Aphorisms & Poetry

This page introduces Franklin Merrell-Wolff's Aphorisms and Poetry, you can also browse his Aphorisms & Poetry directly.


Although Wolff acknowledged that the formulation of the content of a mystical state is “never wholly accurate,” he also held that such expression is valuable insofar as it may evoke “the perspective and resources that come from Enlightenment.”[1] That being said, Wolff goes on to note that a mystic may be more or less skilled at this task, which implies that some formulations may be better crafted than others.

With this in mind, Wolff sometimes found it necessary to express himself in aphorisms and poetry, a form of communication that, in Wolff’s words, is “conceptual thought and transcendental thought combine[d] in mutual action”:

The best of poetry has much of this kind of thought. It is the poetry that stirs the souls rather than the senses of men. It is the poetry of content rather than of form. But most of all, from this level of thought are born the aphorisms, that strange kind of thought that is both poetry and something more. For it stirs the thinking as well as the feeling and thus integrates the best of the whole man. Mystery is an inextricable part of this thought.[2]

In this section of the Wolff Archive, you will find both Wolff’s poetry and his aphorisms. In speaking of the aphorisms, Wolff notes that there are two ways to approach this material:

They may be regarded as seeds to be taken into the meditative state, in which case they will tend to arouse the essentially inexpressible Meaning and Realization which they symbolize. This we may call their mystical value. On the other hand, they may be regarded as primary indefinables upon which a systematic philosophy of the universe and its negation, Nirvana, may be developed. In this case, they may be viewed as a base of reference from which all thought and experience may be evaluated.[3]

The same may be said for his poetic expression, which Wolff also considered to be a type of “transcriptive thinking.”[4]


[1] Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Experience and Philosophy (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1994), ix

[2] Ibid., 308.

[3] Ibid., 215.

[4] Franklin Merrell-Wolff, “Lectures to University Students, Part 6” (Lone Pine, CA, February 1968), audio recording.