banner

Rationalist Press Association

It is profitable for the student of Darwinical history to study this organization. For here it becomes obvious (in case it wasn't already so) what the evolution business is really all about. We will divide this study into three sections: what RPA is, the people behind RPA, and the books they published.

What is Rationalist Press Association?

RPA was incorporated in 1899. Through their agents and publishing house, Watts & Co Publishers, RPA-Watts specialized in mass-production of cheap editions and reprints. Of what, you ask? You'll see. Let us examine some RPA blurbs which appear at the front or near the back of two of their early books.

Over a Million and a Half Sold.
SIXPENNY PUBLICATIONS.
R.P.A Cheap Reprints.
ALL LIBERAL THINKERS
who have not already joined
THE RATIONALIST PRESS ASSOCIATION Ltd
are earnestly invited to do so.
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE R. P. A. is the veteran reformer and Rationalist
George Jacob Holyoake, and among its Honorary Associates are the
great scientists, Haeckel and Berthelot, together with Edward Clodd,
John M. Robertson, F. J. Gould, Dr. F. J. Furnivall, Dr. Stanton Coit
Dr. Washington Sullivan, and other noted pioneers of mental and moral
progress.
THE OBJECTS OF THE R. P. A. are to stimulate the habits of reflection
and inquiry, and the free exercise of individual intellect; to promote
a rational system of secular education; to assist in publishing the works
of capable thinkers, and in popularising the great discoveries of modern
science and scholarship; to re-issue, in cheap form, notable books of
a critical, philosophical, or ethical character; and generally to
assert the supremacy of reason, as the natural and necessary means
to such knowledge and wisdom as man can achieve.

That was from the 1905 RPA edition of Renan's The Apostles, a work which happens to be on the Vatican Index, along with everything else Renan wrote.

[RPA] was formally incorporated in 1899 under the Companies' Acts in
order to give the fullest security that money subscribed or bequeathed
to its funds shall be used for certain specified purposes. The chief
of these, as set forth in the Memorandum of Association, are the following:
To stimulate freedom of thought and inquiriy in refrence to ethics,
theology, philosophy, and kindred subjects.
To promote a secular system of education, the main object of which shall
be to cultivate in the young moral and intellectual fitness for social life.
To publish and distribute, either gratuitously or otherwise, books,
pamphlets, and periodicals designed to... assist in the spread of
Rationalist principles, especially in their bearing on human conduct.
Rationalism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly
accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a system of
philosophy and ethics verifiable by experience and independent of all
arbitrary assumptions or authority.

That was from the 1903 RPA edition of John M. Robertson's Pagan Christs.

Rationalist Press Association Members

George Jacob Holyoake
RPA chairman, 1902, 1903, honorary associate. Raving atheist.
Edward Clodd
RPA chairman, honorary associate. Author of evolution books. Author of Children's books.
Joseph McCabe
RPA honorary associate. Monist. Writer of some rather shockingly vicious anti-Catholic books. Also an author of children's books. McCabe and his monistic philosophy took a bashing from the eccentric physicist Sir Oliver Lodge.
Cesare Lombroso
RPA honorary associate. Monist and crackpot doctor. [to do.] Published in The Monist.
J. M. Robertson
RPA honorary associate. Author of Pagan Christs.
Sir Edward Brabrook
RPA director, 1908. Eugenics Society vice president, 1909-1911. First International Eugenics Congress. Author of Eugenics and Pauperism and other articles for Eugenics Review.
George Macauley Trevelyan
RPA director, 1908.
Emil Zola
RPA honorary associate. The famous french writer.
Ernst Haeckel
RPA honorary associate. Darwin Medalist. Founder of the Monist League.
Ed. Westermarck
RPA honorary associate. Eugenist. [See Galton's Essays.]
Leonard Huxley
RPA honorary associate, executive officer (1906.) Son of T. H. Huxley. Father of Darwin Medalist Julian Huxley, who was a co-founder of the Modern Synthesis and a major figure in the Culture of Death.
Paul Carus
RPA honorary associate. The Monist journal.
Thomas Whittaker
RPA honorary associate.
Naomi Haldane-Mitchison
RPA honorary associate. Eugenics Society member. Sister of Darwin Medalist J. B. S. Haldane, who was a co-founder of the Modern Synthesis.
Cyril Darlington
RPA honorary associate, 1943-1973. Darwin Medalist. Eugenics Society vice-president.
Prof. P. S. Florence
RPA Honorary associate 1941-1978. Eugenics Society fellow. Eugenics Review editor.
Jonathan Stopes-Roe
RPA director, 1988. Jonathan Stopes-Roe is the grandson of Marie Stopes. Marie Stopes was a life fellow of the Eugenics Society. She founded the first birth control clinic in England. The Eugenics Society used her fortune to establish the Marie Stopes Foundation and the Marie Stopes Research Fund.
Lord Houghton
RPA Honorary associate. British Labour Party chairman. His wife Lady Vera was a fellow of the Eugenics Society and the first general secretary of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Lord Houghton was involved with the Canadian pro-abortion socialist party, the NDP.

Rationalist Press Association Books

The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
The Story of Creation, Edward Clodd
Clodd's big rubber science evolution book. There's also a simplified version.
Pioneers of Evolution, from Thales to Huxley, Edward Clodd
A Picture Book of Evolution, Dennis Hird.
RPA blurb "We know of no work which tells the whole story of the development of man in plainer language than this, and can recommend it to all who desire information on a subject that ought to interest us all."
Human Origins, Samuel Laing
Revised by Ed Clodd.
The Riddle of the Universe, Ernst Haeckel
English version of the immensely popular German book. Translated by Joseph McCabe.
An Easy Outline of Evolution, Dennis Hird
RPA blurb: "Written in the simplest possible language and referring to the latest researches, this work is intended to aid the busy general reader to grasp the arguments in favour of Evolution as they now stand."
The Evolution of Man, Volumes 1 and 2, Ernst Haeckel
Lectures and Essays, Thomas Henry Huxley
RPA blurb: "A Selection including: - Autobiography - Three Lectures on Evolution - The Physical Basis of Life - Naturalism and Supernaturalism - The Value of Witness to the Miraculous - Agnosticism - The Christian Tradition in Relation to Judaic Christianity - Agnosticism and Christianity."
The Evolution of the Idea of God, Grant Allen
The Hand of God, Grant Allen.

Grant Allen was a popular writer on evolution and a friend of RPA chairman E. Clodd. He wrote a very popular (and ridiculous) biography of Darwin, portraying him as the finest man in England, and so on. Most of what the English-speaking world knows, or thinks it knows, about Darwin and evolution, comes from three popular writers: Grant Allen, Edward Clodd, and T. H. Huxley. Grant Allen was a raving atheist. From the preface by Edward Clodd...

"The hitherto unpublished portion of this book, comprising the chapters on "The Hand of God" and "The Worship of Death," was intended by Grant Allen as the opening section of a volume supplemental to, and confirmatory of, the theory advanced in the Evolution of the Idea of God, of which a slightly abridged edition is included in the R. P. A. Reprints. Twenty years' study of the subject convinced him that "in its origin the conception of a God is nothing more than that of a dead man regarded as a still surviving ghost or a spirit, and endowed with increased or supernatural powers and qualities"; corpse-worship being, as he tersely puts it, "the protoplasm of religion."

Allen's and Clodd's pop-sci evolution books attracted the attention of the Jesuits, who, through one brilliant Fr. John Gerard S.J., thoroughly demolished their pretenses to science. [1]

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, W. H. Hudson
Tyndall's Lectures and Essays (A selection)
Ingersoll's Lecturs and Essays, series 1 and 2
RPA summary: "The Truth"; "The Gods"; "About the Holy Bible"; "What Must We Do to be Saved?"; "Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child"; "A Thanksgiving Sermon" "The Ghosts"; "How to Reform Mankind"; "Art and Morality"; "Some Mistakes of Moses"; "Why am I an Agnostic?"; "Orthodoxy"; "Superstition"; "Advice to Parents"; "George Jacob Holyoake".
A Concise History of Religion, 3 vols.
RPA blurb: "No work of the same size and dealing with this important theme contains such a mass of information. All the highest authorities have been carefully consulted, and the book gives the main results of Biblical criticism, together with other valuable matter, in what is, by comparison at least, a nutshell. The First Volume treats of the superstitions of savages and primitive man, and delineates the characteristics of the religions of America, Finland, China, Egypt, Arabia, Chaldiiea, Syria, India, Japan, Persia, the Kelts, Greeks, and Romans. The Second Volume takes to pieces the whole of the Old Testament literature, and explains the origin of the various parts. The last chapter describes the Religious Environment of Early Christianity. The Third Volume traces the growth of the Christian movement, the lives of Paul and Jesus (with due separation of the mythical elements), and affords a Rationalistic analysis of the whole of the New Testament books.
The Origins of Christianity, Thomas Whittaker
RPA blurb: "the expositor believes that enough evidence is put before the reader to justify the conclusion that not one of the epistles was written by St. Paul, the earliest of them (the Epistle to the Romans) dating from about the year 120 of the Christian era. In the Introduction this view is combined with the mythical theory regarding the origin of the Gospel story."
Faith: its Freaks and Follies, Charles T. Gorham
Christianity and Mythology, John M. Robertson
RPA blurb: "Part I: The Progress of Mythology. Part II: Christ and Krishna. Part III: The Gospel Myths."
The Children's Book of Moral Lessons, F. J. Gould
RPA blurb: "While theology is strictly excluded from the lessons here reproduced, they are constructed on such a humanitarian basis as to fit them for use in homes and schools of all classes and creeds. The book has been translated into German by Dr. Penzig, of Berlin."
The Bible in School: A Question of Ethics, J. Allanson Picton

RPA blurb "This is a stirring appeal on a question of vast political and social importance to Englishmen. Mr. Picton maintains that the present Bible teaching in Board schools practically amounts to the teaching of dogmas common to the Evangelical party. It is unfair to such ratepayers as disbelieve those dogmas; demoralising to such teachers as, secretly doubting the evangelical view, are constrained to hide their doubts; and injurious to the children themselves in many ways."

Another RPA blurb: "Mr. Picton was one of the three members of the first London School Board who voted against Bible teaching in the schools, and, after thirty years' observation of the methods employed under the Compromise, he feels... that the present system is unjust to many ratepayers, demoralising to many teachers, and worse than useless in its effect on the children. The booklet presents a powerful plea for the exclusion of the Bible from the schools."

The Bible Untrustworthy, M. A. Walter
RPA blurb: "The literary value of the book is unquestionable; and the author has compiled a work which should be an effective weapon in the Rationalist armoury."
Tales from the Bible, F. J. Gould
RPA blurb: "The chief legends of the Old Testament are told in choice and simple language, and with careful exclusion of all matter unsuited to the young mind. The children are all along bidden to remember that the Bible history is not to be accepted as literally true."
A Short History of Christianity, John M. Robertson
RPA blurb: "Chapter I.: The Beginnings. - Documentary Clues - The Earliest Christian Sects - Personality of the Nominal Founder - Myth of the Twelve Apostles - Primary Forms of the Cult - Rise of Gentile Christism - Growth of the Christ Myth... Part II. Chapter III.: Failure with Survival. - The Overthrow of Arianism - The Cost of Orthodoxy - Moral and Intellectual Stagnation - The Social Failure... Part IV. Chapter II.: Progress of Anti-Christian Thought. - The Physical Sciences - Philosophy, Cosmic and Moral - Biblical ond Historical Criticism."
From Rome to Rationalism: or, Why I left the Church, Joseph McCabe
RPA blurb: "The Rationalist Press Committee had the privilege of introducing Mr. McCabe to the public by issuing this manifesto or apology in 1896."
The Fundamental Principles of Positive Philosophy, August Comte
Last Words on Materialism, Ludwig Buchner
Translated by Joseph McCabe.

[unfinished]


notes

[1]Someone remind me to put up Grant Allen's Botanical Fables and other examples of Gerard's excellent work.