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The Thousandfold Thought

R. Scott Bakker

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Doubt begets understanding, and understanding begets compassion. Verily, it is conviction that kills.”

“If soot stains your tunic, dye it black. This is vengeance.”

“Water everywhere, falling in thundering cataracts, singular drops, and draping sheets. Kellhus paused next to one of the shining braziers, peered beneath the bronze visage that loomed orange and scowling over his father, watched him lean back into absolute shadow. “You came to the world,” unseen lips said, “and you saw that Men were like children.” Lines of radiance danced across the intervening waters. “It is their nature to believe as their fathers believed,” the darkness continued. “To desire as they desired … Men are like wax poured into moulds: their souls are cast by their circumstances. Why are no Fanim children born to Inrithi parents? Why are no Inrithi children born to Fanim parents? Because these truths are made, cast by the particularities of circumstance. Rear an infant among Fanim and he will become Fanim. Rear him among Inrithi and he will become Inrithi … “Split him in two, and he would murder himself.” Without warning, the face re-emerged, water-garbled, white save the black sockets beneath his brow. The action seemed random, as though his father merely changed posture to relieve some vagrant ache, but it was not. Everything, Kellhus knew, had been premeditated. For all the changes wrought by thirty years in the Wilderness, his father remained Dûnyain … Which meant that Kellhus stood on conditioned ground. “But as obvious as this is,” the blurred face continued, “it escapes them. Because they cannot see what comes before them, they assume nothing comes before them. Nothing. They are numb to the hammers of circumstance, blind to their conditioning. What is branded into them, they think freely chosen. So they thoughtlessly cleave to their intuitions, and curse those who dare question. They make ignorance their foundation. They confuse their narrow conditioning for absolute truth.” He raised a cloth, pressed it into the pits of his eyes. When he withdrew it, two rose-coloured stains marked the pale fabric. The face slipped back into the impenetrable black. “And yet part of them fears. For even unbelievers share the depth of their conviction. Everywhere, all about them, they see examples of their own self-deception … ‘Me!’ everyone cries. ‘I am chosen!’ How could they not fear when they so resemble children stamping their feet in the dust? So they encircle themselves with yea-sayers, and look to the horizon for confirmation, for some higher sign that they are as central to the world as they are to themselves.” He waved his hand out, brought his palm to his bare breast. “And they pay with the coin of their devotion.”

“Here we find further argument for Gotagga’s supposition that the world is round. How else could all men stand higher than their brothers?”

“You’ve learned the lesson,' Kellhus had said on one of those rare mornings when he shared her breakfast. 'What lesson might that be?' 'That the lessons never end.' He laughed, gingerly sipped his steaming tea. 'That ignorance is infinite.”

“Set aside your conviction,” Moënghus said, “for the feeling of certainty is no more a marker of truth than the feeling of will is a marker of freedom. Deceived men always think themselves certain, just as they always think themselves free. This is simply what it means to be deceived.”

“Screens of tumbling water, breaking the world beyond them into glittering lines and smeared shadows. Kellhus had ceased trying to penetrate them. “Power,” Anasûrimbor Moënghus said, “is always power over. When an infant may be either, what is the difference between a Fanim and an Inrithi? Or between a Nansur and a Scylvendi? What could be so malleable in Men that anyone, split between circumstances, could be his own murderer? “You learned this lesson quickly. You looked across Wilderness and you saw thousands upon thousands of them, their backs bent to the field, their legs spread to the ceiling, their mouths reciting scripture, their arms hammering steel … Thousands upon thousands of them, each one a small circle of repeating actions, each one a wheel in the great machine of nations … “You understood that when men stop bowing, the emperor ceases to rule, that when the whips are thrown into the river, the slave ceases to serve. For an infant to be an emperor or a slave or a merchant or a whore or a general or whatever, those about him must act accordingly. And Men act as they believe. “You saw them, in their thousands, spread across the world in great hierarchies, the actions of each exquisitely attuned to the expectations of others. The identity of Men, you discovered, was determined by the beliefs, the assumptions, of others. This is what makes them emperors or slaves … Not their gods. Not their blood. “Nations live as Men act,” Moënghus said, his voice refracted through the ambient rush of waters. “Men act as they believe. And Men believe as they are conditioned. Since they are blind to their conditioning, they do not doubt their intuitions …” Kellhus nodded in wary assent. “They believe absolutely,” he said.”

“One might sooner wash shit from shit than cleanse a soul so wicked!”

“Love is like sleep. One can never seize, never force love.”

“Like a stern father, war shames men into hating their childhood games.”

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