In the Sublime War of Humanity Against Reality, Humanity Has But One Weapon, The Imagination

Lewis Carroll? Cheshire Cat? C. S. Lewis? Jules de Gaultier? Benjamin de Casseres? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Herbert Kaufman? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Reality can be cold and disheartening. Yet, humans have the extraordinary facility to imagine a different and more entertaining universe. Here are two versions of a pertinent saying:

(1) Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
(2) In the war against reality, humanity has but one weapon—Imagination.

This remark has been attributed to the popular children’s author Lewis Carroll, the well-known fantasy author C. S. Lewis, the French philosopher Jules de Gaultier, and the essayist Benjamin de Casseres. Who is the genuine originator of this expression? Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1916 Benjamin de Casseres published an essay about the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in “The Poetry Journal”. De Casseres employed a version of the saying while describing the works of Shelley, but he did not attribute the comment to the poet. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1916 July, The Poetry Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, Shelley by Benjamin de Casseres, Start Page 19, Quote Page 20, The Four Seas Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

In the sublime war of man against Reality man has but one weapon, the imagination. The ethereal imagination is the highest form of the evolution of the transfiguring and sublimating power of images. It marks the boundary line between the mystery of matter and the mystery of spirit. It is the fine volatilized plasma of an esoteric dimension, of a world where the truths hinted at by the x-ray and radium are true for the human mind and body.

Based on current evidence QI believes that Benjamin de Casseres deserves credit for the quotation under examination. Jules de Gaultier improbably received credit in 1935 after the saying had been circulating for nearly two decades. Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis implausibly received credit in the 21st century.

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Continue reading In the Sublime War of Humanity Against Reality, Humanity Has But One Weapon, The Imagination

References

References
1 1916 July, The Poetry Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, Shelley by Benjamin de Casseres, Start Page 19, Quote Page 20, The Four Seas Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

No Snowflake in an Avalanche Ever Feels Responsible

Voltaire? George Burns? Paul Harvey? Stanisław Jerzy Lec? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Etaislaw Lee? Stanisław Leszczyński? Stanisław Lem? Jacek Galazka?

Dear Quote Investigator: A mob or a mass movement can cause enormous destruction. Also, the inaction of a large apathetic group in a perilous time can lead to ruination. Yet, individuals disavow liability. Here are three versions of a pertinent metaphorical adage:

(1) No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
(2) Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.
(3) In an avalanche, no one snowflake ever feels responsible.

This saying has been attributed to French wit Voltaire, Polish aphorist Stanisław Jerzy Lec, U.S. comedian George Burns, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This adage appeared in the 1968 book “More Unkempt Thoughts” by Stanisław Jerzy Lec. Here were three items from that book. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1968 Copyright, More Unkempt Thoughts by Stanisław J. Lec, Translated by Jacek Galazka, Quote Page 9, Funk & Wagnalls, New York. (Verified with scans)

It is the high priests that make demands—not the gods they serve.
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
Do not trust people. They are capable of greatness.

This book was translated from Polish by Jacek Galazka. Some sources have suggested that the Polish source book was titled “Myśli Nieuczesane Nowe” (“Unkempt New Thoughts”); however, QI has corresponded with two individuals who have carefully examined 1964 and 1966 editions of that book and determined that the quotation was absent. Thus, the identity of the Polish source book for the quotation remains uncertain.[2]Personal communication via twitter between Garson O’Toole (@QuoteResearch) and FranekVetulani (@FranekVetulani) on May 29, 2022; Also, personal communication via twitter between Garson O’Toole … Continue reading

A volunteer editor at the crowdsourced website Wikiquote suggested that the following was the original Polish quotation, but QI has not yet verified this claim, and this quotation may be inaccurate:[3]Website: Wikiquote, Person: Stanisław Jerzy Lec, A Wikimedia Project of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (Accessed wikiquote.org on April 26, 2022; Polish version of the quotation was obtained from … Continue reading

Żaden płatek śniegu nie czuje się odpowiedzialny za lawinę.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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References

References
1 1968 Copyright, More Unkempt Thoughts by Stanisław J. Lec, Translated by Jacek Galazka, Quote Page 9, Funk & Wagnalls, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 Personal communication via twitter between Garson O’Toole (@QuoteResearch) and FranekVetulani (@FranekVetulani) on May 29, 2022; Also, personal communication via twitter between Garson O’Toole (@QuoteResearch) and @szescstopni on May 29, 2022.
3 Website: Wikiquote, Person: Stanisław Jerzy Lec, A Wikimedia Project of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (Accessed wikiquote.org on April 26, 2022; Polish version of the quotation was obtained from Wikiquote; QI has not yet verified the Polish quotation) link

If We Treat People as If They Were What They Ought To Be, We Help Them Become What They Are Capable of Becoming

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Thomas Carlyle? Mary Shelley? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Thomas S. Monson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of sayings ascribed to the prominent German literary figure Goethe. Here are two instances in the family:

If you treat people as they are, they will become worse. If you treat them as they could be, they will become better.

If we treat people as if they were what they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship) in 1795 and 1796. The following passage in German presents the ideal of helping others to achieve their potential:[1]1801, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Ein Roman, (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship: A Novel) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Vierter Band (Volume 4), Book 8, Chapter 4, Quote Page 194, Frankfurt und … Continue reading

Wenn wir sagtest Du, die Menschen nur nehmen, wie sie sind, so machen wir sie schlechter; wenn wir sie behandeln als wären sie, was sie sein sollten, so bringen wir sie dahin, wohin sie zu bringen sind.

The influential Scottish essayist and translator Thomas Carlyle rendered Goethe’s novel into English in 1824. Here is Carlyle’s version of the passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[2]1824, Translations from the German by Thomas Carlyle, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels, Translated from the German of Goethe, Volume 2 of 2,Book VIII, Chapter IV, Quote Page 93, … Continue reading

‘When we take people,’ thou wouldst say, ‘merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If We Treat People as If They Were What They Ought To Be, We Help Them Become What They Are Capable of Becoming

References

References
1 1801, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Ein Roman, (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship: A Novel) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Vierter Band (Volume 4), Book 8, Chapter 4, Quote Page 194, Frankfurt und Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1824, Translations from the German by Thomas Carlyle, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels, Translated from the German of Goethe, Volume 2 of 2,Book VIII, Chapter IV, Quote Page 93, Chapman and Hall, London. (Google Books Full View) link