Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"Only the soul that with an overwhelming impulse and a perfect trust gives itself up forever to the life of other men, finds the delight and peace which such complete self-surrender has to give." - Phillips Brooks

"Benevolence is not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth. It is a business with men as they are, and with human life as drawn by the rough hand of experience. It is a duty which you must perform at the call of principle; though there be no voice of eloquence to give splendor to your exertions, and no music of poetry to lead your willing footsteps through the bowers of enchantment. It is not the impulse of high and ecstatic emotion. It is an exertion of principle. :You must go to the poor man’s cottage, though no verdure flourish around it, the gentleness of its murmurs. If you look for the romantic simplicity of fiction you will be disappointed; but it is your duty to persevere in spite of every discouragement. Benevolence is not merely a feeling but a principle; not a dream of rapture for the fancy to indulge in, but a business for the hand to execute." - Thomas Chalmers

"A first impulse was never a crime." - Pierre Cornielle

"The first impulse of conscience is apt to be right; the first impulse of appetite or passion is generally wrong. We should be faithful to the former, but suspicious of the latter." - Tyron Edwards

"Do you know what real poverty is? It is never to have a big thought or a generous impulse." - Jerome P. Fleishman

"Since the generality of persons act from impulse, much more than form principle, men are neither so good nor so bad as we are apt to think them." - Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855) and his brother Augustus William Hare

"Everyone has to think to be polite; the first impulse is to be impolite." - E. W. Howe, fully Edgar Watson Howe

"Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion... Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." - David Hume

"Fear of life is one form or other is the great thing to exorcise; but it isn’t reason that will ever do it. Impulse without reason is enough, and reason without impulse is a poor makeshift. I take it that no man is educated who has never dallied with the thought of suicide." - William James

"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar." - Garrison Keillor, fully Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor

"The musician we may think of as being exceedingly quick to beauty, drawn in a very rapture to it: somewhat slow to stir of his own impulse, he answers at once to the outer stimulus: as the timid are sensitive to noise so he to tones and the beauty they convey; all that offends against unison or harmony in melodies and rhythms repels him; he longs for measure and shapely pattern." - Plotinus NULL

"The desire to serve others is the highest impulse of the human heart and the rewards of such service are beyond measure. If you wish to taste this, then just do it. Just take one step... You will see that the tyranny of self-concern, worry, and trivial pursuits can be released from your life with that single step. It doesn't really matter what you do, it only matters that you do it." - Ganga Stone

"What do you call Love, Hate, Charity, Revenge, Humanity, Magnanimity, Forgiveness? Different results of the one Master Impulse: the necessity of securing one's self-approval." - Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens

"Man is a creature of impulse, emotion, action rather than reason. Reason is a very late development in the world of living creatures, most of whom, as far as we know, get along admirably in daily life without it." - James R. Adams

"God hides some ideal in every human soul. At some time in our life we feel a trembling, fearful longing to do some good thing. Life finds its noblest spring of excellence in this hidden impulse to do our best." - Robert Collyer

"I can't tell if a straw ever saved a drowning man, but I know that a mere glance is enough to make despair pause. For in truth we who are creatures of impulse are creatures of despair." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski

"An animal's first impulse is self-preservation." - Diogenes Laërtius, aka "Diogenes the Cynic"

"The benefit of proverbs, or maxims, is that they separate those who act on principle from those who act on impulse; and they lead to promptness and decision in acting. Their value deepens on four things; do they embody correct principles; are they on important subjects; what is the extent, and what is the ease of their application?" - Tyron Edwards

"What is so wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote, and brings to birth in us also the creative impulse." - E. M. Forster, fully Edward Morgan Forster

"Send your audience away with a desire for, and an impulse toward spiritual improvement, or your preaching will be a failure." - Meyrick Goulburn, fully Edward Meyrick Goulburn

"There is a price tag on human liberty. That price is the willingness to assume the responsibilities of being free men. Payment of this price is a personal matter with each of us. It is not something we can get others to pay for us. To let others carry the responsibilities of freedom and the work and worry that accompany them - while we share only in the benefits - may be a very human impulse, but it is likely to be fatal." - Eugene Holman

"Do not let the loud utterances of your own wills anticipate, nor drown, the still, small voice in which God speaks. Bridle impatience till He does. If you cannot hear His whisper, wait till you do. Take care of running before you are sent. Keep your wills in equipoise till God’s hand gives the impulse and direction." - Alexander Maclaren

"A man does not entreat for love. It is the irresistible impulse towards each other of two souls, a union in which there is neither conscious giving nor receiving." - Rosa Caroline Praed, aka Mrs. Campbell Praed

"Custom controls the sexual impulse as it controls no other." - Margaret Sanger, fully Margaret Higgins Sanger Slee

"Love is not a mere impulse, it must contain truth, which is law." -

"Everyone expects to go further than his father went; everyone expects to be better than he was born and every generation has one big impulse in its heart - to exceed all the other generations of the past in all the things that make life worth living." - William Allen White

"Perhaps the most central characteristic of authentic leadership is the relinquishing of the impulse to dominate others." - David Cooper, fully David Graham Cooper

"Every time you give a bit of yourself and you plant a little seed of Future Happiness. All the rest of your life these seeds will keep springing up unexpectedly along your path. When you need a friend to give you a lift in some situation, likely as not along will come a person for whom you did something thoughtful when you were a youngster. Taking up giving-away as a hobby while you are young, and you will live a happy life. What is more, because you do so many wonderful thoughtful things on impulse, you will develop a lively and interesting personality - gracious, friendly, likable." - David Dunn

"Social evolution is a resultant of the interaction of two wholly distinct factors: the individual… bearing all the power of initiative and origination in his hands; and, second, the social environment, with its power of adopting or rejecting both him and his gifts. Both factors are essential to change. The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community." - William James

"The confrontation with death… makes everything look so precious, so sacred, so beautiful that I feel more strongly than ever the impulse to live it, to embrace it , and to let myself be overwhelmed by it." -

"Errors and exaggerations do not matter. What matters is boldness in thinking with a; strong-pitched voice, in speaking out about things as one feels them in the moment of speaking; in having the temerity to proclaim what one believes to be true without fear of the consequences. If one were to await the possession of the absolute truth, one must be either a fool or a mute. If the creative impulse were muted, the world would then be stayed on its march." - José Clemente Orozco

"Most religions are absolutist. Claims to revelation militate against rational argument and compromise. In this sense all religions contain totalitarian possibilities; for totalitarianism, which welds the state into a single body “knit together as one man” is really the religious impulse, the worship of leadership and ideology, the cult of Person or Book, directed towards secular ends." - Malise Ruthven

"Open your eyes and look for some man, or some work for the sake of men, which needs a little time, a little friendship, a little sympathy, a little sociability, a little human toil. Perhaps it is a lonely person, or an invalid - or some unfortunate inefficient, to whom you can be something. It may be an old man or it may be a child. Or some good work is in want of volunteers who will devote a free evening to it or will run on errands for it. Who can reckon up all the ways in which the priceless fund of impulse, man, is capable of exploitation! He is needed in every nook and corner. Therefore search and see if there is not some play where you may invest your humanity." - Albert Schweitzer

"The willingness to take the risk of being wrong and perhaps subjected to ridicule, punishment, or loss is an outstanding trait of the creative person. Such action does not mean to behave on foolish impulse, but to calculate the risks and then to take a chance." - Frank Barron

"Suffering is the essence of life, because it is the inevitable product of an unresolved tension between a living creature’s essential impulse to try to make itself into the centre of the Universe and its essential dependence on the rest of Creation and on the Absolute Reality." - Arnold J. Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee

"Thinking for oneself is always arduous and is sometimes painful. The temptation to stop thinking and to take dogma on faith is strong. Yet, since the intellect does possess the capacity to think for itself, it also has the impulse and feels the obligation. We may therefore feel sure that the intellect will always refuse, sooner or later, to take traditional doctrines on trust." - Arnold J. Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee

"All love, however ethereally it may bear itself, is rooted in the sexual impulse alone, nay, it absolutely is only a more definitely determined, specialised, and indeed in the strictest sense individualized sexual impulse." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"No deed is perfect without the impulse of the soul." - Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda NULL

"As the grand discordant harmony of the celestial bodies may be explained by the simple principles of gravity and impulse, so also in that more wonderful and complicated microcosm the heart of man, all the phenomena of morals are perhaps resolvable into one single principle, the pursuit of apparent good; for although customs universally vary, yet man in all climates and countries is essentially the same." - Charles Caleb Colton

"I call that mind free which is not passively framed by outward circumstance and is not the creature of accidental impulse, and which discovers everywhere the radiant signatures of the Infinite Spirit, and in them finds help to its own spiritual enlargement." - Chuang Tzu, also spelled Chuang-tsze, Chuang Chou, Zhuangzi, Zhuang Tze, Zhuang Zhou, Chuang Tsu, Chouang-Dsi, Chuang Tse, or Chuangtze

"Love, like fire, cannot subsist without constant impulse; it ceases to live from the moment it ceases to hope or to fear." - François de La Rochefoucauld, François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac, Francois A. F. Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

"The sense of inferiority inherent in the act of imitation breeds resentment. The impulse of the imitators is to overcome the model they imitate." - Eric Hoffer

"Language was invented to ask questions. Answers may be given by grunts and gestures, but questions must be spoken. Humanness came of age when man asked the first question. Social stagnation results not from the lack of answers but from the absence of the impulse to ask questions." - Eric Hoffer

"The impulse to escape an untenable situation often prompts human beings not to shrink back but to plunge ahead." - Eric Hoffer

"The Absolute is Mind (Spirit) - this is the supreme definition of the Absolute. To find this definition and to grasp its meaning and burden was, we may say, the ultimate purpose of all education and all philosophy: it was the point to which turned the impulse of all religion and science; and it is this impulse that must explain the history of the world... It remains for philosophy in its own element of intelligible unity to get hold of what was thus given as a mental image, and what implicitly is the ultimate reality." - Georg Hegel, fully Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

"The history of the world begins with its general aim, the realization of the idea of spirit, only in an implicit form, that is, as nature; a hidden, most profoundly hidden, unconscious instinct; and the whole process of history (as already observed) is directed to rendering this unconscious impulse a conscious one... This vast congeries of volitions, interest and activities, constitute the instruments and means of the world-spirit for attaining its object; bringing it to consciousness, and realizing it." - Georg Hegel, fully Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

"In duty the individual finds his liberation; liberation from independence on mere natural impulse." - Georg Hegel, fully Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

"Free will is not the liberty to do whatever one likes, but the power of doing whatever one sees ought to be done, even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming impulse. There lies freedom, indeed." - George MacDonald

"That the end of life should be death may sound sad: yet what other end can anything have? The end of an evening party is to go to bed; but is use is to gather congenial people together, that they may pass the time pleasantly. An invitation to dance is not rendered ironical because the danced cannot last for ever; the youngest of us and the most vigorously wound up, after a few hours, has had enough of sinuous stepping and prancing. The transitoriness of things is essential to their physical being, and not at all sad in itself; it becomes sad by virtue of a sentimental illusion, which makes us imagine that they wish to endure, and that their end is always untimely; but in a healthy nature it is not so. what is truly sad is to have some impulse frustrated in the midst of its career, and robbed of its chosen object; and what is painful is to have an organ lacerated or destroyed when it is still vigorous, and not ready for its natural sleep and dissolution. We must not confuse the itch which our unsatisfied instincts continue to cause with the pleasure of satisfying and dismissing each of them in turn. Could they all be satisfied harmoniously we should be satisfied once for all and completely. Then doing and dying would coincide throughout and be a perfect pleasure." - George Santayana

"Must love be ever treated with profaneness as a mere illusion? or with coarseness as a mere impulse? or with fear as a mere disease? or with shame as a mere weakness? or with levity as a mere accident? whereas it is a great mystery and a great necessity, lying at the foundation of human existence, morality, and happiness - mysterious, universal, inevitable as death." - Harriet Martineau