Excerpts from “The Intellectual Life”, by A.G. Sertillanges

«Truth serves only its slaves.» – p. 4

«The most valuable thing of all is will, a deeply-rooted will; to will to be somebody, to achieve something; to be even now in desire that somebody, recognizable by his ideal. Everything else always settles itself. There are books everywhere and only a few are necessary. Society, stimulation, one finds these in spirit in one’s solitude: the great are there, present to those who call on them, and the great ages behind impel the ardent thinker forward. As to lectures, those who can have them do not follow them or follow them but ill, if they have not in themselves, at need, the wherewithal to do without such fortunate help. As to the public, if it sometimes stimulates, it often disturbs, scatters the mind; and by going to pick up two pennies in the street, you may lose a fortune. An impassioned solitude is better, for there every seed produces a hundredfold, and every ray of sunlight suffuses the whole landscape with autumnal gold.» – p. 10

«Truth visits those who love her, who surrender to her, and this love cannot be without virtue.» – p. 19

«If you want to entertain knowledge as your guest, you do not need rare furniture, nor numerous servants. Much peace, a little beauty, certain conveniences that save time, are all that is necessary.

Slacken the tempo of your life. Receptions, visits that give rise to fresh obligations, formal intercourse with one’s neighbors, all the complicated ritual of an artificial life that so many men of the world secretly detest — these things are not for a worker. Society life is fatal to study. Display and dissipation of mind are mortal enemies of though. When one thinks of a man of genius, one does not imagine him dining out.

Do not let yourself get entangled in that mesh of occupations which little by little monopolizes time, thought, resources, powers. Conventions must not dictate you. Be your own guide; obey your convictions, not mere custom; and the convictions of an intellectual must correspond to the goal at which he is aiming.» – p. 42-3

«In the organization of our life, the essential point to safeguard, in view of which all the rest is necessary, is the wise provision of solitude, exterior and interior. St. Thomas is so deeply convinced of this that of sixteen counsels to the intellectual, he devotes seven to external contact and to the retired life. “I want you to be slow in speaking and slow in going to the parlor.” “Do not inquire at all about the actions of others.” “Be polite to everyone” but “be familiar with none, for too much familiarity breeds contempt and gives matter for many distractions.” “Do not busy yourself about the words and actions of those in the world.” “Avoid useless outings above everything.” “Love your cell, if you desire to be admitted to the wine-cellar.”»

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