One cannot ignore half of life for the purposes of science, and then claim that the results of science give a full and adequate picture of the meaning of life. All discussions of 'life' which begin with a description of man's place on a speck of matter in space, in an endless evolutionary scale, are bound to be half-measures, because they leave out most of the experiences which are important to use as human beings.
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It seemed perfectly possible that, in spite of my certainty of my own genius, I might die of some illness, or perhaps even in a street accident, before I had ever glimpsed the meaning of life. My moods of happiness and self-confidence convinced me that I had a "destiny" to become a famous writer, and to be remembered as one of the most important thinkers of the century.
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Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic 'feeling' about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes 'pick up' accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station. Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick, lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things.
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The nineteenth century was the Age of Romanticism; for the first time in history, man stopped thinking of himself as an animal or a slave, and saw himself as a potential god. All of the cries of revolt against 'God' - De Sade, Byron's "Manfred", Schiller's "Robbers", Goethe's "Faust", Hoffmann's mad geniuses - are expressions of this new spirit. Is this why the 'spirits' decided to make a planned and consistent effort at 'communication'? It was the right moment. Man was beginning to understand himself.
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Faculty X is simply that latent power in human beings possess to reach beyond the present. After all, we know perfectly well that the past is as real as the present, and that New York and Singapore and Lhasa and Stepney Green are all as real as the place I happen to be in at the moment. Yet my senses do not agree. They assure me that this place, here and now, is far more real than any other place or any other time. Only in certain moments of great inner intensity do I know this to be a lie. Faculty X is a sense of reality, the reality of other places and other times, and it is the possession of it - fragmentary and uncertain though it is - that distinguishes man from all other animals
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These men are in prison: that is the Outsider's verdict. They are quite contented in prison-caged animals who have never known freedom; but it is prison all the same. And the Outsider? He is in prison too: nearly every Outsider in this book has told us so in a different language; but he knows it. His desire is to escape. But a prison-break is not an easy matter; you must know all about your prison, otherwise you might spend years in tunnelling, like the Abbe in The Count of Monte Cristo, and only find yourself in the next cell.
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There can be no doubt that the chief fault we have developed, through the long course of human evolution, is a certain basic passivity. When provoked by challenges, human beings are magnificent. When life is quiet and even, we take the path of least resistance, and then wonder why we feel bored. A man who is determined and active doesn't pay much attention to 'luck'. If things go badly, he takes a deep breath and redoubles his effort. And he quickly discovers that his moments of deepest happiness often come after such efforts. The man who has become accustomed to a passive existence becomes preoccupied with 'luck'; it may become an obsession. When things go well, he is delighted and good humored; when they go badly, he becomes gloomy and petulant. He is unhappy-or dissatisfied-most of the time, for even when he has no cause for complaint, he feels that gratitude would be premature; things might go wrong at any moment; you can't really trust the world... Gambling is one basic response to this passivity, revealing the obsession with luck, the desire to make things happen. The absurdity about this attitude is that we fail to recognize the active part we play in making life a pleasure. When my will is active, my whole mental and physical being works better, just as my digestion works better if I take exercise between meals. I gain an increasing feeling of control over my life, instead of the feeling of helplessness (what Sartre calls 'contingency') that comes from long periods of passivity. Yet even people who are intelligent enough to recognize this find the habit of passivity so deeply ingrained that they find themselves holding their breath when things go well, hoping fate will continue to be kind.
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No matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.
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Reade drew a deep breath. He said with resignation, "All right. I'll try to explain. But it's rather difficult. You see, I've devoted my life to the problem of why certain men see visions. Men like Blake and Boehme and Thomas Traherne. A psychologist once suggested that it's a chemical in the bloodstream-the same sort of thing that makes a dipsomaniac see pink elephants. Now obviously, I can't accept this view. But I've spent a certain amount of time studying the action of drugs, and taken some of them myself. And it's become clear to me that what we call 'ordinary consciousness' is simply a special, limited case... But this is obvious after a single glass of whiskey. It causes a change in consciousness, a kind of deepening. In ordinary consciousness, we're mainly aware of the world around us and its problems. This is awfully difficult to explain... " Fisher said, "You're being very clear so far. Please go on." "Perhaps an analogy will help. In our ordinary state of consciousness, we look out from behind our eyes as a motorist looks from behind the windscreen of a car. The car is very small, and the world out there is very big. Now if I take a few glasses of whiskey, the world out there hasn't really changed, but the car seems to have grown bigger. When I look inside myself, there seem to be far greater spaces than I'm normally aware of. And if I take certain drugs, the car becomes vast, as vast as a cathedral. There are great, empty spaces... No, not empty. They're full of all kinds of things-of memories of my past life and millions of things I never thought I'd noticed. Do you see my point? Man deliberately limits his consciousness. It would frighten him if he were aware of these vast spaces of consciousness all the time. He stays sane by living in a narrow little consciousness that seems to be limited by the outside world. Because these spaces aren't just inhabited by memories. There seem to be strange, alien things, other minds... " As he said this, he saw Violet de Merville shudder. He said, laughing, "I'm not trying to be alarming. There's nothing fundamentally horrible about these spaces. One day we shall conquer them, as we shall conquer outer space. They're like a great jungle, full of wild creatures. We build a high wall around us for safety, but that doesn't mean we're afraid of the jungle. One day we shall build cities and streets in its spaces.
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Oh... I'd been getting pretty sick of the office. It made me feel dead inside. Finally, the week-ends weren't long enough to get it out of my system. I couldn't read poetry or listen to music. It was like being constipated. Well, I got a holiday and went to Kent for a week's hiking. And for the first two days I felt nothing at all, just a sort of deadness inside. And one day I went into a pub in a place called Marden and had a couple of pints. And as I came out, a sort of bubble seemed to burst inside me, and I started feeling things again. And I suddenly felt an overwhelming hatred for cities and offices and people and everything that calls itself civilisation... "Then I got an idea. I sat down at the side of the road and thought about it. I'd read somewhere that the Manichees thought the world was created by evil. Well, it suddenly seemed to me that the forces behind the world weren't either good or evil, but something quite incomprehensible to human beings. And the only thing they want is movement, everlasting movement. That's the way I saw it suddenly. Human beings want peace, and they build their civilisations and make their laws to get peace. But the forces behind the world don't want peace. So they send down ertain men whose business is to keep the world in a turmoil - the Napoleons, Hitlers, Genghis Khans. And I called these men the Enemies, with a capital E. And I thought I belong among the Enemies - that's why I detest this bloody civilisation. And I suddenly began to feel better...
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You've a perfect right to call me as impractical as a dormouse, and to feel I'm out of touch with life. But this is the point where we simply can't see eye to eye. We've nothing whatever in common. Don't you see... it's not an accident that's drawn me from Blake to Whitehead, it's a certain line of thought which is fundamental to my whole approach. You see, there's something about them both... They trusted the universe. You say I don't know what the modern world's like, but that's obviously untrue. Anyone who's spent a week in London knows just what it's like... if you mean neurosis and boredom and the rest of it. And I do read a modern novel occasionally, in spite of what you say. I've read Joyce and Sartre and Beckett and the rest, and every atom in me rejects what they say. They strike me as liars and fools. I don't think they're dishonest so much as hopelessly tired and defeated." Lewis had lit his pipe. He did it as if Reade were speaking to someone else. Now he said, smiling faintly, "I don't think we're discussing modern literature." Reade had an impulse to call the debater's trick, but he repressed it. Instead he said quietly, "We're discussing modern life, and you brought up the subject. And I'm trying to explain why I don't think that murders and wars prove your point. I'm writing about Whitehead because his fundamental intuition of the universe is the same as my own. I believe like Whitehead that the universe is a single organism that somehow takes account of us. I don't believe that modern man is a stranded fragment of life in an empty universe. I've an instinct that tells me that there's a purpose, and that I can understand that purpose more deeply by trusting my instinct. I can't believe the world is meaningless. I don't expect life to explode in my face at any moment. When I walk back to my cottage, I don't feel like a meaningless fragment of life walking over a lot of dead hills. I feel a part of the landscape, as if it's somehow aware of me, and friendly.
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Isaiah Berlin once said that there are two kinds of writers, hedgehogs and foxes. He said the fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows just one thing. So Shakespeare is a typical fox; Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are typical hedgehogs. Now, I'm a typical hedgehog. I know just one thing, and I repeat it over and over again. I try to approach it from different angles to make it look different, but it's the same thing.
Now individual consciousness, as typified in human beings, has great advantages and great disadvantages. Individuality means a narrowing, and narrowness can be useful. It is good for close-up work. We have invented the magnifying glass and the microscope to narrow our vision, because narrowness makes for precision. But narrowness also makes for a failure of purpose, for exhaustion of the will; for purpose depends upon a broad vision, a clear sight of one's objective.
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It struck me that the popularity of Christmas is a matter of web-like consciousness. Childhood conditions us to relax and expand at Christmas, to forget petty worries and irritations and think in terms of universal peace. And so Christmas is the nearest to mystical experience that most human beings ever approach, with its memories of Dickens and Irving's Bracebridge Hall.
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No matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort 's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.
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I have a strong antipathy to everything connected with gardens, gardening and gardeners. . . . Gardening seems to me a kind of admission of defeat. . . . Man was made for better things than pruning his rose trees. The state of mind of the confirmed gardener seems to me as reprehensible as that of the confirmed alcoholic. Both have capitulated to the world. Both have become lotus eaters and drifters.
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Whereas in the past optimism had been regarded as rather shallow - because 'oh well, it's just your temperament, you happen to be just a cheerful sort of person' - what I wanted to do was to establish that in fact it is the pessimists who are allowing all kinds of errors to creep into their work.