The Prologue to his Autobiography
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the
longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering
of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither,
in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge
What I have lived for
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would
often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought
it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one
shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold
unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love
I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that
saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem
too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the
hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to
apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux.
A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the
heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain
reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors,
helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness,
poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to
alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer. This has been my life. I have
found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered
From the third volume of his Autobiography,
“The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might
be set forth as follows:
the vision for responsibilities of a
“A Liberal Decalogue”
1- Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2- Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the
evidence is sure to come to light.
3- Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4- When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or
your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a
victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5- Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary
authorities to be found.
6- Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the
opinions will suppress you.
7- Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was
8- Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you
value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than
9- Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more
inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10- Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise,
for only a fool will think that it is happiness.”