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Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (29 September 1864 – 31 December 1936) was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher.
Born: September 29th, 1864
Died: December 31st, 1936
Quotes: 176 sourced quotes total
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Yes perhaps, as the Sage says, "nothing worthy of proving can be proven, nor yet disproven"; but can we restrain that instinct which urges man to wish to know, and above all to wish to know the things which conduce to life, to eternal life? Eternal life, not eternal knowledge as the Alexandrian gnostic said. For living is one thing and knowing is another; and... perhaps there is an opposition between the two that we may say that everything vital is anti-rational, not merely irrational, and that everything rational is anti-vital. And this is the basis of the tragic sense of life.
The truth is sum, ergo cogito — I am, therefore I think, although not everything that is thinks. Is not consciousness of thinking above all consciousness of being? Is pure thought possible, without consciousness of self, without personality? Can there exist pure knowledge without feeling, without that species of materiality which feelings lends to it? Do we not perhaps feel thought, and do we not feel ourselves in the act of knowing and willing? Could not the man in the stove [Descartes] '''have said: "I feel, therefore I am"? or "I will, therefore I am"? And to feel oneself, is it not perhaps to feel oneself imperishable?
And yet Catholicism does not abandon ethics. No! No modern religion can leave ethics on one side. But our religion — although its doctors may protest against this — is fundamentally and for the most part a compromise between eschatology and ethics; it is eschatology pressed into the service of ethics. What else but this is that atrocity of the eternal pains of hell, which agrees so ill with the Pauline apocatastasis? Let us bear in mind these words which the Theologica Germanica, the manual of mysticism that Luther read, puts into the mouth of God: "If I must recompense your evil, I must recompense it with good, for I am and have no other." And Christ said: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," and there is no man who perhaps knows what he does.
"The bitterest sorrow that man can know is to aspire to do much and to achieve nothing"… so Herodotus relates that a Persian said to a Theban at a banquet (book ix., chap. xvi.). And it is true. With knowledge and desire we can embrace everything , or almost everything; with the will nothing, or almost nothing. And contemplation is not happiness — no! not if this contemplation implies impotence. And out of this collision between our knowledge and our power pity arises.
"God is just and punishes us; that is all we need to know; as far as we are concerned the rest is merely curiosity." Such was the conclusion of Lamennais (Essai, etc., partie, chap. vii.), an opinion shared by many others. Calvin also held the same view. But is there anyone content with this? Pure curiosity! — to call this load that well nigh crushes our heart pure curiosity!
Over all civilizations there hovers the shadow of Ecclesiastes, with his admonition, "How dieth the wise man? — as the fool" (ii 16)
The devil is an angel too.
To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.
Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly — but then perhaps, also inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second degree.
When at the beginning of the so-called modern age, at the Renaissance, the pagan sense of religion came to life again, it took the concrete form in the knightly ideal with its codes of conduct of love and honor. But it was a paganism Christianized, baptized. "Woman — la donna — was the divinity enshrined within those savage breasts. Whosoever will investigate the memorials of primitive times will find this ideal of woman in its full force and purity; the Universe is woman.
We never know, believe me, when we have succeeded best.
Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.
It is sad not to be loved, but it is much sadder not to be able to love.
The man of flesh and bone; the man who is born, suffers, and dies—above all, who dies; the man who eats and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills; the man who is seen and heard; the brother, the real brother.
Love is a contradiction if there is no God.
Science is a cemetery of dead ideas, even though life may issue from them.
Reason perhaps teaches certain bourgeois virtues, but it does not make either heroes or saints.
Feeling does not succeed in converting consolation into truth, nor does reason succeed in converting truth into consolation.
And killing time is perhaps the essence of comedy, just as the essence of tragedy is killing eternity.
Reason, that which we call reason, reflex and reflective knowledge, the distinguishing mark of man, is a social product.
To believe in God is to yearn for His existence and, furthermore, it is to act as if He did exist.
The ascetic morality is a negative morality. And strictly, what is important for a man is not to die, whether he sins or not.
Progress usually comes from the barbarian, and there is nothing more stagnant than the philosophy of the philosophers and the theology of the theologians.
Nothing is lost, nothing wholly passes away, for in some way or another everything is perpetuated; and everything, after passing through time, returns to eternity.
To know something is to make this something that I know myself; but to avail myself of it, to dominate it, it has to remain distinct from myself.
If consciousness is, as some inhuman thinker has said, nothing more than a flash of light between two eternities of darkness, then there is nothing more execrable than existence.
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.
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.
For the truth is that our doctrines are usually only the justification a posteriori of our conduct, or else they are our way of trying to explain that conduct to ourselves.
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.
We men do nothing but lie and make ourselves important. Speech was invented for the purpose of magnifying all of our sensations and impressions — perhaps so that we could believe in them.
From whatever side the matter is regarded, it is always found that reason confronts our longing for personal immortality and contradicts it. And the truth is, in all strictness, that reason is the enemy of life.
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.
And love, above all when it struggles against destiny, overwhelms us with the feeling of the vanity of this world of appearances and gives us a glimpse of another world, in which destiny is overcome and liberty is law.
But the capacity to enjoy is impossible without the capacity to suffer; and the faculty of enjoyment is one with that of pain. Whosoever does not suffer does not enjoy, just as whosoever is insensible to cold is insensible to heat.
Little can be hoped for from a ruler... who has not at some time or other been preoccupied, even if only confusedly, with the first beginning and ultimate end of all things, and above all of man, with the "why" of his origin and the "wherefore" of his destiny.
Apart from the fact there is no normal standard of health, nobody has proved that man is necessarily cheerful by nature. And further, man, by the very fact of being man, of possessing consciousness, is, in comparison with the ass or the crab, a diseased animal. Consciousness is a disease.
And above all, we must feel and act as if an endless continuation of our earthly life awaited us after death; and if it be that nothingness is the fate that awaits us we must not, in the words of Obermann, so act that it shall be a just fate.
The most authentic Catholic ethic, monastic asceticism, is an ethic of eschatology, directed to the salvation of the individual soul rather than to the maintenance of society. And in the cult of virginity may there not perhaps be a certain obscure idea that to perpetuate ourselves in others hinders our own personal perpetuation?
Everything in me that conspires to break the unity and continuity of my life conspires to destroy me and consequently to destroy itself. Every individual in a people who conspires to break the spiritual unity and continuity of that people tends to destroy it and to destroy himself as a part of that people.
There is no tyranny in the world more hateful than that of ideas. Ideas bring ideophobia, and the consequence is that people begin to persecute their neighbors in the name of ideas. I loathe and detest all labels, and the only label that I could now tolerate would be that of ideoclast or idea breaker.
And this God, the living God, your God, our God, is in me, is in you, lives in us, and we live and move and have our being in Him. And he is in us by virtue of the hunger, the longing, which we have for Him, He is Himself creating the longing for Himself.
Religion is better described than defined and better felt than described. But if there is any one definition that latterly has obtained acceptance, it is that of Schleiermacher, to the effect that religion consists in the simple feeling of a relationship of dependence upon something above us and a desire to establish relations with this mysterious power.
Underlying even the so-called problem of knowledge there is simply this human feeling, just as underlying the inquiry into the "why," the cause, there is simply the search for the "wherefore," the end. All the rest is either to deceive oneself or to wish to deceive others; and to wish to deceive others in order to deceive oneself.
And if it is grievous to be doomed one day to cease to be, perhaps it would be more grievous still to go on being always oneself, and no more than oneself, without being able to be at the same time other, without being able to be at the same time everything else, without being able to be all.
To say that everything is idea or that everything is spirit, is the same as saying that everything is matter or that everything is energy, for if everything is idea or spirit, just as my consciousness is, it is not plain why the diamond should not endure for ever, if my consciousness, because it is idea or spirit, endures forever.
The vanity of the passing world and love are the two fundamental and heart-penetrating notes of true poetry. And they are two notes of which neither can be sounded without causing the other to vibrate. The feeling of the vanity of the passing world kindles love in us, the only thing that triumphs over the vain and transitory, the only thing that fills life again and eternalizes it.
To believe in God is to long for His existence and, further, it is to act as if he existed; it is to live by this longing and to make it the inner spring of our action. This longing or hunger for divinity begets hope, hope begets faith, and faith and hope beget charity. Of this divine longing is born our sense of beauty, of finality, of goodness.
It has been said a thousand times and in a thousand books that ancestor-worship is for the most part the source of primitive religions, and it may be strictly said that what most distinguishes man from the other animals is that, in one form or another, he guards his dead and does not give them over to the neglect of teeming mother earth; he is an animal that guards its dead.
There are, in fact, people who appear to think only with the brain, or with whatever may be the specific thinking organ; while others think with all the body and all the soul, with the blood, with the marrow of the bones, with the heart, with the lungs, with the belly, with the life. And the people who think only with the brain develop into definition-mongers; they become the professionals of thought.
To all this, someone is sure to object that life ought to subject itself to reason, to which we will reply that nobody ought to do what he is unable to do, and life cannot subject itself to reason. "Ought, therefore can," some Kantian will retort. To which we shall demur: "Cannot, therefore ought not." And life cannot submit itself to reason, because the end of life is living and not understanding.
Hegel made famous his aphorism that all the rational is real and all the real rational; but there are many of us who, unconvinced by Hegel, continue to believe that the real, the really real, is irrational, that reason builds upon irrationalities. Hegel, a great framer of definitions, attempted with definitions to reconstruct the universe, like that artillery sergeant who said that cannon were made by taking a hole and enclosing it with steel.
If a philosopher is not a man, he is anything but a philosopher; he is above all a pedant, and a pedant is a caricature of a man. The cultivation of any branch of science — of chemistry, of physics, of geometry, of philology — may be a work of differentiated specialization, and even so, only within very narrow limits and restrictions; but philosophy, like poetry, is a work of integration and synthesis, or else it is merely pseudo-philosophical erudition.
I am dreaming ...? Let me dream, if this dream is my life. Do not awaken me from it. I believe in the immortal origin of this yearning for immortality, which is the very substance of my soul. But do I really believe in it ...? And wherefore do you want to be immortal? you ask me, wherefore? Frankly, I do not understand the question, for it is to ask the reason of the reason, the end of the end, the principle of the principle.
This mortal Don Quixote died and descended into hell, which he entered lance on rest, and freed all the condemned, as he 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.
Rousseau has said in his Emile (book iv.): "Even though philosophers should be in a position to discover the truth, which of them would take any interest in it? Each one knows well that his system is not better founded than the others, but he supports it because it is his. ...The essential thing is to think differently from others. With believers he is an atheist; with atheists he is a believer." How much substantial truth there is in these gloomy confessions of this man of painful sincerity.
When I contemplate the green serenity of the fields or look into the depths of clear eyes through which shines a fellow-soul, my consciousness dilates, I feel the diastole of the soul and am bathed in the flood of the life that flows about me, and I believe in my future; but instantly the voice of mystery whispers to me, "Thou shalt cease to be!" the angel of Death touches me with his wing, and the systole of the soul floods the depth of my spirit with the blood of divinity.
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!
The immeasurable beauty of life is a very fine thing to write about, and there are, indeed, some who resign themselves to accept 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 Calderón that "to seek to persuade a man that the misfortunes which he suffers are not misfortunes, does not console him for them, but it is another misfortune in addition." And furthermore, "only the heart can speak to the heart," as Fray Diego de Estella said (Vanidad del Mundo, cap. xxi.)
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 viii., 43).
"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! ...I know very well 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 anyone 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.
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 he wishes, unhappy man, to rationalize the irrational and irrationalize the rational. And he sinks into 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 became 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, but because they over-know (soprasanno)."
Windelband, the historian of philosophy, in his essay on the meaning of philosophy (Was ist Philosophie? in the first volume of his Präludien) 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, 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 endeavored 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?
Isolation is the worst possible counselor.
Martyrs create faith, faith does not create martyrs.
There are pretenses which are very sincere, and marriage is their school.
These terrible sociologists, who are the astrologers and alchemists of our twentieth century.
The intellectual world is divided into two classes — dilettantes, on the one hand, and pedants, on the other.
El use estropea y hasta destruye toda belleza. La función más noble de los objetos es la de ser contemplados.
I would say that teleology is theology, and that God is not a "because," but rather an "in order to."
Faith feels itself secure neither with universal consent, nor with tradition, nor with authority. It seeks support of its enemy, reason.
Let us go on committing suicide by working among our people, and let them dream life just as the lake dreams the sky.
Every peasant has a lawyer inside of him, just as every lawyer, no matter how urbane he may be, carries a peasant within himself.
La verdadera ciencia enseña, por encima de todo, a dudar y a ser ignorante. (True science teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant.)
Warmth, warmth, more warmth! for we are dying of cold and not of darkness. It is not the night that kills, but the frost.
Absolute relativism, which is neither more nor less than skepticism, in the most modern sense of the term, is the supreme triumph of the reasoning reason.
Uncertainty, doubt, perpetual wrestling with the mystery of our final destiny, mental despair, and the lack of any solid and stable foundation, may be the basis of an ethic.
The march , as ever, is toward 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!...
One of those leaders of what they call the social revolution has said that religion is the opiate of the people. Opium...opium...opium, yes. Let us give them opium so that they can sleep and dream.
I have told you that... we know nothing save what we have first, in one way or another, desired; and it may even be added that we can know nothing well save what we love, save what we pity.
Jesus said that God was not the God of the dead, but of the living. And the other life is not, in fact, thinkable to us except under the same forms as those of this earthly and transitory life.
And thus the soul pities God and feels itself pitied by him; loves Him and feels loved by Him, sheltering its misery in the bosom of the eternal and infinite misery, which, in eternalizing itself and infinitizing itself, is the supreme happiness itself.
I am the center of my universe, the center of the universe, and in my supreme anguish I cry with Michelet, "Mon moi, ils m'arrachent mon moi!" What is a man profited if he shall gain the world and lose his own soul? (Matt. xvi. 26).
But it has been necessary, for the benefit of the social order, to convert religion into a kind of police system, and hence hell. Oriental or Greek Christianity is predominantly eschatological, Protestantism predominantly ethical, and Catholicism is a compromise between the two, although with the eschatological element predominating.
The wretched consciousness shrinks from it own annihilation, and just as an animal spirit newly severed from the womb of the world, finds itself confronted with the world and knows itself distinct from it, so consciousness must needs desire to possess another life than that of the world itself.
Just as eunuchs will never know aesthetics as applied to the selection of beautiful women, so neither will pure rationalists ever know ethics, nor will they ever succeed in defining happiness, for happiness is a thing that is lived and felt, not a thing that is reasoned or defined.
...this visionary [ Emanuel Swedenborg in his book Heaven and Hell ] tells us, under the form of images, that each angel, each society of angels, and the whole of heaven comprehensively surveyed, appear in human form, and in the virtue of this human form the Lord rules them as one man.
Neither is the longing for immortality saved, but rather dissolved and submerged, by agnosticism, or the doctrine of the unknowable. ...The unknowable, if it is something more than the merely hitherto unknown, is but a purely negative concept, a concept of limitation. And upon this foundation no human feeling can be built up.
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 the theories and all the 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 among 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.
For what is specific in the Catholic religion is immortalization and not justification, in the Protestant sense. Rather is this latter ethical. It is from Kant, in spite of what orthodox Protestants may think of him, that Protestantism derived its penultimate conclusions — namely, that religion rests upon morality, and not morality upon religion, as in Catholicism.
There is nothing truly real, save that which feels, suffers, pities, loves and desires, save consciousness. And we need God in order to save consciousness; not in order to think existence, but in order to live it; not in order to know the why and how of it, but in order to feel the wherefore of it.
Philosophy and religion are enemies, and because they are enemies they have need of one another. There is no religion without some philosophical basis, no philosophy without roots in religion. … the attacks which are directed against religion from a presumed scientific or philosophical point of view are merely attacks from another but opposing religious point of view.
Whenever a man talks he lies, and so far as he talks to himself — that is to say, so far as he thinks, knowing that he thinks — he lies to himself. The only truth in human life is that which is physiological. Speech — this thing that they call a social product — was made for lying.
Our life is a hope which is continually converting itself into memory and memory in its turn begets hope. Give us leave to live! The eternity that is like an eternal present, without memory and without hope, is death. Thus do ideas exist in the God-Idea, but not thus do men live in the living God, in the God-Man.
What objection is there in reason to there being no other purpose in the sum of things save only to exist and happen as it does exist and happen? For him who places himself outside of himself, none; but for him who lives and suffers and desires within himself — for him it is a question of life or death.
May we not imagine that possibly this earthly life of ours is to the other life what sleeping is to waking? May not all our life be a dream and death an awakening? But an awakening to what? And supposing that everything is but the dream of God and that God one day will awaken? Will He remember His dream?
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 pedantry of logic, or of esthetics, or of ethics, is at bottom nothing but hypocrisy.
I do not understand these men who tell me that the prospect of the yonder side of death has never tormented them, that the thought of their own annihilation never disquiets them. For my part I do not wish to make peace between my heart and my head, between my faith and my reason — I wish rather that there should be war between them.
We must needs believe in the other life, in the eternal life beyond the grave. ...And we must needs believe in that other life, perhaps, in order that we may deserve it, in order that we may obtain it, for it may be that he neither deserves it nor will obtain it who does not passionately desire it above reason and, if need be, against reason.
Imagination, which is the social sense, animates the inanimate and anthropomorphizes everything; it humanizes everything and even makes everything identical with man. And the work of man is to supernaturalize Nature — that is to say, to make it divine by making it human, to help it to become conscious of itself, in short. The action of reason, on the other hand, is to mechanize or materialize.
What the sorrowful Jew of Amsterdam called the essence of a thing, the effort that it makes to persist indefinitely in its own being, self-love, the longing for immortality, is it not perhaps the primal and fundamental condition of all reflective or human knowledge? And is it not therefore the true base, the real starting-point, of all philosophy, although the philosophers, perverted by intellectualism, do not recognize it?
And neither ought we to be surprised by the affirmation that the consciousness of the Universe is composed and integrated by the consciousnesses of the beings which form the Universe, by the consciousnesses of all the beings that exist, and that nevertheless it remains a personal consciousness distinct from those which compose it. Only thus is it possible to understand how in God we live, move, and have our being.
Our longing to save consciousness, to give personal and human finality to the Universe and to existence, is such that even in the midst of a supreme, an agonizing and lacerating sacrifice, we should still hear the voice that assured us that if our consciousness disappears, it is that the infinite and eternal Consciousness may be enriched thereby, that our souls may serve as a nutriment to the Universal soul.
A man, in so far as he is an individual, may be very sharply detached from others, a sort of spiritual crustacean, and yet be very poor in differentiating content. And further, it is true on the other hand that the more personality a man has and the greater his interior riches and the more he is a society within himself, the less brusquely he is divided from his fellows.
The work of charity, of the love of God, is to endeavor to to liberate God from brute matter, to endeavor to give consciousness to everything, to spiritualize or universalize everything; it is to dream that the very rocks may find a voice and work in accordance with the spirit of this dream; it is to dream that everything that exists may become conscious, that the Word may become life.
What we really long for after death is to go on living this life, this same mortal life, but without its ills without its tedium, and without death. Seneca, the Spaniard, gave expression to this in his Consolatio ad Marciam... And what but that is the meaning of that comic conception of the eternal recurrence which issued from the tragic soul of poor Nietzsche, hungering for concrete and temporal immortality?
I hope, reader, that some time while our tragedy is still playing, in some interval between 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 from your distractions. And may God deny you peace, but give you glory!
Yes, yes, I see it all! — an enormous social activity, a mighty civilization, a profuseness of science, of art, of industry, of morality, and afterwords, when we have filled the world with industrial marvels, with great factories, with roads, museums and libraries, we shall fall exhausted at the foot of it all, and it will subsist — for whom? Was man made for science or was science made for man?
And yet this might not necessarily involve the conversion of the Trinity into a Quaternity. If... in Greek, spirit, instead of being neuter had been feminine, who can say that the Virgin Mary might not already have become an incarnation or humanization of the Holy Spirit? ...And thus a dogmatic evolution would have been effected parallel to that of the divinization of Jesus, the Son, and his identification with the Word.
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 or his conversion that immortalized him, earning him forgiveness for this crime of having been born. 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.
Consciousness, the craving for more, more, always more, hunger of eternity and thirst of infinity, appetite for God — these are never satisfied. Each consciousness seeks to be itself and all other consciousnesses without ceasing to be itself; it seeks to be God. And matter, unconsciousness, tends to be less and less, tends to be nothing, its thirst being a thirst for repose. Spirit says: I wish to be! and matter answers: I wish not to be!
The real sin — perhaps it is a sin against the Holy Ghost for which there is no remission — is the sin of heresy, the sin of thinking for oneself. The saying has been heard before now, here in Spain, that to be a liberal — that is, a heretic — is worse than being an assassin, a thief, or an adulterer. The gravest sin is not to obey the Church, whose infallibility protects us from reason.
The only way to give finality to the world is to give it consciousness. For where there is no consciousness there is no finality, finality presupposing a purpose. And... faith in God is based simply upon the vital need of giving finality to existence, of making it answer to a purpose. We need God, not in order to understand the why, but in order to feel and sustain the ultimate wherefore, to give a meaning to the Universe.
It is the furious longing to give finality to the Universe, to make it conscious and personal, that has brought us to believe in God, to wish that God may exist, to create God, in a word. To create Him, yes! This saying ought not to scandalize even the most devout theist. For to believe in God is, in a certain sense, to create Him, although He first creates us. It is He who is continually creating Himself.
Faith makes us live by showing us that life, although it is dependent upon reason, has its well spring and source of power elsewhere, in something supernatural and miraculous. Cournot the mathematician, a man of singularly well-balanced and scientifically equipped mind has said that it is this tendency towards the supernatural and miraculous that gives life, and that when it is lacking, all the speculations of reason lead to nothing but affliction of the spirit. ...And in truth we wish to live.
And the other Don Quixote remained here among us, fighting with desperation. And does he not fight out of despair? ...But "despair is the master of possibilities," 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 [I hope because it is absurd], it ought to have been said, rather than credo [Credo quia absurdam — I believe because it is absurd].
In the root of the word "faith" itself... there is implicit the idea of confidence, of surrender to the will of another, to a person. Confidence is placed only in persons. We trust in Providence, which we perceive as something personal and conscious, not in Fate, which is something impersonal. And thus it is in the person who tells us the truth, in the person that gives us hope, that we believe, not directly or immediately in truth itself or in hope itself.
Suffering is a spiritual thing. It is the most immediate revelation of consciousness, and it may be that our body was given us simply in order that suffering might be enabled to manifest itself. A man who had never known suffering, either in greater or less degree, would scarcely possess consciousness of himself. The child first cries at birth when the air, entering into his lungs and limiting him, seems to say to him: You have to breathe me in order to live!
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 in 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.
Once the needs of hunger are satisfied — and they are soon satisfied — the vanity, the necessity — for it is a necessity — arises of imposing ourselves upon and surviving in others. Man habitually sacrifices his life to his purse, but he sacrifices his purse to his vanity. He boasts even of his weakness and his misfortunes, for want of anything better to boast of, and is like a child who, in order to attract attention, struts about with a bandaged finger.
Proceeding from ourselves, from our own human consciousness, the only consciousness which we feel from within and in which feeling is identical with being, we attribute some sort of consciousness, more or less dim, to all living things, and even to the stones themselves, for they also live. And the evolution of organic beings is simply the struggle to realize fullness of consciousness through suffering, a continual aspiration to be others without ceasing to be themselves, to break and yet to preserve their proper limits.
And why be scandalized by the infallibility of a man, of the Pope? What difference does it make whether it be a book that is infallible — the Bible, or a society of men — the Church, or a single man? Does it make any essential change in the rational difficulty? And since the infallibility of a book or of a society of men is not more rational than that of a single man, this supreme offense to the eyes of reason has to be postulated.
It appears to me to be indisputable that he who I am to-day derives, by a continuous series of states of consciousness, from him who was in my body twenty years ago. Memory is the basis of individual personality, just as tradition is the basis of the collective personality of a people. We live in memory, and our spiritual life is at bottom simply the effort of our memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our past to transform itself into our future.
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 offering of the Middle Ages.
The Catholic solution of our problem, of our unique vital problem, the problem of the immortality and eternal salvation of the soul, satisfies the will, and therefore satisfies life; but the attempt to rationalize it by means of a dogmatic theology fails to satisfy the reason. And reason has its exigencies as imperious as those of life. It is no use seeking to force ourselves to consider as super-rational what clearly appears to us to be contra-rational... Infallibility, a notion of Hellenic origin, is in its essence a rationalistic category.
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 heroic too — and tell me if you find anything comic in the tragedy.
And he arrives at the cogito ergo sum, which St. Augustine had already anticipated... "I think therefore I am," can only mean "I think, therefore I am a thinker"; this being of "I am," which is deduced from "I think," is merely a knowing; this being is a knowledge, but not life. And the primary reality is not that I think, but that I live, for those also live who do not think. Although this living may not be a real living. God! what contradictions when we seek to join in wedlock life and reason!
I must avert here once again to my view of the opposition that exists between individuality and personality, notwithstanding the fact that the one demands the other. Individuality is, if I may so express it, the container or thing which contains, personality the content or thing contained, or I might say that my personality is in a certain sense my comprehension, that which I comprehend or embrace within myself — which is in a certain way the whole Universe — and that my individuality is my extension; the one my infinite, the other my finite.
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 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.
Egoism you say? There is nothing more universal than the individual, for what is the property of each is the property of all. Each man is worth more than the whole of humanity, nor will it do to sacrifice each to all save in so far as all sacrifice themselves to each. That which we call egoism is the principle of psychic gravity, the necessary postulate. "Love thy neighbor as thyself," we are told, the presupposition being that each man loves himself; and it is not said "Love thyself." And nevertheless, we do not know how to love ourselves.
...as the great Unitarian preacher Channing pointed out, that in France and Spain there are multitudes who have proceeded from rejecting Popery to absolute atheism, because "the fact is, that false and absurd doctrines, when exposed, have a natural tendency to beget skepticism in those who receive them without reflection. None are so likely to believe too little as those who have begun by believing too much." Here is, indeed, the terrible danger of believing too much. But no! the terrible danger comes from another quarter — from seeking to believe with the reason and not with the life.
We must needs believe with faith, whatever counsels reason may give us, that in the depths of our own bodies, in animals, in plants, in rocks, in everything that lives, in all the Universe, there is a spirit that strives to know itself, to acquire consciousness of itself, to be itself — for to be oneself is to know oneself — to be pure spirit; and since it can only achieve this by means of the body, by means of matter, it creates and makes use of matter at the same time that it remains a prisoner of it.
And what is its moral proof? We may formulate it thus: Act so that in your own judgment and in the judgment 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 tomorrow, 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.
Consciousness (conscientia) is participated knowledge, is co-feeling, and co-feeling is com-passion. Love personalizes all that it loves. Only by personalizing it can we fall in love with an idea. And when love is so great and so vital, so strong and so overflowing, that it loves everything, then it personalizes everything and discovers that the total All, that the Universe, is also a person possessing a Consciousness, a Consciousness which in its turn suffers, pities, and loves, and therefore is consciousness. And this Consciousness of the Universe, which a love, personalizing all that it loves, discovers, is what we call God.
Is there not therefore rational necessity, but vital anguish that impels us to believe in God. And to believe in God — I must reiterate it yet again — is, before all and above all, to feel a hunger for God, a hunger for divinity, to be sensible to his lack and absence, to wish that God may exist. And it is the wish to save the human finality of the Universe. For one might even come to resign oneself to being absorbed by God, if it be that our consciousness is based upon Consciousness, if consciousness is the end of the Universe.
May we not say, perhaps, that the evil man is annihilated because he wished to be annihilated, or that he did not wish strongly enough to eternalize himself because he was evil? May we say that it is not believing in the other life which causes a man to be good, but rather that being good causes him believe in it? And what is being good and being evil? These states belong to the sphere of ethics, not of religion; or rather, does not the doing good though being evil pertain to ethics, and the being good [forgivable] though doing evil, to religion?
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.
All of this that is happening to me, and happening to others about me, is it reality or is it fiction? May not all of it perhaps be a dream of God, or of whomever it may be, which will vanish as soon as He wakes? And therefore when we pray to Him, and cause canticles and hymns to rise to Him, is it not that we may lull Him to sleep, rocking the cradle of His dreams? Is not the whole liturgy, of all religions, only a way perhaps of soothing God in His dreams, so that He shall not wake and cease to dream us?
There may be a rationalist who has never wavered in his conviction of the mortality of the soul, and there may be a vitalist who has never wavered in his faith in immortality; but at the most this would prove that just as there are natural monstrosities, so there are those who are stupid as regards heart and feeling, however great their intelligence, and those who are stupid intellectually, however great their virtue. But, in normal cases, I cannot believe those who assure me that never, not in a fleeting moment, not in the hours of direst loneliness and grief, has this murmur of uncertainty breathed upon their consciousness.
I know that all this is dull reading, tiresome, perhaps tedious, but it is all necessary. And I must repeat once again that we have nothing to do with a transcendental police system or with the conversion of God into a great Judge or Policeman — that is to say, we are not concerned with heaven or hell considered as buttresses to shore up our poor earthly mortality, nor are we concerned with anything egoistic or personal. It is not I myself alone, it is the whole human race that is involved, it is the ultimate finality of all our civilization. I am but one, but all men are I's.
In fact, for a voluntarist like Schopenhauer, a theory so sanely and cautiously empirical and rational as that of Darwin, left out of account the inward force, the essential motive, of evolution. For what is, in effect, the hidden force, the ultimate agent, which impels organisms to perpetuate themselves and to fight for their persistence and propagation? Selection, adaptation, heredity, these are only external conditions. This inner, essential force has been called will on the supposition that there exists also in other beings that which we feel in ourselves as a feeling of will, the impulse to be everything, to be others as well as ourselves yet without ceasing to be what we are.
But as far as our own world is concerned, its gradual leveling-down — or, we might say, its death — appears to be proved. And how will this process affect the fate of our spirit? Will it wane with the degradation of the energy of our world and return to unconsciousness, or will it grow according as the utilizable energy diminishes and by virtue of the very efforts that it makes to retard this degradation and to dominate Nature? — for this it is that constitutes the life of the spirit. May it be that consciousness and its extended support are two powers in contraposition, the one growing at the expense of the other?
In books of psychology written from the spiritualist point of view, it is customary to begin the discussion of the existence of the soul as a simple substance, separable from the body, after this style: There is in me a principle which thinks, wills and feels... Now this implies a begging of the question. For it is far from being an immediate truth that there is in me such a principle; the immediate truth is that I think, will and feel. And I — the I that thinks, wills and feels — am immediately my living body with the states of consciousness which it sustains. It is my living body that thinks, wills and feels.
Shall we not perhaps be told, on the other hand, that if the sinner suffers an eternal punishment, it is because he does not cease to sin? — for the damned sin without ceasing. This however is no solution to the problem, which derives all its absurdity from the fact that punishment has been conceived as vindictiveness or vengeance, not as correction, and has been conceived after the fashion of barbarous peoples. And in the same way hell has been conceived as a sort of police institution, necessary in order to put fear into the world. And the worst of it is that it no longer intimidates, and therefore will have to be shut up.
And the soul, my soul at least, longs for something else, not absorption, not quietude, not peace, not appeasement, it longs ever to approach and never to arrive, it longs for the never-ending longing, for an eternal hope which is eternally renewed but never wholly fulfilled. And together with all this, it longs for an eternal lack of something and an eternal suffering. A suffering, a pain, thanks to which it grows without ceasing in consciousness and longing. Do not write upon the gate of heaven that sentence which Dante placed over the threshold of hell, Lasciate ogni speranza! [Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate: All hope abandon, ye who enter in] Do not destroy time!
In the most secret chamber of the spirit of him who believes himself convinced that death puts an end to his personal consciousness, his memory, for ever, and all unknown to him perhaps, there lurks a shadow, a vague shadow, a shadow of uncertainty, and while he says within himself, "Well, let us live this life that passes away, for there is no other!" the silence of this secret chamber speaks to him and murmurs, "Who knows!... " These voices are like the humming of a mosquito when the south-west wind roars through the trees in the wood; we cannot distinguish this faint humming, yet nevertheless, merged in the clamor of the storm, it reaches the ear.
An eternal purgatory, then, rather than a heaven of glory; an eternal ascent. If there is an end to all suffering, however pure and spiritualized we may suppose it to be, if there is an end to all desire, what is it that makes the blessed in paradise go on living? If in paradise they do not suffer for want of God, how shall they love Him? And if there, in the heaven of glory, while they behold God little by little and closer and closer, yet without ever wholly attaining Him, there does not always remain something more for them to know and desire, if there does not always remain a substratum of doubt, how shall they not fall asleep?
May not the absolute and perfect eternal happiness be an eternal hope, which would die if it were realized? Is it possible to be happy without hope? And there is no place for hope once possession has been realized, for hope, desire, is killed by possession. May it not be, I say, that all souls grow without ceasing, some in a greater measure than others, but all having to pass some time through the same degree of growth, whatever that degree may be, and yet without ever arriving at the infinite, at God, to whom they continually approach? Is not eternal happiness an eternal hope, with its eternal nucleus of sorrow in order that happiness shall not be swallowed up in nothingness?
Not by way of reason, but only by way of love and suffering, do we come to the living God, the human God. Reason rather separates us from Him. We cannot first know Him in order that afterward we may love Him; we must begin by loving Him, longing for Him, hungering after Him, before knowing Him. The knowledge of God proceeds from the love of God, and this love has little or nothing of the rational in it. For God is indefinable. To seek to define Him is to seek to confine Him within the limits of our mind — that is to say, to kill Him. In so far as we attempt to define Him, there rises up before us — Nothingness.
It has often been said that every man who has suffered misfortunes prefers to be himself, even with his misfortunes, rather than to be someone else without them. For unfortunate men, when they preserve their normality in their misfortune — that is to say, when they endeavor to persist in their own being — prefer misfortune to non-existence. For myself I can say that when a as a youth, and even as a child, I remained unmoved when shown the most moving pictures of hell, for even then nothing appeared to me quite so horrible as nothingness itself. It was a furious hunger of being that possessed me, an appetite for divinity, as one of our ascetics [San Juan de los Angeles] has put it.
And here, facing this supreme religious sacrifice, we reach the summit of the tragedy, the very heart of it — the sacrifice of our own individual consciousness upon the alter of the perfected Human Consciousness, of the Divine Consciousness. But is there really a tragedy? ...if we could succeed in understanding and feeling that we were going to enrich Christ, should we hesitate for a moment in surrendering ourselves to Him? Would the stream that flows into the sea, and feels in the freshness of its waters the bitterness of the salt of the ocean, wish to flow back to its source? would it wish to return to the cloud which drew it life from the sea? is it not joy to feel itself absorbed?
The philosophy of the soul of my people appears to me as an expression of an inward tragedy analogous to the tragedy of the soul of Don Quixote, as the expression of 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.
Seek, therefore, thyself! But in finding oneself, does not one find one's own nothingness? ...Carlyle answers (Past and Present, book iii, chap. xi.). "The latest Gospel in the world is, Know thy work and do it. Know thyself: long enough has that poor self of thine tormented thee; thou wilt never get to know it, I believe! Think it thy business, this of knowing thyself; thou art an unknowable individual: know what thou canst work at; and work at it, like Hercules. That will be thine better plan." …and what is my work? — without thinking about myself, is to love God. ...And on the other hand, in loving God in myself, am I not loving myself more than God, am I not loving myself in God?
And if the immortality of the soul had been unable to find vindication in rational empiricism, neither is it satisfied with pantheism. To say that everything is God, and that when we die, we return to God, or more accurately, continue in Him, avails our longing nothing; for if this indeed be so, then we were in God before we were born, and if we die we return to where we were before being born, then the human soul, the individual consciousness, is perishable. And since we know very well that God, the personal and conscious God of Christian monotheism, is simply the provider, and above all the guarantor, of our immortality, pantheism is said, and rightly said to be merely atheism disguised; and in my opinion, undisguised.
Like monarchy, monotheism had a martial origin. "It is only on the march and it time of war," says Robertson Smith in The Prophets of Israel, "that a nomad people feels any urgent need of a central authority, and so it came about that in the first beginnings of national organization, centering in the sanctuary of the ark, Israel was thought of mainly as a host of Jehovah. the very name of Israel is martial, and means 'God (El) fighteth,' and Jehovah in the Old Testament is Iahwé Cebāôth — the Jehovah of the armies of Israel. It was on the battlefield that Jehovah's presence was most clearly realized; but in primitive nations the leader in time of war is also the natural judge in time of peace."
Ether is, in effect, a merely hypothetical entity, valuable only in so far as it explains that which by means of it we endeavor to explain — light, electricity, or universal gravitation — and only so far as these facts cannot be explained in any other way. In like manner the idea of God is also an hypothesis, valuable only in so far as it enables us to explain that which by means of it we endeavor to explain — the essence and existence of the Universe — and only so long as these cannot be explained in any other way. And since in reality we explain the Universe neither better nor worse with this idea than without it, the idea of God, the supreme petitio principii, is valueless.
It is the vital asserting itself, and in order to assert itself it creates, with the help of its enemy, the rational, a complete dogmatic structure, and this the Church defends against rationalism, against Protestantism, and against Modernism. The Church defends life. It stood up against Galileo, and it did right; for his discovery, in its inception and until it became assimilated to the general body of human knowledge, tended to shatter the anthropomorphic belief that the universe was created for man. It opposed Darwin, and it did right, for Darwinism tends to shatter our belief that man is an exceptional animal, created expressly to be eternalized. And lastly, Pius IX, the first Pontiff to be proclaimed infallible, declared he was irreconcilable with the so-called modern civilization. And he did right.
The cult of the Virgin, Mariolatry, which by the gradual elevation of the divine element in the Virgin has led almost to her deification, answers merely to the feeling that God should be a perfect man, that God should include in his nature the feminine element. The progressive exaltation of the Virgin Mary, the work of Catholic piety, having its beginning in the expression Mother of God, ...has culminated in attributing to her the status of co-redeemer and in the dogmatic declaration of her conception without the stain of original sin. Hence she now occupies a position between Humanity and Divinity and nearer Divinity than Humanity. And it has been surmised that in course of time she may perhaps even come to be regarded as yet another personal manifestation of the Godhead.
Knowledge is employed in the service of the necessity of life and primarily in the service of the instinct of personal preservation. The necessity and this instinct have created in man the organs of knowledge and given them such capacity as they possess. Man sees, hears, touches, tastes and smells that which it is necessary for him to see, hear, touch, taste and smell in order to preserve his life. The decay or loss of any of these senses increases the risks with which his life is environed, and if it increases them less in the state of society in which we are actually living, the reason is that some see, hear, touch, taste and smell for others. A blind man, by himself and without a guide, could not live long. Society is an additional sense; it is the true common sense.
The philosophical thought of Kant, the supreme flower 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 has 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 He is the God of the humble, for in the words of the Apostle, God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (I Cor. i. 27) And God is in each of us in the measure in which one feels Him and loves Him. "If of two men," says Kierkegaard, "one prays to the true God without sincerity of heart, and the other prays to the an idol with all the passion of an infinite yearning, it is the first who really prays to the idol, while the second really prays to God." It would be better to say that the true God is He to whom man truly prays and whom man truly desires. And there may even be a truer revelation in superstition itself than in theology.
Perhaps there is nobody who would sacrifice his life for the sake of maintaining that the three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, for such a truth does not demand the sacrifice of our life; but, on the other hand, there are many who have lost their lives for the sake of maintaining their religious faith. Indeed, it is truer to say that martyrs make faith than that faith makes martyrs. For faith is not the mere adherence of the intellect to an abstract principle; it is not the recognition of a theoretical truth, the process in which the will merely sets in motion our faculty of comprehension; faith is an act of the will — it is a movement of the soul towards a practical truth, towards a person, towards something that makes us not merely comprehend life, but that makes us live.
The vain man is in like cause with the avaricious — he takes the mean for the end; forgetting the end he pursues the means for its own sake and goes no further. The seeming to be something, conducive to being it, ends by forming our objective. We need that others should believe in our superiority to them in order that we may believe in it ourselves, and upon their belief base our faith in our own persistence, or at least in the persistence of our fame. We are more grateful to him that congratulates us on the skill with which we defend a cause than we are to him who recognizes the truth or goodness of the cause itself. A rabid mania for originality is rife in the modern intellectual world and characterizes all individual effort. We would rather err with genius than hit the mark with the crowd.
Not without reason did he who had the right to do so speak of the foolishness of the cross. Foolishness, without a doubt, foolishness. And the American humorist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, was not altogether wide of the mark in making one of the characters in his ingenious conversations say that he thought better of those who were confined in a lunatic asylum on account of religious mania than of those who, while professing the same religious principles, kept their wits and appeared to enjoy life very well outside the asylums. But those who are at large, are they not really, thanks to God, mad too? Are there not mild madnesses, which not only permit us to mix with our neighbors without danger to society, but which rather enable us to do so, for by means of them we are able to attribute a meaning and finality to life and society?
Glorious is the risk! — καλος γαρ ο κινδυνος, glorious is the risk that we are able to run of our souls never dying … Faced with this risk, I am presented with arguments designed to eliminate it, arguments demonstrating the absurdity of the belief in the immortality of the soul; but these arguments fail to make any impression on me, for they are reasons and nothing more than reasons, and it is not with reasons that the heart is appeased. I do not want to die — no; I neither want to die nor do I want to want to die; I want to live for ever and ever and ever. I want this "I" to live — this poor "I" that I am and that I feel myself to be here and now, and therefore the problem of the duration of my soul, of my own soul, tortures me.
A terrible thing is intelligence. It tends to death as memory tends to stability. The living, the absolutely unstable, the absolutely individual, is strictly unintelligible. Logic tends to reduce everything to identities and genera, to each representation having no more than one self-same content in whatever place, time or relation it may occur to us. And there is nothing that remains for two successive moments of its existence. My idea of God is different each time that I conceive it. Identity, which is death, is the goal of the intellect. The mind seeks what is dead, for what is living escapes it; it seeks to congeal the flowing stream in blocks of ice; it seeks to arrest it. In order to analyze a body it is necessary to extenuate or destroy it. In order to understand anything it is necessary to kill it, to lay it out rigid in the mind.
In the vast all of the Universe, must there be this unique anomaly — a consciousness that knows itself, loves itself and feels itself, joined to an organism which can only live within such and such degrees of heat, a merely transitory phenomenon? No, it is not mere curiosity that inspires the wish to know whether or not the stars are inhabited by living organisms, by consciousness akin to our own, and a profound longing enters into that dream that our souls shall pass from star to star through the vast spaces of the heavens, in an infinite series of transmigrations. The feeling of the divine makes us wish and believe that everything is animated, that consciousness, in a greater or less degree, extends through everything. We wish not only to save ourselves, but to save the world from nothingness. And therefore God. Such is his finality as we feel it.
"God does not think, He creates; He does not exist, He is eternal," wrote Kierkegaard (Afslutende uvidenskabelige Efterskrift); but perhaps it is more exact to say with Mazzini, the mystic of the Italian city, that "God is great because his thought is action" (Ai giovani d'Italila), because with Him to think is to create, and He gives existence to that which exists in His thought by the mere fact of thinking it, and the impossible is unthinkable by God. It is not written in the Scriptures that God creates with His word — that is to say, with His thought — and that by this, by His Word, He made everything that exists? And what God has once made does He ever forget? May it not be that all the thoughts that have ever passed through the Supreme Consciousness still subsist therein? In Him, who is eternal, is not all existence eternalized?
More than a century ago, in 1804, in Letter XC of that series that constitutes the immense monody of his Obermann, Sénancour wrote the words which I have put at the head of this chapter — and of all the spiritual descendants of the patriarchal Rousseau, Sénancour was the most profound and 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 it 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.
I will not say that the more or less poetical and unphilosophical doctrines that I am about to set forth are those which make me live; but I will venture to say that it is my longing to live and to live for ever that inspires these doctrines within me. And if by means of them I succeed in strengthening and sustaining this same longing in another, perhaps when it is all but dead, then I shall have performed a man's work, and above all, I shall have lived. In a word, be it with reason or without reason or against reason, I am resolved not to die. And if, when at last I die out, I die altogether, then I shall not have died out of myself — that is, I shall not have yielded myself to death, but my human destiny shall have killed me. Unless I come to lose my head, or rather my heart, I will not abdicate from life — life will be wrested from me.
Not only are we unable to conceive of the full and living God as masculine simply, but we are unable to conceive of Him as individual simply, as the projection of a solitary I, an unsocial I, an I that is in reality an abstract I. My living I is an I that is really a We; my living personal I lives only in other, of other, and by other I's; I am sprung from a multitude of ancestors. I carry them within me in extract, and at the same time I carry within me, potentially, a multitude of descendants, and God, the projection of my I to the infinite — or rather I, the projection of God to the finite — must also be a multitude. Hence, in order to save the personality of God — that is to say, in order to save the living God — faith's need — the need of the feeling and the imagination — of conceiving Him and feeling Him as possessed of a certain internal multiplicity.
He who bases or thinks he bases his conduct — his inward or his outward conduct, his feeling or his action — upon a dogma or a 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 honor of the human race.
But if ether is nothing but an hypothesis explanatory of light, air on the other hand, is a thing that is directly felt; and even if it did not enable us to explain the phenomenon of sound, we should nevertheless always be directly aware of it, and above all, of the lack of it in moments of suffocation or air-hunger. And in the same way God Himself, not the idea of God, may become a reality that is immediately felt; and even though the idea of God does not enable us to explain either the existence or essence of the Universe, we have at times the direct feeling of God, above all in moments of spiritual suffocation. And the feeling, mark it well, for all that is tragic in it and the whole tragic sense of life is founded upon this — this feeling is a feeling of hunger for God, of the lack of God. To believe in God is, in the first instance... to wish that there may be a God, to be unable to live without Him.
Yes, I know well that others before me have felt what I feel and express; that many others feel it today, although they keep silence about it. ...And I do not keep silence about it because it is for many the thing which must not be spoken, the abomination of abominations — infandum — and I believe that it is necessary now and again to speak the thing which must not be spoken. ...Even if it should lead only to irritating the devotees of progress, those who believe that truth is consolation, it would lead to not a little. To irritating them and making them say: "Poor fellow! if he would only use his intelligence to better purpose!... Someone perhaps will add that I do not know what I say, to which I shall reply that perhaps he may be right — and being right is such a little thing! — but that I feel what I say and I know what I feel and that suffices me. And that it is better to be lacking in reason than to have too much of it.
I have 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: "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 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 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.