That we do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.
~ in Collected Essays
Under favorable conditions, practically everybody can be converted to practically anything.
~ in Brave New World Revisited
Chastity–the most unnatural of the sexual perversions.
~ in Eyeless in Gaza
Death … It’s the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing.
~ in Eyeless in Gaza
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
~ in Music at Night
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
~ in Proper Studies
Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.
~ in Texts and Pretexts
Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.
~ in Vedanta for the Western World
An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
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 ideas.
Experience teaches only the teachable.
Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.
Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.
That all men are equal is a proposition which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent.
There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.
A bad book is as much of a labour to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.
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.
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.
A democracy which makes or even effectively prepares for modern, scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic. No country can be really well prepared for modern war unless it is governed by a tyrant, at the head of a highly trained and perfectly obedient bureaucracy.
A fanatic is a man who consciously over compensates a secret doubt.
A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.
All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours.
Amour is the one human activity of any importance in which laughter and pleasure preponderate, if ever so slightly, over misery and pain.
An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie.
Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and beholder.
Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.
Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.
De Sade is the one completely consistent and thoroughgoing revolutionary of history.
Cynical realism is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation.
Dream in a pragmatic way.
Europe is so well gardened that it resembles a work of art, a scientific theory, a neat metaphysical system. Man has re-created Europe in his own image.
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.
Every man’s memory is his private literature.
Everyone who wants to do good to the human race always ends in universal bullying.
Feasts must be solemn and rare, or else they cease to be feasts.
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.
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.
Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects… totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have by the most eloquent denunciations.
Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities.
Happiness is a hard master, particularly other people’s happiness.
Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.
I can sympathize with people’s pains, but not with their pleasures. There is something curiously boring about somebody else’s happiness.
I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery.
Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.
If human beings were shown what they’re really like, they’d either kill one another as vermin, or hang themselves.
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.’
It takes two to make a murder. There are born victims, born to have their throats cut, as the cut-throats are born to be hanged.
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.
It’s with bad sentiments that one makes good novels.
Like every man of sense and good feeling, I abominate work.
Like every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and the cultured who have to pay.
Man approaches the unattainable truth through a succession of errors.
Man is an intelligence, not served by, but in servitude to his organs.
Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.
Most of one’s life is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself thinking.
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.
My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.
Official dignity tends to increase in inverse ratio to the importance of the country in which the office is held.
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.
Orthodoxy is the diehard of the world of thought. It learns not, neither can it forget.
People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.
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?
Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.
Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.
Several excuses are always less convincing than one.
So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly arise and make them miserable.
Sons have always a rebellious wish to be disillusioned by that which charmed their fathers.
Specialized meaninglessness has come to be regarded, in certain circles, as a kind of hallmark of true science.
Speed, it seems to me, provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.
Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep.
The author of the Iliad is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name.
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.
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 impulse to cruelty is, in many people, almost as violent as the impulse to sexual love – almost as violent and much more mischievous.
The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.
The most distressing thing that can happen to a prophet is to be proved wrong. The next most distressing thing is to be proved right.
The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.
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.
The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
The proper study of mankind is books.
The quality of moral behaviour varies in inverse ratio to the number of human beings involved.
The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm.
The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar… Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen.
The worst enemy of life, freedom and the common decencies is total anarchy; their second worst enemy is total efficiency.
There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.
There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all its virtues are of no avail.
There isn’t any formula or method. You learn to love by loving – by paying attention and doing what one thereby discovers has to be done.
There’s only one effectively redemptive sacrifice, the sacrifice of self-will to make room for the knowledge of God.
Those who believe that they are exclusively in the right are generally those who achieve something.
Thought must be divided against itself before it can come to any knowledge of itself.
To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.
To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
Uncontrolled, the hunger and thirst after God may become an obstacle, cutting off the soul from what it desires. If a man would travel far along the mystic road, he must learn to desire God intensely but in stillness, passively and yet with all his heart and mind and strength.
We are all geniuses up to the age of ten.
We participate in a tragedy; at a comedy we only look.
What is absurd and monstrous about war is that men who have no personal quarrel should be trained to murder one another in cold blood.
What we feel and think and are is to a great extent determined by the state of our ductless glands and viscera.
What with making their way and enjoying what they have won, heroes have no time to think. But the sons of heroes – ah, they have all the necessary leisure.
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.
Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.
You should hurry up and acquire the cigar habit. It’s one of the major happinesses. And so much more lasting than love, so much less costly in emotional wear and tear.
Abused as we abuse it at present, dramatic art is in no sense cathartic; it is merely a form of emotional masturbation. It is the rarest thing to find a player who has not had his character affected for the worse by the practice of his profession. Nobody can make a habit of self-exhibition, nobody can exploit his personality for the sake of exercising a kind of hypnotic power over others, and remain untouched by the process.
Beauty for some provides escape, who gain a happiness in eying the gorgeous buttocks of the ape or Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying.
The brotherhood of men does not imply their equality. Families have their fools and their men of genius, their black sheep and their saints, their worldly successes and their worldly failures. A man should treat his brothers lovingly and with justice, according to the deserts of each. But the deserts of every brother are not the same.
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?
Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful.