Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index



[see also: PREJUDICE]

Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

Scott Woods (b.1971)
“5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani DiFranco or Plantations”, 03 January 2014

White people don’t realize how important race is to their self-definition because they don’t have to think about it. The world all around them reinforces their being and self-worth at all times. They don’t see how it does that based on race because it’s normal to them. And it’s a short jump from “normal” to “right” or “the way things are supposed to be.” This one also touches on the issue of white privilege that drives white people nuts. They don’t understand how, if they’re poor or unemployed, they can also be privileged. There are a ton of great articles that deconstruct this and if you’re here you probably had to pass through a couple of them to get here. The most common example people like to throw up is that if you take a homeless white guy and clean him up, he’s more likely to get a job than, say, a moderately qualified black guy. It’s not a bad case for privilege, but when you define privilege as “money” you dismiss a whole list of benefits that white people receive from racism no matter how much money they have, like not being pulled over for having a nice car or not having to explain why you can use big words. Those types of interactions are mad stressful, son.

Scott Woods (b.1971)
“5 Ways We Handle Racism All Wrong”, 14 January 2014


[see also: PERCEPTION]

It always seems to me extreme rashness on the part of some when they want to make human abilities the measure of what nature can do. On the contrary, there is not a single effect in nature, even the least that exists, such that the most ingenious theorists can arrive at a complete understanding of it. This vain presumption of understanding everything can have no other basis than never understanding anything. For anyone who had experienced just once the perfect understanding of one single thing, and had truly tasted how knowledge is accomplished, would recognize that of the infinity of other truths he understands nothing.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
Translated by Stillman Drake, 1953

Cogito, ergo sum.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Le Discours de la Methode, 1637, IV

What is man in nature? Nothing in relation to the infinite, everything in relation to nothing, a mean between nothing and everything and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670
Number 72

Although the whole of this life were said to be nothing but a dream, and the visible world nothing but a phantasm, I should call this dream or phantasm real enough, if, using reason well, we were never deceived by it.

Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Liebniz (1646-1716)
"On the Method of Distinguishing Real From Imaginary Phenomena"
Philosophisical Papers and Letters, 1969
Translated and Edited by Leroy E. Loemker

There are, however, few men who have the imagination for the truth of reality; most prefer strange countries and circumstances, of which they know nothing, and by which their imagination may be cultivated, oddly enough.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Conversations With Eckermann: Being Appreciations and
Criticisms on Many Subjects
, 1901
Sunday, 25 December 1825
Translated by John Oxenford

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
"Psychological Observation"
Studies in Pessimism, 1851

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
A Dream Within a Dream, 1827

Man is by nature metaphysical and proud. He has gone so far as to think that the idealistic creations of his mind, which correspond to his feelings, also represent reality.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878)
Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, 1865
Part One "Experimental Reasoning"
Chapter II "The A Priori Idea and Doubt in Experimental Reasoning"

Reality, n. The dream of a mad philosopher. That which would remain in the cupel if one should assay a phantom. The nucleus of a vacuum.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Some years ago I myself made some observations on...nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the flimsiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question -- for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.

William James (1842-1910)
The Varieties of Religious Experience
Lectures 16-17, 1902 (1961 translation)

I am convinced we still do not know one ten-millionth of one per cent about anything.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
"Edison and Slosson Talked of Many Things"
Science News Letter, 24 October 1931

Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.

Jules de Gaultier (1858-1942)

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960)
A Shadow Passes, 1934

Sensations are rapid dreams.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
The Philosophy of Santayana, 1942
Edited by Irwin Edman

...if we have no other reality beyond the illusion, it would be also a good idea for you not to trust in your own reality, the one you breathe and feel today within yourself, because - like that of yesterday - it is destined to reveal itself as an illusion tomorrow.

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)
Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921
Act II

Life is a very sad piece of buffoonery, because we have...the need to fool ourselves continuously by the spontaneous creation of a reality (one for each and never the same for everyone) which, from time to time, reveals itself to be vain and illusory.

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)
Autobiographical Sketch in Le Lettere
Rome, 15 October 1924

The only justification for our concepts and systems of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Space and Time in Pre-Relativity Physics"
The Meaning of Relativity, 1956

A rather serious consequence of dropping causality in the external world is that it leaves us with no clear distinction between the Natural and the Supernatural.

Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944)
"Natural and Supernatural"
Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh January-March 1927
The Nature of the Physical World, 1929
Chapter XIV "Causation"

Recognizing that the physical world is entirely abstract and without "actuality" apart from its linkage to consciousness, we restore consciousness to the fundamental position instead of representing it as an inessential complication occasionally found in the midst of inorganic nature at a late stage of evolutionary history.

Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944)
Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh January-March 1927
The Nature of the Physical World, 1929
Chapter XV "Science and Mysticism"

For a parallel to the lesson of atomic theory regarding the limited applicability of such customary idealisations, we must in fact turn to quite other branches of science, such as psychology, or even to that kind of epistemological problems with which already thinkers like Buddha and Lao Tse have been confronted, when trying to harmonize our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
"Biologia e Fisica"
Celebrazione del Secondo Centenario della Nascita di Luigi Galvani
Bologna, 18-21 October 1937

Human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
"Burnt Norton"
Four Quartets
Part I, 1936-1942

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937)
"The Call of Cthulhu", 1928
Chapter 1 "The Horror in Clay"
Weird Tales, February 1928

...chaos is the score upon which reality is written.

Henry Miller (1891-1980)
Tropic of Cancer, 1961

Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself, and must be my excuse for dreamimg.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964)
"On Being the Right Size"
Possible Worlds, 1927

Reality is a continuum, a fathomlessly mysterious and infinite Something, whose outward aspect is what we call Matter and whose inwardness is what we call Mind.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"Culture and the Individual"
Playboy, 1963

Very, very slow changes humans identify as inanimate. Slow change of pattern they call animate and natural. Fast changes they call explosive, and faster events than that humans cannot sense directly. They can see the rocket blasted off at 7,000 miles per hour. They cannot see the hundred thousand times faster radar pulse moving 700 million miles per hour. Humans can sense only the position of pointers on instrument dials. What they call "radio" - electromagnetics — they learn of through scientific instrumentation. Of the total electromechanical spectrum range of the now known realities of Universe, man has the sensory equipment to tune in directly with but one millionth of the thus far discovered physical Universe events. Awareness of all the rest of the millionfold greater-than-human-sense reality can only be relayed to human ken through instruments, devised by a handful of thought-employing individuals anticipating thoughtfully the looming needs of others.

The almost totally invisible, nonsensorial, electromagnetic wombsheath of environmental evolution's reality-phase into which humanity is now being born — after two million years of ignorant, innocent gestation — is as yet almost entirely uncomprehended by humanity. Ninety-nine and nine tenths per cent of all that is now transpiring in human activity and interaction with nature is taking place within the realms of reality which are utterly invisible, inaudible, unsmellable, untouchable by human senses.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
"Revolution in Wombland"
Earth, Inc., 1973 99.999 percent of the search and research for everything that is going to affect all our lives tomorrow is being conducted in the realm of reality nondirectly contractable by the human senses.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
"Introduction: Guinea Pig B", 1982

Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than minority of them - never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
A Grief Observed, 1961
Chapter 4

There is no objectively correct idea of a thing's appearance, only an infinite number of subjective impressions of it.

Steen Eiler Rasmussen (1898-1990)
Experiencing Architecture, 1962
Chapter II "Solids and Cavities in Architecture"

In every human soul as it confronts the world there is a sense of the portentous. Not that we are confronted by portentous things alone. But those things that are portentous are changing symbols of a primeval feeling of the portentous which man has in face of existence itself. Our existence, our being here at all, our being in the world, is the really portentous fact for us; it is the sense of the unfamiliar, the strange, the threatening, the sense of not being at home in the world, even when there are no special threats. In fact it is just when there is no special threat that we feel the strangeness, for when we are threatened by anything positive we defend ourselves, and the very defending of ourselves deprives the thing of its menace. When we cannot defend ourselves just because there is nothing that opposes us in a tangible way, then the portentous appears in its real power.

James Luther Adams (1901-1994)
Paul Tillich's Philosophy of Culture, Science, and Religion, 1965
Chapter III "The Theology of Art and Culture"

What happens depends on our way of observing it or on the fact that we observe it.

Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-1976)
Physics and Philosophy, 1958

Since the measuring device has been constructed by the observer...we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-1976)
Physics and Philosophy, 1958

Everything is a dangerous drug to me except reality, which is unendurable.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)
The Unquiet Grave, 1944
Part I, "Ecce Gubernator"

...the scientific view of life contains truth, but it only represents half of reality, only its material, quantifiable parts. All of the personal, social, and spiritual dimensions that cannot be described in physical or chemical terms, which include the most important characteristics of that which is living, are absent.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)
LSD, My Problem Child, 1983

It is essential to recognize that the one-sided belief in the natural scientific view of life is based on a momentous error. Certainly, everything it contains is true, but this only represents half of reality; only its material, quantifiable part. All of the spiritual dimensions that cannot be described in physical or chemical terms, which include the most important characteristics of that which is living, are absent. These need to be integrated into the natural scientific view of life as a supplementing half, so than an image of a complete, living reality is created that also includes man and his spirituality.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)
Insight, Outlook, 1989
"Security in the Natural Scientific-Philosophical View of Life"

Does surrealism cease to be such if it becomes reality?

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)
Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
Translated by Jacek Galazka
page 118

la realidad es una escalera que no sube ni baja,
no nos movemos, hoy es hoy, siempre es hoy....
(Reality is a staircase going neither up nor down,
we don't move, today is today, always is today....)

Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
"¿No hay salida?" ("Is there no way out?"), 1952
Translated by Denise Levertov Goodman
From La Estacion Violenta (The Violent Season), 1948-1957
Reprinted in Selected Poems, 1984
Edited by Eliot Weinberger

We tend to view Nature through a tiny slot from a narrow angle; others see it from another angle and describe it in a different language. It sounds different, but it is not. The universe is so rich in diversity that almost anything one says about it is correct, provided one takes a broad enough view.

Itzhak Bentov (1923-1979)
Chapter 10 "Some Reflections on the Creator"
Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness, 1977

Beware the writer who always encloses the word reality in quotation marks: He's trying to slip something over on you. Or into you.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 1 "Philosophy, Religion, and so Forth"

The assimilation of the external world, which is at first biological, subsequently social and therefore human, occurs as an organization of the raw material of nature in an effort to satisfy needs; cognition, which is a factor in the assimilation, cannot evade this universal determinism. To ask how an observer would see a world whose essence was pure thinking and consciousness of which was defined exclusively by a disinterested cognitive effort, is to ask a barren question, for all consciousness is actually born of practical needs, and the act of cognition itself is a tool designed to satisfy these needs.

Leszek Kolakowski (b.1927)
Karl Marx and the Classical Definition of Truth, Marxism and Beyond:
On Historical Understanding and Individual Responsibility
, 1968

It would be as useless to perceive how things "actually look" as it would be to watch the random dots on untuned television screens.

Marvin Minsky (b.1927)
The Society of Mind, 1985
Part 24 "Frames"
Chapter 24.4 "Default Assumptions"

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
"How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later"
I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, 1986

What people have been reduced to are mere 3-D representations of their own data.

Arthur R. Miller (b.1933?)
"Assault on Privacy: Computers, Data Banks and Dossiers"
Luncheon speech at American Society for Industrial Security seminar
Boston, 27 September 1988

The spirit of Plato dies hard. We have been unable to escape the philosophical tradition that what we can see and measure in the world is merely the superficial and imperfect representation of an underlying reality.

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)
The Mismeasure of Man, 1981
Chapter 6 "The Real Error of Cyril Burt"

Nothing we look at is ever seen without some shift and flicker - that constant flaking of vision which we take as imperfections of the eye or simply the instability of attention itself; and we ignore this illusory screen for the solid reality behind it. But the solid reality is the illusion; the shift and flicker is all there is.

Samuel R. Delany (b.1942)
"Shadows", 1974

Peeping through my keyhole I see within the range of only about thirty percent of the light that comes from the sun; the rest is infrared and some little ultraviolet, perfectly apparent to many animals, but invisible to me. A nightmare network of ganglia, charged and firing without my knowledge, cuts and splices what I do see, editing it for my brain. Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain: "This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is."

Annie Dillard (b.1945)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1985
Chapter 2 "Seeing"

All the limitative Theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own structure has reached a certain critical point, that is the kiss of death: it guarantees that you can never represent yourself totally. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, Church's Undecidability Theorem, Turing's Halting Problem, Tarski's Truth Theorem -- all have the flavor of some ancient fairy tale which warns you that "To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which...will always be incomplete, cannot be charted on any map, will never halt, cannot be described."

Douglas Richard Hofstadter (b.1945)
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, 1979
Chapter XX "Strange Loops, Or Tangled Hierarchies"
"Can We Understand Our Own Minds or Brains?"

A man says something. Sometimes it turns out to be the truth, but this has nothing to do with the man who says it. What we say occupies a very thin surface, like the skin over a body of water. Beneath this, through the water itself, is what we see, sometimes clearly if the water is calm, sometimes vaguely if the water is troubled, and we imagine this vision to be the truth, clear or vague. But beneath this is yet another level. This is the level of what is and this level has nothing to do with what we say or what we see.

Karen Joy Fowler (b.1950)
Sarah Canary, 1991
Chapter 18 "The Story of T'ung Hsien Nu"

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979
Chapter 1

While "suffering" is the conventional translation for the Buddha's word dukkha, it does not really do the word justice. A more specific translation would be something on the order of "pervasive unsatisfactoriness."

Mark Epstein (b.1953)
Thoughts Without a Thinker:
Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective
, 1995
Chapter 2 "Humiliation: The Buddha's First Truth"

Reality is the global expectation of the nervous system for the next moment.

Jaron Lanier (b.1960)
Interview, 03 February 1993
Voices from the Edge, 1995
by David Jay Brown and Rebecca McClen Novick

External reality is sort of an affectation of the nervous system.

Jaron Lanier (b.1960)

Reality is the only word in the language that should always be used in quotes.

Thrill Kill Cult
"Nervous Xians"
Kooler Than Jesus, 1990

A man with a watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches isn't so sure.




The last proceeding of reason is to recognize that there is an infinity of things which are beyond it.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670
Number 267

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing: we know this in countless ways.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670
Number 277
Edited by Leon Brunschvicg

I believe I have omitted mentioning, that in my first voyage from Boston to Philadelphia, being becalmed off Block Island, our crew employed themselves in catching cod, and hauled up a great number. Till then I had stuck to my resolution to eat nothing that had had life; and on this occasion I considered, according to my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had nor could do us any injury that might justify this massacre. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had been formerly a great lover of fish, and when it came out of the frying-pan it smelt admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination, till recollecting that when fish were opened I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, "If you eat one another, I don't see why we may not eat you." So I dined upon cod very heartily, and have since continued to eat as other people; returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Memoirs of the life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 1818

Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

David Hume (1711-1776)
A Treatise Upon Human Nature, 1738

Thoughts without content are void; intuitions without conceptions, blind.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Critique of Pure Reason, 1781
Part II "Transcendental Logic"
Section I "Of Logic in general"

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787

Everything must justify its existence before the judgment seat of Reason, or give up existence.

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)
Anti-Duhring, Part III, 1894

The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Orthodoxy, 1909
Chapter II "The Maniac"

Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Orthodoxy, 1909
Chapter III "The Suicide of Thought"

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Out of My Later Years, 1956
Chapter 8 "Science and Religion, Part II", 1941

Those who cry the loudest about their disillusionment, about the failure of virtue, the futility of reason, the impotence of logic -- are those who have achieved the full, exact, logical result of the ideas they preached, so mercilessly logical that they dare not identify it. In a world that proclaims the non-existence of the mind, the moral righteousness of rule by brute force, the penalizing of the competent in favor of the incompetent, the sacrifice of the best to the worst -- in such a world, the best have to turn against society and have to become its deadliest enemies.... What complaint do they now have to make? That the universe is irrational? Is it?

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
Atlas Shrugged, 1957
Part Three "A is A"
Chapter II "The Utopia of Greed"

Those who will not reason
Perish in the act:
Those who will not act
Perish for that reason.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
"Shorts", 1929-1931
Collected Poems, 1976

I have said that the world is absurd but I spoke too soon. All we can say is that this world in and of itself is not reasonable. What is absurd, though, is the conflict between this irrationality and man's desperate wish for intelligibility.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942


The destructiveness of [some recreational] boatmen is of a peculiarly modern kind. It is essentially the same as the destructiveness of certain industries, and it has the same causes: the use of powerful machines, and the discarding of more or less imperishable refuse. The destructiveness of the boatmen differs from that of industry mainly in the sad paradox that the boatmen destroy what they supposedly want to keep. They do not intend to exploit or damage anything. They have come to enjoy the river -- and their enjoyment of it damages it. They do not use it as a fisherman uses it, leaving it as it was; they use it as clothing is used, leaving it always a little worse for the wear. They are the consumers of the river.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
Part I
"The Nature Consumers"
The Long-Legged House, 1969

Propelled at twenty or thirty miles an hour by a roaring [boat] engine, one can experience the country only as "scenery" -- a painted landscape without life or sound. "Scenery," as we speak the word, involves an oversimplification and falsification of nature. It is landscape with all the vital details excerpted. It is the notion that permits the indulgence of our wish to prettify nature -- to pretend that nature is represented by butterflies but not mosquitoes, sunrises and sunsets but not hot noons, moonlight but not darkness, life but not death. But to know the mountain, as John Marin said, it is necessary to know what is on the mountain's back. One must go close and be still. And that cannot be done with a motor, or with a motorized intelligence. At twenty or thirty miles an hour the countryside can be no more than the pretty package a vacation comes in -- to be used like other packages, disposed of as soon as the contents are used up. It is hardly to be kept in mind after it has been used, which means that it is likely to be used carelessly, or even contemptuously.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
Part I
"The Nature Consumers"
The Long-Legged House, 1969


[see also: CHARITY]

The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Attributed without source in Kansas City Star, 15 January 1986
Authenticity doubtful - See caveat

Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, which will itself need reforming.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Biographia Literaria, 1817
Chapter 1

To reform a world, to reform a nation, no wise man will undertake; and all but foolish men know, that the only solid, though far slower reformation, is what each begins and perfects on himself.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Signs of the Times, 1829
Closing words

The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Murder in the Cathedral, 1935
Part 1

The amelioration of the world cannot be achieved by sacrifices in moments of crisis; it depends on the efforts made and constantly repeated during the humdrum, uninspiring periods, which separate one crisis from another, and of which normal lives mainly consist.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Grey Eminence, 1941
Chapter 10

The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.

Frank Patrick Herbert (1920-1986)


There is no greater sorrow than to recall a happy time in the midst of wretchedness.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
The Divine Comedy, 1321
"The Inferno", Canto V

Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it come to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Journals, 1906
13 November 1839 entry

There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
Remembrance of Things Passed, 1918
Volume 4, "Within a Budding Grove"
Part 2, "Seascape, with Frieze of Girls"


[see also: AFTERLIFE]

The Gnostic Christ came from beyond this solar system (Galactic Center?) to teach us how to escape it. Therefore, at the moment of your death, be awake enough to focus your awareness beyond the earth's orbit. With any luck you won't have to reincarnate here again. The Bardo Thodol's injunction to go into the clear light of the Dharmakaya is as explicit as can be on this.

Jim DeKorne (b.1936)
"The Cracking Tower"
Interview in The Invisible College
Issue 4, Fall Equinox - Winter Solstice 40107



Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Bible, Psalms 111:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Bible, Proverbs 1:7

For, where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel... Thus is the Devil ever God's ape.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Table Talk, 1569
"Of God's Works", Section 67
Translated by William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Essays: Of Atheism, 1625

The itch of disputing will prove the scab of churches.

Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639)
A Panegyric to King Charles, 1651

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670
Number 187
Edited by Leon Brunschvicg

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670
Number 894

Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there;
And 'twill be found, upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
The True-Born Englishman, 1701
Part I, line 1

We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
"Thoughts on Various Subjects"
Miscellanies, 1711

Like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, though in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Autobiography, 1868
Chapter 8

To be of no church is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary influence of example.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Lives of the Poets, 1779-1781

The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1788
Chapter 2

As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without surprise or scandal that the introduction, or at least the abuse of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister: a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1788
"General Observations Of The Fall In The West"

Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
The Rights of Man, 1792
Part 2 "Combining Principle And Practice"
Chapter 5 "Ways And Means Of Improving The Condition Of
Europe Interspersed With Miscellaneous Observations"

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
"The Author's Profession of Faith"
Age of Reason, 1794
Part I

It has been the scheme of the Christian Church, and of all the other invented systems of religion, to hold man in ignorance of the Creator, as it is of government to hold him in ignorance of his rights. The systems of the one are as false as those of the other, and are calculated for mutual support.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Age of Reason, 1794
Part II, Chapter III "Conclusion"

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
"Notes on the State of Virginia", 1787
Query XVII

On the dogmas of religion as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Were I to enter on that arena, I should only add an unit to the number of Bedlamites.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Mathew Carey
11 November 1816
Jefferson: Political Writings, 1999
Edited by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball

He who has art and science has religion. He who has not art and science, let him have religion.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Quoted by Matthew Arnold
Century Magazine, 1886, xix, p.894

Every sect is a moral check on its neighbor. Competition is as wholesome in religion as in commerce.

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864)
"Martin and Jack"
Imaginary Conversations, 1824-1829

Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but live for it.

C.C. Colton (1780-1832)
Lacon, 1820-1822

All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.

Stendhal (1783-1842)

The Religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide. It acknowledges that it is not equal to the whole of truth, that it legislates, tyrannizes over a village of God's empire, but is not the immutable universal law. Every influx of atheism, of skepticism, is thus made useful as a mercury pill assaulting and removing a diseased religion and making way for truth.... Keep the soul always turned to God. Nothing so vast but feel that he contains it. Let nothing be so real or pure or grand as He is. If your idea of him is dim or perplexed, pray and think and act more. It is the education of the soul. It is the sure way of individual increase. Sincerity is always holy, and always strong. Come good or ill, the pure in heart are in the right way. And presently and often, you shall be rewarded with clearer perception, the sense of more intimate communion.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Journal, 04 March 1831

Who, I ask you, can take, dare take, on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
"Solitude of Self"
Address delivered before the Committee of the Judiciary of
the United States Congress, Monday, 18 January 1892

The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity.

Religion is verily the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world and of tranquillity amongst it's peoples.... The greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion.

Baha'Allah (1817-1892)
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 1990

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)
A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, 1844

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.

Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890)
"Terminal Essay", Section D "Pederasty", note 13
The Arabian Nights, 1885
Translated by Richard Francis Burton

So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
The Brothers Karamazov, 1879-1880
Book V, Chapter 5

So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain: A Biography, 1912
Volume III, Part 2, 1907-1910
by Albert Bigelow Paine

"Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago -- centuries, ages, eons ago! -- for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities. Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane -- like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell -- mouths mercy and invented hell -- mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
The Mysterious Stranger, 1916
Chapter XI

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, "Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him." The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"Letters from the Earth"
Letters From the Earth, 1962
edited by Bernardo DeVoto

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Worship, n. Homo Creator's testimony to the sound construction and fine finish of Deus Creatus. A popular form of abjection, having an element of pride.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Ought it to be assumed that in all men the mixture of religion with other elements should be identical? Ought it, indeed, to be assumed that the lives of all men should show identical religious elements? In other words, is the existence of so many religious types and sects and creeds regrettable?

To these questions I answer 'No' emphatically. And my reason is that I do not see how it is possible that creatures in such different positions and with such different powers as human individuals are, should have exactly the same functions nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions. Each, from his peculiar angle of observation, takes in a certain sphere of fact and trouble, which each must deal with in a unique manner.

William James (1842-1910)
The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902
Lecture 20 "Conclusions"

Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism.

William James (1842-1910)
The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902
Lecture 20 "Conclusions"

Religion has done love a great service by making it a sin.

Anatole France (1844-1924)
The Garden of Epicurus, 1894

The white man goes into his church house and talks about Jesus, but the Indian goes into his tipi and talks to Jesus."

Quanah Parker (1845?-1911)
The Peyote Cult, 1938
Weston La Barre (1911–1996)

Religion is an illusion and it derives it strength from its readiness to fit in with our instinctual wishful impulses.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, 1933
Lecture 35

I see little divinity about them or you. You talk to me of Christianity when you are in the act of hanging your enemies. Was there ever such blasphemous nonsense!

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
The Devil's Disciple, 1901

Religions are the great fairy tales of conscience.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
"A Brief History of my Opinions"
Santayana on America, 1967

It is not worldly ecclesiastics that kindle the fires of persecution, but mystics who think they hear the voice of God.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
"The Alleged Catholic Danger"
The New Republic, 15 January 1916

Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal?

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Hind Swaraj, 1910

There is nothing in the world that would keep me from professing Christianity or any other faith, the moment I feel the truth of and the need for it. Where there is fear there is no religion.... If I could call myself, say, a Christian, or a Mussalman, with my own interpretation of the Bible or the Koran I should not hesitate to call myself either. For then Hindu, Christian and Mussalman would be synonymous terms.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Young India, 02 September 1926

Religions, which condemn the pleasures of sense, drive men to seek the pleasures of power. Throughout history power has been the vice of the ascetic.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
New York Herald - Tribune Magazine
06 May 1938

Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

All esoteric teachings seek to apprehend the unseen happenings in the psyche, and all claim supreme authority for themselves.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
"Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious", 1934
The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9, 1959

...religion is doing; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he "lives" his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy.

Georges Gurdjieff (1872-1949)
Quoted in In Search of the Miraculous, 1949
Chapter 15
by P.D. Ouspensky

...I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Religion and Science", 09 November 1930
Ideas and Opinions, 1954

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest religion and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Einstein: His Life and Times, 1947
Chapter 12, Section 5
by Philipp Frank

Bucky: You don't believe in God, then?

Einstein: Ah, this is what I mean about religion and science going hand-in-hand! Each has a place, but each must be relegated to its sphere. Let's assume that we are dealing with a theoretical physicist or scientist who is very well-acquainted with the different laws of the universe, such as how the planets orbit the sun and how the satellites in turn orbit around their respective planets. Now, this man who has studied and understands these different laws -- how could he possibly believe in one God who would be capable of disturbing the paths of these great orbiting masses?

No, the natural laws of science have not only been worked out theoretically but have been proven also in practice. I cannot then believe in this concept of an anthropomorphic God who has the powers of interfering with these natural laws. As I said before, the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Interview with Peter A. Bucky
The Private Albert Einstein, 1992
By Peter A. Bucky with Allen G. Weakland

I think that a life without miracles is very poor.... I wouldn't like to live in one. I also see in Jesus of Nazareth more than just a great man whose example should be lived up to. And for the most part, neither the liberal nor the orthodox does succeed in living up to him. There may be people who can live with a moral doctrine, but it seems to me not enough to die with. Yet living and dying are both close to us every day.

Manfred Kyber (1880-1933)
The Three Candles of Little Veronica, 1929
Chapter V "Irreloh"
translated by Rosamond Reinhardt, 1972

In the known universe the Milky Way is a tiny fragment. In this fragment the solar system is a speck, our earth is an infinitesimal dot. On this dot mankind is crawling about desperately struggling to effect his own destruction. Even if he escapes this fate, the history of man is but a brief episode in the life of the solar system, which is itself doomed to destruction. While myths of creation are repudiated by the sciences of astronomy and geology, conceptions of mind and soul are revolutionized by biology and psychology. Historical events on which religions are based are explained in a different way by anthropology and history. Supernatural phenomena are given natural explanations. Secular education leads men to think that there is no rational or moral meaning in the universe, that all is mechanical or amoral, that values have no validity apart from accidents of time and place, that things dictate to a man the law of intrinsic development, that the individual per se does not count, that men are accountable only to themselves, that spiritual life is wishful thinking, and when this earthly journey is ended it is all over with man. We sweep the skies with the telescope and find no trace of God, we search the brain with the microscope and find no sign of mind. However much religion may have served humanity in the infancy of the human race, in an age of reason like our own, it is said that there is no longer any need for it.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975)
"The Voice of India in the Spiritual Crisis of Our Time"
The Hibbert Journal, Volume XLV, Number 4 (July 1946)

...most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized and used an desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things -- plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
and Edward Flanders Ricketts (1897-1948)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, 1951
Chapter 21 "March 31"

When all that could be called "religious" (naturalistically as well as supernaturalistically) was cut away from science, from knowledge, from further discovery, from the possibility of skeptical investigation, from confirming and disconfirming, and, therefore, from the possibility of purifying and improving, such a dichotomized religion was doomed. It tended to claim that the founding revelation was complete, perfect, final, and eternal. It had the truth, the whole truth, and had nothing more to learn, thereby being pushed into the position that has destroyed so many churches, of resisting change, of being only conservative, of being anti-intellectual and anti-scientific, of making piety and obedience exclusive of skeptical intellectuality -- in effect, of contradicting naturalistic truth.

Abraham H. Maslow (1908-1970)
Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences, 1970
Chapter II "Dichotomized Science and Dichotomized Religion"

We may not be able to persuade Hindus that Jesus and not Vishnu should govern their spiritual horizon, nor Moslems that Lord Buddha is at the center of their spiritual universe, nor Hebrews that Mohammed is a major prophet, nor Christians that Shinto best expresses their spiritual concerns, to say nothing of the fact that we may not be able to get Christians to agree among themselves about their relationship to God. But all will agree on a proposition that they possess profound spiritual resources. If, in addition, we can get them to accept the further proposition that whatever form the Deity may have in their own theology, the Deity is not only external, but internal and acts through them, and they themselves give proof or disproof of the Deity in what they do and think; if this further proposition can be accepted, then we come that much closer to a truly religious situation on earth.

Norman Cousins (1912-1990)
Human Options, 1981

Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. And, from this point of view, death is no more worthy of respect than Nero or the inspector at my local police station.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Notebooks 1935-1951
Notebook III, April 1939-February 1942

Mysticism joins and unites; reason divides and separates. People crave belonging more than understanding. Hence the prominent role of mysticism, and the limited role of reason, in human affairs.

Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
"Social Relations"
The Untamed Tongue: A Dissenting Dictionary, 1990

Any time I see a person fleeing from reason and into religion, I think to myself, There goes a person who simply cannot stand being so goddamned lonely anymore.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)
Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage, 1981
Chapter 11 "Religion"

The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need religion if you are terrified of death.

Gore Vidal (b.1925)

The health and vitality of a given religion depends on the constant interplay between doctrine, ethics, and ritual on the one hand and the mystic awareness of the believer on the other. Where this interplay dries up, doctrine hardens into dogmatism, ethics into legalism, and ritual into ritualism. Only the continuous renewal of a given religious tradition from its mystical core can keep it alive and aware of what religion essentially is, namely, "exploration into God" at the frontier of human consciousness.

Brother David Steindl-Rast (b.1926)
"Thoughts on Mysticism as Frontier of Consciousness Evolution"
Human Survival and Consciousness Evolution, 1988
edited by Stanislav Grof
(SUNY Press), p.105-106

Our schizophrenic societies progress by knowledge but survive on inspiration derived from the very beliefs which that knowledge erodes. I suggest that the paradox can be at least intellectually resolved, not all at once but eventually and with consequences difficult to perfect, if we pay due attention to the sociobiology of religion. Although the manifestations of the religious experiences are resplendent and multidimensional and so complicated that the finest of psychoanalyst and philosophers get lost in their labyrinth, I believe that religious practices can be mapped onto the two dimensions of genetic advantage and evolutionary change.

Edward Osborne Wilson (b.1929)
On Human Nature, 1978

A cult is a religion with no political power.

Tom Wolfe (b.1931)
In Our Time, 1980
Chapter 2 "Entr'actes and Canapes"

It's incongruous that the older we get, the more likely we are to turn in the direction of religion. Less vivid and intense ourselves, closer to the grave, we begin to conceive of ourselves as immortal.

Edward Hoagland (b.1932)
"The Ridge-Slope Fox and the Knife-Thrower"
Harpers, New York, January 1977

If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell.

Jimmy Swaggart (b.1935)
20 May 1988

There's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
"Heavenly Bank Account"
You Are What You Is, 1981

Anybody who wants religion is welcome to it, as far as I'm concerned -- I support your right to enjoy it. However, I would appreciate it if you exhibited more respect for the rights of those people who do not wish to share your dogma, rapture or necrodestination.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
The Real Frank Zappa Book, 1989
Chapter 16 "Church and State"

Parasitic memes have been strongly selected to fit the strange quirks that developed in human mental systems as they evolved. For example, the ability to plan into the future confers a strong survival advantage, especially since the introduction of farming. But being able to think about the future (and past) generates troubling problems when this ability is applied to questions such as where-was-I-before-birth or where-will-I-go-after-death. The attractiveness of religious belief systems largely stems from providing 'plausible' answers to questions that would not be asked except for the hyperdevelopment of this mental skill.

H. Keith Henson (b.1942)
Singularity No. 3 (1990)

While it cannot be proved retrospectively that any experience of possession, conversion, revelation, or divine ecstasy was merely an epileptic discharge, we must ask how one differentiates "real transcendence" from neuropathies that produce the same extreme realness, profundity, ineffability, and sense of cosmic unity. When accounts of sudden religious conversions in TLEs [temporal-lobe epileptics] are laid alongside the epiphanous revelations of the religious tradition, the parallels are striking. The same is true of the recent spate of alleged UFO abductees. Parsimony alone argues against invoking spirits, demons, or extraterrestrials when natural causes will suffice.

Barry L. Beyerstein (b.1949)
"Neuropathology and the Legacy of Spiritual Possession",
The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 12, No. 3, p.255 (Spring 1988)

Shamanic ecstasy is the real 'Old Time Religion,' of which modern churches are but pallid evocations. Shamanic, visionary ecstasy, the mysterium tremendum, the unio mystica, the eternally delightful experience of the universe as energy, is a sine qua non of religion, it is what religion is for! There is no need for faith, it is the ecstatic experience itself that gives one faith in the intrinsic unity and integrity of the universe, in ourselves as integral parts of the whole; that reveals to us the sublime majesty of our universe, and the fluctuant, scintillant, alchemical miracle that is quotidian consciousness. Any religion that requires faith and gives none, that defends against religious experiences, that promulgates the bizarre superstition that humankind is in some way separate, divorced from the rest of creation, that heals not the gaping wound between Body and Soul, but would tear them no religion at all!

Jonathan Ott (b.1949)
The Age of Entheogens, 1995
(Ellipses in original text)

I believe very firmly in God in terms of spirituality; I also have an infinite contempt for religion, which I think is hijacking people's spirituality for political purposes, and I think religion is perilously close to pornography in that respect.

Robyn Hitchcock (b.1953)
Introduction to "I'm Only You"
Storefront Hitchcock, 1998

Take any religious mystery, any theological proposition: expressed in ordinary terms it will read like sheer nonsense to the outsider, from the ritualistic, symbolic eating of human flesh and blood practiced by all the Christian sects to the outright cannibalism practiced by some savages.

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988)
The Sixth Column, 1949
Part 3

Organized Religion is like Organized Crime; it preys on peoples' weakness, generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate.

Mike Hermann ( post
18 February 1989

There exists an abundance of evidence to indicate that mind-changing drugs have been used since remotest antiquity by many of the peoples of the earth, and have importantly affected the course of human history. The plant sources of these drugs -- the visionary vegetables -- have been worshiped as gods in many times and places, and the persons employing the drugs as a means of acquiring "super-natural powers" have been the priests, prophets, visionaries, and other leaders of their respective societies. East and West, civilized and primitive, religious thought and all that flows from it almost certainly has been importantly influenced by the psychedelic drugs....

R.E.L. Masters (1927-2008)
and Jean Houston (b.1941)
The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, 1966
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, p.36

There seems an evolutionary movement afoot, moving from the religious construct to the cosmic construct. Yesterday's "seers" were often persecuted in their own time, later restored either to sainthood or even relegated to being sons of God. Translating from the "noetic gnosis" of such special people, lesser souls built whole institutional religious systems (and power hierarchies) around these supra-conscious experiences. Eventually, through this translation, so much of the experience of the initial gnosis became lost. Still, perhaps not entirely totally! These great religious systems, built upon a teacher-prophet-founder's gnosis, have served to perpetuate humanity's cultural and moral evolution.

Beatrix Murrell
"Noetic Gnosis: Cosmic Consciousness"
03 September 1995

That's the problem with religion: you beat your way past the clerics, fight your way through the demons, stand before the holy of holies, and when you rip away the veil... there's nothing there but a mirror.

D. Owen Rowley
soc.motss post
17 July 1991

When one studies the biographies of the founders and leaders of the various religions, one cannot help but be struck by the psychotic -- or at least extremely abnormal -- behavior that has characterized so many of them. Luther, Wesley, and Loyola had hallucinations ("visions"). St. Theresa almost certainly was a hysteric. The book "The Psychotic Personality", by Leon J. Saul and Silas L. Warner, devotes considerable space to the psychotic personalities of Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science), Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism), Mohammed, and the Rev. Jim Jones.... It seems significant that the founder of Christianity itself, St. Paul, also suffered from epilepsy.

Frank Zindler
"Religiosity as a Mental Disorder"
American Atheist magazine, April 1988


[see also: GOVERNMENT]

A monarchy is a merchantman, which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are always in water.

Fisher Ames (1758-1808)
Speech in the House of Representatives, 1795
Quoted in Essays: Second Series, 1844
Chapter VII "Politics"
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Republican form of government is the highest form of government; but because of this it requires the highest type of human nature -- a type nowhere at present existing.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
"The Americans"
Essays, 1891


No, you can't ruin an architect by proving that he's a bad architect. But you can ruin him because he's an atheist, or because somebody sued him, or because he slept with some woman, or because he pulls wings off bottleflies. You'll say it doesn't make sense? Of course it doesn't. That's why it works. Reason can be fought with reason. How are you going to fight the unreasonable? The trouble with you, my dear, and with most people, is that you don't have sufficient respect for the senseless. The senseless is the major factor in our lives. You have no chance if it is your enemy. But if you can make it become your ally -- ah, my dear!

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
The Fountainhead, 1943
Part II, Chapter 12


And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Bible, Exodus 21:23

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

Bible, Matthew 5:39-40

He who would act from revenge must keep his wounds green.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Essays: On Revenge, 1625


Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Politics, c.343 BC
Book V, Chapter 2

saepe intereunt aliis meditantes necem. (Those who plot the destruction of others often destroy themselves.)

Phaedrus (c.15 BC-AD c.50)
Fabulae Aesopiae, 1822
Appendix I; Fabula VI; "Mus et Rana"
Edited by J.G.S. Schwab

Anyone who can be proved to be a seditious person is an outlaw before God and the emperor; and whoever is the first to put him to death does right and well.... Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Against the Robbing and Murdering Hoardes of Peasants
Pamphlet, May 1525

Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.

John Bradshaw (1602-1652)
Inscription at final burial place
Martha Bay, Jamaica

Je voudrais...que le dernier des rois fut etrangle avec les boyaux du dernier pretre.
(I should like...the last of the kings to be strangled with the guts of the last priest.)

Jean Meslier (1664-1729)
Mon Testament, 1733
Edited by Voltaire

Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du pretre, Au defaut d'un cordon pour etrangler les rois.
(His hands would plait the priest's guts, if he had no rope, to strangle kings.)

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)
"Les Eleutheromanes"
Poesies Diverses, 1875
Allusion to a sentence of Jean Meslier

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.... It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to James Madison
Referring to Shaw's Rebellion
30 January 1787

Broken by it I too may be; bow to it I never will. The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we deem to be just.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Quoted by Matthew Simpson in "The Burial of Lincoln", 1865
American Patriotism: Speeches, Letters, and Other Papers
which Illustrate the Foundation, Development and Preservation
of the U.S.A.
, 1880
by Selim Hobart Peabody

The possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause which we believe to be just.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Speech during Harrison Presidential campaign of 1840
Springfield, Illinois
Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, 1904
by Colonel Alexander Kelly McClure (1828-1909)

A Revolutionary Age is an age of action; the present age is an age of advertisement, or an age of publicity: nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it. A revolt in the present age is the most unthinkable act of all; such a display of strength would confuse the calculating cleverness of the times. Nevertheless, some political virtuoso might achieve something nearly as great. He would write some manifesto or other which calls for a General Assembly in order to decide on a revolution, and he would write it so carefully that even the Censor himself would pass on it; and at the General Assembly he would manage to bring it about that the audience believed that it had actually rebelled, and then everyone would placidly go home -- after they had spent a very nice evening out.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and The Present Age, 1846

The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. ...If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895)
Speech at Canandaigua, New York
03 August 1857

The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Notebook, Chapter 31, 1898 entry
Edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, 1935

A revolutionist is one who desires to discard the existing social order and try another.

The constitution of England is revolutionary. To a Russian or Anglo-Indian bureaucrat, a general election is as much a revolution as a referendum or plebiscite in which the people fight instead of voting. The French Revolution overthrew one set of rulers and substituted another with different interests and different views. That is what a general election enables the people to do in England every seven years if they choose. Revolution is therefore a national institution in England; and its advocacy by an Englishman needs no apology.

Every man is a revolutionist concerning the thing he understands. For example, every person who has mastered a profession is a sceptic concerning it, and consequently a revolutionist.

Every genuine religious person is a heretic and therefore a revolutionist.

All who achieve real distinction in life begin as revolutionists. The most distinguished persons become more revolutionary as they grow older, though they are commonly supposed to become more conservative owing to their loss of faith in conventional methods of reform.

Any person under the age of thirty, who, having any knowledge of the existing social order, is not a revolutionist, is an inferior.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
"The Revolutionist’s Handbook and Pocket Companion", Foreword
Man and Superman, 1903

Whilst we have prisons it matters little which of us occupies the cells.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
"Maxims for Revolutionists: Crime and Punishment"
Man and Superman, 1903

...Harlem is a city occupied by an oppressive army serving what amounts to an outside power. In Harlem there are more rats than people and more cockroaches than rats. Its inhabitants are brutalised at every moment of their lives by police, poverty and indignity. If in any country in the world city after city rose up for days on end, taking to the streets, battling with the police, barricading boulevards and smashing shops, it would rightly be called a rebellion or revolution. In the United States it is called a black riot.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
In a letter of affirming support for imprisoned Harlem Negro leaders
31 March 1965

I never dared be radical when young for fear it would make me conservative when old.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
"Ten Mills"
A Further Range, 1936

It is advocacy of revolution by force and violence to write: "I hold a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." Out go the works of Thomas Jefferson. It is advocacy of change of government by assassination to say, "The right of nation to kill a tyrant in cases of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea." Jefferson is followed by his old antagonist, John Adams, the author of the Sedition Law of 1798. The Declaration of Independence will be barred in this country as it was once upon a time in the Philippines, since it was a most eloquent advocate of change in the form of government by force without stint or limit.

Zechariah Chafee (1885-1957)
Freedom of Speech, 1920
Chapter IV "Legislation Against Sedition and Anarchy"
Part VIII "The Wisdom and Expediency of a Federal Sedition Law"

Any movement in history which attempts to perpetuate itself becomes reactionary.

Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980)
In conversation with Vlado Dedijer and George Seldes
Great Thoughts, Revised and Updated, 1985
Edited by George Seldes

It is not at the center, not from within the organization, that the saint can cure our regimented insanity; it is only from without, at the periphery. If he makes himself a part of the machine, in which the collective madness is incarnated, one or the other of two things is bound to happen. Either he remains himself, in which case the machine will use him as long as it can and, when he becomes unusable, reject or destroy him. Or he will be transformed into the likeness of the mechanism with and against which he works, and in this case we shall see Holy Inquisitions and alliances with any tyrant prepared to guarantee ecclesiastical privileges.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Ape and Essence, 1948

The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.

William Orville Douglas (1898-1980)
An Almanac of Liberty, 1954

...there are no rules for revolution any more than there are rules for love or rules for happiness, BUT there are rules for radicals who want to change their world; there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time.

...These rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans, calls the police "pig" or "white fascist racist" or "motherfucker" and has so stereotyped himself that others react by saying, "Oh, he's one of those," and then promptly turn off.

This failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous. Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea that one communicates within the experience of [their] audience -- and gives full respect to the other's values -- would have ruled out attacks on the American flag. The responsible organizer would have known that it is the establishment that has betrayed the flag while the flag, itself, remains the glorious symbol of America's hopes and aspirations, and [they] would have conveyed this message to [their] audience.

Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972)
Rules for Radicals, A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, 1971

The people in power will not disappear voluntarily, giving flowers to the cops just isn't going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flowerpot from a high window.

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
"Prisoners of the Earth Come Out"
The Job: Interviews with Daniel Odier, 1969

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)
Address to Latin American diplomats at the White House
12 March 1962

It is interesting to hear certain kinds of people insist that the citizen cannot fight the government. This would have been news to the men of Lexington and Concord, as well as the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. The citizen most certainly can fight the government, and usually wins when he tries. Organized national armies are useful primarily for fighting against other organized national armies. When they try to fight against the people, they find themselves at a very serious disadvantage. If you will just look around at the state of the world today, you will see that the guerillero has the upper hand. Irregulars usually defeat regulars, providing they have the will. Such fighting is horrible to contemplate, but will continue to dominate brute strength.

Jeff Cooper (b.1920)
Jeff Cooper's Commentaries
Vol. 1, No. 9, October 1993

I do feel an energy across the country -- this may be because I go to energetic groups -- that are fighting their own government, but they're going to lose because the government is now totally militarised and ready for war -- a war they can't really sell to the rest of the world, but they're going to do it anyway.

Gore Vidal (b.1925)
Interview by Mark Davis
Dateline, SBS TV, Australia
12 March 2003

The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it.

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989)
Chapter 5 "On to Chicago: Creating the Perfect Mess"
Revolution for the Hell of It, 1968

When a woman in the front row complained that he was trivializing "the issues" by making jokes of them, Abbie Hoffman replied, "Sometimes when I'm funny I'm most serious. That was the Yippies' contribution.... We crossed the false dichotomy between struggling for a good cause and having a good time."

Herb Pintler

Avoid revolution or expect to get shot. Mother and I will grieve, but we will gladly buy a dinner for the National Guardsman who shot you.

Dr. Paul Williamson
Father of a Kent State student (one enrolled after 1970 shooting)
Quoted in The Eloquence of Protest: Voices of the 70s, 1972
Edited by Harrison E. Salisbury


[see also: LIBERTY]

Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Francis W. Gilmer
07 June 1816

Nothing would so effectually counteract the mischiefs occasioned by Mr. Paine's Rights of Man, as a general knowledge of the real rights of man. What these rights are it is not my business at present to explain; but there is one right which man has generally been thought to possess, which I am confident he neither does nor can possess — a right to subsistence when his labour will not fairly purchase it. Our laws indeed say that he has this right, and bind the society to furnish employment and food to those who cannot get them in the regular market; but in so doing they attempt to reverse the laws of nature; and it is in consequence to be expected, not only that they should fail in their object, but that the poor, who were intended to be benefited, should suffer most cruelly from the inhuman deceit thus practised upon them.

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834)
Essay on the Principle of Population, 1826, Sixth edition
Book IV, Chapter VI "Effects of the Knowledge of the
principal Cause of Poverty on Civil Liberty"

Notwithstanding the fact that infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the fearless advocates of liberty and justice, we are constantly charged by the church with tearing down without building again. The church should by this time know that it is utterly impossible to rob men of their opinions. The history of religious persecution fully establishes the fact that the mind necessarily resists and defies every attempt to control it by violence. The mind necessarily clings to old ideas until prepared for the new. The moment we comprehend the truth, all erroneous ideas are of necessity cast aside.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
"The Gods"
The Gods and Other Lectures, 1872

We have to choose, and for my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.... If the existing code does not permit district attorneys to have a hand in such dirty business [wiretapping], it does not permit the judge to allow such iniquities to succeed.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
Olmstead vs. United States
277 U.S. 438, 470, 1928

The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Einstein on Peace, 1968
Chapter XVI "The Fight for Intellectual Freedom (1951-1952)"
Edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden

The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.

Hugo La Fayette Black (1886-1971)
Emerson vs. Board of Education
330 U.S. 1, 1947

The ACLU has stood foursquare against the recurring tides of hysteria that from time to time threaten freedoms everywhere... Indeed, it is difficult to appreciate how far our freedoms might have eroded had it not been for the Union's valiant representation in the courts of the constitutional rights of people of all persuasions, no matter how unpopular or even despised by the majority they were at the time.

Earl Warren (1891-1974)
Supreme Court Chief Justice
ACLU Annual Report 1977, front cover

The American Civil Liberties Union has played a significant role in defending our basic democratic freedoms. Your voice has always been raised clearly and sharply when our liberties have been threatened. America is a stronger nation for your uncompromising efforts.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)
Message to ACLU bi-annual conference in 1962

A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you.

Ramsey Clark (b.1927)
New York Times, 02 October 1977

Do not speak of what men deserve. For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead Kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.

Ursula K. LeGuin (b.1929)
The Dispossessed, 1974
(Odo, The Prison Letters)

Do what you wanna, do what you will;
Just don't mess up your neighbor's thrill.
And when you pay the bill, kindly leave a little tip
To help the next poor sucker on his one-way trip.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
"The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing"
You Are What You Is, 1981

[The United States] can't be so fixed on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans....

William Jefferson Clinton (b.1946)
During a press conference in Piscataway, NJ
02 March 1993

Transient majorities operating on the basis of misinformation should not be able to restrict individual rights.

Paul Hager (b.1950)
"Reasons to Support Mr. Kearns' Bill to Restrict Private Drug Testing"
28 January 1991
Bloomington Civil Liberties Union

[With zero-tolerance policies, w]e're teaching kids what it means to be a citizen in our country. And what I fear we're doing is teaching them that what it means to be an American is that you accept authority without question and that you have absolutely no rights to question punishment. It's very Big Brother-ish in a way. Kids are being taught that you should expect to be drug tested if you want to participate in an organization, that walking past a police officer every day and being constantly under the gaze of a security camera is normal. And my concern is that these children are going to grow up and be less critical and thoughtful of these sorts of mechanisms. And so the types of political discussions we have now, like for example, whether or not wiretapping is okay, these might not happen in 10 years.

Aaron C. Kupchik (b.1972)
"America's Real School-Safety Problem"
by Justin Sullivan
Salon, 29 August 2010

Every person has the right to suffer at their own hands. The function of society is not to protect the individual from himself but to protect the individual from society.

Eric Praetzel
rec.bicycles.misc post
14 May 1993

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