Essence

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An essence is an attribute or set of attributes which make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. In systems of philosophy, essence is contrasted with accident — the existence of such properties as the entity or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity.

Alphabetized by author or source
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P -Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · See also · External links

A[edit]

  • When we say that God is a spirit, we know what we mean, as well as we do when we say that the pyramids of Egypt are matter. Let us be content, therefore, to believe him to be a spirit, that is, an essence that we know nothing of, in which originally and necessarily reside all energy, all power, all capacity, all activity, all wisdom, all goodness.
  • Know that the essence of a person, as such, is quite impossible to perceive without his material embodiment …This is because our five senses and our imagination do not offer us anything more than the revelation of the actions of the essence, but not the essence itself.
    • Yehuda Ashlag, as quoted in "Preface to the Book of Zohar", in Introduction to the Book of Zohar: Volume Two (2005) edited by Michael Laitman, p. 30
  • The essence of one's work is only to come to the sensation of the existence of the Creator, to feel the existence of the Creator, that “the whole earth is full of His glory.”
  • Since the essence of the soul is but a will to bestow, and all its manifestations and possessions are fulfillments of that will to bestow … therefore it is immortal and irreplaceable. The soul, with all its manifestations is eternal and exists forever. Absence does not apply to them upon the departure of the body. On the contrary, the absence of the corrupted form of the body, greatly strengthens it, thus enabling it to rise to the Heavens. Thus we have clearly shown that the persistence in no way depends upon the concepts it has acquired, as philosophers claim, but its eternality is in its very essence, meaning in its will to bestow, which is its essence. And the concepts it acquires are its reward, not its essence.

B[edit]

  • In the Name of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Holy. All praise and glory befitteth the sacred and glorious court of the sovereign Lord, Who from everlasting hath dwelt, and unto everlasting will continue to dwell within the mystery of His Own divine Essence, Who from time immemorial hath abided and will forever continue to abide within His transcendent eternity, exalted above the reach and ken of all created beings.
    • The Báb, in The Persian Bayán, I, 1
  • I swear by the most holy Essence of God — exalted and glorified be He — that in the Day of the appearance of Him Whom God shall make manifest a thousand perusals of the Bayán cannot equal the perusal of a single verse to be revealed by Him Whom God shall make manifest.
    • The Báb, in The Persian Bayán, V, 8
  • Fire and paradise both bow down and prostrate themselves before God. That which is worthy of His Essence is to worship Him for His sake, without fear of fire, or hope of paradise.
    • The Báb, in The Persian Bayán, VII, 19
  • The Buddhists maintain that there is no Creator but an infinitude of creative powers, which collectively form the one eternal substance, the essence of which is inscrutable — hence not a subject for speculation for any true philosopher.
  • It is manifest... that every soul and spirit hath a certain continuity with the spirit of the universe, so that it must be understood to exist and to be included not only there where it liveth and feeleth, but it is also by its essence and substance diffused throughout immensity... The power of each soul is itself somehow present afar in the universe... Naught is mixed, yet is there some presence.
    Anything we take in the universe, because it has in itself that which is All in All, includes in its own way the entire soul of the world, which is entirely in any part of it.
    • Giordano Bruno, in De la Causa, Principio e Uno (1584) [Cause, Principle, and Unity] (1584)
  • Divinity reveals herself in all things... everything has Divinity latent within itself. For she enfolds and imparts herself even unto the smallest beings, and from the smallest beings, according to their capacity. Without her presence nothing would have being, because she is the essence of the existence of the first unto the last being.
    • Giordano Bruno, in Spaccio de la bestia trionfante (1584) [The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast] as translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)

C[edit]

Those who, by the essence of their belief, are committed to Direct Action only are — just who? Why, the non-resistants; precisely those who do not believe in violence at all! ~ Voltairine de Cleyre
  • We arrive at the point where we, looking over the hundred and twenty five years of independence, can see that the simple government conceived by the revolutionary republicans was a foredoomed failure. It was so because of: 1) the essence of government itself; 2) the essence of human nature; 3) the essence of Commerce and Manufacture. … As to the essence of human nature, what our national experience has made plain is this, that to remain in a continually exalted moral condition is not human nature. That has happened which was prophesied: we have gone down hill from the Revolution until now; we are absorbed in "mere money-getting."
  • Those who, by the essence of their belief, are committed to Direct Action only are — just who? Why, the non-resistants; precisely those who do not believe in violence at all!

D[edit]

  • Like Teresa of Avila, Kazantzakis indicates that behind all appearances lies a struggling divine essence (the "Invisible") that is striving to merge with our hearts just as the mystic is striving to merge with God's. Nonetheless God's striving is on a cosmic scale such that there is something trivial involved when we push anthropocentric images too far in our description of God.

E[edit]

  • If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.
    • Albert Einstein, as quoted in The Private Albert Einstein (1992) by Peter A. Bucky and Allen G. Weakland, p. 86

F[edit]

  • Let it be remembered that atheism — at least in the sense of this work — is the secret of religion itself; that religion itself, not indeed on the surface, but fundamentally, not in intention or according to its own supposition, but in its heart, in its essence, believes in nothing else than the truth and divinity of human nature.
  • The present age... prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence... for in these days illusion only is sacred, truth profane.

G[edit]

  • Names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things, and not the essence to the names, since things come first and names afterwards.
    • Galileo Galilei, as quoted in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957) by Stillman Drake, p. 92

H[edit]

  • It is the very nature and essence of religion to raise men, peoples, and nations, above the common level of life, to break through its ordinary bounds, and express itself in a thousand ways, in poetry, painting, music, sculpture, and in every other form of ideal expression. The splendid monuments of the genius and greatness of by-gone ages are the monuments inspired by their religion.
  • As the essence of Matter is Gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence of Spirit is Freedom. All will readily assent to the doctrine that Spirit, among other properties, is also endowed with Freedom; but philosophy teaches that all the qualities of Spirit exist only through Freedom; that all are but means for attaining Freedom; that all seek and produce this and this alone.
  • What we call principle, aim, destiny, or the nature and idea of Spirit, is something merely general and abstract. Principle — Plan of Existence — Law — is a hidden, undeveloped essence, which as such — however true in itself — is not completely real.
  • There is an idea that technology is in its essence something human beings have under their control. In my opinion, that is not possible. Technology is in its essence something that human beings cannot master of their own accord.
    • Martin Heidegger, interviewed by Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff (23 September 1966), published in Der Spiegel (31 May 1976)
    • Variant translation: In its essence, technology is something that man does not control.
  • Perhaps I may risk this statement: The secret of the planetary predominance of the unthought essence of technology corresponds to the preliminariness and inconspiciousness of the thinking that attempts to reflect upon this unthought essence.
    • Martin Heidegger, interviewed by Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff (23 September 1966), published in Der Spiegel (31 May 1976)

I[edit]

J[edit]

K[edit]

Free yourself from the terror of the heart that seeks and hopes to find the essence of things. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
  • "I do not know whether behind appearances there lives and moves a secret essence superior to me. Nor do I ask; I do not care. I create phenomena in swarms, and paint with a full palette a gigantic and gaudy curtain before the abyss. Do not say, "Draw the curtain that I may see the painting." The curtain is the painting.
  • Behind all appearances, I divine a struggling essence. I want to merge with it.
    I feel that behind appearances this struggling essence is also striving to merge with my heart. But the body stands between us and separates us. The mind stands between us and separates us.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Preparation : Second Duty
  • Free yourself from the simple complacency of the mind that thinks to put all things in order and hopes to subdue phenomena. Free yourself from the terror of the heart that seeks and hopes to find the essence of things.
    Conquer the last, the greatest temptation of all: Hope. This is the third duty.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Preparation : Third Duty
  • Pain is not the only essence of our God, nor is hope in a future life or a life on this earth, neither joy nor victory. Every religion that holds up to worship one of these primordial aspects of God narrows our hearts and our minds.
    The essence of our God is STRUGGLE. Pain, joy, and hope unfold and labor within this struggle, world without end.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Vision
  • What is the purpose of this struggle? This is what the wretched self-seeking mind of man is always asking, forgetting that the Great Spirit does not toil within the bounds of human time, place, or casualty.
    The Great Spirit is superior to these human questionings.
    It teems with many rich and wandering drives which to our shallow minds seem contradictory; but in the essence of divinity they fraternize and struggle together, faithful comrades-in-arms.
    The primordial Spirit branches out, overflows, struggles, fails, succeeds, trains itself. It is the Rose of the Winds.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Vision
  • We have seen the highest circle of spiraling powers. We have named this circle God. We might have given it any other name we wished: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness, Absolute Light, Matter, Spirit, Ultimate Hope, Ultimate Despair, Silence.
    But we have named it God because only this name, for primordial reasons, can stir our hearts profoundly.
    And this deeply felt emotion is indispensable if we are to touch, body with body, the dread essence beyond logic.
    Within this gigantic circle of divinity we are in duty bound to separate and perceive clearly the small, burning arc of our epoch.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Action : The Relationship Between God and Man
  • I do not care what face other ages and other people have given to the enormous, faceless essence. They have crammed it with human virtues, with rewards and punishments, with certain ties. They have given a face to their hopes and fears, they have submitted their anarchy to a rhythm, they have found a higher justification by which to live and labor. They have fulfilled their duty.
    But today we have gone beyond these needs; we have shattered this particular mask of the Abyss; our God no longer fits under the old features.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Action : The Relationship Between God and Man
  • What is the essence of our God? The struggle for freedom. In the indestructible darkness a flaming line ascends and emblazons the march of the Invisible. What is our duty? To ascend with this blood-drenched line.
    Whatever rushes upward and helps God to ascend is good. Whatever drags downward and impedes God from ascending is evil.
    All virtues and all evils take on a new value. They are freed from the moment and from earth, they exist completely within man, before and after man, eternally.
    For the essence of our ethic is not the salvation of man, who varies within time and space, but the salvation of God, who within a wide variety of flowing human forms and adventures is always the same, the indestructible rhythm which battles for freedom.
    We, as human beings, are all miserable persons, heartless, small, insignificant. But within us a superior essence drives us ruthlessly upward.
    From within this human mire divine songs have welled up, great ideas, violent loves, an unsleeping assault full of mystery, without beginning or end, without purpose, beyond every purpose.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Action : The Relationship Between Man and Man
  • We are all one, we are all an imperiled essence. If at the far end of the world a spirit degenerates, it drags down our spirit into its own degradation. If one mind at the far end of the world sinks into idiocy, our own temples over-brim with darkness.
    For it is only One who struggles at the far end of earth and sky. One. And if He goes lost, it is we who must bear the responsibility. If He goes lost, then we go lost.
    This is why the salvation of the Universe is also our salvation, why solidarity among men is no longer a tenderhearted luxury but a deep necessity and self-preservation, as much a necessity as, in an army under fire, the salvation of your comrade-in-arms.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Action : The Relationship Between Man and Man
  • The essence of our God is obscure. It ripens continuously; perhaps victory is strenghened with our every valorous deed, but perhaps even all these agonizing struggles toward deliverance and victory are inferior to the nature of divinity.
    Whatever it might be, we fight on without certainty, and our virtue, uncertain of any rewards, acquires a profound nobility.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, in Ασκητική. Salvatores dei [Ascesis : The Saviors of God] (1923) translated by Kimon Friar as The Saviors of God : Spiritual Exercises(1960), The Action : The Relationship Between Man and Man
  • Everything which comes into-existence proves precisely by coming into existence that it is not necessary, for the only thing which cannot come into existence is the necessary, because the necessary is. Is not necessity then a synthesis of possibility and actuality? What could this mean? Possibility and actuality do not differ in essence but in being; how could there from this difference be formed a synthesis constituting necessity, which is not a determination of being but a determination of essence, since it is the essence of the necessary to be.
  • No question is here raised as to the true content of this; the question is if one will give assent to the God’s having come into existence, by which the God’s eternal essence is inflected in the dialectical determinations of coming into existence.

L[edit]

M[edit]

  • My opinion is this: the cause of the error of all these schools is their belief that God's knowledge is like ours; each school points to something withheld from our knowledge, and either assumes that the same must be the case in God's knowledge, or at least finds some difficulty how to explain it. ...they likewise demonstrated... that our intellect and our knowledge are insufficient to comprehend the true idea of His essence. ...they came to the absurd conclusion that that which is required for our knowledge is also required for God's knowledge.
  • He fully knows His unchangeable essence, and has thus a knowledge of all that results from any of His acts. If we were to try to understand in what manner this is done, it would be the same as if we tried to be the same as God, and to make our knowledge identical with His knowledge. Those who seek the truth, and admit what is true, must believe that nothing is hidden from God; that everything is revealed to His knowledge, which is identical with His essence; that this kind of knowledge cannot be comprehended by us; for if we knew its method, we would possess that intellect by which such knowledge could be acquired.
  • If you say that you reject violence when it exceeds the limits imposed by the needs of defense, they accuse you of pacifism, without understanding that violence is the whole essence of authoritarianism, just as the repudiation of violence is the whole essence of anarchism.
    • Errico Malatesta, "Anarchism, Authoritarian Socialism and Communism" in Fede (28 October 1923); also in What Is Anarchism? : An Introduction edited by Donald Rooum (1992, 1995) p. 59

N[edit]

  • "Appearance" is a word that contains many temptations, which is why I avoid it as much as possible. For it is not true that the essence of things "appears" in the empirical world. A painter without hands who wished to express in song the picture before his mind would, by means of this substitution of spheres, still reveal more about the essence of things than does the empirical world.

O[edit]

P[edit]

Q[edit]

R[edit]

  • Mysticism is, in essence, little more than a certain intensity and depth of feeling in regard to what is believed about the universe.
    • Bertrand Russell, in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1918), Ch. 1: Mysticism and Logic
  • The essence of liberalism is an attempt to secure a social order not based on irrational dogma, and insuring stability without involving more restraints than are necessary for the preservation of the community.
  • The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment.
  • Things may have a real essence, which will consist of their physical constitution, but this is in the main unknown to us, and is not the "essence" of which scholastics speak. Essence as we can know it is purely verbal; it consists merely in the definition of a general term.
  • The love of God is not only to be considered as flowing out with all good and drawing in into unity, but it is also above all distinction in essential enjoyment according to the bare essence of the Divinity. And for this reason enlightened people have found within themselves an essential inward gazing above reason and without reason, and an enjoyable inclination surpassing all modes (methods or systems) and all essence, sinking away from themselves into a modeless abyss of fathomless beatitude, where the Trinity of the divine Persons possess their nature in essential unity.
    • John Ruysbroeck, in The Little Book of Enlightenment by Bernard McGinn in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
  • See, here the beatitude is so simple and so without mode that therein all essential gazing, inclination and distinction of creatures pass away. For all spirits thus raised up melt away and are annihilated by reason of enjoyment in God’s essence, which is the superessence of all essence. There they fall away from themselves and are lost in a bottomless unknowing.
    • John Ruysbroeck, in The Little Book of Enlightenment by Bernard McGinn in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism

S[edit]

Of the Gods some are of the world, cosmic, and some above the world, hypercosmic. … Of the hypercosmic Gods some create essence, some mind, and some soul. ~ Sallustius
The soul sins … because, while aiming at good, it makes mistakes about the good, because it is not primary essence. And we see many things done by the Gods to prevent it from making mistakes and to heal it when it has made them. ~ Sallustius
If a circle be defined as a figure, such that all straight lines drawn from the center to the circumference are equal, every one can see that such a definition does not in the least explain the essence of a circle, but solely one of its properties. ~ Baruch Spinoza
  • The essences of the Gods never came into existence (for that which always is never comes into existence; and that exists for ever which possesses primary force and by nature suffers nothing): neither do they consist of bodies; for even in bodies the powers are incorporeal. Neither are they contained by space; for that is a property of bodies. Neither are they separate from the first cause nor from one another, just as thoughts are not separate from mind nor acts of knowledge from the soul.
    • Sallustius, in On the Gods and the Cosmos, II. That God is unchanging, unbegotten, eternal, incorporeal, and not in space.
    • Variant translation:
    • The essences of the gods are neither generated; for eternal natures are without generation; and those beings are eternal who possess a first power, and are naturally void of passivity. Nor are their essences composed from bodies; for even the powers of bodies are incorporeal: nor are they comprehended in place; for this is the property of bodies: nor are they separated from the first cause, or from each other; in the same manner as intellections are not separated from intellect, nor sciences from the soul.
      • II. That a God is immutable, without Generation, eternal, incorporeal, and has no Subsistence in Place, as translated by Thomas Taylor
  • Of myths some are theological, some physical, some psychic, and again some material, and some mixed from these last two. The theological are those myths which use no bodily form but contemplate the very essence of the Gods: e.g., Kronos swallowing his children. Since god is intellectual, and all intellect returns into itself, this myth expresses in allegory the essence of god.
    • Sallustius, in On the Gods and the Cosmos, IV. That the species of myth are five, with examples of each.
  • Of the Gods some are of the world, cosmic, and some above the world, hypercosmic. By the cosmic I mean those who make the cosmos. Of the hypercosmic Gods some create essence, some mind, and some soul.
    • Sallustius, in On the Gods and the Cosmos, VI. On Gods Cosmic and Hypercosmic
  • The soul sins therefore because, while aiming at good, it makes mistakes about the good, because it is not primary essence. And we see many things done by the Gods to prevent it from making mistakes and to heal it when it has made them.
    • Sallustius, in On the Gods and the Cosmos, XII. The origin of evil things; and that there is no positive evil
  • I spoke to over 140 songwriters whose work Presley recorded, and most remarked about his uncanny ability to capture the essence and make it his own; like a musical geneticist, he drew from every strand of DNA in a songwriter's work, which ultimately helped shape his own distinctive personal interpretation; just listen to the wide stylistic swath of genre-hopping material he recorded during his career … you can hear the breath of a master stylist who breathed new life into every song he cut.
    • Ken Sharp, in the introduction to "Writing for the King : The Songs and Writers Behind Them" (2006)
  • A definition, if it is to be called perfect, must explain the inmost essence of a thing, and must take care not to substitute for this any of its properties. In order to illustrate my meaning, without taking an example which would seem to show a desire to expose other people's errors, I will choose the case of something abstract, the definition of which is of little moment. Such is a circle. If a circle be defined as a figure, such that all straight lines drawn from the center to the circumference are equal, every one can see that such a definition does not in the least explain the essence of a circle, but solely one of its properties. Though, as I have said, this is of no importance in the case of figures and other abstractions, it is of great importance in the case of physical beings and realities: for the properties of things are not understood so long as their essences are unknown. If the latter be passed over, there is necessarily a perversion of the succession of ideas which should reflect the succession of nature, and we go far astray from our object.
    • Baruch Spinoza, in [[s:On the Improvement of the Understanding|Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione [On the Improvement of the Understanding] (1662)
  • By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite — that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.
    Explanation — I say absolutely infinite, not infinite after its kind: for, of a thing infinite only after its kind, infinite attributes may be denied; but that which is absolutely infinite, contains in its essence whatever expresses reality, and involves no negation.
  • By eternity, I mean existence itself, in so far as it is conceived necessarily to follow solely from the definition of that which is eternal.
    Explanation — Existence of this kind is conceived as an eternal truth, like the essence of a thing, and, therefore, cannot be explained by means of continuance or time, though continuance may be conceived without a beginning or end.
  • The human mind has an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God.
    • Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (1677) Part II: On the Nature and Origin of the Mind.

T[edit]

U[edit]

  • If ether is nothing but an hypothesis explanatory of light, air on the other hand, is a thing that is directly felt; and even if it did not enable us to explain the phenomenon of sound, we should nevertheless always be directly aware of it, and above all, of the lack of it in moments of suffocation or air-hunger. And in the same way God Himself, not the idea of God, may become a reality that is immediately felt; and even though the idea of God does not enable us to explain either the existence or essence of the Universe, we have at times the direct feeling of God, above all in moments of spiritual suffocation. And the feeling, mark it well, for all that is tragic in it and the whole tragic sense of life is founded upon this — this feeling is a feeling of hunger for God, of the lack of God. To believe in God is, in the first instance... to wish that there may be a God, to be unable to live without Him.

V[edit]

W[edit]

  • Prestige, which is illusion, is of the very essence of power.
  • Those who keep the masses of men in subjection by exercising force and cruelty deprive them at once of two vital foods, liberty and obedience; for it is no longer within the power of such masses to accord their inner consent to the authority to which they are subjected. Those who encourage a state of things in which the hope of gain is the principal motive take away from men their obedience, for consent which is its essence is not something which can be sold.

X[edit]

Y[edit]

Z[edit]

  • To define is to lose. The essence of all things is the Nameless. The Nameless is unknowable, mightier even than Brahma. Things pass, but the essence remains. You sit, therefore, in the midst of a dream. Essence dreams it a dream of form. Forms pass, but the essence remains, dreaming new dreams. Man names these dreams and thinks to have captured the essence, not knowing that he invokes the unreal. These stones, these walls, these bodies you see seated about you are poppies and water and the sun. They are the dreams of the Nameless.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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