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As I myself have willingly confessed, the endeavour to make proselytes from unbelievers is deep rooted in the character of religion. Yet that is not what now urges me to speak to you of the cultivation of man for this noble capacity. For this cultivation we believers know of only one means—the free expression and communication of religion. When religion moves in a man with all its native force, when it carries every faculty of his spirit imperiously along in the stream of its impulse, we expect it to penetrate into the hearts of all who live and breathe within its influence. Every corresponding element being stirred by this life-giving power, they should attain a consciousness of their existence, and the attentive ear should be gladdened by an answering note of kindred sound. Where the pious person fails to awake a life like his by the natural expression of his own life, he will despise nobly every strange charm, every exercise of force in the calm conviction that the time has not yet come for anything congenial to appear.

The unsuccessful issue is not new to any of us. How often have I struck up the music of my religion, seeking to move the bystanders! Beginning with single soft notes, I have soon been swept on by youthful impetuosity to the fullest harmony of the religious feelings. But nothing stirred, nothing answered in the hearers. I have entrusted these words to a larger and more versatile 120circle, yet from how many, despite of those advantages, will they return in sadness without having been understood, yea, without having awaked the vaguest suspicion of their purpose! And how often, for all who proclaim religion, and for me along with them, will this fate which has been appointed us from the beginning, be renewed! Yet this shall never distress us. The difficulty we know may not otherwise be met, and we shall never be moved from our quiet equanimity to attempt in any other fashion to force our way of thinking either upon this or the future generation.

Everyone of us misses in himself not a little that belongs to a complete humanity, and many lack much. What wonder, then, if the number in whom religion refuses to develope should be great! Necessarily it must be great, else how could we come to see it in—if I might so say—its incarnate, historical existence, or discern the bounds it sets on all sides to the other capacities of man, or how by them again it is in manifold ways bounded. Or how should we know how far man can anywhere succeed without it, and where it sustains him and forwards him; or guess that, without his knowledge, it is busy in him.

But especially in these times of universal confusion and upheaval, it is natural that its slumbering spark should not glow up in many, however lovingly or patiently we tend it, and that, even in persons in whom under happier circumstances it would have broken through all obstacles, it is not brought to life. In all human things nothing remains unshaken. Every man must continually face the possibility of having to abandon the very belief that determines his place in the world and binds him to the earthly order of things. And he may find no other, but may sink in the general whirlpool. One class shun no concentration of their own powers and shout also towards every side for help, that they may hold fast what they take 121to be the poles of the world and of society, of art and of science, which by an indescribable destiny, as it were of their own accord, suddenly leap from their sockets and allow all that has so long revolved around them to fall; the other class, with a like restless zeal, are busy clearing away the ruins of fallen centuries, seeking to be the first to settle on the fruitful ground that is being formed beneath from the quickly cooling lava of the dread volcano.

Even without leaving his place, every man is so mightily affected by the vehement shaking of all things that, in the universal giddiness, he must be glad to fix his eye steadily enough on any one object, to be able to keep to it and convince himself gradually that something still stands. In such a state of things it would be foolish to expect that many could be fit to cultivate and retain religious feelings which prosper best in quiet. In the midst of this ferment, indeed, the aspect of the moral world is more majestic and noble than ever, and at moments there are hints of more significant traits than ever before in the centuries. Yet who can rescue himself from the universal turmoil? Who can escape the power of narrower interests? Who has calm enough to stand still and steadfastness enough for undisturbed contemplation?

But suppose the happiest times and suppose the best will not only to arouse by communication the capacity for religion where it does exist, but, by every possible way, to ingraft and to impart it. Where, then, is there such a way? All that the activity and art of one man can do for another is to communicate conceptions to be the basis of thoughts, and so far to associate them with his own ideas that they may be remembered at fitting times. But no one can arrive at the point of making others think what thoughts he will. There is a contrariety that cannot be eliminated from words, and much less can you get beyond this means and freely produce what inner activity you will. In short, on the mechanism of the spirit everyone 122can, in some measure, work, but into its organization, into the sacred workshop of the Universe, no one can enter at pleasure. No one can change or disarrange, take from or add to. At the most he may, by means of this mechanism, retard the development of the spirit. Part of the growth may thus be violently mutilated, but nothing can be moulded. From this sanctuary of his organization which force cannot enter, all that pertains to the true life of man, all that should be an ever alert, operative impulse in him, proceeds.

And such is religion. In the spirit it inhabits it is uninterruptedly active and strong, making everything an object for itself and turning every thought and action into a theme for its heavenly phantasy. Like everything else, then, that should be ever present, ever active in the human soul, it lies far beyond the domain of teaching and imparting. Instruction in religion, meaning that piety itself is teachable, is absurd and unmeaning. Our opinions and doctrines we can indeed communicate, if we have words and our hearers have the comprehending, imagining power of the understanding. But we know very well that those things are only the shadows of our religious emotions, and if our pupils do not share our emotions, even though they do understand the thought, they have no possession that can truly repay their toil. This retreat into oneself, there to perceive oneself, cannot be taught. Even the most inspired person who can see, it matters not before what object he finds himself, the original light of the Universe, cannot by the word of instruction transfer this power and dexterity to another.

There is, indeed, an imitative talent which in some perhaps we can so far arouse as to make it easy for them, when sacred feelings are represented in powerful tones, to produce in themselves somewhat similar emotions. But does that touch their deepest nature? Is it, in the true sense of the word, religion? If you would compare the 123sense for the Universe with the sense for art, you must not compare the possessors of a passive religiousness—if you care so to name it—with those who, without producing works of art themselves, are responsive to everything that has to do with viewing them. The works of art of religion are always and everywhere exposed. The whole world is a gallery of religious scenes, and every man finds himself in the midst of them. Wherefore, you must liken them to persons who cannot be made to feel till commentaries and imaginings on works of art are brought as medicinal charms for the deadened sense, and who even then only lisp, in an ill-understood terminology, some inappropriate words that are not their own. So much and no more you can accomplish by mere teaching. This is the goal of all conscious educating and exercising in such things. Show me one man to whom you have imparted power of judgment, the spirit of observation, feeling for art or morality, then will I pledge myself to teach religion also.

Of course there is in religion a mastership and a discipleship. But this attachment is no blind imitation. It is not the master that makes disciples, but he is their master because of their choice.2929This expression appears to contradict the words of Christ which He spoke to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Yet the contradiction is only apparent, for on another occasion He asked of His disciples whether they also were deceived as others had been, whereby He acknowledged that their continuance with Him was a free act. Now this is all that is here asserted. In their declaration of steadfastness, we can say, that they chose Him anew as their Master, with a quicker sense and a riper judgment. Also it would be wrong to interpret Christ’s words as if they had only special reference to certain persons. This would be a particular sense which I would not defend. It was not by an original divine impulse common to Him and to them, that the kingdom of God was founded. Of subordinate movements in religion, such as reform of the church, this may very well be said, but it was not thus that Peter, as their representative, recognized Him as the profoundest and mightiest. Originally, the emotion was in Him alone; in them there was only the capacity for having it awakened. What is here said, therefore, entirely agrees with the representation of Christ; indeed, his relation to His disciples suggested it. Had not Christ set out from the view that every living utterance, however individual, can only awake its response in another in a universal way and that complete attachment to the individuality of another is always a free act, He could not have set His disciples on such a footing of equality as to call them brethren and friends. And if, by the utterance of our own religion, religion is awakened in others, we cannot retain it in our power or attach it to ourselves. As soon as it lives, their religion also is free and goes its own way. On blazing up in the soul, the sacred spark spreads to a free and living flame, fed by its own atmosphere. More or less it illumines for the soul the whole circuit of the world, so that, following his own impulse, he may settle far away from the place where first the new life was lit. Compelled simply by the feeling of weakness and finitude, by an original, inward determination to settle in some definite quarter, without being ungrateful to his first guide, he makes choice of that climate which suits him best. There he seeks for himself a centre, and moving self-limited in his new course, of his own choice and spontaneous 124liking, be calls himself the disciple of him who first settled in this dear spot and showed its splendour.3030What is here said follows naturally from the passage just explained. The best example is found in the oldest Christian history, in the Proselytes from Heathenism, who forsook the Jews who first woke in them the sense of the one Highest Being and went over to Christianity. In every time when the religious life is stirred, as unquestionably it has begun to be among us since this was written, it seems to me specially necessary that all who, either from profession or from inward call, exercise a marked religions influence, should rise to this freer view, that they may not wonder why so many who have received their first impulse from them, should only find their complete rest in very different views and sentiments. Let everyone rejoice at waking life, for he thereby approves himself an instrument of the Divine Spirit, but let none believe that the fashioning of it continues in his power.

I do not, therefore, aim at training either you or others to religion. Nor would I teach you by resolve or rule to train yourselves. I would not leave the sphere of religion—as by doing so I would—but a little longer I would tarry with you within. The Universe itself trains its own observers and admirers, and how that comes to pass we shall now see, as far as it can be seen.

You know how each element of humanity discloses itself by the place it maintains against the others. By this universal strife everything in every man attains a determinate form and size. Now this strife is only sustained by the fellowship of the single elements, by the movement of the Whole. Hence every man and every thing in every man is a work of the Whole. This is the only way in which the pious sense can conceive man. Now I wish to return to the religious limitation of our contemporaries which you praise and I bewail. I wish to regard it in this aspect and to make it clear why we are thus and not otherwise, and what must happen if our limits are to be widened. Would that I could at the same time make you conscious that you also by your being and doing are tools of the Universe, and that your deed, towards quite other things directed, has an influence upon the present state of religion.

Man is born with the religious capacity as with every other. If only his sense for the profoundest depths of his own nature is not crushed out, if only all fellowship between himself and the Primal Source is not quite shut off, religion would, after its own fashion, infallibly be developed. But in our time, alas! that is exactly what, in very large measure, does happen. With pain I see daily how the rage for calculating and explaining suppresses the sense. I see how all things unite to bind man to the finite, and to a very small portion of the finite, 125that the infinite may as far as possible vanish from his eyes.

Who hinders the prosperity of religion? Not you, not the doubters and scoffers. Even though you were all of one mind to have no religion, you would not disturb Nature in her purpose of producing piety from the depths of the soul, for your influence could only later find prepared soil. Nor, as is supposed, do the immoral most hinder the prosperity of religion, for it is quite a different power to which their endeavours are opposed. But the discreet and practical men of to-day are, in the present state of the world, the foes of religion, and their great preponderance is the cause why it plays such a poor and insignificant rôle, for from tender childhood they maltreat man, crushing out his higher aspirations.

With great reverence I regard the longing of young minds for the marvellous and supernatural. Joyfully taking in the motley show of things, they seek at the same time something else to set over against it. They search everywhere for something surpassing the accustomed phenomena and the light play of life. However many earthly objects are presented for their knowing, there seems still another sense unnourished. That is the first stirrings of religion. A secret, inexplicable presentiment urges them past the riches of this world. Every trace of another is welcome to them, and they delight themselves in fictions of unearthly beings. All that it is most evident to them cannot be here, they embrace with that strong and jealous love devoted to objects, the right to which is strongly felt, but cannot be established. True, it is a delusion to seek the Infinite immediately outside of the finite, but is it not natural in those who know but the surface of even the finite and sensuous? Is it not the delusion of whole peoples and whole schools of wisdom?

Were there but guardians of religion among those who care for the young, how easily could this natural error be 126corrected! And, in clearer times, how greedily would young souls then abandon themselves to the impressions of the Infinite in its omnipresence!

It were even better if life were left quietly to take its own course. Let it be supposed that the taste for grotesque figures is as natural to the young imagination in religion as in art, and let it be richly satisfied. Have no anxiety when the earnest and sacred mythology, that is considered the very essence of religion, is immediately united with the careless games of childhood. Suppose that the Heavenly Father, the Saviour, the angels are but another kind of fairies and sylphs. In many, perhaps, the foundation may be laid for an insufficient and dead letter. While the images grow pale, the word, as the empty frame in which they have been fixed, may remain hanging. But man, thus treated, would be more left to himself, and a right-thinking, uncorrupted soul that knew how to keep himself free from the titillation of scraping and scheming, would more easily find, in due time, the natural issue from this labyrinth.

Now, on the contrary, that tendency is, from the beginning, forcibly suppressed. Everything mysterious and marvellous is proscribed. Imagination is not to be filled with airy images! It is just as easy to store the memory with real objects and to be preparing for life! Poor young souls, desiring quite other fare, are wearied with moral tales and have to learn how beautiful and necessary it is to be genteel and discreet. The current conceptions of things that they would of themselves have encountered, soon enough, are impressed upon them, as if it were an urgent business that could never be too soon accomplished. Without regard to their real want, there is given them that of which far too soon there will be too much.

In proportion as man must busy himself in a narrow way with a single object, to rescue the universality of the sense an impulse awakes in everyone to allow the dominating 127activity and all its kindred to rest, and to open all organs to the influence of all impressions. By a secret and most helpful sympathy this impulse is strongest when the general life reveals itself most clearly in our own breasts and in the surrounding world. But to yield to this impulse in comfortable inactivity cannot be permitted, for, from the middle-class standpoint, it would be laziness and idling. In everything there must be design and aim; somewhat has always to be performed, and if the spirit can no more serve, the body must be exercised. Work and play, but no quiet, submissive contemplation!

But most of all, men are to be taught to analyze and explain. By this explaining they are completely cheated of their sense, for, as it is conducted, it is absolutely opposed to any perceptive sense. Sense of its own accord seeks objects for itself, it advances to meet them and it offers to embrace them. It communicates something to them which distinguishes them as its possession, its work.

It will find and be found. But this explaining knows nothing of this living acquisition, of this illuminating truth, of the true spirit of discovery in childlike intuition. But from first to last, objects are to be transcribed accurately in thought as something simply given. They are, God be thanked, for all men ever the same, and who knows how long already they have been docketed in good order with all their qualities defined. Take them, then, only as life brings them, and understand that and nothing more. But to seek for yourselves and to wish to have living intercourse with things is eccentric and high-flown. It is a vain endeavour, availing nothing in human life, where things are only to be seen and handled as they have already presented themselves.

Fruitful in human life this endeavour is not, except that, without it, an active life, resting on true inward culture, is not to be found. The sense strives to comprehend the undivided impress of something whole; it will perceive what 128each thing is and how it is; it will know everything in its peculiar character. But that is not what they mean by understanding. What and how are too remote for them, around whence and to what end, they eternally circle. They seek to grasp nothing in and for itself, but only in special aspects, and therefore, not as a whole, but only piece-meal. To inquire or thoroughly examine whether the object they would understand is a whole, would lead them too far. Were this their desire, they could hardly escape so utterly without religion.

But all must be used for some excellent purpose, wherefore they dissever and anatomize. This is how they deal with what exists chiefly for the highest satisfaction of the sense, with what, in their despite, is a whole in itself, I mean with all that is art in nature and in the works of man. Before it can operate they annihilate it by explaining it in detail. Having first by decomposition robbed it of its character as art, they would teach and impress this or that lesson from the fragments.

You must grant that this is the practice of our people of understanding, and you must confess that a superabundance of sense is necessary if anything is to escape this hostile treatment. On that account alone the number must be small who are capable of such a contemplation of any object as might awake in them religion.

But this development is still more checked. The utmost is done to divert the remaining sense from the Universe. Truth and all that in it is, must be confined in the limits of the civil life. All actions must bear upon this life, while, again, it is believed that the boasted inner harmony of man means that everything bears upon his actions and they never think that, if it is to be a true and free life, the existence of an individual in the state, even as of the state itself, must have arisen from the Whole. But they are sunk in blind idolatry of the existing civil life, they are convinced that it affords material enough for the sense and 129displays rich enough pictures. Hence they have a right to guard against discontented seeking for something else and departure from the natural centre and axis. All emotions and endeavours not so directed, are but useless and exhausting exercises, from which, by purposeful activity, the soul must as much as possible be restrained. Pure love to art, or even to nature itself, is for them an extravagance, only to be endured because it is not quite so bad as other tendencies, and because many find in it consolation and compensation in various ills. Knowledge is sought with a wise and sober moderation and never without regard to practical life. The smallest thing that has influence in this sphere is not to be neglected, and the greatest, just because it goes further, is decried, as if it were mean and perverted.

That, nevertheless, there are things which, to some little depth must be explored, is for them a necessary evil, and that a few are ever to be found who, from unconquerable liking, undertake it, they thank the gods, and with sacred pity regard them as willing sacrifices. They most sincerely lament that there are feelings which cannot be tamed by the external sway of their formulas and precepts, and that in this way many men are rendered socially unhappy or immoral. People for whom the moral side of civil life is everything, and whom, though they may step a little beyond their trade, I reckon also among this class, consider this one of the profoundest evils of human nature, to be got rid of with all possible speed. The good people believe that their own activity is everything and exhausts the task of humanity, and that, if all would do what they do, they would require no sense for anything except for action. Wherefore they dock everything with their shears, and they will not suffer a single characteristic phenomenon that might awake a religious interest to grow. What can be seen and understood from their standpoint is all they allow, and it is merely a small, barren circle, without science, without 130morals, without art, without love, without spirit, I might almost say without letter.3131Only by this last trait is the picture of the way of thinking here described made complete, for these men flee also the letter. As they admit a moral, political or religious confession only, in so far as everyone can still think what he will, so no practical rules are valid except with the proviso of standing exceptions, that everything following the principle of absolute utility, should stand completely alone, as nothing through nothing for nothing. Some reader of another stamp may look askance, however, on an expression that ascribes a worth, and indeed no small worth, to the letter, for I make it equal with the other qualities here named, and misunderstandings, specially struggled against at the present day are thus favoured. I would warn him that such a conscious depreciation of what has been set too high does not serve truth, but in part produces obstinacy and in part it favours reaction. Therefore, we would at all times ascribe a high degree of worth to the letter in all earnest things, in so far as it is not separate from the spirit and dead. The immediate life in the great unities is too closely shut to be entered by the letter, for what letter could comprehend, say, the existence of a people? and in the individual there are elements too fleeting to be embraced in it, for what letter could express the nature of a single individual? But the letter is the indispensable selecting discretion, without which we could only vibrate giddily between the individual and the great classes. By it the chaotic indeterminate crowd is changed into the determinate multitude. Nay, in the largest sense the ages are distinguished by the letter, and it is the master-piece of the highest wisdom to estimate rightly when human things require a new letter. Does it appear too early the love for what it is to supplant rejects it? is it too late, that giddiness has already begun which it can no more exorcise? In short, it is without anything whereby the world might disclose itself, and yet it has many lofty pretensions to the same. They think, indeed, that they have the true and real world, and that they are the people who grasp and treat all things in their true connection.

Would that they could but once see that, for anything to be known as an element of the Whole, it must necessarily be contemplated in its characteristic nature and in its fullest completeness! In the Universe it can be nothing except by the totality of its effects and relations. That is the sum and substance, and, to perceive it, every matter must be considered, not from some outside point, but from its own proper centre, which is to say, in its separate existence, its own proper nature. This is to have all points of view for everything, and the opposite is to have one point of view for all, which is the most direct way to leave the Universe behind, to sink in lamentable narrowness and become a serf bound to the spot of earth on which we happen to stand.

In the relations of man to this world there are certain openings into the Infinite, prospects past which all are led that their sense may find its way to the Whole. Immediate feelings of definite content may not be produced by this glimpse, but there may be a general susceptibility to all religious feelings. Those prospects therefore, are wisely blocked up, and in the opening some philosophical caricature is placed as an ill-favoured place is at times covered by some sorry picture.

And if, as happens at times, the omnipotence of the Universe makes itself manifest in those people of understanding Themselves, if some ray penetrating falls upon their eyes and their soul cannot be shielded from some stirring of those emotions, the Infinite is never a goal to which they fly for rest. It is as a post at the end of a course, 131simply a point to be rounded, without touching, at the greatest speed, and the sooner they can return to their old place the better.

Birth and death fire such points. Before them it is impossible to forget that our own self is completely surrounded by the Infinite. Despite of their frequency, so soon as they touch us more nearly, they always stir a quiet longing and a holy reverence. The measurelessness of sense perception is also a hint at least of a still higher infinity. But nothing would please better those persons of understanding than to be able to use the greatest radius of the system of the worlds, as men now use the meridian of the earth, for measuring and reckoning in common life. And, if the images of life and death do approach them, believe me, however much they may speak of religion, it does not lie so near their hearts as to use the occasion to win some few young people for caution and economy in the use of their powers and for the noble art of lengthening life.

Punished they certainly are. They reach no standpoint from which they might themselves rear, from the foundation, this worldly wisdom in which they trust, but move slavishly and reverently in ancient forms or divert themselves with little improvements. This is the extreme of utilitarianism to which the age with rapid strides is being hurried by worthless scholastic word-wisdom. This new barbarism is a fit counterpart of the old. It is the beautiful fruit of the paternal eudaimonistic politics which has supplanted rude despotism and permeates all departments of life. We have all been affected, and the capacity for religion, not being able to keep pace in its development with other things, has suffered in the early bud.

These men, the crazy buttresses of a crumbling time, I distinguish from you, even as you would not have yourselves made equal with them, for they do not despise religion, and they are not to be called cultured. But they destroy religion as much as they can, and they train the age 132and enlighten men, even to transparency, if they had their will. They are still the dominating party, and you and we are but a very few. Whole towns and countries are educated on their principles. Those again who have come through this education, are found in society, in science, and in philosophy. Nay, philosophy is their peculiar place of abode. And now it is not merely ancient philosophy—using the present highly historical classification into ancient new and newest—but the new also they have annexed. By their vast influence on every worldly interest and the semblance of philanthropy which dazzles the social inclination, this way of thinking ever holds religion in subjection, and resists every movement whereby its life might anywhere reveal itself with full power.

Religion at present can only be advanced by the strongest resistance to this general tendency, and it cannot begin except by radical opposition. As everything follows the law of affinity, sense can only triumph by taking possession of an object on which this kind of understanding so hostile to it, hangs but loosely. This it will acquire most easily and with superfluity of free power. Now this object is the inner, not the outer world. The enlightening psychology, the masterpiece of this kind of understanding, has at length exhausted itself by extravagance and lost almost all good name. The calculating understanding has here first vacated the field and left it open once more for pure observation. A religious man must be reflective, his sense must be occupied in the contemplation of himself. Being occupied with the profoundest depths, he abandons meanwhile all external things, intellectual as well as physical, leaving them to be the great aim of the researches of the people of understanding. In accordance with this law, the feeling for the Infinite is most readily developed in persons whose nature keeps them far from that which is the central point of all the opponents of the universal complete life. Hence it comes that, from of old, all truly religious characters 133have had a mystical trait, and that all imaginative natures, which are too airy to occupy themselves with solid and rigid worldly affairs, have at least some stirrings of piety. This is the character of all the religious appearances of our time; from those two colours, imagination and mysticism, though in various proportions, they are all composed. Appearances I say, because, in this state of things, more is scarcely to be expected.

Imaginative natures fail in penetrative spirit, in capacity for mastering the essential. A light changing play of beautiful, often charming, but merely fortuitous and entirely subjective combinations, satisfies them and is the highest they can conceive, and a deeper and inner connection presents itself in vain. They are really only seeking the infinity and universality of charming appearances. According as it is viewed this may be less or very much more than their sense can attain, but to appearance they have accommodated themselves, and instead of a healthy and powerful life, they have only disconnected and fleeting emotions. The mind is easily kindled, but it is with a flame as unsteady as it is ready. They have emotions of religion just as they have of art, philosophy and all things great and beautiful—they are attracted by the surface.

To the very nature of the other class, again, religion pre-eminently belongs. But their sense always remains turned towards themselves, for, in the present condition of the world, they do not know how to attain anything beyond, and they soon fail in material for cultivating their feeling to an independent piety. There is a great and powerful mysticism, not to be considered by the most frivolous man without reverence and devotion, which, by its heroic simplicity and proud scorn of the world, wrings admiration from the most judicious. It does not arise from being sated and overladen by external influences, but, on every occasion, some secret power ever drives the man back upon himself, and he finds himself to be the plan and key of the 134Whole. Convinced by a great analogy and a daring faith that it is not necessary to forsake himself, but that the spirit has enough in itself to be conscious of all that could be given from without, by a free resolve, he shuts his eyes for ever against all that is not himself. Yet this contempt is no ignorance, this closing of the sense no incapacity.

Thus, alas! it stands with our party at the present day. They have not learned to open their souls to Nature. Their living relation to it suffers from the clumsy way in which objects are rather indicated than shown, and they have neither sense nor light remaining from their self-contemplation sufficient to penetrate this ancient darkness. Wherefore, in scorn of this evil age, they would fain have nothing to do with its work in them. Their higher feeling is thus untrained and needy, and their true inward fellowship with the world is both confined and sickly. Alone with their sense, they are compelled to circulate eternally in an all too narrow sphere, and, after a sickly life, their religious sense dies, from want of attraction, of indirect weakness.

Another end awaits those whose sense for the highest turns boldly outwards, seeking there expansion and renovation for its life. Their disharmony with the age only too clearly appears, for they suffer a violent death, happy if you will, yet fearful, the suicide of the spirit. Not knowing how to comprehend the world, the essence and larger sense of which remains strange to them among the paltry views to which an outward constraint limits them, they are deceived by confused phenomena, abandoned to unbridled fancies, and seek the Universe and its traces where they never were. Finally they unwillingly rend asunder utterly the connection of the inner and the outer, chase the impotent understanding and end in a holy madness, the source of which almost no man knows. They are loud screaming but not understood victims of the general contempt and maltreatment of the heart of man. Only victims, however, not 135heroes, for whosoever succumbs, though it be in the final test, cannot be reckoned among the recipients of the inmost mysteries.

This complaint that there are no permanent, openly recognized representatives of religion among us, is not to recall my earlier assertions that our age is not less favourable to religion than any other. The amount of religion in the world is not diminished, but it is broken up and driven apart by an oppressive force. It reveals itself in small and fleeting though frequent manifestations that rather exalt the variety of the Universe and delight the eye of the observer, than produce for itself a great and sublime impression. I abide by the conviction that there are many who breathe out the sweetest fragrance of the young life in sacred longing and love to the Eternal and the Changeless, and who late at least, and perhaps never, are overcome by the world; that there are none to whom once, at least, the high World-Spirit has not appeared, casting on them, while they were ashamed for themselves and blushed at their unworthy limitation, one of those piercing glances that the downcast eye feels without seeing. By this I abide, and the conscience of everyone can judge of it. But heroes of religion, holy souls, as they have been seen, who are entirely permeated by religion which is all in all to them, are wanting and must be wanting to this generation. And as often as I reflect on what must happen and what direction our culture must take, if religious men of a higher type are again to appear as a natural if rare product of their age, I think that your whole endeavour—whether consciously, you may yourselves decide—is not a little helpful for a palingenesis of religion. Partly your general working, partly the endeavours of a narrower circle, partly the sublime ideas of a few spirits notable among mankind, shall serve this purpose.3232No one will suppose that I regard the manifestations of an awakened religious life so frequent, especially in Germany at the present time, as the fulfilment of the hope here uttered. That I do not regard it in this way, appears clearly enough from what follows, for a piety revived by greater openness of sense would be of a different type from what we see among as. The impatient uncharitableness of our new Pietists that is not content to withdraw from what it dislikes, but uses every social relation for defamation to the danger of all free spiritual life; their painful listening for special expressions, in accordance with which they make one man white and another black; the indifference of most of them to all great historical events; the aristocratic narrow-mindedness of others; the general dislike of all science are not signs of an open sense. Rather they are signs of a deep-rooted, morbid state which must be treated with love and also with great firmness, if there is not to be more loss to society in general than gain to individuals. We will not deny that many of the lower class can only be awaked from their stupidity, and of the higher from their worldliness, by this acerb kind of piety, yet we would wish and earnestly labour that this stage should be for most but a transition to a worthier freedom of the spiritual life. This should the more easily be accomplished as it is patent enough how easily men who are concerned with something quite different from true piety, master this form, and how visibly the spirit decays that is long shut up in it.

The strength and compass, as well as the purity and clearness of every perception, depend upon the keenness and 136vigour of the sense. Suppose the wisest man without opened senses. He would not be nearer religion than the most thoughtless and wanton who only had an open and true sense. Here then we must begin. An end must be made to the slavery in which the sense of man is held, for the benefit of exercisings of the understanding whereby nothing is exercised, of those enlightenments that make nothing clear, of those dissectings whereby nothing is resolved. This is an end for which you will all labour with united powers. It has happened to the improvements in education as to all revolutions that have not been begun on the highest principles: things have gradually glided back into the old course, and only a few changes in externals preserve the memory of what was at first considered a marvellously great occurrence. Hence our judicious and practical education of to-day is but little distinguished from the ancient mechanical article, and that little is neither in spirit nor in working. This has not escaped you. It begins to be as detestable to all truly cultured people as it is to me. A juster idea of the sacredness of childhood and the eternity of inviolable liberty is spreading. Even in the first stages of development, it is seen that the manifestations of liberty must be expected and inquired for. Soon those barriers shall be broken down; the intuitive power will take possession of its whole domain, every organ will be opened, and it will be possible for objects, in all ways, to affect man.

With this regained liberty of sense, however, a limitation and firm direction of the activity may very well consist. This is the great demand from contemporaries and posterity, with which the best among you are coming forward. You are tired of seeing barren, encyclopaedic versatility. Only by this way of self-limitation have you become what you are, and you know there is no other way to culture. You insist, therefore, that everyone should seek to become something definite, and follow something with steadfastness and concentration. No one can perceive the justice of this 137counsel better than the man who has ripened to a certain universality of sense, for he must know that, except by separation and limitation, perception would have no objects. I rejoice, therefore, at these efforts, and would they had had more success. Religion would thereby receive excellent help, for this very limitation of effort, if only the sense itself is not limited, all the more surely prepares for the sense the way to the Infinite and opens again the long interrupted intercourse. Whosoever has seen and known much and can then resolve, with his whole might, to do and forward something for its own sake, must recognize, if he is not to contradict himself, that other things have been made and have a right to existence for their own sakes. And when he has succeeded to the utmost in the object of his choice, it will least of all escape him at the summit of perfection that, without all the rest, this is nothing. This recognition of the strange and annihilation of the personal that urge themselves everywhere upon a thoughtful man, this seasonably changing love and contempt for all that is finite and limited are not possible without a dim presentiment of the World and God, and they must call forth a more definite longing for the One in the All.

Every man knows from his own consciousness three spheres of the sense in which its different manifestations are divided. First there is the interior of the Ego itself; second, the outer world, in so far as it is indefinite and incomplete—call it mass, matter, element, or what you will; the third seems to unite both, the sense turning, in constant change, within and without, and only finding peace in perceiving the absolute unity of both sides, which is the sphere of the individual, of what is complete in itself, of all that is art in nature, and in the works of man. Everyone is not equally at home in all those spheres, but from each there is a way to pious exaltations of the soul which take characteristic form simply according to the variety of the ways in which they have been found.


Study yourselves with unswerving attention, put aside all that is not self, proceed with the sense ever more closely directed to the purely inward. The more you pass by all foreign elements, making your personality appear diminished almost to the vanishing point, the clearer the Universe stands before you, and the more gloriously the terror of annihilating the fleeting is rewarded by the feeling of the eternal.

Look outside again on one of the widely distributed elements of the world. Seek to understand it in itself, and seek it in particular objects, in yourself and everywhere. Traverse again and again your way from centre to circumference, going ever farther afield. You will rediscover everything everywhere, and you will only be able to recognize it in relation to its opposite. Soon everything individual and distinct will have been lost and the Universe be found.

What way now leads from the third sphere, from the sense for art? Its immediate object is by no means the Universe itself. It is an individual thing complete in itself and rounded off. There is satisfaction in each enjoyment, and the mind, peacefully sunk in it, is not driven to such a progress as would make the single thing gradually disappear and be replaced by the Universe. Is there nowhere any way, but must this sphere for ever remain apart, and artists be condemned to be irreligious? Or is there perhaps some other relation between art and religion? I could wish to leave the question for your own solution, for to me the inquiry is too difficult and too strange. But you have used your sense and love for art to good purpose, and I would willingly leave you to yourselves on your native soil. One of my thoughts on the matter, however, I would have not to be wish and presentiment merely but insight and prophecy. But judge for yourselves. If it is true that there are sudden conversions whereby in men, thinking of nothing less than of lifting themselves above the finite, 139in a moment, as by an immediate, inward illumination, the sense for the highest comes forth and surprises them by its splendour, I believe that more than anything else the sight of a great and sublime work of art can accomplish this miracle. And I would believe that, without any gradual approximation beforehand, you may perhaps be met by such a beam of your own sun and turned to religion.

By the first way of finding the Universe, the most abstracted self-contemplation, the most ancient eastern Mysticism, with marvellous boldness that resembled the more recent Idealism among us, linked the infinitely great to the infinitely little and found everything bordering on nothing.

From the contemplation of the masses and their counterparts, again, every religion, the pattern of which is the heavens or elemental nature, has manifestly proceeded. The polytheistic Egypt was long the most perfect nurse of this type of thought. In it we can at least guess that the purest intuition of the original and real may have walked in meek tolerance close beside the darkest superstitions and the most senseless mythology.3333In the “Glaubenslehre” religion is divided as predominantly active or passive, as concerned with the problem of duty, or absolutely dependent on the Whole, as teleological or aesthetical. With this division the forms of religion here mentioned would not seem to agree, for the most abstracted self-contemplation, or the most objective contemplation of the world may be either active or passive. But I am not seeking to distinguish here the chief forms of religion, I am treating of cultivation of religion by opening of the sense. By this cultivation individuals are not introduced into a definite form of religion, but everyone is rendered capable of discerning the form that best suits him and of determining himself accordingly. Being more concerned to show the chief aspects of sense, I naturally make most prominent those forms in which one or other is most conspicuous. Yet even here it is not meant that subjective reflection has not to do with the objectively observing Ego, or objective observation with a world that awakes and sustains the spiritual life. Hence it would be vain to expect that Christianity be here assigned its place as in the “Glaubenslehre” it is placed under the ethical or teleological. Even in the Speech itself, it is hinted that that historical sense which is the completest union of both directions leads most perfectly to piety. That this sense lies quite specially at the foundation of Christianity, in which everything comes back to the relation of man to the Kingdom of God, requires no proof. It therefore naturally follows that Christianity presents a piety nourished as much by contemplation of the world, as by self-contemplation, and is best nourished when both are most joined. Of course these are subordinate distinctions of receptivity and are naturally quite subjective and incapable of determining the different forms of Christianity.

And if there is nothing to tell of a religion originating in art that has ruled peoples and times, it is all the clearer that the sense for art has never approached those two kinds of religion without covering them with new beauty and holiness and sweetly mitigating their original narrowness. Thus the ancient sages and poets, and above all, the artists of the Greeks, changed the natural religion into fairer, more gladsome form. In all the mythical representations of the divine Plato and his followers, which you would acknowledge rather as religious than as scientific, we perceive how beautifully that mystical self-contemplation mounts to the highest pinnacle of divineness and humanness. Simply by the ordinary life in the sphere of art and by a living endeavour, sustained by indwelling power and especially by 140poetic art, he penetrates from one form of religion to the opposite and unites both. One can only marvel, therefore, at the beautiful self-forgetfulness with which in holy zeal, as a just king that does not spare even his too soft-hearted mother, he speaks against art, for, where there was no corruption and no misunderstanding produced by corruption, the work of art was but a free-will service rendered to the imperfect natural religions.

At present art serves no religion, and all is different and worse. Religion and art stand together like kindred beings, whose inner affinity, though mutually unrecognized and unsuspected, appears in various ways.3434This affinity will hardly be denied now by anyone. Nothing but attention to the subject is required to find that, on the one hand, in all arts, all great works are religious representations, and that on the other, in all religions, Christianity not excepted, hostility to art involves barrenness and coldness. In all arts there is a severer, more sustained style and a freer and easier. Religious art mostly upholds the severer style. When religious objects are handled in the light style, the decay of religion is decided and the decay of art quickly follows. The lighter style only maintains its true character as art so long as it finds its mass and harmony in the severer. The more it renounces its connection with the severer style, and therefore with religion, the more certainly and irresistibly it degenerates into over refinement and the art of flattery. Already this has been often repeated in the history of the arts, and in individuals it is being repeated at the present day. Like the opposite poles of two magnets, being mutually attracted, they are violently agitated but cannot overcome their gravity so as to touch and unite. Friendly words and outpourings of the heart are ever on their lips, but they are always held back, as they cannot find again the right manner and the last reason of their thinking and longing. They await a fuller revelation and, suffering and sighing under the same load, they see each other enduring, with heartfelt liking and deep feeling perhaps, but without the love that truly unites. Will this common burden bring about the happy moment of their union, or from pure love and joy is there to be as you desire a new day for art alone? However it comes, whichever is first set free will certainly hasten, with at least a sister’s faithfulness, to aid the other.

But religion of both types not only is without the aid of art, but is, in its own state, worse than of old. The two sources of perception and feeling of the Infinite streamed forth magnificently upon an age when scientific subtilties, without true principles, had not yet corrupted by their commonness the purity of the sense, even though neither may have been rich enough to produce the highest. At present, they are troubled by the loss of simplicity and the ruinous influence of a conceited and false insight. How are they to be purified? Whence are they to have power 141and fulness for enriching the soil with more than ephemeral products? To unite their waters in one channel, is the sole means for bringing religion to completion by the way we are now going. That would be an event, from the bosom of which, in a new and glorious form, religion would soon go to meet better times.

See then, whether you wish it or not, the goal of your highest endeavours is just the resurrection of religion. By your endeavours this event must be brought to pass, and I celebrate you as, however unintentionally, the rescuers and cherishers of religion. Do not abandon your post and your work till you have unlocked the recesses of knowledge, and, in priestlike humility, have opened the sanctuary of true science. Then all who draw nigh, and the sons of religion among them, will be compensated for what half knowledge and arrogance have made them lose.

Philosophy, exalting man to the consciousness of his reciprocity with the world, teaching him to know himself, not as a separate individual, but as a living, operative member of the Whole, will no longer endure to see the man who steadfastly turns his eye to his own spirit in search of the Universe, pine in poverty and need. The anxious wall of separation is broken down. The outer world is only another inner world. Everything is the reflection of his own spirit, as his spirit is the copy of all things. He can seek himself in this reflection without losing himself or going outside of himself. He can never exhaust himself in contemplation of himself, for in himself everything lies.

Ethics, in its chaste and heavenly beauty, far from jealousy and despotic pride, will hand him at the entrance the heavenly lyre and the magic glass, that he may see in countless forms the earnest quiet image of the spirit ever the same and may accompany it with divine music.

Natural science sets the man who looks around him to discover the Universe, in the centre of nature, and no longer suffers him to dissipate himself fruitlessly in the 142study of small details. He can now pursue the play of nature’s powers into their most secret recesses, from the inaccessible storehouses of energized matter to the artistic workshops of the organic life. He measures its might from the bounds of world-filled space to the centre of his own Ego, and finds himself everywhere in eternal strife and in closest union. He is nature’s centre and circumference. Delusion is gone and reality won. Sure is his glance and clear is his view. Under all disguises he detects it and nowhere rests except in the Infinite and the One. Already I see some distinguished forms return from the sanctuary after initiation into those mysteries, who, having purified and adorned themselves, will come forth in priestly robes.

Can one goddess, then, still linger with her helpful presence? For this, also, time will make us great and rich amends. The greatest work of art has for its material humanity itself, and the Deity directly fashions it. For this work the sense must soon awake in many, for at present, He is working with bold and effective art. And you will be the temple servants when the new forms are set up in the temple of time. Expound the Artist then with force and spirit; explain the earlier works from the later and the later from the earlier. Let the past, the present, and the future surround us with an endless gallery of the sublimest works of art, eternally multiplied by a thousand brilliant mirrors. Let the history of the worlds be ready with rich gratitude to reward religion its first nurse, by awaking true and holy worshippers for eternal might and wisdom. See how, without your aid, the heavenly growth flourishes in the midst of your plantings. It is a witness of the approval of the gods and of the imperishableness of your desert. Neither disturb it nor pluck it up; it is an ornament that adorns, a talisman that protects.

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