- Every morning
I shall concern myself anew about the boundary
Between the love-deed-Yes and the power-deed-No
And pressing forward honor reality.
We cannot avoid
Cannot escape the compulsion
To afflict the world,
So let us, cautious in diction
And mighty in contradiction,
- "Power and Love" (1926)
- The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.
- As quoted in Encounter with Martin Buber (1972) by Aubrey Hodes, p. 135
I and Thou (1923)
- Ich und Du (1923)
- The Thou encounters me by grace — it cannot be found by seeking. But that I speak the basic word to it is a deed of my whole being, is my essential deed.
- The basic word I-Thou can be spoken only with one's whole being. The concentration and fusion into a whole being can never be accomplished by me, can never be accomplished without me. I require a Thou to become; becoming I, I say Thou.
- All actual life is encounter.
- All real life is meeting.
- The I of the basic word I-Thou is different from that of the basic word I-It.
- An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.
- Egos appear by setting themselves apart from other egos.
- Persons appear by entering into relation to other persons.
- All names of God remain hallowed because they have been used not only to speak of God but also to speak to him.
- Some would deny any legitimate use of the word God because it has been misused so much. Certainly it is the most burdened of all human words. Precisely for that reason it is the most imperishable and unavoidable. And how much weight has all erroneous talk about God's nature and works (although there never has been nor can be any such talk that is not erroneous) compared with the one truth that all men who have addressed God really meant him? For whoever pronounces the word God and really means Thou, addresses, no matter what his delusion, the true Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other and to whom he stands in a relationship that includes all others.
- Whoever abhors the name and fancies that he is godless — when he addresses with his whole devoted being the Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other, he addresses God.
- The world is not divine sport, it is divine destiny. There is divine meaning in the life of the world, of man, of human persons, of you and of me.
Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning — we tremble and are faint, we submit. We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him, helpers and companions.
- Through the Thou a person becomes I.
What is man? reprinted in Between Man and Man (2001)
- In philosophical anthropology, … where the subject is man in his wholeness, the investigator cannot content himself, as in anthropology as an individual science, with considering man as another part of nature and with ignoring the fact that he, the investigator, is himself a man and experiences this humanity in his inner experience in a way that he simply cannot experience any part of nature.
- p. 147
- The philosophical anthropologist … can know the wholeness of the person and through it the wholeness of man only when he does not leave his subjectivity out and does not remain an untouched observer.
- p. 148
- You do not attain to knowledge by remaining on the shore and watching the foaming waves, you must make the venture and cast yourself in, you must swim, alert and with all your force, even if a moment comes when you think you are losing consciousness; in this way, and in no other, do you reach anthropological insight.
- p. 148
- So long as you “have” yourself, have yourself as an object, your experience of man is only as of a thing among things.
- p. 148
- An example may clarify more precisely the relation between the psychologist and the anthropologist. If both of them investigate, say, the phenomenon of anger, the psychologist will try to grasp what the angry man feels, what his motives and the impulses of his will are, but the anthropologist will also try to grasp what he is doing. In respect of this phenomenon self-observation, being by nature disposed to weaken the spontaneity and unruliness of anger, will be especially difficult for both of them. The psychologist will try to meet this difficulty by a specific division of consciousness, which enables him to remain outside with the observing part of his being and yet let his passion run its course as undisturbed as possible. Of course this passion can then not avoid becoming similar to that of the actor, that is, though it can still be heightened in comparison with an unobserved passion its course will be different: there will be a release which is willed and which takes the place of the elemental outbreak, there will be a vehemence which will be more emphasized, more deliberate, more dramatic. The anthropologist can have nothing to do with a division of consciousness, since he has to do with the unbroken wholeness of events, and especially with the unbroken natural connection between feelings and actions; and this connection is most powerfully influenced in self-observation, since the pure spontaneity of the action is bound to suffer essentially. It remains for the anthropologist only to resign any attempt to stay outside his observing self, and thus when he is overcome by anger not to disturb it in its course by becoming a spectator of it, but to let it rage to its conclusion without trying to gain a perspective. He will be able to register in the act of recollection what he felt and did then; for him memory takes the place of psychological self-experience. ... In the moment of life he has nothing else in his mind but just to live what is to be lived, he is there with his whole being, undivided, and for that very reason there grows in his thought and recollection the knowledge of human wholeness.
- pp. 148-149
- In the ice of solitude man becomes most inexorably a question to himself, and just because the question pitilessly summons and draws into play his most secret life he becomes an experience to himself.
- p. 150
- Now, he no longer promises others the fulfillment of his duties, but promises himself the fulfillment of man.
- p. 178
- The concept of guilt is found most powerfully developed even in the most primitive communal forms which we know: … the man is guilty who violates one of the original laws which dominate the society and which are mostly derived from a divine founder; the boy who is accepted into the tribal community and learns its laws, which bind him thenceforth, learns to promise; this promise is often given under the sign of death, which is symbolically carried out on the boy, with a symbolical rebirth.
- p. 178
- Next to being the children of God our greatest privilege is being the brothers of each other.
- A person cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human. To become human, is what this individual person, has been created for.
- All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. (Tales of the Baal Shem Tov)
- Eclipse of the light of heaven, eclipse of God— such indeed is the character of the historic hour through which the world is now passing
- God is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.
- God wants man to fulfill his commands as a human being and with the quality peculiar to human beings.
- How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you— for that is the meaning of your life.
- I do, indeed, close my door at times and surrender myself to a book, but only because I can open the door again and see a human face looking at me.
- I don't like religion much, and I am glad that in the Bible the word is not to be found.
- Leisure is the exultation of the possible.
- Power abdicates only under the stress of counter-power.
- Solitude is the place of purification.
- One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves. (From Paths in Utopia)
- The law is not thrust upon man; it rests deep within him, to waken when the call comes.
- The ones who count are those persons who— though they may be of little renown— respond to and are responsible for the continuation of the living spirit.
- The perfection of any matter, the highest or the lowest, touches on the divine.
- The prophet is appointed to oppose the kind, and even more: history.
- The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings.
- There are three principles in a man's being and life, the principle of thought, the principle of speech, and the principle of action. The origin of all conflict between me and my fellow-men is that I do not say what I mean and I don't do what I say.
- We can learn to be whole by saying what we mean and doing what we say.
- We cannot avoid using power, cannot escape the compulsion to afflict the world so let us, cautious in diction and mighty in contradiction, love powerfully.
- When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.
- Without distance there is no dialogue between the two.
- Success is not one of the names of God.