You could do worse than base a religion on Oscar Wilde quotes. Much, much worse. (Like, for an example, almost all organised religion.)
It’s important to remember that the clever devil was getting around London and Europe at the same time as Crowley and the Golden Dawn boys… He was very much cut from the same ‘imperial visionary’ cloth. Except in Wilde’s case he went for aesthetics instead of Hermetics.
See how these quotes grab you as potential commandments or spiritual revelations.
I’m going to break them up into handy religious categories.
1. On belief
Let’s start with one of my favourites.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
Can’t think of a better opener when it comes to spiritual teachings.
“Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable.”
This would be an elegant summation of humanity’s relationship to cosmic truth and revelation.
“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”
Looking at you there, St Paul.
“Truth, in the matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived.”
Testify, Lord. Testify!
“To be really mediæval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes.”
But it’s so much warmer in Greece!
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
One of the cleverest things written in the 1800s, I’d say.
2. On the universe
One for the Pagans out there:
“It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.”
Now, that was certainly a revolutionary viewpoint in Victorian London.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Is that not a splendid encapsulation of humanity and its yearnings?
“Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
Score one for life experience and a personal relationship with the universe, then.
“The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”
Oh, I will totally get right on that, sir. Right. On. That.
“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.”
So then, Lord, you would approve of a blog post that attempts to make a witty statement about belief and destiny? Oh good.
3. On how to live your life
“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”
Aim high, potential Wildeans… Aim high.
“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
Well my career history is the most imaginative document ever composed, then.
“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”
This is the unfortunate consequence of the above commandment, I’m afraid. Definitely some wisdom there.
“One should always be a little improbable.”
You mean like wearing funny robes and talking to beings no one else can see in the hopes that it will affect the chances of getting a pay rise? Consider it done.
“Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”
Maybe I’m already a Wildean and I just don’t know it?
“There is no sin except stupidity.”
Now where have I heard something exactly like that before? It was something something “word” something something “restriction.” Definitely something in the water in London back then and I’m not just talking about the cholera.
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”
You must have at least five years of magical experience to read this post.
“What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are of no use to us.”
I figured it was best to close with one that offers some real wisdom. Not because it’s accurate, but because it deftly demonstrates a mental trap we all fall into.
Failure isn’t an end of something, it’s the beginning of doing something new. And like Ally McBeal says “it’s better to regret the things you do than the things you don’t do.”
So go rack up some lessons. Who cares if they are of no use? Wildeanity isn’t about lessons… It’s about awesomeness.
And also being a little improbable.