start typing and results will show

or press esc

Pallas Athene was the Greek goddess of wisdom and just war; the daughter of Zeus and patron of Athens. This bust, which stood in the secular ‘Ethical Church’, is a reminder of the ongoing interest of early humanist thinkers in the ancient world, and the drawing of inspiration from the ‘ethical’ elements of different traditions throughout history – epitomised in Stanton Coit‘s edited collection The Message of Man, which was taken to conscientious objectors in Wandsworth Prison during the First World War. Humanists during the first half of the 20th century frequently looked to the past for examples of how best to think and to live, including founder of the Rationalist Peace Society Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, who gestured in her introduction to 1913’s Essays Towards Peace, to the pacifist ideals of Confucius, Lao-Tsze, and Mencius, as well as later sceptics, freethinkers, and humanists.

One of a number of busts in the Ethical Church (which also included campaigners like Josephine Butler and thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson), in Athene, Stanton Coit saw evidence of universal humanity, ‘creative reason’, and ‘calm peace’. In his guide to the Ethical Church, Coit wrote:

The beautiful bust of Pallas Athene… is, perhaps, the finest sculptured symbol of Active, Creative Reason. It is an incarnation of the human face, the face of a woman, of Power and Insight. In it are combined “chastity with gentleness, victorious strength with calm peace, profound wisdom with perfect simplicity.” This bust, although Greek in origin and pagan in its mythological associations, is in itself wholly universal.

Members of the early humanist movement were explicitly international in approach, and were involved in a range of active efforts for peace and cooperation. The Union of Ethical Societies (now Humanists UK) organised both the First International Moral Education Congress and the First Universal Races Congress, and individual members played active roles in international suffrage, peace, and human rights organisations. After the sale of the Ethical Church in the 1950s, the bust of Athene moved with the Ethical Union to its new home at 13 Prince of Wales Terrace, continuing to preside over the activities of the growing humanist movement.

Made by Heritage Creative