In his most recent philosophical work, one of the modern world's pre-eminent thinkers offers a summation of his views on a wide range of topics of first and last importance, beginning with abstract art and ending with Zionism.
Culled from years of patient research and fruitful introspection, his observations are bound to stimulate, challenge, and at times force upon the reader a shock of recognition grounded on timeless but at times obscured universal truths.
Dr. Runes' word magic, now aphoristic, now cadenced and metaphorical, creates countless gems of wisdom, frequently poetic, often irresistibly quotable, always profoundly moving. A humanitarian theme evolved partly from personal tragedies permeates his lifelong search for “a life of God the Spirit and the Giver/(Of) God unbound and unencumbered/By hate or prejudice/A god to love by Deeds/Not hollow hymns and vows.”
|Publisher:||Philosophical Library, Incorporated|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||324 KB|
About the Author
By 1930, he published many diverse periodicals. These included Modern Psychologist, whose godfather was Alfred Adler, with whom Runes had a lifelong friendship. There followed Better English:A Monthly Guide for the Improvement of Speech and Writing (with contributions from Dale Carnegie, H.L. Menken, W.H. Auden and Emily Post); andThe Modern Thinker and Authors' Review (with articles by Julian Huxley, Upton Sinclair, Bertrand Russell, Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky and Thomas Mann). His magazine, The New Current Digest, was purchased by Reader's Digest; with that money, in 1941, he founded Philosophical Library, which published the work of brilliant European intellectuals and Nobel Prize winners with whom he had been friends. He authored the Dictionary of Philosophy, which became a treasured possession of every student of philosophy. Translated into numerous languages, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Philosophical Library was so respected that it had blanket orders from most libraries for every book that it published. War Medicine, Modern Methods of Amputation, and Rehabilitation of the War Injured, for instance, were bought by every military library and doctor's office.
In the late 1940s, Runes introduced French Existentialism to the English-speaking world, and translated and published the works of, among others, Jean-Paul Sartre (including his seminal Being and Nothingness), Simone de Beauvoir, Andre Gide and Francois Mauriac. Throughout his life, Dagobert D. Runes was deeply concerned with human and civil rights, man's inhumanity to man and, as he wrote in one of his poems, “the deep beauty of the human mind.” Until his death in 1982, directing Philosophical Library and Wisdom Library (his paperback house) and publishing his own as well as other thought- provoking philosophical works were his life's work.
Read an Excerpt
Handbook of Reason
By Dagobert D. Runes
Philosophical LibraryCopyright © 1972 Philosophical Library, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Art of old, sometimes siding with the good by drawing, sculpting, and painting ennobling themes, sometimes siding with the devil by glorifying conquering dictators—art has deserted both the angels and the devils for no one in particular. It just vanished into the abstract, nonobjective night of unrecognizable splotches on canvas, rules and dots and cubes, seen through a rock with a hole in the middle.
The savage who failed at music fell to beating drums; the painter whose brush fumbled jumped at "nonobjective" scraping or abstract paint-dripping; the musician sans harmony hailed dissonances; the sculptor with five thumbs on each hand delighted in "molding" crazy rocks or senseless metal ding-dangs. In short, the losers won the game.
It is amazing to read emphatic and concise "reviews" of nonobjective "paintings" or "sculptures" by presumptuously didactic critics who have as little idea what the erratic brush work or chisel-chipping means as the cynical "artists" themselves. Much noise about nothing; we live in an era where farmers get paid for not planting and painters for not painting. Only the totally incompetent need apply, since a mere shade of talent would disqualify the participant.
There is, however, a side alley open to the cunning: gimmickry like dripping paint on the floor or magnifying a pebble or painting with one's own mop of hair or with an untidy brush, and the like. For the contemporary reckless pseudo-achiever, there are practically no restrictions on artistic chicanery and bluffmanship. Paint a whole wall brown or throw a brown drop on a white wall, just so the "critics" can have some hook on which to hang their multi-adjectives. They too are in this for the same reason as those on whom they lavish their belabored syntax. What a six-year-old would hide in embarrassment, they help sell for good money to frightened old ladies who wish to be avant-garde.
Achievement lies not in becoming a bigger man but in making this a better world, not in what you do for yourself but in what you do for the people. Look at Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin—they crowned themselves with fame and power, yet in one snuff of nature, all was blown to nothing except the million murdered bodies. I have seen the sword of Alexander, the crown of Napoleon and the pipe of Stalin. They all, even under glass, bear the stench of rotting flesh.
What price power! And what shame to build monuments to such monsters!
Adulation is gilding. The Romans were masters at it. That's why we rarely see a Caesar's bust without a garland in his hair (a sow's head with a rose in its jaw). In our day, we have had no shortage of poets and romancers weaving wreaths about the brows of current political monsters—and quiet flows the Don.
Men who think never fail to hesitate and wonder. Only fools and drunks speak of the great and ultimate things with arrogant absolutism. Whatever we know is only a tiny thread in the eternal web of wisdom. We are all agnostics—yet we believe, we hope, we search.
Spinoza reckoned historic ambition among the great failings of mortal man. The fame-greedy would step over mountains of corpses, betray friends and family, desecrate the holiness of life, just to gain the vainglory of historic eminence. They crave for lands not because they need or even want them, just for the glitter of living on in history as conquerors. At the end no one possesses more than a tiny lot of land: three by six.
History vanity is at the root of a thousand wars and a thousand massacres. The conquerors in history pretend to fight for a cause. Deceivers they are, all! Their banners carry slogans of self-sacrifice and devotion but in their hearts is nothing but personal greed for historic fame.
What a price to pay for vanity!
American democracy may have its imperfections, yet no man ever deserted its shores and found a better form of government elsewhere—not because we have the best civitas; rather, all others without exception are worse.
Americans are gluttons for self-criticism. They stage huge rallies because a demented assassin is put away but raise not an outcry if Russia ships any and all opponents to Siberian jails or China decapitates them in the public market-place.
Some anthropologists enjoy pontificating from a peak position. They take an old Gibraltar monkey jaw and solemnly swear this is the missing link a million years old and tomorrow they uncover a caved-in skull and that they assure us with vigor is the long-searched-for (image). Hesitance is the road to science; impressing the ignorant may bring one closer to success but not to the truth.
Anti-Semitism is a particular parasite. It has infected and still does infect some of the best growth in nature. Augustinus, Voltaire, Luther, Herder, Hegel, Marx, Proudhon—they reached out to the heavens; yet they were all infested with the rot of Jew-hate. Their tongues babbled with words of love, but suddenly they would swing about and snarl epithets of bloody hate against a people that never touched or hurt them.
"Burn the homes and Talmuds of the Jews!" bellowed Luther. "Keep the Jews as slaves forever," sermonized Saint (!) Augustinus. "Exterminate this race like vermin," said "gentle" Herder. And Shakespeare, who never saw a Jew in his whole life, branded them with the sign of usury.
What a pack of vicious wolves those Christian reformers be!
You can't pacify despots, you can only disarm them. A crocodile is harmless only when its teeth are out.
Usually arguments are not originated by those who present them but by one or a few who are hidden behind the speakers or writers. Stalin set a million tongues and pens in vivid motion; they spoke as if from a personal conviction while indeed they were only mouthing his. And the very next day when Stalin decided to drop his anti-Nazism and join Hitler as ally in war against Poland, to supply him with weapons, fuel and food, most of the million defenders of Stalin's anti-Nazism turned into protagonists of Stalin's pro-Hitlerism. All this, as quick as the new line could reach them.
Rare are the people who present and defend their own arguments; as a rule they are no more than mouthpieces for a distant schemer or ideologue.
Astrology has been assiduously practiced by learned astronomers. Thus Learning is no obstacle to the cultivation of most absurd superstitions.
If this world exists, then God exists, If I exist, God exists—unless I assume that nothing is nowhere. If this universe of galaxies developed out of a bag of gases, no matter; somebody put the bag here. The rest is silence.
I know not what is beyond the billion galaxies. I know not what or who put the bag there. And those who say they know, they know less, because they don't even know that they don't know. No two people have the same God. No two people think God alike. But we know there is more—much more, a billion years more, aeons more—than we know. So let us be hesitant, and wonder and search.
Saying a meaningless word like atheist means nothing. There remains this infinite universe with infinite attributes and infinite modi of existence. And an ocean of mysteries in the air, in the distances, in the far unknown. So let us search and seek and wonder and have humility in our ignorance. It is so little we know.
Avarice is one of the three mainstreams of desire tossing man's ship of life away from the straight course of personal well-being, the other two being Ambition and Lust. Such is the philosophy of Spinoza, the sage of Amsterdam. Spinoza reasoned that if man by concentration and deep insight learned to comprehend the vanity of honors bestowed, the dangers of submission to libidinousness and the destructive results of greed, he would raise the horizon of his thinking to the high level of eternal concepts and endeavor to see Creative Nature in its harmonious glory. The deep pleasure and satisfaction that accompanies such intuition, seeing all sub specie aeternitatis, would make man forego the petty pleasures accompanying erratically an existence given to greed, ambition and lust. The great joy of living in the light of reason makes the pleasures of disturbing bodily affectations fade into the background; man is no longer tossed about by the Tempting Three and serenely leads a free life.
Spinoza's Free Man is decidedly an ethical individual, since he in his wisdom of the Infinite understands the great causal laws of the universe and therefore hates no person, a mere mode of Nature, nor does he love any thing or creature except in an intellectual form or manner, as he loves God, or to say it clearer, Creative Nature. Free man is dedicated to this amor Dei intellectualis in which he finds all things and all creatures in their proper causality. He understands the enemy as he accepts the friend; he is cognizant of hate as he is of love, of rancor as he is of generosity, of envy as he is of brotherhood, of patricide as he is of self-sacrifice. They are all manifestations of Great God Nature and have to be perceived not individually as most people do, but universally, cosmically. Free man thinks the Cosmos, lives the Cosmos, enjoys this Cosmic Vision, and is little perturbed by the turmoil of specific events. To him they are neither good nor bad, neither baleful nor lovable. The Free Man loves his enemy as he does his most devoted friend, as phenomena of Nature, and he would as little strike an offender as he would hit back at a chair; he would as little caress a benefactor as he would pat a flower for giving off sweet scent.
In a deeper sense, however, Spinoza's Free Man is ethical. By freeing himself from all hate and animosity, he would not hurt people by design or deceive them on purpose or seduce them to vulgarity or evil. The Free Man may live in a world of delusion, in a tower of emotional isolation, but to whatever degree his resignation is guided by intuitive insight, he will do no wrong to others. That is eminently important in an era when the learned demonstrate little difference from the illiterate or uneducated in their attitudes and actions toward the downtrodden, the disinherited, and the deprived of our communities.
There is an old Sephardic saying: the Devil keeps a clean house. Among the great oppressors of mankind, past and present, there were quite a few whose windows are well-dressed. Louis XIV of France, who bragged that not a single year of his reign passed without bloodshed, swaggered over the corpses of the villagers of France with royal indolence—yet he assembled at his stupendous palace artists, scholars and literati whose presence is supposed to balance his historical account. Catherine, Czarina of all the Russias, debaucher of peasant boys, and destroyer of whatever trace of freedom Czar Peter left the Russian workers and artisans—the lady conqueror and hangman was a woman of letters and corresponded with the "liberals" of her time. Napoleon sponsored a code of law named after him; Hitler supported youth organizations named after him; Alexander founded cities named after him; Stalin did the same. Mao replaced the Analects of Confucius with his personal quotations; Caesar became his own war correspondent (guess who is the hero?). All of these butchers were responsible for the massacre of millions of children and women. There seems to be an ancient code that men in uniform have the right to kill. All these and other despots have done some "good" here and there. Some built roads—for easier defense; others built schools to train administrative clerks or military experts. Many went to church—exchange visits I suppose to the high clergy for their blessings of the troops.
Let not the gracious left hand fool you; the right behind the back is bloody from the last massacre.
Some books sell in quantity; others in depth. The New Testament is the all-time best seller. Look at the world and see for yourself what little effect it had on mankind. Marx's Das Kapital was distributed by the millions over the last hundred years.
Christians and Communists read the books, but they acted upon the orders of their organizational masters. By their deeds you shall recognize them, not by the literature they read.
There are too many books about persons that in reality divulge more of the biographer than the biographed.
Blessings of the Church have often in history of the western world been solemnly bestowed on very prosaic, even distasteful occasions. In 1939 there were poised in Germany dominated by Hitler's unholy spirit three armies, one on the east, one on the west, and one in the capital of the Third Reich. Before the armies there stood ten thousand men of the cloth, men who ate the bread of the Christian churches. Each of these clergymen had at his hip a makeshift altar with a shiny cross on top, a reminder of the eternal Jew as hangman and executioner of God's Son.
The clergyman stood there to bless the armies of Hitler, poised to fall upon their neighbors to the east and their neighbors to the west and equally, if not more important, upon the kinfolk of Jesus—men, women and children, all unarmed, unaware of their impending doom, spread throughout the towns and villages of Europe, a Europe that traditionally and by religious training [The Jew is a Son of the Devil and does his father's lust—John VIII.44] would never, but never, stand by a member of that race. They worshipped Jesus, adored His mother, but hated their Holy Family's relatives.
These ten thousand clergymen looked up to the Heavenly Father and in somber, prayerful voices invoked success upon the weapons of Nazism, cannon, bullets and poison gas. It seems the Lord hearkened to their prayers because the Nazi armies defeated not only the west and the east but also gassed all the Jews of Europe. If I had faith in the power of prayer like an evangelist, I would consider the good Lord a silly old soul swayed by ten thousand German churchmen of the Christian religion. But I don't reckon that God was persuaded by any priests or ministers or even bishops to tip the balance in any warfare. The Nazis won for a while, then they lost against both the east and the west.
But against the Jews, they won. Excepting some of the Jewish partisans who managed to escape, all of Europe's Jews, women, children and old men, were choked to death with noxious gasses. To give it a special degree of brutality, the Germans placed the children in the execution chambers together with their mothers so they might watch the slow death of their offspring.
It is possible for Russian Christians and French Christians who came out of this holocaust hurt and diminished, yet alive, to continue the hereditary belief in divine providence. For the Jews of Europe, divine providence was a mere chimera, the nightmare of a corpse. The Jew of Europe was not a sick man, not a suffering man—the Jew of Europe was dead. Dead men have no religious convictions.
For the Jew on other continents, with the death of Europe's Jews, God also died. The God of righteousness, of justice and protection had failed. The God of the Christian priests and ministers who blessed Hitler's hordes with the sign of the cross remained an acceptable symbol of celestial providence, a bit jaded perhaps, but Christian Europe was alive. Only the Jews were dead, obliterated.
It is difficult, most difficult, to trust in divine providence when your little children choke to death in twelve tortured minutes before your very eyes and then you yourself feel the devil grip your throat and you pass into nothing. Can there be faith in heaven when all its gates are closed and your anguished voice is hurled back at you by a storm trooper's jeer?
Europe's Christians—in France, in Hungary, in Poland, in the Ukraine—vied with each other to deliver to the gas chambers of Germany all, and no fewer than all, of the Israelites, women, children and feeble old men.
Excerpted from Handbook of Reason by Dagobert D. Runes. Copyright © 1972 Philosophical Library, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Philosophical Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.