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john burroughs Quotes

John Burroughs Quotes



    • 'Goethe, as lately quoted by Matthew Arnold, said those who have science and art have religion; and added, let those who have not science and art have the popular faith; let them have this escape, because the others are closed to them. Without any hold upon the ideal, or any insight into the beauty and fitness of things, the people turn from the tedium and the grossness and prosiness of daily life, to look for the divine, the sacred, the saving, in the wonderful, the miraculous, and in that which baffles reason. The disciples of Jesus thought of the kingdom of heaven as some external condition of splendor and pomp and power which was to be ushered in by hosts of trumpeting angels, and the Son of man in great glory, riding upon the clouds, and not for one moment as the still small voice within them. To find the divine and the helpful in the mean and familiar, to find religion without the aid of any supernatural machinery, to see the spiritual, the eternal life in and through the life that now is--in short, to see the rude, prosy earth as a star in the heavens, like the rest, is indeed the lesson of all others the hardest to learn.
    • 'But we must learn it sooner or later. There surely comes a time when the mind perceives that this world is the work of God also and not of devils, and that in the order of nature we may behold the ways of the Eternal; in fact, that God is here and now in the humblest and most familiar fact, as sleepless and active as ever he was in old Judea. This perception has come and is coming to more minds to-day than ever before--this perception of the modernness of God, of the modernness of inspiration, of the modernness of religion; that there was never any more revelation than there is now, never any more conversing of God with man, never any more Garden of Eden, or fall of Adam, or thunder of Sinai, or ministering angels, than there is now; in fact, that these things are not historical events, but inward experiences and perceptions perpetually renewed or typified in the growth of the race. This is the modern gospel; this is the one vital and formative religious thought of modern times.' (p. 50-51)
    • 'Under the old dispensation, before the advent of science, when this little world was all, and the sun, moon, and stars were merely fixtures overhead to give light and warmth, the conception of a being adequate to create and control it all was easier. The storms were expressive of his displeasure, the heavens were his throne, and the earth was his footstool. But in the light of modern astronomy one finds himself looking in vain for the God of his fathers, the magnified man who ruled the ancient world. In his place we have an infinite and eternal Power whose expression is the visible universe, and to whom man is no more and no less than any other creature.
    • 'Hence when the man of science says, 'There is no God,' he only gives voice to the feeling of the inadequacy of the old anthropomorphic conception, in the presence of the astounding facts of the universe.
    • 'The deeper our insight into the methods of nature . . . the more incredible the popular Christianity seems to us.'
    • 'When I look up at the starry heavens at night and reflect upon what it is that I really see there, I am constrained to say, 'There is no God.' The mind staggers in its attempt to grasp the idea of a being that could do that. It is futile to attempt it. It is not the works of some God that I see there. I am face to face with a power that baffles speech. I see no lineaments of personality, no human traits, but an energy upon whose currents solar systems are but bubbles. In the presence of it man and the race of man are less than motes in the air. I doubt if any mind can expand its conception of God sufficiently to meet the astounding disclosures of modern science. It is easier to say there is no God. The universe is so unhuman, that is, it goes its way with so little thought of man. He is but an incident, not an end. We must adjust our notions to the discovery that things are not shaped to him, but that he is shaped to them. The air was not made for his lungs, but he has lungs because there is air; the light was not created for his eye, but he has eyes because there is light. All the forces of nature are going their own way; man avails himself of them, or catches a ride as best he can. If he keeps his seat he prospers; if he misses his hold and falls he is crushed.' (p.164-165)
    • 'Science has fairly turned us out of our comfortable little anthropomorphic notion of things into the great out-of-doors of the universe. We must and will get used to the chill, yea, to the cosmic chill, if need be. Our religious instincts will be all the hardier for it.' (p. 2)
    • 'We are here to see and contemplate the great spectacle.' (p.10)
    • 'Science kills credulity and superstition, but to the well-balanced mind it enhances the feeling of wonder, of veneration, and of kinship which we feel in the presence of the miraculous universe.' (p.108)
    • 'In us or through us the Primal Mind will have contemplated and enjoyed its own works and will continue to do so as long as human life endures on this planet.' (p.111)
    • 'Man's craving for the supernatural is as natural as our discounting of the present moment... The natural becomes trite and commonplace to us and we take refuge in an imaginary world above and beyond it.' (p.261}
    • 'Every day is a Sabbath to me. All pure water is holy water, and this earth is a celestial abode.' (p.263)
    • 'The truths of naturalism do not satisfy the moral and religious nature.' (p.301)
    • 'To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life.'
    • john burroughs

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