Martin Buber


Austrian-born Israeli Jewish Theologian, Philosopher and Writer

Author Quotes

Feelings dwell in man; but man dwells in his love. That is no metaphor, but the actual truth. Love does not cling to the I in such a way as to have the Thou only for its content, its object; but love is between I and Thou. The man who does not know this, with his very being know this, does not know love; even though he ascribes to it the feelings he lives through, experiences, enjoys, and expresses.

I don't like religion much, and I am glad that in the Bible the word is not to be found.

A person cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human. To become human, is what this individual person, has been created for.

But the realm of You has another basis.

For the I of the basic word I-You is different from that of the basic word I-It.

I perceive something. I am sensible of something. I imagine something. I will something. I feel something. I think something. The life of human beings does not consist of all this and the like alone.

All actual life is encounter.

But the world is not presented to man by experiences alone. These present him only with a world composed of It and He and She and It again.

For the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It.

All names of God remain hallowed because they have been used not only to speak of God but also to speak to him.

But this is the exalted melancholy of our fate that every Thou in our world must become an It. It does not matter how exclusively present the Thou was in the direct relation. As soon as the relation has been worked out or has been permeated with a means, the Thou becomes an object among objects ? perhaps the chief, but still one of them, fixed in its size and its limits. In the work of art realization in one sense means loss of reality in another. Genuine contemplation is over in a short time; now the life in nature, that first unlocked itself to me in the mystery of mutual action, can again be described, taken to pieces, and classified ? the meeting-point of manifold systems of laws. And love itself cannot persist in direct relation. It endures, but in interchange of actual and potential being. The human being who was even now single and unconditioned, not something lying to hand, only present, not able to be experienced, only able to be fulfilled, has now become again a He or a She, a sum of qualities, a given quantity with a certain shape. Now I may take out from him again the colour of his hair or of his speech or of his goodness. But so long as I can do this he is no more my Thou and cannot yet be my Thou again.

For what they bring to him is only a world that consists of It and It and It, of He and He and She and She and It. . . .

All revelation is summons and sending.

But when a man draws a lifeless thing into his passionate longing for dialogue, lending it independence and as it were a soul, then there may dawn in him the presentiment of a world-wide dialogue with the world-happening that steps up to him even in his environment, which consists partially of things. Or do you seriously think that the giving and taking of signs halts on the threshold of that business where an honest and open spirit is found?

God can be addressed, but not expressed.

All this and its like is the basis of the realm of It.

Creation happens to us, burns into us, changes us, we tremble and swoon, we submit. Creation - we participate in it, we encounter the creator, offer ourselves to him, helpers and companions.

God is the "mysterium tremendum," that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.

An animal?s eyes have the power to speak a great language.

Dialogic is not to be identified with love. But love without dialogic, without real outgoing to the other, reaching to the other, the love remaining with itself - this is called Lucifer.

God wants man to fulfill his commands as a human being and with the quality peculiar to human beings.

An example may clarify more precisely the relation between the psychologist and the anthropologist. If both of them investigate, say, the phenomenon of anger, the psychologist will try to grasp what the angry man feels, what his motives and the impulses of his will are, but the anthropologist will also try to grasp what he is doing. In respect of this phenomenon self-observation, being by nature disposed to weaken the spontaneity and unruliness of anger, will be especially difficult for both of them. The psychologist will try to meet this difficulty by a specific division of consciousness, which enables him to remain outside with the observing part of his being and yet let his passion run its course as undisturbed as possible. Of course this passion can then not avoid becoming similar to that of the actor, that is, though it can still be heightened in comparison with an unobserved passion its course will be different: there will be a release which is willed and which takes the place of the elemental outbreak, there will be a vehemence which will be more emphasized, more deliberate, more dramatic. The anthropologist can have nothing to do with a division of consciousness, since he has to do with the unbroken wholeness of events, and especially with the unbroken natural connection between feelings and actions; and this connection is most powerfully influenced in self-observation, since the pure spontaneity of the action is bound to suffer essentially. It remains for the anthropologist only to resign any attempt to stay outside his observing self, and thus when he is overcome by anger not to disturb it in its course by becoming a spectator of it, but to let it rage to its conclusion without trying to gain a perspective. He will be able to register in the act of recollection what he felt and did then; for him memory takes the place of psychological self-experience. ... In the moment of life he has nothing else in his mind but just to live what is to be lived, he is there with his whole being, undivided, and for that very reason there grows in his thought and recollection the knowledge of human wholeness.

Each of us is encased in an armor which we soon, out of familiarity, cease to notice. There are only moments which penetrate it and stir the soul to sensibility.

He is no longer He or She, limited by other Hes and Shes, a dot in the world grid of space and time, nor a condition that can be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. Neighborless and seamless, he is You and fills the firmament. Not as if there were nothing but he; but everything else lives in his light. . . .

And if there were a devil it would not be one who decided against God, but one who, in eternity, came to no decision.

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Austrian-born Israeli Jewish Theologian, Philosopher and Writer