Homo Mutilans, Childrearing & Health
notes by translator

Ashley Montagu, 1952-53

Perhaps the most profound name ever bestowed upon a species, was that given to human beings by Karl Linnaeus in 1753 in his great book Systema Naturae - namely, Homo Sapiens. Linnaeus briefly epitomized this with the words; "Man, know thyself" (Homo nosce Te ipsum). This sounds like an injunction, and it is; but it was also intended to underscore the fact that human beings are the only creatures in the world capable of self-consciousness and contemplation and characterized by an unparalleled creativity.

Yet an impartial survey of Homo sapiens' record since 1753, would suggest that Oscar Wilde, as usual, was on the mark when he said that Homo sapiens was the most premature definition ever given a species. A possible improvement might be, in demotic English, "the wise guy, too clever by far for his own good." Perhaps the more appropriate appellation at this stage of human maldevelopment would be Homo sap, "the addlepated one." Not that the wisdom is not there as a potentiality. It is. Every child is born with the wisdom of its body and of its mind, striving to develop and grow in an environment that satisfies its basic behavioral needs, to grow and develop in physical and mental health. By mental health I mean the ability to love, to work, to play, and to think critically. Alas, this ability has been confused and adulterated by adults, who have rarely consulted the child and have instead ritually imposed their own adult confusions upon the child. Perhaps that explains why most adults are largely deteriorated babies. That is why to be born into the human family is to be in danger of suffering the usual mental and sometimes physical mutilations to which children are made to submit.

I think it would be greatly to our advantage if, instead of calling ourselves Homo sapiens, we called ourselves Homo mutilans, the mutilating species, the species that mutilates both mind and body, often in the name of reason, of religion, tradition, custom, morality, and law. Were we to adopt such a name for our species, it might focus our attention upon what is wrong with us and where we might begin setting ourselves right


The basic pattern of social behavior in the human species lies in the relation between mother and child. She has carried that child in a womb for 266 and a half days, which is actually the average from conception to birth (not delivery: doctors "deliver" babies but shouldn't). Babies get themselves naturally born, in most cases, and that child is looking forward to a continuation of the life that it had in the womb, which was sort of ideal. The temperature and pressure are constant, no work is required, and he or she is looking forward to a continuation of this. What they are looking forward to is a "womb with a view."

But they are expelled rather roughly and usually taken away from their mother, which is wrong. It's physiologically and psychologically wrong. Both baby and mother need each other more at that time than they ever will again. The baby should be put to nurse at the mother's breast, whereat it induces an enormous number of wonderful changes in the mother which she needs, such as the arresting of postpartum hemorrhage, which no obstetrician can do as well as the suckling baby, for there is more intelligence in the upper and lower lip of the newborn than in the brains of the obstetricians put together.

There is love between those two. All of this is communicated through touch, which would be lost if the baby were taken away from the mother. If you want to know what love is, interrupt what is going on between them and you will perceive the negative effects, the frustration of love. That baby is wanting to love. Striving to love. By not separating them, you not only enable them to live longer but you enable them to grow and develop rapidly in the ability to love themselves...

What is frustration? It is the thwarting of an expected satisfaction. What every baby expects is to be loved. When you thrwart that expectation, you make the person sink lower and lower into despair and frustration, and to react in hostility, aggressiveness: "I don't care a damn about you anymore. You haven't cared a damn about me; why should I worry about you? Why should I become involved in all this?" This is the massive alienation, the disengagement, the detachment which we are suffering from in our culture, for hatred is love frustrated.


Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof.

Human beings are the only creatures who are able to behave irrationally in the name of reason.

The family unit is the institution for the systematic production of mental illness.

One goes through school, college, medical school and one's internship learning little or nothing about goodness but a good deal about success.

Man is the only one-hundred-and-fifty pound non-linear servo mechanism that can be wholly reproduced by unskilled labor ... The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us ... It is work (sic: read "activity & movement"), work that one delights in, that is the surest guarantor of happiness. But even here it is a work that has to be earned by labor (sic: read "exploration & experiment, ie. play") in one's earlier years. One should labor so hard in youth that everything one does subsequently is easy by comparison ... The idea is to die young as late as possible.

The doctor has been taught to be interested not in health but in disease. What the public is taught is that health is the cure for disease.

There have been some medical schools in which somewhere along the assembly line, a faculty member has informed the students, not so much by what he said but by what he did, that there is an intimate relation between curing and caring.

... There exists, at the present time, a widespread belief in the innate nature of competition, that is to say, that competition is a form of behavior with which every organism is born, and that this is particularly true of man.

Just when the idea of the innate competitiveness of man came into being I have not the least idea. It is at least several thousand years old, and was probably in circulation long before The Old Testament came to be written.

The scientific validation of the idea of the innate competitiveness of man was provided in the nineteenth century by Darwin and his supporters, and particularly by Spencer and the whole school of Social Darwinists who followed his lead ... These ideas, I am going to suggest, are erroneous, tragically erroneous.


In a competitive society freedom of inquiry is not genuinely possible; that freedom of inquiry is proportional to the development of cooperation within any society, in which there is an absence of dictatorship of any sort, and the person is free to arrive at and express his own judgments without fear of punishment, and in the expectation of the desire in his fellows to understand.

(But) most of us are no longer really human, we have been deprived of our humanity. We have been dehumanized by the processes of conditioning, upbringing and socialization. We are no longer the organized authentic self which we were once capable of being… What we are born for is to live as if to live and love were one. Unless we learn that lesson “the goose is cooked” as it were.