Despite Charles Malik’s prolific career and accomplishments on the world stage, his written legacy has largely been lost to history, falling out of circulation or never making it to print. It survives in hard-to-access libraries and sometimes in languages foreign to Western readers.

The Library of Congress in D.C. holds the largest collection of Malik’s work with 114.8 linear feet of material. Below you will find the Charles Malik Institute’s ongoing effort to mine this archive, with occasional additions from other libraries, and bring Malik’s work back into public discourse.

Find a Charles Malik Original Quote

There is plenty of material injustice in the world, but intellectual and spiritual injustice is infinitely more significant.  There is inherent injustice so long as the great literature which is available, for instance, to American youth is entirely out of…

There is plenty of material injustice in the world, but intellectual and spiritual injustice is infinitely more significant.  There is inherent injustice so long as the great literature which is available, for instance, to American youth is entirely out of proportion to that which is available to the youth of other parts of the world.  When I enter certain American or European homes and find what the boys and girls of those homes can read and study, from Homer to Tolstoy, and reflect at the same time that this wealth of literature, which has helped to make history more than anything else, is not open to the youth of other lands, except insofar as they have learned a European language, I feel deeply disturbed.  There is a great tradition of human thought and sentiment which is known and participated in by only a fraction of humanity.  This is quite unfair.  To have some peoples and nations enjoy the infinite riches of the mind while the rest of humanity wallows in darkness and error is an act of injustice of the first order….  There can be no peace, there certainly can be no real justice, so long as the goods of the mind and spirit are abundant in some countries and miserably deficient in others; so long as the great classics of human thought and feeling, from Plato to the present day, have penetrated and transformed the life and literature and outlook of certain countries and are totally unheard of in others; so long as the supreme persons of history belong to the living tradition of certain countries and are absent from others.  The ultimate ground of peace is participation in a community of generis ideas.  Such a community can be culled from the great classics of the past….  We are often urged to work for what is ambiguously called “rising standards of living.”  Now I firmly believe we should do that.  But what about rising standards of thinking and feeling?  Shouldn’t we also work for that?  Or is it that the refinement of the mind and spirit would automatically and magically follow upon the abundance of material goods and comforts?  The highest insights and convictions of the ages must be more equally distributed throughout the world.  Without this intellectual and spiritual justice there can be no real peace.  To be sure, there can be no peace so long as people are physically starving, so long as the material goods of the world are unjustly distributed between classes and peoples.  But there is a deeper starvation, a deeper injustice.  The goods of the mind and spirit are themselves unequally and unjustly distributed throughout the world.”

Source: Speech on the proposal for the translation and publication of the Classics 1

United Nations | Western Thought |

There are two ultimate dangers besetting present-day preoccupation with the problem of human rights. The first is … the danger of materialism. Who is not clamoring today for his economic rights, for what is called a decent standard of living?…

There are two ultimate dangers besetting present-day preoccupation with the problem of human rights. The first is … the danger of materialism. Who is not clamoring today for his economic rights, for what is called a decent standard of living? . . . There is a deadly danger that in our enthusiasm for economic and social justice we forget that man cannot live by bread alone . . . The second danger is … the danger of humanism. We have been endlessly speaking of human rights, as though there was nothing except man in the universe, as though he was the center of existence … It is very well to speak of human rights, but may it not be that these rights have of late been disturbed or disregarded precisely because man—modern man, clever man, proud man, sensuous man, self-sufficient man—has ceased to stand in fear and awe before that which is above him? If we have our rights, God also has His rights over us; and in vain shall we seek our rights until, confessing our sins, we recognize in all brokenness and humility the dominion of God over the course of history and of human life.

Source: Human Rights in the United Nations 1

Faith | Human Rights | United Nations |

[T]he need to advance the cause of human rights is more important than meeting together and securing widespread publicity. The supreme need is for vigorous moral leadership. Given such leadership, grounded not in interest but in principle and vision, there…

[T]he need to advance the cause of human rights is more important than meeting together and securing widespread publicity. The supreme need is for vigorous moral leadership. Given such leadership, grounded not in interest but in principle and vision, there will emerge a real atmosphere of expectancy and positive cooperation that will carry along the hesitant, and shame the primitive and formless into action and commitment. Where the call is absolutely clear, nations will not dare stay behind. 

The need in this field is above everything else for courageous and sustained moral leadership, for one nation to put its own house in order and so be fired by a genuine sense of mission as to have its words on fundamental human rights ring with authority. I am afraid I must observe that authoritative moral leadership in the sphere of human rights is lacking today. This is one of the deepest issues facing our undertaking. 

The crisis therefore is in national and not in individual leadership. There is no sign of national moral vocation to lead in this field. There is everything in the background and fundamental outlook of certain nations to entitle them to take a bold lead concerning the ultimate emancipation of man; and yet such a lead is not forthcoming.  

The ordinary processes of the emergence of responsible leadership in the democratic world do not seem to be tossing up at present leaders of the requisite moral stature. By the time a man reaches the top he has usually expended his soul in compromise and appeasement. The result of all this is divided and enfeebled counsel. 

We need endless rational debate and discussion; we need the bracing touch of moral leadership; but without the real political will to discover, promulgate and enforce these rights, debate and leadership will avail nothing. The will is the agency of realization, and you may know all the truth and you may know it even with passion, but unless you also will it, it is unlikely to pass into actuality. I confess that there is in fact an inadequate international will to achieve human rights. (87-95)

Source: The Challenge of Human Rights 1

Crisis Leadership | Human Rights | United Nations |

The spirit flourishes and peace supervenes when men believe in the possibility of a real, common, natural good. (29)

The spirit flourishes and peace supervenes when men believe in the possibility of a real, common, natural good. (29)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 8

United Nations | Western Thought |

War arises either from hatred or from fear or from greed, and all three are fundamental sins against reason. For hatred at bottom wills the elimination of the other fellow, because it is blind to the possibility that there is…

War arises either from hatred or from fear or from greed, and all three are fundamental sins against reason. For hatred at bottom wills the elimination of the other fellow, because it is blind to the possibility that there is a truth, a community of the spirit, that can bracket you both, provided both of you are humbly and practically exposed to it. Fear, on the other hand, fears precisely that the other fellow rejects such a possibility, and therefore moves to strike first. Greed does not recognize the truth of objective justice, namely, that infinite desire is the source of all evil because while there may be enough and plenty for all our need, as a matter of fact there is not enough for all our greed. (29)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 7

Faith | United Nations | Western Thought |

Peace is promised to men of good will, namely, in my judgement, to the men who allow for the possibility of a rational common good; but even angels, if faced with men who absolutely reject such a possibility, who teach…

Peace is promised to men of good will, namely, in my judgement, to the men who allow for the possibility of a rational common good; but even angels, if faced with men who absolutely reject such a possibility, who teach instead that the good is not determined by reason and love but by force—no matter how ingenious their dialectical interpretations of this force might be—even angels, I say, facing such a breed of men must take up arms and fight. (29)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 6

United Nations | Western Thought |

The promotion of larger ideals, more universal norms, elaborated, not arbitrarily, but according to the nature of things—I mean norms concerning justice and truth, concerning man and his dignity, concerning the place of material goods in human life, concerning the…

The promotion of larger ideals, more universal norms, elaborated, not arbitrarily, but according to the nature of things—I mean norms concerning justice and truth, concerning man and his dignity, concerning the place of material goods in human life, concerning the source of political power, concerning freedom of thought and conscience, concerning intercultural interaction and respect, concerning how to meet aggression, whether it comes by external invasion or by internal subversion effectively directed from without—the promotion of some binding understanding among the nations upon these fundamental things is the only hope for peace in the world. (28)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 5

Human Rights | United Nations | Western Thought |

…the spirit of man requires some identity of meaning if it is to live. (26)

…the spirit of man requires some identity of meaning if it is to live. (26)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 4

Faith | United Nations | Western Thought |

…unless Marx and his movement are adequately answered and arrested on every level—militarily, politically, economically, and above all, theoretically and spiritually—the best intentions in the United Nations will always be vitiated. (25)

…unless Marx and his movement are adequately answered and arrested on every level—militarily, politically, economically, and above all, theoretically and spiritually—the best intentions in the United Nations will always be vitiated. (25)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 3

Communism | United Nations | Western Thought |

…However, it can be shown that the tragic conflicts of our times are all rooted in man’s division over his own interpretation of himself—of his origin, his essence, his destiny, his place in the universe–it is evident that in the…

…However, it can be shown that the tragic conflicts of our times are all rooted in man’s division over his own interpretation of himself—of his origin, his essence, his destiny, his place in the universe–it is evident that in the human rights enterprise these conflicts come to the sharpest focus, and that not between armchair philosophers or well-meaning idealists, but among the responsible representatives of the governments and effective cultures of the whole world. (22)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 2

Human Rights | United Nations | Western Thought |


Copyright © 2023 Charles Malik Insitute. All rights reserved.

An Initiative of The Philos Project.