A Defence of Sacred Measures

It is necessary, for the reasons set out in this pamphlet, to oppose with the utmost vehemence the proposal to abandon our traditional standards of weight and measure in favour of the metric units invented at the French Revolution.

The fundamental reason for emphasising the importance of this issue is that it clearly epitomises the conflict between two contrasting philosophic or cosmological points of view. The first is expressed in the ancient belief, orthodox for many thousands of years and only recently denied, that eternal and human values (the two being inseparable) should govern the social order and institutions. According to this view, human nature, though always varying, remains essentially the same in all times. There is one philosophy, one religion, one science, though for each of these there are infinite expressions. Man and cosmos are alike in this, that both are constant and made in the same image. Both are therefore measured by the same standards, and for this purpose the ancient units of metrolology were designed. Against this view is the newy received idea that the universe and its inhabitants are ever subject to purposeless change mechanically operated; that eternal values are a delusion, human values incidental; that the only true religion is idolatry, the worship of the chance material products of the time; and that the interests of the state idol are more important that those of the human individual and should be consulted above all else. By this reckoning the body of the idol provides a more appropriate source and standard of measures than the human frame, and this is the origin of the metric system.

The point at issue is whether an enlightened, humane and scientific civilization should adopt as its standards of measure units such as those still in use in England, which were formerly, and for good reason, regarded as sacred, having the advantages of tradition, inherent meaning and natural application, or whether the metric systern, which has none of these qualities nor any of its own to replace them, is the more appropriate.

According to the first of the philosophies contrasted in the preceding paragraph the adoption of sacred standards of measure, together with an appreciation of their significance and value, is essential in order to achieve and maintain true civilization.

Sacred measures are those units which relate to natural constants on more than one scale and demonstrate the unity between the macrocosmic body of the universe and the human microcosm. The present British units, the foot, mile, acre etc, are by this definition sacred; the metric units are not. The origins of the two systems and the implications in their use are contrasted in the following paragraphs.

The foot and the other linear and land measuring units that relate to it are of indefinable antiquity. They were known to the Sumerians, Chaldeans and the ancient Egyptians and appear once to have been universal, for they survive in different parts of the world, wherever the interests of the people are still given precedence over those of modern technology and commerce. Their advantages for all human purposes are obvious. A carpenter gauges an inch by the width of his thumb and its tenth part by his practised eye; a builder estimates the length of a wall by the two yard span of his outstretched arms, and a surveyor paces by the yard. Cloth is sold by the cubit, the distance from elbow to finger tip, and other such units as the span and handbreadth were formerly used which have now generally become obsolete. Of course no two people have the same bodily dimensions, and the canonical man has never existed save as an idea or archetype. These traditional units are not, however, imprecise or inaccurate. Ancient societies regarded their standards of measure as their most sacred possessions and they have been preserved with extreme accuracy from the earliest times. A craftsman soon learns to what extent the parts of his own body deviate from the conventional standard and adjusts accordingly.

Sacred units of measure apply not only to the human scale but also to the astronomical. For this reason they were said, at a time when such language was more generally understood, to have been "revealed" to men, not invented by them. The purpose of ancient science was to maintain and invigorate an esoteric tradition, the primaeval heritage, rather than to pursue innovations, not, as evolutionists have supposed, becuase of any deficiencies in the positive intellect of early men, but because education was formally directed on Platonic principles towards the development of the inherent sense of proportion by means of musical and mathematical studies, with the result that cosmology, the science of discerning and codifying reality, was respected above.all. According to Plato in The Laws, the stability of ancient civilization was maintained by the application of a canonized law of proportion, a code of musical harmonies, to which artists and musicians were obliged to refer in all compositions. The canon was essentially numerical, capable of being interpreted in the appropriate terms for use in the various arts and sciences, as music, architecture and astronomy, and extending to such matters as theology and the art of government. its corresponding geometrical expression was the figure, conceived as the synthesis of all geometrical types, which St John described as the groundplan of the New Jerusalem and Plato as the mystical city of The Republic and The Laws. This figure was the symbol of the cosmos, and. its dimensions, measured by the sacred units, the most important being the English foot and mile, reproduced the principal dimensions of the solar system, revealing accurate knowledge in some remote age of the measurements of earth, sun and moon.

It is thus claimed on behalf of units of measurement such as the foot, furlong, mile etc, whose preservation has hitherto been the honourable charge of the British nation, that they have a profounder significance than as mere arbitrary standards of length; that they are integral in the human view of the universe and can not therefore be excluded from any social scheme founded on human rather than idolatrous principles. The philosophy, which provides the justification for their use, recognizes the existence of a natural law, reigning within both human nature and the univeral soul, some knowledge of which is essential to the orderly conduct of human affairs. The word human is here emphasised, because the interests of the true science and of the people are not naturally opposed but complementary, and when the principles of this science are again established, as they inevitably must if the re-enactment of the destruction of Babylon on a more grandiose scale is to averted, the conduct of affairs will be directed towards the benefit of the people as a whole rather than of one class, the financiers and industrialists. In this event, the advantage of adopting sacred units of measurement, those which are inherent in the natural order and not simply the reflection of a transient, atheistic political philosophy, will again become apparent.

The history of the metric system, by which it is proposed to replace our traditional system of metrology, is indicative of its character. At the time of the French Revolution, when the Goddess of Reason was ceremonially installed in Notre Dame, a number of people, many of whom were by all other standards apparently sane, were struck by the remarkable notion that the facts of nature, even the cycles of the sun and moon as manifest in the weeks and months of the calendar, might be varied by government decree. The revolutionary calendar, with its 10 month year and 20 hour day, the most spectacular feat of idolatry since the Tower of Babel, collapsed at once, but its companion, the metric system, was successfully imposed on the French people. According to Napoleon who lightened the penal sanctions by which its use was enforced, "it violently broke up the customs and habits of the people as might have been done by some Greek or Tartar tyrant". Despite popular rejection and following a number of bloody riots in which opposition to the compulsory use of the metre was suppressed, the metric system survived in France and was extended in the interest of uniformity to other European nations, always with the active assistance of the police or military.

The metre was originally intended, following ancient precedent, to be a geodetic or earth-measuring unit, one ten-millionth part of a quadrant of the meridian measured through Paris. Its length was finally established in 1798, as accurately as the scientific methods of the time allowed, as equal to 39·37 inches. A particular reason why this length so commended itself to its inventors was that it corresponded to no existing or traditional unit. In other words, it was purposely designed to be unlike any unit which had ever been found convenient in actual use. The old sacred measures, properly understood, promote harmony, stability and knowledge. The new atheistic system, conceived in ignorance and arrogance and nurtured on the blood of the people, is the fitting servant of the forces of greed and materialism that are currently favouring its adoption in England.

Note. The French might have acquired a true sacred and scientific system at the beginning of the 18th century had they adopted Carrini's proposed geodetic foot, equal to one six-thousandth part of a minute of arc on the terrestrial meridian or 1·013ft. This length is the same as the Greek foot by which the Parthenon was laid out and which, like all ancient units, was geodetic in reference.

This defence of the foot against the metre is based on two qualities that distinguish the foot from its rival. First, the foot is the established measure of the British people and has been so from the earliest times, at least since the building of Stonehenge. It is universally known and is used in many countries including America, where, on account of the republican common sense and practicality of the people it is to be retained. To abandon it to enforce the use of an alien system can in no possible way benefit the public interest. The compulsory introduction of the metre, which in the improbable event of popular opinion being consulted, certainly would be rejected by the great majority, is thus clearly defined as an act of tyranny.

The second argument in favour of the foot may to some appear excessively mystical. It is however the more essential of the two, and is here included for the consideration of those who are sufficiently experienced to understand its implications, and with an appeal for the indulgence of those who are not. The foot, as stated above, is a sacred unit of ancient cosmology, designed to illustrate the hermetic phdosophy of"man as the measure of all things" and to promote harmony on earth by assisting the influences of true proportion to become active in human affairs. The way of thought that attends the use of the foot locates the centre of the world within each individual, and encourages him to arrange his kingdom after the best possible model, the cosmic order. The ancient method of acquiring this model was not astronomy but initiation, for those who presented themselves, suitably prepared, to the priests of Hermes were admitted to the study of the sacred canon, which demonstrated the link between the created, visible world and the creative world of archetypal notions, and provided the criterion for the discernment of truth and illusion. Those insufficiently curious to seek initiation could rest assured on the word of initiates, such as that given by Plato, that "things are far better looked after than we can possibly conceive".

That the inch, foot, furlong, mile, acre etc, are of very ancient and sacred origin has been demonstrated elsewhere. The fact may not appear of any great interest at the present time; but sacred means preordained and eternal, and to these epithets neither the metric system nor the theories behind its promotion have any claim. Naturally, each generation has the right to select whatever system of measurements it finds most approgriate, but it must then be content to be judged by its choice. It is therefore the right and duty of those concerned, before the final decision is made between the foot and the metre, to consider carefully the origin, history and meaning of the two systems in order to see which one is most in accordance with their ideals and interests and best designed to promote civilized human values.

In jung's phrase, the balance of the primordial world is upset. The art of government, as practised from the earliest times, is to discern and weigh the various interests within the community, preserving dynamic stability by application of the mystical law of proportion. The decline of this esoteric science and the fragmentation of the canonical society prepared the way for the development of the new philosophy of civilization, which attaches more importance to external form than to essential reality. In consequence, the respect formerly given to the concept of a sacred order based on eternal values was transferred to the 19th century doctrine of "the survival of the fittest", a pernicious phrase, favoured by dictators, millionaires and other modern aberrations, and advanced by them in justification for all excesses.

The proposal to introduce the metric system into England is another episode in a lengthy historical process, by which the natural rights of the individual, including that of participation in decisions affecting his own immediate interests, have been eroded, often by measures ostensibly designed to protect them. The destruction of local independence that followed from the Reformation; the confiscation of church and common lands on behalf of the state and its monopolists; the extinction of the labourer's small-holding, compensated for by the benefits of the poor law and workhouse; by such events the process is illustrated. Throughout the 18th century the central government increased its power over the people whose interests it was shortly to betray by the following proceeding. Soon after the Napoleonic war, the government adopted a remarkable theory of economics, which held that the country's wealth could be increased by the simple expedient of printing more money. This new paper money was issued through bankers and jobbers, to whom it mostly adhered, thus generating a new dominant class, whose wealth and influence soon exceeded all others. This class is strictly parasitic, because it neither creates nor produces anything of human value, nor does it profess to rule for the benefit of the people as a whole. Its growing influence has led naturally to a corresponding decrease in the fortunes of everyone else. Its values have become universally accepted and embodied in theories of government, the natural function of rulers - to balance the various interests within the community - being disregarded. Finally, the native parasites have now been swallowed up by others larger and more anonymous, so that it has become no longer possible for the individual to identify the source of the authority by which he is governed.

The religion that has been engendered by this process is idolatry and the idol is that very "image of the beast" described by St John in Revelation 13, whose ritual is the worship of material form. The appropriate unit by which this idol is measured is the metric system: and so it is proposed. Yet, vast and inflated though it is, the idol is but a created thing with no claims to immortality. After the nature of such monsters its appetite ever increases, and each year ever greater sacrifices are demanded of the people, until the time comes for its destruction, and of this there is no lack of portents. In contrast, the foot belongs to a tradition of which it has always been said that, even though it may be suppressed and vanish for centuries, it will always recur, for its spores are deeply embedded in human nature, and the truth to which it refers is constant and unique. The submergence of this tradition coincides with the dark periods of history; with its cyclical rebirth the light of civilization is restored. To institutionalise the dark ages by giving authority to the metric system would be an act of folly inconceivable in any other age but our own.