NATURE (fragment, 1783)

Taken from Discovering the Mind Vol 3: Freud, Adler and Jung, ISBN 978-0-88738-395-3


Note:  This essay, attributed to Goethe, has been credited as the inspiration behind Freud’s interest in science and psychology.  It also more closely describes what I love about the world more than anything I could ever write.  Yet. (C. Proxmire,


Nature!  We are surrounded and embraced by her – unable to step out of her and unable to penetrate her more deeply.  Unasked and unwarned, she accepts us into the circulation of her dance and propels herself with us until, tired out, we fall out of her arms.


She creates eternally new forms; what is there has never been; what has been does not recur – everything is new and yet always the [same] old [thing].


We live in her midst and are strangers to her.  She speaks with us unceasingly without betraying her secret to us.  We affect her continually but have no power over her. 


She seems to have designed everything for the sake of individuality, but does not care for individuals.  She always builds and always destroys, and her studio is inaccessible.


She lives in lots of children, but the mother – where is she?  She is the only artist; from the simplest material to the greatest contrasts; without any appearance of exertion to the greatest perfection – to the most exact determination, always covered by something soft. Every one of her works has its own character, every one of her manifestations the most isolated concept, and yet everything constitutes a unity.


She puts on a play; whether she see it herself we do not know, and yet she plays it for us who stand in a corner.


Eternal living, becoming, and motion are in her, and yet she does not move on.  She transforms herself eternally, and there is not a moment’s standing still in her.  For staying she has no concept, and she has placed her curse on standing still. She is firm, her step measured, her exceptions rare, her laws immutable.


She has been thinking and muses continually, yet not as a human being but as nature.  She has reserved for herself a sense that is her own and all-embracing, but nobody can see it by looking at her.


All human beings are in her, and she is in all of them.  With them she plays a friendly game and rejoices the more one wins from her.  With many she does it so secretly that she finishes the game before they notice it.


Even what is most unnatural, even the plumpest philistinism, has something of her genus.  Whoever does not see her everywhere does not see her correctly anywhere.


She loves herself and always clings to herself with eyes and hearts without number.  She has spelled herself out in order to enjoy herself.  Always she lets new enjoyers grow froth because she desires insatiably to communicate herself.


She delights in illusion.  Those who destroy that in themselves and others she punishes as the most severe tyrant.  Those who follow her trustingly she clasps to her bosom like a child.


Her children are without number.  To none is she stingy everywhere, but she has favorites on whom she squanders much and to whom she sacrifices much.  She has reserved her protection for what is great.


She squirts her creatures out of nothing and does not tell them when ce they come and whiter they are going.  They are to run; the course is known to her.  She has few mainsprings that are never used up, always effective, always manifold.


Her play is always new because she always creates new audiences.  Life is her most beautiful invention, and death is her artifice for having much life.


She shrouds man in dimness and eternally spurs him toward the light.  She makes him dependent on earth, indolent and heavy, and shakes him up again and again.


She implants needs because she loves movement.  A wonder that she achieves all movement with so little.  Every need is a benefit, quickly satisfied, quickly grown back again.  When she implants one more it is another source of pleasure; but soon she achieves a balance.


Every moment she gets ready for the longest race, and every moment she is at her goal.


She is vanity itself but not for us for who she has made herself the most important thing.


She allows every child to fuss over her, every fool to pass judgment on her, thousands to walk obtrusely over her without seeing anything, and rejoices in all of them and always comes out well.


One obeys her laws even when one resists them; one works with her even when one wishes to work against her.


She turns all she gives into a benefit, for she first makes it indispensable.  She delays to be desired; she hurries lest one grow tired of her.


She has neither language nor speech, but she creates tongues and hearts through which she feels and speaks.


Her crown is love.  Through that alone can one come close to her.  She creates clefts between all beings, and everything wants to become entangled.  She has isolated everything in order to pull everything together.  With a few drafts from the beaker of love she compensates us for a life of trouble.


She is everything.  She rewards herself and punishes herself, rejoices and torments herself.  She is rough and gentle, lovely and terrible, without strength and all-powerful.  Everything is always present in her.  Past and future she does not know.  The present is for her eternity.  She is gracious.  I praise her with all her works.  She is wise and silent.  One cannot tear any explanation from her body, nor force any present from her that she does not give of her own free will.  She is cunning, but for a good end, and it is best not to notice her cunning.


She is whole, yet always unfinished.  The way she carries on she can always carry on.


To each person she appears in a distinctive form.  She conceals herself in a thousand names and terms and is always the same.


She has placed me inside, she will also lead me out.  I entrust myself to her.  She may dispose of me.  She will not hate her work.  I did not speak about her.  No, what is true and what is false, everything is her fault, everything to her credit.