Wisdom of Life

Heraclitus: On the Wisdom of Character and Life

“What are men? Mortal gods.
What are gods? Immortal men.”

“Everything flows, and nothing stands still.”

“Because it is so unbelievable, the truth often escapes being known.”

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. The only thing that is constant is change. Nothing endures but change. How can you hide from what never goes away? It is in changing that we find purpose.

All things are in flux; the flux is subject to a unifying measure or rational principle. This principle (logos, the hidden harmony behind all change) bound opposites together in a unified tension, which is like that of a lyre, where a stable harmonious sound emerges from the tension of the opposing forces that arise from the bow bound together by the string. The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony.

“Harmony needs
low and high,
as progeny needs
man and woman.”

To get everything you want is not a good thing. Disease makes health seem sweet. Hunger leads to the appreciation of being full-fed. Tiredness creates the enjoyment of resting. The road up and the road down is one and the same. All are one. All is flux and nothing abides.

Man’s character is his fate. Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way. To be evenminded is the greatest virtue.

Much learning does not teach understanding. Abundance of knowledge does not teach men to be wise. Those who love wisdom must investigate many things. Whoever cannot seek the unforeseen sees nothing for the known way is an impasse. Wisdom is to speak the truth and act in keeping with its nature. Wisdom is the oneness of mind that guides and permeates all things.

The awake share a common world, but the asleep turn aside into private worlds. Dog bark at what they don’t understand. A fool is excited by every word. Thinking is a sacred disease and sight is deceptive. The unseen harmony is better than the visible. Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men having barbarian souls. The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.

What use are these people’s wits, who let themselves be led by speechmakers, in crowds, without considering how many fools and thieves they are among, and how few choose the good? They follow minstrels and take the multitude for a teacher, not knowing that many are bad and few good. For the best men choose one thing above all—immortal glory among mortals, a name forever honored by the gods; but the masses stuff themselves like cattle.

The lord neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign. And the Sibyl, with raving lips uttering things mirthless, unbedizened, and unperfumed, reaches over a thousand years with her voice, thanks to the god in her.

The oneness of all wisdom may be found, or not, under the name of God.

“We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.”

“Applicants for wisdom
do what I have done:
inquire within.”

“It is not too late to seek a newer world.”

“Silence is healing.”


~Heraclitus of Ephesus was an Ancient Greek, pre-Socratic, Ionian philosopher and a native of the city of Ephesus, which was then part of the Persian Empire. His paradoxical philosophy and appreciation for wordplay and cryptic utterances has earned him the epithet “The Obscure” since antiquity.

Quotes from Heraclitus Fragments

©2021 Excellence Reporter

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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