Project Introduction

This project was initiated on July 28th, 2017 and announced October 25th of the same year. It is a robust online edition of The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner, as translated by Stephen Byington. Benjamin Tucker’s 1907 edition will serve as a basis, but many additional materials will be continually added as the project progresses.

Most importantly is to:

  • make the work easily accessible in an attractive manner
  • collect important commentary and materials otherwise scattered or unavailable online
  • illustrate and notate the work in a useful manner to the casual reader and scholar alike

Because much of the writing in the “Front Matter” section was created to stand by itself to introduce the work it prefaced, there will certainly be quite a bit of repetition of basic biographical and other information from one to another.

If you would like to contribute to the project, please contact us through patreonfacebook or twitter.

Benjamin R. Tuckers’s Preface

For more than twenty years I have entertained the design of publishing an English translation of “Der Einzige und sein Eigentum.” When I formed this design, the number of English-speaking persons who had ever heard of the book was very limited. The memory of Max Stirner had been virtually extinct for an entire generation. But in the last two decades there has been a remarkable revival of interest both in the book and in its author. It began in this country with a discussion in the pages of the Anarchist periodical, “Liberty,” in which Stirner’s thought was clearly expounded and vigorously championed by Dr. James L. Walker, who adopted for this discussion the pseudonym “Tak Kak.” At that time Dr. Walker was the chief editorial writer for the Galveston “News.” Some years later he became a practising physician in Mexico, where he died in 1904. A series of essays which he began in an Anarchist periodical, “Egoism,” and which he lived to complete, was published after his death in a small volume, “The Philosophy of Egoism.” It is a very able and convincing exposition of Stirner’s teachings, and almost the only one that exists in the English language. But the chief instrument in the revival of Stirnerism was and is the German poet, John Henry Mackay. Very early in his career he met Stirner’s name in Lange’s “History of Materialism,” and was moved thereby to read his book. The work made such an impression on him that he resolved to devote a portion of his life to the rediscovery and rehabilitation of the lost and forgotten genius. Through years of toil and correspondence and travel, and triumphing over tremendous obstacles, he carried his task to completion, and his biography of Stirner appeared in Berlin in 1898. It is a tribute to the thoroughness of Mackay’s work that since its publication not one important fact about Stirner has been discovered by anybody. During his years of investigation Mackay’s advertising for information had created a new interest in Stirner, which was enhanced by the sudden fame of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, an author whose intellectual kinship with Stirner has been a subject of much controversy. “Der Einzige,” previously obtainable only in an expensive form, was included in Philipp Reclam’s Universal-Bibliothek, and this cheap edition has enjoyed a wide and ever-increasing circulation. During the last dozen years the book has been translated twice into French, once into Italian, once into Russian, and possibly into other languages. The Scandinavian critic, Brandes, has written on Stirner. A large and appreciative volume, entitled “L’Individualisme Anarchiste: Max Stirner,” from the pen of Prof. Victor Basch, of the University of Rennes, has appeared in Paris. Another large and sympathetic volume, “Max Stirner,” written by Dr. Anselm Ruest, has been published very recently in Berlin. Dr. Paul Eltzbacher, in his work, “Der Anarchismus,” gives a chapter to Stirner, making him one of the seven typical Anarchists, beginning with William Godwin and ending with Tolstoi, of whom his book treats. There is hardly a notable magazine or a review on the Continent that has not given at least one leading article to the subject of Stirner. Upon the initiative of Mackay and with the aid of other admirers a suitable stone has been placed above the philosopher’s previously-neglected grave, and a memorial tablet upon the house in Berlin where he died in 1856; and this spring another is to be placed upon the house in Bayreuth where he was born in 1806. As a result of these various efforts, and though but little has been written about Stirner in the English language, his name is now known at least to thousands in America and England where formerly it was known only to hundreds. Therefore conditions are now more favorable for the reception of this volume than they were when I formed the design of publishing it, more than twenty years ago.

The problem of securing a reasonably good translation (for in the case of a work presenting difficulties so enormous it was idle to hope for an adequate translation) was finally solved by entrusting the task to Steven T. Byington, a scholar of remarkable attainments, whose specialty is philology, and who is also one of the ablest workers in the propaganda of Anarchism. But, for further security from error, it was agreed with Mr. Byington that his translation should have the benefit of revision by Dr. Walker, the most thorough American student of Stirner, and by Emma Heller Schumm and George Schumm, who are not only sympathetic with Stirner, but familiar with the history of his time, and who enjoy a knowledge of English and German that makes it difficult to decide which is their native tongue. It was also agreed that, upon any point of difference between the translator and his revisers which consultation might fail to solve, the publisher should decide. This method has been followed, and in a considerable number of instances it has fallen to me to make a decision. It is only fair to say, therefore, that the responsibility for special errors and imperfections properly rests on my shoulders, whereas, on the other hand, the credit for whatever general excellence the translation may possess belongs with the same propriety to Mr. Byington and his coadjutors. One thing is certain: its defects are due to no lack of loving care and pains. And I think I may add with confidence, while realizing fully how far short of perfection it necessarily falls, that it may safely challenge comparison with the translations that have been made into other languages.

In particular, I am responsible for the admittedly erroneous rendering of the title. “The Ego and His Own” is not an exact English equivalent of “Der Einzige und sein Eigentum.” But then, there is no exact English equivalent. Perhaps the nearest is “The Unique One and His Property.” But the unique one is not strictly the Einzige, for uniqueness connotes not only singleness but an admirable singleness, while Stirner’s Einzigkeit is admirable in his eyes only as such, it being no part of the purpose of his book to distinguish a particular Einzigkeit as more excellent than another. Moreover, “The Unique One and His Property” has no graces to compel our forgiveness of its slight inaccuracy. It is clumsy and unattractive. And the same objections may be urged with still greater force against all the other renderings that have been suggested,—”The Single One and His Property,” “The Only One and His Property,” “The Lone One and His Property,” “The Unit and His Property,” and, last and least and worst, “The Individual and His Prerogative.” “The Ego and His Own,” on the other hand, if not a precise rendering, is at least an excellent title in itself; excellent by its euphony, its monosyllabic incisiveness, and its telling—Einzigkeit. Another strong argument in its favor is the emphatic correspondence of the phrase “his own” with Mr. Byington’s renderings of the kindred words, Eigenheit and Eigner. Moreover, no reader will be led astray who bears in mind Stirner’s distinction: “I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego; I am unique.” And, to help the reader to bear this in mind, the various renderings of the word Einzige that occur through the volume are often accompanied by foot-notes showing that, in the German, one and the same word does duty for all.

If the reader finds the first quarter of this book somewhat forbidding and obscure, he is advised nevertheless not to falter. Close attention will master almost every difficulty, and, if he will but give it, he will find abundant reward in what follows. For his guidance I may specify one defect in the author’s style. When controverting a view opposite to his own, he seldom distinguishes with sufficient clearness his statement of his own view from his re-statement of the antagonistic view. As a result, the reader is plunged into deeper and deeper mystification, until something suddenly reveals the cause of his misunderstanding, after which he must go back and read again. I therefore put him on his guard. The other difficulties lie, as a rule, in the structure of the work. As to these I can hardly do better than translate the following passage from Prof. Basch’s book, alluded to above: “There is nothing more disconcerting than the first approach to this strange work. Stirner does not condescend to inform us as to the architecture of his edifice, or furnish us the slightest guiding thread. The apparent divisions of the book are few and misleading. From the first page to the last a unique thought circulates, but it divides itself among an infinity of vessels and arteries in each of which runs a blood so rich in ferments that one is tempted to describe them all. There is no progress in the development, and the repetitions are innumerable…. The reader who is not deterred by this oddity, or rather absence, of composition gives proof of genuine intellectual courage. At first one seems to be confronted with a collection of essays strung together, with a throng of aphorisms…. But, if you read this book several times; if, after having penetrated the intimacy of each of its parts, you then traverse it as a whole,—gradually the fragments weld themselves together, and Stirner’s thought is revealed in all its unity, in all its force, and in all its depth.”

A word about the dedication. Mackay’s investigations have brought to light that Marie Daehnhardt had nothing whatever in common with Stirner, and so was unworthy of the honor conferred upon her. She was no Eigene. I therefore reproduce the dedication merely in the interest of historical accuracy.

Happy as I am in the appearance of this book, my joy is not unmixed with sorrow. The cherished project was as dear to the heart of Dr. Walker as to mine, and I deeply grieve that he is no longer with us to share our delight in the fruition. Nothing, however, can rob us of the masterly introduction that he wrote for this volume (in 1903, or perhaps earlier), from which I will not longer keep the reader. This introduction, no more than the book itself, shall that Einzige, Death, make his Eigentum.

February, 1907.

B. R. T.

Steven T. Byington’s Preface

Translator’s Preface

If the style of this book is found unattractive, it will show that I have done my work ill and not represented the author truly; but, if it is found odd, I beg that I may not bear all the blame. I have simply tried to reproduce the author’s own mixture of colloquialisms and technicalities, and his preference for the precise expression of his thought rather than the word conventionally expected.

One especial feature of the style, however, gives the reason why this preface should exist. It is characteristic of Stirner’s writing that the thread of thought is carried on largely by the repetition of the same word in a modified form or sense. That connection of ideas which has guided popular instinct in the formation of words is made to suggest the line of thought which the writer wishes to follow. If this echoing of words is missed, the bearing of the statements on each other is in a measure lost; and, where the ideas are very new, one cannot afford to throw away any help in following their connection. Therefore, where a useful echo (and there are few useless ones in the book) could not be reproduced in English, I have generally called attention to it in a note. My notes are distinguished from the author’s by being enclosed in brackets.

One or two of such coincidences of language, occurring in words which are prominent throughout the book, should be borne constantly in mind as a sort of Keri perpetuum: for instance, the identity in the original of the words “spirit” and “mind,” and of the phrases “supreme being” and “highest essence.” In such cases I have repeated the note where it seemed that such repetition might be absolutely necessary, but have trusted the reader to carry it in his head where a failure of his memory would not be ruinous or likely.

For the same reason,—that is, in order not to miss any indication of the drift of the thought,—I have followed the original in the very liberal use of italics, and in the occasional eccentric use of a punctuation mark, as I might not have done in translating a work of a different nature.

I have set my face as a flint against the temptation to add notes that were not part of the translation. There is no telling how much I might have enlarged the book if I had put a note at every sentence which deserved to have its truth brought out by fuller elucidation,—or even at every one which I thought needed correction. It might have been within my province, if I had been able, to explain all the allusions to contemporary events, but I doubt whether any one could do that properly without having access to the files of three or four well-chosen German newspapers of Stirner’s time. The allusions are clear enough, without names and dates, to give a vivid picture of certain aspects of German life then. The tone of some of them is explained by the fact that the book was published under censorship.

I have usually preferred, for the sake of the connection, to translate Biblical quotations somewhat as they stand in the German, rather than conform them altogether to the English Bible. I am sometimes quite as near the original Greek as if I had followed the current translation.

Where German books are referred to, the pages cited are those of the German editions even when (usually because of some allusions in the text) the titles of the books are translated.

Steven T. Byington.

James L. Walker’s Introduction

Fifty years sooner or later can make little difference in the case of a book so revolutionary as this.

It saw the light when a so-called revolutionary movement was preparing in men’s minds, which agitation was, however, only a disturbance due to desires to participate in government, and to govern and to be governed, in a manner different to that which prevails. The “revolutionists” of 1848 were bewitched with an idea. They were not at all the masters of ideas. Most of those who since that time have prided themselves upon being revolutionists have been and are likewise but the bondmen of an idea,—that of the different lodgment of authority.

The temptation is, of course, present to attempt an explanation of the central thought of this work; but such an effort appears to be unnecessary to one who has the volume in his hand. The author’s care in illustrating his meaning shows that he realized how prone the possessed man is to misunderstand whatever is not moulded according to the fashions in thinking. The author’s learning was considerable, his command of words and ideas may never be excelled by another, and he judged it needful to develop his argument in manifold ways. So those who enter into the spirit of it will scarcely hope to impress others with the same conclusion in a more summary manner. Or, if one might deem that possible after reading Stirner, still one cannot think that it could be done so surely. The author has made certain work of it, even though he has to wait for his public; but still, the reception of the book by its critics amply proves the truth of the saying that one can give another arguments, but not understanding. The system-makers and system-believers thus far cannot get it out of their heads that any discourse about the nature of an ego must turn upon the common characteristics of egos, to make a systematic scheme of what they share as a generality. The critics inquire what kind of man the author is talking about. They repeat the question: What does he believe in? They fail to grasp the purport of the recorded answer: “I believe in myself”; which is attributed to a common soldier long before the time of Stirner. They ask, What is the principle of the self-conscious egoist,—the Einzige? To this perplexity Stirner says: Change the question; put “who?” instead of “what?” and an answer can then be given by naming him!

This, of course, is too simple for persons governed by ideas, and for persons in quest of new governing ideas. They wish to classify the man. Now, that in me which you can classify is not my distinguishing self. “Man” is the horizon or zero of my existence as an individual. Over that I rise as I can. At least I am something more than “man in general.” Pre-existing worship of ideals and disrespect for self had made of the ego at the very most a Somebody, oftener an empty vessel to be filled with the grace or the leavings of a tyrannous doctrine; thus a Nobody. Stirner dispels the morbid subjection, and recognizes each one who knows and feels himself as his own property to be neither humble Nobody nor befogged Somebody, but henceforth flat-footed and level-headed Mr. Thisbody, who has a character and good pleasure of his own, just as he has a name of his own.

The critics who attacked this work and were answered in the author’s minor writings, rescued from oblivion by John Henry Mackay, nearly all display the most astonishing triviality and impotent malice.

We owe to Dr. Eduard von Hartmann the unquestionable service which he rendered by directing attention to this book in his “Philosophie des Unbewussten,” the first edition of which was published in 1869, and in other writings. I do not begrudge Dr. von Hartmann the liberty of criticism which he used; and I think the admirers of Stirner’s teaching must quite appreciate one thing which Von Hartmann did at a much later date. In “Der Eigene” of August 10, 1896, there appeared a letter written by him and giving, among other things, certain data from which to judge that, when Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his later essays, Nietzsche was not ignorant of Stirner’s book.

Von Hartmann wishes that Stirner had gone on and developed his principle. Von Hartmann suggests that you and I are really the same spirit, looking out through two pairs of eyes. Then, one may reply, I need not concern myself about you, for in myself I have—us; and at that rate Von Hartmann is merely accusing himself of inconsistency: for, when Stirner wrote this book, Von Hartmann’s spirit was writing it; and it is just the pity that Von Hartmann in his present form does not indorse what he said in the form of Stirner,—that Stirner was different from any other man; that his ego was not Fichte’s transcendental generality, but “this transitory ego of flesh and blood.” It is not as a generality that you and I differ, but as a couple of facts which are not to be reasoned into one. “I” is somewise Hartmann, and thus Hartmann is “I”; but I am not Hartmann, and Hartmann is not—I. Neither am I the “I” of Stirner; only Stirner himself was Stirner’s “I.” Note how comparatively indifferent a matter it is with Stirner that one is an ego, but how all-important it is that one be a self-conscious ego,—a self-conscious, self-willed person.

Those not self-conscious and self-willed are constantly acting from self-interested motives, but clothing these in various garbs. Watch those people closely in the light of Stirner’s teaching, and they seem to be hypocrites, they have so many good moral and religious plans of which self-interest is at the end and bottom; but they, we may believe, do not know that this is more than a coincidence.

In Stirner we have the philosophical foundation for political liberty. His interest in the practical development of egoism to the dissolution of the State and the union of free men is clear and pronounced, and harmonizes perfectly with the economic philosophy of Josiah Warren. Allowing for difference of temperament and language, there is a substantial agreement between Stirner and Proudhon. Each would be free, and sees in every increase of the number of free people and their intelligence an auxiliary force against the oppressor. But, on the other hand, will any one for a moment seriously contend that Nietzsche and Proudhon march together in general aim and tendency,—that they have anything in common except the daring to profane the shrine and sepulchre of superstition?

Nietzsche has been much spoken of as a disciple of Stirner, and, owing to favorable cullings from Nietzsche’s writings, it has occurred that one of his books has been supposed to contain more sense than it really does—so long as one had read only the extracts.

Nietzsche cites scores or hundreds of authors. Had he read everything, and not read Stirner?

But Nietzsche is as unlike Stirner as a tight-rope performance is unlike an algebraic equation.

Stirner loved liberty for himself, and loved to see any and all men and women taking liberty, and he had no lust of power. Democracy to him was sham liberty, egoism the genuine liberty.

Nietzsche, on the contrary, pours out his contempt upon democracy because it is not aristocratic. He is predatory to the point of demanding that those who must succumb to feline rapacity shall be taught to submit with resignation. When he speaks of “Anarchistic dogs” scouring the streets of great civilized cities, it is true, the context shows that he means the Communists; but his worship of Napoleon, his bathos of anxiety for the rise of an aristocracy that shall rule Europe for thousands of years, his idea of treating women in the oriental fashion, show that Nietzsche has struck out in a very old path—doing the apotheosis of tyranny. We individual egoistic Anarchists, however, may say to the Nietzsche school, so as not to be misunderstood: We do not ask of the Napoleons to have pity, nor of the predatory barons to do justice. They will find it convenient for their own welfare to make terms with men who have learned of Stirner what a man can be who worships nothing, bears allegiance to nothing. To Nietzsche’s rhodomontade of eagles in baronial form, born to prey on industrial lambs, we rather tauntingly oppose the ironical question: Where are your claws? What if the “eagles” are found to be plain barnyard fowls on which more silly fowls have fastened steel spurs to hack the victims, who, however, have the power to disarm the sham “eagles” between two suns?

Stirner shows that men make their tyrants as they make their gods, and his purpose is to unmake tyrants.

Nietzsche dearly loves a tyrant.

In style Stirner’s work offers the greatest possible contrast to the puerile, padded phraseology of Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra” and its false imagery. Who ever imagined such an unnatural conjuncture as an eagle “toting” a serpent in friendship? which performance is told of in bare words, but nothing comes of it. In Stirner we are treated to an enlivening and earnest discussion addressed to serious minds, and every reader feels that the word is to him, for his instruction and benefit, so far as he has mental independence and courage to take it and use it. The startling intrepidity of this book is infused with a whole-hearted love for all mankind, as evidenced by the fact that the author shows not one iota of prejudice or any idea of division of men into ranks. He would lay aside government, but would establish any regulation deemed convenient, and for this only our convenience is consulted. Thus there will be general liberty only when the disposition toward tyranny is met by intelligent opposition that will no longer submit to such a rule. Beyond this the manly sympathy and philosophical bent of Stirner are such that rulership appears by contrast a vanity, an infatuation of perverted pride. We know not whether we more admire our author or more love him.

Stirner’s attitude toward woman is not special. She is an individual if she can be, not handicapped by anything he says, feels, thinks, or plans. This was more fully exemplified in his life than even in this book; but there is not a line in the book to put or keep woman in an inferior position to man, neither is there anything of caste or aristocracy in the book.

Likewise there is nothing of obscurantism or affected mysticism about it. Everything in it is made as plain as the author could make it. He who does not so is not Stirner’s disciple nor successor nor co-worker.

Some one may ask: How does plumb-line Anarchism train with the unbridled egoism proclaimed by Stirner? The plumb-line is not a fetish, but an intellectual conviction, and egoism is a universal fact of animal life. Nothing could seem clearer to my mind than that the reality of egoism must first come into the consciousness of men, before we can have the unbiased Einzige in place of the prejudiced biped who lends himself to the support of tyrannies a million times stronger over me than the natural self-interest of any individual. When plumb-line doctrine is misconceived as duty between unequal-minded men,—as a religion of humanity,—it is indeed the confusion of trying to read without knowing the alphabet and of putting philanthropy in place of contract. But, if the plumb-line be scientific, it is or can be my possession, my property, and I choose it for its use—when circumstances admit of its use. I do not feel bound to use it because it is scientific, in building my house; but, as my will, to be intelligent, is not to be merely wilful, the adoption of the plumb-line follows the discarding of incantations. There is no plumb-line without the unvarying lead at the end of the line; not a fluttering bird or a clawing cat.

On the practical side of the question of egoism versus self-surrender and for a trial of egoism in politics, this may be said: the belief that men not moved by a sense of duty will be unkind or unjust to others is but an indirect confession that those who hold that belief are greatly interested in having others live for them rather than for themselves. But I do not ask or expect so much. I am content if others individually live for themselves, and thus cease in so many ways to act in opposition to my living for myself,—to our living for ourselves.

If Christianity has failed to turn the world from evil, it is not to be dreamed that rationalism of a pious moral stamp will succeed in the same task. Christianity, or all philanthropic love, is tested in non-resistance. It is a dream that example will change the hearts of rulers, tyrants, mobs. If the extremest self-surrender fails, how can a mixture of Christian love and worldly caution succeed? This at least must be given up. The policy of Christ and Tolstoi can soon be tested, but Tolstoi’s belief is not satisfied with a present test and failure. He has the infatuation of one who persists because this ought to be. The egoist who thinks “I should like this to be” still has the sense to perceive that it is not accomplished by the fact of some believing and submitting, inasmuch as others are alert to prey upon the unresisting. The Pharaohs we have ever with us.

Several passages in this most remarkable book show the author as a man full of sympathy. When we reflect upon his deliberately expressed opinions and sentiments,—his spurning of the sense of moral obligation as the last form of superstition,—may we not be warranted in thinking that the total disappearance of the sentimental supposition of duty liberates a quantity of nervous energy for the purest generosity and clarifies the intellect for the more discriminating choice of objects of merit?

J. L. Walker.

I. A Human Life

From the moment when he catches sight of the light of the world a man seeks to find out himself and get hold of himself out of its confusion, in which he, with everything else, is tossed about in motley mixture.

But everything that comes in contact with the child defends itself in turn against his attacks, and asserts its own persistence.

Accordingly, because each thing cares for itself and at the same time comes into constant collision with other things, the combat of self-assertion is unavoidable.

Victory or defeat—between the two alternatives the fate of the combat wavers. The victor becomes the lord, the vanquished one the subject: the former exercises supremacy and “rights of supremacy,” the latter fulfils in awe and deference the “duties of a subject.”

But both remain enemies, and always lie in wait: they watch for each other’s weaknesses—children for those of their parents and parents for those of their children (e. g. their fear); either the stick conquers the man, or the man conquers the stick.

In childhood liberation takes the direction of trying to get to the bottom of things, to get at what is “back of” things; therefore we spy out the weak points of everybody, for which, it is well known, children have a sure instinct; therefore we like to smash things, like to rummage through hidden corners, pry after what is covered up or out of the way, and try what we can do with everything. When we once get at what is back of the things, we know we are safe; when, e. g., we have got at the fact that the rod is too weak against our obduracy, then we no longer fear it, “have outgrown it.”

Back of the rod, mightier than it, stands our—obduracy, our obdurate courage. By degrees we get at what is back of everything that was mysterious and uncanny to us, the mysteriously-dreaded might of the rod, the father’s stern look, etc., and back of all we find our—ataraxy, i. e. imperturbability, intrepidity, our counter force, our odds of strength, our invincibility. Before that which formerly inspired in us fear and deference we no longer retreat shyly, but take courage. Back of everything we find our courage, our superiority; back of the sharp command of parents and authorities stands, after all, our courageous choice or our outwitting shrewdness. And the more we feel ourselves, the smaller appears that which before seemed invincible. And what is our trickery, shrewdness, courage, obduracy? What else but—mind! 1

Through a considerable time we are spared a fight that is so exhausting later—the fight against reason. The fairest part of childhood passes without the necessity of coming to blows with reason. We care nothing at all about it, do not meddle with it, admit no reason. We are not to be persuaded to anything by conviction, and are deaf to good arguments, principles, etc.; on the other hand, coaxing, punishment, and the like are hard for us to resist.

This stern life-and-death combat with reason enter later, and begins a new phase; in childhood we scamper about without racking our brains much.

Mind is the name of the first self-discovery, the first undeification of the divine, i. e. of the uncanny, the spooks, the “powers above.” Our fresh feeling of youth, this feeling of self, now defers to nothing; the world is discredited, for we are above it, we are mind.

Now for the first time we see that hitherto we have not looked at the world intelligently at all, but only stared at it.

We exercise the beginnings of our strength on natural powers. We defer to parents as a natural power; later we say: Father and mother are to be forsaken, all natural power to be counted as riven. They are vanquished. For the rational, i. e. “intellectual” man there is no family as a natural power; a renunciation of parents, brothers, etc., makes its appearance. If these are “born again” as intellectual, rational powers, they are no longer at all what they were before.

And not only parents, but men in general, are conquered by the young man; they are no hindrance to him, and are no longer regarded; for now he says: One must obey God rather than men.

From this high standpoint everything “earthly” recedes into contemptible remoteness; for the standby point is—the heavenly.

The attitude is now altogether reversed; the youth takes up an intellectual position, while the boy, who did not yet feel himself as mind, grew up in mindless learning. The former does not try to get hold of things (e. g. to get into his head the data of history), but of the thoughts that lie hidden in things, and so, e. g., of the spirit of history. On the other hand, the boy understands connections no doubt, but not ideas, the spirit; therefore he strings together whatever can be learned, without proceeding a priori and theoretically, i. e. without looking for ideas.

As in childhood one had to overcome the resistance of the laws of the world, so now in everything that he proposes he is met by an objection of the mind, of reason, of his own conscience. “That is unreasonable, unchristian, unpatriotic,” and the like, cries conscience to us, and—frightens us away from it. Not the might of the avenging Eumenides, not Poseidon’s wrath, not God, far as he sees the hidden, not the father’s rod of punishment, do we fear, but—conscience.

We “run after our thoughts” now, and follow their commands just as before we followed parental, human ones. Our course of action is determined by our thoughts (ideas, conceptions, faith) as it is in childhood by the commands of our parents.

For all that, we were already thinking when we were children, only our thoughts were not fleshless, abstract, absolute, i. e. NOTHING BUT THOUGHTS, a heaven in themselves, a pure world of thought, logical thoughts.

On the contrary, they had been only thoughts that we had about a thing; we thought of the thing so or so. Thus we may have thought “God made the world that we see there,” but we did not think of (“search”) the “depths of the Godhead itself”; we may have thought “that is the truth about the matter,” but we did not think of Truth itself, nor unite into one sentence “God is truth.” The “depths of the Godhead, who is truth,” we did not touch. Over such purely logical, i. e. theological questions, “What is truth?” Pilate does not stop, though he does not therefore hesitate to ascertain in an individual case “what truth there is in the thing,” i. e. whether the thing is true.

Any thought bound to a thing is not yet nothing but a thought, absolute thought.

To bring to light the pure thought, or to be of its party, is the delight of youth; and all the shapes of light in the world of thought, like truth, freedom, humanity, Man, etc., illumine and inspire the youthful soul.

But, when the spirit is recognized as the essential thing, it still makes a difference whether the spirit is poor or rich, and therefore one seeks to become rich in spirit; the spirit wants to spread out so as to found its empire—an empire that is not of this world, the world just conquered. Thus, then, it longs to become all in all to itself; i. e., although I am spirit, I am not yet perfected spirit, and must first seek the complete spirit.

But with that I, who had just now found myself as spirit, lose myself again at once, bowing before the complete spirit as one not my own but supernal, and feeling my emptiness.

Spirit is the essential point for everything, to be sure; but then is every spirit the “right” spirit? The right and true spirit is the ideal of spirit, the “Holy Spirit.” It is not my or your spirit, but just—an ideal, supernal one, it is “God.” “God is spirit.” And this supernal “Father in heaven gives it to those that pray to him.” 2

The man is distinguished from the youth by the fact that he takes the world as it is, instead of everywhere fancying it amiss and wanting to improve it, i. e. model it after his ideal; in him the view that one must deal with the world according to his interest, not according to his ideals, becomes confirmed.

So long as one knows himself only as spirit, and feels that all the value of his existence consists in being spirit (it becomes easy for the youth to give his life, the “bodily life,” for a nothing, for the silliest point of honor), so long it is only thoughts that one has, ideas that he hopes to be able to realize some day when he has found a sphere of action; thus one has meanwhile only ideals, unexecuted ideas or thoughts.

Not till one has fallen in love with his corporeal self, and takes a pleasure in himself as a living flesh-and-blood person,—but it is in mature years, in the man, that we find it so,—not till then has one a personal or egoistic interest, i. e. an interest not only of our spirit, for instance, but of total satisfaction, satisfaction of the whole chap, a selfish interest. Just compare a man with a youth, and see if he will not appear to you harder, less magnanimous, more selfish. Is he therefore worse? No, you say; he has only become more definite, or, as you also call it, more “practical.” But the main point is this, that he makes himself more the centre than does the youth, who is infatuated about other things, e. g. God, fatherland, and so on.

Therefore the man shows a second self-discovery. The youth found himself as spirit and lost himself again in the general spirit, the complete, holy spirit, Man, mankind,—in short, all ideals; the man finds himself as embodied spirit.

Boys had only unintellectual interests (i. e. interests devoid of thoughts and ideas), youths only intellectual ones; the man has bodily, personal, egoistic interests.

If the child has not an object that it can occupy itself with, it feels ennui; for it does not yet know how to occupy itself with itself. The youth, on the contrary, throws the object aside, because for him thoughts arose out of the object; he occupies himself with his thoughts, his dreams, occupies himself intellectually, or “his mind is occupied.”

The young man includes everything not intellectual under the contemptuous name of “externalities.” If he nevertheless sticks to the most trivial externalities (e. g. the customs of students’ clubs and other formalities), it is because, and when, he discovers mind in them, i. e. when they are symbols to him.

As I find myself back of things, and that as mind, so I must later find myself also back of thoughts,—to wit, as their creator and owner. In the time of spirits thoughts grew till they overtopped my head, whose offspring they yet were; they hovered about me and convulsed me like fever-phantasies—an awful power. The thoughts had become corporeal on their own account, were ghosts, such as God, Emperor, Pope, Fatherland, etc. If I destroy their corporeity, then I take them back into mine, and say: “I alone am corporeal.” And now I take the world as what it is to me, as mine, as my property; I refer all to myself.

If as spirit I had thrust away the world in the deepest contempt, so as owner I thrust spirits or ideas away into their “vanity.” They have no longer any power over me, as no “earthly might” has power over the spirit.

The child was realistic, taken up with the things of this world, till little by little he succeeded in getting at what was back of these very things; the youth was idealistic, inspired by thoughts, till he worked his way up to where he became the man, the egoistic man, who deals with things and thoughts according to his heart’s pleasure, and sets his personal interest above everything. Finally, the old man? When I become one, there will still be time enough to speak of that.

II. Men of the Old Time and the New

How each of us developed himself, what he strove for, attained, or missed, what objects he formerly pursued and what plans and wishes his heart is now set on, what transformations his views have experienced, what perturbations his principles,—in short, how he has to-day become what yesterday or years ago he was not,—this he brings out again from his memory with more or less ease, and he feels with especial vividness what changes have taken place in himself when he has before his eyes the unrolling of another’s life.

Let us therefore look into the activities our fore-fathers busied themselves with.

I. The Ancients

Custom having once given the name of “the ancients” to our pre-Christian ancestors, we will not throw it up against them that, in comparison with us experienced people, they ought properly to be called children, but will rather continue to honor them as our good old fathers. But how have they come to be antiquated, and who could displace them through his pretended newness?

We know, of course, the revolutionary innovator and disrespectful heir, who even took away the sanctity of the fathers’ sabbath to hallow his Sunday, and interrupted the course of time to begin at himself with a new chronology; we know him, and know that it is—the Christian. But does he remain forever young, and is he to-day still the new man, or will he too be superseded, as he has superseded the “ancients”?

The fathers must doubtless have themselves begotten the young one who entombed them. Let us then peep at this act of generation.

“To the ancients the world was a truth,” says Feuerbach, but he forgets to make the important addition, “a truth whose untruth they tried to get back of, and at last really did.” What is meant by those words of Feuerbach will be easily recognized if they are put alongside the Christian thesis of the “vanity and transitoriness of the world.” For, as the Christian can never convince himself of the vanity of the divine word, but believes in its eternal and unshakeable truth, which, the more its depths are searched, must all the more brilliantly come to light and triumph, so the ancients on their side lived in the feeling that the world and mundane relations (e. g. the natural ties of blood) were the truth before which their powerless “I” must bow. The very thing on which the ancients set the highest value is spurned by Christians as the valueless, and what they recognized as truth these brand as idle lies; the high significance of the fatherland disappears, and the Christian must regard himself as “a stranger on earth”;1 the sanctity of funeral rites, from which sprang a work of art like the Antigone of Sophocles, is designated as a paltry thing (“Let the dead bury their dead”); the infrangible truth of family ties is represented as an untruth which one cannot promptly enough get clear of;2 and so in everything.

If we now see that to the two sides opposite things appear as truth, to one the natural, to the other the intellectual, to one earthly things and relations, to the other heavenly (the heavenly fatherland, “Jerusalem that is above,” etc.), it still remains to be considered how the new time and that undeniable reversal could come out of antiquity. But the ancients themselves worked toward making their truth a lie.

Let us plunge at once into the midst of the most brilliant years of the ancients, into the Periclean century. Then the Sophistic culture was spreading, and Greece made a pastime of what had hitherto been to her a monstrously serious matter.

The fathers had been enslaved by the undisturbed power of existing things too long for the posterity not to have to learn by bitter experience to feel themselves. Therefore the Sophists, with courageous sauciness, pronounce the reassuring words, “Don’t be bluffed!” and diffuse the rationalistic doctrine, “Use your understanding, your wit, your mind, against everything; it is by having a good and well-drilled understanding that one gets through the world best, provides for himself the best lot, the pleasantest life.” Thus they recognize in mind man’s true weapon against the world. This is why they lay such stress on dialectic skill, command of language, the art of disputation, etc. They announce that mind is to be used against everything; but they are still far removed from the holiness of the Spirit, for to them it is a means, a weapon, as trickery and defiance serve children for the same purpose; their mind is the unbribable understanding.

To-day we should call that a one-sided culture of the understanding, and add the warning, “Cultivate not only your understanding, but also, and especially, your heart.” Socrates did the same. For, if the heart did not become free from its natural impulses, but remained filled with the most fortuitous contents and, as an uncriticised avidity, altogether in the power of things, i. e. nothing but a vessel of the most various appetites,—then it was unavoidable that the free understanding must serve the “bad heart” and was ready to justify everything that the wicked heart desired.

Therefore Socrates says that it is not enough for one to use his understanding in all things, but it is a question of what cause one exerts it for. We should now say, one must serve the “good cause.” But serving the good cause is—being moral. Hence Socrates is the founder of ethics.

Certainly the principle of the Sophistic doctrine must lead to the possibility that the blindest and most dependent slave of his desires might yet be an excellent sophist, and, with keen understanding, trim and expound everything in favor of his coarse heart. What could there be for which a “good reason” might not be found, or which might not be defended through thick and thin?

Therefore Socrates says: “You must be ‘pure-hearted’ if your shrewdness is to be valued.” At this point begins the second period of Greek liberation of the mind, the period of purity of heart. For the first was brought to a close by the Sophists in their proclaiming the omnipotence of the understanding. But the heart remained worldly-minded, remained a servant of the world, always affected by worldly wishes. This coarse heart was to be cultivated from now on—the era of culture of the heart. But how is the heart to be cultivated? What the understanding, this one side of the mind, has reached,—to wit, the capability of playing freely with and over every concern,—awaits the heart also; everything worldly must come to grief before it, so that at last family, commonwealth, fatherland, and the like, are given up for the sake of the heart, i. e. of blessedness, the heart’s blessedness.

Daily experience confirms the truth that the understanding may have renounced a thing many years before the heart has ceased to beat for it. So the Sophistic understanding too had so far become master over the dominant, ancient powers that they now needed only to be driven out of the heart, in which they dwelt unmolested, to have at last no part at all left in man.

This war is opened by Socrates, and not till the dying day of the old world does it end in peace.

The examination of the heart takes its start with Socrates, and all the contents of the heart are sifted. In their last and extremest struggles the ancients threw all contents out of the heart and let it no longer beat for anything; this was the deed of the Skeptics. The same purgation of the heart was now achieved in the Skeptical age, as the understanding had succeeded in establishing in the Sophistic age.

The Sophistic culture has brought it to pass that one’s understanding no longer stands still before anything, and the Skeptical, that his heart is no longer moved by anything.

So long as man is entangled in the movements of the world and embarrassed by relations to the world,—and he is so till the end of antiquity, because his heart still has to struggle for independence from the worldly,—so long he is not yet spirit; for spirit is without body, and has no relations to the world and corporality; for it the world does not exist, nor natural bonds, but only the spiritual, and spiritual bonds. Therefore man must first become so completely unconcerned and reckless, so altogether without relations, as the Skeptical culture presents him,—so altogether indifferent to the world that even its falling in ruins would not move him,—before he could feel himself as worldless, i. e. as spirit. And this is the result of the gigantic work of the ancients: that man knows himself as a being without relations and without a world, as spirit.

Only now, after all worldly care has left him, is he all in all to himself, is he only for himself, i. e. he is spirit for the spirit, or, in plainer language, he cares only for the spiritual.

In the Christian wisdom of serpents and innocence of doves the two sides—understanding and heart—of the ancient liberation of mind are so completed that they appear young and new again, and neither the one nor the other lets itself be bluffed any longer by the worldly and natural.

Thus the ancients mounted to spirit, and strove to become spiritual. But a man who wishes to be active as spirit is drawn to quite other tasks than he was able to set himself formerly: to tasks which really give something to do to the spirit and not to mere sense or acuteness,3 which exerts itself only to become master of things. The spirit busies itself solely about the spiritual, and seeks out the “traces of mind” in everything; to the believing spirit “everything comes from God,” and interests him only to the extent that it reveals this origin; to the philosophic spirit everything appears with the stamp of reason, and interests him only so far as he is able to discover in it reason, i. e. spiritual content.

Not the spirit, then, which has to do with absolutely nothing unspiritual, with no thing, but only with the essence which exists behind and above things, with thoughts,—not that did the ancients exert, for they did not yet have it; no, they had only reached the point of struggling and longing for it, and therefore sharpened it against their too-powerful foe, the world of sense (but what would not have been sensuous for them, since Jehovah or the gods of the heathen were yet far removed from the conception “God is spirit,” since the “heavenly fatherland” had not yet stepped into the place of the sensuous, etc?)—they sharpened against the world of sense their sense, their acuteness. To this day the Jews, those precocious children of antiquity, have got no farther; and with all the subtlety and strength of their prudence and understanding, which easily becomes master of things and forces them to obey it, they cannot discover spirit, which takes no account whatever of things.

The Christian has spiritual interests, because he allows himself to be a spiritual man; the Jew does not even understand these interests in their purity, because he does not allow himself to assign no value to things. He does not arrive at pure spirituality, a spirituality such as is religiously expressed, e. g., in the faith, of Christians, which alone (i. e. without works) justifies. Their unspirituality sets Jews forever apart from Christians; for the spiritual man is incomprehensible to the unspiritual, as the unspiritual is contemptible to the spiritual. But the Jews have only “the spirit of this world.”

The ancient acuteness and profundity lies as far from the spirit and the spirituality of the Christian world as earth from heaven.

He who feels himself as free spirit is not oppressed and made anxious by the things of this world, because he does not care for them; if one is still to feel their burden, he must be narrow enough to attach weight to them,—as is evidently the case, for instance, when one is still concerned for his “dear life.” He to whom everything centres in knowing and conducting himself as a free spirit gives little heed to how scantily he is supplied meanwhile, and does not reflect at all on how he must make his arrangements to have a thoroughly free or enjoyable life. He is not disturbed by the inconveniences of the life that depends on things, because he lives only spiritually and on spiritual food, while aside from this he only gulps things down like a beast, hardly knowing it, and dies bodily, to be sure, when his fodder gives out, but knows himself immortal as spirit, and closes his eyes with an adoration or a thought. His life is occupation with the spiritual, is—thinking; the rest does not bother him; let him busy himself with the spiritual in any way that he can and chooses,—in devotion, in contemplation, or in philosophic cognition,—his doing is always thinking; and therefore Descartes, to whom this had at last become quite clear, could lay down the proposition: “I think, that is—I am.” This means, my thinking is my being or my life; only when I live spiritually do I live; only as spirit am I really, or—I am spirit through and through and nothing but spirit. Unlucky Peter Schlemihl, who has lost his shadow, is the portrait of this man become a spirit; for the spirit’s body is shadowless.—Over against this, how different among the ancients! Stoutly and manfully as they might bear themselves against the might of things, they must yet acknowledge the might itself, and got no farther than to protect their life against it as well as possible. Only at a late hour did they recognize that their “true life” was not that which they led in the fight against the things of the world, but the “spiritual life,” “turned away” from these things; and, when they saw this, they became—Christians, i. e. the moderns, and innovators upon the ancients. But the life turned away from things, the spiritual life, no longer draws any nourishment from nature, but “lives only on thoughts,” and therefore is no longer “life,” but—thinking.

Yet it must not be supposed now that the ancients were without thoughts, just as the most spiritual man is not to be conceived of as if he could be without life. Rather, they had their thoughts about everything, about the world, man, the gods, etc., and showed themselves keenly active in bringing all this to their consciousness. But they did not know thought, even though they thought of all sorts of things and “worried themselves with their thoughts.” Compare with their position the Christian saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts; as the heaven is higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts,” and remember what was said above about our child-thoughts.

What is antiquity seeking, then? The true enjoyment of life! You will find that at bottom it is all the same as “the true life.”

The Greek poet Simonides sings: “Health is the noblest good for mortal man, the next to this is beauty, the third riches acquired without guile, the fourth the enjoyment of social pleasures in the company of young friends.” These are all good things of life, pleasures of life. What else was Diogenes of Sinope seeking for than the true enjoyment of life, which he discovered in having the least possible wants? What else Aristippus, who found it in a cheery temper under all circumstances? They are seeking for cheery, unclouded life-courage, for cheeriness; they are seeking to “be of good cheer.”

The Stoics want to realize the wise man, the man with practical philosophy, the man who knows how to live,—a wise life, therefore; they find him in contempt for the world, in a life without development, without spreading out, without friendly relations with the world, i. e. in the isolated life, in life as life, not in life with others; only the Stoic lives, all else is dead for him. The Epicureans, on the contrary, demand a moving life.

The ancients, as they want to be of good cheer, desire good living (the Jews especially a long life, blessed with children and goods), eudaemonia, well-being in the most various forms. Democritus, e. g., praises as such the calm of the soul in which one “lives smoothly, without fear and without excitement.”

So what he thinks is that with this he gets on best, provides for himself the best lot, and gets through the world best. But as he cannot get rid of the world,—and in fact cannot for the very reason that his whole activity is taken up in the effort to get rid of it, that is, in repelling the world (for which it is yet necessary that what can be and is repelled should remain existing, otherwise there would no longer be anything to repel),—he reaches at most an extreme degree of liberation, and is distinguishable only in degree from the less liberated. If he even got as far as the deadening of the earthly sense, which at last admits only the monotonous whisper of the word “Brahm,” he nevertheless would not be essentially distinguishable from the sensual man.

Even the Stoic attitude and manly virtue amounts only to this,—that one must maintain and assert himself against the world; and the ethics of the Stoics (their only science, since they could tell nothing about the spirit but how it should behave toward the world, and of nature [physics] only this, that the wise man must assert himself against it) is not a doctrine of the spirit, but only a doctrine of the repelling of the world and of self-assertion against the world. And this consists in “imperturbability and equanimity of life,” and so in the most explicit Roman virtue.

The Romans too (Horace, Cicero, etc.) went no further than this practical philosophy.

The comfort (hedone) of the Epicureans is the same practical philosophy the Stoics teach, only trickier, more deceitful. They teach only another behavior toward the world, exhort us only to take a shrewd attitude toward the world; the world must be deceived, for it is my enemy.

The break with the world is completely carried through by the Skeptics. My entire relation to the world is “worthless and truthless.” Timon says, “The feelings and thoughts which we draw from the world contain no truth.” “What is truth?” cries Pilate. According to Pyrrho’s doctrine the world is neither good nor bad, neither beautiful nor ugly, etc., but these are predicates which I give it. Timon says that “in itself nothing is either good or bad, but man only thinks of it thus or thus”; to face the world only ataraxia (unmovedness) and aphasia (speechlessness—or, in other words, isolated inwardness) are left. There is “no longer any truth to be recognized” in the world; things contradict themselves; thoughts about things are without distinction (good and bad are all the same, so that what one calls good another finds bad); here the recognition of “truth” is at an end, and only the man without power of recognition, the man who finds in the world nothing to recognize, is left, and this man just leaves the truth-vacant world where it is and takes no account of it.

So antiquity gets trough with the world of things, the order of the world, the world as a whole; but to the order of the world, or the things of this world, belong not only nature, but all relations in which man sees himself placed by nature, e. g. the family, the community,—in short, the so-called “natural bonds.” With the world of the spirit Christianity then begins. The man who still faces the world armed is the ancient, the—heathen (to which class the Jew, too, as non-Christian, belongs); the man who has come to be led by nothing but his “heart’s pleasure,” the interest he takes, his fellow-feeling, his—spirit, is the modern, the—Christian.

As the ancients worked toward the conquest of the world and strove to release man from the heavy trammels of connection with other things, at last they came also to the dissolution of the State and giving preference to everything private. Of course community, family, etc., as natural relations, are burdensome hindrances which diminish my spiritual freedom.

II. The Moderns

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; the old is passed away, behold, all is become new.”1

As it was said above, “To the ancients the world was a truth,” we must say here, “To the moderns the spirit was a truth”; but here, as there, we must not omit the supplement, “a truth whose untruth they tried to get back of, and at last they really do.”

A course similar to that which antiquity took may be demonstrated in Christianity also, in that the understanding was held a prisoner under the dominion of the Christian dogmas up to the time preparatory to the Reformation, but in the pre-Reformation century asserted itself sophistically and played heretical pranks with all tenets of the faith. And the talk then was, especially in Italy and at the Roman court, “If only the heart remains Christian-minded, the understanding may go right on taking its pleasure.”

Long before the Reformation people were so thoroughly accustomed to fine-spun “wranglings” that the pope, and most others, looked on Luther’s appearance too as a mere “wrangling of monks” at first. Humanism corresponds to Sophisticism, and, as in the time of the Sophists Greek life stood in its fullest bloom (the Periclean age), so the most brilliant things happened in the time of Humanism, or, as one might perhaps also say, of Machiavellianism (printing, the New World, etc.). At this time the heart was still far from wanting to relieve itself of its Christian contents.

But finally the Reformation, like Socrates, took hold seriously of the heart itself, and since then hearts have kept growing visibly—more unchristian. As with Luther people began to take the matter to heart, the outcome of this step of the Reformation must be that the heart also gets lightened of the heavy burden of Christian faith. The heart, from day to day more unchristian, loses the contents with which it had busied itself, till at last nothing but empty warm-heartedness is left it, the quite general love of men, the love of Man, the consciousness of freedom, “self-consciousness.”

Only so is Christianity complete, because it has become bald, withered, and void of contents. There are now no contents whatever against which the heart does not mutiny, unless indeed the heart unconsciously or without “self-consciousness” lets them slip in. The heart criticises to death with hard-hearted mercilessness everything that wants to make its way in, and is capable (except, as before, unconsciously or taken by surprise) of no friendship, no love. What could there be in men to love, since they are all alike “egoists,” none of them man as such, i. e. none spirit only? The Christian loves only the spirit; but where could one be found who should be really nothing but spirit?

To have a liking for the corporeal man with hide and hair,—why, that would no longer be a “spiritual” warm-heartedness, it would be treason against “pure” warm-heartedness, the “theoretical regard.” For pure warm-heartedness is by no means to be conceived as like that kindliness that gives everybody a friendly hand-shake; on the contrary, pure warm-heartedness is warm-hearted toward nobody, it is only a theoretical interest, concern for man as man, not as a person. The person is repulsive to it because of being “egoistic,” because of not being that abstraction, Man. But it is only for the abstraction that one can have a theoretical regard. To pure warm-heartedness or pure theory men exist only to be criticised, scoffed at, and thoroughly despised; to it, no less than to the fanatical parson, they are only “filth” and other such nice things.

Pushed to this extremity of disinterested warm-heartedness, we must finally become conscious that the spirit, which alone the Christian loves, is nothing; in other words, that the spirit is—a lie.

What has here been set down roughly, summarily, and doubtless as yet incomprehensibly, will, it is to be hoped, become clear as we go on.

Let us take up the inheritance left by the ancients, and, as active workmen, do with it as much as—can be done with it! The world lies despised at our feet, far beneath us and our heaven, into which its mighty arms are no longer thrust and its stupefying breath does not come. Seductively as it may pose, it can delude nothing but our sense; it cannot lead astray the spirit—and spirit alone, after all, we really are. Having once got back of things, the spirit has also got above them, and become free from their bonds, emancipated supernal, free. So speaks “spiritual freedom.”

To the spirit which, after long toil, has got rid of the world, the worldless spirit, nothing is left after the loss of the world and the worldly but—the spirit and the spiritual.

Yet, as it has only moved away from the world and made of itself a being free from the world, without being able really to annihilate the world, this remains to it a stumbling-block that cannot be cleared away, a discredited existence; and, as, on the other hand, it knows and recognizes nothing but the spirit and the spiritual, it must perpetually carry about with it the longing to spiritualize the world, i. e. to redeem it from the “black list.” Therefore, like a youth, it goes about with plans for the redemption or improvement of the world.

The ancients, we saw, served the natural, the worldly, the natural order of the world, but they incessantly asked themselves whether they could not, then, relieve themselves of this service; and, when they had tired themselves to death in ever-renewed attempts at revolt, then, among their last sighs, was born to them the God, the “conqueror of the world.” All their doing had been nothing but wisdom of the world, an effort to get back of the world and above it. And what is the wisdom of the many following centuries? What did the moderns try to get back of? No longer to get back of the world, for the ancients had accomplished that; but back of the God whom the ancients bequeathed to them, back of the God who “is spirit,” back of everything that is the spirit’s, the spiritual. But the activity of the spirit, which “searches even the depths of the Godhead,” is theology. If the ancients have nothing to show but wisdom of the world, the moderns never did nor do make their way further than to theology. We shall see later that even the newest revolts against God are nothing but the extremest efforts of “theology,” i. e. theological insurrections.

§1. The Spirit

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?