Saturday, September 13, 2014

Zamenhof's 1917 Declaration of Homaranism

In my previous post I wrote a little bit about the life of L.L. Zamenhof, and why even though he was certainly idealistic, I don't think it is fair or accurate to characterize him as "naive". In this post I present an English translation of Zamenhof's 1917 Declaration of Homaranism (Deklaracio pri Homaranismo) (pgs. 235-242 of "Mi Estas Homo", an Esperanto anthology of Zamenhof's letters and philosophical writings). I think it is unlikely that anyone will ever establish a Homaranist organization, nevertheless, the problems that Zamenhof was trying to use Homaranism to solve are as serious today as they were in his day. So whether one agrees with the principles and methodology of Homaranism or not, I think Zamenhof's ideas on the causes and solutions to human conflict are valuable at least as food for thought for modern discussions of these same topics.

This version of the Declaration was sent out by Zamenhof just two months before his death, but the fact that he had been continuously revising it up to that point, and that he specifically solicited comments and suggestions on this version suggests that he would have kept on revising it if he had lived longer. The translation is by me from the original Esperanto of Zamenhof. I'm not an expert translator, but I don't know of any other English translation. If you see any mistakes, I'm happy to correct them. If you know of a better translation, I'd be happy to link to it.

A couple notes on the translation:
1. I leave the Esperanto words "Homaranismo" and "Homarano" essentially untranslated, rendering them as "Homaranism" and "Homaranist" respectively. To get at the meaning of the Esperanto word, we break it into its five parts: hom-ar-an-ism-o.
hom = human,
ar = a group,
an = a member of a group,
ism = a doctrine or movement (just like the English suffix),
o = a noun.
So homaranismo literally means "the doctrine of being a member of humanity treated as unified whole." I don't think there is a pithy English equivalent (Ian M. Richmond translates it "Humanityism", others have translated it "Humanism", others "humanitarianism"), so I don't translate it.

2. For the most part it is close to a literal word for word translation and I tried to avoid taking stylistic liberties.

3. Zamenhof frequently uses the word "gento", which can mean "race", "people", or "ethnicity". I have translated it nearly always as "ethnicity".


Under the name "Homaranism" (from the Esperanto word "Homarano", which means: "member of the human family") I wish to speak about the struggle towards "human-ness", towards the elimination of inter-ethnic hatred and injustice, and towards the kind of lifestyle which, little by little could lead us not theoretically, but practically, to the spiritual union of humanity. [footnote from the original: I beg your pardon for using a word from the Esperanto language because in the natural languages I was not able to find a fitting expression, but the name that I used is merely provisional -- the definitive name of the idea about which I'm talking will be established later by the friends of the idea itself.]

Because I am known as the author of the Esperanto language, it is possible that many people will identify Homaranism with Esperanto; however, that would be an error. While the essence of Esperanto is politically and religiously totally indifferent and the internal idea of Esperanto manifests itself only as an indefinite brotherly feeling and hope, which each esperantist has a right to not only elaborate for himself as he likes, but also to accept or reject in general, -- Homaranism is a specific and well defined politico-religious program, which presents my purely private belief and does not at all concern other esperantists.

But if in relation to Esperanto my politico-religious belief is my totally personal business, in all other relations it has in it absolutely nothing personal. That which I call "Homaranism", is not something new, thought up by me personally; it is a manifestation of a set of principles, which -- perhaps not at the same level of detail, but approximately the same in essence -- has already for a long time been held in the hearts of many people from all times, lands, and ethnicities. It is to those people that I now turn.

We all know that we belong to one big family whose good health must be very dear to us; we all know that hate and injustice between ethnicities is a bad and ugly thing; we all want to not be chauvinistic "members of an ethnicity", but only "humans" and honest citizens of our countries. But for our principles to have some kind of real value and be able to bear some kind of fruit, it is necessary that we confess them not secretly and changing according to the needs of the moment, but publicly and then continuously. For that we must first of all, by way of common agreement, precisely formulate the essence of our principles, we must put them in the form of a commonly agreed upon, completely clear declaration in such a way that they cease to be worthless, obscure, and easily discarded abstractions, but become a completely defined, concrete banner, a real (and for people with freedom of religion even official and heritable) link between those people who adhere to them.

Desiring to initiate the preparation of that kind of common agreement, I now ask that everyone who approves of the essence of those principles, which I provisionally name "Homaranism", please let yourself be known to me by filling out and sending to me the text of the letter given at the end of this brochure. I ask also that you inform as many people as possible of the contents of this brochure.

When it becomes evident that the number of people who approve of Homaranism is large enough for us to effectively begin real work, then we will arrange the first congress of Homaranists. That congress will once and for all discuss the whole idea of Homaranism and all of its details and by common consent will establish the definitive text of the "Declaration of Homaranism" and the initial stages of our future work. Because the goal of Homaranism is to give not some ephemeral theory, but something practical and lasting, one of the chief tasks of that congress will be: give Homaranism a kind of form such that it, in a way similar to religious and ethnic entities, will be able to become a thing that is automatically inherited. The arrangement of this congress will be taken up by the Swiss friends of the Homaranist idea. Regarding the exact date and location, everyone will be informed when the time comes.

To organize and facilitate the work of the congress and to give all of the future attendees the opportunity to think about the themes to be discussed beforehand, to the congress will be presented the "Example text of the declaration of Homaranism" printed below, which will serve as a guiding basis for the work of the congress. Each paragraph will be discussed separately and in detail and by common consent will be made each change, deletions and additions, that is shown to be useful. It should be remembered that the here-given Example Declaration is only a project, that binds no one; that if someone approves of the general essence of Homaranism according the the here-given Example Declaration, that doesn't mean he is bound by the details: if he does not like the final text of the Declaration, which will be established by the congress, or the way in which it is decided to realize the Declaration, he will have every right to not commit to it.

Homaranism should not be mistakenly confused with the so called cosmopolitanism; nor should it mistakenly be thought that, in its battle against the ethnic divisions that sharply divide humanity, Homaranism wants to kill the existing languages and religious beliefs. In the same way that honest patriotism, inspiring the citizen to strive for complete solidarity and brotherhood among countrymen, does not at all prohibit a person from loving his own city more than another city in his country, or his family more than another family, or from speaking at home in his particular dialect and having in his heart his private beliefs, neither does Homaranism demand of its partisan that he reject his completely natural love for his homeland, his native or preferred language, or his faithfulness to his religious belief: it asks only that he keep all of this for himself and that he do not impose his ethnic or other interests on other people; that he not view as a high virtue worthy of cultivation by whatever means necessary, that which sadly disunites people; that out of his however natural, but still only self-serving preferences, he make for himself neither an idol, nor a war flag.

From the moment when people force themselves to put their personal and family ideals below the ideals of their ethnic group, from the mutually conflicting individuals and families little by little are formed strong, unified peoples; the more people who force themselves to put their ethnic ideals below the ideals of humanity, the more rapidly from the mutually conflicting ethnic groups will grow, little by little, a powerful and harmoniously working humanity.

L. L. Zamenhof

Example text of the Declaration of Homaranism

I am a Homaranist; that means that by complete public subscription to the Declaration of Homaranism I accepted for myself the following principles:

I am a human and regard the entirety of humanity as one family; the division of humanity into various mutually hostile ethnicities and ethno-religious communities I regard as one of the greatest tragedies, which sooner or later must disappear and whose disappearance by natural and peaceful means I must accelerate as much as I can.

I see in every human just a human, and I judge every human only by his personal merit and acts; every kind of offense or oppression against someone because has a different ethnicity, a different language, a different religion, or a different social class than I do, I regard as a barbarity.
I understand that everyone alive has equal right to every blessing of life according only to his merits and independent of who his parents were or how powerful he is; but I understand that moral and material inequality among people must be fought not by unjust means or brute physical force, but only by striving peacefully to improve societal laws and institutions.

I understand that every country belongs not to this or that ethnicity, but completely equally to all of its native and naturalized inhabitants whatever their supposed origin, language, religion or social role; the identification of the interests of a country with the interests of this or that ethnicity or religion and the pretext of historical rights that permit one people in the country to reign over the other peoples and refuse to them the most elementary and natural right, the right to their homeland, I regard as the remnants of barbarous times, when there was only the law of fist and sword.

I understand that every state and province must carry a neutral geographical name, and not the name of an ethnicity, language, or religion, because ethnic names, which many countries have, are the primary reason why the inhabitants of one supposed origin there regard themselves as masters over the inhabitants of a different origin and the most natural children of one country are tied to the interests of another country, which is for them completely foreign. Until such a time as all lands officially receive neutral names, I must at least in specifically Homaranist documents name them according to Homaranist principles, for example according to their capital city together with the word "state", "province", "region" etc., or in some other way mutually accepted by the Homaranists.

I understand that in his private life, every human has the full and indisputable right to speak whichever language or dialect is most pleasing to him, and confess the religion that is most pleasing to him, but in communication with people with different languages or religions he must avoid, as much as possible, the imposition of his ethnic or religious customs, using a neutral language, neutral ethics and customs, a neutral calendar, etc. Until those neutral customs are determined for the whole world, I must at least in specifically Homaranist interactions use the customs which have been agreed upon among the Homaranists. I understand that wherever inter-ethnic conflict does not exist, for inhabitants of the same state or region the role of neutral language may be taken by the state language or the cultural language spoken by the large majority of the local inhabitants, but that must be regarded merely as a concession to convenience of the minority to the majorit, not as a humble tribute owed by a subservient ethnicity to a master ethnicity.

Because I understand that mutual struggle among people will never cease until people get used to establishing the name "human" higher than the name of an ethnicity, and because the too-imprecise word "people" often causes hateful divisions among children of the same country or even the same ethnicity, for those reasons when asked which people I belong to, I will respond: "I am a Homaranist"; only when I am asked specifically about my country, province, language, or supposed origin, will I give a precise response. But whenever it would be suspected that I might want to hide my origin or neglect my civic duty, I will define my ethnological details in more detail, saying that, by my origin I belong to this or that ethnicity, by my citizenship I belong to this or that country and by my convictions I am a Homaranist.

I can call my homeland only that country where I was born and where am a permanent resident. If for some reason the country where I was born is not the same as the country of my permanent residence, I can use for them the expressions "physical homeland" or "land of birth", and "political homeland" or "house land". I must never give the name homeland to some other country just because it was ruled by my ancient ancestors, or that many members of my ethnicity live there, no matter what kind of powerful allure that country has for me, because such a name would be a sin against the principle of ownership of each country by the current residents, and a misunderstanding of my civic duties. But because, due to political, historical, ethnographic, and geographic reasons, the concept of a country and its borders is too imprecise and ephemeral, and often gives cause to constant disputes and conflict, for those reasons when defining the country that I call my homeland, I must be guided not by personal or ethnic taste, but only by that Homaranically unbiased, equal in all places and circumstances, principle which is established by the common consent of all Homaranists. Until the time when that principle is definitively established by the Homaranists, I can in every doubtful occasion, instead of the imprecise word "homeland", use the more precis expressions: "home city", "home region", "home state", etc.

Patriotism is the name I give to the service of the good of all my countrymen, and particularly of those from my city, whatever their origin, language, religion, or social role. The service of the interests of one specific ethnicity, or the hate of people outside my household, I must never call patriotism. I understand that deep love for one's place of birth and one's home is completely natural and common to all people and that only unusual outside circumstances can paralyze that natural feeling. For that reason, if in my home all labor is exploited for the convenience or glory of just one specific ethnicity, and that paralyzes my struggle for social labor, I must never lose hope, but I must console myself with the belief that the unusual state in my home sooner or later will pass and my children will enjoy that empowering feeling, which by no fault of my own, fortune has denied to me.

I understand that the love which each person has for the language or dialect in which his mother spoke to him or in which he received his education is totally natural and I must never fight against that feeling or offend its expression in other people. But, understanding that language must be for man not an end, but only a means, not a tool for division, but a tool for unity, and that language chauvinism is one of the main causes of hate among people, I must not make any language my cause solely for ethnic motives. When someone asks me specifically about my native language, I will name, without some kind of ethnic, political, or opportunistic bias, only that language or dialect that I spoke in my childhood with my parents, all the same whether it belongs to my ethnicity or not; when I am asked about which language I speak most often, speak best, or prefer to use, I will without some kind of chauvinistic bias respond truthfully; but when I am asked which language I call mine according to my convictions and ideals, I must give a response based only on that principle which according to the common decision of all Homaranists is accepted as conforming most to Homaranist convictions. Until such a time as that principle is definitively established, I can give whatever response is dictated to me by my personal Homaranist sentiment.

Understanding that religion must only be matter of sincere belief, but must not be used to create divisions among ethnicities, I call mine only that religion, which I actually believe. But whatever my religion, I practice it according to the neutrally human homaranistic principles which consist as follows:

a) The highest, for me incomprehensible Power, which is the cause of all causes in the material and moral world, I can name with the name "God", or some other name, but I understand that everyone has the right to interpret for themselves the essence of this Power, according to his own judgement and heart, or the teachings of his church. I must never hate, mock, or persecute someone based on his beliefs about God and about the most important problems of existence being different from mine.

b) I understand that the essential commands of the highest Power are written in the heart of every human in the form of his conscience, and that the primary principle of these orders which is incumbent on all people is: treat other people as you would like other people to treat you; everything else in religion I regard as additions which every person, according to his belief has a right to see as either words of God that he must obey, or as human commentary which mixed with legends were given to us by humanity's great teachers of various ethnicities, and as norms which are established by men and whose fulfillment or nonfulfillment depends on our preference.

c) Understanding that the voice of conscience is easily heard only when one exercises it, I must -- if I can -- belong to some kind of Homaranist group and in its meetings participate in the theoretical exploration and practical application of various ethical problems according to the spirit of Homaranism.

d) I understand that nothing so strongly divides humanity as the ethnically-inherited differences of religious framework and the conventions, education, customs, lifestyle, and sympathies based on it. For that reason if I believe in the particular dogmas of one of the existing religions, I must belong to it independent of whether or not my ancestors belonged to it; but if I do not believe in any of the existing dogmatic religions, I must not adhere to one solely for ethnic motivations, and by my adherence deceive people about my convictions and hereditarily feed for endless generations interethnic separation, but I must either officially call myself religionless, or officially belong to that neutral religion which is unassociated with any ethnicity or any controversial doctrine, which little by little by common consent all freethinking Homaranists will work out for themselves, I must completely and hereditarily accept for myself its name, its ethical rules, conventions, holidays, and community arrangements. If I am a freethinker, but where I live there still doesn't exist a well organized neutrally religious community which I can join to the full contentment of my soul and that of my family, I can provisionally remain subscribed to that religion in which I was born, but to show the nature of my personal convictions, I must always append to its name that religious name which has been accepted for themselves by common consent by all freethinking Homaranists.

Whoever approves of the essence of Homaranism, is asked to complete and send to Dr. L.L. Zamenhof (Warsaw, Królewska street N. 41) the following letter:

I, the undersigned, make it known that:
1) I approve of the chief essence of the "Example text of the Declaration of Homaranism", but I reserve the right to not consent to individual details.
2) My full name is:
3) My address is:
4) My profession is:
5) I was born in the year:
6) I was born in the religion:
7) By my personal religious convictions I am:


One can receive this brochure from Dr. L.L. Zamenhof. The price of 10 units is 25 centimes (or 20 pfennigs); with postage the price is double.

L.L Zamenhof. 2006. Mi Estas Homo. Compiled and Edited by Aleksander Korjenkov. Kalingrad: Sezonoj
pgs. 235-242

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