Martin Buber


Austrian-born Israeli Jewish Theologian, Philosopher and Writer

Author Quotes

The primary word I-Thou establishes the world of relation.

There is no I taken in itself, but only the I of the primary word I-Thou and the I of the primary word I-It.

We can learn to be whole by saying what we mean and doing what we say.

You do not attain to knowledge by remaining on the shore and watching the foaming waves, you must make the venture and cast yourself in, you must swim, alert and with all your force, even if a moment comes when you think you are losing consciousness; in this way, and in no other, do you reach anthropological insight.

In the ice of solitude man becomes most inexorably a question to himself, and just because the question pitilessly summons and draws into play his most secret life he becomes an experience to himself.

Primary words do not describe something that might exist independently of them, but being spoken they bring about existence.

The individual You must become an It when the event of relation has run its course.

The primary words are not isolated words, but combined words.

These are the two basic privileges of the It-world. They induce man to consider the It-world as the world in which one has to live and also can live comfortably ? and that even offers us all sorts of stimulations and excitements, activities and knowledge. In this firm and wholesome chronicle the You-moments appear as queer lyric-dramatic episodes. Their spell may be seductive, but they pull us dangerously to extremes, loosening the well-tried structure, leaving behind more doubt than satisfaction, shaking up our security ? altogether uncanny, altogether indispensable. Since one must after all return into ?the world,? why not stay in it in the first place? Why not call to order that which confronts us and send it home into objectivity? And when one cannot get around saying You, perhaps to one?s father, wife, companion ? why not say You and mean It? After all, producing the sound ?You? with one?s vocal cords does not by any means entail speaking the uncanny basic word. Even whispering an amorous You with one?s soul is hardly dangerous as long as in all seriousness one means nothing but experiencing and using.

What has to be given up is not the I, as most mystics suppose: this I is indispensable for any relationship, including the highest, which always presupposes an I and You.

It is not possible to live in the bare present. Life would be quite consumed if precautions were not taken to subdue the present speedily and thoroughly. But it is possible to live in the bare past, indeed only in it may a life be organized. We only need to fill each moment with experiencing and using, and it ceases to burn.

Primary words do not signify things, but they intimate relations.

The It is the chrysalis, the You the butterfly. Only it is not always as if these states took turns so neatly; often it is an intricately entangled series that is tortuously dual.

The prophet is appointed to oppose the king, and even more: history.

This and the like together establish the realm of It.

What has to be given up is not the I, but that drive for self-affirmation which impels man to flee from the unreliable, unsolid, unlasting, unpredictable, dangerous world of relation into the having of things.

It is said that man experiences his world. What does that mean?

So long as you ?have? yourself, have yourself as an object, your experience of man is only as of a thing among things.

The It is the eternal chrysalis, the Thou the eternal butterfly ? except that situations do not always follow one another in clear succession, but often there is a happening profoundly twofold, confusedly entangled.

The teacher experiences the pupil's being educated, but the pupil cannot experience the educating of the educator. The educator stands at both ends of the common situation, the pupil at only one end. In the moment when the pupil is able to throw himself across and experience from over there, the educative relationship would burst asunder, or change into friendship.

This human being is not He or She, bounded from every other He and She, a specific point in space and time within the net of the world; nor is he a nature able to be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. But with no neighbor, and whole in himself, he is Thou and fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing exists except himself. But all else lives in his light.

What, then, does one experience of the You? Nothing at all. For one does not experience it. What, then, does one know of the You? Only everything. For one no longer knows particulars.

Leisure is the exultation of the possible.

Solitude is the place of purification.

The It-world hangs together in space and time.

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Austrian-born Israeli Jewish Theologian, Philosopher and Writer