The realm of spirits is monstrously great, there is an infinite deal of the spiritual; yet let us look and see what the spirit, this bequest of the ancients, properly is.
Out of their birth-pangs it came forth, but they themselves could not utter themselves as spirit; they could give birth to it, it itself must speak. The “born God, the Son of Man,” is the first to utter the word that the spirit, i. e. he, God, has to do with nothing earthly and no earthly relationship, but solely with the spirit and spiritual relationships.
Is my courage, indestructible under all the world’s blows, my inflexibility and my obduracy, perchance already spirit in the full sense, because the world cannot touch it? Why, then it would not yet be at enmity with the world, and all its action would consist merely in not succumbing to the world! No, so long as it does not busy itself with itself alone, so long as it does not have to do with its world, the spiritual, alone, it is not free spirit, but only the “spirit of this world,” the spirit fettered to it. The spirit is free spirit, i. e. really spirit, only in a world of its own; in “this,” the world, it is a stranger. Only through a spiritual world is the spirit really spirit, for “this” world does not understand it and does not know how to keep “the maiden from a foreign land”1 from departing.
But where is it to get this spiritual world? Where but out of itself? It must reveal itself; and the words that it speaks, the revelations in which it unveils itself, these are its world. As a visionary lives and has his world only in the visionary pictures that he himself creates, as a crazy man generates for himself his own dream-world, without which he could not be crazy, so the spirit must create for itself its spirit world, and is not spirit till it creates it.
Thus its creations make it spirit, and by its creatures we know it, the creator; in them it lives, they are its world.
Now, what is the spirit? It is the creator of a spiritual world! Even in you and me people do not recognize spirit till they see that we have appropriated to ourselves something spiritual,—i. e., though thoughts may have been set before us, we have at least brought them to life in ourselves; for, as long as we were children, the most edifying thoughts might have been laid before us without our wishing, or being able to reproduce them in ourselves. So the spirit also exists only when it creates something spiritual; it is real only together with the spiritual, its creature.
As, then, we know it by its works, the question is what these works are. But the works or children of the spirit are nothing else but—spirits:
If I had before me Jews, Jews of the true metal, I should have to stop here and leave them standing before this mystery as for almost two thousand years they have remained standing before it, unbelieving and without knowledge. But, as you, my dear reader, are at least not a full-blooded Jew,—for such a one will not go astray as far as this,—we will still go along a bit of road together, till perhaps you too turn your back on me because I laugh in your face.
If somebody told you you were altogether spirit, you would take hold of your body and not believe him, but answer: “I have a spirit, no doubt, but do not exist only as spirit, but am a man with a body.” You would still distinguish yourself from “your spirit.” “But,” replies he, “it is your destiny, even though now you are yet going about in the fetters of the body, to be one day a ‘blessed spirit,’ and, however you may conceive of the future aspect of your spirit, so much is yet certain, that in death you will put off this body and yet keep yourself, i. e. your spirit, for all eternity; accordingly your spirit is the eternal and true in you, the body only a dwelling here below, which you may leave and perhaps exchange for another.”
Now you believe him! For the present, indeed, you are not spirit only; but, when you emigrate from the mortal body, as one day you must, then you will have to help yourself without the body, and therefore it is needful that you be prudent and care in time for your proper self. “What should it profit a man if he gained the whole world and yet suffered damage in his soul?”
But, even granted that doubts, raised in the course of time against the tenets of the Christian faith, have long since robbed you of faith in the immortality of your spirit, you have nevertheless left one tenet undisturbed, and still ingenuously adhere to the one truth, that the spirit is your better part, and that the spiritual has greater claims on you than anything else. Despite all your atheism, in zeal against egoism you concur with the believers in immortality.
But whom do you think of under the name of egoist? A man who, instead of living to an idea,—i. e. a spiritual thing—and sacrificing to it his personal advantage, serves the latter. A good patriot, e. g., brings his sacrifice to the altar of the fatherland; but it cannot be disputed that the fatherland is an idea, since for beasts incapable of mind,2 or children as yet without mind, there is no fatherland and no patriotism. Now, if any one does not approve himself as a good patriot, he betrays his egoism with reference to the fatherland. And so the matter stands in innumerable other cases: he who in human society takes the benefit of a prerogative sins egoistically against the idea of equality; he who exercises dominion is blamed as an egoist against the idea of liberty,—etc.
You despise the egoist because he puts the spiritual in the background as compared with the personal, and has his eyes on himself where you would like to see him act to favor an idea. The distinction between you is that he makes himself the central point, but you the spirit; or that you cut your identity in two and exalt your “proper self,” the spirit, to be ruler of the paltrier remainder, while he will hear nothing of this cutting in two, and pursues spiritual and material interests just as he pleases. You think, to be sure, that you are falling foul of those only who enter into no spiritual interest at all, but in fact you curse at everybody who does not look on the spiritual interest as his “true and highest” interest. You carry your knightly service for this beauty so far that you affirm her to be the only beauty of the world. You live not to yourself, but to your spirit and to what is the spirit’s—i. e. ideas.
As the spirit exists only in its creating of the spiritual, let us take a look about us for its first creation. If only it has accomplished this, there follows thenceforth a natural propagation of creations, as according to the myth only the first human beings needed to be created, the rest of the race propagating of itself. The first creation, on the other hand, must come forth “out of nothing,”—i. e., the spirit has toward its realization nothing but itself, or rather it has not yet even itself, but must create itself; hence its first creation is itself, the spirit. Mystical as this sounds, we yet go through it as an every-day experience. Are you a thinking being before you think? In creating the first thought you create yourself, the thinking one; for you do not think before you think a thought, i. e. have a thought. Is it not your singing that first makes you a singer, your talking that makes you a talker? Now, so too it is the production of the spiritual that first makes you a spirit.
Meantime, as you distinguish yourself from the thinker, singer, and talker, so you no less distinguish yourself from the spirit, and feel very clearly that you are something beside spirit. But, as in the thinking ego hearing and sight easily vanish in the enthusiasm of thought, so you also have been seized by the spirit-enthusiasm, and you now long with all your might to become wholly spirit and to be dissolved in spirit. The spirit is your ideal, the unattained, the otherworldly; spirit is the name of your—god, “God is spirit.”
Against all that is not spirit you are a zealot, and therefore you play the zealot against yourself who cannot get rid of a remainder of the non-spiritual. Instead of saying, “I am more than spirit,” you say with contrition, “I am less than spirit; and spirit, pure spirit, or the spirit that is nothing but spirit, I can only think of, but am not; and, since I am not it, it is another, exists as another, whom I call ‘God’.”
It lies in the nature of the case that the spirit that is to exist as pure spirit must be an otherworldly one, for, since I am not it, it follows that it can only be outside me; since in any case a human being is not fully comprehended in the concept “spirit,” it follows that the pure spirit, the spirit as such, can only be outside of men, beyond the human world,—not earthly, but heavenly.
Only from this disunion in which I and the spirit lie; only because “I” and “spirit” are not names for one and the same thing, but different names for completely different things; only because I am not spirit and spirit not I,—only from this do we get a quite tautological explanation of the necessity that the spirit dwells in the other world, i. e. is God.
But from this it also appears how thoroughly theological is the liberation that Feuerbach3 is laboring to give us. What he says is that we had only mistaken our own essence, and therefore looked for it in the other world, but that now, when we see that God was only our human essence, we must recognize it again as ours and move it back out of the other world into this. To God, who is spirit, Feuerbach gives the name “Our Essence.” Can we put up with this, that “Our Essence” is brought into opposition to us,—that we are split into an essential and an unessential self? Do we not therewith go back into the dreary misery of seeing ourselves banished out of ourselves?
What have we gained, then, when for a variation we have transferred into ourselves the divine outside us? Are we that which is in us? As little as we are that which is outside us. I am as little my heart as I am my sweetheart, this “other self” of mine. Just because we are not the spirit that dwells in us, just for that reason we had to take it and set it outside us; it was not we, did not coincide with us, and therefore we could not think of it as existing otherwise than outside us, on the other side from us, in the other world.
With the strength of despair Feuerbach clutches at the total substance of Christianity, not to throw it away, no, to drag it to himself, to draw it, the long-yearned-for, ever-distant, out of its heaven with a last effort, and keep it by him forever. Is not that a clutch of the uttermost despair, a clutch for life or death, and is it not at the same time the Christian yearning and hungering for the other world? The hero wants not to go into the other world, but to draw the other world to him, and compel it to become this world! And since then has not all the world, with more or less consciousness, been crying that “this world” is the vital point, and heaven must come down on earth and be experienced even here?
Let us, in brief, set Feuerbach’s theological view and our contradiction over against each other!
“The essence of man is man’s supreme being;4 now by religion, to be sure, the supreme being is called God and regarded as an objective essence, but in truth it is only man’s own essence; and therefore the turning point of the world’s history is that henceforth no longer God, but man, is to appear to man as God.”5
To this we reply: The supreme being is indeed the essence of man, but, just because it is his essence and not he himself, it remains quite immaterial whether we see it outside him and view it as “God,” or find it in him and call it “Essence of Man” or “Man.” I am neither God nor Man,6 neither the supreme essence nor my essence, and therefore it is all one in the main whether I think of the essence as in me or outside me. Nay, we really do always think of the supreme being as in both kinds of otherworldliness, the inward and outward, at once; for the “Spirit of God” is, according to the Christian view, also “our spirit,” and “dwells in us.”7 It dwells in heaven and dwells in us; we poor things are just its “dwelling,” and, if Feuerbach goes on to destroy its heavenly dwelling and force it to move to us bag and baggage, then we, its earthly apartments, will be badly overcrowded.
But after this digression (which, if we were at all proposing to work by line and level, we should have had to save for later pages in order to avoid repetition) we return to the spirit’s first creation, the spirit itself.
The spirit is something other than myself. But this other, what is it?
- Title of a poem by Schiller.
- The reader will remember (it is to be hoped he has never forgotten) that “mind” and “spirit” are one and the same word in German. For several pages back the connection of the discourse has seemed to require the almost exclusive use of the translation “spirit,” but to complete the sense it has often been necessary that the reader recall the thought of its identity with “mind,” as stated in a previous note.
- “Essence of Christianity.”
- Or, “highest essence.” The word Wesen, which means both “essence” and “being,” will be translated now one way and now the other in the following pages. The reader must bear in mind that these two words are identical in German: and so are “supreme” and “highest.”
- Cf. e. g. “Essence of Christianity,”
- That is, the abstract conception of man, as in the preceding sentence.
- E. g., Rom. 8. 9, 1 Cor. 3. 16, John 20. 22, and innumerable other passages.