theory in philosophy
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In philosophy, materialism holds that all things are composed of material, and that intangible phenomena, such as consciousness, are the result of material properties and interactions.  The term materialism can also refer to a concern over material possessions and wealth, a regard for worldly concerns.

Any kind of material form whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.” ~ Gautama Buddha
For by “materialism” is meant not only an anti-philosophical negation of pure spirit, and, even more, materialism in conduct and action — brutality, hypocrisy, and, above all, selfishness — but also the fruits of a disbelief in all but material things, a disbelief which has increased enormously during the last century... ~ H. P. Blavatsky
In a nation as ours where we stress mass production, and that's mighty important, where we have so many conveniences and luxuries and all of that, there is the danger that we will unconsciously forget about God. I'm not saying that these things aren't important; we need them, we need cars, we need money; all of that's important to live. But whenever they become substitutes for God, they become injurious. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.




  • It is difficult to renounce the feeling of ownership; it is like wise difficult to overcome babbling.
  • Is it possible that dialectics and materialism are only limitations? The development of consciousness brings us into closer contact with the entire mighty energy. Is it possible to think as before, with only half one's brain, not caring about the locked-up treasures?
  • Self-perfectment is the most difficult achievement. People inject into this process so many inconsistencies that the manifestation of true self-perfectment is obscured... Take the history of humanity. Observe how brief were the periods of materialism; they invariably ended in bloody convulsions. Indeed, the trend of thought became rebellious, and the correct path having been lost, crimes multiplied. Self-perfectment is possible only through refinement of consciousness by its seeking to surround itself with worthy manifestations.
  • If we ask ourselves whether the concepts of materialism and idealism are understood correctly, we shall discover that they are not. People should know that matter is also spirit. Each of these states is but a manifestation of the one Primary Energy, and every attempt to separate them will fail. Materialism alone is a customary standard for the ignorant, and idealism alone is an equally meaningless banner in the hands of fools. The great evolution must not be demeaned. All the sciences should be summoned to a reasoning based upon solid foundations. Only by applying scientific methods will the significance of evolution be understood.


  • Materialism and Spirituality: There are today three major human trends: First of all, a trend towards a spiritual and free way of life; secondly, a trend towards intellectual unfoldment; and lastly, a potent trend towards material living and aggression. At present, the last of these innate tendencies is in the saddle, with the second, the intellectual attitude, throwing its weight upon the side of the material goals. A relatively small group is throwing the weight of human aspiration upon the side of the spiritual values. The war between the pairs of opposites — materialism and spirituality — is raging fiercely. Only as men turn away from material aggression and towards spiritual objectives will the world situation change, and men — motivated by goodwill — force the aggressors back to their own place and release humanity from fear and force. We are today reaping the results of our own sowing. The recognition of the cause of the problem provides humanity with the opportunity to end it. The time has arrived in which it is possible to institute those changes in attitude which will bring an era of peace and goodwill, founded on right human relations.
    These two forces — materialism and spirituality — face each other. What will be the outcome? Will men arrest the evil and initiate a period of understanding, cooperation and right relationship, or will they continue the process of selfish planning and of economic and militant competition? This question must be answered by the clear thinking of the masses and by the calm and unafraid challenges of the democracies.
  • Most materialists, even though they may have wanted to do away with all spiritual entities, ended up positing an order of things whose hierarchical relations mark it as specifically idealist. They situated dead matter at the summit of a conventional hierarchy of diverse facts, without perceiving that in this way they gave in to an obsession with the ideal form of matter, with a form that was closer than any other to what matter should be. Dead matter, the pure idea, and God in fact answer a question in the same way (in other words perfectly, and as flatly as the docile student in a classroom)– a question that can only be posed by philosophers, the question of the essence of things, precisely of the idea by which things become intelligible.
    • Georges Bataille, “Materialism”, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, p. 15
  • There are writers, who maintain, that the human frame is wholly corporeal, and that there is no good reason for distinguishing between the soul and the body of man. This doctrine has been called Materialism. If I could acquiesce in it, I should perhaps grant, that all human actions are necessary; because, being produced by one bodily part operating upon another, they must as really be the effects of mechanism, as the motions of a clock.
  • There is one thing that is eating the heart out of India, and that is modern materialism. There is one thing which is poisoning the mind of India, and that is the kind of science which is the teacher of materialism and works against Spirituality in the mind. How should I be able to tell you of the moral regeneration of India unless first I can strike at that which is piercing her heart and sucking out her very lifeblood. So--as I have been trained in the science of the West, trained in the knowledge of the physical Universe which is so much used to make men believe that nothing but the physical remains--I take for my first subject this undermining of materialism by science, and I attack it with the weapons that were once used to build it up.
  • A man who is a spiritual man--a religious teacher--regards the universe from the standpoint of the Spirit from which everything is seen as coming from the One. When he stands, as it were, in the centre, and he looks from the centre to the circumference, he stands at the point whence the force proceeds, and he judges of the force from that point of radiation and he sees it as one in its multitudinous workings, and knows the force is One; he sees it in its many divergencies, and he recognises it as one and the same thing throughout. Standing in the centre, in the Spirit, and looking outwards to the universe, he judges everything from the standpoint of the Divine Unity and sees every separate phenomenon, not as separate from the One but as the external expression of the one and the only Life. But science looks at the thing from the surface. It goes to the circumference of the universe and it sees a multiplicity of phenomena. It studies these separated things and studies them one by one. It takes up a manifestation and judges it; it judges it apart; it looks at the many, not at the One; it looks at the diversity, not at the Unity, and sees everything from outside and not from within: it sees the external difference and the superficial portion while it sees not the One from which every thing proceeds.
  • Study in one school of psychology came to what seemed a terrible conclusion. It was the school of Lombroso in Italy. He declared, and many others followed him, that the visions of the prophets, of the saints, of the seers, all their testimony to the existence of superphysical worlds, were the products of disordered brains, of diseased or over-strained nervous apparatus. He went further, and he declared that the manifestation known as genius was closely allied to insanity, that the brain of the genius and the brain of the madman were akin, until the phrase "genius is allied to madness," became the stock axiom of that school.
  • When men tell us that the great religious teachers are neuropaths, that Buddha, Christ, S. Francis, are neuropaths, then we are inclined to cast our lot with the abnormal few, rather than with the normal many. We know what they were. They were men who saw far more and knew far more than we; what matters it whether we call their brains normal or abnormal? In these men's consciousness is a ray of the Divine splendour; as Browning says: Through such souls alone God, stooping, shows sufficient of Hill Light For us in the dark to rise by. And if in those cases the brain change from a normal to an abnormal state, then humanity must ever remain thankful to abnormality. That was the first answer which may be made to this statement of Lombroso, and you find a man like Dr. Maudsley, the famous doctor, asking whether there is any law that nature shall use only for her purposes what we call the perfect brains? May it not be that for her higher performances she needs brains which are different from the ordinary, the normal brains of man?
    • Annie Besant, Essays and Addresses, Vol. III- Evolution and Occultism (1913)
  • It must be remembered... that (the Theosophical Society) ...was intended to stem the current of materialism... For by “materialism” is meant not only an anti-philosophical negation of pure spirit, and, even more, materialism in conduct and action — brutality, hypocrisy, and, above all, selfishness — but also the fruits of a disbelief in all but material things, a disbelief which has increased enormously during the last century, and which has led many, after a denial of all existence other than that in matter, into a blind belief in the materialization of Spirit. The tendency of modern civilization is a reaction towards animalism, towards a development of those qualities which conduce to the success in life of man as an animal in the struggle for animal existence. Theosophy seeks to develop the human nature in man in addition to the animal, and at the sacrifice of the superfluous animality which modern life and materialistic teachings have developed to a degree which is abnormal for the human being at this stage of his progress.
  • He was troubled by materialism.
  • Here is an untaught ordinary person, who has no regard for the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined. ... He conceives himself as earth, he conceives himself in earth, he conceives himself apart from earth, he conceives earth to be ‘mine,’ he delights in earth. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say. ... He conceives himself in beings, he conceives himself apart from beings, he conceives beings to be ‘mine,’ he delights in beings. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say.
  • Any kind of material form whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.”
    • Gautama Buddha, Majjhima Nikaya, B. Nanamoli and B. Bodhi, trans. (1995), Sutta 62, verse 3, p. 527


This great, though disastrous, culture can only change as we begin to stand off and see... the inveterate materialism which has become the model for cultures around the world. ~ Arthur Charles Erickson
  • There is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel.
  • Humanity can not be made equal by declarations on paper. Unless the material conditions for equality exist, it is worse than mockery to pronounce men equal.


  • From our vantage, materialism is not a neutral, value-free, minimalist position from which to pursue inquiry. Rather, it is itself an ideology with an agenda. What’s more, it requires an evolutionary creation story to keep it afloat. On scientific grounds, we regard that creation story to be false. What’s more, we regard the ideological agenda that has flowed from it to be destructive to rational discourse. Our concerns are therefore entirely parallel to the evolutionists’. Indeed, all the evolutionists’ worst fears about what the world would be like if we succeed have, in our view, already been realized through the success of materialism and evolution. Hence, as a strategy for unseating materialism and evolution, the term "Wedge" has come to denote an intellectual and cultural movement that many find congenial.
    • William A. Dembski (ed.) (2006). Darwin's nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the intelligent design movement.
  • Materialistically bound, traditional science assumes that anything that cannot be measured, tested in a laboratory, or probed by the five senses or their technological extensions simply doesn't exist. It's "not real." The consequence: all of reality has been collapsed into physical reality. Spiritual, or what I would call nonphysical, dimensions of reality have been run out of town.... This clashes with the "perennial philosophy," that philosophical consensus spanning ages, religions, traditions, and cultures, which describes different but continuous dimensions of reality. These run from the most dense and least conscious - what we'd call "matter" - to the least dense and most conscious, which we'd call spiritual. ... "Where's the proof of this Greater Reality?" you ask. I offer only an analogy: A battery of scientists can get together and tell you about all the scientific proof for the fact that bananas are bitter. But all you have to do is taste one, once, to realize that there is this whole other aspect to bananas. Ultimately, proof lies not in intellectual arguments, but in being touched in some way by the sacred within and without. Eckhart Tolle masterfully opens us to that possibility.
  • I recently listened to a talk by a famous biologist. He spoke about... scientific materialism and religious transcendentalism. He said, "...they are incompatible and mutually exclusive." This seems to be a widely accepted view... I do not share it. I do not know what the word "materialism" means. ...I judge matter to be an imprecise and ...old-fashioned concept ...[M]atter is the way particles behave when a large number of them are lumped together. When we examine matter in the finest detail in experiments of particle physics, we see it behaving as an active agent... Its actions are... unpredictable. It makes what appear to be arbitrary choices between alternative possibilities. Between matter... and mind... there seems to be only a difference of degree... We stand... midway between the unpredictability of matter and the unpredictability of God. This view... may not be true, but it is... logically consistent and compatible with... experiments of modern physics. Therefore... scientific materialism and religious transcendentalism are neither incompatible nor mutually exclusive. We have learned that matter... does not limit God's freedom to make it do what he pleases.


  • Materialism in its literal sense is long since dead. But its place has been taken by other philosophies which represent a virtually equivalent outlook. The tendency today is not to reduce everything to manifestations of matter—since matter now has only a minor place in the physical world—but to reduce it to manifestations of the operation of natural law... laws of the type prevailing in geometry, mechanics, and physics which are found to have this common characteristic—that they are ultimately reducible to mathematical equations. ...[T]hey are laws which, unlike human law, are never broken. It is the belief in the universal dominance of scientific law which is nowadays generally meant by materialism.
  • The horseman serves the horse,
    The neatherd serves the neat,
    The merchant serves the purse,
    The eater serves his meat;
    'T is the day of the chattel,
    Web to weave, and corn to grind;
    Things are in the saddle,
    And ride mankind.


To what faults do you feel most indulgent? To the ones that arise from urgent material needs. ~ Christopher Hitchens


...a great reformer of the Hebrew code of religion, it is not to be understood that I am with him [Jesus] in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist, he takes the side of spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin. I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it... Among the sayings & discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence... ~ Thomas Jefferson


  • In a nation as ours where we stress mass production, and that's mighty important, where we have so many conveniences and luxuries and all of that, there is the danger that we will unconsciously forget about God. I'm not saying that these things aren't important; we need them, we need cars, we need money; all of that's important to live. But whenever they become substitutes for God, they become injurious.
  • I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous, but Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life.


  • The sole "property" of matter with whose recognition philosophical materialism is bound up is the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside the mind.
You don't want to be that parent - the one who dresses his kid in a cloth sack when all the other kids are in Armani cloth sacks - especially in a time like ours, when materialism is not only rampant and ascendant but is fast becoming the only game in town. ~ George Saunders
An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth - in short, materialism - does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited. ~ E.F. Schumacher
  • Materialism is the recognition of "objects in themselves", or outside the mind; ideas and sensations are copies of images of those objects.
  • The natural scientist must be a modern materialist, a conscious adherent of the materialism represented by Marx, i.e., he must be a dialectical materialist.
    • Vladimir Lenin, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 33, pp. 227-236.


  • Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.
    • Malcolm Muggeridge, BBC1 TV broadcast (21 October 1963), as quoted in "The American Way of Sex", in Muggeridge Through the Microphone (1967).
  • For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?


  • People have forgotten, or rather do not want to admit, the great cosmic significance of love. The materialism of our age puts love on the level of a purely physiological function. At best, love today is treated as a psychological process. But if the cosmic significance of love could be realized once more, people would see in love its highest function, i.e., the awakening of all the highest emotions and creative abilities.
  • Our poor humanity, with its one-sided preoccupation with materialism (the church, too, serves materialistic bases and demands) needs more than ever before the realization of the Higher World and the leading concept of the Guru-Hierarch. Humanity's disease is chaotic thinking and lack of self-discipline. The slaves of yesterday revolt primarily against the leading concept, against discipline, and against cooperation. Only a king of the spirit realizes the significance of Hierarchy, for, in order to rule, one must first learn to obey. The principle of the leading concept must be affirmed in the consciousness of humanity if it wishes to progress.


  • Materialism ends up denying the existence of any irreducible subjective qualitative states of sentience or awareness.
  • Dualism makes the problem insoluble; materialism denies the existence of any phenomenon to study, and hence of any problem.
  • In the course of the 19th Century there was a great upsurge of natural-scientific thinking and all its attendant results. One of the first results was theoretical materialism accompanied by atheism. It can be said that the materialists of the 19th Century positively revelled in atheism.


  • Any lifeform in any realm – mineral, vegetable, animal, or human – can be said to undergo “enlightenment.” It is, however, an extremely rare occurrence since it is more than an evolutionary progression: It also implies a discontinuity in its development, a leap to an entirely different level of Being and, most important, a lessening of materiality. What could be heavier and more impenetrable than a rock, the densest of all forms? And yet some rocks undergo a change in their molecular structure, turn into crystals, and so become transparent to the light. Some carbons, under inconceivable heat and pressure, turn into diamonds, and some heavy minerals into other precious stones. p. 6
  • Newborn lifeforms – babies, puppies, kittens, lambs, and so on... are fragile, delicate, not yet firmly established in materiality. An innocence, a sweetness and beauty that are not of this world still shine through them. They delight even relatively insensitive humans. p. 8
  • Is humanity ready for a transformation of consciousness, an inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection? Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones, so to speak, transparent to the light of consciousness? Can they defy the gravitational pull of materialism and materiality and rise above identification with form that keeps the ego in place and condemns them to imprisonment within their own personality? p. 8
  • Space consciousness represents not only freedom from ego, but also from dependency on the things of this world, from materialism and materiality. It is the spiritual dimension which alone can give transcendent and true meaning to this world. p. 138

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