"We are not determined by our experiences but are self-determined by the meaning we give them; and when we take particular experiences as the basis for our future life we are almost certain to be misguided to some degree. Meanings are not determined by situations. We determine ourselves by the meanings we ascribe to situations."
"Pray not, the Darkness will not brighten! Ask
Nought from the Silence, for it cannot speak!
Vex not your mournful minds with pious pains!
Ah, Brothers, Sisters, seek
Nought from the helpless gods by gift and hymn,
Nor bribe with blood, nor feed with fruit and cakes;
Within yourself deliverance must be sought;
Each man his prison makes."
"The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. . .Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn."
"Reason already persuades me that I ought no less carefully to withhold my assent from matters which are not entirely certain and indubitable than from those which appear to me manifestly to be false, if I am able to find in each one some reason to doubt."
"Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom and trade and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor moving wherever moves a man; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of all things...Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his thought; --- and posterity seem to follow his steps as a procession."
"Literary or scientific, liberal or specialist, all our education is predominantly verbal and therefore fails to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else's... There is always money for, there are always doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: who influenced whom to say what when?. . .A catalogue, a bibliography, a definitive edition of a third-rate versifier's ipsissima verba, a stupendous index to end all indexes -- any genuinely Alexandrian project is sure of approval and financial support. But when it comes to finding out how you and I...may become more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, more open to the Spirit...when it comes to any form of non-verbal education more fundamental (and more likely to be of some practical use) than swedish drill, no really respectable university or church will do anything about it."
"There is little conjunction of truth and social 'reality.' Around us are pseudo-events, to which we adjust with a false consciousness adapted to see these events as true and real, and even as beautiful. In the society of men the truth resides now less in what things are than in what they are not. Our social realities are so ugly if seen in the light of exiled truth, and beauty is almost no longer possible if it is not a lie. . .the requirement of the present, the failure of the past, is the same: to provide a thoroughly self-conscious and self-critical human account of man."
"The powers of ordinary men are circumscribed by the everyday worlds in which they live, yet even in these rounds of job, family, and neighborhood they often seem driven by forces they can neither understand nor govern. 'Great changes' are beyond their control, but affect their conduct and outlook none the less. The very framework of modern society confines them to projects not their own, but from every side, such changes now press upon the men and women of the mass society, who accordingly feel that they are without purpose in an epoch in which they are without power."
"To have a life that is in any way detached from the megatechnic complex, to say nothing of being cockily independent of it, or recalcitrant to its demands, is regarded as nothing less than a form of sabotage. . .On megatechnic terms complete withdrawal is heresy and treason, if not evidence of unsound mind. The arch-enemy of the Affluent Economy would not be Karl Marx but Henry Thoreau."
"For this is the truth: I have moved from the house of the scholars and I even banged the door behind me. My soul sat hungry at their table too long; I am not, like them, trained to pursue knowledge as if it were nutcracking. I love freedom and the air over the fresh earth; rather would I sleep on ox hides than on their decorums and respectabilities."
"...the enlightenment common to young wits and worm-eaten old satirists, who plume themselves on detecting the scientific ineptitude of religion --- something which the blindest half see --- is not nearly enlightened enough: it points to notorious facts incompatible with religious tenets literally taken, but it leaves unexplored the habits of thought from which those tenets sprang, their original meaning, and their true function. Such studies would bring the sceptic face to face with the mystery and pathos of mortal existence. They would make him understand why religion is so profoundly moving and in a sense so profoundly just. There must needs be something humane and necessary in an influence that has become the most general sanction of virtue, the chief occasion for art and philosophy, and the source, perhaps, of the best human happiness. If nothing, as Hooker said, is 'so malapert as a splenetic religion,' a sour irreligion is almost as perverse."
"Existence is not something which lets itself be thought of from a distance: it must invade you suddenly, master you, weigh heavily on your heart like a great motionless beast --- or else there is nothing more at all."
"The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. -- A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short."
"The scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificiently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously."
"Look at the men whose felicity is the cynosure of all eyes; they are smothered by their prosperity. How many have found riches a bane! How many have paid with blood for their eloquence and their daily straining to display their talent! How many are sallow from constant indulgence! How many are deprived of liberty by a besieging mob of clients! Run through the whole list from top to bottom: this man wants a friend at court, that man serves his turn; this man is the defendant, that man his lawyer, and the other the judge: but no one presses his claim to himself, everyone is used up for the sake of someone else. Investigate the personages whose names are household words and you will find they can be classified by the following criteria: A is B's sycophant and B is C's; no one shows solicitude for himself."
"Whenever. . .anything in nature seems to us ridiculous, absurd, or evil, it is because we have but a partial knowledge of things, and are in the main ignorant of the order and coherence of nature as a whole, and because we want everything to be arranged according to the dictates of our own reason; although, in fact, what our reason pronounces bad is not bad as regards the order and laws of universal nature, but only as regards the laws of our own nature taken separately."
"Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally...think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?"
"'In God We Trust'. The motto stated a lie. If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by; for nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar -- mainly the dollar."
"What science has said, in sum, is this: We do not, and in all probability cannot, know whether God exists. Nothing that we do know suggests that he does, and all the arguments which claim to prove his existence are found to be without logical meaning. There is nothing, indeed, to prove that there is no God, but the burden of proof rests with those who propose the idea. If, the scientists would say, you believe in God, you must do so on purely emotional grounds, without basis in logic or fact. Practically speaking, this may amount to atheism. Theoretically, it is simple agnosticism. For it is of the essence of scientific honesty that you do not pretend to know what you do not know, and of the essence of scientific method that you do not employ hypotheses which cannot be tested."
"It is a great mistake to divide people into sharp classes, namely, people with such-and-such a knack and people without it. These trenchant divisions are simply foolish. Most humans are born with certain aptitudes. But these aptitudes can easily remain latent unless they are elicited into activity by fortunate circumstances."