Henri Frédéric Amiel

Switzerland
27 Sep 1821 // 11 May 1881
Philosopher / Poet / Critic

The Relation of Thought to Action

The relation of thought to action filled my mind on waking, and I found myself carried toward a bizarre formula, which seems to have something of the night still clinging about it: «Action is but coarsened thought»; thought become concrete, obscure, and unconscious. It seemed to me that our most trifling actions, of eating, walking, and sleeping, were the condensation of a multitude of truths and thoughts, and that the wealth of ideas involved was in direct proportion to the commonness of the action (as our dreams are the more active, the deeper our sleep). We are hemmed round with mystery, and the greatest mysteries are contained in what we see and do every day. In all spontaneity the work of creation is reproduced in analogy. When the spontaneity is unconscious, you have simple action; when it is conscious, intelligent and moral action. At bottom this is nothing more than the proposition of Hegel: «What is rational is real; and what is real is rational»; but it had never seemed to me more evident, more palpable. Everything which is, is thought, but not conscious and individual thought. The human intelligence is but the consciousness of being. It is what I have formulated before: Everything is a symbol of a symbol, and a symbol of what? Of mind.

Henri Amiel, in 'Intime Journal'
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