The First Poem About Babiy Yar By Olga Anstei

[Editor’s Note: We are publishing this poem by Olga Anstei, which appears here for the first time in English translation, along with the original Russian. Dr. Maria Bloshteyn is translating Anstei’s work and has very generously agreed to let us share with our readers this moving record of a great evil].


Kirillovsky Yar


Translated by Maria Bloshteyn



Raindrops fell on that windless day.
Thorny sloes prickled with acerbic youth.
A limping tree stump in the twilight,
knocked-over tombstones, chapels…
A slip of a girl, a dusky Dryad—
down the damp path into the nocturnal ravine!
There, in the wild garden’s balmy thicket,
unloved but faithful, he’ll fall at my feet!..
Into the depths, down the slopes—until stars come out!
The most carefree of all carefree places!



Closer to noon.  It was sunny and bright.
Youthful acerbity flows out gently,
growing more mellow, growing more joyful.
On the hot chalky bluffs the swift
turns his clever head.
Wormwood wilts, held between palms.
Thyme trembles on an angled ledge.
The bumblebee is a beloved tiny brother!
Blue warmth flows down into the Yar…
Handful by handful from all around
into the most fragrant of all fragrant places.



Onward.  Obedient to some obscure call,
I go to the crossroad between older graves,
out of a hushed beloved house,
where Azrael stands at the threshold.
I carry a cross that still wants tears,
that raises three mortal candles
that is covered with wax drips
that saw a shroud and head-wreath in the night…
It will be dug into place there, a loathed gift,
at the head of a nameless grave…
The most frightening of all frightening places!
A frightening brown contorted cross!



The last cup of all.  The same place where
nature once drowsily luxuriated,
became Golgotha, the base of the cross
to a strange and fateful people.
Listen!  They were lined up,
their belongings piled on the gravestones…
Half-smothered, half-killed,
then half-covered with soil…
Do you see those old women in kerchiefs,
elders, dignified like Biblical Abraham,
and curly-headed babes, like those in Bethlehem,
in their mothers’ arms?
I can’t find words for this.
Look:  here on the road lie dishes,
a torn tallit, scraps of Talmud,
shreds of passports washed out by rain!
A black—murderous—blood-encrusted cross!
The most horrific of all horrific places.

(December 1941)


Кирилловские яры



Были дождинки в безветренный день.
Юностью терпкой колол терновник.
Сумерки и ковыляющий пень,
Сбитые памятники, часовни…
Влажной тропинкой — в вечерний лог!
Тоненькой девочкой, смуглой дриадой —
В тёплые заросли дикого сада,
Где нелюбимый и верный — у ног!..
В глушь, по откосам — до первых звёзд!
В привольное — из привольных мест!



Ближе к полудню. Он ясен был.
Юная терпкость в мерном разливе
Стала плавнее, стала счастливей.
Умной головкою стриж водил
На меловом горячем обрыве.
Вянула между ладоней полынь.
Чебрик дрожал на уступе горбатом.
Шмель был желанным крохотным братом!
Синяя в яр наплывала теплынь…
Пригоршнями стекала окрест
В душистое из душистых мест.



Дальше. Покорствуя зову глухому,
На перекрёсток меж давних могил
Прочь из притихшего милого дома,
Где у порога стоит Азраил —
Крест уношу, — слезами не сытый,
Смертные три возносивший свечи,
Заупокойным воском облитый,
Саван и венчик видавший в ночи…
Будет он врыт, подарок постылый,
Там, в головах безымянной могилы…
Страшное место из страшных мест!
Страшный коричневый скорченный крест!



Чаша последняя. Те же места,
Где ликовала дремотно природа —
Странному и роковому народу
Стали Голгофой, подножьем креста.
Слушайте! Их поставили в строй,
В кучках пожитки сложили на плитах,
Полузадохшихся, полудобитых
Полузаваливали землёй…
Видите этих старух в платках,
Старцев, как Авраам, величавых,
И вифлеемских младенцев курчавых
У матерей на руках?
Я не найду для этого слов:
Видите — вот на дороге посуда,
Продранный талес, обрывки Талмуда,
Клочья размытых дождём паспортов!
Чёрный — лобный — запёкшийся крест!
Страшное место из страшных мест!


(декабрь 1941)



Maria Bloshteyn, PhD, researches Russia and the United States. She is the author of The Making of a Counter-Culture Icon: Henry Miller’s Dostoevsky. She is also a literary translator and has published Alexander Galich’s Dress Rehearsal: A Story in Four Acts and Five Chapters, and Anton Chekhov’s The Prank.  Her translations have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry.


The photo shows, “Execution at Babi Yar,” by Felix Lembersky, painted in 1952, which depicts the murder of Jews, by the Nazis, at Babi Yar, on September 29-30, 1941. Some 80,000 people were killed at this place, including 33,771 Jewish men, women and children.

Olga Anstei: A Life In Brief

Babiy Yar (“The Old Woman’s Ravine”) is a large and beautiful ravine in Kiev (Kyiv), the capital of Ukraine, that will be forever associated with the mass murder of Jews by Nazi troops in War World II.

This isolated and deep ravine, historically a site of a military camp, a church, and two cemeteries (an Orthodox Christian one and a Jewish one), provided the perfect place for killing large numbers of people, a fact noted by the Nazi military governor of Kiev, the SS and Police Commander, and the Commander of SS death squads when they were planning the extermination of the Jews of Kiev.

There were other nationalities and groups killed at Babiy Yar, including Roma, Ukrainian Nationalists, the mentally ill, Soviet prisoners of war, Communists, and dissenters of all kinds.

The largest single massacre occurred on September 29-30, 1941, when more than 33,771 Kievan Jews were brought to the site and executed (the largest single massacre of Jews by the Nazis up to that point).

According to witnesses and the few survivors, Jewish men, women, and children were brought to this place of execution under pretense of relocation. Then, they were stripped of belongings and clothing, made to lie down naked on the bodies of Jews already killed in the ravine, and then shot.

This horror has been commemorated in poetry, music, and art, most famously by Evgeny Yevtushenko.  His long poem “Babiy Yar” (1961), written after he visited the site and discovered it had been turned into a garbage dump, is specifically about the massacre of the Jews and the unwillingness of the authorities to acknowledge this crime.

The poem exploded Soviet silence about the Jewish victims buried of Babiy Yar. In fact, Soviet authorities had long refused to acknowledge the numbers of Jews killed at the site.

Yebtushekno’s poem was translated into seventy-two languages, and inspired Dmitry Shostakovich’s  Thirteenth Symphony.

Yevtushenko, himself, however, had always pointed out that his was not the first poem about Babiy Yar.

There were, indeed, other poets who had already memorialized the Jewish massacre at this site, such as, Ilya Ehrenburg in his Babiy Yar” (1944), and Lev Ozerov in “Babiy Yar” (1944-1945).

However, the very first poet to write about this slaughter was a remarkable woman who lived in occupied Kiev in 1941 and who witnessed firsthand—if not the executions at Babiy Yar—then certainly the tragedy of Kievan Jews.

Olga Anstei (the nom de plume of Olga Shteinberg, 1912-1985) was born in Kiev. Her family combined Russian, Cossack, Ukrainian, and – apparently – Jewish backgrounds.

She was a beloved only child, well-educated as only a girl raised by Russian-Ukrainian intelligentsia could be, with a special love for poetry and literature.

It is not surprising then that she started writing poetry while very young. She wrote mostly in Russian, but also in Ukrainian, and French. In fact, she was a polyglot, for she spoke Russian, Ukrainian, German, French, and English (something that would help her in all sorts of ways later in life), and she also translated from these languages.

After graduating from the Institute of Foreign Languages, she married the poet and translator Ivan Elagin (nom de plume of Ivan Matveev), who, like Anstei, became one of the most prominent poets of the so-called second wave of Russian immigration.

They were married in a church, in 1938, in great secrecy – at 2 in the morning – since such religious sacraments were decried in the Soviet Russia of that time.

When the war came, the Anstei-Elagins found themselves in Nazi-occupied Kiev. In a daring gamble, Olga managed to convince the occupiers that she and her husband (who was half-Jewish) were actually Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans).

Accordingly, they were given privileged treatment, and Elagin even managed to enrol in a school for medics, instituted by the Nazi regime.

When the Nazi troops retreated before the advancing Soviet forces, Olga Anstei, her mother, and Ivan Elagin decided to leave with them, partly to get away from the Soviet regime, which already had Elagin’s father executed as the enemy of the people in 1937, but also because they surely realized that they would have been considered collaborators and shot by the Soviets.

After many misadventures and tragedies (their first child, born in Germany, had died in infancy), Olga, Ivan, and their second child, a daughter who would grow up to become a Russian-American poet Elena Matveeva, and Olga’s mother ended up in a displaced person camp, where the latter died of a heart attack.

The couple now emigrated to America, where Olga and Ivan divorced, though they retained a cordial relationship, as well as a deep admiration for each other’s work.

Elagin went on to become a professor of Russian in Pittsburg University, while Olga eventually became a translator at the UN.

She regularly published poems, stories, and essays of literary criticism in émigré journals, all of which were well-received and widely praised by major critics.

Her work is permeated by a deep spirituality (she had a life-long connection with the Russian Orthodox Church), and a lyricism that makes her keenly aware of the beauty of life around her.

She possesses a deep clarity of vision that allows her to look at life unflinchingly and to write with precision.

This gives her work a sense of connectedness with the larger body of Russian poetry, which allows her to conduct a poetic dialogue with her predecessors and contemporaries.

One critic wrote that it is not possible to talk about the influence of a particular poet on Anstei; rather, she absorbed the experience of an entire generation of Russian poets.

She wrote her poem, “Kirillovsky Yar” (a name for the larger area of gullies and ravines in Kiev that includes Babiy Yar) in December of 1941. It was first published in Munich in 1948.

Ironically, Anstei, who translated so many poems so well, has not been translated very much herself, even though her poems reach out across the years and impress and delight the reader in equal measure.

Here, I offer the first English translation of “Kirillovy Yar,” which is the very first poetic response to the Babiy Yar massacre, and one of the first poetic reactions to the horror of mass extermination.

Perhaps better than anything it shows that whatever evil and insanity that may come, it is still only temporary.

But what remains—as close to eternity as is humanly possible—is the triumph of the human voice lifted in lament, the triumph of beauty over ugliness, the triumph of the human spirit.


Maria Bloshteyn, PhD, researches Russia and the United States. She is the author of The Making of a Counter-Culture Icon: Henry Miller’s Dostoevsky. She is also a literary translator and has published Alexander Galich’s Dress Rehearsal: A Story in Four Acts and Five Chapters, and Anton Chekhov’s The Prank.  Her translations have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry.


The photo shows, “Execution at Babi Yar,” by Felix Lembersky, painted ca. 1944-1952.

First Melody: The Earliest Written Music

Music and history are closely intertwined. Music answers an innate urge in humanity – that of transcendence. How can we rise beyond the mundane, and how can we commune with ideas far greater than us – ideas such as, perfection, beauty, truth, goodness.

Language can only meet us half way because by its very nature it is expository and therefore “teacherly”; We speak and think so that we may learn and know. Language cannot become what it explains. Language is the bearer of ideas, of culture; it is not ideas or culture.

Music, on the other hand, is not expression, because it does not explain. Rather, music is what words seek to describe: Music is idea. Music is not about perfection, beauty, truth, goodness. Music is itself perfection, beauty, truth, goodness. We have only to deliver, for example, a violin into untrained and unskilled hands, and we will immediately know truth from falsehood – music can only exist as perfection.

Humanity has always understood music as transcendence – which is why we have evidence of music far earlier than any evidence of writing.

For example, there are more than thirty bone flutes and whistles found in France, Germany, and England. The most recent ones come from the Geissenklöterle cave, in southern Germany and date to the early parts of the Upper Paleolithic (around 43,000 BC).

Inside the Trois-Frères cave, in the Ariége region of France, there is a faint image of a man, dressed in the hide and head of an animal perhaps playing a flute.

The current work of Iegor Reznikoff, at the University of Paris, suggests that cave paintings were intimately linked to music, since he found that the greatest density of images was always located in those parts of a cave that had the greatest resonance. The graphic representation of music, therefore, is far older than the need to write.

Humanity and music are inseparable.

The earliest confirmation of writing, on the other hand, does not emerge until the latter portions of the Neolithic era, with the Dispilio Tablet (5000 BC); the Tartaria Tablets; the Vinča symbols (5000 to 4000 BC); and the Gradeshnitsa Tablets (4000 BC).

These pieces remain enigmatic since we cannot read any of them. In order to decipher an ancient script, we need a lot of it; frequency and repetition are crucial in the decoding process; otherwise, it is like playing “hangman” without any clues and without an alphabet. True writing did not emerge until the Uruk period (4000 to 3100 BC), in Mesopotamia, with cuneiform, those wedge-shaped graphemes that remained in use well into the first century AD.

Given humanity’s deep connection with music, why did so many ancient civilizations that were literate not also create a system of writing music?

Ancient Egypt is mute about its music, although we have so many depictions of musical activity as well as actual musical instruments.

Even ancient Rome has left no music behind – so much so that some historians even suggest that the Romans were a particularly unmusical bunch.

It is all a puzzle as to why music remained firmly and deeply tied to an oral tradition, as evidenced in India, for example; and therefore we cannot say that the music of India is very old, despite the assumption of great antiquity.

The Indian melodic structures (the ragas) can only be traced back to the courts of the Mughals and provincial princes with any degree of certainty. The three important theoretical treatises are relatively recent – the Natyashastra and the Dattilam are from the third century AD; the Sangeet Ratnakara was written sometime in the thirteenth century AD. We cannot go any further back with any degree of certainty. It was V.N. Bhatkande (1860 to 1936), who devised a notational system for Indian music.

In China, there are tablatures (finger-positioning, tuning, and strumming methods) for various melodies. These date from the Tang (seventh century AD) and the Song (tenth to the thirteenth centuries AD) Dynasties.

These tablatures constitute the Gongche system that employed the wenzi pu (full ideogram notation), which is not overly accurate as it can indicate several possibilities. In other words, clarity is a problem, since notes have to be guessed – we can never be certain.

One such tablature survives (written in a scroll discovered in Kyoto, Japan), for a melody called, “You-Lan,” (“The Secluded Orchid”); the scroll dates to sometime before the tenth century AD.

The melody is for the guqin, the seven-stringed long zither. There have been many attempts at guessing and playing “You-Lan” from the finger-positioning and the strumming techniques indicated – but none have yielded satisfactory results.

In the end, we have to acknowledge that Chinese music, like the Indian, was essentially oral in nature. In addition, this is likely true of ancient Egyptian and Roman music as well.

Therefore, aside from the Greeks, did any music from the ancient world survive?

Until about 1968, the answer would have been a resounding, “No.”

Things changed when a rather obscure book came out in Paris, with the curious title – Ugaritica 5: nouveaux textes accadiens, hourrites et ugaritiques des archives et bibliothèques privées d’Ugarit (Ugaritica 5: New Akkadian, Hurrian, and Ugaritic Texts from the Private Archives and Library of Ugarit).

It was another volume in the continuing series of publications of ancient texts that had been discovered in Syria, some forty years earlier. It has been a monumental task cataloguing and transcribing these texts.

The discovery of thee texts was made back in the early summer of 1929 by two French archaeologists.

They had begun the trek in two automobiles, heading north from Beirut and into the Alawite State that hugged the coast of Asia Minor, hard by the Mediterranean Sea.

This territory, including the States of Aleppo and Damascus and Greater Lebanon, were under the French Mandate, following the First World War.

The previous masters of this area, as well as of the entire Middle East, the Ottoman Turks, had been swept away after the defeat of the Germans, with whom they were allied.

The narrow road that the automobiles of the two archaeologists followed, at the dizzying speed of 25 miles per hour, was newly built by the French; and it was only a partial one because it soon vanished in a wasteland of rock, scrub and hillock; to the east rose the Al-Alawiyin Mountains.

The two men realized that their cars were no match for the terrain – and they would have to go back to Beirut and return with transport better suited – camels.

The two men were Claude Schaeffer and Georges Chenet, archaeologists who had built a reputation for themselves in Europe.

Schaeffer was an assistant at the Museum of Prehistory and Gallo-Roman Archaeology in Strasbourg; he had published extensively on the Neolithic Alsace and played a leading role in the “Glozel Affair” of 1925 (a cache of antiquities was purportedly found which Schaeffer and others proved to be forgeries). Chenet was an expert in Gallo-Roman ceramics and a master tile-maker.

An unlikely pair, but they had been sent by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, the venerable society dedicated to the study of ancient and medieval culture.

Schaeffer headed the mission whose purpose was to begin digging at Minet el-Beida, a little harbor on the Mediterranean, in the Alawite State.

Back in the spring of 1928, a farmer named Ibrahim, while plowing his field, had unearthed a flagstone. Beneath was a tomb built of cut rock that still many artifacts, not only of ceramic, but of gold and ivory.

When Ibrahim began to sell what he had found to antique dealers, the word got out of a new site. Eventually the French authorities got involved and Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres became the official sponsor of an expedition.

Minet el-Beida was in fact a necropolis. This meant that a city had to be nearby. The obvious choice was a mound, some sixty-feet high, which lay a few hundred yards to the east. The locals called the mound, Ras Shamra (“Fennel Hill” because of the abundant fennel that grew on it).

When Schaeffer and Chenet turned their attention on this mound, they did indeed find an ancient city. Before long, they began to find cuneiform clay tablets that named the city they were digging – Ugarit – a name well known the late Bronze Age.

Luckily, Ugarit has largely escaped damage at the hands of Isis, who have destroyed many ancient sites.

In May of 1929, the city yielded its greatest treasure. In a pillared-room, later identified as the royal palace, thousands upon thousands of clay tablets lay piled. They were copies of royal correspondence, trade records, religious stories and myths, poetry, land deeds, and international treaties.

It was a treasure trove of historical data. We are still working through the vast amount of information contained in these documents. The dig would last a lifetime for Schaeffer. Chenet, sadly, would die early in 1951. Work at the site would continue until 2000. Much has been discovered; much lies buried still, to be dug up at a later, and safer, time.

Ugarit flourished during the Amarna Age (1550 to 1290 BC) – that rich period of the Bronze Age when trade flourished and four great powers vied for supremacy with Egypt.

There were the Hittites to the northwest; the Mycenaeans in Greece and Crete; the Hurrian kingdom of the Mitanni in the upper reaches of the Euphrates; Babylon to the south under Kassite rule; and Assyria to the northeast.

Ugarit was a harbor city through which flowed goods from the then known world – ceramics and weapons from Mycenae, gold and ivory from Egypt, silver, copper and tin from Assyria and beyond, horses and chariots from the Mitanni and Hittite kingdoms.

The kings of Ugarit kept close ties with all the neighboring monarchs; we know of eight, whose reigns lasted from 1350 to 1200 BC.

The international character of the city is demonstrated by the presence of all the major languages current at the time – Egyptian hieroglyphics, Phoenician, Akkadian, Sumerian, Hurrian, Hittite, Cypro-Minoan (similar to Linear A), as well as the city’s native tongue – Ugaritic, which belongs to the larger Northwest Semitic family. Curiously, so far, we have not found any evidence of archaic Greek (Linear B); perhaps one day we shall find Linear B tablets as well.

The texts discovered also make clear that this thriving city had developed a far more efficient system of writing – an alphabet that used cuneiform signs for sound values; in other words, an alphabetic cuneiform, which is entirely different from other types of cuneiform being used at the time.

It is a matter of debate whether the innovative Ugaritic writing system is the world’s first alphabet. As well, the religious texts show many parallels to the literary aspects of the Hebrew Bible, such as the story of Daniel.

Ugarit came to a violent and sudden end sometime after 1196 BC when it was burned to the ground. It was part of a general destruction pattern which first becomes evident around 1200 BC, and is known as “the Bronze Age Collapse,” or simply, “the Catastrophe.”

For those alive at the time, it was a calamity of untold proportions. Cities in the Near East, Greece and the Aegean were put to the torch – forty-seven in all were burned to the ground. Civilization itself was snuffed out.

Troy (Hissarlik in Turkey) went up in smoke at this time, which perhaps suggests a historical basis for the legends told by Homer. Only Egypt managed to repel the attacks, although, it would never regain its former glory.

We know that Ugarit’s end was swift because, dramatically, at the very moment when it was attacked and burned, about a hundred letters from the king were baking in an oven (to get them ready to be “mailed”). They would never be sent. Their urgent pleas for help would remain unread until our own era.

Who was behind all this devastation? The historian Robert Drews has very convincingly shown that the Catastrophe cannot be explained by recourse to impersonal forces, such as, drought, earthquakes and a systems collapse; rather, human agency is involved.

The Catastrophe was the result of the development of a new mode of warfare – infantry, foot-soldiers equipped with javelins that had different shaped heads (tanged and elliptical) and an entirely new type of sword, the long Naue Type II, that had a blade some 70 centimeters in length – excellent for slashing and thrusting. Both the javelin and the sword entirely neutralized the super weapon of the Bronze Age – the horse-drawn chariot, the basis of defense for all cities. The chariot was no match for infantry tactics.

The Egyptians named these marauders, “Sea Peoples,” because they arrived suddenly in ships.

A different world would re-emerge – the world of the Iron Age – without great palaces, smaller settlements and villages, parochial in nature, community-based, hardly international. The period is also commonly known as a Dark Age.

Such is the world from which emerged those texts published in Ugaritica 5 in 1968.

In a review copy, one scholar, named Hans Güterbock, noticed something peculiar about a section in which thirty-one hymns were printed – beneath each one were words that the editors said were unknown and therefore untranslatable.

However, Güterbock, who was an expert in the study of cuneiform, instantly recognized these as Akkadian musical terms. His inquiry continued until he and several others established the fact that underneath these thirty-one hymns were the very melodies to which they were to be sung.

Thus was discovered the earliest written music.

The original versions of these hymns were on baked clay tablets, oblong in shape (to fit neatly into the hand). The writing on the surface of each tablet was in three sections.

On the top were the lyrics. In the middle was the musical notation. At the bottom were the names of the scribes who wrote out these tablets, followed by the names of the composers. Each section was marked off by a double line, and the text was demarcated by a double winkelhaken, or hooks (they look like over-sized quotation marks).

From these tablets, we now know the names of two scribes (Ammurabi and Ipthali – both are good Semitic names; Ammurabi being the more familiar Hammurabi, although our scribe is not to be confused with his more famous namesake – the king, known for his law code). And we know the names of four composers (Tapthikhun, Pukhiyanna, Urkhiya, and Ammiya – all are typical Hurrian names).

The lyrics are in Hurrian, which is noteworthy, since Ugaritic was the “mother-tongue” of this ancient city. Ugaritic is a Semitic language, rather close to Hebrew.

But Hurrian is a very different language, and we do not entirely understand it. (It is of great personal interest to me, and I have been closely studying it for over two years). The people who once spoke this language, whom we call “Hurrians” for the sake of convenience, were at one time a highly influential nation in the ancient Near East. Their ideas and their culture had a deep and lasting impact upon their neighbors, particularly, the Hittites, the Assyrians and the Hebrews.

The very fact that Semitic scribes in Ugarit were busily transcribing hymns in a language not their own suggests that things Hurrian were held in high regard. This is especially true of religious rituals whose traces can be found in the Hebrew Bible.

The Hurrians were also renowned horse trainers (this expertise stemmed from a close association with the Indo-Aryans, who in the Bronze Age were regarded as the masters of the horse and horsemanship). The earliest horse training manual is written by a Hurrian named Kikkuli (the text of this manual is in the Hittite language, and dates from about 1345 BC). The Hurrians together with the Indo-Aryans established the formidable kingdom of Mitanni, which endured from about 1500 BC to 1300 BC.

Hurrian is also interesting because it has no genetic link to any other language in the Near East. It is not Semitic, or Sumerian, or Indo-European. Rather, it is an ergative, agglutinative language, which simply means that the idea of a subject in a sentence is entirely absent, and cases, tenses, and attribution are expressed by adding particles and suffixes to word-roots. Likely, Hurrian originated in the Caucasus region, where such languages were and are common.

Since all the thirty-one clay tablets published in Ugaritica 5 are fragmentary, only one hymn could be reconstructed into a complete version; this was possible because this one hymn showed up on three of the thirty-one tablets. It must have been a very popular and important piece.

So, what was missing on one tablet could be completed by reference to the other two. The complete version is known as “Hurrian Hymn 6,” and the lyrics suggest that it is a song of supplication to the goddess Nikkal, who was specifically worshipped at Ugarit. She was the goddess of fruit orchards and fertility and was married to the moon god Yarikh (or Yorah in Hebrew; commonly Anglicized as, “Jorah,” mentioned in Ezra 2:18). The famous city of Jericho is named after this good.

The words of the hymn are difficult to interpret with precision, but generally, they are the prayer of a woman imploring Nikkal to grant her a child.

Following the transcription of Theo Krispijn, we hear the woman’s plaintiff voice – unalt akli samsammeni, says the original, “I have come before you, imploring.”

There is divine promise – kaledanil Nikalla nikhrazal khana khanodedi attayatal – “for it is Nikkal that strengthens them and permits the married couples to bear children; and the fathers bring forth children.”

Being barren is a curse – assati veve khanokko – “why as your wife have I not born a child?”

The hymn in the original is called a zaluzi. We do not know what this word means. Perhaps it has something to do with a chanted plea – a song of supplication, perhaps.

The melody of this hymn (to lyre accompaniment) is explained in the original as being in the nidqibli mode. This has recently been understood (by Richard Dumbrill) to be the enneatonic scale of E. The rhythm is 2+3+2/4, a pattern that is heard even today in the folk songs of the Caucasus region (the original homeland of the Hurrians).

There have been ten attempts at interpreting the melody over the years, the most important being that of Anne D. Kilmer, David Wulstan and Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin (in the 1970s); M.L. West and R.J. Dumbrill (in the 1990s); and Theo Krispijn (in 2000).

The most lyrical version is by Dumbrill. Recordings have been made by the Ensemble de Organographia and by Michael Levy. Recently, Dumbrill’s version has also been made available, sung to the lyre.

The tune has a soft, rueful lilt that still has the power to move, for it carries the deep pathos of a time long lost, of hands that plucked the harp long turned to dust, of faces lost to oblivion, and voices lost in the great hush of vanished millennia. Yet from the silence, there bursts forth a song.

And suddenly we become one with the scribes Ammurabi and Ipthali; we become the audience of the composers Tapthikhun, Pukhiyanna, Urkhiya, and Ammiya; and with tender hearts we listen to the mellifluous voice of a woman, who shall be forever nameless, chant her plea, until the last note quivers and fades on the strings of the lyre.

The hymn may be heard here.



The photo shows, “By the Waters of Babylon,” by Arthur Hacker, likely painted in 1888.

Review: Dan Brown’s Origin – Or, Here We Go Again

The bestselling novelist, Dan Brown, has decided to slay yet one more dragon.

Previously, he was busy destroying Jesus, Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, saints, sanctity. This time, he has far bigger fish to fry…Move over Nietzsche!

In Origin, Brown wants to kill off God, by way of science, because religion is all “a hodgepodge of ancient fictions, fables, and myths,” which science can oh-so easily take apart and sweep into the dustbin of superstition.

This is such a 19th-century argument which keeps getting recycled.

The argument itself is impossible to sustain in the light of history, let alone philosophy, but that has never stopped people like Dan Brown.

The idea that modern-day Christianity is a hangover from simpler times – when people were, well, simple-minded enough to believe all those “fictions” cobbled together from ancient myths – was developed by men such as Hermann Usener, Gerald Massey, and James Frazer.

Of course, by “religion,” Brown really means Christianity. It is highly doubtful that he will ever write any novels that will seek to destroy…say…Allah, Mohammad, Islam…As is common knowledge, Christians and Christianity are an easy target, so let’s have at it – there’s serious money to be made!

But to say, as Brown does, that science will kill off God is being terribly simple-minded – because “religion” and “science” are contrived and monolithic constructs designed by hucksters to elicit the “correct” response – that the former is false and the latter is true.

To set God and science against each other is nothing but a rhetorical trick meant only to benefit Brown’s novel. God and science have never been mutually exclusive, as is often, but wrongly, assumed. Rather, science and God complement each other.

It is in fact Brown’s novels, including Origin, which are “a hodgepodge of ancient fictions, fables, and myths.”

But we should not forget that he’s in the money-making business, and slander and stereotypes pay quite well.

On his way to the bank, however, he will corrupt many minds and waylay many souls with his piffle, as he proselytizes for his own god (Science) and his own religion (Scientism)

To say that science is the only explanation of everything is to diminish science and humanity. Science understands its limits, for it can only serve humanity in a particular way.

Thus, science knows that love is far more than a chemically-induced function of the brain. To say science negates God is to say that mankind needs finite answers that are good forever.

What a terrible wish for the future! As with so much of our culture today, Brown is content drowning in the roils of Presentism – that the past is eternally wrong (because it was not progressive), and the present is eternally right (because we have benefited from progress and thus have achieved all the right answers forever, so what we determine is good and right – is good and right forever).

Here it is important to note that religion has never sought to kill off science, while ever since the Enlightenment, science has always seen itself as a rival of God and has sought all kinds of ways to get rid of him. Here, we should not trundle out old Galileo. The reality of what actually happened is far different than what is popularly repeated, including in Brown’s Origin.

The modern-age is marked by countless attempts to delete God from the memory of man, because God is decried as being harmful, while science is proclaimed to be beneficial – hence the justification that atheism is the true future of mankind – because science is eternally right and God is eternally wrong.

But in the various attempts at this deletion lie endless cruelties and tragedies. Thus, by promoting this narrative of deletion, Brown includes himself in those horrors, because without God he cannot say why they were wrong.

Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao were not Godly men – but they were deeply and profoundly scientific men who sought to create a materialist paradise.

Indeed, Brown’s entire writing career has depended upon offering various arguments for precisely a “better” world without God, and so his arguments are finely aligned with those of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and so many others.

Further, to say that science alone best serves humanity is to establish tyranny. History is littered with scientific societies that sought to make life better for mankind, but ended in total murder.

It is estimated that in the last century communism (the ultimate commitment to life lived by the dictates of science) killed nearly a 100 million people. That statistic alone should stop the purveyors of scientism, like Brown, dead in their tracks. But it never does.

Origin is thus a hodgepodge of the wildest conspiracy theories, made plausible by the guise of fiction. It’s a clever marketing ploy, really – make people think they’re being “intellectual,” as they wallow in distorted and dumbed-down history, so they can then get through life “enlightened” and scientific.

A little learning is a dangerous thing, Alexander Pope once observed.

Now, let’s dispense with the plot (spoiler alert).

Robert Langdon (Brown’s ubiquitous hero) is invited to attend a lavish premiere of a video presentation in Spain.

This video will cure the world of God, and humanity will at last be free to put all its trust in science. In other words, humans don’t need God any more – everyone is too grown up now to actually believe in such fairy tales (see Usener, Massey, Frazer above).

The creator of this earth-shattering revelation is Langdon’s former student, the fabulously rich and brilliant computer geek, Edmond Kirsch.

But, true to form, the video is never shown, because Kirsch is killed by a navy admiral who heads a sinister cabal of arch-Catholics (Catholic-bashing never goes out of style for Brown), who have made it their life mission to keep people ignorant and therefore in the pews. It’s all up to Langdon once again.

The narrative moves all over Spain, with many long-winded, and mistaken, explanations of intellectual stuff, until Langdon finally gets the job done.

As for God, well, it seems that Kirsch’s video revealed that life on earth is not the result of some designing, eternal mind (God), but came about through natural laws.

That’s all?! This is the earth-shattering revelation?! The word, “bathos” comes to mind. This is supposed to kill God and finally haul ignorant humanity into the bright, clear truth of science? The Pre-Socratics were saying this back in the 6th-century BC!

But, wait. Aren’t laws designs? When we say life happened because of laws, then we are admitting life is actually designed. The Pre-Socratics had figured this out as well.

Now, this is where things get interesting.

Brown’s character, Kirsch, has based his God-defeating argument on the work of a physics professor at MIT, named Jeremy England.

Brown summarizes England’s work in this way – that the “physical principle” responsible for creating life (aka, natural laws) makes God useless. (See comment above about dumbing things down).

At this point, fiction segues into reality – because, in fact, there really is a scientist named, Jeremy England, and he has spoken up and written a very elegant refutation of Brown’s presumptions, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The title of this refutation says it all – “Dan Brown Can’t Cite Me to Disprove God.”

The real Professor England, at MIT, does indeed teach physics – and (the ultimate take-down) does indeed believe, not only in God, but in the God of the Bible.

And the supposed “brilliance” of Edmond Kirsch is destroyed by the real Professor England (who truly is brilliant) by one simple observation: “There’s no real science in the book to argue over.”

This raises another obvious question – do people really read Brown’s half-baked musings as actual fact? They must. (The education system has a lot of explaining to do).

But let’s not rush into things…the words of H.L. Mencken come to mind, “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

In actual fact, science offers glimpses into the never-ending complexity of the natural world and the cosmos.

Such complexity fulfills a purpose, for at the minutest level of each cell, there is encoded information that determines what each tiny component in the vast web of creation must do. Information can only be designed – it cannot be mindless.

To reduce everything down to the level of “science” vs. God is to vastly misunderstand science and God, and sledgehammer both into great globs of dull-wittedness to amuse the hapless.

Professor England then proceeds to mirror Ludwig Wittgenstein when he describes the true nature of scientific inquiry (a description far more compelling than anything Brown can come up with in his entire novel).

England tells us that scientific explanation is about a choice of language – what words, what register, to use in order to describe, quantify, and analyze.

Then England waxes wonderfully Wittgensteinian: “The language of physics can be extremely useful in talking about the world, but it can never address everything that needs to be said about human life.”

Let’s recall Wittgenstein in the Tractus: “…even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”

Humans live not by quantification and description – they live by morality, which alone can meet the problems and challenges of life. Science is mindless when it comes to morality. It’s like asking a lawnmower to create a majestic wedding cake.

The problem with science is that it can never answer the question, “Why?” When people like Brown force it to answer this question, science disappears and Scientism enters in – this is better than that – secularism is better than God – half a loaf is better than Heaven. And thus tyranny begins.

Rather, “Why” – is the search for the good, it is the cry of the conscience – it is not the quest for comprehension.

“Why” – is the search for moral clarity, which is that quiet strength, urging us to compassion and love.

Science knows nothing about living, because it cannot understand why we must live.

Currently, the West is possessed by a suicidal hunger. Its itching ears yearn to hear the siren-song of “progress” and “science,” which will lead to some brave new utopia.

Only the return of morality shall exorcize the West and perhaps yet save its soul.

At the heart of Brown’s novel is a frightening worldview – for to be Godless is to be machine-like.

A “science-run” society is nothing other than control by an elite, a priestly class of scientists who always know better than we do, and therefore can tell us how to live and what to think.

Scientism also emboldens the state to legislate behavior and implant, through relentless propaganda, state-sanctioned agendas, which people become used to and then demand as their natural preference.

It was Jacques Ellul who pointed out that propaganda does not flow down from the top. Rather, propaganda is what the people themselves demand. This is the truly frightening aspect of science – people demanding their own enslavement because they’ve been conditioned to think such bondage is the path to a bright future.

In a Godless world, only the Marquis de Sade makes sense – the perpetual satisfaction of all urges, no matter what the cost. In fact, de Sade is the only man in history who fearlessly explored what it truly means to live in this world without God. Even Nietzsche, in the end, balked at that,

To live by the logic of science is not liberty, not progress, not life. Rather, it is submission to the worst form of slavery, namely, a life “beyond good and evil.”

As for God, here is Professor England’s profound observation, which brilliantly destroys Brown’s agenda: “To me, the idea that physics could prove that the God of Abraham is not the creator and ruler of the world reflects a serious misunderstanding – of both the scientific method and the function of the biblical text.”

Brown’s currency is pedalling in falsehoods. How much longer are we going to put up with such privileged elite, who live in their mansions and still have the need to tell us how to live – and even what to believe?

Perhaps in answer, Professor England, asks a far better question: “Do we need to keep learning about God? For my part, in light of everything I know, I am certain that we do.”


The photo shows, “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump,” by Joseph Wright of Derby, painted, 1768.

The Wealth Of The One-Percent?

We’ve all heard the claims…

The evil “one-percent” holds most of the world’s wealth. Therefore tax the rich harder. Inequality is on the rise.

But is any of this true?

Who are the “one-percent?” How much money do “they” really have? And should their money be taken from them?

And are agencies justified in putting out media headlines like, “The richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, according to Oxfam.”

Or, “Half of world’s wealth now in hands of 1% of population.”

Such claims are intentionally deceptive, since they are designed to get you to think a certain way, so that you will support a particular agenda.

This is all designed to tame and make compliant the will of the people, a process in which the media plays a high-hand by no longer reporting facts but constructing narratives which will tell you how to think.

This brings up another problem entirely – whether the job of the media is to report events, or use them to mold your will.

The deception is in the details, in the way the figures are presented, with the assumption that most people will just read the headline, pick it up as a sound-bite, and keep repeating it, as if it’s true. This is known as “the power of the media.”

This “power” is only possible as long as the people allow it to influence them. But that’s another topic entirely.

So, let’s take an honest look at the actual numbers, without an agenda.

We shall use two major sources considered the most accurate, namely, BCG (The Boston Consulting Group) and the Hurun Report.

This what the latest numbers tell us…

There are 2,257 billionaires in the world. Their ranks have increased 3 percent over the past year – and 55 percent over the last 5 years. This is the total number of the “one-percent.”

All of these billionaires are newly minted, meaning that none of them inherited wealth; they created it by their efforts. In fact, two-thirds of all the billionaires come from humble backgrounds who carved out their own financial destinies.

The total worth of these billionaires is $8 Trillion. This is an increase of 16 percent from 2016, and is greater than the entire GDP of Germany and France combined.

This combined wealth is also greater than the GDP of any other country in the world, with the exception of the USA and China.

In the USA, there are 552 billionaires, which is fewer than China, which has 609 (it added 41 new ones to its ranks, in 2016, while the USA only added 17). Both countries have half the total number of billionaires on this planet.

The source of their wealth is not only stocks but also entrepreneurship. In other words, they create more wealth each year by putting their money to work in the various regions of the world, by way of industry and trade.

Now, let’s compare this $8 Trillion of the “one-percent,” with the wealth of nations – how much each region has. This is what find (these figures are for 2016):

North America’s wealth (mostly the USA, but also Canada) totalled, $55.7 Trillion.

Western Europe’s wealth totalled, $40.5 Trillion.

Eastern Europe’s wealth came in at $3.6 Trillion.

Japan’s wealth came in at $14.9 Trillion.

Latin America’s wealth was little better than Eastern Europe, totalling, $5.4 Trillion.

The wealth of the Middle East and Africa combined totalled, $8.1 Trillion.

Asia-Pacific (mostly China) came in at $38.4 Trillion.

Thus all told, the wealth of nations totalled, $166.5 Trillion. By 2021, this figure will increase to an estimated $223.1 Trillion.

How does this compare with the combined wealth of the “one-percent?”

Taking just the annual budget of the US, for 2017, the amount that will be spent to run the nation will be $3.65 Trillion, which exceeds the total revenue ($3.21 Trillion) by 2.5 percent.

So, theoretically, if the one-percent was stripped of its entire $8 Trillion, that amount would only be enough to run the US for little more than 2 years (2.19 years to be exact).

This quick comparison points to two things.

First, the railing against the “one-percent” is pure ideology rather than practical economics.

Second, the “one-percent” acquires (and acquired) its wealth by way of the wealth of nations – that is, by the entire economic engine fueled by the labor of people. The wealth of the one-percent and the wealth of nations is inseparably linked.

In other words, the one-percent do not earn their wealth separately from the way the remainder of the people earn their incomes. Their wealth feeds into that engine, which then produces more wealth (hence growth).

These billionaires are privileged only in the fact that they have gained wealth through industry. Two-thirds of them did not inherit it.

This is not to say that there isn’t disparity and exploitation, but these are separate issues from how we are to perceive the wealthy. For a bit of perspective, here is how the wealth of nations itself divides up.

In North America, 39 percent of the population has less than a million dollars. 37 percent has $1 to $20 million. 14 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 9 percent has more than $100 million.

In Asia-Pacific, 57 percent of the people have less than a million dollars. 28 percent have $1 to $20 million. 10 percent have $20 to $100 million. And 6 percent have more than a $100 million.

In Western Europe, 70 percent of the population has less than a million dollars. 19 percent has $1 to $20 million. 3 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 8 percent has more than $100 million.

In Japan, 77 percent of the population has less than a million dollars. 20 percent has $1 to $20 million. 2 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 1 percent has more than $100 million.

In the Middle East and Africa, 44 percent of the population has less than a million dollars. 30 percent has $1 to $20 million. 18 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 8 percent has more than $100 million.

In Latin America, 54 percent of the population has less than a million dollars. 26 percent has $1 to $20 million. 10 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 9 percent has more than $100 million.

In Eastern Europe, 48 percent of the population has less than a million dollars. 19 percent has $1 to $20 million. 14 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 19 percent has more than $100 million.

When these figures are calculated on a worldwide basis, this picture emerges:

55 percent of the world’s population has less than a million dollars. 28 percent has $1 to $20 million. 9 percent has $20 to $100 million. And 8 percent has more than $100 million.

In effect, 45 percent of the world’s population is very wealthy, while a little more than half (55 percent) ranges from impoverished to very comfortable.

This means that the one-percent is really the eight-percent – and their ranks are continually growing, as new wealth is created, which propels individuals into the higher echelons of financial well-being.

In other words, prosperity is increasing rather than decreasing throughout the world.

How is this possible? Very simply by the fact that the wealth of nations is always working to earn more, and this earning increases the overall prosperity of nations and the people in them.

So, for example, in North America, the bulk of the wealth ($55.7 Trillion) resides in equities and bonds (70 percent and 16 percent respectively). Only 14 percent is in cash and deposits.

This raises a very interesting point – that the monetary policies in place today actually do create wealth – and this wealth is spreading (though not as widely as we might want it to). But the fact that monetary policies actually create and sustain wealth is important to note.

And this raises the entire topic of “fiat money” which is often the straw-man of those who think that a return to a gold-standard is preferable to the way the economies of the world work right now. (Such “critics” fail to address the fact that the wealth of nations is actually creating a lot more wealth, which is being distributed to more and more people).

Indeed, the middle class is growing and increasing rather than dying (those that propagate gloom-and-doom scenarios, including most politicians, are ideologues rather than economic realists).

The fact that the vast amount of wealth created in the US depends upon “fiat money” means that the dollar unhinged from metal (gold) is robust and provides consistently good results.

Money is only a medium of exchange. It has no value outside of that. To bandy about terms like “fiat money” becomes meaningless when we regard money in this way. It is a method of exchange, and therefore anything can take on that role. In contemporary economies, the gold-less approach has provided the greatest means to greater wealth creation.

In fact, the claims of stripping the “one-percent” of their wealth is nothing than pointless (and reckless) Marxist rhetoric, which seeks to further social agendas by spreading false assumption that some robber-elite has taken all our money.

Wealth does not come from nothing. It is the result of wealth working with wealth to create more.

And since the middle class is growing rather than shrinking, people have far better lives than they did just thirty years ago.

The widely influential book by Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century successfully launched the entire narrative of the “one-percent.” But its assumptions and its conclusions are false and serve only to foment dissent (perhaps the book’s true goal).

Actual data tells us that people in North America are living longer, have better lives and larger homes than people forty years ago. That is a great economic accomplishment.

The figures also plainly show – that the wealth possessed by the billionaires is hardly enough to run any country in the world.

To strip the billionaires of their wealth also means effectively shutting down the entire engine of prosperity, which provides an income for the vast majority of people of this world.

To shut down it all down and symbolically take away the wealth from billionaires is wilful ignorance.

This also suggests that arguments about economic inequality are baseless, because taxation is partly redistributed as welfare. Of course, there is poverty, but that is not the same as income inequality.

Further, the billionaires, like everyone else, actually earn their money, by providing products and services that people need, and which are good for society.

Taking such economic realism further, we have to bear in mind that money (whether it belongs to billionaires or not) is either spent or saved. There is nothing else you can do with money.

If it is saved, it becomes the engine of investment, which in turn gets put into industry or services that then provide jobs. If money is spent, it increases the consuming of products (made by industry) and services. Again, this money creates jobs.

Thus, whether money is spent or saved it continues to fuel the engine of the wealth of nations, in which everyone participates, billionaire or not.

To simply repeat Marxist talking points about taking away money from the “rich,” while providing no viable alternative once this money is taken away, is nothing more than irresponsible bluster.

In fact, the economic failures of Marxism are monumental and succeed only in creating masters and slaves.

Just consider this – Marxism, or socialism, is the ultimate Ponzi scheme – it can only sustain itself by continually taking money from others. It is not built to actually create wealth, let alone distribute any wealth to anyone.

Thus, socialism does indeed succeed in making everyone equal – but everyone is equal only in their poverty. We have only to look to Venezuela, North Korea, Bolivia for yet more examples of the socialist utopia. And poverty must always end in social collapse.

Perhaps it might be far more worthwhile to critically examine the purveyors of political rhetoric who are only interested in destroying things, rather than building things and participating in a world that creates wealth enough for all.

The engine of worldwide prosperity is the free market. Governments and Marxist rhetoric need to get out of the people’s way.


The photo shows, “St. Eligius in His the Goldsmith,” by Petrus Christus, painted in 1449.

Whatever Happened To The West?

The most ancient roots of the West lie in one place.

The society in which we live, a liberal democracy, is the result not of events that happened all over the world – rather, it is the result of events that happened in just one country. ancient Greece.

We are who we are not because of what happened in ancient China, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt or India (essential as the histories of these places are to our knowledge of the world). Despite the passage of millennia, we still live in the world invented by the ancient Greeks.

And because of the influence and spread of western technology, the entire globe has now been impacted by these Greeks of long ago.

There is a reason why we want all people to be free; why we think more democracy is a good thing; why we worry about the environment; why we have immense faith in our ability to come up with solutions no matter how great the problem; why we believe education to be crucial to building a good life; why we seek self-respect.

And this reason is simply stated: we have inherited – not created – a particular habit of mind, a way of looking at the world.

We live within a set of values that constantly encourage us to depend on reason, to seek out moderation and distrust excess, to live a disciplined life, to demand responsibility in politics, to strive for clarity of thought and ideas, to respect everyone and everything, including nature and the environment, and most of all to cherish and promote freedom.

This is our inheritance from the ancient Greeks. We need to study them in order to learn and relearn about our intellectual, esthetic and moral inheritance – so that we might meaningfully add to it so that it may continue in the vast project of building the goodness of our society.

This is why we need to study the Greeks, because through them we come to study ourselves.

And what about the Romans? They were the people that allowed Greek learning to be made available to the world.

The ancient Romans adopted the Greek habit of mind and through their empire, which stretched from the borders of Scotland to the borders of Iran, they passed on this inheritance to all the people that lived within these borders.

Thus, in studying the Romans, we come to understand how very difficult it has been for ideas, which we may take for granted, to come down to us. Whereas the ancient Greeks created the world we live in, the ancient Romans facilitated it by giving universality to the Greek habit of mind.

Thus, to study both these civilizations is to fully understand our own.

Prehistoric human settlement in the Greek peninsula stretches back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. By the time of the Bronze Age, different types of pottery demarcates the various phases of material culture.

For the sake of convenience, historians have used these various types of pottery to work out a chronology of Greek prehistory. And because Greece is not only the peninsular mainland, but also the islands in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, the pottery is sorted out by different regions.

Thus, the Bronze Age in the mainland of Greece is classified as Helladic (from 1550 B.C. to 1000 B.C.).

On the island of Crete, the Bronze Age is labeled Minoan (from 3000 B.C. to about 1450 B.C.). And on the various islands of the Aegean, the Bronze Age is referred to as Cycladic, where it begins around 3000 B.C. and lasts until about 2000 B.C., at which time the culture of the Cyclades is absorbed into the greater Minoan civilization.

The earliest expression of Bronze Age civilization in Europe is found on the island of Crete, where a brilliant culture flourished from about 2700 B.C. to around 1450 B.C.

It was brought to light in 1900 by the English archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans, who excavated a large complex at Knossos, which he called a “palace.”

But the “palace” he found was different from what we might imagine. It was a warren of maze-like adjoining rooms, where people lived and worked, and where oil, wine and grain were stored in massive clay jars, some as high as six feet. It was likely an administrative center, plus a warehouse.

The labyrinthine layout of the palace suggested the name, Minoan,” to Evans, after the Greek myth of King Minos of Crete, who had built a maze to hide the Minotaur, the half-man, half-bull offspring of his wife, Pasiphae, who had fallen in love, and then coupled, with a white bull.

The many wall-paintings from the palace give indication that the cult of the bull was prevalent among the ancient Cretans – the best example being the ritual or sport of “bull-leaping,” in which young men and women grasped the horns of a charging bull and leaped over its back to land behind the animal.

It is difficult to say whether this was done as sport, or perhaps even as a religious dance. We cannot know since we have no contemporary written explanation for this display.

Evans also found thousands of clay tablets with writing on them. The writing was in two versions of the same script. The first version he labeled Linear A, and the second he called Linear B.

The only problem was that he could read neither. It would not be until 1952 that Michael Ventris finally deciphered Linear B and found the many texts in this script to be the earliest form of the Greek language.

When the same rules of decipherment were applied to Linear A, however, it was found to be a curious language that was not Greek at all, nor was it a language that could be placed in any known family group.

Perhaps as further work is done on Linear A, it might disclose more of its secrets. But for now, the Minoan world is mysterious to us, because all we have are its material remains.

However, the more intriguing question that arises from the evidence we have is – how did the earliest form of the Greek language get mixed with a non-Greek language in the palace at Knossos?

This question points us northwards to the mainland of Greece, and to a city known as Mycenae.

The speakers of the earliest form of Greek were the Mycenaeans, who were given their name from the city they inhabited, namely, Mycenae, where the German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, in 1876, found a well-developed civilization, with a ruling warrior aristocracy who lived in fortified towns built on hilltops.

Aside from Mycenae, the towns of Athens (a relatively unimportant place at this early time), Pylos, Tiryns, Iolkos and Orchomenus were also part of Mycenaean culture, which established itself around 1900 B.C. and endured until 1200 B.C.

Schliemann’s excavations revealed a circle of shaft-graves, in which the dead were buried standing up, and in which were found large quantities of weapons as well as gold objects, from funerary masks to goblets and jewelry.

He also found evidence for the domesticated horse and the chariot – and, most important of all, there were found clay tablets with Linear B written on them, which would be deciphered as the earliest form of the Greek language.

All these discoveries led to an important question – where did the Greeks come from because their language ultimately is not native to the land now known as Greece.

If we examine the archaeological record of the time just before the Mycenaean age, we find massive destruction that lasted about a hundred years from 2200 B.C. to about 2100 B.C.

And the material remains of the people that established themselves after the destruction were markedly different from those that lived in these same areas before.

It is to this deep destruction that we can link the “coming of the Greeks,” a phrase much used by historians.

So, where did the Greeks come from?

The clues before us are two-fold: material and intellectual culture. The excavations at Mycenae yield several essential clues: chariot parts, horse tack, skeletal remains of horses, weapons and pottery; plus, there is also the fact that these people were speakers of early Greek, as demonstrated by the Linear B texts.

The recent discovery of the Griffin Warrior from the Mycenaean Age also points to the richness of the material remains from the era, and further offers hints as to the origin of Greek culture.

These clues points to one conclusion. The earliest Greeks, that is, the Mycenaeans, came as invaders, likely from the north, and they destroyed what they found and took control and began to build their own fortified towns.

And we know that they are invaders because of their language, which is Indo-European – and this tells us that these early Greeks came from elsewhere, since the origin of the Indo-European languages is in a place quite a bit distant from Greece.

In the latter years of the third millennium, there were massive Indo-European invasions throughout Eurasia. This is evidenced by the spread of Indo-European languages, and by DNA analysis.

The origin of the Indo-Europeans is likely in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, what historians call the “Kurgan culture.” “Kurgan” refers to the grave mounds under which these early Indo-Europeans buried their dead.

From this point of origin, the Indo-Europeans overran large parts of Europe and some parts of Asia. They were able to be do this because they had domesticated the horse, had invented the chariot, and perfected the composite bow.

The languages they spoke were closely related and to this day comprise the largest family group in the world.

Thus, the indo-European languages consist of the ancient languages (and their modern-day descendants) of northern India (Vedic and Sanskrit) and Persia (Avestan and modern Persian), the Slavic languages, the Baltic languages (Lithuanian and Latvian), Celtic and the Italic (Latin and its descendants, such as, French and Italian), the Germanic languages (such as, German and English), and of course Greek (interestingly, Greek did not create any descendant languages).

This affinity between languages extends further into intellectual culture, since language is the bearer of culture, thus there is a pronounced similarity, for example, among the myths of the various Indo-European peoples – these myths explain and stratify reality.

The Indo-Europeans who veered into Greece called themselves Achaeans, who spoke a very early form of Greek, a form that has some of the closest affinities to Vedic and Sanskrit.

The Achaeans subdued the various non-Indo-European peoples that were living in Greece (the Minoans) and set up suzerainty over them.

The outcome of this process was what we call the Mycenaean civilization, which Schliemann excavated, as noted earlier. The Mycenaeans were known for their warrior culture, in which the chariot and the horse were much valued.

By 1600 B.C. they were established and thrived not only in Greece but also in parts of what is now Turkey.

Around 1450 B.C. these Mycenaeans conquered Crete and destroyed the Minoan civilization.

But they were not above learning civilized ways from the people they had conquered – for they adapted the art of writing invented by the Minoans to their own language, since the Minoan alphabet was not suited for an Indo-European language which had many consonantal clusters, whereas the alphabet of the Minoans (Linear A) was syllablic (each letter represented a consonant and a vowel together).

It is for this reason that Sir Arthur Evans found texts written in both Linear A and Linear B at Knossos, since the Mycenaeans assumed control of this palace structure after their take-over of Crete; and in time they came to use the Linear A alphabet as their own.

The rule of the Mycenaeans in Greece and in Crete was fated. It was destroyed during a catastrophic period in Eurasian history known as “the Bronze Age Collapse,” in which a total of forty-seven important cities were attacked, their inhabitants either killed or enslaved, and the places burned to the ground.

The swath of burned down cities is large and covers Syria, the Levant, Anatolia, Cyprus, Crete and Greece. From 1200 B.C. to about 1150 B.C., there were destructive raids by newer groups of Indo-European peoples, who had developed an innovative method of warfare, which gave them a greater advantage over the armies that these doomed cities could muster.

We have to keep in mind that the first Indo-European invasions, which saw the establishment of the Mycenaeans in Greece and Crete, were the result of the chariot and the composite bow.

The invasions which put an end to the Bronze Age were also successful because of a new type of warfare – the use of infantry armed with a long lance and a broad sword.

The metal for these weapons was iron. Bronze weapons were no match for these iron lances and swords, and the chariots became useless, too, since the foot-soldiers could easily disable a charioteer with their long lances by spearing the warriors that rode inside. The Bronze Age was violently brought to an end by iron weapons.

Thus, the Iron Age begins with an enormous catastrophe – a total collapse of civilization.

Once the large cities and palaces were destroyed, they were replaced by small communities of a few individuals; and these were often located not in the plains, but high in the uplands.

The Iron Age is also known as the Ancient Dark Age, because civilization, or city life, disappeared.

The new group of Indo-Europeans, who invaded Greece in the twelfth century B.C. and put an end to the Mycenaeans, are known as the Dorians; their name likely derives from the early Greek word, doru, which was the long wooden lance that they carried.

It is from the various dialects of these new invaders, plus Linear B that the Greek language developed.

The invading people destroyed civilization and did not value living in palaces or large cities. Instead, they chose to live in smaller communities that had fewer luxuries and fineries which we usually associate with civilization.

There is also evidence of depopulation since the settlements that replace the burned cities and palaces tend to be small and few. Pottery is no longer finely and elaborately decorated but has simple geometric patterns.

The Dark Age lasted from 1200 B.C. to 800 B.C. and can be summarized as a period of petty tribalism.

However, we know a lot about this period because of two significant literary works that describe the people involved in these invasions.

They are the two poems by the legendary poet Homer, namely, The Iliad and The Odyssey. In fact, the story of the siege of Troy may be a memory of the Bronze Age Collapse.

It is with Homer that we enter into recorded Greek history, known as the Archaic period.

From 800 B.C. to 480 B.C., Greece underwent revolutionary changes and began to emerge from its tribal era. This period saw the growth of cities once more, which was fueled by an increase in population and the expansion of commercial trade.

The idea of people being ruled by kings vanished and was replaced by a new form of government, the city-state, in which people sought not to be warrior-heroes, but good citizens.

As a result, there was a focus on refining city life, which led to great achievements in architecture, sculpture, art, commercial relations and trade, politics, and intellectual and cultural life.

Because of larger population colonies were established outside of Greece: in Sicily, southern Italy, eastern parts of Spain, along the southern coastline of France, at Cyrenaica in North Africa, in the Hellespont, and along the Black Sea.

All this was possible because of the growth of technological knowledge, especially in the areas of shipbuilding and seafaring, as well as developments of a new form of government, the polis, or the city-state, which came about as a result of synoecism, or the gathering of various villages into single political entities or units.

It was because of advances in the archaic period that Greek city-states prepared themselves for the maturity and perfection that they would achieve in the fifth century B.C.

And the most important of these cities was Athens, whose citizens radically and permanently changed the world around them – so much so that the ideas implemented by these men and the structures established by them are the very ones in which we still live.

Civilization would never really look back, because of what was achieved in Athens in the fifth century B.C.

This is the origin of the West.

The photo shows, “The Erechtheion on the Acropolis,” by Lancelot-Theodore Turpin de Crisse, painted in 1805.

Whatever Happened To The West? Part II

[Editor’s note: This is a two-part series that examines the character of the West, which once made it exceptional].


What is western civilization? The quickest way to access the essence of the West is to consider its lifeblood. If the West is cut off from its life-giving source, it shall die.

Certainly something will pass for a “western society,” but that society will only be a geographical designation; it will have nothing to do with the West as a civilization.

The prime example of such a barren place is Canada, which has successfully cut itself off from this lifeblood, and now rather happily stands for nothing at all, other than production and consumption – a giant mall, where everyone gets along because they have one common purpose – profit.

Such is the true crisis that the West… will it end up like Canada – unable to fashion anything of importance because it is culturally (morally) dead, because it is cut off from that which gave it life?

Why is this even true? Very simply because the West actually now believes that its lifeblood was always poisonous and must be drained away completely by all means necessary.

But what is this lifeblood? Very simply, it is Christianity, which perfectly fused Greco-Roman Hellenism with the philosophy and teachings of Jesus.

Here it is important to bear in mind that the best definition of “civilization” is a set of ideas – in that ideas define character thereby fashioning particular societies and their modes of behavior.

The West is the creation of Christianity – and nothing else.

It is the very essence of the West – the essence that made it both remarkable and exceptional. No other culture was able to enact a successful merger of Hellenism and Christianity. Only the West. Therefore, no other culture could rival the West in its unique character.

But today, as the West eagerly seeks to cut itself off from its source – what will it become? Will it be anything remarkable, let alone exceptional?

This process of emptying is what we are now witnessing throughout the western world, where anything connected with Hellenism and Christianity is to be rejected as “primitive,” “backwards,” “superstitious,” and poisonous.

Of course, such an emptying can only take place when the educational institutions works tirelessly to empty the heads of their students.

Thus, science and mathematics are now deemed “racist agendas,” and the English language and all English literature are declared to be tools of colonialism.

Of course, such wholesale destruction of young minds is abetted by technology, which conditions people to be amnesiacs, whose memory extends no further than the daily news-cycle.

The grand social experiment of building an entirely new culture may sound heady and exciting, but what is really replacing Hellenism and Christianity?

What is the real model of this new post-western civilization?

Very simply it is nihilism, brought on by a new merger – of Marxism and postmodernism.

All the so-called “thinking classes” (nurtured at every university), which extend into the media, have been primed and conditioned to become eager incendiaries, with the right commands (“trigger words”).

Their raison d’être is to to drain away the West’s lifeblood.

The apparatchiks of this new merger are feminism, presentism and intersectionality, whose duty it is to draw up codes by which society is to govern itself according to the rules of the new Marxist-postmodernist order.

The hope is that these codes (always shrouded in version of “social justice”) will fashion some sort of a new civilization – not western, not exceptional, but simply an extended version of Canada – a barren void, where nothing exists but production and consumption, with everyone lost in their own technologically befogged, private world.

The West is now filled with screams for “purity” through the destruction of all that might obstruct the Marxist-postmodernist New Man.

This new spawn is a thoroughgoing nihilist.

And what is nihilism?

Very simply it is the melancholy of atheism, in that atheism is an imagined, eteranal emptiness in which humanity has no purpose, because there is no Author. It is imagined, because atheism cannot establish itself as the truth by way of proof.

Thus, the desire of a new culture firmly grounded in atheism is a contradiction, or worse a nightmarish delusion, for how can anything be grounded in emptiness?

In the end, atheists are simply dishonest, because they claim to be freed at last from the superstition named, “God,” but still desperately cling to all that God provides – goodness, charity, love, peace, hope, forgiveness, altruism, compassion.

This is not only dishonesty on the part of atheists – it is also a grave weakness. Rosalind Murray saw through this deception a long time ago.

To cling to moral values (virtues) is to pretend that these values are good for everybody. This pretence, of course, becomes meaningless if there is no God. Why should morality be universal and timeless? More importantly, why should it be good? Virtue and morals only belong to God alone, since He created them.

If atheists are to be true to their religion (all “-isms” are religions – there is no escaping this logic), then they must finally let go of morality and live by no virtue.

And more importantly, they must demand real, fundamental change in the way society is organized.

First, they must demand that society be made truly atheistic, which means that it must be stripped of all its historical attachment (which has now become no more than an emotional attachment) to Christianity. This means no more charities, no more laws, no more education, no more nurturing of any kind.

Second, the very concept of “crime” itself needs to be made atheistic, since ultimately a “crime” is a transgression of some sort if morality. How can there be crimes when there is no God? Things like murder, pedophilia, cannibalism, cruelty, rape, even embezzlement and fraud are crimes only because they transgress Christian virtue.

In a truly atheistic society, such virtue is simply weakness, as Nietzsche very brilliantly understood. In atheism, the real crimes are weakness, pity, humility, sympathy, faith, compassion, altruism, the conscience, and justice. Atheists must continually demand that these crimes be severely punished, because they undermine power.

Third, once all morality is expunged from society and all culture dependent upon it completely destroyed, then all laws need to be eliminated as well, since the entire legal system is Christian and not atheistic.

Fourth, interpersonal behavior must be made atheistic as well. The idea of decency, kindness, charity, welfare, familial bonds, love, and so forth – have to go, because they are Christian not only in origin but in purpose. They are implementations of the teachings of Jesus.

Fourth, the only quality that properly belongs to atheism is strength of the individual.

Fifth, atheistic society therefore can only be a collection of individuals, forever engaged in perfecting and then expressing their strength in the world.

Lastly, atheism must continually extol man the beast, since man is an animal like any other. Thus, power alone marks human existence. This means that qualities, such as, pride, self-glorification, and unhindered freedom alone make an sense, since atheism can prohibit nothing.

In effect, atheism becomes the freedom to do everything in the pursuit of power, since there are no laws, and nothing can he prohibited, nothing can be denied the man who has the power to take what he wants.

Thus, people claiming to be atheists, who yet cannot bring themselves to actually follow their faith are only apostate Christians who live in a state of rebellion against God – they are free to deny Him, but they cannot live without Him (because they cannot imagine living without morality).

So, where does all this leave the West?

The West is truly at a crossroads.

Christian apostasy (what passes for atheism) is the norm, the dominant culture. It can promise nothing – because it cannot promise civilization.

Thus, the greatest lie that atheism perpetuates is its incessant demand for justice. Nietzsche described such moralistic atheists as, “the vengeful disguised as judges, who constantly bear the word ‘justice’ in their mouths like poisonous spit.”

Because most atheists have not the courage to live up to their declared convictions (which can proceed no further than the bestial human being exulting in his power), their faith is proceeds no further than to belong to the herd.

It is a very curious fact that atheism for most depends upon shallow science – that childish assumption that there is no “proof” of God in the material world.

But honest scientists themselves cannot make such assertions.

Thus, atheism for the majority is simply a matter of style, a convenience, or worse – abject conformity to what is deemed the “norm.”

Thus, if the West imagines that it can actually exist as a “post-Christian” civilization, then it in for a very rude awakening (which is already happening).

Without Christianity, the West is simply once again embracing barbarity, so that the only demand its people now have is “bread and circuses.”

Without Christianity, the West will disappear into the morass of rabid Marxism, postmodernist perspectivism, while forever harried by an ever-belligerent Islamofascism (until the West finally succumbs and converts, which is always easier when no one believes in anything – and people will always need to believe in something rather than nothing).

The writing is on the wall.

We do not see it, because we choose to be blind, since we’re all too busy enjoying our bread and circuses.

In brief, without Christianity, the West is dead.


The photo shows, “The Triumph of Faith,” by Eugene Thirion, painted sometime in the late 1800s.

History? Who Cares!

It is curious that history in our day and age is in a state of paradox. On the one hand, we have professional history, which is specialized, and therefore highly sophisticated; and on the other, we have popular history (historical knowledge possessed by the ordinary members of society) which is shallow and superficial at best.

There are various reasons for this paradox (cultural, economic and political expectations), but the chief one is that we as a culture have chosen to side-line the importance of history, because we view the past as inherently backwards and not worth bothering about.

We have taken on this view because we like to believe that we are far better than the past. For us, history serves only to enforce a self-congratulatory view of ourselves.

This is a dangerous view to possess for several reasons.

First, it means that we perpetually sit in judgment of the past so that we might the more easily pat ourselves on the back for being so much better than all those benighted souls that lived before our time; and so when we look at history all we do is search for examples that will highlight our own superiority.

Second, we have been struck by historical amnesia, because we have lost all sense of how it is that we came to live in a society and culture that we all value and want to be a part of.

Why do we cherish discovery and invention? What things guarantee our happiness, our prosperity, and our personal ambitions?

If we cannot answer these questions, can we actually believe that these important values will continue into the future, in our society?

Such questions are not philosophical, anthropological, sociological, or even psychological – they are deeply historical. If we no longer understand these questions, we certainly cannot answer them.

Indeed, without history, we only possess atomized, personal experiences, which are tentative and incomplete at the best of times – and hardly valuable enough to build an entire society on.

Third, when we view ourselves as somehow better than the past we overtly state that we do not know how to change things. Indeed, how can we change anything if we do not understand anything?

By not comprehending the nature of our society, we are forced to abandon control to those who actually have an understanding of things.

In effect, because of ignorance our minds are easily hijacked.

If we do not know history, we have no knowledge of ourselves. If we do not know ourselves, how can we know what is good for society?

Humans are uniquely and thoroughly historical creatures. Humans cannot live without history. We need it, just as much as much we need to eat and to sleep.

We forever talk about ourselves; what has happened to us, where we come from; we concern ourselves with causes; we believe change to be inherently good; we are constantly seeking ways to make ourselves and our society better. We set standards for our politicians, for our institutions, for our charities and welfare organizations.

All of these concerns are about building the good society – and therefore, all of these concerns stem from our history.

It is only because of certain and specific historical ideas that we are who we are.

In turn, history becomes the desire to comprehend who and what we are. History gives us a deeper knowledge of what we can and cannot do. And it is by juxtaposing our abilities with our inabilities that we come to understand ourselves.

Thus, history is a record of human abilities and inabilities. It is a record of the human pursuit of self-knowledge. It is a record of humans living in community.

So, why bother with history? For one simple reason. So we can all define and then build the good society – without being told what that society should be by politicians, or those who think that they know better than we do ourselves.

We must know the strengths and weaknesses of our society, which is called a “liberal democracy.” We need to constantly rediscover, individually and as a community, those historical processes which have led us to create the society we enjoy and cherish.

Why? Because it is only through such a rediscovery that we come to understand how we must maintain and constantly revivify our society so that it may continue to guarantee to us and to others both freedom and happiness.

This is also why we cannot live without history – for how can we imagine how we shall live if we have no comprehension, or knowledge, of our own liberty and our own happiness?

History depends on two things in order to be known: material culture and intellectual culture. The former consists of all objects created by human beings, from a brick to a fortress, from a pot to a marble statue.

Intellectual culture, on the other hand, is the residue of ideas that people living in a community leave behind; and ideas can only properly be left behind in written form.

In the absence of writing, history can only remain guess-work, because getting inside the head of an ancient man or a woman is impossible by way of a brick or a pot or a building.

Things are functional; they are created to facilitate daily life. Ideas are structural; they organize and give meaning to our lives.

History becomes possible only when we have both material remains and intellectual residue, because in order to live happy and meaningful lives, people need both material things and ideas.

Therefore, history is not merely a record of all the things made by people – it is also a record of all the ideas of people who lived before us, because ideas contain not only a worldview, but also morality and philosophy. Humanity disappears if it has no morality or philosophy to live by.

And as a result, history is the best attempt at retelling what happened in the past. But because it is only a “best attempt” – and never a complete version – history needs to be constantly studied and understood in the light of new discoveries both of objects and ideas.

Since writing is so very recent, knowing the history of preliterate ancient societies is very problematic. The best we can do is look at the material remains they have left behind and construct some kind of narrative that will explain what went on.

In other words, we have to add our own ideas on to the objects that are left behind. A case in point is the Indus Valley civilization.

Here we have an entire city, and a rather sophisticated one at that, and we have lots of pots and tools and jewelry – all those things that these people needed for their ordinary lives. There is even evidence of writing, which is known as the Indus Valley script – but we cannot read it.

And because we cannot read it, we can never know what kind of people these ancient Indians were, which also means that we cannot ever understand the nature, importance, or even influence of this civilization by the Indus River.

It would be like trying to explain the entire game of hockey sometime in the distant future when all that remains is a puck.

Without intellectual culture, objects are always surrounded by an impenetrable mystery.

For this reason, history is divided into two areas. There is history proper, which is the known past as reconstructed from both material and intellectual cultures.

And then there is prehistory, the preliterate past of humanity, from which only objects survive. It is only by studying these objects that we are able to construct some kind of account of what might have happened. And the best thing that these objects tell us is that human beings were using and creating technology.

This is the reason for the convenient terms we use when talking about the preliterate past, or prehistory. Thus, first, there was the Stone Age, which is divided into early, middle, and new, that is Paleolithic, Mesolithic (or Epipaleolithic) and Neolithic. In the Paleolithic period humans began to flake stones into points or edges to make hunting or cutting tools. This era covers a vast swath of time, from 2.5 millions years ago (back to the time of the first hominids) down to about 12,000 B.C.

Next comes the Mesolithic, or Epipaleolithic, period (from about 12,000 B.C. to about 9,000 to 6,000 B.C.) when humans learned to grind stone into tools; and also we have the first evidence of farming.

Lastly, there is the Neolithic age (from about 9500 B.C. to 3000 B.C.), during which humans became engaged in full-blown farming and domestication of animals.

Still dependent on technology, historians have constructed a consequent set of chronologies, which take into account mankind’s discovery of metallurgy, namely, copper, bronze, and iron. Thus, the Bronze Age follows the Neolithic era, and this is dated to around 3300 B.C. to about 1200 B.C.

Thereafter, we have the Iron Age, when humans discovered and used iron; it lasted from about 1200 B.C. to about 800 B.C. in most of Eurasia.

It is in-between the Bronze and Iron Ages that intellectual culture starts to become evident, which allows us to know and understand the past in a clearer and more cohesive or historical manner.

The term “civilization” thus is very specific and precise. It means “life in a city.” This is a very important definition, because for many long millennia humans did not live in cities. They were content to be hunters-and-gatherers, or lived a nomadic life.

City life means a stronger and more clearly defined sense of community, by which we mean that people live differently in cities than they do as nomads or as hunters-and-gatherers.

City life requires specialized labor, a food supply secured by agriculture, animal husbandry and trade, maintenance of infrastructure, organized religion (the earliest beginnings of what we call literature and the arts), laws, a system of defense, and politics.

In effect, civilization needs writing in order to stay organized; records have to be kept in order to categorize the economy; gods have be to made happy in temples on a regular basis, which leads to the creation of a calendar; kings need to make laws to keep the city running properly and smoothly, so that daily life is properly systematized.

Therefore, a civilization cannot help but produce “history,” which is the record of human activity and human thought.

If we continue being amnesiacs when it comes to the past, if we continue to view ourselves as far superior than people who lived a hundred or more years ago, we will always fall victim to oppression, because we will have no capacity for understanding how to sustain the good society.

Without history, we are easily led by those who control power structures, such as politicians or the captains of industry. How? Because without history, we have no ideas upon which to formulate good questions.

And if we have not developed the ability to ask good questions, we can only mindlessly accept what is handed to us.

Without questions, we become mindless – and it is mindlessness that creates and then strengthens despotism of the worst kind.

To paraphrase the words of Jacques Maritain – how shall we be good when we are standing on nothing?


The photo shows, “Ruins of a Doric Temple,” by Hubert Robert, painted in 1783.

A New Republic Of Letters

We have set culture above and before life, when it ought to be behind and below – it is a reaction to life. We must stop putting the cart before the horse. (José Ortega y Gasset)
Telling people what they already know ensures belief.  (Gorgias)

Universities have had their day. The grand experiment they once embarked on, of educating everyone, letting not one mind go to waste, is in its death-throes, if not dead already.

All universities worth their salt are now ardent hucksters – “Get our degree that will get you the job.” Since they have the facilities to warehouse and supposedly produce workers, they have reinvented themselves, more or less successfully, as organizations best suited to look after the supposed needs of industry.

They now sell a very attractive package: You don’t need knowledge (or what once was known as wisdom) to be successful – you need skills.

Professors are technicians who teach the structures of efficiency in the guise of a discipline.

Values (once known as virtue, or morality) are questionable at best and rightly jettisoned. The only real value in society is money. Efficiency is the watchword.

Despite lip-service, thinking is not worth the investment. Universities should in turn free themselves of the ruse of promoting knowledge and fully become training institutes for industry.

It is what students want – and according to the vise-like logic of industry, the customer is always right.

So, enough laments, enough screeds! There are too many of those already.

In the famous words of Nikolai Chernyshevsky – “What is to be done?

We who think the Humanities are important to life need to stop depending on universities and look to other ways of establishing a new Republic of Letters. Here are some suggestions.

First, there are still enough people out there who believe that literature, philosophy, history, foreign languages (the Humanities), speculative science are essential, if democracy is going to survive in any meaningful way.

Why? Because the clearest manifestation of democracy is individual freedom. This does not mean, do what you want. Nor does it mean the freedom to consume as much as possible.

Rather, freedom demands two things: the knowledge to sustain the good society (where each person has dignity and worth); and the wisdom to ask good questions (asking questions is the highest and truest expression of individual liberty.

However, a good worker is a team player and has no need to ask questions; this builds efficiency).

How does one acquire such knowledge (knowing how and why reality does what it does) and wisdom (the extension of such knowledge to construct both a good life and a good society)? Through the Humanities and speculative science.

Again, why? Because they force us to think. And what is thinking? Simply that ability to explain reality (good or bad) – without relying on “answers” from an authority figure (for example, a search engine).

Thinking is the slow building of confidence in our own minds. It is what Bruno Snell once called, “the discovery of the mind.”

Notice how the notion of values (or morality) is creeping in – only thinking constructs freedom – because morality means having the understanding to differentiate between good ideas and bad ideas (good ideas are those that promote individual worth; bad ideas do not), and then having the wisdom to know how to replace bad ideas with good ones in society. (This has nothing to do with “raising awareness” and other emotional acts).

Second, the new Republic of Letters needs another method of patronage. The universities used to provide such patronage, but that is no longer so, since their “customers” no longer want to buy expensive, useless degrees in “bird courses.”

Therefore, the Humanities and speculative science need to rediscover an ancient model – that of the peripatetic philosophers.

To do so, they need to fully divest themselves of the university. In this way, they will also “cleanse” themselves of the dross that has accumulated over the years (especially in the Humanities).

Dross, such as, Po-Mo jargon and the tiresome micro departments that actively promote the riding of hobbyhorses. This cleansing will allow the Humanities and speculative science to “own” thinking once again.

How did those ancient Greek philosophers gain patronage? By organizing what we might call seminars in public places.

There, they presented what they knew, and what they had thought through, in a brief lecture, followed by an extensive question-and-question session, where new ideas were discovered.

The patronage came at the end of the seminar, where the peripatetic philosopher would ask the audience to give whatever monitory value they thought the lecture and discussion were worth.

It was a free-will donation – not a cost. If you thought it was all worth nothing, then you gave nothing. Again, notice how this method of patronage is deeply associated with values (morality) – good ideas are essential to the good society and they have recognizable worth.

Third, a self-sustaining and independent Republic of Letters will finally and thoroughly free both the Humanities and speculative science from the tyranny of grades which work hand-in-glove with credentialism (the entire industry of university degrees).

This also means freedom from trying to demonstrate currency and relevance through publication in journals that no one reads.

Freedom from the monolith of tenure which only embeds ‘birds of a feather” hiring practices.

And most important of all – freedom from ludicrous Po-Mo jargon that no one really understands but everyone keeps on using – even though it is now very long in the tooth.

If you’re looking for some serious Po-Mo nonsense that you can pass as your very own [a boon for graduate students and professors that need to publish fast], then here is the perfect software for you…Introducing the Postmodern Essay Generator – guaranteed to spit out essays that are impossible to understand, but sound profound).

Perfect for any Humanities course, where you have to churn out essays that no one is supposed to understand (and they’ll be too embarrassed to ask you to explain, for fear they’ll be found out that they too haven’t a clue). Here is the link to this amazing workhorse ==>  Postmodern Essay Generator. (Just keep hitting Refresh to keep getting fresh Po-Mo nonsense essays).

Such is the circus that passes for an education.

The Humanities and speculative science are about thinking, and thinking is about life. The Welsh poet, W.H. Davies published a poem in 1911, entitled, “Leisure” in which he observed: “A poor life, this if, full of care/ We have no time to stand and stare.”

The need to wonder, to ask, “what if,” to feel awe, to imagine, to transcend personal conditions and shortcomings – to finally understand how to answer two of the most important questions that confront each one of us: How shall I be good? Where do I belong? Such will be the wealth of the new Republic of Letters.

This new Republic will only become possible when the Humanities and speculative science at last break free of the prison of universities and in doing so bring about the much-needed renaissance, so that democracy may once again find its true purpose – not cash but the currency of good ideas, which never lose value.


The photo shows, “The Beekeper,” by Nicholai Bogatov, painted in 1875.