Thoughts on the Destiny of Man, George Rapp's only published book, was brought out in German in 1824, and in English translation in 1825. However, Rapp himself withdrew the English version from circulation almost immediately, citing translation problems. Usually, this is interpreted as meaning that the translation itself was inaccurate, but a close look at the English version suggests a different possibility: that the book was withdrawn not because it was an inaccurate version of the original, but because it was sloppily produced. This we can see even from the excerpts that follow, in which words are mispelled or improperly used, sentences sometimes don't parse, and so forth. Despite these grammatical or typographical problems, this English translation certainly does convey Rapp's abstract millennialism, a peculiar transmutation of Christian theosophic millennialism into a dream of an imagined emerging American utopia.
Thoughts on the Destiny of Man,
particularly With Reference to the Present Times
Harmony Society in Indiana, 1824/1825
What is the chief end of man's existence? HE is destined to make use of the faculties implanted in him by his maker, for the benefit of himself and others. To do this, he needs practice.
He has to learn, and that learning must be acquired among his fellow creatures. No one can find out the proper use of his abilities, without having objects before him. For this an intercourse with man is necessary.
The germ of melioration, as well as that of depravity, exists in all men; both make their appearance and cause strive and war.
The free will has to determine, either to listen to reason or yield to the carnal propensities of the flesh. By adhering to the former, man becomes troubled and distressed by the latter, and soon discovers, that he has not strength enough of himself alone, to stand against the preonderance of his sensual propensities. For this there is no more effective nor indeed any other remedy whatever, than the christian religion teaches us, that where reason is put to a stand (whose conception does not extend beyond the system of this world) and man becomes embarassed; just there begins the way of the belief in the invisible life, which Jesus the great envoy of God declared in his word, and proved by his deeds, having come as a spiritual saviour to establish perfection, and happiness on earth.
|All who believe his word will become men of God, whose aim and design will be, to unite the general welfare of their fellow beings with their own, and thereby assist, in restoring the lost dignity of man.
But since this undertaking requires patience, fortitude and perseverance[;] therefore faith and confidence in the Lord are essentially necessary.
In this religious and natural union exists practical christianity. This universal and active philanthropy alone had Jesus in view, when he founded his religion. These life restoring principles are the operating instruments, to reestablish the forfeited rights of man. Upon this maxim of true philosophy, all events whether propitious or calamitous, are working towards the great object of futurity. Since then such evidences of union have appeared in our 19th Century in which all this was to and has come to pass, and since the spirit has in part emerged from its enclosure and gradually progressed towards perfection, timid to be sure and under scorn and contempt, sowing however unnoticed its precious seed, how can it fail, that now and then a grain should find congenial soil and grow and flo[u]rish? Will not the man of sensibility & reflection discover, by the fragrance that a root of the noblest human plant is lying therein, which bears, and unites in itself, every thing whatever necessity requires, to wit, the education and culture of man, that he may become sensible of all the good and useful, which the present age presents, and see that every transaction, performed by active hands, is done to regulate and complete the plan of duties towards his fellow men: that all designs are means for improvement and good economy: and that every undertaking will create still greater designs for other means. In this manner all transactions for universal melioration are progressive purposes for the Kingdom of God, and come to perfection among good men, possibility is attained to remove every obstacle, and the
|sublime dignity of man, may now with great success diffuse happiness on earth. Already have we approached a new scene, where all that is secret mysterious and spiritual come to light, and are visible in open day, extensively and universally. All spiritual and temporal, all religious and political things are pressing forward to make their appearance. Visible enough in our age are the signs of a better Futurity now presented to our view; the spirit of man is already emancipated from the deep and narrow sphere of ignorance and prejudice is coming to light and forming itself into good sense and an entire and perfect brother hood, where by the faculties of man a new creation is revealed, which comprehends and links together the whole plan of mankind. Proof sufficient is at hand, that no nation can decline or fall, whose political affairs are well organized and conducted.
The time has at length arrived, when the improvement of mind and the diffusion of Knowledge, have produced a fermentation among the human Race, tending to a total separation. One part is falling into licentiousness and barbarism, corrupting its morals and allowing itself many improprieties to the injury of mankind, the other part adhering to the dictates of reason and equity, is ashamed of extravagance and irrationality. [1-4]
. . . .
If a society be actually and evidently right, in its religious & political principles, it will stand firm and unshaken, amidst the most violent storms of envy and malice, by which it can be surrounded; the vilest slander can be not only endured, but rendered subservient to the cause of truth.
It becomes the members, of the strictest principles & most enlightened views, to pass over without particular notice, the favorite opinio[n]s, however mistaken, of the weaker members, until time and experience unfold to them the errors of their previous
|views, & they see the utility and beauty of a system, where idleness, extravagance, & luxury are discountenanced, and where useful knowledge, virtue, economy, and industry, are encouraged and established.
Without such an Institution, no nation can be prosperous or happy, and it is therefore the duty of every one, earnestly to exert himself in the promotion of this Union of good men, which is the parent of HARMONY.[78-79]
. . . .
There is engrafted in our nature a solicitude for an advancement, to a far more exalted destiny, than can possibly be attained in this transitory world. The consequence is, our faculties can never b e confined, or cease their operation, but, by their daily exercise, they are continually pressing forward to the point of their destined perfection.
How many great and conducible means have we in our power, for the restoration of the golden age! But correct feelings and strong incitements are yet to be awakened in the breasts of many, before that object can be accomplished. Perhaps it is necessary, that many and serious wants should urge men forward to its attainment, because, when a person stands in need of nothing, he has no stimulus for the acquirement of any thing.
Every exertion and difficulty, which are properly applied, are precious treasures, for the welfare of the human race. The earlier these correct principles can be impressed upon the human mind, and the sooner regular and virtuous habits can be formed, the more certain and the more permanent, will necessarily be their happy consequences.
It follows, that the proper education of Youth, is of the greatest importance to the propserity of any plan, for the melioration of mankind. That kind of learning, and those fashionable accomplish-
|ments, which are useless and only
calculated for show, should be entirely abolished, and in their stead, those
true principles and habits of life should be established & confirmed,
which most strongly tend to unite the hearts, minds, & fortunes of the
rising generation, & arouse their sleeping faculties, for the performance
of all that is truly good and great. It is ardently hoped and believed that
this sublime, predistinated system of Brotherly Union & Social Harmony,
will ere long be universally established, for the restoration of the golden
age, the dignity of the human character, and the happiness of man. [94-96]