Spencer Heath's


Spencer Heath Archive

Item 3192

A summary of the philosophy of Spencer Heath, by Spencer H. MacCallum and Alvin Lowi, as submitted to Libertarian Papers 4/22/2018

January 24, 1995








 This bare-bones sketch of Spencer Heath’s philosophy may be

 refined and fleshed out some in the future. The audacious

 challenge was to attempt to thumbnail the whole thing here.



         Spencer H. MacCallum and Alvin Lowi



Spencer Heath seriously addressed three broad fields of inquiry and showed them to be interlocking: (1) the philosophy of natural science and the nature of knowing, (2) human social organization, and (3) the spiritual life of man. By spiritual he meant the aesthetic and creative — all the non-necessitous life which is pursued for its own sake alone. Out of these three threads of diverse character he wove a whole-cloth philosophy, a single, unified perspective on human life.




To begin at the beginning, a person’s first consciousness is of SELF and NOT SELF. For human beings live in two worlds, the subjective and the objective. Our subjective life is not limited to what we can experience of the objective world; in it we can entertain dreams and phantasmagoria without end. But the world outside of self, the objective world, is unyielding. We experience it incompletely and can speculate about it but never know it with certainty. Only so far as we learn about it, however, can we increase our likelihood of survival. As we learn how things work in the objective world we are able to make predictions that enable us to live in it — not getting run over in the streets and so forth. As we gain this knowledge of how things work, we build a congruence, a correspondence, between our inner and our outer worlds; our mind takes on a measure of the rationale — the “mind” — of nature. The process by which we accomplish this, whether under controlled laboratory conditions or in the barn or on the street corner, is fundamentally the scientific method. To the extent that we attain this at-one-ment with the universal, we live rather than die; we achieve the things that we purpose; we dream and we objectify our dreams.


     This knowledge of the not-self is at first empirical, cut-and-try. But at some point in the human experience knowledge of numbers is obtained and observation is systematized; formal scientific method arises. Now the knowledge that was intuitive and empirical begins to be rational (literally concerned with RATIOS — the numbers of things). We begin by quantum leaps to advance our at-one-ment with the world of nature around us.


     Two generalizations about the not-self are borne out by observation in each field in which man has developed successful science (i.e. that yields successful technology):


  1. So far as we can apprehend, all nature consists of happenings, or events, which have three quantifiable aspects. In Heath’s terminology, these are mass, motion and time, measurable in terms of grams, centimeters and seconds or their equivalents.[1] Even with the aid of instruments, there are upper and lower limits to our ability to experience — and measure — events.


  1. Within the range of human experience, all events are composite of discrete lesser events. At each level of integration, events organize themselves into larger events which in their turn become units for still greater events. To illustrate, electrons and other sub-atomic particles organize themselves into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules into living cells, cells into complex organisms,

and these into societies, or super organisms. At every level, the combining units must become fully individuated before organization is possible; for their very diversity is the basis of their functional integration, which presupposes freedom of each to manifest its individual nature. To the extent that the integrity of any unit is compromised, it cannot enter into the making of a higher-order (i.e. more complex) individual. Hence, at each level the constituent units are appropriately called in-dividuals.


     The test of successful science is that it support rational projection, hence giving rise to practical technologies. Technology, in turn, consists in purposefully altering the ratios of the mass, motion and time aspects of events to effect desired changes. To illustrate the concept, hypothetically varying the composition of an event whose quantity is maintained constant can yield such qualitatively distinct manifestations as near-absolute-zero temperature (least motion that can be experienced even with instruments), atomic explosion (greatest motion), and speed of light (least time).




Applying these generalizations to human social phenomena, Heath devised a quantitative measure for the viability of a human population, thereby successfully bridging from the quantitative to the qualitative. Comparing two populations that are quantitatively alike when measured in man-years, we find that the population manifesting the greater life span is the more viable of the two, since more of its numbers live beyond the period of biological reproduction — replacement of its members — and into its productive and creative years. Though its numbers be fewer, by living beyond the period of procreative imperatives, the members have greatly expanded their opportunity to produce and create beyond their own biological needs. On the other hand, a population suffering a short mean life span remains at a subsistence level, absorbed in day-to-day survival matters, regardless of the numbers involved or the territorial density of its communities, if any.


     What accounts for the observed difference between two such populations? What is it that enables members of one to live longer on average? With respect to developing a social technology, what can we learn from a comparison of the two? Heath’s answer is that the difference between the two populations lies in the degree of individuation, or integrity, of the individual units and how that affects the possibility of functional interrelations among them. Recall that organization at all the various levels in nature arises from the spontaneous interaction of units that are entire and uncompromised in-dividuals — each freely and fully expressing its own nature. In which of our hypothetical populations are the individual members more compromised and collisional? In which are they more freely operating and congenial?


     Where individuals, through cooperation, evolve forms of spontaneous order, we see the development of society. In Heath’s concept, population alone is not sufficient to constitute society; behavior is the key. Wherever in a population we observe individuals freely engaging in reciprocal relations, there and to that extent only are we observing society.


     The first human societies were primitive, severely limited to small, face-to-face populations and heavily dependent upon systems of kinship terminology to assign roles and order customary relations within the group. But with the discovery of mathematics, and with it the possibility of accountancy and an entire complex of contractual market institutions, the reciprocal relations can become impersonal, and being impersonal, universal, potentially including all men. Without knowing that I exist, the coffee-grower in Brazil provides my morning cup of coffee. Commerce being blind to race or ethnicity, the whole earth becomes a web of reciprocating services, freeing men and women to cultivate their personal lives within their circles of familiars.


     With the maturation of society, we have the emergence of a distinctly new life form on the earth, a biological organism marked by a function not shared by any other, namely, the potential to interact creatively with its environment so as not to exhaust and despoil it but to make it progressively more capable of supporting its own kind of life — and not necessarily at the expense of any other.


     Examining this emerging life form, Heath recognized three functional aspects, symbolically expressed in the title of his major work as Citadel, Market and Altar. The first was the defensive, or protective, function, affording that security of persons and property upon which all else rests. This he might have called the integrity function, since it has to do with maintaining the integrity of the constituent units — individuals. While this can require the use of defensive force, the major part of this function is provided by voluntary or customary observance of the distinctly social institution of property.


     The second function, symbolized as Market, was that of exchange, whereby men attend to one another’s biological needs with benefit to each and sacrifice of none. It maintains the organism alive at any given level but is not, in and of itself, progressive.


     If Citadel and Market denote the immune function and the metabolic function, respectively, then Altar symbolizes the psyche, for it includes all of those non-­necessitous activities men engage in for their own sake alone, the aesthetic and recreational arts, religion, philosophy, pure research in the sciences, and the like. If the Market maintains the society alive at a given level, the Altar through its discoveries feeding back new technologies into the marketplace advances society to new levels, ever enabling it to transcend itself.


     As the Citadel enables the Market with greater and greater efficiency to solve the problems of sustaining life, so the Market, by progressively freeing men and women from bondage to biological need and natural risk, grants them passage into the realm of the Altar — the realm of creative artistry, inspiration and motivation to higher goals.


     In Citadel, Market and Altar, published in 1957 and now out of print, Heath outlined his rationale for a natural science of society and explored in some detail one proposed application of social technology, a means whereby he thought the marketplace, under normal profit motivation, could and ultimately would undertake to provide all public services, replacing the present tax-based and insolvent administration of our public communities. For the name of the new natural science of society, he suggested a little used but already existing word, socionomy, defined by Webster’s New International Dictionary as “the theory or formulation of the organic laws exemplified in the organization and development of society.”




All action requires motivation. Intellectualizing alone — the mere idea of a contemplated act — does not suffice for this purpose. For the primitive man, enslaved to the vagaries of environmental circumstance, the need for motive power is satisfied to a major degree by the emotions of fight or flight, namely, rage and fear. But what energizes the social-­ized man, in whose situation the need for fight or flight no longer predominates? In his civilized condition, the emotions of rage or fear are largely counterproductive or irrelevant. What is the emotion that moves men and women to acts of creation and discovery? Spencer Heath found his answer to this question in the aesthetic response to beauty.


     Accordingly, while in agreement with the voluntaryist ideal of many of today’s anarchists and libertarians, defiance of authority was conspicuously lacking in Heath’s philosophical position. No social reformer was he, no militant, relying upon anger or moral outrage. His ambition was to lay the foundation for an authentic natural science of society, and in keeping with this goal he strove to so inspire others with a sense of the still-hidden beauty in the evolving social order that, under the aesthetic motivation, they would begin to make discoveries there like those which have already been made and are continuing to be made in the established fields of the natural sciences.


     For Spencer Heath, the office of religion, as of all the arts, was to lift the individual out of his mundane round and, through inspiration, assist him in discovering and utilizing his creative potentialities. For him, aesthetic experience and religious experience were synonymous. It was entirely natural, therefore, that Spencer Heath should recognize in Judeo-Christian teachings important correspondences with the beauty he saw and, even more, intuited, in the social field. In this tradition as in no other, and especially in the precepts of Jesus, he discovered a rich language of discourse for conveying the beauty he saw in evolving social relationships. By utilizing this language, he hoped to a significant degree to counteract the poor image free-market capitalism has received at the hands of collectivists of all degrees over the past hundred years or more. In his interpretation of Judeo-Christian teachings, he was as sincere and devout as he was yet original.


     Almost incidentally, in discussing Christianity, Heath noted a correspondence between the early Church Fathers’ intuitions of the triune nature of the Ultimate Reality and the findings of modern science. Whereas the theologian speaks of Substance, Power and Eternity or, in more personal and immediate terms, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the scientist speaks of gram, centimeter and second and their derivatives to describe the mass, motion and durational time aspects of events. Both are treating of the same reality, the one in absolute terms, the other in relative, or finite, terms. One is dealing with conceptions only, the other with objective experience — which is necessarily finite since we are finite creatures. The one treats of the Infinite Whole, the other of its finite manifestations, or parts.


     But Heath’s most fundamental insight in the religious field had to do with the person and teachings of Jesus, whom he saw as an intuitive poet who had a glimmering of the full potential of man which would be realized through the universal society, only now emerging, which he called the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Jesus saw that the key to this Kingdom — casting in more explicit terms Moses’ injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself” — was to DO for others in the same manner you would have them do toward you — which is to say, with full regard for their wishes in the matter. A widespread misconception is that the Golden Rule is found in all the major world religions. The truth is that the Judeo-Christian formulation is unique. The positive rule is the formula for free enterprise and everything that entails, whereas the negative statement, merely to refrain from harming anyone, makes no history. Except for a limited application in stressful circumstances, it is sterile.


     By pointing out that service is the objective side of love, and building on this simple insight, Heath accomplishes a major integration of market economics with Judeo-­Christian religious doctrine. The reward for obeying the will of God, i.e. His command of the Golden Rule, is life and life abundant. And indeed, life expectancy has increased spectacularly in the last 200 years with the worldwide spread of commercial enterprise. Jesus made it abundantly plain that not good intentions but doing the will of God is what counts. Many businessmen believe their intentions are selfish or even bad, but that psychology belongs to the past and has still to catch up with their behavior. So long as they are practicing business and not cheating — which is not business but its converse — they are serving their fellow men as they would be served and thus are fulfilling the will of God.


     Precisely because service in the marketplace is impersonal, it can become universal, which makes it divine love. As their practice of divine love lifts men progressively out of bondage to necessity and into the realm of the creative arts pursued for their own sake alone, men come increasingly under aesthetic motivation, which is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In this heavenly kingdom, made heavenly by the practice of divine love, men increasingly enjoy that promised perfect freedom which is obedience to God’s will. That freedom comes about through men progressively discovering the rationale underlying the processes of nature, which is to say the mind of God as manifested in the works of God, and thereby achieving at-one-ment with God.


     This religious interpretation is entirely consonant with the biological and religious perspective developed by Edward McCrady, biologist and late Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. McCrady, in evolutionary terms, describes the emerging human society as a superorganism, or what he calls a “fifth-­order individual.” In theological terms, he describes it as the Mystical Body of Christ. He and Spencer Heath were on quite friendly terms.





The unifying concept of Spencer Heath’s philosophy overall is his recognition that the cosmic process is unalterably set in the direction of progress. That is to say, the cosmos is continually reorganizing its constituent threefold events not randomly, but to maximize the third and qualitative aspect, time. Thus are events ever becoming more real in the Platonic or Pauline sense of those things being most real that most endure. The rationale underlying this is simple: those events that are better organized in the sense of their constituents exhibiting more reciprocity in their relationships will outlast those events whose parts are more collisional, resulting in a bias over time in favor of the former. Hence the earth is becoming greener, as it were, meaning more alive, every day, and the emergence of the human societal life form, which is only just beginning, is the apex, to date, of that process.





Spencer Heath (1876-1963) was at various times in his career a professional engineer; practicing patent lawyer; manufacturer; and horticulturist. He pioneered in early aviation, developing the first machine mass-production of airplane propellers and supplying most of the propellers used by the Allies in World War I. He developed and in 1922 demonstrated the first engine-powered and controlled, variable and reversible pitch propeller. In the summer of 1929 he sold all his patents and facilities and devoted the rest of his life to research in the philosophy of science and the study of social organization. He published Citadel, Market and Altar in 1957. Additional titles are now being compiled and digitized from his unpublished notes, most notable among these being a new book published in 2018, Economics and the Spiritual Life of Free Men. For information contact his literary executor, Spencer H. MacCallum, by phone at 915-261-0502 or by email at <>.


[1]  For the derivation of Heath’s terms, see an unpublished paper by Alvin Lowi (, “An Elementary Concept of Action from a Physics Viewpoint.” Lowi believes Heath was on the track of a wholly new integration of the physical sciences starting with a reformulation (literally) of physical theory in terms not of energy, which is an abstraction, but of energy-in-action, or “action,” which can be experienced, thus fulfilling a promising but subsequently neglected line of inquiry hinted at in the work of Lagrange, Hamilton and Helmholtz among others at the turn of the 20th Century. The effect would be not only to simplify the sciences but to strengthen the theory by more firmly grounding it in observational experience, since the fundamental quantities would be more directly observable rather than abstract. As Lowi points out (Science News, 139:1, letter to the editor, May 11, 1991),  “That ‘action’ is more fundamental to physical theory than energy…is no longer a controversial idea. We not only have the quantum theory; we also know that the energy conservation principle can be derived from the principle of least action but not the reverse.”



Title Article - 3192 - A Summary Of The Philosophy Of Spencer Heath
Collection Name Spencer Heath Archive
Series Article
Box number 20:3185-3334
Document number 3192
Date / Year 1995-01-24
Authors / Creators / Correspondents Spencer H. MacCallum and Alvin Lowi
Description A summary of the philosophy of Spencer Heath, by Spencer H. MacCallum and Alvin Lowi, as submitted to Libertarian Papers 4/22/2018
Keywords Heath's Philosophy