July 25 ~  Antitoxin of the Soul Ordeal of Change

"Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: Where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless." ~ Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer

Born on this day in New York City, remarkable social philosopher and writer Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) lost his eye sight at age nine and regained it six years later. He never attended a day of school, but was an avid reader, writer, and self-learner.

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth," he explained. "While the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to work in a world that no longer exists."

Orphaned at age 18, the charismatic Hoffer moved to Los Angeles "on the bum," lived in skid row, and worked as a lumberjack, dishwasher, factory worker, and migrant farmhand.

To further his education, he borrowed library books and memorized the words, line-by-line, of French essayist Michel de Montaigne. Inspired, Hoffer wrote essays of his own. "You learn as much by writing as you do by reading," he said.

To Hoffer's disappointment, he was rejected by the military in 1942 because of a hernia. "Every new adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem," he observed. That year he moved to San Francisco, California and began his 25-year career as a longshoreman.

"The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness," he said.

In 1951, Hoffer published his first book, The True Believer, which was written in longhand. The book traced the historical origins of mass movements, from religious wars to German fascism.

Critics and scholars loved him. His next book, The Passionate State of Mind (1959), featured a collection of 280 philosophical aphorisms.

More Eric HOFFER Quotations

Live with compassion.