Imagination has rightly been recognized as an essential element of genius; it has sometimes even been regarded as identical with it; but this is a mistake. As the objects of genius are the eternal Ideas, the permanent, essential forms of the world and all its phenomena, and as the knowledge of the Idea is necessarily knowledge through perception, is not abstract, the knowledge of the genius would be limited to the Ideas of the objects actually present to his person, and dependent upon the chain of circumstances that brought these objects to him, if his imagination did not extend his horizon far beyond the limits of his actual personal existence, and thus enable him to construct the whole out of the little that comes into his own actual apperception, and so to let almost all possible scenes of life pass before him in his own consciousness? The imagination then extends the intellectual horizon of the man of genius beyond the objects which actually present themselves to him, both as regards quality and quantity. Therefore extraordinary strength of imagination accompanies, and is indeed a necessary condition of genius. But the converse does not hold, for strength of imagination does not indicate genius; on the contrary, men who have no touch of genius may have much imagination.
Mere men of talent always come at the right time; for, as they are roused by the spirit of their age and are called into being by its needs, they are only just capable of satisfying them. They therefore go hand in hand with the advancing culture of their contemporaries, or with the gradual advancement of a special science; for this they reap reward and approbation. But to the next generation their works are no longer enjoyable; they must be replaced by others; and these do not fail to appear.
Only through [such] pure contemplation ? can Ideas be comprehended; and the nature of genius consists in pre-eminent capacity for such contemplation. Now, as this requires that a man* should entirely forget himself and the relations in which he stands, genius is simply the completest objectivity, i.e., the objective tendency of the mind, as opposed to the subjective, which is directed to one?s own self ? in other words, to the will. Thus genius is the faculty of continuing in the state of pure perception, of losing oneself in perception, and of enlisting in this service the knowledge which originally existed only for the service of the will; that is to say, genius is the power of leaving one?s own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight, thus of entirely renouncing one?s own personality for a time, so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of the world; and this not merely at moments, but for a sufficient length of time, and with sufficient consciousness, to enable one to reproduce by deliberate art what has thus been apprehended.
The common mortal, that manufacture of Nature which she produces by the thousand every day, is, as we have said, not capable, at least not continuously so, of observation that in every sense is wholly disinterested, as sensuous contemplation, strictly so called, is. He can turn his attention to things only so far as they have some relation to his will, however indirect it may be? The man of genius, on the other hand, whose excessive power of knowledge frees it at times from the service of will, dwells on the consideration of life itself, strives to comprehend the Idea of each thing, not its relations to other things; and in doing this he often forgets to consider his own path in life, and therefore for the most part pursues it awkwardly enough. While to the ordinary man his faculty of knowledge is a lamp to lighten his path, to the man of genius it is the sun which reveals the world? The man in whom genius lives and works is easily distinguished by his glance, which is both keen and steady, and bears the stamp of perception, of contemplation.
The genius, on the other hand, lights on his age like a comet into the paths of the planets, to whose well-regulated and comprehensible arrangement its wholly eccentric course is foreign. Accordingly, he cannot go hand in hand with the regular course of the culture of the times as found; on the contrary, he casts his works far out on to the path in front (just as the emperor, giving himself up to death, flings his spear among the enemy), on which time has first to overtake them? Talent is able to achieve what is beyond other people?s capacity to achieve, yet not what is beyond their capacity of apprehension; therefore it at once finds its appreciators. The achievement of genius, on the other hand, transcends not only others? capacity of achievement, but also their capacity of apprehension; therefore they do not become immediately aware of it. Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target ? which others cannot even see.
We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves to be like other people.
Whether we are in a pleasant or painful state depends, ultimately, upon the kind of matter that pervades and engrosses our consciousness.
The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him.
The ultimate foundation of honor is the conviction that moral character is unalterable: a single bad action implies that future actions of the same kind will, under similar circumstances, also be bad.
The happiness which we receive from ourselves is greater than that which we obtain from our surroundings. The world in which a man lives shapes itself chiefly by the way in which he looks at it.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.
Man must know what is his real, chief, and foremost object in life - what it is that he most wants in order to be happy…he must find out what, on the whole, his vocation really is - the part he has to play, his general relation to the world. If he maps out important work for himself on great lines, a glance at this miniature plan of his life will more than anything else stimulate, rouse, ennoble, and urge him on to action and keep him from false paths.
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.
Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.
Every evening we are poorer by a day.
Compared with the short span of time they live, men of great intellect are like huge buildings, standing on a small plot of ground. The size of the building cannot be seen by anyone, just in front of it; nor, for an analogous reason, can the greatness of a genius be estimated while he lives. But when a century has passed, the world recognizes it and wishes him back again.
True salvation, deliverance from life and suffering, cannot be imagined without complete denial of the will.
Time is that which in all things passes away; it is from the form under which the will to live has revealed to it that its efforts are in vain; it is the agent by which at every moment all things in our hands become as nothing, and lose all value.
To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence.
There is no more mistaken path to happiness than worldliness, revelry, high life.