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47 Insightful Quotes By Ernest Becker

Famous As: Former anthropologist known for Eliciting the creation of Terror Management Theory
Born On: September 27, 1924
Died On: March 6, 1974
Born In: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died At Age: 49

Ernest Becker was a celebrated Jewish-American writer, famous for his work ‘The Denial of Death’. His writing and books were influenced by the impact of social psychology and psychology of religion. His highly successful ‘Terror Management Theory’ has led to creation of over 200 published studies. He transformed his agenda of cultural affects of death anxiety into a proven scientific axiom. His other notable works include ‘The Lost Science of Man’, ‘The Structure of Evil’ and ‘Angel in Armor: A Post-Freudian Perspective on the Nature of Man’. After his death, the Ernst Becker Foundation was established which monitors study of human behavior based on Becker’s research and theories. A documentary film titled ‘Flight from Death’, based on Becker’s inference on the reduction of violence in human society, was released in 2009. Here are few quotes and sayings from this famous anthropologist.

The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.

The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.

Ernest Becker
Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.

Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.

Ernest Becker
The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.

The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.

Ernest Becker
We are gods with anuses.

We are gods with anuses.

Ernest Becker
To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.

To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.

Ernest Becker
Guilt results from unused life, from the unlived in us.

Guilt results from unused life, from the unlived in us.

Ernest Becker
People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves

People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves

Ernest Becker
What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms.

What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms.

Ernest Becker
The man of knowledge in our time is bowed down under a burden he never imagined he would ever have: the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed.

The man of knowledge in our time is bowed down under a burden he never imagined he would ever have: the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed.

Ernest Becker
Mother nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates.

Mother nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates.

Ernest Becker
Obviously, all religions fall far short of their own ideals.

Obviously, all religions fall far short of their own ideals.

Ernest Becker
The best existential analysis of the human condition leads directly into the problems of God and faith

The best existential analysis of the human condition leads directly into the problems of God and faith

Ernest Becker
Better guilt than the terrible burden of freedom and responsibility.

Better guilt than the terrible burden of freedom and responsibility.

Ernest Becker
The essence of man is really his paradoxical nature, the fact that he is half animal and half symbolic.

The essence of man is really his paradoxical nature, the fact that he is half animal and half symbolic.

Ernest Becker
Relationship is thus always slavery of a kind, which leaves a residue of guilt.

Relationship is thus always slavery of a kind, which leaves a residue of guilt.

Ernest Becker
It is fateful and ironic how the lie we need in order to live dooms us to a life that is never really ours.

It is fateful and ironic how the lie we need in order to live dooms us to a life that is never really ours.

Ernest Becker
Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.

Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.

Ernest Becker
The neurotic opts out of life because he is having trouble maintaining his illusions about it, which proves nothing less than that life is possible only with illusions.

The neurotic opts out of life because he is having trouble maintaining his illusions about it, which proves nothing less than that life is possible only with illusions.

Ernest Becker
We might say that both the artist and the neurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an external, active work project

We might say that both the artist and the neurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an external, active work project

Ernest Becker
Genuine heroism for man is still the power to support contradictions, no matter how glaring or hopeless they may seem.

Genuine heroism for man is still the power to support contradictions, no matter how glaring or hopeless they may seem.

Ernest Becker
The world of human aspiration is largely fictitious and if we do not understand this we understand nothing about man.

The world of human aspiration is largely fictitious and if we do not understand this we understand nothing about man.

Ernest Becker
The point is that if the love object is divine perfection, then one’s own self is elevated by joining one’s destiny to it.

The point is that if the love object is divine perfection, then one’s own self is elevated by joining one’s destiny to it.

Ernest Becker
To grow up at all is to conceal the mass of internal scar tissue that throbs in our dreams.

To grow up at all is to conceal the mass of internal scar tissue that throbs in our dreams.

Ernest Becker
The warding off of anxiety is central to the time-binding, action-delaying, and cerebral functions of the human animal.

The warding off of anxiety is central to the time-binding, action-delaying, and cerebral functions of the human animal.

Ernest Becker
What man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance.

What man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance.

Ernest Becker
To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself.

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself.

Ernest Becker
I drink not from mere joy in wine nor to scoff at faith—no, only to forget myself for a moment, that only do I want of intoxication, that alone. —OMAR KHAYYAM

I drink not from mere joy in wine nor to scoff at faith—no, only to forget myself for a moment, that only do I want of intoxication, that alone. —OMAR KHAYYAM

Ernest Becker
Consider, for instance, the recent war in Vietnam in which the United States was driven not by any realistic economic or political interest but by the overwhelming need to defeat “atheistic communism.

Consider, for instance, the recent war in Vietnam in which the United States was driven not by any realistic economic or political interest but by the overwhelming need to defeat “atheistic communism.

Ernest Becker
Necessity with the illusion of meaning would be the highest achievement for man; but when it becomes trivial there is no sense to one’s life.

Necessity with the illusion of meaning would be the highest achievement for man; but when it becomes trivial there is no sense to one’s life.

Ernest Becker
If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same thing, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and themselves normal.

If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same thing, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and themselves normal.

Ernest Becker
From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the new-born baby to the child of five is an appalling distance. —LEO TOLSTOI

From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the new-born baby to the child of five is an appalling distance. —LEO TOLSTOI

Ernest Becker

We consult astrology charts like the Babylonians, try to make our children into our own image with a firm hand like the Romans, elbow others to get a breath-quickening glimpse of the queen in her ritual procession, and confess to the priests and attend church. And we wonder why, with all this power capital drawn from so many sources, we are deeply anxious about the meaning of our lives. The reason is plain enough: none of these, nor all of them taken together, represents an integrated world conception into which we fit ourselves with pure belief and trust.

Ernest Becker

The greatest cause of evil included all human motives in one giant paradox. Good and bad were so inextricably mixed that we couldn't make them out; bad seemed to lead to good, and good motives led to bad. The paradox is that evil comes from man's urge to heroic victory over evil.

Ernest Becker
Each society is a hero system which promises victory over evil and death.

Each society is a hero system which promises victory over evil and death.

Ernest Becker
Ecological devastation is the excrement, so to speak, of man's power worship.

Ecological devastation is the excrement, so to speak, of man's power worship.

Ernest Becker
Horror alone brings peace of mind.

Horror alone brings peace of mind.

Ernest Becker
War is a sociological safety valve that cleverly diverts popular hatred for the ruling classes into a happy occasion to mutilate or kill foreign enemies.

War is a sociological safety valve that cleverly diverts popular hatred for the ruling classes into a happy occasion to mutilate or kill foreign enemies.

Ernest Becker
The artist takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it, he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art.

The artist takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it, he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art.

Ernest Becker
Man's natural and inevitable urge to deny mortality and achieve a heroic self-image are the root causes of human evil.

Man's natural and inevitable urge to deny mortality and achieve a heroic self-image are the root causes of human evil.

Ernest Becker
We might say that both the artist and theneurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an ex­ternal, active, work project...

We might say that both the artist and theneurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an ex­ternal, active, work project...

Ernest Becker

What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consiousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would crate such a complex and fancy worm food?

Ernest Becker

I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. Whatever is achieved must be achieved with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. How do we know, that our part of the meaning of the universe might not be a rhythm in sorrow?

Ernest Becker

When we understand that man is the only animal who must create meaning, who must open a wedge into neutral nature, we already understand the essence of love. Love is the problem of an animal who must find life, create a dialogue with nature in order to experience his own being.

Ernest Becker

The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity - designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man.

Ernest Becker

The real world is simply too terrible to admit. it tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die. Culture changes all of this,makes man seem important,vital to the universe. immortal in some ways

Ernest Becker

...Erich Fromm wondered why most people did not become insane in the face of the existential contradiction between a symbolic self, that seems to give man infinite worth in a timeless scheme of things, and a body that is worth about 98¢.

Ernest Becker

Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever.

Ernest Becker