"He is suffering!" flashed through the captain's mind. "He is suffering!" Marschner is transported with joy. And therewith he dies.
"My Comrade" (Der Kamarad) is the diary of a soldier in hospital. This man has been driven mad by the terrible sights at the front, and above all by the vision of a wounded man in the death agony, a poor wretch whose face had been torn away by a grapnel. The sight was seared upon his brain. The image never left him by day or by night. It sat down beside him at meals; went to bed with him; got up with him in the morning. It had become "My Comrade." The description is positively hallucinating, and this story contains some of the most forceful passages in the book, directed against the warmongers and against the humbugs of the press.
"A Hero's Death" (Heldentod) describes the death in hospital of First Lieutenant Otto Kadar. He has a fractured skull. While the regimental officers were listening to a gramophone playing the Rakoczy march, a bomb exploded among them. The dying man never stops talking of the Rakoczy march. He imagines that he is looking at the corpse of a young officer whose head has been carried away, and in place of the head, screwed into the neck, is the gramophone disc. In his growing delirium, he fancies that the same thing has happened to all the common soldiers, to all the officers, to himself; that in each one the head has been replaced by a gramophone disc. That is why it is so easy to lead them to the slaughter. The dying man makes a frantic effort to tear away the disc from his own neck, and as he does so all is over. The old major looking on says in a voice vibrating with respect: "He died like a true Hungarian—singing the Rakoczy march."
"Home Again" (Heimkehr) tells of the homecoming of Johann Bogdan, who had been the handsomest man in his native village. He returns from the war hopelessly disfigured. In hospital his face has been remade for him by means of a number of plastic operations. But when he looks at himself in the glass he is horror-stricken. No one in the village recognises him. The only exception is a hunchback whom he had looked on with contempt, and who now greets him familiarly. The countryside has been transformed by the building of a munition factory. Marcsa, Bogdan's betrothed, works there, and has become the factory owner's mistress. Bogdan sees red, and stabs the man, to be struck down dead himself a moment later.—In this story the growth of the revolutionary spirit is manifest. Bogdan, a dull conservative by nature, is inspired with it against his will. We have a threatening vision of the return of the soldiers from all the armies, and of how they will take vengeance upon those who sent others to death while remaining at home to enjoy life and to grow rich by speculation.
I have kept the third story to the last, for it contrasts with the others by the sobriety of its emotion. It is entitled "The Victor" (Der Sieger). In the other episodes, the tragic element is nude and bleeding. Here tragedy is veiled with irony, and is all the more formidable. Revolt simmers beneath the calm words; the butchers are pilloried by the bitter satire.
The victor is His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, the renowned Generalissimo X., universally known in the press as "The Victor of * * *." He is there in all his glory, in the principal square of the town which is now the military headquarters. Here he is absolute master. Here there is nothing which he cannot do or undo at his will. The band is playing, on a fine autumn afternoon. His Excellency sits out of doors in front of a cafe, amid smart officers and elegantly dressed ladies. It is nearly forty miles from the front. Strict orders have been given that no wounded or convalescent soldier, or any man whose appearance might have a depressing effect on the general war enthusiasm or might trouble the comfort of those who are at ease, shall be allowed out of hospital. We are told how much His Excellency is enjoying himself. He finds the war splendid. People have never had a jollier time. "Did you notice the young fellows back from the front? Sunburnt, healthy, happy!... I assure you the world has never been so healthy as it is now." The whole company chimes in to celebrate the beneficial effects of the war. His Excellency meditates upon his good luck, his titles, his decorations, harvested in a single year of war, after he had vegetated for nine-and-thirty years in peace and mediocrity. It has been a perfect miracle. He is now a national hero. He has his motor, his country mansion, his chef, delicate fare, a lordly retinue of servants—and he has not to pay a penny for it. Only one thing troubles his reflections, the thought that the whole fairy tale may vanish as suddenly as it came, and that he may relapse into obscurity. What if the enemy were to break through? But he reassures himself. All is going well. The great enemy offensive, which has been expected for the last three months, and which actually began twenty-four hours ago, hurls itself vainly against a wall of iron. "The human reservoir is full to overflowing. Two hundred thousand young stalwarts of exactly the right age are ready to be caught up in the whirl of the dance, until they sink in a marish of blood and bones." His Excellency's agreeable reverie is interrupted by an aide-de-camp, who informs him that the correspondent of an influential foreign newspaper has requested an interview. This scene is brilliantly described. The general does not allow the journalist to get a word in. He has his speech ready:
"He delivered it now, speaking with emphasis, and pausing occasionally to recall what came next. First of all, he referred to his gallant soldiers, lauding their courage, their contempt for death, their doings glorious beyond description. He went on to express regret that it was impossible to reward all these heroes according to their deserts. Raising his voice, he invoked the fatherland's eternal gratitude for such loyalty and self-renunciation even unto death. Pointing to the heavy crop of medals on his chest, he explained that the distinctions conferred on him were really a tribute to his men. Finally he interwove a few well-chosen remarks anent the military calibre of the enemy and the skilled generalship displayed by the other side. His last words conveyed his inviolable confidence in ultimate victory."
When the oration was finished, the general became the man of the world.
"You are going to the front now?" he asked with a courteous smile, and responded to the journalist's enthusiastic "yes" with a melancholy sigh.
"Lucky man! I envy you. You see, the tragedy in the life of the modern general is that he cannot lead his men personally into the fray. He spends his whole life making ready for war; he is a soldier in body and mind, and yet he knows the excitement of battle only from hearsay."
Of course the correspondent is delighted that he will be able to depict this all-powerful warrior in the sympathetic role of renunciation.
The agreeable scene is disturbed by the intrusion of an infantry captain who is out of his mind and has escaped from hospital. His Excellency, though in a towering rage, controls his temper for the sake of appearances, and has the inconvenient visitor sent back in his own car. He turns the incident to account by uttering a few touching phrases concerning the impossibility for a general to do his duty if he had to witness all the misery at the front. He evades the correspondent's final question, "When does Your Excellency hope for peace?" by pointing across the square to the old cathedral, saying, "The only advice I can give you is to go over there and ask our Heavenly Father. No one else can answer that question."—Then His Excellency descends upon the hospital like a whirlwind, blusters at the old staff-surgeon, and reiterates the order to keep all the patients safely under lock and key. His wrath by now is slightly assuaged, but it is revived by a message from the front. A brigadier-general reports terrible losses, and declares that he cannot hold the line without reinforcements. It was part of His Excellency's plan that this brigade should be wiped out, after resisting the attack as long as possible. But he is angry that his victims should have any advice to offer, and sends curt orders, "The sector is to be held."—At length, the day's work being over, the great man drives home in his motor, still fiercely excogitating the correspondent's idiotic question, "When does Your Excellency hope for peace?"
"Hope!... How tactless!... Hope for peace! What good has a general to expect from peace? Could not this civilian understand that a commander-in-chief is only a commander-in-chief in war-time, and that in peace-time he is nothing more than a professor with a collar of gold braid?"
The general is annoyed once more when the car pulls up because it is necessary to close the hood on account of the rain. But during the pause His Excellency hears the sound of distant firing. His eyes brighten.—Thank God, there was still war.
* * * * *
My quotations have been enough to show the emotional force and the trenchant irony of Latzko's book. It scorches. It is a torch of suffering and revolt. Both its merits and its defects are sib to this frenzy. The author is master of the writer's art, but he is not always master of his own feelings. His memories are still open wounds. He is possessed by his visions. His nerves vibrate like violin strings. Almost without exception, his analyses of emotion are tremulous monologues. His shattered spirit cannot find repose.
Doubtless he will be criticised for the preponderant place assumed in his book by physical pain. The work is full of it. Pain monopolises the reader's mind and wearies his eyes. Not until we have read Men in Battle do we fully appreciate Barbusse's chariness in the use of material effects. If Latzko is persistent in their employment, this is not merely because he is haunted by memories of pain. He wishes, deliberately wishes, to communicate these impressions to others, for he has suffered greatly from others' insensibility.
In very truth, such insensibility has been the saddest of all our experiences during this war. We knew man to be stupid, mediocre, selfish: we knew that on occasions man could be extremely cruel. But though we had few illusions, we had never believed that man could remain so monstrously indifferent to the cries of millions of victims. We had never believed that there could be a smile such as we have witnessed upon the lips of the young fanatics and of the old demoniacs who, from their safe seats, are never weary of looking on at the mutual slaughter of the nations, of those who kill one another for the pleasure, the pride, the ideas, and the interests of the onlookers. All the rest, all the crimes, we can tolerate; but this aridity of soul is the worst of all, and we feel that Latzko has been overwhelmed by it. Like one of his own characters, who is regarded as a sick man because he cannot forget the sufferings he has witnessed, Latzko cries to the apathetic public:
"Sick!... No! It is the others that are sick. They are sick who gloat over news of victories and see conquered miles of territory arise resplendent above mountains of corpses. They are sick who stretch a barrier of many-coloured bunting between themselves and their better feelings, lest they should see what crimes are being committed against their brothers in the beyond that they call 'the front.' Every man is sick who can still think, talk, argue, sleep, knowing that other men, holding their own entrails in their hands, are crawling like half-crushed worms across the furrows in the fields, and are dying like animals before they can reach the ambulance station, while somewhere, far away, a woman with longing in her heart is dreaming beside an empty bed. All those are sick who fail to hear the moaning, the gnashing of teeth, the howling, the crashing and bursting, the wailing and cursing and agonising in death, because their ears are filled with the murmur of everyday affairs. These blind and deaf ones are sick, not I. Sick are those dumb beings whose soul can give voice neither to compassion nor to anger...." ("My Comrade").
The author's aim is to arouse these sick beings from their torpor, to treat them with the actual cautery of pain. This aim is portrayed in the person of Captain Marschner ("Baptism of Fire"), who, when his company is in the thick of the slaughter, suffers from nothing so intensely as from the harsh impassivity of his lieutenant, but who, himself at the point of death, finds it a positive solace to see on Weixler's stern face a shadow of pain, brotherly pain.
"Thank God," he thinks. "At last he knows what suffering is!"
"Through sympathy to knowledge," sings the mystical chorus of Parsifal.
This "suffering with others" (sympathy, Mitleid), this "pain which unites," overflows from the work of Andreas Latzko.
November 15, 1917.
"Les Tablettes," Geneva, December, 1917.
After the glacial torpor of the early days of the war, mutilated art begins to bloom anew. The irrepressible song of the soul wells up out of suffering. Man is not merely, as he is apt to boast, a reasoning animal (he might, with better ground, term himself an unreasoning one); he is a singing animal; he can no more get on without singing than without bread. We learn it amid the very trials through which we are passing to-day. Although the general suppression of liberty in Europe has doubtless deprived us of the deeper music, of the most intimate confessions, we nevertheless hear great voices rising from every land. Some of these, coming from the armies, sing in sad and epic strains. See, for example, Under Fire by Henri Barbusse, and the heart-rending tales issued by Andreas Latzko under the collective title of Men in Battle. Others express the pain and horror of those who, remaining at home, look on at the butchery without taking part in it, and who, being inactive, suffer all the more from the torments of thought. To this category belong the impassioned poems of Marcel Martinet and P. J. Jouve. Paying less attention to suffering and more concerned with understanding, the English novelists, H. G. Wells and Douglas Goldring, give a faithful analysis of the distressing errors amid which they move and which they themselves by no means escape. Yet others, finally, taking refuge in the contemplation of the past, rediscover there the same circle of misfortunes and of hopes—rediscover the "eternal cycle." They cloak their grief in the fashions of other days, thus ennobling it and despoiling it of its poisoned dart. From the lofty eyrie of the ages, set free by art, the soul contemplates suffering as in a vision, no longer aware whether that suffering belongs to the present or to the past. Stefan Zweig's Jeremias is the finest contemporary specimen known to me of this august melancholy which, looking beyond the bloody drama of to-day, is able to see in it the eternal tragedy of mankind.
Not without struggle can such serene regions be attained. A friend of Zweig before the war, his friend to-day, I have witnessed all that was endured by this free European spirit whom the war robbed of that which he had held most dear; robbed him of his artistic and humanist faith, thereby depriving him of any reason for existence. The letters he wrote me during the first year of the war reveal his agonising torments in all their tragical beauty. By degrees, however, the immensity of the catastrophe, communion with the universal sorrow, restored to him the calm which resigns itself to destiny; for he came to see that destiny leads to God, who is the union of souls. Of the Hebrew race, he has drawn his inspiration from the Bible. It was easy to find there analogous instances of national madness, of the fall of empires, and of heroic patience. One figure, above all, attracted him, that of the great forerunner, Jeremiah the persecuted prophet, foretelling the woeful peace which was to flourish upon the ruins.
Zweig devotes to Jeremiah a dramatic poem, which I propose to analyse, making extensive quotations. The work consists of nine scenes. It is written in prose mingled with verse, sometimes free, sometimes rhymed, the transition from prose to verse occurring when emotion breaks from control. The form is ample and rhetorical. There is a majestic balance in the exposition of the thought; but the poem would perhaps have been better for condensation, for this would have left more to the reader's imagination. The common people play a leading part in the action. Their sallies and counter-sallies jostle one another; but at the close their voices unite in measured choruses, breathing the thoughts of the prophet, the guardian of Israel. Zweig has steered his course skilfully between the dangers of archaism and anachronism. We rediscover our preoccupations of the moment in this epic of the fall of Jerusalem; but we find them as the faithful of recent centuries found day by day in their Bible the light which lightened their road in hours of difficulty—sub specie aeternitatis.
"Jeremiah is our prophet," Stefan Zweig said to me. "He has spoken for us, for our Europe. The other prophets came at their due time. Moses spoke and acted. Jesus died and acted. Jeremiah spoke in vain. His people failed to understand him. The times were not ripe. He could only prophesy, and bewail the approaching doom. He could do nothing to prevent what was to happen. Ours is a like fate."
But there are defeats more fruitful than victories; there are griefs more illuminating than joys. Zweig's poem shows this magnificently. At the end of the drama, Israel has been crushed. The Jews, leaving their ruined city, going into exile, pass towards the future filled with an inward radiance never known to them before, strong by reason of the sacrifices which have revealed to them their mission.
* * * * *
THE PROPHET'S AWAKENING.
A night in early spring. All is quiet. Jeremiah, awakened with a start by a vision of Jerusalem in flames, goes up to the terrace which overlooks his dwelling and the town. He is "poisoned" by dreams, obsessed by the oncoming storm, although peace still broods over the scene. He does not understand the fierce energy which surges up in him; but he knows that it comes from God and he awaits his orders, uneasy and under the spell of hallucination. His mother calls to him, and at first he imagines her voice to be the voice of God. To the terrified woman he foretells the ruin of Jerusalem. She implores him to be silent; his words seem to her sacrilegious and arouse her anger; to close his mouth, she tells him he will have her curse if he makes his sinister dreams known to others. But Jeremiah is no longer his own man. He follows the unseen Master.
In the great square of Jerusalem, in front of the temple and the king's palace, the people acclaim the Egyptian envoys who have brought with them a daughter of the Pharaoh to wed King Zedekiah, and who are to cement an alliance against the Chaldeans. Abimelech the general, Pashur the high priest, Hananiah the official prophet who prophesies falsely in order to inflame the passion of the people, incite the crowd to frenzy. Young Baruch is one of the most violent among those who clamour for war. Jeremiah resists the stream of fury. He condemns the war. He is immediately charged with having been bought by Chaldean gold. Hananiah, the false prophet, sings the praises of "the holy war, the war of God."
JEREMIAH. Do not bring God's name into the war. Men make war, not God. No war is holy; no death is holy; life alone is holy.
BARUCH. Thou liest, thou liest! Life is given us solely that we may sacrifice it to God.
The crowd is carried away by the hope of an easy victory. A woman spits upon Jeremiah the pacifist. Jeremiah curses her.
JEREMIAH. Cursed be the man who thirsts for blood! But seven times cursed be the woman who thirsts for war. War will devour the fruit of her body.
His violence is terrifying. He is charged to hold his peace. He refuses, for Jerusalem is within him, and Jerusalem does not wish to die.
JEREMIAH. The walls of Jerusalem stand erect in my heart, and they do not wish to fall.... Safeguard peace!
The fickle crowd, despite itself, is being swayed by his words, when General Abimelech returns in a fury. He has just left the king's council, where a majority has voted against the alliance with Egypt. In his wrath, he has thrown away his sword. Young Israel, through the voice of Baruch, acclaims him as a national hero. The high priest blesses him. Hananiah, prophet and demagogue, fires the crowd to flock to the palace that they may force the king to declare war. Jeremiah tries to stop the yelling mob. He is knocked down. Young Baruch strikes him with a sword. The crowd passes on.
But Baruch, appalled, stays with his victim, staunches the blood which flows from the wound, and begs for pardon. Jeremiah, helped to his feet, thinks only of rejoining the maddened crowd, to cry his message of peace. This inviolable energy astounds Baruch, who had regarded as a coward anyone who should condemn action or preach peace.
JEREMIAH. Dost thou imagine that peace is not action, that peace is not the action of all actions? Day by day thou shouldst wrest it from the mouth of the liars and from the heart of the crowd. Thou shouldst stand alone against all.... Those who desire peace are for ever fighting.
Baruch is overcome.
BARUCH. I believe in thee, for I have seen thy blood poured forth for thy words.
Jeremiah vainly endeavours to dissuade him. The prophet is unwilling that Baruch should share in his dreams and his awesome fate. But Baruch insists upon joining Jeremiah, and the young man's ardent faith is superadded to and redoubles that of the prophet.
JEREMIAH. Thou believest in me when I myself scarcely believe in my own dreams.... Thou hast made my blood flow and hast mingled thy will with mine.... Thou art the first to believe in me, the first-born of my faith, the son of my anguish.
The crowd flocks back into the square, uttering cries of delight, for war has been decided on. Heading a solemn procession, the king appears, gloomy, with naked sword. Hananiah dances before him, like David. Jeremiah cries out to the king, "Throw down the sword. Save Jerusalem! Peace! God's peace!" His words are drowned by the shouting, and he is pushed aside. But the king has heard. He halts for a moment, looking round and trying to find the speaker. Then, sword in hand, he marches forward, and goes up into the temple.
The war has begun. The crowd is awaiting news. They talk at random, catching at the words which please them, or shaping utterances which express their wishes. Longing for victory, they imagine it won. In masterly fashion, Zweig shows how a vague rumour spreads in the hallucinated mind of the multitude, to attain in an instant a certainty surpassing that of truth. Details pass from mouth to mouth; precise figures of the false victory are given. Jeremiah, the defeatist prophet, is mocked. The bird of ill-omen is informed that the Chaldeans have been crushed, and that King Nebuchadnezzar has been slain. Jeremiah, at first dumb with astonishment, thanks God for having turned to derision his gloomy forebodings. Then, pricked by the foolish pride of the people, who become brutishly intoxicated with the victory and have learned nothing from their trials, he scourges them with new threats.
JEREMIAH. Your joy will be brief.... God will rend it asunder like a curtain.... Already the messenger is afoot, the bearer of evil tidings, he is running, he is running; his swift footsteps lead towards Jerusalem. Already, already, he is at hand, the messenger of fear, the messenger of terror, already the messenger is at hand.
And lo, the messenger enters, panting for breath. Before he speaks, Jeremiah trembles with fear.
MESSENGER. The enemy is victorious. The Egyptians have come to terms with the Chaldeans. Nebuchadnezzar is marching on Jerusalem.
The crowd utters cries of terror. In the king's name a herald issues the call to arms. Jeremiah, the seer whose visions have been too faithfully fulfilled, Jeremiah from whose neighbourhood the panic-stricken folk withdraw, vainly implores God to convict him of falsehood.
THE WATCH ON THE RAMPARTS.
Moonlight. On the walls of Jerusalem. The enemy is at work. In the distance Samaria and Gilgal are seen in flames. Two sentinels are conversing. One, a professional soldier, neither can nor will see anything beyond his orders. The other, who seems one of our brothers of to-day, is trying to understand, and his heart is racked.
SECOND SOLDIER. Why does God hurl the nations against one another? Is there not room for all beneath the heavens? What are nations?... What puts death between the nations? What is it which sows hatred when there is room and to spare for life, and when there is abundance of scope for love? I can't understand, I can't understand.... This crime cannot be God's will. He has given us our lives that we may live them.... War does not come from God. Whence comes it then?
He thinks that if he could talk matters over with a Chaldean, they would come to an understanding. Why should not they talk things over? He would like to summon one, to hold out a friendly hand. The other soldier grows angry.
FIRST SOLDIER. You shall not do that. They are our enemies, and it is our duty to hate them.
SECOND SOLDIER. Why should I hate them if my heart knows no reason for hatred?
FIRST SOLDIER. They began the war; they were the aggressors.
SECOND SOLDIER. Yes, that is what we say in Jerusalem. In Babylon, perchance, they use the same words of us. If we could talk things over with them, we might get some light on the question.... Whom do we serve by compassing their death?
FIRST SOLDIER. We serve God and the king our master.
SECOND SOLDIER. But God said, and it is written, Thou shalt not kill.
FIRST SOLDIER. It is likewise written, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
SECOND SOLDIER (sighs). Many things are written. Who can understand them all?
He continues to bewail himself aloud. The first soldier urges him to be silent.
SECOND SOLDIER. How can a man help questioning himself, how can he be other than uneasy, at such an hour? Do I know where I am and how long I have still to stand on guard?... How can I fail, while I live, to question the meaning of life?... Maybe death is already within me; perchance the questioner is no longer life, but death.
FIRST SOLDIER. You are only tormenting yourself about nothings.
SECOND SOLDIER. God has given us a heart precisely that it may torment us.
Jeremiah and Baruch appear on the ramparts. Jeremiah leans over the parapet and gazes down. All that he is now looking at, these fires, these myriad tents, this first night of the siege, are things with which he is already familiar from his visions. There is not a star in heaven which he has not seen in this place. He can no longer deny that God has chosen him. He must give his message to the king, for he knows the end; he sees it; he describes it in prophetic verses.
King Zedekiah, full of fear, making his rounds with Abimelech, hears the voice of Jeremiah, and recognises it as the voice of the one who wished to hold him back on the threshold of the declaration of war. He would pay heed now, could the decision be made over again. Jeremiah assures him that it is never too late to ask peace. Zedekiah is unwilling to be the first to move. What if his proposals were rejected?
JEREMIAH. Happy are they who are rejected for justice' sake.
But what if people laugh at him? asks Zedekiah.
JEREMIAH. It is better to be followed by the laughter of fools than by the tears of widows.
Zedekiah refuses. He would rather die than humble himself. Jeremiah curses him and calls him the murderer of his people. The soldiers wish to throw him from the wall. Zedekiah restrains them. His calm, his forbearance, perplex Jeremiah, who lets the king depart without making any further effort to save him. The decisive moment has been lost. Jeremiah accuses himself of weakness; he feels himself impotent, and he despairs; he knows only how to cry aloud and to utter curses. He does not know how to do good. Baruch consoles him. At Jeremiah's suggestion, Baruch decides to climb down the walls into the Chaldean camp, that he may parley with Nebuchadnezzar.
THE PROPHET'S ORDEAL.
Jeremiah's mother is dying. The sick woman knows nothing of what is happening outside. Since she drove her son from home she has been suffering and waiting. Both mother and son are proud, and neither will make the first advance. Ahab, the old servitor, has taken it upon himself to fetch Jeremiah. The sick woman awakens and calls her son. He appears, but dares not draw near, because of the curse which weighs on him. His mother stretches out her arms. They embrace one another. In affectionate dialogue, versified, they recount their love and their grief. The mother rejoices at seeing her son once more. She believes him to be convinced that he was mistaken in the past, that his visions were false. "I was certain," says she, "that the enemy would never, never besiege Jerusalem." Jeremiah cannot hide his uneasiness. She notices it, grows uneasy herself, asks questions, guesses, "There is war in Israel!" Panic seizes her; she tries to leave her bed. Jeremiah endeavours to quiet her. She begs him to swear that there is no enemy, no danger. The attendants whisper to Jeremiah, "Swear! swear!" Jeremiah cannot lie. The mother dies terror-stricken. Hardly has she breathed her last when Jeremiah swears the falsehood. But the oath comes too late. The enraged witnesses chase forth the unfeeling son who has killed his mother. An angry crowd wishes to stone him. The high priest has him thrown into prison, to gag his prophecies. Jeremiah accepts the sentence unrepiningly. He wishes to live under shadow of night, he is eager to be delivered from this world, to be brother of the dead.
The king's room. Zedekiah, at the window, is looking out over the moonlit town. He envies other kings, who can hold counsel with their gods, or who can learn the will of the gods from soothsayers. "It is terrible to be the servant of a God who is always silent; whom no one has ever seen." The king has to advise others; but who will advise the king?
Nevertheless, here are his five closest counsellors, whom he has summoned to his presence: Pashur the high priest; Hananiah the prophet; Imri the elder; Abimelech the general; Nahum the steward. For eleven months Jerusalem has been besieged. No help is coming. What is to be done? All agree that it is essential to hold out. Nahum alone is gloomy; there remains food for three weeks only. Zedekiah asks their opinion concerning the opening of negotiations with Nebuchadnezzar. They are opposed to it, save Imri and Nahum. The king tells them that an envoy from Nebuchadnezzar has already come. He is summoned. Baruch is the envoy. He states the terms of the Chaldeans. Nebuchadnezzar, admiring the courageous resistance of the Jews, agrees to spare their lives if they open their gates. All that he demands is the humiliation of Zedekiah, who was king by his grace and who shall be king once more, by Nebuchadnezzar's grace, when his fault has been atoned. Let Zedekiah abase himself before the victor, yoke on neck and crown in hand! Zedekiah is indignant, and Abimelech supports his objection. But the others, who think that the Jews are getting off cheaply, explain to the king how splendid will be his sacrifice. Zedekiah, overborne, agrees; he will resign the crown to his son.—But Nebuchadnezzar has additional demands. He wishes to look upon the One who is Master in Israel; he wishes to enter the temple. Pashur and Hananiah are outraged by this sacrilegious suggestion. The matter is put to the vote. Abimelech abstains, saying that his business is to act, not to discuss. The others are two for and two against. It devolves on the king to give the casting vote. He tells the advisers to leave him to himself that he may think the matter over. He is on the point of constraining himself to accept the Chaldeans' terms, when Baruch admits that the visit to Nebuchadnezzar to sue for peace was made at Jeremiah's instigation. Zedekiah is enraged at this name which he thought he had heard the last of. He has immured Jeremiah's body, but the prophet's thought continues to act, and to cry "Peace!" The king's pride is wounded, and he refuses to yield to the ascendancy of the prophet. He despatches Baruch to the Chaldeans with an insulting answer. But hardly has Baruch departed, when Zedekiah regrets his precipitancy. He vainly tries to sleep. Jeremiah's voice fills his thoughts, seems to break the silence of the night. Sending for the prophet, the king quietly recounts Nebuchadnezzar's terms, but does not say that they have been refused. He endeavours to secure Jeremiah's approval for the course he has chosen, hoping thus to appease his conscience. But the prophet reads his hidden thoughts, and utters lamentations upon Jerusalem. Soon, seized with frenzy, Jeremiah portrays the destruction of the city. He foretells Zedekiah's punishment; the king's eyes will be put out after he has witnessed the death of his three sons. Zedekiah, furious at first and then quailing, throws himself on his bed, weeping, and pleading for mercy. Jeremiah goes on unheeding, down to the final curse. Then he awakens from his trance, no less shattered than his victim. Zedekiah, no longer angry, no longer in revolt, recognises the prophet's power; he believes in Jeremiah, believes in the terrible predictions.
ZEDEKIAH. Jeremiah, I did not want war. I was forced to declare war, but I loved peace. And I loved thee because of thy love for peace. Not with a light heart did I take up arms.... I have suffered greatly, as thou canst testify when the time comes. Be thou near me if thy words are fulfilled.
JEREMIAH. I shall be near thee, Zedekiah my brother. The prophet is leaving, when the king recalls him.
ZEDEKIAH. Death is upon me, and I see thee for the last time. Thou hast cursed me, Jeremiah. Bless me, now, ere we part.
JEREMIAH. The Lord bless thee, and keep thee in all thy ways. May the light of His countenance shine upon thee, and may He give thee peace.
ZEDEKIAH (as in a dream). May He give us peace.
THE SUPREME AFFLICTION.
The following morning, in the great square before the temple. The famished crowd clamours for bread, prepares to attack the palace, threatens Nahum the forestaller. Abimelech, to rescue him, sends soldiers to the attack. Amid the riot, a voice is heard crying that the enemy has forced one of the gates. The people utter wails of terror, cursing king, priests, and prophets. Their thoughts fly to Jeremiah, who alone foretold the truth. He is their only hope. They break into his prison, and bring him forth, in triumph, shouting: "Saint! Master! Samuel! Elijah!... Save us!"—Jeremiah, heavy-hearted, does not at first understand. When he hears them accuse the king of having sold the people, he exclaims, "It is false!"
THE CROWD. They have sacrificed us. We wanted peace.
JEREMIAH. Too late!... Why do you put your transgressions on the king's shoulders? You wanted war.
THE CROWD. No!... Not I!... No!... Not I!... It was the king!... Not I!... Not one of us!
JEREMIAH. You all wanted the war, all, all! Your hearts are fickle.... The very ones who are now clamouring for peace, I have myself heard howling for war.... Woe unto you, O people! You drive before every wind. You have fornicated with war, and shall now bear the fruit of war! You have played with the sword, and shall now taste its edge!
The crowd, terrified, clamours for a miracle. Jeremiah refuses. He speaks.
JEREMIAH. Humble yourselves!... Let Jerusalem fall, if God will. Let the temple fall. Let Israel be utterly destroyed and her name wiped out!... Humble yourselves!
The people call him traitor. Jeremiah is seized with a fresh trance. In a transport of love and faith, he welcomes the sufferings inflicted by the beloved hand; he blesses trial, fire, death, shame, the enemy. The people cry aloud: "Stone him! Crucify him!"—Jeremiah stretches out his arms as on the cross. Hungry for martyrdom, he prophesies the Crucified. He wishes to be crucified. And crucified he would be, did not fugitives rush into the square, shouting: "The walls have fallen, the enemy is in the town!"—The mob flees into the temple.
In the gloom of a huge crypt we see a prostrate crowd. Here and there groups are formed round an elder reading the Scriptures. Jeremiah stands apart, motionless and as if petrified.—It is on the night following the fall of Jerusalem. Death and destruction are everywhere. The tombs have been violated; the temple has been profaned; all the nobles have been killed, save the king, who has been blinded. Jeremiah groans with horror when he learns that his prophecies have been fulfilled. People draw away from him, as from one accursed. In vain does he, with anguish, defend himself from the charge of having wrought all the evil.
JEREMIAH. I did not will it! You have no right to accuse me. The word came from my mouth as fire from flint. My word is not my will. Force is greater than I. Above me stands He, He, the Terrible One, the Merciless! I am no more than His instrument, His breath, the servant of His malice.... Woe upon the hands of God! Whom He, the Terrible One seizes, He will never loose.... Let Him set me free! No longer will I speak His words, I will not, I will not....
Trumpets sound without, and the will of Nebuchadnezzar is declared. The city is to disappear from the earth. The survivors may have one night to bury the dead; then they will be carried into captivity. The people lament, refusing to go. But a wounded man, who is in pain, wishes to live, to live! A young woman echoes his words. She does not want to go into the cold, to go to death. Bear anything, suffer anything; but live!—Disputes occur among the crowd. Some say that it is impossible to leave the land where God is. Others maintain that God will be with them wherever they may go. Jeremiah cries despairingly.
JEREMIAH. He is nowhere! Neither in heaven nor in earth, nor in the souls of men!
These sacrilegious words arouse horror. But Jeremiah continues.
JEREMIAH. Who has sinned against Him, if not Himself? He has broken His covenant.... He denies Himself.
Jeremiah recalls all the sacrifices he has made for God. House, mother, friends, he has abandoned all, lost all. He gave himself up wholly to God, serving God because he hoped that God would avert the threatened misfortune. He cursed in the hope that the curse would turn into a blessing. He prophesied in the hope that he was lying, and that Jerusalem would be saved. But his prophecies came true, and God was the liar. He has faithfully served the Faithless One. He refuses to continue this service. He cuts himself off from the God who hates, to join his brothers who suffer. He speaks.
JEREMIAH. I hate Thee, God, and I love them only.
The crowd strikes him, wishing to close his mouth, believing him to be dangerous. He throws himself on his knees, asking pardon for his pride and for his imprecations; he desires to be nothing more than the humblest servitor of his people. But all repulse him as a blasphemer.
At this moment there is a violent knocking at the door. Three envoys from Nebuchadnezzar enter and prostrate themselves before Jeremiah. Nebuchadnezzar, who admires him, wishes to make him chief of the magi. Jeremiah refuses, in disdainful terms. Gradually growing warm as he speaks, he prophecies the fall of Nebuchadnezzar. The great king's hour is at hand, and with fierce joy the prophet heaps curses upon him.
JEREMIAH. The avenger has awakened; He is coming; He draws nigh; terrible are the hands with which He smites.... We are His children, His first-born. He has chastised us, but He will have pity on us. He has thrown us down, but He will set us up again.
The Chaldean envoys flee, affrighted. The people surround Jeremiah and acclaim him. They drink in his frenzied words. God is speaking through his mouth. He unrolls before their eyes the vision of the New Jerusalem, towards which the dispersed tribes will flock from all the quarters of the earth. Peace shines on the city. The peace of the Lord, the peace of Israel. With exclamations of delight, the people, already looking forward to the days of the return, embrace the feet and knees of Jeremiah. The prophet awakens from his trance. He no longer knows what he has said. He is interpenetrated with the love of those around him; he endeavours to restrain their enthusiasm, which is yet further inflamed by a miracle of healing. The true miracle, says Jeremiah, is that he has cursed God and that God has blessed him. God has torn out his hard heart, and has replaced it with a compassionate heart, enabling him to share all suffering and to understand its meaning. "I have been long in finding it; I have been long in finding you, my brothers! No more curses! Sad is our fate; but let us take hope, for life is wonderful, the world is holy. I wish to embrace in my love those whom I have attacked in my anger." He utters thanksgivings for death and for life. Baruch begs him to carry the healing message to the people assembled in the square. Jeremiah agrees to do so, saying: "I have been consoled by God; now let me be the consoler." He wishes to build the undying Jerusalem in the hearts of men.—The people follow him out, calling him God's Master-Builder.
THE EVERLASTING ROAD.
The great square of Jerusalem, as in Scene Two, but after the destruction. The half-light of a moon partially veiled by clouds. In the obscurity there can be seen carts, mules, groups of those ready to depart. Voices are heard of persons calling one another and checking their numbers. The people are confused and leaderless. No one pays any attention to the unfortunate Zedekiah, who has been blinded, and whom all curse. Songs are heard, drawing nearer. The singers are in the train of Jeremiah. The prophet speaks to the people, who are at first incredulous and hostile. He consoles them, announcing their divine mission. Their heritage is grief; they are the people of suffering (Leidensvolk), but they are the people of God (Gottesvolk). Happy the vanquished, happy those that have lost all, that they may find God! Glory to the time of trial! From the people, now inspired with enthusiasm, arise choral chants, celebrating the ordeals of ancient days; celebrating Mizraim and Moses.... The choirs break up into groups of voices, now solemn, now gay, now exultant. The whole epic of Israel marches by in these songs, which Jeremiah directs as a skilful driver manages a team. The people, gradually becoming enkindled, wish to suffer, wish to set out for exile, and they call upon Jeremiah to lead them forth. Jeremiah prostrates himself before the unhappy Zedekiah, who has been thrust aside by the crowd. Zedekiah imagines that the prophet is mocking him.
JEREMIAH. Thou hast become the king of sorrows, and never hast thou been more regal.... Anointed by suffering, lead us forth! Thou, who now seest God only, who no longer seest the world, guide thy people!
Turning to the people, Jeremiah shows to them the leader sent by God, the "Crowned-by-Suffering" (Schmerzengekroente). The people bow before the stricken king.
Day dawns. A tucket sounds. Jeremiah, from the perron of the temple, summons Israel to set out. Let the people fill their eyes with their fatherland, for the last time! "Drink your fill of the walls, drink your fill of the towers, drink your fill of Jerusalem!"—They prostrate themselves, kissing the earth, and lifting a handful to take with them. Addressing the "wandering people" (Wandervolk), Jeremiah tells them to arise, to leave the dead who have found peace, to look not backward but forward, to look out into the distance, to the highways of the world. These highways are theirs. An impassioned dialogue ensues between the prophet and his people.
THE PEOPLE. Shall we ever see Jerusalem again?
JEREMIAH. He who believes, looks always on Jerusalem.
THE PEOPLE. Who shall rebuild the city?
JEREMIAH. The ardour of desire, the night of prison, and the suffering which brings counsel.
THE PEOPLE. Will it endure?
JEREMIAH. Yes. Stones fall, but that which the soul builds in suffering, endureth for ever.
The trumpet sounds once more. The people are now eager to depart. The huge procession ranges itself in silence. At the head is the king, borne in a litter. The tribes follow, singing as they march, with the solemn joy of sacrifice. There is neither haste nor lagging. An infinite on the march. As they pass, the Chaldeans gaze at them with astonishment. Strange folk, whom no one can understand, whether in their dejection or their exultation!
CHORUS OF JEWS. We move among the nations, we move athwart the ages, by the unending roads of suffering. For ever and for ever. Eternally we are vanquished.... But cities fall, nations vanish, oppressors go down into shame. We move onward, through the eternities, towards our country, towards God.
THE CHALDEANS. Their God? Have we not conquered him?... Who can conquer the invisible? Men we can slay, but the God who lives in them we cannot slay. A nation can be controlled by force; its spirit, never.
For the third time the tucket sounds. The sun, breaking forth, shines on the procession of God's people, beginning their march athwart the ages.
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Thus does a great artist exemplify the supreme liberty of the spirit. Others have made a frontal attack upon the follies and crimes of to-day. At grips with the force which wounds them, their bitter words of revolt bruise themselves against the obstacles they are endeavouring to break down. Here, the soul which has won to peace, sees passing before it the tragical flood of the present. Unperturbed, it torments itself no longer, for its gaze takes in the whole course of the stream, absorbing into itself the secular energies of that stream and the tranquil destiny which leads the flow onward towards the infinite.
November 20, 1917.
Written for the review "Coenobium," edited by Enrico Bignami, at Lugano.
A GREAT EUROPEAN: G. F. NICOLAI
Art and science have bent the knee to war. Art has become war's sycophant; science, war's hand-maiden. Few have had the strength or inclination to resist. In art, rare works, sombre French works, have blossomed on the blood-drenched soil. In science, the greatest product during these three criminal years has been the one we owe to G. F. Nicolai, a German whose spirit is free and whose thought has an enormous range.
The book is, as it were, a symbol of that unconquerable Freedom whom all the tyrannies of this age of force have vainly endeavoured to gag. It was written behind prison walls, but these walls were not thick enough to stifle the voice which judges the oppressors and will survive them.
Dr. Nicolai, professor of physiology at Berlin University and physician to the imperial household, found himself, when the war broke out, in the very focus of the madness which seized the flower of his nation. Not merely did he refuse to share that madness. Yet more daring, he openly resisted it. In reply to the manifesto of the 93 intellectuals, published in the beginning of October, 1914, he wrote a counter-manifesto, An Appeal to Europeans, which was endorsed by two other distinguished professors at the university of Berlin, Albert Einstein, the celebrated physicist, and Wilhelm Foerster, president of the international bureau of weights and measures, the father of Professor F. W. Foerster. This manifesto was not published, for Nicolai was unable to collect a sufficient number of signatures. In the summer term of 1915 he incorporated it in the opening of a series of lectures he planned to deliver upon the war. Thus, for the fulfilment of what he deemed his duty as an honest thinker, he deliberately risked his social position, his academic career, his distinctions, his comfort, and his friendships. He was arrested, and was interned in Graudenz fortress. There, unaided, and almost without books, he penned his admirable Biology of War, and managed to have the manuscript sent to Switzerland, where the first German edition has just been published. The circumstances in which the book was written have an atmosphere of mystery and heroism recalling that of the days when the Holy Inquisition was endeavouring to stifle the thought of Galileo. In the modern world, the Inquisition of the United States of Europe and America is no less crushing than was the Holy Inquisition of old. But Nicolai, firmer of spirit than Galileo, has refused to recant. Last month (September, 1917), the journals of German Switzerland announced that he had been once more brought to trial, and had been sentenced to five months' imprisonment by the Danzig court-martial. Thus again does force manifest its ludicrous weakness, for its unjust decrees merely help to raise a statue to the man whom force would fain strike down.
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The leading characteristic of book and writer is their universality. The publisher, in a note prefixed to the first edition, tells us that Nicolai "has a world-wide reputation as a physician, more especially in the field of cardiac disease"; that "he is a thinker the universality of whose culture seems almost fabulous in these days of specialisation, for, while distinguished for his knowledge of neokantian philosophy, he is equally at home in literature and in dealing with social problems"; that "he is an explorer who has wandered afoot in China, Malaysia, and even the solitudes of Lapland." Nothing human is foreign to him. In his book, the chapters on universal history, religious history, and philosophical criticism, are closely linked with the chapters on ethnology and biology. What a contrast between this encyclopaedic thought, with its reminiscences of our eighteenth century France, and the German savant of caricature, specialist to absurdity—a type which is often enough encountered in real life!
His vast learning is vivified by a captivating and brilliant personality, overflowing with feeling and humour. He makes no attempt to conceal himself behind the mask of a false objectivity. In the Introduction he hastens to tear off this mask, with which the insincere thought of our epoch is covered. He treats with contempt what he calls "the eternal straining for all-round treatment (Einerseits-Andererseits), the perpetual compromise which, under the hypocritical pretext of "justice," weds incompatibles, the carp and the hare, "war and humanity, beauty and fashion, internationalism and nationalism." Method alone should be objective. The conclusions inevitably retain a subjective element, and it is well that this should be so. "As long as we refuse to renounce the right of individuality and the right of striving towards goals of our own choosing, so long must we judge human deeds from the outlook of our own individuality. War is one of the deeds of man, and as such we have to pass judgment on it categorically. Any compromise on this point would obscure the issues; nay, it would be almost immoral.... War, like everything else, should have light thrown upon it from every side before we pass judgment on it; but only to persons of second-rate intelligence can it seem that we should actually pass our judgment on war from all sides at once, or even from two sides only."
Such is the objectivity which we have to expect from this book. Not the soft, flabby, indifferent, contradictory objectivity of the scientific dilettante, of the arch-eunuch: but a mettlesome objectivity which is appropriate in this fighting age, the objectivity of one who honestly attempts to see everything and to know everything; but who, having done so, endeavours to organise his data in accordance with a hypothesis, an intuition tinged with passion.
Such a system is worth precisely what the intuition is worth, precisely what the man who has the intuition is worth. For, in a great thinker, the hypothesis is the man. His hypothesis is the concentrated essence of his energy, his observation, his thought, his imaginative powers, and even of his passions. Nicolai's hypothesis is vigorous, and it takes risks. The central idea of his book may be summed up as follows: "There exists a genus humanum, and there is only one such genus. The human race, humanity as a whole, is but a single organism, and has a common consciousness."
Whoever speaks of a living organism, speaks of transformation and of unceasing movement. This perpetuum mobile gives its peculiar colour to Nicolai's reflections. In general, we who are advocates or opponents of the war tend to pass judgment on it almost exclusively in abstracto. We conceive it as static and absolute. It may almost be said that as soon as a thinker concentrates upon a subject in order to study it, his first step is to kill it. To a great biologist all is movement, and movement is the material of his study. The social or moral question that concerns us is not whether war is good or bad in the sphere of the eternal; but whether war is good or bad for us in our own moment of time. Now, for Nicolai, war is a stage in human evolution which man has long outgrown. His book depicts for us this evolutionary flux of instincts and ideas, an irresistible current in which there is never a backwash.
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The work is divided into two main parts, of unequal length. The first, occupying three-fourths of the book, is an attack upon the masters of the hour, war, fatherland, and race; an attack upon the reigning sophisms. It is entitled "The Evolution of War." The criticism of the present, in part one, is followed, in part two, by constructive ideas for the future. This second part is entitled "How War may be abolished." It outlines the coming society; sketches its morality and its faith. So abundant, in this book, are data and ideas, that selection is a difficult matter. Apart from the extraordinary richness of its elements, the work may be considered from two outlooks, specifically German, and universally human, respectively. Straightforwardly, at the outset, Nicolai tells his readers that although, in his opinion, all the nations must share responsibility for the war, he proposes to concern himself with the responsibility of Germany alone. He leaves it to the thinkers of other lands, each in his own country, to settle their country's accounts. "It is not my business," he says, "to know whether others have sinned extra muros, but to prevent people from sinning intra muros." If he chooses his instances from Germany above all, this is not because instances are lacking elsewhere, but because he writes, above all, for Germans. A large proportion of his historical and philosophical criticism deals with Germany ancient and modern. The point is well worthy of special analysis. No one, henceforward, will have any right to speak of the German spirit, unless he has read the profound chapters in which Nicolai, endeavouring to define national individuality, analyses the characteristics of German Kultur, analyses its virtues and its vices, its excessive faculty for adaptation, the struggle which the old Teutonic idealism has waged in its conflict with militarism, and elucidates the manner in which idealism was vanquished by militarism. The unfortunate influence of Kant (for whom, none the less, Nicolai has a great admiration) is stressed by him on account of the part it has played in this crisis of a nation's soul. Or rather, we may say, Nicolai stresses the influence of Kant's dualism of the reasons. This dualism of the pure reason and the practical reason (which Kant, despite the best efforts of his later years, was never able to associate in a satisfactory manner) is a brilliant symbol of the contradictory dualism to which modern Germany has accommodated herself all too easily. For Germany, preserving full liberty in the world of thought, has trampled under foot liberty in the world of action, or at least has surrendered this liberty without ever a regret (Chapter Ten, passim).
These analyses of the German soul are of great interest to the psychologist, the historian, and the statesmen. But, since I am compelled to select, I shall choose for description those parts of the book which are addressed to everyone, which touch us all, which are truly universal. I shall speak of the general problem of war and peace in human evolution. I shall have to resign myself to yet further sacrifices. Ignoring the chapters which discuss this topic from a historical and from a literary point of view, I shall confine myself to the biological studies, for it is in these that the author's individuality finds its most original self-expression.
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At grips with the hydra of war, Nicolai attacks the evil at the root. He opens with a vigorous analysis of instinct in general, for he is careful to avoid denying the innate character of war.
War, he says, is an instinct which springs from the deeps of mankind, an instinct which influences even those who condemn it. It is an intoxication which is carefully fostered in time of peace; when it breaks forth, it takes possession of all alike. But because it is an instinct, it does not follow that this instinct is sacred. Rousseau has popularised the idea that instinct is always good and trustworthy. Nothing of the kind. Instinct may be mistaken. When it is mistaken, the race dies out, and we can therefore easily understand that, in races which do not die out, instinct has a valid reason for existence. Nevertheless, an animal endowed with sound instincts, may be deceived by these instincts when it leaves its primitive environment. We see an example of this in the moth which burns itself in the flame. The instinct was sound in the days when the sun was the only luminary, but no evolution has taken place to adapt this instinct to the existence of lamps. We may admit that every instinct had its use at the time when it first came into existence. This may be true of the fighting instinct, but it does not follow that the combative instinct is useful to man to-day. Instinct is extremely conservative, and survives the circumstances that produced it. For instance, the wolf, wishing to cover up its tracks, buries its excrement; the dog, a town dweller, stupidly scrapes the pavement. In the latter case instinct has become senseless, purposeless.
Man has retained many rudimentary and functionless instincts. He is able to modify them, but in his case the task is peculiarly complex. Man is distinguished from other animals by his incomparably greater power of modifying the natural environment to suit his own purposes. But this being so, man should transform his instincts to adapt them to the changed circumstances. Now these instincts are tenacious, and the struggle is hard. All the more, therefore, is it necessary. Whole species of lower animals became extinct because they were unable to modify their instincts as the environment changed. "Is man also to die out from want of the will to change his instincts? He can change them, or he could if he would. Man alone has the power of choice, and consequently can err. But this curse of the liability to error is the necessary consequence of freedom, and it gives birth to the blessed power man possesses to learn and to transform himself." Yet man makes very little use of this power. He is still encumbered with archaic instincts. He accepts them complacently. He has an excessive esteem for what is old precisely because he is swayed by hereditary instincts which he has unconsciously come to revere.
In the kingdom of the one-eyed, we ought not to make the blind man king. Because we all have combative instincts, it does not follow that we should give these instincts free rein. To-day, when we are realising the advantages of world-wide organisation, it is assuredly time that such instincts should be put under restraint. Nicolai, seeing his contemporaries giving themselves up to their enthusiasm for war, is reminded of dogs which persist in scraping the pavement after relieving nature.
What, precisely, are the combative instincts? Are they essential attributes of the human species? In Nicolai's opinion, they are nothing of the sort. He inclines, rather, to regard them as aberrations, for man was originally a pacific and social animal. His anatomical structure proves it. Man is one of the most defenceless of animals, having neither claws, nor horns, nor hoofs, nor carapace. His ape-like ancestors had no other resource but to seek safety among the branches. When man came down to the ground and took to walking, his hand was freed for other uses. This five-fingered hand, which in most animals has become a weapon (clawed or hoofed), has in the apes alone remained a prehensile organ. Essentially pacific, ill-constructed for striking or tearing, its natural function was to seize and to take. "The hand ... was superfluous as an aid to locomotion on the ground, and thus became free and able to lay hold of something besides trees. Consequently it grasped tools, thus becoming the means and the symbol of man's future greatness." But the hand would not have sufficed for man's defence. Had he been a solitary animal, he would have been destroyed by foes stronger and better equipped than himself. His strength lay in his being gregarious. The social state existed for mankind long before family life began. Men did not voluntarily unite to form a community (the family first, for instance, then the tribe, then a class, then a commune, etc.); it was the existence of the primitive community which rendered possible the advance from the prehuman to the human stage. By nature, as Aristotle said, man is a sociable animal. The drawing together of men is older and more primitive than war.
Look, again, at the lower animals. War is rare between members of the same species. The animals that wage war (stags, ants, bees, and certain birds), have always reached a stage of development in which proprietary rights exist, it may be over booty or it may be over a female. Ownership and war go hand in hand. War is merely one of the innumerable consequences of ownership at a certain stage of evolution. Whatever the declared aim of war, its real purpose always is to despoil man of his labour or of the fruit of his labour. Unless a war be utterly futile, its necessary result will be the enslavement of a part of humanity. Shamefacedly we may change the name, but let us avoid being duped by the new name! A war indemnity is nothing else than part of the labour of the vanquished enemy. Modern war hypocritically pretends to protect private property; but in its effect on the conquered nation as a whole, it indirectly attacks the rights of every individual. Let us be frank. Let us, when we defend war, dare to admit and to proclaim that we are defending slavery.
There is no question of denying that both war and slavery may have been useful, and indeed indispensable, during a certain phase of human evolution. Primitive man, like the lower animals, had all his energies monopolised by the attaining of nutriment. When spiritual needs began to demand their rights, it was necessary that the masses should work to excess in order that a small minority might pass lives of learned leisure. The marvellous civilisations of antiquity could not have existed without slavery. But the time has now arrived when a new organisation has rendered slavery superfluous. In a modern national society a community voluntarily renounces part of its earnings (and will have to renounce an increasingly large part of its earnings) for social purposes. Machines produce about ten times as much as unaided human labour. Were they intelligently used, the social problem would be greatly simplified. A sophism of the political economists assures us that national wellbeing increases proportionally with the increase in the consumption of commodities. The principle is unsound. Its outcome is that it inoculates people with artificial needs. But it is this artificially excited greed which, in the last resort, continues to bolster up slavery in the shape of exploitation and war. Property created war, and property maintains war. For the weak only, is property a source of virtue, since the weak will not make efforts without the stimulus afforded by the desire for possession. Throughout history, war has been for property. Nicolai does not believe that there has ever been a war for a purely ideal object, and without any thought of material domination. People may perhaps fight for the pure ideal of country, in the endeavour to express to the full the genius of their own nation. But the guns will not really help the ideal forward. Such material arguments as guns and bayonets will seem valuable only when the abstract idea has become intertwined with the lusts for power and property. Thus, war, property, and slavery, are close associates. Goethe wrote:
Krieg, Handel und Piraterie Dreieinig sind sie, nicht zu trennen.
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Nicolai then proceeds to criticise the pseudo-scientific notions from which our modern intellectuals deduce justifications for war. Above all he disposes of fallacious Darwinism and of the misuse of the idea of the struggle for existence. These notions, imperfectly understood and speciously interpreted, are by many regarded as furnishing a sanction for war. Or, it is held, war is a method of selection, and is therefore a natural right. To such conceptions Nicolai opposes genuine science, the fundamental law of the increase in living beings, and the law that there is a natural limit to growth. It is obvious that the existence of these limitations imposes struggle upon individual beings and upon species, seeing that the world contains only a restricted quantity of energy, that is to say of nutriment. But Nicolai shows that war is the most paltry, the stupidest, one may even say the most ruinous, among all forms of struggle. Modern science, which enables us to estimate the amount of solar energy reaching our planet, shows us that the entire animal world does not as yet make use of more than one twenty thousandth part of the available supply. It is obvious that in these conditions war, that is to say the murder of another accompanied by the theft of that other's share of energy, is an inexcusable crime. It is, says Nicolai, as if loaves were lying about by the thousand, and we were nevertheless to kill a beggar in order to steal his crust. Mankind has an almost boundless field to exploit, and man's proper struggle is the struggle with nature. All other forms of struggle bring impoverishment and ruin, by distracting our attention from our main purposes. The creative method is based upon the harnessing of new and ever new sources of energy. The starting point was the prehistoric discovery of fire, when man for the first time was able to effect the explosive liberation of the solar energy stored up by plants. The discovery marked a new turn in human affairs, and was the dawn of man's supremacy over nature. During the last hundred years this new principle has been developed to such an enormous extent that human evolution has been entirely transformed. Nearly all the chief problems may be said to have been solved, and what remains requisite is the practical application. Thermo-electricity renders possible the direct and purposive utilisation of solar energy. Modern chemical researches point to the possibility of artificially manufacturing foodstuffs, and so on. Were man to apply all his combative energy to the utilisation of the forces of nature, not merely could he live at ease, but there would be room in the world for milliards of additional human beings. When compared with this splendid struggle, how puny seems the great war! What has that war to do with the real struggle for existence? It is a product of degeneration. War is justifiable. Not war between human beings. But creative war for man's mastery over natural forces, the young war of which hardly a millionth part has yet been waged. In this war we can foresee victories such as no human being has ever yet won.
Nicolai, contrasting this creative struggle with the destructive struggle, symbolises them in the persons of two German men of science. One of these is Professor Haber, who has turned his knowledge to account for the manufacture of asphyxiating bombs, and who will doubtless not be forgotten. The other is Emil Fischer, the brilliant chemist who has achieved the synthetic production of sugar, and who will perhaps achieve the synthesis of albumen. Fischer is the founder, or at any rate the forerunner, of the new era of humanity. Future generations will gratefully refer to him as one of the supreme conquerors in the victorious struggle for the sources of life. He is in very truth a practitioner of the "divine art" of which Archimedes spoke.
* * * * *
Nicolai's arguments, showing that war is antagonistic to human progress, are confronted with an indisputable fact, a fact which has to be explained—the actual existence of war, and its monstrous expansion. Never has war been more powerful, more brutal, more widespread. Never has war been more glorified. In an interesting chapter (Chapter Fourteen), which introduces a number of debatable points, Nicolai shows that in earlier days apologists for war were exceptional. Even among the epic poets of war, those whose song was of heroism, the direct references to war convey fear and disapproval. Delight in war (Kriegslust), love of war for its own sake, is peculiar to modern literature. We have to come down to the writings of Moltke, Steinmetz, Lasson, Bernhardi, and Roosevelt, to find apotheoses of war, paeans of war whose jubilation is quasi-religious. Nor was it until the outbreak of the present struggle that such huge armies as those of to-day were witnessed. The Greek armies in classical antiquity did not exceed 20,000. Those of imperial Rome, ranged from 100,000 to 200,000. In the eighteenth century, armies of 150,000 were known; while Napoleon had an army of 750,000. In 1870, there were armies of two and a half millions. But in the present war there are ten million fighting men in each camp (Chapter Five and Chapter Six). The increase is colossal, and quite recent. Even if we take into account the possibility of a struggle in the near future between Europeans and Mongols, a proportional increase could not continue beyond a generation or two, for the whole population of the globe would not suffice to furnish such armies.
But Nicolai is not appalled by the titanic dimensions of the monster he is fighting. Indeed, this very fact gives him confidence in the ultimate victory of his cause. For biology has revealed to him the mysterious law of giganthanasia. One of the most important principles of paleontology teaches that all animals (with the exception of insects, which, for this very reason, are, with the brachiopods, the oldest families on the globe), all species, tend throughout the centuries to grow larger and larger until, of a sudden, when they seem greatest and strongest, their forms disappear from the geological record. In nature it is always the large forms that die. That which is large must die for the reason that, in conformity with the imperious law of growth, the day comes when it exceeds the limits of its primordial possibilities. Thus is it, writes Nicolai, with war. Along the boundless field-grey battle lines, thrills the warning of the coming Twilight of the Gods. Everything beautiful and characteristic in the war of ancient days has vanished. Gone is the gay camp life, gone are the motley uniforms, gone is single combat—gone, in a word, are the show features. The battlefield, now, has become little more than an accessory. In former days the scene of battle used to be selected with care, for then the rival armies manoeuvred for position. To-day the soldiers settle down haphazard and dig themselves in. The essential work is carried on elsewhere, by the provision of finance, munitions, food supply, railways, etc. In place of the one man of genius as general, we have now the impersonal machinery of the general staff. The old lively, joyous war is dead.—It may be that even yet war has not attained its zenith. In the present war there are still neutrals, and perhaps Freiligrath was right in holding that there must first be some battle in which the whole world will share. But if so, that will be the very last. The final war will be the greatest and the most terrible of all, just as the last of the great saurians was the most gigantic. Our technique has swelled war to its extremest limits, and will then slay war.
* * * * *
At bottom, behind its fearsome exterior, the war monster lacks confidence, and feels that its life is threatened. Never before have warmongers appealed, as they appeal to-day, to such a compost of arguments, mystico-scientifico-politico-murderous, to justify the existence of war. No one would dream of such arguments were it not that the days of war are numbered, were it not that the most enthusiastic disciples of war are shaken in their faith. But Nicolai is ruthless in attack, and part of his book is a pitiless satire upon all the sophisms wherewith in our folly we attempt to justify war—the executioner's axe poised over our heads. These sophisms are: the sophism that war is a biological means for ensuring the survival of the fittest; the sophism of defensive war; the sophism of the humanisation of war; the sophism of the alleged solidarity created by war, the so-called party truce; the sophism of the fatherland—for the fatherland, in practical application, becomes the narrowly conceived and artificially constructed political state; the sophism of race; and so on.
I should have been glad to quote numerous extracts from these ironical and severely critical passages. Of exceptional interest are the paragraphs in which he castigates the most impudent and the most flourishing of current sophisms, the sophism of race, for whose sake thousands of poor simpletons of all nations are slaughtering one another. He writes as follows:
"The race problem is one of the most melancholy chapters in the history of human thought. Nowhere else has knowledge, supposedly impartial, consciously or unconsciously placed itself so unscrupulously at the service of ambitious and self-seeking politicians. Indeed, it might almost be said that the various theories of race have never been put forward save with the object of advancing some claim or other. The writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an Anglo-German, afford perhaps the most repulsive example. As we all know, this author has endeavoured to claim as German everyone of outstanding importance in the history of the world, Christ and Dante not excepted. It would be strange if this demagogic example found so [many] imitators.... Recently Paul Souday has attempted to show that all the notable men of Germany belong to the Keltic race ('Le Temps,' August 7, 1915)."
Nicolai replies to these extravagances with the following definite assertions:
1. Proof is lacking that a pure race is better than a mixed race. (Examples are adduced from animal species and from human history.)
2. It is impossible to define the term race as applied to the subdivisions of mankind, for valid criteria are lacking. Such classifications as have been attempted, now upon a historical, now upon a linguistic, and now upon an anthropological basis, are extremely inconsistent one with another, and have been almost complete failures.
3. There are no pure races in Europe. Less than any other nation have the Germans a right to claim racial purity. Anyone who seeks a true Teuton to-day had better go to Sweden, the Netherlands, or England.
4. If to the term race we attach a definite biological meaning, we can hardly say that there is any such thing as a European race.
Patriotism based on race is impossible, and in most cases it is utterly absurd. There is no such thing as ethnic homogeneity in any extant nation. The cohesion of contemporary nations does not come down to them as a heritage of which they can dispose at will. From day to day this cohesion must be rewon. Unremittingly the members of each nation must fortify their community of thought, feeling, and will. This is meet and right. As Renan said, "The existence of a nation should be a daily plebiscite." In a word, what unites people to form a nation is not the force of history; it is the desire to be together, and the mutual need felt by the members of the nation. Our thoughts and our feelings are not guided by the vows that others have made for us, but by our own free will.
Is it so to-day? What place does free will hold among the nations of to-day? Patriotism has assumed an extraordinarily oppressive form. During no other age in history has it been so tyrannical and so exclusive. It devours everything. Our country, to-day, claims to rank above religion, above art, science, thought, above civilisation. This monstrous hypertrophy cannot be explained as an efflux from the natural sources of patriotic instincts, as an efflux of love of the native soil, of tribal sentiment, of the social need for forming vast communities. Its colossal effects are the outcome of a pathological phenomenon; they are the outcome of mass suggestion. Nicolai tersely analyses this conception. It is remarkable, he says, that whenever several animals or several human beings do anything together, the mere fact of cooperation causes each individual's action to be modified. We have scientific proof that two men can carry far more than twice as much as one. In like manner, a number of human beings react in a very different way from these same beings in isolation. Every cavalryman knows that his horse will do more in the troop than it will do alone, will cover more ground and will suffer less fatigue. Forel has pointed out that an ant which, surrounded by companions, will readily face death, shows fear and runs away from a much weaker ant when she is alone and some way from the ant-hill. Among men, in like manner, the feeling of the crowd greatly intensifies the reactions of each individual. "This is most evident at a public meeting. In many cases the speaker has hardly opened his mouth before he communicates some of his own emotion to every one of his hearers. Suppose it to be only the hundredth part on the average, and suppose that the audience numbers one thousand, then the speaker's emotion has already been multiplied tenfold, as will speedily appear from the reactions of the audience." This in turn reacts on the speaker, who is carried away by the emotions of his hearers. And so it goes on.
Now in our day the audience is of enormous size, and the world war has made it gigantic. Thanks to powerful and rapid means of communication, thanks to the telegraph and the press, the huge groups of allied states have become, as it were, single publics numbered by millions. Imagine, in this vibrant and sonorous mass, the effect of the least cry, of the slightest tremor. They assume the aspect of cosmic convulsions. The entire mass of humanity is shaken as by an earthquake. Under these conditions what happens to such a sentiment as the love of country, originally natural and healthy? In normal times, says Nicolai, a good man loves his country just as he should love his wife, while well aware that there may be other women more beautiful, more intelligent, or better, than she. But one's country to-day is like a hysterically jealous woman who is in a fury when anyone recognises another woman's merits. In normal times the true patriot is (or should be) the man who loves what is good in his country and resists what is evil. But nowadays anyone who acts thus is deemed an enemy of his country. A patriot, in the contemporary sense of the word, loves both what is good and what is bad in his country; he is ready to do evil for the sake of his country; carried away by the stream of mass suggestion, he is positively eager to do evil for his country's sake. The weaker a man's character, the more inflammatory his patriotism. He has no power to resist collective suggestion; and is indeed passionately attracted by it, for every weak man looks for others' support, and believes himself stronger if he does what others are doing. Now, these persons of weak character have no common bond of profound culture. What they need to unite them is an external bond, and what can suit them better than national feeling! "Every blockhead," writes Nicolai, "feels several inches taller if he and a few dozen millions of his kind can only unite to form a majority.... The fewer independent personalities a nation possesses, the fiercer is that nation's patriotism."
This mass attraction, which works like a magnet, is the positive side of jingoism. The negative side is hatred of foreign countries. War is the biological culture-medium. War hurls upon the world sufferings mountain high; it crushes the world by material and spiritual privations. If people are to endure it, there must be a supreme exaltation of mass sentiment, to support the weak by herding them more closely together. This is artificially effected by the newspaper press. The result is appalling. Patriotism concentrates all the energies of the human mind upon love for one's own country and upon hatred for the enemy. Hatred becomes a religion. Hatred without reason, without common sense, and absolutely without foundation. No room is left for any other faculty. Intelligence and morality have abdicated. Nicolai quotes a number of almost incredible examples from the Germany of 1914 and 1915, and equally striking instances could be given in the case of every belligerent nation. There was no resistance to these suggestions. In the collective aberration, all differences of class, education, intellectual or moral value, are reduced to one level; all are equalised. The entire human race, from base to summit, is delivered over to the Furies. If the least sparkle of free will shows itself, it is trampled under foot, and the isolated independent is torn to pieces as Pentheus was torn to pieces by the Bacchantes.
But this frenzy does not disturb the calm vision of the thinker. To Nicolai, the paroxysm he contemplates seems the last flicker of the torch. Just as, he declares, horse-racing and yachting are undergoing their fullest development in our own day, when horses and sails are ceasing to have any practical use, so likewise patriotism has become a fanatical cult at the very moment when it has ceased to be a factor in civilisation. It is the fate of the Epigoni. In remote ages it was good, it was needful, that individual egoism should be broken by the grouping of human beings in tribes and clans. The patriotism of the towns was justified when it victoriously resisted the egoism of the robber barons. The patriotism of the state was justified when it concentrated all the energies of a nation. The national conflicts of the nineteenth century had useful work to do. But to-day the work of the national states is done. New tasks call us. Patriotism is no longer a suitable aim for humanity; its influence is retrograde. But the retrogressive efforts of patriotism are fruitless. No one can arrest the progress of evolution, and people are merely committing suicide by throwing themselves beneath the iron wheels of the chariot. The sage is unperturbed by the frenzied resistance of the forces of the past, for he knows them to be the forces of despair. He leaves the dead to bury their dead; and, looking forward, he already contemplates the living unity of mankind that is to be. Among the trials and disasters of the present, he realises within himself the serene harmony of the "great body" whereof all men are members, as in the profound saying of Seneca: Membra sumus corporis magni.
In a subsequent article we shall learn how Nicolai describes this corpus magnum and the mens magna which animates it, the Weltorganismus, the organism of universal humanity, whose coming is already heralded to-day.
October 1, 1917.
"demain," Geneva, October, 1917.
We have seen with how much energy G. F. Nicolai condemns the absurdity of war and the sophisms which serve for its support. Nevertheless the sinister madness triumphs for the time. In 1914, reason went bankrupt. Spreading from nation to nation, this bankruptcy, this madness, subsequently involved all the peoples of the world. There was no lack of established ethical systems and established religions which, had they done their duty, would have opposed a barrier to this contagion of murder and folly. But all the ethical systems, all the religions, now in existence, proved hopelessly inadequate. We have seen it for ourselves in the case of Christianity; and Nicolai shows, following Tolstoi, that Buddhism is in no better case.
As far as Christianity is concerned, its abdication is of old date. After the great compromise under Constantine, in the fourth century of our era, when the emperor made the church of Christ a state church, the essential thought of Jesus was betrayed by the official representatives of the creed, and was delivered over to Caesar. Only among certain free religious individualities, most of whom were charged with heresy, was this essential thought preserved (to a degree) until our own time. But its last defenders have lately denied it. The Christian sects which up to now have invariably refused military service, for example the Mennonites in Germany, the Dukhobors in Russia, the Paulicians, the Nazarenes, etc., are participating in the war to-day. "Simon Menno, the founder of the Mennonites, who died in 1561, condemned war and vengeance.... As late as 1813, the strength of moral conviction in the members of this sect was still so great that, despite the patriotic excitement of that year, so ruthless a soldier as York actually exempted them from Landwehr service, by a decree dated February 18th. But in 1915, H. G. Mannhardt, Mennonite preacher in Danzig, delivered an address glorifying feats of arms and martial heroes."
"There was a time," writes Nicolai, "when it was believed that Islam was inferior to Christianity. At that date the Turkish armies were threatening the heart of Europe. To-day the Turk has almost been driven out of Europe, but morally he has conquered Europe. Unseen, the green flag of the Prophet floats over every house in which there is talk of the 'holy war.'"
German religious poems depict the fight in the trenches as "a test of piety instituted by God." No one is now astonished at the absurd contradiction in terms involved in speaking of "Christian warfare." Few theologians or churchmen have dared to swim against the stream. In his admirable book La Guerre infernale, Gustave Dupin has pilloried gruesome specimens of militarist Christianity. Nicolai gives other samples, which it would be a pity to leave unrecorded. In 1915, Professor Baumgarten, a Kiel theologian, placidly pointed out that there is opposition between the morality of bellicose nationalism and the morality of the Sermon on the Mount, but "at present," he went on to say, "we ought to pay more attention to Old Testament texts"; thus deliberately, and with a smile, throwing Christianity overboard. Arthur Brausewetter, another theologian, made a remarkable discovery. War revealed to him the Holy Spirit. "Never, till this year of war, 1914, did we really know the nature of the Holy Ghost...."
While Christianity was thus publicly denied by its priests and its pastors, the religions of Asia were no less ready to jettison the inconvenient thoughts of their founders. Tolstoi had already pointed this out. "The Buddhists of to-day do not merely tolerate murder; they positively justify it. During the war between Japan and Russia, Soyen Shaku, one of the leading Buddhist dignitaries in Japan, wrote a defence of war. Buddha had uttered this beautiful word of afflicted love: 'All things are my children, all are images of myself, all flow from a single source, and all are parts of my own body. That is why I cannot rest as long as the least particle of what is has failed to reach its destination.' In this sigh of mystical love, which aspires towards the fusion of all beings, the Buddhist of to-day has safely discovered an appeal to a war of extermination. For, he declares, inasmuch as the world has failed to reach its destination, has failed owing to the perversity of many men, we must make war on these men and must annihilate them. 'Thus shall we extirpate the roots of evil.'"—This bloodthirsty Buddhist recalls to my mind the guillotine-idealism of our Jacobins in '93. Their monstrous faith is summed up in the words of Saint-Just which close my tragedy Danton:
"The nations slay one another that God may live."
When religions are so weak, it is not surprising that mere ethical systems should prove unavailing. Nicolai shows us what a travesty Kant's disciples have made of their master's teaching. Willy-nilly, the author of the Critique of Pure Reason has been compelled to put on the field-grey uniform. Have not his German commentators insisted that the Prussian army is the most perfect realisation of Kant's thought? For, they tell us, in the Prussian army the sentiment of Kantian duty has become a living reality.
Let us waste no more time over these inanities, which differ only in shade from those made use of in every land by the national guard of the intelligentsia, to exalt their cause and to glorify war. Enough to recognise, with Nicolai, that European idealism crashed to ruin in 1914. The German writer's conclusion (which I am content to record without comment), is that "we have proof that ordinary idealistic morality, whether Kantian or Christian, is absolutely useless, for it is unable to lead any of those who profess it to act morally." In view of the manifest impossibility of founding moral action upon a purely idealistic basis, Nicolai considers that our first duty is to seek some other basis. He wishes that Germany, schooled by her ignominious fall, by her "moral Jena," should work at this task whose fulfilment is so indispensable to mankind—should work at it for herself even more than for any other nation, seeing that her need is the greatest. "Let us see," he says, "if it be not possible to find in nature, scientifically studied, the conditions of an objective ethic, of an ethic that shall be independent of our personal sentiments, good or bad, always vacillating."
* * * * *
In the first part of the volume we have learned that war is a transitional phenomenon in human evolution. What, then, is the true and eternal principle of humanity? Is there such a principle? Is there a higher imperative, valid for all men alike?
Yes, answers Nicolai. This higher imperative is the very law of life, which governs the entire organism of humanity. Natural law has only two bases, only two which can never be shaken: the individual, separately considered; and the human universality. All intermediaries, like the family and the state, are organised groupings, subject to change, and they do actually change with changing customs; they are not natural organisms. Egoism and altruism, the two powerful sentiments which give life to our moral world, acting therein like the contrasted forces of positive and negative electricity, are the respective expressions of the individual and of the collectivity. Egoism is the natural outflow of our individuality. Altruism owes its existence to the obscure recognition that we are parts of a united organism, humanity.
In the second half of his book Nicolai undertakes to throw light upon this obscure realisation, and to establish it upon a scientific foundation. He undertakes to show that humanity is no mere abstraction, but a living reality, an organism that can be subjected to scientific observation.
In this study, the poetical intuition of the ancient philosophers is interestingly linked with the experimental spirit and the analytical method of modern science. The latest biological and embryological theories are invoked to help in the comment on the hylozoism of the seven sages and the mysticism of the early Christians. Janicki and de Vries shake hands with Heraclitus and Saint Paul. The upshot is a strange vision of materialistic and dynamistic pantheism—a vision of humanity considered as a body and a soul in unceasing motion.
Nicolai begins by reminding us that this idea has existed in all ages. He summarises the history of the doctrine. We have the "fire" of Heraclitus, which for the sage of Ephesus was also the universal intelligence of the world. We have the same thing in the "pneuma" of the stoics and in the "pneuma agion" of the primitive Christians, the sacred energy, the vivifying force, which is the concentrated essence of all the souls. It is what Origen speaks of as "universum mundum velut animal quoddam immensum." We encounter the idea once more in the fertile fancies of Cardanus, Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, and Campanella. Animistic ideas are mingled with the science of Newton, and permeate his hypothesis of universal gravitation. Indeed, Musschenbroek, his immediate disciple, describes the gravitative principle as "amicitia"; while Lichtenberg tells us that it is the "longing of the heavenly bodies for one another!" In a word, through the whole development of human thought runs the belief that our world is a single organism with a consciousness of its own. Nicolai tells us how it would interest him to write the history of this idea; and he outlines that history in his fascinating fourteenth chapter, "The Evolution of the Idea of the World as Organism."
He then passes to scientific demonstration. Is there, he asks, a material bond, a bodily, living, and enduring tie, between human beings of all lands and all ages? He finds a proof that there is such a bond in the researches of Weismann and in that writer's theory of the germ plasm, which has now become classic. In each individual, the cells of the germ plasm continue the life of the parents, of which, in the fullest sense of the word, they are living portions. They are undying. They pass, changeless, to our children and to our children's children. Thus there really persists throughout the whole genealogical tree a part of the same living substance. A portion of this organic unity lives in each individual and thereby we are physically connected with the universal community. Nicolai points out, in passing, the remarkable relationships between these scientific hypotheses of the last thirty years and certain mystical intuitions of the Greeks and the early Christians—"the spirit (pneuma) that quickeneth" (Saint John, vi, 63), the generative spirit, which is not only distinguished from the flesh, as Saint John declares, but is likewise distinguished from the soul, as appears from a passage in Saint Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians (xv, 44), where the "spiritual body" (soma pneumatikon) is contrasted with the "natural body" (soma psuchikon). The spiritual body is declared to be more essential than the natural body (the psychical or intellectual body); and the former really and materially penetrates the bodies of all men.