Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe 1749-1832

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe is one of the most famous Germans and one of the wisest people that have ever lived on this planet. He worked on his famous play “Faustus” for sixty years.

The story concerns the fate of Faust in his quest for the true essence of life (“was die Welt im Innersten zusammenhält”). Frustrated with learning and the limits to his knowledge and power, he attracts the attention of the Devil (represented by Mephistopheles), who agrees to serve Faust until the moment he attains the zenith of human happiness, at which point Mephistopheles may take his soul. Faust is pleased with the deal, as he believes the moment will never come.

In the first part, Mephistopheles leads Faust through experiences that culminate in a lustful and destructive relationship with an innocent and nubile woman named Gretchen. Gretchen and her family are destroyed by Mephistopheles’ deceptions and Faust’s desires and actions. The story ends in tragedy as Gretchen is saved and Faust is left in shame.

The second part begins with the spirits of the earth forgiving Faust (and the rest of mankind) and progresses into allegorical poetry. Faust and his devil pass through the world of politics and the world of the classical gods, and meet with Helen of Troy (the personification of beauty). Finally, having succeeded in taming the very forces of war and nature, Faust experiences a single moment of happiness.

Mephistopheles, trying to grab Faust’s soul when he dies, is frustrated when Gretchen intervenes, recognizing the value of Faust’s unending striving.

I love the story and especially the famous quote at the beginning of the play when Faust realizes how little he knows:

Now I have studied philosophy,

medicine and the law,

and unfortunately, theology,

wearily sweating, yet I stand now,

poor fool, no wiser than I was before;

I am called Master, even Doctor,

and for these last ten years have led

my students by the nose–up, down,

crosswise and crooked. Now I see

that we know nothing finally.

He had the insight that the mind is limited that even when we accumulate all the knowledge in the world we still don’t know anything.

Other Goethe quotes:

What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.

It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it.

There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the Best as the past withdraws.

We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.

Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded.

We cannot fashion our children after our desires, we must have them and love them as God has given them to us.

Life is the childhood of our immortality.

If you want a wise answer, ask a reasonable question.

Our passion are the true phoenixes; when the old one is burnt out, a new one rises from its ashes.

Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.

He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.

That is the true season of love; when we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved as much before, and that no one will ever love in the same way again.

Out of moderation a pure happiness springs.

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time.

Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image

Beauty is a primeval phenomenon, which itself never makes its appearance, but the reflection of which is visible in a thousand different utterances of the creative mind, and is as various as nature herself.

Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.

A useless life is an early death.

All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.

Look closely at those who patronize you. Half are unfeeling, half untaught.

Happiness is a ball after which we run wherever it rolls, and we push it with our feet when it stops.

Where is the man who has the strength to be true, and to show himself as he is?

Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

Human beings, by change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.

The history of mankind is his character.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Never by reflection, but only by doing is self-knowledge possible to one.

Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.

The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.

Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.

Then indecision brings its own delays, And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

Before you can do something you must first be something.

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.

For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard himself as greater than he is.

We must not take the faults of our youth with us into old age, for age brings along its own defects.

No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others.

If I love you, what business is it of yours?

The world is for thousands a freak show; the images flicker past and vanish; the impressions remain flat and unconnected in the soul. Thus they are easily led by the opinions of others, are content to let their impressions be shuffled and rearranged and evaluated differently.

Trust yourself, then you will know how to live.

The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.

The man of understanding finds everything laughable.

Self-love exaggerates our faults as well as our virtues.

The senses do not deceive us, but the judgment does.

Nothing is true, but that which is simple.

There is repetition everywhere, and nothing is found only once in the world.

To understand one thing well is better than understanding many things by halves.

I do not speak of what I cannot praise.

I don’t know a greater advantage, than to appreciate the worth of an enemy.

Stupidity is without anxiety.

On the pinnacle of success man does not stand firm long.

Superstition is the poetry of life.

All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.

No one should be rich except those who understand it.

Who is the wisest man? He who neither knows or wishes for anything else than what happens.

The world remains ever the same.

Well, what can I say that absolutely amazing! These are just a few selected quotes. Too bad that the world has not learned anything from his insights but I guess this is because the world remains the same. 🙂





“Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe” Frankfurt am Main/Germany/Goethe Statue 12-31-09 at 02:56 PM

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