(This is a first and rough draft of a longer essay I am working on)
In a Field in Northern Georgia USA there is a megalithic Monument as tall as Stonehenge and on eight of the sides of these stones are written Ten Precepts in Eight World languages.
The originator’s who came up with the idea for the stones and their message made sure they would never be discovered and so now we know more about the originators of Stonehenge than the Guidestones. Stonehenge is over four thousand years old, the Guidestones were erected in 1980.
If you Google the Guidestones you will find about their background and the mysterious middle men who lead to their creation but you will also see that they are considered deeply malign by many people. They have been vandalised. They have had their demolition petitioned. They are considered the "Ten Command Mends of Satan" or mocking proclamations of the Bavarian Illuminati. How could this be?
I read them once and I was blown away by them, and remain so. I saw in these Ten Precepts a mission statement, a method and a beautifully consistent structure that, as one, formed a guide towards a better civilization for the planet and humanity. In every sense I found them utterly benign and without compromise.
How could this be? How could I, with my fair to middling understanding of philosophy think these so pure, true and benign whereas others think them so evil that they get vandalised and their destruction called for?
This is the main aim of this essay is to show that these people are very mistaken in their understanding of the Guidestones. I will show how the Guidestones can only be benign, that if you simply follow the principles of reason, it can be no other way. It is only when reason isn’t used, when the interpretations are unreasonable, that the kind of malign accusations can be made.
This essay won’t try to answer the question "Who created The Guidestones?" Nor will I try to find any hidden messages in the alignments and structure of the Guidestones - in truth I don’t think there is anything cryptic about them. I simply want to try to understand and explain the message of the Ten Precepts.
I have been talking to people a lot about the Guidestones recently and I am often am asked, "Who do I think created them?". I have no idea. We can assume that it was ultimately important to the originators to hide their identity. We can assume that they had serious intentions about the Guidestones - Benign or Malign, they were not a joke or "art stunt."
What is important about the message is what everything focuses on, the text, the message, the capstone statement and the Ten precepts.
I think that when you understand the Ten Precepts then it becomes pretty much irrelevant whether the message was sent back by quantum entanglement from the year 20,000 AD, given as a gift by some alien intelligence or the product of a cartel of wealthy ex-hippies.
The Ten Precepts are carved into the granite eight times in eight languages: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.
- Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
- Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
- Unite humanity with a living new language.
- Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
- Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
- Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
- Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
- Balance personal rights with social duties.
- Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
- Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.
This essay is about The Ten Precepts of The Guidestones.
In 1979 a stranger walked into a stonecutters in Northern Georgia and, after some debate and assurance, commissioned and paid for a large granite monolith to be made in secret.
A site was found nearby, the land was purchased and in 1980 the Georgia Guidestones were unveiled on this land.
The six meter high monument has a central pillar with four oblong monoliths aligned with the pillar’s corners. On each of the two large faces of the oblongs is written ten statements in these eight World languages. The central pillar and the oblongs are locked in place by a granite capstone, upon which is written a statement in four ancient languages, Egyptian, Babylonian, Sanskrit and Ancient Greek.
Slightly to the west of the pillars is an explanation stone inlaid in the turf that’s not part of the Monument itself.
The Capstone Statement
The Capstone that holds the pillars in place has on it is a statement written four times in four ancient languages: Babylonian, Ancient Greek, Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Sanskrit. Whatever the Capstone Statement says, we should assume that it is the prime statement of the monument due to its position and repetition. Translated to English the Capstone Statement reads:
"Let these be Guidestones to an Age of Reason."
This is the prime statement of the Guidestones in all senses. I spent a while trying to work out which of the various meanings of the Capstone Statement the originators had intended.
But then it struck me that it is all meanings are relevant, this is one of the principles that I think carries throughout the Monument: maximum ambiguity, all applicable meanings are relevant and intended.
The Capstone Statement tells us what the monument is for - It is a guide to a new age of reason. It’s not about any current age of reason, we can see this by the "to" operator in the statement as well as, as we shall see, from the content of the Ten Precepts. I think the Capstone Statement in terms of tense is about a future age of reason to which we are guided towards, but that once "there" the Capstone Statement still applies.
Reason is the means and methods we use to preserve consistency between the world and our ideas and statements. If I tell you that "the cat is on the mat", you instantly assume that that the mat is not on the cat. If I hand you a pot of red ink you know, just by looking, that I haven’t handed you a pot of blue ink. These simple reasoning’s and the more complex are at the core of all of our thoughts and interactions, however complex they may be. There is nothing exotic about reason.
If things are not reasonable they are not right.
The Capstone statement defines reason as the prime objective and the prime method of the Guidestones. The Guidestones must adhere to the principles of reason or else there would be, at some level, inconsistency.
The principles of reason are not a complete set of principles but an ever expanding system that encompasses maths, science, computation... However, there are some principles that are fundamental at all levels and which become essential in understating The Guidestones.
- Noncontradiction is the first principle of reason. It is simply saying that if a thing is one thing it is not another.
- Causality is the second. It is saying that all reasonable things have causes.
- Simplicity is the third principle of reason. It is saying that in understanding complex systems the simplest explanation is the most reasonable
If we look at the Monument purely as a granite structure and ask if it coheres to the above three principles we will see that it does, perfectly. Nothing is wasted, all is used. The Capstone is just big enough to hold the slabs in place and yet without it we imagine the monument would collapse - as without Reason the Ten Precepts collapse.
The astrological features are not frivolous additions, they pin the monument in space and time. The significance of the location, again, is a simple application of reason, it’s near America’s largest Granite quarrying area. That’s all there is to it. In the same was as the originators didn’t want us to be distracted by their identity, the location is irrelevant to the message.
If you are a conspiracy theorist who believes that The Precepts are malign, please, you don’t need me to tell you how wrong you are. Just use reason and you will have no choice but to agree, like me, they are utterly benign. How else could they be interpreted?
Understanding the Ten Precepts
I have grouped the Precepts into four categories, Humanity, Society and Individuals and Environment. This isn’t in any sense relevant to the precepts but its a handy way to divide them
The Humanity Precepts
I term the first three Precepts "The Humanity Precepts" and they are the most susceptible to misunderstanding. They are:
1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2. Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
1: Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
Overpopulation is the world’s biggest problem, this has been known about for decades, and it’s getting worse, not better. The UN places the optimum population at about Three billion, we are currently pushing seven billion and by 2040 it could be as high as twelve. No pandemic, no war, no famine stands a chance of reducing this explosion.
It is truer now than in 1979 when the First Precept was cut that our population needs to be managed. This isn’t an evil thing to say, quite the opposite. One thing that is certain about overpopulation is that it effects the poorest and least developed the most. The WHO agrees that smaller families are healthier and happier families. Also and importantly the only viable solutions to the population problem invariably involve the education and empowerment of women, practices absolutely prescribed for by the Precepts.
The First Precept not only recognises the problem of the population explosion as globally paramount, it suggests, unequivocally, an ambitious population milestone of half a billion people. It doesn’t say reduce to this or ensure that this, it says maintain the population at this. The guide is to aim for the ideal and when there, maintain it. That is the core of the first precept.
I thought when I first read it that the sub-clause "in perpetual balance with nature" was just about the environment. It’s not, I believe. I think that it is referring to the actual process of maintaining the population rather than the effect of maintaining it.
The First precept doesn’t say how to maintain this balance in any specific sense. But we do know from the rest of the precepts the kind of solutions that would not be consistent with the Guidestones. For example, putting contraceptives in the municipal water supply wouldn’t allow by Precepts Five and Eight at least and nor would it be in balance with nature, whereas providing more contraceptive choice to all women of the could be.
Any suggestion that the First Precept is even "faintly eugenicist " simply misunderstands the precept and its place within the consistent whole of the Guidestones. Consider these two examples:
"The Georgia Guidestones, which call for the earth's population to be reduced to five hundred million..." Alex Jones, Prison Planet
"Limiting the population of the earth to 500 million will require the extermination of nine-tenths of the world's people. " Mark Shaw, Radio Liberty
From the first mistaken reading and understanding of the First precept there is a snowballing of mistakes that promotes their hatred for the stones. If you don’t use reason to understand them, you can interpret them in any way. If you use reason, as intended, I argue, there is only one way, the benign and right way.
2: Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
The second of the Humanity Precepts is telling us that in order to facilitate the First precept we will need to guide reproduction wisely. Wisely has to mean more than rationally here - it means we will also need to be insightful to the problems that we will face managing our reproduction in the future.
Precept Two also contains two additional conditions: that reproduction should be guided towards fitness and diversity.
"Fitness" here must mean in terms of any individuals health and fitness but also the macro fitness of Civilizations as a species to adapt to future strains and stresses. "Diversity" must mean in terms of Genetic diversity for individuals and species. There is no reason not to think that the terms in The Precepts have the maximum applicability (ambiguity), the whole think seems more robust and clear if we allow for this very justified assumption.
So rather than any malign eugenic project, I believe that Precept Two is saying that we should be wisely mixing up our genes and trying to make us fitter and more diverse on all levels, from the individual to the future civilization.
3: Unite humanity with a living new language.
The third precept has had its share of controversy but as with the Precepts One and Two, this controversy is unjustified. In order to discuss it I will split it into two components
Let’s look at the first clause first, is uniting humanity a good thing?
In and of its self, I think most people would say yes. We can see many benign ways in which uniting humanity would be good and I believe you would agree that it’s hard to see how uniting humanity in any sense could be bad.
The case for the benignity of Precept Three is further made by the fact that in order for "unity" to be consistent with the other precepts it must cohere with the principles like fairness and justice and truth explicitly stated in the latter precepts. The unity of humanity must cohere with the protection of individuals, their rights, their nations and it must prize truth and goodness. This unity, whatever it is, is clearly intended to be far from a bad thing.
The mechanism for achieving this is stated in the last clause of the Precept. Humanity should be united with "a living new language."
This phrase could mean a number of things.
It could mean simply a new kind of spoken and written language that can be used to unite humanity. This is what most people would think about this at first reading the Third Precept (Conspiracy theorists might care to add that this Slave Esperanto would be used to control and homogenise humanity.)
This is the only point where I think there is utility in going back to 1979 when the Third Precept was handed to the stone-cutters. There was no internet as we know it then, no mobiles, but there were networks, electronic mail, personal computers, program languages, file formats and so on.
If you were in 1979 trying to describe and prescribe this impossible-to-predict explosion of information and communication technology how would you have done it? That’s the question I have been asking myself when thinking about Precept Three.
Its tricky, I have tried. I think that in fact, the term "a living new language" isn’t referring to a living language as opposed to a dead one, its referring to a communication system that has the qualities of living things. Being adaptive and processing and improving
Equally the use of "new" here isn’t referring to a new degree of linguistic communication but an entire new kind of language altogether which its hard to argue isn’t emerging all around us now.
The Social Precepts
Precepts 4 to 8 deal with the foundational conditions of a Civilisation: Law, Rights, Duty and Governance.
They describe a system that recognises the importance of people, nations, tradition and beliefs but they provide a containing framework to allow these often incompatible aspects of humanity to coexist.
4. Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
In contrast to the Humanity Precepts, the Social Precepts in the main bring together ancient concepts in a unified and demonstrably good way. When we say good in these kind of hyper abstract senses its important to see that there is no perfect when dealing with humanity, and good is better than not.
4: Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
Passion, faith and Tradition are the three aspects of humanity that capture the essence of the human irrational.
We can reasonably imagine robots that could design the Eifle Tower, but we cannot reasonably imagine Robots that would destroy themselves by, of their own conclusion, jumping off it.
An Age of Reason without passion, faith and tradition would be an age of human robots. It cannot be the extreme reason of the perfect choice, because for most of our issues such choices don’t exist. The Fourth Precept acknowledges that there must be compromise between the human rational of uncluttered reason and the human irrational of passion, faith and tradition.
Reason would never lead to these kinds of decisions:
- I will run with bulls at Pamplona
- I will fast for lent
- I won’t say "Macbeth" in rehearsals
- I will pray for my brother.
- I will not mention "Praying for my sister" because I have one of those but don’t have a brother.
What is tempered reason? Tempering means to harden or soften something to make it more suitable for it’s purpose.
When a knife blade is tempered one aims for the optimum balance between sharpness and strength. It’s that compromise, the same compromise we see between human rational and irrational that the fourth precept accepts and accommodates.
The fourth Precept suggest a simple solution to the conflict between human rational and human irrational, it is this: Allow for all; but let reason rule.
This works well in that it accommodates the existence of irrational beliefs but clearly says they should be subordinate to tempered reason in our choices and systems.
I am convinced that The Guidestones have no atheist or theistic bias, they apply to all people and belief systems without dogma and prescription save for the single condition, "Let reason rule."
There is a Schism in the world between religion and reason, The Fourth Precept is a Guide as to how this can be bridged in a world more Civilized and reasonable than this world today.
5: Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
This is the first Precept that I imagine will have close to global acceptance on the first reading. For thousands of years it has been understood that Justice and fairness should be the central political foundations for a good society.
I think Precept Five must apply to nations not just in the sense of country and state but in the more general sense of a group of people.
6: Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
The Sixth Precept defines a simple delimiting principle of governance between distinct groups (nations).
7: Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
The seventh Precept asks us to "Avoid petty laws and useless officials." I think this is saying that though there needs to be the rule of law we should keep laws to the essential and the reasonable and the same with those who govern us.
So not only should Laws be Fair, protective and reasonable they should be significant and relevant, not petty.
In order to see what laws would be considered petty, I think its clear, they would be the Laws that do not promote the positive aspects of humanity, justice, fairness, truth, goodness.
We know that this Precept isn’t talking about irrational laws as they are ruled out by The Fourth Precept. I think that this precept is explicitly about laws that may be reasonable but in their wider context are unrequired, for example Prohibition and laws pertaining to personal behaviour.
8: Balance personal rights with social duties.
In a Civilization the compromises made between society and individual are both ways.
People have a duty to the society that protects and unifies them. There is no explicit mention of what these Duties might be but we can imagine from the Consistency of the Ten Precepts that the duties will be those that promote fairness, goodness, justice and unity.
The Individual Precept
9: Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
The Ninth precept I term "The Individual Precept" because, unlike the first eight, it applies directly to each of us as individuals.
In my understanding of the Ten precepts we see that as we move down through the them the scope changes from the wide abstract notion of Humanity, through its governing systems and principles to the individual notions that apply to us each directly and personally.
Goodness, Beauty and Truth have been the foundational ideas of "purposeful" lives for millennia. Like with all things, philosophically there are issues but in the vast majority of possible cases these three are very much accepted as cornerstones of a Good life.
The Guidestones keep with this tradition but I believe progress it, but first let’s see what it means to "prize" in the context of The Guidestones.
Value and Rational Action
A rational action is an action that in some relevant sense preserves a value. If I like Gateaux and I eat some Gateaux, then my valuing of Gateaux is preserved by the action. It’s rational for me to eat Gateaux. If I hate Gateaux and I eat some then, of itself, that value hasn’t been preserved. It’s been lost by the action and we would say it’s irrational.
People value many things and often those values conflict. You may Value Gateaux but you may also value your waistline or your low blood sugar, in such cases it may well be irrational to eat Gateaux.
Rational actions are actions that preserve the values of the person doing them. This by no means makes all rational actions "good actions", history and humanity is scarred by the rational actions of evil people.
If something’s is "prized" it is valued exceptionally high. It should be pursued and cultivated and it would be irrational were this not the case. The ninth precept is saying then, that we should highly value Truth, Beauty, Love and seeking Harmony with the infinite and thus live and act in the pursuit of these values.
Truth, Beauty and Love
Truth underpins everything we do. It gives our statements meaning and allows our beliefs to be knowledge. In some cases it is inescapable in others it’s inaccessible but it’s always there. There is always Truth and it is the pursuit of this that should be prised.
Beauty, unlike Truth, is never there, in the world. It is always in the experience of the individual, but still it should be prised, cultivated and experienced.
Love, unlike truth but like Beauty, does not exist in the world. But unlike Beauty, love does not exist just in the individual. Love is a thing that can only exists between individuals, and it should be prised.
Seeking Harmony with the Infinite
The last of the four things to be Prized is harder to fathom, "Seeking Harmony With the Infinite."
When I first started thinking on this ideal I came to the conclusion that this was some abstract new-age hippy sentiment straight out of those times. But that interpretation didn’t seem to fit with the clear and crystalline structure of the rest of the precepts. It would seem an incongruous part of the message if it was intended to be so pithy and "hippy".
It isn’t, the "harmony" clause of the Ninth precept values not the object of any kind of belief but the actual process- the "seeking" - of finding "harmony with the infinite."
This Harmony isn’t about the external to the individual, it cannot be, because harmony, by definition, is a relationship that requires the individual’s involvement with some other system. Whatever "Seeking harmony with the infinite" means, I know it must be about me and my relationship to something rather than something purely outside of me (like some truths are, by necessity).
What is the "infinite" to which we should seek harmony? Is it in space, time and computation? Is it peace with God? Is it harmony with the idea of Nothingness? Is it understanding one’s place in a godless rational universe? We cannot say because, as said, its about each of our relationship directly with these unknowns. These deeper, scientific, philosophical, spiritual or cultural aspects and questions about our place in reality.
It took me a while to see this clearly and now I think it’s wonderful. Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic the one engine that drives all of these kinds of beliefs is the desire to understand and relate to that which is beyond us in all directions.
Can you think of a statement that could more unify the often violently incompatible beliefs shared by humanity? If you can please tell me.
The Environmental Precept
10: Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.
The last Precept is not about humanity but the environment and our place in it. The cancer metaphor succinctly captures the human potential for environmental damage; the occupation of area, the damage to natural systems and the creation of toxins/pollution.
It's interesting to see how the tenth precept reconnects with the first precept, but whereas the first precept is about Humanity itself, the last is about the Environment humanity is contained in.
I have puzzled long about why "Leave room for nature" was repeated twice, and to me it’s now obvious. Simply, the repetition is emphasis in the sense of pleading to us all to leave room for nature.
I think I have shown that The Georgia Guidestones are an important and rare and original set of principles that stand up to scrutiny and challenge. They remain consistent but most importantly, the Ten Precepts seem intutivly, morally, rationally, to be so true and apt to all peoples of the planet.
To each of them we can ask, "Would humanity be better or worse where this Precept followed?" And the answer seems evident to me that "yes" is the provable answer.
The Ten precepts are not an instruction manual. They are not Ten Commandments or a list of dogmatic proclamations. They don’t ask us to believe anything whatsoever; they are simple and consistent Guidelines towards a better, fairer, more just, more efficient, less damaging, happier (more loving, truthful and beautiful..) Civilization.
These people, and they seem ever growing, even people I respect, that slander the Gudestones do them and us a great disservice. They simply have not followed the Capstone Statement and so they jump to unjustified conclusions and wholly ignore the demonstrably benign and consistent message.
If you think the Georgia Guidestones are bad, you simply haven’t thought about them enough.
If, like me, you think they are profound and good and true, then you understand them as the originators can only have intended.