To consort with the crowd is harmful; there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith. Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger… I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, and even more cruel and inhuman, because I have been among human beings.


I went from God to God, until they cried from me in me, “O thou I!”

—Bayazid Bastami

You can’t hang on to yourself. You don’t have to try not to hang on to yourself. It can’t be done, and that is salvation. Memento mori—be mindful of death.

—Alan Watts

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

—Friedrich Nietszche

He who fights with monsters should beware lest he himself become a monster…when you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss gazes back at you.

—Friedrich Nietszche

I have had to work hard; anyone who works just as hard will get just as far.

—Johann Sebastian Bach

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

—Thomas Jefferson

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

—Jiddu Krishnamurti

You call yourself free, but that does not matter to me—I ask you: free for what?

—Friedrich Nietszche

I think it would be a very good idea.

—Mohandas Gandhi, asked his opinion on western civilization

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

—Oliver Cromwell

Wenn ich nicht durch Zeugnisse der Schrift und klare Vernunftgründe überzeugt werde; denn weder dem Papst noch den Konzilien allein glaube ich, da es feststeht, daß sie öfter geirrt und sich selbst widersprochen haben, so bin ich durch die Stellen der heiligen Schrift, die ich angeführt habe, überwunden in meinem Gewissen und gefangen in dem Worte Gottes. Daher kann und will ich nichts widerrufen, weil wider das Gewissen etwas zu tun weder sicher noch heilsam ist. Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir, Amen!

(Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other! So help me God, Amen!)

—Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms (the third sentence is likely apocryphal)

Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilization, what there is particularly immortal about yours?

—G. K. Chesterton

Sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi;
sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
Solve metus; feret haec aliquam tibi fama salutem.

(Here, too, the praiseworthy has its rewards;
There are tears for things and mortal things touch the mind.
Release your fear; this fame will bring you some safety.)

—Virgil, Aeneid, Book I, 461–463

Sat patriae Priamoque datum.

(Enough is given to the fatherland and to Priam.)

—Virgil, Aeneid, Book II, 291

Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be but a small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person, detained by exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting influences remains devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of which he contemns and neglects; and there may be a gifted few who leave the arts, which they justly despise, and come to her … Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight and be saved. Such a one may be compared to a man who has fallen among wild beasts—he will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with bright hopes.

—Plato, The Republic, Book VI

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

—Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, Chapter 4