Quotations about   spirit

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What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out comes sighs, laughter, and dreams.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer and philosopher
Zorba the Greek, ch. 23 (1946)
Added on 9-Nov-20 | Last updated 9-Nov-20
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When great causes are on the move in the world, stirring all men’s souls, drawing them from their firesides, casting aside comfort, wealth, and the pursuit of happiness in response to impulses at once awe-striking and irresistible, we learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
BBC Radio broadcast (16 Jun 1941)
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First published in the Imperial Review (28 Jun 1941).
Added on 8-Oct-20 | Last updated 8-Oct-20
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But if physical death is the price that a man must pay to free his children and his white brethren from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing could be more redemptive. This is the type of soul force that I am convinced will triumph over the physical force of the oppressor.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness,” Speech, National Urban League, New York (6 Sep 1960)
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Added on 20-Mar-20 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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The way to avoid evil is not by maiming our passions, but by compelling them to yield their vigor to our moral nature. Thus they become, as in the ancient fable, the harnessed steeds which bear the chariot of the sun.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts (1858)
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Added on 10-Jul-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-17
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Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.

Richard Lovelace (1617-1657) English poet
“To Althea, from Prison,” l. 25 (1649)
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Added on 19-Jun-17 | Last updated 19-Jun-17
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And perhaps, after all, it is better that the lad should break his neck than that you should break his spirit.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
The Amateur Emigrant (1880)
Added on 7-Feb-17 | Last updated 7-Feb-17
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So give me the political economist, the sanitary reformer, the engineer; and take your saints and virgins, relics and miracles. The spinning-jenny and the railroad, Cunard’s liners and the electric telegraph, are to me, if not to you, signs that we are, on some points at least, in harmony with the universe; that there is a mighty spirit working among us, who cannot be your anarchic and destroying Devil, and therefore may be the Ordering and Creating God.

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
Yeast: A Problem, ch. 5 (1848)
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Added on 21-Jul-16 | Last updated 21-Jul-16
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I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Jul-16 | Last updated 8-Jul-16
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It’s so wrong to think that spectacular courage is the best bravery. The noblest bravery is battling against these dreadful daily assaults, often very minor, on one’s spirit.

Trollope - noblest bravery - wist_info

Joanna Trollope (b. 1943) British writer [pseud. Caroline Harvey]
The Rector’s Wife (1991)
Added on 13-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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An able man shows his Spirit by gentle words and resolute actions.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (15 Jan 1753)
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Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
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Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
1 Peter 3:3-4 [NIV]

Alt. trans.:

  • "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." [KJV]
  • "You should not use outward aids to make yourselves beautiful, such as the way you fix your hair, or the jewelry you put on, or the dresses you wear. Instead, your beauty should consist of your true inner self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of the greatest value in God's sight." [TEV]
  • "Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight." [NRSV]
Added on 24-Dec-14 | Last updated 24-Dec-14
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Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Faust, 1, “Outside the City Gate” (1808-1832) [tr. Wayne (1959)]
Added on 21-May-14 | Last updated 21-May-14
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The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Strength to Love, 7.3 (1963)
Added on 25-Apr-14 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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It behooves all men who wish to excel the other animals to strive with might and main not to pass through life unheralded, like the beasts, which Nature has fashioned groveling and slaves to the belly. All our power, on the contrary, lies in both mind and body; we employ the mind to rule, the body rather to serve; the one we have in common with the Gods, the other with the brutes. Therefore I find it becoming, in seeking renown, that we should employ the resources of the intellect rather than those of brute strength, to the end that, since the span of life which we enjoy is short, we may make the memory of our lives as long as possible.

[Omnis homines qui sese student praestare ceteris animalibus summa ope niti decet ne vitam silentio transeant veluti pecora, quae natura prona atque ventri oboedientia finxit. Sed nostra omnis vis in animo et corpore sita est; animi imperio, corporis servitio magis utimur; alterum nobis cum dis, alterum cum beluis commune est. Quo mihi rectius videtur ingeni quam virium opibus gloriam quaerere et, quoniam vita ipsa qua fruimur brevis est, memoriam nostri quam maxume longam efficere.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Catiline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 1, sent. 1-3 [tr. Rolfe (1931)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

"To maintain the dignity of human nature is the true ambition of man; and to that end it becomes the duty of all, who aspire to distinguish themselves from the race of inferior animals, to exert their most strenuous efforts, lest they pass their days in silence, like the herds of the field, formed by nature prone to the earth, and governed altogether by the incitements of appetite. Man is composed of mind and body, and in the exercise of both consists the energy of his nature. The mind is the directing principle; the body is subservient. The former we participate with the gods; the latter we hold in common with the brute creation. Hence the fame acquired by our intellectual powers has ever appeared to me the truest glory, far superior to all that can be achieved by mere corporeal vigor; and since the life we enjoy is frail and transitory, it should be the endeavour of every man to extend his fame, and leave a lasting memorial of his existence." [tr. Murphy (1807)]

"Men who would act up to the dignity of their nature ought not to pass their lives in obscurity, like the beasts of the field, formed with bodies prone to the earth, and under necessary subjection to their appetites. Now, our faculties are twofold; those of the soul, and those of the body: the soul was designed for sovereign command, the body for subjection: the former we enjoy in common with the gods, the latter with the brute creation. So that to me it appears more agreeable to nature to pursue glory by the abilities of the mind than those of the body; and as our lives are but of short duration, it should be our study to render our memory immortal." [tr. Rose (1831)]

"It becomes all men, who are anxious that they should excel other animals, to strive with their utmost might that they may not pass their life in silence like cattle, which nature has formed with their faces downwards, and slaves to their belly. But all our vigour is placed in the mind and in the body. We for the most part make use of the government of the mind, the submission of the body. The one we have in common with the gods, and the other with brutes. Wherefore it appears to me more proper to seek for glory by the abilities of the mind rather than by those of mere force; and since that life which we enjoy is short, to make the memory of ourselves as lasting as possible." [Source (1841)]

"It becomes all men, who desire to excel other animals, to strive, to the utmost of their power, not to pass through life in obscurity, like the beasts of the field, which nature has formed groveling and subservient to appetite. All our power is situated in the mind and in the body. Of the mind we rather employ the government; of the body, the service. The one is common to us with the gods; the other with the brutes. It appears to me, therefore, more reasonable to pursue glory by means of the intellect than of bodily strength, and, since the life which we enjoy is short, to make the remembrance of us as lasting as possible." [tr. Watson (1867)]

"Every man who is anxious to excel the lower animals should strive with all his power not to pass his life in obscurity like the brute beasts, whom nature has made the grovelling slaves of their belly. Now our whole ability resides jointly in our mind and body. In the case of the mind it is its power of guidance, in the case of the body its obedient service that we rather use, sharing the former faculty with the gods, the latter with the brute creation. This being so, I think it right to seek repute by my powers rather of intellect than of strength, and since the very life which we enjoy is short, to make the memory of us as abiding as may be." [tr. Pollard (1882)]

"All persons who are enthusiastic that they should transcend the other animals ought to strive with the utmost effort not to pass through a life of silence like the cattle, which nature has fashioned to be prone and obedient to their stomachs. Our entire power resides in the mind as well as the body: we use the mind to command, the body to serve; the former we share wit the gods, the latter with the beasts. Therefore it seems to me more correct to seek glory with our intellectual rather than with our physical resources, and, because the very life that we enjoy is short, to ensure that a recollection of ourselves lasts as long as possible. [tr. Woodman (2007)]
Added on 10-Apr-14 | Last updated 23-Oct-20
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In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Camus - invincible summer - wist_info quote

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Return to Tipasa,” Summer (1954)
Added on 13-Oct-09 | Last updated 15-Dec-15
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My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Letter, unsent (1927)

Written (in German) on a letter from a Colorado banker (5 Aug 1927), asking about the question of God. Quoted in H. Dukas, B. Hoffman (eds.), Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981).
Added on 17-Jul-09 | Last updated 20-Feb-21
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No other touchstone can test the heart of a man,
The temper of his mind and spirit, till he be tried
In the practice of authority and rule.

[ἀμήχανον δὲ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἐκμαθεῖν
ψυχήν τε καὶ φρόνημα καὶ γνώμην, πρὶν ἂν
ἀρχαῖς τε καὶ νόμοισιν ἐντριβὴς φανῇ.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 175ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Watling (1947)]
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Alt. trans.:

There is no man whose soul and will and meaning
Stand forth as outward things for all to see,
'Till he has shown himself by practice versed
In ruling under law and making laws.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

But hard it is to learn
The mind of any mortal or the heart,
Till he be tried in chief authority.
Power shows the man.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Yet 'tis no easy matter to discern
The temper of a man, his mind and will,
Till he be proved by exercise of power.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Now, it is impossible to know fully any man's character, will, or judgment, until he has been proved by the test of rule and law-giving.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Never can man be known.
His mind, his will, his passion ne'er appear,
Till power and office call them forth.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

No man can be fully known, in soul and spirit and mind, until he hath been seen versed in rule and law-giving.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

I am aware, of course, that no Ruler can expect complete loyalty from his subjects until he has been tested in office.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

You cannot learn of any man the soul,
the mind, and the intent until he shows
his practice of the government and law.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

There is no art that teaches us to know
The temper, mind, or spirit of any man
Until he has been proved by government
And lawgiving.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Of course you cannot know a man completely,
his character, his principles, sense of judgment,
not till he's shown his colors, ruling the people,
making laws. Experience, there's the test.
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 194ff]

No man has a mind that can be fully known,
In character or judgment, till he rules and makes law.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Now, there is no way to learn thoroughly the essence
of the whole man as well as his thought and judgment
until he has been seen engaged in ruling and making laws.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

It’s impossible
to really know a man, to know his soul,
his mind and will, before one witnesses
his skill in governing and making laws.
[tr. Johnston (2005), ll. 198-201]

It is impossible to really learn a man’s
mind, thought and opinion before he’s been initiated
into the offices and laws of the state.
[tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
Added on 30-Jun-08 | Last updated 21-Dec-20
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The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it may be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms — this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.

Einstein - sense of the mysterious - wist_info quote

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What I Believe,” Forum and Century (Oct 1930)
    (Source)

Einstein crafted and recrafted his credo multiple times in this period, and specifics are often muddled by differing translations and by his reuse of certain phrases in later writing. The Forum and Century entry appears to be the earliest. Some important variants:

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.

— "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild]" [tr. Bargmann (1954)]


The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms -- it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

— "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild]" [tr. Harris (1934)]


The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious.

[Das Schönste und Tiefste, was der Mensch erleben kann, ist das Gefühl des Geheimnisvollen. Es liegt der Religion sowie allem tieferen Streben in Kunst und Wissenschaft zugrunde. Wer dies nicht erlebt hat, erscheint mir, wenn nicht wie ein Toter, so doch wie ein Blinder. Zu empfinden, dass hinter dem Erlebbaren ein für unseren Geist Unerreichbares verborgen sei, dessen Schönheit und Erhabenheit uns nur mittelbar und in schwachem Widerschein erreicht, das ist Religiosität. In diesem Sinne bin ich religiös.]

Variant in "My Credo [Mein Glaubensbekenntnis]" (Aug 1932)


See parallel sentiments here, here, and here.
Added on 22-Aug-07 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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