Tragic Sense Of Life
by Miguel de Unamuno
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And this leads us directly to the examination of the practical or ethical aspect of our sole problem.


[47] De natura deorum, lib. i., cap. 41.

[48] Op. cit.

[49] Guia Espiritual que desembaraza al alma y la conduce por el interior camino para alcanzar la perfecta contemplacion y el rico tesoro de la paz interior, book iii., chap. xviii., Sec. 185.


O land of Alvargonzalez, In the heart of Spain, Sad land, poor land, So sad that it has a soul!


To living a life of blessed quiet here on earth, Either matter or soul is a hindrance.

[52] Eso que llaman derecho penal, y que es todo menos derecho.

[53] The Autocrat of the Breakfast-table.



L'homme est perissable. II se peut; mais perissons en resistant, et, si le neant nous est reserve, ne faisons pas que ce soit une justice.—SENANCOUR: Obermann, lettre xc.

Several times in the devious course of these essays I have defined, in spite of my horror of definitions, my own position with regard to the problem that I have been examining; but I know there will always be some dissatisfied reader, educated in some dogmatism or other, who will say: "This man comes to no conclusion, he vacillates—now he seems to affirm one thing and then its contrary—he is full of contradictions—I can't label him. What is he?" Just this—one who affirms contraries, a man of contradiction and strife, as Jeremiah said of himself; one who says one thing with his heart and the contrary with his head, and for whom this conflict is the very stuff of life. And that is as clear as the water that flows from the melted snow upon the mountain tops.

I shall be told that this is an untenable position, that a foundation must be laid upon which to build our action and our works, that it is impossible to live by contradictions, that unity and clarity are essential conditions of life and thought, and that it is necessary to unify thought. And this leaves us as we were before. For it is precisely this inner contradiction that unifies my life and gives it its practical purpose.

Or rather it is the conflict itself, it is this self-same passionate uncertainty, that unifies my action and makes me live and work.

We think in order that we may live, I have said; but perhaps it were more correct to say that we think because we live, and the form of our thought corresponds with that of our life. Once more I must repeat that our ethical and philosophical doctrines in general are usually merely the justification a posteriori of our conduct, of our actions. Our doctrines are usually the means we seek in order to explain and justify to others and to ourselves our own mode of action. And this, be it observed, not merely for others, but for ourselves. The man who does not really know why he acts as he does and not otherwise, feels the necessity of explaining to himself the motive of his action and so he forges a motive. What we believe to be the motives of our conduct are usually but the pretexts for it. The very same reason which one man may regard as a motive for taking care to prolong his life may be regarded by another man as a motive for shooting himself.

Nevertheless it cannot be denied that reasons, ideas, have an influence upon human actions, and sometimes even determine them, by a process analogous to that of suggestion upon a hypnotized person, and this is so because of the tendency in every idea to resolve itself into action—an idea being simply an inchoate or abortive act. It was this notion that suggested to Fouillee his theory of idea-forces. But ordinarily ideas are forces which we accommodate to other forces, deeper and much less conscious.

But putting all this aside for the present, what I wish to establish is that uncertainty, doubt, perpetual wrestling with the mystery of our final destiny, mental despair, and the lack of any solid and stable dogmatic foundation, may be the basis of an ethic.

He who bases or thinks that he bases his conduct—his inward or his outward conduct, his feeling or his action—upon a dogma or theoretical principle which he deems incontrovertible, runs the risk of becoming a fanatic, and moreover, the moment that this dogma is weakened or shattered, the morality based upon it gives way. If, the earth that he thought firm begins to rock, he himself trembles at the earthquake, for we do not all come up to the standard of the ideal Stoic who remains undaunted among the ruins of a world shattered into atoms. Happily the stuff that is underneath a man's ideas will save him. For if a man should tell you that he does not defraud or cuckold his best friend only because he is afraid of hell, you may depend upon it that neither would he do so even if he were to cease to believe in hell, but that he would invent some other excuse instead. And this is all to the honour of the human race.

But he who believes that he is sailing, perhaps without a set course, on an unstable and sinkable raft, must not be dismayed if the raft gives way beneath his feet and threatens to sink. Such a one thinks that he acts, not because he deems his principle of action to be true, but in order to make it true, in order to prove its truth, in order to create his own spiritual world.

My conduct must be the best proof, the moral proof, of my supreme desire; and if I do not end by convincing myself, within the bounds of the ultimate and irremediable uncertainty, of the truth of what I hope for, it is because my conduct is not sufficiently pure. Virtue, therefore, is not based upon dogma, but dogma upon virtue, and it is not faith that creates martyrs but martyrs who create faith. There is no security or repose—so far as security and repose are obtainable in this life, so essentially insecure and unreposeful—save in conduct that is passionately good.

Conduct, practice, is the proof of doctrine, theory. "If any man will do His will—the will of Him that sent me," said Jesus, "he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself" (John vii. 17); and there is a well-known saying of Pascal: "Begin by taking holy water and you will end by becoming a believer." And pursuing a similar train of thought, Johann Jakob Moser, the pietist, was of the opinion that no atheist or naturalist had the right to regard the Christian religion as void of truth so long as he had not put it to the proof by keeping its precepts and commandments (Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, book vii., 43).

What is our heart's truth, anti-rational though it be? The immortality of the human soul, the truth of the persistence of our consciousness without any termination whatsoever, the truth of the human finality of the Universe. And what is its moral proof? We may formulate it thus: Act so that in your own judgement and in the judgement of others you may merit eternity, act so that you may become irreplaceable, act so that you may not merit death. Or perhaps thus: Act as if you were to die to-morrow, but to die in order to survive and be eternalized. The end of morality is to give personal, human finality to the Universe; to discover the finality that belongs to it—if indeed it has any finality—and to discover it by acting.

More than a century ago, in 1804, in Letter XC of that series that constitutes the immense monody of his Obermann, Senancour wrote the words which I have put at the head of this chapter—and of all the spiritual descendants of the patriarchal Rousseau, Senancour was the most profound and the most intense; of all the men of heart and feeling that France has produced, not excluding Pascal, he was the most tragic. "Man is perishable. That may be; but let us perish resisting, and if it is nothingness that awaits us, do not let us so act that it shall be a just fate." Change this sentence from its negative to the positive form—"And if it is nothingness that awaits us, let us so act that it shall be an unjust fate"—and you get the firmest basis of action for the man who cannot or will not be a dogmatist.

That which is irreligious and demoniacal, that which incapacitates us for action and leaves us without any ideal defence against our evil tendencies, is the pessimism that Goethe puts into the mouth of Mephistopheles when he makes him say, "All that has achieved existence deserves to be destroyed" (denn alles was ensteht ist wert doss es zugrunde geht). This is the pessimism which we men call evil, and not that other pessimism that consists in lamenting what it fears to be true and struggling against this fear—namely, that everything is doomed to annihilation in the end. Mephistopheles asserts that everything that exists deserves to be destroyed, annihilated, but not that everything will be destroyed or annihilated; and we assert that everything that exists deserves to be exalted and eternalized, even though no such fate is in store for it. The moral attitude is the reverse of this.

Yes, everything deserves to be eternalized, absolutely everything, even evil itself, for that which we call evil would lose its evilness in being eternalized, because it would lose its temporal nature. For the essence of evil consists in its temporal nature, in its not applying itself to any ultimate and permanent end.

And it might not be superfluous here to say something about that distinction, more overlaid with confusion than any other, between what we are accustomed to call optimism and pessimism, a confusion not less than that which exists with regard to the distinction between individualism and socialism. Indeed, it is scarcely possible to form a clear idea as to what pessimism really is.

I have just this very day read in the Nation (July 6, 1912) an article, entitled "A Dramatic Inferno," that deals with an English translation of the works of Strindberg, and it opens with the following judicious observations: "If there were in the world a sincere and total pessimism, it would of necessity be silent. The despair which finds a voice is a social mood, it is the cry of misery which brother utters to brother when both are stumbling through a valley of shadows which is peopled with—comrades. In its anguish it bears witness to something that is good in life, for it presupposes sympathy ... The real gloom, the sincere despair, is dumb and blind; it writes no books, and feels no impulse to burden an intolerable universe with a monument more lasting than brass." Doubtless there is something of sophistry in this criticism, for the man who is really in pain weeps and even cries aloud, even if he is alone and there is nobody to hear him, simply as a means of alleviating his pain, although this perhaps may be a result of social habits. But does not the lion, alone in the desert, roar if he has an aching tooth? But apart from this, it cannot be denied that there is a substance of truth underlying these remarks. The pessimism that protests and defends itself cannot be truly said to be pessimism. And, in truth, still less is it pessimism to hold that nothing ought to perish although all things may be doomed to annihilation, while on the other hand it is pessimism to affirm that all things ought to be annihilated even though nothing may perish.

Pessimism, moreover, may possess different values. There is a eudemonistic or economic pessimism, that which denies happiness; there is an ethical pessimism, that which denies the triumph of moral good; and there is a religious pessimism, that which despairs of the human finality of the Universe, of the eternal salvation of the individual soul.

All men deserve to be saved, but, as I have said in the previous chapter, he above all deserves immortality who desires it passionately and even in the face of reason. An English writer, H.G. Wells, who has taken upon himself the role of the prophet (a thing not uncommon in his country), tells us in Anticipations that "active and capable men of all forms of religious profession tend in practice to disregard the question of immortality altogether." And this is because the religious professions of these active and capable men to whom Wells refers are usually simply a lie, and their lives are a lie, too, if they seek to base them upon religion. But it may be that at bottom there is not so much truth in what Wells asserts as he and others imagine. These active and capable men live in the midst of a society imbued with Christian principles, surrounded by institutions and social feelings that are the product of Christianity, and faith in the immortality of the soul exists deep down in their own souls like a subterranean river, neither seen nor heard, but watering the roots of their deeds and their motives.

It must be admitted that there exists in truth no more solid foundation for morality than the foundation of the Catholic ethic. The end of man is eternal happiness, which consists in the vision and enjoyment of God in saecula saeculorum. Where it errs, however, is in the choice of the means conducive to this end; for to make the attainment of eternal happiness dependent upon believing or not believing in the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son and not from the Father alone, or in the Divinity of Jesus, or in the theory of the Hypostatic Union, or even in the existence of God, is, as a moment's reflection will show, nothing less than monstrous. A human God—and that is the only kind of God we are able to conceive—would never reject him who was unable to believe in Him with his head, and it is not in his head but in his heart that the wicked man says that there is no God, which is equivalent to saying that he wishes that there may not be a God. If any belief could be bound up with the attainment of eternal happiness it would be the belief in this happiness itself and in the possibility of it.

And what shall we say of that other proposition of the king of pedants, to the effect that we have not come into the world to be happy but to fulfil our duty (Wir sind nicht auf der Welt, um gluecklich zu sein, sondern um unsere Schuldigkeit zu tun)? If we are in the world for something (um etwas), whence can this for be derived but from the very essence of our own will, which asks for happiness and not duty as the ultimate end? And if it is sought to attribute some other value to this for, an objective value, as some Sadducean pedant would say, then it must be recognized that the objective reality, that which would remain even though humanity should disappear, is as indifferent to our duty as to our happiness, is as little concerned with our morality as with our felicity. I am not aware that Jupiter, Uranus, or Sirius would allow their course to be affected by the fact that we are or are not fulfilling our duty any more than by the fact that we are or are not happy.

Such considerations must appear to these pedants to be characterized by a ridiculous vulgarity and a dilettante superficiality. (The intellectual world is divided into two classes—dilettanti on the one hand, and pedants on the other.) What choice, then, have we? The modern man is he who resigns himself to the truth and is content to be ignorant of the synthesis of culture—witness what Windelband says on this head in his study of the fate of Hoelderlin (Praeludien, i.). Yes, these men of culture are resigned, but there remain a few poor savages like ourselves for whom resignation is impossible. We do not resign ourselves to the idea of having one day to disappear, and the criticism of the great Pedant does not console us.

The quintessence of common sense was expressed by Galileo Galilei when he said: "Some perhaps will say that the bitterest pain is the loss of life, but I say that there are others more bitter; for whosoever is deprived of life is deprived at the same time of the power to lament, not only this, but any other loss whatsoever." Whether Galileo was conscious or not of the humour of this sentence I do not know, but it is a tragic humour.

But, to turn back, I repeat that if the attainment of eternal happiness could be bound up with any particular belief, it would be with the belief in the possibility of its realization. And yet, strictly speaking, not even with this. The reasonable man says in his head, "There is no other life after this," but only the wicked says it in his heart. But since the wicked man is possibly only a man who has been driven to despair, will a human God condemn him because of his despair? His despair alone is misfortune enough.

But in any event let us adopt the Calderonian formula in La Vida es Sueno:

Que estoy sonando y que quiero obrar hacer bien, pues no se pierde el hacer bien aun en suenos[54]

But are good deeds really not lost? Did Calderon know? And he added:

Acudamos a lo eterno que es la fama vividora donde ni duermen las dichas no las grandezas reposan[55]

Is it really so? Did Calderon know?

Calderon had faith, robust Catholic faith; but for him who lacks faith, for him who cannot believe in what Don Pedro Calderon de la Barca believed, there always remains the attitude of Obermann.

If it is nothingness that awaits us, let us make an injustice of it; let us fight against destiny, even though without hope of victory; let us fight against it quixotically.

And not only do we fight against destiny in longing for what is irrational, but in acting in such a way that we make ourselves irreplaceable, in impressing our seal and mark upon others, in acting upon our neighbours in order to dominate them, in giving ourselves to them in order that we may eternalize ourselves so far as we can.

Our greatest endeavour must be to make ourselves irreplaceable; to make the theoretical fact—if this expression does not involve a contradiction in terms—the fact that each one of us is unique and irreplaceable, that no one else can fill the gap that will be left when we die, a practical truth.

For in fact each man is unique and irreplaceable; there cannot be any other I; each one of us—our soul, that is, not our life—is worth the whole Universe. I say the spirit and not the life, for the ridiculously exaggerated value which those attach to human life who, not really believing in the spirit—that is to say, in their personal immortality—tirade against war and the death penalty, for example, is a value which they attach to it precisely because they do not really believe in the spirit of which life is the servant. For life is of use only in so far as it serves its lord and master, spirit, and if the master perishes with the servant, neither the one nor the other is of any great value.

And to act in such a way as to make our annihilation an injustice, in such a way as to make our brothers, our sons, and our brothers' sons, and their sons' sons, feel that we ought not to have died, is something that is within the reach of all.

The essence of the doctrine of the Christian redemption is in the fact that he who suffered agony and death was the unique man—that is, Man, the Son of Man, or the Son of God; that he, because he was sinless, did not deserve to have died; and that this propitiatory divine victim died in order that he might rise again and that he might raise us up from the dead, in order that he might deliver us from death by applying his merits to us and showing us the way of life. And the Christ who gave himself for his brothers in humanity with an absolute self-abnegation is the pattern for our action to shape itself on.

All of us, each one of us, can and ought to determine to give as much of himself as he possibly can—nay, to give more than he can, to exceed himself, to go beyond himself, to make himself irreplaceable, to give himself to others in order that he may receive himself back again from them. And each one in his own civil calling or office. The word office, officium, means obligation, debt, but in the concrete, and that is what it always ought to mean in practice. We ought not so much to try to seek that particular calling which we think most fitting and suitable for ourselves, as to make a calling of that employment in which chance, Providence, or our own will has placed us.

Perhaps Luther rendered no greater service to Christian civilization than that of establishing the religious value of the civil occupation, of shattering the monastic and medieval idea of the religious calling, an idea involved in the mist of human passions and imaginations and the cause of terrible life tragedies. If we could but enter into the cloister and examine the religious vocation of those whom the self-interest of their parents had forced as children into a novice's cell and who had suddenly awakened to the life of the world—if indeed they ever do awake!—or of those whom their own self-delusions had led into it! Luther saw this life of the cloister at close quarters and suffered it himself, and therefore he was able to understand and feel the religious value of the civil calling, to which no man is bound by perpetual vows.

All that the Apostle said in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians with regard to the respective functions of Christians in the Church must be transferred and applied to the civil or non-ecclesiastical life, for to-day among ourselves the Christian—whether he know it or not, and whether he like it or not—is the citizen, and just as the Apostle exclaimed, "I am a Roman citizen!" each one of us, even the atheist, might exclaim "I am a Christian!" And this demands the civilizing, in the sense of dis-ecclesiasticizing, of Christianity, which was Luther's task, although he himself eventually became the founder of a Church.

There is a common English phrase, "the right man in the right place." To which we might rejoin, "Cobbler, to thy last!" Who knows what is the post that suits him best and for which he is most fitted? Does a man himself know it better than others or do they know it better than he? Who can measure capacities and aptitudes? The religious attitude, undoubtedly, is to endeavour to make the occupation in which we find ourselves our vocation, and only in the last resort to change it for another.

This question of the proper vocation is possibly the gravest and most deep-seated of social problems, that which is at the root of all the others. That which is known par excellence as the social question is perhaps not so much a problem of the distribution of wealth, of the products of labour, as a problem of the distribution of avocations, of the modes of production. It is not aptitude—a thing impossible to ascertain without first putting it to the test and not always clearly indicated in a man, for with regard to the majority of callings a man is not born but made—it is not special aptitude, but rather social, political, and customary reasons that determine a man's occupation. At certain times and in certain countries it is caste and heredity; at other times and in other places, the guild or corporation; in later times machinery—in almost all cases necessity; liberty scarcely ever. And the tragedy of it culminates in those occupations, pandering to evil, in which the soul is sacrificed for the sake of the livelihood, in which the workman works with the consciousness, not of the uselessness merely, but of the social perversity, of his work, manufacturing the poison that will kill him, the weapon, perchance, with which his children will be murdered. This, and not the question of wages, is the gravest problem.

I shall never forget a scene of which I was a witness that took place on the banks of the river that flows through Bilbao, my native town. A workman was hammering at something in a shipwright's yard, working without putting his heart into his work, as if he lacked energy or worked merely for the sake of getting a wage, when suddenly a woman's voice was heard crying, "Help! help!" A child had fallen into the river. Instantly the man was transformed. With an admirable energy, promptitude, and sang-froid he threw off his clothes and plunged into the water to rescue the drowning infant.

Possibly the reason why there is less bitterness in the agrarian socialist movement than in that of the towns is that the field labourer, although his wages and his standard of living are no better than those of the miner or artisan, has a clearer consciousness of the social value of his work. Sowing corn is a different thing from extracting diamonds from the earth.

And it may be that the greatest social progress consists in a certain indifferentiation of labour, in the facility for exchanging one kind of work for another, and that other not perhaps a more lucrative, but a nobler one—for there are degrees of nobility in labour. But unhappily it is only too seldom that a man who keeps to one occupation without changing is concerned with making a religious vocation of it, or that the man who changes his occupation for another does so from any religious motive.

And do you not know cases in which a man, justifying his action on the ground that the professional organism to which he belongs and in which he works is badly organized and does not function as it ought, will evade the strict performance of his duty on the pretext that he is thereby fulfilling a higher duty? Is not this insistence upon the literal carrying out of orders called disciplinarianism, and do not people speak disparagingly of bureaucracy and the Pharisaism of public officials? And cases occur not unlike that of an intelligent and studious military officer who should discover the deficiencies of his country's military organization and denounce them to his superiors and perhaps to the public—thereby fulfilling his duty—and who, when on active service, should refuse to carry out an operation which he was ordered to undertake, believing that there was but scant probability of success or rather certainty of failure, so long as these deficiencies remained unremedied. He would deserve to be shot. And as for this question of Pharisaism ...

And there is always a way of obeying an order while yet retaining the command, a way of carrying out what one believes to be an absurd operation while correcting its absurdity, even though it involve one's own death. When in my bureaucratic capacity I have come across some legislative ordinance that has fallen into desuetude because of its manifest absurdity, I have always endeavoured to apply it. There is nothing worse than a loaded pistol which nobody uses left lying in some corner of the house; a child finds it, begins to play with it, and kills its own father. Laws that have fallen into desuetude are the most terrible of all laws, when the cause of the desuetude is the badness of the law.

And these are not groundless suppositions, and least of all in our country. For there are many who, while they go about looking out for I know not what ideal—that is to say, fictitious duties and responsibilities—neglect the duty of putting their whole soul into the immediate and concrete business which furnishes them with a living; and the rest, the immense majority, perform their task perfunctorily, merely for the sake of nominally complying with their duty—para cumplir, a terribly immoral phrase—in order to get themselves out of a difficulty, to get the job done, to qualify for their wages without earning them, whether these wages be pecuniary or otherwise.

Here you have a shoemaker who lives by making shoes, and makes them with just enough care and attention to keep his clientele together without losing custom. Another shoemaker lives on a somewhat higher spiritual plane, for he has a proper love for his work, and out of pride or a sense of honour strives for the reputation of being the best shoemaker in the town or in the kingdom, even though this reputation brings him no increase of custom or profit, but only renown and prestige. But there is a still higher degree of moral perfection in this business of shoemaking, and that is for the shoemaker to aspire to become for his fellow-townsmen the one and only shoemaker, indispensable and irreplaceable, the shoemaker who looks after their footgear so well that they will feel a definite loss when he dies—when he is "dead to them," not merely "dead"[56]—and they will feel that he ought not to have died. And this will result from the fact that in working for them he was anxious to spare them any discomfort and to make sure that it should not be any preoccupation with their feet that should prevent them from being at leisure to contemplate the higher truths; he shod them for the love of them and for the love of God in them—he shod them religiously.

I have chosen this example deliberately, although it may perhaps appear to you somewhat pedestrian. For the fact is that in this business of shoemaking, the religious, as opposed to the ethical, sense is at a very low ebb.

Working men group themselves in associations, they form co-operative societies and unions for defence, they fight very justly and nobly for the betterment of their class; but it is not clear that these associations have any great influence on their moral attitude towards their work. They have succeeded in compelling employers to employ only such workmen, and no others, as the respective unions shall designate in each particular case; but in the selection of those designated they pay little heed to their technical fitness. Often the employer finds it almost impossible to dismiss an inefficient workman on account of his inefficiency, for his fellow-workers take his part. Their work, moreover, is often perfunctory, performed merely as a pretext for receiving a wage, and instances even occur when they deliberately mishandle it in order to injure their employer.

In attempting to justify this state of things, it may be said that the employers are a hundred times more blameworthy than the workmen, for they are not concerned to give a better wage to the man who does better work, or to foster the general education and technical proficiency of the workman, or to ensure the intrinsic goodness of the article produced. The improvement of the product—which, apart from reasons of industrial and mercantile competition, ought to be in itself and for the good of the consumers, for charity's sake, the chief end of the business—is not so regarded either by employers or employed, and this is because neither the one nor the other have any religious sense of their social function. Neither of them seek to make themselves irreplaceable. The evil is aggravated when the business takes the unhappy form of the impersonal limited company, for where there is no longer any personal signature there is no longer any of that pride which seeks to give the signature prestige, a pride which in its way is a substitute for the craving for eternalization. With the disappearance of the concrete individuality, the basis of all religion, the religious sense of the business calling disappears also.

And what has been said of employers and workmen applies still more to members of the liberal professions and public functionaries. There is scarcely a single servant of the State who feels the religious bearing of his official and public duties. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory, nothing more confused, than the feeling among our people with regard to their duties towards the State, and this sense of duty is still further obliterated by the attitude of the Catholic Church, whose action so far as the State is concerned is in strict truth anarchical. It is no uncommon thing to find among its ministers upholders of the moral lawfulness of smuggling and contraband as if in disobeying the legally constituted authority the smuggler and contrabandist did not sin against the Fourth Commandment of the law of God, which in commanding us to honour our father and mother commands us to obey all lawful authority in so far as the ordinances of such authority are not contrary (and the levying of these contributions is certainly not contrary) to the law of God.

There are many who, since it is written "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," regard work as a punishment, and therefore they attribute merely an economico-political, or at best an esthetic, value to the work of everyday life. For those who take this view—and it is the view principally held by the Jesuits—the business of life is twofold: there is the inferior and transitory business of winning a livelihood, of winning bread for ourselves and our children in an honourable, manner—and the elasticity of this honour is well known; and there is the grand business of our salvation, of winning eternal glory. This inferior or worldly business is to be undertaken not only so as to permit us, without deceiving or seriously injuring our neighbours, to live decently in accordance with our social position, but also so as to afford us the greatest possible amount of time for attending to the other main business of our life. And there are others who, rising somewhat above this conception of the work of our civil occupation, a conception which is economical rather than ethical, attain to an esthetic conception and sense of it, and this involves endeavouring to acquire distinction and renown in our occupation, the converting of it into an art for art's sake, for beauty's sake. But it is necessary to rise still higher than this, to attain to an ethical sense of our civil calling, to a sense which derives from our religious sense, from our hunger of eternalization. To work at our ordinary civil occupation, with eyes fixed on God, for the love of God, which is equivalent to saying for the love of our eternalization, is to make of this work a work of religion.

That saying, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," does not mean that God condemned man to work, but to the painfulness of it. It would have been no condemnation to have condemned man to work itself, for work is the only practical consolation for having been born. And, for a Christian, the proof that God did not condemn man to work itself consists in the saying of the Scripture that, before the Fall, while he was still in a state of innocence, God took man and put him in the garden "to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. ii. 15). And how, in fact, would man have passed his time in Paradise if he had had no work to do in keeping it in order? And may it not be that the beatific vision itself is a kind of work?

And even if work were our punishment, we ought to strive to make it, the punishment itself, our consolation and our redemption; and if we must needs embrace some cross or other, there is for each one of us no better cross than the cross of our own civil calling. For Christ did not say, "Take up my cross and follow me," but "Take up thy cross and follow me": every man his own cross, for the Saviour's cross the Saviour alone can bear. And the imitation of Christ, therefore, does not consist in that monastic ideal so shiningly set forth in the book that commonly bears the name of a Kempis, an ideal only applicable to a very limited number of persons and therefore anti-Christian; but to imitate Christ is to take up each one his own cross, the cross of his own civil occupation—civil and not merely religions—as Christ took up his cross, the cross of his calling, and to embrace it and carry it, looking towards God and striving to make each act of this calling a true prayer. In making shoes and because he makes them a man can gain heaven, provided that the shoemaker strives to be perfect, as a shoemaker, as our Father in heaven is perfect.

Fourier, the socialist dreamer, dreamed of making work attractive in his phalansteries by the free choice of vocations and in other ways. There is no other way than that of liberty. Wherein consists the charm of the game of chance, which is a kind of work, if not in the voluntary submission of the player to the liberty of Nature—that is, to chance? But do not let us lose ourselves in a comparison between work and play.

And the sense of making ourselves irreplaceable, of not meriting death, of making our annihilation, if it is annihilation that awaits us, an injustice, ought to impel us not only to perform our own occupation religiously, from love of God and love of our eternity and eternalization, but to perform it passionately, tragically if you like. It ought to impel us to endeavour to stamp others with our seal, to perpetuate ourselves in them and in their children by dominating them, to leave on all things the imperishable impress of our signature. The most fruitful ethic is the ethic of mutual imposition.

Above all, we must recast in a positive form the negative commandments which we have inherited from the Ancient Law. Thus where it is written, "Thou shalt not lie!" let us understand, "Thou shalt always speak the truth, in season and out of season!" although it is we ourselves, and not others, who are judges in each case of this seasonableness. And for "Thou shalt not kill!" let us understand, "Thou shalt give life and increase it!" And for "Thou shalt not steal!" let us say, "Thou shalt increase the general wealth!" And for "Thou shalt not commit adultery!" "Thou shalt give children, healthy, strong, and good, to thy country and to heaven!" And thus with all the other commandments.

He who does not lose his life shall not find it. Give yourself then to others, but in order to give yourself to them, first dominate them. For it is not possible to dominate except by being dominated. Everyone nourishes himself upon the flesh of that which he devours. In order that you may dominate your neighbour you must know and love him. It is by attempting to impose my ideas upon him that I become the recipient of his ideas. To love my neighbour is to wish that he may be like me, that he may be another I—that is to say, it is to wish that I may be he; it is to wish to obliterate the division between him and me, to suppress the evil. My endeavour to impose myself upon another, to be and live in him and by him, to make him mine—which is the same as making myself his—is that which gives religious meaning to human collectivity, to human solidarity.

The feeling of solidarity originates in myself; since I am a society, I feel the need of making myself master of human society; since I am a social product, I must socialize myself, and from myself I proceed to God—who is I projected to the All—and from God to each of my neighbours.

My immediate first impulse is to protest against the inquisitor and to prefer the merchant who comes to offer me his wares. But when my impressions are clarified by reflection, I begin to see that the inquisitor, when he acts from a right motive, treats me as a man, as an end in myself, and if he molests me it is from a charitable wish to save my soul; while the merchant, on the other hand, regards me merely as a customer, as a means to an end, and his indulgence and tolerance is at bottom nothing but a supreme indifference to my destiny. There is much more humanity in the inquisitor.

Similarly there is much more humanity in war than in peace. Non-resistance to evil implies resistance to good, and to take the offensive, leaving the defensive out of the question, is perhaps the divinest thing in humanity. War is the school of fraternity and the bond of love; it is war that has brought peoples into touch with one another, by mutual aggression and collision, and has been the cause of their knowing and loving one another. Human love knows no purer embrace, or one more fruitful in its consequences, than that between victor and vanquished on the battlefield. And even the purified hate that springs from war is fruitful. War is, in its strictest sense, the sanctification of homicide; Cain is redeemed as a leader of armies. And if Cain had not killed his brother Abel, perhaps he would have died by the hand of Abel. God revealed Himself above all in war; He began by being the God of battles; and one of the greatest services of the Cross is that, in the form of the sword-hilt, it protects the hand that wields the sword.

The enemies of the State say that Cain, the fratricide, was the founder of the State. And we must accept the fact and turn it to the glory of the State, the child of war. Civilization began on the day on which one man, by subjecting another to his will and compelling him to do the work of two, was enabled to devote himself to the contemplation of the world and to set his captive upon works of luxury. It was slavery that enabled Plato to speculate upon the ideal republic, and it was war that brought slavery about. Not without reason was Athena the goddess of war and of wisdom. But is there any need to repeat once again these obvious truths, which, though they have continually been forgotten, are continually rediscovered?

And the supreme commandment that arises out of love towards God, and the foundation of all morality, is this: Yield yourself up entirely, give your spirit to the end that you may save it, that you may eternalize it. Such is the sacrifice of life.

The individual qua individual, the wretched captive of the instinct of preservation and of the senses, cares only about preserving himself, and all his concern is that others should not force their way into his sphere, should not disturb him, should not interrupt his idleness; and in return for their abstention or for the sake of example he refrains from forcing himself upon them, from interrupting their idleness, from disturbing them, from taking possession of them. "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you," he translates thus: I do not interfere with others—let them not interfere with me. And he shrinks and pines and perishes in this spiritual avarice and this repellent ethic of anarchic individualism: each one for himself. And as each one is not himself, he can hardly live for himself.

But as soon as the individual feels himself in society, he feels himself in God, and kindled by the instinct of perpetuation he glows with love towards God, and with a dominating charity he seeks to perpetuate himself in others, to perennialize his spirit, to eternalize it, to unnail God, and his sole desire is to seal his spirit upon other spirits and to receive their impress in return. He has shaken off the yoke of his spiritual sloth and avarice.

Sloth, it is said, is the mother of all the vices; and in fact sloth does engender two vices—avarice and envy—which in their turn are the source of all the rest. Sloth is the weight of matter, in itself inert, within us, and this sloth, while it professes to preserve us by economizing our forces, in reality attenuates us and reduces us to nothing.

In man there is either too much matter or too much spirit, or to put it better, either he feels a hunger for spirit—that is, for eternity—or he feels a hunger for matter—that is, submission to annihilation. When spirit is in excess and he feels a hunger for yet more of it, he pours it forth and scatters it abroad, and in scattering it abroad he amplifies it with that of others; and on the contrary, when a man is avaricious of himself and thinks that he will preserve himself better by withdrawing within himself, he ends by losing all—he is like the man who received the single talent: he buried it in order that he might not lose it, and in the end he was bereft of it. For to him that hath shall be given, but from him that hath but a little shall be taken away even the little that he hath.

Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect, we are bidden, and this terrible precept—terrible because for us the infinite perfection of the Father is unattainable—must be our supreme rule of conduct. Unless a man aspires to the impossible, the possible that he achieves will be scarcely worth the trouble of achieving. It behoves us to aspire to the impossible, to the absolute and infinite perfection, and to say to the Father, "Father, I cannot—help Thou my impotence." And He acting in us will achieve it for us.

And to be perfect is to be all, it is to be myself and to be all else, it is to be humanity, it is to be the Universe. And there is no other way of being all but to give oneself to all, and when all shall be in all, all will be in each one of us. The apocatastasis is more than a mystical dream: it is a rule of action, it is a beacon beckoning us to high exploits.

And from it springs the ethic of invasion, of domination, of aggression, of inquisition if you like. For true charity is a kind of invasion—it consists in putting my spirit into other spirits, in giving them my suffering as the food and consolation for their sufferings, in awakening their unrest with my unrest, in sharpening their hunger for God with my hunger for God. It is not charity to rock and lull our brothers to sleep in the inertia and drowsiness of matter, but rather to awaken them to the uneasiness and torment of spirit.

To the fourteen works of mercy which we learnt in the Catechism of Christian Doctrine there should sometimes be added yet another, that of awakening the sleeper. Sometimes, at any rate, and surely when the sleeper sleeps on the brink of a precipice, it is much more merciful to awaken him than to bury him after he is dead—let us leave the dead to bury their dead. It has been well said, "Whosoever loves thee dearly will make thee weep," and charity often causes weeping. "The love that does not mortify does not deserve so divine a name," said that ardent Portuguese apostle, Fr. Thome de Jesus,[57] who was also the author of this ejaculation—"O infinite fire, O eternal love, who weepest when thou hast naught to embrace and feed upon and many hearts to burn!" He who loves his neighbour burns his heart, and the heart, like green wood, in burning groans and distils itself in tears.

And to do this is generosity, one of the two mother virtues which are born when inertia, sloth, is overcome. Most of our miseries come from spiritual avarice.

The cure for suffering—which, as we have said, is the collision of consciousness with unconsciousness—is not to be submerged in unconsciousness, but to be raised to consciousness and to suffer more. The evil of suffering is cured by more suffering, by higher suffering. Do not take opium, but put salt and vinegar in the soul's wound, for when you sleep and no longer feel the suffering, you are not. And to be, that is imperative. Do not then close your eyes to the agonizing Sphinx, but look her in the face and let her seize you in her mouth and crunch you with her hundred thousand poisonous teeth and swallow you. And when she has swallowed you, you will know the sweetness of the taste of suffering.

The way thereto in practice is by the ethic of mutual imposition. Men should strive to impose themselves upon one another, to give their spirits to one another, to seal one another's souls.

There is matter for thought in the fact that the Christian ethic has been called an ethic of slaves. By whom? By anarchists! It is anarchism that is an ethic of slaves, for it is only the slave that chants the praises of anarchical liberty. Anarchism, no! but panarchism; not the creed of "Nor God nor master!" but that of "All gods and all masters!" all striving to become gods, to become immortal, and achieving this by dominating others.

And there are so many ways of dominating. There is even a passive way, or one at least that is apparently passive, of fulfilling at times this law of life. Adaptation to environment, imitation, putting oneself in another's place, sympathy, in a word, besides being a manifestation of the unity of the species, is a mode of self-expansion, of being another. To be conquered, or at least to seem to be conquered, is often to conquer; to take what is another's is a way of living in him.

And in speaking of domination, I do not mean the domination of the tiger. The fox also dominates by cunning, and the hare by flight, and the viper by poison, and the mosquito by its smallness, and the squid by the inky fluid with which it darkens the water and under cover of which it escapes. And no one is scandalized at this, for the same universal Father who gave its fierceness, its talons, and its jaws to the tiger, gave cunning to the fox, swift feet to the hare, poison to the viper, diminutiveness to the mosquito, and its inky fluid to the squid. And nobleness or ignobleness does not consist in the weapons we use, for every species and even every individual possesses its own, but rather in the way in which we use them, and above all in the cause in which we wield them.

And among the weapons of conquest must be included the weapon of patience and of resignation, but a passionate patience and a passionate resignation, containing within itself an active principle and antecedent longings. You remember that famous sonnet of Milton—Milton, the great fighter, the great Puritan disturber of the spiritual peace, the singer of Satan—who, when he considered how his light was spent and that one talent which it is death to hide lodged with him useless, heard the voice of Patience saying to him,

God doth not need Either man's work, or his own gifts; who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve Him best: his state Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed, And post o'er land and ocean without rest; They also serve who only stand and wait.

They also serve who only stand and wait—yes, but it is when they wait for Him passionately, hungeringly, full of longing for immortality in Him.

And we must impose ourselves, even though it be by our patience. "My cup is small, but I drink out of my cup," said the egoistical poet of an avaricious people.[58] No, out of my cup all drink, for I wish all to drink out of it; I offer it to them, and my cup grows according to the number of those who drink out of it, and all, in putting it to their lips, leave in it something of their spirit. And while they drink out of my cup, I also drink out of theirs. For the more I belong to myself, and the more I am myself, the more I belong to others; out of the fullness of myself I overflow upon my brothers, and as I overflow upon them they enter into me.

"Be ye perfect, as your Father is perfect," we are bidden, and our Father is perfect because He is Himself and because He is in each one of His children who live and move and have their being in Him. And the end of perfection is that we all may be one (John xvii. 21), all one body in Christ (Rom. xii. 5), and that, at the last, when all things are subdued unto the Son, the Son himself may be subject to Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. And this is to make the Universe consciousness, to make Nature a society, and a human society. And then shall we be able confidently to call God Father.

I am aware that those who say that ethics is a science will say that all this commentary of mine is nothing but rhetoric; but each man has his own language and his own passion—that is to say, each man who knows what passion is—and as for the man who knows it not, nothing will it avail him to know science.

And the passion that finds its expression in this rhetoric, the devotees of ethical science call egotism. But this egotism is the only true remedy for egoism, spiritual avarice, the vice of preserving and reserving oneself and of not striving to perennialize oneself by giving oneself.

"Be not, and ye shall be mightier than all that is," said Fr. Juan de los Angeles in one of his Dialogos de la Conquista del Reina de Dios (Dial., iii., 8); but what does this "Be not" mean? May it not mean paradoxically—and such a mode of expression is common with the mystics—the contrary of that which, at a first and literal reading, it would appear to mean? Is not the whole ethic of submission and quietism an immense paradox, or rather a great tragic contradiction? Is not the monastic, the strictly monastic, ethic an absurdity? And by the monastic ethic I mean that of the solitary Carthusian, that of the hermit, who flees from the world—perhaps carrying it with him nevertheless—in order that he may live quite alone with a God who is lonely as himself; not that of the Dominican inquisitor who scoured Provence in search of Albigensian hearts to burn.

"Let God do it all," someone will say; but if man folds his arms, God will go to sleep.

This Carthusian ethic and that scientific ethic which is derived from ethical science—oh, this science of ethics! rational and rationalistic ethics! pedantry of pedantry, all is pedantry!—yes, this perhaps is egoism and coldness of heart.

There are some who say that they isolate themselves with God in order that they may the better work out their salvation, their redemption; but since sin is collective, redemption must be collective also. "The religious is the determination of the whole, and everything outside this is an illusion of the senses, and that is why the greatest criminal is at bottom innocent, a good-natured man and a saint" (Kierkegaard, Afsluttende, etc., ii., ii., cap. iv., sect. 2, a).

Are we to understand, on the other hand, that men seek to gain the other, the eternal life, by renouncing this the temporal life? If the other life is anything, it must be a continuation of this, and only as such a continuation, more or less purified, is it mirrored in our desire; and if this is so, such as is this life of time, so will be the life of eternity.

"This world and the other are like the two wives of one husband—if he pleases one he makes the other envious," said an Arab thinker, quoted by Windelband (Das Heilige, in vol. ii. of Praeludien); but such a thought could only have arisen in the mind of one who had failed to resolve the tragic conflict between his spirit and the world in a fruitful warfare, a practical contradiction. "Thy kingdom come" to us; so Christ taught us to pray to the Father, not "May we come to Thy kingdom"; and according to the primitive Christian belief the eternal life was to be realized on this earth itself and as a continuation of the earthly life. We were made men and not angels in order that we might seek our happiness through the medium of this life, and the Christ of the Christian Faith became, not an angelic, but a human, being, redeeming us by taking upon himself a real and effective body and not an appearance of one merely. And according to this same Faith, even the highest of the angelical hierarchy adore the Virgin, the supreme symbol of terrestrial Humanity. The angelical ideal, therefore, is not the Christian ideal, and still less is it the human ideal, nor can it be. An angel, moreover, is a neutral being, without sex and without country.

It is impossible for us to feel the other life, the eternal life, I have already repeated more than once, as a life of angelical contemplation; it must be a life of action. Goethe said that "man must believe in immortality, since in his nature he has a right to it." And he added: "The conviction of our persistence arises in me from the concept of activity. If I work without ceasing to the end, Nature is obliged (so ist die Natur verpflichtet) to provide me with another form of existence, since my actual spirit can bear no more." Change Nature to God, and you have a thought that remains Christian in character, for the first Fathers of the Church did not believe that the immortality of the soul was a natural gift—that is to say, something rational—but a divine gift of grace. And that which is of grace is usually, in its essence, of justice, since justice is divine and gratuitous, not natural. And Goethe added: "I could begin nothing with an eternal happiness before me, unless new tasks and new difficulties were given me to overcome." And true it is that there is no happiness in a vacuity of contemplation.

But may there not be some justification for the morality of the hermit, of the Carthusian, the ethic of the Thebaid? Might we not say, perhaps, that it is necessary to preserve these exceptional types in order that they may stand as everlasting patterns for mankind? Do not men breed racehorses, which are useless for any practical kind of work, but which preserve the purity of the breed and become the sires of excellent hackneys and hunters? Is there not a luxury of ethics, not less justifiable than any other sort of luxury? But, on the other hand, is not all this substantially esthetics, and not ethics, still less religion? May not the contemplative, medieval, monastic ideal be esthetical, and not religious nor even ethical? And after all, those of the seekers after solitude who have related to us their conversation when they were alone with God have performed an eternalizing work, they have concerned themselves with the souls of others. And by this alone, that it has given us an Eckhart, a Seuse, a Tauler, a Ruysbroek, a Juan de la Cruz, a Catherine of Siena, an Angela of Foligno, a Teresa de Jesus, is the cloister justified.

But the chief of our Spanish Orders are the Predicadores, founded by Domingo de Guzman for the aggressive work of extirpating heresy; the Company of Jesus, a militia with the world as its field of operations (which explains its history); the order of the Escuelas Pias, also devoted to a work of an aggressive or invasive nature, that of instruction. I shall certainly be reminded that the reform of the contemplative Order of the Carmelites which Teresa de Jesus undertook was a Spanish work. Yes, Spanish it was, and in it men sought liberty.

It was, in fact, the yearning for liberty, for inward liberty, which, in the troubled days of the Inquisition, led many choice spirits to the cloister. They imprisoned themselves in order that they might be more free. "Is it not a fine thing that a poor nun of San Jose can attain to sovereignty over the whole earth and the elements?" said St. Teresa in her Life. It was the Pauline yearning for liberty, the longing to shake off the bondage of the external law, which was then very severe, and, as Maestro Fray Luis de Leon said, very stubborn.

But did they actually find liberty in the cloister? It is very doubtful if they did, and to-day it is impossible. For true liberty is not to rid oneself of the external law; liberty is consciousness of the law. Not he who has shaken off the yoke of the law is free, but he who has made himself master of the law. Liberty must be sought in the midst of the world, which is the domain of the law, and of sin, the offspring of the law. That which we must be freed from is sin, which is collective.

Instead of renouncing the world in order that we may dominate it—and who does not know the collective instinct of domination of those religious Orders whose members renounce the world?—what we ought to do is to dominate the world in order that we may be able to renounce it. Not to seek poverty and submission, but to seek wealth in order that we may use it to increase human consciousness, and to seek power for the same end.

It is curious that monks and anarchists should be at enmity with each other, when fundamentally they both profess the same ethic and are related by close ties of kinship. Anarchism tends to become a kind of atheistic monachism and a religious, rather than an ethical or economico-social, doctrine. The one party starts from the assumption that man is naturally evil, born in original sin, and that it is through grace that he becomes good, if indeed he ever does become good; and the other from the assumption that man is naturally good and is subsequently perverted by society. And these two theories really amount to the same thing, for in both the individual is opposed to society, as if the individual had preceded society and therefore were destined to survive it. And both ethics are ethics of the cloister.

And the fact that guilt is collective must not actuate me to throw mine upon the shoulders of others, but rather to take upon myself the burden of the guilt of others, the guilt of all men; not to merge and sink my guilt in the total mass of guilt, but to make this total guilt my own; not to dismiss and banish my own guilt, but to open the doors of my heart to the guilt of all men, to centre it within myself and appropriate it to myself. And each one of us ought to help to remedy the guilt, and just because others do not do so. The fact that society is guilty aggravates the guilt of each member of it. "Someone ought to do it, but why should I? is the ever re-echoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. Someone ought to do it, so why not I? is the cry of some earnest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face some perilous duty. Between these two sentences lie whole centuries of moral evolution." Thus spoke Mrs. Annie Besant in her autobiography. Thus spoke theosophy.

The fact that society is guilty aggravates the guilt of each one, and he is most guilty who most is sensible of the guilt. Christ, the innocent, since he best knew the intensity of the guilt, was in a certain sense the most guilty. In him the culpability, together with the divinity, of humanity arrived at the consciousness of itself. Many are wont to be amused when they read how, because of the most trifling faults, faults at which a man of the world would merely smile, the greatest saints counted themselves the greatest sinners. But the intensity of the fault is not measured by the external act, but by the consciousness of it, and an act for which the conscience of one man suffers acutely makes scarcely any impression on the conscience of another. And in a saint, conscience may be developed so fully and to such a degree of sensitiveness that the slightest sin may cause him more remorse than his crime causes the greatest criminal. And sin rests upon our consciousness of it, it is in him who judges and in so far as he judges. When a man commits a vicious act believing in good faith that he is doing a virtuous action, we cannot hold him morally guilty, while on the other hand that man is guilty who commits an act which he believes to be wrong, even though in itself the act is indifferent or perhaps beneficent. The act passes away, the intention remains, and the evil of the evil act is that it corrupts the intention, that in knowingly doing wrong a man is predisposed to go on doing it, that it blurs the conscience. And doing evil is not the same as being evil. Evil blurs the conscience, and not only the moral conscience but the general, psychical consciousness. And everything that exalts and expands consciousness is good, while that which depresses and diminishes it is evil.

And here we might raise the question which, according to Plato, was propounded by Socrates, as to whether virtue is knowledge, which is equivalent to asking whether virtue is rational.

The ethicists—those who maintain that ethics is a science, those whom the reading of these divagations will provoke to exclaim, "Rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric!"—would appear to think that virtue is the fruit of knowledge, of rational study, and that even mathematics help us to be better men. I do not know, but for my part I feel that virtue, like religion, like the longing never to die—and all these are fundamentally the same thing—is the fruit of passion.

But, I shall be asked, What then is passion? I do not know, or rather, I know full well, because I feel it, and since I feel it there is no need for me to define it to myself. Nay, more; I fear that if I were to arrive at a definition of it, I should cease to feel it and to possess it. Passion is like suffering, and like suffering it creates its object. It is easier for the fire to find something to burn than for something combustible to find the fire.

That this may appear empty and sophistical well I know. And I shall also be told that there is the science of passion and the passion of science, and that it is in the moral sphere that reason and life unite together.

I do not know, I do not know, I do not know.... And perhaps I may be saying fundamentally the same thing, although more confusedly, that my imaginary adversaries say, only more clearly, more definitely, and more rationally, those adversaries whom I imagine in order that I may have someone to fight. I do not know, I do not know.... But what they say freezes me and sounds to me as though it proceeded from emptiness of feeling.

And, returning to our former question, Is virtue knowledge?—Is knowledge virtue? For they are two distinct questions. Virtue may be a science, the science of acting rightly, without every other science being therefore virtue. The virtue of Machiavelli is a science, and it cannot be said that his virtu is always moral virtue It is well known, moreover, that the cleverest and the most learned men are not the best.

No, no, no! Physiology does not teach us how to digest, nor logic how to discourse, nor esthetics how to feel beauty or express it, nor ethics how to be good. And indeed it is well if they do not teach us how to be hypocrites; for pedantry, whether it be the pedantry of logic, or of esthetics, or of ethics, is at bottom nothing but hypocrisy.

Reason perhaps teaches certain bourgeois virtues, but it does not make either heroes or saints. Perhaps the saint is he who does good not for good's sake, but for God's sake, for the sake of eternalization.

Perhaps, on the other hand, culture, or as I should say Culture—oh, this culture!—which is primarily the work of philosophers and men of science, is a thing which neither heroes nor saints have had any share in the making of. For saints have concerned themselves very little with the progress of human culture; they have concerned themselves rather with the salvation of the individual souls of those amongst whom they lived. Of what account in the history of human culture is our San Juan de la Cruz, for example—that fiery little monk, as culture, in perhaps somewhat uncultured phrase, has called him—compared with Descartes?

All those saints, burning with religious charity towards their neighbours, hungering for their own and others' eternalization, who went about burning hearts, inquisitors, it may be—what have all those saints done for the progress of the science of ethics? Did any of them discover the categorical imperative, like the old bachelor of Koenigsberg, who, if he was not a saint, deserved to be one?

The son of a famous professor of ethics, one who scarcely ever opened his lips without mentioning the categorical imperative, was lamenting to me one day the fact that he lived in a desolating dryness of spirit, in a state of inward emptiness. And I was constrained to answer him thus: "My friend, your father had a subterranean river flowing through his spirit, a fresh current fed by the beliefs of his early childhood, by hopes in the beyond; and while he thought that he was nourishing his soul with this categorical imperative or something of that sort, he was in reality nourishing it with those waters which had their spring in his childish days. And it may be that to you he has given the flower of his spirit, his rational doctrines of ethics, but not the root, not the subterranean source, not the irrational substratum."

How was it that Krausism took root here in Spain, while Kantism and Hegelianism did not, although the two latter systems are much more profound, morally and philosophically, than the first? Because in transplanting the first, its roots were transplanted with it. The philosophical thought of a people or a period is, as it were, the flower, the thing that is external and above ground; but this flower, or fruit if you prefer it, draws its sap from the root of the plant, and this root, which is in and under the ground, is the religious sense. The philosophical thought of Kant, the supreme flower of the mental evolution of the Germanic people, has its roots in the religious feeling of Luther, and it is not possible for Kantism, especially the practical part of it, to take root and bring forth flower and fruit in peoples who have not undergone the experience of the Reformation and who perhaps were incapable of experiencing it. Kantism is Protestant, and we Spaniards are fundamentally Catholic. And if Krause struck some roots here—more numerous and more permanent than is commonly supposed—it is because Krause had roots in pietism, and pietism, as Ritschl has demonstrated in his Geschichte des Pietismus, has specifically Catholic roots and may be described as the irruption, or rather the persistence, of Catholic mysticism in the heart of Protestant rationalism. And this explains why not a few Catholic thinkers in Spain became followers of Krause.

And since we Spaniards are Catholic—whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not—and although some of us may claim to be rationalists or atheists, perhaps the greatest service we can render to the cause of culture, and of what is of more value than culture, religiousness—if indeed they are not the same thing—is in endeavouring to formulate clearly to ourselves this subconscious, social, or popular Catholicism of ours. And that is what I have attempted to do in this work.

What I call the tragic sense of life in men and peoples is at any rate our tragic sense of life, that of Spaniards and the Spanish people, as it is reflected in my consciousness, which is a Spanish consciousness, made in Spain. And this tragic sense of life is essentially the Catholic sense of it, for Catholicism, and above all popular Catholicism, is tragic. The people abhors comedy. When Pilate—the type of the refined gentleman, the superior person, the esthete, the rationalist if you like—proposes to give the people comedy and mockingly presents Christ to them, saying, "Behold the man!" the people mutinies and shouts "Crucify him! Crucify him!" The people does not want comedy but tragedy. And that which Dante, the great Catholic, called the Divine Comedy, is the most tragical tragedy that has ever been written.

And as I have endeavoured in these essays to exhibit the soul of a Spaniard, and therewithal the Spanish soul, I have curtailed the number of quotations from Spanish writers, while scattering with perhaps too lavish a hand those from the writers of other countries. For all human souls are brother-souls.

And there is one figure, a comically tragic figure, a figure in which is revealed all that is profoundly tragic in the human comedy, the figure of Our Lord Don Quixote, the Spanish Christ, who resumes and includes in himself the immortal soul of my people. Perhaps the passion and death of the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance is the passion and death of the Spanish people, its death and resurrection. And there is a Quixotesque philosophy and even a Quixotesque metaphysic, there is a Quixotesque logic, and also a Quixotesque ethic and a Quixotesque religious sense—the religious sense of Spanish Catholicism. This is the philosophy, this is the logic, this is the ethic, this is the religious sense, that I have endeavoured to outline, to suggest rather than to develop, in this work. To develop it rationally, no; the Quixotesque madness does not submit to scientific logic.

And now, before concluding and bidding my readers farewell, it remains for me to speak of the role that is reserved for Don Quixote in the modern European tragi-comedy.

Let us see, in the next and last essay, what this may be.


[54] Act II., Scene 4: "I am dreaming and I wish to act rightly, for good deeds are not lost, though they be wrought in dreams."

[55] Act III., Scene 10: "Let us aim at the eternal, the glory that does not wane, where bliss slumbers not and where greatness does not repose."

[56] "Se les muera," y no solo "se muera."

[57] Trabalhos de Jesus, part i.

[58] De Musset.



"A voice crying in the wilderness!"—ISA. xl. 3.

Need is that I bring to a conclusion, for the present at any rate, these essays that threaten to become like a tale that has no ending. They have gone straight from my hands to the press in the form of a kind of improvization upon notes collected during a number of years, and in writing each essay I have not had before me any of those that preceded it. And thus they will go forth full of inward contradictions—apparent contradictions, at any rate—like life and like me myself.

My sin, if any, has been that I have embellished them to excess with foreign quotations, many of which will appear to have been dragged in with a certain degree of violence. But I will explain this another time.

A few years after Our Lord Don Quixote had journeyed through Spain, Jacob Boehme declared in his Aurora (chap xi., Sec. 142) that he did not write a story or history related to him by others, but that he himself had had to stand in the battle, which he found to be full of heavy strivings, and wherein he was often struck down to the ground like all other men; and a little further on (Sec. 152) he adds: "Although I must become a spectacle of scorn to the world and the devil, yet my hope is in God concerning the life to come; in Him will I venture to hazard it and not resist or strive against the Spirit. Amen." And like this Quixote of the German intellectual world, neither will I resist the Spirit.

And therefore I cry with the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and I send forth my cry from this University of Salamanca, a University that arrogantly styled itself omnium scientiarum princeps, and which Carlyle called a stronghold of ignorance and which a French man of letters recently called a phantom University; I send it forth from this Spain—"the land of dreams that become realities, the rampart of Europe, the home of the knightly ideal," to quote from a letter which the American poet Archer M. Huntington sent me the other day—from this Spain which was the head and front of the Counter-Reformation in the sixteenth century. And well they repay her for it!

In the fourth of these essays I spoke of the essence of Catholicism. And the chief factors in de-essentializing it—that is, in de-Catholicizing Europe—have been the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution, which for the ideal of an eternal, ultra-terrestrial life, have substituted the ideal of progress, of reason, of science, or, rather, of Science with the capital letter. And last of all, the dominant ideal of to-day, comes Culture.

And in the second half of the nineteenth century, an age essentially unphilosophical and technical, dominated by a myopic specialism and by historical materialism, this ideal took a practical form, not so much in the popularization as in the vulgarization of science—or, rather, of pseudo-science—venting itself in a flood of cheap, popular, and propagandist literature. Science sought to popularize itself as if it were its function to come down to the people and subserve their passions, and not the duty of the people to rise to science and through science to rise to higher heights, to new and profounder aspirations.

All this led Brunetiere to proclaim the bankruptcy of science, and this science—if you like to call it science—did in effect become bankrupt. And as it failed to satisfy, men continued their quest for happiness, but without finding it, either in wealth, or in knowledge, or in power, or in pleasure, or in resignation, or in a good conscience, or in culture. And the result was pessimism.

Neither did the gospel of progress satisfy. What end did progress serve? Man would not accommodate himself to rationalism; the Kulturkampf did not suffice him; he sought to give a final finality to life, and what I call the final finality is the real hontos hon. And the famous maladie du siecle, which announced itself in Rousseau and was exhibited more plainly in Senancour's Obermann than in any other character, neither was nor is anything else but the loss of faith in the immortality of the soul, in the human finality of the Universe.

The truest symbol of it is to be found in a creation of fiction, Dr. Faustus.

This immortal Dr. Faustus, the product of the Renaissance and the Reformation, first comes into our ken at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when in 1604 he is introduced to us by Christopher Marlowe. This is the same character that Goethe was to rediscover two centuries later, although in certain respects the earlier Faust was the fresher and more spontaneous. And side by side with him Mephistopheles appears, of whom Faust asks: "What good will my soul do thy lord?" "Enlarge his kingdom," Mephistopheles replies. "Is that the reason why he tempts us thus?" the Doctor asks again, and the evil spirit answers: "Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris," which, mistranslated into Romance, is the equivalent of our proverb—"The misfortune of many is the consolation of fools." "Where we are is hell, and where hell is there must we ever be," Mephistopheles continues, to which Faust answers that he thinks hell's a fable and asks him who made the world. And finally this tragic Doctor, tortured with our torture, meets Helen, who, although no doubt Marlowe never suspected it, is none other than renascent Culture. And in Marlowe's Faust there is a scene that is worth the whole of the second part of the Faust of Goethe. Faust says to Helen: "Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss"—and he kisses her—

Her lips suck forth my soul; see where it flies! Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again. Here will I dwell, for Helen is in these lips, And all is dross that is not Helena.

Give me my soul again!—the cry of Faust, the Doctor, when, after having kissed Helen, he is about to be lost eternally. For the primitive Faust has no ingenuous Margaret to save him. This idea of his salvation was the invention of Goethe. And is there not a Faust whom we all know, our own Faust? This Faust has studied Philosophy, Jurisprudence, Medicine, and even Theology, only to find that we can know nothing, and he has sought escape in the open country (hinaus ins weite Land) and has encountered Mephistopheles, the embodiment of that force which, ever willing evil, ever achieves good in its own despite. This Faust has been led by Mephistopheles to the arms of Margaret, child of the simple-hearted people, she whom Faust, the overwise, had lost. And thanks to her—for she gave herself to him—this Faust is saved, redeemed by the people that believes with a simple faith. But there was a second part, for that Faust was the anecdotical Faust and not the categorical Faust of Goethe, and he gave himself again to Culture, to Helen, and begot Euphorion upon her, and everything ends among mystical choruses with the discovery of the eternal feminine. Poor Euphorion!

And this Helen is the spouse of the fair Menelaus, the Helen whom Paris bore away, who was the cause of the war of Troy, and of whom the ancient Trojans said that no one should be incensed because men fought for a woman who bore so terrible a likeness to the immortal gods. But I rather think that Faust's Helen was that other Helen who accompanied Simon Magus, and whom he declared to be the divine wisdom. And Faust can say to her: Give me my soul again!

For Helen with her kisses takes away our soul. And what we long for and have need of is soul—soul of bulk and substance.

But the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution came, bringing Helen to us, or, rather, urged on by Helen, and now they talk to us about Culture and Europe.

Europe! This idea of Europe, primarily and immediately of geographical significance, has been converted for us by some magical process into a kind of metaphysical category. Who can say to-day—in Spain, at any rate—what Europe is? I only know that it is a shibboleth (vide my Tres Ensayos). And when I proceed to examine what it is that our Europeanizers call Europe, it sometimes seems to me that much of its periphery remains outside of it—Spain, of course, and also England, Italy, Scandinavia, Russia—and hence it is reduced to the central portion, Franco-Germany, with its annexes and dependencies.

All this is the consequence, I repeat, of the Renaissance and the Reformation, which, although apparently they lived in a state of internecine war, were twin-brothers. The Italians of the Renaissance were all of them Socinians; the humanists, with Erasmus at their head, regarded Luther, the German monk, as a barbarian, who derived his driving force from the cloister, as did Bruno and Campanella. But this barbarian was their twin-brother, and though their antagonist he was also the antagonist of the common enemy. All this, I say, is due to the Renaissance and the Reformation, and to what was the offspring of these two, the Revolution, and to them we owe also a new Inquisition, that of science or culture, which turns against those who refuse to submit to its orthodoxy the weapons of ridicule and contempt.

When Galileo sent his treatise on the earth's motion to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he told him that it was meet that that which the higher authorities had determined should be believed and obeyed, and that he considered his treatise "as poetry or as a dream, and as such I desire your highness to receive it." And at other times he calls it a "chimera" or a "mathematical caprice." And in the same way in these essays, for fear also—why not confess it?—of the Inquisition, of the modern, the scientific, Inquisition, I offer as a poetry, dream, chimera, mystical caprice, that which springs from what is deepest in me. And I say with Galileo, Eppur si muove! But is it only because of this fear? Ah, no! for there is another, more tragic Inquisition, and that is the Inquisition which the modern man, the man of culture, the European—and such am I, whether I will or not—carries within him. There is a more terrible ridicule, and that is the ridicule with which a man contemplates his own self. It is my reason that laughs at my faith and despises it.

And it is here that I must betake me to my Lord Don Quixote in order that I may learn of him how to confront ridicule and overcome it, and a ridicule which perhaps—who knows?—he never knew.

Yes, yes—how shall my reason not smile at these dilettantesque, would-be mystical, pseudo-philosophical interpretations, in which there is anything rather than patient study and—shall I say scientific?—objectivity and method? And nevertheless ... eppur si muove!

Eppur si muove! And I take refuge in dilettantism, in what a pedant would call demi-mondaine philosophy, as a shelter against the pedantry of specialists, against the philosophy of the professional philosophers. And who knows?... Progress usually comes from the barbarian, and there is nothing more stagnant than the philosophy of the philosophers and the theology of the theologians.

Let them talk to us of Europe! The civilization of Thibet is parallel with ours, and men who disappear like ourselves have lived and are living by it. And over all civilizations there hovers the shadow of Ecclesiastes, with his admonition, "How dieth the wise man?—as the fool" (ii. 16).

Among the people of my country there is an admirable reply to the customary interrogation, "How are you?"[59] and it is "Living." And that is the truth—we are living, and living as much as all the rest. What can a man ask for more? And who does not recollect the verse?—

Coda vez que considero que me tengo de morir, tiendo la capa en el suelo y no me harto de dormir.[60]

But no, not sleeping, but dreaming—dreaming life, since life is a dream.

Among us Spaniards another phrase has very rapidly passed into current usage, the expression "It's a question of passing the time," or "killing the time." And, in fact, we make time in order to kill it. But there is something that has always preoccupied us as much as or more than passing the time—a formula which denotes an esthetical attitude—and that is, gaining eternity, which is the formula of the religious attitude. The truth is, we leap from the esthetic and the economic to the religious, passing over the logical and the ethical; we jump from art to religion.

One of our younger novelists, Ramon Perez de Ayala, in his recent novel, La Pata de la Raposa, has told us that the idea of death is the trap, and spirit the fox or the wary virtue with which to circumvent the ambushes set by fatality, and he continues: "Caught in the trap, weak men and weak peoples lie prone on the ground ...; to robust spirits and strong peoples the rude shock of danger gives clear-sightedness; they quickly penetrate into the heart of the immeasurable beauty of life, and renouncing for ever their original hastiness and folly, emerge from the trap with muscles taut for action and with the soul's vigour, power, and efficiency increased a hundredfold." But let us see; weak men ... weak peoples ... robust spirits ... strong peoples ... what does all this mean? I do not know. What I think I know is that some individuals and peoples have not yet really thought about death and immortality, have not felt them, and that others have ceased to think about them, or rather ceased to feel them. And the fact that they have never passed through the religious period is not, I think, a matter for either men or peoples to boast about.

The immeasurable beauty of life is a very fine thing to write about, and there are, indeed, some who resign themselves to it and accept it as it is, and even some who would persuade us that there is no problem in the "trap." But it has been said by Calderon that "to seek to persuade a man that the misfortunes which he suffers are not misfortunes, does not console him for them, but is another misfortune in addition."[61] And, furthermore, "only the heart can speak to the heart," as Fray Diego de Estella said (Vanidad del Mundo, cap. xxi.).

A short time ago a reply that I made to those who reproached us Spaniards for our scientific incapacity appeared to scandalize some people. After having remarked that the electric light and the steam engine function here in Spain just as well as in the countries where they were invented, and that we make use of logarithms as much as they do in the country where the idea of them was first conceived, I exclaimed, "Let others invent!"—a paradoxical expression which I do not retract. We Spaniards ought to appropriate to ourselves some of those sage counsels which Count Joseph de Maistre gave to the Russians, a people not unlike ourselves. In his admirable letters to Count Rasoumowski on public education in Russia, he said that a nation should not think the worse of itself because it was not made for science; that the Romans had no understanding of the arts, neither did they possess a mathematician, which, however, did not prevent them from playing their part in the world; and in particular we should take to heart everything that he said about that crowd of arrogant sciolists who idolize the tastes, the fashions, and the languages of foreign countries, and are ever ready to pull down whatever they despise—and they despise everything.

We have not the scientific spirit? And what of that, if we have some other spirit? And who can tell if the spirit that we have is or is not compatible with the scientific spirit?

But in saying "Let others invent!" I did not mean to imply that we must be content with playing a passive role. No. For them their science, by which we shall profit; for us, our own work. It is not enough to be on the defensive, we must attack.

But we must attack wisely and cautiously. Reason must be our weapon. It is the weapon even of the fool. Our sublime fool and our exemplar, Don Quixote, after he had destroyed with two strokes of his sword that pasteboard visor "which he had fitted to his head-piece, made it anew, placing certain iron bars within it, in such a manner that he rested satisfied with its solidity, and without wishing to make a second trial of it, he deputed and held it in estimation of a most excellent visor."[62] And with the pasteboard visor on his head he made himself immortal—that is to say, he made himself ridiculous. For it was by making himself ridiculous that Don Quixote achieved his immortality.

And there are so many ways of making ourselves ridiculous I ... Cournot said (Traite de l'enchainement des idees fondamentales, etc., Sec. 510): "It is best not to speak to either princes or peoples of the probabilities of death; princes will punish this temerity with disgrace; the public will revenge itself with ridicule." True, and therefore it is said that we must live as the age lives. Corrumpere et corrumpi saeculum vocatur (Tacitus: Germania 19).

It is necessary to know how to make ourselves ridiculous, and not only to others but to ourselves. And more than ever to-day, when there is so much chatter about our backwardness compared with other civilized peoples, to-day when a parcel of shallow-brained critics say that we have had no science, no art, no philosophy, no Renaissance, (of this we had perhaps too much), no anything, these same critics being ignorant of our real history, a history that remains yet to be written, the first task being to undo the web of calumniation and protest that has been woven around it.

Carducci, the author of the phrase about the contorcimenti dell'affannosa grandiosita spagnola, has written (in Mosche Cochiere) that "even Spain, which never attained the hegemony of the world of thought, had her Cervantes." But was Cervantes a solitary and isolated phenomenon, without roots, without ancestry, without a foundation? That an Italian rationalist, remembering that it was Spain that reacted against the Renaissance in his country, should say that Spain non ebbe egemonia mai di pensiero is, however, readily comprehended. Was there no importance, was there nothing akin to cultural hegemony, in the Counter-Reformation, of which Spain was the champion, and which in point of fact began with the sack of Rome by the Spaniards, a providential chastisement of the city of the pagan popes of the pagan Renaissance? Apart from the question as to whether the Counter-Reformation was good or bad, was there nothing akin to hegemony in Loyola or the Council of Trent? Previous to this Council, Italy witnessed a nefarious and unnatural union between Christianity and Paganism, or rather, between immortalism and mortalism, a union to which even some of the Popes themselves consented in their souls; theological error was philosophical truth, and all difficulties were solved by the accommodating formula salva fide. But it was otherwise after the Council; after the Council came the open and avowed struggle between reason and faith, science and religion. And does not the fact that this change was brought about, thanks principally to Spanish obstinacy, point to something akin to hegemony?

Without the Counter-Reformation, would the Reformation have followed the course that it did actually follow? Without the Counter-Reformation might not the Reformation, deprived of the support of pietism, have perished in the gross rationalism of the Aufklaerung, of the age of Enlightenment? Would nothing have been changed had there been no Charles I., no Philip II., our great Philip?

A negative achievement, it will be said. But what is that? What is negative? what is positive? At what point in time—a line always continuing in the same direction, from the past to the future—does the zero occur which denotes the boundary between the positive and the negative? Spain, which is said to be the land of knights and rogues—and all of them rogues—has been the country most slandered by history precisely because it championed the Counter-Reformation. And because its arrogance has prevented it from stepping down into the public forum, into the world's vanity fair, and publishing its own justification.

Let us leave on one side Spain's eight centuries of warfare against the Moors, during which she defended Europe from Mohammedanism, her work of internal unification, her discovery of America and the Indies—for this was the achievement of Spain and Portugal, and not of Columbus and Vasco da Gama—let us leave all this, and more than this, on one side, and it is not a little thing. Is it not a cultural achievement to have created a score of nations, reserving nothing for herself, and to have begotten, as the Conquistadores did, free men on poor Indian slaves? Apart from all this, does our mysticism count for nothing in the world of thought? Perhaps the peoples whose souls Helen will ravish away with her kisses may some day have to return to this mysticism to find their souls again.

But, as everybody knows, Culture is composed of ideas and only of ideas, and man is only Culture's instrument. Man for the idea, and not the idea for man; the substance for the shadow. The end of man is to create science, to catalogue the Universe, so that it may be handed back to God in order, as I wrote years ago in my novel, Amor y Pedagogia. Man, apparently, is not even an idea. And at the end of all, the human race will fall exhausted at the foot of a pile of libraries—whole woods rased to the ground to provide the paper that is stored away in them—museums, machines, factories, laboratories ... in order to bequeath them—to whom? For God will surely not accept them.

That horrible regenerationist literature, almost all of it an imposture, which the loss of our last American colonies provoked, led us into the pedantry of extolling persevering and silent effort—and this with great vociferation, vociferating silence—of extolling prudence, exactitude, moderation, spiritual fortitude, synteresis, equanimity, the social virtues, and the chiefest advocates of them were those of us who lacked them most. Almost all of us Spaniards fell into this ridiculous mode of literature, some more and some less. And so it befell that that arch-Spaniard Joaquin Costa, one of the least European spirits we ever had, invented his famous saying that we must Europeanize Spain, and, while proclaiming that we must lock up the sepulchre of the Cid with a sevenfold lock, Cid-like urged us to—conquer Africa! And I myself uttered the cry, "Down with Don Quixote!" and from this blasphemy, which meant the very opposite of what it said—such was the fashion of the hour—sprang my Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho and my cult of Quixotism as the national religion.

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