From the Upanishads: Dialogue with Death
"Then the father replied angrily: 'I shall give thee unto Death.' The father, having once said so, though in haste, had to be true to his word and to sacrifice his son. The son said: 'I go as the first, at the head of many who have still to die; I go in the midst of many who are now dying. What will be the work of Yama the ruler of the departed which to day he has to do unto me? Look back how it was with those who came before, look forward how it will be with those who come hereafter. A mortal ripens like corn, like corn he springs up again."
Death says to the son after being pleased with his willingness to be sacrificed through a special fire sacrifice:
"The fire sacrifice shall be named after thee. When he [others] has learnt and understood this fire, which knows or makes us know all that is born of Brahman, which is venerable and divine, then he obtains everlasting peace."
"Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round, staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind. The Hereafter never rises before the eyes of the careless child, deluded by the delusion of wealth. 'This is the world', he thinks, 'there is no other;'--thus he falls again and again under my sway"
"Though thou hadst seen the fulfillment of all desires, the foundation of the world, the endless rewards of good deeds, the shore where there is no fear, that which is magnified by praise, the wide abode, the rest, yet being wise thou hast with firm resolve dismissed it all."
"Has it its own light, or does it reflect light? The sun does not shine there, nor the moon and the stars, nor these lightnings, and much less this fire. When he sines, everything shines after him; by his light all this is lighted."
"Beyond the Undeveloped is the Person, the all-pervading and entirely imperceptible. Every creature that knows him is liberated, and obtains immortality. By the words 'He Is', is he to be apprehended, and by admitting the reality of both the invisible Brahman and the visible world, as coming from Brahman. When he has been apprehended by the words 'He Is', then his reality reveals itself."
From The Brahmana
"He behind whom the year revolves with the days, him the gods worship as the light of lights, as immortal time. He in whom the five beings and the ether rest, him alone I believe to be the Self--I who know, believe him to be Brahman; I who am immortal, believe him to be immortal."
"He, the Self, is to be described by--No, no! He is incomprehensible, for he cannot be comprehended; he is imperishable, for he cannot perish; he is unattached, for he does not attach himself; unfettered, he does not suffer, he does not fail.
From the Dhammapada
The Twin Verses
"The thoughtless man, even if he can recite a large portion of the law, but is not a doer of it, has no share in the priesthood, but is like a cowherd counting the cows of others."
"Whatever a hater may do to a hater, or an enemy to an enemy, a wrongly directed mind will do us greater mischief"
"Like a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent, are the fine but fruitless words of him who does not act accordingly."
"He who does not rouse himself when it is time to rise, who, though young and strong, is full of sloth, whose will and thought are weak, that lazy and idle man will never find the way to knowledge."
From "The Foundations of the Moral Life" by Baruch Spinoza
The Highest Virtue of Reason
"The highest thing which the mind can understand is God, that is to say, Being absolutely infinite, and without whom nothing can be nor can be conceived, and therefore that which is chiefly profitable to the mind, or which is the highest good of the mind, is the knowledge of God."
IV: The Evil Emotions
"Nothing but a gloomy and sad superstition forbids enjoyment. For why is it more seemly to extinguish hunger and thirst than to drive away melancholy?"
"Humility is sorrow, that springs from this, that a man contemplates his own weakness."
"But if we suppose that he forms a conception of his own impotence because he understands something to be more powerful than himself, by the knowledge of which he limits his own power of action, in this case we simply conceive that he understands himself distinctly, and his power of action is increased."
"A man, therefore, who is ashamed of what he has done, although he is sorrowful, is nevertheless more perfect than the shameless man who has no desire of living uprightly."
From "Pensees" by Blaise Pascal
1"The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in that thought."
"For who will not be astounded at the fact that our body, which a little while ago was imperceptible in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect to the nothingness which we cannot reach? He who regards himself in this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and I think that, as his curiosity changes into admiration, he will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to examine them with presumption."
"When we think to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condition, and yet most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire to find solid ground and an ultimate sure foundation whereon to build a tower reaching to the Infinite. But our whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses."
"If man made himself the first object of study, he would see how incapable he is of going further. How can a part know the whole?
3"Those who have a lively imagination are a great deal more pleased with themselves than the wise can reasonably be. They look down upon men with haughtiness; they argue with boldness and confidence, others with fear and diffidence; and this gaiety of countenance often gives them the advantage in the opinion of the hearers, such favor have the imaginary wise in the eyes of judges of like nature. Imagination cannot make fools wise; but she can make them happy, to the envy of reason which can only make its friends miserable; the one covers them with glory, the other with shame."
5"To make light of philosophy, is to be a true philosopher"
14"The will is one of the chief factors in belief, not that is creates belief, but because things are true or false according to the aspect in which we look at them. The will, which prefers one aspect to another, turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see; and thus the mind, moving in accord with the will, stops to consider the aspect which it likes, and so judges by what it sees."
16"Two errors: To take everything literally. To take everything spiritually."
18"If this religion boasted of having a clear view of God, and of possessing it open and unveiled, it would be attacking it to say that we see nothing in the world which shows it with this clearness. But, on the contrary, it says that men are in darkness and estranged from God, that He has hidden Himself from their knowledge, that this is in fact the name which He gives Himself in the Scriptures, Deus absconditus (God Hidden)."
"Death, which threatens us every moment, must infallibly place us within a few years under the dreadful necessity of being for ever either annihilated or unhappy. There is nothing more real than this, nothing more terrible. Be we as heroic as we like, that is the end which awaits the noblest life in the world."
"I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not ever that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinities on all sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I know least is this very thing which I cannot escape."
"The only shame is to have none."
"Nothing is more dastardly than to act with bravado before God."
28"Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor then, to think well; this is the principle of morality."
From "Nicomachean Ethics" by Aristotle
4"Most people do not act, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in the body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in the soul by such a course of philosophy."
From "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton
"Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess players do." pg 21
"Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion...the poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits." pg 22
"The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason." pg 24
"He is in the clean and well-lit prison of one idea: he is sharpened to one painful point. He is without healthy hesitation and healthy complexity. He understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding." pg 27
"The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman....Materialists and madman never have doubts." pg 29
"Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity...[Ordinary man] has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. his spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid...He puts the seed of dogma in a central darkness; but it branches forth in all directions with abounding natural health...the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its center it can grow without changing."pg 33
"The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (literally) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world." pg 33
"We may say that the most characteristic current philosophies have not only a touch of mania, but a touch of suicidal mania. The mere questioner has knocked his head against the limits of human thought; and cracked it." pg 42
"Traditions means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death." pg 53
"For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent . We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre's castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening. Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?" pg 77
"Life is not an illogicality; yet it is trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything. It seems a sort of secret treason in the universe." pg 87
"He that will lose his life, the same shall save it...A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying...He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water, and yet drink death like wine." pg 99
"It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands." pg 108
"This fixed and familiar ideal is necessary to any sort of revolution. man will sometimes act slowly upon new ideas; but he will only act swiftly upon old ideas." pg115
"The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy." pg 120
"A bird is active, because a bird is soft. A stone is helpless, because a stone is hard. The stone must by its own nature go downwards, because hardness is weakness. The bird can of its nature go upwards, because fragility is force. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity." pg 127-128
"Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed and a god. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt." pg 145
Preaching in Challenging Times
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