In northeast Georgia (USA), just off the Hartwell Highway there is a monument situated on a small rise. It is made of six granite slabs; there is a capstone, one slab stands in the center, and around it four vertical slabs stand just over sixteen feet high. The north/south pair of vertical granite is aligned to the poles. The central hollow of the structure is designed to be lit by light from the sun at noontime no matter the time of year. The entire monument weighs in at an appreciable 118 tons, and is fitted with a small hole that will allow one to stand at the base and observe the North Star. It’s an interesting feat of architecture, but since it was erected in 1980, it’s not fabulous for the era nor is it of surprising craftsmanship (it even bears a misspelling on the explanatory tablet which is set into the ground a few feet away).

The interesting part is the message which is etched into every one of the structure’s faces: a self-professed guide into the age of reason. In our day of political strife, and various religions trying to rule the world, such a guidepost should be welcome. Astonishingly, in our era of polarized views there are factions calling for the demolition and dismantling of the guide stones— though no one wants to personally foot the bill.

Starting from the top, the sentiments of guide stones seem benevolent enough. The capstone reads the following message in Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian Hieroglyphics:

  • Let these be guide stones to an age of reason.

A good opening in an era that could use a hefty dose of reason. The four corner pieces each bear two languages—one on each face. The English translation reads:

  • Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  • Guide reproduction wisely—improving fitness and diversity.
  • Unite humanity with a living new language.
  • Rule passion—faith—tradition—and all things with tempered reason.
  • Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  • Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  • Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  • Balance personal rights with social duties.
  • Prize truth—beauty—love—seeking harmony with the infinite.
  • Be not a cancer on the earth—Leave room for nature—Leave room for nature.

Despite some glints of good advice, most anyone can quickly spot items that are unpalatable. Starting with the first point, “Maintain humanity under five-hundred-million” would mean eradicating nine-tenths of the current world’s population. The next item sounds a little like eugenics, which still bears a vile stigma after the way the Nazis wanted to breed undesired traits from the world.

Obviously these are not portents that will end political partisanship and unite the world, but perhaps some could be considered wise. Rule passion, fair laws, prize beauty are all good ideas. The thought on evading useless officials would mean eradicating ninety percent of the world’s politicians.

Perhaps the person/group who funded the monument realized the faux pas he/she/they committed in printing some of their advice, because no one has ever stepped forward to claim credit for the work. It was built by the Elberton Granite Finishing Company on public land at the behest of a man known only as “R. C. Christian”. It is that name that is engraved on the explanatory tablet as the author, but it also marked as a PSEUDONYN—which I can only assume means “pseudonym”.

Obviously the age of reason hasn’t been adopted, and as a result, there is controversy. Some contend that this structure is named for Thomas Payne’s The Age of Reason, which argued against judeo-christian dogma.

Others compare it to a monument depicting the Ten Commandments, but more new-age and thus offensive. Yet more just loathe the guide stones' popularity, and lick their chops at the thought of its demise. These organizations haven’t yet found a way to fund the demolition of the guide stones, however, though there are groups seeking donations.

My take, however, is that we shouldn’t bother destroying the monument regardless of whether we agree with its sentiments or not; if there is to be an age of reason, a major factor (that this monument has overlooked) will be an open dialog between people. These stones portray someone’s ideal world, and though the designer has used anonymity to avoid a dialog, at least we can look at his message—and the eloquent way of communicating it—and use our own reasoning to decide to embrace or reject these notions. If we all resorted to reason, any advice offered here would be obsolete.

Further reading:
Wikipedia on guidestones
Arguement to dismantle the guide stones

Article suggested by Ms T Hanback.

Written by Jason Bellows, posted on 18 June 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.
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