Sunday, August 24, 2003


‘And what is a genuine lunatic?

‘He is a man who prefers to go mad, in the social sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain higher idea of human honor.

‘That's how society strangled all those it wanted to get rid of, or wanted to protect itself from, and put them in asylums, because they refused to be accomplices to a kind of lofty swill.

‘For a lunatic is a man that society does not wish to hear, but wants to prevent from uttering certain unbearable truths.’

- ANTONIN ARTAUD, "Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society," 1947

‘We are all born mad. Some remain so.’
- SAMUEL BECKETT, 'Waiting for Godot', 1955

‘Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conform[ists] from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual.’
- AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

‘The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.’
- G. K. CHESTERTON, Orthodoxy, 1909

‘It may be a question which is the worst delirium, that by which a man possessing some great truth has lost the use of his practical intellect, or that other widespread delirium, in which the mind is enslaved to the lowest cares and meanest aims, and all that is loftiest and greatest in the soul is stupefied and deadened in worldliness.’
- JAMES FREEMAN CLARKE, "Jones Very," 1839

‘Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.’

‘You are mad, Paul! Your great learning is driving you mad!’
- FESTUS (Roman procurator in Judea, -62 A.D.), to Paul who was being held as a prisoner, Acts 26:24

‘For the nineteenth century, the initial model of madness would be to believe oneself to be God, while for the preceding centuries it had been to deny God.’
- MICHEL FOUCAULT, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, 1961

‘Madness is man's desperate attempt to reach transcendence, to rise beyond himself.’
- ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL, The Prophets, 1962

‘A fixed idea ends in madness or heroism.’
- VICTOR HUGO, Ninety-Three, 1879

‘Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be a breakthrough. It is potentially liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.’
- R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience, 1967

‘Having stripped myself of all illusions, I have gone mad.’
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (1844-1900), written in an asylum, My Sister and I

(To be continued)slq