Kepler quotes

Here are some assorted quotes from Johannes Kepler, the founder of modern astronomy (a title sometimes mistakenly given to Copernicus). Kepler wrote in 17th Century German; the English translations come from The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler.

  • “Having percieved the first glimmer of dawn eighteen months ago, the light of day three months ago, but only a few days ago the plain sun of a most wonderful vision – nothing shall now hold me back. Yes, I give myself up to holy raving. I mockingly defy all mortals with this open confession : I have robbed the golden vessels of the Egyptians to make out of them a tabernacle for my God, far from the frontiers of Egypt. If you forgive me, I shall rejoice. If you are angry, I shall bear it. Behold, I have cast the dice, and I am writing a book either for my contemporaries, or for posterity. It is all the same to me. It may wait a hundred years for a reader, since God has also waited six thousand years for a witness.”
  • “There will certainly be no lack of human pioneers when we have mastered the art of flight. Who would have thought that navigation across the vast ocean is less dangerous and quieter than in the narrow, threatening gulfs of the Adriatic, or the Baltic, or the British straits? Let us create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly ether, and there will be plenty of people unafraid of the empty wastes. In the meantime, we shall prepare, for the brave skytravellers, maps of the celestial bodies – I shall do it for the moon, you Galileo, for Jupiter.”
  • “It hurts my heart that the three factions have miserably torn the truth to pieces between them, that I must collect the bits wherever I can find them, and put them together again . . . Behold, I am attacted either by all three parties, or at least by two of them against the third, setting my hopes on agreement; but my opponents are only attracted by one party, imagining that there must be irreconcileable division and strife. My attitude, so help me God, is a Christian one; theirs, I do not know what.”
  • “For there is nothing I would like to investigate more thoroughly, and that I more intensely long to know, than this : can I find God, whom I can almost touch with my hands when I contemplate the universe, also in my own self?”
  • “These comments are not worth printing. Yet it gives me pleasure to remember how many detours I had to make, along how many walls I had to grope in the darkness of my ignorance until I found the door which lets in the light of truth. In such manner did I dream of the truth.”

Kepler also wrote some poetry. I particularly like this one, which I’d love to see in the original German, even though I wouldn’t be able to read it.

  • “Thus God himself
    Was too kind to remain idle
    And began to play the Game of Signatures
    Signing His likeness unto the world.
    Therefore I chance to think
    That all of Nature and the graceful sky
    Are symbolised in the art of Geometria.
    Now as God the Maker played
    He taught the Game to Nature
    Whom he created in his image;
    Taught her the selfsame Game
    Which he played to her.”
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