Quotes by Olaf Stapledon

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A nation . . . is just a society for hating foreigners. more...

I see, indeed I know, that in some sense God is love, and God is wisdom, and God is creative action, yes and God is beauty; but what God actually is, whether the maker of all things, or the fragrance of all things, or just a dream in our own hearts, I have not the art to know. Neither have you, I believe; nor any man, nor any spirit of our humble stature. more...

All this long human story, most passionate and tragic in the living, was but an unimportant, a seemingly barren and negligible effort, lasting only for a few moments in the life of the galaxy. When it was over, the host of the planetary systems still lived on, with here and there a casualty, and here and there among the stars a new planetary birth, and here and there a fresh disaster. more...

Barren, barren and trivial are these words. But not barren the experience. more...

In fact man's career has been less like a mountain torrent hurtling from rock to rock, than a great sluggish river, broken very seldom by rapids. more...

In a sick world even the hale are sick. more...

Even when all the worlds have frozen or exploded, and all the suns gone dead and cold, there'll still be time. Oh, God, what for? more...

Individuals of the earlier species had suffered from an almost insurmountable spiritual isolation from one another. Not even lovers, and scarcely even the geniuses with special insight into personality, ever had anything like accurate vision of one another. [T]he most precious gift that a lover could bring to the beloved was not virginity but sexual experience. The union, it was felt, was the more pregnant the more each party could contribute from previous sexual and spiritual intimacy with others. more...

Myriads of individuals, each one unique, live out their lives in rapt intercourse with one another, contribute their heart's pulses to the universal music, and presently vanish, giving place to others. All this age-long sequence of private living, which is the actual tissue of humanity's flesh, I cannot describe. I can only trace, as it were, the disembodied form of its growth. more...

I perceived that I was on a little round grain of rock and metal, filmed with water and with air, whirling in sunlight and darkness. And on the skin of that little grain all the swarms of men, generation by generation, had lived in labour and blindness, with intermittent joy and intermittent lucidity of spirit. And all their history, with its folk-wanderings, its empires, its philosophies, its proud sciences, its social revolutions, its increasing hunger for community, was but a flicker in one day of the lives of the stars. more...

The universe now appeared to me as a void wherein floated rare flakes of snow, each flake a universe. more...

No visiting angel could have guessed that this bland orb [Earth] teemed with vermin, with world-mastering, self-torturing, incipiently angelic beasts. more...

This kind of internal "telepathic" intercourse, which was to serve me in all my wanderings, was at first difficult, innefective, and painful. But in time I came to be able to live through the experiences of my host with vividness and accuracy, while yet preserving my own individuality, my own critical intelligence, my own desires and fears. Only when the other had come to realize my presence within him could he, by a special act of volition, keep particular thoughts secret from me. more...

I spent on the Other Earth many "other years," wandering from mind to mind and country to country, but I did not gain any clear understanding of the psychology of the Other Men and the significance of their history till I encountered one of their philosophers, an aging but still vigorous man whose eccentric and unpalatable views had prevented him from attaining eminence. more...

The one reasonable goal of social life was affirmed to be the creation of a world of awakened, of sensitive, intelligent, and mutually understanding personalities, banded together for the common purpose of exploring the universe and developing the human spirit's manifold potentialities. more...

It is better to be destroyed than to triumph in slaying the spirit... We die praising the universe in which at least such an achievement as ours can be. more...

The cosmos exploded, actualizing its potentiality of space and time. The centers of power, like fragments of a bursting bomb, were hurled apart. But each one retained in itself, as a memory and a longing, the single point of the whole; and each mirrored in itself aspects of all the others throughout all the cosmical space and time. more...

To say that the cosmos was expanding is equally to say that its members were contracting. The ultimate centers of power, each at first coincident... themselves generated the cosmical space by their disengagement from each other. more...

The expansion of the whole cosmos was but the shrinkage of all its physical units and of the wavelengths of light. more...

It seemed to me that I, the spirit of so many worlds, the flower of so many ages, was the Church Cosmical, fit at last to be the bride of God. But instead I was blinded and seared and struck down by terrible light. more...

The creator, if he should love his creature, would be loving only a part of himself; but the creature, praising the creator, praises an infinity beyond himself. more...

It is enough to have been created, to have embodied for a moment the infinite and tumultuously creative spirit. It is infinitely more than enough to have been used, to have been the rough sketch for some perfected creation. Looking into the future, I saw without sorrow, rather with quiet interest, my own decline and fall. more...

[S]ervants of darkness had no lasting joy in their service. In all of them the will for darkness was a perversion of the will for the light. In all but a few maniacs the satisfaction of the will for darkness was at all times countered by a revulsion which the unhappy spirit either dared not confess even to itself, or else rejected as cowardly and evil. more...

[T]he individual in whom the will for the light is strong and clear finds his heart inextricably bound up with the struggle of the forces of light in his native place and time. Much as he may long for the opportunity of fuller self- expression in a happier world, he knows that for him self-expression is impossible save in the world in which his mind is rooted. The individual in whom the will for the light is weak soon persuades himself that his opportunity lies elsewhere. more...

The Tibetan missionaries in their mood of bright confidence disconcerted the imperial governments by laughing the new movement into frustration. For a sham faith cannot stand ridicule. more...

In man, social intercourse has centred mainly on the process of absorbing fluid into the organism, but in the domestic dog and to a lesser extent among all wild canine species, the act charged with most social significance is the excretion of fluid. more...

I loathe the urchin's cruelty to the cat, but I will not loathe the urchin. I loathe Hitler's mass-torturing, but not Hitler; and the money-man's heartlessness, but not the man. I love the swallow's flight, and I love the swallow; the urchin's gleam of tenderness, and the urchin. more...

Without Satan, with God only, how poor a universe, how trite a music! more...

In you, humanity is precarious; and so, in dread and in shame, you kill the animal in you. And its slaughter poisons you. more...

It seemed to me that I now saw the Star Maker in two aspects: as the spirit's particular creative mood that had given rise to me, the cosmos; and also, most dreadfully, as something incomparably greater than creativity, namely as the eternally achieved perfection of the absolute spirit. Barren, barren and trivial are these words. But not barren the experience. more...

In that instant when I had seen... the Star Maker, I had glimpsed, in the very eye of that splendor, strange vistas of being; as though in the depths of the hypercosmical past and the hypercosmical future also, yet coexistent in eternity, lay cosmos beyond cosmos. ... more...

That strange blend of the commercial traveller, the missionary and the barbarian conqueror, which was the American abroad. more...

Philosophy is an amazing tissue of really fine thinking and incredible, puerile mistakes. It's like one of those rubber 'bones' they give dogs to chew, damned good for the mind's teeth, but as food - no bloody good at all. more...

So might we ourselves look down into some rock-pool where lowly creatures repeat with naive zest dramas learned by their ancestors aeons ago. more...

We have no government and no laws, if by law is meant a stereotyped convention supported by force, and not to be altered without the aid of cumbersome machinery. more...

Henceforth the cosmos, once a swarm of blazing galaxies, each a swarm of stars, was composed wholly of star-corpses. These dark grains drifted through the dark void, like an infinitely tenuous smoke rising from an extinguished fire. Upon these motes, these gigantic worlds, the ultimate populations had created here and there with their artificial lighting a pale glow, invisible even from the innermost ring of lifeless planets. more...

Great are the stars, and man is of no account to them. But man is a fair spirit, whom a star conceived and a star kills. He is greater than those bright blind companies. For though in them there is incalculable potentiality, in him there is achievement, small, but actual. Too soon, seemingly, he comes to his end. But when he is done he will not be nothing, not as though he had never been; for he is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things. more...

He should avail himself of their resources in such ways as to advance the expression of the spirit in the life of mankind. He should use them so as to afford to every human being the greatest possible opportunity for developing and expressing his distinctively human capacity as an instrument of the spirit, as a centre of sensitive and intelligent awareness of the objective universe, as a centre of love of all lovely things, and of creative action for the spirit. more...

Sooner or later for good or ill, a united mankind, equipped with science and power, will probably turn its attention to the other planets, not only for economic exploitation, but also as possible homes for man. . . . The goal for the solar system would seem to be that it should become an interplanetary community of very diverse worlds . . . . Through the pooling of this wealth of experience, through this 'commonwealth of worlds,' new levels of mental and spiritual development should become possible, levels at present quite inconceivable to man. more...

My dear, it is a great strength to have faced the worst and to have *felt* it a feature of beauty. Nothing ever after can shake one. more...

Men endured so much for war, but for peace they dared nothing. more...

Our outworn economic system dooms millions to frustration. more...


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