„The butterfly in a caterpillar: the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being.“

Genius
One Minute Wisdom (1989)
Context: A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master.
"People say you are a genius. Are you?" he asked.
"You might say so." said the Master, none too modestly.
"And what makes one a genius?" "The ability to recognize." "Recognize what?"
"The butterfly in a caterpillar: the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being."

Last update May 22, 2020. History
Anthony de Mello photo
Anthony de Mello134
Indian writer 1931 - 1987

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„In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.“

—  David Mitchell, book Cloud Atlas

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, Monday, 13th January —, p. 528
Cloud Atlas (2004)
Context: Scholars discern motions in history & formulate these motions into rules that govern the rises & falls of civilizations. My belief runs contrary, however. To wit: history admits no rules; only outcomes.
What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts.
What precipitates acts? Belief.
Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world. If we believe humanity is a ladder of tribes, a colosseum of confrontation, exploitation & bestiality, such a humanity is surely brought into being, & history’s Horroxes, Boer-haaves & Gooses shall prevail. You & I, the moneyed, the privileged, the fortunate, shall not fare so badly in this world, provided our luck holds. What of it if our consciences itch? Why undermine the dominance of our race, our gunships, our heritage & our legacy? Why fight the “natural” (oh, weaselly word!) order of things?
Why? Because of this: — one fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
Is this the doom written within our nature?
If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.

Frank Buchman photo

„Either we sacrifice our national selfishness for the good of humanity, or we sacrifice the good of humanity to our national selfishness.“

—  Frank Buchman Evangelical theologist 1878 - 1961

The Revolutionary Path, by Frank Buchman, publisher: Grosvenor Books, 1975, p.23
Quotes on the war of ideas

William Ewart Gladstone photo

„All selfishness is the great curse of the human race“

—  William Ewart Gladstone British Liberal politician and prime minister of the United Kingdom 1809 - 1898

Speech at Hawarden (28 May 1890), quoted in The Times (29 May 1890), p. 12.
1890s
Context: All selfishness is the great curse of the human race, and when we have a real sympathy with other people less happy than ourselves that is a good sign of something like a beginning of deliverance from selfishness.

Morarji Desai photo
J. Howard Moore photo
William Wilberforce photo
Ted Malloch photo

„Myth: There’s conflict between selfish free markets and a benevolent world of human sympathy.“

—  Ted Malloch American businessman 1952

Source: Doing Virtuous Business (Thomas Nelson, 2011), p. 10.

Lydia Davis photo
Jean-Marie Guyau photo

„The purely selfish happiness of certain Epicureans is a chimera, an abstraction, an impossibility; the true human pleasures are all more or less social. Pure egoism, rather than being an affirmation of the self, is a mutilation of the self.“

—  Jean-Marie Guyau French writer and philosopher 1854 - 1888

Outline of a Morality Without Obligation or Sanction https://www.marxists.org/archive/guyau/1885/morality.htm (1885).
Context: A third equivalent of duty is borrowed from sensibility and not, like the preceding, from intelligence and activity. It’s the growing fusion of sensibilities, and the ever increasing sociable character of elevated pleasures, from which results a kind of duty or superior necessity which pushes us naturally and rationally towards others. By virtue of evolution, our pleasures grow and become increasingly impersonal; we cannot experience enjoyment within our selves as if on a deserted isle. Our milieu, to which we better adapt ourselves every day, is human society, and we can no more be happy outside of this milieu than we can breathe outside the air. The purely selfish happiness of certain Epicureans is a chimera, an abstraction, an impossibility; the true human pleasures are all more or less social. Pure egoism, rather than being an affirmation of the self, is a mutilation of the self.

Karel Čapek photo

„I think it is possible, and that is the most dramatic element in modern civilization, that a human truth is opposed to another human truth no less human, ideal against ideal, positive worth against worth no less positive, instead of the struggle being as we are so often told, one between noble truth and vile selfish error.“

—  Karel Čapek Czech writer 1890 - 1938

R.U.R. supplement in The Saturday Review (1923)
Context: Be these people either Conservatives or Socialists, Yellows or Reds, the most important thing is — and that is the point I want to stress — that all of them are right in the plain and moral sense of the word... I ask whether it is not possible to see in the present social conflict of the world an analogous struggle between two, three, five equally serious verities and equally generous idealisms? I think it is possible, and that is the most dramatic element in modern civilization, that a human truth is opposed to another human truth no less human, ideal against ideal, positive worth against worth no less positive, instead of the struggle being as we are so often told, one between noble truth and vile selfish error.

H. G. Wells photo
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„These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.“

—  Nelson Mandela President of South Africa, anti-apartheid activist 1918 - 2013

1990s, Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1993)
Context: I am also here today as a representative of the millions of people across the globe, the anti-apartheid movement, the governments and organisations that joined with us, not to fight against South Africa as a country or any of its peoples, but to oppose an inhuman system and sue for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity.
These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.

William Howard Taft photo

„Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that to-day is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.“

—  William Howard Taft American politician, 27th President of the United States (in office from 1909 to 1913) 1857 - 1930

Popular Government: Its Essence, Its Permanence and Its Perils, chapter 4, p.91 (1913).

Julia Ward Howe photo

„There is no hell like that of a selfish heart, and there is no misfortune so great as that of not being able to make a sacrifice.“

—  Julia Ward Howe American abolitionist, social activist, and poet 1819 - 1910

22 August 1875.
The Walk With God (1919)
Context: There is no hell like that of a selfish heart, and there is no misfortune so great as that of not being able to make a sacrifice. These two thoughts come to me strongly this morning. It is something to have learned these truths so that we can never again doubt them.

Jeanette Winterson photo
Ambrose Bierce photo

„Selfish, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.“

—  Ambrose Bierce American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist 1842 - 1914

The Devil's Dictionary (1911)
Source: The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary

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