Humanistic Texts

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From the writings of the authors listed above, Humanistic Texts shows how people around the world gradually develop an understanding of what it is to be human. Multicultural extracts portray the wit,  wisdom, and poetry of individuals as they reflect on ethics, philosophy, knowledge,  and human relationships.

Through these excerpts we have the pleasure of encountering active, probing minds. We can read of humanistic ideas as they break through into history for the first time. Often, even the oldest ideas remain fresh and new.

The excerpts aim to be of sufficient length to convey an author's way of thinking. To facilitate further exploration of any particular line of thought, references to more extensive texts are given. Extracts from individual authors can be accessed alphabetically from the list above. A listing of authors by date of birth can be reached by clicking on Timeline; this provides a list of the time periods covered, with brief biographies of the authors in each time period. For more information about this site, click on Summary or Background.

New chapters are added as they become available..


    Dedicated to the memory of Finuala Pay (1972-1995)



We thank the following publishers and copyright holders for permission to use copyright material. As Humanistic Texts has no funds for purchase of subsidiary rights, we are most grateful to the following for their generous support:


American Museum of Natural History, New York, for use of extracts from Peoples of Asiatic Russia by Waldemar Jochelson.

Anvil Press for permission to use extracts from Bilhana: Black Marigolds  translated by E. Powys Mathers. 

Arizona State University for use of extracts from The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni by Gordon Griffiths, James Hankins, David Thompson.

Biblical Institute Press, Rome, Italy, for use of extracts from The Song of Songs and Ancient Tamil Love Poems by Abraham Mariaselvam.

J.A. Black,  G. Cunningham, E.  Fluckiger-Hawker, E.  Robson, J. Taylor and G. Zôlyomi of the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford, for use of extracts from Sumerian praise poems, laments, epics, and love poetry.

The Constitution Society for the use of extracts from The Great Binding Law (Gayanashagowa) of the Iroquois Nation.

Continuum for permission to use extracts from Reading Sumerian Poetry by Jeremy Black.

Jerrold S. Cooper for extracts from Presargonic Inscriptions by Jerrold S. Cooper. The American Oriental Society, New Haven, Connecticut, 1986

The Himalayan Academy for use of extracts from The Holy Kural, translated under the guidance of Gurudeva, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.

The Hanover Electronic Texts project for permission to use their HTML text for extracts from Coleman's translation of The Treatise of Lorenzo Valla on the Donation of Constantine and Woodford's translation of Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators.

The King Center for use of the text of Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail".

Bernard G. Murchland for use of extracts from his translations in Two Views of Man: Pope Innocent III—On the Misery of Man; Giannozzo Manetti—On the Dignity of Man.

The Journal of Near Eastern Studies, published by the University of Chicago Press, for use of extracts from "The Message of Lu-dingir-ra to his Mother."

Kevin O'Rourke for use of his translations of the poems of Chong Ch'ol appearing on the Korean Insights website.

The Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, for use of extracts from the Gilgamesh Epic contained in Myths of Mesopotamia translated by Stephanie Dalley.

The Official Mahatma Gandhi eArchive & Reference Library ( for use of extracts from Mahatma Gandhi quotes.

The Polynesian Society (Inc.), Auckland, New Zealand, for use of extracts from Nga Moteatea by A. T. Ngata and Pei Te Hurinui.

The heirs of Knud Rasmussen, Copenhagen, Denmark, for use of extracts from the Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition 1921-24 by Knud Rasmussen.

The Research Center for Translation, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, for use of extracts from Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty by Sima Qian, translated by Burton Watson.

Richard Rutt for use of his translations of poems by Chong Ch'ol appearing in The Bamboo Grove.

The University of California Press, Berkeley, for use of translations of the words of Ptahhotep, Amenemope, and Egyptian love poems, contained in Ancient Egyptian Literature, by Miriam Lichtheim.

The University of California Press, Berkeley, for use of translations of the poems by Po Chui and Du Fu contained in The Hundred Names translated by Henry H. Hart.

The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, for use of translations of the poems by Chong Ch'ol  contained in The Bamboo Grove translated by Richard Rutt.

The University of Nebraska Press for permission to use use of extracts from the Land of the Spotted Eagle by Luther Standing Bear.

The University of Stanford Press for permission to use extracts from Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, Volume I, Books 1-6, by John Knoblock.

University of Toronto Press, Toronto, for permission to use extracts from The Royal inscriptions of Mesopotamia. Early periods; v. 3/1 Gudea and His Dynasty by Dietz Otto Edzard. 

The University of Washington for permission to use use of extracts from Flower in My Ear by Edwin Grant Burrows.

The Writings of Charles Darwin on the Web, Edited by John van Wyhe, for permission to use abstracts from  British Library on-line versions of Darwin's books. 

Yale University Press for permission to use extracts from The Harps That Once . . . by Thorkild Jacobsen.


Humanistic Texts is an all-volunteer organization and does not accept advertising or fees. The texts at this web site are made available at no fee for non-commercial use. The texts may be down-loaded and printed out in single copies for individual use only. In deference to the wishes of copyright holders, making multiple copies without permission is prohibited.


Information on copyright holders carried on the relevant web pages is incorporated into this page by reference. Introductions, selections, adaptations copyright © Rex Pay 1997-2007

All Rights Reserved



Humanistic Texts portrays the advancing idea of the human condition from  thinkers throughout the history of the  world, without  including the divisive texts of religions.  It shows there is much to be gained from human thought when the disputes among religions are put aside. This does not mean that the moral or transcendental aspects of religion are rejected. In fact, the reason many reject organized religion today is not because of their moral or transcendental aspects but because they make claims that science has shown to be factually incorrect. To do this undermines the credibility of the religion as a whole.

With 500 million planets in our galaxy likely to support life, there could be tens of thousand of civilizations more advanced than Earth. So, among the hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe, there may be trillions of advanced civilizations. Many of the beliefs of organized religion on Earth fall by the wayside in the face of such numbers.

However, rejection of organized religion is not the same as rejecting the concept of a deity. Many religions on Earth have been rejected in the past. The result has been the emergence of  a richer concept of the deity. A unifying cosmic religion consistent with science has probably emerged among advanced civilizations in the universe and is something to be pursued. Such an approach to a new concept of the deity is put forward at the website, This investigates the form religion in an advanced extra-terrestrial civilization might take, removing the discussion of the future of religion away from the contentious religious texts of Earth.