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It may be an unexpected and even a marvellous undertaking, that any one should still venture to demand from the very class that have raised themselves above the vulgar, and are saturated with the wisdom of the centuries, attention for a subject so entirely neglected by them. And I confess that I am aware of nothing that promises any easy success, whether it be in winning for my efforts your approval, or in the more difficult and more desirable task of instilling into you my thought and inspiring you for my subject. From of old faith has not been every man’s affair. At all times but few have discerned religion itself, while millions, in various ways, have been satisfied to juggle with its trappings. Now especially the life of cultivated people is far from anything that might have even a resemblance to religion. Just as little, I know, do you worship the Deity in sacred retirement, as you visit the forsaken temples. In your ornamented dwellings, the only sacred things to be met with are the sage maxims of our wise men, and the splendid compositions of our poets. Suavity and sociability, art and science have so fully taken possession of your minds, that no room remains for the eternal and holy Being that lies beyond the world. I know how well you have succeeded 2in making your earthly life so rich and varied, that you no longer stand in need of an eternity. Having made a universe for yourselves, you are above the need of thinking of the Universe that made you. You are agreed, I know, that nothing new, nothing convincing can any more be said on this matter, which on every side by sages and seers, and I might add by scoffers and priests, has been abundantly discussed. To priests, least of all, are you inclined to listen. They have long been outcasts for you, and are declared unworthy of your trust, because they like best to lodge in the battered ruins of their sanctuary and cannot, even there, live without disfiguring and destroying it still more. All this I know, and yet, divinely swayed by an irresistible necessity within me, I feel myself compelled to speak, and cannot take back my invitation that you and none else should listen to me.

Might I ask one question? On every subject, however small and unimportant, you would most willingly be taught by those who have devoted to it their lives and their powers. In your desire for knowledge you do not avoid the cottages of the peasant or the workshops of the humble artizans. How then does it come about that, in matters of religion alone, you hold every thing the more dubious when it comes from those who are experts, not only according to their own profession, but by recognition from the state, and from the people? Or can you perhaps, strangely enough, show that they are not more experienced, but maintain and cry up anything rather than religion? Scarcely, my good sirs! Not setting much store on a judgment so baseless I confess, as is right, that I also am a member of this order. I venture, though I run the risk, if you do not give me an attentive hearing, of being reckoned among the great crowd from which you admit so few exceptions.

This is at least a voluntary confession, for my speech would not readily have betrayed me. Still less have I any expectations of danger from the praise which my brethren will bestow on 3this undertaking, for my present aim lies almost entirely outside their sphere, and can have but small resemblance to what they would most willingly see and hear.22Though I had been several years in the ministry when this was written, I stood very much alone among my professional brethren, and my acquaintance with them was small. What is here rather hinted at than uttered was more a distant presentiment than clear knowledge. Longer experience, however, and friendly relations have only confirmed the judgment, that any deeper insight into the nature of religion generally, or any genuinely historical, real way of regarding the present state of religion is much too rare among the members of our clerical order. We should have fewer complaints of the increase of the sectarian spirit and of factious religious associations, if so many of the clergy were not without understanding of religious wants and emotions. Their stand-point generally is too low. From the same cause we have the miserable views so often expressed respecting the means necessary for remedying this so-called decay of religion. It is an opinion that will probably find little favour, which yet, for the right understanding of this passage I cannot hide, that a deeper speculative discipline would best remove this evil. Most of the clergy, however, and most of those who train them, do not acknowledge this necessity, because they foolishly suppose it would render them more unpractical. With the cry of distress, in which most of them join, over the downfall of religion I have no sympathy, for I know no age that has given religion a better reception than the present. I have nothing to do with the conservative and barbarian lamentation whereby they seek to rear again the fallen walls and gothic pillars of their Jewish Zion.

Why then, as I am fully conscious that in all I have to say to you I entirely belie my profession, should I not acknowledge it like any other accident? Its prepossessions shall in no way hinder us. Neither in asking nor in answering shall the limits it holds sacred be valid between us. As a man I speak to you of the sacred secrets of mankind according to my views—of what was in me as with youthful enthusiasm I sought the unknown, of what since then I have thought and experienced, of the innermost springs of my being which shall for ever remain for me the highest, however I be moved by the changes of time and mankind. I do not speak from any reasoned resolve, nor from hope, nor from fear. Nor is it done from any caprice or accident. Rather it is the pure necessity of my nature; it is a divine call; it is that which determines my position in the world and makes me what I am. Wherefore, even if it were neither fitting nor prudent to speak of religion, there is something which compels me and represses with its heavenly power all those small considerations.

You know how the Deity, by an immutable law, has compelled Himself to divide His great work even to infinity. Each definite thing can only be made up by melting together two opposite activities. Each of His eternal thoughts can only be actualized in two hostile yet twin forms, one of which cannot exist except by means of the other. The whole corporeal world, insight into which is the highest aim of your researches, appears to the best instructed and most 4contemplative among you, simply a never-ending play of opposing forces. Each life is merely the uninterrupted manifestation of a perpetually renewed gain and loss, as each thing has its determinate existence by uniting and holding fast in a special way the opposing forces of Nature. Wherefore the spirit also, in so far as it manifests itself in a finite life, must be subject to the same law. The human soul, as is shown both by its passing actions and its inward characteristics, has its existence chiefly in two opposing impulses. Following the one impulse, it strives to establish itself as an individual. For increase, no less than sustenance, it draws what surrounds it to itself, weaving it into its life, and absorbing it into its own being. The other impulse, again, is the dread fear to stand alone over against the Whole, the longing to surrender oneself and be absorbed in a greater, to be taken hold of and determined. All you feel and do that bears on your separate existence, all you are accustomed to call enjoyment or possession works for the first object. The other is wrought for when you are not directed towards the individual life, but seek and retain for yourselves what is the same in all and for all the same existence, that in which, therefore, you acknowledge in your thinking and acting, law and order, necessity and connection, right and fitness. Just as no material thing can exist by only one of the forces of corporeal nature, every soul shares in the two original tendencies of spiritual nature. At the extremes one impulse may preponderate almost to the exclusion of the other, but the perfection of the living world consists in this, that between these opposite ends all combinations are actually present in humanity.

And not only so, but a common band of consciousness embraces them all, so that though the man cannot be other than he is, he knows every other person as clearly as himself, and comprehends perfectly every single manifestation of humanity. Persons, however, at the extremes of this great series, are 5furthest removed from such a knowledge of the whole. The endeavour to appropriate, too little influenced by the opposite endeavour, takes the form of insatiable sensuality that is mindful only of its individual life, and endeavours only in an earthly way to incorporate into it more and more material and to keep itself active and strong. Swinging eternally between desire and enjoyment, such persons never get beyond consciousness of the individual, and being ever busy with mere self-regarding concerns, they are neither able to feel nor know the common, the whole being and nature of humanity. To persons, on the other hand, too forcibly seized by the opposite impulse, who, from defective power of grasp, are incapable of acquiring any characteristic, definite culture, the true life of the world must just as much remain hidden. It is not granted them to penetrate with plastic mind and to fashion something of their own, but their activity dissipates itself in a futile game with empty notions. They never make a living study of anything, but devote their whole zeal to abstract precepts that degrade everything to means, and leave nothing to be an end. They consume themselves in mistaken hate against everything that comes before them with prosperous force. How are these extremes to be brought together, and the long series be made into a closed ring, the symbol of eternity and completeness?

Persons in whom both tendencies are toned down to an unattractive equilibrium are not rare, but, in truth, they stand lower than either. For this frequent phenomenon which so many value highly, we are not indebted to a living union of both impulses, but both are distorted and smoothed away to a dull mediocrity in which no excess appears, because all fresh life is wanting. This is the position to which a false discretion seeks to bring the younger generation. But were the extremes avoided in no other way, all men would have departed from the right life and from contemplation of the truth, the higher spirit would have vanished 6from the world, and the will of the Deity been entirely frustrated. Elements so separated or so reduced to equilibrium would disclose little even to men of deep insight, and, for a common eye that has no power of insight to give life to the scattered bones, a world so peopled would be only a mock mirror that neither reflects their own forms nor allows them to see behind it.

Wherefore the Deity at all times sends some here and there, who in a fruitful manner are imbued with both impulses, either as a direct gift from above, or as the result of a severe and complete self-training. They are equipped with wonderful gifts, their way is made even by an almighty indwelling word. They are interpreters of the Deity and His works, and reconcilers of things that otherwise would be eternally divided. I mean, in particular, those who unite those opposing activities, by imprinting in their lives a characteristic form upon just that common nature of spirit, the shadow of which only appears to most in empty notions, as an image upon mist. They seek order and connection, right and fitness, and they find just because they do not lose themselves. Their impulse is not sighed out in inaudible wishes, but works in them as creative power. For this power they create and acquire, and not for that degraded animal sensuality. They do not devour destructively, but, creatively recasting, they breathe into life and life’s tools a higher spirit, ordering and fashioning a world that bears the impress of their mind. Earthly things they wisely control, showing themselves lawgivers and inventors, heroes and compellers of nature, or, in narrower circles, as good fairies they create and diffuse in quiet a nobler happiness. By their very existence they prove themselves ambassadors of God, and mediators between limited man and infinite humanity. To them the captive under the power of empty notions may look, to perceive in their works the right object of his own incomprehensible requirements, and in 7their persons the material hitherto despised, with which he ought to deal. They interpret to him the misunderstood voice of God, and reconcile him to the earth and to his place thereon. Far more the earthly and sensual require such mediators from whom to learn how much of the highest nature of humanity is wanting to their own works and ways. They stand in need of such a person to oppose to their base animal enjoyment another enjoyment, the object of which is not this thing or that, but the One in All, and All in One, an object that knows no other bounds but the world, that the spirit has learned to comprehend. He is needed to show to their anxious, restless self-love, another self-love whereby man in this earthly life and along with it loves the highest and the eternal, and to their restless passionate greed a quiet and sure possession.

Acknowledge, then, with me, what a priceless gift the appearance of such a person must be when the higher feeling has risen to inspiration, and can no longer be kept silent, when every pulse-beat of his spiritual life takes communicable form in word or figure, so that, despite of his indifference to the presence of others, he almost unwillingly becomes for others the master of some divine art. This is the true priest of the highest, for he brings it nearer those who are only accustomed to lay hold of the finite and the trivial. The heavenly and eternal he exhibits as an object of enjoyment and agreement, as the sole exhaustless source of the things towards which their whole endeavour is directed. In this way he strives to awaken the slumbering germ of a better humanity, to kindle love for higher things, to change the common life into a nobler, to reconcile the children of earth with the Heaven that hears them, and to counterbalance the deep attachment of the age to the baser side. This is the higher priesthood that announces the inner meaning of all spiritual secrets, and speaks from the kingdom of God. It is the source of all visions and prophecies, of all the sacred works of art and inspired 8speeches that are scattered abroad, on the chance of finding some receptive heart where they may bring forth fruit.

Might it sometime arrive that this office of mediator cease, and a fairer destiny await the priesthood of humanity! Might the time come, which an ancient prophecy describes, when no one should need to be taught of man, for they should all be taught of God! If everywhere the sacred fire burned, fervid prayers would not be needed to call it down from heaven, but only the placid quiet of holy virgins to maintain it. Nor would it burst forth in oft-dreaded flames, but would strive only to communicate equally to all its hidden glow. In quiet, then, each one would illumine himself and others. The communication of holy thoughts and feelings would be an easy interchange, the different beams of this light being now combined and again broken up, now scattered, and again here and there concentrated on single objects. A whispered word would then be understood, where now the clearest expression cannot escape misconception. Men could crowd together into the Holy of Holies who now busy themselves with the rudiments in the outer courts. How much pleasanter it is to exchange with friends and sympathizers completed views, than to go into the wide wilderness with outlines barely sketched! But how far from one another now are those persons between whom such intercourse might take place! They are scattered with as wise an economy among mankind, as the hidden points from which the elastic primordial matter expands on every side are in space. The outer boundaries of their sphere of operations just touch so that there is no void, yet one never meets the other. A wise economy indeed! for all their longing for intercourse and friendliness is thus wholly directed towards those who stand most in need, and they labour the more persistently to provide for themselves the comrades they lack.

To this very power I now submit, and of this very nature is my call. Permit me to speak of myself. You know that what is 9spoken at the instigation of piety cannot be pride, for piety is always full of humility. Piety was the mother’s womb, in whose sacred darkness my young life was nourished and was prepared for a world still sealed for it. In it my spirit breathed ere it had yet found its own place in knowledge and experience. It helped me as I began to sift the faith of my fathers and to cleanse thought and feeling from the rubbish of antiquity. When the God and the immortality of my childhood vanished from my doubting eyes it remained to me.33The first conception both of God and immortality, which at a time when the soul lives entirely in images is always highly sensuous, does not, by any means, always vanish. With most it is gradually purified and elevated. The analogy with the human in the conception of the Highest Being and the analogy with the earthly still remains the shell of the hidden kernel. But those who are early absorbed in a pure contemplative endeavour take another way. There is nothing in God, they say to themselves, opposed, divided or isolated. Wherefore nothing human can be said of Him. Nothing earthly is to be transferred from the earthly world that gave it birth in our souls. Both conceptions, therefore, in their first forms are found untenable, they become incapable of living reproduction and disappear. But this does not involve any positive unbelief, not even any positive doubt. The childish form vanishes with the known sensuous co-efficient, but the unknown greatness remains in the soul, and its reality is apparent in the endeavour to connect it with another co-efficient and so to bring it to a higher actual consciousness. In this endeavour faith is implicit, even when no fully satisfactory solution is reached. The unknown greatness, even though it do not appear in any definite result, is yet present in all operations of the spirit. The author was, therefore, far removed from suggesting that there ever was a time when he was an unbeliever or an atheist. Such a misunderstanding could only arise in those who have never felt the speculative impulse to annihilate anthropomorphism in the conception of the Highest Being, an impulse most clearly expressed in the writings of the profoundest Christian teachers. Without design of mine it guided me into active life. It showed me how, with my endowments and defects, I should keep myself holy in an undivided existence, and through it alone I have learnt friendship and love. In respect of other human excellences, before your judgment-seat, ye wise and understanding of the people, I know it is small proof of possession to be able to speak of their value. They can be known from description, from observation of others, or, as all virtues are known, from the ancient and general traditions of their nature. But religion is of such a sort and is so rare, that whoever utters anything of it, must necessarily have had it, for nowhere could he have heard it. Of all that I praise, all that I feel to be the true work of religion, you would find little even in the sacred books. To the man who has not himself experienced it, it would only be an annoyance and a folly.

Finally, if I am thus impelled to speak of religion and to deliver my testimony, to whom should I turn if not to the sons of Germany? Where else is an audience for my speech? It is not blind predilection for my native soil or for my fellows in government and language, that makes me speak thus, but the deep conviction that you alone are capable, as well as worthy, of having awakened in you the sense for holy and divine things. Those proud Islanders whom many unduly honour, know no watchword but gain and enjoyment. Their zeal for knowledge is only a sham fight, their worldly wisdom a false jewel, 10skilfully and deceptively composed, and their sacred freedom itself too often and too easily serves self-interest. They are never in earnest with anything that goes beyond palpable utility.44It is to be remembered that the severe judgment of the English people was given at a time when it seemed necessary to protest strongly against the prevailing Anglomania. Moreover, the popular interest in missions and the spread of the Bible was not then as apparent as it is now. Yet I would not on that account retract much from my earlier judgment. For one thing the English are well accustomed to organized private companies, whereby they unite their individual resources for important undertakings. The results obtained in this way are so great that persons, caring for nothing but the progress of culture and the gain to be made of it, are not excluded from sharing in enterprises that have taken their rise with a far smaller number of truly pious people, and yet the principle is not weakened. Nor is it to be denied that those undertakings are regarded by a great number more from a political and mercantile point of view. The pure interest of Christian piety does not dominate as appears in this, that the religious needs at home have been attended to much later and with much less brilliant result. These are merely indications whereby I would express my belief that a closer acquaintance with the state of religion in England would rather confirm than disprove the above opinion. The same would apply to what was said about the scientific spirit. As France and England were almost the only countries in which we were interested, and which had much influence in Germany, it seemed superfluous to glance elsewhere. At present it might not be wrong to say a word on the capacity in the Greek Church for such researches. Despite the fine veil cast over it by the fascinating panegyrics of a Stourdza, all depth is lost in the mechanism of antiquated usages and liturgical forms. In all that is most important for a mind aroused to reflection, it still stands far behind the Catholic Church. All knowledge they have robbed of life and use only as dead wood to make masts and helms for their life’s voyage in pursuit of gain. Similarly they know nothing of religion, save that all preach devotion to ancient usages and defend its institutions, regarding them as a protection wisely cherished by the constitution against the natural enemy of the state.

For other reasons I turn from the French. On them, one who honours religion can hardly endure to look, for in every act and almost in every word, they tread its holiest ordinances under foot. The barbarous indifference of the millions of the people, and the witty frivolity with which individual brilliant spirits behold the sublimest fact of history that is not only taking place before their eyes, but has them all in its grasp, and determines every movement of their lives, witnesses clearly enough how little they are capable of a holy awe or a true adoration. What does religion more abhor than the unbridled arrogance with which the rulers of the people bid defiance to the eternal laws of the world? What does it inculcate more strongly than that discreet and lowly moderation of which aught, even the slightest feeling, does not seem to be suggested to them? What is more sacred to it than that lofty Nemesis, of whose most terrible dealings in the intoxication of infatuation they have no understanding? Where varied punishments that formerly only needed to light on single families to fill whole peoples with awe before the heavenly Being and to dedicate to eternal Fate the works of the poets for centuries, are a thousandfold renewed in vain, how ludicrously would a Single lonely voice resound unheard and unnoticed.

Only in my native land is that happy clime which refuses no fruit entirely. There you find, though it be only scattered, all that adorns humanity. Somewhere, in individuals at least, 11in individuals at least, all that grows attains its most beautiful form. Neither wise moderation, nor quiet contemplation is wanting; there, therefore, religion must find a refuge from the coarse barbarism and the cold worldly mind of the age.

Or will you direct me to those whom you look down upon as rude and uncultured, as if the sense for sacred things had passed like an old-fashioned garment to the lower portion of the people, as if it became them alone to be impressed with belief and awe of the unseen? You are well disposed towards these, our brethren. You would have them addressed also, on other higher subjects, on morals, justice and freedom, that for single moments, at least, their highest endeavours should be turned towards better things, and an impression of the worth of man be awakened in them. Let them be addressed at the same time on religion; arouse occasionally their whole nature; let the holiest impulse, asleep or hidden though it be, be brought to life; enchant them with single flashes, charmed from the depths of their hearts; open out of their narrow lives a glimpse into infinity; raise even for a moment their low sensuality to the high consciousness of human will and of human existence, and much cannot fail to be won. But, pray you, do you turn to this class when you wish to unfold the inmost connection and the highest ground of human powers and actions, when idea and feeling, law and fact are to be traced to their common source, when you would exhibit the actual as eternal and necessarily based in the nature of humanity? Is it not as much as can be looked for if your wise men are understood by the best among you? Now that is just my present endeavour in regard to religion. I do not seek to arouse single feelings possibly belonging to it, nor to justify and defend single conceptions, but I would conduct you into the profoundest depths whence every feeling and conception receives its form. I would show you from what human tendency religion proceeds and how it belongs to what is for you highest and dearest. To the roof 12of the temple I would lead you that you might survey the whole sanctuary and discover its inmost secrets.

Do you seriously expect me to believe that those who daily distress themselves most toilsomely about earthly things have pre-eminent fitness for becoming intimate with heavenly things, those who brood anxiously over the next moment and are fast bound to the nearest objects can extend their vision widest over the world, and that those, who, in the monotonous round of a dull industry have not yet found themselves will discover most clearly the living Deity! Surely you will not maintain that to your shame? You alone, therefore, I can invite, you who are called to leave the common standpoint of mankind, who do not shun the toilsome way into the depths of man’s spirit to find his inmost emotions and see the living worth and connection of his outward works.

Since this became clear to me, I have long found myself in the hesitating mood of one who has lost a precious jewel, and does not dare to examine the last spot where it could be hidden. There was a time when you held it a mark of special courage to cast off partially the restraints of inherited dogma. You still were ready to discuss particular subjects, though it were only to efface one of those notions. Such a figure as religion moving gracefully, adorned in eloquence, still pleased you, if only that you wished to maintain in the gentler sex a certain feeling for sacred things. But that time is long past. Piety is now no more to be spoken of, and even the Graces, with most unwomanly hardness, destroy the tenderest blossoms of the human heart, and I can link the interest I require from you to nothing but your contempt. I will ask you, therefore, just to be well informed and thorough-going in this contempt.

Let us then, I pray you, examine whence exactly religion has its rise. Is it from some clear intuition, or from some vague 13thought? Is it from the different kinds and sects of religion found in history, or from some general idea which you have perhaps conceived arbitrarily? Some doubtless will profess the latter view. But here as in other things the ready judgment may be without ground, the matter being superficially considered and no trouble being taken to gain an accurate knowledge. Your general idea turns on fear of an eternal being, or, broadly, respect for his influence on the occurrences of this life called by you providence, on expectation of a future life after this one, called by you immortality. These two conceptions which you have rejected, are, you consider, in one way or another, the hinges of all religion. But say, my dear sirs, how you have found this; for there are two points of view from which everything taking place in man or proceeding from him may be regarded. Considered from the centre outwards, that is according to its inner quality, it is an expression of human nature, based in one of its necessary modes of acting or impulses or whatever else you like to call it, for I will not now quarrel with your technical language. On the contrary, regarded from the outside, according to the definite attitude and form it assumes in particular cases, it is a product of time and history. From what side have you considered religion that great spiritual phenomenon, that you have reached the idea that everything called by this name has a common content? You can hardly affirm that it is by regarding it from within. If so, my good sirs, you would have to admit that these thoughts are at least in some way based in human nature. And should you say that as now found they have sprang only from misinterpretations or false references of a necessary human aim, it would become you to seek in it the true and eternal, and to unite your efforts to ours to free human nature from the injustice which it always suffers when aught in it is misunderstood or misdirected.

By all that is sacred, and according to that avowal, something must be sacred to you, I adjure you, do not neglect 14this business, that mankind, whom with us you honour, do not most justly scorn you for forsaking them in a grave matter. If you find from what you hear that the business is as good as done, even if it ends otherwise than you expect, I venture to reckon on your thanks and approval.

But you will probably say that your idea of the content of religion is from the other view of this spiritual phenomenon. You start with the outside, with the opinions, dogmas and usages, in which every religion is presented. They always return to providence and immortality. For these externals you have sought an inward and original source in vain. Wherefore religion generally can be nothing but an empty pretence which, like a murky and oppressive atmosphere, has enshrouded part of the truth. Doubtless this is your genuine opinion. But if you really consider these two points the sum of religion in all the forms in which it has appeared in history, permit me to ask whether you have rightly observed all these phenomena and have rightly comprehended their common content? If your idea has had its rise in this way you must justify it by instances. If anyone says it is wrong and beside the mark, and if he point out something else in religion not hollow, but having a kernel of excellent quality and extraction, you must first hear and judge before you venture further to despise. Do not grudge, therefore, to listen to what I shall say to those who, from first to last, have more accurately and laboriously adhered to observation of particulars.

You are doubtless acquainted with the histories of human follies, and have reviewed the various structures of religious doctrine from the senseless fables of wanton peoples to the most refined Deism, from the rude superstition of human sacrifice to the ill-put together fragments of metaphysics and ethics now called purified Christianity, and you have found them all without rhyme or reason. I am far from wishing to contradict you. Rather, if you really mean that the most cultured religious system 15is no better than the rudest, if you only perceive that the divine cannot lie in a series that ends on both sides in something ordinary and despicable, I will gladly spare you the trouble of estimating further all that lies between. Possibly they may all appear to you transitions and stages towards the final form. Out of the hand of its age each comes better polished and carved, till at length art has grown equal to that perfect plaything with which our century has presented history. But this consummation of doctrines and systems is often anything rather than consummation of religion. Nay, not infrequently, the progress of the one has not the smallest connection with the other. I cannot speak of it without indignation. All who have a regard for what issues from within the mind, and who are in earnest that every side of man be trained and exhibited, must bewail how the high and glorious is often turned from its destination and robbed of its freedom in order to be held in despicable bondage by the scholastic spirit of a barbarian and cold time. What are all these systems, considered in themselves, but the handiwork of the calculating understanding, wherein only by mutual limitation each part holds its place? What else can they be, these systems of theology, these theories of the origin and the end of the world, these analyses of the nature of an incomprehensible Being, wherein everything runs to cold argufying, and the highest can be treated in the tone of a common controversy? And this is certainly—let me appeal to your own feeling—not the character of religion.

If you have only given attention to these dogmas and opinions, therefore, you do not yet know religion itself, and what you despise is not it. Why have you not penetrated deeper to find the kernel of this shell? I am astonished at your voluntary ignorance, ye easy-going inquirers, and at the all too quiet satisfaction with which you linger by the first thing presented to you. Why do you not regard the religious life itself, and first those pious exaltations of the mind in which all other known activities are set aside 16or almost suppressed, and the whole soul is dissolved in the immediate feeling of the Infinite and Eternal? In such moments the disposition you pretend to despise reveals itself in primordial and visible form. He only who has studied and truly known man in these emotions can rediscover religion in those outward manifestations. He will assuredly perceive something more in them than you. Bound up in them all something of that spiritual matter lies, without which they could not have arisen. But in the hands of those who do not understand how to unbind it, let them break it up and examine it as they may, nothing but the cold dead mass remains.

This recommendation to seek rather in those scattered and seemingly undeveloped elements your object that you have not yet found in the developed and the complete to which you have hitherto been directed, cannot surprise you who have more or less busied yourselves with philosophy, and are acquainted with its fortunes. With philosophy, indeed, it should be quite otherwise. From its nature it must strive to fashion itself into the closest connection. That special kind of knowledge is only verified and its communication assured by its completeness, and yet even here you must commence with the scattered and incomplete. Recollect how very few of those who, in a way of their own, have penetrated into the secrets of nature and spirit, viewing and exhibiting their mutual relation and inner harmony in a light of their own, have put forth at once a system of their knowledge. In a finer, if more fragile form, they have communicated their discoveries.

On the contrary, if you regard the systems in all schools, how often are they mere habitations and nurseries of the dead letter. With few exceptions, the plastic spirit of high contemplation is too fleeting and too free for those rigid forms whereby those who would willingly grasp and retain what is strange, believe they are best helped. Suppose that anyone held the architects of those great edifices of philosophy, without distinction, for true philosophers! Suppose he would learn from them the spirit of their 17research! Would you not advise him thus, "See to it, friend, that you have not lighted upon those who merely follow, and collect, and rest satisfied with what another has furnished: with them you will never find the spirit of that art: to the discoverers you must go, on whom it surely rests." To you who seek religion I must give the same advice. It is all the more necessary, as religion is as far removed, by its whole nature, from all that is systematic as philosophy is naturally disposed to it.

Consider only with whom those ingenious erections originate, the mutability of which you scorn, the bad proportions of which offend you, and the incongruity of which, with your contemptuous tendency, almost strikes you as absurd. Have they come from the heroes of religion? Name one among those who have brought down any kind of new revelation to us, who has thought it worth his while to occupy himself with such a labour of Sisyphus, beginning with Him who first conceived the idea of the kingdom of God, from which, if from anything in the sphere of religion, a system might have been produced to the new mystics or enthusiasts, as you are accustomed to call them, in whom, perhaps, an original beam of the inner light still shines. You will not blame me if I do not reckon among them the theologians of the letter, who believe the salvation of the world and the light of wisdom are to be found in a new vesture of formulas, or a new arrangement of ingenious proofs. In isolation only the mighty thunder of their speech, announcing that the Deity is revealing Himself through them, is accustomed to be heard when the celestial feelings are unburdened, when the sacred fires must burst forth from the overcharged spirit. Idea and word are simply the necessary and inseparable outcome of the heart, only to be understood by it and along with it. Doctrine is only united to doctrine occasionally to remove misunderstanding or expose unreality.

From many such combinations those systems were gradually 18compacted. Wherefore, you must not rest satisfied with the repeated oft-broken echo of that original sound. You must transport yourselves into the interior of a pious soul and seek to understand its inspiration. In the very act, you must understand the production of light and heat in a soul surrendered to the Universe.55A pious spirit, which is here unquestionably the subject of discourse, is elsewhere always defined as a soul surrendered to God. But here the Universe is put for God and the pantheism of the author is undeniable! This is the interpolation, not interpretation of superficial and suspicious readers who do not consider that the subject here is the production of light and warmth in such a spirit, the springing of such pious emotions as pass immediately into religious ideas and views (light) and into a temperament of surrender to God (warmth). It was therefore desirable to call attention to the way in which such emotions take their rise. They arise when a man surrenders himself to the Universe, and are only habitual in a spirit in which such surrender is habitual. Not only in general, but on each occasion we are conscious of God and of His divine power and godhead by the word of creation, and not by any one thing taken by itself, but by it only in so far as it is embraced in the unity and completeness in which alone God is immediately revealed. The further development of this subject can be seen in my "Glaubenslehre," §8, 2, and §36, 1, 2. Otherwise you learn nothing of religion, and it goes with you as with one who should too late bring fuel to the fire which the steel has struck from the flint, who finds only a cold, insignificant speck of coarse metal with which he can kindle nothing any more.

I ask, therefore, that you turn from everything usually reckoned religion, and fix your regard on the inward emotions and dispositions, as all utterances and acts of inspired men direct. Despite your acquirements, your culture and your prejudices, I hope for good success. At all events, till you have looked from this standpoint without discovering anything real, or having any change of opinion, or enlarging your contemptuous conception, the product of superficial observation, and are still able to hold in ridicule this reaching of the heart towards the Eternal, I will not confess that I have lost. Then, however, I will finally believe that your contempt for religion is in accordance with your nature, and I shall have no more to say.

Yet you need not fear that I shall betake myself in the end to that common device of representing how necessary religion is for maintaining justice and order in the world. Nor shall I remind you of an all-seeing eye, nor of the unspeakable short-sightedness of human management, nor of the narrow bounds of human power to render help. Nor shall I say how religion is a faithful friend and useful stay of morality, how, by its sacred feelings and glorious prospects, it makes the struggle with self and the perfecting of goodness much easier for weak man. Those who profess to be the best friends and most zealous defenders do indeed speak in this way. Which of the two is more degraded in being thus thought of together, I shall not decide, whether 19justice and morality which are represented as needing support, or religion which is to support them, or even whether it be not you to whom such things are said.

Though otherwise this wise counsel might be given you, how could I dare to suppose that you play with your consciences a sort of fast and loose game, and could be impelled by something you have hitherto had no cause to respect and love to something else that without it you already honour, and to which you have already devoted yourselves? Or suppose that these Speeches were merely to suggest what you should do for the sake of the people! How could you, who are called to educate others and make them like yourselves, begin by deceiving them, offering them as holy and vitally necessary what is in the highest degree indifferent to yourselves, and which, in your opinion, they can again reject as soon as they have attained your level? I, at least, cannot invite you to a course of action in which I perceive the most ruinous hypocrisy towards the world and towards yourselves. To recommend religion by such means would only increase the contempt to which it is at present exposed. Granted that our civil organizations are still burdened with a very high degree of imperfection and have shown but small power to prevent or abolish injustice, it would still be a culpable abandonment of a weighty matter, a faint-hearted unbelief in the approach of better things, if religion that in itself is not otherwise desirable must be called in.

Answer me this one question. Could there be a legal constitution resting on piety?66That the state would not be a constitution if it rested on piety, does not mean that the state so long as it labours under imperfection can do without piety, the thing that best supplies all deficiency and imperfection. This would only mean, however, that it is politically necessary for the citizens to be pious in proportion as they are not equally and adequately pervaded by the legal principles of the state. Humanly speaking this perfection is not to be looked for, but were it once effected the state, in respect of its own particular sphere of operation, could dispense with the piety of its members. This appears from the fact that in states where constitutionalism has not quite triumphed over arbitrariness, the relation of piety between the governor and the governed is most prominent and religious institutions have most sway. This ceases when the constitution is strengthened, unless indeed an institution have some special historical basis. When afterwards (page 20) it is said that statesmen must be able to produce universally in men the sense of law, it will doubtless appear absurd to those who think of the servants of the state. But the word statesman is here taken in the sense of the ancient ____V", and it means less that he accomplishes something definite in the state, a thing entirely accidental, than that he first of all lives in the idea of the state. The dark times referred to are the theocratic times. I make this reference because Novalis, my very dear friend in other respects, wished once more to glorify the theocracy. It is still, however, my strong conviction that it is one of the most essential tendencies of Christianity to separate completely church and state, and I can just as little agree with that glorification of the theocracy as with the opposite view that the church should ever more and more be absorbed in the state. Would not the whole idea that you hold so sacred vanish as soon as you took such a point of departure? Deal with the matter directly, therefore, if it seems to be in such an evil plight. Improve the laws, recast the whole constitution, give the state an iron band, give it a hundred eyes if it has not got them already. At least do not allow those it has to sleep veiled in delusion. If you leave a business like this to an intermediary, you 20have never managed it. Do not declare to the disgrace of mankind that your loftiest creation is but a parasitic plant that can only nourish itself from strange sap.

Speaking from your standpoint, law must not even require morality to assure for it the most unlimited jurisdiction in its own territory. It must stand quite alone. Statesmen must make it universal. Now quite apart from the question whether what only exists in so far as it proceeds from the heart can be thus arbitrarily combined, if this general jurisdiction is only possible when religion is combined with law, none but persons skilled to infuse the spirit of religion into the human soul should be statesmen. And in what dark barbarousness of evil times would that land us!

Just as little can morality be in need of religion. A weak, tempted heart must take refuge in the thought of a future world. But it is folly to make a distinction between this world and the next. Religious persons at least know only one. If the desire for happiness is foreign to morality, later happiness can be no more valid than earlier; if it should be quite independent of praise, dread of the Eternal cannot be more valid than dread of a wise man. If morality loses in splendour and stability by every addition, how much more must it lose from something that can never hide its foreign extraction.

All this, however, you have heard of sufficiently from those who defend the independence and might of the moral law. Yet let me add, that to wish to transport religion into another sphere that it may serve and labour is to manifest towards it also great contempt. It is not so ambitious of conquest as to seek to reign in a foreign kingdom. The power that is its due, being earned afresh at every moment, satisfies it. Everything is sacred to it, and above all everything holding with it the same rank in human nature.77I am not using the privileges of the rhetorical method to say to the despisers of religion at the very beginning that piety surpasses morality and law. Also I was not concerned in this place to say which is first, for, in my opinion, piety and scientific speculation share with each other, and the more closely they are conjoined the more both advance. The distinction however will be found in my "Glaubenslehre," but here I had to defend the equal rank of morality, law and piety in human nature. In so far as the two former do not involve an immediate relation of man to the Highest Being, they are inferior to the third, but all alike regulate as essentially what is eminent and characteristic in human nature. They are functions of human nature not to be subordinated to one another, and in so far are equal. Man can just as little be thought of without capacity for morality or endeavour after government as without capacity for religion. But it must render a special service; it must have an aim; it must show itself useful! What degradation! And its defenders should be eager for it!


At the last remove, morality and justice also must conduce to some further advantage. It were better that such utilitarians should be submerged in this eternal whirlpool of universal utility, in which everything good is allowed to go down, of which no man that would be anything for himself understands a single sensible word, than that they should venture to come forward as defenders of religion, for of all men they are least skilled to conduct its case. High renown it were for the heavenly to conduct so wretchedly the earthly concerns of man! Great honour for the free and unconcerned to make the conscience of man a little sharper and more alert! For such a purpose religion does not descend from heaven. What is loved and honoured only on account of some extraneous advantage may be needful, but it is not in itself necessary, and a sensible person simply values it according to the end for which it is desired. By this standard, religion would be valueless enough. I, at least, would offer little, for I must confess that I do not believe much in the unjust dealings it would hinder, nor the moral dealings it would produce. If that is all it could do to gain respect, I would have no more to do with its case. To recommend it merely as an accessory is too unimportant. An imaginary praise that vanishes on closer contemplation, cannot avail anything going about with higher pretensions. I maintain that in all better souls piety springs necessarily by itself; that a province of its own in the mind belongs to it, in which it has unlimited sway; that it is worthy to animate most profoundly the noblest and best and to be fully accepted and known by them. That is my contention, and it now behoves you to decide whether it is worth your while to hear me, before you still further strengthen yourselves in your contempt.

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