E

EAGLES

Where the carrion is, there the eagles will gather.

Boehme of Alexandria.  Quoted by Durrell, Justine (Faber), 49.

5/87

EARTH

The earth goes on the earth glittering in gold,
The earth goes to the earth sooner than it wold;
The earth builds on the earth castles and towers,
The earth says to the earth, All this is ours.

Anon, inscribed in Melrose Abbey, in The Faber Book of Contemplative Verse.

11/88

EARTH

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the
doting
fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
and
poked
thee,
has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy
beauty .how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and /buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
gods
(but
true
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
rhythmic
lover
thou answerest
them only with
spring)

Cummings, e.e. “O sweet spontaneous”.

4/2000

EARTH AND WATER see CHANGE AND STASIS, 6/98

EARTH, THE see MUNDANE SHELL, 5/98

ECSTASY

[Clubbers are forever complaining that the drugs aren’t as good as they used to be, that the music has got worse, that the wrong sort of people have invaded the scene.  The reason … is that these feelings of evanescence and loss are built into the drug itself.  (Reviewer)]  It is distilled happiness, freed from the gravity of time, a weightless euphoria.  Paradoxically, the effect of this is one of profound nostalgia, for you find yourself grieving for the moment even as you experience it.

Aitkenhead, Decca, in review of her book on Ecstasy drug, The Promised Land, Daily Telegraph, 23/02/02, p 13.

2/02

EDUCATION

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

Russell, Bertrand, Unpopular Essays, Ch. 6, 7 or 8.

4/03

EFFECTIVENESS

It is therefore our business… To be fully persuaded that all virtue which is impracticable is spurious; and rather to run the risk of falling into faults in a course which leads us to act with effect and energy, that to loiter out our days without blame and without use.

Burke, Edmund, Thoughts on the cause of the present discontent (1770), in Bridges, The Spirit of Man, 404.

9/87

EFFORT

The one thing that matters is the effort.  It continues, whereas the end to be attained is but an illusion of the climber, as he fares on from crest to crest; and once the goal is reached, it has no meaning.  Thus, too, there is no progress without acceptance of that which is, the Here and Now – that from which you are ever setting forth. …  You go seeking for a meaning in life when life’s lesson is, above all, man’s need to fulfil himself and not to gain the spurious peace that comes of sterilising conflicts. … every irreconcilable dilemma forces you to wax greater so that you may absorb it within yourself.  (141-2)
… ‘ends’ are mere appearances, landmarks strewn haphazard along a path whose issue is hidden from you. … only the direction has a meaning.  It is the going towards that matters, not the destination, for all journeys end in death.  (150)
Preparing the future is but stablishing the present.  (154)
There is no landscape to see from the mountain top except insofar as you have built one up by the long effort of your ascent.  (162)

St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952).

4/85

EGO

If there is ‘I’ in one’s presence, then God and the devil are of no account.  [A saying of his father’s.]

Gurdjieff, G L, Meetings with Remarkable Men (Picador, 1978), 46.

1981

EGO

The ego is… the tendency to absolutise one’s present state of being. [It is not a thing, but a faulty interpretation.  Since it is not there, you don’t need to crush it, or destroy it, or even get beyond it, just forget about it!]

Sangharakshita, Know your Mind, 188.

6/99

EGOTISM

‘Egotism’ here means, of course, not selfishness ([A. L. Rowse] could be kind and generous towards those who liked), but having a vision of the world that was utterly centred on himself…. The world could not fail to be of interest: it was the backdrop on which all his own ambitions and emotions were projected, and everything that happened to him was necessarily interesting because it happened to him.

Malcolm, Noel, Sunday Telegraph Review, 23/3/03, 13.

3/03

EGOTISM

Most people hate egotists.
They remind them of themselves.
I love egotists.
They remind me of me.

Smullyan, Raymond, The Tao is Silent (HarperSanfrancisco, 1977), 132.

3/07

EGOTISM see CREATIVITY, 12/87; SELF-EXPRESSION, 12/87

ELOQUENCE AND RHETORIC

‘He that hath good thoughts, and cannot clearly express them, were as good as to have thought nothing at all.’ [Pericles, in The History of the Peloponnesian War, Hobbes’ translation.]
… Hobbes was troubled by the techniques of elocutio: sensitivity to the passions of one’s audience and an ability to adapt the tropes and rhythms of one’s speech to maximum emotional effect. … The techniques of elocutio were grounded on what he regarded as the greatest threat to peace and order: the wild swings in people’s views about justice depending on where their passions and appetites happened to alight.  Rhetoric made a virtue of tracking the swings and pandering to them, whereas for Hobbes the highest priority was to bring them under control and if possible banish them altogether from political life.
‘There is nothing that I distrust more than my Elocution.  [Still] if there be not powerful Eloquence, which procureth attention, the effect of Reason will be little.’  [Hobbes, in Leviathan.]

Waldron, Jeremy, London Review of Books, 20 January 2000, 17.

2/2000

EMOTION

All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and distorts you.

Rilke, quoted in Robbins, Awakening the Giant Within, 156.

1/93

EMOTION

If belief maps the world, and desire targets it, emotion tints or colours it: it enlivens it or darkens it, as the case may be.

Wollheim, Richard, On the Emotions (Yale, 1999), quoted London Review of Books, 30 March 2000, 9.

5/2000

EMOTION IN INFANT

Anyone who listens to a child’s crying and understand what he hears will know that it harbours dormant psychic forces, terrible forces different from anything commonly assumed.  Profound rage, pain and lust for destruction.

Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 2.

1979

EMOTION see INTELLECT AND EMOTION 12/85; ART, 12/87; IDEAS, 7/94

EMOTION, VERBALISING

By the use of the language of sorrow I had for the time being obliterated my sorrow – so powerful is the charm of words, which for us reduces to manageable entities all the passions that would otherwise madden and destroy us.

Wolfe, Gene, The Shadow Of The Torturer (Arrow/Hutchinson, London, 1981) 217.

4/95

EMOTIONAL AUTHENTICITY see AUTHENTICITY, EMOTIONAL, 12/03

EMPATHY

The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person not to our own.  A man to be greatly good must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and many others, the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.  The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. …  Poetry in large is the circumference of the imagination… [and] strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens the limb.

Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry”.  Reiterated in his essay “Love”, and “On Moral Virtue “(?), and in the poem quoted in Sangharakshita, A Survey of Buddhism.

2/85

EMPATHY

By the fact that we imagine a thing which is like ourselves, and which we have not regarded with any emotion, to be affected with any emotion, we are also affected with a like emotion.

Spinoza, Ethics, quoted Ashton, R, George Eliot (Oxford, 1983), 75.  Also see Middlemarch, 243.

1/91

EMPATHY

It is when we tried to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun.

Conrad, Joseph, Lord Jim (1900), quoted by “Pythiae”, Independent, 31 December, 1992.

1/93

EMPATHY (‘IN-SEEING’)

Can you imagine with me how glorious it is to in-see a dog, for example, as you pass it…?  I don’t mean… regarding it merely, so to speak, as a window upon the human world lying behind it: not that; what I mean is to let yourself precisely into the dog’s centre, the place where God, as it were, would have sat down for a moment when the dog was finished, in order to watch it during its first embarrassments and inspirations. … For a while you can endure being inside the dog; you just have to be alert and jump out in time, before its environment has completely enclosed you, since otherwise you would remain the dog in the dog and be lost for everything else. … my world-feeling, my earthly bliss was… in the indescribably swift, deep, timeless moments of this God-like in-seeing.

Rilke, letter (1914), quoted by Mitchell, Selected Poetry (Picador/Pan, 1987), 313.

7/98

EMPIRICIST see BELIEVING, 7/94

EMPTINESS

Beneath a thundery glaze
The raindrops fall.
What is this new oppression of my heart?
Have I not looked upon this scene before!
These leafy dromedaries
Dark green,
Painted upon that wall
Of livid sky
Where vacancy’s bright silent spiders crawl!//
The hills pure outlined contours on that light
Empty my soul.
I watch those spidery lines
Bright violet.//
And there’s a poisonous cloud as dark as jet
Pouring from heaven.

Turner, W J, poem ix in a sequence in The Oxford Book of Modern Verse.

82

EMPTINESS

In the more obscure scientific circles which I frequent there is a legend circulating about the late distinguished scientist who, in his declining years, persisted in wearing enormous padded boots much too large for him.  He had developed, it seems, what to his fellows was a wholly irrational fear of falling through the interstices of that largely empty molecular space which common men in their folly speak of as the world.  A stroll across his living room floor had become, for him, something as dizzily horrendous as the activities of a window washer on the Empire State Building. … this was the natural world which he had helped to create, and in which, at last, he had found himself a lonely and imprisoned occupant.  All round him the ignorant rushed on their way over the illusion of substantial floors, leaping, though they did not see it, from particle to particle over a bottomless abyss.

Eiseley, Loren, The Firmament Of Time, 153.

2/92

EMPTINESS see NIHILISM, 7/90

ENEMIES see HATRED, 8/2000

ENGLAND

Lords and Commons of England.  – Consider what nation it is whereof ye are: a nation not slow and dull, but of quick, ingenious and piercing spirit; acute to invent, subtile and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point that human capacity can soar to.

Milton, quoted by the editor, in Aubrey’s Brief Lives, (Penguin, 1972), 21.

9/97

ENGLISH LANGUAGE see CLEAR WRITING, 1/02

ENJOYMENT

… Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all Ages as with your walk and table: till you are intimately equated with that shadowing nothing out of which the world was made: till you love men so as to desire their happiness with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own: till you delight in God for being good to all: you never enjoy the world.

Traherne, Thomas, Centuries of Meditations, in Partridge, Usage and Abusage, 317.

4/88

ENNUI AS DESIRING DESIRES see DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN DESIRES REALISED, 11/01

EPITOME

All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem:
In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:
Breath and bloom, shade and shine, – wonder, wealth, and – how far above them –
Truth, that’s brighter than gem,
Trust, that’s purer than pearl, –
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe – all were for me
In the kiss of one girl.

Browning, “Summum Bonum”.

12/88

EQUALITY

… the man without hierarchy, who envies his neighbour if his neighbour excels him and fain would pull him down to his own level.  But when all are levelled out into the flatness of a stagnant lake, what joy will they have of it? … men have settled tamely down, each in his pothole, calling stagnation happiness. …  (p 18)
The mass… is formless, straining all ways at once, and tramples on the creative impulse.  True, it is evil that a single man should crush the herd, but… the worst form of slavery… is when the herd crushes out the man. … if you wish them to be brothers, have them build a tower.  But if you would have them hate each other, throw them corn.  (p 52)

St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952).

4/85

EQUALITY

Little by little forgetting Man, we limited our code to the problems of the individual.  We have gone on preaching the equality of men.  But having forgotten Man, we no longer knew what it was we were preaching.  Having forgotten in what men were equal, we enunciated a vague affirmation that was no use to us.  How can there be any material equality between individuals as such – the sage and the brute, the imbecile and the genius?  On the material plane, equality implies that all men are identical and occupy the same place in the community; which is absurd.  Wherefore the principle of equality degenerates and becomes the principle of identity.
We have gone on preaching the liberty of men.  But having forgotten Man, we have defined our liberty as a sort of vague licence limited only at the point where one man does injury to another…

St.-Exupery, Flight to Arras, 160-1.

3/88

EQUALITY

Lincoln said his feelings would not admit of racial equality, as with most whites, North and South.  ‘Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgement, is not the sole question.  A universal feeling, whether well-or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded.’

Lincoln, Abraham, quoted in review of biography by T H Donald (Cape), Sunday Telegraph, 7 January 1996.

1/96

EQUALITY

In the spirit, I am as separate as one star is from another, as different in quality and quantity. … One man isn’t any better than another, not because they are equal, but because they are intrinsically OTHER, that there is no term of comparison. The minute you begin to compare, one man is seen to be far better than another, all the inequality you can imagine is there by nature.

Lawrence, D H, Women in Love, Ch 8.

11/12

EQUALITY see SOCIALISM, 9/89

EROS

Eros is the aspiration of our mortal nature towards immortality, and is therefore impatient to procreate.  But there are two kinds of procreation, one according to the body and the other according to the spirit, and Plato, like Jung, places the second well above the first.  (p 51)
Eros is the mediator from the flesh to the spirit.  (p 35)

Lilar, Susanne, Aspects of Love, translated by J Griffin (Panther, 1967).

12/86

ERROR

He who only tastes his error will long dwell with it, will take delight in it… while he who drains its to the dregs will, if he be not crazy, find it out.

Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 446.

10/93

ESCAPISM

I’ll go, said I, to the woods and hills,
In a park of does I’ll make my fires,
And I’ll fare like the badger and fox, I said,
And be done with mean desires.//
Never a lift of the hand I’ll give
Again in the world to bidders and buyers;
I’ll live with the snakes in the hedge, I said,
And be done with mean desires.//
I’ll leave – and I left – my own true love,
O faithful heart that never tires!
I will return, though I’ll not return
To perish of mean desires.//
Farewell, farewell to my kinsmen all,
The worst were thieves and the best were liars,
But the devil must take what he gave, I said,
For I’m done with mean desires.//
But the snake, the fox, the badger and I
Are one in blood, like sons and sires,
And as far from home as kingdom come
I follow my mean desires.

Coppard, A E, ” The Apostate”, The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 171.

12/86

ESCAPISM

Be mine a philosopher’s life in the quiet woodland ways,
Where if I cannot be gay let a passionless peace be my lot,
Far off from the clamour of liars belied in the hubbub of lies;
From the long-necked geese of the world that are ever hissing dispraise
Because their natures are little, and whether he heed it or not,
Where each man walks with his head in a cloud of poisonous flies.

Tennyson, Maud, part I, section IV, verse IX.

10/86

ESCAPISM see COWERING, 8/87

ETERNITY

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright: —
And round beneath it, time in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.

Vaughan, Henry

82

ETERNITY

‘Then how long will it last, this love?’  (In jest)
‘I don’t know.’
‘Three weeks, three years, three decades?’
‘You are like all the others… trying to shorten eternity with numbers.’

Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 248.

5/87

ETERNITY

Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until death tramples it to fragments. …

Shelley, Adonais.

9/87

ETERNITY

We of the here-and-now are not for a moment satisfied in the world of time, nor are we bound in it; we are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us.  In that vast ‘open’ world, all beings are – one cannot say ‘contemporaneous’, for the very fact that time has ceased determines the fact that they all are.  Everywhere transience is plunging into the depth of Being… It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable birth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully, and passionately that its essence can rise again ‘invisibly’, inside us.  We are the bees of the invisible.  We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.  The [Duino] Elegies show us at this work. …

Rilke, letter (1925), quoted by Mitchell, Selected Poetry (Picador/Pan, 1987), 316.

7/98

ETERNITY

Eternity: cold storage for high hopes.

Bierce, Ambrose (adapted from), in The Wits Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).

1/97

ETERNITY

Brute force crushes many plants. Yet the plants rise again. The pyramids will not last a moment, compared with the daisy. And before Buddha or Jesus spoke the nightingale sang, and long after the words of Jesus and Buddha are gone into oblivion, the nightingale still will sing. Because it is neither preaching nor teaching nor commanding nor urging. It is just singing. And in the beginning was not a Word, but a chirrup.

Lawrence, D H, ‘Tarquinia’, from Sketches of Etruscan Places.

2/02

ETERNITY see FUTURE, 9/04

ETHICS

The roots of empathy, compassion, and love lie in that intimate encounter where we hear the other wordlessly say: “do not kill me, do not rob me, do not abuse me, do not deceive me, do not betray me, do not insult me, do not waste my time, do not try to possess me, do not bear me ill will, do not misconstrue me”. These pleas are the foundation of an ethics that Buddhism describes as “natural” as opposed to “entailed.”

Batchelor, Stephen, Living with the Devil (Riverhead Books, New York, 2004), 132.

4/14

ETHICS AND COGNITION

Cognitive capacity seems to be rooted in our moral capacity. It isn’t captured by… the reductive view of intelligence as mental “processing power”, as though the data of experience were simply given to us, the way they are to a computer, ready for processing. In the real world, problems do not present themselves unambiguously. Piston slap may indeed sound like loose tappets, so to be a good mechanic you have to be constantly attentive to the possibility that you may be mistaken. This is an ethical virtue.// Iris Murdoch writes that to respond to the world justly, you first have to perceive it clearly, and this requires a kind of “unselfing”. “Anything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity and realism is to be connected with virtue”. “Virtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is.” This attempt is never fully successful, because we are preoccupied with our own concerns. [The artist and the mechanic] use their imagination “not to escape the world but to join it, and this exhilarates us because of the distance between our ordinary dulled consciousness and an apprehension of the real”.

(Iris Murdoch quotes are from her The Sovereignty of Good.)

Crawford, Matthew, The Case for Working with Your Hands (Penguin, 2009), 99.

11/13

ETHICS, HABIT OF

Our lives make a moral tradition for our individual selves, as the life of mankind at large makes a moral tradition for the race; and to have once acted nobly seems a reason why we should always be noble.  But Tito was feeling the effect of an opposite tradition: he had won no memories of self-conquest and perfect faithfulness from which he could have a sense of falling.

Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 311.

7/94

ETHNIC RELIGION see GROUP, 10/86

EUREKA see DISCOVERY, 8/92

EVANGELIST

[For a very sharp description, see:]

Tolstoy, Resurrection (F R Henderson, 1900.  Louise Maude translation), 330.

4/87

EVENTS FROM FEELINGS see KARMA, 12/87

EVIL

Evil-doing… is energy misdirected. …  The cedar tree… lives on mud, but transforms it into a crown of leafage, fed by sunlight.  Thus mud is transmuted into virtue.

St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952), 69.

4/85

EVIL

Evil is good perverted.

Paracelsus, quoted in Lawrence Durrell, Justine (Faber), 42.

5/87

EVIL AND GOOD

[Man is part each – see:]

Blake, Annotations to Lavater, 495.

10/93

EVIL see SIN, 3/89; DEATH, 6/98; HUMANITY, 6/13

EVILS

So today. Society consists of a mass of weak individuals trying to protect themselves, out of fear, from every possible imaginary evil, and of course, by their very fear, bringing the evil into being.

Lawrence, D H, Apocalypse, IV.

2/02

EVOLUTION

Yet into this world of the machine [the physical] – this mechanical disturbance surrounded by desert silences – a ghost has come, a ghost whose step must have been as light and imperceptible as the first scurry of a mouse in Cheops’ tomb.  Musing over the Archean strata, one can hear and see it in the sub-cellars of the mind itself, a little green in a fulminating spring, some strange objects floundering and helpless in the ooze on the tide line, something beating, beating, like a heart until a mounting thunder goes up through the towering strata, until no drum that ever was can produce its rhythm, until no mind can contain it, until it rises, wet and seaweed-crowned, an apparition from marsh and tide pool, gross with matter, gurgling and inarticulate, ape and man-ape, grisly and fang-scarred, until the thunder is in oneself and is passing – to the ages beyond – to a world unknown, yet forever being born.

Eiseley, Loren, The Firmament Of Time (Atheneum, 1967), 55-6.

2/92

EVOLUTION

All creatures hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and do you want to be the ebb of this great tide, and return to the animals rather than overcome man?  (p 3)
Let your love towards life be love towards your highest hope: and let your highest hope be the highest idea of life!
But you should let me commend you to your highest idea – and it is: Man is something that should be overcome.  (“Of War and Warriors”.)

Nietzsche, Zarathustra.

4/98

EVOLUTION

At first it [the universe] fulfilled his [the creator as pilot] instructions more clearly, but as time went on, more carelessly.  The bodily element in it was responsible for its failure.  This bodily factor belongs to it in its most primitive condition; for before it came into its present order as a universe it was an utter chaos of disorder.  It was from him that composed it that it has received all the virtue it possesses, while from its primal chaotic condition all the wrongs and troubles that are in heaven arise in it, and these it engenders in turn in the living creatures.  When it is guided by the pilot, it produces much good and but little evil in the creatures it raises and sustains.  When it must travel on without him, things go well enough in the years immediately after he abandoned control, but as time goes on and forgetfulness settles in, the ancient condition of discord also begins to assert its sway.  At last, as this cosmic era draws to a close, this disorder comes to a head.  [The Stranger is instructing the young Socrates.] (Smolin quoting Plato, The Statesman) (p. 177.)
[Smolin comments later:] the question why there is life in the universe takes on a very different light in such a postulated non-equilibrium universe than it did in the old picture of an equilibrium universe.  In the old picture, the existence of life is an anomaly, or at least an enormous improbability, which thus can only be the result of a statistical fluke.  In a postulated non-equilibrium picture, the universe remains permanently in a non-equilibrium state.  Such a state is a necessary condition for life to exist indefinitely in the universe.  We see that in this picture living things share in some ways, and extend in other ways, the basic properties of non-equilibrium self-organised systems that seem to characterise the universe on every scale, from the cosmos as a whole to the surface of planets.
… if it is possible to construct a new picture of cosmology based on non-equilibrium rather than equilibrium thermodynamics, it will give us a picture of the universe in which the existence of life might be comprehensible and natural.  But, even more than this, the possibility of conceiving the universe as a self-organised system, in which a variety of improbable structures – and indeed life itself – exist permanently, without need of pilot or other external agent, offers us the possibility of constructing a scientific cosmology that is finally liberated from the crippling duality that lies behind Plato’s myth.  It is clear that if the natural state of matter is chaos, an external intelligence is needed to explain the order and beauty of the world.  But if life, order, and structure are the natural state of the cosmos itself, then our existence, indeed our spirit, might finally be comprehended as created naturally, by the world, rather than unnaturally and in opposition to it.  (p 199)
It is… the ugly places made by a civilisation that were planned. … a process of evolution in which different designs and different intentions interact, leading to the discoveries of harmonious compromises, can produce something more beautiful [e.g. the city] than the design of a single planner.
We look around and see that our universe is beautiful and that, with its enormous variety of phenomena spread out over every scale from the nuclear to the cosmological, is resembles more the ancient city than the modern shopping centre.
… perhaps for the first time in human history, we know enough to imagine how a universe like ours might have come to be without the infinite intelligence and foresight of God.  For is it not conceivable that the universe is as we find it to be because it made itself; because the order, structure and beauty we see reflected on every scale other manifestations of a continual process of self organisation, of self tuning, that is acted out over very long periods of time?  (p 219)

Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997).

4/99

EVOLUTION

Surely nobody who knows enough about the phylogenetic evolution of the world of organisms can feel any resistance to the knowledge that he himself owes his existence to this greatest of all natural phenomena. Everything we know confirms the fact of evolution; it possesses, too, everything that makes a ‘myth of creation’ valuable; utter convincingness, entrancing beauty and awe-inspiring greatness.

Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression (1966).

2/2000

EVOLUTION

We are judging retrospectively when we say that evolution has been progressive in character and in doing so we tend to remember the success stories and forget the failures. In spite of these reservations, I think it would be unwise to dismiss altogether the progressive tendency of evolution as a phenomenon that calls for no interpretation – it would be unwise, indeed, to assume that our prevailing ideas about evolution were completely satisfactory and left nothing to be explained.

Medawar, Peter, The Life Sciences (1977).

2/2000

EVOLUTION

“Evolution” is a spirit notion which soul does not recognise.  Traditional societies do not evolve.  They live within a mythology which contains all imaginative possibilities, Earth Goddesses no less than Heraclean egos.  These are embodied or expressed in the sacred action called ritual, but they are not literally acted out.  Because we are changing, we think of ourselves as evolving.  We are not.  We are literalising the old myths.  Since these always include symmetrical and inverted variants of each other, we are forced to act out of these variants as enantiodromias — a swing to an equal and opposite literalism.

Harpur, Patrick, The Philosophers Secret Fire (Penguin, 2002), 242.

8/02

EVOLUTION, DIRECTION OF

‘Doctor, do you believe there is a direction to evolution?  Do you believe, Doctor, … Doctor, do you believe? …’ Instead of the words, I hear a faint piping, and see an eager scholar’s face squeezed and dissolving on the body of a chest-thumping ape.  ‘Doctor, is there are direction?’
I see it then, the trunk that stretches monstrously behind him.  It winds out of the door, down dark and obscure corridors to the cellar, and vanishes into the floor.  It writhes, it crawls, it barks and scuffles and roars, and the odour of the swamp exhales from it.  That pale young scholar’s face is the last bloom on a curious animal extrusion through time.

Eiseley, Loren, The Firmament Of Time (Atheneum, 1967), 167-8.

2/92

EVOLUTION, LOWER see NATURE’S CRUELTY, 10/86; MANKIND, 10/86; DARWINISM, 4/87

EXAMINATION

The greatest good to man is to discourse daily about virtue and those other matters about which you have heard me speak and examine both myself and others, … the life without examination is not worth living.

Socrates, in Plato’s Apology, in L Casson (Ed), Classical Age Laurel, Dell, New York, 1965) 341-2.

6/98

EXAMPLE

Examples work more forcibly on the mind than precepts.

Fielding, Henry, Joseph Andrews, quoted by Peter Ackroyd, Albion 401.

4/14

EXCELLENCE AS GOAL (and EXCESS) see QUESTS, TWO, 5/98

EXCESS

… Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

7/87

EXEMPLIFICATION

Example is always more efficacious than precept.

Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas. Chap. xxx.

2/01

EXISTENTIAL see QUESTIONS, EXISTENTIAL, 8/04

EXPECTATION see WAITING, 8/99

EXPECTATIONS AND UNDERSTANDING see UNDERSTANDING, SELECTIVE, 8/99

EXPERIENCE

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch where thro’
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

Tennyson, from “Ulysses”.

2/87

EXPERIENCE

… there is no such thing as unprejudiced observation.  All observation is an activity with an aim (to find or check some regularity which is at least vaguely conjectured); an activity guided by problems, and by the context of expectations… There is no such thing as passive experience; no passively impressed association of impressed ideas.  Experience is the result of active exploration by the organism, of a search for regularities or invariants. …

Popper, Karl, Unended Quest, 51-2.

9/89

EXPERIENCE, AS ORDERED BY ART see ART, AS ORDERING EXPERIENCE, 5/87; ORDERING EXPERIENCE, 7/87

EXPLANATIONS

[When the Emperor has to execute people]… I bend my gaze upon the sickness of the archangel.
Well I know that the sole remedy lies in invocation, not explanation.  Have doctors’ explanations ever recalled a dead man to life? … True it is that the man died for… let us say, a disorder of the bowels.  But his life was more than a good order of the bowels. …  Nor can any remedy avail that is not creative, for in the fervour of men’s hearts alone will you build their unity. …  True, tomorrow it will harden into a motive, a chain of reasoning, a dogma…

St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952), 141.

4/85

EXPLICATION

“I am more or less happy when being praised,” wrote the politician Arthur Balfour, “not very comfortable when being abused, but I have moments of uneasiness when being explained.”

Bennett, Alan, ‘Joining the literature club’, Guardian Review. 4/10/14.

EXTRAVAGANCE, NEED FOR

Man’s chief difference from the brutes lies in the exuberant excess of his subjective propensities, – his pre-eminence over them simply and solely in the number and in the fantastic and unnecessary character of his wants, physical, moral, aesthetic, and intellectual. Had his whole life not been a quest for the superfluous, he would never have established himself as inexpugnably as he has done in the necessary. And from the consciousness of this he should draw the lesson that his wants are to be trusted; that even when their gratification seems farthest off, the uneasiness they occasion is still the best guide of his life, and will lead him to issues entirely beyond his present powers of reckoning. Prune down his extravagance, sober him, and you undo him.

James, William, ‘The Will to Believe’ (in Writings, 1878-99, Library of America, 1992).

12/12

EYES

Dark eyes adventure bring; the blue serene
Do promise paradise: and yours are green.

Belloc, “On Eyes”.

7/88

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