARE THE SAME, BUT METHODS FOR ACCOMPLISHING THEM DIFFER.

…children depend on your power to bestow on them a spirit in which they speak. They have to learn English, and not basic English. But high English, the highest, the English by which they can invoke and implore another person to join them, by which they can found a family again. (p.31)

14.It is always up to each of us to discern which, of the lessons from the past, need to be employed or emphasized at this time to re-establish or revitalize our present systems. Antiquity taught us the need for family, Egypt and other empires taught us science, philosophy, and the arts, and we must heed their lessons. We have the power to establish peace if we will only use it; otherwise we tear ourselves apart with war.

15.The origin of all creativity, and of power and motivation, is always “spirit.” It is not of this (the concrete) world, except as our actions manifest that spirit; the terms has no meaning if not acted upon.  The origin of a marriage is the spirit of love, and all actions (duties) follow.  For instance, duties of marriage to support, to help grow, to raise a family, to sacrifice, suffer, etc, all derive from love.  The origin of law is a love for justice and order.  ERH uses the term “incarnation.”

There is nothing else to be said about the whole history of mankind, that first love, and freedom, and imagination say it, and then we do our duty to have it come true.  And that duty takes suffering; it takes martyrdom; it takes fathers; it takes monks; it takes kings; it takes crusaders…and now it takes founders of families…all laws are the sedimentation of free creation.  Anybody who has experienced love knows that it comes first; it’s a new beginning.

If you ever in your life had a bright idea, or a new instinct of a new change of heart, make this the cornerstone of your understanding of the universe and you will understand that the universe begins with creation.  And it ends in incarnation, because that’s the experience of every potent and creative man in the world.  (pp.34,35)

Love begins, and hope and faith keep you going.

16.Summarizing:  We are powerless and lost until we learn how to create our lives — what engenders the spirit and what kills it.  To learn this, we must learn from experience,  going back to the beginning of history.  Personally, in the beginning we have little experience, and must therefore learn from history – what succeeded and what failed, what corrupted and what regenerated vitality.  But fruitful action always begins with spirit.  Since each generation lives in a different social, physical, and political environment, and since the notion of “incarnation of the spirit” means a change in human nature itself, the values and institutional forms each generation inherits must be renewed.

It seems today that our institutions (law, education, medicine, politics, religion, etc.) are not vital, and therefore are in critical need of redefinition. No doubt change of this magnitude will be wrenching, with no guarantee of success.  Today all forms of life on earth are threatened, as has always been the case before some great change began civilization anew!