More than nine years in the making, this work is an ambitious undertaking that ranges through thousands of years of history, across numerous branches of learning, and around the globe. The seminal idea goes back to when Gunnar Sevelius, M.D. was a high school student in Sweden during World War II and asked himself, “Is war really necessary? Do governments have a flaw in the way they are built or how they work?”
The Nine Pillars of History is his attempt to answer those questions. Sevelius draws upon a vast store of learning as he elucidates the nine pillars of a stable, just, and peaceful society. Those pillars, in his opinion, are (1) food, water, air, and energy; (2) secure shelter; (3) cleanliness; (4) art, (5) freedom to communicate; (6) freedom to assemble; (7) freedom to choose religion; (8) access to medical help; (9) freedom to trade. To the degree that societies support those pillars, he posits, civilization flourishes.
Sevelius divides history into three epochs based on the mode of transportation of food (human, animal, and engine) and two basic types of government: democratic and dogmatic. He is critical of the latter. From here, he launches into his sweeping and at times meandering voyage through time, examining these pillars from every angle–historical, religious, medical, sexual, and economic. The point is to offer “possibility for a better understanding between different cultures . . . all according to the eternal Golden Rule: Always treat others as you would like others to treat you” (italics his).
While his aim is commendable, simply setting forth a vast amount of information and hoping readers will subsequently accept alternate worldviews in the service of peace runs against the age-old reality that many are not motivated by the common good, and his style is likely to often confound readers. Sevelius numbers every paragraph “to offer an easy to use reference system for community discussion of specific statements.” He also offers suggestions for further reading. Specific quotations and citations from source material would be more helpful, as would questions to guide discussion.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.