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Ernst, Baron von Feuchtersleben

Austrian psychiatrist, poet and philosopher
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We live in stormy and unsettled times. Hence we may confer a benefit, not only on ourselves, but on others, by diverting attention from the exciting circumstances of the present day ... to the calm regions where the inner man, self-examined, submits himself to moral treatment. ... While we quietly separate ourselves from a world which is unable to assure us of anything, we feel that the joy we thought lost again returns, and that a second innocence spreads its clear and tranquillizing light over human existence.

Ernst Maria Johann Karl Freiherr von Feuchtersleben (29 April 1806 – 3 September 1849), was an Austrian physician, poet and philosopher.

QuotesEdit

The Dietetics of the Soul; Or, True Mental Discipline (1838)Edit

H. Ouvry, trans. (1873)

  • We live in stormy and unsettled times. Hence we may confer a benefit, not only on ourselves, but on others, by diverting attention from the exciting circumstances of the present day—from the disheartening eccentricities of a literature which meanders in a thousand frivolous directions—to the calm regions where the inner man, self-examined, submits himself to moral treatment. Here our connection with things, our object, our duty, become clear; and, while we quietly separate ourselves from a world which is unable to assure us of anything, we feel that the joy we thought lost again returns, and that a second innocence spreads its clear and tranquillizing light over human existence. The child may amuse himself with childish rhymes. Man should find his recreation in reflecting on his relation to the things of this life. To all has this power been vouchsafed; by all should it be exercised.
  • We have aimed at popularity in the best sense of that term. The truly popular writer never sinks into the vulgar crowd. He rather raises the masses by bringing the highest subjects within their comprehension, making them, without a show of erudition, easily understood
  • Our minds are so constituted that a change of objects brings nearly as much relief as actual repose.
  • Those views of life which deify pleasure are less likely to yield it.
  • It is not enough to contemplate ourselves objectively; we must also treat ourselves objectively.
  • The man dissatisfied with the world will be dissatisfied with himself, so as to be continually eaten up by his own ill humor. And in such a state of mind how can he retain health?
  • We cannot avoid moodiness; but we may turn to account, as does the poet, the various dispositions of the mind, or give them form and shape, as the sculptor his marble.
  • It has been well remarked of the poems of Hafiz, that their refreshing influence does not depend so much on the sense of the words as on the tone of mind produced in the reader.
  • Composition, even when we have no idea of appearing in print, is an excellent dietetic tonic. ... The best and quickest mode of banishing a painful impression, or a torturing feeling, is to give it expression in words. We thus relieve the mind from present, and fortify it against future pangs.
  • True philosophy is a living wisdom, for which there is no death.
  • You must master an object before you attempt to despise it.
  • Those psychological observers who have accustomed themselves to consider the interior and exterior as intimately combined — as the inspiration and expiration of one living being— will readily understand and apprehend the views which I have here advanced. Not so those who are wont to regard mind and body as antagonistic entities associated in an arbitrary manner; or who adopt the prevailing opinion, that every enjoyment of man's sensual nature is detrimental to his spiritual being, or that the mind can only be cultivated at the expense of the body. Such a view would condemn the unfortunate mortal to an alternative of destruction in one form or another, from that creative force which every desire excites within him. But it may be asked, do not the frequent examples of sickness in the learned and the citizen, and of health in the illiterate and the peasant, confirm the opinion now alluded to? I answer that everything depends on our forming a correct idea of cultivation.
  • “The greatest treasure that God can give his creatures is and ever will be—genuine existence". If these words of Herder be true, cultivation is the key to the most precious of treasures; for as Nature has insured the permanence of existence by implanting in us a force of resistance and self-renovation, so may we, on our side, increase the force of these attributes by self-acquired powers of mind.
    • p 75 1852 translation
  • As character comprises the entire sphere of the educated will, so temperament is nothing else than the sum of our natural inclinations and tendencies. Inclination is the material of the will, developing itself when controlled, into character, and when controlling, into passions. Temperament is, therefore, the root of our passions; and the latter, like the former, may be distinguished into two principal classes. Intelligent psychologists and physicians have always recognised this fact...
    • p. 85 1852 tr
  • "He who wounds me" exclaims an animated writer, “ injures my body only: but he who wearies me assassinates my soul.” And he who wearies himself needs to be placed under a system of mental dietetics.
    • p. 87 1852 tr
  • Who is unacquainted with the sparkling eye. The full and quick pulse, the free respiration, the glowing colour, and serene brow of the joyous? Who is not familiar with the trembling aspect, the stammering hesitation, the cold ruffled skin, the bristling hair, the palpitating heart, the uneasiness, the impeded respiration, the paleness, the low pulse, and all the other symptoms occasioned by fear?
    • p. 95 1852 tr
  • Until we attain a clear idea of our inclinations, the best line of conduct we can pursue is to act uprightly; and establish for ourselves certain rules, adapting them to the various conditions of our existence, so as to penetrate and purify our whole life. Among these rules, I would include the conviction that hatred may be subdued by love; and to impress this axiom more strongly on the mind, we should remember the blessings conferred by love on the human race.
    • p. 104 1852 tr
  • Had Mephistopheles conferred no other service on Faust than easing him for a while of his cloak of learning, the doctor would have had little cause for despair. But the act of awaking is regulated by different principles from those which govern the act of going to sleep. In the former case, the hand of force is often necessary. Life points out with an iron staff the path which each individual should follow. Happy is the man who sees this staff, and follows the path; instead of tarrying by the way until weary, and, incapable of further exertion, he sinks bleeding to the ground. A high degree of mental culture, or a delicate tact, possessed by few, are required to distinguish the necessity of earnestness, or even of pain, in the midst of enjoyment.
    • P. 112
  • A treatise on mental dietetics would be imperfect without some special notice of that most irrational and melancholy of all human torments, hypochondriasis. Reason, morality, wit, and even religion, have endeavoured by every possible means to exorcise this demon. By pamphlets and by books—in tragedy and in comedy — from the pulpit and on the stage, it has been denounced and ridiculed.
    • p. 125
  • To correct the tribe of our younger poets we shall soon require the aid of a physician, not of a critic. Their history may be told in a few words. A young man educated, or rather mis-educated, without experience, without study, without any definite tendency, without the power of exertion, or of tasting any genuine enjoyment, becomes conscious of his miserable oscillation between existence and non-existence —between not having lived and not being about to live—between a barren past and a barren future. He now takes to novel reading, frequents the theatres, compares himself to heroes or poets, and makes verses. All on a sudden the thought flashes across his mind that his unhappy condition is connected with the unfilled profundity of his feelings—with an unsatisfied yearning of the soul. He rushes headlong into the ocean of melancholy, and indulges in expressions with which the poetic springs of latter years have inundated us; he bathes in these waters, and contemplates his own image reflected from their surface.
    • pp. 136-137

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