Alexander Herzen Quotes | Quotes by Alexander Herzen

1The Death of the contemporary forms of social order ought to gladden rather than trouble the soul. Yet what is frightening is that the departing world leaves behind it not an heir, but a pregnant widow. Between the death of the one and the birth of the other, much water will flow by, a long night of chaos and desolation will pass.

2The people is always expressive of the truth. The life of a people cannot be a lie.

3A generation which has passed through the shop has absorbed standards and ambitions which are not of those of spaciousness, and cannot get away from them. Everything with them is done as though for sale, and they naturally have in view the greatest possible benefit, profit and that end of the stuff that will make the best show.

4I believe in nothing here, except a handful of people, a few ideas, and the fact that one cannot arrest movement.

5All religions have based morality on obedience, that is to say, on voluntary slavery. That is why they have always been more pernicious than any political organization. For the latter makes use of violence, the former - of the corruption of the will.

6It is possible to lead astray an entire generation, to strike it blind, to drive it insane, to direct it towards a false goal. Napoleon proved this.

7It seems to me that you are solving a problem which goes beyond the limits of physiology in too simple a way. Physiology has realized its problem with fortitude, breaking man down into endless actions and counteractions and reducing him to a crossing, a vortex of reflex acts. Let it now permit sociology to restore him as a whole. Sociology will wrest man from the anatomical theatre and return him to history.

8You can no more bridle passions with logic than you can justify them in the law courts. Passions are facts and not dogmas.

9Compassionate love may be strong. It sobs, it burns, then it wipes away its tears 鈥?and it does nothing.

10To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.

Alexander Herzen Quotes

11Science, which cuts its way through the muddy pond of daily life without mingling with it, casts its wealth to right and left, but the puny boatmen do not know how to fish for it.

12Never was Catholicism, never were the ideas of chivalry, impressed on men so deeply, so multifariously, as the bourgeois ideas.

13There is nothing in the world more stubborn than a corpse: you can hit it, you can knock it to pieces, but you cannot convince it.

14One must open men's eyes, not tear them out.

15The liberty of the individual is the greatest thing of all, it is on this and this alone that the true will of the people can develop.

16Modern Western thought will pass into history and be incorporated in it, will have its influence and its place, just as our body will pass into the composition of grass, of sheep, of cutlets, and of men.

17Laws to suppress tend to strengthen what they would prohibit. This is the fine point on which all legal professions of history have based their job security.

18We have wasted our spirit in the regions of the abstract and general just as the monks let it wither in the world of prayer and contemplation.

19History is the autobiography of a madman.

20We could hardly believe that after so many ordeals, after all the trials of modern skepticism, there was still so much left in our souls to destroy.

Alexander Herzen Quotes

21This socialism will develop in all its phases until it reaches its own extremes and absurdities. Then once again a cry of denial will break from the titanic chest of the revolutionary minority and again a mortal struggle will begin, in which socialism will play the role of contemporary conservatism and will be overwhelmed in the subsequent revolution, as yet unknown to us.

22People who have realized that this is a dream imagine that it is easy to wake up, and are angry with those who continue sleeping, not considering that the whole world that environs them does not permit them to wake. Life proceeds as a series of optical illusions, artificial needs and imaginary sensations.

23I have served one idea, marched under one banner - war against all imposed authority - against every kind of deprivation of freedom, in the name of the absolute independence of the individual.

24[T]he departing world leaves behind... not an heir, but a pregnant widow.

25Life has taught me to think, but thinking has not taught me to live.

26Everything in Italy that is particularly elegant and grand borders upon insanity and absurdity or at least is reminiscent of childhood.

27Unaware of the absurdity of it, we introduce our own petty household rules into the economy of the universe for which the life of generations, peoples, of entire planets, has no importance in relation to the general development.

28We think the purpose of a child is to grow up because it does grow up. But its purpose is to play, to enjoy itself, to be a child. If we merely look to the end of the process, the purpose of life is death

29I believe what I write to be the truth...every man who is not indifferent to the truth has a weakness for spreading it about.

30Every man who has lived for fifty years has buried a whole world or even two; he has grown used to its disappearance and accustomed to the new scenery of another act: but suddenly the names and faces of a time long dead appear more and more often on his way, calling up series of shades and pictures kept somewhere, "just in case," in the endless catacombs of the memory, making him smile or sigh, and sometimes almost weep.

Alexander Herzen Quotes

31Liberalism, austere in political trifles, has learned ever more artfully to unite a constant protest against the government with a constant submission to it.

32The world will not know liberty until all that is religious and political is transformed into something simple and human and made susceptible to criticism and denial.

33Slavery is the first step towards civilization. In order to develop it is necessary that things should be much better for some and much worse for others, then those who are better off can develop at the expense of others.

34What breadth, what beauty and power of human nature and development there must be in a woman to get over all the palisades, all the fences, within which she is held captive!

35Human development is a form of chronological unfairness, since late-comers are able to profit by the labors of their predecessors without paying the same price.

36Strong drink stupefies a man and makes it possible for him to forget; it gives him an artificial cheeriness, an artificial excitement; and the pleasure of this state is increased by the low level of civilization and the narrow empty life to which these men are confined.

37I am truly horrified by modern man. Such absence of feeling, such narrowness of outlook, such lack of passion and information, such feebleness of thought.

38Would it be possible to stand still on one spot more majestically -- while simulating a triumphant march forward -- than it is done by the two English Houses of Parliament?

39History knocks at a thousand gates at every moment, and the gatekeeper is chance. We shout into the mist for this one or that one to be opened for us, but through every gate are a thousand more. We need wit and courage to make our way while our way is making us.

40It must not be thought that the cowardly feeling of caution and uneasy self-preservation is innate in the English character. It is the consequence of a corpulence derived from wealth and of the training of all thoughts and passions for acquisitiveness.

Alexander Herzen Quotes

41Science even more than the Gospel teaches us humility. She cannot look down on anything, she does not know what superiority means, she despises nothing, never lies for the sake of a pose, and conceals nothing out of coquetry. She stops before the facts as an investigator, sometimes as a physician, never as an executioner, and still less with hostility and irony.

42False gods must be repudiated, but that is not all: The reasons for their existence must be sought beneath their masks.

43If nations always moved from one set of furnished rooms to another -- and always into a better set -- things might be easier, but the trouble is that there is no one to prepare the new rooms. The future is worse than the ocean -- there is nothing there. It will be what men and circumstances make it.