Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Henri Frédéric Amiel

Swiss, Philosopher, Poet and Critic, Christian Mystic

"Action limits us; whereas I the state of contemplation we are endlessly expansive."

"Before crime is committed, conscience must be corrupted."

"Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing."

"An error is more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth which it contains."

"Be what you wish others to become. Let yourself and not your words preach for you."

"Doing easily what others find is difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius."

"Everything proves the solidarity of individuals, and no one can think at all except by means of the general store of thought, accumulated and refined by centuries of cultivation and experience."

"Health is the first of all liberties."

"Hope is only the love of life."

"I have traversed the universe from the deepest depths of the empyrean to the peristaltic movements of the atoms in the elementary cell. And on all sides stretched mysteries, marvels, and prodigies without limit, without number, and without end. I felt the unfathomable thought, of which the Universe is the symbols, live and burn within me; I touched, proved, tasted, embraced my nothingness and my immensity; I kissed the hem of the garments of god, and gave Him thanks for being Spirit and for being Life."

"If ignorance and passions are foes of popular morality, it must be confessed that moral indifference is the malady of the cultivated classes."

"Life is short. Be swift to love! Make haste to be kind!"

"No matter! – so long as the world is the work of eternal goodness, and so long as conscience has not deceived us – to give happiness, and to do good, there is our only law, our anchor of salvation, our beacon light, our reason for existing. All religions may crumble away; so long as this survives we have still an ideal, and life is worth living."

"Never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic, tender; to look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope always, like God, to love always - this is duty."

"Love at its highest point - love, sublime, unique, invincible - leads us straight to the brink of the great abyss, for it speaks to us directly of the infinite and of eternity. It is eminently religious."

"No one truly knows happiness who has no suffered, and the redeemed are happier than the elect."

"Our greatest illusion is to believe that we are what we think ourselves to be."

"Suffering was a curse from which man fled, not it becomes a purification of the soul, a sacred trial sent by Eternal Love, a divine dispensation meant to sanctify and ennoble us, an acceptable aid to faith, a strange initiation into happiness."

"Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers."

"The stationary condition is the beginning of the end."

"The inner and unconscious ideal which guides [the parents’] lives is precisely what touches the child; their words, their remonstrances, their punishments, their bursts of feeling even, are for him merely thunder and comedy; what they worship, that it is which his instinct divines and reflects."

"The eternal truth is not the future life; it is life in harmony with the true order of things - life in God."

"Time is the supreme illusion. It is but the inner prism by which we decompose being and life, the mode under which we perceive successively what is simultaneous in the idea. Time and space are fragments of the Infinite for the use of finite creatures."

"To become Divine is the aim of life: then only can truth be said to be ours beyond the possibility of loss, because it is no longer outside of us, nor even in us, but we are it, and it is we."

"The religion of a child depends on what its mother and father are, and not on what they say."

"To know how to grow old is the masterwork of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living."

"There is only one way of not hating those who do us wrong, and that is by doing them good."

"Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark."

"What is threatened today is moral liberty, conscience, respect for the soul, the very nobility of man. To defend the soul, its interests, its rights, its dignity, is the most pressing duty for whoever sees the danger."

"Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism, and doubt. "

"Any landscape is a condition of the spirit. "

"Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and silent influence. "

"Destiny has two ways of crushing us - by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them. "

"For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will"

"Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind. "

"In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties. "

"Self-interest is but the survival of the animal in us. Humanity only begins for man with self-surrender. "

"Learn to... be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not. "

"Sympathy is the first condition of criticism. "

"We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves."

"The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes. "

"True humility is contentment. "

"Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you. "

"There is no repose for the mind except in the absolute; for feeling except in the infinite; for the soul except in the divine. Nothing finite is true, is interesting, is worthy to fix my attention. All that is particular is exclusive, and all that is exclusive repels me. There is nothing non-exclusive but the All; my end is communion with Being through the whole of Being."

"There is but one thing needful—to possess God. All our senses, all our powers of mind and soul, all our external resources, are so many ways of approaching the divinity, so many modes of tasting and of adoring God. We must learn to detach ourselves from all that is capable of being lost, to bind ourselves absolutely only to what is absolute and eternal, and to enjoy the rest as a loan."

"To adore, to understand, to receive, to feel, to give, to act: there is my law my duty, my happiness, my heaven. Let come what come will—even death. Only be at peace with self, live in the presence of God, in communion with Him, and leave the guidance of existence to those universal powers against whom thou canst do nothing! If death gives me time, so much the better. If its summons is near, so much the better still; if a half-death overtake me, still so much the better, for so the path of success is closed to me only that I may find opening before me the path of heroism, of moral greatness and resignation. Every life has its potentiality of greatness, and as it is impossible to be outside God, the best is consciously to dwell in Him."

"Heroism is the brilliant triumph of the soul over the flesh—that is to say, over fear: fear of poverty, of suffering, of calumny, of sickness, of isolation, and of death. There is no serious piety without heroism. Heroism is the dazzling and glorious concentrat"

"Redemption, eternal life, divinity, humanity, propitiation, incarnation, judgment, Satan, heaven and hell—all these beliefs have been so materialized and coarsened, that with a strange irony they present to us the spectacle of things having a profound meaning and yet carnally interpreted. Christian boldness and Christian liberty must be reconquered; it is the church which is heretical, the church whose sight is troubled and her heart timid. Whether we will or no, there is an esoteric doctrine, there is a relative revelation; each man enters into God so much as God enters into him, or as Angelus, I think, said, "the eye by which I see God is the same eye by which He sees me.""

"Everything which is, is thought, but not conscious and individual thought. The human intelligence is but the consciousness of being. It is what I have formulated before: Everything is a symbol of a symbol, and a symbol of what? of mind."

"In the conduct of life, habits count for more than maxims, because habit is a living maxim, becomes flesh and instinct. To reform one's maxims is nothing: it is but to change the title of the book. To learn new habits is everything, for it is to reach the substance of life. Life is but a tissue of habits."