On November 16, 2004, Professor W. Warren Wagar died at his home in upstate New York.
He was 72 years old. His death has deprived the world of a brilliant scholar,
historian, futurist and educator. His family and friends have lost a sensitive
and compassionate man.
I never met Warren Wagar. By sheer coincidence, he published his MEMOIRS OF THE FUTURE
(2001) at the same time that my late husband, Eduard Prugovecki, published his book of the
same name. However, Warren's book is an intellectual autobiography; my husband's is a
utopian novel. An electronic correspondence and friendship developed between the two
that continued until my husband's death in October, 2003.
There were other amazing parallels between my husband's life and ideals and Warren's.
Because of their commitment to peace and social justice, both were early contributors
to "The Project for the First People's Century" web site.
Empathizing with the grief that I felt after my husband's death, Warren wrote regularly
to me---emails that were both perceptive and sentient and full of pithy, insightful
observations about the world scene. When I heard of his death, I felt a deep sense of
loss. I miss him and his thoughtful reflections.
Warren was raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After obtaining his Ph.D. in
History from Yale in 1959, he taught at Wellesley College, the University of New
Mexico and finally at the State University of New York, Binghamton, where he
spent the last 31 years.
Although his scholarly interests centred on European intellectual and cultural history,
his passion became the study of alternative futures. He believed that a serious study
of the future was the most important task in the world because such study offered mankind
the best hope for gaining control of its own destiny. At Binghamton, his courses
"History of the Future" and "World War Three" proved to be enormously
popular and he earned the title, "Distinguished Teaching Professor".
He was proud of being the first American ever chosen to be a Vice President of the H.G.
Wells Society. In fact, his last book, (published in September of 2004 by
Wesleyan University Press) was H.G. WELLS : TRAVERSING TIME. He was an active member and
contributor to the Society for Utopian Studies and the World Future Society. He also
published many stories in science fiction magazines and anthologies.
The author of 18 books, he is best known for A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FUTURE (1989,
rev. 1992 and 1999) which is a memoir of the next two centuries presented
as history. The book neither advocates nor preaches but it does clarify Warren's concept
of an ideal world---that of a socialist world-system that would provide for heterogeneity
but would guarantee freedom and equality for everyone. The highest allegiance, Warren
believed, must be to Civitas Humana.
Warren ended his article, STRATEGIES OF TRANSITION TO A PEOPLE'S MILLENNIUM
that he wrote for "Project for a First People's Century" with these
"The next revolution must be a World Revolution, ministering to the needs and
aspirations of all people, but they in turn must school themselves to realize that not
every need can be met and not every aspiration can be fulfilled without compromising the
equal rights of others. The Earth and its inhabitants are precious finite resources. We
must husband them with due regard for their common dignity and infinite worth. If this
means, for whatever time it takes, living in a purgatory, then so be it. The terrible
alternative is easily located in the first book of Dante's Commedia."
Warren described himself as a Cosmic Humanist, by which he meant one who
appreciates and recognizes our collective responsibility not only to humankind but to all
life or being. What stood in the way, in Warren's thinking, was the problem of power,
power over others and nature. He wrote in his MEMOIRS OF THE FUTURE,
"Power multiplies. Wisdom does not. We are like toddlers armed with bulldozers
and assault rifles, with no parents or teachers to supervise." Unless we solve
this problem, he thought, the path to an enlightened and egalitarian world
order would be fraught with overwhelming obstacles. And yet, we must try.
"One of my strongest convictions", he wrote, "is that holiness resides
in all being, not in Mecca or Rome or any earthly sanctum, but in all being. Until we
grasp the holiness of all being, we shall not be able to respect any fragment of
Near the end of A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FUTURE, Warren wrote words taken from
"Passage to India" by Walt Whitman, Warren's favourite poet. I think that
they capture the essential spirit of Warren's life.
O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God!
O farther, farther, farther sail!