Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Emil M. Cioran

Austria-Hungary-born Romanian Philosopher and Essayist

"Beware of thinkers whose minds function only when they are fueled by a quotation."

"Friendship being incompatible with truth, only the mute dialogue with our enemies is fruitful."

"The basis of society, of any society, is a certain pride in obedience. When this pride no longer exists, the society collapses."

"A civilization is destroyed only when its gods are destroyed."

"A distant enemy is always preferable to one at the gate."

"A golden rule: to leave an incomplete image of oneself."

"A great step forward was made the day men understood that in order to torment one another more efficiently they would have to gather together, to organize themselves into a society."

"A marvel that has nothing to offer, democracy is at once a nation's paradise and its tomb."

"A people represents not so much an aggregate of ideas and theories as of obsessions."

"A phantom cannot be cured, still less an enlightened mind. We can only cure those who belong to the earth and still have their roots in it, however superficial."

"A man who fears ridicule will never go far, for good or ill: he remains on this side of this talents, and even if he has genius, he is doomed to mediocrity."

"A relief bordering on orgasm at the notion that one will never again embrace a cause, any cause."

"A self-respecting man is a man without a country. A fatherland is birdlime."

"A sensation must have fallen very low to deign to turn into an idea."

"A sudden silence in the middle of a conversation suddenly brings us back to essentials: it reveals how dearly we must pay for the invention of speech."

"After a sleepless night, the people in the street seem automatons. No one seems to breathe, to walk, Each looks as if he is worked by clockwork: nothing spontaneous; mechanical smiles, spectral gesticulations. Yourself a specter, how would you see others as alive?"

"All my life, I have lived with the feeling that I have been kept from my true place. If the expression "metaphysical exile" had no meaning, my existence alone would afford it one."

"All that shimmers on the surface of the world, all that we call interesting, is the fruit of ignorance and inebriation."

"Ambition is a drug that makes its addicts potential madmen."

"An individual dies ... when, instead of taking risks and hurling himself toward being, he cowers within, and takes refuge there."

"An impostor, a "humbug," conscious of being so and therefore a self-spectator, is necessarily more advanced in knowledge than a steady mind full of merits and all of a piece."

"Anyone can escape into sleep, we are all geniuses when we dream, the butcher's the poet's equal there."

"Basis of society: anonymous sweat."

"Anyone who speaks in the name of others is always an imposter."

"Balkans - that taste for devastation, for internal clutter, for a universe like a brothel on fire... the last "primitives" in Europe."

"Characteristic of sickness: to stay awake when everything sleeps, when everything is at rest, even the sick man."

"By all evidence we are in the world to do nothing."

"Better to be an animal than a man, an insect than an animal, a plant than an insect, and so on. Salvation? Whatever diminishes the kingdom of consciousness and compromises its supremacy."

"Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, Chaos is being yourself."

"Consciousness is much more than the thorn, it is the dagger in the flesh."

"Consciousness is nature's nightmare."

"Crime in full glory consolidates authority by the sacred fear it inspires."

"Criticism is a misconception: we must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves."

"Does our ferocity not derive from the fact that our instincts are all too interested in other people? If we attended more to ourselves and became the center, the object of our murderous inclinations, the sum of our intolerances would diminish."

"Democracy is a festival of mediocrity."

"Each of us must pay for the slightest damage he inflicts upon a universe created for indifference and stagnation, sooner or later, he will regret not having left it intact."

"Each concession we make is accompanied by an inner diminution of which we are not immediately conscious."

"Each time I think of the essential, I seem to glimpse it in silence or explosion, in stupor or exclamation. Never in speech."

"Each of us is born with a share of purity, predestined to be corrupted by our commerce with mankind, by that sin against solitude."

"Every thought derives from a thwarted sensation."

"Each time you find yourself at a turning point, the best thing is to lie down and let hours pass. Resolutions made standing up are worthless: they are dictated either by pride or by fear. Prone, we still know these two scourges, but in a more attenuated, more intemporal form."

"Everything is deception - I've always known that. Yet this certitude has afforded me no relief, except at the moments when it was violently present to my mind..."

"Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart."

"Everything is pathology, except for indifference."

"Everything turn on pain; the rest is accessory, even nonexistent, for we remember only what hurts. Painful sensations being the only real ones, it is virtually useless to experience others."

"For the man who has got in the nasty habit of unmasking appearances, event and misunderstanding are synonyms. To make for the essential is to throw up the game, to admit one is defeated."

"Fear can supplant our real problems only to the extent - unwilling either to assimilate or to exhaust it - we perpetuate it within ourselves like a temptation and enthrone it at the very heart of our solitude."

"Existing is plagiarism."

"For you who no longer possess it, freedom is everything, for us who do, it is merely an illusion."

"For a long time - always, in fact - I have known that life here on earth is not what I needed and that I wasn't able to deal with it; for this reason and for this reason alone, I have acquired a touch of spiritual pride, so that my existence seems to me the degradation and the erosion of a psalm."