Wisdom Books: The Art Of Worldly Wisdom By Baltasar Gracián

“The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a book by Baltasar Gracián y Morales (a.k.a Baltasar Gracián). It is a collection of maxims. Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia was written in 1637, and became popular throughout Europe. The book is a collection of 300 paragraphs on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to live fully, advance socially, and be a better person.”

~ Wikipedia


Here are a select few of precepts from within this fine book of wisdom:

i Everything is at its Acme;

especially the art of making one’s way in the world. There is more required nowadays to make a single wise man than formerly to make Seven Sages, and more is needed nowadays to deal with a single person than was required with a whole people in former times.

ii Character and Intellect:

the two poles of our capacity; one without the other is but halfway to happiness. Intellect sufficeth not, character is also needed. On the other hand, it is the fool’s misfortune, to fail in obtaining the position, the employment, the neighbourhood, and the circle of friends that suit him.

iv Knowledge and Courage

are the elements of Greatness. They give immortality, because they are immortal. Each is as much as he knows, and the wise can do anything. A man without knowledge, a world without light. Wisdom and strength, eyes and hands. Knowledge without courage is sterile.

v Create a Feeling of Dependence.

Not he that adorns but he that adores makes a divinity. The wise man would rather see men needing him than thanking him. To keep them on the threshold of hope is diplomatic, to trust to their gratitude boorish; hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one. More is to be got from dependence than from courtesy. He that has satisfied his thirst turns his back on the well, and the orange once sucked falls from the golden platter into the waste-basket. When dependence disappears, good behaviour goes with it as well as respect. Let it be one of the chief lessons of experience to keep hope alive without entirely satisfying it, by preserving it to make oneself always needed even by a patron on the throne. But let not silence be carried to excess lest you go wrong, nor let another’s failing grow incurable for the sake of your own advantage.

vi A Man at his Highest Point.

We are not born perfect: every day we develop in our personality and in our calling till we reach the highest point of our completed being, to the full round of our accomplishments, of our excellences. This is known by thepurity of our taste, the clearness of our thought, the maturity of our judgment, and the firmness of our will. Some never arrive at being complete; somewhat is always awanting: others ripen late. The complete man, wise in speech, prudent in act, is admitted to the familiar intimacy of discreet persons, is even sought for by them.

x Fortune and Fame.

Where the one is fickle the other is enduring. The first for life, the second afterwards; the one against envy, the other against oblivion. Fortune is desired, at times assisted: fame is earned. The desire for fame springs from man’s best part. It was and is the sister of the giants; it always goes to extremes–horrible monsters or brilliant prodigies.

xi Cultivate those who can teach you.

Let friendly intercourse be a school of knowledge, and culture be taught through conversation: thus you make your friends your teachers and mingle the pleasures of conversation with the advantages of instruction. Sensible persons thus enjoy alternating pleasures: they reap applause for what they say, and gain instruction from what they hear. We are always attracted to others by our own interest,but in this case it is of a higher kind. Wise men frequent the houses of great noblemen not because they are temples of vanity, but as theatres of good breeding. There be gentlemen who have the credit of worldly wisdom, because they are not only themselves oracles of all nobleness by their example and their behaviour, but those who surround them form a well-bred academy of worldly wisdom of the best and noblest kind.

xvi Knowledge and Good Intentions

together ensure continuance of success. A fine intellect wedded to a wicked will was always an unnatural monster. A wicked will envenoms all excellences: helped by knowledge it only ruins with greater subtlety. ’Tis a miserable superiority that only results in ruin. Knowledge without sense is double folly.

xviii Application and Ability.

There is no attaining eminence without both, and where they unite there is the greatest eminence. Mediocrity obtains more with application than superiority without it. Work is the price which is paid for reputation. What costs little is little worth. Even for the highest posts it is only in some cases application that is wanting, rarely the talent. To prefer moderate success in great things than eminence in a humble post has the excuse of a generous mind, but not so to be content with humble mediocrity when you could shine among the highest. Thus nature and art are both needed, and application sets on them the seal. […]

 

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2 Comments

  1. Wonderful practical advice-sometimes too practical for my taste. But a great aphorist.

  2. Jason Cooper says:

    Hey NP, I am forever the pragmatist but there’s nothing wrong with just sitting down and thinking, or even better still, just doing nothing once in a while.