We stand at the boundary of a period. The world hitherto took thought for nothing but the gain of life, took care for — life. For whether all activity is put on the stretch for the life of this world or of the other, for the temporal or for the eternal, whether one hankers for “daily bread” (“Give us our daily bread”) or for “holy bread” (“the true bread from heaven” “the bread of God, that comes from heaven and gives life to the world”; “the bread of life,” John 6), whether one takes care for “dear life” or for “life to eternity” — this does not change the object of the strain and care, which in the one case as in the other shows itself to be life. Do the modern tendencies announce themselves otherwise? People now want nobody to be embarrassed for the most indispensable necessaries of life, but want every one to feel secure as to these; and on the other hand they teach that man has this life to attend to and the real world to adapt himself to, without vain care for another.
Let us take up the same thing from another side. When one is anxious only to live, he easily, in this solicitude, forgets the enjoyment of life. If his only concern is for life, and he thinks “if I only have my dear life,” he does not apply his full strength to using, i. e., enjoying, life. But how does one use life? In using it up, like the candle, which one uses in burning it up. One uses life, and consequently himself the living one, in consuming it and himself. Enjoyment of life is using life up.
Now — we are in search of the enjoyment of life! And what did the religious world do? It went in search of life. Wherein consists the true life, the blessed life; etc.? How is it to be attained? What must man do and become in order to become a truly living man? How does he fulfil this calling? These and similar questions indicate that the askers were still seeking for themselves — to wit, themselves in the true sense, in the sense of true living. “What I am is foam and shadow; what I shall be is my true self.” To chase after this self, to produce it, to realize it, constitutes the hard task of mortals, who die only to rise again, live only to die, live only to find the true life.
Not till I am certain of myself, and no longer seeking for myself, am I really my property; I have myself, therefore I use and enjoy myself. On the other hand, I can never take comfort in myself as long as I think that I have still to find my true self and that it must come to this, that not I but Christ or some other spiritual, i.e. ghostly, self (e.g. the true man, the essence of man, etc.) lives in me.
A vast interval separates the two views. In the old I go toward myself, in the new I start from myself; in the former I long for myself, in the latter I have myself and do with myself as one does with any other property — I enjoy myself at my pleasure. I am no longer afraid for my life, but “squander” it.
Henceforth, the question runs, not how one can acquire life, but how one can squander, enjoy it; or, not how one is to produce the true self in himself, but how one is to dissolve himself, to live himself out.
What else should the ideal be but the sought-for ever-distant self? One seeks for himself, consequently one doth not yet have himself; one aspires toward what one ought to be, consequently one is not it. One lives in longing and has lived thousands of years in it, in hope. Living is quite another thing in — enjoyment!
Does this perchance apply only to the so-called pious? No, it applies to all who belong to the departing period of history, even to its men of pleasure. For them too the work-days were followed by a Sunday, and the rush of the world by the dream of a better world, of a general happiness of humanity; in short by an ideal. But philosophers especially are contrasted with the pious. Now, have they been thinking of anything else than the ideal, been planning for anything else than the absolute self? Longing and hope everywhere, and nothing but these. For me, call it romanticism.
If the enjoyment of life is to triumph over the longing for life or hope of life, it must vanquish this in its double significance which Schiller introduces in his “Ideal and Life”; it must crush spiritual and secular poverty, exterminate the ideal and — the want of daily bread. He who must expend his life to prolong life cannot enjoy it, and he who is still seeking for his life does not have it and can as little enjoy it: both are poor, but “blessed are the poor.”
Those who are hungering for the true life have no power over their present life, but must apply it for the purpose of thereby gaining that true life, and must sacrifice it entirely to this aspiration and this task. If in the case of those devotees who hope for a life in the other world, and look upon that in this world as merely a preparation for it, the tributariness of their earthly existence, which they put solely into the service of the hoped-for heavenly existence, is pretty distinctly apparent; one would yet go far wrong if one wanted to consider the most rationalistic and enlightened as less self-sacrificing. Oh, there is to be found in the “true life” a much more comprehensive significance than the “heavenly” is competent to express. Now, is not — to introduce the liberal concept of it at once — the “human” and “truly human” life the true one? And is every one already leading this truly human life from the start, or must he first raise himself to it with hard toil? Does he already have it as his present life, or must he struggle for it as his future life, which will become his part only when he “is no longer tainted with any egoism”? In this view life exists only to gain life, and one lives only to make the essence of man alive in oneself, one lives for the sake of this essence. One has his life only in order to procure by means of it the “true” life cleansed of all egoism. Hence one is afraid to make any use he likes of his life: it is to serve only for the “right use.”
In short, one has a calling in life, a task in life; one has something to realize and produce by his life, a something for which our life is only means and implement, a something that is worth more than this life, a something to which one owes his life. One has a God who asks a living sacrifice. Only the rudeness of human sacrifice has been lost with time; human sacrifice itself has remained unabated, and criminals hourly fall sacrifices to justice, and we “poor sinners” slay our own selves as sacrifices for “the human essence,” the “idea of mankind,” “humanity,” and whatever the idols or gods are called besides.
But, because we owe our life to that something, therefore —this is the next point — we have no right to take it from us.
The conservative tendency of Christianity does not permit thinking of death otherwise than with the purpose to take its sting from it and — live on and preserve oneself nicely. The Christian lets everything happen and come upon him if he — the arch-Jew — can only haggle and smuggle himself into heaven; he must not kill himself, he must only — preserve himself and work at the “preparation of a future abode.” Conservatism or “conquest of death” lies at his heart; “the last enemy that is abolished is death.” “Christ has taken the power from death and brought life and imperishable being to light by the gospel.” “Imperishableness,” stability.
The moral man wants the good, the right; and, if he takes to the means that lead to this goal, really lead to it, then these means are not his means, but those of the good, right, etc., itself. These means are never immoral, because the good end itself mediates itself through them: the end sanctifies the means. They call this maxim jesuitical, but it is “moral” through and through. The moral man acts in the service of an end or an idea: he makes himself the tool of the idea of the good, as the pious man counts it his glory to be a tool or instrument of God. To await death is what the moral commandment postulates as the good; to give it to oneself is immoral and bad: suicide finds no excuse before the judgment-seat of morality. If the religious man forbids it because “you have not given yourself life, but God, who alone can also take it from you again” (as if, even taking in this conception, God did not take it from me just as much when I kill myself as when a tile from the roof, or a hostile bullet, fells me; for he would have aroused the resolution of death in me too!), the moral man forbids it because I owe my life to the fatherland, etc., “because I do not know whether I may not yet accomplish good by my life.” Of course, for in me good loses a tool, as God does an instrument. If I am immoral, the good is served in my amendment; if I am “ungodly,” God has joy in my penitence. Suicide, therefore, is ungodly as well as nefarious. If one whose standpoint is religiousness takes his own life, he acts in forgetfulness of God; but, if the suicide’s standpoint is morality, he acts in forgetfulness of duty, immorally. People worried themselves much with the question whether Emilia Galotti’s death can be justified before morality (they take it as if it were suicide, which it is too in substance). That she is so infatuated with chastity, this moral good, as to yield up even her life for it is certainly moral; but, again, that she fears the weakness of her flesh is immoral. Such contradictions form the tragic conflict universally in the moral drama; and one must think and feel morally to be able to take an interest in it.
What holds good of piety and morality will necessarily apply to humanity also, because one owes his life likewise to man, mankind or the species. Only when I am under obligation to no being is the maintaining of life — my affair. “A leap from this bridge makes me free!”
But, if we owe the maintaining of our life to that being that we are to make alive in ourselves, it is not less our duty not to lead this life according to ourpleasure, but to shape it in conformity to that being. All my feeling, thinking, and willing, all my doing and designing, belongs to — him.
What is in conformity to that being is to be inferred from his concept; and how differently has this concept been conceived! or how differently has that being been imagined! What demands the Supreme Being makes on the Mohammedan; what different ones the Christian, again, thinks he hears from him; how divergent, therefore, must the shaping of the lives of the two turn out! Only this do all hold fast, that the Supreme Being is to judge [Or, “regulate” (richten)] our life.
But the pious who have their judge in God, and in his word a book of directions for their life, I everywhere pass by only reminiscently, because they belong to a period of development that has been lived through, and as petrifactions they may remain in their fixed place right along; in our time it is no longer the pious, but the liberals, who have the floor, and piety itself cannot keep from reddening its pale face with liberal coloring. But the liberals do not adore their judge in God, and do not unfold their life by the directions of the divine word, but regulate [richten] themselves by man: they want to be not “divine” but “human,” and to live so.
Man is the liberal’s supreme being, man the judge of his life, humanity his directions, or catechism. God is spirit, but man is the “most perfect spirit,” the final result of the long chase after the spirit or of the “searching in the depths of the Godhead,” i.e. in the depths of the spirit.
Every one of your traits is to be human; you yourself are to be so from top to toe, in the inward as in the outward; for humanity is your calling.
Calling — destiny — task! —
What one can become he does become. A born poet may well be hindered by the disfavor of circumstances from standing on the high level of his time, and, after the great studies that are indispensable for this, producing consummate works of art; but he will make poetry, be he a plowman or so lucky as to live at the court of Weimar. A born musician will make music, no matter whether on all instruments or only on an oaten pipe. A born philosophical head can give proof of itself as university philosopher or as village philosopher. Finally, a born dolt, who, as is very well compatible with this, may at the same time be a sly-boots, will (as probably every one who has visited schools is in a position to exemplify to himself by many instances of fellow-scholars) always remain a blockhead, let him have been drilled and trained into the chief of a bureau, or let him serve that same chief as bootblack. Nay, the born shallow-pates indisputably form the most numerous class of men. And why. indeed, should not the same distinctions show themselves in the human species that are unmistakable in every species of beasts? The more gifted and the less gifted are to be found everywhere.
Only a few, however, are so imbecile that one could not get ideas into them. Hence, people usually consider all men capable of having religion. In a certain degree they may be trained to other ideas too, e.g. to some musical intelligence, even some philosophy. At this point then the priesthood of religion, of morality, of culture, of science, etc., takes its start, and the Communists, e.g. want to make everything accessible to all by their “public school.” There is heard a common assertion that this “great mass” cannot get along without religion; the Communists broaden it into the proposition that not only the “great mass,” but absolutely all, are called to everything.
Not enough that the great mass has been trained to religion, now it is actually to have to occupy itself with “everything human.” Training is growing ever more general and more comprehensive.
You poor beings who could live so happily if you might skip according to your mind, you are to dance to the pipe of schoolmasters and bear-leaders, in order to perform tricks that you yourselves would never use yourselves for. And you do not even kick out of the traces at last against being always taken otherwise than you want to give yourselves. No, you mechanically recite to yourselves the question that is recited to you: “What am I called to? What ought I to do?” You need only ask thus, to have yourselves told what you ought to do and ordered to do it, to have your calling marked out for you, or else to order yourselves and impose it on yourselves according to the spirit’s prescription. Then in reference to the will the word is, I will to do what I ought.
A man is “called” to nothing, and has no “calling,” no “destiny,” as little as a plant or a beast has a “calling.” The flower does not follow the calling to complete itself, but it spends all its forces to enjoy and consume the world as well as it can — i.e. it sucks in as much of the juices of the earth, as much air of the ether, as much light of the sun, as it can get and lodge. The bird lives up to no calling, but it uses its forces as much as is practicable; it catches beetles and sings to its heart’s delight. But the forces of the flower and the bird are slight in comparison to those of a man, and a man who applies his forces will affect the world much more powerfully than flower and beast. A calling he has not, but he has forces that manifest themselves where they are because their being consists solely in their manifestation, and are as little able to abide inactive as life, which, if it “stood still” only a second, would no longer be life. Now, one might call out to the man, “use your force.” Yet to this imperative would be given the meaning that it was man’s task to use his force. It is not so. Rather, each one really uses his force without first looking upon this as his calling: at all times every one uses as much force as he possesses. One does say of a beaten man that he ought to have exerted his force more; but one forgets that, if in the moment of succumbing he had the force to exert his forces (e.g. bodily forces), he would not have failed to do it: even if it was only the discouragement of a minute, this was yet a —destitution of force, a minute long. Forces may assuredly be sharpened and redoubled, especially by hostile resistance or friendly assistance; but where one misses their application one may be sure of their absence too. One can strike fire out of a stone, but without the blow none comes out; in like manner a man too needs “impact.”
Now, for this reason that forces always of themselves show themselves operative, the command to use them would be superfluous and senseless. To use his forces is not man’s calling and task, but is his act, real and extant at all times. Force is only a simpler word for manifestation of force.
Now, as this rose is a true rose to begin with, this nightingale always a true nightingale, so I am not for the first time a true man when I fulfil my calling, live up to my destiny, but I am a “true man” from the start. My first babble is the token of the life of a “true man,” the struggles of my life are the outpourings of his force, my last breath is the last exhalation of the force of the “man.”
The true man does not lie in the future, an object of longing, but lies, existent and real, in the present. Whatever and whoever I may be, joyous and suffering, a child or a graybeard, in confidence or doubt, in sleep or in waking, I am it, I am the true man.
But, if I am Man, and have really found in myself him whom religious humanity designated as the distant goal, then everything “truly human” is also myown. What was ascribed to the idea of humanity belongs to me. That freedom of trade, e.g., which humanity has yet to attain — and which, like an enchanting dream, people remove to humanity’s golden future — I take by anticipation as my property, and carry it on for the time in the form of smuggling. There may indeed be but few smugglers who have sufficient understanding to thus account to themselves for their doings, but the instinct of egoism replaces their consciousness. Above I have shown the same thing about freedom of the press.
Everything is my own, therefore I bring back to myself what wants to withdraw from me; but above all I always bring myself back when I have slipped away from myself to any tributariness. But this too is not my calling, but my natural act.
Enough, there is a mighty difference whether I make myself the starting-point or the goal. As the latter I do not have myself, am consequently still alien to myself, am my essence, my “true essence,” and this “true essence,” alien to me, will mock me as a spook of a thousand different names. Because I am not yet I, another (like God, the true man, the truly pious man, the rational man, the freeman, etc.) is I, my ego.
Still far from myself, I separate myself into two halves, of which one, the one unattained and to be fulfilled, is the true one. The one, the untrue, must be brought as a sacrifice; to wit, the unspiritual one. The other, the true, is to be the whole man; to wit, the spirit. Then it is said, “The spirit is man’s proper essence,” or, “man exists as man only spiritually.” Now, there is a greedy rush to catch the spirit, as if one would then have bagged himself; and so, in chasing after himself, one loses sight of himself, whom he is.
And, as one stormily pursues his own self, the never-attained, so one also despises shrewd people’s rule to take men as they are, and prefers to take them as they should be; and, for this reason, hounds every one on after his should-be self and “endeavors to make all into equally entitled, equally respectable, equally moral or rational men.”
Yes, “if men were what they should be, could be, if all men were rational, all loved each other as brothers,” then it would be a paradisiacal life. — All right, men are as they should be, can be. What should they be? Surely not more than they can be! And what can they be? Not more, again, than they — can, than they have the competence, the force, to be. But this they really are, because what they are not they are incapable of being; for to be capable means — really to be. One is not capable for anything that one really is not; one is not capable of anything that one does not really do. Could a man blinded by cataracts see? Oh, yes, if he had his cataracts successfully removed. But now he cannot see because he does not see. Possibility and reality always coincide. One can do nothing that one does not, as one does nothing that one cannot.
The singularity of this assertion vanishes when one reflects that the words “it is possible that.” almost never contain another meaning than “I can imagine that…,” e.g., It is possible for all men to live rationally; e.g., I can imagine that all, etc. Now — since my thinking cannot, and accordingly does not, cause all men to live rationally, but this must still be left to the men themselves — general reason is for me only thinkable, a thinkableness, but as such in fact a reality that is called a possibility only in reference to what I can not bring to pass, to wit, the rationality of others. So far as depends on you, all men might be rational, for you have nothing against it; nay, so far as your thinking reaches, you perhaps cannot discover any hindrance either, and accordingly nothing does stand in the way of the thing in your thinking; it is thinkable to you.
As men are not all rational, though, it is probable that they — cannot be so.
If something which one imagines to be easily possible is not, or does not happen, then one may be assured that something stands in the way of the thing, and that it is — impossible. Our time has its art, science, etc.; the art may be bad in all conscience; but may one say that we deserved to have a better, and “could” have it if we only would? We have just as much art as we can have. Our art of today is the only art possible, and therefore real, at the time.
Even in the sense to which one might at last still reduce the word “possible,” that it should mean “future,” it retains the full force of the “real.” If one says, e.g., “It is possible that the sun will rise tomorrow” — this means only, “for today tomorrow is the real future”; for I suppose there is hardly need of the suggestion that a future is real “future” only when it has not yet appeared.
Yet wherefore this dignifying of a word? If the most prolific misunderstanding of thousands of years were not in ambush behind it, if this single concept of the little word “possible” were not haunted by all the spooks of possessed men, its contemplation should trouble us little here.
The thought, it was just now shown, rules the possessed world. Well, then, possibility is nothing but thinkableness, and innumerable sacrifices have hitherto been made to hideous thinkableness. It was thinkable that men might become rational; thinkable, that they might know Christ; thinkable, that they might become moral and enthusiastic for the good; thinkable, that they might all take refuge in the Church’s lap; thinkable, that they might meditate, speak, and do, nothing dangerous to the State; thinkable, that they might be obedient subjects; but, because it was thinkable, it was — so ran the inference — possible, and further, because it was possible to men (right here lies the deceptive point; because it is thinkable to me, it is possible to men), therefore they ought to be so, it was their calling; and finally — one is to take men only according to this calling, only as called men, “not as they are, but as they ought to be.”
And the further inference? Man is not the individual, but man is a thought, an ideal, to which the individual is related not even as the child to the man, but as a chalk point to a point thought of, or as a — finite creature to the eternal Creator, or, according to modern views, as the specimen to the species. Here then comes to light the glorification of “humanity,” the “eternal, immortal,” for whose glory (in majorem humanitatis gloriam) the individual must devote himself and find his “immortal renown” in having done something for the “spirit of humanity.”
Thus the thinkers rule in the world as long as the age of priests or of schoolmasters lasts, and what they think of is possible, but what is possible must be realized. They think an ideal of man, which for the time is real only in their thoughts; but they also think the possibility of carrying it out, and there is no chance for dispute, the carrying out is really — thinkable, it is an — idea.
But you and I, we may indeed be people of whom a Krummacher can think that we might yet become good Christians; if, however, he wanted to “labor with” us, we should soon make it palpable to him that our Christianity is only thinkable, but in other respects impossible; if he grinned on and on at us with his obtrusive thoughts, his “good belief,” he would have to learn that we do not at all need to become what we do not like to become.
And so it goes on, far beyond the most pious of the pious. “If all men were rational, if all did right, if all were guided by philanthropy, etc.”! Reason, right, philanthropy, are put before the eyes of men as their calling, as the goal of their aspiration. And what does being rational mean? Giving oneself a hearing?[vernünftig, derived from vernehmen, to hear] No, reason is a book full of laws, which are all enacted against egoism.
History hitherto is the history of the intellectual man. After the period of sensuality, history proper begins; i.e. the period of intellectuality,[Geistigkeit] spirituality,[Geistlichkeit] non-sensuality, supersensuality, nonsensicality. Man now begins to want to be and become something. What? Good, beautiful, true; more precisely, moral, pious, agreeable, etc. He wants to make of himself a “proper man,” “something proper.” Man is his goal, his ought, his destiny, calling, task, his — ideal; he is to himself a future, otherworldly he. And what makes a “proper fellow” of him? Being true, being good, being moral, etc. Now he looks askance at every one who does not recognize the same “what,” seek the same morality, have the same faith, he chases out “separatists, heretics, sects,” etc.
No sheep, no dog, exerts itself to become a “proper sheep, a proper dog”; no beast has its essence appear to it as a task, i.e. as a concept that it has to realize. It realizes itself in living itself out, in dissolving itself, passing away. It does not ask to be or to become anything other than it is.
Do I mean to advise you to be like the beasts? That you ought to become beasts is an exhortation which I certainly cannot give you, as that would again be a task, an ideal (“How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour. In works of labor or of skill I would be busy too, for Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do”). It would be the same, too, as if one wished for the beasts that they should become human beings. Your nature is, once for all, a human one; you are human natures, human beings. But, just because you already are so, you do not still need to become so. Beasts too are “trained,” and a trained beast executes many unnatural things. But a trained dog is no better for itself than a natural one, and has no profit from it, even if it is more companionable for us.
Exertions to “form” all men into moral, rational, pious, human, “beings” (i.e. training) were in vogue from of yore. They are wrecked against the indomitable quality of I, against own nature, against egoism. Those who are trained never attain their ideal, and only profess with their mouth the sublime principles, or make a profession, a profession of faith. In face of this profession they must in life “acknowledge themselves sinners altogether,” and they fall short of their ideal, are “weak men,” and bear with them the consciousness of “human weakness.”
It is different if you do not chase after an ideal as your “destiny,” but dissolve yourself as time dissolves everything. The dissolution is not your “destiny,” because it is present time.
Yet the culture, the religiousness, of men has assuredly made them free, but only free from one lord, to lead them to another. I have learned by religion to tame my appetite, I break the world’s resistance by the cunning that is put in my hand by science; I even serve no man; “I am no man’s lackey.” But then it comes. You must obey God more than man. Just so I am indeed free from irrational determination by my impulses. but obedient to the master Reason. I have gained “spiritual freedom,” “freedom of the spirit.” But with that I have then become subject to that very spirit. The spirit gives me orders, reason guides me, they are my leaders and commanders. The “rational,” the “servants of the spirit,” rule. But, if I am not flesh, I am in truth not spirit either. Freedom of the spirit is servitude of me, because I am more than spirit or flesh.
Without doubt culture has made me powerful. It has given me power over all motives, over the impulses of my nature as well as over the exactions and violences of the world. I know, and have gained the force for it by culture, that I need not let myself be coerced by any of my appetites, pleasures, emotions, etc.; I am their — master; in like manner I become, through the sciences and arts, the master of the refractory world, whom sea and earth obey, and to whom even the stars must give an account of themselves. The spirit has made me master. — But I have no power over the spirit itself. From religion (culture) I do learn the means for the “vanquishing of the world,” but not how I am to subdue God too and become master of him; for God “is the spirit.” And this same spirit, of which I am unable to become master, may have the most manifold shapes; he may be called God or National Spirit, State, Family, Reason, also — Liberty, Humanity, Man.
I receive with thanks what the centuries of culture have acquired for me; I am not willing to throw away and give up anything of it: I have not lived in vain. The experience that I have power over my nature, and need not be the slave of my appetites, shall not be lost to me; the experience that I can subdue the world by culture’s means is too dear- bought for me to be able to forget it. But I want still more.
People ask, what can man do? What can he accomplish? What goods procure, and put down the highest of everything as a calling. As if everything were possible to me!
If one sees somebody going to ruin in a mania, a passion, etc. (e.g. in the huckster-spirit, in jealousy), the desire is stirred to deliver him out of this possession and to help him to “self-conquest.” “We want to make a man of him!” That would be very fine if another possession were not immediately put in the place of the earlier one. But one frees from the love of money him who is a thrall to it, only to deliver him over to piety, humanity, or some principle else, and to transfer him to a fixed standpoint anew.
This transference from a narrow standpoint to a sublime one is declared in the words that the sense must not be directed to the perishable, but to the imperishable alone: not to the temporal, but to the eternal, absolute, divine, purely human, etc. — to the spiritual.
People very soon discerned that it was not indifferent what one set his affections on, or what one occupied himself with; they recognized the importance of the object. An object exalted above the individuality of things is the essence of things; yes, the essence is alone the thinkable in them. it is for the thinking man. Therefore direct no longer your sense to the things, but your thoughts to the essence. “Blessed are they who see not, and yet believe”; i. e., blessed are the thinkers, for they have to do with the invisible and believe in it. Yet even an object of thought, that constituted an essential point of contention centuries long, comes at last to the point of being “No longer worth speaking of.” This was discerned, but nevertheless people always kept before their eyes again a self-valid importance of the object, an absolute value of it, as if the doll were not the most important thing to the child, the Koran to the Turk. As long as I am not the sole important thing to myself, it is indifferent of what object I “make much,” and only my greater or lesser delinquency against it is of value. The degree of my attachment and devotion marks the standpoint of my liability to service, the degree of my sinning shows the measure of my ownness.
But finally, and in general, one must know how to “put everything out of his mind,” if only so as to be able to — go to sleep. Nothing may occupy us with which we do not occupy ourselves: the victim of ambition cannot run away from his ambitious plans, nor the God-fearing man from the thought of God; infatuation and possessedness coincide.
To want to realize his essence or live comfortably to his concept (which with believers in God signifies as much as to be “pious,” and with believers in humanity means living “humanly”) is what only the sensual and sinful man can propose to himself, the man so long as he has the anxious choice between happiness of sense and peace of soul, so long as he is a “poor sinner.” The Christian is nothing but a sensual man who, knowing of the sacred and being conscious that he violates it, sees in himself a poor sinner: sensualness, recognized as “sinfulness,” is Christian consciousness, is the Christian himself. And if “sin” and “sinfulness” are now no longer taken into the mouths of moderns, but, instead of that, “egoism,” “self-seeking,” “selfishness,” etc., engage them; if the devil has been translated into the “un-man” or “egoistic man” — is the Christian less present then than before? Is not the old discord between good and evil — is not a judge over us, man — is not a calling, the calling to make oneself man — left? If they no longer name it calling, but “task” or, very likely, “duty,” the change of name is quite correct, because “man” is not, like God, a personal being that can “call”; but outside the name the thing remains as of old.
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Every one has a relation to objects, and more, every one is differently related to them. Let us choose as an example that book to which millions of men had a relation for two thousand years, the Bible. What is it, what was it, to each? Absolutely, only what he made out of it! For him who makes to himself nothing at all out of it, it is nothing at all; for him who uses it as an amulet, it has solely the value, the significance, of a means of sorcery; for him who, like children, plays with it, it is nothing but a plaything, etc.
Now, Christianity asks that it shall be the same for all: say the sacred book or the “sacred Scriptures.” This means as much as that the Christian’s view shall also be that of other men, and that no one may be otherwise related to that object. And with this the ownness of the relation is destroyed, and one mind, one disposition, is fixed as the “true”, the “only true” one. In the limitation of the freedom to make of the Bible what I will, the freedom of making in general is limited; and the coercion of a view or a judgment is put in its place. He who should pass the judgment that the Bible was a long error of mankind would judge — criminally.
In fact, the child who tears it to pieces or plays with it, the Inca Atahualpa who lays his ear to it and throws it away contemptuously when it remains dumb, judges just as correctly about the Bible as the priest who praises in it the “Word of God,” or the critic who calls it a job of men’s hands. For how we toss things about is the affair of our option, our free will: we use them according to our heart’s pleasure, or, more clearly, we use them just as we can. Why, what do the parsons scream about when they see how Hegel and the speculative theologians make speculative thoughts out of the contents of the Bible? Precisely this, that they deal with it according to their heart’s pleasure, or “proceed arbitrarily with it.”
But, because we all show ourselves arbitrary in the handling of objects, i.e. do with them as we like best, at our liking (the philosopher likes nothing so well as when he can trace out an “idea” in everything, as the God-fearing man likes to make God his friend by everything, and so, e.g., by keeping the Bible sacred), therefore we nowhere meet such grievous arbitrariness, such a frightful tendency to violence, such stupid coercion, as in this very domain of our — own free will. If we proceed arbitrarily in taking the sacred objects thus or so, how is it then that we want to take it ill of the parson-spirits if they take us just as arbitrarily, in their fashion, and esteem us worthy of the heretic’s fire or of another punishment, perhaps of the — censorship?
What a man is, he makes out of things; “as you look at the world, so it looks at you again.” Then the wise advice makes itself heard again at once, You must only look at it “rightly, unbiasedly,” etc. As if the child did not look at the Bible “rightly and unbiasedly” when it makes it a plaything. That shrewd precept is given us, e.g. by Feuerbach. One does look at things rightly when one makes of them what one will (by things objects in general are here understood, e.g. God, our fellowmen, a sweetheart, a book, a beast, etc.). And therefore the things and the looking at them are not first, but I am, my will is. One will brings thoughts out of the things, will discover reason in the world, will have sacredness in it: therefore one shall find them. “Seek and ye shall find.” What I will seek, I determine: I want, e.g., to get edification from the Bible; it is to be found; I want to read and test the Bible thoroughly; my outcome will be a thorough instruction and criticism — to the extent of my powers. I elect for myself what I have a fancy for, and in electing I show myself — arbitrary.
Connected with this is the discernment that every judgment which I pass upon an object is the creature of my will; and that discernment again leads me to not losing myself in the creature, the judgment, but remaining the creator, the judge, who is ever creating anew. All predicates of objects are my statements, my judgments, my — creatures. If they want to tear themselves loose from me and be something for themselves, or actually overawe me, then I have nothing more pressing to do than to take them back into their nothing, into me the creator. God, Christ, Trinity, morality, the good, etc., are such creatures, of which I must not merely allow myself to say that they are truths, but also that they are deceptions. As I once willed and decreed their existence, so I want to have license to will their non- existence too; I must not let them grow over my head, must not have the weakness to let them become something “absolute,” whereby they would be eternalized and withdrawn from my power and decision. With that I should fall a prey to the principle of stability, the proper life-principle of religion, which concerns itself with creating “sanctuaries that must not be touched,” “eternal truths” — in short, that which shall be “sacred” — and depriving you of what is yours.
The object makes us into possessed men in its sacred form just as in its profane, as a supersensuous object, just as it does as a sensuous one. The appetite or mania refers to both, and avarice and longing for heaven stand on a level. When the rationalists wanted to win people for the sensuous world, Lavater preached the longing for the invisible. The one party wanted to call forth emotion, the other motion, activity.
The conception of objects is altogether diverse, even as God, Christ, the world, were and are conceived of in the most manifold wise. In this every one is a “dissenter,” and after bloody combats so much has at last been attained, that opposite views about one and the same object are no longer condemned as heresies worthy of death. The “dissenters” reconcile themselves to each other. But why should I only dissent (think otherwise) about a thing? Why not push the thinking otherwise to its last extremity, that of no longer having any regard at all for the thing, and therefore thinking its nothingness, crushing it? Then the conception itself has an end, because there is no longer anything to conceive of. Why am I to say, let us suppose, “God is not Allah, not Brahma, not Jehovah, but — God”; but not, “God is nothing but a deception”? Why do people brand me if I am an “atheist”? Because they put the creature above the creator (“They honor and serve the creature more than the Creator”) and require a ruling object, that the subject may be right submissive. I am to bend beneath the absolute, I ought to.
By the “realm of thoughts” Christianity has completed itself; the thought is that inwardness in which all the world’s lights go out, all existence becomes existenceless, the inward. man (the heart, the head) is all in all. This realm of thoughts awaits its deliverance, awaits, like the Sphinx, Oedipus’s key- word to the riddle, that it may enter in at last to its death. I am the annihilator of its continuance, for in the creator’s realm it no longer forms a realm of its own, not a State in the State, but a creature of my creative — thoughtlessness. Only together and at the same time with the benumbed thinkingworld can the world of Christians, Christianity and religion itself, come to its downfall; only when thoughts run out are there no more believers. To the thinker his thinking is a “sublime labor, a sacred activity,” and it rests on a firm faith, the faith in truth. At first praying is a sacred activity, then this sacred “devotion” passes over into a rational and reasoning “thinking,” which, however, likewise retains in the “sacred truth” its underangeable basis of faith, and is only a marvelous machine that the spirit of truth winds up for its service. Free thinking and free science busy me — for it is not I that am free, not I that busy myself, but thinking is free and busies me — with heaven and the heavenly or “divine”; e.g., properly, with the world and the worldly, not this world but “another” world; it is only the reversing and deranging of the world, a busying with the essence of the world, therefore a derangement. The thinker is blind to the immediateness of things, and incapable of mastering them: he does not eat, does not drink, does not enjoy; for the eater and drinker is never the thinker, nay, the latter forgets eating and drinking, his getting on in life, the cares of nourishment, etc., over his thinking; he forgets it as the praying man too forgets it. This is why he appears to the forceful son of nature as a queer Dick, a fool — even if he does look upon him as holy, just as lunatics appeared so to the ancients. Free thinking is lunacy, because it is pure movement of the inwardness, of the merely inward man, which guides and regulates the rest of the man. The shaman and the speculative philosopher mark the bottom and top rounds on the ladder of the inward man, the — Mongol. Shaman and philosopher fight with ghosts, demons, spirits, gods.
Totally different from this free thinking is own thinking, my thinking, a thinking which does not guide me, but is guided, continued, or broken off, by me at my pleasure. The distinction of this own thinking from free thinking is similar to that of own sensuality, which I satisfy at pleasure, from free, unruly sensuality to which I succumb.
Feuerbach, in the Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, is always harping upon being. In this he too, with all his antagonism to Hegel and the absolute philosophy, is stuck fast in abstraction; for “being” is abstraction, as is even “the I.” Only I am not abstraction alone: I am all in all, consequently even abstraction or nothing; I am all and nothing; I am not a mere thought, but at the same time I am full of thoughts, a thought-world. Hegel condemns the own, mine,[das Meinige] — “opinion.” [die —“Meinung”] “Absolute thinking” is that which forgets that it is my thinking, that I think, and that it exists only through me. But I, as I, swallow up again what is mine, am its master; it is only my opinion, which I can at any moment change, i.e. annihilate, take back into myself, and consume. Feuerbach wants to smite Hegel’s “absolute thinking” with unconquered being. But in me being is as much conquered as thinking is. It is my being, as the other is my thinking.
With this, of course, Feuerbach does not get further than to the proof, trivial in itself, that I require the senses for everything, or that I cannot entirely do without these organs. Certainly I cannot think if I do not exist sensuously. But for thinking as well as for feeling, and so for the abstract as well as for the sensuous, I need above all things myself, this quite particular myself, this unique myself. If I were not this one, e.g. Hegel, I should not look at the world as I do look at it, I should not pick out of it that philosophical system which just I as Hegel do, etc. I should indeed have senses, as do other people too, but I should not utilize them as I do.
Thus the reproach is brought up against Hegel by Feuerbach that he misuses language, understanding by many words something else than what natural consciousness takes them for; and yet he too commits the same fault when he gives the “sensuous” a sense of unusual eminence. Thus it is said, p. 69, “the sensuous is not the profane, the destitute of thought, the obvious, that which is understood of itself.” But, if it is the sacred, the full of thought, the recondite, that which can be understood only through mediation — well, then it is no longer what people call the sensuous. The sensuous is only that which exists for the senses; what, on the other hand, is enjoyable only to those who enjoy with more than the senses, who go beyond sense-enjoyment or sense-reception, is at most mediated or introduced by the senses, i. e., the senses constitute a condition for obtaining it, but it is no longer anything sensuous. The sensuous, whatever it may be, when taken up into me becomes something non-sensuous, which, however, may again have sensuous effects, e.g. as by the stirring of my emotions and my blood.
It is well that Feuerbach brings sensuousness to honor, but the only thing he is able to do with it is to clothe the materialism of his “new philosophy” with what had hitherto been the property of idealism, the “absolute philosophy.” As little as people let it be talked into them that one can live on the “spiritual” alone without bread, so little will they believe his word that as a sensuous being one is already everything, and so spiritual, full of thoughts, etc.
Nothing at all is justified by being. What is thought of is as well as what is not thought of; the stone in the street is, and my notion of it is too. Both are only in different spaces, the former in airy space, the latter in my head, in me; for I am space like the street.
The professionals, the privileged, brook no freedom of thought, i.e. no thoughts that do not come from the “Giver of all good,” be he called God, pope, church, or whatever else. If anybody has such illegitimate thoughts, he must whisper them into his confessor’s ear, and have himself chastised by him till the slave-whip becomes unendurable to the free thoughts. In other ways too the professional spirit takes care that free thoughts shall not come at all: first and foremost, by a wise education. He on whom the principles of morality have been duly inculcated never becomes free again from moralizing thoughts, and robbery, perjury, overreaching, etc., remain to him fixed ideas against which no freedom of thought protects him. He has his thoughts “from above,” and gets no further.
It is different with the holders of concessions or patents. Every one must be able to have and form thoughts as he will. If he has the patent, or the concession, of a capacity to think, he needs no special privilege. But, as “all men are rational,” it is free to every one to put into his head any thoughts whatever, and, to the extent of the patent of his natural endowment, to have a greater or less wealth of thoughts. Now one hears the admonitions that one “is to honor all opinions and convictions,” that “every conviction is authorized,” that one must be “tolerant to the views of others,” etc.
But “your thoughts are not my thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” Or rather, I mean the reverse: Your thoughts are my thoughts, which I dispose of as I will, and which I strike down unmercifully; they are my property, which I annihilate as I list. I do not wait for authorization from you first, to decompose and blow away your thoughts. It does not matter to me that you call these thoughts yours too, they remain mine nevertheless, and how I will proceed with them is my affair, not a usurpation. It may please me to leave you in your thoughts; then I keep still. Do you believe thoughts fly around free like birds, so that every one may get himself some which he may then make good against me as his inviolable property? What is flying around is all — mine.
Do you believe you have your thoughts for yourselves and need answer to no one for them, or as you do also say, you have to give an account of them to God only? No, your great and small thoughts belong to me, and I handle them at my pleasure.
The thought is my own only when I have no misgiving about bringing it in danger of death every moment, when I do not have to fear its loss as a loss for me, a loss of me. The thought is my own only when I can indeed subjugate it, but it never can subjugate me, never fanaticizes me, makes me the tool of its realization.
So freedom of thought exists when I can have all possible thoughts; but the thoughts become property only by not being able to become masters. In the time of freedom of thought, thoughts (ideas) rule; but, if I attain to property in thought, they stand as my creatures.
If the hierarchy had not so penetrated men to the innermost as to take from them all courage to pursue free thoughts, e.g., thoughts perhaps displeasing to God, one would have to consider freedom of thought just as empty a word as, say, a freedom of digestion.
According to the professionals’ opinion, the thought is given to me; according to the freethinkers’, I seek the thought. There the truth is already found and extant, only I must — receive it from its Giver by grace; here the truth is to be sought and is my goal, lying in the future, toward which I have to run.
In both cases the truth (the true thought) lies outside me, and I aspire to get it, be it by presentation (grace), be it by earning (merit of my own). Therefore, (1) The truth is a privilege; (2) No, the way to it is patent to all, and neither the Bible nor the holy fathers nor the church nor any one else is in possession of the truth; but one can come into possession of it by — speculating.
Both, one sees, are property-less in relation to the truth: they have it either as a fief (for the “holy father,” e.g. is not a unique person; as unique he is this Sixtus, Clement, but he does not have the truth as Sixtus, Clement, but as “holy father,” i.e. as a spirit) or as an ideal. As a fief, it is only for a few (the privileged); as an ideal, for all (the patentees).
Freedom of thought, then, has the meaning that we do indeed all walk in the dark and in the paths of error, but every one can on this path approach the truth and is accordingly on the right path (“All roads lead to Rome, to the world’s end, etc.”). Hence freedom of thought means this much, that the true thought is not my own; for, if it were this, how should people want to shut me off from it?
Thinking has become entirely free, and has laid down a lot of truths which I must accommodate myself to. It seeks to complete itself into a system and to bring itself to an absolute “constitution.” In the State e.g. it seeks for the idea, say, till it has brought out the “rational State,” in which I am then obliged to be suited; in man (anthropology), till it “has found man.”
The thinker is distinguished from the believer only by believing much more than the latter, who on his part thinks of much less as signified by his faith (creed). The thinker has a thousand tenets of faith where the believer gets along with few; but the former brings coherence into his tenets, and takes the coherence in turn for the scale to estimate their worth by. If one or the other does not fit into his budget, he throws it out.
The thinkers run parallel to the believers in their pronouncements. Instead of “If it is from God you will not root it out,” the word is “If it is from the truth, is true, etc.”; instead of “Give God the glory” — “Give truth the glory.” But it is very much the same to me whether God or the truth wins; first and foremost I want to win.
Aside from this, how is an “unlimited freedom” to be thinkable inside of the State or society? The State may well protect one against another, but yet it must not let itself be endangered by an unmeasured freedom, a so-called unbridledness. Thus in “freedom of instruction” the State declares only this — that it is suited with every one who instructs as the State (or, speaking more comprehensibly, the political power) would have it. The point for the competitors is this “as the State would have it.” If the clergy, e.g., does not will as the State does, then it itself excludes itself from competition (vid.France). The limit that is necessarily drawn in the State for any and all competition is called “the oversight and superintendence of the State.” In bidding freedom of instruction keep within the due bounds, the State at the same time fixes the scope of freedom of thought; because, as a rule, people do not think farther than their teachers have thought.
Hear Minister Guizot: “The great difficulty of today is the guiding and dominating of the mind. Formerly the church fulfilled this mission; now it is not adequate to it. It is from the university that this great service must be expected, and the university will not fail to perform it. We, the government, have the duty of supporting it therein. The charter calls for the freedom of thought and that of conscience.” So, in favor of freedom of thought and conscience, the minister demands “the guiding and dominating of the mind.”
Catholicism haled the examinee before the forum of ecclesiasticism, Protestantism before that of biblical Christianity. It would be but little bettered if one haled him before that of reason, as Ruge, e.g., wants to.  Whether the church, the Bible, or reason (to which, moreover, Luther and Huss already appealed) is the sacred authority makes no difference in essentials.
The “question of our time” does not become soluble even when one puts it thus: Is anything general authorized, or only the individual? Is the generality (e.g. State, law, custom, morality, etc.) authorized, or individuality? It becomes soluble for the first time when one no longer asks after an “authorization” at all, and does not carry on a mere fight against “privileges.” — A “rational” freedom of teaching, which recognizes only the conscience of reason,” does not bring us to the goal; we require an egoistic freedom of teaching rather, a freedom of teaching for all ownness, wherein Ibecome audible and can announce myself unchecked. That I make myself “audible”[vernehmbar], this alone is “reason,”[Vernunft] be I ever so irrational; in my making myself heard, and so hearing myself, others as well as I myself enjoy me, and at the same time consume me.
What would be gained if, as formerly the orthodox I, the loyal I, the moral I, etc., was free, now the rational I should become free? Would this be the freedom of me?
If I am free as “rational I,” then the rational in me, or reason, is free; and this freedom of reason, or freedom of the thought, was the ideal of the Christian world from of old. They wanted to make thinking — and, as aforesaid, faith is also thinking, as thinking is faith — free; the thinkers, i.e. the believers as well as the rational, were to be free; for the rest freedom was impossible. But the freedom of thinkers is the “freedom of the children of God,” and at the same time the most merciless —hierarchy or dominion of the thought; for I succumb to the thought. If thoughts are free, I am their slave; I have no power over them, and am dominated by them. But I want to have the thought, want to be full of thoughts, but at the same time I want to be thoughtless, and, instead of freedom of thought, I preserve for myself thoughtlessness.
If the point is to have myself understood and to make communications, then assuredly I can make use only of human means, which are at my command because I am at the same time man. And really I have thoughts only as man; as I, I am at the same time thoughtless.[Literally, “thought-rid”] He who cannot get rid of a thought is so far only man, is a thrall of language, this human institution, this treasury of human thoughts. Language or “the word” tyrannizes hardest over us, because it brings up against us a whole army of fixed ideas. Just observe yourself in the act of reflection, right now, and you will find how you make progress only by becoming thoughtless and speechless every moment. You are not thoughtless and speechless merely in (say) sleep, but even in the deepest reflection; yes, precisely then most so. And only by this thoughtlessness, this unrecognized “freedom of thought” or freedom from the thought, are you your own. Only from it do you arrive at putting language to use as your property.
If thinking is not my thinking, it is merely a spun-out thought; it is slave work, or the work of a “servant obeying at the word.” For not a thought, but I, am the beginning for my thinking, and therefore I am its goal too, even as its whole course is only a course of my self-enjoyment; for absolute or free thinking, on the other hand, thinking itself is the beginning, and it plagues itself with propounding this beginning as the extremest “abstraction” (e.g. as being). This very abstraction, or this thought, is then spun out further.
Absolute thinking is the affair of the human spirit, and this is a holy spirit. Hence this thinking is an affair of the parsons, who have “a sense for it,” a sense for the “highest interests of mankind,” for “the spirit.”
To the believer, truths are a settled thing, a fact; to the freethinker, a thing that is still to be settled. Be absolute thinking ever so unbelieving, its incredulity has its limits, and there does remain a belief in the truth, in the spirit, in the idea and its final victory: this thinking does not sin against the holy spirit. But all thinking that does not sin against the holy spirit is belief in spirits or ghosts.
I can as little renounce thinking as feeling, the spirit’s activity as little as the activity of the senses. As feeling is our sense for things, so thinking is our sense for essences (thoughts). Essences have their existence in everything sensuous, especially in the word. The power of words follows that of things: first one is coerced by the rod, afterward by conviction. The might of things overcomes our courage, our spirit; against the power of a conviction, and so of the word, even the rack and the sword lose their overpoweringness and force. The men of conviction are the priestly men, who resist every enticement of Satan.
Christianity took away from the things of this world only their irresistibleness, made us independent of them. In like manner I raise myself above truths and their power: as I am supersensual, so I am supertrue. Before me truths are as common and as indifferent as things; they do not carry me away, and do not inspire me with enthusiasm. There exists not even one truth, not right, not freedom, humanity, etc., that has stability before me, and to which I subject myself. They are words, nothing but words, as to the Christian nothing but “vain things.” In words and truths (every word is a truth, as Hegel asserts that one cannot tell a lie) there is no salvation for me, as little as there is for the Christian in things and vanities. As the riches of this world do not make me happy, so neither do its truths. It is now no longer Satan, but the spirit, that plays the story of the temptation; and he does not seduce by the things of this world, but by its thoughts, by the “glitter of the idea.”
Along with worldly goods, all sacred goods too must be put away as no longer valuable.
Truths are phrases, ways of speaking, words (lógos); brought into connection, or into an articulate series, they form logic, science, philosophy.
For thinking and speaking I need truths and words, as I do foods for eating; without them I cannot think nor speak. Truths are men’s thoughts, set down in words and therefore just as extant as other things, although extant only for the mind or for thinking. They are human institutions and human creatures, and, even if they are given out for divine revelations, there still remains in them the quality of alienness for me; yes, as my own creatures they are already alienated from me after the act of creation.
The Christian man is the man with faith in thinking, who believes in the supreme dominion of thoughts and wants to bring thoughts, so-called “principles,” to dominion. Many a one does indeed test the thoughts, and chooses none of them for his master without criticism, but in this he is like the dog who sniffs at people to smell out “his master”; he is always aiming at the ruling thought. The Christian may reform and revolt an infinite deal, may demolish the ruling concepts of centuries; he will always aspire to a new “principle” or new master again, always set up a higher or “deeper” truth again, always call forth a cult again, always proclaim a spirit called to dominion, lay down a law for all.
If there is even one truth only to which man has to devote his life and his powers because he is man, then he is subjected to a rule, dominion, law; he is a servingman. It is supposed that, e.g. man, humanity, liberty, etc., are such truths.
On the other hand, one can say thus: Whether you will further occupy yourself with thinking depends on you; only know that, if in your thinking you would like to make out anything worthy of notice, many hard problems are to be solved, without vanquishing which you cannot get far. There exists, therefore, no duty and no calling for you to meddle with thoughts (ideas, truths); but, if you will do so, you will do well to utilize what the forces of others have already achieved toward clearing up these difficult subjects.
Thus, therefore, he who will think does assuredly have a task, which he consciously or unconsciously sets for himself in willing that; but no one has the task of thinking or of believing. In the former case it may be said, “You do not go far enough, you have a narrow and biased interest, you do not go to the bottom of the thing; in short, you do not completely subdue it. But, on the other hand, however far you may come at any time, you are still always at the end, you have no call to step farther, and you can have it as you will or as you are able. It stands with this as with any other piece of work, which you can give up when the humor for it wears off. Just so, if you can no longer believe a thing, you do not have to force yourself into faith or to busy yourself lastingly as if with a sacred truth of the faith, as theologians or philosophers do, but you can tranquilly draw back your interest from it and let it run. Priestly spirits will indeed expound this your lack of interest as “laziness, thoughtlessness, obduracy, self-deception,” etc. But do you just let the trumpery lie, notwithstanding. No thing,[Sache] no so-called “highest interest of mankind,” no “sacred cause,”[Sache] is worth your serving it, and occupying yourself with it for its sake; you may seek its worth in this alone, whether it is worth anything to you for your sake. Become like children, the biblical saying admonishes us. But children have no sacred interest and know nothing of a “good cause.” They know all the more accurately what they have a fancy for; and they think over, to the best of their powers, how they are to arrive at it.
Thinking will as little cease as feeling. But the power of thoughts and ideas, the dominion of theories and principles, the sovereignty of the spirit, in short the — hierarchy, lasts as long as the parsons, i.e., theologians, philosophers, statesmen, philistines, liberals, schoolmasters, servants, parents, children, married couples, Proudhon, George Sand, Bluntschli, etc., etc., have the floor; the hierarchy will endure as long as people believe in, think of, or even criticize, principles; for even the most inexorable criticism, which undermines all current principles, still does finally believe in the principle.
Every one criticises, but the criterion is different. People run after the “right” criterion. The right criterion is the first presupposition. The critic starts from a proposition, a truth, a belief. This is not a creation of the critic, but of the dogmatist; nay, commonly it is actually taken up out of the culture of the time without further ceremony, like e.g. “liberty,” “humanity,” etc. The critic has not “discovered man,” but this truth has been established as “man” by the dogmatist, and the critic (who, besides, may be the same person with him) believes in this truth, this article of faith. In this faith, and possessed by this faith, he criticises.
The secret of criticism is some “truth” or other: this remains its energizing mystery.
But I distinguish between servile and own criticism. If I criticize under the presupposition of a supreme being, my criticism serves the being and is carried on for its sake: if e.g. I am possessed by the belief in a “free State,” then everything that has a bearing on it I criticize from the standpoint of whether it is suitable to this State, for I love this State; if I criticize as a pious man, then for me everything falls into the classes of divine and diabolical, and before my criticism nature consists of traces of God or traces of the devil (hence names like Godsgift, Godmount, the Devil’s Pulpit), men of believers and unbelievers; if I criticize while believing in man as the “true essence,” then for me everything falls primarily into the classes of man and the un-man, etc.
Criticism has to this day remained a work of love: for at all times we exercised it for the love of some being. All servile criticism is a product of love, a possessedness, and proceeds according to that New Testament precept, “Test everything and hold fast the good.” “The good” is the touchstone, the criterion. The good, returning under a thousand names and forms, remained always the presupposition, remained the dogmatic fixed point for this criticism, remained the — fixed idea.
The critic, in setting to work, impartially presupposes the “truth,” and seeks for the truth in the belief that it is to be found. He wants to ascertain the true, and has in it that very “good.”
Presuppose means nothing else than put a thought in front, or think something before everything else and think the rest from the starting-point of this that has been thought, i.e. measure and criticize it by this. In other words, this is as much as to say that thinking is to begin with something already thought. If thinking began at all, instead of being begun, if thinking were a subject, an acting personality of its own, as even the plant is such, then indeed there would be no abandoning the principle that thinking must begin with itself. But it is just the personification of thinking that brings to pass those innumerable errors. In the Hegelian system they always talk as if thinking or “the thinking spirit” (i.e. personified thinking, thinking as a ghost) thought and acted; in critical liberalism it is always said that “criticism” does this and that, or else that “self- consciousness” finds this and that. But, if thinking ranks as the personal actor, thinking itself must be presupposed; if criticism ranks as such, a thought must likewise stand in front. Thinking and criticism could be active only starting from themselves, would have to be themselves the presupposition of their activity, as without being they could not be active. But thinking, as a thing presupposed, is a fixed thought, a dogma; thinking and criticism, therefore, can start only from a dogma, i. e. from a thought, a fixed idea, a presupposition.
With this we come back again to what was enunciated above, that Christianity consists in the development of a world of thoughts, or that it is the proper “freedom of thought,” the “free thought,” the “free spirit.” The “true” criticism, which I called “servile,” is therefore just as much “free” criticism, for it is not my own.
The case stands otherwise when what is yours is not made into something that is of itself, not personified, not made independent as a “spirit” to itself. Your thinking has for a presupposition not “thinking,” but you. But thus you do presuppose yourself after all? Yes, but not for myself, but for my thinking. Before my thinking, there is — I. From this it follows that my thinking is not preceded by a thought, or that my thinking is without a “presupposition.” For the presupposition which I am for my thinking is not one made by thinking, not one thought of, but it is posited thinking itself, it is the owner of the thought, and proves only that thinking is nothing more than — property, i. e. that an “independent” thinking, a “thinking spirit,” does not exist at all.
This reversal of the usual way of regarding things might so resemble an empty playing with abstractions that even those against whom it is directed would acquiesce in the harmless aspect I give it, if practical consequences were not connected with it.
To bring these into a concise expression, the assertion now made is that man is not the measure of all things, but I am this measure. The servile critic has before his eyes another being, an idea, which he means to serve; therefore he only slays the false idols for his God. What is done for the love of this being, what else should it be but a — work of love? But I, when I criticize, do not even have myself before my eyes, but am only doing myself a pleasure, amusing myself according to my taste; according to my several needs I chew the thing up or only inhale its odor.
The distinction between the two attitudes will come out still more strikingly if one reflects that the servile critic, because love guides him, supposes he is serving the thing (cause) itself.
The truth, or “truth in general,” people are bound not to give up, but to seek for. What else is it but the Être suprême, the highest essence? Even “true criticism” would have to despair if it lost faith in the truth. And yet the truth is only a — thought; but it is not merely “a” thought, but the thought that is above all thoughts, the irrefragable thought; it is the thought itself, which gives the first hallowing to all others; it is the consecration of thoughts, the “absolute,” the “sacred” thought. The truth wears longer than all the gods; for it is only in the truth’s service, and for love of it, that people have overthrown the gods and at last God himself. “The truth” outlasts the downfall of the world of gods, for it is the immortal soul of this transitory world of gods, it is Deity itself.
I will answer Pilate’s question, What is truth? Truth is the free thought, the free idea, the free spirit; truth is what is free from you, what is not your own, what is not in your power. But truth is also the completely unindependent, impersonal, unreal, and incorporeal; truth cannot step forward as you do, cannot move, change, develop; truth awaits and receives everything from you, and itself is only through you; for it exists only — in your head. You concede that the truth is a thought, but say that not every thought is a true one, or, as you are also likely to express it, not every thought is truly and really a thought. And by what do you measure and recognize the thought? By your impotence, to wit, by your being no longer able to make any successful assault on it! When it overpowers you, inspires you, and carries you away, then you hold it to be the true one. Its dominion over you certifies to you its truth; and, when it possesses you, and you are possessed by it, then you feel well with it, for then you have found your — lord and master. When you were seeking the truth, what did your heart then long for? For your master! You did not aspire to your might, but to a Mighty One, and wanted to exalt a Mighty One (“Exalt ye the Lord our God!”). The truth, my dear Pilate, is — the Lord, and all who seek the truth are seeking and praising the Lord. Where does the Lord exist? Where else but in your head? He is only spirit, and, wherever you believe you really see him, there he is a — ghost; for the Lord is merely something that is thought of, and it was only the Christian pains and agony to make the invisible visible, the spiritual corporeal, that generated the ghost and was the frightful misery of the belief in ghosts.
As long as you believe in the truth, you do not believe in yourself, and you are a — servant, a — religious man. You alone are the truth, or rather, you are more than the truth, which is nothing at all before you. You too do assuredly ask about the truth, you too do assuredly “criticize,” but you do not ask about a “higher truth” — to wit, one that should be higher than you — nor criticize according to the criterion of such a truth. You address yourself to thoughts and notions, as you do to the appearances of things, only for the purpose of making them palatable to you, enjoyable to you, and your own: you want only to subdue them and become their owner, you want to orient yourself and feel at home in them, and you find them true, or see them in their true light, when they can no longer slip away from you, no longer have any unseized or uncomprehended place, or when they are right for you, when they are your property. If afterward they become heavier again, if they wriggle themselves out of your power again, then that is just their untruth — to wit, your impotence. Your impotence is their power, your humility their exaltation. Their truth, therefore, is you, or is the nothing which you are for them and in which they dissolve: their truth is their nothingness.
Only as the property of me do the spirits, the truths, get to rest; and they then for the first time really are, when they have been deprived of their sorry existence and made a property of mine, when it is no longer said “the truth develops itself, rules, asserts itself; history (also a concept) wins the victory,” etc. The truth never has won a victory, but was always my means to the victory, like the sword (“the sword of truth”). The truth is dead, a letter, a word, a material that I can use up. All truth by itself is dead, a corpse; it is alive only in the same way as my lungs are alive — to wit, in the measure of my own vitality. Truths are material, like vegetables and weeds; as to whether vegetable or weed, the decision lies in me.
Objects are to me only material that I use up. Wherever I put my hand I grasp a truth, which I trim for myself. The truth is certain to me, and I do not need to long after it. To do the truth a service is in no case my intent; it is to me only a nourishment for my thinking head, as potatoes are for my digesting stomach, or as a friend is for my social heart. As long as I have the humor and force for thinking, every truth serves me only for me to work it up according to my powers. As reality or worldliness is “vain and a thing of naught” for Christians, so is the truth for me. It exists, exactly as much as the things of this world go on existing although the Christian has proved their nothingness; but it is vain, because it has its value not in itself but in me. Of itself it is valueless. The truth is a — creature.
As you produce innumerable things by your activity, yes, shape the earth’s surface anew and set up works of men everywhere, so too you may still ascertain numberless truths by your thinking, and we will gladly take delight in them. Nevertheless, as I do not please to hand myself over to serve your newly discovered machines mechanically, but only help to set them running for my benefit, so too I will only use your truths, without letting myself be used for their demands.
All truths beneath me are to my liking; a truth above me, a truth that I should have to direct myself by, I am not acquainted with. For me there is no truth, for nothing is more than I! Not even my essence, not even the essence of man, is more than I! than I, this “drop in the bucket,” this “insignificant man”!
You believe that you have done the utmost when you boldly assert that, because every time has its own truth, there is no “absolute truth.” Why, with this you nevertheless still leave to each time its truth, and thus you quite genuinely create an “absolute truth,” a truth that no time lacks, because every time, however its truth may be, still has a “truth.”
Is it meant only that people have been thinking in every time, and so have had thoughts or truths, and that in the subsequent time these were other than they were in the earlier? No, the word is to be that every time had its “truth of faith”; and in fact none has yet appeared in which a “higher truth” has not been recognized, a truth that people believed they must subject themselves to as “highness and majesty.” Every truth of a time is its fixed idea, and, if people later found another truth, this always happened only because they sought for another; they only reformed the folly and put a modern dress on it. For they did want — who would dare doubt their justification for this? — they wanted to be “inspired by an idea.” They wanted to be dominated — possessed, by a thought! The most modern ruler of this kind is “our essence,” or “man.”
For all free criticism a thought was the criterion; for own criticism I am, I the unspeakable, and so not the merely thought-of; for what is merely thought of is always speakable, because word and thought coincide. That is true which is mine, untrue that whose own I am; true, e.g. the union; untrue, the State and society. “Free and true” criticism takes care for the consistent dominion of a thought, an idea, a spirit; “own” criticism, for nothing but my self-enjoyment. But in this the latter is in fact — and we will not spare it this “ignominy”! — like the bestial criticism of instinct. I, like the criticizing beast, am concerned only for myself, not “for the cause.” I am the criterion of truth, but I am not an idea, but more than idea, e.g., unutterable. My criticism is not a “free” criticism, not free from me, and not “servile,” not in the service of an idea, but an own criticism.
True or human criticism makes out only whether something is suitable to man, to the true man; but by own criticism you ascertain whether it is suitable to you.
Free criticism busies itself with ideas, and therefore is always theoretical. However it may rage against ideas, it still does not get clear of them. It pitches into the ghosts, but it can do this only as it holds them to be ghosts. The ideas it has to do with do not fully disappear; the morning breeze of a new day does not scare them away.
The critic may indeed come to ataraxia before ideas, but he never gets rid of them; i.e. he will never comprehend that above the bodily man there does not exist something higher — to wit, liberty, his humanity, etc. He always has a “calling” of man still left, “humanity.” And this idea of humanity remains unrealized, just because it is an “idea” and is to remain such.
If, on the other hand, I grasp the idea as my idea, then it is already realized, because I am its reality; its reality consists in the fact that I, the bodily, have it.
They say, the idea of liberty realizes itself in the history of the world. The reverse is the case; this idea is real as a man thinks it, and it is real in the measure in which it is idea, i. e. in which I think it or have it. It is not the idea of liberty that develops itself, but men develop themselves, and, of course, in this self-development develop their thinking too.
In short, the critic is not yet owner, because he still fights with ideas as with powerful aliens — as the Christian is not owner of his “bad desires” so long as he has to combat them; for him who contends against vice, vice exists.
Criticism remains stuck fast in the “freedom of knowing,” the freedom of the spirit, and the spirit gains its proper freedom when it fills itself with the pure, true idea; this is the freedom of thinking, which cannot be without thoughts.
Criticism smites one idea only by another, e.g. that of privilege by that of manhood, or that of egoism by that of unselfishness.
In general, the beginning of Christianity comes on the stage again in its critical end, egoism being combated here as there. I am not to make myself (the individual) count, but the idea, the general.
Why, warfare of the priesthood with egoism, of the spiritually minded with the worldly-minded, constitutes the substance of all Christian history. In the newest criticism this war only becomes all-embracing, fanaticism complete. Indeed, neither can it pass away till it passes thus, after it has had its life and its rage out.
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Whether what I think and do is Christian, what do I care? Whether it is human, liberal, humane, whether unhuman, illiberal, inhuman, what do I ask about that? If only it accomplishes what I want, if only I satisfy myself in it, then overlay it with predicates as you will; it is all alike to me.
Perhaps I too, in the very next moment, defend myself against my former thoughts; I too am likely to change suddenly my mode of action; but not on account of its not corresponding to Christianity, not on account of its running counter to the eternal rights of man, not on account of its affronting the idea of mankind, humanity, and humanitarianism, but — because I am no longer all in it, because it no longer furnishes me any full enjoyment, because I doubt the earlier thought or no longer please myself in the mode of action just now practiced.
As the world as property has become a material with which I undertake what I will, so the spirit too as property must sink down into a material before which I no longer entertain any sacred dread. Then, firstly, I shall shudder no more before a thought, let it appear as presumptuous and “devilish” as it will, because, if it threatens to become too inconvenient and unsatisfactory for me, its end lies in my power; but neither shall I recoil from any deed because there dwells in it a spirit of godlessness, immorality, wrongfulness. as little as St. Boniface pleased to desist, through religious scrupulousness, from cutting down the sacred oak of the heathens. If the things of the world have once become vain, the thoughts of the spirit must also become vain.
No thought is sacred, for let no thought rank as “devotions”;[Andacht, a compound form of the word “thought”] no feeling is sacred (no sacred feeling of friendship, mother’s feelings, etc.), no belief is sacred. They are all alienable, my alienable property, and are annihilated, as they are created, by me.
The Christian can lose all things or objects, the most loved persons, these “objects” of his love, without giving up himself (i.e., in the Christian sense, his spirit, his soul! as lost. The owner can cast from him all the thoughts that were dear to his heart and kindled his zeal, and will likewise “gain a thousandfold again,” because he, their creator, remains.
Unconsciously and involuntarily we all strive toward ownness, and there will hardly be one among us who has not given up a sacred feeling, a sacred thought, a sacred belief; nay, we probably meet no one who could not still deliver himself from one or another of his sacred thoughts. All our contention against convictions starts from the opinion that maybe we are capable of driving our opponent out of his entrenchments of thought. But what I do unconsciously I half-do, and therefore after every victory over a faith I become again the prisoner (possessed) of a faith which then takes my whole self anew into its service, and makes me an enthusiast for reason after I have ceased to be enthusiastic for the Bible, or an enthusiast for the idea of humanity after I have fought long enough for that of Christianity.
Doubtless, as owner of thoughts, I shall cover my property with my shield, just as I do not, as owner of things, willingly let everybody help himself to them; but at the same time I shall look forward smilingly to the outcome of the battle, smilingly lay the shield on the corpses of my thoughts and my faith, smilingly triumph when I am beaten. That is the very humor of the thing. Every one who has “sublimer feelings” is able to vent his humor on the pettiness of men; but to let it play with all “great thoughts, sublime feelings, noble inspiration, and sacred faith” presupposes that I am the owner of all.
If religion has set up the proposition that we are sinners altogether, I set over against it the other: we are perfect altogether! For we are, every moment, all that we can be; and we never need be more. Since no defect cleaves to us, sin has no meaning either. Show me a sinner in the world still, if no one any longer needs to do what suits a superior! If I only need do what suits myself, I am no sinner if I do not do what suits myself, as I do not injure in myself a “holy one”; if, on the other hand, I am to be pious, then I must do what suits God; if I am to act humanly, I must do what suits the essence of man, the idea of mankind, etc. What religion calls the “sinner,” humanitarianism calls the “egoist.” But, once more: if I need not do what suits any other, is the “egoist,” in whom humanitarianism has borne to itself a new-fangled devil, anything more than a piece of nonsense? The egoist, before whom the humane shudder, is a spook as much as the devil is: he exists only as a bogie and phantasm in their brain. If they were not unsophisticatedly drifting back and forth in the antediluvian opposition of good and evil, to which they have given the modern names of “human” and “egoistic,” they would not have freshened up the hoary “sinner” into an “egoist” either, and put a new patch on an old garment. But they could not do otherwise, for they hold it for their task to be “men.” They are rid of the Good One; good is left!
We are perfect altogether, and on the whole earth there is not one man who is a sinner! There are crazy people who imagine that they are God the Father, God the Son, or the man in the moon, and so too the world swarms with fools who seem to themselves to be sinners; but, as the former are not the man in the moon, so the latter are — not sinners. Their sin is imaginary.
Yet, it is insidiously objected, their craziness or their possessedness is at least their sin. Their possessedness is nothing but what they — could achieve, the result of their development, just as Luther’s faith in the Bible was all that he was — competent to make out. The one brings himself into the madhouse with his development, the other brings himself therewith into the Pantheon and to the loss of —Valhalla.
There is no sinner and no sinful egoism!
Get away from me with your “philanthropy”! Creep in, you philanthropist, into the “dens of vice,” linger awhile in the throng of the great city: will you not everywhere find sin, and sin, and again sin? Will you not wail over corrupt humanity, not lament at the monstrous egoism? Will you see a rich man without finding him pitiless and “egoistic?” Perhaps you already call yourself an atheist, but you remain true to the Christian feeling that a camel will sooner go through a needle’s eye than a rich man not be an “un-man.” How many do you see anyhow that you would not throw into the “egoistic mass”? What, therefore, has your philanthropy [love of man] found? Nothing but unlovable men! And where do they all come from? From you, from your philanthropy! You brought the sinner with you in your head, therefore you found him, therefore you inserted him everywhere. Do not call men sinners, and they are not: you alone are the creator of sinners; you, who fancy that you love men, are the very one to throw them into the mire of sin, the very one to divide them into vicious and virtuous, into men and un-men, the very one to befoul them with the slaver of your possessedness; for you love not men, but man. But I tell you, you have never seen a sinner, you have only — dreamed of him.
Self-enjoyment is embittered to me by my thinking I must serve another, by my fancying myself under obligation to him, by my holding myself called to “self-sacrifice,” “resignation,” “enthusiasm.” All right: if I no longer serve any idea, any “higher essence,” then it is clear of itself that I no longer serve any man either, but — under all circumstances — myself. But thus I am not merely in fact or in being, but also for my consciousness, the — unique.[Einzige]
There pertains to you more than the divine, the human, etc.; yours pertains to you.
Look upon yourself as more powerful than they give you out for, and you have more power; look upon yourself as more, and you have more.
You are then not merely called to everything divine, entitled to everything human, but owner of what is yours, i.e. of all that you possess the force to make your own; [Eigen] i.e. you are appropriate [geeignet] and capacitated for everything that is yours.
People have always supposed that they must give me a destiny lying outside myself, so that at last they demanded that I should lay claim to the human because I am — man. This is the Christian magic circle. Fichte’s ego too is the same essence outside me, for every one is ego; and, if only this ego has rights, then it is “the ego,” it is not I. But I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique. And it is only as this unique I that I take everything for my own, as I set myself to work, and develop myself, only as this. I do not develop men, nor as man, but, as I, I develop — myself.
This is the meaning of the — unique one.