English Journalist, Humorist, Essayist, Novelist and Poet
G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton
English Journalist, Humorist, Essayist, Novelist and Poet
There is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine… is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel.
There is something to be said for every error; but, whatever may be said for it, the most important thing to be said about it is that it is erroneous.
This is the mighty and branching tree called mythology which ramifies round the whole world whose remote branches under separate skies bear like colored birds the costly idols of Asia and the half-baked fetishes of Africa and the fairy kings and princesses of the folk-tales of the forest and buried amid vines and olives the Lares of the Latins, and carried on the clouds of Olympus the buoyant supremacy of the gods of Greece. These are the myths and he who has no sympathy with myths has no sympathy with men. But be who has most Sympathy with myths will most fully realize that they are not and never were a religion, in the sense that Christianity or even Islam is a religion.They satisfy some of the needs satisfied by a religion; and notably the need for doing certain things at certain dates; the need of the twin ideas of festivity and formality. But though they provide a man with a calendar they do not provide him with a creed. A man did not stand up and say 'I believe in Jupiter and Juno and Neptune,' etc., and she stands up and says 'I believe in God the Father Almighty' and the rest of the Apostles' Creed... Polytheism fades away at its fringes into fairy-tales or barbaric memories; it is not a thing like monotheism as held by serious monotheists. Again it does satisfy the need to cry out on some uplifted name, or some noble memory in moments that are themselves noble and uplifted; such as the birth of a child or the saving of a city. But the name was so used by many to whom it was only a name. Finally it did satisfy, or rather it partially satisfied, a thing very deep in humanity indeed; the idea of surrendering something as the portion of the unknown powers; of pouring out wine upon the ground, of throwing a ring into the sea; in a word, of sacrifice... A child pretending there is a goblin in a hollow tree will do a crude and material thing like leaving a piece of cake for him. A poet might do a more dignified and elegant thing, like bringing to the god fruits as well as flowers. But the degree of seriousness in both acts may be the same or it may vary in almost any degree. The crude fancy is no more a creed than the ideal fancy is a creed... There is nothing in Paganism whereby one may check his own exaggerations... The only objection to Natural Religion is that somehow it always becomes unnatural. A man loves Nature in the morning for her innocence and amiability, and at nightfall, if he is loving her still, it is for her darkness and her cruelty.
There are two kinds of paradoxes. They are not so much the good and the bad, nor even the true and the false. Rather they are the fruitful and the barren; the paradoxes which produce life and the paradoxes that merely announce death. Nearly all modern paradoxes merely announce death.
There is always in the healthy mind an obscure prompting that religion teaches us rather to dig than to climb; that if we could once understand the common clay of earth we should understand everything. Similarly, we have the sentiment that if we could destroy custom at a blow and see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse. This is the great truth which has always lain at the back of baby-worship, and which will support it to the end
There is truth in every ancient fable, and there is here even something of it in the fancy that finds the symbol of the Republic in the bird that bore the bolts of Jove. Owls and bats may wander where they will in darkness, and for them as for the skeptics the universe may have no centre; kites and vultures may linger as they like over carrion, and for them as for the plutocrats existence may have no origin and no end; but it was far back in the land of legends, where instincts find their true images, that the cry went forth that freedom is an eagle, whose glory is gazing at the sun.
This much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave, pity me not; but let the world be fed, yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
There are two kinds of peacemakers in the modern world; and they are both, though in various ways, a nuisance. The first peacemaker is the man who goes about saying that he agrees with everybody. He confuses everybody. The second peacemaker is the man who goes about saying that everybody agrees with him. He enrages everybody. Between the two of them they produce a hundred times more disputes and distractions than we poor pugnacious people would ever have thought of in our lives.
There is at the back of every artist's mind, a pattern or type of Architecture.
There nearly always is a method in madness. It's what drives men mad, being methodical.
Those might not be the very best judges of the relation of religion to happiness who, by their own account, had neither one nor the other.
There are in this world of ours only two kinds of speakers. The first is the man who is making a good speech and won’t finish. The second is the man who is making a bad speech and can’t finish. The latter is the longer.
There are two kinds of rebellion. The first is one in which the slave demands something that the tyrant has got. The second is one in which he demands something that the tyrant has not got.
There is at the back of every artist's mind... the landscape of his dreams; the strange flora and fauna of his own secret planet; the sort of thing he likes to think about. This general atmosphere... governs all his creations, however varied.
There runs a strange law through the length of human history — that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam, is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility. This is the great fall, the fall by which the fish forgets the sea, the ox forgets the meadow, the clerk forgets the city, every man forgets his environment and, in the fullest and most literal sense, forgets himself. This is the real fall of Adam, and it is a spiritual fall. It is a strange thing that many truly spiritual men, such as General Gordon, have actually spent some hours in speculating upon the precise location of the Garden of Eden. Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed.
Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it.
There are many definite methods, honest and dishonest, which make people rich; the only instinct I know of which does it is that instinct which theological Christianity crudely describes as the sin of avarice.
There are two kinds of revolutionists, as of most things – a good kind and a bad. The bad revolutionists destroy conventions by appealing to fads – fashions that are newer than conventions. The good do it by appealing to facts that are older than conventions.
There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy out of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. It affirms, with no little sublimity, something that is not merely the singleness but rather the solitude of God. There is the same extreme simplification in the solitary figure of the Prophet; and yet this isolation perpetually reacts into its own opposite. A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets. Of these the mightiest in modern times were the man whose name was Ahmed, and whose more famous title was the Mahdi; and his more ferocious successor Abdullahi, who was generally known as the Khalifa. These great fanatics, or great creators of fanaticism, succeeded in making a militarism almost as famous and formidable as that of the Turkish Empire on whose frontiers it hovered, and in spreading a reign of terror such as can seldom be organized except by civilization.
There should be a burnished tablet let into the ground on the spot where some courageous man first ate Stilton cheese, and survived.
Those who charged the Christians with burning down Rome with fire brands were slanderers -- but they were, at least, far nearer to the nature of Christianity than those among the moderns who tell us that the Christians were a sort of ethical society, being martyred in a languid fashion for telling men they had a duty to their neighbors, and only mildly disliked because they were meek and mild!
There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.
There are two ways in which a man may vanish – through being thoroughly conquered or through being thoroughly the Conqueror… For a man may vanish as Chaos vanished in the face of creation, or he may vanish as God vanished in filling all things with that created life.
There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats Grape Nuts on principle.
There’d be a lot less scandal if people didn’t idealize sin and pose as sinners.