I see it all perfectly, there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.
If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!
Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.
A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public, they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it, the acclaim was even greater. I think that's just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it's a joke.
If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.
If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?
Out of love for mankind, and out of despair at my embarrassing situation, seeing that I had accomplished nothing and was unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, and moved by a genuine interest in those who make everything easy, I conceived it as my task to create difficulties everywhere.
The stone that was rolled before Christ's tomb might appropriately be called the philosopher's stone because its removal gave not only the pharisees but, now for 1800 years, the philosophers so much to think about.
What is existence for but to be laughed at if men in their twenties have already attained the utmost?
It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived—forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward- looking position.
Love has many positionings. Cordelia makes good progress. She is sitting on my lap, her arm twines, soft and warm, round my neck; she leans upon my breast, light, without gravity; the soft contours scarcely touch me; like a flower her lovely figure twines about me, freely as a ribbon. Her eyes are hidden beneath her lashes, her bosom is dazzling white like snow, so smooth that my eye cannot rest, it would glance off if her bosom were not moving. What does this movement mean? Is it love? Perhaps. It is a presentiment of it, its dream. It still lacks energy. Her embrace is comprehensive, as the cloud enfolding the transfigured one, detached as a breeze, soft as the fondling of a flower; she kisses me unspecifically, as the sky kisses the sea, gently and quietly, as the dew kisses a flower, solemnly as the sea kisses the image of the moon.I would call her passion at this moment a naive passion. When the change has been made and I begin to draw back in earnest, she will call on everything she has to captivate me. She has no other means for this purpose than the erotic itself, except that this will now appear on a quite different scale. It then becomes a weapon in her hand which she wields against me. I then have the reflected passion. She fights for her own sake because she knows I possess the erotic; she fights for her own sake so as to overcome me. She herself is in need of a higher form of the erotic. What I taught her to suspect by arousing her, my coldness now teaches her to understand but in such a way that she thinks it is she herself who discovers it. So she wants to take me by surprise; she wants to believe that she has outstripped me in audacity, and that makes me her prisoner. Her passion then becomes specific, energetic, conclusive, dialectical; her kiss total, her embrace without hesitation.—In me she seeks her freedom and finds it the better the more firmly I encompass her. The engagement bursts. When that has happened she needs a little rest, so that nothing unseemly will emerge from this wild tumult. Her passion then composes itself once more and she is mine.”—from_Either/Or: A Fragment of Life_, (as written by his pseudonym Johannes the Seducer)
What am I? The modest narrator who accompanies your triumphs; the dancer who supports you when you rise in your lovely grace; the branch upon which you rest a moment when you are tired of flying; the bass that interposes itself below the soprano’s fervour to let it climb even higher—what am I? I am the earthly gravity that keeps you on the ground. What am I, then? Body, mass, earth, dust and ashes.—You, my Cordelia, you are soul and spirit.”—Johannes the Seducer, from_Either/Or_
My love consumes me. Only my voice is left, a voice which has fallen in love with you whispers to you everywhere that I love you. Oh! Does it weary you to hear this voice? Everywhere it enfolds you; like an inexhaustible, shifting surround, I place my transparently reflected soul about your pure, deep being.”—Johannes the Seducer, from_Either/Or_
I am poor—you are my riches; dark—you are my light; I own nothing, need nothing. And how could I own anything? After all, it is a contradiction that he can own something who does not own himself. I am happy as a child who is neither able to own anything nor allowed to. I own nothing, for I belong only to you; I am not, I have ceased to be, in order to be yours.”—Johannes the Seducer, from_Either/Or_
Mine’: what does this word mean? Not what belongs to me, but what I belong to, what contains my whole being, which is mine only so far as I belong to it. My God is not the God that belongs to me, but the God to whom I belong; and so, too, when I say my native land, my home, my calling, my longing, my hope. If there had been no immortality before, this thought that I am yours would be a breach of the normal course of nature.”—Johannes the Seducer, from_Either/Or_
What am I? The modest narrator who accompanies your triumphs; the dancer who supports you when you rise in your lovely grace; the branch upon which you rest a moment when you are tired of flying; the bass that interposes itself below the soprano’s fervour to let it climb even higher—what am I? I am the earthly gravity that keeps you on the ground. What am I, then? Body, mass, earth, dust and ashes.—You, my […], you are soul and spirit.”—Johannes the Seducer, from_Either/Or_
Love is everything. So, for one who loves, everything has ceased to have meaning in itself and only means something through the interpretation love gives it. Thus if another betrothed became convinced there was some other girl he cared for, he would presumably stand there like a criminal and his fiancée be outraged. You, however, I know would see a tribute in such a confession; for me to be able to love another you know is an impossibility; it is my love for you casting its reflections over the whole of life. So when I care about someone else, it is not to convince myself that I do not love her but only you—that would be presumptuous; but since my whole soul is filled with you, life takes on another meaning for me: it becomes a myth about you.—Johannes the Seducer, from_Either/Or_
I am poor—you are my riches; dark—you are my light; I own nothing, need nothing. And how could I own anything? After all, it is a contradiction that he can own something who does not own himself. I am happy as a child who is neither able to own anything nor allowed to. I own nothing, for I belong only to you; I am not, I have ceased to be, in order to be yours.”—Johannes De Silentio, from_Either/Or_
It is the thought, not the incidentals of expression, that essentially makes an exposition unpopular. A systematic ribbon and button maker can become unpopular but essentially is not at all, inasmuch as he does not mean much by the very odd things he says (alas, and this is a popular art!). Socrates, on the other hand, was the most unpopular in Greece because he said the same thing as the simplest person but meant infinitely much by it. To be able to stick to one thing, to stick to it with ethical passion and undauntedness of spirit, to see the intrinsic duplexity of this one thought with the same impartiality, and at one and the same time to see the most profound earnestness and the greatest jest, the deepest tragedy and highest comedy―this is unpopular in any age for anyone who has not realized that immediacy is over. But neither can what is essentially unpopular be learned by rote. More on that later.
In love with myself, that is what people say I am. It doesn’t surprise me, for how could they notice that I can love when I love only you; how could anyone else suspect it when I love only you? In love with myself. Why? Because I’m in love with you, because it is you I love, you alone, and all that truly belongs to you, and it is thus I love myself, because this, my self, belongs to you, so that if I ceased loving you I would cease loving myself. What then is, in the eyes of the profane world, an expression of the greatest egoism, is for your initiated eyes the expression of purest sympathy; what in the profane eyes of the world is an expression of the most prosaic self-preservation, is for your sacred sight the expression of the most enthusiastic self-annihilation.”―Johannes de Silentio, from_Either/Or: A Fragment of Life_
Although I am still far from this kind of interior understanding of myself, with profound respect for its significance I have sought to preserve my individuality―worshipped the unknown God. With a premature anxiety I have tried to avoid coming in close contact with those things whose force of attraction might be too powerful for me. I have sought to appropriate much from them, studied their distinctive characteristics and meaning in human life, but at the same time guarded against coming, like the moth, too close to the flame. I have had little to win or to lose in association with the ordinary run of men, partly because what they do―so-called practical life―does not interest me much, partly because their coldness and indifference to the spiritual and deeper currents in man alienate me even more from them. With few exceptions my companions have had no special influence upon me. A life that has not arrived at clarity about itself must necessarily exhibit an uneven side-surface; confronted by certain facts [*Facta*] and their apparent disharmony, they simply halted there, for, as I see it, they did not have sufficient interest to seek a resolution in a higher harmony or to recognize the necessity of it. Their opinion of me was always one-sided, and I have vacillated between putting too much or too little weight on what they said. I have now withdrawn from their influence and the potential variations of my life's compass resulting from it. Thus I am again standing at the point where I must begin again in another way. I shall now calmly attempt to look at myself and begin to initiate inner action; for only thus will I be able, like a child calling itself I in its first consciously undertaken act, be able to call myself I in a profounder sense.But that takes stamina, and it is not possible to harvest immediately what one has sown. I will remember that philosopher's method of having his disciples keep silent for three years; then I dare say it will come. Just as one does not begin a feast at sunrise but at sundown, just so in the spiritual world one must first work forward for some time before the sun really shines for us and rises in all its glory; for although it is true as it says that God lets his sun shine upon the good and the evil and lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust, it is not so in the spiritual world. So let the die be cast―I am crossing the Rubicon! No doubt this road takes me into battle, but I will not renounce it. I will not lament the past―why lament? I will work energetically and not waste time in regrets, like the person stuck in a bog and first calculating how far he has sunk without recognizing that during the time he spends on that he is sinking still deeper. I will hurry along the path I have found and shout to everyone I meet: Do not look back as Lot's wife did, but remember that we are struggling up a hill.―from_Journals_, (The Search for Personal Meaning)
If I could forget you! Is my love then a work of memory? Even if time expunged everything from its tablets, expunged even memory itself, my relation to you would stay just as alive, you would still not be forgotten. If I could forget you! What then should I remember? For after all, I have forgotten myself in order to remember you: so if I forgot you I would come to remember myself; but the moment I remembered myself I would have to remember you again. If I could forget you! What would happen then? There is a picture from antiquity. It depicts Ariadne. She is leaping up from her couch and gazing anxiously after a ship that is hurrying away under full sail. By her side stands Cupid with unstrung bow and drying his eyes. Behind her stands a winged female figure in a helmet. It is usually assumed this is Nemesis. Imagine this picture, imagine it changed a little. Cupid is not weeping and his bow is not unstrung; or would you have become less beautiful, less victorious, if I had become mad? Cupid smiles and bends his bow. Nemesis does not stand inactive by your side; she too draws her bow. In that other picture we see a male figure on the ship, busily occupied. It is assumed it is Theseus. Not so in my picture. He stands on the stern, he looks back longingly, spreads his arms. He has repented, or rather, his madness has left him, but the ship carries him away. Cupid and Nemesis both aim at him, an arrow flies from each bow; their aim is true; one sees that, one understands, they have both hit the same place in his heart, a sign that his love was the Nemesis that wrought vengeance. ―Johannes de Silentio, from_Either/Or: A Fragment of Life_
How far removed in time must an event be for us to remember it? How far for memory's longing to be no longer able to seize it? Most people have a limit in this respect: what lies too near them in time they cannot remember, nor what lies too remote. I know no limit. What was experienced yesterday, I push back a thousand years in time, and remember as if it were yesterday.―Johannes de Silentio, from_Either/Or_
I have a secret to confide to you, my confidante. Who should I confide it to? To Echo? She would betray it. To the stars? They are cold. People? They do not understand. Only to you can I confide it, for you know how to safeguard it. There is a girl, more beautiful than my soul’s dream, purer than the light of the sun, deeper than the source of the ocean, more proud than the flight of the eagle―there is a girl―oh! bend your head to my ear and my words, that my secret may steal into it―this girl I love more dearly than my life, for she is my life; more dearly than all my desires, for she is the only one; more dearly than all my thoughts, for she is the only one; more warmly than the sun loves the flower, more intensely than sorrow the privacy of the troubled mind; more longingly than the desert’s burning sand loves the rain―I cling to her more tenderly than the mother’s eye to the child, more confidingly than the pleading soul to God, more inseparably than the plant to its root.―Your head grows heavy and thoughtful, it sinks down on your breast, your bosom rises to its aid―my Cordelia! You have understood me, you have understood me exactly, to the letter, not one jot have you ignored. Shall I stretch the membrane of my ear and let your voice assure me of this? Should I doubt? Will you safeguard this secret? Can I depend on you? One hears of people who, in terrible crimes, dedicate themselves to mutual silence. I have confided to you a secret which is my life and my life’s content. Have you nothing to confide to me, nothing so beautiful, so significant…?”―Johannes de Silentio, from_Either/Or_
Love is the unfathomable ground that is hidden in darkness, but the resolution is the triumphant victor who, like Orpheus, fetches the infatuation of falling in love to the light of day, for the resolution is the true form of love, the true explanation and transfiguration.
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe what is true.
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.
The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man, but with God.
The paradox in Christian truth is invariably due to the fact that it is the truth that exists for God. The standard of measure and the end is superhuman, and there is only one relationship possible: faith.
For he who loves God without faith reflects on himself, while the person who loves God in faith reflects on God.
People try to persuade us that the objections against Christianity spring from doubt. That is a complete misunderstanding. The objections against Christianity spring from insubordination, the dislike of obedience, rebellion against all authority. As a result, people have hitherto been beating the air in their struggle against objections, because they have fought intellectually with doubt instead of fighting morally with rebellion.