Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Auguste Rodin, 1880

Reason

Do animals think? If so, this capacity could only represent a tiny fraction compared to this ability in humans. And yet, how many of us really think about the important issues in our lives, our cultures, our civilizations? How many instead revert to animal-realm reactions and instincts; religious, political, and cultural dogmas; unquestioned clichés, platitudes, and truisms? But although most don’t think for themselves, they are nonetheless and more-so influenced by the ideas that unquestioned float into their brains. These two directions represent a fork in the road of evolutionary consciousness. Words of wisdom progress from insight to archetype, to enlightened or problematic consciousness genes. The fork occurs at the point when we choose to only believe the words; or, summon the courage and fortitude to start understanding the sense and deciding which direction best to follow. When confronted with something new or something we need to learn, words of wisdom are powerful and vivid, influential. When they become truisms, they sink down into collective consciousness and become obvious, part of our psychological language. That so many phrases from thousands of years ago are still in the former category attest to Fromm’s observation about humanity evolving so much technologically but so little psychologically.

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Quotes (96)

“Continuity beyond the realm of things, unthinkable thought beyond imagination.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #14
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Reason Continuity

“He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"
from Analects

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“As sight is in the body, so is reason in the soul.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE
from Nicomachean Ethics

Themes: Reason

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

Themes: Reason Doubt

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“To live is to think. Reason is the mistress and queen of all things.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from Tuscalanes Disputationes, 47-44 BCE

“I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desire and reason are pulling in different directions. I see the right way and approve it, but follow the wrong.”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

“Only those who live in obedience to reason are worthy to be called free; they alone live as they will, who have learned what they ought to will.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE via John Wise
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

Themes: Reason

“Your own purpose should seek harmony with nature itself for this is the true road to freedom... Understand that nature as a whole is ordered according to reason, but that not everything in nature is reasonable.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Sharon Labell
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Middle Way Reason

“The virtuous life depends—first and foremost—on reason. If you safeguard your reason, it will safeguard you.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Sharon Lebell, Shan Dao

Themes: Virtue Reason

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

Themes: Reason

“Freedom of thought means having no thought in the midst of thought.”

Huineng 惠能 638 – 713 CE
(Huìnéng, Enō)
The Sutra of Hui Neng

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“The ignorant avoid experience but not thought; the wise avoid thought but not experience.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 ? - 850 CE
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

21. Following Empty Heart

“Gather every thought and concept into the clarifying universe of body, speech, and mind that empties into the all-embracing mind.”

Jālandhara ཛཱ་ལནྡྷ་ར་པ། 888 CE – via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
("The Ḍākinī's Chosen One")
Mahasiddha #46

“Man's relationship to the world of Spirit is established by reasoning; speech follows after it. If a man possesses no knowledge of reasoning, he is incapable of expressing truth.”

Avicenna أبو علي الحسين بن عبد الله بن الحسن بن علي بن سينا 980 – 1037 CE
(Ibn-Sīnā)
from Katib al-Najat

Themes: Reason

“The Ultimate in which all become the same is free of habit-forming thought and limitations.”

Tilopa 988 – 1069 CE

20. Unconventional Mind

“When one thought arises, another thought follows. When the first thought springs from enlightenment, all subsequent thoughts are true.”

Kakuan Shien 廓庵師遠 1100 – 1200 CE
(Kuo-an Shih-yuan, Kuòān Shīyuǎn )
Most popular Ten Bulls artist/poet

from 10 Bulls

Themes: Reason Continuity

“Thought brings about the generality in forms.”

Averroes, Ibn Rushd ابن رشد‎‎ 1126 – 1198 CE via Bertrand Russell

“Thought gives birth to a creative force and creates a new heaven, a new firmament, a new source of energy from which new arts flow… such is the immensity of man that he is greater than heaven and earth.”

Paracelsus 1493 – 1541 CE via Huterman
(Theophrastus von Hohenheim)
Revolutionary, shamanistic alchemist
from Selected Writings, 1951

Themes: Reason

“Philosophers should diligently inquire for this is the way that reigns in men's morals, forms and subdues their minds.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via Shan Dao
from Advancement of Learning, 1605

“The end of study should be to direct the mind towards the enunciation of sound and correct judgments on all matters that come before it.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE via Haldane and Ross
from Rules for the Direction of the Mind

Themes: Reason

“some make much of what matters little and little of much… Many never lose their common sense, because they have none to lose… The wise person thinks over everything, but with a difference, most profoundly where there is some profound difficulty.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #35

21. Following Empty Heart

“What could be less reasonable than to choose as ruler of a state the oldest son of a queen? We do not choose as captain of a ship the most highly born of those aboard. Such a law would be ridiculous and unjust, but because men are, and always will be, as they are, it becomes reasonable and just... Reason cannot do any better, because civil war is the greatest of evils.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time
from Pensée

Themes: Reason

“Man's greatness lies in the power of thought.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

Themes: Reason

“Those who are governed by reason desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of mankind.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

“If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.”

Isaac Newton 1642 – 1726 CE

Themes: Patience Reason

“Taking hold of the not-thought that lies in thoughts, in their every act they hear the voice of Truth… As the Truth reveals itself in its eternal tranquility, this very earth is the Lotus-Land of Purity, and this body is the body of the Buddha.”

Hakuin Ekaku 白隠 慧鶴 1686 – 1769 CE

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Amusement is the happiness of those who cannot think.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer

“Common sense is not so common.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Reason

21. Following Empty Heart

“The role of reason is not to make us wise but to reveal our ignorance.”

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"

“The role of reason is not to make us wise but to reveal our ignorance... Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"
from A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)

Themes: Reason

“let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people's thoughts.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Reason

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Reason and Ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of Government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

Themes: Ignorance Reason

“Time makes more Converts than Reason.”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE
from Common Sense, 1776

Themes: Reason Time

“Nothing makes one old so quickly as the ever-present thought that one is growing older.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

Themes: Reason Longevity

“But man alone can do the impossible;
He distinguishes, chooses, and judges;
He can to the fleeting moment
Give duration”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Das Göttliche, 1783

Themes: Reason

“Let us not dream that reason can ever be popular. Passions and emotions may be made popular, but reason remains ever the property of the few.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Dream Reason

“One of the prerogatives by which man is eminently distinguished from all other living beings inhabiting this globe of earth, consists in the gift of reason.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Themes: Reason

“The ripening of reason regulates the imagination. This is the work of years, and the most important of all employments.”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist
from Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

“The absurd duty—too often inculcated—of obeying a parent only on account of his being a parent, shackles the mind and prepares it for a slavish submission to any power but reason.”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist
from Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Themes: Family Reason

“Great thoughts reduced to a practice become great acts.”

William Hazlitt 1778 – 1830 CE
One of the English languages best art and literature critics of all time

from Table Talk, 1822

Themes: Reason

“Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Reason Creativity

67. Three Treasures

“The actual life of a thought lasts only until it reaches the point of speech... As soon as our thinking has found words it ceases to be sincere.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Religion is the masterpiece of the art of animal training, for it trains people as to how they shall think.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Reason Religion

71. Sick of Sickness

“The ripening of reason regulates the imagination. This is the work of years, and the most important of all employments.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE

Themes: Reason

“The only means of strengthening one’s intelligence is to make up one’s mind about nothing—to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”

John Keats 1795 – 1821 CE
Writer of "poems as immortal as English"
from letters 1819

Themes: Reason Openness

“Reason is intelligence taking exercise; imagination is intelligence with an erection.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE via Robb
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur

“God manifests himself to us in the first degree through the life of the universe, and in the second degree through the thought of man. The second manifestation is not less holy than the first. The first is named Nature, the second is named Art.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur
from William Shakespeare, 1864

Themes: Reason Art God

“Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Progress of Culture

“The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE

“An arrow may fly through the air and leave no trace; but an ill thought leaves a trail like a serpent.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Themes: Reason No Trace

43. No Effort, No Trace
63. Easy as Hard

“Talk about slavery! It exists wherever men are bought and sold, wherever a man allows himself to be made a mere thing or tool, and surrenders his inalienable right of reason and conscience.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Journal, 1860

Themes: Reason Slavery

“Re-examine all that you have been told... dismiss that which insults your soul.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

Themes: Reason

“We have only one instrument wherewith to know ourselves and our relation to the universe—we have no other—and that instrument is reason.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE via Shan Dao

“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.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

Themes: Fanaticism Reason

“It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”

Claude Monet 1840 – 1926 CE
"the driving force behind Impressionism"

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”

Themes: Fanaticism Reason

“If you take it at any one spot and moment, reason is one of the most feeble of Nature's forces. It is only in the long run that its effects become perceptible.”

Henry James 1843 – 1916 CE via Shan Dao

Themes: Reason

“Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.”

Lucy Parsons 1853 – 1942 CE
(Eldine Gonzalez)
Political activist “more dangerous than a thousand rioters”

Themes: Reason Education

“One is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

Themes: Reason Anger

“The man who listens to Reason is lost: Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Maxims for Revolutionists

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy to be called an idea at all.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

Themes: Shambhala Reason

“Miracle is the bastard child of faith and reason, which neither parent can afford to own.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Reason

“The Life of Reason is an ideal to which everything in the world should be subordinated; it establishes lines of moral cleavage everywhere and makes right eternally different from wrong.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from Reason in Religion

Themes: Reason

“Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Reason

“The supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail.”

Charles Beard 1874 – 1948 CE
(Austin)
Pioneering progressive historian

Themes: Reason

“We dare to appeal to the whole man, to his capacity to think and feel, exhorting him to know himself and to be true to himself. We reaffirm our trust in the profound qualities of his nature. And our living. experiences are proving us right.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE
from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Themes: Confidence Reason

“Awakening of Western thought will not be complete until that thought steps outside itself and comes to an understanding with the search for a world-view as this manifests itself in the thought of mankind as a whole.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“The spirit of philosophy is one of free inquiry. It suspects all authority. Its function is to trace the uncritical assumptions of human thought to their hiding places, and in this pursuit it may finally end in denial or a frank admission of the incapacity of pure reason to reach the ultimate reality.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“It is the natural instinct of a child to work from within outwards; 'First I think, and then I draw my think.' What wasted efforts we make to teach the child to stop thinking, and only to observe!”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World

Themes: Education Reason

“You’ve never lived what you are thinking, and that isn’t good. Only the ideas we actually live are of any value.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain the path does not lie through the fear of life and death and blind faith but through striving after rational knowledge.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE
from Science, Philosophy, and Religion 1941

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”

A.A. Milne 1882 – 1956 CE
(Alan Alexander Milne)
from War With Honour

67. Three Treasures

“Thought is a bird of space that in a cage of words cannot fly”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“How much more suffering is caused by the thought of death than by death itself.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: Reason Suffering

50. Claws and Swords

“Religion is the frozen thought of mankind out of which they build temples.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Themes: Reason Religion

“While logic can deal only with fixed immutable concepts which have been isolated by our intellect from their background and their relationships, symbols have the living quality of establishing spontaneous connections with objects of diverse character but similar tendency.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

Themes: Reason

“The reiteration of slogans, the distortion of the news, the great storm of propaganda that beats upon us 24 hours a day mean either that democracy must fall a prey to the loudest and most persistent propagandists or that the people must save themselves by strengthening their minds so that they can appraise the issues for themselves.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

Themes: Fanaticism Reason

“Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Nineteen Eighty Four

“Logic is a poor model of cause and effect.”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE
from Mind and nature: a necessary unity (1988)​

“The accumulation of discriminating knowledge only deepens confusion... Consciously or unconsciously, man cannot comprehend nature... although we may try explaining nature, all we can do is to explain that nature is something that cannot be expounded upon.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

Themes: Reason

“Only the strength and progress and peaceful change that come from independent judgment and individual ideas—and even from the unorthodox and the eccentric—can enable us to surpass that foreign ideology that fears free thought more than it fears hydrogen bombs… We can compromise our political positions, but not ourselves.”

John Kennedy 1917 – 1963 CE
Modern America's most popular president

from Profiles in Courage

“You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge... knowledge should lead to wisdom, and if it doesn't, it's just a disgusting waste of time!”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE via Zooey
from Franny and Zooey

“The law may upset reason but reason may never upset the law, or our whole society will shred like an old tatami.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

“Once a great conception, philosophy, or system of thought is turned into a religion, the original thought dies off.”

Hua-Ching Ni 1925 CE –
from Complete Works of Lao Tzu

“Our heads are round so thought can change direction.”

Allen Ginsberg 1926 – 1997 CE

Themes: Reason Change

12. This Over That

“We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –

Themes: Reason

17. True Leaders

“wei wu wei – not a statement susceptible to logical interpretation, or even to syntactical translation into English; but it’s a concept that transforms thought radically, that changes minds.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Reason

57. Wu Wei

“it is the ability to make distinctions—and the smaller the distinctions made, the higher the intellect that makes them—by which we judge intellect.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from A Humanist View (1975)​

“There are paradoxes born of wit and paradoxes born of insight. No thought is true, bur some thoughts are so much truer that the ones we're used to that they seem absurd”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

Themes: Reason Paradox

“You're telling all those lies about the good things that we can have if we only close our eyes… Do what you want to and go where you're going to; think for yourself, cause I won't be there with you”

George Harrison 1943 – 2001 CE
Guitar-playing philanthropist

from Think for Yourself

Themes: Reason Lies

“We try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory.”

Matthieu Ricard माथ्यु रिका 1946 CE –
"The happiest person in the world”

Themes: Control Reason

“What's really important is not the big things other people have thought up, but the small things you, yourself have.... Or maybe the smaller the notion, the harder it is to grasp?”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel, Shan Dao
from Sputnik Sweetheart

“The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward."”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from Diamond Age

Themes: Reason Paradox

“We suffer, therefore we think, and we do so because thinking helps us to place pain in context, it helps us to understand its origins, plot its dimensions and reconcile ourselves to its presence.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from How Proust Can Change Your Life

Themes: Suffering Reason

“When you don’t understand the nature and origin of your thoughts, your thoughts use you. When the Buddha recognized the nature of his mind, he reversed the process. He showed us how we use our thoughts instead of being used by them.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Reason

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