The Best Quotes From Eric Hoffer’s “The Passionate State of Mind.”

Eric Hoffer is one of my favorite philosophers and what you’re about to read are the quotes that caught my eye from his book, The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms.

Passions usually have their roots in that which is blemished, crippled, incomplete and insecure within us. The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction. — P.1

A gain in self-esteem usually reduces the pull of the appetites, while a crisis in self-esteem is likely to cause a weakening or a complete breakdown of self-discipline. — P.3

Passionate sinning has not infrequently been an apprenticeship to sainthood. Many of the insights of the saint stem from his experience as a sinner. — P.4

A nation is “tired” when it ceases to want things fervently. It makes no difference whether this blunting of desire is due to satiety, reasonableness or disillusion. To a tired nation the future seems barren, offering nothing which would surpass that which is or has been. The main effect of a real revolution is perhaps that it sweeps away those who do not know how to wish, and brings to the front men with insatiable appetites for action, power and all that the world has to offer. — P.10

We acquire a sense of worth either by realizing our talents, or by keeping busy, or by identifying ourselves with something apart from us — be it a cause, a leader, a group, possessions and the like. Of the three, the path of self-realization is the most difficult. — P.15

Give people pride and they’ll live on bread and water, bless their exploiters, and even die for them. Self-surrender is a transaction of barter: we surrender our sense of human dignity, our judgment, our moral and esthetic sense for pride. If there is pride in being free we are ready to die for liberty. If there is pride to be derived from an identification with a leader, we grovel in the dust before a Napoleon, Hitler or Stalin and are ready to die for him. If there is a distinction in suffering, we search for martyrdom as hidden treasure. — P.19

It has been often said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the fruits of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of their inadequacy and impotence. They hate not wickedness but weakness. When it is in their power to do so, the weak destroy weakness wherever they see it. Woe to the weak when they are preyed upon by the weak. The self-hatred of the weak is likewise an instance of their hatred of weakness. — P.22

Note also how perverse is the attitude of the weak toward their benefactors. They feel generosity as oppression; they want to retaliate. They say to their benefactors: “May the day come when you shall be weak and we will send bundles to America.” You do not win the weak by sharing your wealth with them; it will but infect them with greed and resentment. You can win the weak only by sharing your pride, hope or hatred with them. — P.22

Great evils befall the world when the powerful begin to copy the weak. The desperate devices which enable the weak to survive are unequaled instruments of oppression and extermination in the hands of the strong. — P.23

It is a talent of the weak to persuade themselves that they suffer for something when they suffer from something; that they are showing the way when they are running away; that they see the light when they feel the heat; that they are chosen when they are shunned. — P.26

We almost always prove something when we act heroically. We prove to ourselves and others that we are not what we and they thought we were. Our real self is petty, greedy, cowardly, dishonest and stewing in malice. And now in defying death and spitting in its eye we grasp at the chance of a grand refutation. — P.29

We not only pretend to be what we are not, but by staging our pretense we strive to conjure and bring into existence a new genuineness. This strange thing is that often this conjuring act succeeds, and we become what we pretend to be. — P.31

To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats — we know it not. — P.32

One does not really love mankind when one expects too much from them. — P.49

The sick in soul insist that it: is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax. — P.50

Deep within us there is a conviction that every mother’s son is better than we. Our self-righteousness is an echo of this conviction. Do we not expect others to be ashamed of thoughts and deeds which we ourselves think and do without embarrassment? — P.52

To be truly selfish one needs a degree of self-esteem. The self-despisers are less intent on their own increase than on the diminution of others. Where self-esteem is unattainable, envy takes the place of greed. — P.53

The attempt to justify an evil deed has perhaps more pernicious consequences than the evil deed itself. The justification of a past crime is the planting and cultivation of future crimes. Indeed, the repetition of a crime is sometimes part of a device of justification: we do it again and again to convince ourselves and others that it is a common thing and not an enormity. — P.55

To find the cause of our ills in something outside ourselves, something specific that can be spotted and eliminated, is a diagnosis that cannot fail to appeal. — P.58

Those who would sacrifice a generation to realize an ideal are the enemies of mankind. — P.65

There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement. — P.79

We are likely to have a regard for the opinion of others only when there is a chance that the opinion might be now and then in our favor. — P.81

The mortification born of a shameful act does not usually last long. With most people it passes within forty-eight hours. And yet each mortification as it passes leaves a stain and a blemish on our feeling of well-being. Then gradually an undercurrent of self contempt begins coursing within us, and now and then it leaks out in bitterness and hatred towards others. — P.83

We clamor for equality chiefly in matters in which we ourselves cannot hope to attain excellence. To discover what a man truly craves but knows he cannot have we must find the field in which he advocates absolute equality. — P.86

We ought to beware of people who do not think it necessary to pretend that they are good and decent. Lack of hypocrisy in such things hints at a capacity for a most depraved ruthlessness. — P.87

Some people are born to spend their lives catching up; and they are as a rule the passionate ones. — P.90

Man staggers through life yapped at by his reason, pulled and shoved by his appetites, whispered to by his fears, beckoned by hopes. Small wonder that what he craves most is self-forgetting. — P.93

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. — P.94

It requires a considerable degree of conceit to believe that we are loved. Only certain people can give us that conceit. — P.95

We do not really feel grateful toward those who make our dreams come true; they ruin our dreams. — P.97

Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength. — P.100

It is always safe to assume that people are more subtle and less sensitive than they seem. — P.102

Wise living consists perhaps less in acquiring good habits than in acquiring as few habits as possible. — P.107

The best reason for loving others is still that they love us. — P.110

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness. — P.112

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