Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rites

"Rites and vain repetitions have a legitimate place in religion as aids to recollectedness, reminders of truth momentarily forgotten in the turmoil of worldly distractions. When spoken or performed as a kind of magic, their use is either completely useless or else (and this is worse) it may have ego-enhancing results, which do not in any way contribute to the attainment of man’s final end." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"The pearl-oyster that contains the precious pearl is in itself of very little value, but it is essential for the growth of the pearl. The shell itself may prove to be of no use to the man who has got the pearl. So ceremonies and rites may not be necessary for him who has attained the Highest Truth - God." - Ramakrishna, aka Ramakrishna Paramhamsa or Sri Ramakrishna, born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay NULL

"The most barbarous and the most fantastic rites and the strangest myths translate some human need, some aspect of life, either individual or social... In reality, then, there are no religions which are false. All are true in their own fashion; all answer, though in different ways, to the given conditions of human existence." - Émile Durkheim, fully David Émile Durkheim

"Initiation always signifies death and resurrection. This is as true of the rites of passage marking the entry to a new phase of life as it is of shamanic initiation. The former life must be destroyed and erased." - Holger Kalweit

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny." - Pablo Neruda, pen name for Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto

"Religion... sex... race... money... avoidance rites... malnutrition... dreams - no part of these can be looked at and clearly seen without looking at the whole of them. For, as a painter mixes colors and makes of them new colors, so religion is turned into something different by race, and segregation is colored as much by sex as by skin pigment, and money is no longer a coin but a lost wish wandering through a man’s whole life." - Lillian Smith, fully Lillian Eugenia Smith

"Rites [li] rest on three bases: heaven and earth, which are the source of all life; the ancestors, who are the source of the human race; [and] sovereigns and teachers, who are the source of government... Should any of the three be missing, either there would be no people or people would be without peace. Hence rites are to serve Heaven on high and earth below, and to honor the ancestors and elevate the sovereigns and teachers... Who holds to the rites is never confused in the midst of multifarious change; who deviates therefrom is lost. Rites - are they not the culmination of culture?" - Hsun-Tzu NULL

"The religion of man… has neither temples, nor altars, nor rites, and is confined to the purely internal cult of the supreme God and the eternal obligations of morality." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"Resistance to empiricism is also due to a purely emotional shortcoming of the mode of reasoning it promotes: It is bloodless. People need more than reason. They need the poetry of affirmation; they crave an authority greater than themselves at rites of passage and other moments of high seriousness. A majority desperately wish for the immortality the rituals seem to underwrite." -

"The Great Spirit is everywhere; he hears whatever is in our minds and hearts, and it is not necessary to speak to Him in a loud voice. Since the drum is often the only instrument used in our sacred rites, I should perhaps tell you here why it is especially sacred and important to us. It is because the round form of the drum represents the whole universe, and its strong beat is the pulse, the heart, throbbing at the center of the universe. It is as the voice of Wakan-Tanka, and this sound stirs us and helps us to understand the mystery and power of all things." - Nicholas Black Elk, formally Heȟáka Sápa

"Mythology is a control system, on the one hand framing its community to accord with an intuited order of nature and, on the other hand, by means of its symbolic pedagogic rites, conducting individuals through the ineluctable psychophysiological stages of transformation of a human lifetime - birth, childhood and adolescence, age, old age, and the release of death - in unbroken accord simultaneously with the requirements of this world and the rapture of participation in a manner of being beyond time. For all the symbolic narratives, images, rites, and festivals by which life within the cultural monad is controlled and defined are of the order of the way of art. Their effect, therefore, is to wake the intellect to realizations equivalent to those of the insights that produced them." - Joseph Campbell

"The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation – initiation – return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from his mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." - Joseph Campbell

"It was long ago observed that `rites of passage’ play a considerable part in the life of religious man. Certainly, the outstanding passage rite is represented by the puberty initiation, passage from one age group to another (from childhood or adolescence to youth). But there is also a passage rite at birth, at marriage, at death, and it could gbe said that each of these cases always involves an initiation, for each of them implies a radical change in ontological and social status." - Mircea Eliade

"When a man follows the way of the world, or the way of the flesh, or the way of tradition (i.e. when he believes in religious rites and the letter of the scriptures, as though they were intrinsically sacred) knowledge of Reality cannot arise in him." - Adi Shankara, aka Śaṅkara Bhagavatpādācārya and Ādi Śaṅkarācārya

"Neither rites nor rituals, neither creeds nor ceremonies are needed to improve the condition of the world. All that is needed is to love one another." - Dada Vaswani, born Jashan Pahalraj Vaswani

"It is no accident that banks resemble temples, preferably Greek, and that the supplicants who come to perform the rites of deposit and withdrawal instinctively lower their voices into the registers of awe. Even the most junior tellers acquire within weeks of their employment the officiousness of hierophants tending an eternal flame. I don't know how they become so quickly inducted into the presiding mysteries, or who instructs them in the finely articulated inflections of contempt for the laity, but somehow they learn to think of themselves as suppliers of the monetarized DNA that is the breath of life. " - Lewis H. Lapham

"And what is grasping? There are four: grasping for sense pleasures, for speculative views, for rites and customs, and for delusions of selfhood." - Majjhima Nikāya

"The masses who try to attain the Truth by following rites and rituals are, as it were, in the goods train which is detained indefinitely at various stations. Those who sincerely and devotedly meditate on God or dedicate their lives to the service of humanity are, as it were, in the ordinary train which stops at every station according to the time-table. But those who seek the company of the Truth-realized Master and carry out his orders in full surrenderance and faith are, as it were, in a special train which will take them to the goal in the shortest possible time, without halts at intermediate stations." - Meher Baba, born Merwan Sheriar Irani

"There is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt." - Niccolò Machiavelli, formally Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

"The purpose of education, so one would think, is to introduce the young into life, and that means: into the society where they are born and into the physical universe that surrounds the society. The method of education often consists in the teaching of some basic myth. The myth is available in various versions. More advanced versions may be taught by initiation rites which firmly implant them into the mind. Knowing the myth, the grown-up can explain almost everything (or else he can turn to experts for more detailed information). He is the master of Nature and of Society. He understands them both and he knows how to interact with them. However, he is not the master of the myth that guides his understanding." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"Many of the rites of passage, those rituals of growing up found in our society, are in the form of such comic, practical joking affairs--which we ignore in the belief that they possess no deeper significance. Yet it is precisely in their being regarded as unimportant that they take on importance. For in them we ritualize and dramatize attitudes which contradict and often embarrass the sacred values which we proclaim through our solemn ceremonies and rituals of nationhood." - Ralph Ellison, fully Ralph Waldo Ellison

"The learning autobiography... is a reflective document that provides an overview of significant aspects of your educational, personal, and professional life. It demonstrates your ability to integrate the experiences of your life into a lifelong learning process; that is, it represents the ways you've assigned meaning to your own life's story. " - Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

"The story of Jesus Christ appearing after he was dead is the story of an apparition, such as timid imaginations can always create in vision, and credulity believe. Stories of this kind had been told of the assassination of Julius Caesar." - Thomas Paine

"Since the Greeks, Western man has believed that Being, all Being, is intelligible, that there is a reason for everything ... and that the cosmos is, finally, intelligible. The Oriental, on the other hand, has accepted his existence within a universe that would appear to be meaningless, to the rational Western mind, and has lived with this meaninglessness. Hence the artistic form that seems natural to the Oriental is one that is just as formless or formal, as irrational, as life itself." - William Barrett, fully William Christopher Barrett

"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet." - Washington Irving

"The words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of success and happiness: ONE WITH LIFE, being one with NOW. You don’t live your life, life lives you. Life is the dancer and you are the dance." - W. Brugh Joy, fully William Brugh Joy

"There can indeed be little doubt that for nearly two hundred years after its establishment in Europe, the Christian community exhibited a moral purity which, if it has been equaled, has never for any long period been surpassed. Completely separated from the Roman world that was around them, abstaining alike from political life, from appeals to the tribunals, and from military occupations; looking forward continually to the immediate advent of their Master, and the destruction of the Empire in which they dwelt, and animated by all the fervor of a young religion, the Christiana found within themselves a whole order of ideas and feelings sufficiently powerful to guard them from the contamination of their age." - W. E. H. Lecky, fully William Edward Hartpole Lecky

"Furthermore philosophy treats of physics where a more careful knowledge is required because the problems which come under this head are numerous and of very different kinds; as, for example, in the case of the conducting of water. For at points of intake and at curves, and at places where it is raised to a level, currents of air naturally form in one way or another; and nobody who has not learned the fundamental principles of physics from philosophy will be able to provide against the damage which they do." - Vitruvius, fully Marcus Vitruvius Pollio NULL

"He was appalled by the examination system, when it was explained to him, he could not imagine a greater deterrent to the natural wish to learn than this pattern of cramming in information and disgorging it on demand." - Ursula Le Guin, fully Ursula Kroeber Le Guin

"Acquaint her with the danger of my state; Implore her, in my voice, that she makes friends to the strict deputy; bid herself assay him. I have great hope in that; for in her youth there is a prone and speechless dialect, Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art When she will play with reason and discourse, And well she can persuade. Measure for Measure, Scene ii" -

"Now For self-culture nothing equals respect for others. To counteract firmness nothing equals compliance. Consequently it can be said that the Way of respect and acquiescence is woman's most important principle of conduct. So respect may be defined as nothing other than holding on to that which is permanent; and acquiescence nothing other than being liberal and generous. Those who are steadfast in devotion know that they should stay in their proper places; those who are liberal and generous esteem others, and honor and serve chem." - Ban Zhao, courtesy name Huiban

"To choose her words with care; to avoid vulgar language; to speak at appropriate times; and nor to weary others with much conversation, may be called the characteristics of womanly words." - Ban Zhao, courtesy name Huiban

"Only they have to weep bitter tears who know what has come to them is the result of their foolish conduct, their ignorant way, their want of proper understanding of life and what love means." - Emil G. Hirsch, fully Emil Gustav Hirsch

"May his body rest free from evil." - Ennius, fully Quintus Ennius NULL

"Being a cult figure in one's own lifetime I am afraid is not at all pleasant. However I do not find that it tends to puff one up: in my case at any rate it makes me feel extremely small and inadequate. But even the nose of a very modest idol cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense." - J. R. R. Tolkien, fully John Ronald Reuel Tolkien