Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Havelock Ellis, fully Henry Havelock Ellis

British Physician and Psychologist, Writer and Social Reformer

"All civilization has from time to time become a thin crust over a volcano of revolution."

"Life is livable because we know that whatever we go most of the people we meet will be restrained in their actions towards us by an almost instinctive network of taboos."

"The greatest task before civilization at present is to make machines what they ought to be, the slaves, instead of the masters of men."

"Education, whatever else it should or should not be, must be an inoculation against the poisons of life and an adequate equipment in knowledge and skill for meeting the chances of life. "

"For every fresh stage in our lives we need a fresh education, and there is no stage for which so little educational preparation is made as that which follows the reproductive period. "

"It is becoming clear that the old platitudes can no longer be maintained, and that if we wish to improve our morals we must first improve our knowledge. "

"It is on our failures that we base a new and different and better success. "

"In philosophy, it is not the attainment of the goal that matters, it is the things that are met along the way. "

"Still, whether we like it or not, the task of speeding up the decrease of the human population becomes increasingly urgent. "

"What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance. "

"The more rapidly a civilization progresses, the sooner it dies for another to rise in its place. "

"There is nothing that war has ever achieved we could not better achieve without it. "

"When love is suppressed hate takes its place. "

"A man must not swallow more beliefs than he can digest."

"A religion can no more afford to degrade its Devil than to degrade its God."

"A strong body does not involve a strong brain nor a weak body a weak brain; but there is still an intimate connection between the organization of the body generally and the organization of the brain, which may be regarded as an executive assemblage of delegates from all parts of the body."

"Aesthetic values are changed under the influence of sexual emotion; from the lover's point of view many things are beautiful which are unbeautiful from the point of view of him who is not a lover, and the greater the degree to which the lover is swayed by his passion the greater the extent to which his normal aesthetic standard is liable to be modified."

"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."

"A sublime faith in human imbecility has seldom led those who cherish it astray."

"At the present day the crude theory of the sexual impulse held on one side, and the ignorant rejection of theory altogether on the other side, are beginning to be seen as both alike unjustified."

"Courtship, properly understood, is the process whereby both the male and the female are brought into that state of sexual tumescence which is a more or less necessary condition for sexual intercourse. The play of courtship cannot, therefore, be considered to be definitely brought to an end by the ceremony of marriage; it may more properly be regarded as the natural preliminary to every act of coitus."

"Birth-control is effecting, and promising to effect, many functions in our social life."

"'Auto erotism' ... spontaneous solitary sexual phenomena of which genital excitement during sleep may be said to be the type."

"Dance is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is no mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself."

"But when we have regard to the actual facts of life, we can no longer place virtue in a vacuum."

"'Charm' - which means the power to effect work without employing brute force - is indispensable to women. Charm is a woman's strength just as strength is a man's charm."

"Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say more of life?"

"Erasmus was a cosmopolitan scholar who habitually dwelt in the world of the spirit and in no wise expressed the general feelings either of his own time or ours."

"Every artist writes his own autobiography."

"Every man of genius sees the world at a different angle from his fellows, and there is his tragedy."

"Failing to find in women exactly the same kind of sexual emotions, as they find in themselves, men have concluded that there are none there at all."

"Even the most scientific investigator in science, the most thoroughgoing Positivist, cannot dispense with fiction; he must at least make use of categories, and they are already fictions, analogical fictions, or labels, which give us the same pleasure as children receive when they are told the 'name' of a thing."

"Few people realize - few indeed have the knowledge or the opportunity to realize - how much women thus lose, alike in the means to fulfill their own lives and in the power to help others."

"For the working class, indeed, there was often the possibility of escape into hard labor, if only that of marriage. But such escape was not possible, immediately or at all, for a large number."

"Had there been a lunatic asylum in the suburbs of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ would infallibly have been shut up in it at the outset of his public career. That interview with Satan on a pinnacle of the Temple would alone have damned him, and everything that happened after could but have confirmed the diagnosis."

"'Homosexual' is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it."

"For war never hits men at random. It only hits a carefully selected percentage of ‘fit’ men."

"Heroes exterminate each other for the benefit of people who are not heroes."

"However well organized the foundations of life may be, life must always be full of risks."

"I always seem to have a vague feeling that he is a Satan among musicians, a fallen angel in the darkness who is perpetually seeking to fight his way back to happiness."

"If men and women are to understand each other, to enter into each other's nature with mutual sympathy, and to become capable of genuine comradeship, the foundation must be laid in youth."

"I regard sex as the central problem of life. And now that the problem of religion has practically been settled, and that the problem of labor has at least been placed on a practical foundation, the question of sex—with the racial questions that rest on it—stands before the coming generations as the chief problem for solution. Sex lies at the root of life, and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex."

"Imagination is a poor substitute for experience."

"It has always been difficult for Man to realize that his life is all an art. It has been more difficult to conceive it so, than to act it so. For that is always how he has more or less acted it."

"In the first place we are justified in believing that in the future home men will no longer be so helpless, so domestically parasitic, as in the past."

"In our human world, as we know, the moral duties laid upon us—the duties in which, if we fail, we become outcasts in our own eyes or in those of others or in both—are of three kinds: the duties to oneself, the duties to the small circle of those we love, and the duties to the larger circle of mankind to which ultimately we belong, since out of it we proceed, and to it we owe all that we are."

"In the early days of Christianity the exercise of chastity was frequently combined with a close and romantic intimacy of affection between the sexes which shocked austere moralists."

"It is easy to understand how this state of things gradually became transformed into the considerably different position of parents and child we have known, which doubtless attained its climax nearly a century ago. Feudal conditions, with the large households so well adapted to act as seminaries for youth, began to decay, and as education in such seminaries must have led to frequent mischances both for youths and maidens who enjoyed the opportunities of education there, the regret for their disappearance may often have been tempered for parents."

"It has been widely held that war has played an essential part in the evolutionary struggle for survival among our animal ancestors, that war has been a factor of the first importance in the social development of primitive human races, and that war always will be an essential method of preserving the human virtues even in the highest civilization. It must be observed that these are three separate and quite distinct proposition."

"It is curious how there seems to be an instinctive disgust in Man for his nearest ancestors and relations. If only Darwin could conscientiously have traced man back to the Elephant or the Lion or the Antelope, how much ridicule and prejudice would have been spared to the doctrine of Evolution."