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Book _of_ Life
THE BOOK OF LIFE
Book of Life
_By_ UPTON SINCLAIR
MIND AND BODY
LOVE AND SOCIETY
_THE PAINE BOOK COMPANY_
COPYRIGHT, 1921, 1922
_All Rights Reserved._
Kate Crane Gartz
in acknowledgment of her unceasing efforts for a
better world, and her fidelity to those
who struggle to achieve it.
The writer of this book has been in this world some forty-two years.
That may not seem long to some, but it is long enough to have made many
painful mistakes, and to have learned much from them. Looking about him,
he sees others making these same mistakes, suffering for lack of that
same knowledge which he has so painfully acquired. This being the case,
it seems a friendly act to offer his knowledge, minus the blunders and
There come to the writer literally thousands of letters every year,
asking him questions, some of them of the strangest. A man is dying of
cancer, and do I think it can be cured by a fast? A man is unable to
make his wife happy, and can I tell him what is the matter with women? A
man has invested his savings in mining stock, and can I tell him what to
do about it? A man works in a sweatshop, and has only a little time for
self-improvement, and will I tell him what books he ought to read? Many
such questions every day make one aware of a vast mass of people,
earnest, hungry for happiness, and groping as if in a fog. The things
they most need to know they are not taught in the schools, nor in the
newspapers they read, nor in the church they attend. Of these agencies,
the first is not entirely competent, the second is not entirely honest,
and the third is not entirely up to date. Nor is there anywhere a book
in which the effort has been made to give to everyday human beings the
everyday information they need for the successful living of their lives.
For the present book the following claims may be made. First, it is a
modern book; its writer watches hour by hour the new achievements of the
human mind, he reaches out for information about them, he seeks to
adjust his own thoughts to them and to test them in his own living.
Second, it is, or tries hard to be, a wise book; its writer is not among
those too-ardent young radicals who leap to the conclusion that because
many old things are stupid and tiresome, therefore everything that is
old is to be spurned with contempt, and everything that proclaims itself
new is to be taken at its own valuation. Third, it is an honest book;
its writer will not pretend to know what he only guesses, and where it
is necessary to guess, he will say so frankly. Finally, it is a kind
book; it is not written for its author's glory, nor for his enrichment,
but to tell you things that may be useful to you in the brief span of
your life. It will attempt to tell you how to live, how to find health
and happiness and success, how to work and how to play, how to eat and
how to sleep, how to love and to marry and to care for your children,
how to deal with your fellow men in business and politics and social
life, how to act and how to think, what religion to believe, what art to
enjoy, what books to read. A large order, as the boys phrase it!
There are several ways for such a book to begin. It might begin with the
child, because we all begin that way; it might begin with love, because
that precedes the child; it might begin with the care of the body,
explaining that sound physical health is the basis of all right living,
and even of right thinking; it might begin as most philosophies do, by
defining life, discussing its origin and fundamental nature.
The trouble with this last plan is that there are a lot of people who
have their ideas on life made up in tabloid form; they have creeds and
catechisms which they know by heart, and if you suggest to them anything
different, they give you a startled look and get out of your way. And
then there is another, and in our modern world a still larger class, who
say, "Oh, shucks! I don't go in for religion and that kind of thing."
You offer them something that looks like a sermon, and they turn to the
Who will read this Book of Life? There will be, among others, the great
American tired business man. He wrestles with problems and cares all
day, and when he sits down to read in the evening, he says: "Make it
short and snappy." There is the wife of the tired business man, the
American perfect lady. She does most of the reading for the family; but
she has never got down to anything fundamental in her life, and mostly
she likes to read about exciting love affairs, which she distinguishes
from the unexciting kind she knows by the word "romance." Then there is
the still more tired American workingman, who has been "speeded up" all
day under the bonus system or the piece-work system, and is apt to fall
asleep in his chair before he finishes supper. Then there is the
workingman's wife, who has slaved all day in the kitchen, and has a
chance for a few minutes' intimacy with her husband before he falls
asleep. She would like to have somebody tell her what to do for croup,
but she is not sure that she has time to discuss the question whether
life is worth living.
Yet, I wonder; is there a single one among all these tired people, or
even among the cynical people, who has not had some moment of awe when
the thought came stabbing into his mind like a knife: "What a strange
thing this life is! What am I anyhow? Where do I come from, and what is
going to become of me? What do I mean, what am I here for?" I have sat
chatting with three hoboes by a railroad track, cooking themselves a
mulligan in an old can, and heard one of them say: "By God, it's a queer
thing, ain't it, mate?" I have sat on the deck of a ship, looking out
over the midnight ocean and talking with a sailor, and heard him use
almost the identical words. It is not only in the class-room and the
schools that the minds of men are grappling with the fundamental
problems; in fact, it was not from the schools that the new religions
and the great moral impulses of humanity took their origin. It was from
lonely shepherds sitting on the hillsides, and from fishermen casting
their nets, and from carpenters and tailors and shoemakers at their
Stop and think a bit, and you will realize it does make a difference
what you believe about life, how it comes to be, where it is going, and
what is your place in it. Is there a heaven with a God, who watches you
day and night, and knows every thought you think, and will some day take
you to eternal bliss if you obey his laws? If you really believe that,
you will try to find out about his laws, and you will be comparatively
little concerned about the success or failure of your business. Perhaps,
on the other hand, you have knocked about in the world and lost your
"faith"; you have been cheated and exploited, and have set out to "get
yours," as the phrase is; to "feather your own nest." But some gust of
passion seizes you, and you waste your substance, you wreck your life;
then you wonder, "Who set that trap and baited it? Am I a creature of
blind instincts, jealousies and greeds and hates beyond my own control
entirely? Am I a poor, feeble insect, blown about in a storm and
smashed? Or do I make the storm, and can I in any part control it?"
No matter how busy you may be, no matter how tired you may be, it will
pay you to get such things straight: to know a little of what the wise
men of the past have thought about them, and more especially what
science with its new tools of knowledge may have discovered.
The writer of this book spent nine years of his life in colleges and
universities; also he was brought up in a church. So he knows the
orthodox teachings, he can say that he has given to the recognized wise
men of the world every opportunity to tell him what they know. Then,
being dissatisfied, he went to the unrecognized teachers, the
enthusiasts and the "cranks" of a hundred schools. Finally, he thought
for himself; he was even willing to try experiments upon himself. As a
result, he has not found what he claims is ultimate or final truth; but
he has what he might describe as a rough working draft, a practical
outline, good for everyday purposes. He is going to have confidence
enough in you, the reader, to give you the hardest part first; that is,
to begin with the great fundamental questions. What is life, and how
does it come to be? What does it mean, and what have we to do with it?
Are we its masters or its slaves? What does it owe us, and what do we
owe to it? Why is it so hard, and do we have to stand its hardness? And
can we really know about all these matters, or will we be only guessing?
Can we trust ourselves to think about them, or shall we be safer if we
believe what we are told? Shall we be punished if we think wrong, and
how shall we be punished? Shall we be rewarded if we think right, and
will the pay be worth the trouble?
Such questions as these I am going to try to answer in the simplest
language possible. I would avoid long words altogether, if I could; but
some of these long words mean certain definite things, and there are no
other words to serve the purpose. You do not refuse to engage in the
automobile business because the carburetor and the differential are
words of four syllables. Neither should you refuse to get yourself
straight with the universe because it is too much trouble to go to the
dictionary and learn that the word "phenomenon" means something else
than a little boy who can play the piano or do long division in his
PART ONE: THE BOOK OF THE MIND
CHAPTER I. THE NATURE OF LIFE 3
Attempts to show what we know about life; to set the
bounds of real truth as distinguished from phrases and
CHAPTER II. THE NATURE OF FAITH 8
Attempts to show what we can prove by our reason, and
what we know intuitively; what is implied in the process
of thinking, and without which no thought could be.
CHAPTER III. THE USE OF REASON 12
Attempts to show that in the field to which reason applies
we are compelled to use it, and are justified in trusting it.
CHAPTER IV. THE ORIGIN OF MORALITY 17
Compares the ways of Nature with human morality, and
tries to show how the latter came to be.
CHAPTER V. NATURE AND MAN 21
Attempts to show how man has taken control of Nature,
and is carrying on her processes and improving upon them.
CHAPTER VI. MAN THE REBEL 27
Shows the transition stage between instinct and reason,
in which man finds himself, and how he can advance to
a securer condition.
CHAPTER VII. MAKING OUR MORALS 31
Attempts to show that human morality must change to fit
human facts, and there can be no judge of it save human
CHAPTER VIII. THE VIRTUE OF MODERATION 37
Attempts to show that wise conduct is an adjustment of
means to ends, and depends upon the understanding of a
particular set of circumstances.
CHAPTER IX. THE CHOOSING OF LIFE 42
Discusses the standards by which we may judge what is
best in life, and decide what we wish to make of it.
CHAPTER X. MYSELF AND MY NEIGHBOR 50
Compares the new morality with the old, and discusses the
relative importance of our various duties.
CHAPTER XI. THE MIND AND THE BODY 53
Discusses the interaction between physical and mental
things, and the possibility of freedom in a world of fixed
CHAPTER XII. THE MIND OF THE BODY 61
Discusses the subconscious mind, what it is, what it does
to the body, and how it can be controlled and made use
of by the intelligence.
CHAPTER XIII. EXPLORING THE SUBCONSCIOUS 67
Discusses automatic writing, the analysis of dreams, and
other methods by which a new universe of life has been
brought to human knowledge.
CHAPTER XIV. THE PROBLEM OF IMMORTALITY 74
Discusses the survival of personality from the moral point
of view: that is, have we any claim upon life, entitling
us to live forever?
CHAPTER XV. THE EVIDENCE FOR SURVIVAL 81
Discusses the data of psychic research, and the proofs of
spiritism thus put before us.
CHAPTER XVI. THE POWERS OF THE MIND 91
Sets forth the fact that knowledge is freedom and ignorance
is slavery, and what science means to the people.
CHAPTER XVII. THE CONDUCT OF THE MIND 98
Concludes the Book of the Mind with a study of how to
preserve and develop its powers for the protection of our
lives and the lives of all men.
PART TWO: THE BOOK OF THE BODY
CHAPTER XVIII. THE UNITY OF THE BODY 105
Discusses the body as a whole, and shows that health is
not a matter of many different organs and functions, but
is one problem of one organism.
CHAPTER XIX. EXPERIMENTS IN DIET 115
Narrates the author's adventures in search of health, and
his conclusions as to what to eat.
CHAPTER XX. ERRORS IN DIET 123
Discusses the different kinds of foods, and the part they
play in the making of health and disease.
CHAPTER XXI. DIET STANDARDS 134
Discusses various foods and their food values, the quantities
we need, and their money cost.
CHAPTER XXII. FOODS AND POISONS 145
Concludes the subject of diet, and discusses the effect upon
the system of stimulants and narcotics.
CHAPTER XXIII. MORE ABOUT HEALTH 156
Discusses the subjects of breathing and ventilation, clothing,
bathing and sleep.
CHAPTER XXIV. WORK AND PLAY 163
Deals with the question of exercise, both for the idle and
CHAPTER XXV. THE FASTING CURE 169
Deals with Nature's own remedy for disease, and how to
make use of it.
CHAPTER XXVI. BREAKING THE FAST 177
Discusses various methods of building up the body after
a fast, especially the milk diet.
CHAPTER XXVII. DISEASES AND CURES 182
Discusses some of the commoner human ailments, and
what is known about their cause and cure.
THE BOOK OF THE MIND
THE NATURE OF LIFE
(Attempts to show what we know about life; to set the bounds of
real truth as distinguished from phrases and self-deception.)
If I could, I would begin this book by telling you what Life is. But
unfortunately I do not know what Life is. The only consolation I can
find is in the fact that nobody else knows either.
We ask the churches, and they tell us that male and female created He
them, and put them in the Garden of Eden, and they would have been happy
had not Satan tempted them. But then you ask, who made Satan, and the
explanation grows vague. You ask, if God made Satan, and knew what Satan
was going to do, is it not the same as if God did it himself? So this
explanation of the origin of evil gets you no further than the Hindoo
picture of the world resting on the back of a tortoise, and the tortoise
on the head of a snake - and nothing said as to what the snake rests on.
Let us go to the scientist. I know a certain physiologist, perhaps the
greatest in the world, and his eager face rises before me, and I hear
his quick, impetuous voice declaring that he knows what Life is; he has
told it in several big volumes, and all I have to do is to read them.
Life is a tropism, caused by the presence of certain combinations of
chemicals; my friend knows this, because he has produced the thing in
his test-tubes. He is an exponent of a way of thought called Monism,
which finds the ultimate source of being in forms of energy manifesting
themselves as matter; he shows how all living things arise from that and
sink back into it.
But question this scientist more closely. What is this "matter" that you
are so sure of? How do you know it? Obviously, through sensations. You
never know matter itself, you only know its effects upon you, and you
assume that the matter must be there to cause the sensation. In other
words, "matter," which seems so real, turns out to be merely "a
permanent possibility of sensation." And suppose there were to be
sensations, caused, for example, by a sportive demon who liked to make
fun of eminent physiologists - then there might be the appearance of
matter and nothing else; in other words, there might be mind, and
various states of mind. So we discover that the materialist, in the
philosophic sense, is making just as large an act of faith, is
pronouncing just as bold a dogma as any priest of any religion.
This is an old-time topic of disputation. Before Mother Eddy there was
Bishop Berkeley, and before Berkeley, there was Plato, and they and the
materialists disputed until their hearers cried in despair, "What is
Mind? No matter! What is Matter? Never mind!" But a century or two ago
in a town of Prussia there lived a little, dried-up professor of
philosophy, who sat himself down in his room and fixed his eyes on a
church steeple outside the window, and for years on end devoted himself
to examining the tools of thought with which the human mind is provided,
and deciding just what work and how much of it they are fitted to do. So
came the proof that our minds are incapable of reaching to or dealing
with any ultimate reality whatever, but can comprehend only
phenomena - that is to say, appearances - and their relations one with
another. The Koenigsberg professor proved this once for all time,
setting forth four propositions about ultimate reality, and proving them
by exact and irrefutable logic, and then proving by equally exact and
irrefutable logic their precise opposites and contraries. Anybody who
has read and comprehended the four "antinomies" of Immanuel Kant[A]
knows that metaphysics is as dead a subject as astrology, and that all
the complicated theories which the philosophers from Heraclitus to
Arthur Balfour have spun like spiders out of their inner consciousness,
have no more relation to reality than the intricacies of the game of
[A] See Paulsen: "Life of Kant."
The writer is sorry to make this statement, because he spent a lot of
time reading these philosophers and acquainting himself with their
subtle theories. He learned a whole language of long words, and even the
special meanings which each philosopher or school of philosophers give
to them. When he had got through, he had learned, so far as metaphysics
is concerned, absolutely nothing, and had merely the job of clearing out
of his mind great masses of verbal cobwebs. It was not even good
intellectual training; the metaphysical method of thought is a _trap_.
The person who thinks in absolutes and ultimates is led to believe that
he has come to conclusions about reality, when as a matter of fact he
has merely proved what he wants to believe; if he had wanted to believe
the opposite, he could have proven that exactly as well - as his
opponents will at once demonstrate.
If you multiply two feet by two feet, the result represents a plain
surface, or figure of two dimensions. If you multiply two feet by two
feet by two feet, you have a solid, or figure of three dimensions - such
as the world in which we live and move. But now, suppose you multiply
two feet by two feet by two feet by two feet, what does that represent?
For ages the minds of mathematicians and philosophers have been tempted
by this fascinating problem of the "fourth dimension." They have worked
out by analogy what such a world would be like. If you went into this
"fourth dimension," you could turn yourself inside out, and come back to
our present world in that condition, and no one of your three-dimension
friends would be able to imagine how you had managed it, or to put you
back again the way you belonged. And in this, it seems to me, we have
the perfect analogy of metaphysical thinking. It is the "fourth
dimension" of the mind, and plays as much havoc with sound thinking as a
physical "fourth dimension" would play with - say, the prison system. A
man who takes up an absolute - God, immortality, the origin of being, a
first cause, free will, absolute right or wrong, infinite time or space,
final truth, original substance, the "thing in itself" - that man
disappears into a fourth dimension, and turns himself inside out or
upside down or hindside foremost, and comes back and exhibits himself in
triumph; then, when he is ready, he effects another disappearance, and
another change, and is back on earth an ordinary human being.
The world is full of schools of thought, theologians and metaphysicians
and professors of academic philosophy, transcendentalists and
theosophists and Christian Scientists, who perform such mental
monkey-shines continuously before our eyes. They prove what they please,
and the fact that no two of them prove the same thing makes clear to us
in the end that none of them has proved anything. The Christian
Scientist asserts that there is no such thing as matter, but that pain
is merely a delusion of mortal mind; he continues serene in this faith
until he runs into an automobile and sustains a compound fracture of
the femur - whereupon he does exactly what any of the rest of us do, goes
to a competent surgeon and has the bone set. On the other hand, some
devoted young Socialists of my acquaintance have read Haeckel and
Dietzgen, and adopted the dogma that matter is the first cause, and that
all things have grown out of it and return to it; they have seen that
the brain decays after death, they declare that the soul is a function
of the brain - and because of such theories they deliberately reject the
most powerful modes of appeal whereby men can be swayed to faith in
The best books I know for the sweeping out of metaphysical cobwebs are
"The Philosophy of Common Sense" and "The Creed of a Layman," by
Frederic Harrison, leader of the English Positivists, a school of
thought established by Auguste Comte. But even as I recommend these
books, I recall the dissatisfaction with which I left them; for it
appears that the Positivists have their dogmas like all the rest. Mr.
Harrison is not content to say that mankind has not the mental tools for
dealing with ultimate realities; he must needs prove that mankind never
will and never can have these tools, I look back upon the long process
of evolution and ask myself, What would an oyster think about
Positivism? What would be the opinion of, let us say, a young turnip on
the subject of Mr. Frederic Harrison's thesis? It may well be that the
difference between a turnip and Mr. Harrison is not so great as will be
the difference between Mr. Harrison and that super-race which some day
takes possession of the earth and of all the universe. It does not seem
to me good science or good sense to dogmatize about what this race will
know, or what will be its tools of thought. What does seem to me good
science and good sense is to take the tools which we now possess and use
them to their utmost capacity.
What is it that we know about life? We know a seemingly endless stream
of sensations which manifest themselves in certain ways, and seem to
inhere in what we call things and beings. We observe incessant change in
all these phenomena, and we examine these changes and discover their
ways. The ways seem to be invariable; so completely so that for
practical purposes we assume them to be invariable, and base all our
calculations and actions upon this assumption. Manifestly, we could not
live otherwise, and the spread of scientific knowledge is the further