About Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) was an English writer and philosopher. He wrote nearly fifty books—both novels and non-fiction works—as well as wide-ranging essays, narratives, and poems. Born into the prominent Huxley family, he graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with an undergraduate degree in English literature. Wikipedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica  


Aldous Huxley (quotes)

Principles to live by



  • A mind that has come to the stillness of wisdom shall know being, shall know what it is to love. Love is neither personal nor impersonal. Love is love, not to be defined or described by the mind as exclusive or inclusive. Love is its own eternity; it is the real, the supreme, the immeasurable.
  • Love is as necessary to human beings as food and shelter; [but] without intelligence, … love is impotent and freedom unattainable.
  • Love is the plummet as well as the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.


  • 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.’
  • Let us be kinder to one another.


  • Contemplation is that condition of alert passivity, in which the soul lays itself open to the divine Ground within and without, the immanent and transcendent Godhead.
  • Faith, it is evident, may be relied on to produce sustained action and, more rarely, sustained contemplation.


  • The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm.


  • Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and beholder.


  • An ideal is merely the projection, on an enormously enlarged scale, of some aspect of personality.


  • Behold but One in all things; it is the second that leads you astray.
  • Everyone belongs to everyone else.

Embracing mystery

  • I am entirely on the side of mystery. I mean, any attempt to explain away the mystery is ridiculous. I believe in the profound and unfathomable mystery of life which has a sort of divine quality about it.
  • It takes a certain amount of intelligence and imagination to realize the extraordinary queerness and mysteriousness of the world in which we live.
  • Liberate yourselves from everything you know and look with complete innocence at this infinitely improbable thing before you.
  • Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.

Freedom from the past

  • It isn’t a matter of forgetting. What one has to learn is how to remember and yet be free of the past.


  • One reads, above all, to prevent oneself thinking.
  • Most of one’s life is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself thinking.


  • In spiritual matters, knowledge is dependent upon being; as we are, so we know.
  • The self is coming from a state of pure awareness from the state of being. All the rest that comes about in a outward manifesation of the physical world, including fluctuations which end up as thoughts and actions


  • Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very beginning that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and in the country around it. Rub it in.


  • At this point we find ourselves confronted by a very disquieting question: Do we really wish to act upon our knowledge?
  • Knowledge is an affair of symbols and is, all too often, a hindrance to wisdom, the uncovering of the self from moment to moment.
  • Knowledge is porportionate to being… You know in virtue of what you are.
  • Knowledge is a function of being. When there is a change in the being of the knower, there is a corresponding change in the nature and amount of knowing.
  • The more you know, the more you see.
  • We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge

The spiritual journey

  • The spiritual journey does not consist of arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning oneself and life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.

Empathy verse judgement

  • But then every man is ludicrous if you look at him from outside, without taking into account what is going on in his heart and mind.
  • I know the outer world as well as you do, and I judge it. You know nothing of my inner world, and yet you presume to judge that world.

Embrace life

  • But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.


  • I want to know what passion is. I want to feel something strongly.


  • Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement.
  • I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.
  • There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.


  • It is only by making physical experiments that we can discover the intimate nature of matter and its potentialities. And it is only by making psychological and moral experiments that we can discover the intimate nature of mind and its potentialities. In the ordinary circumstances of average sensual life these potentialities of the mind remain latent and unmanifested. If we would realize them, we must fulfil certain conditions and obey certain rules, which experience has shown empirically to be valid.


  • In all activities of life, the secret of efficiency lies in an ability to combine two seemingly incompatible states: a state of maximum activity and a state of maximum relaxation.

Openness to learning

  • 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.


  • At their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and mad men.


  • Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
  • In regard to man’s final end, all the higher religions are in complete agreement. The purpose of human life is the discovery of Truth, the unitive knowledge of the Godhead.
  • An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie.
  • Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.
  • 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.
  • Man approaches the unattainable truth through a succession of errors.
  • The pursuit of truth is just a polite name for the intellectual’s favorite pastime of substituting simple and therefore false abstractions for the living complexities of reality.
  • You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.


  • One Reality, all-comprehensive, contains within itself all realities.
  • Ultimate Reality is not clearly and immediately apprehended except by those who have made themselves loving, pure in heart and poor in spirit.


  • Silence is as full of potential wisdom and wit as the unshown marble of great sculpture. The silent bear no witness against themselves.
  • The sum of evil, Pascal remarked, would be much diminished if men could only learn to sit quietly in their rooms.
  • But the quiet grows and grows. Beautifully and unbearably.


  • Sleep is the most blessed and blessing of all natural graces.


  • The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.


  • Experience is not what happens to you it’s what you do with what happens to you.
  • Experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss-house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing, and hearing the significant thing, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and coordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.
  • Experience teaches only the teachable.
  • 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 is not what one has experienced but what one does with what one has experienced that matters.
  • Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. It is a gift for dealing with the accidents of existence, not the accidents themselves.
  • The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing who in fact he is.


  • Grace is always sufficient, provided we are ready to cooperate with it.
  • Defined in psychological terms, grace is something other than our self-conscious personal self, by which we are helped. We have experience of three kinds of such helps – animal grace, human grace and spiritual grace.  Animal grace comes when we are living in full accord with our own nature on the biological level – not abusing our bodies by excess, not interfering with the workings of our indwelling animal intelligence by conscious cravings and aversions, but living wholesomely and laying ourselves open to the ‘virtue of the sun and the spirit of the air.’ The reward of being thus in harmony with Tao or the Logos in its physical and physiological aspects is a sense of well-being, an awareness of life as good, not for any reason, but just because it is life.


  • Good action and thoughts produce consequences which tend to neutralize, or put a stop to, the result of evil thoughts and actions. For as we give up the life of self (and note that, like forgiveness, repentance and humility are also special cases of giving), as we abandon what the German mystics called “the I, me, mine,” we make ourselves progressively capable of receiving grace. By grace we are enabled to know reality more completely, and this knowledge of reality helps us to give up more of the life of selfhood – and so on, in a mounting spiral of illumination and regeneration.
  • Good is a product of the ethical and spiritual artistry of individuals; it cannot be mass-produced.
  • Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.


  • The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray.
  • There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all its virtues are of no avail.


  • Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.
  • There is something curiously boring about somebody else’s happiness.
  • Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning, truth and beauty can’t.
  • Everybody strains after happiness, and the result is that nobody’s happy.
  • Happiness is a hard master, particularly other people’s happiness.
  • Happiness is like coke ‚it’s something you get as a by-product in the process of making something else.
  • Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.

Living in the moment

  • God isn’t the son of Memory; He’s the son of Immediate Experience. You can’t worship a spirit in spirit, unless you do it now.
  • If you want to live at every moment as it presents itself, you’ve got to die to every other moment.
  • The present moment is the only aperture through which the soul can pass out of time into eternity, through which grace can pass out of eternity into the soul, and through which love can pass from one soul in time to another soul in time.

Diversity and uniqueness

  • In the course of evolution nature has gone to endless trouble to see that every individual is unlike every other individual….Physically and mentally, each one of us is unique. Any culture which, in the interests of efficiency or in the name of some political or religious dogma, seeks to standardize the human individual, commits an outrage against man’s biological nature.


  • In actual life a downward movement may sometimes be made the beginning of an ascent.


  • Man must learn to simplify, but not to the point of falsification.


  • Man is an intelligence in servitude to his organs.
  • Love is as necessary to human beings as food and shelter; [but] without intelligence, … love is impotent and freedom unattainable.
  • Man is so intelligent that he feels impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic.


  • Liberty, as we all know, cannot flourish in a country that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of central government.
  • Liberty? Why it doesn’t exist. There is no liberty in this world, just gilded cages.


  • Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul.
  • The urge to transcend self-conscious selfhood is, as I have said, a principal appetite of the soul.

Spiritual realisation

  • Man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.
  • The man who wishes to know the “that” which is “thou” may set to work in any one of three ways. He may begin by looking inwards into his own particular thou and, by a process of “dying to self” — self in reasoning, self in willing, self in feeling — come at last to knowledge of the self, the kingdom of the self, the kingdom of God that is within. Or else he may begin with the thous existing outside himself, and may try to realize their essential unity with God and, through God, with one another and with his own being. Or, finally (and this is doubtless the best way), he may seek to approach the ultimate That both from within and from without, so that he comes to realize God experimentally as at once the principle of his own thou and of all other thous, animate and inanimate.
  • To the exponents of the Perennial Philosophy, the question whether Progress is inevitable or even real is not a matter of primary importance. For them, the important thing is that individual men and women should come to the unitive knowledge of the divine Ground, and what interests them in regard to the social environment is not its progressiveness or non-progressiveness (whatever those terms may mean), but the degree to which it helps or hinders individuals in the their advance towards man’s final end.
  • The nature of things is such that the unitive knowledge of the Ground which is contingent upon the achievement of a total selflessness cannot possibly be realized, even with outside help, by those who are not yet selfless.
  • Unitive knowledge of God is possible only to those who ‘have ceased to cherish opinions’ even opinions that are as true as it is possible for verbalized abstractions to be.
  • Love is a mode of knowledge, and when the love is sufficiently disinterested and sufficiently intense, the knowledge becomes unitive knowledge and so takes on the quality of infallibility.
  • This state of ‘no-mind’ exists, as it were, on a knife-edge between the carelessness of the average sensual man and the strained over-eagerness of the zealot for salvation. To achieve it, one must walk delicately and, to maintain it, must learn to combine the most intense alertness with a tranquil and self-denying passivity, the most indomitable determination with a perfect submission to the leadings of the spirit.
  • In other words, the highest form of the love of God is an immediate spiritual intuition, by which ‘knower, known and knowledge are made one.
  • Our business is to wake up. We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the one illusory part which our self-centered consciousness permits us to see. We must not live thoughtlessly, taking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape from the dream state. We must be continuously on watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness.
  • Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be.
  • To be enlightened is to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness – to be aware of it and yet remain in a condition to survive as an animal. Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves.

Simple pleasure

  • Of the significant and pleasurable experiences of life only the simplest are open indiscriminately to all. The rest cannot be had except by those who have undergone a suitable training.
  • Oh, how desperately bored, in spite of their grim determination to have a Good Time, the majority of pleasure-seekers really are!


  • Most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.
  • Almost all of us long for peace and freedom; but very few of us have much enthusiasm for the thoughts, feelings, and actions that make for peace and freedom.
  • Nonsense is an assertion of man’s spiritual freedom in spite of all the oppressions of circumstance.


  • Did you ever feel, as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using – you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?
  • Every ceiling reached becomes a floor.


  • Peace is a necessary condition of spirituality, no less than an inevitable result of it.

Do things lightly

  • It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling.

Pragmatic dreaming

  • Dream in a pragmatic way.

Mystical experiences

  • Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. Aldous Huxley

Transcending what limits us



  • Two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary.
  • Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery.
  • At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas.
  • Two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary.


  • Addiction is an increasing desire for an act that gives less and less satisfaction.


  • A fanatic is a man who consciously over compensates a secret doubt.

Chronic remorse

  • Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.

The ego

  • Bondage is the life of personality, and for bondage the personal self will fight with tireless resourcefulness and the most stubborn cunning.
  • Can we unite against ourselves for our own higher interest?
  • I think we have to prepare the mind in one way or another to accept the great uprush or downrush, whichever you like to call it, of the greater non-self.
  • “Our kingdom go” is the necessary and unavoidable corollary of ‘Thy kingdom come.’ For the more there is self, the less there is of God. The divine eternal fulness of life can be gained only by those who have deliberately lost the partial, separative life of craving and self-interest, of egocentric thinking, feeling, wishing, and acting.
  • All that the conscious ego can do is to formulate wishes, which are then carried out by forces which it controls very little and understands not at all. When it does anything more – when it tries too hard, for example, when it worries, when it becomes apprehensive about the future – it lowers the effectiveness of those forces and may even cause the devitalized body to fall ill. In my present state, awareness was not referred to as ego; it was, so to speak, on its own.

Intellect over intuition

  • Modern man’s besetting temptation is to sacrifice his direct perceptions and spontaneous feelings to his reasoned reflections; to prefer in all circumstances the verdict of his intellect to that of his immediate intuitions.

Taking things for granted

  • Man has an almost infinite capacity for taking things and people for granted and thereby missing out on the pleasure of being grateful that things aren’t worse and of praising and thereby lifting the spirits of others.


  • Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.
  • Hell is the incapacity to be other than the creature one finds oneself ordinarily behaving as.


  • The nature of power is such that even those who have not sought it, but have had it forced upon them, tend to acquire a taste for more.


  • Most vices demand considerable self-sacrifices. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a vicious life is a life of uninterrupted pleasure. It is a life almost as wearisome and painful — if strenuously led — as Christian’s in The Pilgrim’s Progress.


  • Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.
  • Most ignorances are vincible, and in the greater number of cases stupidity is what the Buddha pronounced it to be, a sin. For, consciously, or subconsciously, it is with deliberation that we do not know or fail to understand-because incomprehension allows us, with a good conscience, to evade unpleasant obligations and responsibilities, because ignorance is the best excuse for going on doing what one likes, but ought not, to do.
  • It is ignorance that causes us to identify ourselves with the body, the ego, the senses, or anything that is not the Atman. He is a wise man who overcomes this ignorance by devotion to the Atman.
  • The pleasures of ignorance are as great, in their way, as the pleasures of knowledge.


  • Love casts out fear; but conversely fear casts out love. And not only love. Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth.


  • If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion.
  • The world is an illusion, but an illusion which we must take seriously.


  • Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief.
  • One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons-that’s philosophy. People believe in God because they’ve been conditioned to believe in God.
  • The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.

Excessive rationality

  • Beware of being too rational. In the country of the insane, the integrated man doesn’t become king. He gets lynched.


  • Folly is often more cruel in the consequences than malice can be in the intent.

Selfishness and greed

  • It is only when we have renounced our preoccupation with “I,” “me,” “mine,” that we can truly possess the world in which we live. Everything, provided that we regard nothing as property. And not only is everything ours; it is also everybody else’s.
  • The divine eternal fullness of life can be gained only by those who have deliberately lost the partial, separative life of craving and self-interest, of egocentric thinking, feeling, wishing and acting.
  • To sum up, that mortification is the best which results in the elimination of self-will, self-interest, self-centred thinking, wishing and imagining. Extreme physical austerities are not likely to achieve this kind of mortification. But the acceptance of what happens to us (apart, of course, from our own sins) in the course of daily living is likely to produce this result.


  • The impulse to cruelty is, in many people, almost as violent as the impulse to sexual love – almost as violent and much more mischievous.


  • On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.

Malice and stupidity

  • For at least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols


  • Generalities are intellectually necessary evils.
  • Intellectuals … regard over-simplification as the original sin of the mind and have no use for the slogans, the unqualified assertions and sweeping generalizations.

Thoughts on…


Mistaking language and concepts for real things

  • Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.
  • In spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody. The essential substance of every thought and feeling remains incommunicable, locked up in the impenetrable strong-room of the individual soul and body. Our life is a sentence of perpetual solitary confinement.
  • In the contexts of religion and politics, words are not regarded as standing, rather inadequately, for things and events; on the contrary things and events are regarded as particular illustrations of words.
  • Man is an amphibian who lives simultaneously in two worlds-the given and the home-made, the world of matter, life and consciousness and the world of symbols.
  • For language, as Richard Trench pointed out long ago, is often “wiser, not merely than the vulgar, but even than the wisest of those who speak it. Sometimes it locks up truths which were once well known, but have been forgotten. In other cases it holds the germs of truths which, though they were never plainly discerned, the genius of its framers caught a glimpse of in a happy moment of divination.”
  • Consequently, we find it convenient to be misled by the inadequacies of language and to believe (not always, of course, but just when it suits us) that things, persons and events are as completely distinct and separate one from another as the words, by means of which we think about them.


  • Words are good servants but bad masters.
  • Words are magical in the way they affect the minds of those who use them.
  • Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.
  • Words form the thread on which we string our experiences.
  • Words play an enormous part in our lives and are therefore deserving of the closest study.
  • 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.


  • Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons – that’s philosophy.

Ends verse the means

  • But the nature of the universe is such that ends can never justify means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end.


  • If one is not oneself a sage or saint, the best thing one can do is to study the words of those who were.
  • To be well informed, one must read quickly a great number of merely instructive books. To be cultivated, one must read slowly and with a lingering appreciation the comparatively few books that have been written by men who lived, thought, and felt with style.
  • After all, what is reading but a vice, like drink or venery or any other form of excessive self-indulgence? One reads to tickle and amuse one’s mind; one reads, above all, to prevent oneself thinking.
  • 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.
  • Deprived of their newspapers or a novel, reading-addicts will fall back onto cookery books, on the literature which is wrapped around bottles of patent medicine, on those instructions for keeping the contents crisp which are printed on the outside of boxes of breakfast cereals. On anything.


  • A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one, it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.
  • I write everything many times over. All my thoughts are second thoughts.
  • The creation by word-power of something out of nothing–what is that but magic? And, may I add, what is that but literature?
  • Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.


  • All democracies are based on the proposition that power is very dangerous and that it is extremely important not to let any one person or small group have too much power for too long a time.
  • Democracy can hardly be expected to flourish in societies where political and economic power is being progressively concentrated and centralized. But the progress of technology has led and is still leading to just such a concentration and centralization of power.
  • Generalized intelligence and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy.
  • Human beings act in a great variety of irrational ways, but all of them seem to be capable, if given a fair chance, of making a reasonable choice in the light of available evidence. Democratic institutions can be made to work only if all concerned do their best to impart knowledge and to encourage rationality. But today, in the world’s most powerful democracy, the politicians and the propagandists prefer to make nonsense of democratic procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and irrationality of the electors.
  • All democracies are based on the proposition that power is very dangerous and that it is extremely important not to let any one person or small group have too much power for too long a time

A better society

  • All of us desire a better state of society. But society cannot become better before two great tasks are performed. Unless peace can be firmly established and the prevailing obsession with money and power profoundly modified, there is no hope of any desirable change being made.


  • Half at least of all morality is negative and consists in keeping out of mischief. The lords prayer is less than 50 words long, and 6 of those words are devoted to asking god not to lead us into temptation.
  • Morality is always the product of terror; its chains and strait-waistcoats are fashioned by those who dare not trust others, because they dare not trust themselves, to walk in liberty.
  • One of the great triumphs of the nineteenth century was to limit the connotation of the word “immoral” in such a way that, for practical purposes, only those were immoral who drank too much or made too copious love. Those who indulged in any or all of the other deadly sins could look down in righteous indignation on the lascivious and the gluttonous…. In the name of all lechers and boozers I most solemnly protest against the invidious distinction made to our prejudice.
  • The quality of moral behavior varies in inverse ratio to the number of human beings involved.
  • Half at least of all morality is negative and consists in keeping out of mischief.
  • The Lord’s Prayer is less than fifty words long, and six of those words are devoted to asking God not to lead us into temptation.

Habit and ritual

  • Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities.


  • 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.


  • Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.


  • Dictators can always consolidate their tyranny by an appeal to patriotism.


  • All our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook.
  • We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends.


  • In a few years, no doubt, marriage licences will be sold like dog licences, good for 12 months.


  • 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.
  • Death is the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing.
  • Dying is almost the least spiritual of our acts, more strictly carnal even than the act of love. There are Death Agonies that are like the strainings of the Costive at stool.
  • Ignore death up to the last moment; then, when it can’t be ignored any longer, have yourself squirted full of morphia and shuffle off in a coma. Thoroughly sensible, humane and scientific, eh?
  • In the course of history many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country.


  • Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.


  • 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.
  • God isn’t the son of Memory; He’s the son of Immediate Experience. You can’t worship a spirit in spirit, unless you do it now.
  • God: a gaseous vertebrate.
  • In life, man proposes, God disposes.
  • All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours.
  • It is natural to believe in God when you’re alone– quite alone, in the night, thinking about death.
  • When Bayazid was asked how old he was, he replied, ‘Four years.’ They said, ‘How can that be?’ He answered, ‘I have been veiled from God by the world for seventy years, but I have seen Him during the last four years. The period during which one is veiled does not belong to one’s life.’” On another occasion someone knocked at the saint’s door and cried, “Is Bayazid here?” Bayazid answered, “Is anybody here except God?”
  • The divine Ground of all existence is a spiritual Absolute, ineffable in terms of discursive thought, but (in certain circumstances) susceptible of being directly experienced and realized by the human being. This Absolute is the God-without-form of Hindu and Christian mystical phraseology. The last end of man, the ultimate reason for human existence, is unitive knowledge of the divine Ground—the knowledge that can come only to those who are prepared to “Die to self” and so make room, as it were, for God.
  • There is no class of substance to which the Brahman belongs, no common genus. It cannot therefore be denoted by words which, like “being” in the ordinary sense, signify a category of things. Nor can it be denoted by quality, for it is without qualities; nor yet by activity because it is without activity—“at rest, without parts or activity,” according to the Scriptures. Neither can it be denoted by relationship, for it is “without a second” and is not the object of anything but its own self. Therefore it cannot be defined by word or idea; as the Scripture says, it is the One “before whom words recoil.” Shankara”
  • Man’s obsessive consciousness of, and insistence on being, a separate self is the final and most formidable obstacle to the unitive knowledge of God.


  • If we must play the theological game, let us never forget that it is a game. Religion, it seems to me, can survive only as a consciously accepted system of make-believe.
  • For the first time in the history of the world, Buddhism proclaimed a salvation which each individual could gain from him or herself, in this world, during this life, without any least reference to God, or to gods either great or small.
  • Jehovah, Allah, the Trinity, Jesus, Buddha, are names for a great variety of human virtues, human mystical experiences, human remorses, human compensatory fantasies, human terrors, human cruelties. If all men were alike, all the world would worship the same God.
  • Compared with that of Taoists and Far Eastern Buddhists, the Christian attitude toward Nature has been curiously insensitive and often downright domineering and violent. Taking their cue from an unfortunate remark in Genesis, Catholic moralists have regarded animals as mere things which men do right to regard for their own ends.
  • Hinduism the perennial philosophy that is at the core of all religions.
  • I don’t think there is any incompatibility between science and mysticism . . . Immanent religion is the only form of religion in which there is no conflict at all, that I can see, between science and religion.
  • In religion all words are dirty words. Anybody who gets eloquent about Buddha, or God, or Christ, ought to have his mouth washed out with carbolic soap.
  • Most kings and priests have been despotic, and all religions have been riddled with superstition.
  • Nobody can have the consolations of religion or philosophy unless he has first experienced their desolations.
  • Religious beliefs and practices are certainly not the only factors determining the behaviour of a given society. But, no less certainly, they are among the determining factors. At least to some extent, the collective conduct of a nation is a test of the religion prevailing within it, a criterion by which we may legitimately judge the doctrinal validity of that religion and its practical efficiency in helping individuals to advance towards the goal of human existence.
  • The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.
  • The Perennial Philosophy is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, tat tvam asi (‘That art thou’); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being, is to discover the fact for himself, to find out who he really is.


  • All war propaganda consists, in the last resort, in substituting diabolical abstractions for human beings. Similarly, those who defend war have invented a pleasant sounding vocabulary of abstractions in which to describe the process of mass murder.

The brain filter

  • Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.


  • My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.
  • Modern man no longer regards Nature as in any sense divine and feels perfectly free to behave toward her as an overweening conqueror and tyrant.
  • What I know of the divine sciences and Holy Scripture, I learnt in woods and fields. I have had no other masters than the beeches and the oaks.
  • The doctrine that God is in the world has an important practical corollary the sacredness of Nature, and the sinfulness and folly of man’s overweening efforts to be her master rather than her intelligently docile collaborator.
  • The investigation of nature is an infinite pasture-ground where all may graze, and where the more bite, the longer the grass grows, the sweeter is its flavor, and the more it nourishes.


  • But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art.
  • Abused as we abuse it at present, dramatic art is in no sense cathartic; it is merely a form of emotional masturbation.
  • Art is one of the means whereby man seeks to redeem a life which is experienced as chaotic, senseless, and largely evil.
  • Art, I suppose, is only for beginners, who have made up in their minds to be content with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner.
  • But then people don’t read literature in order to understand; they read it because they want to re-live the feelings and sensations which they found exciting in the past. Art can be a lot of things; but in actual practice, most of it is merely the mental equivalent of alcohol and cantharides.
  • Every significant artist is a metaphysician, a propounder of beauty-truths and form-theories.
  • 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?
  • Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything, will really do.
  • 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.
  • The whole story of the universe is implicit in any part of it. The meditative eye can look through any single object and see, as through a window, the entire cosmos. Make the smell of roast duck in an old kitchen diaphanous and you will have a glimpse of everything, from the spiral nebulae to Mozart’s music and the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. The artistic problem is to produce diaphanousness in spots, selecting the spots so as to reveal only the most humanly significant of distant vistas behind the near familiar object.


  • That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.
  • 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.


  • Music is an ocean, but the repertory is hardly even a lake; it is a pond.
  • A fter silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.


  • For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written.
  • For the born traveller, travelling is a besetting vice. Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim’s time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort.
  • To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.


  • Children are nowhere taught, in any systematic way, to distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements. Why is this so? Because their elders, even in the democratic countries, do not want them to be given this kind of education.
  • Higher education is not necessarily a guarantee of higher virtue.
  • 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.


  • Complete prohibition of all chemical mind changers can be decreed, but cannot be enforced, and tends to create more evils than it cures.

Drug experiences

  • I have spoken so far only of the blissful visionary experience? But visionary experience is not always blissful. It’s sometimes terrible. There is hell as well as heaven.
  • The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.
  • I am not so foolish as to equate what happens under the influence of mescalin or of any other drug, prepared or in the future preparable, with the realization of the end and ultimate purpose of human life: Enlightenment, the Beatific Vision. All I am suggesting is that the mescalin experience is what Catholic theologians call “a gratuitous grace,” not necessary to salvation but potentially helpful and to be accepted thankfully, if made available. To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large—this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.
  • Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory – all these have served, in H. G. Wells’s phrase, as Doors in the Wall.
  • When we feel ourselves to be sole heirs of the universe, when “the sea flows in our veins…and the stars are our jewels,” when all things are perceived as infinite and holy, what motive can we have for covetousness or self-assertion, for the pursuit of power or the drearier forms of pleasure?
  • The really important facts were that spatial relationships had ceased to matter very much and that my mind was perceiving the world in terms of other than spatial categories. At ordinary times the eye concerns itself with such problems as where? — how far? — how situated in relation to what? In the mescaline experience the implied questions to which the eye responds are of another order. Place and distance cease to be of much interest. The mind does its perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern.


  • If only people would realize that moral principles are like measles…. They have to be caught. And only the people who’ve got them can pass on the contagion.


  • 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.

Human nature

  • … the greater part of the population is not very intelligent, dreads responsibility, and desires nothing better than to be told what to do. Provided the rulers do not interfere with its material comforts and its cherished beliefs, it is perfectly happy to let itself be ruled.
  • Most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.
  • Don’t try to behave as though you were essentially sane and naturally good. We’re all demented sinners in the same cosmic boat – and the boat is perpetually sinking.
  • Man is unique in organizing the mass murder of his own species.
  • We shall be permitted to live on this planet only for as long as we treat all nature with compassion and intelligence.


  • It is only when it takes the form of physical addiction that sex is evil. It is also evil when it manifests itself as a way of satisfying the lust for power or the climber’s craving for position and social distinction.


  • Consider the problem of over-population. Rapidly mounting human numbers are pressing ever more heavily on natural resources. What is to be done?… The annual increase of numbers should be reduced. But how? We are given two choices — famine, pestilence and war on the one hand, birth control on the other. Most of us choose birth control.
  • In any race between human numbers and natural resources, time is against us.


  • Literary or scientific, liberal or specialist, all our education is predominantly verbal and therefore fails to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else’s.

Medical science

  • Medical science has made such tremendous progress that there is hardly a healthy human left.
  • Medical science is making such remarkable progress that soon none of us will be well.


  • Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

More thoughts

  • A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes.
  • Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence – those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.
  • Assembled in a crowd, people lose their powers of reasoning and their capacity for moral choice.
  • Blood of the world, time staunchless flows; The wound is mortal and is mine.
  • Cynical realism is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation.
  • Ending is better than mending.
  • Everyone who wants to do good to the human race always ends in universal bullying.
  • For in spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody.
  • For particulars, as everyone knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.
  • Given a fair chance, human beings can govern themselves, and govern themselves better.
  • How difficult it is to sound persuasive at the top of one’s voice!
  • A million million spermatozoa, All of them alive: Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah Dare hope to survive.
  • All that happens means something; nothing you do is ever insignificant.
  • At any given moment, life is completely senseless. But viewed over a period, it seems to reveal itself as an organism existing in time, having a purpose, trending in a certain direction.
  • Family, monogamy, romance. Everywhere exclusiveness, a narrow channelling of impulse and essnergy.
  • Hug me till you drug me, honey; Kiss me till I’m in a coma.
  • If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.
  • In real life there is no such person as the average man.
  • In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all was obscure, embroiled.
  • It’s a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe there is. I think it’s healthy that people should have this experience.
  • Man is hypnotized by the glitter of his own gadgetry.
  • Maybe this world is another planet’s Hell.
  • No social stability without individual stability.
  • Several excuses are always less convincing than one.
  • We are all geniuses up to the age of ten.
  • To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift.

On a lighter note

  • I am not the captain of my soul; I am only its noisiest passenger.
  • A man can smile and smile and be a villain.
  • An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
  • Chastity – the most unnatural of all the sexual perversions.
  • A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.
  • For some strange reason murder has always seemed more respectable than fornication. Few people are shocked when they hear God described as the God of Battles; but what an outcry there would be if anyone spoke of him as the God of Brothels.
  • If you want to write, keep cats.
  • Like every man of sense and good feeling, I abominate work.
  • No holiday is ever anything but a disappointment.
  • No man, however civilized, can listen for very long to African drumming, or Indian chanting, or Welsh hymn singing, and retain intact his critical and self-conscious personality.
  • To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.