Eighty Aphorisms and Maxims

By Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin

1. God is all; the tongue of God is the spirit; the tongue
of the spirit is science; the tongue of science should be
the learned man. But the ordinary man of learning is
like a signboard, and full too often of errors in
orthography, like the signboards of small shops.

2. Nature and the Scriptures should be compared. The
priests misread the Scriptures : the philosophers
misconstrue Nature. Hence they are always at war, and
never compare their differences.

3. When we speak of the Divine Sensibility, men tell us
that God’s feelings are not as ours. But, this granted, it
is for us to strive that we may feel like Him, without
which we can in no wise become familiar with His
operations, and still less be numbered among His
servants. In truth, this Divine Sensibility is so absolutely
the one thing needful, that apart therefrom, we are
corpses, less even than stones, because stones abide in
their law, and are that which they should be, whereas the
soul of man was never designed to be a dead thing.

4. There is nothing more easy than to come to the gate
of truth; there is nothing more difficult than to enter it.
This applies to most of the wise of this world.

5. Great progress in truth is difficult in the midst of the
world and under the favour of fortune; duplicity and
double-seeming are needed in dealing with the one and
anxiety for preserving the other. Our rest is not
therefore in God.

6. It is in vain that we pretend to arrive at the fullness of
truth by reasoning. By this way we reach only rational
truth; still it is infinitely precious, and full of resources
against the assaults of false philosophy. The natural
lights of every man of aspiration have indeed no other
font, and it is therefore of almost universal use; but it
cannot impart that sentiment and tact of active and
radical truth from which our nature should derive its life
and being. This kind of truth is given of itself alone.
Let us make ourselves simple and childlike, and our
faithful guide will cause us to feel its sweetness. If we
profit by these first graces, we shall taste very soon
those of the pure spirit, afterwards those of the Holy
Spirit, then those of the Supreme Sanctity, and, lastly, in
the interior man we shall behold the all.

7. The sole advantage which can be found in the merits
and joys of this world is that they cannot prevent us
from dying.

8. It is easy to understand why wisdom is a folly in the
eyes of the world; it is because it shows by our own
experience that the world is a folly by its side; for where
is there a seeker after truth, however ardent, who has not
delayed by the way, and has afterwards regarded
himself as a fool when he has resumed the path of
wisdom?

9. If this world will seem to us, after our death, as
nothing but magical illusion, why do we regard it
otherwise at present? The nature of things does not
change.

10. Were I far from one loved and cherished, and did
she send me her picture to sweeten the bitterness of
absence, I should have certainly a kind of consolation,
but I should not have a true joy. So has truth acted in
regard to us. After our separation from her, she has
bequeathed us her portrait, and this is the physical
world, which she has placed before us to alleviate the
misery of our privation. But what is the contemplation
of the copy compared with that of the original?

11. “All is vanity,” says Solomon; but let courage,
charity, and virtue be excluded from this teaching;
rather, let us raise ourselves towards these sublime
things, until we are able to say that all is truth, that all is
love, that all is felicity.

12. The learned describe nature; the wise explain it.

13. Never persuade yourself that you possess wisdom in
virtue of mere memory or mere mental culture. Wisdom
is like a mother’s love, which makes itself felt only after
the labours and pains of childbirth.

14. Whatsoever is not wisdom only debauches man.
With her he is fitted for all things, for the sentiments of
nature, for lawful pleasures, for every virtue; in her
absence the heart is petrified.

15. It should be regarded as a grace of God when we are
stripped successively of all human supports and
succours, on which we are always too ready to depend.
Thereby He compels us to repose only on Him, and
herein is the final and most profound secret of wisdom.
How can we be dejected at learning it?

16. Had we the courage to make voluntarily the sincere
and continual sacrifice of our entire being, the ordeals,
oppositions, and evils which we undergo during life
would not be sent us; hence we should always be
superior to our sacrifices, like the Repairer, instead of
being almost invariably inferior to them.

17. As our material existence is not life, so our material
destruction is not death.

18. Death is the target at which all men strike; but the
angle of incidence being equal to the angle of reflection,
they find themselves after death in their former degree,
whether above or below.

19. Fear walks with those who dwell upon death, but
those who think of life have love for their companion.

20. Death should be regarded only as a relay in our
journey; we reach it with exhausted horses, and we
pause to get fresh ones able to carry us farther. But we
must also pay what is due for the stage, already
travelled, and until the account is settled, we are not
allowed to go forward.

21. The head of old was subject to the ruling of the
heart, and served only to enlarge it. Today the scepter
which belongs of right to the heart of man has been
transferred to the head, which reigns in place of the
heart. Love is more than knowledge, which is only the
lamp of love, and the lamp is less than that which it
enlightens.

22. The man who believes in God can never fall into
despair; the man who loves God must sigh incessantly.

23. Love is the helm of our vessel; the sciences are only
the weathercock on the capstan. A vessel can sail
without a weathercock, but not without a helm.

24. Science separates man from his fellows by creating
distinctions with which prudence often forbids him to
dispense. Love, on the contrary, impels men to
communicate, and would establish everywhere the reign
of that unity which is the principle from which it
derives. The Repairer spoke nothing of the sciences, for
he came not to divide men; he spoke only of love and
the virtues, for he wished them to walk in unison. But
science does not divide merely, it tends also to pride;
love, on the other hand, does more than join together, it
keeps man in humility. Hence St. Paul said that
knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies.

25. Science is for things of time, love for divine things.
It is possible to dispense with science, but not with love,
and by love will all be fulfilled, for thereby all began,
and thereby does all exist. I would that all the teachings
of the doctors of wisdom began and ended with these
words : Love God, and you shall be learned as all the
sages.

26. For our personal advancement in virtue and truth
one quality is sufficient, namely, love; to advance our
fellows there must be two, love and intelligence; to
accomplish the work of man there must be three love,
intelligence, and activity. But love is ever the base and
the fount in chief.

27. Hope is faith beginning; faith is hope fulfilled; love
is the living and visible operation of hope and faith.
28. For most men life is made up of two days; in the
first they believe everything, and in the second nothing.
For some others life also has two days, but what
distinguishes them from ordinary men is that in the first
they believe only in illusions, and these are nothing;
while in the second they believe in everything, for they
believe in truth, which is all.

29. The Gospel sufficiently impresses on us that the
reward of many is with them in this world, whence they
have little to expect in the other. This sentence, which,
although severe, seems neither cruel nor unjust, has
several degrees which it is well not to confound. There
are men who will have received their entire recompense
here below, others the half only, and yet others a fourth
part. Thus the measure of compensations obtained in
the present life will regulate the giving or refusing of
those in the other. After this the expectations of the rich
and happy on earth may be inferred easily.

30. When deliverance has been accomplished, time is
still required for self-correction and self-purification. In
ceasing to be damned one is not therefore saved, and
this is why there are two judgments in the Apocalypse.

31. Believe not that the joys of the soul are a chimera,
and that the goods we acquire in this life are lost utterly.
The soul in no way changes its nature by leaving this
mortal body. If given over to evil, it receives the
punishment thereof by sinking further therein. But if it
have loved goodness, and have at times experienced the
secret delights of virtue, it will partake of them with
increasing rapture. It has known here below the
ravishments caused by the contemplation of things
which transcend it. It seems as if nothing on earth can
afford it like felicity; it seems even as if earthly
pleasures had no existence. It may rely upon the same
transports in the superior region; yet more, it may count
upon joys beyond measure and uninterrupted delights
when this gross material part shall no longer soil its
purity. If it be thus, let us by no means neglect life; the
greater our care for the soul here, the better shall be our
estate hereafter.

32. The law of spirit and of fire is to go up; the law of
matter and of bodies is to go down. Hence, from the
first moment of their existence, corporeal beings and
beings corporised materially tend to their end and
reintegration, each in their class.

33. The locality of the soul has been a subject of
frequent dispute; by some it has been placed in the head,
by others in the heart, by yet others in the solar plexus.
Were the soul an organic and material particle, there
would be reason in assigning a place for it, as it would
be possible that it should occupy one. But if it be a
metaphysical entity, how can it be localized physically?
Its faculties alone would seem to possess a determined
seat – the head for the functions of thought, meditation,
judgment, and the heart for affections and sentiments of
every kind. As for the soul itself, since its nature
transcends both time and space, its correspondences and
abode in space escape calculation.

34. God is a fixed paradise, man should be a paradise in
motion.

35. Peace is found more often in patience than in
judgment; hence it is better that we should be accused
unjustly than that we should accuse others, even with
justice.

36. The Holy One quitted that which was above that He
might come and restore us to life; we are reluctant to
leave that which is below that we may recover the life
which He has brought to us.

37. Work for the spirit before asking the food of the
spirit; he who will not work, let him not live.

38. The greatest sin which we can commit against God
is to doubt His love and mercy, for it is questioning the
universality of His power, which is the persistent sin of
the prince of darkness.

39. The most sweet of our joys is to feel that God can
wed with wisdom in us, or rather that without Him
wisdom can never enter us, nor He without wisdom.

40. All men who are instructed in fundamental truths
speak the same language, for they are inhabitants of the
same country.

41. Men neglect habitually to study principles; and
hence, when they have need to consider the
development and functions of principles, they are
astonished that they fail to understand them. But they
believe themselves to have provided for everything by
creating the word “mystery.”

42. Man’s head is raised towards heaven, and for this
reason he finds nowhere to repose it on earth.

43. All the goods of fortune are given us only to defray
our journey through this earthly vale. But those who do
not possess pass through it all the same, and this is
infinitely consoling for the poor.

44. The keynote of Nature is reluctance. Her unvaried
occupation seems to be the withdrawal of her
productions. She withdraws them even with violence to
teach us that violence gave birth to them.

45. Who is the innocent man? He who has acquired all
things and has lost nothing.

46. Preserve through all things the desire of the
concupiscence of God; strive for its attainment, to
overcome the illusion which surrounds us, and to realise
our misery. Strive above all things to keep through all
things the idea of the efficacious presence of a faithful
friend who accompanies, guides, nourishes, and sustains
us at every step. This will make us at once reserved and
confident; it will give us both wisdom and strength.
What would be wanting unto us if we were imbued
invariably with these two virtues?

47. We see that the earth, the stars, and all the wonders
of Nature operate with exactitude and following a divine
order; yet are we greater than these. 0 man! respect
thyself, but fear to be unwise!

48. The more we advance in virtue the less we perceive
the defects of others, as a man on the summit of a
mountain, with a vast prospect about him, beholds not
the deformities of those who may dwell on the plain
below. His very elevation should give him a lively and
tender interest in those who, although beneath him, are,
he knows, of his own nature. What then must be the
love of God for men!

49. All the impressions which are made on us by Nature
are designed to exercise our soul during its term of
penitence, to prompt us towards the eternal truths shown
beneath a veil, and to lead us to recover what we have
lost.

50. The ordeals and oppositions which we undergo
become our crosses when we remain beneath them, but
they become ladders of ascent when we rise above them,
and the wisdom which makes us their subject has no
other end than our elevation and healing, and not that
cruel and vengeful intent which is commonly attributed
to it by the vulgar.

51. It is insufficient to say unto God, “Thy will be
done;” we must seek always to know that will; for if we
know it not, who are we that we should accomplish it?

52. The true method of expiating our faults is to repair
them, and as regards those which are irreparable, not to
be discouraged on account of them.

53. We are all in a widowed state, and our task is to remarry.

54. Purification is accomplished only by union with the
true law of our being; all who are outside that law can
expiate nothing; they only contaminate themselves more
deeply.

55. That which is true is made by men subservient to the
worship of the semblance, whereas the semblance was
given them to be subservient to the worship of the true.

56. There are for man three desirable things: (1) Never
to forget that there is another light than the elementary,
of which this is but the veil and the mask. (2) To realise
that nothing either can or should prevent him from
accomplishing his work. (3) To learn that what he
knows best is that he knows nothing.

57. The spirit is to our soul what our eyes are to our
body; without it we should be nothing, even as apart
from the life of the body the eyes are useless.

58. Order thyself aright; that will instruct thee in
wisdom and morality better than all the books which
treat of them, for wisdom and morality are active forces.

59. As a proof that we are regenerated we must
regenerate everything around us.

60. The wise of this world talk incessantly, and that
upon all things false. The sages do not talk, but, like
wisdom itself, they accomplish unceasingly the living
and the true.

61. The Church should be the Priest, but the Priest seeks
to be the Church.

62. Men of this world consider that it is impossible to be
a saint without also being a fool. They do not know that,
on the contrary, the one way to avoid being a fool is to
be a saint.

63. Mind and not soul is required for human sciences;
but for real and divine sciences mind is not needed, for
they are the offspring of the soul. Hence no two things
can be more opposite than truth and the world.

64. A picture without a frame is offensive in the eyes of
the world, so accustomed is it to see frames without
pictures.

65. Unity is seldom found in associations; it must be
sought in an individual junction with God. Only when
that has been accomplished do we find brethren in one
another.

66. Words are given to us in trust, as sheep to a
shepherd. If we leave them to go astray, to become
famished, or to be devoured by wolves, we shall be
called to a stricter account than he is.

67. In order to demonstrate that the principle of any
action is lawful, its consequences must be considered;
where the actor is unhappy he is infallibly guilty,
because he cannot be happy unless he is free.

68. Whatsoever is sensible is relative, and there is
nothing fixed therein.

69. Man is one of the arbiters of God, and hence he is
ancient as God, though there is not a plurality of Gods
on this account.

70. The kingdom of God is a continuous and complete
activity. God is not the God of the dead, but of the
living.

71. If man avoids regarding himself as the king of the
universe, it is because he lacks courage to recover his
titles thereto, because its duties seem too laborious, and
because he fears less to renounce his state and his rights
than to undertake the restoration of their value.

72. We are nearer to that which is not than to that which
is.

73. The prayer of the Spaniard, ” My God, defend me
from myself,” connects with a salutary feeling when we
can awaken it within us, namely, that we ourselves are
the only beings of whom we need be afraid on earth,
whilst God is the one nature who has reason to fear only
that which is not Himself. We might extend it as
follows, ” My God, aid me in Thy goodness, that I may
be spared from destroying thee.”

74. If man, despite his state of reprobation, can still
discern within himself a principle which is superior to
his sensible and corporeal part, why should not such a
principle be acknowledged in the sensible universe,
equally distinct and superior, though deputed specially
to govern it?

75. I leave the unenlightened and shallow man to
murmur at that justice which visits the trespasses of the
parent upon his posterity. I will not even point to that
physical law whereby an impure source communicates
its impurities to its productions, because the analogy
would be false and invidious if applied to what is not
physical. But if justice can afflict the children through
the fathers, it can also purify the fathers by the children;
and though it exceeds the understanding of the ignorant,
this should warrant us in suspending our judgment till
we are admitted to the councils of wisdom.

76. The thought of man is expressed in the material
world, that of God in the universe.

77. Sensible objects can give us nothing, but can
deprive us of all. Our task while they encompass us is
less to acquire than to lose nothing.

78. The prayers and the truths which are taught us here
below are too narrow for our needs; they are the prayers
and the truths of time, and we feel that we were made
for others.

79. The universe is even as a great temple; the stars are
its lights, the earth is its altar, all corporeal beings are its
holocausts, and man, the priest of the Eternal, offers the
sacrifices.

80. The universe is also as a great fire lighted since the
beginning of things for the purification of aII corrupted
beings.