There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.
Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.
Experience teaches only the teachable.
The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.
Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects… totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have by the most eloquent denunciations.
Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.
A democracy which makes or even effectively prepares for modern, scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic. No country can be really well prepared for modern war unless it is governed by a tyrant, at the head of a highly trained and perfectly obedient bureaucracy.
You should hurry up and acquire the cigar habit. It’s one of the major happinesses. And so much more lasting than love, so much less costly in emotional wear and tear.
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.
Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and beholder.
Like every man of sense and good feeling, I abominate work.
The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.
To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.
My fate cannot be mastered; it can only be collaborated with and thereby, to some extent, directed. Nor am I the captain of my soul; I am only its noisiest passenger.
There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
A fanatic is a man who consciously over compensates a secret doubt.
A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.
Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.
Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.
An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie.
Dream in a pragmatic way.
The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.
Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.
Man approaches the unattainable truth through a succession of errors.
The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
Happiness is a hard master, particularly other people’s happiness.
It takes two to make a murder. There are born victims, born to have their throats cut, as the cut-throats are born to be hanged.
That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane human being has ever given his assent.
Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.
The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.
It was one of those evenings when men feel that truth, goodness and beauty are one. In the morning, when they commit their discovery to paper, when others read it written there, it looks wholly ridiculous.
Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.
Chastity – the most unnatural of all the sexual perversions.
It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’
Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery.
We are all geniuses up to the age of ten.
Every man’s memory is his private literature.
All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours.
Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.
Orthodoxy is the diehard of the world of thought. It learns not, neither can it forget.
The worst enemy of life, freedom and the common decencies is total anarchy; their second worst enemy is total efficiency.
One of the great attractions of patriotism – it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.
There’s only one effectively redemptive sacrifice, the sacrifice of self-will to make room for the knowledge of God.
The impulse to cruelty is, in many people, almost as violent as the impulse to sexual love – almost as violent and much more mischievous.
There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all its virtues are of no avail.
Speed provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.
Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.
There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.
So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly arise and make them miserable.
Uncontrolled, the hunger and thirst after God may become an obstacle, cutting off the soul from what it desires. If a man would travel far along the mystic road, he must learn to desire God intensely but in stillness, passively and yet with all his heart and mind and strength.
That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.
Sons have always a rebellious wish to be disillusioned by that which charmed their fathers.
Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.
Bondage is the life of personality, and for bondage the personal self will fight with tireless resourcefulness and the most stubborn cunning.
There isn’t any formula or method. You learn to love by loving – by paying attention and doing what one thereby discovers has to be done.
God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness.
That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep.
Man is an intelligence in servitude to his organs.
The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.
My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.
Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.
A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one, it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.
The proper study of mankind is books.
Most of one’s life is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself thinking.
We participate in a tragedy; at a comedy we only look.
The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar… Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen.
A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.
Several excuses are always less convincing than one.
The author of the Iliad is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name.
The most distressing thing that can happen to a prophet is to be proved wrong. The next most distressing thing is to be proved right.
What we feel and think and are is to a great extent determined by the state of our ductless glands and viscera.
What with making their way and enjoying what they have won, heroes have no time to think. But the sons of heroes – ah, they have all the necessary leisure.
The finest works of art are precious, among other reasons, because they make it possible for us to know, if only imperfectly and for a little while, what it actually feels like to think subtly and feel nobly.
From their experience or from the recorded experience of others (history), men learn only what their passions and their metaphysical prejudices allow them to learn.
It’s with bad sentiments that one makes good novels.
To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.
Thought must be divided against itself before it can come to any knowledge of itself.
An intellectual is a person who’s found one thing that’s more interesting than sex.
A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.
Speed, it seems to me, provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.
What is absurd and monstrous about war is that men who have no personal quarrel should be trained to murder one another in cold blood.
There is something curiously boring about somebody else’s happiness.
Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities.
People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.
The quality of moral behavior varies in inverse ratio to the number of human beings involved.
Those who believe that they are exclusively in the right are generally those who achieve something.
De Sade is the one completely consistent and thoroughgoing revolutionary of history.
Cynical realism is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation.
Defined in psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously over-compensates a secret doubt.
Everyone who wants to do good to the human race always ends in universal bullying.
Specialized meaninglessness has come to be regarded, in certain circles, as a kind of hallmark of true science.
Official dignity tends to increase in inverse ratio to the importance of the country in which the office is held.
Feasts must be solemn and rare, or else they cease to be feasts.
If human beings were shown what they’re really like, they’d either kill one another as vermin, or hang themselves.
Europe is so well gardened that it resembles a work of art, a scientific theory, a neat metaphysical system. Man has re-created Europe in his own image.
Amour is the one human activity of any importance in which laughter and pleasure preponderate, if ever so slightly, over misery and pain.
Words, words, words! They shut one off from the universe. Three quarters of the time one’s never in contact with things, only with the beastly words that stand for them.
Like every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and the cultured who have to pay.
Perhaps it’s good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he’s happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?
Men do not learn much from the lessons of history and that is the most important of all the lessons of history.