Tragic Sense Of Life
by Miguel de Unamuno
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I wrote that book in order to rethink Don Quixote in opposition to the Cervantists and erudite persons, in order to make a living work of what was and still is for the majority a dead letter. What does it matter to me what Cervantes intended or did not intend to put into it and what he actually did put into it? What is living in it is what I myself discover in it, whether Cervantes put it there or not, what I myself put into and under and over it, and what we all put into it. I wanted to hunt down our philosophy in it.

For the conviction continually grows upon me that our philosophy, the Spanish philosophy, is liquescent and diffused in our literature, in our life, in our action, in our mysticism, above all, and not in philosophical systems. It is concrete. And is there not perhaps as much philosophy or more in Goethe, for example, as in Hegel? The poetry of Jorge Manrique, the Romancero, Don Quijote, La Vida es Sueno, the Subida al Monte Carmelo, imply an intuition of the world and a concept of life (Weltanschauung und Lebensansicht). And it was difficult for this philosophy of ours to formulate itself in the second half of the nineteenth century, a period that was aphilosophical, positivist, technicist, devoted to pure history and the natural sciences, a period essentially materialist and pessimist.

Our language itself, like every cultured language, contains within itself an implicit philosophy.

A language, in effect, is a potential philosophy. Platonism is the Greek language which discourses in Plato, unfolding its secular metaphors; scholasticism is the philosophy of the dead Latin of the Middle Ages wrestling with the popular tongues; the French language discourses in Descartes, the German in Kant and in Hegel, and the English in Hume and in Stuart Mill. For the truth is that the logical starting-point of all philosophical speculation is not the I, neither is it representation (Vorstellung), nor the world as it presents itself immediately to the senses; but it is mediate or historical representation, humanly elaborated and such as it is given to us principally in the language by means of which we know the world; it is not psychical but spiritual representation. When we think, we are obliged to set out, whether we know it not and whether we will or not, from what has been thought by others who came before us and who environ us. Thought is an inheritance. Kant thought in German, and into German he translated Hume and Rousseau, who thought in English and French respectively. And did not Spinoza think in Judeo-Portuguese, obstructed by and contending with Dutch?

Thought rests upon prejudgements, and prejudgements pass into language. To language Bacon rightly ascribed not a few of the errors of the idola fori. But is it possible to philosophize in pure algebra or even in Esperanto? In order to see the result of such an attempt one has only to read the work of Avenarius on the criticism of pure experience (reine Erfahrung), of this prehuman or inhuman experience. And even Avenarius, who was obliged to invent a language, invented one that was based upon the Latin tradition, with roots which carry in their metaphorical implications a content of impure experience, of human social experience.

All philosophy is, therefore, at bottom philology. And philology, with its great and fruitful law of analogical formations, opens wide the door to chance, to the irrational, to the absolutely incommensurable. History is not mathematics, neither is philosophy. And how many philosophical ideas are not strictly owing to something akin to rhyme, to the necessity of rightly placing a consonant! In Kant himself there is a great deal of this, of esthetic symmetry, rhyme.

Representation is, therefore, like language, like reason itself—which is simply internal language—a social and racial product, and race, the blood of the spirit, is language, as Oliver Wendell Holmes has said, and as I have often repeated.

It was in Athens and with Socrates that our Western philosophy first became mature, conscious of itself, and it arrived at this consciousness by means of the dialogue, of social conversation. And it is profoundly significant that the doctrine of innate ideas, of the objective and normative value of ideas, of what Scholasticism afterwards knew as Realism, should have formulated itself in dialogues. And these ideas, which constitute reality, are names, as Nominalism showed. Not that they may not be more than names (flatus vocis), but that they are nothing less than names. Language is that which gives us reality, and not as a mere vehicle of reality, but as its true flesh, of which all the rest, dumb or inarticulate representation, is merely the skeleton. And thus logic operates upon esthetics, the concept upon the expression, upon the word, and not upon the brute perception.

And this is true even in the matter of love. Love does not discover that it is love until it speaks, until it says, I love thee! In Stendhal's novel, La Chartreuse de Parme, it is with a very profound intuition that Count Mosca, furious with jealousy because of the love which he believes unites the Duchess of Sanseverina with his nephew Fabrice, is made to say, "I must be calm; if my manner is violent the duchess, simply because her vanity is piqued, is capable of following Belgirate, and then, during the journey, chance may lead to a word which will give a name to the feelings they bear towards each other, and thereupon in a moment all the consequences will follow."

Even so—all things were made by the word, and the word was in the beginning.

Thought, reason—that is, living language—is an inheritance, and the solitary thinker of Aben Tofail, the Arab philosopher of Guadix, is as absurd as the ego of Descartes. The real and concrete truth, not the methodical and ideal, is: homo sum, ergo cogito. To feel oneself a man is more immediate than to think. But, on the other hand, History, the process of culture, finds its perfection and complete effectivity only in the individual; the end of History and Humanity is man, each man, each individual. Homo sum, ergo cogito; cogito ut sim Michael de Unamuno. The individual is the end of the Universe.

And we Spaniards feel this very strongly, that the individual is the end of the Universe. The introspective individuality of the Spaniard was pointed out by Martin A.S. Hume in a passage in The Spanish People,[63] upon which I commented in an essay published in La Espana Moderna.[64]

And it is perhaps this same introspective individualism which has not permitted the growth on Spanish soil of strictly philosophical—or, rather, metaphysical—systems. And this in spite of Suarez, whose formal subtilties do not merit the name of philosophy.

Our metaphysics, if we can be said to possess such a thing, has been metanthropics, and our metaphysicians have been philologists—or, rather, humanists—in the most comprehensive sense of the term.

Menendez de Pelayo, as Benedetto Croce very truly said (Estetica, bibliographical appendix), was inclined towards metaphysical idealism, but he appeared to wish to take something from other systems, even from empirical theories. For this reason Croce considers that his work (referring to his Historia de las ideas esteticas de Espana) suffers from a certain uncertainty, from the theoretical point of view of its author, Menendez de Pelayo, which was that of a perfervid Spanish humanist, who, not wishing to disown the Renaissance, invented what he called Vivism, the philosophy of Luis Vives, and perhaps for no other reason than because he himself, like Vives, was an eclectic Spaniard of the Renaissance. And it is true that Menendez de Pelayo, whose philosophy is certainly all uncertainty, educated in Barcelona in the timidities of the Scottish philosophy as it had been imported into the Catalan spirit—that creeping philosophy of common sense, which was anxious not to compromise itself and yet was all compromise, and which is so well exemplified in Balmes—always shunned all strenuous inward combat and formed his consciousness upon compromises.

Angel Ganivet, a man all divination and instinct, was more happily inspired, in my opinion, when he proclaimed that the Spanish philosophy was that of Seneca, the pagan Stoic of Cordoba, whom not a few Christians regarded as one of themselves, a philosophy lacking in originality of thought but speaking with great dignity of tone and accent. His accent was a Spanish, Latino-African accent, not Hellenic, and there are echoes of him in Tertullian—Spanish, too, at heart—who believed in the corporal and substantial nature of God and the soul, and who was a kind of Don Quixote in the world of Christian thought in the second century.

But perhaps we must look for the hero of Spanish thought, not in any actual flesh-and-bone philosopher, but in a creation of fiction, a man of action, who is more real than all the philosophers—Don Quixote. There is undoubtedly a philosophical Quixotism, but there is also a Quixotic philosophy. May it not perhaps be that the philosophy of the Conquistadores, of the Counter-Reformers, of Loyola, and above all, in the order of abstract but deeply felt thought, that of our mystics, was, in its essence, none other than this? What was the mysticism of St. John of the Cross but a knight-errantry of the heart in the divine warfare?

And the philosophy of Don Quixote cannot strictly be called idealism; he did not fight for ideas. It was of the spiritual order; he fought for the spirit.

Imagine Don Quixote turning his heart to religious speculation—as he himself once dreamed of doing when he met those images in bas-relief which certain peasants were carrying to set up in the retablo of their village church[65]—imagine Don Quixote given up to meditation upon eternal truths, and see him ascending Mount Carmel in the middle of the dark night of the soul, to watch from its summit the rising of that sun which never sets, and, like the eagle that was St. John's companion in the isle of Patmos, to gaze upon it face to face and scrutinize its spots. He leaves to Athena's owl—the goddess with the glaucous, or owl-like, eyes, who sees in the dark but who is dazzled by the light of noon—he leaves to the owl that accompanied Athena in Olympus the task of searching with keen eyes in the shadows for the prey wherewith to feed its young.

And the speculative or meditative Quixotism is, like the practical Quixotism, madness, a daughter-madness to the madness of the Cross. And therefore it is despised by the reason. At bottom, philosophy abhors Christianity, and well did the gentle Marcus Aurelius prove it.

The tragedy of Christ, the divine tragedy, is the tragedy of the Cross. Pilate, the sceptic, the man of culture, by making a mockery of it, sought to convert it into a comedy; he conceived the farcical idea of the king with the reed sceptre and crown of thorns, and cried "Behold the man!" But the people, more human than he, the people that thirsts for tragedy, shouted, "Crucify him! crucify him!" And the human, the intra-human, tragedy is the tragedy of Don Quixote, whose face was daubed with soap in order that he might make sport for the servants of the dukes and for the dukes themselves, as servile as their servants. "Behold the madman!" they would have said. And the comic, the irrational, tragedy is the tragedy of suffering caused by ridicule and contempt.

The greatest height of heroism to which an individual, like a people, can attain is to know how to face ridicule; better still, to know how to make oneself ridiculous and not to shrink from the ridicule.

I have already spoken of the forceful sonnets of that tragic Portuguese, Antero de Quental, who died by his own hand. Feeling acutely for the plight of his country on the occasion of the British ultimatum in 1890, he wrote as follows:[66] "An English statesman of the last century, who was also undoubtedly a perspicacious observer and a philosopher, Horace Walpole, said that for those who feel, life is a tragedy, and a comedy for those who think. Very well, then, if we are destined to end tragically, we Portuguese, we who feel, we would far rather prefer this terrible, but noble, destiny, to that which is reserved, and perhaps at no very remote future date, for England, the country that thinks and calculates, whose destiny it is to finish miserably and comically." We may leave on one side the assertion that the English are a thinking and calculating people, implying thereby their lack of feeling, the injustice of which is explained by the occasion which provoked it, and also the assertion that the Portuguese feel, implying that they do not think or calculate—for we twin-brothers of the Atlantic seaboard have always been distinguished by a certain pedantry of feeling; but there remains a basis of truth underlying this terrible idea—namely, that some peoples, those who put thought above feeling, I should say reason above faith, die comically, while those die tragically who put faith above reason. For the mockers are those who die comically, and God laughs at their comic ending, while the nobler part, the part of tragedy, is theirs who endured the mockery.

The mockery that underlies the career of Don Quixote is what we must endeavour to discover.

And shall we be told yet again that there has never been any Spanish philosophy in the technical sense of the word? I will answer by asking, What is this sense? What does philosophy mean? Windelband, the historian of philosophy, in his essay on the meaning of philosophy (Was ist Philosophie? in the first volume of his Praeludien) tells us that "the history of the word 'philosophy' is the history of the cultural significance of science." He continues: "When scientific thought attains an independent existence as a desire for knowledge for the sake of knowledge, it takes the name of philosophy; when subsequently knowledge as a whole divides into its various branches, philosophy is the general knowledge of the world that embraces all other knowledge. As soon as scientific thought stoops again to becoming a means to ethics or religious contemplation, philosophy is transformed into an art of life or into a formulation of religious beliefs. And when afterwards the scientific life regains its liberty, philosophy acquires once again its character as an independent knowledge of the world, and in so far as it abandons the attempt to solve this problem, it is changed into a theory of knowledge itself." Here you have a brief recapitulation of the history of philosophy from Thales to Kant, including the medieval scholasticism upon which it endeavoured to establish religious beliefs. But has philosophy no other office to perform, and may not its office be to reflect upon the tragic sense of life itself, such as we have been studying it, to formulate this conflict between reason and faith, between science and religion, and deliberately to perpetuate this conflict?

Later on Windelband says: "By philosophy in the systematic, not in the historical, sense, I understand the critical knowledge of values of universal validity (allgemeingiltigen Werten)." But what values are there of more universal validity than that of the human will seeking before all else the personal, individual, and concrete immortality of the soul—or, in other words, the human finality of the Universe—and that of the human reason denying the rationality and even the possibility of this desire? What values are there of more universal validity than the rational or mathematical value and the volitional or teleological value of the Universe in conflict with one another?

For Windelband, as for Kantians and neo-Kantians in general, there are only three normative categories, three universal norms—those of the true or the false, the beautiful or the ugly, and the morally good or evil. Philosophy is reduced to logics, esthetics, and ethics, accordingly as it studies science, art, or morality. Another category remains excluded—namely, that of the pleasing and the unpleasing, or the agreeable and the disagreeable: in other words, the hedonic. The hedonic cannot, according to them, pretend to universal validity, it cannot be normative. "Whosoever throws upon philosophy," wrote Windelband, "the burden of deciding the question of optimism and pessimism, whosoever demands that philosophy should pronounce judgement on the question as to whether the world is more adapted to produce pain than pleasure, or vice versa—such a one, if his attitude is not merely that of a dilettante, sets himself the fantastic task of finding an absolute determination in a region in which no reasonable man has ever looked for one." It remains to be seen, nevertheless, whether this is as clear as it seems, in the case of a man like myself, who am at the same time reasonable and yet nothing but a dilettante, which of course would be the abomination of desolation.

It was with a very profound insight that Benedetto Croce, in his philosophy of the spirit in relation to esthetics as the science of expression and to logic as the science of pure concept, divided practical philosophy into two branches—economics and ethics. He recognizes, in effect, the existence of a practical grade of spirit, purely economical, directed towards the singular and unconcerned with the universal. Its types of perfection, of economic genius, are Iago and Napoleon, and this grade remains outside morality. And every man passes through this grade, because before all else he must wish to be himself, as an individual, and without this grade morality would be inexplicable, just as without esthetics logic would lack meaning. And the discovery of the normative value of the economic grade, which seeks the hedonic, was not unnaturally the work of an Italian, a disciple of Machiavelli, who speculated so fearlessly with regard to virtu, practical efficiency, which is not exactly the same as moral virtue.

But at bottom this economic grade is but the rudimentary state of the religious grade. The religious is the transcendental economic or hedonic. Religion is a transcendental economy and hedonistic. That which man seeks in religion, in religious faith, is to save his own individuality, to eternalize it, which he achieves neither by science, nor by art, nor by ethics. God is a necessity neither for science, nor art, nor ethics; what necessitates God is religion. And with an insight that amounts to genius our Jesuits speak of the grand business of our salvation. Business—yes, business; something belonging to the economic, hedonistic order, although transcendental. We do not need God in order that He may teach us the truth of things, or the beauty of them, or in order that He may safeguard morality by means of a system of penalties and punishments, but in order that He may save us, in order that He may not let us die utterly. And because this unique longing is the longing of each and every normal man—those who are abnormal by reason of their barbarism or their hyperculture may be left out of the reckoning—it is universal and normative.

Religion, therefore, is a transcendental economy, or, if you like, metaphysic. Together with its logical, esthetic, and ethical values, the Universe has for man an economic value also, which, when thus made universal and normative, is the religious value. We are not concerned only with truth, beauty, and goodness: we are concerned also and above all with the salvation of the individual, with perpetuation, which those norms do not secure for us. That science of economy which is called political teaches us the most adequate, the most economical way of satisfying our needs, whether these needs are rational or irrational, beautiful or ugly, moral or immoral—a business economically good may be a swindle, something that in the long run kills the soul—and the supreme human need is the need of not dying, the need of enjoying for ever the plenitude of our own individual limitation. And if the Catholic eucharistic doctrine teaches that the substance of the body of Jesus Christ is present whole and entire in the consecrated Host, and in each part of it, this means that God is wholly and entirely in the whole Universe and also in each one of the individuals that compose it. And this is, fundamentally, not a logical, nor an esthetic, nor an ethical principle, but a transcendental economic or religious principle. And with this norm, philosophy is able to judge of optimism and pessimism. If the human soul is immortal, the world is economically or hedonistically good; if not, it is bad. And the meaning which pessimism and optimism give to the categories of good and evil is not an ethical sense, but an economic or hedonistic sense. Good is that which satisfies our vital longing and evil is that which does not satisfy it.

Philosophy, therefore, is also the science of the tragedy of life, a reflection upon the tragic sense of it. An essay in this philosophy, with its inevitable internal contradictions and antinomies, is what I have attempted in these essays. And the reader must not overlook the fact that I have been operating upon myself; that this work partakes of the nature of a piece of self-surgery, and without any other anesthetic than that of the work itself. The enjoyment of operating upon myself has ennobled the pain of being operated upon.

And as for my other claim—the claim that this is a Spanish philosophy, perhaps the Spanish philosophy, that if it was an Italian who discovered the normative and universal value of the economic grade, it is a Spaniard who announces that this grade is merely the beginning of the religious grade, and that the essence of our religion, of our Spanish Catholicism, consists precisely in its being neither a science, nor an art, nor an ethic, but an economy of things eternal—that is to say, of things divine: as for this claim that all this is Spanish, I must leave the task of substantiating it to another and an historical work. But leaving aside the external and written tradition, that which can be demonstrated by reference to historical documents, is there not some present justification of this claim in the fact that I am a Spaniard—and a Spaniard who has scarcely ever been outside Spain; a product, therefore, of the Spanish tradition of the living tradition, of the tradition which is transmitted in feelings and ideas that dream, and not in texts that sleep?

The philosophy in the soul of my people appears to me as the expression of an inward tragedy analogous to the tragedy of the soul of Don Quixote, as the expression of a conflict between what the world is as scientific reason shows it to be, and what we wish that it might be, as our religious faith affirms it to be. And in this philosophy is to be found the explanation of what is usually said about us—namely, that we are fundamentally irreducible to Kultur—or, in other words, that we refuse to submit to it. No, Don Quixote does not resign himself either to the world, or to science or logic, or to art or esthetics, or to morality or ethics.

"And the upshot of all this," so I have been told more than once and by more than one person, "will be simply that all you will succeed in doing will be to drive people to the wildest Catholicism." And I have been accused of being a reactionary and even a Jesuit. Be it so! And what then?

Yes, I know, I know very well, that it is madness to seek to turn the waters of the river back to their source, and that it is only the ignorant who seek to find in the past a remedy for their present ills; but I know too that everyone who fights for any ideal whatever, although his ideal may seem to lie in the past, is driving the world on to the future, and that the only reactionaries are those who find themselves at home in the present. Every supposed restoration of the past is a creation of the future, and if the past which it is sought to restore is a dream, something imperfectly known, so much the better. The march, as ever, is towards the future, and he who marches is getting there, even though he march walking backwards. And who knows if that is not the better way!...

I feel that I have within me a medieval soul, and I believe that the soul of my country is medieval, that it has perforce passed through the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution—learning from them, yes, but without allowing them to touch the soul, preserving the spiritual inheritance which has come down from what are called the Dark Ages. And Quixotism is simply the most desperate phase of the struggle between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance which was the offspring of the Middle Ages.

And if some accuse me of subserving the cause of Catholic reaction, others perhaps, the official Catholics.... But these, in Spain, trouble themselves little about anything, and are interested only in their own quarrels and dissensions. And besides, poor folk, they have neither eyes nor ears!

But the truth is that my work—I was going to say my mission—is to shatter the faith of men here, there, and everywhere, faith in affirmation, faith in negation, and faith in abstention from faith, and this for the sake of faith in faith itself; it is to war against all those who submit, whether it be to Catholicism, or to rationalism, or to agnosticism; it is to make all men live the life of inquietude and passionate desire.

Will this work be efficacious? But did Don Quixote believe in the immediate apparential efficacy of his work? It is very doubtful, and at any rate he did not by any chance put his visor to the test by slashing it a second time. And many passages in his history show that he did not look with much confidence to the immediate success of his design to restore knight-errantry. And what did it matter to him so long as thus he lived and immortalized himself? And he must have surmised, and did in fact surmise, that his work would have another and higher efficacy, and that was that it would ferment in the minds of all those who in a pious spirit read of his exploits.

Don Quixote made himself ridiculous; but did he know the most tragic ridicule of all, the inward ridicule, the ridiculousness of a man's self to himself, in the eyes of his own soul? Imagine Don Quixote's battlefield to be his own soul; imagine him to be fighting in his soul to save the Middle Ages from the Renaissance, to preserve the treasure of his infancy; imagine him an inward Don Quixote, with a Sancho, at his side, inward and heroical too—and tell me if you find anything comic in the tragedy.

And what has Don Quixote left, do you ask? I answer, he has left himself, and a man, a living and eternal man, is worth all theories and all philosophies. Other peoples have left chiefly institutions, books; we have left souls; St. Teresa is worth any institution, any Critique of Pure Reason.

But Don Quixote was converted. Yes—and died, poor soul. But the other, the real Don Quixote, he who remained on earth and lives amongst us, animating us with his spirit—this Don Quixote was not converted, this Don Quixote continues to incite us to make ourselves ridiculous, this Don Quixote must never die. And the conversion of the other Don Quixote—he who was converted only to die—was possible because he was mad, and it was his madness, and not his death nor his conversion that immortalized him, earning him forgiveness for the crime of having been born.[67] Felix culpa! And neither was his madness cured, but only transformed. His death was his last knightly adventure; in dying he stormed heaven, which suffereth violence.

This mortal Don Quixote died and descended into hell, which he entered lance on rest, and freed all the condemned, as he had freed the galley slaves, and he shut the gates of hell, and tore down the scroll that Dante saw there and replaced it by one on which was written "Long live hope!" and escorted by those whom he had freed, and they laughing at him, he went to heaven. And God laughed paternally at him, and this divine laughter filled his soul with eternal happiness.

And the other Don Quixote remained here amongst us, fighting with desperation. And does he not fight out of despair? How is it that among the words that English has borrowed from our language, such as siesta, camarilla, guerrilla, there is to be found this word desperdo? Is not this inward Don Quixote that I spoke of, conscious of his own tragic comicness, a man of despair (desesperado). A desperado—yes, like Pizarro and like Loyola. But "despair is the master of impossibilities," as we learn from Salazar y Torres (Elegir al enemigo, Act I.), and it is despair and despair alone that begets heroic hope, absurd hope, mad hope. Spero quia absurdum, it ought to have been said, rather than credo.

And Don Quixote, who lived in solitude, sought more solitude still; he sought the solitudes of the Pena Pobre, in order that there, alone, without witnesses, he might give himself up to greater follies with which to assuage his soul. But he was not quite alone, for Sancho accompanied him—Sancho the good, Sancho the believing, Sancho the simple. If, as some say, in Spain Don Quixote is dead and Sancho lives, then we are saved, for Sancho, his master dead, will become a knight-errant himself. And at any rate he is waiting for some other mad knight to follow again.

And there is also a tragedy of Sancho. The other Sancho, the Sancho who journeyed with the mortal Don Quixote—it is not certain that he died, although some think that he died hopelessly mad, calling for his lance and believing in the truth of all those things which his dying and converted master had denounced and abominated as lies. But neither is it certain that the bachelor Sanson Carrasco, or the curate, or the barber, or the dukes and canons are dead, and it is with these that the heroical Sancho has to contend.

Don Quixote journeyed alone, alone with Sancho, alone with his solitude. And shall we not also journey alone, we his lovers, creating for ourselves a Quixotesque Spain which only exists in our imagination?

And again we shall be asked: What has Don Quixote bequeathed to Kultur? I answer: Quixotism, and that is no little thing! It is a whole method, a whole epistemology, a whole esthetic, a whole logic, a whole ethic—above all, a whole religion—that is to say, a whole economy of things eternal and things divine, a whole hope in what is rationally absurd.

For what did Don Quixote fight? For Dulcinea, for glory, for life, for survival. Not for Iseult, who is the eternal flesh; not for Beatrice, who is theology; not for Margaret, who is the people; not for Helen, who is culture. He fought for Dulcinea, and he won her, for he lives.

And the greatest thing about him was his having been mocked and vanquished, for it was in being overcome that he overcame; he overcame the world by giving the world cause to laugh at him.

And to-day? To-day he feels his own comicness and the vanity of his endeavours so far as their temporal results are concerned; he sees himself from without—culture has taught him to objectify himself, to alienate himself from himself instead of entering into himself—and in seeing himself from without he laughs at himself, but with a bitter laughter. Perhaps the most tragic character would be that of a Margutte of the inner man, who, like the Margutte of Pulci, should die of laughter, but of laughter at himself. E ridera in eterno, he will laugh for all eternity, said the Angel Gabriel of Margutte. Do you not hear the laughter of God?

The mortal Don Quixote, in dying, realized his own comicness and bewept his sins; but the immortal Quixote, realizing his own comicness, superimposes himself upon it and triumphs over it without renouncing it.

And Don Quixote does not surrender, because he is not a pessimist, and he fights on. He is not a pessimist, because pessimism is begotten by vanity, it is a matter of fashion, pure intellectual snobbism, and Don Quixote is neither vain nor modern with any sort of modernity (still less is he a modernist), and he does not understand the meaning of the word "snob" unless it be explained to him in old Christian Spanish. Don Quixote is not a pessimist, for since he does not understand what is meant by the joie de vivre he does not understand its opposite. Neither does he understand futurist fooleries. In spite of Clavileno,[68] he has not got as far as the aeroplane, which seems to tend to put not a few fools at a still greater distance from heaven. Don Quixote has not arrived at the age of the tedium of life, a condition that not infrequently takes the form of that topophobia so characteristic of many modern spirits, who pass their lives running at top speed from one place to another, not from any love of the place to which they are going, but from hatred of the place they are leaving behind, and so flying from all places: which is one of the forms of despair.

But Don Quixote hears his own laughter, he hears the divine laughter, and since he is not a pessimist, since he believes in life eternal, he has to fight, attacking the modern, scientific, inquisitorial orthodoxy in order to bring in a new and impossible Middle Age, dualistic, contradictory, passionate. Like a new Savonarola, an Italian Quixote of the end of the fifteenth century, he fights against this Modern Age that began with Machiavelli and that will end comically. He fights against the rationalism inherited from the eighteenth century. Peace of mind, reconciliation between reason and faith—this, thanks to the providence of God, is no longer possible. The world must be as Don Quixote wishes it to be, and inns must be castles, and he will fight with it and will, to all appearances, be vanquished, but he will triumph by making himself ridiculous. And he will triumph by laughing at himself and making himself the object of his own laughter.

"Reason speaks and feeling bites" said Petrarch; but reason also bites and bites in the inmost heart. And more light does not make more warmth. "Light, light, more light!" they tell us that the dying Goethe cried. No, warmth, warmth, more warmth! for we die of cold and not of darkness. It is not the night kills, but the frost. We must liberate the enchanted princess and destroy the stage of Master Peter.[69]

But God! may there not be pedantry too in thinking ourselves the objects of mockery and in making Don Quixotes of ourselves? Kierkegaard said that the regenerate (Opvakte) desire that the wicked world should mock at them for the better assurance of their own regeneracy, for the enjoyment of being able to bemoan the wickedness of the world (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift, ii., Afsnit ii., cap. 4, sect. 2, b).

The question is, how to avoid the one or the other pedantry, or the one or the other affectation, if the natural man is only a myth and we are all artificial.

Romanticism! Yes, perhaps that is partly the word. And there is an advantage in its very lack of precision. Against romanticism the forces of rationalist and classicist pedantry, especially in France, have latterly been unchained. Romanticism itself is merely another form of pedantry, the pedantry of sentiment? Perhaps. In this world a man of culture is either a dilettante or a pedant: you have to take your choice. Yes, Rene and Adolphe and Obermann and Lara, perhaps they were all pedants.... The question is to seek consolation in disconsolation.

The philosophy of Bergson, which is a spiritualist restoration, essentially mystical, medieval, Quixotesque, has been called a demi-mondaine philosophy. Leave out the demi; call it mondaine, mundane. Mundane—yes, a philosophy for the world and not for philosophers, just as chemistry ought to be not for chemists alone. The world desires illusion (mundus vult decipi)—either the illusion antecedent to reason, which is poetry, or the illusion subsequent to reason, which is religion. And Machiavelli has said that whosoever wishes to delude will always find someone willing to be deluded. Blessed are they who are easily befooled! A Frenchman, Jules de Gaultier, said that it was the privilege of his countrymen n'etre pas dupe—not to be taken in. A sorry privilege!

Science does not give Don Quixote what he demands of it. "Then let him not make the demand," it will be said, "let him resign himself, let him accept life and truth as they are." But he does not accept them as they are, and he asks for signs, urged thereto by Sancho, who stands by his side. And it is not that Don Quixote does not understand what those understand who talk thus to him, those who succeed in resigning themselves and accepting rational life and rational truth. No, it is that the needs of his heart are greater. Pedantry? Who knows!...

And in this critical century, Don Quixote, who has also contaminated himself with criticism, has to attack his own self, the victim of intellectualism and of sentimentalism, and when he wishes to be most spontaneous he appears to be most affected. And he wishes, unhappy man, to rationalize the irrational and irrationalize the rational. And he sinks into the despair of the critical century whose two greatest victims were Nietzsche and Tolstoi. And through this despair he reaches the heroic fury of which Giordano Bruno spoke—that intellectual Don Quixote who escaped from the cloister—and becomes an awakener of sleeping souls (dormitantium animorum excubitor), as the ex-Dominican said of himself—he who wrote: "Heroic love is the property of those superior natures who are called insane (insano) not because they do not know (no sanno), but because they over-know (soprasanno)."

But Bruno believed in the triumph of his doctrines; at any rate the inscription at the foot of his statue in the Campo dei Fiori, opposite the Vatican, states that it has been dedicated to him by the age which he had foretold (il secolo da lui divinato). But our Don Quixote, the inward, the immortal Don Quixote, conscious of his own comicness, does not believe that his doctrines will triumph in this world, because they are not of it. And it is better that they should not triumph. And if the world wished to make Don Quixote king, he would retire alone to the mountain, fleeing from the king-making and king-killing crowds, as Christ retired alone to the mountain when, after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, they sought to proclaim him king. He left the title of king for the inscription written over the Cross.

What, then, is the new mission of Don Quixote, to-day, in this world? To cry aloud, to cry aloud in the wilderness. But though men hear not, the wilderness hears, and one day it will be transformed into a resounding forest, and this solitary voice that goes scattering over the wilderness like seed, will fructify into a gigantic cedar, which with its hundred thousand tongues will sing an eternal hosanna to the Lord of life and of death.

And now to you, the younger generation, bachelor Carrascos of a Europeanizing regenerationism, you who are working after the best European fashion, with scientific method and criticism, to you I say: Create wealth, create nationality, create art, create science, create ethics, above all create—or rather, translate—Kultur, and thus kill in yourselves both life and death. Little will it all last you!...

And with this I conclude—high time that I did!—for the present at any rate, these essays on the tragic sense of life in men and in peoples, or at least in myself—who am a man—and in the soul of my people as it is reflected in mine.

I hope, reader, that some time while our tragedy is still playing, in some interval between the acts, we shall meet again. And we shall recognize one another. And forgive me if I have troubled you more than was needful and inevitable, more than I intended to do when I took up my pen proposing to distract you for a while from your distractions. And may God deny you peace, but give you glory!

SALAMANCA, In the year of grace 1912.


[59] "Que tal?" o "como va?" y es aquella que responde: "se vive!"

[60] Whenever I consider that I needs must die, I stretch my cloak upon the ground and am not surfeited with sleeping.

[61] No es consuelo de desdichas—es otra desdicha aparte—querer a quien las padece—persuadir que no son tales (Gustos y diogustos no son nies que imagination, Act I., Scene 4).

[62] Don Quijote, part i., chap, i.

[63] Preface.

[64] El individualismo espanol, in vol. clxxi., March 1, 1903.

[65] See El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, part ii., chap. lviii., and the corresponding chapter in my Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho.

[66] In an article which was to have been published on the occasion of the ultimatum, and of which the original is in the possession of the Conde do Ameal. This fragment appeared in the Portuguese review, A Aguia (No. 3), March, 1912.

[67] An allusion to the phrase in Calderon's La Vida es Sueno, "Que delito cometi contra vosotros naciendo?"—J.E.C.F.

[68] The wooden horse upon which Don Quixote imagined that he and Sancho had been carried in the air. See Don Quijote, part ii., chaps. 40 and 41.—J.E.C.F.

[69] Don Quijote, part ii., chap. 26.


AEschylus, 246 Alexander of Aphrodisias, 88 Amiel, 18, 68, 228 Anaxagoras, 143 Angelo of Foligno, 289 Antero de Quintal, 240, 315 Ardigo, Roberto, 238 Aristotle, 1, 21, 80, 144, 165, 171, 232, 235 Arnold, Matthew, 103 Athanasius, 63-65 Avenarius, Richard, 144, 310 de Ayala, Ramon Perez, 303

Bacon, 310 Balfour, A.J., 27 Balmes, 84, 85 Bergson, 144, 328 Berkeley, Bishop, 87, 146 Besant, Mrs. A., 291 Boccaccio, 52 Boehme, Jacob, 227, 297 Bonnefon, 250, 254 Bossuet, 226, 231 Brooks, Phillips, 76, 190 Browning, Robert, 112, 181, 249, 254 Brunetiere, 103, 298 Brunhes, B., 235, 237, 238 Bruno, 301, 329 Buechner, 95 Butler, Joseph, 5, 6, 87 Byron, Lord, 94, 102, 103, 132

Calderon, 39, 268, 323 Calvin, 121, 246 Campanella, 301 Carducci, 102, 306 Carlyle, 231, 298 Catherine of Sienna, 289 Cauchy, 236 Cervantes, 220, 306 Channing, W.E., 78 Cicero, 165, 216, 221 Clement of Alexandria, 32 Cortes, Donoso, 74 Costa, Joaquin, 309 Cournot, 192, 217, 222, 306 Cowper, 43 Croce, Benedetto, 313, 318

Dante, 42, 51, 140, 223, 233, 256, 295 Darwin, 72, 147 Descartes, 34, 86, 107, 224, 237, 293, 310, 312 Diderot, 99 Diego de Estella, 304 Dionysius the Areopagite, 160 Domingo de Guzman, 289 Duns Scotus, 76

Eckhart, 289 Empedocles, 61 Erasmus, 112, 301 Erigena, 160, 167

Fenelon, 224 Fichte, 8, 29 Flaubert, 94, 219 Fouillee, 261 Fourier, 278 Francesco de Sanctis, 220 Francke, August, 120 Franklin, 248

Galileo, 72, 267, 302 Ganivet, Angel, 313 de Gaultier, Jules, 328 Goethe, 218, 264, 288, 299, 309 Gounod, 56 Gratry, Pere, 236

Haeckel, 95 Harnack, 59, 64, 65, 69, 75 Hartmann, 146 Hegel, 5, 111, 170, 294, 309, 310 Heraclitus, 165 Hermann, 69, 70, 77, 165, 217 Herodotus, 140 Hippocrates, 143 Hodgson, S.H., 30 Holberg, 109 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 257, 311 Hume, David, 79, 86, 104, 310 Hume, Martin A.S., 312 Huntingdon, A.M., 298

James, William, 5, 81, 86 Jansen, 121 Juan de los Angeles, 1, 207, 286 Juan de la Cruz, 67, 289, 293 Justin Martyr, 63

Kaftan, 68, 222 Kant, Immanuel, 3, 4, 11, 13, 67, 68, 73, 79, 114, 143, 166, 294, 310, 311, 317 a Kempis, 51, 99, 277 Kierkegaard, 3, 109, 115, 123, 153, 178, 198, 257, 287, 327 Krause, 294

Lactantius, 59, 74, 165, 169 Lamarck, 147 Lamennais, 74, 117, 165, 246 Laplace, 161 Leibnitz, 247 Leo XIII., 75 Leopardi, 44, 47, 123, 132, 240, 248 Le Roy, 73 Lessing, 229 Linnaeus, 1 Loisy, 72 Loyola, 122, 307, 314, 324 Loyson, Hyacinthe, 116 Lucretius, 94, 102 Luis de Leon, 289 Luther, 3, 121, 270, 294, 301

Mach, Dr. E., 114 Machado, Antonio, 241 Machiavelli, 296, 326, 328 de Maistre, Count Joseph, 74, 305 Malebranche, 63 Malon de Chaide, 66 Manrique, Jorge, 309 Marcus Aurelius, 315 Marlowe, Christopher, 299 Martins, Oliveira, 68 Mazzini, 153 Melanchthon, 69 Menendez de Pelayo, 313 Michelet, 45 Miguel de Molinos, 216, 219, 228 Mill, Stuart, 104, 310 Milton, 284 Moser, Johann Jacob, 252, 263 Myers, W.H., 88

Nietzsche, 50, 61, 100, 231, 239, 328 Nimesius, 59

Obermann, 11, 47, 259, 263, 268 Oetinger, Friedrich Christoph, 252, 253 Ordonez de Lara, 56 Origen, 245

Papini, 238 Pascal, 40, 45, 74, 262, 263 Petrarch, 327 Pfleiderer, 61 Pius IX., 72 Pizarro, 324 Plato, 38, 45, 48, 61, 90, 125, 143, 216, 217, 221, 292, 310 Pliny, 165 Plotinus, 209, 230, 243 Pohle, Joseph, 77 Pomponazzi, Pietro, 88

Renan, 51, 68 Ritschl, Albrecht, 68, 114, 121, 167, 238, 253, 263, 294 Robertson, F.W., 180 Robespierre, 41 Rohde, Erwin, 60, 61 Rousseau, 53, 263, 299, 310 Ruysbroek, 289

Saint Augustine, 74, 192, 247 Saint Bonaventura, 220 Saint Francis of Assissi, 52, 210 Saint Paul, 48, 49, 62, 94, 112, 188, 209, 225, 241, 253, 255, 270 Saint Teresa, 67, 75, 210, 226, 228, 289, 323 Saint Thomas Aquinas, 83, 92, 233 Salazar y Torres, 324 Schleiermacher, 89, 156, 217 Schopenhauer, 146, 147, 247 Seeberg, Reinold, 188 Senancour, 43, 47, 260, 263, 299 Seneca, 231, 313 Seuse, Heinrich, 75, 289 Shakespeare, 39 Socrates, 29, 143, 145 Solon, 17 Soloviev, 95 Spencer, Herbert, 89, 124, 238, 253 Spener, 253 Spinoza, Benedict, 6, 7, 22, 24, 31, 38, 40, 89, 97-99, 101, 208, 234, 310 Stanley, Dean, 91 Stendhal, 311 Stirmer, Max, 29 Suarez, 312 Swedenborg, 153, 221, 225

Tacitus, 56, 94, 142, 216, 306 Tauler, 289 Tennyson, Lord, 33, 103 Tertullian, 74, 94, 104 Thales of Miletus, 143, 317 Thome de Jesus, 283 Tolstoi, 328 Troeltsch, Ernst, 70, 112

Velasquez, 70 Vico, Giovanni Baptista, 142, 143 Vinet, A., 93, 113, 160 Virchow, 95 Virgil, 249 Vives, Luis, 313 Vogt, 95

Walpole, Horace, 315 Weizsaecker, 62, 77 Wells, H.G., 265 Whitman, Walt, 125 Windelband, 267, 316, 317

Xenophon, 29, 143


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