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Tragic Sense Of Life
by Miguel de Unamuno
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Such then is what we may call the historical origin of knowledge, whatever may be its origin from another point of view. Beings which appear to be endowed with perception, perceive in order to be able to live, and only perceive in so far as they require to do so in order to live. But perhaps this stored-up knowledge, the utility in which it had its origin being exhausted, has come to constitute a fund of knowledge far exceeding that required for the bare necessities of living.

Thus we have, first, the necessity of knowing in order to live, and next, arising out of this, that other knowledge which we might call superfluous knowledge or knowledge de luxe, which may in its turn come to constitute a new necessity. Curiosity, the so-called innate desire of knowing, only awakes and becomes operative after the necessity of knowing for the sake of living is satisfied; and although sometimes in the conditions under which the human race is actually living it may not so befall, but curiosity may prevail over necessity and knowledge over hunger, nevertheless the primordial fact is that curiosity sprang from the necessity of knowing in order to live, and this is the dead weight and gross matter carried in the matrix of science. Aspiring to be knowledge for the sake of knowledge, to know the truth for the sake of the truth itself, science is forced by the necessities of life to turn aside and put it itself at their service. While men believe themselves to be seeking truth for its own sake, they are in fact seeking life in truth. The variations of science depend upon the variations of human needs, and men of science are wont to work, willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, in the service of the powerful or in that of a people that demands from them the confirmation of its own desires.

But is this really a dead weight that impedes the progress of science, or is it not rather its innermost redeeming essence? It is in fact the latter, and it is a gross stupidity to presume to rebel against the very condition of life.

Knowledge is employed in the service of the necessity of life and primarily in the service of the instinct of personal preservation. This necessity and this instinct have created in man the organs of knowledge and given them such capacity as they possess. Man sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells that which it is necessary for him to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell in order to preserve his life. The decay or the loss of any of these senses increases the risks with which his life is environed, and if it increases them less in the state of society in which we are actually living, the reason is that some see, hear, touch, and smell for others. A blind man, by himself and without a guide, could not live long. Society is an additional sense; it is the true common sense.

Man, then, in his quality of an isolated individual, only sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells in so far as is necessary for living and self-preservation. If he does not perceive colours below red or above violet, the reason perhaps is that the colours which he does perceive suffice for the purposes of self-preservation. And the senses themselves are simplifying apparati which eliminate from objective reality everything that it is not necessary to know in order to utilize objects for the purpose of preserving life. In complete darkness an animal, if it does not perish, ends by becoming blind. Parasites which live in the intestines of other animals upon the nutritive juices which they find ready prepared for them by these animals, as they do not need either to see or hear, do in fact neither see nor hear; they simply adhere, a kind of receptive bag, to the being upon whom they live. For these parasites the visible and audible world does not exist. It is enough for them that the animals, in whose intestines they live, see and hear.

Knowledge, then, is primarily at the service of the instinct of self-preservation, which is indeed, as we have said with Spinoza, its very essence. And thus it may be said that it is the instinct of self-preservation that makes perceptible for us the reality and truth of the world; for it is this instinct that cuts out and separates that which exists for us from the unfathomable and illimitable region of the possible. In effect, that which has existence for us is precisely that which, in one way or another, we need to know in order to exist ourselves; objective existence, as we know it, is a dependence of our own personal existence. And nobody can deny that there may not exist, and perhaps do exist, aspects of reality unknown to us, to-day at any rate, and perhaps unknowable, because they are in no way necessary to us for the preservation of our own actual existence.

But man does not live alone; he is not an isolated individual, but a member of society. There is not a little truth in the saying that the individual, like the atom, is an abstraction. Yes, the atom apart from the universe is as much an abstraction as the universe apart from the atom. And if the individual maintains his existence by the instinct of self-preservation, society owes its being and maintenance to the individual's instinct of perpetuation. And from this instinct, or rather from society, springs reason.

Reason, that which we call reason, reflex and reflective knowledge, the distinguishing mark of man, is a social product.

It owes its origin, perhaps, to language. We think articulately—i.e., reflectively—thanks to articulate language, and this language arose out of the need of communicating our thought to our neighbours. To think is to talk with oneself, and each one of us talks with himself, thanks to our having had to talk with one another. In everyday life it frequently happens that we hit upon an idea that we were seeking and succeed in giving it form—that is to say, we obtain the idea, drawing it forth from the mist of dim perceptions which it represents, thanks to the efforts which we make to present it to others. Thought is inward language, and the inward language originates in the outward. Hence it results that reason is social and common. A fact pregnant with consequences, as we shall have occasion to see.

Now if there is a reality which, in so far as we have knowledge of it, is the creation of the instinct of personal preservation and of the senses at the service of this instinct, must there not be another reality, not less real than the former, the creation, in so far as we have knowledge of it, of the instinct of perpetuation, the instinct of the species, and of the senses at the service of this instinct? The instinct of preservation, hunger, is the foundation of the human individual; the instinct of perpetuation, love, in its most rudimentary and physiological form, is the foundation of human society. And just as man knows that which he needs to know in order that he may preserve his existence, so society, or man in so far as he is a social being, knows that which he needs to know in order that he may perpetuate himself in society.

There is a world, the sensible world, that is the child of hunger, and there is another world, the ideal world, that is the child of love. And just as there are senses employed in the service of the knowledge of the sensible world, so there are also senses, at present for the most part dormant, for social consciousness has scarcely awakened, employed in the service of the knowledge of the ideal world. And why must we deny objective reality to the creations of love, of the instinct of perpetuation, since we allow it to the creations of hunger or the instinct of preservation? For if it be said that the former creations are only the creations of our imagination, without objective value, may it not equally be said of the latter that they are only the creations of our senses? Who can assert that there is not an invisible and intangible world, perceived by the inward sense that lives in the service of the instinct of perpetuation?

Human society, as a society, possesses senses which the individual, but for his existence in society, would lack, just as the individual, man, who is in his turn a kind of society, possesses senses lacking in the cells of which he is composed. The blind cells of hearing, in their dim consciousness, must of necessity be unaware of the existence of the visible world, and if they should hear it spoken of they would perhaps deem it to be the arbitrary creation of the deaf cells of sight, while the latter in their turn would consider as illusion the audible world which the hearing cells create.

We have remarked before that the parasites which live in the intestines of higher animals, feeding upon the nutritive juices which these animals supply, do not need either to see or hear, and therefore for them the visible and audible world does not exist. And if they possessed a certain degree of consciousness and took account of the fact that the animal at whose expense they live believed in a world of sight and hearing, they would perhaps deem such belief to be due merely to the extravagance of its imagination. And similarly there are social parasites, as Mr. A.J. Balfour admirably observes,[10] who, receiving from the society in which they live the motives of their moral conduct, deny that belief in God and the other life is a necessary foundation for good conduct and for a tolerable life, society having prepared for them the spiritual nutriment by which they live. An isolated individual can endure life and live it well and even heroically without in any sort believing either in the immortality of the soul or in God, but he lives the life of a spiritual parasite. What we call the sense of honour is, even in non-Christians, a Christian product. And I will say further, that if there exists in a man faith in God joined to a life of purity and moral elevation, it is not so much the believing in God that makes him good, as the being good, thanks to God, that makes him believe in Him. Goodness is the best source of spiritual clear-sightedness.

I am well aware that it may be objected that all this talk of man creating the sensible world and love the ideal world, of the blind cells of hearing and the deaf cells of sight, of spiritual parasites, etc., is merely metaphor. So it is, and I do not claim to discuss otherwise than by metaphor. And it is true that this social sense, the creature of love, the creator of language, of reason, and of the ideal world that springs from it, is at bottom nothing other than what we call fancy or imagination. Out of fancy springs reason. And if by imagination is understood a faculty which fashions images capriciously, I will ask: What is caprice? And in any case the senses and reason are also fallible.

We shall have to enquire what is this inner social faculty, the imagination which personalizes everything, and which, employed in the service of the instinct of perpetuation, reveals to us God and the immortality of the soul—God being thus a social product.

But this we will reserve till later.

And now, why does man philosophize?—that is to say, why does he investigate the first causes and ultimate ends of things? Why does he seek the disinterested truth? For to say that all men have a natural tendency to know is true; but wherefore?

Philosophers seek a theoretic or ideal starting-point for their human work, the work of philosophizing; but they are not usually concerned to seek the practical and real starting-point, the purpose. What is the object in making philosophy, in thinking it and then expounding it to one's fellows? What does the philosopher seek in it and with it? The truth for the truth's own sake? The truth, in order that we may subject our conduct to it and determine our spiritual attitude towards life and the universe comformably with it?

Philosophy is a product of the humanity of each philosopher, and each philosopher is a man of flesh and bone who addresses himself to other men of flesh and bone like himself. And, let him do what he will, he philosophizes not with the reason only, but with the will, with the feelings, with the flesh and with the bones, with the whole soul and the whole body. It is the man that philosophizes.

I do not wish here to use the word "I" in connection with philosophizing, lest the impersonal "I" should be understood in place of the man that philosophizes; for this concrete, circumscribed "I," this "I" of flesh and bone, that suffers from tooth-ache and finds life insupportable if death is the annihilation of the personal consciousness, must not be confounded with that other counterfeit "I," the theoretical "I" which Fichte smuggled into philosophy, nor yet with the Unique, also theoretical, of Max Stirner. It is better to say "we," understanding, however, the "we" who are circumscribed in space.

Knowledge for the sake of knowledge! Truth for truth's sake! This is inhuman. And if we say that theoretical philosophy addresses itself to practical philosophy, truth to goodness, science to ethics, I will ask: And to what end is goodness? Is it, perhaps, an end in itself? Good is simply that which contributes to the preservation, perpetuation, and enrichment of consciousness. Goodness addresses itself to man, to the maintenance and perfection of human society which is composed of men. And to what end is this? "So act that your action may be a pattern to all men," Kant tells us. That is well, but wherefore? We must needs seek for a wherefore.

In the starting-point of all philosophy, in the real starting-point, the practical not the theoretical, there is a wherefore. The philosopher philosophizes for something more than for the sake of philosophizing. Primum vivere, deinde philosophari, says the old Latin adage; and as the philosopher is a man before he is a philosopher, he must needs live before he can philosophize, and, in fact, he philosophizes in order to live. And usually he philosophizes either in order to resign himself to life, or to seek some finality in it, or to distract himself and forget his griefs, or for pastime and amusement. A good illustration of this last case is to be found in that terrible Athenian ironist, Socrates, of whom Xenophon relates in his Memorabilia that he discovered to Theodata, the courtesan, the wiles that she ought to make use of in order to lure lovers to her house so aptly, that she begged him to act as her companion in the chase, suntherates, her pimp, in a word. And philosophy is wont, in fact, not infrequently to convert itself into a kind of art of spiritual pimping. And sometimes into an opiate for lulling sorrows to sleep.

I take at random a book of metaphysics, the first that comes to my hand, Time and Space, a Metaphysical Essay, by Shadworth H. Hodgson. I open it, and in the fifth paragraph of the first chapter of the first part I read:

"Metaphysics is, properly speaking, not a science but a philosophy—that is, it is a science whose end is in itself, in the gratification and education of the minds which carry it on, not in external purpose, such as the founding of any art conducive to the welfare of life." Let us examine this. We see that metaphysics is not, properly speaking, a science—that is, it is a science whose end is in itself. And this science, which, properly speaking, is not a science, has its end in itself, in the gratification and education of the minds that cultivate it. But what are we to understand? Is its end in itself or is it to gratify and educate the minds that cultivate it? Either the one or the other! Hodgson afterwards adds that the end of metaphysics is not any external purpose, such as that of founding an art conducive to the welfare of life. But is not the gratification of the mind of him who cultivates philosophy part of the well-being of his life? Let the reader consider this passage of the English metaphysician and tell me if it is not a tissue of contradictions.

Such a contradiction is inevitable when an attempt is made to define humanly this theory of science, of knowledge, whose end is in itself, of knowing for the sake of knowing, of attaining truth for the sake of truth. Science exists only in personal consciousness and thanks to it; astronomy, mathematics, have no other reality than that which they possess as knowledge in the minds of those who study and cultivate them. And if some day all personal consciousness must come to an end on the earth; if some day the human spirit must return to the nothingness—that is to say, to the absolute unconsciousness—from whence it sprang; and if there shall no more be any spirit that can avail itself of all our accumulated knowledge—then to what end is this knowledge? For we must not lose sight of the fact that the problem of the personal immortality of the soul involves the future of the whole human species.

This series of contradictions into which the Englishman falls in his desire to explain the theory of a science whose end is in itself, is easily understood when it is remembered that it is an Englishman who speaks, and that the Englishman is before everything else a man. Perhaps a German specialist, a philosopher who had made philosophy his speciality, who had first murdered his humanity and then buried it in his philosophy, would be better able to explain this theory of a science whose end is in itself and of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

Take the man Spinoza, that Portuguese Jew exiled in Holland; read his Ethic as a despairing elegiac poem, which in fact it is, and tell me if you do not hear, beneath the disemburdened and seemingly serene propositions more geometrico, the lugubrious echo of the prophetic psalms. It is not the philosophy of resignation but of despair. And when he wrote that the free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and that his wisdom consists in meditating not on death but on life—homo liber de nulla re minus quam de morte cogitat et eius sapientia non mortis, sed vitae meditatio est (Ethic, Part IV., Prop. LXVII.)—when he wrote that, he felt, as we all feel, that we are slaves, and he did in fact think about death, and he wrote it in a vain endeavour to free himself from this thought. Nor in writing Proposition XLII. of Part V., that "happiness is not the reward of virtue but virtue itself," did he feel, one may be sure, what he wrote. For this is usually the reason why men philosophize—in order to convince themselves, even though they fail in the attempt. And this desire of convincing oneself—that is to say, this desire of doing violence to one's own human nature—is the real starting-point of not a few philosophies.

Whence do I come and whence comes the world in which and by which I live? Whither do I go and whither goes everything that environs me? What does it all mean? Such are the questions that man asks as soon as he frees himself from the brutalizing necessity of labouring for his material sustenance. And if we look closely, we shall see that beneath these questions lies the wish to know not so much the "why" as the "wherefore," not the cause but the end. Cicero's definition of philosophy is well known—"the knowledge of things divine and human and of the causes in which these things are contained," rerum divinarum et humanarum, causarumque quibus hae res continentur; but in reality these causes are, for us, ends. And what is the Supreme Cause, God, but the Supreme End? The "why" interests us only in view of the "wherefore." We wish to know whence we came only in order the better to be able to ascertain whither we are going.

This Ciceronian definition, which is the Stoic definition, is also found in that formidable intellectualist, Clement of Alexandria, who was canonized by the Catholic Church, and he expounds it in the fifth chapter of the first of his Stromata. But this same Christian philosopher—Christian?—in the twenty-second chapter of his fourth Stroma tells us that for the gnostic—that is to say, the intellectual—knowledge, gnosis, ought to suffice, and he adds: "I will dare aver that it is not because he wishes to be saved that he, who devotes himself to knowledge for the sake of the divine science itself, chooses knowledge. For the exertion of the intellect by exercise is prolonged to a perpetual exertion. And the perpetual exertion of the intellect is the essence of an intelligent being, which results from an uninterrupted process of admixture, and remains eternal contemplation, a living substance. Could we, then, suppose anyone proposing to the gnostic whether he would choose the knowledge of God or everlasting salvation, and if these, which are entirely identical, were separable, he would without the least hesitation choose the knowledge of God?" May He, may God Himself, whom we long to enjoy and possess eternally, deliver us from this Clementine gnosticism or intellectualism!

Why do I wish to know whence I come and whither I go, whence comes and whither goes everything that environs me, and what is the meaning of it all? For I do not wish to die utterly, and I wish to know whether I am to die or not definitely. If I do not die, what is my destiny? and if I die, then nothing has any meaning for me. And there are three solutions: (a) I know that I shall die utterly, and then irremediable despair, or (b) I know that I shall not die utterly, and then resignation, or (c) I cannot know either one or the other, and then resignation in despair or despair in resignation, a desperate resignation or a resigned despair, and hence conflict.

"It is best," some reader will say, "not to concern yourself with what cannot be known." But is it possible? In his very beautiful poem, The Ancient Sage, Tennyson said:

Thou canst not prove the Nameless, O my son, Nor canst thou prove the world thou movest in, Thou canst not prove that thou art body alone, Thou canst not prove that thou art spirit alone, Nor canst thou prove that thou art both in one: Nor canst thou prove thou art immortal, no, Nor yet that thou art mortal—nay, my son, Thou canst not prove that I, who speak with thee, Am not thyself in converse with thyself, For nothing worthy proving can be proven, Nor yet disproven: wherefore thou be wise, Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt, Cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith!

Yes, perhaps, as the Sage says, "nothing worthy proving can be proven, nor yet disproven"; but can we restrain that instinct which urges man to wish to know, and above all to wish to know the things which may conduce to life, to eternal life? Eternal life, not eternal knowledge, as the Alexandrian gnostic said. For living is one thing and knowing is another; and, as we shall see, perhaps there is such an opposition between the two that we may say that everything vital is anti-rational, not merely irrational, and that everything rational is anti-vital. And this is the basis of the tragic sense of life.

The defect of Descartes' Discourse of Method lies not in the antecedent methodical doubt; not in his beginning by resolving to doubt everything, a merely intellectual device; but in his resolution to begin by emptying himself of himself, of Descartes, of the real man, the man of flesh and bone, the man who does not want to die, in order that he might be a mere thinker—that is, an abstraction. But the real man returned and thrust himself into the philosophy.

"Le bon sens est la chose du monde la mieux partagee." Thus begins the Discourse of Method, and this good sense saved him. He continues talking about himself, about the man Descartes, telling us among other things that he greatly esteemed eloquence and loved poetry; that he delighted above all in mathematics because of the evidence and certainty of its reasons, and that he revered our theology and claimed as much as any to attain to heaven—et pretendais autant qu'aucun autre a gagner le ciel. And this pretension—a very laudable one, I think, and above all very natural—was what prevented him from deducing all the consequences of his methodical doubt. The man Descartes claimed, as much as any other, to attain to heaven, "but having learned as a thing very sure that the way to it is not less open to the most ignorant than to the most learned, and that the revealed truths which lead thither are beyond our intelligence, I did not dare submit them to my feeble reasonings, and I thought that to undertake to examine them and to succeed therein, I should want some extraordinary help from heaven and need to be more than man." And here we have the man. Here we have the man who "did not feel obliged, thank God, to make a profession (metier) of science in order to increase his means, and who did not pretend to play the cynic and despise glory." And afterwards he tells us how he was compelled to make a sojourn in Germany, and there, shut up in a stove (poele) he began to philosophize his method. But in Germany, shut up in a stove! And such his discourse is, a stove-discourse, and the stove a German one, although the philosopher shut up in it was a Frenchman who proposed to himself to attain to heaven.

And he arrives at the cogito ergo sum, which St. Augustine had already anticipated; but the ego implicit in this enthymeme, ego cogito, ergo ego sum, is an unreal—that is, an ideal—ego or I, and its sum, its existence, something unreal also. "I think, therefore I am," can only mean "I think, therefore I am a thinker"; this being of the "I am," which is deduced from "I think," is merely a knowing; this being is knowledge, but not life. And the primary reality is not that I think, but that I live, for those also live who do not think. Although this living may not be a real living. God! what contradictions when we seek to join in wedlock life and reason!

The truth is sum, ergo cogito—I am, therefore I think, although not everything that is thinks. Is not consciousness of thinking above all consciousness of being? Is pure thought possible, without consciousness of self, without personality? Can there exist pure knowledge without feeling, without that species of materiality which feeling lends to it? Do we not perhaps feel thought, and do we not feel ourselves in the act of knowing and willing? Could not the man in the stove have said: "I feel, therefore I am"? or "I will, therefore I am"? And to feel oneself, is it not perhaps to feel oneself imperishable? To will oneself, is it not to wish oneself eternal—that is to say, not to wish to die? What the sorrowful Jew of Amsterdam called the essence of the thing, the effort that it makes to persist indefinitely in its own being, self-love, the longing for immortality, is it not perhaps the primal and fundamental condition of all reflective or human knowledge? And is it not therefore the true base, the real starting-point, of all philosophy, although the philosophers, perverted by intellectualism, may not recognize it?

And, moreover, it was the cogito that introduced a distinction which, although fruitful of truths, has been fruitful also of confusions, and this distinction is that between object, cogito, and subject, sum. There is scarcely any distinction that does not also lead to confusion. But we will return to this later.

For the present let us remain keenly suspecting that the longing not to die, the hunger for personal immortality, the effort whereby we tend to persist indefinitely in our own being, which is, according to the tragic Jew, our very essence, that this is the affective basis of all knowledge and the personal inward starting-point of all human philosophy, wrought by a man and for men. And we shall see how the solution of this inward affective problem, a solution which may be but the despairing renunciation of the attempt at a solution, is that which colours all the rest of philosophy. Underlying even the so-called problem of knowledge there is simply this human feeling, just as underlying the enquiry into the "why," the cause, there is simply the search for the "wherefore," the end. All the rest is either to deceive oneself or to wish to deceive others; and to wish to deceive others in order to deceive oneself.

And this personal and affective starting-point of all philosophy and all religion is the tragic sense of life. Let us now proceed to consider this.

FOOTNOTE:

[10] The Foundations of Belief, being Notes Introductory to the Study of Theology, by the Right Hon. Arthur James Balfour London, 1895: "So it is with those persons who claim to show by their example that naturalism is practically consistent with the maintenance of ethical ideals with which naturalism has no natural affinity. Their spiritual life is parasitic: it is sheltered by convictions which belong, not to them, but to the society of which they form a part; it is nourished by processes in which they take no share. And when those convictions decay, and those processes come to an end, the alien life which they have maintained can scarce be expected to outlast them" (Chap. iv.).



III

THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY

Let us pause to consider this immortal yearning for immortality—even though the gnostics or intellectuals may be able to say that what follows is not philosophy but rhetoric. Moreover, the divine Plato, when he discussed the immortality of the soul in his Phaedo, said that it was proper to clothe it in legend, muthologein.

First of all let us recall once again—and it will not be for the last time—that saying of Spinoza that every being endeavours to persist in itself, and that this endeavour is its actual essence, and implies indefinite time, and that the soul, in fine, sometimes with a clear and distinct idea, sometimes confusedly, tends to persist in its being with indefinite duration, and is aware of its persistency (Ethic, Part III., Props. VI.-X.).

It is impossible for us, in effect, to conceive of ourselves as not existing, and no effort is capable of enabling consciousness to realize absolute unconsciousness, its own annihilation. Try, reader, to imagine to yourself, when you are wide awake, the condition of your soul when you are in a deep sleep; try to fill your consciousness with the representation of no-consciousness, and you will see the impossibility of it. The effort to comprehend it causes the most tormenting dizziness. We cannot conceive ourselves as not existing.

The visible universe, the universe that is created by the instinct of self-preservation, becomes all too narrow for me. It is like a cramped cell, against the bars of which my soul beats its wings in vain. Its lack of air stifles me. More, more, and always more! I want to be myself, and yet without ceasing to be myself to be others as well, to merge myself into the totality of things visible and invisible, to extend myself into the illimitable of space and to prolong myself into the infinite of time. Not to be all and for ever is as if not to be—at least, let me be my whole self, and be so for ever and ever. And to be the whole of myself is to be everybody else. Either all or nothing!

All or nothing! And what other meaning can the Shakespearean "To be or not to be" have, or that passage in Coriolanus where it is said of Marcius "He wants nothing of a god but eternity"? Eternity, eternity!—that is the supreme desire! The thirst of eternity is what is called love among men, and whosoever loves another wishes to eternalize himself in him. Nothing is real that is not eternal.

From the poets of all ages and from the depths of their souls this tremendous vision of the flowing away of life like water has wrung bitter cries—from Pindar's "dream of a shadow," skias onar, to Calderon's "life is a dream" and Shakespeare's "we are such stuff as dreams are made on," this last a yet more tragic sentence than Calderon's, for whereas the Castilian only declares that our life is a dream, but not that we ourselves are the dreamers of it, the Englishman makes us ourselves a dream, a dream that dreams.

The vanity of the passing world and love are the two fundamental and heart-penetrating notes of true poetry. And they are two notes of which neither can be sounded without causing the other to vibrate. The feeling of the vanity of the passing world kindles love in us, the only thing that triumphs over the vain and transitory, the only thing that fills life again and eternalizes it. In appearance at any rate, for in reality.... And love, above all when it struggles against destiny, overwhelms us with the feeling of the vanity of this world of appearances and gives us a glimpse of another world, in which destiny is overcome and liberty is law.

Everything passes! Such is the refrain of those who have drunk, lips to the spring, of the fountain of life, of those who have tasted of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

To be, to be for ever, to be without ending! thirst of being, thirst of being more! hunger of God! thirst of love eternalizing and eternal! to be for ever! to be God!

"Ye shall be as gods!" we are told in Genesis that the serpent said to the first pair of lovers (Gen. iii. 5). "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable," wrote the Apostle (1 Cor. xv. 19); and all religion has sprung historically from the cult of the dead—that is to say, from the cult of immortality.

The tragic Portuguese Jew of Amsterdam wrote that the free man thinks of nothing less than of death; but this free man is a dead man, free from the impulse of life, for want of love, the slave of his liberty. This thought that I must die and the enigma of what will come after death is the very palpitation of my consciousness. When I contemplate the green serenity of the fields or look into the depths of clear eyes through which shines a fellow-soul, my consciousness dilates, I feel the diastole of the soul and am bathed in the flood of the life that flows about me, and I believe in my future; but instantly the voice of mystery whispers to me, "Thou shalt cease to be!" the angel of Death touches me with his wing, and the systole of the soul floods the depths of my spirit with the blood of divinity.

Like Pascal, I do not understand those who assert that they care not a farthing for these things, and this indifference "in a matter that touches themselves, their eternity, their all, exasperates me rather than moves me to compassion, astonishes and shocks me," and he who feels thus "is for me," as for Pascal, whose are the words just quoted, "a monster."

It has been said a thousand times and in a thousand books that ancestor-worship is for the most part the source of primitive religions, and it may be strictly said that what most distinguishes man from the other animals is that, in one form or another, he guards his dead and does not give them over to the neglect of teeming mother earth; he is an animal that guards its dead. And from what does he thus guard them? From what does he so futilely protect them? The wretched consciousness shrinks from its own annihilation, and, just as an animal spirit, newly severed from the womb of the world, finds itself confronted with the world and knows itself distinct from it, so consciousness must needs desire to possess another life than that of the world itself. And so the earth would run the risk of becoming a vast cemetery before the dead themselves should die again.

When mud huts or straw shelters, incapable of resisting the inclemency of the weather, sufficed for the living, tumuli were raised for the dead, and stone was used for sepulchres before it was used for houses. It is the strong-builded houses of the dead that have withstood the ages, not the houses of the living; not the temporary lodgings but the permanent habitations.

This cult, not of death but of immortality, originates and preserves religions. In the midst of the delirium of destruction, Robespierre induced the Convention to declare the existence of the Supreme Being and "the consolatory principle of the immortality of the soul," the Incorruptible being dismayed at the idea of having himself one day to turn to corruption.

A disease? Perhaps; but he who pays no heed to his disease is heedless of his health, and man is an animal essentially and substantially diseased. A disease? Perhaps it may be, like life itself to which it is thrall, and perhaps the only health possible may be death; but this disease is the fount of all vigorous health. From the depth of this anguish, from the abyss of the feeling of our mortality, we emerge into the light of another heaven, as from the depth of Hell Dante emerged to behold the stars once again—

e quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.

Although this meditation upon mortality may soon induce in us a sense of anguish, it fortifies us in the end. Retire, reader, into yourself and imagine a slow dissolution of yourself—the light dimming about you—all things becoming dumb and soundless, enveloping you in silence—the objects that you handle crumbling away between your hands—the ground slipping from under your feet—your very memory vanishing as if in a swoon—everything melting away from you into nothingness and you yourself also melting away—the very consciousness of nothingness, merely as the phantom harbourage of a shadow, not even remaining to you.

I have heard it related of a poor harvester who died in a hospital bed, that when the priest went to anoint his hands with the oil of extreme unction, he refused to open his right hand, which clutched a few dirty coins, not considering that very soon neither his hand nor he himself would be his own any more. And so we close and clench, not our hand, but our heart, seeking to clutch the world in it.

A friend confessed to me that, foreseeing while in the full vigour of physical health the near approach of a violent death, he proposed to concentrate his life and spend the few days which he calculated still remained to him in writing a book. Vanity of vanities!

If at the death of the body which sustains me, and which I call mine to distinguish it from the self that is I, my consciousness returns to the absolute unconsciousness from which it sprang, and if a like fate befalls all my brothers in humanity, then is our toil-worn human race nothing but a fatidical procession of phantoms, going from nothingness to nothingness, and humanitarianism the most inhuman thing known.

And the remedy is not that suggested in the quatrain that runs—

Cada vez que considero que me tengo de morir, tiendo la capa en el suelo y no me harto de dormir.[11]

No! The remedy is to consider our mortal destiny without flinching, to fasten our gaze upon the gaze of the Sphinx, for it is thus that the malevolence of its spell is discharmed.

If we all die utterly, wherefore does everything exist? Wherefore? It is the Wherefore of the Sphinx; it is the Wherefore that corrodes the marrow of the soul; it is the begetter of that anguish which gives us the love of hope.

Among the poetic laments of the unhappy Cowper there are some lines written under the oppression of delirium, in which, believing himself to be the mark of the Divine vengeance, he exclaims—

Hell might afford my miseries a shelter.

This is the Puritan sentiment, the preoccupation with sin and predestination; but read the much more terrible words of Senancour, expressive of the Catholic, not the Protestant, despair, when he makes his Obermann say, "L'homme est perissable. Il se peut; mais perissons en resistant, et, si le neant nous est reserve, ne faisons pas que ce soit une justice." And I must confess, painful though the confession be, that in the days of the simple faith of my childhood, descriptions of the tortures of hell, however terrible, never made me tremble, for I always felt that nothingness was much more terrifying. He who suffers lives, and he who lives suffering, even though over the portal of his abode is written "Abandon all hope!" loves and hopes. It is better to live in pain than to cease to be in peace. The truth is that I could not believe in this atrocity of Hell, of an eternity of punishment, nor did I see any more real hell than nothingness and the prospect of it. And I continue in the belief that if we all believed in our salvation from nothingness we should all be better.

What is this joie de vivre that they talk about nowadays? Our hunger for God, our thirst of immortality, of survival, will always stifle in us this pitiful enjoyment of the life that passes and abides not. It is the frenzied love of life, the love that would have life to be unending, that most often urges us to long for death. "If it is true that I am to die utterly," we say to ourselves, "then once I am annihilated the world has ended so far as I am concerned—it is finished. Why, then, should it not end forthwith, so that no new consciousnesses, doomed to suffer the tormenting illusion of a transient and apparential existence, may come into being? If, the illusion of living being shattered, living for the mere sake of living or for the sake of others who are likewise doomed to die, does not satisfy the soul, what is the good of living? Our best remedy is death." And thus it is that we chant the praises of the never-ending rest because of our dread of it, and speak of liberating death.

Leopardi, the poet of sorrow, of annihilation, having lost the ultimate illusion, that of believing in his immortality—

Peri l'inganno estremo ch'eterno io mi credei,

spoke to his heart of l'infinita vanita del tutto, and perceived how close is the kinship between love and death, and how "when love is born deep down in the heart, simultaneously a languid and weary desire to die is felt in the breast." The greater part of those who seek death at their own hand are moved thereto by love; it is the supreme longing for life, for more life, the longing to prolong and perpetuate life, that urges them to death, once they are persuaded of the vanity of this longing.

The problem is tragic and eternal, and the more we seek to escape from it, the more it thrusts itself upon us. Four-and-twenty centuries ago, in his dialogue on the immortality of the soul, the serene Plato—but was he serene?—spoke of the uncertainty of our dream of being immortal and of the risk that the dream might be vain, and from his own soul there escaped this profound cry—Glorious is the risk!—kalos gar o kindunos, glorious is the risk that we are able to run of our souls never dying—a sentence that was the germ of Pascal's famous argument of the wager.

Faced with this risk, I am presented with arguments designed to eliminate it, arguments demonstrating the absurdity of the belief in the immortality of the soul; but these arguments fail to make any impression upon me, for they are reasons and nothing more than reasons, and it is not with reasons that the heart is appeased. I do not want to die—no; I neither want to die nor do I want to want to die; I want to live for ever and ever and ever. I want this "I" to live—this poor "I" that I am and that I feel myself to be here and now, and therefore the problem of the duration of my soul, of my own soul, tortures me.

I am the centre of my universe, the centre of the universe, and in my supreme anguish I cry with Michelet, "Mon moi, ils m'arrachent mon moi!" What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (Matt. xvi. 26). Egoism, you say? There is nothing more universal than the individual, for what is the property of each is the property of all. Each man is worth more than the whole of humanity, nor will it do to sacrifice each to all save in so far as all sacrifice themselves to each. That which we call egoism is the principle of psychic gravity, the necessary postulate. "Love thy neighbour as thyself," we are told, the presupposition being that each man loves himself; and it is not said "Love thyself." And, nevertheless, we do not know how to love ourselves.

Put aside the persistence of your own self and ponder what they tell you. Sacrifice yourself to your children! And sacrifice yourself to them because they are yours, part and prolongation of yourself, and they in their turn will sacrifice themselves to their children, and these children to theirs, and so it will go on without end, a sterile sacrifice by which nobody profits. I came into the world to create my self, and what is to become of all our selves? Live for the True, the Good, the Beautiful! We shall see presently the supreme vanity and the supreme insincerity of this hypocritical attitude.

"That art thou!" they tell me with the Upanishads. And I answer: Yes, I am that, if that is I and all is mine, and mine the totality of things. As mine I love the All, and I love my neighbour because he lives in me and is part of my consciousness, because he is like me, because he is mine.

Oh, to prolong this blissful moment, to sleep, to eternalize oneself in it! Here and now, in this discreet and diffused light, in this lake of quietude, the storm of the heart appeased and stilled the echoes of the world! Insatiable desire now sleeps and does not even dream; use and wont, blessed use and wont, are the rule of my eternity; my disillusions have died with my memories, and with my hopes my fears.

And they come seeking to deceive us with a deceit of deceits, telling us that nothing is lost, that everything is transformed, shifts and changes, that not the least particle of matter is annihilated, not the least impulse of energy is lost, and there are some who pretend to console us with this! Futile consolation! It is not my matter or my energy that is the cause of my disquiet, for they are not mine if I myself am not mine—that is, if I am not eternal. No, my longing is not to be submerged in the vast All, in an infinite and eternal Matter or Energy, or in God; not to be possessed by God, but to possess Him, to become myself God, yet without ceasing to be I myself, I who am now speaking to you. Tricks of monism avail us nothing; we crave the substance and not the shadow of immortality.

Materialism, you say? Materialism? Without doubt; but either our spirit is likewise some kind of matter or it is nothing. I dread the idea of having to tear myself away from my flesh; I dread still more the idea of having to tear myself away from everything sensible and material, from all substance. Yes, perhaps this merits the name of materialism; and if I grapple myself to God with all my powers and all my senses, it is that He may carry me in His arms beyond death, looking into these eyes of mine with the light of His heaven when the light of earth is dimming in them for ever. Self-illusion? Talk not to me of illusion—let me live!

They also call this pride—"stinking pride" Leopardi called it—and they ask us who are we, vile earthworms, to pretend to immortality; in virtue of what? wherefore? by what right? "In virtue of what?" you ask; and I reply, In virtue of what do we now live? "Wherefore?"—and wherefore do we now exist? "By what right?"—and by what right are we? To exist is just as gratuitous as to go on existing for ever. Do not let us talk of merit or of right or of the wherefore of our longing, which is an end in itself, or we shall lose our reason in a vortex of absurdities. I do not claim any right or merit; it is only a necessity; I need it in order to live.

And you, who are you? you ask me; and I reply with Obermann, "For the universe, nothing; for myself, everything!" Pride? Is it pride to want to be immortal? Unhappy men that we are! 'Tis a tragic fate, without a doubt, to have to base the affirmation of immortality upon the insecure and slippery foundation of the desire for immortality; but to condemn this desire on the ground that we believe it to have been proved to be unattainable, without undertaking the proof, is merely supine. I am dreaming ...? Let me dream, if this dream is my life. Do not awaken me from it. I believe in the immortal origin of this yearning for immortality, which is the very substance of my soul. But do I really believe in it ...? And wherefore do you want to be immortal? you ask me, wherefore? Frankly, I do not understand the question, for it is to ask the reason of the reason, the end of the end, the principle of the principle.

But these are things which it is impossible to discuss.

It is related in the book of the Acts of the Apostles how wherever Paul went the Jews, moved with envy, were stirred up to persecute him. They stoned him in Iconium and Lystra, cities of Lycaonia, in spite of the wonders that he worked therein; they scourged him in Philippi of Macedonia and persecuted his brethren in Thessalonica and Berea. He arrived at Athens, however, the noble city of the intellectuals, over which brooded the sublime spirit of Plato—the Plato of the gloriousness of the risk of immortality; and there Paul disputed with Epicureans and Stoics. And some said of him, "What doth this babbler (spermologos) mean?" and others, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods" (Acts xvii. 18), "and they took him and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? for thou bringest certain strange things to our ears; we would know, therefore, what these things mean" (verses 19-20). And then follows that wonderful characterization of those Athenians of the decadence, those dainty connoisseurs of the curious, "for all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing" (verse 21). A wonderful stroke which depicts for us the condition of mind of those who had learned from the Odyssey that the gods plot and achieve the destruction of mortals in order that their posterity may have something to narrate!

Here Paul stands, then, before the subtle Athenians, before the graeuli, men of culture and tolerance, who are ready to welcome and examine every doctrine, who neither stone nor scourge nor imprison any man for professing these or those doctrines—here he stands where liberty of conscience is respected and every opinion is given an attentive hearing. And he raises his voice in the midst of the Areopagus and speaks to them as it was fitting to speak to the cultured citizens of Athens, and all listen to him, agog to hear the latest novelty. But when he begins to speak to them of the resurrection of the dead their stock of patience and tolerance comes to an end, and some mock him, and others say: "We will hear thee again of this matter!" intending not to hear him. And a similar thing happened to him at Caesarea when he came before the Roman praetor Felix, likewise a broad-minded and cultured man, who mitigated the hardships of his imprisonment, and wished to hear and did hear him discourse of righteousness and of temperance; but when he spoke of the judgement to come, Felix said, terrified (emphobos genomenos): "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee" (Acts xxiv. 22-25). And in his audience before King Agrippa, when Festus the governor heard him speak of the resurrection of the dead, he exclaimed: "Thou art mad, Paul; much learning hath made thee mad" (Acts xxvi. 24).

Whatever of truth there may have been in Paul's discourse in the Areopagus, and even if there were none, it is certain that this admirable account plainly shows how far Attic tolerance goes and where the patience of the intellectuals ends. They all listen to you, calmly and smilingly, and at times they encourage you, saying: "That's strange!" or, "He has brains!" or "That's suggestive," or "How fine!" or "Pity that a thing so beautiful should not be true!" or "this makes one think!" But as soon as you speak to them of resurrection and life after death, they lose their patience and cut short your remarks and exclaim, "Enough of this! we will talk about this another day!" And it is about this, my poor Athenians, my intolerant intellectuals, it is about this that I am going to talk to you here.

And even if this belief be absurd, why is its exposition less tolerated than that of others much more absurd? Why this manifest hostility to such a belief? Is it fear? Is it, perhaps, spite provoked by inability to share it?

And sensible men, those who do not intend to let themselves be deceived, keep on dinning into our ears the refrain that it is no use giving way to folly and kicking against the pricks, for what cannot be is impossible. The manly attitude, they say, is to resign oneself to fate; since we are not immortal, do not let us want to be so; let us submit ourselves to reason without tormenting ourselves about what is irremediable, and so making life more gloomy and miserable. This obsession, they add, is a disease. Disease, madness, reason ... the everlasting refrain! Very well then—No! I do not submit to reason, and I rebel against it, and I persist in creating by the energy of faith my immortalizing God, and in forcing by my will the stars out of their courses, for if we had faith as a grain of mustard seed we should say to that mountain, "Remove hence," and it would remove, and nothing would be impossible to us (Matt. xvii. 20).

There you have that "thief of energies," as he[12] so obtusely called Christ who sought to wed nihilism with the struggle for existence, and he talks to you about courage. His heart craved the eternal all while his head convinced him of nothingness, and, desperate and mad to defend himself from himself, he cursed that which he most loved. Because he could not be Christ, he blasphemed against Christ. Bursting with his own self, he wished himself unending and dreamed his theory of eternal recurrence, a sorry counterfeit of immortality, and, full of pity for himself, he abominated all pity. And there are some who say that his is the philosophy of strong men! No, it is not. My health and my strength urge me to perpetuate myself. His is the doctrine of weaklings who aspire to be strong, but not of the strong who are strong. Only the feeble resign themselves to final death and substitute some other desire for the longing for personal immortality. In the strong the zeal for perpetuity overrides the doubt of realizing it, and their superabundance of life overflows upon the other side of death.

Before this terrible mystery of mortality, face to face with the Sphinx, man adopts different attitudes and seeks in various ways to console himself for having been born. And now it occurs to him to take it as a diversion, and he says to himself with Renan that this universe is a spectacle that God presents to Himself, and that it behoves us to carry out the intentions of the great Stage-Manager and contribute to make the spectacle the most brilliant and the most varied that may be. And they have made a religion of art, a cure for the metaphysical evil, and invented the meaningless phrase of art for art's sake.

And it does not suffice them. If the man who tells you that he writes, paints, sculptures, or sings for his own amusement, gives his work to the public, he lies; he lies if he puts his name to his writing, painting, statue, or song. He wishes, at the least, to leave behind a shadow of his spirit, something that may survive him. If the Imitation of Christ is anonymous, it is because its author sought the eternity of the soul and did not trouble himself about that of the name. The man of letters who shall tell you that he despises fame is a lying rascal. Of Dante, the author of those three-and-thirty vigorous verses (Purg. xi. 85-117) on the vanity of worldly glory, Boccaccio says that he relished honours and pomps more perhaps than suited with his conspicuous virtue. The keenest desire of his condemned souls is that they may be remembered and talked of here on earth, and this is the chief solace that lightens the darkness of his Inferno. And he himself confessed that his aim in expounding the concept of Monarchy was not merely that he might be of service to others, but that he might win for his own glory the palm of so great prize (De Monarchia, lib. i., cap. i.). What more? Even of that holy man, seemingly the most indifferent to worldly vanity, the Poor Little One of Assisi, it is related in the Legenda Trium Sociorum that he said: Adhuc adorabor per totum mundum!—You will see how I shall yet be adored by all the world! (II. Celano, i. 1). And even of God Himself the theologians say that He created the world for the manifestation of His glory.

When doubts invade us and cloud our faith in the immortality of the soul, a vigorous and painful impulse is given to the anxiety to perpetuate our name and fame, to grasp at least a shadow of immortality. And hence this tremendous struggle to singularize ourselves, to survive in some way in the memory of others and of posterity. It is this struggle, a thousand times more terrible than the struggle for life, that gives its tone, colour, and character to our society, in which the medieval faith in the immortal soul is passing away. Each one seeks to affirm himself, if only in appearance.

Once the needs of hunger are satisfied—and they are soon satisfied—the vanity, the necessity—for it is a necessity—arises of imposing ourselves upon and surviving in others. Man habitually sacrifices his life to his purse, but he sacrifices his purse to his vanity. He boasts even of his weaknesses and his misfortunes, for want of anything better to boast of, and is like a child who, in order to attract attention, struts about with a bandaged finger. And vanity, what is it but eagerness for survival?

The vain man is in like case with the avaricious—he takes the means for the end; forgetting the end he pursues the means for its own sake and goes no further. The seeming to be something, conducive to being it, ends by forming our objective. We need that others should believe in our superiority to them in order that we may believe in it ourselves, and upon their belief base our faith in our own persistence, or at least in the persistence of our fame. We are more grateful to him who congratulates us on the skill with which we defend a cause than we are to him who recognizes the truth or the goodness of the cause itself. A rabid mania for originality is rife in the modern intellectual world and characterizes all individual effort. We would rather err with genius than hit the mark with the crowd. Rousseau has said in his Emile (book iv.): "Even though philosophers should be in a position to discover the truth, which of them would take any interest in it? Each one knows well that his system is not better founded than the others, but he supports it because it is his. There is not a single one of them who, if he came to know the true and the false, would not prefer the falsehood that he had found to the truth discovered by another. Where is the philosopher who would not willingly deceive mankind for his own glory? Where is he who in the secret of his heart does not propose to himself any other object than to distinguish himself? Provided that he lifts himself above the vulgar, provided that he outshines the brilliance of his competitors, what does he demand more? The essential thing is to think differently from others. With believers he is an atheist; with atheists he would be a believer." How much substantial truth there is in these gloomy confessions of this man of painful sincerity!

This violent struggle for the perpetuation of our name extends backwards into the past, just as it aspires to conquer the future; we contend with the dead because we, the living, are obscured beneath their shadow. We are jealous of the geniuses of former times, whose names, standing out like the landmarks of history, rescue the ages from oblivion. The heaven of fame is not very large, and the more there are who enter it the less is the share of each. The great names of the past rob us of our place in it; the space which they fill in the popular memory they usurp from us who aspire to occupy it. And so we rise up in revolt against them, and hence the bitterness with which all those who seek after fame in the world of letters judge those who have already attained it and are in enjoyment of it. If additions continue to be made to the wealth of literature, there will come a day of sifting, and each one fears lest he be caught in the meshes of the sieve. In attacking the masters, irreverent youth is only defending itself; the iconoclast or image-breaker is a Stylite who erects himself as an image, an icon. "Comparisons are odious," says the familiar adage, and the reason is that we wish to be unique. Do not tell Fernandez that he is one of the most talented Spaniards of the younger generation, for though he will affect to be gratified by the eulogy he is really annoyed by it; if, however, you tell him that he is the most talented man in Spain—well and good! But even that is not sufficient: one of the worldwide reputations would be more to his liking, but he is only fully satisfied with being esteemed the first in all countries and all ages. The more alone, the nearer to that unsubstantial immortality, the immortality of the name, for great names diminish one another.

What is the meaning of that irritation which we feel when we believe that we are robbed of a phrase, or a thought, or an image, which we believed to be our own, when we are plagiarized? Robbed? Can it indeed be ours once we have given it to the public? Only because it is ours we prize it; and we are fonder of the false money that preserves our impress than of the coin of pure gold from which our effigy and our legend has been effaced. It very commonly happens that it is when the name of a writer is no longer in men's mouths that he most influences his public, his mind being then disseminated and infused in the minds of those who have read him, whereas he was quoted chiefly when his thoughts and sayings, clashing with those generally received, needed the guarantee of a name. What was his now belongs to all, and he lives in all. But for him the garlands have faded, and he believes himself to have failed. He hears no more either the applause or the silent tremor of the heart of those who go on reading him. Ask any sincere artist which he would prefer, whether that his work should perish and his memory survive, or that his work should survive and his memory perish, and you will see what he will tell you, if he is really sincere. When a man does not work merely in order to live and carry on, he works in order to survive. To work for the work's sake is not work but play. And play? We will talk about that later on.

A tremendous passion is this longing that our memory may be rescued, if it is possible, from the oblivion which overtakes others. From it springs envy, the cause, according to the biblical narrative, of the crime with which human history opened: the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. It was not a struggle for bread—it was a struggle to survive in God, in the divine memory. Envy is a thousand times more terrible than hunger, for it is spiritual hunger. If what we call the problem of life, the problem of bread, were once solved, the earth would be turned into a hell by the emergence in a more violent form of the struggle for survival.

For the sake of a name man is ready to sacrifice not only life but happiness—life as a matter of course. "Let me die, but let my fame live!" exclaimed Rodrigo Arias in Las Mocedades del Cid when he fell mortally wounded by Don Ordonez de Lara. "Courage, Girolamo, for you will long be remembered; death is bitter, but fame eternal!" cried Girolamo Olgiati, the disciple of Cola Montano and the murderer, together with his fellow-conspirators Lampugnani and Visconti, of Galeazzo Sforza, tyrant of Milan. And there are some who covet even the gallows for the sake of acquiring fame, even though it be an infamous fame: avidus malae famae, as Tacitus says.

And this erostratism, what is it at bottom but the longing for immortality, if not for substantial and concrete immortality, at any rate for the shadowy immortality of the name?

And in this there are degrees. If a man despises the applause of the crowd of to-day, it is because he seeks to survive in renewed minorities for generations. "Posterity is an accumulation of minorities," said Gounod. He wishes to prolong himself in time rather than in space. The crowd soon overthrows its own idols and the statue lies broken at the foot of the pedestal without anyone heeding it; but those who win the hearts of the elect will long be the objects of a fervent worship in some shrine, small and secluded no doubt, but capable of preserving them from the flood of oblivion. The artist sacrifices the extensiveness of his fame to its duration; he is anxious rather to endure for ever in some little corner than to occupy a brilliant second place in the whole universe; he prefers to be an atom, eternal and conscious of himself, rather than to be for a brief moment the consciousness of the whole universe; he sacrifices infinitude to eternity.

And they keep on wearying our ears with this chorus of Pride! stinking Pride! Pride, to wish to leave an ineffaceable name? Pride? It is like calling the thirst for riches a thirst for pleasure. No, it is not so much the longing for pleasure that drives us poor folk to seek money as the terror of poverty, just as it was not the desire for glory but the terror of hell that drove men in the Middle Ages to the cloister with its acedia. Neither is this wish to leave a name pride, but terror of extinction. We aim at being all because in that we see the only means of escaping from being nothing. We wish to save our memory—at any rate, our memory. How long will it last? At most as long as the human race lasts. And what if we shall save our memory in God?

Unhappy, I know well, are these confessions; but from the depth of unhappiness springs new life, and only by draining the lees of spiritual sorrow can we at last taste the honey that lies at the bottom of the cup of life. Anguish leads us to consolation.

This thirst for eternal life is appeased by many, especially by the simple, at the fountain of religious faith; but to drink of this is not given to all. The institution whose primordial end is to protect this faith in the personal immortality of the soul is Catholicism; but Catholicism has sought to rationalize this faith by converting religion into theology, by offering a philosophy, and a philosophy of the thirteenth century, as a basis for vital belief. This and its consequences we will now proceed to examine.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Each time that I consider that it is my lot to die, I spread my cloak upon the ground and am never surfeited with sleeping.

[12] Nietzsche.



IV

THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM

Let us now approach the Christian, Catholic, Pauline, or Athanasian solution of our inward vital problem, the hunger of immortality.

Christianity sprang from the confluence of two mighty spiritual streams—the one Judaic, the other Hellenic—each of which had already influenced the other, and Rome finally gave it a practical stamp and social permanence.

It has been asserted, perhaps somewhat precipitately, that primitive Christianity was an-eschatological, that faith in another life after death is not clearly manifested in it, but rather a belief in the proximate end of the world and establishment of the kingdom of God, a belief known as chiliasm. But were they not fundamentally one and the same thing? Faith in the immortality of the soul, the nature of which was not perhaps very precisely defined, may be said to be a kind of tacit understanding or supposition underlying the whole of the Gospel; and it is the mental orientation of many of those who read it to-day, an orientation contrary to that of the Christians from among whom the Gospel sprang, that prevents them from seeing this. Without doubt all that about the second coming of Christ, when he shall come among the clouds, clothed with majesty and great power, to judge the quick and the dead, to open to some the kingdom of heaven and to cast others into Gehenna, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, may be understood in a chiliastic sense; and it is even said of Christ in the Gospel (Mark ix. I), that there were with him some who should not taste of death till they had seen the kingdom of God—that is, that the kingdom should come during their generation. And in the same chapter, verse 10, it is said of Peter and James and John, who went up with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration and heard him say that he would rise again from the dead, that "they kept that saying within themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." And at all events the Gospel was written when this belief, the basis and raison d'etre of Christianity, was in process of formation. See Matt. xxii. 29-32; Mark xii. 24-27; Luke xvi. 22-31; xx. 34-37; John v. 24-29; vi. 40, 54, 58; viii. 51; xi. 25, 56; xiv. 2, 19. And, above all, that passage in Matt. xxvii. 52, which tells how at the resurrection of Christ "many bodies of the saints which slept arose."

And this was not a natural resurrection. No; the Christian faith was born of the faith that Jesus did not remain dead, but that God raised him up again, and that this resurrection was a fact; but this did not presuppose a mere immortality of the soul in the philosophical sense (see Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, Prolegomena, v. 4). For the first Fathers of the Church themselves the immortality of the soul was not a thing pertaining to the natural order; the teaching of the Divine Scriptures, as Nimesius said, sufficed for its demonstration, and it was, according to Lactantius, a gift—and as such gratuitous—of God. But more of this later.

Christianity sprang, as we have said, from two great spiritual streams—the Judaic and the Hellenic—each one of which had arrived on its account, if not at a precise definition of, at any rate at a definite yearning for, another life. Among the Jews faith in another life was neither general nor clear; but they were led to it by faith in a personal and living God, the formation of which faith comprises all their spiritual history.

Jahwe, the Judaic God, began by being one god among many others—the God of the people of Israel, revealed among the thunders of the tempest on Mount Sinai. But he was so jealous that he demanded that worship should be paid to him alone, and it was by way of monocultism that the Jews arrived at monotheism. He was adored as a living force, not as a metaphysical entity, and he was the god of battles. But this God of social and martial origin, to whose genesis we shall have to return later, became more inward and personal in the prophets, and in becoming more inward and personal he thereby became more individual and more universal. He is the Jahwe who, instead of loving Israel because Israel is his son, takes Israel for a son because he loves him (Hosea xi. 1). And faith in the personal God, in the Father of men, carries with it faith in the eternalization of the individual man—a faith which had already dawned in Pharisaism even before Christ.

Hellenic culture, on its side, ended by discovering death; and to discover death is to discover the hunger of immortality. This longing does not appear in the Homeric poems, which are not initial, but final, in their character, marking not the start but the close of a civilization. They indicate the transition from the old religion of Nature, of Zeus, to the more spiritual religion of Apollo—of redemption. But the popular and inward religion of the Eleusinian mysteries, the worship of souls and ancestors, always persisted underneath. "In so far as it is possible to speak of a Delphic theology, among its more important elements must be counted the belief in the continuation of the life of souls after death in its popular forms, and in the worship of the souls of the dead."[13] There were the Titanic and the Dionysiac elements, and it was the duty of man, according to the Orphic doctrine, to free himself from the fetters of the body, in which the soul was like a captive in a prison (see Rohde, Psyche, "Die Orphiker," 4). The Nietzschean idea of eternal recurrence is an Orphic idea. But the idea of the immortality of the soul was not a philosophical principle. The attempt of Empedocles to harmonize a hylozoistic system with spiritualism proved that a philosophical natural science cannot by itself lead to a corroboration of the axiom of the perpetuity of the individual soul; it could only serve as a support to a theological speculation. It was by a contradiction that the first Greek philosophers affirmed immortality, by abandoning natural philosophy and intruding into theology, by formulating not an Apollonian but a Dionysiac and Orphic dogma. But "an immortality of the soul as such, in virtue of its own nature and condition as an imperishable divine force in the mortal body, was never an object of popular Hellenic belief" (Rohde, op. cit.).

Recall the Phaedo of Plato and the neo-platonic lucubrations. In them the yearning for personal immortality already shows itself—a yearning which, as it was left totally unsatisfied by reason, produced the Hellenic pessimism. For, as Pfleiderer very well observes (Religionsphilosophie auf geschichtliche Grundlage, 3. Berlin, 1896), "no people ever came upon the earth so serene and sunny as the Greeks in the youthful days of their historical existence ... but no people changed so completely their idea of the value of life. The Hellenism which ended in the religious speculations of neo-pythagorism and neo-platonism viewed this world, which had once appeared to it so joyous and radiant, as an abode of darkness and error, and earthly existence as a period of trial which could never be too quickly traversed." Nirvana is an Hellenic idea.

Thus Jews and Greeks each arrived independently at the real discovery of death—a discovery which occasions, in peoples as in men, the entrance into spiritual puberty, the realization of the tragic sense of life, and it is then that the living God is begotten by humanity. The discovery of death is that which reveals God to us, and the death of the perfect man, Christ, was the supreme revelation of death, being the death of the man who ought not to have died yet did die.

Such a discovery—that of immortality—prepared as it was by the Judaic and Hellenic religious processes, was a specifically Christian discovery. And its full achievement was due above all to Paul of Tarsus, the hellenizing Jew and Pharisee. Paul had not personally known Jesus, and hence he discovered him as Christ. "It may be said that the theology of the Apostle Paul is, in general, the first Christian theology. For him it was a necessity; it was, in a certain sense, his substitution for the lack of a personal knowledge of Jesus," says Weizsaecker (Das apostolische Zeitalter der christlichen Kirche. Freiburg-i.-B., 1892). He did not know Jesus, but he felt him born again in himself, and thus he could say, "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."[14] And he preached the Cross, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness (I Cor. i. 23), and the central doctrine for the converted Apostle was that of the resurrection of Christ. The important thing for him was that Christ had been made man and had died and had risen again, and not what he did in his life—not his ethical work as a teacher, but his religious work as a giver of immortality. And he it was who wrote those immortal words: "Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.... Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (I Cor. xv. 12-19).

And it is possible to affirm that thenceforward he who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ may be Christophile but cannot be specifically Christian. It is true that a Justin Martyr could say that "all those are Christians who live in accordance with reason, even though they may be deemed to be atheists, as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and other such"; but this martyr, is he a martyr—that is to say a witness—of Christianity? No.

And it was around this dogma, inwardly experienced by Paul, the dogma of the resurrection and immortality of Christ, the guarantee of the resurrection and immortality of each believer, that the whole of Christology was built up. The God-man, the incarnate Word, came in order that man, according to his mode, might be made God—that is, immortal. And the Christian God, the Father of Christ, a God necessarily anthropomorphic, is He who—as the Catechism of Christian Doctrine which we were made to learn by heart at school says—created the world for man, for each man. And the end of redemption, in spite of appearances due to an ethical deflection of a dogma properly religious, was to save us from death rather than from sin, or from sin in so far as sin implies death. And Christ died, or rather rose again, for me, for each one of us. And a certain solidarity was established between God and His creature. Malebranche said that the first man fell in order that Christ might redeem us, rather than that Christ redeemed us because man had fallen.

After the death of Paul years passed, and generations of Christianity wrought upon this central dogma and its consequences in order to safeguard faith in the immortality of the individual soul, and the Council of Nicaea came, and with it the formidable Athanasius, whose name is still a battle-cry, an incarnation of the popular faith. Athanasius was a man of little learning but of great faith, and above all of popular faith, devoured by the hunger of immortality. And he opposed Arianism, which, like Unitarian and Socinian Protestantism, threatened, although unknowingly and unintentionally, the foundation of that belief. For the Arians, Christ was first and foremost a teacher—a teacher of morality, the wholly perfect man, and therefore the guarantee that we may all attain to supreme perfection; but Athanasius felt that Christ cannot make us gods if he has not first made himself God; if his Divinity had been communicated, he could not have communicated it to us. "He was not, therefore," he said, "first man and then became God; but He was first God and then became man in order that He might the better deify us (theopoiese)" (Orat. i. 39). It was not the Logos of the philosophers, the cosmological Logos, that Athanasius knew and adored;[15] and thus he instituted a separation between nature and revelation. The Athanasian or Nicene Christ, who is the Catholic Christ, is not the cosmological, nor even, strictly, the ethical Christ; he is the eternalizing, the deifying, the religious Christ. Harnack says of this Christ, the Christ of Nicene or Catholic Christology, that he is essentially docetic—that is, apparential—because the process of the divinization of the man in Christ was made in the interests of eschatology. But which is the real Christ? Is it, indeed, that so-called historical Christ of rationalist exegesis who is diluted for us in a myth or in a social atom?

This same Harnack, a Protestant rationalist, tells us that Arianism or Unitarianism would have been the death of Christianity, reducing it to cosmology and ethics, and that it served only as a bridge whereby the learned might pass over to Catholicism—that is to say, from reason to faith. To this same learned historian of dogmas it appears to be an indication of a perverse state of things that the man Athanasius, who saved Christianity as the religion of a living communion with God, should have obliterated the Jesus of Nazareth, the historical Jesus, whom neither Paul nor Athanasius knew personally, nor yet Harnack himself. Among Protestants, this historical Jesus is subjected to the scalpel of criticism, while the Catholic Christ lives, the really historical Christ, he who lives throughout the centuries guaranteeing the faith in personal immortality and personal salvation.

And Athanasius had the supreme audacity of faith, that of asserting things mutually contradictory: "The complete contradiction that exists in the homoousios carried in its train a whole army of contradictions which increased as thought advanced," says Harnack. Yes, so it was, and so it had to be. And he adds: "Dogma took leave for ever of clear thinking and tenable concepts, and habituated itself to the contra-rational." In truth, it drew closer to life, which is contra-rational and opposed to clear thinking. Not only are judgements of worth never rationalizable—they are anti-rational.

At Nicaea, then, as afterwards at the Vatican, victory rested with the idiots—taking this word in its proper, primitive, and etymological sense—the simple-minded, the rude and headstrong bishops, the representatives of the genuine human spirit, the popular spirit, the spirit that does not want to die, in spite of whatever reason may say, and that seeks a guarantee, the most material possible, for this desire.

Quid ad aeternitatem? This is the capital question. And the Creed ends with that phrase, resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam venturi saeculi—the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. In the cemetery of Mallona, in my native town of Bilbao, there is a tombstone on which this verse is carved:

Aunque estamos en polvo convertidos, en Ti, Senor, nuestra esperanza fia, que tornaremos a vivir vestidos con la carne y la piel que nos cubria.[16]

"With the same bodies and souls that they had," as the Catechism says. So much so, that it is orthodox Catholic doctrine that the happiness of the blessed is not perfectly complete until they recover their bodies. They lament in heaven, says our Brother Pedro Malon de Chaide of the Order of St. Augustine, a Spaniard and a Basque,[17] and "this lament springs from their not being perfectly whole in heaven, for only the soul is there; and although they cannot suffer, because they see God, in whom they unspeakably delight, yet with all this it appears that they are not wholly content. They will be so when they are clothed with their own bodies."

And to this central dogma of the resurrection in Christ and by Christ corresponds likewise a central sacrament, the axis of popular Catholic piety—the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In it is administered the body of Christ, which is the bread of immortality.

This sacrament is genuinely realist—dinglich, as the Germans would say—which may without great violence be translated "material." It is the sacrament most genuinely ex opere operato, for which is substituted among Protestants the idealistic sacrament of the word. Fundamentally it is concerned with—and I say it with all possible respect, but without wishing to sacrifice the expressiveness of the phrase—the eating and drinking of God, the Eternalizer, the feeding upon Him. Little wonder then if St. Teresa tells us that when she was communicating in the monastery of the Incarnation and in the second year of her being Prioress there, on the octave of St. Martin, and the Father, Fr. Juan de la Cruz, divided the Host between her and another sister, she thought that it was done not because there was any want of Hosts, but because he wished to mortify her, "for I had told him how much I delighted in Hosts of a large size. Yet I was not ignorant that the size of the Host is of no moment, for I knew that our Lord is whole and entire in the smallest particle." Here reason pulls one way, feeling another. And what importance for this feeling have the thousand and one difficulties that arise from reflecting rationally upon the mystery of this sacrament? What is a divine body? And the body, in so far as it is the body of Christ, is it divine? What is an immortal and immortalizing body? What is substance separated from the accidents? Nowadays we have greatly refined our notion of materiality and substantiality; but there were even some among the Fathers of the Church to whom the immateriality of God Himself was not a thing so clear and definite as it is for us. And this sacrament of the Eucharist is the immortalizing sacrament par excellence, and therefore the axis of popular Catholic piety, and if it may be so said, the most specifically religious of sacraments.

For what is specific in the Catholic religion is immortalization and not justification, in the Protestant sense. Rather is this latter ethical. It was from Kant, in spite of what orthodox Protestants may think of him, that Protestantism derived its penultimate conclusions—namely, that religion rests upon morality, and not morality upon religion, as in Catholicism.

The preoccupation of sin has never been such a matter of anguish, or at any rate has never displayed itself with such an appearance of anguish, among Catholics. The sacrament of Confession contributes to this. And there persists, perhaps, among Catholics more than among Protestants the substance of the primitive Judaic and pagan conception of sin as something material and infectious and hereditary, which is cured by baptism and absolution. In Adam all his posterity sinned, almost materially, and his sin was transmitted as a material disease is transmitted. Renan, whose education was Catholic, was right, therefore, in calling to account the Protestant Amiel who accused him of not giving due importance to sin. And, on the other hand, Protestantism, absorbed in this preoccupation with justification, which in spite of its religious guise was taken more in an ethical sense than anything else, ends by neutralizing and almost obliterating eschatology; it abandons the Nicene symbol, falls into an anarchy of creeds, into pure religious individualism and a vague esthetic, ethical, or cultured religiosity. What we may call "other-worldliness" (Jenseitigkeit) was obliterated little by little by "this-worldliness" (Diesseitigkeit); and this in spite of Kant, who wished to save it, but by destroying it. To its earthly vocation and passive trust in God is due the religious coarseness of Lutheranism, which was almost at the point of expiring in the age of the Enlightenment, of the Aufklaerung, and which pietism, infusing into it something of the religious sap of Catholicism, barely succeeded in galvanizing a little. Hence the exactness of the remarks of Oliveira Martins in his magnificent History of Iberian Civilization, in which he says (book iv., chap, iii.) that "Catholicism produced heroes and Protestantism produced societies that are sensible, happy, wealthy, free, as far as their outer institutions go, but incapable of any great action, because their religion has begun by destroying in the heart of man all that made him capable of daring and noble self-sacrifice."

Take any of the dogmatic systems that have resulted from the latest Protestant dissolvent analysis—that of Kaftan, the follower of Ritschl, for example—and note the extent to which eschatology is reduced. And his master, Albrecht Ritschl, himself says: "The question regarding the necessity of justification or forgiveness can only be solved by conceiving eternal life as the direct end and aim of that divine operation. But if the idea of eternal life be applied merely to our state in the next life, then its content, too, lies beyond all experience, and cannot form the basis of knowledge of a scientific kind. Hopes and desires, though marked by the strongest subjective certainty, are not any the clearer for that, and contain in themselves no guarantee of the completeness of what one hopes or desires. Clearness and completeness of idea, however, are the conditions of comprehending anything—i.e., of understanding the necessary connection between the various elements of a thing, and between the thing and its given presuppositions. The Evangelical article of belief, therefore, that justification by faith establishes or brings with it assurance of eternal life, is of no use theologically, so long as this purposive aspect of justification cannot be verified in such experience as is possible now" (Rechtfertigung und Versoehnung, vol. iii., chap. vii., 52). All this is very rational, but ...

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