E.F Schumacher's 'A Guide for the Perplexed'

An excerpt from E.F Schumacher's "A Guide for the Perplexed," which considers ecology, spitituality, and the state of society during the 1970s.


| July/August 1978



A Guide for the Perplexed

Get a view of E.F Schumacher's stark black/while view of good and evil in "A Guide for the Perlpexed."


COVER: HARPER PERENNIAL

Although most of us now remember E.F. Schumacher for his noteworthy 1973 book, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, and for his advocacy of Appropriate Technology, there was far more to this extraordinary man (Mr. Schumacher died as a result of a heart attack September 4, 1977) than that.

To get right down to it, E.F. Schumacher was a deeply religious individual who saw Good (things like fresh air, pure water, and unpoisoned soil) and Evil (nuclear weapons and power plants, cancer-causing chemicals, and the like) in stark black and white terms. Or, to put it another way, in Fritz Schumacher's mind . . . we wouldn't be facing the environmental crisis, the fuel crisis, the food crisis, or any of the you-name-it crises that we're up against today if we still had the reverence of our ancestors (at least some of them, anyway) for this beautiful planet and the Great Spirit, Life Force — yes, if you will, God — that created it.

The following is excerpted with permission from A Guide for the Perplexed, Schumacher's last book. (Copyright 1977 by E.F. Schumacher, published by Harper Perennial. Available in paperback from Amazon.)


On a visit to Leningrad in August 1968 — during the week of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia — I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. From where I stood, I could see several enormous churches, yet there was no trace of them on my map. When finally an interpreter came to help me, he said: "We don't show churches on our maps." Contradicting him, I pointed to one that was very clearly marked. "That is a museum," he said, "not what we call a `living church.' It is only the `living churches' we don't show."

It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map which failed to show many things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university, I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance to the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity had been complete, and no interpreter had come along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps.

The maps I was given advised me that virtually all my ancestors, until quite recently, had been rather pathetic illusionists who conducted their lives on the basis of irrational beliefs and absurd superstitions. Even illustrious scientists, like Johannes Kepler or Isaac Newton, apparently spent most of their time and energy on nonsensical studies of nonexisting things.





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