Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! You imagine great things, and depict to yourself a whole world of gods that has an existence for you, a spirit-realm to which you suppose yourself to be called, an ideal that beckons to you. You have a fixed idea!
Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in a madhouse. What is it, then, that is called a “fixed idea”? An idea that has subjected the man to itself. When you recognize, with regard to such a fixed idea, that it is a folly, you shut its slave up in an asylum. And is the truth of the faith, say, which we are not to doubt; the majesty of (e. g.) the people, which we are not to strike at (he who does is guilty of—lese-majesty); virtue, against which the censor is not to let a word pass, that morality may be kept pure; etc.,—are these not “fixed ideas”? Is not all the stupid chatter of (e. g.) most of our newspapers the babble of fools who suffer from the fixed idea of morality, legality, Christianity, etc., and only seem to go about free because the madhouse in which they walk takes in so broad a space? Touch the fixed idea of such a fool, and you will at once have to guard your back against the lunatic’s stealthy malice. For these great lunatics are like the little so-called lunatics in this point too,—that they assail by stealth him who touches their fixed idea. They first steal his weapon, steal free speech from him, and then they fall upon him with their nails. Every day now lays bare the cowardice and vindictiveness of these maniacs, and the stupid populace hurrahs for their crazy measures. One must read the journals of this period, and must hear the Philistines talk, to get the horrible conviction that one is shut up in a house with fools. “Thou shalt not call thy brother a fool; if thou dost—etc.” But I do not fear the curse, and I say, my brothers are arch-fools. Whether a poor fool of the insane asylum is possessed by the fancy that he is God the Father, Emperor of Japan, the Holy Spirit, etc., or whether a citizen in comfortable circumstances conceives that it is his mission to be a good Christian, a faithful Protestant, a loyal citizen, a virtuous man, etc.,—both these are one and the same “fixed idea.” He who has never tried and dared not to be a good Christian, a faithful Protestant, a virtuous man, etc., is possessed and prepossessed by faith, virtuousness, etc. Just as the schoolmen philosophized only inside the belief of the church; as Pope Benedict XIV wrote fat books inside the papist superstition, without ever throwing a doubt upon this belief; as authors fill whole folios on the State without calling in question the fixed idea of the State itself; as our newspapers are crammed with politics because they are conjured into the fancy that man was created to be a zoon politicon,—so also subjects vegetate in subjection, virtuous people in virtue, liberals in humanity, etc., without ever putting to these fixed ideas of theirs the searching knife of criticism. Undislodgeable, like a madman’s delusion, those thoughts stand on a firm footing, and he who doubts them—lays hands on the sacred! Yes, the “fixed idea,” that is the truly sacred!
Is it perchance only people possessed by the devil that meet us, or do we as often come upon people possessed in the contrary way,—possessed by “the good,” by virtue, morality, the law, or some “principle” or other? Possessions of the devil are not the only ones. God works on us, and the devil does; the former “workings of grace,” the latter “workings of the devil.” Possessed people are set in their opinions.
If the word “possession” displeases you, then call it prepossession; yes, since the spirit possesses you, and all “inspirations” come from it, call it—inspiration and enthusiasm. I add that complete enthusiasm—for we cannot stop with the sluggish, half-way kind—is called fanaticism.
It is precisely among cultured people that fanaticism is at home; for man is cultured so far as he takes an interest in spiritual things, and interest in spiritual things, when it is alive, is and must be fanaticism; it is a fanatical interest in the sacred (fanum). Observe our liberals, look into the Saechsischen Vaterlandsblaetter, hear what Schlosser says: “Holbach’s company constituted a regular plot against the traditional doctrine and the existing system, and its members were as fanatical on behalf of their unbelief as monks and priests, Jesuits and Pietists, Methodists, missionary and Bible societies, commonly are for mechanical worship and orthodoxy.”
Take notice how a “moral man” behaves, who to-day often thinks he is through with God and throws off Christianity as a bygone thing. If you ask him whether he has ever doubted that the copulation of brother and sister is incest, that monogamy is the truth of marriage, that filial piety is a sacred duty, etc., then a moral shudder will come over him at the conception of one’s being allowed to touch his sister as wife also, etc. And whence this shudder? Because he believes in those moral commandments. This moral faith is deeply rooted in his breast. Much as he rages against the pious Christians, he himself has nevertheless as thoroughly remained a Christian,—to wit, a moral Christian. In the form of morality Christianity holds him a prisoner, and a prisoner under faith. Monogamy is to be something sacred, and he who may live in bigamy is punished as a criminal; he who commits incest suffers as a criminal. Those who are always crying that religion is not to be regarded in the State, and the Jew is to be a citizen equally with the Christian, show themselves in accord with this. Is not this of incest and monogamy a dogma of faith? Touch it, and you will learn by experience how this moral man is a hero of faith too, not less than Krummacher, not less than Philip II. These fight for the faith of the Church, he for the faith of the State, or the moral laws of the State; for articles of faith, both condemn him who acts otherwise than their faith will allow. The brand of “crime” is stamped upon him, and he may languish in reformatories, in jails. Moral faith is as fanatical as religious faith! They call that “liberty of faith” then, when brother and sister, on account of a relation that they should have settled with their “conscience,” are thrown into prison. “But they set a pernicious example.” Yes, indeed: others might have taken the notion that the State had no business to meddle with their relation, and thereupon “purity of morals” would go to ruin. So then the religious heroes of faith are zealous for the “sacred God,” the moral ones for the “sacred good.”
Those who are zealous for something sacred often look very little like each other. How the strictly orthodox or old-style believers differ from the fighters for “truth, light, and justice,” from the Philalethes, the Friends of Light, the Rationalists, etc. And yet, how utterly unessential is this difference! If one buffets single traditional truths (e. g. miracles, unlimited power of princes, etc.), then the rationalists buffet them too, and only the old-style believers wail. But, if one buffets truth itself, he immediately has both, as believers, for opponents. So with moralities; the strict believers are relentless, the clearer heads are more tolerant. But he who attacks morality itself gets both to deal with. “Truth, morality, justice, light, etc.,” are to be and remain “sacred.” What any one finds to censure in Christianity is simply supposed to be “unchristian” according to the view of these rationalists; but Christianity must remain a fixture, to buffet it is outrageous, “an outrage.” To be sure, the heretic against pure faith no longer exposes himself to the earlier fury of persecution, but so much the more does it now fall upon the heretic against pure morals.
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Piety has for a century received so many blows, and had to hear its superhuman essence reviled as an “inhuman” one so often, that one cannot feel tempted to draw the sword against it again. And yet it has almost always been only moral opponents that have appeared in the arena, to assail the supreme essence in favor of—another supreme essence. So Proudhon, unabashed, says: “Man is destined to live without religion, but the moral law is eternal and absolute. Who would dare to-day to attack morality?” Moral people skimmed off the best fat from religion, ate it themselves, and are now having a tough job to get rid of the resulting scrofula. If, therefore, we point out that religion has not by any means been hurt in its inmost part so long as people reproach it only with its superhuman essence, and that it takes its final appeal to the “spirit” alone (for God is spirit), then we have sufficiently indicated its final accord with morality, and can leave its stubborn conflict with the latter lying behind us. It is a question of a supreme essence with both, and whether this is a superhuman or a human one can make (since it is in any case an essence over me, a super-mine one, so to speak) but little difference to me. In the end the relation to the human essence, or to “Man,” as soon as ever it has shed the snake-skin of the old religion, will yet wear a religious snake-skin again.
So Feuerbach instructs us that, “if one only inverts speculative philosophy, i. e. always makes the predicate the subject, and so makes the subject the object and principle, one has the undraped truth, pure and clean.” Herewith, to be sure, we lose the narrow religious standpoint, lose the God, who from this standpoint is subject; but we take in exchange for it the other side of the religious standpoint, the moral standpoint. E. g., we no longer say “God is love,” but “Love is divine.” If we further put in place of the predicate “divine” the equivalent “sacred,” then, as far as concerns the sense, all the old comes back again. According to this, love is to be the good in man, his divineness, that which does him honor, his true humanity (it “makes him Man for the first time,” makes for the first time a man out of him). So then it would be more accurately worded thus: Love is what is human in man, and what is inhuman is the loveless egoist. But precisely all that which Christianity and with it speculative philosophy (i. e. theology) offers as the good, the absolute, is to self-ownership simply not the good (or, what means the same, it is only the good). Consequently, by the transformation of the predicate into the subject, the Christian essence (and it is the predicate that contains the essence, you know) would only be fixed yet more oppressively. God and the divine would entwine themselves all the more inextricably with me. To expel God from his heaven and to rob him of his “transcendence” cannot yet support a claim of complete victory, if therein he is only chased into the human breast and gifted with indelible immanence. Now they say, “The divine is the truly human!”
The same people who oppose Christianity as the basis of the State, i. e. oppose the so-called Christian State, do not tire of repeating that morality is “the fundamental pillar of social life and of the State.” As if the dominion of morality were not a complete dominion of the sacred, a “hierarchy.”
So we may here mention by the way that rationalist movement which, after theologians had long insisted that only faith was capable of grasping religious truths, that only to believers did God reveal himself, etc., and that therefore only the heart, the feelings, the believing fancy was religious, broke out with the assertion that the “natural understanding,” human reason, was also capable of discerning God. What does that mean but that the reason laid claim to be the same visionary as the fancy? In this sense Reimarus wrote his “Most Notable Truths of Natural Religion.” It had to come to this,—that the whole man with all his faculties was found to be religious; heart and affections, understanding and reason, feeling, knowledge, and will,—in short, everything in man,—appeared religious. Hegel has shown that even philosophy is religious. And what is not called religion to-day? The “religion of love,” the “religion of freedom,” “political religion,”—in short, every enthusiasm. So it is, too, in fact.
To this day we use the Romance word “religion,” which expresses the concept of a condition of being bound. To be sure, we remain bound, so far as religion takes possession of our inward parts; but is the mind also bound? On the contrary, that is free, is sole lord, is not our mind, but absolute. Therefore the correct affirmative translation of the word religion would be “freedom of mind“! In whomsoever the mind is free, he is religious in just the same way as he in whom the senses have free course is called a sensual man. The mind binds the former, the desires the latter. Religion, therefore, is boundness or religio with reference to me,—I am bound; it is freedom with reference to the mind,—the mind is free, or has freedom of mind. Many know from experience how hard it is on us when the desires run away with us, free and unbridled; but that the free mind, splendid intellectuality, enthusiasm for intellectual interests, or however this jewel may in the most various phrase be named, brings us into yet more grievous straits than even the wildest impropriety, people will not perceive; nor can they perceive it without being consciously egoists.
Reimarus, and all who have shown that our reason, our heart, etc., also lead to God, have therewithal shown that we are possessed through and through. To be sure, they vexed the theologians, from whom they took away the prerogative of religious exaltation; but for religion, for freedom of mind, they thereby only conquered yet more ground. For, when the mind is no longer limited to feeling or faith, but also, as understanding, reason, and thought in general, belongs to itself the mind,—when, therefore, it may take part in the spiritual and heavenly truths in the form of understanding, etc., as well as in its other forms,—then the whole mind is occupied only with spiritual things, i. e. with itself, and is therefore free. Now we are so through-and-through religious that “jurors,” i. e. “sworn men,” condemn us to death, and every policeman, as a good Christian, takes us to the lock-up by virtue of an “oath of office.”
Morality could not come into opposition with piety till after the time when in general the boisterous hate of everything that looked like an “order” (decrees, commandments, etc.) spoke out in revolt, and the personal “absolute lord” was scoffed at and persecuted; consequently it could arrive at independence only through liberalism, whose first form acquired significance in the world’s history as “citizenship,” and weakened the specifically religious powers (see “Liberalism” below). For, when morality not merely goes alongside of piety, but stands on feet of its own, then its principle lies no longer in the divine commandments, but in the law of reason, from which the commandments, so far as they are still to remain valid, must first await justification for their validity. In the law of reason man determines himself out of himself, for “Man” is rational, and out of the “essence of Man” those laws follow of necessity. Piety and morality part company in this,—that the former makes God the lawgiver, the latter Man.
From a certain standpoint of morality people reason about as follows: Either man is led by his sensuality, and is, following it, immoral, or he is led by the good which, taken up into the will, is called moral sentiment (sentiment and prepossession in favor of the good); then he shows himself moral. From this point of view how, e. g., can Sand’s act against Kotzebue be called immoral? What is commonly understood by unselfish it certainly was, in the same measure as (among other things) St. Crispin’s thieveries in favor of the poor. “He should not have murdered, for it stands written, Thou shalt not murder!” Then to serve the good, the welfare of the people, as Sand at least intended, or the welfare of the poor, like Crispin,—is moral; but murder and theft are immoral; the purpose moral, the means immoral. Why? “Because murder, assassination, is something absolutely bad.” When the Guerrillas enticed the enemies of the country into ravines and shot them down unseen from the bushes, do you suppose that was not assassination? According to the principle of morality, which commands us to serve the good, you could really ask only whether murder could never in any case be a realization of the good, and would have to endorse that murder which realized the good. You cannot condemn Sand’s deed at all; it was moral, because in the service of the good, because unselfish; it was an act of punishment, which the individual inflicted, an—execution inflicted at the risk of the executioner’s life. What else had his scheme been, after all, but that he wanted to suppress writings by brute force? Are you not acquainted with the same procedure as a “legal” and sanctioned one? And what can be objected against it from your principle of morality?—”But it was an illegal execution.” So the immoral thing in it was the illegality, the disobedience to law? Then you admit that the good is nothing else than—law, morality nothing else than loyalty. And to this externality of “loyalty” your morality must sink, to this righteousness of works in the fulfilment of the law, only that the latter is at once more tyrannical and more revolting than the old-time righteousness of works. For in the latter only the act is needed, but you require the disposition too; one must carry in himself the law, the statute; and he who is most legally disposed is the most moral. Even the last vestige of cheerfulness in Catholic life must perish in this Protestant legality. Here at last the domination of the law is for the first time complete. “Not I live, but the law lives in me.” Thus I have really come so far as to be only the “vessel of its glory.” “Every Prussian carries his gendarme in his breast,” says a high Prussian officer.
Why do certain opposition parties fail to flourish? Solely for the reason that they refuse to forsake the path of morality or legality. Hence the measureless hypocrisy of devotion, love, etc., from whose repulsiveness one may daily get the most thorough nausea at this rotten and hypocritical relation of a “lawful opposition.”—In the moral relation of love and fidelity divided or opposed will cannot have place; the beautiful relation is disturbed if the one wills this and the other the reverse. But now, according to the practice hitherto and the old prejudice of the opposition, the moral relation is to be preserved above all. What is then left to the opposition? Perhaps the will to have a liberty, if the beloved one sees fit to deny it? Not a bit! It may not will to have the freedom, it can only wish for it, “petition” for it, lisp a “Please, please!” What would come of it, if the opposition really willed, willed with the full energy of the will? No, it must renounce will in order to live to love, renounce liberty—for love of morality. It may never “claim as a right” what it is permitted only to “beg as a favor.” Love, devotion, etc., demand with undeviating definiteness that there be only one will to which the others devote themselves, which they serve, follow, love. Whether this will is regarded as reasonable or as unreasonable, in both cases one acts morally when one follows it, and immorally when one breaks away from it. The will that commands the censorship seems to many unreasonable; but he who in a land of censorship evades the censoring of his book acts immorally, and he who submits it to the censorship acts morally. If some one let his moral judgment go, and set up e. g. a secret press, one would have to call him immoral, and imprudent into the bargain if he let himself be caught; but will such a man lay claim to a value in the eyes of the “moral”? Perhaps!—That is, if he fancied he was serving a “higher morality.”
The web of the hypocrisy of to-day hangs on the frontiers of two domains, between which our time swings back and forth, attaching its fine threads of deception and self-deception. No longer vigorous enough to serve morality without doubt or weakening, not yet reckless enough to live wholly to egoism, it trembles now toward the one and now toward the other in the spider-web of hypocrisy, and, crippled by the curse of halfness, catches only miserable, stupid flies. If one has once dared to make a “free” motion, immediately one waters it again with assurances of love, and—shams resignation; if, on the other side, they have had the face to reject the free motion with moral appeals to confidence, etc., immediately the moral courage also sinks, and they assure one how they hear the free words with special pleasure, etc.; they—sham approval. In short, people would like to have the one, but not go without the other; they would like to have a free will, but not for their lives lack the moral will. Just come in contact with a servile loyalist, you Liberals. You will sweeten every word of freedom with a look of the most loyal confidence, and he will clothe his servilism in the most flattering phrases of freedom. Then you go apart, and he, like you, thinks “I know you, fox!” He scents the devil in you as much as you do the dark old Lord God in him.
A Nero is a “bad” man only in the eyes of the “good”; in mine he is nothing but a possessed man, as are the good too. The good see in him an arch-villain, and relegate him to hell. Why did nothing hinder him in his arbitrary course? Why did people put up with so much? Do you suppose the tame Romans, who let all their will be bound by such a tyrant, were a hair the better? In old Rome they would have put him to death instantly, would never have been his slaves. But the contemporary “good” among the Romans opposed to him only moral demands, not their will; they sighed that their emperor did not do homage to morality, like them; they themselves remained “moral subjects,” till at last one found courage to give up “moral, obedient subjection.” And then the same “good Romans” who, as “obedient subjects,” had borne all the ignominy of having no will, hurrahed over the nefarious, immoral act of the rebel. Where then in the “good” was the courage for the revolution, that courage which they now praised, after another had mustered it up? The good could not have this courage, for a revolution, and an insurrection into the bargain, is always something “immoral,” which one can resolve upon only when one ceases to be “good” and becomes either “bad” or—neither of the two. Nero was no viler than his time, in which one could only be one of the two, good or bad. The judgment of his time on him had to be that he was bad, and this in the highest degree: not a milksop, but an arch-scoundrel. All moral people can pronounce only this judgment on him. Rascals such as he was are still living here and there to-day (see e. g. the Memoirs of Ritter von Lang) in the midst of the moral. It is not convenient to live among them certainly, as one is not sure of his life for a moment; but can you say that it is more convenient to live among the moral? One is just as little sure of his life there, only that one is hanged “in the way of justice,” but least of all is one sure of his honor, and the national cockade is gone before you can say Jack Robinson. The hard fist of morality treats the noble nature of egoism altogether without compassion.
“But surely one cannot put a rascal and an honest man on the same level!” Now, no human being does that oftener than you judges of morals; yes, still more than that, you imprison as a criminal an honest man who speaks openly against the existing constitution, against the hallowed institutions, etc., and you entrust portfolios and still more important things to a crafty rascal. So in praxi you have nothing to reproach me with. “But in theory!” Now there I do put both on the same level, as two opposite poles,—to wit, both on the level of the moral law. Both have meaning only in the “moral” world, just as in the pre-Christian time a Jew who kept the law and one who broke it had meaning and significance only in respect to the Jewish law; before Jesus Christ, on the contrary, the Pharisee was no more than the “sinner and publican.” So before self-ownership the moral Pharisee amounts to as much as the immoral sinner.
Nero became very inconvenient by his possessedness. But a self-owning man would not sillily oppose to him the “sacred,” and whine if the tyrant does not regard the sacred; he would oppose to him his will. How often the sacredness of the inalienable rights of man has been held up to their foes, and some liberty or other shown and demonstrated to be a “sacred right of man”! Those who do that deserve to be laughed out of court—as they actually are,—were it not that in truth they do, even though unconsciously, take the road that leads to the goal. They have a presentiment that, if only the majority is once won for that liberty, it will also will the liberty, and will then take what it will have. The sacredness of the liberty, and all possible proofs of this sacredness, will never procure it; lamenting and petitioning only shows beggars.
The moral man is necessarily narrow in that he knows no other enemy than the “immoral” man. “He who is not moral is immoral!” and accordingly reprobate, despicable, etc. Therefore the moral man can never comprehend the egoist. Is not unwedded cohabitation an immorality? The moral man may turn as he pleases, he will have to stand by this verdict; Emilia Galotti gave up her life for this moral truth. And it is true, it is an immorality. A virtuous girl may become an old maid; a virtuous man may pass the time in fighting his natural impulses till he has perhaps dulled them, he may castrate himself for the sake of virtue as St. Origen did for the sake of heaven: he thereby honors sacred wedlock, sacred chastity, as inviolable; he is—moral. Unchastity can never become a moral act. However indulgently the moral man may judge and excuse him who committed it, it remains a transgression, a sin against a moral commandment; there clings to it an indelible stain. As chastity once belonged to the monastic vow, so it does to moral conduct. Chastity is a—good.—For the egoist, on the contrary, even chastity is not a good without which he could not get along; he cares nothing at all about it. What now follows from this for the judgment of the moral man? This: that he throws the egoist into the only class of men that he knows besides moral men, into that of the—immoral. He cannot do otherwise; he must find the egoist immoral in everything in which the egoist disregards morality. If he did not find him so, then he would already have become an apostate from morality without confessing it to himself, he would already no longer be a truly moral man. One should not let himself be led astray by such phenomena, which at the present day are certainly no longer to be classed as rare, but should reflect that he who yields any point of morality can as little be counted among the truly moral as Lessing was a pious Christian when, in the well-known parable, he compared the Christian religion, as well as the Mohammedan and Jewish, to a “counterfeit ring.” Often people are already further than they venture to confess to themselves. For Socrates, because in culture he stood on the level of morality, it would have been an immorality if he had been willing to follow Crito’s seductive incitement and escape from the dungeon; to remain was the only moral thing. But it was solely because Socrates was—a moral man. The “unprincipled, sacrilegious” men of the Revolution, on the contrary, had sworn fidelity to Louis XVI, and decreed his deposition, yes, his death; but the act was an immoral one, at which moral persons will be horrified to all eternity.
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Yet all this applies, more or less, only to “civic morality,” on which the freer look down with contempt. For it (like civism, its native ground, in general) is still too little removed and free from the religious heaven not to transplant the latter’s laws without criticism or further consideration to its domain instead of producing independent doctrines of its own. Morality cuts a quite different figure when it arrives at the consciousness of its dignity, and raises its principle, the essence of man, or “Man,” to be the only regulative power. Those who have worked their way through to such a decided consciousness break entirely with religion, whose God no longer finds any place alongside their “Man,” and, as they (see below) themselves scuttle the ship of State, so too they crumble away that “morality” which flourishes only in the State, and logically have no right to use even its name any further. For what this “critical” party calls morality is very positively distinguished from the so-called “civic or political morality,” and must appear to the citizen like an “insensate and unbridled liberty.” But at bottom it has only the advantage of the “purity of the principle,” which, freed from its defilement with the religious, has now reached universal power in its clarified definiteness as “humanity.” Therefore one should not wonder that the name “morality” is retained along with others, like freedom, benevolence, self-consciousness, etc., and is only garnished now and then with the addition, a “free” morality,—just as, though the civic State is abused, yet the State is to arise again as a “free State,” or, if not even so, yet as a “free society.”
Because this morality completed into humanity has fully settled its accounts with the religion out of which it historically came forth, nothing hinders it from becoming a religion on its own account. For a distinction prevails between religion and morality only so long as our dealings with the world of men are regulated and hallowed by our relation to a superhuman being, or so long as our doing is a doing “for God’s sake.” If, on the other hand, it comes to the point that “man is to man the supreme being,” then that distinction vanishes, and morality, being removed from its subordinate position, is completed into—religion. For then the higher being who had hitherto been subordinated to the highest, Man, has ascended to absolute height, and we are related to him as one is related to the highest being, i. e. religiously. Morality and piety are now as synonymous as in the beginning of Christianity, and it is only because the supreme being has come to be a different one that a holy walk is no longer called a “holy” one, but a “human” one. If morality has conquered, then a complete—change of masters has taken place.
After the annihilation of faith Feuerbach thinks to put in to the supposedly safe harbor of love. “The first and highest law must be the love of man to man. Homo homini Deus est—this is the supreme practical maxim, this the turning point of the world’s history.” But, properly speaking, only the god is changed,—the deus; love has remained: there love to the superhuman God, here love to the human God, to homo as Deus. Therefore man is to me—sacred. And everything “truly human” is to me—sacred! “Marriage is sacred of itself. And so it is with all moral relations. Friendship is and must be sacred for you, and property, and marriage, and the good of every man, but sacred in and of itself.” Haven’t we the priest again there? Who is his God? Man with a great M! What is the divine? The human! Then the predicate has indeed only been changed into the subject, and, instead of the sentence “God is love,” they say “love is divine”; instead of “God has become man,” “Man has become God,” etc. It is nothing more or less than a new—religion. “All moral relations are ethical, are cultivated with a moral mind, only where of themselves (without religious consecration by the priest’s blessing) they are counted religious.” Feuerbach’s proposition, “Theology is anthropology,” means only “religion must be ethics, ethics alone is religion.”
Altogether Feuerbach accomplishes only a transposition of subject and predicate, a giving of preference to the latter. But, since he himself says, “Love is not (and has never been considered by men) sacred through being a predicate of God, but it is a predicate of God because it is divine in and of itself,” he might judge that the fight against the predicates themselves, against love and all sanctities, must be commenced. How could he hope to turn men away from God when he left them the divine? And if, as Feuerbach says, God himself has never been the main thing to them, but only his predicates, then he might have gone on leaving them the tinsel longer yet, since the doll, the real kernel, was left at any rate. He recognizes, too, that with him it is “only a matter of annihilating an illusion”; he thinks, however, that the effect of the illusion on men is “downright ruinous, since even love, in itself the truest, most inward sentiment, becomes an obscure, illusory one through religiousness, since religious love loves man only for God’s sake, therefore loves man only apparently, but in truth God only.” Is this different with moral love? Does it love the man, this man for this man’s sake, or for morality’s sake, for Man’s sake, and so—for homo homini Deus—for God’s sake?
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The wheels in the head have a number of other formal aspects, some of which it may be useful to indicate here.
Thus self-renunciation is common to the holy with the unholy, to the pure and the impure. The impure man renounces all “better feelings,” all shame, even natural timidity, and follows only the appetite that rules him. The pure man renounces his natural relation to the world (“renounces the world”) and follows only the “desire” which rules him. Driven by the thirst for money, the avaricious man renounces all admonitions of conscience, all feeling of honor, all gentleness and all compassion; he puts all considerations out of sight; the appetite drags him along. The holy man behaves similarly. He makes himself the “laughing-stock of the world,” is hard-hearted and “strictly just”; for the desire drags him along. As the unholy man renounces himself before Mammon, so the holy man renounces himself before God and the divine laws. We are now living in a time when the shamelessness of the holy is every day more and more felt and uncovered, whereby it is at the same time compelled to unveil itself, and lay itself bare, more and more every day. Have not the shamelessness and stupidity of the reasons with which men antagonize the “progress of the age” long surpassed all measure and all expectation? But it must be so. The self-renouncers must, as holy men, take the same course that they do as unholy men; as the latter little by little sink to the fullest measure of self-renouncing vulgarity and lowness, so the former must ascend to the most dishonorable exaltation. The mammon of the earth and the God of heaven both demand exactly the same degree of—self-renunciation. The low man, like the exalted one, reaches out for a “good,”—the former for the material good, the latter for the ideal, the so-called “supreme good”; and at last both complete each other again too, as the “materially-minded” man sacrifices everything to an ideal phantasm, his vanity, and the “spiritually-minded” man to a material gratification, the life of enjoyment.
Those who exhort men to “unselfishness” think they are saying an uncommon deal. What do they understand by it? Probably something like what they understand by “self-renunciation.” But who is this self that is to be renounced and to have no benefit? It seems that you yourself are supposed to be it. And for whose benefit is unselfish self-renunciation recommended to you? Again for your benefit and behoof, only that through unselfishness you are procuring your “true benefit.”
You are to benefit yourself, and yet you are not seek your benefit.
People regard as unselfish the benefactor of men, a Franke who founded the orphan asylum, an O’Connell who works tirelessly for his Irish people; but also the fanatic who, like St. Boniface, hazards his life for the conversion of the heathen, or, like Robespierre, sacrifices everything to virtue,—like Koerner, dies for God, king, and fatherland. Hence, among others, O’Connell’s opponents try to trump up against him some selfishness or mercenariness, for which the O’Connell fund seemed to give them a foundation; for, if they were successful in casting suspicion on his “unselfishness,” they would easily separate him from his adherents.
Yet what could they show further than that O’Connell was working for another end than the ostensible one? But, whether he may aim at making money or at liberating the people, it still remains certain, in one case as in the other, that he is striving for an end, and that his end; selfishness here as there, only that his national self-interest would be beneficial to others too, and so would be for the common interest.
Now, do you suppose unselfishness is unreal and nowhere extant? On the contrary, nothing is more ordinary! One may even call it an article of fashion in the civilized world, which is considered so indispensable that, if it costs too much in solid material, people at least adorn themselves with its tinsel counterfeit and feign it. Where does unselfishness begin? Right where an end ceases to be our end and our property, which we, as owners, can dispose of at pleasure; where it becomes a fixed end or a—fixed idea; where it begins to inspire, enthuse, fanaticize us; in short, where it passes into our stubbornness and becomes our—master. One is not unselfish so long as he retains the end in his power; one becomes so only at that “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise,” the fundamental maxim of all the possessed; one becomes so in the case of a sacred end, through the corresponding sacred zeal.—
I am not unselfish so long as the end remains my own, and I, instead of giving myself up to be the blind means of its fulfilment, leave it always an open question. My zeal need not on that account be slacker than the most fanatical, but at the same time I remain toward it frostily cold, unbelieving, and its most irreconcilable enemy; I remain its judge, because I am its owner.
Unselfishness grows rank as far as possessedness reaches, as much on possessions of the devil as on those of a good spirit: there vice, folly, etc.; here humility, devotion, etc.
Where could one look without meeting victims of self-renunciation? There sits a girl opposite me, who perhaps has been making bloody sacrifices to her soul for ten years already. Over the buxom form droops a deathly-tired head, and pale cheeks betray the slow bleeding away of her youth. Poor child, how often the passions may have beaten at your heart, and the rich powers of youth have demanded their right! When your head rolled in the soft pillow, how awakening nature quivered through your limbs, the blood swelled your veins, and fiery fancies poured the gleam of voluptuousness into your eyes! Then appeared the ghost of the soul and its eternal bliss. You were terrified, your hands folded themselves, your tormented eye turned its look upward, you—prayed. The storms of nature were hushed, a calm glided over the ocean of your appetites. Slowly the weary eyelids sank over the life extinguished under them, the tension crept out unperceived from the rounded limbs, the boisterous waves dried up in the heart, the folded hands themselves rested a powerless weight on the unresisting bosom, one last faint “Oh dear!” moaned itself away, and—the soul was at rest. You fell asleep, to awake in the morning to a new combat and a new—prayer. Now the habit of renunciation cools the heat of your desire, and the roses of your youth are growing pale in the—chlorosis of your heavenliness. The soul is saved, the body may perish! O Lais, O Ninon, how well you did to scorn this pale virtue! One free grisette against a thousand virgins grown gray in virtue!
The fixed idea may also be perceived as “maxim,” “principle,” “standpoint,” and the like. Archimedes, to move the earth, asked for a standpoint outside it. Men sought continually for this standpoint, and every one seized upon it as well as he was able. This foreign standpoint is the world of mind, of ideas, thoughts, concepts, essences, etc.; it is heaven. Heaven is the “standpoint” from which the earth is moved, earthly doings surveyed and—despised. To assure to themselves heaven, to occupy the heavenly standpoint firmly and for ever,—how painfully and tirelessly humanity struggled for this!
Christianity has aimed to deliver us from a life determined by nature, from the appetites as actuating us, and so has meant that man should not let himself be determined by his appetites. This does not involve the idea that he was not to have appetites, but that the appetites were not to have him, that they were not to become fixed, uncontrollable, indissoluble. Now, could not what Christianity (religion) contrived against the appetites be applied by us to its own precept that mind (thought, conceptions, ideas, faith, etc.) must determine us; could we not ask that neither should mind, or the conception, the idea, be allowed to determine us, to become fixed and inviolable or “sacred”? Then it would end in the dissolution of mind, the dissolution of all thoughts, of all conceptions. As we there had to say “We are indeed to have appetites, but the appetites are not to have us,” so we should now say “We are indeed to have mind, but mind is not to have us.” If the latter seems lacking in sense, think e. g. of the fact that with so many a man a thought becomes a “maxim,” whereby he himself is made prisoner to it, so that it is not he that has the maxim, but rather it that has him. And with the maxim he has a “permanent standpoint” again. The doctrines of the catechism become our principles before we find it out, and no longer brook rejection. Their thought, or—mind, has the sole power, and no protest of the “flesh” is further listened to. Nevertheless it is only through the “flesh” that I can break the tyranny of mind; for it is only when a man hears his flesh along with the rest of him that he hears himself wholly, and it is only when he wholly hears himself that he is a hearing or rational being. The Christian does not hear the agony of his enthralled nature, but lives in “humility”; therefore he does not grumble at the wrong which befalls his person; he thinks himself satisfied with the “freedom of the spirit.” But, if the flesh once takes the floor, and its tone is “passionate,” “indecorous,” “not well-disposed,” “spiteful,” etc. (as it cannot be otherwise), then he thinks he hears voices of devils, voices against the spirit (for decorum, passionlessness, kindly disposition, and the like, is—spirit), and is justly zealous against them. He could not be a Christian if he were willing to endure them. He listens only to morality, and slaps immorality in the mouth; he listens only to legality, and gags the lawless word. The spirit of morality and legality holds him a prisoner; a rigid, unbending master. They call that the “mastery of the spirit,”—it is at the same time the standpoint of the spirit.
And now whom do the ordinary liberal gentlemen mean to make free? Whose freedom is it that they cry out and thirst for? The spirit’s! That of the spirit of morality, legality, piety, the fear of God, etc. That is what the anti-liberal gentlemen also want, and the whole contention between the two turns on a matter of advantage,—whether the latter are to be the only speakers, or the former are to receive a “share in the enjoyment of the same advantage.” The spirit remains the absolute lord for both, and their only quarrel is over who shall occupy the hierarchical throne that pertains to the “Vicegerent of the Lord.” The best of it is that one can calmly look upon the stir with the certainty that the wild beasts of history will tear each other to pieces just like those of nature; their putrefying corpses fertilize the ground for—our crops.
We shall come back later to many another wheel in the head,—for instance, those of vocation, truthfulness, love, etc.
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When one’s own is contrasted with what is imparted to him, there is no use in objecting that we cannot have anything isolated, but receive everything as a part of the universal order, and therefore through the impression of what is around us, and that consequently we have it as something “imparted”; for there is a great difference between the feelings and thoughts which are aroused in me by other things and those which are given to me. God, immortality, freedom, humanity, etc., are drilled into us from childhood as thoughts and feelings which move our inner being more or less strongly, either ruling us without our knowing it, or sometimes in richer natures manifesting themselves in systems and works of art; but are always not aroused, but imparted, feelings, because we must believe in them and cling to them. That an Absolute existed, and that it must be taken in, felt, and thought by us, was settled as a faith in the minds of those who spent all the strength of their mind on recognizing it and setting it forth. The feeling for the Absolute exists there as an imparted one, and thenceforth results only in the most manifold revelations of its own self. So in Klopstock the religious feeling was an imparted one, which in the “Messiad” simply found artistic expression. If, on the other hand, the religion with which he was confronted had been for him only an incitation to feeling and thought, and if he had known how to take an attitude completely his own toward it, then there would have resulted, instead of religious inspiration, a dissolution and consumption of the religion itself. Instead of that, he only continued in mature years his childish feelings received in childhood, and squandered the powers of his manhood in decking out his childish trifles.
The difference is, then, whether feelings are imparted to me or only aroused. Those which are aroused are my own, egoistic, because they are not as feelings drilled into me, dictated to me, and pressed upon me; but those which are imparted to me I receive, with open arms,—I cherish them in me as a heritage, cultivate them, and am possessed by them. Who is there that has never, more or less consciously, noticed that our whole education is calculated to produce feelings in us, i. e. impart them to us, instead of leaving their production to ourselves however they may turn out? If we hear thee name of God, we are to feel veneration; if we hear that of the prince’s majesty, it is to be received with reverence, deference, submission; if we hear that of morality, we are to think that we hear something inviolable; if we hear of the Evil One or evil ones, we are to shudder; etc. The intention is directed to these feelings, and he who e. g. should hear with pleasure the deeds of the “bad” would have to be “taught what’s what” with the rod of discipline. Thus stuffed with imparted feelings, we appear before the bar of majority and are “pronounced of age.” Our equipment consists of “elevating feelings, lofty thoughts, inspiring maxims, eternal principles,” etc. The young are of age when they twitter like the old; they are driven through school to learn the old song, and, when they have this by heart, they are declared of age.
We must not feel at every thing and every name that comes before us what we could and would like to feel thereat; e. g., at the name of God we must think of nothing laughable, feel nothing disrespectful, it being prescribed and imparted to us what and how we are to feel and think at mention of that name.
That is the meaning of the care of souls,—that my soul or my mind be tuned as others think right, not as I myself would like it. How much trouble does it not cost one, finally to secure to oneself a feeling of one’s own at the mention of at least this or that name, and to laugh in the face of many who expect from us a holy face and a composed expression at their speeches. What is imparted is alien to us, is not our own, and therefore is “sacred,” and it is hard work to lay aside the “sacred dread of it.”
To-day one again hears “seriousness” praised, “seriousness in the presence of highly important subjects and discussions,” “German seriousness,” etc. This sort of seriousness proclaims clearly how old and grave lunacy and possession have already become. For there is nothing more serious than a lunatic when he comes to the central point of his lunacy; then his great earnestness incapacitates him for taking a joke. (See madhouses.)