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Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo

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Contemplating, Reflecting, Thinking, Ruminating, Philosophizing, Analyzing

Quotations, Sayings, Aphorisms, Clichés, Quips, Quotes, Poetry


The following quotations reflect mostly "philosophical contemplation" rather than "religious contemplation."

Philosophical contemplation extends to reflecting deeply on any subject, experience, fact, natural phenomena, event, process, imaginative creation, image, symbol, thought, or system.  This kind of contemplation is a concentrated effort at thinking, ruminating, analyzing, judging, reflecting, evaluating, creating, discovering, appreciating, valuing, uncovering, or synthesizing.  A person of a philosophical bent might reflect on religious (spiritual, supernatural, theological) issues, but their "contemplations" are of a far wider scope.  Contemplation might focus on evaluating information or feelings pertaining to a decision about a personal action or belief; but, quite often considers subjects that have far less immediate personal importance.  Basically, this kind of "contemplation" is just philosophizing about nature and our lives.   The opportunity to contemplate requires some degree of leisure, freedom from mundane duties and employment, and solitude

Religious contemplation focuses mostly on spiritual topics and theology and ways to obtain profound mystical experiences; and, is often associated with meditation, prayer, and ritual.  It seems to me that all religions have their contemplation methods, and have some contemplatives in their ranks.  I am mostly familiar with Buddhist, Taoist, Raja Yoga, and Neo-Pagan methods and themes of contemplation.  I was educated in Catholic schools and am somewhat familiar with their contemplative tradition.  A few of these perspectives are included in the quotations below.  Most religious contemplatives are provided with life's necessities and solitude by donations from the adherents of their religion. 




"Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily.  It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced.  That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally." 
-  Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet


"Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time.  Time to dream, time to contemplate what's working and what's not, so that we can make changes for the better." 
-  Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance


"A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with.  If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?' . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's time—the stuff of life." 
-  Carl Sandburg


"The national distrust of the contemplative temperament arises less from an innate Philistinism than from a suspicion of anything that cannot be counted, stuffed, framed or mounted over the fireplace in the den."
-  Lewis H. Lapham, Money and Class in America, 1988


"To broaden one's prospective is to push back the swirling winds of ignorance." 
-  Joel T. McGrath


"The pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful."
-  Edgar Allen Poe


"The man incapable of contemplation cannot be an artist, but only a skillful workman."
-  Ananda Coomaraswamy  


"In contemplation of ruins, one contemplates one's future, the fragility of the present, and the futility of the past."
-  Alexander Creswell 


"I admire people who are suited to the contemplative life. They can sit inside themselves like honey in a jar and just be."
-  Elizabeth Janeway  


The upheaval of our world and the upheaval in consciousness is one and the same.  Everything becomes relative and therefore doubtful.  And while man, hesitant and questioning, contemplates... his spirit yearns for an answer that will allay the turmoil of doubt and uncertainty."
-  Carl Gustav Jung   


"There is eloquence in the tongueless wind, and a melody in the flowing brooks and the rustling of the reeds beside them, which by their inconceivable relation to something within the soul, awaken the spirits to a dance of breathless rapture, and bring tears of mysterious tenderness to the eyes, like the enthusiasm of patriotic success, or the voice of one beloved singing to you alone." 
-  Percy Bysshe Shelley


"What distinguishes - in both senses of that word - contemplation is rather this: it is a knowing which is inspired by love. "Without love there would be no contemplation."  Contemplation is a loving attainment of awareness.  It is intuition of the beloved object." 
-  Josef Pieper 


"To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is pleasure beyond compare." 
-  Yoshida Kenkō, Essays in Idleness


"What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action."
-  Meister Eckhart


"Winston stopped reading, chiefly in order to appreciate the fact that he was reading, in comfort and safety. He was alone: no telescreen, no ear at the keyhole, no nervous impulse to glance over his shoulder or cover the page with his hand. The sweet summer air played against his cheek. From somewhere far away there floated the faint shouts of children: in the room itself there was no sound except the insect voice of the clock. He settled deeper into the arm-chair and put his feet up on the fender. It was bliss, it was eternity." 
- George Orwell, 1984


"Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour."
-  Henry David Thoreau


"I believe that one thinks much more soundly if the thoughts arise from direct contact with things, than if one looks at things with the aim of finding this or that in them."  
-  Vincent van Gogh  


"To Contemplation's sober eye.
Such is the race of Man."
-  Thomas Gray  


"Contemplation is a luxury, requiring time and alternatives." 
- Tahir Shah, In Search of King Solomon's Mines


"The wise man knows how to run his life so that contemplation is possible."
-  Gabriel Marcel  


"True reflection presents me to myself not as idle and inaccessible subjectivity, but as identical with my presence in the world and to others, as I am now realizing it: I am all that I see, I am an intersubjective field, not despite my body and historical situation, but, on the contrary, by being this body and this situation, and through them, all the rest."
-  Maurice Merleau-Ponty  


"The man who has a library of his own collection is able to contemplate himself objectively, and is justified in believing in his own existence." 
-  Augustine Birrell


"To him who feels himself preordained to contemplation and not to belief, all believers are too noisy and obtrusive; he guards against them." 
-  Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


"The ultimate meaning of the active life is to make possible the happiness of contemplation." 
-  Josef Pieper


"Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing."
-  Dodie Smith


"Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate."
-  Saint Thomas Acquinas


"I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature."
-  Caspar David Friedrich  


"Repose, leisure, peace, belong among the elements of happiness.  If we have not escaped from harried rush, from mad pursuit, from unrest, from the necessity of care, we are not happy. And what of contemplation?  Its very premise is freedom from the fetters of workaday busyness.  Moreover, it itself actualizes this freedom by virtue of being intuition." 
-  Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation


"Contemplation does not rest until it has found the object which dazzles it." 
-  Konrad Weiss


"I can recommend nothing better... than that you endeavor to infuse into your works what you learn from the contemplation of the works of others."
-  Sir Joshua Reynolds


"Art is contemplation.  It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and there defines the spirit of which Nature herself is animated."
-  Auguste Rodin  


"There is no contemplation without art."
-  Vittorio Canta  


"Contemplation is the root of awareness and creativity."
-  Sandra Chantry  


“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time.  Time to dream, time to contemplate what's working and what's not, so that we can make changes for the better. ” 
- Sarah Ban Breathnach


“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is pleasure beyond compare.” 
-  Yoshida Kenko




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“In the city fields
contemplating cherry-trees─
strangers are like friends” 
-  Kobayashi Issa


"It is more than probable that I am not understood; but I fear, indeed, that it is in no manner possible to convey to the mind of the merely general reader, an adequate idea of that nervous intensity of interest with which, in my case, the powers of meditation (not to speak technically) busied and buried themselves, in the contemplation of even the most ordinary objects of the universe." 
-  Edgar Allan Poe


"Society develops wit, but its contemplation alone forms genius."
-  Madame de Stael  


"Ecstasy is from the contemplation of things vaster than the individual and imperfectly seen perhaps, by all those that still live."
-  William Butler Yeats  


"To gaze is to think."
-  Salvador Dali  


"Follow effective action with quiet reflection.  From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action."
-  Peter Drucker  


“What distinguishes - in both senses of that word - contemplation is rather this: it is a knowing which is inspired by love. "Without love there would be no contemplation."  Contemplation is a loving attainment of awareness. It is intuition of the beloved object.” 
-  Josef Pieper,
Happiness and Contemplation


"It is often more important to question our answers than to answer our questions.  The process of questioning and holding a question within ourselves becomes part of the light on the path to discovery, softening and opening us to new realizations.  When we trust ourselves enough to begin to question tradition and authority, we begin the process of direct discovery.  It has been said that the highest learning comes in four parts: One part is learned from teachers; another part from fellow students; a third part for self-study and practice; and the final part come mysteriously, silently, in the due course of time.  Inquiry and questioning can free us from the rigid, mechanical life of strict adherence to one belief, and can move us into the joy of continuous learning."
-  Ganga White, Yoga Beyond Belief, p.11


"That which is not worth contemplating in life, is not worth recreating in art."
-  Ayn Rand  


"Works of art must persist as objects of contemplation."
-  Herbert Read   


"A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish."
-  W. H. Auden  


"Observe and contemplate on the hidden things of life: how a man's seed is but the beginning, it takes others to bring it to fruition.  Think how food undergoes such changes to produce health and strength.  See the power of these hidden things which, like the wind cannot been seen, but its effects can be."
-  Marcus Aurelius  


How many philosophers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Two.  One to screw in the light bulb, and one not to screw in the light bulb. 


"A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in--what more could he ask?  A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars."
-  Victor Hugo, Les Misérables


"If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet...maybe we could understand something." 
-  Federico Fellini


"Realism and Naturalism rely mostly on the eye of the flesh.  Abstract, conceptual and surrealistic art rely mostly on the eye of the mind. Great works of art rely on the eye of contemplation, the eye of the spirit."
-  Alex Gray  


"The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention."
-  Dorothea Lange  


"Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self...  We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves.  Contemplation is not and cannot be a function of this external self. There is an irreducible opposition between the deep transcendent self that awakens only in contemplation, and the superficial, external self which we commonly identify with the first person singular.  Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness....  We can rise above this unreality and recover our hidden reality...."
-  Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation


"The happy man needs nothing and no one.  Not that he holds himself aloof, for indeed he is in harmony with everything and everyone; everything is "in him"; nothing can happen to him.  The same may also be said for the contemplative person; he needs himself alone; he lacks nothing." 
-  Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation


"When the doing is hard, there is more contemplation.  When the doing is too hard, very little work is actually produced.  When the doing is too easy then there can be much work but there may not be enough thought put into it."
-  William M. Dupree  


"The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of The Word."
-  T. S. Eliot, The Rock 


"They only babble who practise not reflection."
-  Edward Young  



Cloud Hands Blog




Contemplation, Reflection, Thinking, Ruminating, Analyzing

Bibliography, Links, Resources



Green Way Research Subject Index 

Happiness and Contemplation.  By Joseph Pieper. 

Koans - Zen Buddhism

Meditation - Varied Methods 

Philosophy as a Way of Life: Ancients and Moderns - Essays in Honor of Pierre Hadot.  Edited by Michael Chase, Stephen R. L. Clark, and Michael McGhee.  Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.  340 pages.  ISBN: 978-1405161619. 

Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault  By Pierre Hadot.  Edited with an introduction by Arnold Davidson.  Translated by Michael Chase.  Malden, Massachusetts, Wiley-Blackwell, 1995.  Index, extensive bibliography, 320 pages.  ISBN: 978-0631180333.  VSCL. 

Seeds of Contemplation.  By Thomas Merton.  



Yoga - Classical Raja Yoga








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Virtues and a Good Life

Compiled by Mike Garofalo

This webpage was last modified or updated on March 5, 2016. 

This webpage was first published on the Internet on December 7, 2014 

Green Way Research, Red Bluff, California


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