A Cultural Gateway


In the early 20th century a Harvard committee proposed the classics that formed the essence of our civilization. From Francis Bacon [ I know. But hew was a major factor on the beginnings of modern Western Civilization. You won’t believe it, but look him up.] to George Sand. [Have you heard of her?]

It was once thought to be the germ of a civilization that could revive a civilization after a dark age. Rather like Martianus Capella’s liberal arts which the monasteries preserved waiting for the Renaissance. For a millennium. Or like the Foundation’s Encyclopedia In Asimov’s Foundation.


The book collection is now considered uncool. We know we are better than all previous history. We know that we are stable and will last forever. Books are soo old-fashioned. Our money system – forty-five years old – will never collapse as did Rome’s or the bronze age civilization, or Germany’s or Greece’ or….

The Harvard Classics are now free from Project Gutenberg. Does that mean they are now obsolete?




There is an old Science Fiction game: What book or small number of books would you use to preserve society in a catastrophe?  [There is a related game of ‘What books would you like your children to read before adulthood?’ How the two lists differ is an exercise in hypocrisy. Let’s leave that for the moment.] Some people choose the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Some Like Will Durant’s Story of Civilization. The Physics Community has a strong predilection for the Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman’s lecture on algebra is a tour de force. These are powerful questions. They determine much about your society or children. Some would seek to eliminate technology and return to a medieval society that is benignly powerless to affect the world. I reject this, but it is popular. Mr. Sanger once proposed choices that would seek to eliminate humanity from the Earth. I question his priorities. Many Christians would propose the Bible alone would suffice. I think that would be a disaster. Whatever you think of the Bible, it was possessed by folk  who had other knowledge. The militant might favor Vom Krieg so their followers are on top. The sheep look up after they are fed. I favor technical books to feed and sustain and history to avoid errors. My friend Jerry says that calculus is too important and to hard to discover independently to be left off. Many friends insist that a book on smart farming practices is the sine qua non; without a reliable food supply there is no civilization. See the moldboard plough in the late middle ages.

An essentially mischievous person might leave behind books on the hollow Earth and UFO’s. Or whatever the Order of the Golden Dawn printed. I sometimes feel that is the society we live in now.

Any recommendations?

Unexpected Knowledge: The Joy of Serendipity

This isn’t my usual post, but this is too interesting to let pass.

Google “salvia palaestina” This is the Levantine wild sage that grows in an arc from Turkey to Egypt.

You will see things like this.

Salvia Patestinia


And this.

The Temple Menorah

Interestingly, the temple menorah was based on the wild sage bush. It was kept in the Sanctum Sanctorum. As candles did not yet exist in the area, it was an oil lamp always burning. The indwelling presence of God was considered to always be there. It would seem that the menorah was as close to a simulacrum of Moses’ burning bush as could be managed. I conclude that the menorah was THE symbol of the numinous presence.

Oddly, this was never pointed out to me. In the church I grew up in we had a couple of seven branch candelabra for weddings, but they didn’t much resemble a menorah. I conclude that we were unaware of the complete symbolism.

This also shines new light on the subject of asherah poles. [ In the King James Version they were referred to as ‘Sacred Groves.’]

It also suggests why the Roman’s went to the trouble of carving an image of the looting of the Menorah on Titus’ Arch.


The Romans did not much care for oil lamps, but they knew a thing or two about stealing and preserving palladia. Their own nation was thought to be preserved by the stolen Trojan statue of Athena Palladia which the Vestals kept safe.

So, Doctor Jones, do you have any plans?

This also raises a question I have long had: What is so important about the Temple Mount? Long before the Temple was built there were multiple tabernacles. The tabernacles were in places which seem much more important such as Shiloh and Peniel. The Menorah itself would now seem to be a mystic reference to something of great importance in history and nature rather than a magical item which may be – in fact has been – lost or destroyed. Under this current light, the reverence for a particular Menorah made centuries after Moses and being the locus of some mystical power rather than a suggestion of the larger creation smacks of idolatry. If the Jews want their temple back, why don’t they make one? There are better places and there is no magic inherent in the particular furnishings. Indeed, the long lamented furnishings weren’t the original ones. And before the Temple of Herod there was the lost Temple of Solomon. The instructions are in the Torah, after all.

But then I am an ignorant out-lander.

Leonardo’s Cheat Sheet Project

Vitruvian man on old paper background

Da Vinci and Francis bacon were called Renaissance Men because they were reputed to know all there was to be known. What an aspiration! Of course it was never true. And it’s getting harder by the day. I can’t even know all the subjects there are.

When I was in high school there was a man named David Hindman in Texas who proposed a solution. We were in the same club so I became aware of him. Mr. Hindman started the Leonardo’s Cheat Sheet Project. Members of the project would write cheat sheets in précis form about subjects the members thought valuable. Mr. Hindman would edit it and publish. There was eventually to be a book. One edition was about the situation and culture in Iran. This was just before or contemporaneous with the Islamic Revolution. I remember it to this day.

I remember someone comparing parts per million, billion, and trillion with rough dates of when such analyses were available. There was a logarithmic chart showing several compounds and the relative concentrations at which they were vital nutrients and those at which the same compounds were poisons.

Alas with school and moving I lost track. An internet search shows me nothing. The only evidence I have are some mimeographed pages somewhere.

I still think it a good idea. If anyone is interested please comment. I would be pleased to make a new page on this site. For any cheat sheet Diderots. Or if someone else likes the idea, please steal it. I would be happy to provide a link.

Any takers?