Larry (Lawrence) Taub — 1936–2018
This page wants to keep alive the memory of Larry Taub, American futurist and author of The Spiritual Imperative. For people who had the privilege to know him, it was impossible not to love Larry, and to admire him for his devotion to what he loved most: sharing his vision about the future.
Larry’s mind moved in a world decades ahead of his time. His great passion was to speak about his ideas outlined in the Spiritual Imperative — and he did so for only one purpose: he was convinced that the Spiritual Imperative could help people to understand the forces that shape our world and thereby help them to better anticipate and prepare for the changes they will bring.
Larry personified a cosmopolitan man. The world was his home, humanity his familly — and his book was his baby. He transcended the prejudice of culture, race, gender, and ideology. His remarkable book puts the world in the palm of our hands. Larry confronts us with a mental challenge. He asked us to let go of long-held assumptions about our view of the world, while at the same time offering a new vista that transcends all conventional boundaries. His book is testimony of a man with an exceptional mind.
This page is a tribute to Larry. It will be updated when appropriate. At the end of the page is the English translation of the introduction to the Japanese edition of the Spiritual Imperative. It was written by Japanese author and economist Masanori Kanda, who captures Larry as the man his friend came to know and love.
Larry and his Work
Diagrams from The Spiritual Imperative
The following three diagrams show The Spiritual Imperative in a nutshell. They show the enormous scope of Larry’s knowledge, his radical departure from a Euro-centric worldview, and the comprehensiveness of his macrohistorical model.
To people who where scepetical about his models, (usually those unaccustomed to a model of humanity not based on a Western wordview), Larry would invariably say: “Please tell me where I am going wrong.” He never received a persuasive answer. If his book has yet to reach a wider audience in the West, Larry lived to see the Japanese edition becoming a №1. bestseller in Japan.
Below is a translation of Masanori Kanda’s foreword to the Japanese edition of The Spiritual Imperative. Mr. Kanda, a well-known economist in Japan, describes their first meeting in Omotesando in Tokyo in the 1990s. He depicts Larry as the man that endeared him to everyone who had the privilege to known him.
Foreword by Masanori Kanda
What? Alvin Toffler is living in Tokyo? That’s the thought that went through my mind when I finished reading the last page of this book. Even if it wasn’t Alvin Toffler, Peter Drucker or John Kenneth Galbraith would have been just as good comparisons. The point is, what surprised me was the fact that a Westerner, with a fine and noble mind equal to that of the great thinkers of history, has been living in Tokyo for many years, quietly, and without anyone being aware of it.
Lawrence Taub. I gradually became firmly convinced that this unknown author, when we consider this book, his maiden work, is as worthy as those great thinkers who have carved their name into history. Right at the start, the title itself of the original book hit me with great impact. The Spiritual Imperative: Sex, Age, and the Last Caste (which Mr. Kanda here translates literally into Japanese).
According to Taub, sex, age, and caste, three seemingly completely unconnected principles, can explain human history and the future. This bold hypothesis is interesting if you are sitting around talking and drinking. But serious people are not supposed to take it seriously. And to be honest, when I first picked up the original book, I turned its pages with suspicion. As I feared, the book’s content flies off in all directions through human time and space. As if I were in a time machine, the book let me observe at a glance all time from about 3000 B.C.E in the distant past to the year 2150 in the future. And as if I were looking down at the Earth from a satellite, my eyes roamed east and west, north and south, from Europe and North and South America to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Further, the book discusses everything from sex to the international political system and currencies in a single straight line. So that the further along I read the more I felt as if my brain was being stretched to its limits. Yet though the book is so comprehensive and covers such a wide area, and the discussion unfolds before and below you like an abyss, it’s never hard to understand. It’s more as if you were reading a mystery or detective story; you find yourself turning the pages faster and faster. And it’s a book that gives the reader, once he or she finishes reading it, that sense of refreshing exhilaration and of being touched to the heart that you feel after seeing a high-quality movie.
Among the many books around that make future forecasts, what’s so special about this one is that, though it covers thousands of years of human history, it explains the present, all the things we observe happening in front of our eyes that seem to make no sense at all to us, in a way that makes them seem perfectly rational and logical. And it explains these things in a clear and beautiful way using three basic concepts, or “principles”, that we would never think of using for such a purpose: sex, age, and caste. It makes clear to us, for example:
· Why men are piercing their ears and the rest of their bodies, putting on makeup, in short, “feminizing” themselves.
· Why China, which until now has been uniformly anti-Japanese, has suddenly been switching to a pro-Japanese line.
· Why the “spiritual boom” of recent years shows no signs of letting up.
· Why, despite the constantly decreasing birthrate, the education business continues to grow.
· Why the environmental issue, although the scientific basis for it is to some extent criticized as being vague, has become everyday common sense.
· Why homosexuality and adultery are constantly on the increase, while the “normal” conventional view of marriage and family gets shakier and shakier.
Taub’s models make clear that these hard-to-explain everyday events and trends are actually inevitable, because they lead to the next inevitable stage in human evolution. So the scene we are observing is changing to a completely different one right before our eyes. No longer are we forced to live troubled and discordant lives based on a value system divorced from reality. Instead we can choose to live our lives on the path that leads to a new value system just now under construction.
This raises the question, how is it that Mr. Taub, focused on delving deep into human history, could come up with such models that, though quite unusual, he can use to explain even everyday events? The answer, now that I think of it, was already there, though not easily apparent, the day I first met him.
The date was June 22, 2006. He and I had made an appointment to meet at a café on a side street just off Omotesando, in the Harajuku area of Tokyo. I imagined he would turn out to be one of those fussy, fastidious scholars, but instead, there he appeared, a small rucksack on his back and a pipe in his mouth. Although he had been living in Tokyo for decades, he seemed like a traveler who had just casually dropped into one more country. The pupils of his eyes moved a lot, like those of a child, which impressed me. And he seemed really overjoyed when suddenly, in the middle of our conversation, a call came in on his cell phone from a friend.
Mr. Taub phoned many times after our appointment that day, speaking not only with me, but also with employees at my company. These conversations always seemed effortless and enjoyable. Whenever he called to ask advice about something that was troubling him, or whenever a relevant question came up about some topic that interested him, he seemed to forget about time and talk about it with enthusiasm and without pretensions.
Mr. Taub is neither an ivory-tower type buried deep in old books nor a top-level figure in the worlds of politics or finance, whom everybody addresses as “sensei, sensei.” While leading an ordinary life (though “ordinary” is the most difficult thing of all), he continues his explorations of the world, human life, and space, wondering what will be. Paying no attention to a person’s status or national origin, and loving the people right in front of his eyes at the moment equally, he continues searching for the meaning of being alive, wondering what will happen.
This is something that spreads across the deep strata of this book, the thing that no sage or wise man before could ever acquire — the knowledge of the Trickster.
Yet why was he living for decades in Japan?
At the time the decision was made to publish this book here in Japan, I remembered wanting to ask him this question again. Just when I decided to get together with him again to do that, I got a phone call from him on my cell phone. He was calling from Narita Airport. I could envision his usual smiling face as we talked.
“I’ll be away from Japan and am going to Israel for a while.” With those parting words he left Japan.
How long was “for a while?” A half year? Twenty or thirty years? He didn’t know either. Probably his stay in Israel will last until he is sure that history is reaching the turning point.
When that historical turning point that he foresaw actually happens, his reputation will no longer be in doubt, and his name will be up there with the leading thinkers of history. And we here in Japan will take pride in the fact that Taub-san lived in Japan for so long.
That pride that Japan will feel will be similar to the pride it feels in having been the first country to value and adopt Edward Deming’s Quality Control methods and principles and in the fact that Albert Einstein was in mid-ocean, heading for Japan, when he received the Nobel Prize.
Larry the person
Note: We will add links, visuals, and other relevant material about Larry in the coming weeks. Please share if you knew Larry or have material to contribute (jankrikke[at]gmail.com).