Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Erewhon

By Samuel Butler

A penetrating, satirical look into Victorian society; Erewhon—according to Aldous Huxley—transformed Western culture's attitudes toward crime, technology, and 'progress'. In this fictionalized non-utopian, non-dystopian novel crime is considered a disease while disease and physical imperfections are considered crimes. Ideas like crime being a disease seemed completely ridiculous at the time but gradually, over the years, became more and more accepted and acknowledged. It also questioned the popular and and almost universal reverence of the time for technology and "progress". An intense book of criticism, Erewhon condemns all forms of extremism and advocates for the Middle Way. A friend and student of Charles Darwin, Butler rejects the idea of natural selection and promotes his own view of evolution.

Quotes from Erewhon

“['God' is] but the expression for man's highest conception of goodness, wisdom, and power; that in order to generate a more vivid conception of so great and glorious a thought, man has personified it and called it by a name... people should no more cease to love God on ceasing to believe in His objective personality than they cease to love justice on discovering that she was not really personal; they will never truly know Him until they see Him thus.”

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“[belief in] the immortality of the soul... was immoral... it would distract men's minds from the perfecting of this world's economy, and was an impatient cutting of the Gordian knot of life's problems”

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“A man is the resultant and exponent of all the forces that have been brought to bear upon him, whether before his birth or afterwards... as he is by nature, and as he has been acted on, and is now acted on from without, so will he do, as certainly and regularly as though he were a machine.”

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Themes: Karma

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“all the noblest arts hold in perfection but for a very little moment. They soon reach a height from which they begin to decline... for an art is like a living organism—better dead than dying. There is no way of making an aged art young again; it must be born anew and grow up from infancy as a new thing, working out its own salvation from effort to effort in all fear and trembling.”

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Themes: Art Creativity

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“Erewhonians, therefore, hold that death, like life, is an affair of being more frightened than hurt.”

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“Extremes are alone logical, but they are always absurd... Reason betrays men into the drawing of hard and fast lines... there is hardly an error into which men may not easily be led if they base their conduct upon reason only... reason uncorrected by instinct is as bad as instinct uncorrected by reason.”

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Themes: Reason Fanaticism

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“For property is robbery, but then, we are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it essential to organize our thieving, as we have found it necessary to organize our lust and our revenge. Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.”

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“For property is robbery, but then, we are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it essential to organize our thieving, as we have found it necessary to organize our lust and our revenge. Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.”

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“Human language is too gross a vehicle of thought—thought being incapable of absolute translation... as there can be no translation from one language into another which will not scant the meaning somewhat, or enlarge upon it, so there is no language which can render thought without a jarring and a harshness somewhere”

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“I have seen a radiance upon the face of those who were worshiping the divine either in art or nature—in picture or statue—in field or cloud or sea—in man, woman, or child—but mention the word divinity, and our sense of the divine is clouded.”

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Themes: Sacred World

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“If parents were merely to remember how they felt when they were young, and actually to behave towards their children as they would have had their own parents behave toward themselves... But this, which would appear to be so simple and obvious, seems also to be a thing which not one in a hundred thousand is able to put into practice.”

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Themes: Family

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“if you go into the world you will have free will; you will be obliged to have it; there is no escaping it; you will be fettered to it during your whole life, and put on every occasion do that which on the whole seems best to you at any given time, no matter whether you are right or wrong in choosing”

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Themes: Free Will

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“illness of any sort was considered in Erewhon to be highly criminal and immoral; and that I was liable, even for catching cold, to be held up before the magistrates and imprisoned for a considerable period.”

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Themes: Health

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“It astonished me to see what sacrifices the parents would make in order to render their children as nearly useless as possible... deliberately swindled in some of the most important branches of human inquiry, directed into false channels or left to drift”

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Themes: Education

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“It is a distinguishing peculiarity of the Erewhonians that when they profess themselves to be quite certain about any matter, and avow it as a base on which they are to build a system of practice, they seldom quite believe in it.”

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Themes: Belief

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“It is here that almost all religions go wrong... forgetting that while to deny the existence of an unseen kingdom is bad, to pretend that we know more about it than its bare existence is no better.”

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Themes: Religion

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“Money is the symbol of duty, it is the sacrament of having done for mankind that which mankind wanted. Mankind may not be a very good judge, but there is no better.”

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Themes: Money

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“perhaps the religious systems of all countries are now more or less an attempt to uphold the unfathomable and unconscious instinctive wisdom of millions of past generations, against the comparatively shallow, consciously reasoned, and ephemeral conclusions drawn from that of the last thirty or forty.”

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Themes: Wisdom

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“so engrained in the human heart is the desire to believe that some people really do know what they say they know, and can thus save them from the trouble of thinking for themselves, that in a short time would-be philosphers and faddists became more powerful than ever, and gradually led their countrymen to accept all those absurd views of life”

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“Strange fat for man! He must perish if he get that which he must perish if he strive not after. If he strive not after it, he is not better than the brutes, if he get it he is more miserable than the devils.”

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Themes: Paradox

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“The development of journalism made it essential that by far the greater part of what is said or done in the world should be so ephemeral as to take itself away quickly; it could keep for 24 hours but not for a week. If that long, it would prevent people from going on to something else.”

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“the future depends on the present, and the present depends upon the past, and the past is unalterable... the more the past and present are known, the more the future can be predicted... this is the foundation on which morality and science are built.”

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Themes: Science Time

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“the mass of mankind will acquiesce in any arrangement which gives them better food and clothing at a cheaper rate”

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Themes: Consumerism

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“their only religion was that of self-respect and consideration for other people.”

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“there is no genius who is not also a fool, and no fool who is not also a genius”

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Themes: Paradox

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“there is no unfairness in punishing people for their misfortunes or rewarding them for their sheer good luck; it is the normal condition of human life that this should be done, and no right-minded person will complain of being subjected to the common treatment.”

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“they know that they will sooner gain their end by appealing to men's pockets, in which they have generally something of their own; than to their heads which contain for the most part little but borrowed or stolen property”

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Themes: Strategy

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“Those men are best who are not remarkable either for vice or virtue... the most that can be truly said for virtue is that there is a considerable balance in its favor... but there is much pseudo-virtue going about, which is apt to let people in very badly before they find it out.”

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Themes: Virtue

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“To imagine a set of utterly strange and impossible contingencies and require the youths to give intelligent answers to the question that arise is reckoned the fittest conceivable way of preparing them for the actual conduct of their affairs in after life... to teach a boy merely the nature of the things which exist in the word around him would be giving him but a narrow and shallow conception of the universe”

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“We can see but little at a time, and heed that little far less than our apprehension of what we shall see next; ever peering curiously through the glare of the present into the gloom of the future, we presage the leading lines of that which is before us, by faintly reflected lights from dull mirrors and stumble on till the trap-door opens beneath us and we are gone.”

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Themes: Humility

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“We cannot calculate on any corresponding advance in man's intellectual or physical powers which shall be a set-off against the far greater development which seems in store for machines... Are we not ourselves creating our successors for the supremacy of earth”

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Themes: Revolution

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“We next to never know when we are well off—if we did, we should perhaps know better when we are ill off also... there are few of us who are not protected from the keenest pain by our inability to see what it is that we have done, what we are suffering, and what we truly are. Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.”

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“We see but a part and ascribe much both of man's character and actions to chance, or luck, or fortune; but these are only words whereby we escape the admission of our own ignorance”

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Themes: Ignorance

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“when we reflect on the increasing number of those who are bound down to machines as slaves, and of those who devote their whole souls to the advancement of the mechanical kingdom, is it not plain that machines are gaining ground on us? This is the art of the machines—they serve that they may rule”

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Themes: Slavery

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Taoist

Quotes about Erewhon (1 quotes)

“Erewhon is a book of criticism—criticism by means of direct comparison... The general tendency of all the criticisms in Erewhon is the same; they are all directed against that excessive zeal which has always tended to make life in our countries so unnecessarily painful. Thus, the Erewhonians regarded crime as a disease and disease as a crime... If criminals are merely sick, then our sadism toward them remains unmitigated sadism and cannot disguise itself as a zeal for righteousness.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Erewhon, Introduction

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