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The Humanist Movement is an international volunteer organisation that promotes nonviolence and non-discrimination. It is not an institution. It takes its inspiration from the current of thought referred to as New or Universal Humanism that has been developed since 1969 by its founder Mario Rodríguez Cobos, pen name: Silo.
New Humanism focuses on the overcoming of pain and suffering at a personal, interpersonal and social level. It defines violence as anything that causes pain and suffering to human beings. In this way violence is seen to have many different aspects, not just the well-known physical form but also; economic, religious, psychological, sexual, ethnic, etc.
Introduction and basic philosophy
The Humanist Movement's conception is based on the Siloist thought, the major points of which are the following: Prior to thinking about his origin or destiny the human being finds himself in a determined vital situation, one not of his own choosing. Thus, he is born submerged in a natural and also a social world plagued by physical and mental aggression that he experiences as pain and suffering. Consequently, he mobilizes himself trying to overcome pain and suffering. In his acting against these painful factors, he produces objects and signs which are incorporated into society and are transmitted historically. And all that is produced is loaded with meaning, with an intention and this intention is ultimately to surpass pain and suffering.
The history of mankind, then – of its economy, of its politics, of its science, of its art – is the history of the struggle against pain and suffering. And this struggle is the motor of the progress. This struggle is not between mechanical forces. It is not a natural reflection. It is a struggle between human intentions. And, precisely this is what enables one to speak of oppressors and oppressed, of just and unjust ones, of heroes and cowards. This is the only thing that enables one to rescue the personal subjectivity and is the only thing that enables one to practice with meaning the social solidarity and the commitment with the liberation of those discriminated against, be these majorities or minorities. At this point, a definition of "human being" is a must. It will not suffice to say "man is the social animal" or "man is the manufacturer of objects" or "man is the possessor of language", etc. In the Siloist doctrine "Man is the historical being whose mode of social action transforms his own nature."
In short, New Humanism is based on two basic points:
- Solidarity – defined as treating other people the way one would like to be treated and,
- Coherence – defined as thinking, feeling and acting in the same way.
The project of the Humanist Movement is nothing less than to eradicate war, hunger, poverty and economic exploitation across the planet and develop a new system based on the value of human life as the central value, higher than money, power, prestige, etc. Siloists call this vision of the future the Universal Human Nation. The methodology used is to work in groups and undertake personal development activities as well as social projects. Once sufficiently experienced, new groups develop according to their interests.
New Humanists share the following Humanist Attitudes:
- Placing the human being as the central value and concern, in such a way that nothing is above the human being and no human being is above another.
- Affirming the equality of all human beings.
- Recognizing personal and cultural diversity, affirming the characteristics proper to each human group and condemning discrimination, whether motivated by economic, racial, ethnic, gender or cultural differences.
- Developing knowledge beyond the limitations imposed by prejudices accepted as absolute and immutable truths.
- Affirming the freedom of ideas and beliefs.
- Repudiating violence in all its forms.
Near the end of the 1960s, Silo organized a group to study the personal and social crisis occurring in the world. The group intends to give a global intellectual response to a world in crises which takes place in the social and personal fields. The personal and social crisis of the '60s demands responses that are not in sight and that requires previous pausing anew (reformulations) in which the inteluctual prejudice must be eliminited. Three sectors of research are organised. 1) that of daily and personal existence. 2) that of the social activity. 3) that of the methodology of the research. the group makes its own Kant's declaration: "criticism, to which everything should be submitted, is characteristic of our ephoch: in vain try to escape from it religion for being saint and legislation for being majestic, since they would then arise founded suspicions upson trying to impede their thorough examination, rationally carried out.
This group, and others like it, organized around his writings, grew and developed into what started life as The School and after many iterations later became known as the Humanist Movement.
The Humanist Movement is often said to have been started May 4, 1969, with the talk "The Healing of Suffering" by Silo at Punta de Vacas, Argentina. Because of the military dictatorship in place at that time, this talk was permitted on the condition that it would be held high in the Andes Mountains, far from the nearest town.
These initial groups faced repression and disinformation campaigns as they grew and spread throughout Latin America. This growth was reinforced when some of the members, freely or as political exiles, took up residence in various countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
By 1980 the Movement was functioning in forty two countries. In 1981 The Community for Human Development organised a lecture tour around Europe and Asia. The Look Within, The Internal Landscape and the Book of the Community started being published and translated into many languages.
In 1983 the Movement was articulated into Councils (see Organisation) and a way of working was defined in a material called the Norms. In 1984 the Humanist Party was founded, followed by The Greens.
After the launch of the Humanist International in 1989, the strategy turned once more to the development of the Humanist Movement in a more general form and its organisation structure. A stage of putting down roots in communities, with the opening of Centres of Communication and the publication of hundreds of neighbourhood newspapers around the world was started.
In 1993 the Document of the Humanist Movement was published. The first Humanist Forum was held in Moscow, Russia, and The World Center of Humanist Studies was founded.
By 1995 the direction of the Humanist Movement went towards a phase of massive growth with the opening up of 10s of new countries across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. This mostly was made possible through the launching of the Centre of Cultures. In addition, from Spain the action front called World without Wars was legalised that later went on to become an official organisation of the Humanist Movement.
By 2006, the first Parks of Study and Reflection are launched around the world.
In 2009, the organisational structure articulated in 1983 was dissolved by Silo leaving behind 5 official organisations to represent the Humanist Movement's interests in various fields of human endeavour.
On 2 October 2009, until 2 January 2010, the World March for Peace and Nonviolence went around the world from New Zealand to Argentina calling for the eradication of Nuclear Weapons, the withdrawal of invading troops from foreign territories, the signing of peace treaties between countries in dispute, progressive and proportional conventional weapons disarmament and the implementation of articles in national constitutions to renounce the use of war as a means to resolve conflicts, such as Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. The World March was the initiative of the Humanist organisation, World without Wars and without Violence and was promoted around the world by Humanist and other organisations.
The Humanist Movement- defined as "the organization that interprets the needs of the Human being and produces the means for advancing from the ground of determination to the ground of freedom" should be framed as a broad and developing movement which generates specific base teams with a human base aiming at the same objective.
The organizational form of the Humanist Movement is constantly changing. Currently the movement is in a process of transformation of its organizational form and the form that was applied until now, is no longer valid. At the moment the Humanist Movement consists simply of all those who adhere to the Document of the Humanist Movement (1993) and there are no formal positions in the organization - rather all participants are simply colleagues.
The Humanist Movement has launched official organisations, internally referred to as organisms, in political, social and cultural fields, according to the legal requirements in the country where the Humanist Movement is being developed. The strategy of the Humanist Movement is to launch the following five organisms in every country in the world where it is possible to do so.
- The Community for Human Development
- The International Humanist Party
- Convergence of Cultures
- The World Centre of Humanist Studies
- World without Wars and without Violence
The Community for Human Development
The Community for Human Development, launched in 1981, is a social and cultural organisation that works for nonviolence through simultaneous social and personal transformation i.e. through the transformation of the structures of society and the way that individuals act in the world.
The Community has the following objectives:
- To create the conditions for human beings to be free, nonviolent and to live in solidarity with others, to give direction and meaning to their lives; for individuals to work for their own destiny and for the social struggle for conditions in education, health and quality of life that allow every person to evolve without obstacles.
- To build a new moral force that serves as a social and personal reference.
The Community works in society in the areas of education, health, culture, and quality of life. In each of these areas it denounces all that which hinders the development of the human being and develops actions that favour it.
The key characteristics of the work of The Community are:
- Voluntarism - disinterested giving allows the truly human dimension to appear.
- Direct communication - allows isolation to be overcome and a daily personal engagement in the name of ones values and aspirations.
- Active nonviolence, as a methodology and as an internal and external attitude that favours life
The official documents of the Community can be found in the Book of the Community.
The International Humanist Party
The idea of the Humanist Party as a political party was launched on March 8, 1984, as a recommendation from the Department of Social Affairs of The Community for Human Development. Around the world many Humanist Parties started to emerge and on January 4, 1989, in Florence, Italy, the first congress of the Humanist International was held.
In this event, the foundational documents were adopted, including the Declaration of Principles, The Thesis, Foundations for political action and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In December 1990, in Chile, Laura Rodríguez became the first elected representative of any Humanist Party in the world after winning a seat as part of the Concertación coalition, after Augusto Pinochet handed over power.
In October 1993, the second congress of the Humanist International was held in Moscow, Russia, whereupon the Document of the Humanist Movement was also incorporated as a foundational document. This document had previously been circulating as chapter six of the Book Letters to my friends.
In addition to the Humanist Party, the Community for Human Development later recommended also the formation of a party based on a New Humanist approach to Ecology. The subsequent formation of a party called The Greens, caused much confusion in Europe where both The Greens and Green Party were sometimes fighting elections against one another. This led to a great deal of bad feeling from the Green Party (see the section below on conflict with other organisations). Eventually, the Environmental policies of the Greens were incorporated within the Humanist Party which resulted in their merger.
The official documents of the Humanist Party can be found in the Book of the Humanist International.
In 2009, the word "International" was appended to the beginning of the Party's name.
Convergence of Cultures
The objectives of the Centre of Cultures are:
- To rescue the humanist ideas, beliefs and attitudes in every culture.
- To promote dialogue so that cultures may recognize their own value and through this can recognize the value of the others.
- To promote the deepening in comprehension of people’s own cultures for a better understanding of their roots and an intentional strengthening of their best aspects.
- To promote the questioning of abuses of power as well as the values upon which the present system sustains itself. Helping to appropriately address cultural conflicts.
- To disseminate the ideas of universal humanism as the basis for the construction of a new universal human culture.
- To deepen the concept of active nonviolence as a methodology of action
By the year 2000 this organisation was recognised as the third official organism of the Humanist Movement and had opened new centres in New York City, Madrid, Bombay, Zurich, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile.
The work of the Centre of Cultures brought the Humanist Movement into contact with people from countries in Africa and Asia where it had previously had little presence and this led to a massive explosion in its membership in those areas starting in the late 90s.
In 2009 the organisation underwent a rebranding exercise and changed its name to Convergence of Cultures.
Missions of the Message
Individual Humanist Movement groups carry out missionary work, as they call it, in various locations around the world.
- In February 2014 a Humanist Movement group started a mission based out of an apartment in Oakland, California for the purpose of proselytizing in the Bay Area.
- There is also a mission in Sydney, Australia.
Action fronts of many themes are developed by humanists around the world. They do not necessarily fall under the umbrella of any of the specific organisms. For more information consult the list of websites referred to at the bottom of this page.
- Humanists for Health
- International Federation of Human Support (FIAH)
- International network for Humanist Education
- Education for nonviolence
Humanise the earth (Humanizar la tierra) by Silo
A three-part work comprising The inner look, The internal landscape and The external landscape. Each part deals with a different aspect of human existence.
The first part details the authors search and subsequent discovery of meaning in life. It describes meditation exercises called the experience of peace and the experience of force and describes a strategy in life for avoiding pain and suffering called the principles of valid action.
The second part deals more with psychological issues and the interpersonal issues that an individual faces during their life. Themes such as; faith, provisional meanings, giving and receiving, contradiction and unity are dealt with. In addition the theme of the Internal Guide, an inspirational image that an individual can configure and use, is introduced.
Self-liberation (Auto-liberación) by Luís Ammann
Self-liberation is a book that can best be categorised as "Personal development". It contains a number of different techniques that can be done in groups and in pairs. The different sections deal with; Relaxation and working with mental images, the scheme of the different centres of response (the intellectual, emotional, motor, vegetative and sexual centres) and exercises for the first three centres called "psycho-physical gymnastics" and two further sections called "Catharsis" and "Transference" which are together known as "operative".
The work of Catharsis and Transference takes the participants deep into an area of what can be referred to as Siloist Psychology and a concept known as the "Space of Representation", what has been referred to by others as the "mind's eye", or what one is able to intentionally imagine when one closes one's eyes, when one daydreams or when one dreams during sleep.
The exercises are designed to help the participants: reconcile with their past experiences, find strength in their current situation and develop a positive and joyful image of the future. According to the explanations one carries one's bad experiences around in the consciousness and from there they act in the present and affect the future. By seeking out the bad experiences and painful memories and working on them using the techniques of catharsis and transference, mental energy can be released and one can live one's life more intentionally and less restricted by one's past experiences. The whole body of the work is meant to be done in such a way that there are no roles of "therapist" or "patient", all parties take all the roles to establish an equitable relationship that can engender trust and a deep entering into the themes.
Letters to my friends (Cartas a mis amigos) by Silo
Letters to my Friends: On Social and Personal Crisis in Today's World is a book that outlines the scope of the crisis in which societies and individuals are immersed according to the point of view of the author. It is put together as a series of ten letters that were written between 1990 and 1994. The sixth letter, which is better known as either the Statement or Document of the Humanist Movement and has been taken as one of the Foundational documents of the Humanist International, contains a general point of view about; Global Capital, real vs formal Democracy, the emergence of a Humanist sensibility in the world, anti-humanist characteristics and Humanist Action Fronts.
Silo Speaks (Habla Silo) by Silo
Silo Speaks is an anthology of opinions, commentaries and speeches given by Silo between 1969 and 1995.
The book starts with the first public explanation of New Humanism in a speech called The Healing of Suffering. It continues with a section that contains many explanations about themes such as: meaning in life, perception, voluntarism, the nature of human existence and religiosity.
The second part is a series of book presentations given during the publication of some of his previous works.
The third part is a series of talks given on such themes as: Humanism and the New World, Humanism and the Crisis of Civilization, What do we understand by Universal Humanism and the Theme of God.
- Morphology (Morfologia) by Jose Caballero
- Guided Experiencias (Experiencias Guiadas) by Silo
- Contributions to Thought (Contribuciones al pensamiento) by Silo
- Universal Root Myths (Mitos raices universales) by Silo
- The Day of the Winged Lion (El dia del leon alado) by Silo
- On Being Human by Salvatore Puledda
- Complete Works Volume 1 by Silo
- Complete Works Volume 2 by Silo
- A Contemporary Humanist by Salvatore Puledda, his collected works compiled together upon his death
- The End of Pre-history by Tomas Hirsch
Mario Rodríguez Cobos, also known as Silo, was born in 1938 and lived in Mendoza, Argentina. As the author of many books, he received an honorary doctorate from the National Academy of Sciences of Russia in October 1993.
In 2001, in the Annual Ordinary Meeting of the Assembly of General Coordinators, the highest level of interchange for those involved in the organisational structure, in Madrid, Spain, Silo announced his retirement from the affairs of the Humanist Movement, leaving all further development in the hands of this collegiate body that he himself had created.
Since that time, Silo has started a new project, known as Silo's Message. This project is a spiritual development based on some of the earliest forms of meditation exercises developed by Silo in the 1960s called the work with the force.
Conflict with other organisations
The history of the Humanist Movement has not been without its conflict with other organisations and individuals.
During the 1960s in Argentina, as the initial groups were forming with the name "Young Power", there was conflict with the Catholic Church. Humanist organisations, clearly opposed to the military regime in Argentina, came under attack from the government. People were arrested and jailed, two were killed and an attempt was made to shoot Silo.
Later on, with the advent of the Humanist variant of the Green party, humanists were exposed to a lot of opposition in Italy, Spain, the USA, the UK and Germany. Some people in the Green movement interpreted the Humanist Movement as being opposed to environmentalism, considering that humanity, not nature, should be the focus of attention. The response from the Humanist Movement was that environmental exploitation happens because society is following values (such as money, economic growth, etc.) that are contrary to the human being. The argument continued by pointing out that if we were to truly act on human values, there would be no need for a conflict with any living things.
The Humanist Movement is totally distinct from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the world-wide federation of organisations promoting secular humanism that is recognised at the United Nations and includes organisations such as the British Humanist Association and the American Humanist Association.
Some disaffected former members have also complained that the Humanist Movement is a cult, though some ex-members object to this label, considering this merely an attempt to discredit the organization.
Sites about Humanist themes by humanist activists
- The International Humanist Party
- The World Centre for Humanist Studies
- Convergence of Cultures (Spanish page)
- World without Wars and without Violence
Sites by those opposed to the Humanist Movement and its actions
- "The other humanists" – a secular humanist article critical of the Humanist Movement
- Ex-Silo.org (An archive site, well backed-up and declared legal by the court system, inspired by an unidentified ex-member of the Humanist Movement providing documents provided by former prominent members)
- "Lies My Guru Told Me" first book in English critical about Siloists and Siloism