Bertrand Russell

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Bertrand Russell – The English Voltaire
Bertrand Russell was born on May 18, 1872 in Monmouthshire, Wales to an influential family in the British aristocracy. A child of privilege educated at Cambridge University, Lord Bertrand Russell would later be known as the “English Voltaire” for his widely renowned work as a philosopher and mathematician.

Bertrand Russell – A Man of Ruthless Reason
Bertrand Russell died in 1970, after ninety-eight full years of scholarly life. He was famous for his “aquiline, patrician profile and diamond-sharp intellect. No one, it seemed, lived a life more rational, more calmly chiseled by the dictates of the mind.”1

    “I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe – because, like Spinoza’s God, it won’t love us in return.” (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970)
Bertrand Russell’s powers of analysis were so formidable that one friend called him “The Day of Judgment.” Russell wrote to another friend:
    “I feel myself so rugged and ruthless, and somewhat removed from the whole aesthetic side of life – a sort of logic machine warranted to destroy any idea that is not very robust.”2

Bertrand Russell – A Man of Deeper Loneliness
Was this the whole story of Bertrand Russell? Far from it. Orphaned at the age of three by the death of his parents, and orphaned philosophically at the age of sixteen by his atheism, Russell was no logic machine. He was literally ravenous for home, for love, and for children of his own. All of his life he was torn—torn between his parents and his grandparents, between his atheism and his mysticism, between his four wives and his many mistresses, between his life of scholarship and his life of public activism, and above all between his keenly analytical mind and his wildly passionate heart.

“He seemed detached in mind and body,” one mistress wrote, “but all the furies of hell raged in his eyes.” Or as Bertrand Russell wrote to Lady Ottoline Morrell, another mistress and his deepest love: “The root of the whole thing is loneliness. I have a kind of physical loneliness, which almost anybody can more or less relieve, but which would be only fully relieved by a wife and children. Beyond that, I have a very internal and terrible spiritual loneliness… I have dreamed of a combination of spiritual and physical companionship, and if I had the good fortune to find it, I could have become something better than I shall ever be.”3

Bertrand Russell – Our Deepest Human Yearning
Companionship, love, home, and the search for the purpose and fulfillment in life—Bertrand Russell seems to speak for us all. According to Os Guinness, Lord Russell, the renowned and outspoken atheist philosopher, reflects “our deepest human yearning”--“to know a sense of meaning and belonging in this journey that is our life.”4

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A significant portion of this article was excerpted from Long Journey Home by Os Guinness (Waterbrook Press, 2001). All copyrights reserved on behalf of the author and publisher in the original. We highly recommend Os Guinness and his multiple resources covering similar philosophical, theological, and societal issues.

Footnotes:

  1. Os Guinness, Long Journey Home: A Guide to Your Search for the Meaning of Life (Waterbrook Press, 2001), p. 3.
  2. Long Journey Home, p. 4.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.


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