Where the Mind is Free...

Mind you, we are mind. / We are not the kind / To stay too confined. Robert Frost, "Kitty Hawk"

You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind. Mahatma Gandhi

I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Man Unbound

Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation. Teilhard de Chardin

What comes over a man,
is it soul or mind
That to no limits and bounds
he can stay confined? Robert Frost

Whatever appeals to the imagination, by transcending the ordinary limits of human ability, wonderfully encourages and liberates us. Ralph Waldo Emerson

An Individual Conscious of Himself

When Philip ceased to believe in Christianity he felt that a great weight was taken from his shoulders; casting off the responsibility which weighed down every action, when every action was infinitely important for the welfare of his immortal soul, he experienced a vivid sense of liberty. But he knew now that this was an illusion. When he put away the religion in which he had been brought up, he had kept unimpaired the morality which was part and parcel of it. He made up his mind therefore to think things out for himself. He determined to be swayed by no prejudices. He swept away the virtues and the vices, the established laws of good and evil, with the idea of finding out the rules of life for himself. He did not know whether rules were necessary at all. That was one of the things he wanted to discover. Clearly much that seemed valid seemed so only because he had been taught it from his earliest youth. He had read a number of books, but they did not help him much, for they were based on the morality of Christianity; and even the writers who emphasised the fact that they did not believe in it were never satisfied till they had framed a system of ethics in accordance with that of the Sermon on the Mount. It seemed hardly worth while to read a long volume in order to learn that you ought to behave exactly like everybody else. Philip wanted to find out how he ought to behave, and he thought he could prevent himself from being influenced by the opinions that surrounded him. But meanwhile he had to go on living, and, until he formed a theory of conduct, he made himself a provisional rule.

"Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner."

He thought the best thing he had gained in Paris was a complete liberty of spirit, and he felt himself at last absolutely free. In a desultory way he had read a good deal of philosophy, and he looked forward with delight to the leisure of the next few months. He began to read at haphazard. He entered upon each system with a little thrill of excitement, expecting to find in each some guide by which he could rule his conduct; he felt himself like a traveller in unknown countries and as he pushed forward the enterprise fascinated him; he read emotionally, as other men read pure literature, and his heart leaped as he discovered in noble words what himself had obscurely felt. His mind was concrete and moved with difficulty in regions of the abstract; but, even when he could not follow the reasoning, it gave him a curious pleasure to follow the tortuosities of thoughts that threaded their nimble way on the edge of the incomprehensible. Sometimes great philosophers seemed to have nothing to say to him, but at others he recognised a mind with which he felt himself at home. He was like the explorer in Central Africa who comes suddenly upon wide uplands, with great trees in them and stretches of meadow, so that he might fancy himself in an English park. He delighted in the robust common sense of Thomas Hobbes; Spinoza filled him with awe, he had never before come in contact with a mind so noble, so unapproachable and austere; it reminded him of that statue by Rodin, L'Age d'Airain, which he passionately admired; and then there was Hume: the scepticism of that charming philosopher touched a kindred note in Philip; and, revelling in the lucid style which seemed able to put complicated thought into simple words, musical and measured, he read as he might have read a novel, a smile of pleasure on his lips. But in none could he find exactly what he wanted. He had read somewhere that every man was born a Platonist, an Aristotelian, a Stoic, or an Epicurean; and the history of George Henry Lewes (besides telling you that philosophy was all moonshine) was there to show that the thought of each philospher was inseparably connected with the man he was. When you knew that you could guess to a great extent the philosophy he wrote. It looked as though you did not act in a certain way because you thought in a certain way, but rather that you thought in a certain way because you were made in a certain way. Truth had nothing to do with it. There was no such thing as truth. Each man was his own philosopher, and the elaborate systems which the great men of the past had composed were only valid for the writers.

The thing then was to discover what one was and one's system of philosophy would devise itself. It seemed to Philip that there were three things to find out: man's relation to the world he lives in, man's relation with the men among whom he lives, and finally man's relation to himself. He made an elaborate plan of study.

The advantage of living abroad is that, coming in contact with the manners and customs of the people among whom you live, you observe them from the outside and see that they have not the necessity which those who practise them believe. You cannot fail to discover that the beliefs which to you are self-evident to the foreigner are absurd. The year in Germany, the long stay in Paris, had prepared Philip to receive the sceptical teaching which came to him now with such a feeling of relief. He saw that nothing was good and nothing was evil; things were merely adapted to an end. He read The Origin of Species. It seemed to offer an explanation of much that troubled him. He was like an explorer now who has reasoned that certain natural features must present themselves, and, beating up a broad river, finds here the tributary that he expected, there the fertile, populated plains, and further on the mountains. When some great discovery is made the world is surprised afterwards that it was not accepted at once, and even on those who acknowledge its truth the effect is unimportant. The first readers of The Origin of Species accepted it with their reason; but their emotions, which are the ground of conduct, were untouched. Philip was born a generation after this great book was published, and much that horrified its contemporaries had passed into the feeling of the time, so that he was able to accept it with a joyful heart. He was intensely moved by the grandeur of the struggle for life, and the ethical rule which it suggested seemed to fit in with his predispositions. He said to himself that might was right. Society stood on one side, an organism with its own laws of growth and self-preservation, while the individual stood on the other. The actions which were to the advantage of society it termed virtuous and those which were not it called vicious. Good and evil meant nothing more than that. Sin was a prejudice from which the free man should rid himself. Society had three arms in its contest with the individual, laws, public opinion, and conscience: the first two could be met by guile, guile is the only weapon of the weak against the strong: common opinion put the matter well when it stated that sin consisted in being found out; but conscience was the traitor within the gates; it fought in each heart the battle of society, and caused the individual to throw himself, a wanton sacrifice, to the prosperity of his enemy. For it was clear that the two were irreconcilable, the state and the individual conscious of himself. That uses the individual for its own ends, trampling upon him if he thwarts it, rewarding him with medals, pensions, honours, when he serves it faithfully; this, strong only in his independence, threads his way through the state, for convenience' sake, paying in money or service for certain benefits, but with no sense of obligation; and, indifferent to the rewards, asks only to be left alone. He is the independent traveller, who uses Cook's tickets because they save trouble, but looks with good-humoured contempt on the personally conducted parties. The free man can do no wrong. He does everything he likes — if he can. His power is the only measure of his morality. He recognises the laws of the state and he can break them without sense of sin, but if he is punished he accepts the punishment without rancour. Society has the power.

But if for the individual there was no right and no wrong, then it seemed to Philip that conscience lost its power. It was with a cry of triumph that he seized the knave and flung him from his breast. But he was no nearer to the meaning of life than he had been before. Why the world was there and what men had come into existence for at all was as inexplicable as ever. Surely there must be some reason.

--On Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham, Chapter 53

Young Siddhartha's Thirst

Siddhartha had started to nurse discontent in himself, he had started to feel that the love of his father and the love of his mother, and also the love of his friend, Govinda, would not bring him joy for ever and ever, would not nurse him, feed him, satisfy him. He had started to suspect that his venerable father and his other teachers, that the wise Brahmans had already revealed to him the most and best of their wisdom, that they had already filled his expecting vessel with their richness, and the vessel was not full, the spirit was not content, the soul was not calm, the heart was not satisfied. The ablutions were good, but they were water, they did not wash off the sin, they did not heal the spirit's thirst, they did not relieve the fear in his heart. The sacrifices and the invocation of the gods were excellent—but was that all? Did the sacrifices give a happy fortune? And what about the gods? Was it really Prajapati who had created the world? Was it not the Atman, He, the only one, the singular one? Were the gods not creations, created like me and you, subject to time, mortal? Was it therefore good, was it right, was it meaningful and the highest occupation to make offerings to the gods? For whom else were offerings to me made, who else was to be worshipped but Him, the only one, the Atman? And where was Atman to be found, where did He reside, where did his eternal heart beat, where else but in one's own self, in its innermost part, in its indestructible part, which everyone had in himself? But where, where was this self, this innermost part, this ultimate part? It was not flesh and bone, it was neither thought nor consciousness, thus the wisest ones taught. So, where, where was it? To reach this place, the self, myself, the Atman, there was another way, which was worthwhile looking for? Alas, and nobody showed this way, nobody knew it, not the father, and not the teachers and wise men, not the holy sacrificial songs! They knew everything, the Brahmans and their holy books, they knew everything, they had taken care of everything and of more than everything, the creation of the world, the origin of speech, of food, of inhaling, of exhaling, the arrangement of the senses, the acts of the gods, they knew infinitely much—but was it valuable to know all of this, not knowing that one and only thing, the most important thing, the solely important thing?

Surely, many verses of the holy books, particularly in the Upanishads of Samaveda, spoke of this innermost and ultimate thing, wonderful verses. "Your soul is the whole world", was written there, and it was written that man in his sleep, in his deep sleep, would meet with his innermost part and would reside in the Atman. Marvellous wisdom was in these verses, all knowledge of the wisest ones had been collected here in magic words, pure as honey collected by bees. No, not to be looked down upon was the tremendous amount of enlightenment which lay here collected and preserved by innumerable generations of wise Brahmans.— But where were the Brahmans, where the priests, where the wise men or penitents, who had succeeded in not just knowing this deepest of all knowledge but also to live it? Where was the knowledgeable one who wove his spell to bring his familiarity with the Atman out of the sleep into the state of being awake, into the life, into every step of the way, into word and deed? Siddhartha knew many venerable Brahmans, chiefly his father, the pure one, the scholar, the most venerable one. His father was to be admired, quiet and noble were his manners, pure his life, wise his words, delicate and noble thoughts lived behind its brow —but even he, who knew so much, did he live in blissfulness, did he have peace, was he not also just a searching man, a thirsty man? Did he not, again and again, have to drink from holy sources, as a thirsty man, from the offerings, from the books, from the disputes of the Brahmans? Why did he, the irreproachable one, have to wash off sins every day, strive for a cleansing every day, over and over every day? Was not Atman in him, did not the pristine source spring from his heart? It had to be found, the pristine source in one's own self, it had to be possessed! Everything else was searching, was a detour, was getting lost.

Thus were Siddhartha's thoughts, this was his thirst, this was his suffering…

--Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Love and War - Mazzini Adresses the Youth of Italy

...Love is the flight of the soul toward God: toward the great, the sublime, and the beautiful, which are the shadows of God upon earth. Love your family; the partner of your life; those around you, ready to share your joys and sorrows; the dead who were dear to you, and to whom you were dear. Love your country. It is your name, your glory, your sign among the peoples. Give to it your thought, your counsel, your blood. You are twenty-four millions of men, endowed with active and splendid faculties; with a tradition of glory which is the envy of the nations of Europe. An immense future is before you. Your eyes are raised to the loveliest heaven, and around you smiles the loveliest land in Europe. You are encircled by the Alps and the sea, boundaries marked out by the finger of God for a people of giants.

And you must be such, or nothing. Let not a man of that twenty-four millions remain excluded from the fraternal bond which shall join you together; let not a look be raised to heaven which is not that of a free man. Love humanity. You can only ascertain your own mission from the aim placed by God before humanity at large. Beyond the Alps, beyond the sea, are other peoples, now fighting, or preparing to fight, the holy fight of independence, of nationality, of liberty; other peoples striving by different routes to reach the same goal. Unite with them and they will unite with you.

And, young men, love and reverence the Ideal; that is the country of the spirit, the city of the soul, in which all are brethren who believe in the inviolability of thought, and in the dignity of our immortal natures. From that high sphere spring the principles which alone can redeem peoples. Love enthusiasm — the pure dreams of the virgin soul, and the lofty visions of early youth; for they are the perfume of Paradise, which the soul preserves in issuing from the hands of its Creator. Respect, above all things, your conscience; have upon your lips the truth that God has placed in your hearts; and, while working together in harmony in all that tends to the emancipation of our soil, even with those who differ from you, yet ever bear erect your own banner, and boldly promulgate your faith...

-- Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72), Italian Freedom Fighter, 'To the Young Men of Italy' (1848)

Thomas Carlyle's Advice to Students

...Advices, I believe, to young men, as to all men, are very seldom much valued. There is a great deal of advising, and very little faithful performing; and talk that does not end in any kind of action is better suppressed altogether. I would not, therefore, go much into advising; but there is one advice I must give you. In fact, it is the summary of all advices, and doubtless you have heard it a thousand times; but I must nevertheless let you hear it the thousand-and-first time, for it is most intensely true, whether you will believe it at present or not: namely, that above all things the interest of your whole life depends on your being diligent, now while it is called to-day, in this place where you have come to get education! Diligent: that includes in it all virtues that a student can have; I mean it to include all those qualities of conduct that lead on to the acquirement of real instruction and improvement in such a place.

If you will believe me, you who are young, yours is the golden season of life. As you have heard it called, so it verily is, the seed-time of life; in which, if you do not sow, or if you do sow tares instead of wheat, you can not expect to reap well afterward, and you will arrive at little. And in the course of years, when you come to look back, if you have not done what you have heard from your advisers — and among many counselors there is wisdom — you will bitterly repent when it is too late. The habits of study acquired at universities are of the highest importance in after-life. At the season when you are young in years, the whole mind is, as it were, fluid, and is capable of forming itself into any shape that the owner of the mind pleases to allow it, or constrain it, to form itself into. The mind is then in a plastic or fluid state; but it hardens gradually, to the consistency of rock or of iron, and you can not alter the habits of an old man: he, as he has begun, so he will proceed and go on to the last.

By diligence I mean, among other things, and very chiefly, too — honesty, in all your inquiries, and in all you are about. Pursue your studies in the way your conscience can name honest. More and more endeavor to do that. Keep, I should say for one thing, an accurate separation between what you have really come to know in your minds and what is still unknown. Leave all that latter on the hypothetical side of the barrier, as things afterward to be acquired, if acquired at all; and be careful not to admit a thing as known when you do not yet know it. Count a thing known only when it is imprinted clearly on your mind, and has become transparent to you, so that you may survey it on all sides with intelligence. There is such a thing as a man endeavoring to persuade himself, and endeavoring to persuade others, that he knows things, when he does not know more than the outside skin of them; and yet he goes flourishing about with them...

Well, gentlemen... the clearest and most imperative duty lies on every one of you to be assiduous in your reading. Learn to be good readers — which is perhaps a more difficult thing than you imagine. Learn to be discriminative in your reading; to read faithfully, and with your best attention, all kinds of things which you have a real interest in — a real not an imaginary — and which you find to be really fit for what you are engaged in. Of course, at the present time, in a great deal of the reading incumbent on you, you must be guided by the books recommended by your professors for assistance toward the effect of their predilections. And then, when you leave the university, and go into studies of your own, you will find it very important that you have chosen a field, some province specially suited to you, in which you can study and work. The most unhappy of all men is the man who can not tell what he is going to do, who has got no work cut out for him in the world, and does not go into it. For work is the grand cure of all the maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind — honest work, which you intend getting done...

One remark more about your reading. I do not know whether it has been sufficiently brought home to you that there are two kinds of books. When a man is reading on any kind of a subject, in most departments of books — in all books, if you take it in a wide sense — he will find that there is a division into good books and bad books. Everywhere a good kind of book and a bad kind of book. I am not to assume that you are unacquainted, or ill acquainted, with this plain fact; but I may remind you that it is becoming a very important consideration in our day. And we have to cast aside altogether the idea people have, that if they are reading any book, that if an ignorant man is reading any book, he is doing rather better than nothing at all. I must entirely call that in question; I even venture to deny that. It would be much safer and better for many a reader, that he had no concern with books at all. There is a number, a frightfully increasing number, of books that are decidedly, to the readers of them, not useful. But an ingenious reader will learn, also, that a certain number of books were written by a supremely noble kind of people — not a very great number of books, but still a number fit to occupy all your reading industry do adhere more or less to that side of things. In short, as I have written it down somewhere else, I conceive that books are like men’s souls — divided into sheep and goats. Some few are going up, and carrying us up, heavenward; calculated, I mean, to be of priceless advantage in teaching — in forwarding the teaching of all generations. Others, a frightful multitude, are going down, down; doing ever the more and the wider and the wilder mischief. Keep a strict eye on that latter class of books, my young friends!

And for the rest, in regard to all your studies and readings here, and to whatever you may learn, you are to remember that the object is not particular knowledges,— not that of getting higher and higher in technical perfections, and all that sort of thing. There is a higher aim lying at the rear of all that, especially among those who are intended for literary or speaking pursuits, or the sacred profession. You are ever to bear in mind that there lies behind that the acquisition of what may be called wisdom — namely, sound appreciation and just decision as to all the objects that come round you, and the habit of behaving with justice, candor, clear insight, and loyal adherence to fact. Great is wisdom; infinite is the value of wisdom. It can not be exaggerated; it is the highest achievement of man: “Blessed is he that getteth understanding.” And that, I believe, on occasion, may be missed very easily; never more easily than now, I sometimes think. If that is a failure, all is failure! However, I will not touch further upon that matter.

... The highest outcome and most precious of all the fruits that are to spring from this ideal mode of educating is what Goethe calls art; of which I could at present give no definition that would make it clear to you, unless it were clearer already than is likely. Goethe calls it music, painting, poetry; but it is in quite a higher sense than the common one, and a sense in which, I am afraid, most of our painters, poets and music men would not pass muster. He considers this as the highest pitch to which human culture can go — infinitely valuable and ennobling — and he watches with great industry how it is to be brought about in the men who have a turn for it. Very wise and beautiful his notion of the matter is. It gives one an idea that something far better and higher, something as high as ever, and indubitably true, too, is still possible for man in this world...

Alas, it is painful to think how very far away it all is,— any real fulfilment of such things! For I need not hide from you, young gentlemen,— and it is one of the last things I am going to tell you — that you have got into a very troublous epoch of the world; and I do not think you will find your path in it to be smoother than ours has been, tho you have many advantages which we had not. You have careers open to you, by public examinations and so on, which is a thing much to be approved of and which we hope to see perfected more and more. All that was entirely unknown in my time, and you have many things to recognize as advantages. But you will find the ways of the world, I think, more anarchical than ever. Look where one will, revolution has come upon us. We have got into the age of revolutions. All kinds of things are coming to be subjected to fire, as it were — hotter and hotter blows the element round everything. Curious to see how, in Oxford and other places that used to seem as lying at anchor in the stream of time, regardless of all changes, they are getting into the highest humor of mutation, and all sorts of new ideas are afloat. It is evident that whatever is not inconsumable, made of asbestos, will have to be burnt in this world. Nothing other will stand the heat it is getting exposed to.

And in saying that, I am but saying in other words that we are in an epoch of anarchy. Anarchy plus a constable! There is nobody that picks one’s pocket without some policeman being ready to take him up. But in every other point man is becoming more and more the son, not of cosmos, but of chaos. He is a disobedient, discontented, reckless, and altogether waste kind of object (the commonplace man is, in these epochs); and the wiser kind of man—the select few, of whom I hope you will be a part—has more and more to see to this, to look vigilantly forward, and will require to move with double wisdom; will find, in short, that the crooked things he has got to pull straight in his own life all round him, wherever he may go, are manifold and will task all his strength, however great it be.

But why should I complain of that either? For that is the thing a man is born to in all epochs. He is born to expend every particle of strength that God Almighty has given him, in doing the work he finds he is fit for; to stand up to it to the last breath of life and do his best. We are called upon to do that; and the reward we all get — which we are perfectly sure of, if we have merited it — is that we have got the work done, or at least that we have tried to do the work. For that is a great blessing in itself; and I should say there is not very much more reward than that going in this world. If the man gets meat and clothes, what matter it whether he buy those necessaries with seven thousand a year, or with seven million, could that be, or with seventy pounds a year? He can get meat and clothes for that; and he will find intrinsically, if he is a wise man, wonderfully little real difference.

On the whole, avoid what is called ambition; that is not a fine principle to go upon — and it has in it all degrees of vulgarity, if that is a consideration. “Seekest thou great things, seek them not”; I warmly second that advice of the wisest of men. Do not be ambitious; do not too much need success; be loyal and modest. Cut down the proud towering thoughts that get into you, or see that they be pure as well as high. There is a nobler ambition than the gaining of all California would be, or the getting of all the suffrages that are on the planet just now.

On the whole, I would bid you stand up to your work, whatever it may be, and not be afraid of it; not in sorrows or contradictions to yield, but to push on toward the goal. And do not suppose that people are hostile to you or have you at ill will, in the world. In general, you will rarely find anybody designedly doing you ill. You may feel often as if the whole world were obstructing you, setting itself against you; but you will find that to mean only that the world is traveling in a different way from you, and, rushing on in its own path, heedlessly treads on you. That is mostly all: to you no specific ill will; only each has an extremely good will to himself, which he has a right to have, and is rushing on toward his object. ...If you find many people who are hard and indifferent to you, in a world which you consider to be inhospitable and cruel—as often indeed happens to a tenderhearted, striving young creature—you will also find there are noble hearts who will look kindly on you; and their help will be precious to you beyond price. You will get good and evil as you go on, and have the success that has been appointed you.

--Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881), author of 'On Heroes and Hero Worship', Address as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University (1866)

Winston Churchill - With a Vengeance

I must... admit that when the storm [German Blitzkrieg] broke in September, I was for several weeks very anxious about the result. Sometimes the gas failed; sometimes the electricity. There were grievous complaints about the shelters and about conditions in them. Water was cut off, railways were cut or broken, large districts were destroyed, thousands were killed, and many more thousands were wounded. But there was one thing about which there was never any doubt. The courage, the unconquerable grit and stamina of our people, showed itself from the very outset. Without that all would have failed. Upon that rock, all stood unshakable. All the public services were carried on, and all the intricate arrangements, far-reaching details, involving the daily lives of so many millions, were carried out, improvised, elaborated, and perfected in the very teeth of the cruel and devastating storm.

We have to ask ourselves this question: Will the bombing attacks come back again? We have proceeded on the assumption that they will. Many new arrangements are being contrived as a result of the hard experience through which we have passed and the many mistakes which no doubt we have made - for success is the result of making many mistakes and learning from experience. If the lull is to end, if the storm is to renew itself, we will be ready, will will not flinch, we can take it again.

We ask no favours of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if tonight our people were asked to cast their vote whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, "No, we will mete out to them the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us." The people with one voice would say: "You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst - and we will do our best." Perhaps it may be our turn soon; perhaps it may be our turn now.

We live in a terrible epoch of the human story, but we believe there is a broad and sure justice running through its theme. It is time that the enemy should be made to suffer in their own homelands something of the torment they have let loose upon their neighbours and upon the world. We believe it to be in our power to keep this process going, on a steadily rising tide, month after month, year after year, until they are either extirpated by us or, better still, torn to pieces by their own people.

It is for this reason that I must ask you to be prepared for vehement counter-action by the enemy. Our methods of dealing with them have steadily improved. They no longer relish their trips to our shores. I do not know why they do not come, but it is certainly not because they have begun to love us more. It may be because they are saving up, but even if that be so, the very fact that they have to save up should give us confidence by revealing the truth of our steady advance from an almost unarmed position to superiority. But all engaged in our defence forces must prepare themselves for further heavy assaults. Your organization, your vigilance, your devotion to duty, your zeal for the cause must be raised to the highest intensity.

We do not expect to hit without being hit back, and we intend with every week that passes to hit harder. Prepare yourselves, then, my friends and comrades, for this renewal of your exertions. We shall never turn from our purpose, however sombre the road, however grievous the cost, because we know that out of this time of trial and tribulation will be born a new freedom and glory for all mankind.

--Winston Churchill, "You Do Your Worst, we Will Do Our Best," speech given on 14 July 1941

Swami Vivekananda's Karma Yoga

Karma-Yoga makes a science of work; you learn by it how best to utilise all the workings of this world. Work is inevitable, it must be so; but we should work to the highest purpose. Karma-Yoga makes us admit that this world is a world of five minutes, that it is a something we have to pass through; and that freedom is not here, but is only to be found beyond. To find the way out of the bondages of the world we have to go through it slowly and surely... Karma-Yoga shows the process, the secret, and the method of doing it to the best advantage.

What does it say? "Work incessantly, but give up all attachment to work." Do not identify yourself with anything. Hold your mind free. All this that you see, the pains and the miseries, are but the necessary conditions of this world; poverty and wealth and happiness are but momentary; they do not belong to our real nature at all. Our nature is far beyond misery and happiness, beyond every object of the senses, beyond the imagination; and yet we must go on working all the time. "Misery comes through attachment, not through work." As soon as we identify ourselves with the work we do, we feel miserable; but if we do not identify ourselves with it, we do not feel that misery. If a beautiful picture belonging to another is burnt, a man does not generally become miserable; but when his own picture is burnt, how miserable he feels! Why? Both were beautiful pictures, perhaps copies of the same original; but in one case very much more misery is felt than in the other. It is because in one case he identifies himself with the picture, and not in the other. This "I and mine" causes the whole misery. With the sense of possession comes selfishness, and selfishness brings on misery. Every act of selfishness or thought of selfishness makes us attached to something, and immediately we are made slaves. Each wave in the Chitta [mind] that says "I and mine" immediately puts a chain round us and makes us slaves; and the more we say "I and mine", the more slavery grows, the more misery increases. Therefore Karma-Yoga tells us to enjoy the beauty of all the pictures in the world, but not to identify ourselves with any of them. Never say "mine". Whenever we say a thing is "mine", misery will immediately come. Do not even say "my child" in your mind. Possess the child, but do not say "mine". If you do, then will come the misery. Do not say “my house," do not say "my body". The whole difficulty is there. The body is neither yours, nor mine, nor anybody's. These bodies are coming and going by the laws of nature, but we are free, standing as witness. This body is no more free than a picture or a wall. Why should we be attached so much to a body? If somebody paints a picture, he does it and passes on. Do not project that tentacle of selfishness, "I must possess it". As soon as that is projected, misery will begin.

So Karma-Yoga says, first destroy the tendency to project this tentacle of selfishness, and when you have the power of checking it, hold it in and do not allow the mind to get into the ways of selfishness. Then you may go out into the world and work as much as you can. Mix everywhere, go where you please; you will never be contaminated with evil. There is the lotus leaf in the water; the water cannot touch and adhere to it; so will you be in the world. This is called "Vairâgya", dispassion or non-attachment. I believe I have told you that without non-attachment there cannot be any kind of Yoga. Non-attachment is the basis of all the Yogas. The man who gives up living in houses, wearing fine clothes, and eating good food, and goes into the desert, may be a most attached person. His only possession, his own body, may become everything to him; and as he lives he will be simply struggling for the sake of his body. Non-attachment does not mean anything that we may do in relation to our external body, it is all in the mind. The binding link of "I and mine" is in the mind. If we have not this link with the body and with the things of the senses, we are non-attached, wherever and whatever we may be. A man may be on a throne and perfectly non-attached; another man may be in rags and still very much attached. First, we have to attain this state of non-attachment and then to work incessantly. Karma-Yoga gives us the method that will help us in giving up all attachment, though it is indeed very hard.

--Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol.1

Teilhard de Chardin - Reflections on Reflection

Man, as science is able to reconstruct him today, is an animal like the others - so little separable anatomically from the anthropoids that the modem classifications made by zoologists return to the position of Linnaeus and include him with them in the same super-family, the hominidae. Yet, to judge by the biological results of his advent, is he not in reality something altogether different ?

Morphologicafly the leap was extremely slight, yet it was the concomitant of an incredible commotion among the spheres of life - there lies the whole human paradox ; and there, in the same breath, is the evidence that science, in its present-day reconstructions of the world, neglects an essential factor, or rather, an entire dimension of the universe....

Between the last strata of the Pliocene period, in which man is absent, and the next, in which the paleontologist is dumbfounded to find the first chipped flints, what has happened ? And what is the true measure of this leap ?

...Biologists are not yet agreed on whether or not there is a direction (still less a definite axis) of evolution; nor is there any greater agreement among psychologists, and for a connected reason, as to whether the human psychism differs specifically (by 'nature') from that of man's predecessors or not. As a matter of fact the majority of 'scientists' would tend to contest the validity of such a breach of continuity. So much has been said, and is still said, about the intelligence of animals.

If we wish to settle this question of the 'superiority' of man over the animals... I can only see one way of doing so - to brush resolutely aside all those secondary and equivocal manifestations of inner activity in human behaviour, making straight for the central phenomenon, reflection.

From our experimental point of view, reflection is, as the word indicates, the power acquired by a consciousness to turn in upon itself, to take possession of itself as of an object endowed with its own particular consistence and value : no longer merely to know, but to know oneself ; no longer merely to know, but to know that one knows. ["Non plus seulement connaître, mais se connaître; non plus seulement savoir, mais savoir que l'on sait".]

By this individualisation of himself in the depths of himself, the living element, which heretofore had been spread out and divided over a diffuse circle of perceptions and activites, was constituted for the first time as a centre in the form of a point at which all the impressions and experiences knit themselves together and fuse into a unity that is conscious of its own organisation.

Now the consequences of such a transformation are immense, visible as clearly in nature as any of the facts recorded by physics or astronomy. The being who is the object of his own reflection, in consequence of that very doubling back upon himself, becomes in a flash able to raise himself into a new sphere. In reality, another world is born. Abstraction, logic, reasoned choice and inventions, mathematics, art, calculation of space and time, anxieties and dreams of love - all these activities of inner life are nothing else than the effervescence of the newly-formed centre as it explodes onto itself

Admittedly the animal knows. But it cannot know that it knows: that is quite certain.

--Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Translated by Bernard Wall

Nietzsche - On Fathoming the Human Mind

The human soul and its limits, the range of man's inner experiences hitherto attained, the heights, depths, and distancesof these experiences, the entire history of the soul UP TO THE PRESENT TIME, and its still unexhausted possibilities: this isthe preordained hunting-domain for a born psychologist and lover if a "big hunt". But how often must he say despairingly tohimself: "A single individual! alas, only a single individual! and this great forest, this virgin forest!" So he would like to have some hundreds of hunting assistants, and fine trained hounds, that he could send into the history of the human soul, to drive HIS game together. In vain: again and again he experiences, profoundly and bitterly, how difficult it is to find assistants and dogs for all the things that directly excite his curiosity. The evil of sending scholars into new and dangerous hunting-domains, where courage, sagacity, and subtlety in every sense are required, is that they are no longer serviceable just when the "BIG hunt," and also the great danger commences,--it is precisely then that they lose their keen eye and nose...

--Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Helen Zimmern translation

Nietzsche - The Will to Ignorance

O sancta simplicitiatas! In what strange simplification and falsification man lives! One can never cease wondering when once one has got eyes for beholding this marvel! How we have made everything around us clear and free and easy and simple! how we have been able to give our senses a passport to everything superficial, our thoughts a godlike desire for wanton pranks and wrong inferences!--how from the beginning, we have contrived to retain our ignorance in order to enjoy an almost inconceivable freedom, thoughtlessness, imprudence, heartiness, and gaiety--in order to enjoy life! And only on this solidified, granite-like foundation of ignorance could knowledge rear itself hitherto, the will to knowledge on the foundation of a far more powerful will, the will to ignorance...

--Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Helen Zimmern translation

Nietzsche - Philosopher's Pain

We philosophers are not free to divide body from soul as the people do; we are even less free to divide soul from spirit. We are not thinking frogs, nor objectifying and registering mechanisms with their innards removed: constantly, we have to give birth to our thoughts out of our pain and, like mothers, endow them with all we have of blood, heart, fire, pleasure, passion, agony, conscience, fate, and catastrophe. Life — that means for us constantly transforming all that we are into light and flame — also everything that wounds us; we simply cannot do otherwise.

...Only great pain, the long, slow pain that takes its time — on which we are burned, as it were, with green wood — compels us philosophers to descend into our ultimate depths and to put aside all trust, everything good-natured, everything that would interpose a veil, that is mild, that is medium — things in which formerly we may have found our humanity. I doubt that such pain makes us "better"—; but I know that it makes us more profound. Whether we learn to pit our pride, our scorn, our will power against it, equaling the American Indian who, however tortured, repays his torturer with the malice of his tongue; or whether we withdraw from pain into that Oriental Nothing — called Nirvana — into mute, rigid, deaf resignation, self-forgetting, self-extinction: out of such long and dangerous exercises of self-mastery one emerges as a different person, with a few more question marks — above all with the will henceforth to question further, more deeply, severely, harshly, evilly, and quietly than one had questioned heretofore. The trust in life is gone: life itself has become a problem.— Yet one should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes one gloomy! Even love of life is still possible — only one loves differently. ... The attraction of everything problematic, the delight in an X, however, is so great in such more spiritual, more spiritualized men that this delight flares up again and again like a bright blaze over all the distress of what is problematic, over all the danger of uncertainty, and even over the jealousy of the lover. We know a new happiness ....

--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science ("la gaya scienza"), Translation by Walter Kaufmann

Nietzsche - Weariness of Life

Concerning life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is no good ... Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from their mouths—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistance to life. Even Socrates said, as he died: "To live—that means to be sick a long time: I owe Asclepius the Savior a rooster." Even Socrates was tired of it.— What does that evidence? What does it evince?— Formerly one would have said (—oh, it has been said, and loud enough, and especially by our pessimists!): "At least something of all this must be true! The consensus sapientum [consensus of the sages] evidences the truth."— Shall we still talk like that today? May we? "At least something must be sick here," we retort. These wisest men of all ages—they should first be scrutinized closely! Were they all perhaps shaky on their legs? late? tottery? décadents? Could it be that wisdom appears on earth as a raven, inspired by a little whiff of carrion? ...

--Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Translation by Walter Kaufmann

Nietzsche - The Superman

When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town which adjoineth theforest, he found many people assembled in the market-place; for it had been announced that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spake thus unto the people:

I teach you the Superman. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?

All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?

What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes. Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plantand phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?
Lo, I teach you the Superman!

The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth!

--Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, translated by Thomas Common

Stefan Zweig - The Faustian Drive

I call demonic the restlessness which is innate and essential in every human being ... (that which) drives one beyond one’s limits into the infinite, into the elemental, as though nature had left behind in every individual soul an inexpressible, restless part of its original chaos, a part that wants to return with tension and passion to the super-human super-sensual element. The demon embodies the ferment, that bubbling, torturesome, upsetting ferment, which urges an otherwise calm life to move in the direction of all that is dangerous, towards excesses, ecstasy, selfdenial, selfdestruction; in most human beings, in the mediocre, this precious but dangerous part of the soul is soon absorbed and consumed ... restrained human beings stifle the Faustian drive within them, chloroform it with morality, dull it with work, restrain it with orderliness; the middle class person is always the mortal enemy of the chaotic.... But in superior human beings, especially in those who are productive, creative restlessness prevails in the form of dissatisfaction with everyday accomplishments.

--Stefan Zweig, Der Kampf mit dem Daemon (The Struggle with the Demon)