Quotations about   ineffability

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Nothing is so firmly believed, as what we least know.

[Qu’il faut sobrement se mêler de juger des ordonnances divines.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 31, “That a Man must not be too hasty in judging of Divine Ordinances” (1580) [tr. Cotton (1686), Hazlitt (1877)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Nothing is so firmly believed, as that which a man knoweth least." [tr. Florio (1603)]
  • "Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known."
Added on 9-Nov-20 | Last updated 9-Nov-20
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You shouldn’t speak glibly about God. In Judaism you may not speak God’s name as a reminder that any human expression of the divine is likely to be so limited as to be blasphemous. But God should challenge your assumptions — you shouldn’t imagine you’ve got Him in your pocket.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
Interview with Bill Moyers, “NOW,” PBS (9 Apr 2004)
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Added on 2-Nov-20 | Last updated 2-Nov-20
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“My thoughts are not your thoughts. For as high as the heavens are the above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts, my ways above your ways.” It should be written over every preacher’s pulpit. […] Because so often we think that God’s ways are our ways. God’s thoughts are our thoughts. And we created God in our own image and likeness saying, “God approves of this. God forbids that. God desires the other.” […] This is where some of the worst atrocities of religion have come from. Because people have used this to give a sacred seal of a divine approval to some of their worst hatreds, loathings, and fears.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
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Quoting Isaiah 55:8.
Added on 31-Aug-20 | Last updated 31-Aug-20
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There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension, we must do what we can with the third.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
Rama Retold (1954)
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Added on 2-Jul-20 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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God only knows, God makes his plan,
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man.
We’re working our jobs, collect our pay,
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.

Paul Simon (b. 1941) American musician, singer-songwriter.
“Slip Slidin’ Away” (1977)
Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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God made life to be lived and not to be known.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 3-Jun-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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If you take the long view, the universe is just something small and round, like those water-filled balls which produce a miniature snowstorm when you shake them. (Although, unless the ineffable plan is a lot more ineffable than it’s given credit for, it does not have a giant plastic snowman at the bottom.)

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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“But the Great Plan can only be a tiny part of the overall ineffability,” said Crowley. “You can’t be certain that what’s happening right now isn’t exactly right, from an ineffable point of view.”

“It izz written!” bellowed Beelzebub.

“But it might be written differently somewhere else,” said Crowley. “Where you can’t read it.”

“In bigger letters,” said Aziraphale.

“Underlined,” Crowley added.

“Twice,” suggested Aziraphale.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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To know God better is only to realize how impossible it is that we should ever know him at all. I know not which is more childish, to deny him, or define him.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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“From what I remember,” replied Crowley, thoughtfully, “– and we were never actually on what you might call speaking terms — He wasn’t exactly one for a straight answer. In fact, in fact, he’d never answer at all. He’d just smile, as if He knew something that you didn’t.”

“And of course that’s true,” said the angel. “Otherwise, what’d be the point?”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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“I mean, maybe you just want to see how it all turns out. Maybe it’s all part of a great big ineffable plan. All of it. You, me, him, everything. Some great big test to see if what you’ve built all works properly, eh? You start thinking: it can’t be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire. And don’t bother to answer. If we could understand, we wouldn’t be us. Because it’s all — all –”

INEFFABLE, said the figure feeding the ducks.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players (i.e., everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens, “Eleven Years Ago” (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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