Social scientist, social historian, philosopher, economic and political advisor, and activist, Jeremy Rifkin has written over a dozen best-selling books on the ontology, as well as the global ecological and ethical implications and exigencies of socio-economic trends (with a focus on the 1975 onwards in the United States and Europe). His explorations of social reality transcend reporting. He abandoned hard-core activism using his in-depth knowledge from experience in Europe and the United States to call for change from the inner sanctum of the offices of CEO’s. His invitation to investigate social reality extends to everyone he can reach as he observes with increasing concern the impact of the epidemic of unfettered consumption on a fragile physical and moral ecosystem.

I do not adopt everything he suggests but I hope to be reading his past and present publications and their critical reviews over the next months. I hope to produce a timeline of significant events with their references so that high school students and concerned adults can follow through on their own. If we wish to engage in more robust and elevated conversations devoid of false dichotomies about complex societies we need to spend less time talking about what we purchased or hope to purchase and the myriad of ways we procrastinate and escape from reality, and spend more time nurturing habits of working with full and complex thoughts.

Keywords and potent phrases

conversation with people of varied backgrounds and interests, exploration of reality, shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history, means for addressing them

homo empathicus, paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropy, avert destruction of ecosystems, collapse of global economy, extinction of human race, change human consciousness itself, social thinker, interconnected world, mutual understanding among diverse peoples, new social tapestry, new communication revolutions,  complex societies, heightened empathic sensitivity, expanded human consciousness, evolution: human consciousness,

Selected Timeline of Events Referred to or Relating to Rifkin’s oeuvre (in progress)

1900 The term “consumption” referred to tuberculosis (Rifkin ED 2004:379).

1957 Owen Barfield described his his theory of the evolution of consciousness in his publication entitled Saving the Appearances, A Study in Idolatry. Rifkin referred to Barfield’s third state of consciousness. More

1975 onwards In America consumer choice acheived a hallowed status replacing representative democracy as the ultimate expression of human freedom (Rifkin ED 2004:379).

1989 “Everything is efficient. We’re so skewed toward efficiency that we’ve lost our sense of humanity. What we need to do is to bring back a sense of the sacred (Jeremy Rifkin in Thompson, Dick. 1989-12-04. “The Most Hated Man In Science: Jeremy Rifkin.” Time).

2002 The 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project was chaired by Madeleine K. Albright. Summer 2002 Survey Data Download44-Nation Survey Conducted July 2 – October 31, 2002 Reports based on this data include (12.19.02 “Among Wealthy Nations … U.S. Stands Alone In Its Embrace of Religion”), (12.04.02 What the World Thinks in 2002) (How Global Publics View: Their Lives, Their Countries, The World, America)

“In 44 national surveys, based on interviews with more than 38,000 people, weexplore public views about the rapid pace of change in modern life; global interconnectedness through trade, foreign investment and immigration; and people’s attitudes toward democracy and governance. The surveys’ themes range from economic globalization and the reach of multinational corporations to terrorism and the U.S.response. The results illuminate international attitudes toward the United States and showwhere U.S. and foreign opinions align and collide.”

2002 Solid majorities in every European country say they “believe it is more important for government to ensure that no one is in need, than it is for individuals to be free to pursue goals without government interference (PEW. 2002-09-29. “View of a Changing World.” The Pew Global Attitudes Project. The Pew Research center for the People and the Press. p. 105) (Rifkin ED 2004:379)</a> .”

2002 Of all the world’s wealthy nations it was only in the United States that the majority (58%) claimed that cared more about personal freedom to pursue goals without government interference than play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody is in need? (Rifkin ED 2004:379) .”  The 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project was chaired by Madeleine K. Albright and the exact PEW question was:

Q34 Turning to another subject, what’s more important in (survey country) society – that everyone be free to pursue their life’s goals without interference from the (state/government) or

that the(state/government) play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody is in need?


Books Written by Rifkin

1973,  How to Commit Revolution American Style, with John Rossen, Lyle Stuart Inc., ISBN 0-8184-0041-2

1975, Common Sense II: The case against corporate tyranny, Bantam Books, OCLC 123151709

1977, Own Your Own Job: Economic Democracy for Working Americans, ISBN 978-0-553-10487-5

1977, Who Should Play God? The Artificial Creation of Life and What it Means for the Future of the Human, with Ted Howard, Dell Publishing Co., ISBN 0-440-19504-7

1978, The North Will Rise Again: Pensions, Politics and Power in the 1980s, with Randy Barber, Beacon Press, ISBN 0-8070-4787-2

1979, The Emerging Order: God in the Age of Scarcity, with Ted Howard, Putnam, ISBN 978-0-399-12319-1 Read FOET summary

1980, Entropy: A New World View, with Ted Howard (afterword by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen), Viking Press, ISBN 0-670-29717-8

1983, Algeny: A New Word—A New World, in collaboration with Nicanor Perlas, Viking Press, ISBN 0-670-10885-5

1985, Declaration of a Heretic, Routledge & Kegan Paul Books, Ltd, ISBN 0-7102-0709-3

1987, Time Wars: The Primary Conflict In Human History, Henry Holt & Co, ISBN 0-8050-0377-0

1990, The Green Lifestyle Handbook: 1001 Ways to Heal the Earth (edited by Rifkin), Henry Holt & Co, ISBN 0-8050-1369-5

1991, Biosphere Politics: A New Consciousness for a New Century, Crown, ISBN 0-517-57746-1

1992, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, E. P. Dutton, ISBN 0-525-93420-0

1992, Voting Green: Your Complete Environmental Guide to Making Political Choices In The 90s, with Carol Grunewald Rifkin, Main Street Books, ISBN 0-385-41917-1

1995, The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, Putnam Publishing Group, ISBN 0-87477-779-8

1998, The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World, J P Tarcher, ISBN 0-87477-909-X

2000, The Age Of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism, Where All of Life is a Paid-For Experience, Putnam Publishing Group, ISBN 1-58542-018-2

2002, The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth, Jeremy P. Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-193-6

2004, The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, Jeremy P. Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-345-9

2010, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness In a World In Crisis, Jeremy P. Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-765-9

Articles, books about Rifkin

Thompson, Dick. 1989-12-04. “The Most Hated Man In Science: Jeremy Rifkin.” Time.


Office of Jeremy Rifkin

Foundation of Economic Trends



Fragments to be integrated

Rifkin, Jeremy. 2009. “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis.” Polity Press.
“The evening of December 24, 1914, Flanders. The first world war in history was entering into its fifth month. Millions of soldiers were bedded down in makeshift trenches latticed across the European countryside. In many places the opposing armies were dug in within thirty to fifty yards of each other and within shouting distance. The conditions were hellish. The bitter-cold winter air chilled to the bone. The trenches were water logged. Soldiers shared their quarters with rats and vermin. Lacking adequate latrines, the stench of human excrement was everywhere. The men slept upright to avoid the muck and sludge of their makeshift arrangements. Dead soldiers littered the no-man’s-land between opposing forces, the bodies left to rot and decompose within yards of their still-living comrades who were unable to collect them for burial. As dusk fell over the battlefields, something extraordinary happened. The Germans began lighting candles on the thousands of small Christmas trees that had been sent to the front to lend some comfort to the men. The German soldiers then began to sing Christmas carols-first “Silent Night,” then a stream of other songs followed. The English soldiers were stunned. One soldier, gazing in disbelief at the enemylines, said the blazed trenches looked “like the footlights of a theater.”‘The English soldiers responded with applause, at first tentatively, then with exuberance. They began to sing Christmas carols back to their German foes to equally robust applause. A few men from both sides crawled out of their trenches and beganto walk across the no-man’s-land toward each other. Soon hundreds followed. As word spread across the front, thousands of men poured outof their trenches. They shook hands, exchanged cigarettes and cakes and showed photos of their families. They talked about where they hailed from, reminisced about Christmases past, and joked about the absurdity of war.The next morning, as the Christmas sun rose over the battlefield of Europe, tens of thousands of men some estimates put the number as high as 100,000 soldiers talked quietly with one another? Enemies just twenty-four hours earlier, they found themselves helping each other bury their dead comrades. More than a few pickup soccer matches were reported. Even officers at the front participated, although when the news filtered back to the high command in the rear, the generals took a less enthusiastic view of the affair. Worried that the truce might undermine military morale, the generals quickly took measures to rein in their troops. The surreal “Christmas truce” ended as abruptly as it began- all in all, a small blip in a war that would end in November 1918 with 8.5 million military deaths in the greatest episode of human carnage in the annals of history until that time.” For a few short hours, no more than a day, tens of thousands of human beings broke ranks, not only from their commands but from their allegiances to country, to show their common humanity (Rifkin 2009).”


“If . . . human beings are . . . social animals who seek companionship and use empathetic extension to transcend themselves and find meaning in relationship with others, how do we account for the incredible violence our species has inflicted on each other, our fellow creatures, and the earth we inhabit? No other creature has left a destructive footprint on the Earth. Cultural historian Elias Canetti once remarked that “[e]ach of us is a king in a field of corpses.” 19 Canetti said that if we reflected on the vast number of creatures and Earth’s resources each of us has expropriated and consumed in the course of our lifetime to perpetuate our own existence, we would likely be appalled by the carnage. Yet there may be a an explanation for this perplexing duality. There is, I believe, a grand paradox to human history. At the heart of the human saga is a catch-22 – a contradiction of extraordinary significance – that has accompanied our species, if not from the very beginning, then at least from the time our ancestors began their slow metamorphosis from archaic to civilized beings thousands of years before Christ (Rifkin 2009:21).”


“underlying dialectic of human history is the continuous feedback loop between expanding empathy and increasing entropy. . (Rifkin 2009 26) . . energy is called “entropy,” a term coined by the German physicist Rudpolf Clausius in 1868. Clausius observed that in order for energy to be converted into work, there must be a difference in energy concentration (namely a difference in temperature) in different parts of the system. Work occurs when energy moves from a high level of concentration to a lower level (or a higher temperature to a lower temperature)(Rifkin 2009:28).”

key concepts, tags, rich phrases,
paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropyavert destruction of ecosystems, collapse of global economy, extinction of human race, change human consciousness itselfsocial thinkerinterconnected worldmutual understanding among diverse peoplesnew social tapestrynew communication revolutions complex societiesheightened empathic sensitivityexpanded human consciousness


“In his examination of the relationship between paranoia, megalomania and power, Elias Canetti (1984) conceives a figure representative of all three of these conditions: the survivor. For him, the survivor emerges at just about every point in the history of military, political and social power, and epitomizes the need to survive by destroying one’s enemies:

“The moment of survival is the moment of power. Horror at the sight of death turns to satisfaction that it is someone else dead.  The dead man lies on the ground while the survivor stands.  . . . In survival each man is the enemy of every other, and grief is insignificant measured against this elemental triumph. Whether the survivor is confronted by one dead man or by many, the essence of the situation is that he feels unique. He sees himself standing there alone and exults in it (Canetti 1984:227)”

“The characteristic trait of the survivor, then, is to assure his own threatened existence by killing others, or, in many cases, standing triumphantly before a comforting field of corpses. Moreover, the survivor, Canetti maintains, cannot exist without enemies. He is determined to save his people by defeating his enemies and, if need be, to sacrifice himself; he is the source of salvation and of survival for the masses. Schreber makes precisely this sort of claim when discussing his true mission: “I had to solve one of the most intricate problems ever set for man and. . . I had to fight a sacred battle for the greatest good of mankind.” (Schreber, p. 139)  But, in the end, this is just a ruse: “The deception is complete. It is the deception of all leaders. They pretend that they will be the first to die, but, in reality, they send their people to death, so that they themselves may stay alive longer(Canetti 1984:241).”

His own fear and fear mongering are the driving forces behind both the power and the strategy of the survivor. He spreads fear and a sense of danger, and, if he is in a position of command, fear spreads proportionately as his commands are carried out. His own fears are mitigated only by making an example of someone: “He will order an execution for its own sake, the guilt of the victim being almost irrelevant. He needs execution from time to time and, the more his fears increase, the more he needs them. His most dependable, one might say his truest, subjects are those he has sent to their deaths.” (Canetti 1984:232). The survivor’s personal fear also extends to the despot. The despot is his enemy, in that the despot is the projection of his own weaknesses and shortcomings. But, conversely, the survivor is the living example of the despot’s weaknesses: he survives, while despots consider survival their prerogative. In short, both are inimical to one another because both are the reflections of each other’s weakness, of their unfulfilled wishes, of their megalomaniacal pursuit of absolute power.

Although the survivor comes in virtually all forms and character types and exists in all historical eras, one of the prime examples of this sort given by Canetti is President Schreber. Schreber, of course, was neither a powerful military leader nor a murderous warrior-king, killing others so that he may survive. But he was, in Canetti’s view, a classic paranoid, and paranoid delusions sometimes reflect fantasies characteristic of the survivor. The foremost paranoid fantasy consists of the, so to speak, spontaneous generation of enemies, packs of them: “The paranoiac feels surrounded by a pack of enemies who are all after him. . . .his terror becomes overwhelming.” (Canetti 1984:456). The enemies are purely transformable, assuming any shape the delusional mechanisms might engender.


“and that each of us has grown strong on the bodies of innumerable animals. Here each of us is a king in a field of corpses. A conscientious investigation of power must ignore success. We must look for its attributes and their perversions wherever they appear . . . A madman, helpless, outcast, and despised . . . may, through the insights he procures us, prove more important than Hitler or Napoleon, illuminating for mankind its curse and its masters (Canetti 1984:448).”

References cited in footnotes, etc

Canetti, Elias. 1984. Crowds and Power. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. about Canetti ,

Roberts, Mark S. 2008. “Mere and Divine Madness: Bush, Schreber and the Contexts of Insanity.” Radical Psychology. Vol. 7.  see also

References cited in Rifkin Timeline

Annotation of European Dream

need to adopt a personal ethics of accountability (Rifkin ED 2004:379)

Barfield’s third state of consciousness

On Renaissance perspective

In his chapter entitled “Colonizing Nature” Jeremy Rifkins argued that Donatello, Uccello and Piero della Francesca with their radical new invention called perspective, contributed to a reconfiguration of the European relationship to the natural world and by extension to space and time. He described how the relational aspect of objects ruled by linear perspective, vanishing points and horizon lines produced a shift away from the a concept of space as a ladder stretching from earth to heaven. Modern science with its army of engineers measuring space and time and all that lay between and in so doing displaced the ladder with a secular science that birthed the modern world.

“Just imagine the change in consciousness that perspective brought. For early Christians, the world was thought of as just a temporary stage, a place to prepare for one’s eternal and everlasting salvation in the world to come. What counted was the community of believers, huddled together – as they are depicted in most medieval paintings – and awaiting the triumphant return of Christ the Lord. Perspective reconfigured human consciousness toward the horizontal world of the here and now and repositioned each human being to eventually become lord over his or her own earthly domain (Rifkin ED 2004:98).”

“Perspective migrated from the canvasses of the Renaissance artists to the writing tables of pre-Enlightenment philosphers, where it became the main conceptual tool for remaking the natural world in “man’s image.” Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, wrote his two most important works, The Novum Organum and The New Atlantis, in the early seventeenth century. The idea of perspective figured prominently in his rethinking of spatial relations and man’s role on earth (Rifkin ED 2004:98).”

ON Barfield’s third state of consciousness

1957 Owen Barfield described his his theory of the evolution of consciousness in his publication entitled Saving the Appearances, A Study in Idolatry. Rifkin referred to Barfield’s third state of consciousness.

“First, “original participation,” like human perception now, was largely unselfconscious, although the experience of it would necessarily be different from our present experience of perception (we live now, not then, in the wake of the “Cartesian experience”). Second, participation through poetic utterance corresponds to Barfield’s second stage, for it involves the individual’s self-conscious attempt to “reattach” to nature and to phenomena those extra-sensory qualities no longer intrinsically experienced; and it should not surprise anyone to discover that the growth of modern science in the 17th century would be the twin, or more properly the alter ego, to this second stage in the evolution of consciousness eventually brought to fruition and epitomized by the early 19th-century Romantic Movement in literature, a movement that produced Coleridge, among others. Lastly, final participation has not yet been achieved, although it may be foreshadowed in certain exceptional individuals. If the reader can think of these three levels of participation and the three stages of the evolution of consciousness as homologous, one might try momentarily borrowing from 19th-century biology the terms “ontogenetic” and “phylogenetic” development: hence the three levels of participation in an individual (the ontogenetic) could be said to “recapitulate” the three major stages in the evolution of human consciousness (the phylogenetic). At which point the same reader might well retort: “Wait a minute! That ontogenetic/phylogenetic recapitulating thesis is old, quasi-outmoded evolutionary jargon; this Barfield is supposed to be anti-Darwinian?” Indeed, he is. But he is not anti-evolution.” Read more of this review of Polyani and Barfield

Deus Absconditus: Teaching from the Rostrum, Language and the Teaching Situation

“The ideal lecture theatre is vast, truly vast. It is very sombre, very old amphitheatre, and very uncomfortable. The professor is lodged in his chair, which is raised high enough for everyone to see him; there is no question that he might get down and pester you. You can hear him quite well, because he doesn’t move. Only his mouth moves. Preferably he has white hair, a stiff neck and a Protestant air about him. There are a great many students, and each one is perfectly anonymous. To reach the amphitheatre, you have to climb some stairs, and then, with the leather-lined doors closed behind, the silence is absolute, every sound stifled; the walls rise very high, daubed with rough paintings in half tones in which silhouettes of monsters can be detected. Everything adds to the impression of being in another world. So one works religiously. (History student, female, aged 25 – cited by Bourdieu and Passeron 1994:1)”

Bourdieu used this student’s description of the ideal lecture theatre to illustrate his theme of the French professor in his rostrum as deus absconditus [1] (Bourdieu and Passeron 1994a:11)

This Adobe Photoshop layered image or digitage reflects Bourdieu’s student’s ideal lecture theatre but was also informed by my teaching, learning and research with urban Inuit, First Nations and African Canadians. The intimidating architecture and décor of the ideal lecture room and gallery served to inspire awe and an almost sacred respect. Starting from the student’s description of the ideal lecture theatre I created this layered digitage in Adobe Photoshop using borrowed images of tourists in the Pantheon in Rome (including an Inuit student wearing her amautik), the Quesnay Theatre (1788), Raphael’s School of Athens with Aristotle and Plato in the centre; a generic business meeting, McGill University’s MacDonald-Stewart Physics building with pillars on which the words Power and Knowledge were engraved; a white-haired immobile male professor at his rostrum, a Roman Marble Rostrum. A relief of Triton illustrates the mythical monster-like creatures depicted on the walls of the theatre. The amphitheatre with leather-backed chairs was designed to silence students whose focus was entirely centred on the soft-spoken professor at his rostrum.

Bourdieu (1994) used his concept of Deus Absconditus in his critical examination of the role of academics in the French tradition based on a 1960s study in French universities which he claimed was still relevant in the 1990s, who claim knowledge and power from the safe distance of the rostrum (Bourdieu and Passeron 1994:11).

“It is in all its peculiarities in which the academic institution locates the teacher–the rostrum, the chair from which a French professor holds forth, his position at the point where all attention converges–that he finds the material conditions to keep his students at a distance, to require and enforce respect, even when, left to himself, we would decline it. Physically elevated and enclosed within the magistral chair which consecrates him, he is separated from his audience by a few empty rows. These physically mark off the distance which the profane crowd, silent before the mana of the word, timorously respects and abandons to the most well-trained zealots, pious lesser priests of the professorial word. Deus absconditus, remote and untouchable, protected by obscure and alarming spiritual ‘authorities’ (so many mythologies to him), the professor is in fact condemned by an objective situation more coercive than the most imperious regulation to dramatic monologue and virtuoso exhibition (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 10).”

He explored how academics use language and linguistic misunderstanding in the educational process. Academics maintain an ontological, epistemological, pedagogical and embodied distance through the use of text which serves as a tool of distantiation filtering out all but those who are best suited to become their progeniture.


1. Deus Absconditus according to Plotinus (204-270 CE) refers to a transcendent God who is also the Primal Will with its inherent concepts of creation as emanation and the eternity of the world, and the great chain of being, which has influenced Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith (Mautner 1997). Plotinus (204-270 CE) organized Platonic philosophy (427-347 BC) into a system referred to as neo-Platonism (a term coined by Thomas Taylor 1800s) which had a profound influence on late classical, medieval Christian, Islamic and Renaissance thought. Plotinus (250) argued that all modes of being emanate from the Platonic concepts of the “One (Plato’s Parmenides)” and “the Good (Plato’s Republic)  which, according to Plotinus, is the entity deus absconditus which has influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam since the time of Plotinus and is referred to a transcendental Godhead, the Great Chain of Being and the Primal Will. There has been a revival in interest in the writings of Plotinus (Mautner 1997).

Derrida leaves room for the possibility of the existence of the Primal Will without granting human capacity to transcendence.

Pierre Bourdieu used the term deus absconditus to critically examine the role of academics who claim knowledge and power from the safe distance of a rostrum (Bourdieu and Passeron 1994:11).  Donna Haraway also referred indirectly to the way in which scientists claim a superior perspective through a god’s-eye-view.

Selected Bibliography

Bourdieu, Pierre; Passeron, Jean-Claude. 1994a. “Introduction: Language and Relationship to Language in the Teaching Situation.” in Bourdieu, Pierre; Passeron, Jean-Claude; de Saint Martin, Monique. 1994. Academic Discourse: Linguistic Misunderstanding and Professorial Power. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Pp. 1-34.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Trans. Richard Nice. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. (1989). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Trans. Richard Nice. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford U. Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre; Passeron, Jean-Claude; de Saint Martin, Monique. Trans. Richard Teese. (1994). Academic Discourse: Linguistic Misunderstanding and Professorial Power. Stanford: Stanford U. Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre, Jean-Claude Passeron, de Saint Martin, Monique. 1994b. Academic Discourse: Linguistic Misunderstanding and Professorial Power. Translated by R. Teese. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

See also
Timeline of hermeneutics

A Note on the author of The Varieties of Religious Experience

“The road by which William James (1842-1910) arrived at his position of leadership among American philosophers was, during his childhood, youth and early maturity, quite as circuitous and unpredictable as were his father’s ideas on the training of his children. That Swedenborgian theologian foresaw neither the career of novelist for his son Henry, nor that of pragmatist philosopher for the older William. The father’s migrations between New York, Europe and Newport meant that William’s education had variety if it did not have fixed direction. From 13 to 18 he studied in Europe and returned to Newport, Rhode Island, to study painting under the guidance of John La Farge. After a year, he gave up art for science and entered Harvard University, where his most influential teachers were Louis Agassiz and Charles W. Eliot. In 1863, William James began the study of medicine, and in 1865 he joined an expedition to the Amazon. Before long, he wrote: “If there is anything I hate, it is collecting.” His studies constantly interrupted by ill health, James returned to Germany and began hearing lectures and reading voluminously in philosophy. He won his medical degree at Harvard in 1870 (28-years-old). For four years he was an invalid in Cambridge, but finally, in 1873, he passed his gravest physical and spiritual crises and began the career by which he was to influence so profoundly generations of American students. From 1880 (38) to 1907() he was successively assistant professor of philosophy, professor of psychology and professor of philosophy at Harvard. In 1890, the publication of his Principles of Psychology brought him the acknowledged leadership in the field of functional psychology. The selection of William James to deliver the Gifford lectures in Edinburgh was at once a tribute to him and a reward for the university that sponsored the undertaking. These lectures, collected in this volume, have since become famous as the standard scientific work on the psychology of the religious impulse. Death ended his career on August 27th, 1910 (Gutenberg project).”


It started with a metaphor: The El-Zekkum is a thorny tree which symbolizes a very severe punishment and bitter remorse for those who lack spiritual discernment. By deceiving themselves and choosing an unhealthy path, they prefer an illusion of reality— a tree whose fruit resembles the almond but is extremely bitter– to the delicious, merciful and spiritual food of Divine Reality.

So I tried to map the metaphor.

See My Google Map entitled Mapping Metaphors: Zeqqumhere. This map will be updated as I find new relevant links.

Metaphor (metapherein Gr. meta: between phero:to bear) the description of one thing as something else, can be traced as far back as Ur. Since the 1960s and 1970s continental philosophers such as Derrida and Ricoeur have revisited the term.

A friend who has lived in Saudi Arabia has seen this plant which is also referred to in the Koran the as Tree of Zaqqum ( Surah 44 verse 43). And she found this photo of of a Zaqqum Tree in At Ta’if by Naseem Najd whose site includes great travel photos of Ta’if.

Then I found this photo of the similar Eltham Indian Fig, or Sweet Prickly Pear (Opuntia dillenii) with the fruits. Coastal semidesert altitude zone, Teno peninsula. North-west coast of the Tenerife Island, Canary Archipelago taken by Alexander Bogolyubov, January, 2008.

In wikipedia the reference claims that Zaqqum (Arabic: زقوم‎) is a tree that Muslims believe grows in Jahannam (hell). The Khati’un are compelled to eat Adh-Dhari, bitter fruit, to intensify their torment (Qur’an 69:36-37). The Khati’un may eat only the fruit or Ghislin (foul pus from the washing of their wounds) (Qur’an 69:36). Its fruits are shaped like devils’ heads (Qur’an 37:62-68). According to Shaykh Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar, a professor at the University of Jordan, once the palate of the sinners is satiated, the fruit in their bellies churns like burning oil. Some Islamic scholars believe the fruit tears their bodies apart and releases bodily fluids. The Qur’an says: [44.43] Surely the tree of the Zaqqum, [44.44] Is the food of the sinful [44.45] Like dregs of oil; it shall boil in (their) bellies,
[44.46] Like the boiling of hot water.[1] The name zaqqum has been applied to the species Euphorbia abyssinica by the Beja people in eastern Sudan.[2] In Jordan, it is applied to the species Balanites aegyptiaca.[3]

“Is that better entertainment or the Tree of Zaqqum? For We have truly made it (as) a trial for the wrongdoers. For it is a tree that springs out of the bottom of Hellfire: The shoots of its fruit-stalks are like the heads of devils: Truly they will eat thereof and fill their bellies therewith. Then on top of that they will be given a mixture made of boiling water… (Surah Al-Saffat Those Ranged in Ranks Surah 37:Verse 62 – 67)”

“Verily the tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinful, -like molten brass; it will boil in their insides, like the boiling of scalding water. (Surah Al-Dukhan – Smoke – Surah 44:Verse 43 – 46)”

“Then will you truly, O you that go wrong, and treat (Truth) as falsehood! ‘You will surely taste of the Tree of Zaqqum. Then will you fill your insides there with. (Surah Al-Waqi’ah-The Inevitable Event-Surah 56:Verse 51 – 53)”

Zakkum is listed by L. J. Musselman (2003) in his publication entitled “Trees in the Koran and the Bible.” Of the 22 trees of the Bible, the date palm, fig, olive, pomegranate and tamarisk are also included in the Koran. Unique to the Koran are the talh (scholars are undecided as to whether this is the banana plant, which is not a tree, or a species of the widespread genus Acacia), the sidr (a thorn bush, probably Zizyphus spina-christi) and the mysterious and foul “tree of Hell”, or zaqqm (As-Saffat 37:65, Ad-Dukhn 44:49, Al-Waqi’a 56:51): “Is this not a better welcome than the zaqqm tree? We have made this tree a scourge for the unjust. It grows in the nethermost part of Hell, bearing fruit like devils’ heads: on it they shall feed, and with it they shall cram their bellies, together with draughts of scalding water. Then to Hell shall they return.” Musselman also noted that “Similarly, in eastern Sudan, the Beja people call the large, arborescent cactus Euphorbia abyssinica “zaqqm” after the tree of Hell mentioned in the Koran. It is unlikely that the conception of the zaqqm in the Koran was based on this succulent, since the zaqqm fruit was described as resembling a devil’s head, for instance. It is perhaps owing to its very bitter sap that Euphorbia abyssinica has been likened to the zaqqm.” He also added that, “In the Koran, trees are most frequently cited as gifts of a beneficent Creator, with the notable exception of the tree of Hell, zaqqm. In both scriptures, fruits from trees are highly valued (Musselman 2003:45-7) .”


1. Jean Léonard, whose work (1981-1992) entitled “Contribution à l’étude de la flore et de la végétation des déserts d’Iran (Dasht-e-Kavir, Dasht-e-Lut, Jaz Murian)” was published by the Jardin Botanique National de Belgique (The National Botanic Garden of Belgium) may have insight into the plant referred to be .

2. maps work on the basis of a totalizing classification (Anderson 1991 [1983]).

3. In her book entitled Naming Nature: the Clash between Instinct and Science, (2009) biologist, science writer (New York Times, Science, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times Carol Kaesuk Yoon calls for a reclamation of the scientific field of taxonomy, the ordering and naming of things. As science educator-consultant (Cornell University, Microsoft) she encourages critical thinking in biology.

4. “O thou who art partaking of the Heavenly Food! Know thou verily the Divine Food is descending from heaven, but only those taste thereof who are directed to the light of guidance, and only those can enjoy it who are endowed with a sound taste. Otherwise every diseased soul disliketh the delicious and merciful food and this is because of the sickness which hath seized him, whereby the El-Zekkum [1] is sweet (to his taste) while he fleeth from the ripe fruit of the Tree of the Living and Pre-existent God — and there is no wonder in that. [1 El-Zekkum — a thorny tree so called, which bears fruit like an almond, but extremely bitter. Therefore the tree symbolizes a very severe punishment and bitter remorse for the unbelievers.] In a similar way, thou beholdest some women who have abandoned the Testament, and to them the bitterness of discord is sweet. They keep aloof from the Extended Shadow and dwell under the shade of a “black smoke.” Alas for them and grief for them! They will surely lament and find themselves in loss. Verily, this is but an evident truth! (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 130-1).

5. “Yet I had planted thee, a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?” Jeremiah 2:21. 21st Century King James Version. Try <a href="“>also

 21Yet I had planted thee, a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?


6. For an image and botanical description of Euphorbia abyssinica [zaqqum]:“Montane vegetation of the Red Sea hills: Up to 2 260 m high, these hills are situated in the north-eastern edge of the Sudan. The seaward facing slopes of the hills have a winter rainfall, while those not facing the sea have a very low summer rainfall. Mist and clouds have an important effect on the vegetation. A few localities enjoy both summer and winter rains. Near the Eritrean border, forests of Juniperus procera are found, with a few well-stocked areas but most ravaged by fire and overgrazing. Associated with Juniperus is Olea chrysophylla. Characteristic plants of the drier parts of this range include Dracaena ombet and Euphorbia abyssinica [zaqqum].” (www.euphorbia.de/e_abyssinica).”

7. For a botanical illustration of Balanites aegyptiaca [zaqqum]

Paradeiooj Greek? – Garden

My Webliography and Bibliography

Tigay, Jeffrey Howard. Paradise.

Léonard, Jean. 1981-1992. “Contribution à l’étude de la flore et de la végétation des déserts d’Iran (Dasht-e-Kavir, Dasht-e-Lut, Jaz Murian). Jardin Botanique National de Belgique.

Jeffrey Howard Tigay’s Bibliography

J. Frazer, Folklore in the Old Testament, 1 (1919), 45–77; Th. C. Vriezen, Orderzoek naar de paradijs-voorstelling bij de oude Semietische Volken (1937), incl. bibl.;

P. Humbert, Etudes sur le rMcit du paradis et de la chute dans la GenIse (1940), incl. bibl.; U. Cassuto, in: Studies in Memory of M. Schorr (1944), 248–58;

J. L. Mc-Kenzie, in: Theological Studies, 15 (1954), 541–72; E. A. Speiser, in: BASOR, 140 (1955), 9–11; idem, in: Festschrift Johannes Friedrich (1959), 473–85;

R. Gordis, in: JBL, 76 (1957), 123–38; B. S. Childs, Myth and Reality in the Old Testament (19622), 43–50; N. M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis (1966), 23–28;

T. H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament (1969), 6–50, 327–71; J. A. Bailey, in: JBL, 89 (1970), 137–50. See also Commentaries to Genesis 2:4–3.

R. H. Charles, Eschatology (19632); K. Kohler, Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion (1923);

H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 4 (1928), 1928), 1016–65.


An ethics of happiness

August 11, 2009

“Les humains doivent se reconnaître dans leur humanité commune, en même temps que reconnaître leur diversité tant individuelle que culturelle (Edgar Morin).”

Le Mouvement Humanisation considère le sous-développement humain comme De plus en plus de personnes s’inquiètent de l’état actuel de l’humanité et de la planète.

2001-12-11 le Mouvement Humanisation fut légalement reconnu par le Gouvernement du Québec comme un organisme sans but lucratif. http://www.mouvementhumanisation.org/mouvement/historique/

Series of lectures on Shaw Tv August 2009L’éthique du bonheur:

“Une conférence dans laquelle Gaston Marcotte (professeur associé, Faculté des sciences de l’éducation, Université Laval et président fondateur du Mouvement Humanisation) propose une éthique du bonheur susceptible d’unir les humains dans un projet commun capable de transcender les différences culturelles.” canal savoir Shaw

418 656-3202 ou 1 877 785-2825, poste 3202
contact: Jean-Benoît Caron

l’horaire : 514 987-6633 ou 1 888 640-2626

“Keep alive in your hearts
the feeling of confidence
that the light of knowledge
will inevitably dispel
the clouds of ignorance,
the conviction
that concern for justice
will ultimately conquer
hatred and enmity.
[… The] proper response to oppression
is neither to succumb in resignation
nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor.
The victim of oppression
can transcend it
through an inner strength
that shields the soul
from bitterness and hatred
which sustains
consistent principled action.” UHJ 2009

There is such a contrast between the use of the term “principled action” when used here for healing the human spirit and the way it is used in writings referring to doing ethics, applied ethics, ethics talk. Is it about words or deeds?

“Keep alive in your hearts” calls to all of us to sustain consistent principled action freed from bitterness and hatred even when oppressed, refuse to resign to victimization,  be careful not to respond to oppression by taking on the characteristics of the oppressor, struggle to continue to believe that knowledge will overcome ignorance, that justice will conquer injustice, nurture and maintain  inner strength that will sustain us through the most ethically distressing dilemmas of our lives, nurture confidence when you feel doubt, seek knowledge instead of vengeance. This far transcends concepts of ethical codes and minimal ethical standards.

“Some people confuse acting in good conscience with “doing ethics”. While personal good conscience is necessary for acting ethically, it is not sufficient.  There is also confusion of so-called “codes of ethics’ which are really codes of professional etiquette – for instance, between physicians or between lawyers – or which define unprofessional conduct, with codes of ethics properly so-called. Just because certain conduct does not breach professional norms, does not necessarily mean that it is ethical […] “Doing ethics”, especially by an ethicist, requires one to undertake an informed structured analysis that will assist in the identification and prioritisation of the full range of values relevant to, or affected by, the various decision options that are open in any given situation. It is inevitable that one’s own values come into play, but they should be identified as such and the other people involved advised of this. I sometimes imagine that “doing ethics” can be compared with opening a beautiful, intricately painted fan. The struts are the different schools of ethics, or the fundamental bases of the alternative analyses that could be used. The fabric that joins the struts may display one or several scenes. When we all agree on the outcome, although we do so for different reasons, we are choosing a different location in the one scene. When we disagree on the outcome, we are identifying several scenes and arguing that one scene is fundamental and should take priority in setting the overall tone or interpretation of the painting that the artist has portrayed on the fan, and that the other scenes must be interpreted in light of this. We all need to learn how to do ethics, even if we do not always succeed in doing this. “Doing ethics” is not a simple task; it is a process, not an event; and, in many ways, no matter in which capacity or context we do ethics, it is a life-long learning experience. The most important requirement, however, is that we all engage in that process, that is, we all participate in “ethics talk” (Somerville 2006).