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The language of love in a 12th-century English law book

The language of love in a 12th-century English law book | Psyche

From Cotton MS Claudius B IV f.5v, c11th-12th century. Courtesy the British Library

Meghan Woolleyis a historian of law and culture in the Middle Ages and a PhD candidate at Duke University in North Carolina, where she teaches academic writing and medieval history. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Edited by Sam Haselby

( 9 DECEMBER 2020

In the final scene of Legally Blonde (2001), Elle Woods quotes Aristotle as part of her graduation speech: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ ‘No offence to Aristotle,’ she continues, but ‘I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law.’ Elle captures a contradiction between a common conception of law as emotionless, and the practice of law as something that in reality always involves emotions. This tension between the theory and experience of law is one that goes back centuries, even millennia.

The history of law challenges any assumption that law should, by its nature, be isolated from human feeling. Instead, it reveals nuanced ways in which emotions impact legal processes and enable law to carry more social power. Law isn’t simply about the application of abstract principles; it’s about shaping relationships between real people. Emotions are one way that law, whether in a murder trial or a contract signing, connects to the broader social reality of its participants.

An early 12th-century English law book called The Laws of Henry I (Leges Henrici Primi in the original Latin) highlights the role of informal agreements between litigants, which draw on emotional bonds to create peace. When discussing different ways of solving a dispute, the Laws state: ‘An agreement supersedes law, and love supersedes judgment’ (‘pactum enim legem vincit et amor iudicium’). This means that a voluntary agreement is preferable to a sentence given by an official justice. Love, or amor in Latin, could provide a more effective resolution than a legal sentence. The author describes agreements based on love and friendship as legally binding. They share many of the same trappings as court settlements, including being made in the presence of witnesses and potentially overseen by a justice.

Love wasn’t simply a personal feeling; it could be both a forceful passion and a public expression of status

Love-based settlements and formal judgments differed in the amount of flexibility they offered. The former enabled disputants to choose their own terms and create an agreement that fit their social reality. The Laws of Henry I, for example, stipulates that, in a dispute between two neighbours, their lord ‘shall bring them together by friendship or shall give a judgment’ (‘amicitia congreget aut sequestret iudicium’). If, as was common, these neighbours had a border dispute, an official judgment might simply dictate where the border should lie. An informal agreement designed by the neighbours themselves might take other concerns into account, such as past grievances or rights to other property nearby. By focusing on creating friendship, this kind of agreement could encompass more of what mattered to the participants and prevent future disputes.

Often, modern translations of medieval legal texts use language that de-emphasises the emotional content of the original. L J Downer, the translator of The Laws of Henry I, for example, renders the Latin terms amordilectione and amicitia into English using phrases such as ‘friendly agreement’ or ‘amicable settlement’, when a more direct translation would use ‘love’ and ‘friendship’. Downer’s translation captures some of the social power of love and friendship in the Middle Ages, but it also obscures the emotional power of these terms. Love wasn’t simply a quality describing informal settlements; love itself was the basis of the settlement.

Men and women of the 12th century placed a high value on love and friendship, which could publicly reinforce virtue and honour. These social and emotional layers of agreements based on amordilectione and amicitia were central to how they could sustain peace. Anglo-Norman law shows us how cultural ideas about emotional bonds could shape the practice of law.

In the 12th century, love wasn’t simply a personal feeling; it could be both a forceful passion and a public expression of status. Letters from aristocratic men to their king could be so affectionate as to resemble modern love letters. To seal peace agreements, kings gave each other the kiss of peace. Emotional gestures added power to political rituals, enabling lords and royalty to reinforce alliances and connect political relationships to the spiritual obligations of Christian love. The language of love could signal personal feelings of friendship and affection, while at the same time formalising a political alliance through a publicly displayed bond. These layered meanings made love an ideal symbol for resolving disputes.

Jurors who express sympathy for a defendant are likely to be taken less seriously

As English common law developed in the second half of the 12th century, law clerks and justices envisioned it more as a self-contained system, with its own rules discrete from social practice outside of the courts. This development involved distancing law from emotions. However, even when the relationship between law and social norms becomes less direct, there is always a relationship, with influence travelling in both directions. Law is practised and theorised by living people, whether justices, administrators, lawyers or litigants, who carry their cultural values into the courtroom with them.

Today, emotions have a complicated, often contradictory role in law. Victim impact statements, for example, provide space for victims of crime to describe their emotional suffering, with the potential to influence sentencing. The case of the former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar perhaps best encapsulates this practice, as the judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed more than 150 women to make statements as an outlet for emotional processing. Articles in Time and Vox magazines, however, criticised Aquilina’s open indignation for undermining the impartiality of justice. For these writers, the justness of law rests on the neutral application of rational rules, without room for emotions.

Juries, too, are often expected to be emotionless. Jurors who express sympathy for a defendant are likely to be criticised and taken less seriously, especially when they are women. However, a number of studies have shown that jurors make decisions based on implicit assumptions about what emotions people should feel. Chillingly, rape victims are less likely to be believed if they appear calm rather than hysterical. Defendants in capital cases are more likely to be sentenced to death if they don’t visibly show remorse. Cultural norms about emotions have a serious, direct impact on the outcomes of legal cases. Rather than avoiding engagement with these realities about the role of emotions in the legal system, we should analyse them head-on.

The Laws of Henry I can’t offer us a neat lesson for law today. However, examples from 12th-century law prompt us to consider how emotions should fit into a complete legal system. From the very origins of the Anglo-American legal tradition, emotions have had the potential to influence decisions and support dispute resolutions. If, as Aristotle claimed, law really is ‘reason free from passion’, its impact would be constrained to the direct effects of its sentencing. If a key goal of law is to create social harmony that extends beyond the doors of its courtrooms and lawyers’ offices, it should take the social and emotional lives of its participants into consideration. Judges and jurors often do this already, in ways that we should not leave unexamined.

Perhaps most litigants today aren’t looking to join in love with the people they sue. But strategies that formally enable emotional processing, expression and relationship building are anything but irrational; they could be instrumental to law that works.


Our summer 2021 book

Self Observation, by Red Hawk

10 Fridays – 90 minute Group Discussions
Beginning June 4 and ending August 6, 2021

Learn more and sign up! email me:

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The practice of SELF OBSERVATION is essential for anyone who desires to accomplish, solve or create something. Please consider getting the excellent book, SELF OBSERVATION, by Red Hawk. And – if you are able to also join our book club as well, you will benefit greatly by listening, learning and practicing with others the essential skill of self observation.

What is the SELF? The SELF is the “I” that I AM. Think about this. We each are a “self” and we each have a physical human body with a physical EYE that looks at and sees the world from our own unique point of view. No one looks through your eyes but you! WE EACH HAVE A COMPLETELY UNIQUE POINT OF VIEW. Self Observation is a way to learn more about your unique point of view in how you view the world around you.

The physical world around you is also called the material world. It is the world of objects, trees, birds, animals, clouds, grasses, other people, houses, computers, pens, pencils, tables, chairs and lots more. It is very important to realize how the outer world is created by the world within us. Anais Nin said: “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

The SELF, the “I AM” – (my EYE) – can also look at the world within me and contemplate my memories, my interpretations of things, my thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires, habits, patterns and lots more. The world within us is our MIND or consciousness. While we focus mostly on the outer world…It is time for us to focus now on the inner world.

The INNER WORLD is the formless, invisible, non-material world of MIND: memories, beliefs, thoughts, old family or childhood patterns, traumas, prejudices, fears, addictions, habits, ignorance, learned behaviors and more. The formless inner world is also where you can access your Higher Consciousness — which includes intuition, insights, principles — the ONE ever present, timeless, spaceless TRUTH of the boundless, Infinite Universal Mind, Unconditional LOVE.

We all live in TWO WORLDS — the outer tangible world and the inner intangible world. Here are three examples from Lao Tzu about how our intangible world relates to and benefits our tangible world.

The wheel: “Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub; it is the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.”

The coffee cup: “We make a vessel from a lump of clay. It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.”

A house: “We make doors and windows for a room but it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.” 

“We each must learn to walk back and forth between matter space (the world around us) and mind space (the world within us).” ~ Thane Walker, Founder of The Prosperos School of Ontology said this, and he created tools to help people practice the journey of self awareness. Learn more:

If you are interested in learning how to walk back and forth between matter space and mind space, I recommend that you get the book, Self Observation, by Red Hawk, and join my Ontology Book Club. Email me:


with Heather C. Williams, HWM
Book to read: Self Observation by Red Hawk
10 Fridays – 90 minute Group Discussions
Beginning June 4 and ending August 6, 2021


Self Observation is the ancient WORK of “Knowing Thyself”. It begins with curiosity and a kind of searching and wondering WHO AM I? I am not my mother. I am not my father. I am not anyone but me! WHO AM I and what is my purpose for BEING here in this life?

The Teacher, Gurdjieff, tells the Waking Up story like this: Most people live their whole lives completely unaware of their true potential. They are asleep to their True Identity as Consciousness or Awareness and believe themselves to be limited, physical, material beings in a physical, material world that is separate from them. It is as if most humans live in the basement of a 4-story home completely unaware of the 4 stories (higher capacities) that exist above. The basement can be viewed as “sleep”. Each of us, to some degree, is asleep to our True Identity. We stumble around in the basement of our consciousness, playing the victim, “poor me”; blaming others for our situation; unaware of our true potential that is just upstairs in our higher consciousness…available to us as we begin to practice THE WORK.


THE WORK requires curiosity. Asking good questions like: Why is this happening? What is causing this problem? Do I have to have another drink, another cookie? And the best and deepest question to ask yourself is: WHO AM I? I learned valuable tools in The Prosperos School of Ontology (see The Prosperos page on this website). (Ontology stands for the science of BEING.) I am a High Watch Mentor in this school, and one cool thing I learned is how to use my personal problems and stories as signals to wake up and explore the patterns of my unconscious mind.

I look forward to sharing the ONTOLOGY BOOK CLUB with you! 

Email me:

Conversations with Calvin

In this continuing series, you are invited to find insights that awake from conversations with interesting and fun guests. In this conversation, our topic heading is “The Future is moved by your advocacy to be in it.”

My Guest this time will be Craig Cooley,  a radio host, who is currently a Community Advocate for Cultural enrichment through a theater development project; Who has worked and supported gender and ageing community issues; whose vocation in life has covered a great many years in the Hospitality field and Marketing.  

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Join Me on Sunday, May 30, 2021

For this free, one-hour event beginning at 11: 00 a.m. Pacific time- Sunday, May 30, 2021, on Zoom.

Go to The Prosperos Sunday Meeting on Zoom:

Drake equation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.[1][2]

The equation was written in 1961 by Frank Drake, not for purposes of quantifying the number of civilizations, but as a way to stimulate scientific dialogue at the first scientific meeting on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).[3][4] The equation summarizes the main concepts which scientists must contemplate when considering the question of other radio-communicative life.[3] It is more properly thought of as an approximation than as a serious attempt to determine a precise number.

Criticism related to the Drake equation focuses not on the equation itself, but on the fact that the estimated values for several of its factors are highly conjectural, the combined multiplicative effect being that the uncertainty associated with any derived value is so large that the equation cannot be used to draw firm conclusions.


The Drake equation is:{\displaystyle N=R_{*}\cdot f_{\mathrm {p} }\cdot n_{\mathrm {e} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {l} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {i} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {c} }\cdot L}{\displaystyle N=R_{*}\cdot f_{\mathrm {p} }\cdot n_{\mathrm {e} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {l} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {i} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {c} }\cdot L}

where:N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible (i.e. which are on our current past light cone);

andR = the average rate of star formation in our galaxyfp = the fraction of those stars that have planetsne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planetsfl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some pointfi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into spaceL = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space[5][6]


In September 1959, physicists Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison published an article in the journal Nature with the provocative title “Searching for Interstellar Communications”.[7][8] Cocconi and Morrison argued that radio telescopes had become sensitive enough to pick up transmissions that might be broadcast into space by civilizations orbiting other stars. Such messages, they suggested, might be transmitted at a wavelength of 21 cm (1,420.4 MHz). This is the wavelength of radio emission by neutral hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, and they reasoned that other intelligences might see this as a logical landmark in the radio spectrum.

Two months later, Harvard University astronomy professor Harlow Shapley speculated on the number of inhabited planets in the universe, saying “The universe has 10 million, million, million suns (10 followed by 18 zeros) similar to our own. One in a million has planets around it. Only one in a million million has the right combination of chemicals, temperature, water, days and nights to support planetary life as we know it. This calculation arrives at the estimated figure of 100 million worlds where life has been forged by evolution.”[9]

Seven months after Cocconi and Morrison published their article, Drake made the first systematic search for signals from communicative extraterrestrial civilizations. Using the 25 m dish of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Green Bank in Green Bank, West Virginia, Drake monitored two nearby Sun-like stars: Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti. In this project, which he called Project Ozma, he slowly scanned frequencies close to the 21 cm wavelength for six hours per day from April to July 1960.[8] The project was well designed, inexpensive, and simple by today’s standards. It detected no signals.

Soon thereafter, Drake hosted a “search for extraterrestrial intelligence” meeting on detecting their radio signals. The meeting was held at the Green Bank facility in 1961. The equation that bears Drake’s name arose out of his preparations for the meeting.[10]

As I planned the meeting, I realized a few day[s] ahead of time we needed an agenda. And so I wrote down all the things you needed to know to predict how hard it’s going to be to detect extraterrestrial life. And looking at them it became pretty evident that if you multiplied all these together, you got a number, N, which is the number of detectable civilizations in our galaxy. This was aimed at the radio search, and not to search for primordial or primitive life forms.—Frank Drake

The ten attendees were conference organizer J. Peter Pearman, Frank Drake, Philip Morrison, businessman and radio amateur Dana Atchley, chemist Melvin Calvin, astronomer Su-Shu Huang, neuroscientist John C. Lilly, inventor Barney Oliver, astronomer Carl Sagan and radio-astronomer Otto Struve.[11] These participants dubbed themselves “The Order of the Dolphin” (because of Lilly’s work on dolphin communication), and commemorated their first meeting with a plaque at the observatory hall.[12][13]


The Allen Telescope Array for SETI

The Drake equation amounts to a summary of the factors affecting the likelihood that we might detect radio-communication from intelligent extraterrestrial life.[1][5][14] The last four parameters, flfifc, and L, are not known and are very difficult to estimate, with values ranging over many orders of magnitude (see criticism). Therefore, the usefulness of the Drake equation is not in the solving, but rather in the contemplation of all the various concepts which scientists must incorporate when considering the question of life elsewhere,[1][3] and gives the question of life elsewhere a basis for scientific analysis. The equation has helped draw attention to some particular scientific problems related to life in the universe, for example abiogenesis, the development of multi-cellular life, and the development of intelligence itself.[15]

Within the limits of our existing technology, any practical search for distant intelligent life must necessarily be a search for some manifestation of a distant technology. After about 50 years, the Drake equation is still of seminal importance because it is a ‘road map’ of what we need to learn in order to solve this fundamental existential question.[1] It also formed the backbone of astrobiology as a science; although speculation is entertained to give context, astrobiology concerns itself primarily with hypotheses that fit firmly into existing scientific theories. Some 50 years of SETI have failed to find anything, even though radio telescopes, receiver techniques, and computational abilities have improved enormously since the early 1960s, but it has been discovered, at least, that our galaxy is not teeming with very powerful alien transmitters continuously broadcasting near the 21 cm wavelength of the hydrogen frequency. No one could say this in 1961.[16]

More at:

Eddie Glaude, Jr. on What James Baldwin’s America Teaches Us Now


This Week from the Big Table Podcast

By Big Table

May 10, 2021 (

Big Table is a half-hour arts program/podcast, an exploration into art and culture as told through interviews with authors and artists, conducted and curated by writer, editor, and publisher J.C. Gabel and a small cast of contributors.

On this week’s episode, professor and critic Eddie Glaude, Jr. discusses his latest book Begin Again (Crown), an intellectual look at James Baldwin’s most potent political writing from The Fire Next Time to No Name in the Street.

From the episode:

Eddie Glaude, Jr. No Name in the Street is the first book written after Martin Luther King’s assassination. He did a few journalistic pieces. He did the conversation with Margaret Mead and with Nikki Giovanni. But this is the book that emerged out of the collapse. So he collapses in ’69 as a result of a failed relationship, as well as the kind of betrayal that King’s murder represented. He tried to find something at the level of form and at the level of content to respond to what he had experienced and what he was seeing. So as I was teaching Baldwin, trying to get my students to see the evolution of his thinking, this emerged that it’s not a declensions story. That’s what the older scholarship was suggesting, right?

That Baldwin’s work was after 1963, as James Campbell would say, his voice broke, that he became bitter and angry and too polemical and been kind of seduced by black power or the desire to remain the center of literary attention and the like had all compromised his art or its aesthetics. I just saw something very different. What does it mean to write in a moment where the nation has fundamentally turned its back on the promise of the civil rights movement? What does it mean to write in after time of this very compressed period as the nation not only elects Richard Nixon, but eventually elects Ronald Reagan for someone for whom for many activists someone as bad as as as George Wallace.


A co-production between Hat & Beard, Dublab, and Gold-Diggers in Los Angeles, Big Table is dedicated to the interviewing style and enduring memory of Studs Terkel, the Chicago oral historian, actor, activist, TV pioneer, and long-time radio host and author. You can learn more about Studs’ work here. Big Table is the first digital initiative of Invisible Republic, a nonprofit arts organization working in coordination with Future Roots, Inc.

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University and author of Democracy in Black.

Jefferson Bible

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Jefferson Bible
The title page of the Jefferson Bible written in Jefferson’s hand. Reads, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English
MaterialRed Morocco goatskin leather, handmade wove paperiron gall ink
Size8.3 in × 5.2 in × 1.3 in (21.1 cm × 13.2 cm × 3.3 cm)
WritingGreek, Latin, French, and English
Createdc. 1819, at Monticello
DiscoveredAcquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1895
Present locationSmithsonian National Museum of American History
Smithsonian National Museum of American History: Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible, is one of two religious works constructed by Thomas Jefferson. The first, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1804, but no copies exist today.[1] The second, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1820 by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition excludes all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.[2][3][4][5]

Early draft

In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Jefferson stated that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the “Christian System” in a conversation with Benjamin Rush during 1798–99. He proposes beginning with a review of the morals of the ancient philosophers, moving on to the “deism and ethics of the Jews”, and concluding with the “principles of a pure deism” taught by Jesus, “omitting the question of his deity”. Jefferson explains that he does not have the time, and urges the task on Priestley as the person best equipped to accomplish it.[6]

Jefferson accomplished a more limited goal in 1804 with The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, the predecessor to The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.[7] He described it in a letter to John Adams dated October 12, 1813:[8]

In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to them. We must dismiss the Platonists & Plotinists, the Stagyrites & Gamalielites, the Eclectics the Gnostics & Scholastics, Logos & Demi-urgos, Aeons & Daemons male & female, with a long train of Etc. Etc. Etc. or, shall I say at once, of Nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the Amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an 8vo of 46 pages of pure and unsophisticated doctrines

Jefferson wrote that “The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus Himself are within the comprehension of a child”.[9] He explained these doctrines were such as were “professed & acted on by the unlettered apostles, the Apostolic fathers, and the Christians of the 1st century”.[6] In a letter to Reverend Charles Clay, he described his results:

Probably you have heard me say I had taken the four Evangelists, had cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order; and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited to man.[10]

Jefferson never referred to his work as a Bible, and the full title of this 1804 version was The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, being Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrased [uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.[11]

Jefferson frequently expressed discontent with this earlier version, which was merely a compilation of the moral teachings of Jesus. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth represents the fulfillment of his desire to produce a more carefully assembled edition which includes what, in his estimation, can be known of the life of Jesus, whose deeds were the embodiment of his teachings.


Using a razor and glue, Jefferson cut and pasted his arrangement of selected verses from a 1794 bilingual Latin/Greek version using the text of the Plantin Polyglot, a French Geneva Bible and the King James Version[12] of the gospels of MatthewMarkLuke, and John in chronological order—putting together excerpts from one text with those of another to create a single narrative. Thus he begins with Luke 2 and Luke 3, then follows with Mark 1 and Matthew 3. He provides a record of which verses he selected, and of the order he chose in his Table of the Texts from the Evangelists employed in this Narrative and of the order of their arrangement.

Consistent with his naturalistic outlook and intent, most supernatural events are not included in Jefferson’s heavily edited compilation. Paul K. Conkin states that “For the teachings of Jesus he concentrated on his milder admonitions (the Sermon on the Mount) and his most memorable parables. What resulted is a reasonably coherent, but at places oddly truncated, biography. If necessary to exclude the miraculous, Jefferson would cut the text even in mid-verse.”[13] Historian Edwin Scott Gaustad explains, “If a moral lesson was embedded in a miracle, the lesson survived in Jeffersonian scripture, but the miracle did not. Even when this took some rather careful cutting with scissors or razor, Jefferson managed to maintain Jesus’ role as a great moral teacher, not as a shaman or faith healer.”[14]

Therefore, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus’ birth without references to angels (at that time), genealogy, or prophecyMiracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from his collection.[15]

No supernatural acts of Christ are included at all in this regard, while the few things of a supernatural nature include receiving of the Holy Spirit,[16] angels,[17] Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood,[18] the Tribulation,[19] the Second Coming,[20] the resurrection of the dead,[21] a future kingdom,[20][22] and eternal life,[23] Heaven,[24] Hell[25] and punishment in everlasting fire, the Devil,[26] and the soldiers falling backwards to the ground in response to Jesus stating, “I am he.”[27]

Rejecting the resurrection of Jesus, the work ends with the words: “Now, in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” These words correspond to the ending of John 19 in the Bible.


Further information: Religious views of Thomas Jefferson

“There is what might be called his literary-criticism phase of his salad years and his naturalized-religion phase of his later, more mature years. In his literary-criticism phase, Jefferson’s interest in the Bible is critical. … The Bible is a significant work of literature that is taken literally by millions. Thus, it is as good a book as any, and much better than most, on which to hone one’s critical skills.” Here Jefferson follows the lead of Lord Bolingbroke whose religious views Jefferson commonplaced abundantly earlier in life in his Literary Commonplace Book.

In a letter to Bishop James Madison (31 Jan. 1800), cousin to the politician and future president of the same name, Jefferson expresses keen interest in Jesus as philosopher. He writes of the beliefs of German philosopher and founder of Illuminism, Adam Weishaupt. “Wishaupt [sic] … is among those (as you know the excellent Price and Priestly [sic] also are) who believe in the indefinite perfectibility of man. he thinks he may in time be rendered so perfect that he will be able to govern himself in every circumstance so as to injure none, to do all the good he can, to leave government no occasion to exercise their powers over him, & of course to render political government useless. … Wishaupt believes that to promote this perfection of the human character was the object of Jesus Christ. that his intention was simply to reinstate natural religion, & by diffusing the light of his morality, to teach us to govern ourselves. his precepts are the love of god & love of our neighbor. and by teaching innocence of conduct, he expected to place men in their natural state of liberty & equality. he says, no one ever laid a surer foundation for liberty than our grand master, Jesus of Nazareth.”

As president, he expresses those sentiments in a letter to Priestley over a year later (21 Mar. 1801). “The Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.” The letters intimate great appreciation of the life and words of Jesus as the true cynosure of republican government.

It is understood by some historians that Jefferson composed it for his own satisfaction, supporting the Christian faith as he saw it. Gaustad states, “The retired President did not produce his small book to shock or offend a somnolent world; he composed it for himself, for his devotion, for his assurance, for a more restful sleep at nights and a more confident greeting of the mornings.”[28]

There is no record of this or its successor being for “the Use of the Indians”, despite the stated intent of the 1804 version being that purpose. Although the government long supported Christian activity among Indians,[29][30] and in Notes on the State of Virginia Jefferson supported “a perpetual mission among the Indian tribes”, at least in the interest of anthropology,[31] and as President sanctioned financial support for a priest and church for the Kaskaskia Indians,[32] Jefferson did not make these works public. Instead, he acknowledged the existence of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth to only a few friends, saying that he read it before retiring at night, as he found this project intensely personal and private.[33]

Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress (1864–1894) stated: “His original idea was to have the life and teachings of the Saviour, told in similar excerpts, prepared for the Indians, thinking this simple form would suit them best. But, abandoning this, the formal execution of his plan took the shape above described, which was for his individual use. He used the four languages that he might have the texts in them side by side, convenient for comparison. In the book he pasted a map of the ancient world and the Holy Land, with which he studied the New Testament.”[34]

Some speculate that the reference to “Indians” in the 1804 title may have been an allusion to Jefferson’s Federalist opponents, as he likewise used this indirect tactic against them at least once before, that being in his second inaugural address. Or that he was providing himself a cover story in case this work became public.[35]

Also referring to the 1804 version, Jefferson wrote, “A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”[34]

Jefferson’s claim to be a Christian was made in response to those who accused him of being otherwise, due to his unorthodox view of the Bible and conception of Christ. Recognizing his rather unusual views, Jefferson stated in a letter (1819) to Ezra Stiles Ely, “You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”[36]

Publication history

After completion of the Life and Morals, about 1820, Jefferson shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime.

The most complete form Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and was acquired in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington.[37] The book was later published as a lithographic reproduction by an act of the United States Congress in 1904. Beginning in 1904 and continuing every other year until the 1950s, new members of Congress were given a copy of the Jefferson Bible. Until the practice first stopped, copies were provided by the Government Printing Office. A private organization, the Libertarian Press, revived the practice in 1997.[38][39]

In January 2013, the American Humanist Association published an edition of the Jefferson Bible, distributing a free copy to every member of Congress and President Barack Obama.[40] A Jefferson Bible For the Twenty-First Century adds samples of passages that Jefferson chose to omit, as well as examples of the “best” and “worst” from the Hebrew Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist Sūtras, and the Book of Mormon.[41]

The Smithsonian published the first full-color facsimile of the Jefferson Bible on November 1, 2011.[42] Released in tandem with a Jefferson Bible exhibit at the National Museum of American History, the reproduction features introductory essays by Smithsonian Political History curators Harry R. Rubenstein and Barbara Clark Smith, and Smithsonian Senior Paper Conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis. The book’s pages were digitized using a Hasselblad H4D50-50 megapixel DSLR camera and a Zeiss 120 macro lens, and were photographed by Smithsonian photographer, Hugh Talman.[43]

The entire Jefferson Bible is available to view, page-by-page, on the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s website.[44] The high-resolution digitization enables the public to see the minute details and anomalies of each page.

The text is in the public domain and is freely available on the Internet.

Recent history

In 1895, the Smithsonian Institution under the leadership of librarian Cyrus Adler purchased the original Jefferson Bible from Jefferson’s great-granddaughter Carolina Randolph for $400. A conservation effort commencing in 2009, led by Senior Paper Conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis,[45] in partnership with the museum’s Political History department, allowed for a public unveiling in an exhibit open from November 11, 2011, through May 28, 2012, at the National Museum of American History. Also displayed were the source books from which Jefferson cut his selected passages, and the 1904 edition of the Jefferson Bible requested and distributed by the United States Congress.[42] The exhibit was accompanied by an interactive digital facsimile available on the museum’s public website. On February 20, 2012, the Smithsonian Channel premiered the documentary Jefferson’s Secret Bible.[42]

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Book: “London Notes and Lectures”

London Notes and Lectures

London Notes and Lectures

by Walter C. Lanyon 

The gist of this book is to establish Self Reliance; to bring to the attention of man the nature of his True Self which has been called the I Am or Christ-consciousness; and to cause him to see that by becoming one with this Power he is the power in action. No more will he attempt to use this Power, once he understands that he is the Power.


Book: “Reproductive Rituals: The Perception of Fertility in England from the Sixteenth Century to the Nineteenth Century”

Reproductive Rituals: The Perception of Fertility in England from the Sixteenth Century to the Nineteenth Century

Reproductive Rituals: The Perception of Fertility in England from the Sixteenth Century to the Nineteenth Century

by Angus McLaren 

Originally published in 1984 Reproductive Ritual examines fertility and re-production in pre-industrial England. The book discusses both through anthropological research and reviews of contemporary literature that conscious family limitation was practised before the nineteenth century. The volume describes a surprising number of rules, regulations, taboos, injunctions, charms and herbal remedies used to affect pregnancy, and shows the extent to which individual women and men were concerned with controlling the size of their families. The fertility levels in England – as in Western Europe as a whole – were a very long way from the biological maximum in these centuries, and the book discusses the various reasons why this was so. The book reviews traditional ideas concerning the relationship between procreation and pleasure, drawn from a range of contemporary sources and discusses ways in which earlier generations sought both to promote and limit fertility. The book also examines abortion and shows how much evidence there is for its actual practice during the period and of traditional views towards it. This book provides a detailed understanding of historical attitudes towards conception family planning in pre-industrial England.